My worst footballing moment is yet to come…

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During a recent get-together with friends, the question of what each of us considered to be our worst moment as football fans was raised.

…As each friend was speaking, I racked my brain to come up with an equally disappointing tale of woe for myself. Nothing really came to mind.

…I snatched the red top out of his hand as usual and flipped it over to see if anything interesting was happening in football. United had wrapped up the league for the second consecutive season the previous Sunday, so everything was right in my life. What greeted me on the back of The Sun was simply the most shocking news I had ever received in my existence up to that point: Éric Cantona had retired.

…I first became aware of the club sometime in the 1993–94 season, when the other boys in my class suddenly started sporting replica United shirts during PE. In the formative years of my support, my love for United was an extension of my worshipping of Eric Cantona. After he had quit the game and I had shed my bodyweight in tears, I found, in Peter Schmeichel, someone else to admire for a couple of years, but he of course soon moved on too.

…But then something started happening. Whether it was the fire sale of Jaap Stam, Roy Keane taking a swing at Alan Shearer at St. James’ Park, or the players taking their foot off the pedal because they knew the manager was on his way out, United started losing a lot of games. Criticism began to be heaped on the team and Ferguson. The empire was allegedly crumbling. United were obliterated 0–3 at home to Chelsea in December 2001 and the wheels had supposedly well and truly flown off. I can still see Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s smug face as he celebrated a goal in said encounter. Ferguson and his overpaid, over-hyped, and over-the-hill superstars were widely derided.

…From that moment, Manchester United Football Club to me became Alex Ferguson Football Club. Supporting the club meant supporting the man, and his relentless thirst for victory and silverware… There is something captivating about someone with an insatiable desire to win.

…People often say that no single person is bigger than any football club but in this case it doesn’t apply. Ferguson is the only manager I have ever known and he has spoiled me rotten. When I think of football, I think of Manchester United. I think of Ferguson. We need to savour every second we have left with him because it will never be this good ever again.

…after Truman Burbank has disembarked from his sail boat and disappeared into the walls of the fake world in which he has been living for his entire life, there is a montage showing humans around the planet who did nothing else but watch him on their televisions. However, with Truman departed and the ‘show’ finished, they didn’t know what to do with themselves. One is depicted as turning off his TV and looking around his living room for something to do. I expect to have that same empty feeling in eight, 20, or however many months it might be before Ferguson decides his health is no longer good enough to continue as manager, or, to quote Eric Cantona, he ‘die[s] on the bench of Manchester United’, at a stadium somewhere in Europe. Manchester United will not be the same without him. Football will not be the same. Life will not be the same. I await it with dread—it will be my worst moment as a football fan.

Read the entire article “My worst footballing moment is yet to come…“on the Red Mancunian website.

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