What hurts the most.

To the world, Manchester United fans can appear spoilt. Glory hunters they say. No fans in Manchester they state.

As of this very moment, our biggest heartache is no longer trophies (or the lack of them). And that’s not to say that a club of this stature shouldn’t be fighting for titles or holding silverware. Not at all. I remain committed to the viewpoint that it will never seem right to not be up there with the very best of them. No.

Without disputing that, when I think back to my happiest memories being a red of course the successes are up there. But what I truly miss the most? That feeling of supporting whichever way I could and feeling no guilt or shame. By association.

Being a child and wearing a United shirt. Not worrying about the bigger picture and what monster you were funding.

Now, lifelong match goers are called out for being a ‘Glazer puppet’ and those who reside in anywhere else or cannot get to games are told they have no right to an opinion. So, there are no winners with these mindsets. Just for one second though, consider how turning on one another helps create a better future or with the bigger picture though. It doesn’t. It is not for us to tell anybody else how they should or shouldn’t show their support for Manchester United or disgust for the Glazers.

If you was to tell me you hadn’t bought any merchandise for years in defiance, I would say fair play. If you was to tell me you couldn’t live without life’s little luxuries such as treating yourself to the new kit or taking your seat in Old Trafford (when allowed again of course), I would say that’s your prerogative. Neither are any of my business.

If anything, the bitterness and resentment amongst fans only fuels the fire and keeps it burning. The clue is in the name. United. We all want the same thing. We all feel the same emotions. The same anger. And be honest. If it wasn’t for the adoration across the globe for this club, we wouldn’t even be who we are today. So, there is no need for arrogance or putting yourself above another simply because you were born closer to Manchester. It solves nothing. And only adds to the stress that each one of us are going through.

Your heart can only break so many times until you become numb to the same pattern repeating itself over and over. Even with the knowledge that we weren’t anywhere near enough on a par with our rivals regarding the strength of the squad, like the soppy sod I am I still anticipated the excitement of our return to the Premier League.

Then I watched as the holes seemed to get bigger and the problems we knew we had reared their ugly head as we lost 3-1 to Crystal Palace at Old Trafford. What was once a fortress, now a joke. What was once a fight, now a gutless performance. The display was as sad as the empty stands. Football without fans really is nothing. But football without hope and with the acknowledgement that things probably won’t change anytime soon is bleak.

Sir Alex Ferguson watching on as a reminder to us all of the riches we once knew. Now lay in tatters. To see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer so dejected after our opening game of the season and to see him once again clearly proclaim afterwards that he needs and wants signings is just a reminder of what we all knew.

Admittedly, the players and manager have to be held to account today for that embarrassment we had to witness. However, if Ole isn’t going to be backed even after continously and publicly stating the fact that he needs it, who is? We have to end the cycle of swapping managers and expecting a different outcome.

The beautiful game to us. Our home. Our life. Our escapism. Our United. But to the men in suits, it’s just business. They don’t care how much it hurts to see your club falling to it’s knees. They couldn’t care less that Liverpool won the title last season. Or how stark the difference is between them and us at present. After the history, grit and determination that went into infamously ‘knocking them off their perch.’ Our everything is their nothing.

This year especially, everything we once knew has changed. The things we took for granted snatched away. But what is happening with Manchester United and the running of the club can not be excused by the events of 2020.

A chain of events have ensued which have led us to where we are now. A shadow of our former selves. Reported financial woes. No real lure anymore to coming to the theatre of dreams. Businessmen dealing with football matters. The roof falling apart. It’s a shambolic mess and all we can do is watch as the heart is torn out.

Ed Woodward once said that we can do things in the transfer market others can only dream of. Today, it feels like I would have to fall asleep to envision any such thing. I do not condone threats of violence to him, especially where his family are involved. Having said that, if it was any other person in any other job role, would they still be employed?

As for the leeches who have sucked the soul out of our club slowly but surely, I promise that no matter what you take from me you will never take my love for Manchester United away. You won’t blind me by deflecting the blame to the manager. You will never be known as anything other than what you are today. All the money in the world can’t save you from the truth.

As disappointed as I am, the little girl inside of me still can’t wait to watch the reds. Even if I know what’s coming. They will never take that away from me. Or the hope that one day they will sell up and take their soulless dwelling elsewhere.

What can we do as fans? It’s not for me to say or to tell you what to do. But use your voice. It’s a powerful tool and it’s your right. Keep protesting. Never accept this as the norm because it isn’t. If you want to boycott contributing to tickets and merchandise, keep at it. If you simply cannot live your life without doing so, then that’s your choice. Stop attacking one another for coping another way. Disagree but don’t disrespect. Focus your anger and message in the right direction.

I do hope we sign some more players. Not that I will hold my breath. And it won’t change my mind on the ownership. But we are clearly crying out for them and it would improve my optimism for how this season will unfold. And provide some much needed positivity in these crazy times.

This isn’t an overreaction over one fixture. I know how the game works and how everything can change. This is simply me expressing my disgust at what has become of the Manchester United I once knew compared to the one the younger generations now know.

Some of the decisions in that game flummoxed me. The penalty debacle for one was ridiculous and just the cherry on top for what was less than pleasurable viewing to say the least . To be blunt though, we deserved the defeat. I make no excuses when it comes to that loss. And everyone has to take a part in the blame. The one positive was that Donny van de Beek came on and scored on his debut. A solo triumph as opposed to a team one. But I was happy for him all the same. You have to take what you can these days.

The difference a fresh pair of legs can make. Who knew? Imagine the difference if we did the same to boost all our weak areas? That we have been calling out for. Endlessly. Mind-blowing.

