Decline of Man U Shows the Premier League Needs “The Damned United” – by Rob Atkinson


Giggs facepalm as Man U decline

Giggs facepalm as Man U decline

When the Premier League lost Leeds United, it lost more than just another member club. With Leeds went a focal point for all those nasty, negative emotions that are so much a part of a football fan’s essential make-up. Football has always been a source of catharsis – a safety valve, if you will, for the letting-off of pent-up steam – even back in the days when the game was a lot more tribal than it is now, when there was no steep financial pecking order, when players were a lot closer to fans both literally and economically.  Nowadays, under the all-seeing glare of perpetual TV coverage and in an era when every fan is in touch with every other fan courtesy of social media, it is even more the case that such a soap opera needs its villains as well as its heroes.

Over the past decade, in the absence of The Damned United, it has been Man U that, paradoxically given their numerous triumphs, have more often than not filled the villain’s role in the minds of many.  Of course, every team is someone’s villain, someone’s hero too. It’s a question of balance and degree; between extremes there are a number of comparatively pallid clubs which inspire nothing more than indifference in the minds of the masses, the likes of West Ham, Newcastle and Aston Villa who are hated or loved locally but largely ignored everywhere else. Some teams are much more loved than hated beyond their own provincial spheres: Liverpool and Arsenal for example.  And some are hated passionately for differing reasons of varying validity.  Man U and Leeds are two such clubs.

Obviously as a Leeds fan I have a view on what’s behind the hatred directed at both clubs. In the case of Leeds, it seems to be down to historical myths surrounding Don Revie’s grisly hard but enormously skilful and hard-done-by Super Leeds, with added seasoning provided by the misdeeds of some of our over-zealous fans down the years.  The case for hating Man U is, I would argue, down to what I can only sum up as “intrinsic detestability”. In other words, it’s just something about the institution; the attitude, the arrogance and the vainglory of club, employees and supporters alike.  The fawning of the media over them, the way they have capitalised on a historic tragedy to build a global franchise, while still, with no apparent appreciation of the irony of this, calling Liverpool the City of Pity.  The time-honoured tradition of favourable treatment by referees and administrators, the former group of gentlemen managing somehow to give 88% of 50-50 decisions the way of the Mighty Red Devils over an extended period.  “We’re Man United, we’ll do what we want”, you hear sung in mixed cockney and West Country accents, and it’s something the game’s authorities have seemed loath to dispute. Given all this, they’re easy to hate – for me and thousands of other discerning Leeds fans, anyway.

This visceral hatred was accentuated under the tyrannical reign of the former manager Alex Ferguson; the scum (as we fondly refer to them down Elland Road way) won more, they were more arrogant and reprehensible in their conduct, they got much more given to them on a plate.  Give or take the odd dodgy offside and penalty here and there, that era is over and, as the latest result shows – unseemly celebration over a 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea – the illusion of invincibility and the assumption of superiority both seem to have gone with it.

The outcome is that Man U have now been drawn back into the pack and superseded by the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool and, last season, even Everton and Spurs.  Champions League qualification is no longer a given; the edifice that the empire was built on may well be crumbling.  One effect of this is that Man U are going to be a lot less easy for some to hate as they further decline – it may well be that only those who have always hated them will still have this particular emotional outlet.

In 2008, a poll in the “Sun” newspaper still had Leeds United as the number one most hated club in the land; this was four long and harrowing years after the Whites had dipped out of the Premier League.  By 2012 another poll had Man U succeeding Leeds as most-hated.  Leeds had by now been out of the spotlight for eight years, but were still sung about in terms of extreme disapproval at grounds around the country, not least the Pride of Devon’s own Theatre of Hollow Myths. Man U’s continuing dominance, however, had seen them move clear as the number one hate target nationwide.

Now, it all seems to be up for grabs again as the fallen franchise appears likely to slide further away from the top of the game, with the tyranny of Alex McTaggart an increasingly distant memory. Over time, they will haemorrhage support, but there’s a waiting list of Milton Keynes mugs and suckers, so in the short term the turnstiles will continue to click as the glory-hunting hordes travel North every fortnight or so.  It is the notoriety of hate that they stand to lose, the perverse respect accorded to any club top of the nation’s most-despised list.  There will be a gap at the hate end of everyone’s emotions, a vacancy for a perennial panto villain.

As the Man U star wanes, it’s possible that other candidates for most-hated might emerge. Chelsea under Mourinho are the equivalent, for some, of fingernails scraped down a blackboard.  Liverpool – with Suarez on their books – seemed to have a certain potential, especially with the media smiling upon them again. But with Luis gone, their detestabilty potential has declined, with Balotelli more of a clown than a hate figure so far. Man City with their millions and billions may attract the envious aspect of hatred, but these days they’re being shamelessly out-spent by a desperate scum, who used to affect to look down their nose at such a sordid way of courting success. But for all this variable hate potential, I would suggest that none of those candidates really cut the mustard in quite the same way that Leeds United did, and still do.

