For the vast majority of United fans, supporting England comes somewhere between having root canal surgery and watching a Brookside box set, on a list of things they’re keen to do.
It’s not just the burning effigies, the graffiti on Ronaldo’s house following wink-gate, or the death threats to Phil Neville that stick in the memory, there’s also the FA’s attitude towards the Reds, which borders on complete hatred.
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While other players get a fine for missing a drugs test, Rio Ferdinand got a longer ban than if he’d have bitten someone, while Wayne Rooney missed one of the most important games of the past ten years for swearing into a camera. Presumably because the United match was being shown live on CBEEBIES.
No one could blame United fans for collectively turning their backs on English football’s national side, a side whose games saw fans singing ‘stand up if you hate Man U’ on a regular basis.
Whilst there’s never been much love lost between United and England the real modern tale of mutual contempt began in 1998 when David Beckham became public enemy number one amongst followers of the Three Lions and Reds rallied round him. Ever since then things have gotten worse, that was until most recently.
Gareth Southgate’s ascension to the role of England manager has seen a thawing in the frosty relationship between the country’s biggest club and its national team. Not only has the former Crystal Palace defender assembled a team where United players are a vital part, he’s also created one that unlike previous England sides isn’t full of players you’d happily spend your dinner break punching repeatedly in the face.
Gone are the likes of Steven Gerrard, John Terry and David James and along came Jesse Lingard, John Stones and Jordan Pickford – even the contingent from our rivals don’t quite infuriate at the levels their predecessors did.
England’s epic run to the record-equalling World Cup semi-finals this summer encouraged many Reds to put down the sword of war and pick up the pipes of peace when it came to supporting Southgate’s charges. Even the most die-hard, ‘United forever, England never’ type couldn’t help but find some pleasure in seeing the nation being forced to embrace J-Lingz celebrations as he helped carve a way through to the latter stages of the tournament.
Unfortunately, the post-Russia goodwill seems to have evaporated quicker than 176 proof vodka, and just when it seemed there was a reason for United fans to get behind the Three Lions it’s all come crashing down.
Luke Shaw’s recent head injury against Spain may not be as serious as once feared but it does mean that United’s best player is likely to miss the next two games, at a time when the Reds need him most. Already those among us who were just beginning to embrace England are now wondering why we ever bothered, as it always seems to end in tears.
There has been some light at the end of this tunnel however, thanks to Marcus Rashford not only getting some much-needed playing time but also grabbing a goal.
The striker’s recent ban following him reacting to being kicked by Phil Bardsley – bizarrely kicking someone and headbutting them isn’t as serious as just headbutting them – leaves the youngster having to sit out the next three domestic games. England to the rescue for Marcus it would seem, even if the opposite is true for Luke.
The international break continues to be more of an annoying distraction for many Reds and while there still remain many that care enough about England to watch them, the reality is the Three Lions are still a distant second to the Red Devils for many English United fans.