How the press treats other clubs: Manchester United

By Blacksheep

Untold Premiership (part one in a series of 19): Manchester United

Sitting here this morning in the rain waiting for an airshow (at Sywell) and listening to Radio Five reminds me that I told Tony I wanted to write an occasional series of articles about the way the press treats other clubs. We are aware of the perceived bias against Arsenal and the counterproductive efforts of the AAA, but is this unique to the Gunners?

I’ll start with Man Utd because they are the biggest club side in England and have dominated English football for over a decade. Last season, with Moyes at the helm, they flopped and failed even to finish top four let alone challenge for honours. This year they have been the subject of a media love-in (again) as the press fall over themselves to welcome Louis van Garrrrrrrl. But I discern another dynamic as well: United are no longer unbeatable, Old Trafford is not a fortress. Moyes’ brief stewardship ended all that. Just ask Gary Monk and Swansea.

On MoTD Alan Shearer said the defeat to Swansea might be a blessing in disguise, because it will force the board to spend big. Van Gaal declared that he too wants some new blood but wanted to take a look at what he has. The Telegraph football correspondent Henry Winter, speaking on Five live, suggested it might be hard to recruit players without European football (something they have been telling us for years) and cites the fact that Tommy V chose Barca as an example. This represents a change in previous rhetoric, which has always claimed that when United come calling most players will jump at the chance (Ramsey famously didn’t). So maybe it’s not United, it’s success and the chance of more that draws players (and loads of money of course).

How are the papers reacting to United’s defeat (the first home defeat in the opening game of the since 1972 didn’t you know)? I’ve carried out a mini sweep of the internet (I’ve not bought a newspaper in over a year and I’m not about the start now) and have had a quick butcher’s at what some of the United blogs are saying.

EPSN said that the defeat was ‘indelible proof that the club no longer has the personnel to compete to win the Premier League’; the Mail observed that not much had changed despite the arrival of a Dutch tactical genius, ‘United are what United have been for a while: ordinary’ wrote Ron Draper. The Mirror ran a story on a smiling Luke Shaw being seen out partying with his mates just after the defeat and tracked fans reaction (generally negative it seems) on Twitter. Paul Wilson in the Guardian was more balanced but agreed that reinforcements are need, and quickly.

What about the blogs? How about this (sound familiar?) from

‘We operate in a way that is entirely different to any other club in the world. Take Real Madrid for example. They asked Monaco how much it would take to sign James Rodriguez. Monaco replied and Madrid gave them the money. Chelsea. How much will it take to sign Costa and Fabregas? They got the reply, they paid the money. Instead we have Woodward giving out rhetoric of how we are prepared to break the transfer record, yet we continue to penny pinch and miss out on targets.’

This can be translated as ‘spend some f***ing money!’ and this supports the discourse coming out of the media. United must buy, and buy big. 3-5 or more players, top ones, are needed the pundits agree.

The Republik of Mancunia ended its sober reflection on an opening day defeat with this:

‘How much further will we fall behind before the fans begin to make a stand again? Moyes faced the brunt of the frustration last year but it is unlikely that Van Gaal will face the same fate. There’s no questioning his credentials and his ability to make title winning squads. But there are huge question marks over the owners and CEO. If they want top four football this season they need to act now, before one dodgy season turns in to decline.’

Or as the AAA might have phrased it, “Ivan Gazidis, what is it you do?”

Stretty News carried much the same tone as well. In its ‘5 things we learned article’ number one was ‘spend, spend. Spend’ and 5 was a need to reappraise ambition this season. Five (or was it six?) pre-season victories had raised expectations – Swansea burst the bubble.

So the press and the bloggers are agreed, United need to spend some money. Do they have any? Undoubtedly. Will they find clubs willing to sell them the quality of players they want at the right price? Maybe. Will players want to come to United to be shat on by the local bird life? Who knows?


United have lost one game, and that fielding a somewhat makeshift side. The Dutch skunk is not match fit, it’s early days (Arsenal weren’t that good on Saturday) and the transfer window has two weeks to run. You write off United at your peril.

