Take me home, United road

My journey of growing up as a Manchester United fan to visiting Old Trafford

As the 2002 Football World Cup in Japan and South Korea was in full swing, the sports section in the daily newspaper, which was the only section I read back then, used to be filled with football related articles, and David Beckham was probably the first name that got stuck to me. I soon figured out that he played for England and started looking out for timings of England’s matches in the newspaper. Although England got knocked out in the quarter finals, I had become a David Beckham fan, so much so that when in 2008 I joined Facebook, my first display picture was that of Beckham.

Back then I had no idea that football was such a big sport across the world. The concept of club football, premier league was alien to me, but fanboying over Beckham led me to watch Manchester United’s matches: the team he played for in the 2002-03, which was also his last season with the club. Although Beckham left for Real Madrid in 2003, a year of intermittently watching Manchester United play was enough for me to become a fan. 

Over the next couple of seasons Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney would join United to start a new chapter in Sir Alex Ferguson’s era. I distinctly remember the 2008 Champions league final when Manchester United beat Chelsea in an epic penalty shootout.  Terry slipped and Anelka missed from the spot, as Manchester United became Champions of Europe. I stayed up till 3 am to watch that match to conclusion, for a 15-year-old this sort of was a big deal at my home. 

Manchester United’s era of dominance hit a screeching halt after the 2012-13 season, the season when Robin Van Persie almost single handedly led United to Premier League title. It is an extremely happy memory for me, primarily because of the agony of the previous season, when injury-time goals on the final day of the season by Balotelli and Aguero led Manchester City to win the league on goal difference. In those days, as an engineering student who lived in a hostel where we had one television set for ~600 students, getting screen time for yourself was a genuine struggle. After struggles of trying to watch the match, I decided to follow live scores on my 2g mobile connection, incessantly refreshing Goal.com to see the live scores. As the Manchester United match reached its conclusion, I texted my best friend, who happens to be a huge Manchester United fan himself, “It’s happening, we are winning this”, for him to reply back, “Balotelli scored, 4 more minutes.” Aguero ended up scoring again for City, and that was perhaps the worst I had felt about anything related to football – I obviously had no idea what post Sir Alex Ferguson era had in store for me as a United fan!

Since 2013, when United last won the premier league title, it has been excruciatingly painful to watch United turn into an average side that has managed to finish in top 4 of the premier league only in 3 of the last 7 seasons. However, this has not stopped me from passionately following Manchester United, I follow each match, each transfer rumour, each set of training pictures enthusiastically. 

In fact I had made a pact with my best friend sometime in 2014, when we started with our first jobs, that we would save up to visit Manchester and watch United play live at Old Trafford. Boxing day, 2019, Manchester United vs Newcastle, we were present in the Sir Alex Ferguson stand.

Take me home, United Road

To the place, I belong

To Old Trafford, to see United

Take me home, United Road

While I passionately support Manchester United, I have now become extremely cautious and do not get over excited by the brief spells of amazing football United plays – start of Mourinho’s second season after winning 2 trophies in his first season, going on a huge unbeaten run at the start of Ole’s tenure as manager of Manchester United are testaments to the fact that brief spells don’t translate into success. Thus, I am not getting carried away by our recent run in the premier league at the end of last season.