The day the Glazers social distance themselves from Manchester United will be the day this particular virus goes away. But in the meantime, we won’t be masked or silenced when it comes to voicing our disgust or fighting for what is right.

On behalf of all Manchester United fans, can we please sign some players and save our sanity? If only for a moment. It is 2020, after all.

Sincerely, UnitedSheStands. Or just another fan who misses the club I once knew. And the one I know is still in there somewhere. With a man at the helm who wants it just as badly as us.

Raise them up just to bring them down.

Mason Greenwood. Just like Harry Maguire, he’s one of our own. And just like us, he’s a human being. Who are known to make mistakes.

At 18 years of age, he has achieved a lifelong dream of breaking into Manchester United’s first team and getting his first call up for England. The very first part of that statement is the most important though. He’s a young lad coming to terms with being the name on everyone’s lips.

Now I’m not refuting that he’s been a silly boy and doesn’t deserve some criticism. But what is beginning to emerge is much more than that. We have seen time and time again how English players get put on a pedestal just to be dragged down and made supposed examples of. All for a headline or clickbait.

As the fragile beings that we are live our lives, we make mistakes, we falter, we have good times and bad. But the fact is we were all teenagers once. I’m grateful that when I was, social media wasn’t the monster it that it is today to document my every move. And for somebody in the public eye, of course this only makes it all the more intense.

We make the wrong choice and we do things we later regret. And then we learn from them. Whoever is reading this isn’t perfect and neither am I. Perfection doesn’t exist. And life would be a lot more boring if we all merely existed rather than overcoming some hurdles along the way.

Mason rightly got sent home from international duty and I’m sure has been spoken to and dealt with in private about his actions. I’m also sure he is aware that he must learn from this going forward. Talking of going forward, I truly hope this season we see him score goals galore with both feet with the clinical finish that comes so naturally to him.

I hope he puts all that energy into his game and uses every single front cover trying to ruin him as encouragement to in fact do the exact opposite. And become the player and man all Manchester United (and football fans for that matter) know he can emerge into.

Footballers never asked to be role models. They never proclaimed to be idols who we should emulate. Every once in a while, a Marcus Rashford will grace our presence and I won’t deny that a character like him is a fantastic example to my children and many others. But I’m sure, in his private life he has his moments like all of us do.

And hear me out. Those who may not be doing right all the time can also help youngsters too. As a reminder that in this social media dominated world, the seemingly ideal bodies and lifestyles we scroll past daily don’t actually exist. We all have our problems and experiences that encourage us to get back up again.

That rich footballer you may have tweeted an abusive comment to who you thought couldn’t possibly be affected? You were wrong. Our words and actions are powerful. They aren’t superhuman. A big house doesn’t equate to having no feelings. A dream career doesn’t necessarily mean they are happy all the time.

So, whilst it is perhaps sometimes helpful to inform fans of certain situations, it is inexcusable to try to tarnish said person’s character and try to make them your new victim. I say try because as fickle as us fans are and however much we may disagree and debate amongst ourselves, we never let you come for one of our own and win.

I’ve never been a fan of player’s personal lives taking precedent over what they do on the pitch. Admittedly, with the incident regarding the hotel debacle, that did coincide and affect the football itself regarding the implications and change of squad so that’s understandable. But to then delve into irrelevant old videos is unnecessary and ridiculous. And quite frankly none of our business.

I’ve also never understood how those who sell the stories or set people up seemingly get away with it as if fame warrants more of the responsibility. Yes. You have to be more aware of your actions. And ensure you don’t make the same decisions again. But the blame doesn’t lie with one man simply because he plays for one of the biggest football clubs in the world.

We all have a history and the right to move on from it. Which brings to me to what excites us more than any of that nonsense. And that is the seeing our return to the Premier League next week after a meaningless friendly over the weekend which shouldn’t be used to encourage, nor discourage us when the real work still lies ahead.

Frustratingly, we still await further signings and are left uncertain of how much Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United will be strengthened. Whilst still expecting more outgoings of those who have surely come to the end of the road with us.

In that respect, it’s difficult to predict how this season will develop for us until we get some clarity. For now though, I anticipate the one thing that has kept so many of us sane (or ironically drove us crazy at times) in a year where our whole lives have been turned upside down. And that’s watching our reds come rain or shine. Whether we will be there in person soon or only by heart for a while longer yet, all I know is everything makes a bit more sense when that form of escapism is back. However way that may be.

I for one look forward to seeing our Captain Harry Maguire and our potential superstar in the making Mason Greenwood back where they belong and silencing critics in the only way they know how. On the pitch.

It’s easy to judge a life you don’t live but it’s much better to be quiet and move on. We are United. We stand by our own.

And now we simply wait to see the favour returned. In the only way that really matters. With a ball at their feet and the world shut out, if only for a while.

Everything else can wait. And newspapers can be thrown in the bin. But you cannot end a career that has only just started. You really haven’t seen nothing yet.

We’ve got you Mason.

Photo Credit: Give me sport.

And we’re off.

The events of the past week or so have left me wondering if I’m following my club or listening to the plotline of a film.

And like all plots, here comes the twist. If the ending follows the most recent of events, then at least Manchester United fans will finally reap some positivity after a turbulent time.

Three words we have all been longing to here have finally been uttered from one of the best in the business: Fabrizio Romano. Of course I always say reserve your full elation until we see the player adorning the red shirt. In regards to Donny van de Beek though, I think we can all rest assured that the ‘here we go’ is warranted. And at the price quoted, this is some excellent business for a club who were seemingly left behind as our rivals strengtnened their squads.