What I’ve learned is that there ain’t that much difference (so far) in how the papers and fans react to United losing their opening game and us losing ours last season.

Who shall I do next folks?


The books

The complete Arsenal Anniversary series is to be found on the Arsenal History Society site.

29 Replies to “How the press treats other clubs: Manchester United”

  1. Tony, seems like United and Arsenal,both get similar treatments from the media. I didn’t expect this for United given how they dominated for decades but then realized that they did so unsurping Liverpool and knocked them out. So yes as far as your analysis goes, I cant wait for one on the darlings of media, the only club in the world with a ‘soul’ i.e. Liverpool !

  2. Do Liverpool next. The way the media were all in love with them last season was pathetic. Even handing them the title before the end of the season. Thanks to that ‘slip’ and Palace plating for a full 90 minutes when Liverpool stopped at 80 had the media in total shock….hilarious.

  3. Winning and losing, success and failure….comes and goes. Treat both the same and enjoy the football. Its a sad man who listens to the media.. why give the bull… oxygen?

  4. Andy,

    You are right. True supporters like you and I understand such tactics from the media. But how about the young generations? How on earth club can generate loyal fans if the current human nature is such? I mean these people only support so-called glamorous team, local core team or rich teams. Ask any boys now which player they yell for or which club they support? They let the bucks decide. And ask any talent which club they dream to play for? Any club that will fulfill their less than intelligent torn pockets. There is no passion or chivalry now.

  5. Micheal, there’s nothing new in supporting glamour clubs. I was at school in north London in the 1970s and in our class of 30 boys there were fans of Arsenal and Sp*rs, but also Liverpool (the side of the 70s), Leeds and United (and the odd Chelsea fan). If you start following a club at 7 or 8 because they are top of the league and follow them for the rest of your life (regardless of what happens) are you any less of a fan? What is a ‘true supporter’? Someone who goes to every game? Buys every kits? or just someone that sticks with the first team they picked through thick and thin, even if they never see their team in the flesh?

    in other news its looks like I’m doing the scousers next 🙂

  6. @MR…I suppose it is up to us old uns to explain. The media is a job just as being a professional footballer is. Fans become loyal and I agree at a very early age. The loyalty can cloud rationale and this is exploited by the media. We have the ridiculous situation where anyone can create a blog and basically lie about transfers, players and clubs behaviour etc. What I think is more disturbing is the way the professional game is played. Its ok to mislead referees, dive into opponents, fall over and claim life threatening injuries to obtain a perceived advantage and when the other player gets booked or sent off disclaim any responsibility. What is this teaching the younger generation? I have witnessed grown men swearing and insulting great players who were once their idols just because they have obtained a better deal elsewhere. Would any man turn down an opportunity to better his career? I suppose there are a few. Once again what does this attitude teach youngsters?. Football as we know is extremely important to many youngsters and has a responsibility to display the right things.

  7. Blacksheep

    Yes, and wind back 20 years to Highgate in the 1950’s, and there were just two teams to support (plus Finchley & Highgate Redwing). Come the 1960’s and the advent of televised European games and kids became infatuated with Man U & Liverpool, which is hardly surprising as they achieved so much in a few short years.
    I’d say a true supporter actually pays money either throughout the turnstile or by buying merchandise, the rest are just fanboys/girls.

  8. Still think Utd have got off very lightly if you compare the press reaction to us losing against villa last season. Yes Utd have recently taken criticism recently, and no longer have the a man untouchable no matter how badly he treated the very same media, but ultimately, they are a brand to be protected right up to the highest level… Scudamore recently implied.
    Please do Liverpool next, cannot wait for that one! A Devon loch style bottle job at the end of the season, yet hardly a word out of place from the media. Their captain lauded as the ultimate loyal professional, yes, he has been a great player BUT lauded by amedia who clearly did not take into account he spent most of Euro 2004 in Roman A’s yacht, affecting his England performances in the process. Some very interesting opinions on why ultimately,he did not join Chelsea,some say he was being leant on by Merseyside criminals……may not be true of course!

