Try, if only for a moment, to go inside the mind of a Manchester United fan.
Imagine being a supporter of one of if not the single richest, most famous soccer team in the whole world. Imagine enjoying two solid decades of near ceaseless success under arguably the greatest manager of all time, as a rotating cast of some of the best players to ever kick a ball leapt at a chance to play for that club and that manager due to the guarantee of money and fame and trophies and fun that came with pulling on the United shirt. Imagine that manager retires, leaving his successor a collection of aging and/or under-talented players but also, at least in theory, unlimited riches and prestige with which to construct a younger, better team capable of continuing the good times.
Imagine that successor turns out to be woefully in over his head and gets fired during his first season. Imagine that successor’s successor, armed with a sterling reputation and gobs of money to spend and out-sized confidence in his abilities to right the ship, also proves unable to get things back on track. Imagine that successor’s successor’s successor, himself one of the best and brightest managers of his generation, sashays in with almost believable promises of the long awaited return to the glory days. Imagine that over the course of two-and-a-half seasons and hundreds of millions of dollars thrown about in exchange for increasingly expensive savior players, this latest manager also fails miserably at the puzzlingly difficult task of making one of the richest, most famous soccer teams in the world good again. Imagine that this manager not only fails to bring success of any note, but also implements a style of play that is reactive and boring and unadventurous, things that directly contradicted the retired legend’s style and philosophy that came to define the club during its best years. Imagine that the star manager and his one definitely great player come to dislike each other. Imagine that all this turmoil exposed the deep fissures in this fallen club’s heart, as at every turn its decision-making processes are revealed as shockingly inadequate, to such an extent that it actually becomes more difficult to envision a way back to the top than it is to picture an even more extended period mired in baffling, soul-crushing mediocrity.
Imagine, at one point halfway through yet another depressing campaign, this fan’s beloved club finds itself not only completely out of contention for the Premier League title, but also without a realistic shot at qualifying for next season’s Champions League—a competition in which this club’s presence was once so assured that even positing its potential absence would’ve been grounds for well-deserved ridicule. Imagine, in the midst of all this, finding this club in something close to an ideal position in the current Champions League: coming into the final match of the group stage with qualification into the knockout rounds already assured, with an inferior opponent on the docket, and, with a win, the potential to top the group and thus set up a conceivable(ish) run deep into the tournament.
Imagine going into that match with an attacking line of one self-admittedly overweight striker, one lovable but washed attacking midfielder who hasn’t been good for five or six years, and one completely unproven young guy who’s never shown much of any elite-level promise in this team’s colors. Imagine, less than 20 minutes into this perfectly poised game, this fan’s once proud team coughs up an easy chance from which the opposition scores. Imagine the team spends the rest of the opening half trying impotently to fight back into the match, only to go into halftime still down.
Imagine, in spite of all that’s happened, that the team’s rival for the top spot in the group also somehow found itself losing at halftime in the group’s other match, meaning that if United could do what they should do and win while the other team lost, they would snatch the all-important first place in the table. Imagine that the team’s bold plan to rescue the match with a halftime adjustment was to take off a center back who’d been playing in his secondary position on the left side of defense in favor of fucking Ashley Young. Imagine how few strands of hair must be left untorn from this fan’s head at this fan’s own hands at this moment, and then imagine that almost as soon as the match resumed after the break, this team with so much riding on an eminently attainable positive result went and did this, the crushing blow in what eventually was a 2-1 loss:
It would really suck some major shit to be a fan of that team, wouldn’t it?