While watching the Chelsea v Man U game on TV (and twitter) last night, I was thinking a lot last night about football and my feelings on it and I think I finally worked out why I dislike certain clubs more than others: why I dislike Barcelona more than Real Madrid and Man U more than Liverpool or Chelsea or even Arsenal. Previously, I had thought it was the arrogance of these teams, but when one looks again, there is arrogance everywhere amongst the big clubs: Real Madrid has one of the ultimate primadonnas in their ranks with Cristiano Ronaldo, Arsenal has Robin van Persie and yes, I do harbour a strong dislike for him, but I can tolerate the rest of the team.
I was born and
dragged brought up in Sheffield. It’s a Yorkshire city with two “big” football clubs and plenty of history. Having been a Blades fan since I can remember and attended many hundreds of matches, I can safely say that there is no place on the red side of Sheffield for the culture of diving and play-acting that has plagued the modern game. We’re known for our hard, physical approach and it’s something that the fans expect from the players. Simulation (the ridiculously posh name for diving) is not tolerated by the faithful fans and that’s something that the managers and players are well aware of, so it doesn’t happen.
Perhaps this attitude towards simulation is why Sheffield’s teams are struggling at the moment. While the big names like those mentioned above have moved on and evolved their tactics to include throwing themselves to the floor at the slightest touch (or even without the slightest touch in some cases), the prehistoric Blades have failed to adapt to the modern era, at the apparent cost of success on the pitch.
But I’m glad to be able to stand up and say that we’re still playing an honest game, the way it was meant to be played, while those at Man U tolerate (even encourage) Nani’s petulance and Chelsea and Arsenal fans conveniently ignore Drogba’s and van Persie’s springboard antics. That said, I do think that Drogba has cleaned up his game considerably and for that, he deserves some praise.
So why, if all the big names at the big clubs are throwing themselves to the floor and ruining what was the beautiful game, why do I find myself singling out Man U and Barca for particular vitriol? It’s a question that had puzzled even me until recently.
But then I watched as minnows Sporting Gijon held Barca to a draw a couple of weeks ago and it started to dawn on me. And then the Wayne Rooney incident on the weekend and Fergie’s (justified) rant last night about the referee sealed it for me.
It isn’t arrogance or success or diving – relying on those traits would encompass many clubs.
It’s the Culture of Entitlement: because these teams have “always” done well, they seem to think that they “always” deserve to do well.
But that’s not how it works. And that’s why when they don’t do well – Barca at Sporting and Man U last night at Chelsea – there always has to be a scapegoat. But having watched both those games, the reason they lost (or drew in Barca’s case) was that the opposition simply played better. Something that seems too hard for Barca and Man U to take.
Man U fans will be shouting furiously about Martin Atkinson and David Luiz right now and sure, Luiz was rather lucky to not get a second yellow card. But then again, Mark Clattenburg was very close to that nasty elbow from Wayne Rooney on Saturday and everyone knows that Rooney should have got a red then – even *gasp* Alex Ferguson.
But then compare and contrast Fergie then:
Wayne is a bit fortunate. It was a clash but nothing serious that hurt the player. Nonetheless, it was a silly thing to do.
and Fergie now:
The Luiz foul was six yards in front of the referee, maybe eight if we give him the benefit of the doubt, no obstructions whatsoever. I don’t know how he stayed on the pitch.
These things go both ways – any footy fan will tell you that – except that the Culture of Entitlement apparently means that they shouldn’t go against Man U.
And Alex Ferguson is at the heart of it. An amazing manager for many, many years, he has now grown too big for his boots – he’s getting old and cantankerous – he thinks he’s above the game and he has instilled that same attitude into his players. Compare and contrast Ancelotti or Mancini – when they get beaten there are none of the histrionics that you see after a Man U defeat. Even Jose Mourinho has introduced some humility to the Real Madrid team. Incredible, but true:
One team played to the maximum of its potential and the other very badly. It’s a well-deserved win and well-deserved loss.
Whereas when Man U lose because they played badly, Fergie sends his assistant out to to the press conference. It’s almost as if the Culture of Entitlement refuses to let him admit that his team can lose simply because they were outplayed.
There’s no conclusion to this post and I don’t expect Man U fans to agree with me, of course (borrowing Fergie’s “Wayne Rooney trial by media” tactic). It was more about documenting my epiphany.
Now I can get on with watching football without the nagging doubt that I need to justify the reasons my hatred of Manchester United and Barcelona.