Let us just rewind for a second though. We were all shocked to hear the scenario that Harry Maguire found himself in and didn’t know what to believe. Speaking only for myself, after watching his interview, I believe every word that came off his mouth and my heart goes out to him.

The United way is to back your players publicly and I’m thrilled that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has followed suit. Like all footballers, Harry is a human being and my thoughts are with his family after the nightmare situation they have endured. I can only hope justice and the truth prevails and that our Captain can concentrate once again on the football.

Of course, my best wishes go out to Paul Pogba after he tested positive for Coronavirus. This year has just been a crazy one for us all hasn’t it? I’m sure he will be alright and I can’t wait to see him fighting fit in a midfield which is shaping up to be nothing short of magnificent.

The drama didn’t stop there with Victor Lindelof’s heroics stopping an elderly lady’s bag being stolen before apprehending the thief in question. Credit where it’s due. At least it wasn’t a negative story (for a change)!

In the midst of all this chaos, reds were left questioning if the only stories we would read were off field antics as opposed to those being business related. And therefore finally rectifying the issue of our lack of squad depth.

Then came yesterday’s confirmation of a young, exciting and versatile midfielder from Ajax being on his way to Manchester United. Their response has been nothing short of classy wishing Donny the very best and talking of the club I love being his dream too. I have nothing but respect for them. As for Edwin van der Sar, his involvement is appreciated but doesn’t come as a surprise at all. He always did have safe hands. Once a red, always a red.

The circus that has followed the Jadon Sancho saga has been nothing short of draining. So this comes as much needed relief and I truly hope the start of things to come.

Rumours are swirling as I write this about more players potentially in the pipeline to follow. One of the names on everyone’s lips being Dayot Upamecano. He would be a much needed and excellent addition to our defence. Whilst cautiously optimistic, I won’t hold my breath until it happens because the hope and disappointment can be detrimental to my mental health. And yours too I’m sure.

What’s next? In the year of 2020, I honestly don’t know! All I can say is I would much rather the entertainment be on the pitch as the new season dawns as opposed to everywhere else.

Talking of which, after months of social distance from the things we love to do and spending time with the people I love to do them with, there’s one moment that everything will make sense again.

Whilst United fans have struggled to agree on pretty much anything in recent times, there will be no more beautiful symbol of togetherness than the day we are all finally back in the theatre of dreams again. And not just for those inside the stadium. Wherever we are in the world, whether that will be in the pub, at home or elsewhere, that magic will be felt deeply by us all.

With so many sad images signifying this years events, the haunting reality of empty football stadiums just didn’t sit right with me. I understand the reasons behind it obviously. And respect it. But football without the fans is nothing. Like summer without sun. Like Manchester without rain. Like books without words.

It might take months. We might have some more obstacles along the way. But it will come. Eventually.

In spite of our struggles and in spite of owners who are far too selfish to care about the real meaning of this club, nobody can take away how special that day will be from us.

Will Old Trafford become the fortress it once was? Will we see more players coming in and out? Although I hope so, all that remains to be seen.

All I do know is, to witness that in person again is going to be wonderful. And I will never take it for granted again.

As for now, let’s get to work on providing some more optimism for fans who are in real need of it, more names worthy of being at Manchester United, deals getting done and some real ambition to go into 2020/21 with.

Here we go again?

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(Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Tale as old as time.

It’s that age old story isn’t it. Whilst everything this year has been changing around us, some things stay the same!

If you don’t take your chances, it will come back to haunt you. I laugh and joke just as much as the next fan at our recent form for winning and converting penalties. But last night, that simply wasn’t enough.

So many missed opportunities to finish what we started. And nothing to show for it. Manchester United were not clinical enough in the final third. And ultimately, it was once again defensive blunders that cost us.

Even as a huge Ole supporter, it is easy to get lost in the moment and wonder why he isn’t making changes sooner. After all, this was a knockout game to get us to a European final. Although if you put yourself in his shoes, you can see the quality isn’t on the bench to emulate the players on the pitch. If this doesn’t send a clear message to the board to strengthen the squad, nothing ever will.

Of course it’s disheartening. I can’t deny for a second that I’m gutted. I wanted a trophy so badly for Ole, the team and the fans after such a long season and challenging year for us all for many different reasons. It would have been a perfect metaphor to silence his critics and set the precedent to go into next season with.

With that being said, if we pause for a moment and rewind to consider where we resided in the table many months ago, it is difficult not to appreciate that improvements have been made.

At one point, top four seemed unattainable. There were some real mental tests for players to dig deep and keep pushing forward. Without question, it’s frustrating to think of all the times we didn’t capitalise when we had the chance. Which last night is a stark reminder of. Still, I have always said the true mark of a team is not in how they fall. But in how they get back up.

All the odds were against us. Especially when you throw in the fact that project restart almost didn’t happen at all. I remember feeling so nervous at how things would play out. In a football sense but also from a physical and mental health perspective. And nothing in this world could have prepared me to see empty stadiums, a soulless Old Trafford, and seats without fans as a heartbreaking reminder of the events of 2020.

Ever the eternal optimist, there is always that little voice in the back of my head and that gut feeling in the pit of my stomach that you can never fully write Manchester United off. We do everything the hard way and as a result, the fans feel every emotion along the way. However, if you would have told me then how we would re-emerge and go on the unbeaten run that we did, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.

Now, as one of the strangest and longest season finally comes to a close for us, I think it’s only fair that we acknowledge not only where we have perhaps failed, but how far we have come too. To finish in third place and get to three semi finals is no easy task. Sometimes, you have to look back to push forward.

