Old Trafford came alive on Saturday. Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals helped, three points and three goals against a decent side, a direct rival.
The atmosphere was good, it could have been better and when Ralf Rangnick said he needs another 10-15 per cent from his players in Tuesday’s Champions League game against Atletico Madrid, he could have been speaking about the fans, too.
In 2018, United drew a game at the same stage in Seville and the Spaniards came back to Old Trafford for a must-win second leg. As Seville took control but the tie stayed at 0-0, United froze, both the team and the fans. Sevilla scored twice. United, the team and the fans, woke up when it was too late. United went out of the competition.
Old Trafford is louder than it was in 2018, the Red Army section in the Stretford End works and J and K Stand still have their moments, but there can’t be a repeat of Seville on Tuesday. United fans need to raise their game as much as the team does. If Atletico, the in-form champions of Spain, can quieten the home fans then it’ll help them.
Their Argentinian manager Diego Simeone, from a country where the atmosphere for an average league game makes most Premier League stadiums seem like a library, knows the value of fan support. Atletico’s were very loud in the home game against United, a game they feel they deserved far more than a draw from. They’re vengeful.
“I was impressed with the number of United fans in Madrid,” one Madrid based journalist told me last week of the 3,300 Reds in Spain. “But they were pretty quiet until the equaliser, then they didn’t stop singing.”
Again, United fans need to get in front of the team rather than waiting for the team to do something. Real Madrid made fans a priority last week before their game against PSG.
It’s not like them, but they realised they needed everything to overcome a side who had Mbappe, Neymar and Messi up front. The players went to their fans after they’d beaten Real Sociedad in the previous game, then went back out to them from the dressing room.
Every Madrid player talked up the importance of the fans before the match. And the crowd responded. They could have been louder and PSG’s fans were better. The Parisians did not stop, even when their team faltered and the Bernabeu really came alive.
But Real Madrid are a better side than Manchester United and they’re better than Atletico. United need every drop of support from the 70,000 who’ll be inside Old Trafford on Tuesday.
Support for an average, rather than a vintage side. Support that builds before the game – from fans who are not making a noise in the pub but in the stadium.