A return to the top flight for Leeds would probably fill this vitriol vacuum. All that is needed to test the likelihood of this is a swift look around the internet message boards on any occasion when Leeds play a top flight team in a cup. “Come back, we miss you” is the gist of it. And they do miss us – they miss the atmosphere, the raucous indomitability of our away support, the whole Dirty Leeds legend. They miss hating Leeds United.

The simple fact is, now that the most despicable British club of all seems to be descending into a more benign mediocrity, long bereft of their choleric Scottish dictator and his ability to give the rest of the game the hair-dryer treatment, they miss us more than ever.  And yet all we seem to do down at Elland Road is run around in small circles, victims of self-inflicted crises as the revolving door on the Head Coach office spins itself into a dizzy blur. Leeds United simply have to get their act together – urgently. In short, now that Man U are crap, the game is in sore need of that focus for hatred which we always so effortlessly provided.

So do the game a favour, Leeds, for badness’ sake. Sort yourselves out, get back up there and get on with being hated in your own inimitable fashion. Drive your enemies mad with impotent rage again as you make those of us who love you proud once more, in that deliciously perverse manner of the old days.

You know it’s your destiny – we all know it – and, now more than ever, you owe it to your public to fill that void at the very top of the Hate Parade.

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33 responses to “Decline of Man U Shows the Premier League Needs “The Damned United” – by Rob Atkinson

  1. David Smith

    Always enjoy reading your columns – thank you. Particularly like the ‘intrinsic detestability’ reference!

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  2. Why are teams like leeds and man utd hated.simple answer is they have been sucessful with teams under managers who themselves have been hated.Revie…..Sir Alex.They knew how to inspire their team and had a side who faught for each other.

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  3. where Leeds united we dont give a ????

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  4. When you travel along the M62 for scumbags v leeds and there are bus loads of reds proudly displaying their Yorkshire roots going to the same match. That is the only reason I hate them . I couldn’t care less about the team .the fans who call themselves Yorkshire reds make me ashamed to be a Yorkshireman . I do not recognise them as there cannot be such a thing . Someone from Yorkshire who supports scum relinquishes their right to be called a yorkshireman

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    • Couldn’t agree more. Yorkshire scummers should be exiled to Devon where they belong.

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      • Geoffrey Boycott been a Scummer has to be the ultimate insult! So glad Yorks CCC won title with Dickie Bird as President & not that twat in charge the season before

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    • There’s plenty of them going anfield as well. Never got robs Liverpool love in. Got no problems with actual scousers, but as a kid in the 80s there were loads of sad sacks with nothing else in their lives jumping on the Liverpool glory hunting bus.

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  5. What i found astonishing were the amount of thugs they had there. Accusations of turning a blind eye are continually thrown at Wenger by the manchester press, but what man u got up to was reprehensible. Ince,keane,hughes,phelan and that cantona thing. I distinctly remember him stamping on opponent’s backs at norwich and swindon. On both occasions ferguson didn’t see anything. I don’t think the F.A did either. Then there was the case of keane finishing Haalands career. They got away with everything and anything. Of course i could go on about the many incidents of bribery too. A favourite tactic started by busby was buying houses for the families of prodigies who caught the eye of his scouts. Of course it was us who got stuck with the “dirty” label, even though it was a description far more deserving of that shower of wankers.

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    • The fact that Man U won the Fair Play League so regularly with thugs like Ince, Keane and Scholes in the team is an indictment of referees who were terrified of whistling against them for fear of upsetting Taggart and losing out on high profile matches. The biggest difference now Taggart is gone is that Moyes simply doesn’t inspire the kind of fear that underpinned all Man U’s domination. That is why they WILL fall.

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  6. A very accurate and enjoyable read for this lifelong Arsenal ABU. I miss Leeds, Forest and Wednesday most, having fond and still vivid memories of many great matches against each. The intrinsic detestability of MU is so right… There is no other club whose supporters are so abysmal – the ones from Manchester crowing about ‘cock of the North’ to the ones in London (or Devon or wherever) who are probably wondering who next to support right now. The detestability is consistent through the Team, the management, the Board if Directors, the media – the tea lady’s probably toxic too…. so I guess I’m one of the ones who will always have this emotional outlet.

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    • Wonderful. The only issue I have is that, as I refuse to refer to Them by the media-beloved appellation of “United” (as if they were the only bloody one), I’d never be described as an ABU. I’m actually an ABS 🙂

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  7. Too right about the referees. Has been conclusively statistically proved at Untold Arsenal http://blog.emiratesstadium.info/archives/30400 – and now Halsey and Poll are inching towards letting the cat out of the bag.

