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Opinion: Love thy neighbour

We shouldn’t take pleasure in our neighbours’ misfortunes

OLY-2012-GBR-VENUES-MAN UTD-STADIUM Photo credit should read ANDREW YATES/AFP via Getty Images

In this age of division and partisanship, it is tempting to delve into the world of schadenfreude and delight in the recent goings on at Manchester United. To do so however would be unwise - Bolton fans know only too well the desperate feeling of sitting fifth in the Premier League table with no hope of breaking the glass ceiling that rewards a select few football teams with Champions League riches.

I jest. We shouldn’t take pleasure in our neighbours’ misfortunes. After all, United are the team of our family members, friends, co-workers and Wanderers manager. We should share in their angst, listen to their woes and offer a sympathetic ear.

The North West has experienced the very worst that football has to offer. Bolton are hurtling towards non-league football. Bury no longer exist. Tranmere sadly do. And Manchester United have been captained by Ashley Young.

Imagine if you can the horror of being the only side in the Premier League to take points from Liverpool, putting you on a par with lowly Shrewsbury. Imagine spending £130m on two of England’s brightest defensive talents. Dare to dream of the pain of having to watch Paul Pogba dance at his relative’s wedding whilst Jesse Lingard spearheads your midfield.

Has the footballing world forgotten that United have a God given right to be at the top of the tree? Somewhere it is written in the annals of football history that the reds of Manchester must dominate the continent whilst their Merseyside counterparts flounder (note, this rule works much better if you accept the “football started in 1992” narrative that Sky have pushed since, well, 1992).

Lets get it right, the Glazer family have been a parasite on a great English football club. They’ve taken much and returned little. Manchester United are figureatively and literally poorer for it. If those bonny lads on the Stretford End want to wear their green and gold bobby hats and chant about a fantasy mob killing of Ed Woodward, let them. They might want to check in with their neighbours first, though. Find a Bury fan - one who isn’t already supporting City that is. Or a Macclesfield fan. Or a Wanderer.

Our red friends will then see that their plight is very much a first world problem. A takeover of Bury failed in 2019 because of a £2.5m debt on the stadium. Anthony Martial will earn that figure in 10 weeks. Factor in tax and we’ll call it four months work. Bolton had to send Christian Doidge back to Forest Green Rovers over missed payments on a loan-cum-permanent transfer worth £1m. Anthony Martial will have earned that already this month.

Football fans everywhere should stand in solidarity against shite owners. Wanderers supporters know better than most about the cancerous effect it can have on an institution so closely woven into a town’s identity. Do make sure though that grand exaggerations about wanting “our club back” because it’s “dying” are scaled back to “we used to be really good and now we’re not and I’m upset about that”. Language like that makes unfair comparisons that border on insulting.