Yes I know this is a whisky blog but this post has nothing to do with whisky. Please indulge me, I’m in an emotionally delicate state;)
I started supporting Manchester United in 1977. I was 10 at the time. It was the night before the FA Cup Final. United were the underdogs and Liverpool were favourite. I support the underdog. It’s my thing. United won.
My brother, Herschel, is 39 and started supporting the team before he could walk. He just didn’t know it at the time. My son, Jeff, is 15 and started supporting the team when he was in the womb.
The week before I got married (1993) my brother and I went up to Joburg to watch United play Arsenal at Ellis Park. David Beckham was an unknown youngster, along for the ride. I met Sir Alex – there is a photo somewhere. Mark Hughes was sent off during that match. I watched Ryan Giggs dancing along the left wing running circles round defenders. I can still see that picture today, in my mind.
In 1999 we won the treble. My brother and I watched the game at my house and when we won, we woke up my daughter, who was 2 years old. She is also also a United fan, although not as passionate as the gents in the family.
I watched United play Everton at Goodison Park. I was in London at the time and took the train to Liverpool Lime Street Station. It was one of the best days of my life. I wrote about it. My story was called “To Live and Die Football” and I’m sure I will find a copy of the story somewhere.
Last year I went to Old Trafford as part of a whisky tour. It was my first visit and was during the off-season. My hosts were involved in the corporate world at United so we got special treatment. I walked into the United dressing room and there, against the wall, was a United jersey with my name on it. Bucket list? I couldn’t even have dreamt of something so good.
My son and I watch every United match together. It is our thing. One day I hope to go with him to Old Trafford and see our team playing. We both realise that there are bigger issues in the world, but our team is our team. He has been away at camp for the past three weeks, which is a good thing, as I would have hated to see him watching our display over the past few weeks.
When we watch, we wear our jerseys and are quite animated. We jump up and cheer or slam our hands on the couch and swear. Football is a passionate affair in the Gutman household.
We are not fair weather supporters, but are there for the long haul. Yesterday I tweeted “Supported @ManUtd since 1977 and not going to stop now. I may, however, fall asleep during the second half”
I do mind losing. But, footie is a game and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It is not the end of the world. I get upset, yes, but life goes on. But when we play without heart, without soul, when we seem to not care, then I mind. When the tactic seems to be to hold on to the ball and not score, I wonder what is going on in the manager’s mind. The players seemed almost frightened to play, like they were being held back on a leash.
I often listen to my son and his mates discuss the tactical detail of the entire European football scene. With the internet and FIFA they have access to all the information they need and they devour it. Their knowledge is remarkable. When I was their age, we had the newspapers and during school holidays our weekly treat was to watch Match of the Day on a Tuesday lunchtime somewhere in town. I’ve been thinking what Jeff would have made of the last 4 matches. A couple of months ago he was expressing concern about Van Gaal. It struck me that Jeff’s early teens would be remembered as the Moyes and Van Gaal era. Pretty tragic.
Tomorrow we play Chelsea. If we win, great, if we lose, it is the worst run since 1936 or something. Whatever the result, Van Gaal must go. We need a change. We need to regain the passion, the pride of playing for the jersey. United is not a normal team, it is an institution.
The people that wear the badge on their hearts need to understand the history and the passion that go hand in hand with playing in the Manchester United jersey.