Manchester United fans between rock and hard place in choosing City or Liverpool for title

The 2,958 diehard Manchester United fans heading to Southampton on Sunday for the final game of the club’s worst season since 1988/89 will be glad to be out of Manchester if neighbours City win the Premier League title over Liverpool.
Many expect significant changes to occur at Manchester United during the off-season, so much so that even Ryan Giggs is wondering what his future is with the club. Fans attending the April 26, 2014 match against Norwich City have left no doubt how they fill about Giggs.Peter Powell / EPA
Many expect significant changes to occur at Manchester United during the off-season, so much so that even Ryan Giggs is wondering what his future is with the club. Fans attending the April 26, 2014 match against Norwich City have left no doubt how they fill about Giggs.Peter Powell / EPA

The 2,958 diehard Manchester United fans heading to Southampton on Sunday for the final game of the club’s worst season since 1988/89 will be glad to be out of Manchester if neighbours City win the Premier League title.

An overwhelming majority would prefer Manchester City to triumph than Liverpool, but as former player and United fan Gary Neville opined, picking between Liverpool or Man City to win the league is like choosing between men to steal your wife.

United fans have been largely amused by Liverpool’s recent collapse and some have got a trick or two planned to show their glee at Anfield on Sunday afternoon when Brendan Rodgers’s side take on Newcastle United.

In the mid-1990s, Liverpool fans unfurled a banner stating: “Au Revoir Cantona and Man United ... Come back when you’ve won 18!”

Liverpool at the time had won a record 18 league titles. In 2011, when United surpassed Liverpool’s haul with a 19th title, a group of impish United fans unveiled a banner inside enemy territory at a packed Anfield stating: “M.U.F.C 19 Times”.

Schadenfreude may be a German word, but there are many who take delight from the misfortune of others in English football. Rival fans have rejoiced in United’s dreadful play this season, a form so bad that it leaves the club on the brink of failing to qualify for European competition for the first time since English clubs were allowed back in 1990.

Should United win at Southampton and a Tottenham Hotspur team with the worst home record in the top six lose at home to Aston Villa, United will avoid such ignominy, but the club are already prepared for the worst and are expected to drop the price of their executive tickets by 15 per cent for next season.

With average crowds above 70,000, every match at Old Trafford is a huge cash generator, as is the revenue from televised European games. United have been playing an average of five home European games per season for two decades. Increased revenues from sponsorships and domestic television will help next season, but United are structured to be playing Uefa Champions League football.

With two wins in his three games in charge, interim manager Ryan Giggs will prepare his team one last time. As for whether he would like to move into management permanently, he said, “It depends on what time of day you ask the question. Sometimes I think I could do without it, other times it has given me so much pleasure.

“I’ve enjoyed it. It has definitely helped me prepare for what will come after my playing career.

“There is no pressure on me because it is four games, we couldn’t win anything other than qualifying for the Europa League. But you get a taste for the pressure of picking teams and wanting to do your best.”

Giggs, 40, believes that a new United manager will be named soon – many expect Dutchman Louis van Gaal to be given the nod. Giggs has been in talks about his Old Trafford future this week and has not decided whether he is to continue playing, nor whether he will be part of the coaching staff next season.

“He’s had an unbelievable career and played nearly a thousand matches for United,” said former teammate Gary Neville. “I speak to him regularly and he’s still undecided about what to do in the future. There’s a lot of instability at the club at the moment.

“There will be a role for Ryan, but what role will that be and will he want it? Does he want to continue playing?

“I was really proud when they all [Neville’s former teammates Giggs and assistants Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and brother Phil] walked out against Norwich. Ryan looked the part as manager, looked like he belonged there. Hopefully he’ll get the job full-time, if not now, then in the future.”

Change is in the air at Old Trafford ahead of a summer when the club are expected to be busy in the transfer market, though former manager and club director Sir Alex Ferguson doesn’t have the same influence in the decision-making process as he had when David Moyes was appointed.

A year after Ferguson’s departure, United is a club still undergoing significant transitions, on and off the field.

sports@thenational.ae

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Published: May 9, 2014 04:00 AM

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