A final? Now, that would have been a fitting end! A reward to us all for the constant back and forth, the positives and the negatives. It just wasn’t to be. Now that I’ve calmed down, I can see we were the better team overall. I have to give credit to Sevilla for taking every chance and succeeding where we did not though. That’s not to say I’m satisfied with the manner of defeat. Defensively, we fell asleep in the moments where it mattered. In attack, we are only left with what ifs. Another night?Potentially another story.

We can’t go backwards though. For me, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has brought the best out of his players as a whole. Anthony Martial is like a new man. Paul Pogba seems settled and happy. Which I hope leads to an end to all the controversial stories and a new contract. Ole has learnt from the very best in Sir Alex Ferguson when it comes to trusting youth and giving them their chance to shine. Mason Greenwood anyone? The possibilities for the versatile youngster excite me. Aswell as bringing in that leader and catalyst in Bruno Fernandes.

It hurts now reds. It does. But just as the path to true love never ran smoothly (and we all love United don’t we), neither does rebuilding or getting back to winning trophies. Let’s not forget, this is the manager’s first full season in charge. The building of his team is still a work in progress but the foundations are starting to come together to one day (hopefully sooner rather than later) be a worthy side. One that can be in the race for titles.

It’s now or never for the board. Back the manager. Make reinforcements so we have to capability to rotate the squad efficiently, which can then potentially lead to success. A new manager for me would take us backwards as opposed to forwards. Ole gets it. He loves the club just as much as us, if not more. And I think we are going to see much more of his ruthless streak. Whether you’re behind him or not, just support your team anyway.

The heartache only makes the elation that will eventually come taste all the sweeter. We won’t be lifting a trophy yet but the world still talks about us. That alone shows the progress is clear.

For now, the team have the chance to rest tired legs and must use every bit of anger and frustration they felt in defeat as ammunition to go into next season fighting.

The transfer situation is a worry and at this point I’m honestly not sure how it will play out. There’s a lot of talk but no action. We can only wait and see in that respect and hope for the best.

Once again, it’s been emotional. If I’ve learnt anything from this past 12 months, it’s to appreciate what you have and to grab every chance you get. The same applies with football. I’m grateful for the memories. Moving forward, we must learn not to repeat the same mistakes.

I can only hope that by the end of next season, we can proudly say we did just that and everything we could along the way.

This isn’t the end. It’s only the beginning…

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Photo credit: Manchester United.

Sancho saga. Semi final drama?

You’re bored of it. I’m bored of it. But it has to be addressed.

Once again, we are left in the lurch. We can only watch as our rival teams be decisive and ruthless when it comes to securing the players they want and need.

Admittedly, us reds do have a laugh about it. But the running joke gets tired after a while. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll know the name in question (and everyone’s lips) is Jadon Sancho.

Well renowned journalist Fabrizio Romano has told the world Sancho wants the move to Manchester United just as much as we want him. Borussia Dortmund seem set on a price. And once again it appears we have reached a stalemate as United are not coughing up easily. There’s social distancing. And then there’s complete isolation. And it looks like we are closer to the latter when it comes to financially securing this deal before the window is up.

With that being said, there’s still this gut feeling that resides inside me telling me somehow we will get there. And hopefully see Jadon adorning the devils crest in Manchester. Maybe that’s the problem though. We have been accustomed to this less than enthralling merry go round with buying players (or perhaps sometimes the lack of doing so).

Speaking for myself anyway, I tell myself every time I will not get sucked into the vortex that is the rumour mill. And I won’t set my heart on a new (potential) signing until I see it directly confirmed from the club. To give myself credit, I do stick to my word mostly. After all, when you support one of the biggest clubs in the world, every man and his dog (and probably Ronaldo at some point) will be linked with us.

Then there’s that one that I feel myself falling for again. It’s never easy. It’s never straightforward. And with the daily repetition, sometimes it can feel never-ending too.

Now, there are two sides to me as a football fan and as a person to be honest. There’s the realist in me and the fantasist. That being the voice that tells me the logic of the situation and the present difficulties that may well propose more issues than usual. And on the other hand the one that says we are Manchester United. We should go after and get big names. And after all, this isn’t as new a scenario as everything else in 2020 is it? No. It is a recurring theme.

I am over managers being made scapegoats. I hold my hands up to the fact that none of those post Sir Alex were not good enough for one reason or another. Until now. If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer turning the season from one of the worst starts in years to finishing 3rd in the Premier League and securing a 3rd semi final with the scrutiny and difficulties he has handled along the way doesn’t warrant being backed, nothing will!

Of course this was no easy feat, especially in his first full season. The lack of squad depth is apparent and the quality isn’t always there on the bench to match the standard of first team players. So the days of pushing excuses on to coaches are gone.

United are reportedly looking for a director of football. De ja vu. We have heard it all before. Is this a mere leak to pacify the fans, just noise or will it finally amount to something? I won’t hold my breath. And whilst Ed Woodward might be a businessman, he isn’t a football one.

Times are tough. I get it. But football for many of us is still a form of escapism. Albeit under slightly different circumstances as of late. So I don’t think we are asking the world to see the manager backed, to see him get the players he envisions in his developing United and to armour ourselves with a team primed to fight for titles and help to turn Old Trafford into the fortress it once was. The thing is we haven’t helped ourselves previously when it comes to breaking transfer fee records so it just seems silly to penny pinch now.

Whatever will be will be I know. This is a big money deal and I appreciate that and the surreal times we are living in. But if we truly want to be serious contenders again, for me it’s now or never. And Jadon is simply the start of that.

