Manchester United defender and part-time Stan Laurel impersonator Phil Jones says 'everyone hates' Manchester United? Is he right? This is a commonly said thing, especially by United fans who have developed the 'ABU' concept to be the perfect expression of it.
Having an acronym for your own perception of how your football club is viewed seems self-regarding in the extreme. Liverpool don't conceive of an ABL, no-one is an ABA or an ABMC. No. Only United have developed the idea of external loathing to such an extent that it has become a small planet of its own, orbiting the United universe.
I wonder if Jones and other perpetuators of the ABU concept think it is a good or a bad thing? It's used so frequently and indiscriminately against anyone who simply doesn't blindly follow the United mind-wipe on any issue, it seems to be the cause of much of their annoyance at the world and yet here's Jones saying how the team use it as a motivation. Do you want us to be for or against you?
Defining yourself against other people's hatred is an odd thing to do really. I mean, I support Middlesbrough and if anyone hates Middlesbrough or wishes us ill, frankly, I don't care. Why would I? Oh, you think Boro are sh*t do you? Oh. I'll have you know we won the Anglo-Scottish cup in 1976. Yeah. How d'ya like us now?
Criticism of my club matters not in the slightest to me. It alters nothing. Most fans of most clubs are like this. If I have a go at, let's say, Derby County, Derby fans wouldn't give a shiny flying one and rightly so. Someone writing to a website or calling a phone-in to say some aspect of your football club is not exactly tip-top would be accepted as right or wrong, but not hardened into a defensive dogma the way ABU has been.
I suspect this ABU business is a product of the recent domestic dominance (it may seem like a lifetime to you, but it's recent to me). It feels and sounds like the defensive bleating of a rich man who is scared his pre-eminence as King Cock is going to be superseded. When you're at the top, the only way is down, so everyone becomes an enemy. When you've spent a lot of time giving it the big I Am, you've got a lot of self-respect and prestige to lose. Rather than accept this is a condition of your own making, you turn the worry and self-loathing outwards and lay it off onto a largely guiltless third party. Thus the very idea of everyone being against United originates within the United fan base and not externally at all. Yeah, I've got a degree in pop psychology from the University Of Getting Through Life.
Because the fact is, while a lot of people like to see United lose, its not because its United per se, it's because they win a lot and it gets boring when the same club wins a lot, whoever it is. The ABU perpetuators don't seem to understand this at all. And anyway, I for one don't hate United and never have. I like big glamorous clubs, but that doesn't mean I always want them to win nor that I have to get behind their terrified-looking ferret of a manager. This doesn't make me an ABU anymore than liking Chris Hughton makes me a Norwich fan or loving AVB's beard make me a Spurs fan. Understand?
The ABU concept is also an especially bitter and twisted one when you consider that United financially benefit from so much casual, unthinking, shallow support. All those polyester duvet covers sold in Singapore and Sidcup to people who have only heard of three clubs - United, Barcelona and David Beckham. Every town centre is full of kids wearing United shirts who only support them because they're massively successful. If you can't see why this is annoying and why many seek to stand against that, not because it's United themselves but because of what it represents, then you really need to stop hugging your life-size inflatable Ian Ure (you're a big United fan, you remember him, right?) doll and take off your Clayton Blackmore pyjamas and get a life.
I often wonder just how the ABU perpetuators would rather the world was? Do they think everyone who likes football should be a United fan and never say anything critical? Do they think they should get even more fawning coverage or that everything the club does is always 100% right? Do they feel marginalised and misunderstood despite decades of lavish worship and a glittering trophy cabinet? Sometimes they portray themselves as plucky underdogs bravely fighting a tidal wave of opprobrium, this despite an acquiescent media who for some reason was scared of Sir Alex Ferguson shouting at them. Oooh scary, an old man is shouting at me. I never understood that. Why didn't anyone ever belt just Ferguson and put him in his place? You're just a bloke, not a god. Stop being so horrible. Wham. It wouldn't have been especially unreasonable, especially as journalists got banned by him frequently for telling the truth. If you're going to get banned, make it bloody worth it.
But Ferguson seemed to become inviolate and those who hold the club as a holy relic, lofty and untouchable by those unfortunates who don't count themselves as fans, seem to see the world in the same silly, paranoid way as Ferguson did. Indeed, he encouraged them to slavishly follow his example.
But Manchester United is just a football club, not the holy bloody ghost. But then I would say that, because I'm an ABU aren't I?
I think the phenomenon is down to sustained success in a combination with having had a manager who was extremely difficult to like for fans of other clubs. Nobody likes an arrogant bully and Ferguson's manner became synonymous with United. And most people want to see a bully fall on his arse. As Moyes (if he stays) comes across as a more decent guy I think there will be less ABUing and more normal rivalry, even if the club starts being successful again.- sgtlewis