The Theatre of Dreams — what an epic label for a stadium, a modern-day coliseum for the beautiful game. Manchester United, the names of greats dribbling off the tongue, a club as synonymous with football as David Hasselhoff is with Baywatch and power ballads.
Watching games with Manchester United supporters has never been that exciting — there’s always an air of suffocating confidence in the room. Not to say they haven’t had anxious moments in the past, but those used to come in the form of nail-biting last-ditch thrillers against Europe’s footballing elite, not in 2-2 draws with the lumbering clubs at the bottom of the Premier League table. This season has changed the atmosphere in pubs and around bum-moulded sofas worldwide. The air is just as tense, but the confidence has shifted into an oppressive uncertainty. If the club stays where it is, it will be its lowest placing in the history of its time in the Premier League (which sounds worse than it is, as it was called Division 1 up until 1992).
So, if there was ever an opportunity to piss off a Manchester United fan in the last two decades, it’s today. They’re incensed with their new manager and are akin to wounded and disoriented red buffaloes. They can be found almost anywhere on Earth and are more loyal to their club than hardened patriots, so tread carefully.
Tell a Manchester United fan on Facebook you’re writing an article on how to piss off a Manchester United fan and want some feedback.
“Fuck off.” That’s the only response I received.
Say, “Oh, you mean Manchester City?”
If you bump into a red-shirted United fan in a pub or bar and other conversation seems to be going well, steer talk towards soccer (make sure you call it soccer to add a heady dose of your ignorance into the mix). Ask them what their favourite team is, seemingly oblivious to their throbbing red badge of pride. When they tell you, say you thought Manchester’s kit was light blue and that you’d also support them because you’ve seen them play and they’re a fantastic team.
Having just lauded and confused them with their rivals, smile and offer to buy them a Budweiser.
Bring them unreasonably far down to Earth.
To relegate one of the biggest clubs in the history of the sport to a battling minnow is sure to get a rise. With a completely straight face, rabbit on about how you always support the underdog because it makes the game more interesting when you root for the little guy. Especially if they have a game coming up against one of the top four clubs. It’s the perfect opportunity to say, “You definitely have a shot, because lower league teams raise their game against the big clubs.”
Then slowly sink your lips into the froth of your beer.
(If they’re English) Tell them you heard they all live in London.
It’ll be hard to feign innocence in this instance, but you could try — in all likelihood it’ll be taken for what it is. Tell them you’ve met a handful of football fans from Manchester and that they all support Manchester City as far as you know. Go on to share that your newfound Mancunian friends told you the last United fans from Manchester left a long, long time ago and all the people who support Manchester United are really from London.
Unless, of course, they live in Japan, China, USA, South Africa, Uruguay, Denmark, or the remotest villages in Papua New Guinea.
Bring up the battle for 4th place.
The top four teams in the Premier League qualify for the Champions League, and Manchester United is currently sitting in 6th. Talk about how it’s going to be a close call between all the teams above them to clinch the spot.
Then casually rope the 7th-, and even 8th-place teams into the conversation about the fight for 4th without so much as a mention of United’s chances. As a parting shot, tell them that at least they might win the league next year…the Europa League (implies not reaching 4th place).
Remind them of the records they’ve broken.
Thirteen Premier League titles in the last couple decades is quite a feat. But you’re not going to focus on those records. As your burly new amigo clutches his fragile pint glass like a stress ball, ask him if it’s true that the last time they lost to Sunderland at home was 20 years ago. Tell him that’s funny because you were six years old at the time. Then recklessly delve into some of the other records they’ve broken in their abysmal season this year.
Praise their manager and ineffectual players.
Pretend to have a deep knowledge of the game and United’s players. After throwing out a few wild formation suggestions that could improve the team’s performance, quote their new flailing manager, David Moyes: “There have been a few twists this season; hopefully we’ll get them our way in the future. You just continue doing the right things. Keep going and your luck will change, there’s no doubt about that.”
Remind your friend that there truly is no doubt involved when it comes to a thing like luck, and that you agree 100% with Sir David — all you need is a new set of luck. Maybe that’s why ex-manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been hanging out with the lead singer from Simply Red, Mick Hucknall, at games of late. Ask your friend if the ginger-topped singer is the new mascot for the team in red. Their Leprechaun-like lucky charm. But until that glorious day when luck kicks in, tell her that at least she has reliable, top quality players to keep the team afloat, like Tom Cleverly (not) and the heaven-sent return of Marouane Fellaini (the Sideshow Bob to Moyes’ Krusty the Clown) to look forward to.