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Wednesday, May 26, 1999 Published at 13:57 GMT

Why we hate United?

A Theatre of Hate rather than dreams for many

You would have thought long-suffering English football fans would welcome a chance to show the rest of Europe that their country possessed the continent's best club side.

United's Euro Showdown
Surely the fact that Manchester United's European Cup final opposition are German would merely increase hopes that the agonising defeats of 1990 and 1996 could be avenged.

But no. For some, supporting United in any game would be worse then cheering the Germans themselves.

So why are fans of other clubs so reluctant to show national pride at the club's achievements?

They win everything

In News Online's recent question and answer session with Wilf McGuinness, the former United manager was asked a question by a reader from South Africa.

[ image:  ]
It said: "After being in the UK for two years I came to notice the hatred for Man United by fans of other teams. Is there anything behind this other than success?"

The explanation of envy is frequently used to explain the phenomenon.

"It's jealousy of success," insists United striker Teddy Sheringham. "When you have so much success people want to see you fail. They want to bring you down."

But McGuinness accepts there are other reasons.

"They do get people's backs up," he says. "Maybe the odd player in the past has upset people - and maybe Fergie's done the same.

Players and manager

Alex Ferguson has never endeared himself to other fans in the manner of Shankly, Clough or Busby.

[ image: Mr Popular celebrates another goal]
Mr Popular celebrates another goal
His teams have always had midfielders like Bryan Robson and Roy Keane - never popular with other supporters, even if they were never the cult hate figures.

Karate-kicking Eric Cantona was despised because of his arrogance and behaviour and David Beckham has taken on more than just his number seven shirt.

Of course Mr Posh Spice's World Cup experience has not helped his popularity, and as Sheringham points out, attending an England match can be a strange experience.

"There's a large section of the crowd singing `Stand up if you hate Man U', which is quite disgraceful," says the former Spurs star.

Don't believe the hype

"All the publicity they get doesn't help matters," says former boss McGuinness. "People get fed up of it, unless they're United supporters."

[ image: Cantona: The original hate figure]
Cantona: The original hate figure
It is hard to escape United. Everywhere you go, you can see shirts of red, white, black, blue, and even the infamous grey.

Most clubs have exploited financial opportunities, but none to the extent of Old Trafford.

"We never stooped to the level of selling curtains," wrote Mark Frankland in the Liverpool fanzine Through the Wind and Rain earlier this year.

It is something of which he is clearly proud, even if his own club now lags behind their rivals in every respect.

It sells papers

The media concentrate on success hence the reason so much is written about United.

[ image: Sheringham: Are you jealous?]
Sheringham: Are you jealous?
Yet the concern of many at the Sky television's failed takeover was where the reporting stops and the marketing starts.

An example is the club's own channel MUTV, with the marketing by Sky and cable companies inevitably getting "people's backs up" if they cannot stand United.

One of this season's most popular football chain emails is a spoof MUTV schedule, with "Changing Rooms" in which "David Beckham talks about the one he sat in for most of the second half against Argentina".

Or "West Country Live", where "United's traditional fanbase have their say".

Do you come from Manchester

"It's somebody to moan at and fans don't like people hogging trophies - it's nothing more than that," suggests McGuinness.

But many supporters clearly enjoy following a team which hogs trophies, to the obvious frustration of friends or colleagues who support a "real club" that wins nothing.

[ image: Alex Ferguson uses the hatred to his advantage]
Alex Ferguson uses the hatred to his advantage
These people refuse to accept the "glory-hunter" chants, and United are on television often enough for pubs everywhere to be taken over by "Cockney Reds" and their equivalents.

Yet Sheringham points out that no-one is better than Alex Ferguson at using other people's hatred as a motivating tool.

"He keeps driving it in and using it to boost us - telling us `Don't let people see you fail'," says the striker.

"He's an intelligent man to change it around to work in our favour."

So perhaps it is time for all the haters to play some mind games of their own and get behind England's best team on 26 May?

We asked you what you thought - should we support United just because they are English? Or do you have another reason for hating the red machine?

Click here to read what you had to say

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