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Back in June we looked at what each PL club needed this summer. Now we re-visit last season's top six to assess their progress. There are an awful lot of gaps...
What do the papers, the TV, and fans of other clubs think about your team? In this series, John Nicholson and Alan Tyers look at the stereotypes, coverage and media agendas for each team in the Premier League. This week, it's the turn of the Manchester United behemoth.
Ex-player pundit presence
Gurreh is currently held up as the pundit to whom all others must aspire. And then on the other hand, there's Dwight Yorke. In between those two extremes come Gordon Strachan, Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, Andrew Cole, Gary Pallister, Steve Bruce, Peter Schmeichel, Alan Brazil, Steve Coppell, Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistelrooy and countless others. Basically, United on your CV is good enough for most media gigs. We've even seen Clayton Blackmore on telly. Clayton Blackmore! We very much hope that Sir Ferguson can be lured into a TV studio and can only imagine that chequebooks will be flexed sooner or later. His autobiography, out next month and ghost-written by the estimable Paul Hayward, may mean a lot of TV time and hopefully a lot of dirt dished.
Obviously nothing succeeds like success, so there's plenty to choose from. So what, possibly, is the excuse for this list of Ten Famous Man United fans from a downmarket click-bait football website: Kym Marsh, Ulrikka Jonsson, Thom Yorke, Gary Rhodes, Ian McShane, Steve Coogan, Justin Timberlake, Russell Watson, Usain Bolt and - at number one - Eamonn Holmes. That has to be a dig, right? Are they really the most glittering stars in the United firmament?
Back page leaders?
Still got the biggest balls of all, but the gap's definitely narrowed in terms of their media dominance. The hysteria of Liverpool, the billions of City, the Roman-Jose soap opera at Chelsea and the tightness of Arsenal are all bona-fide back-page bankers in their own right these days. But for glamour and global pull, you can't beat a bit of United. Fans of the business pages have had plenty to get their teeth into as well, what with the Glazers. However, a new manager means new power struggles. Fergie's loyal brown-nosers may not always be Moyes's men, so expect a shifting of the journo tectonic plates this season as new alliances are formed and old ones jettisoned.
Gaffer's media skills
Debatable. Sometimes looks like a junior school boy who has just gone up to the Big School. Everything about him is still defined by He Who Came Before. The sense remains that he got the gig in large part (solely?) because Sir Redface anointed him, and because some Scary Scotsman continuity was required. Interestingly, Moyes already seems far less intimidating a man than he did at Everton. Perhaps he is cowed by the scale of the job. The football media, having had a quarter of a century of being brutally kept in line by Sir, is ready and waiting for United to fail. Or even fall? What a story it could be.
Vox pop cliché fan
The Surrey Red needs no introduction, and has long been held up as everything that is wrong with the Premier League, and indeed the world. Back in the early 2000s, Football365 designer David Tarbox built a spoof website for a deranged Super Manchester Reds superfan from Thailand. You'd think that calling him Kok Wee http://www.geocities.ws/kok_kokwee/ might have given the game away, but you'd be surprised how many thought he was real. Anyhow, back then, there was only one club that a hysterical, plastic obsessive could possibly support. These days, Kok could equally well be Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal or City. Point being: United were the first club to really sell themselves to the world, and they did it the best. The sneers of others are the sneers of jealousy. Without the Kok Wees of this world, United would be just another big team in the north west of England.
Often unconsidered is how the Mancunian natives feel about people who may never come within 100 miles of the city identifying themselves as diehard fans. The Manchester Red tends to adopt an air of lofty superiority, specifically over the vulgar, jealous Blues, but generally over fans of all other English teams. He, of course, Hates Scousers.
Keyboard warrior ferocity
Due to the legendary sensitivities 40 miles to the west, United's paranoid fans sometimes pale by comparison, but they can go toe to toe with many Scousers when it comes to that strange mix of self-regard and paranoia. Worst examples paint the club as a downtrodden, persecuted underdog that everyone hates and act like this is a terrible burden they have to bear while bravely collecting endless amounts of silverware. This has spawned a cliché of its own: the ABU, which is now deployed as a defence mechanism against any criticism at all, as though not being hypnotised into obedience by the club means you are its sworn enemy.
Many haven't realised that not thinking United are the best at everything all the time, or that they only employ people who are brilliant, isn't the same as being unreasonably biased against the club.
Easily wound-up by accusations of being a glory hunter. Even though many of them obviously are: you're not telling us that the clubs who win more stuff are just accidentally the best supported, are you? Read below-the-line comments for good examples of this.
Glamour, tradition, history, Munich, attacking football, selling poly-cotton club-logo duvet covers to people in the Far East. Sir Matt. Sir Bobby, Sir Alex, Sir Mix-a-Lot. United is iconic. Whether its Bestie, Worstie or Alrighty. The United brand is indivisible from some of its players, who were football and cultural icons not just of the club but of their era. Even when they sign rubbish players like Djemba-Djemba or Ted MacDougal, they go on to be icons of a special kind of failure.
The plastic's plastics. A club supported all over the world, just not in Manchester. Only has so many fans because of their success, yet try telling any of their fans this and they go mental. Annoying presence of United shirts on every high street. Kids who support them despite parents' allegiances to small unfashionable clubs are often held up as sign of contemporary cultural apocalypse and also general twattishness. Timed their run perfectly with the emergence of the Premier League, and were way smarter than their rivals commercially. The masters of merch and image manipulation, despite having some legendary drinkers and shaggers at the club over the years.
Archetypal news stories
'Moyes, still in Ferguson's shadow, dies aged 94'
'Rooney demands move, settles for more money, nobody wants him anymore'
'Manchester United launch own brand of tampon'
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
Read Johnny's book, 'The Meat Fix' here
Alan on The Ashes and more here.