    Do you include Mike Riley as one of your defrocked Yorkshiremen?

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  8. With Ref to Gordon: what do you think of fans travelling the other way and supporting Leeds? Im sure they are still proud if their county but love Leeds and not just from the west, all over country and from Scotland Ireland and abroad……hang about, just like the ‘pride of devon’ lol

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  9. The only thing I’m fed up with rob is that now the MU era has come to an end were still in the championship where we can’t inflict more pain on them , but I can’t see that changing anytime in the forseable future ,..
    Q – before darko who was the last Leeds manager not to get a win in thier first 6 games ?
    A – Don revie…
    I think that sums up our current situation and

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  10. sniffersshorts

    although I don’t hate anybody, hate is not a word to be taken lightly, I do dislike the colour red and the club spoken about here that wears red, I don’t associate anything I like about red, I wont wear red …….. it burnssssssssssss… as much as you deplore a Yorkshire man for following said reds, that’s their choice, the fact they do! so what. I keep saying it I am London born should follow chelsuit or similar…. I haven’t just jumped on the wagon, good god you would have to be a loony to go thru what a Leeds fan does, I am 54 I have seen the good the bad and the ugly, and its bloody ugly at the moment. So I am a southerner who follows Leeds United, anyone slag me off at your peril, always Leeds til Death!!!!!!!!!!!

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  11. sniffershorts

    one other thing I do dislike however, is those so called fans who live on the doorstep of ES11 and make statements, that they wont attend home games and cry like kids all the time, by Christ if I lived in Leeds Id be there every home game, geography and work doesn’t allow me to do so…. even down here or up here in sunny Surrey, I come across Leeds fans who decry ever visiting their club unless they make the prem again…. those are people I hate ….. oh dear I should not use that word it starts war and I am a lover !!!!!!!!!!!!

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  12. Mark benson

    Great blog as usual rob. you did slightly miss one point though, we at leeds have stopped being hated because we are now a laughing stock and are being pitied by one and all. The scum will probably be in league one before we regain our position in the premiership.

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    • Trust me, the hate is still there. Pity would be awful but thankfully it just ain’t the case.

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      • Mark benson

        But rob everyone who passes comment on leeds over the past two years always says ” it’s the fans I feel sorry for ………” . that’s pity. They are all glad their club isn’t run by a white bearded pension fund collector or the only skint Arabs in the gulf or a maverick Italian with number blindness and a watermelon fixation. do we not have a president with £11 million Ross mac money tucked away and one of the highest paid “gardeners” in Britain? don’t get ne wrong, I do like Cellino but he’s got to wise up and take this more seriously. get him to speak to silver. appoint a good manager and let him do the job.

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      • With all due respect, I think you might be taking this “sorry” thing a tad too literally.

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      • Mark benson

        When people meet somebody who says they support scum, they are greeted with “I hate man.u.”. when people meet somebody who says they support leeds they are more likely to laugh than say ” I hate leeds”. I even had someone say” used to hate leeds but you’re too crap to bother about now”.

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      • They sure know how to get under your skin, don’t they? You’ll believe what you want to believe.

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      • Mark benson

        so your piece was purely satirical then ……

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      • It may comfort you to think of it as such.

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  13. Having supported Leeds for over 50 years I sometimes feel that I’m not a “real” fan. The reason? Because I don’t hate ManU. I never have done; they’re just another team to me. What have they ever done to us? Hate should be reserved for that godforsaken team from Turkey.
    We have, on our doorstep a team in Bradford. Their fans refer to us as the scum and they refuse to print our name, often calling us Beeston or L***s. They have very rarely been in the same division as us so I can only put this irrational hatred down to envy and jealousy. But what is the difference between this and the way many
    Leeds fans refer to ManU?

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    • I think hating a team on the basis of geographical location is illogical and a waste of time. As I’ve written on a number of occasions, hatred should be reserved for the intrinsically detestable. Man U fit the bill admirably.

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  14. There’s such an arogance about man u players too. Like because they played for the “worlds biggest club”TM everyone from every club wants to hear what they have to say.

    So far this season were had both chuckle brothers, scholes, Ferdinand, casper shmeicels dad and some angry Irish tramp all chipping in on the “leeds crisis”. You just don’t get that with any other club.

    Also on being hated, Leeds fans don’t give a shit. Man u fans just want to be loved,

    the ones not from salford tend to not have much else in their lives, that’s why they went glory hunting, that’s why they were attracted to the whole phoenix from the flames mythology and the mawkishness over the Munich disaster. That’s why they support the team the media tell them are the “goodies”

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