Sports

MAN, U FANS ARE SO FUNNY

WACKY WEDNESDAY

There have always been two types of Manchester United supporters in Singapore.

Well, three if you include the girl I once met who dreamt of sleeping with Lee Sharpe.

To her considerable excitement, I explained that sleeping with Sharpe was like celebrating a birthday. Hang about and it will come around eventually.

Of course, for legal reasons, I must explain that the above sentence is a joke - some people die before their next birthday comes around.

But the two main groups of United fans are entertainingly easy to distinguish right now.

The first group are the "Arthur Albiston group".

These folks are always at pains to stress how they are not bandwagon jumpers, but have followed United since the days of trimmed moustaches, tight perms and even tighter shorts (so you're never quite sure if they really liked football in the 1980s, or had a disturbing infatuation with The Village People).

FANS SINCE DARK DAYS

When I meet older United supporters, they grab my arm and cry: "No, no, no, you've got me all wrong. I've supported them since the dark days of Arthur Albiston and Mike Duxbury."

Poor Albiston and Duxbury are shorthand for crap United footballers.

They were nothing of the sort, of course, but their only role now is to underscore a supporter's longevity and loyalty to United - regardless of success.

"That's right", the old-school fan continues. "Albiston, Duxbury, John Gidman, Graeme Hogg; Kevin Moran killing Peter Reid in the FA Cup final; Paul McGrath swigging a can of beer after every tackle, I remember them all."

They reel off every name from the Manchester United page of my childhood Panini football sticker book to convince me that they are old-school, proper hardcore, Old Trafford loyalists; offended by the younger, fickle trophy hunters.

"These kids don't realise that we've been here before, in the days before Ferguson. All we dreamt of was a decent FA Cup run and a place in the top three," they reminisce fondly, seemingly oblivious to the fact that neither is possible this season.

"We followed them before Premier Leagues and Champions League came along. We followed them when it was Albiston, Duxbury and all those other players with afros in your 1980s sticker book."

These supporters almost revel in United's current failings as they can show off their encyclopaedic knowledge to reveal a time when the club were even more terrible than they are now (in fairness, they have to go back a long way).

When United trudged off at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, the established old guard will remind anyone listening that the likes of Kevin Moran could get into this mediocre side - right now, at the age of 57.

As for the other group of supporters, they are busy rupturing spleens on Twitter at the horror of it all.

These are the post-Premier League devotees. They have known only Sir Alex Ferguson. They have known only silverware and official savoury snack partners in South-east Asia. They have known only winning.

They walk around in a daze, haunted, lost, like... like... like the way Phil Jones and Michael Carrick looked after a giggling Samuel Eto'o breezed past them again.

These United supporters are wide-eyed and open-mouthed, staggering around the streets like a gaggle of zombies looking for their car keys.

They occasionally bump into another - usually when lining up in FairPrice to buy a few tubes of United's official savoury snack partner in South-east Asia - and they mutter: "We just don't understand. We don't... know... this... world."

They are Michael J Fox wandering around in an alternate Hill Valley in Back to the Future II. Everything seems the same, but everything is wrong.

ALTERNATE UNIVERSE

In this alternate universe, Arsenal are good and Manchester United are bad; Marouane Fellaini is United's biggest signing; Phil Jones plays regularly; United defend like Accrington Stanley; Biff Tannen is married to your mother and Doc Brown is dead.

That's how bad it is for the younger United supporters. They know there is another world. They remember it. They just can't get back to it. Michael J Fox had a DeLorean. They have David Moyes.

It hardly seems fair.

At this point, there's an overwhelming temptation to grab them by the scruff of the neck and shout: "This is how it is for the other 91 professional clubs in English football all the time!

"Most clubs dream of having a player like Anderson! Okay, not Anderson, but you see my argument."

But fellow football fans must display some empathy right now and not kick the Red Devils when they're down.

United are playing Phil Jones in central midfield. They are suffering enough.

LEAGUE CUP