Should we support Manchester United as the last Premier League side in Europe? Here's what rival fans say
United face Celta Vigo in the semi-finals of the 2016/17 Europa League.
With Manchester United the last Premier League side standing in Europe, we wondered whether football fans in the UK should actively want the Old Trafford side to succeed.
And who better to ask than the supporters themselves.
Paul Ansorge, co-host of the Rant Cast podcast and Manchester United writer for Bleacher Report.
“It would be kind of weird if they did support us!” says Paul. “It would be just such a change from the norm of everyone hating United.”
And Paul makes an interesting point when posed with the question of supporting Premier League sides in the national interest.
“Fans of English football are not necessarily linked by national identity now – they’re much more linked by their relationship with the club. One of the things you’ll often see is United fans care a lot more about United than the England national team for example.
“Also, I think there’s a big difference between London clubs and north-west clubs. From a socio-cultural perspective the clubs in the north-west’s local identity is distinct from the national identity. They’re very left-leaning cities, both suffered under (Margaret) Thatcher, so there’s this sort of cultural legacy.”
So would Paul be up for supporting another Premier League side in Europe?
“I did not want Liverpool to win the Europa League last season!” says Paul. “I guess if it had been Tottenham or Southampton or whatever, then maybe I would have been slightly rooting for them, but no club that is a rival of United’s.
“Even when Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012 I wasn’t terribly gutted, because they’re not really a proper rival of Untied’s. They’re a rival in the sense they’ve competed for a lot of stuff, but they’re not a traditional rival.
“Basically, look, what it comes down to is, as long as it’s not Liverpool it’s fine! Although no United fan wants to see Manchester City win the Champions League, in 2014 when they won the league ahead of Liverpool there was a sense that they’d done United a massive favour by stopping Liverpool winning the league.”
Eamonn Dalton, designer of The Square Ball fanzine.
Asked whether there was any joy to be had in watching Manchester United succeed in Europe, Leeds fan Eamonn answered in no uncertain terms.
“Absolutely none,” he says. “In the Europa League I rarely even bother watching their matches, but during their time as Champions League contenders (remember when they were in the Champions League?) I usually couldn’t enjoy the tournament until Manchester United were eliminated.
“They’ve had some great eliminations too. FC Basel. Wolfsburg. Ahh, absolute classics.”
OK, so no support for United then – but what about other Premier League clubs?
“Not at all,” continues Eamonn. “This also may have to do with English punditry which tends to underrate foreign teams and treat other leagues as insignificant, so it’s always fun when Manchester City lose to Monaco or Man Utd lose to… well, to anyone really.”
Leeds’ last Champions League run took them all the way to the semi-finals of the competition in 2001, where they were defeated by Valencia 3-0 on aggregate – did Eamonn feel the love from other clubs back then?
“There did seem to be a bit of support in that we were new to the competition and the team was built around young exciting players,” he said.
“Generally not though, and I noticed a distinct lack of support during our run to the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy northern regional final in 2010. For shame, Britain.”
Howard Hockin of the Manchester City podcast, 93.20.
Manchester City have more recently entered into a rivalry with Manchester United in terms of success as well as geography, but will City fan Howard Hockin be showing United any support as the last Premier League side in Europe?
“No, none whatsoever,” says Howard, unsurprisingly. “I wish nothing but misery on the team, and would never wish to see them lift any trophy. I’m sure their fans feel the same about City winning things.
“Football is tribal and I don’t see a problem with that – it is natural to wish a rival to lose. I love my country, but I don’t see the need to display that by supporting British teams in Europe.”
But what about other Premier League sides on the continent, such as Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal?
“My desire to see them fail is certainly not on the scale that it is with United, but I wouldn’t say I actively support them,” Howard continues.
“I would say I am ambivalent, and would just like to see a good game when I watch their matches. There is a certain bitterness from football fans I feel about rival teams, fuelled by social media and the internet, and as a City fan I hate the thought of Liverpool being successful for example as I could not stand the hype and overreaction and talk of history should it occur.
“Without a fawning media full of ex-United and Liverpool players, I think I’d be more sympathetic towards other teams’ plight.”