  9. @oldgrover
    ‘I’d say a true supporter actually pays money either throughout the turnstile or by buying merchandise, the rest are just fanboys/girls.’
    I am a pensioner on basic pension, I cannot afford to go to see my local team Crawley play let alone go to the Emirates so I am what you disparagingly refer to as a fanboy.
    Kindly do not insult me by saying I am not a true supporter.

  10. Do they have an untold??… Let those glory glory fans suck up the media shit for some time. They mocked us all through. Now its their turn.

    Hey LVG. Keep up the good work..

  11. I totally agree that United get a more favourable reception in the press than any other club and that’s not me being a paranoid City fan either. True, they’ve come in for some criticism of late but the way their pre-season under van Gaal was lauded by the press hacks was quite laughable. I don’t see the media creaming their pants to that same extent over any other club having a positive pre-season. I also think they got off extremely lightly last season – if any other club had plummeted from champions to seventh they’d have been absolutely slaughtered for it.

    The OP says we should write United off at our peril and while I largely agree that you can’t keep a club of that size and standing down for too long, I think it’s now becoming apparent just how badly run they are on the footballing side of things. The succession planning when it came to Ferguson’s appointment was a total shambles – Moyes wasn’t even interviewed for the job and he got the gig simply because Ferguson decided he was the man, and because Ferguson was involved in almost every aspect of the club, there don’t seem to be any actual football people on their board (Bobby “Ticket tout” Charlton doesn’t count) to assist the manager which in this day and age for a club of United’s size is a recipe for disaster. Then of course we have their transfer dealings – things were such a mess last summer that I thought for a moment that they were being conducted by a back from the dead ex-City chairman Peter Swales. This summer hasn’t been much better for them. Things started off promisingly with the signings of Shaw and Herrera but since then not a single signing. I’m sure they’ll get a few in before the window shuts but what kind of quality they’ll be bringing in is a mystery. Woodward talks of them being in a position to spend £60-£70 million on a player but the Glazer’s MO suggests they’ll do nothing of the sort. I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.

  12. Mick,

    I’m sure oldgroover wasn’t referring to people in your situation as being fanboys/girls. There are plenty of die-hard fans that can’t get to games these days for one reason or another but I think he was aiming this at those plastic fans that have never set foot inside the ground of the club they support and have no intention of doing so either.

  13. Mick

    Sorry if you feel insulted, as I’m also a pensioner, but one who put my time in on the terraces, (as you probably did) way back, and later at The Emirates. Distance & unreliable public transport deters me from going now.
    Yes the plastics. oh! the plastics!

  14. @oldgrover
    No problem.
    By the way I am not a ‘fanboy’ but would love to be a ‘toyboy’, especially to Mrs Sagna!!.

  15. blacksheep,

    It is the end of an era for Man United. I am certain of it. I am not saying they will always come 7th. No, I am saying that their dominance of the last 2+ decades is over. They will get in the mix with the rest of the top 5 teams and win a trophy now and then, like the rest of the top teams but Ferguson is retired and with him is gone the era of Man united invincibility.

    I agree with Mandy Dodd that Man United actually got off easy with the media after their first opening day loss in 42 years. The biggest criticisms that they have received have come from their own fans rather than the media, unlike last year when Arsenal’s ref inspired loss was treated like Armageddon by the press. At least we could blame Taylor, what is United’s excuse?

    When all is said and done, I still can’t see why Saturday’s Man United team cannot beat Swansea at the Old Trafford. Man Unite did not lose because of their defence, they lost because their attack is blunt. Their only goal and other good chance came from set pieces. How Swansea managed to out-score that United team (with both goals coming against the run of play) at Old Trafford is what people should be querying LvG about.

  16. @Oldgroover – I too was at a North London School (the same one as Alan Sugar) in the 1950’s and there was no such thing as supporting anyone else other than Arsenal or Spurs and it was then much easier to support the latter. I made a different choice and have never regretted it for a moment. TV changed everything but Man Utd. definitely seem to have suffered as regards support amongst the young in London over the past ten years – sadly mainly down to the rise of Chelsea I think.