That’s not to say I’m not excited about the names we have seen flourish (Mason Greenwood), improve (Anthony Martial) and invigorate us (Bruno Fernandes) for just a few examples. I trust in them completely. But we still need some tweaks here and there. When injuries or tired legs come into play, it cannot be ignored.

To end on a positive note and what we should all really be focused on right now, in Sunday looms a European semi final against Sevilla. Yes. It’s Europa League. And thankfully we have already secured Champion’s League football for next season. Which is honestly the promised land. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to see us go all the way and lift that trophy. For Ole to win some silverware with pride as a metaphorical ‘up yours’ to everyone who doubted him.

Most penalties they say. Finished they say. But the thing is you don’t get awarded spot kicks unless you’re attacking and getting into the box. So as shameless as it is, I will celebrate every one converted. And the team goals. And the individual magic goals too. As much as we are put through our paces, and as much as my nerves go through it (the display against Copenhagen for one), these moments are what it all leads to.

Two games. Two wins. That’s all that lies between us and a nostalgic taste of glory. It’s not where we should be headed for of course. But it shows we are well on our way. A hint of what’s to come. Especially if the squad is strengthened! So it will be a doddle won’t it? Of course it won’t!

As the manager himself said, it’s all well and good getting to the latter stages of competitions. But winning? Well, that’s a whole other ball game (you should know i like a pun by now)!

Nothing and nobody tests my patience like Manchester United. But somehow, it’s all so worth it. Whatever we do, they will talk. So let’s give them something to talk about. Somehow, as the eternal optimist maybe, there’s always that feeling that everything will work itself out in the end.

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[Photo Credit: Manchester United]

Resilience.

Put any team, player or manager on a pedestal. And eventually they will fall off it. Be it temporarily or otherwise.

Unbeaten runs don’t last forever. Fergie time (sadly) didn’t last forever. And after a very successful, and perhaps surprising to some, project restart for Manchester United, their exit from the FA cup was far from graceful.

I will always give credit where it’s due and criticism when it’s necessary. And frankly, we weren’t good enough. I can take losing. Being a football fan takes a thick skin. There are losses which touch the soul. Moments which haunt you. For good and bad reasons. And with the elation comes the times you in which you would rather forget.

A loss I will and can accept. It was the manner of defeat which was simply not in standing with the recent way in which United have gone about business. Go out fighting. Not feeling sorry for yourselves. The football team I fell in love with would play for the badge irrespective of how many goals down we were or how much the odds were stacked against us.

Having said that, the only way you redeem yourselves is by looking forwards. Not back. The true mark of strength in a football team is not in how you fall. But how you get up. History has taught us that form may well be temporary. But class is permanent.

In truth, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer simply cannot win at present. If he picks his strongest side, there will be those who proclaim they should have been rested. On the contrary, if he rests those players, many will ask why they didn’t start. Regardless of a few shaky results, I am still excited about the future.

My concern is not in the manager or the capabilities of his players. But in the lack of the squad depth. And the fact that when Plan A is affected by fitness, injuries or perhaps mentality, Plan B is simply not good enough.

Ole has to be backed to secure some signings this transfer window in order to keep the momentum alive and standards as high when he simply has to make changes in the team. Going into next season, we need to have the ability to rotate the squad effectively in order to truly compete.

Of course, the beginning of Bruno Fernandes’ time in Manchester with the likes of an emerging Mason Greenwood make for an exciting future for the fans. But we cannot rely on several players to carry the pressure solely on their backs constantly.

Talking of which, David De Gea did that for many years and now he’s not at his best, it is even more apparent. I can’t fathom why Romero didn’t start in what was pretty much his competition. A number 2 for us. But let’s be honest. He would be starting for many other teams. I don’t think we have quite seen the end of David just yet though. And whilst it’s easy to turn on him now, I do sincerely hope he has the character to silence many doubters before long. Only time will tell.

Following the semi final defeat, we needed nothing more than to bounce back. So I’m not going to say I wasn’t disappointed to take nothing but a point from David Moyes’ West Ham at Old Trafford. Draws and Moyesy brings back flashbacks for us all of a time Post Sir Alex we would all rather pretend never happened.

Paul Pogba made a silly mistake. A silly error for a player of his calibre or a natural instinct? You decide. Penalties and De Gea are like a chocolate teapot. You know it’s not going to end well. And just as I was thinking this game is calling out from a magic moment out of nowhere again from Mason, my thoughts became reality. Ultimately, we couldn’t culminate on that. A scrappy win would have sufficed but it simply wasn’t to be.

Was it down to physical or mental fatigue? A drop in momentum? Or just one of those days? It could well be any. However easily we as fans can say players have had x amount of months off and should therefore still be on form, it isn’t always that simple. They’re humans. Not robots. The circumstances are exceptional. And that’s just with this year’s league winners.

In all seriousness though, we know what this team are capable of. Which is probably why it feels all the more draining to see our season end perhaps on a much lower note than the restart began. And we wouldn’t be Manchester United if we ever did things the easy way.

Over the years, I tell myself every time this will be the occurrence in which we make things simpler for ourselves. I never learn. But I wouldn’t and couldn’t change my alliance or each and every feeling that goes hand in hand with it for the world.

Which brings us to the climax of these words and our top four hopes. We hold all the cards. Which in itself is a blessing and a curse all at once. But then again, nothing worth having ever came easy.

In this instance it’s not about how we get there. So long as we do. And more importantly, have a strong enough squad to actually compete with the very best in Europe. Getting to the promised land is one thing. Being capable of results and progressing is another matter entirely.

Come October, we will once again be able to hear those special words in person. ‘Old Trafford. This is the theatre of dreams. Will you please welcome Manchester United.’

