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    It was the first game of the ’89-90 season and the Stretford End was busier than usual. New season enthusiasm had been boosted by big name signings and a new fan-friendly chairman. Having Arsenal as opponents didn’t harm the gate either, nor did the uncustomary Mancunian sun. With an hour to kick-off, someone was already in the spot I called my own on the right side.

    “Move up and let the part-timers in,” screamed a voice, laden with sarcasm. I was offended and wanted to shove my last full token sheet up her arse, but she was a lady and I was 15. To be called an armchair fan or a part-timer was an affront to any match-goer. Armchair fans were derided for not going, not supporting the club and contributing to the players’ wages – though the Evening News regularly printed letters from readers complaining that they no longer went to football because footballers were overpaid mercenaries who earned £2,000 a week.

    Going to the match separated the wheat from the chaff. You paid your money and that gave you more right to an opinion than the bar room bore who formed his not through what he saw himself, but the media. You had some power too. If the fans voted with their feet then decisions were made: Dave Sexton was sacked as United manager because crowds were falling.

    It felt right to support your club financially, to invest in a season ticket and show your faith. Your money mattered and Sir Alex Ferguson recently admitted that that when he started out at Old Trafford, he had to wait for the season ticket money to come in before he could buy players. Match day revenue accounted for almost 70% of United’s revenue; today it’s around 30% and will fall behind TV money and commercial revenues.

    The role of the fan has also changed dramatically. When did it become alright to call yourself a fan and not actually to go to the game? Isn’t fan short for fanatic? Weren’t people who complained that they didn’t go because “you can’t get tickets” (when you could) ridiculed?

    I’m not on about people who served their time and no longer go. There are plenty of Reds who went home and away in the 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s who now have other priorities and responsibilities that usually comes with age. They saw that there was more to life than dedicating it to following a football team and none of them received a letter from the manager asking why they’d stopped going to matches.

    I’m not on about those who no longer go as a matter of principle because of the Glazers, nor those who have been priced out, but people who’ve never gone and yet give it the big one.

    The perception of United’s whole support is being distorting by empty vessels who make the most noise. Websites, social media and radio phone-ins are full of people who call themselves United fans and yet have never seen the team live. They’re an embarrassment, spoilt by too information. They know everything, yet they know nothing. They can quote stats and pass ratios, yet wouldn’t be able to recognise United’s hardcore from city’s in the street because Sky don’t do a slow mo of that and there isn’t a link to it on Twitter.

    They don’t care about ticket prices or who owns the club because it doesn’t affect them directly.
    They form their opinions through the media and go about analysing tactics as if they are should be perched on the Match of the Day sofa, passing on the opinions of others as their own.

    Message boards are full of them, same red breed in theory, but a different species who has nothing in common with the match-going Red. They don’t know what it’s like to be a fan because they’ve never been one, never been treated like cattle outside an away end, never pulled their hair out because they were missing a token to get a cup final ticket, never had to consult their bank manager before buying a burger at Wembley.

    I’m not being precious and at the other end of the extreme there’s nothing more boring than the uber red who defines his life through the reflected glory of the football team, but Reds who actually go to matches are now in an overwhelming minority.

    Every time United lose a game, we have to contend with thousands of these nuggets slaughtering individual players and demanding new signings they’ve heard about playing computer games. They don’t represent the views of most who go. As I write this, we’ve just beaten city away in a brilliant match. The United haters in our midst have slunk back into the shadows, but they’ll be back soon enough, with their worthless bile as soon as United lose another game. Watch out for them and wonder when being a fan changed so much.

    Enjoy this issue,

    This is the editorial from issue 213 of United We Stand. Like it? Then buy our mag, support us and subscribe here

    United We Stand is a Manchester United fanzine. Influential, incisive, irreverent and proudly independent, UWS tells it like it is. You might not always agree with the opinions within, but you’ll take note.

    It costs £28 for ten issues. That's almost a year of UWS, posted to you direct from Manchester. You know where the biggest chunk of that £28 goes? The Royal Mail.

    We're a small independent magazine with 23 years and 213 issues behind us. We're written by Manchester United fans for Manchester United fans. We invest in emerging talents - 15 people who started out writing for UWS went onto to make a living in the media. Some have gone onto great things, but they still write for UWS. We're always on the look out for new talents - but please don't send us a blog with your views about watching United off the tele.

    It takes a lot of time and costs a lot money to produce a well designed 44 page mag. There's no way around this, no free links (apart from this one) on Twitter. Journalism is not free. We have impeccable contacts and chase stories so that we can tell you what's going on at MUFC. We meet contacts and build relationships. Hundreds of hours each month and contributions from around 40 people. We have someone at every United game - first team, reserves and youth. Home and away. In Rochdale or Rio.

    The groundsellers would much rather be in the pub, but the money they save and the money they earn selling UWS allows young lads to watch United.

    The website? A tener a year for exclusive web only articles, a thriving messageboard and video diaries from Euro aways. And the sort daft snippets of information about United that pop up days later in the papers.

    We do it because we believe in a strong independent fanzine scene for MUFC. We've turned down very, very good offers for our time so that we can still do UWS. We also had an approach to undercut our one man subscription service last summer from a big company, but he's done them for 15 years and thinks its important to answer the mail, to have a personal touch - even if it's answering an email from a prick who wants to know where his mag is before it has even been printed. He stays. Like UWS. And we need your support too.
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