Manchester United fans confident of redemption
Manchester United's Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa . AFP PHOTO/ANDREW YATES
Manchester United have kicked off their season with two wins from three matches, six goals scored and five conceded.
We’ve seen two sides to United so far; one side showcasing the brilliant flow of attacking football with Robin van Persie leading the line and Kagawa producing the creative goods, while the not so pretty side showcasing a leaky and unorganised defence.
A couple of weeks ago, I caught up with three fanatical United supporters, Daniel, Nick, and Lincoln from Australia, who previewed United’s season ahead.
They are a passionate bunch, whose love for United is clearly evident in their responses:
First of all, how did you become a Manchester United supporter; what aspect of the club made you fall in love and devote yourself to it?
Daniel: I started watching the occasional game on TV in the mid-late 90s, and by the treble season I was hooked. The passion showed by supporters and the amazing football being played were the major attractions to supporting United.
Nick: I became a supporter because my elder brother was a supporter. They were always my team but I “fell in love” due to the amazing Eric Cantona. Graceful, arrogant, powerful, never took a backwards step, changed the game in England forever. That and they style of play at United.
Lincoln: My dad has been a lifelong Manchester United supporter, so when I first took an interest in football at a young age – they seemed the obvious club to support. I was probably only semi-perceptive to what I was ‘signing myself up for’ at the time, but in hindsight – I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
Give us an insight into what its like to be an EPL supporter in Australia; what struggles do you need to overcome and is there much interaction between other Australian supporters of your club?
Daniel: Obviously the time difference between Oz and the UK makes it difficult as KO times are nearly always at crazy hours of the night.
That being said, we can consider ourselves lucky that we have arguably the best coverage of the EPL in the world with Fox Sports, so it’s not all bad. In terms of supporter interaction, there isn’t much right now to be honest, but OZMUFC.com is attempting to change all this.
Nick: Firstly, being a Manchester United supporter in Australia means that off the bat that you are immediately labelled a glory hunter.
Being an EPL fan in Australia mans that you have a lot of tired days at work. Getting up at all hours of the morning to support and watch the team you love.
There is interaction with other Australian supporters via social networking, which I choose to be a part of. I am not one for social get togethers and watching the games with strangers in a pub.
Lincoln: The obvious difficulty is the lack of sleep! Being in WA, we’re either two or three hours behind the east so that helps to an extent, but like most Australian fans – I couldn’t count the number of nights sleep I’ve lost watching United.
Being on the other side of the world means you’re quite detached from the competition and it loses a degree of accessibility, but there’s enough support to make it still feel like a community, and you’re not watching a niche competition.
I’ve got a lot of friends who are United fans, so we have a lot of interaction in that sense. On a broader scale, I’ve only become aware of OZMUFC relatively recently. Matt Galea does a lot of great work there and I enjoyed meeting up with him for a game earlier this year, but through Twitter and chatting with United fans across Australia there – I’m feeling more actively involved in the club.
How would you rate your clubs 2011/12 season? Positives and negatives to come out of it.
Daniel: Overall, you have to say United had a below-par season. We ended up with no trophies and lost the title to our “noisy neighbours”, which was hard to take.
The worst part for me though was our performances in the Cup competitions, particularly the Champions League. Sir Alex’s superb management covered over many cracks in a poor United team, and allowed us to push City all the way. I fear that had SAF not been at the helm, our title challenge would have withered long before the final day.
Nick: Disappointing to say the least. MUFC should have won the competition. It was ours to lose and we found a way to lose the impossible.
Positives: Phil Jones, Evans, Smalling, Welbeck showing their worth
Negatives: Fletcher, Anderson, Cleverley injuries and of course losing the title on the last day and losing an unlosable game to Everton
Lincoln: Absolute heartbreak! It’s hard to say the season as a whole was a failure when we were 90 seconds away from winning the league. You’re judged on the ultimate results and we came up short in that area, but it’s hard to find major fault in the way we went about it.
We were competitive throughout, especially given the injuries we have to overcome. If you judge it on the net result, it wasn’t ideal, but if you judge it on the way we battled throughout – then I think it’s a definite pass mark.
The biggest positive was the extra game time given to our developing players, and that’s only going to help us in the long-term.
What are your realistic expectations for this season?
Daniel: Having woken this morning to the news that RVP has agreed to join us, my expectations are quite high. I would realistically expect us to be up there challenging for the title again.
Nick: Premier League title is a must. Nothing short of that is acceptable.
Lincoln: Continued improvement. Without wanting to sound like a greedy glory-hunter, the title has to be our expectation – that’s the Manchester United mentality.
It’s been a long time since we went consecutive seasons without winning a trophy, so that’s a record I’d like to avoid. Last year was about getting some valuable experience into our younger lads, hopefully this season will see the fruits of that.
Which player/s will be integral to your club’s success this season?
Daniel: Having Vidic back will be crucial. We missed him last season. Rooney as usual will be our main man, while RVP will hopefully take some of the load off in terms of pressure to score goals.
Shinji Kagawa looks a great signing based on his performances in pre-season, so I’m looking forward to seeing him be a force in the Premier League.
Nick: Concentrating on confirmed players only… Kagawa and Cleverly’s impact will be massive. As will Vidic at the back and Wayne Rooney up front. Our wingers must run riot
Lincoln: Wayne Rooney is the obvious choice, he’s our focal point and his goals will be imperative to us succeeding. Nemanja Vidic was a massive loss last season and having him back will arguably be the single biggest improvement this season.
Antonio Valencia has been given the famous number 7 shirt, and he’s ready to take that step to the next level. Already a brilliant player, but he will hopefully be spoken of in the top-tier of players soon.
What fixture are you looking forward to most? Why?
Daniel: The Liverpool games and the City games. Hopefully we’ve learned our lessons from last season, and can get some better results this season.
Nick: Manchester derby. They are our rivals and they are the current champions.
Lincoln: City… how could it be any other? Great chance to redeem the wrongs of last season against them. I always enjoy watching us play the promoted sides as well, especially with some high-profile clubs back in the Premier League this season.
Who’s your tip to win the League this season, and who are the likely three to get relegated?
Daniel: I’ll go with United to win the league. As for relegation, that’s very tough. I think Norwich will struggle now they’ve lost Paul Lambert. I can also see Reading, Southampton, QPR and Wigan all there or thereabouts.
Swansea have lost Brendan Rogers and Joe Allen, so they will probably feature more in the bottom half of the table too. It’s very hard to call but I think any three from those mentioned will be the three to go down
Nick: Winner: Manchester United. Relegated: Wigan, Swansea, Southhampton.
Lincoln: I’m answering with my heart when I say United. The obvious threat will be City, and I have this strange feeling about Chelsea, but I think we’re capable of winning the league – and I can’t really say anybody else!
For the relegated teams, I think Wigan, Swansea and Reading will go down – with Norwich down towards the bottom as well.