And we can only hope that before long, we have each position covered with backup and can confidently say ‘this is the one…’

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Photo credit: India tv news.

An ode to Greenwood.

As we, (and by we I mean all football fans), have seen in the past, it is so easy to get carried away with the prospect of a young talent flourishing before our eyes. Especially when they happen to be in the Premier League and could well be called up for England too.

So I questioned whether to even write these very words that you are currently reading. On the contrary, whilst I don’t like to put so much pressure on a player which could potentially lead to them falling from that very pedestal, it would make even less sense to not acknowledge it.

Of course the name on everyone’s lips is Mason Greenwood. Admittedly, Bruno Fernandes has come into this Manchester United side and brought with him a new lease of life for the whole team with his presence. And I am truly excited to see how the story unfolds with this new chapter.

Having said that, nothing quite defines United to me quite as much as that balance of world class players brought in alongside young emerging talent.

At 18 years old, Greenwood has the footballing world at his feet. He plays without fear. And with the understanding of what that badge truly means. The Bradford lad was described by an old neighbour as always having a football under his arm, and adorning United red when he wasn’t in his uniform. And it shows.

The feeling I get seeing the confidence he possesses and play he executes is reminiscent of watching a young Wayne Rooney begin his career. Rooney made his Everton debut at just 16 and joined Manchester United at 18.

The link between those two doesn’t stop there either. There are only three teenagers who have scored more goals than Mason for Manchester United in a single season. One of which is our affectionately titled ‘Wazza.’ The other two you ask? Just two blokes by the names of George Best and Brian Kidd.

Truly wonderful company to be in. With that comes tremendous pressure and expectations. But you would never know it watching Greenwood thoroughly enjoy and make the most out of every opportunity that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gives to him.

Sometimes, you need these players who turn a game on it’s head. Mason does just that. Whilst obviously technically gifted, it appears to me that he has the right mentality too. No fear and an everything to gain attitude too. With his feet still firmly on the floor.

Two footed, able to play anywhere in attack and a clinical finisher, he is everything you want an attacking player to be. And the craziest thing about it is that at only 18 years of age, there is no limit to what he is capable of achieving with more experience and development. Alongside the likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial who are bouncing off each other at present, 3 makes a magic number.

Comparisons to Robin van Persie haven’t gone unnoticed either. With the man himself showing his appreciation on social media.

As regards to fitness, it seems Mason used lockdown (prior to project restart) to start building himself up.

There have been occasions where I think the best way to hone young players when they’re not ready for constant first team starts is to perhaps loan them out for a season or two. To get a feel for it. And then to come back stronger to face the public glare that comes with playing for a club of Manchester United’s stature. At one point, I’ll admit I wondered if that would do Mason some good too. Should other names come into the mix to ensure he would still get to play regularly.

Now? There is no doubt in my mind that Greenwood is more than ready. That he has more than earnt his starting place. And that he is hopefully a huge part of the future of the red devils.

Clearly already building a rapport with the manager, fans and players alike, he shows no signs of letting the hype go to his head. Nor affecting his performances.

Over the last few fixtures, I think most players are showing signs of fatigue and perhaps Greenwood hasn’t been at the best we have seen. To be fair, when you’re scoring the goals and making the impact he has been doing, it’s bound to be more apparent when he’s not. Which is exactly why I don’t want us to get too ahead of ourselves. Or expect too much too soon.

The whispers of what he could do or even win one day need not be uttered now. No. I’ve deliberately held back some of my thoughts on his potential. All that matters right now is that we enjoy and appreciate what he and his team mates are doing. And hopefully that swollen ankle will improve as quick as his shots go in.

Ole seems to have found his team. Albeit, with the exception of a few potential transfers. Possibly in and out. Plan A at it’s best is effortless. Some of the gameplay I’ve watched over the past few weeks have reminded me of the United I once knew. Translated into the modern era. However, when they’re not at 100% and when injuries come into play, the differences are ridiculously apparent. And slightly worrying.

Ultimately, there is more work to be done. A few tweaks here and there at the very least. But something is definitely in the air again. We are once again the name on everybody’s lips. Could Old Trafford finally re-emerge as the fortress it once was? Especially when the 12th man returns?

Love us or hate us. We aren’t going anywhere. And I hope (and believe) that Mason Greenwood isn’t either!

We should treat his growing reputation the same way as we should treat every fixture we have left this season. And the season thereafter. One game at a time. One day at a time. And celebrate each milestone as and when it comes. And only then.

In the meantime, just sit back and take it all in. And before we know it, we may just be back in October to show our true appreciation in person.

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Photo credit: Sky Sports.

Marcus Rashford: One of our own.

Team colours didn’t matter today when the whole footballing family came together to congratulate Marcus Rashford on his successful efforts to make the government perform a u-turn and bring back the school voucher scheme.

Marcus, who himself, knew poverty as a child. Who knew what it felt like to be hungry. To watch his Mother struggle to feed him and his  siblings. Balancing working with putting food on the table once she got home late in the evening, she clearly did something right. I can say this with confidence because her Son, at 22 years old, has never forgotten his roots or humbling beginnings. And has refused to give up in helping those who need it most.

As a Mother myself, it brings a smile to my face to know my children are growing up in an era where they can watch Rashford play for our football team. An exemplary human being off the pitch and an exciting young talent who, unbelievably hasn’t even reached his peak yet.

Admittedly, footballers didn’t ask to be role models. Just like many of us, they make mistakes. Only, under the glare of the public eye they are magnified much more. To be honest, I’m not a fan of delving into player’s personal lives. The press intrusion is sometimes unnecessary. And whilst I don’t always agree with certain players’ behaviour, it’s really none of our business. Sure, there are exceptions that do concern us. I’m talking more in general terms.

