Nothing Is Ever Good Enough For Some Manchester United Fans

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We can all be reactionary at times. Especially when it comes to Manchester United. Results are going well and we get swept along on the tide of euphoria and optimism. A couple of defeats and it’s back to wailing and the gnashing of teeth. It is inevitable, then, that we occasionally get things wrong.

The adult thing to do, at such times, is to throw up our hands and admit to our mistakes. We were too quick to rush to judgment, too rash in our opinions, we confess. And, speaking from experience, we feel a great deal better for our honest assessment of our own shortcomings, able to move on with our heads held high.

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Yet there is a new breed of United fan who keeps their head buried in the sand. Nothing is ever good enough for long enough and they spend their days lashing out at all and sundry, whether for attention on social media platforms or for some deeper psychological reason that this writer hasn’t the time or expertise to delve into.

The vilification of players is a case in point. Ashley Young recently departed these shores and, judging by some fans’ reaction, you would think he had spent the last eight and a half years filming himself defiling the club’s crest on a daily basis and posting the videos on Instagram.

I am yet to meet a United fan who ever felt Young was a player of the required standard for the club, but he always appeared to feel a deep sense of privilege and honour to be pulling on the shirt, and he always worked tirelessly, even during those matches when everything he tried went horribly wrong.

Young was castigated for not being good enough, for being an emblem of United’s malaise under the Glazers, and for whom online abuse – including, to most United fans’ deep shame, racial abuse – became par for the course after his every outing for the club. As if it was his fault Sir Alex Ferguson signed him, and his fault that four managers since Ferguson have continued to pick him.

Even when these fans finally got what they wanted, with Young bidding farewell this week, they twisted the knife into his back as he walked out of the door.

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No doubt some of these same supporters were up in arms about Marcus Rashford’s suitability to play in United’s colours in recent years, and even earlier this season. Rashford, we were told, again and again, would never make it at the club, and was being picked purely because he was a local lad. He was compared unfavourably to players of a similar age at other clubs. He would never score more than 15 goals a season, we were regularly assured, and represented all that was wrong with modern-day United. When he signed a new, lucrative contract last year, we were subjected to the full vehemence of those who wished that Ole Gunnar Solskjær could see what they saw – a mercenary one-season wonder who was taking United for a ride.

They have all gone strangely quiet of late.

Scott McTominay and Fred have both grown in stature as this season has progressed, suggesting that it takes time to build up a midfield partnership and such things don’t happen overnight. Had it been up to some United fans, who must have to buy a new keyboard every week such is the ferocity of their opinions, both of these players would have been sent to Siberia to see out their days after every mistake in their early United careers.

How galling it must be, then, for those who would rather see a player fail if it means they can claim to have been right, than flourish and be made to look foolish, when they see the way Rashford has been transformed into one of the most exciting players in the Premier League, if not in Europe; when they see how integral McTominay is to the current United team, how much he makes them tick in the biggest games; and when they see Fred working like his life depends on it for the team, week in, week out.

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It’s okay to be rash. It’s okay to be emotional. It’s part of being a football fan and experiencing the ups and downs that are a part of every football fan’s life. With so many young players in the current United squad, mistakes and setbacks are inevitable. Seeing them learn from those mistakes, and become better players because of them, is one of the great joys of supporting a club with a proud tradition of giving young players their wings and allowing them to fly or fall.

It’s also okay to be wrong. And when it comes to being wrong about players whom you have written off too soon, being wrong should be cause for celebration.

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