  17. I agree with Mandy, the Manures have taken some criticism with their poor performance against Swansea – but nothing like the hate filled and hateful flak directed last year at Arsenal and AW after the Aston Villa/Taylor match.

    The motivation of the press/media to denigrate all things Arsenal seems unrelenting, while at the same time they want to suck up to the Dippers, the oil clubs and the Red Nose Relics!

  18. bjtgooner,

    Hmmmm…not sure City get that great a press mate – for years after the ADUG takeover it seemed we were under attack from all angles. Things have noticeably improved of late but United and Liverpool remain the 2 biggest media darlings in this country and that’s probably down to them having more fans than anyone else which equates to more clicks on web pages. It’s sad that the level of bias a club receives in the press is pretty much dictated by the popularity of said club.

  19. @M18

    I have watched a number of media programs where they have been eulogizing about City – but they have never similarly reflected on Arsenal – usually they snipe at all things Arsenal!

  20. The media can say whatever pleases them for all I care. It’s a valid 3 points for Arsenal and zero point for manure. Doubly glad that Fabianski (ARSENAL DNA?)denied manure points. 🙂

    Thanks Blacksheep for the article, I hope you’d do chel$ky next after their match tonight.

  21. We won’t get a lot of positive press until we regularly win the Premiership or regularly bring home one of the cups. Unfortunately,we need local- British – boys ready to speak on our behalf on television and radio. None of our former non-British players are on UK TV or radio and those Britons that are there are outnumbered (based on historic successes) by Liverpool or ManU supporters who are far more interested in sticking up for their clubs than our ‘spokesmen’.

  22. Agree with you Andy bishop. The rules in football need an overhaul.

    The fact as you mention that the players do these things is bad enough, but the blatant lying and false or non reporting of an event during the game does paint a completely different picture of the game.

    There is an air of “fear to tell it as it was” in case of “upsetting” the absolute rule and authority of the refs. Even if some of them initially question the decision, they all then give in and defer to the decision given.

  23. Yes, Utd are getting some stick, inc SSFM stuff – and it may even go on for awhile, but it’ll never be the 24/7 stuff Arsenal have faced for years.

    Whilst Ars are pilloried all year round, inc. during off season (Titanic, spending too late or not at all, wonderful players are not – cos they didn’t cost what Chels/Utd/City would pay for them, tired manager, et al), Utd and Chels – even with uber dysfunctional managers are lauded – whatever they say or do.

    “Against Palace Ars didn’t play well”?
    So tell me, which Prem teams put on a sparkling display over the wkend. One where there were no mistakes/howlers/ ‘tactical ineptitude’ and the like?
    How did Crystal Palace “play well”, and were “unfortunate to lose”?
    Did you read the ref review?

    Good article, and I’m looking forward to other teams’ reports.

  24. Ah. I just read the article that follows this one. It answers some of my questions. Nice one Walter.

  25. bjtgooner,

    Fair enough mate. I think Arsenal have earned a lot of plaudits down the years for Wenger’s style of play but I agree that over the past few years you’ve come in for a lot of criticism in the press, much of it unwarranted.

    I do think fans of all clubs tend to feel the media is against them – I’ve done my share of moaning about it down the years. Actually, I don’t mind criticism of our club in the press as long it’s constructive criticism but the chances of a constructively critical article appearing in the tabloid press is virtually zero.

  26. On Chelsea:

    It is interesting that a group of Chelsea fans are essentially at war with the abramovich regime: a group own the pitch in Fulham (but not the ground) and that is their blocker on Abramovich. Of course, he’ll have the last laugh one day if and when he calls in his loans. Funny, but you don’t see ‘not so nice but dim’ covering this story in the Russian owned free London papers. C nt imagine why not. Nope. No idea. I’m lost for words.

    There may be a threat of sanctions. But with so much Gazprom investment in London property I think it’s fair to say he’s one step ahead of most, including the Gazprom-upon-Fulham faithful.

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