In this instance though, Marcus put himself at the forefront of what is right. Writing a public letter to all MPs to continue the voucher scheme this summer, he shared his own very personal stories of the upbringing he knew. In my home town of Wythenshawe.

And I can say hand on heart, he is leading such an example for the youths (and adults) of today. Not only in inspiring us to believe we can achieve anything we put our mind and hard work into. But perhaps more importantly, that underneath it all, we are all human. And should never look down our noses on those struggling, no matter how successful we may or may not become or how our lives may change.

Regardless of possessions and professions, we are all one. The power of unity is such a powerful thing. Rashford himself said this achievement would mean more than any he could reach as a Manchester United player. Be that trophies or goals. Ultimately, it isn’t what we do or work as. It’s who we are.

Now more than ever, we should follow Marcus’ superb example by judging less and loving more. Nobody chooses where they are born or the circumstances in which they are brought up in. Nor the colour of their skin. So, why in the world can anyone still be judging somebody for that? In 2020 too!

I think the past few weeks have been a time for change. Uncomfortable change. Those filled with hatred or prejudice have shown their true colours. And those who stand in solidarity with their fellow human beings have risen. Unafraid to be heard. Unafraid to be seen. And rightly so. It’s only right to use my platform to emphasize that Black Lives Matter. If you don’t get it yet, it is never too late to educate yourself on the struggles than ensue (even those that you don’t see). And it’s never too late to be a decent person. Or to sign petitions. Or donate if you can.

I will never judge another person based on the colour of their skin, sexuality, religion, status or upbringing. And I would never look down on anyone unless I was helping them up. So how anyone can frown upon the great work Rashford is doing (not mentioning any names because that is publicity for them) is beyond me! Hate less. Love more.

I’m very proud of my heritage and to be mixed race. I will never shy away from that and it wouldn’t feel right not to address these issues here.

I also grew up on a council estate and have lived on them throughout my life. I have no shame in that and neither should anyone else. Nor should we point the finger at a time when mental health will be suffering enough.

To answer the question on why this summer should be any different to others in regards to the help families should be entitled to, it is evidently clear. The Covid-19 outbreak has left many parents without jobs. Whether furloughed, made redundant or forced to make the decision to come out of work for childcare reasons, they should not be vilified. This is a situation which is simply out of their control.

As an empathetic person, I simply couldn’t be negative about a public figure making such an outstanding contribution in terms of first raising money for charity, feeding millions who would otherwise go without and encouraging the government to continue a worthy scheme. For those who need it most.

To end on a happy note, we have truly seen the good in the world today shine. We have seen all football teams in support of Manchester’s very own Marcus Rashford. We have witnessed our number 10 take on the Downing Street equivalent. And I have a feeling that things will get better soon. Keep talking to one another. Keep supporting one another. And remember, the world wouldn’t be as beautiful without diversity in all aspects of life nor would it be without helping our fellow man or woman from time to time.

On the topic of things to look forward to, it is just one more sleep until the Premier League is back. Albeit with it’s risks. And admittedly not in all it’s glory. If life is teaching us anything though, it’s to take things for what they are and to enjoy the moment.

Without it, we wouldn’t have the likes of Rashford to bring forth change. Who I hope will be a Sir one day. And you wouldn’t be here reading this now.

I will end on three words we all love to hear:

And it’s live…

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It’s kicking off again.

After what feels like an eternity without the beautiful (English) game, it has now been confirmed that Premier League football will be resumed on the 17th of June.

Or will it? Hear me out…

Throughout the years, when I think of Old Trafford, I think of the stretford end arising. I think of thousands of fans in unison cheering with elation or disappointment. And pretty much every emotion in between.

If I’m having a nostalgic look back at games gone by, the atmosphere alone is just as special as the goals, wins and trophies.

Managers past and present have on many occasions hailed the fans as the driving force behind many a comeback or fight on the pitch.

Of course many would argue that football without fans is better than nothing at all. Not forgetting those who would rather wait it out to see it in all it’s glory as opposed to what we will get in it’s place.

Time is a strange concept. Somehow the months of 2020 have quickly flew by. Yet with everything on hold, the hours can pass slowly too. For me though, the fixtures which are now a matter of weeks away seem to be coming a bit too quick.

This isn’t to say I haven’t missed every second of supporting the reds, every kick of the ball or every single little detail I got so used to over the years. So much in fact, that it seemed incomprehensible to ever imagine a time when it didn’t exist (even if momentarily). Of course there’s the pause between the end of the season and start of the following one. International breaks etc. But this was (and still is) different. What seemed like the work of fiction became a reality and affected every part of our lives. Including taking a seat in a stadium or even watching at home.

Although a shock to the system, this decision was absolutely the correct one. Health over wealth always. So what has changed from then to now? From where I see it, we are still on high alert, still at risk and still sacrificing having a cuddle from family members to protect one another. So, however much I love and miss football itself and my team, it just doesn’t seem of the highest importance at present. Yes. There are many people currently working and putting themselves at risk. But mostly only where it is vital and they are contributing to keeping people safe, fed and providing essentials. We can survive (however difficult) without live sports. We can’t without food or health services for example.

This is why I completely support those who don’t feel comfortable to be wary or to participate at all in the completion of the season. The vile comments Troy Deeney received after voicing his concerns regarding his son are deplorable. How much do we have to talk about mental health until we accept it can affect anyone regardless of how rich or poor they are? Or their occupation? It is completely understandable for a parent to worry about putting their child at risk.

