Watching Man United home games is boring, no wonder the fans are far away


Tickets for Manchester United's home game against Juventus (and Cristiano Ronaldo) last month would cost £ 250 on the black market. For Tuesday's Champions League game against Young Boys, they are still in general sale.

There will be empty seats – a rare sight for a Champions League match at Old Trafford – although there is no talk of empty courts like Manchester City, who were ridiculed by their 41,000 fans in the opening Champions League against Lyon.

Manchester United's starting support has a solid solid foundation – Barcelona and Real Madrid, the other two clubs that can call themselves the largest in the world, have much larger fluctuations than United – but there are cracks starting to appear in Old Trafford.

It's easy to see why. Watching Manchester United at home has become a bore. Not only did the team fail to make it to their previous two home games in Europe, it was not enough either. Games against giants like Valencia or Juventus should be the highlights of a season, not a reminder of how far the mighty fell.

In the Premier League, United managed just eight goals at home – only five other teams scored less. In the Carabao Cup, United were eliminated at home by second place in Derby County.

The club have won three of nine home games this season and failed to score in four of them. It would be a tradeoff if soccer was fun, but it rarely is. It's as bad as it was under Louis van Gaal.

"If you feel pressure to stay home and when I say at home I do not say stadium home, I say at home and watch on TV," Mourinho told a news conference on Monday. "When people come to support, come on. I do not feel pressure to play at home."

United were sent off after Saturday's scoreless draw against Crystal Palace, who have won only two games for the entire season. It was not a mass shout, but the fans' challenge, which was evident after the 3-0 loss to Spurs in August, was over. United's fans are resigned, deflated and unfriendly.

I met a group of fans of the Palace at Piccadilly Station traveling back to London after the game on Saturday. "What the hell is going on in your club?" they asked. "It seems like a club is losing its soul. What kind of football are you trying to play? Why is the atmosphere so quiet?" And those are legitimate questions.

There are many fans in Old Trafford trying to do something to make noise. After work between the MUST, the Red Army and the club, another 1200 seats will be available at the Stretford End next season for a vocal section.

But Old Trafford is missing the famous guttural roar when the team floods forward because they have largely stopped doing it. Jose Mourinho greeted the Crystal Palace just because of its compactness and hard to undo, but more is expected against opponents of Palace stature and the weak performance was not one: United is closer to Fulham than the top side Manchester City . And the fans do not know that.

There is leveling in United's field and bleachers. It started early in the year after the Sevilla defeat and is spreading as supporters see the limits of their contentiously formed and poorly performing team.

This side, with the second most expensive payroll in world football, gave United its worst start to the season in 28 years. It was a bad two seasons ago when the league team was worse off than now after 13 games but United beat Community Shield and was on its way to winning the League Cup.



Ian Darke puts José Mourinho's comments on some of his young Manchester United stars in context while the FC team discusses the character of young players.

United was often terrible in the 1980s, but football tickets were cheap at the time. Not now. For their £ 40 or £ 45 at Old Trafford, the fans are having a dull football and a win every three games. I helped some friends in Spain get tickets for the game on Saturday. I apologized to them a day later. As a fan, I want visitors to be amazed and impressed by a visit to Old Trafford, and do not walk away wondering why they bothered.

There is a deep tiredness among the fans now; failed managers and failed players saw this. There is no optimism that an incursion into the January transfer market could help because of the high rate of failure of recent hires. Alexis Sanchez was a great player in Barcelona and Arsenal; he does not look like one now. Paul Pogba should be a great player; it does not look like one either. If Manchester somehow managed to sign with Barcelona's Lionel Messi in the new year, he would probably also change the average.

United fans just want to have fun watching their team again, especially at home, but there is so little joy. And while fan loyalty is a huge virtue, it's also a curse. The fans go to the games because that's what they do. So many talk about not renewing their tickets for the season, but often it's just talk because they are unable to break the bond – they support their team in general.

Former managers lost their jobs because they lost the crowd, but what if Manchester replaced Mourinho? The United manager is not the only culprit in a club that revolves around fame rather than a player fitting into a system – because, well, no one really knows what the United system is these days.

It is unlikely that any new manager or new hires can change things when problems seem so deep. United will return well, but it's taking much longer than expected and there's still no light at the end of the tunnel for the fans.


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