Walking into Elland Road last night was like being an extra in the film Mad Max, glasses flying, insults being hurled, riot police barely keeping the rabid Leeds fans at bay, it was a relief to get into the ground in one piece.
The woman next to me wasn’t so lucky as she had a nasty gash on the back of her head from a flying pint pot, “typical scum” was the general consensus.
Standing in the United end watching some of the Leeds fans making ‘airplane’ gestures and singing “always look on the runway…” or something equally as vulgar, it was easy to lose your temper and want to retalite in kind to the disgusting chants. Some United fans found it too much to take and responded with equally deplrable songs about Instanbul and Turkish fans with knives etc. That for me was the saddest thing about last night, a chance to show Leeds, a team that twenty years ago beat us to the title, that not only were we far superior on the pitch, but off it as well.
Unfortunately, while the team did us proud and the vast majority of United fans completely outsang the Elland Road faithful, there was a nasty element to the evening which many of the press revelled in highlighting- and to be perfectly honest, you can’t blame them.
There’s no excuse for sick chants from United fans, I’m sorry but there isn’t. I was subjected to racist abuse as I entered the ground but did I feel that justified me being racist or singing about murderered fans? No. Of course not.
I understand that emotions were running high and it was a game against one of our historic arch rivals, I also realise that some of the abuse levelled at United fans was enough to make anyone angry, but the “they started it” argument is as flawed as it is childish.
Manchester United are the world’s greatest football club, of that I have absolutely no doubt, we have the unrivalled tradition, the most exciting teams and players and the finest fans in the world. I couldn’t give a toss what abuse we have to suffer, we should be able to rise above and take the moral high ground as well as the footballing one.
The media are always quick to point out whenever United fans sing things they shouldn’t, last season’s FA Youth Cup victory at Anfield was overshadowed slightly by the coverage given to a very small section of Reds singing songs about Hillsborough. Most of the press coverage chose to ignore the Munich chants that many United fans heard, and instead chose to focus on the visiting fans misdemeanours.
I wrote a similar article to this last season following the FA Cup victory over Liverpool at Old Trafford. Despite Liverpool fans throwing urine at United supporters, waving their genitalia about, as well as the seemingly obligatory airplane signs- I was at the game below the away fans, so I’m not making it up- I called for United fans to try and avoid retaliating in kind in future and avoid the Heysel and Hillsborough chants.
In the heat of a game when insults are flying, its tempting for fans to go for the jugular, but look at the way United respond to City fans who chant Munich songs. City don’t have a history tainted with tragedy, in fact you could argue they barely have a history at all, so when United fans need to respond to their sick chants, we merely point out our huge success and the size of our club and fan base, compared to theirs.
United fans, like the club itself will always get a raw deal from the media, however sometimes we make a rod for our own backs. Labelling Liverpool fans ‘bin dippers’ or commenting on Leeds fans fondness of farm animals, is fair game as far as I’m concerned and more than enough of an insult without lowering ourselves to their level. Let’s highlight our successes in the future and let our victories and trophies do the talking.