Having said all this, the attitude of putting somebody in one box alone needs to stop. It is perfectly alright to have doubts about football returning but still want to watch it. Whether out of excitement, intrigue or even to moan. Let people be. Let them navigate through these crazy times we’re living in their own way!

Have I voiced my personal thoughts on why I think it’s not necessarily of high importance to finish the season? Yes! But does this mean I won’t watch it when I can? Of course not! Forever and ever we’ll follow the boys. Even if metaphorically and not physically.

The Bundesliga had returned somewhat successfully which has made some believe that we can do the same with the English competition. Arguably, you could say there are huge differences with their handling of recent events and ours. Only time will tell what follows.

For me, football is about family. It’s about a Father taking his son to his first game and seeing the young lad’s face light up. It’s about feeling the highest of euphoria at one moment in time and being furious the next. You can’t have the rough without the smooth. Which is why Liverpool going onto (finally) lift the Premier League trophy (if they’re even allowed, who knows?) isn’t what worries me. It’s the actual risk to health. And more so the thought of if it is actually worth it.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t  smile at the prospect of players linking up together again. The heart wants what it wants. I guess we will have to tentatively watch how it unfolds and hope all those involved keep safe and start to pave the way back to normality.

Ultimately, the day that football will truly be back to me is when crowds are roaring again. And families are back together to enjoy it.

Until then, it will just be a make do situation. And like anything right now, I will appreciate it for what it is and be grateful. I just hope that one day we don’t think it was too much, too soon. And the world should remember now more than ever that wealth should never come above health.

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[Photo Credit: Manchester United & M.E.N]

All or nothing.

For football lovers, there simply is no escaping the void left without the beautiful game.

There are obviously more important matters in the world and this is in no way to dismiss that or lessen the seriousness of the situation.

Lives are at risk. And our physical and mental health have perhaps never faced a bigger test. Primarily I want to emphasise the message to anybody who may be struggling to remember you’re never alone in your struggles. We have never been more together whilst strangely being so far apart. Please talk and please keep going. None of us know when but things will get better and all the things we love will mean so much more.

Which brings me back to the topic in hand. What to do about the Premier League. There has been an emergence of speculation regarding finishing the season and how that could be possible.

The heart wants what it wants. And right now, for many of us football would be a welcome escape. A comfort we can all feel in the safety of our own homes. Am I missing it? Absolutely. Will I be excited to watch United again regardless of how or when that is? Without question!

Logistically however? It just sounds like a nightmare. There is the obvious matter of repeatedly testing players and staff whilst somehow limiting the potential interaction in what is ultimately a contact sport.

That is one thing that can arguably be controlled. What happens outside grounds is a different story entirely. I know the vast majority of us are willing to stay home (where possible) but how do you physically stop those gathering who will choose to venture out?

Although as a United fan, I was dreading the day Liverpool would finally get their hands on the Premier League trophy, I would much rather have the normality of football and daily life than what is occurring now. You can’t truly enjoy the celebrations and success without the trials and tribulations leading up to them. Your rivals will get under your skin. But that’s the game. You can’t have the rough without the smooth.

So, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that after 30 long years (yes I’m going to reiterate that), Liverpool would pick up the title. And I don’t want this to come across as bitter or biased because it’s not. Truthfully, for the first time in years, I genuinely seen a Manchester United I recognized as harmonious, exciting and with the potential to finally stay consistent. To have to press pause on that now is such a sad irony.

My point being that you can’t control or stop what other teams are doing. But you can still focus on yours and take pride in that.

Talking of pride, how could there be a guarantee that no Liverpool fans would line the streets should they finally get their year after three decades. Read it again and ask yourself. How?

Of course where there are winners, there are losers. So, should those on the top of the table be awarded the title without the fixtures going ahead, do we relegate those at the bottom too? Or would that be deemed unfair?

For me, however much the wait feels like an eternity, I would rather bring the Premier League back when it is completely safe to do so, and it has a resemblance to the game we knew.

Would it be a shame to see this season’s efforts go to waste? Yes. And not just for those sitting pretty at the top. But for me, football is nothing without fans. Would it be as special holding the trophy in your hands without a full crowd to truly feel the elation? I would think not. Which is why I would void the season, be responsible when it comes to people’s health and bring it back only when the risk is massively reduced and those who make the atmosphere what it is can be part of it somewhat again.

In a year that suggests otherwise, none of us have 20/20 vision so we can’t possibly say what decisions will be made. Should the choice be made to play the remainder of fixtures behind closed doors, then I will respect that and accept it for what it is. I am under no illusions about how the season would have ended (or still will)!

In a world where normality has never been further from reality, the language that so many of us understood and loved has been brought to a standstill.

Remember to be kind to each other. Wherever you reside on this planet and however you show your support, your opinion and feelings are valid. This isn’t a time to try to belittle others. Or presume that someone’s struggles are lesser just because they have a bigger home than you or supposed fancier job.

We have never been closer to each other in terms of what we are experiencing. Your favourite footballer is probably at home now with the same worries as you. And hoping the day when they can make magic on the pitch again isn’t too far ahead. Just like you or me.

From a personal perspective, I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. I would just prefer to see football come back in all it’s glory. As opposed to doing it for the sake of it. But honestly? As with everything else right now, we can only take it day by day and accept the decision made.

Whenever the day comes when I see a packed Old Trafford again, the stretford end arising and fans mingling without fear will be the real deal for me. The same but different. Oh so different. And a reminder that the ‘every day’ we become so accustomed to can actually be one of the best days.

Stay United. Stay safe. For now, it’s our turn to be the home team.

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[Photo credit: Manchester United]