Manchester United’s mortality and the sweet smell of schadenfreude for rival fans

Blog by: Parth
Remember that scene from that brilliant, guilty pleasure movie, The Mummy, when the protagonists – in a life-and-death fight with the high priest and the antagonist, Imhotep, – utter peculiar incantations from the ‘Book of the Dead’ and then put a sword through Imhotep’s gut? Brendan Frasier, the male protagonist, looks at Imhotep with fear in his eyes and a sword in hand, and exclaims “I thought you said it was gonna kill him!”, to which Rachel Weisz responds “He is mortal.”

Soon after, Imhotep succumbs to the sword wounds, blood flowing out his gut to drive home the point that he is indeed dying a very human death.

This is, more or less, what rival fans feel these days when they see a Manchester United side capitulate against an opponent that should have been beaten mercilessly. After years of seemingly magical wins and back-from-the-dead performances that made the team look like an invincible monster incapable of ever being touched, it appears that Manchester United are finally mortal.

Gone is the swagger, the arrogance and the “we are better than you” bravado. In its place is a team that is struggling to put the ball into the opposition’s net, a manager who seems to be out of his depth and a fanbase that is looking over its shoulders in anticipation of yet another morale-destroying defeat.

Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League

And it all makes for a fascinating phenomenon, one where the rival fans care less about their own team and take more interest in celebrating Manchester United’s pain and agony.

The time is ripe for uniting against United. And the sweet smell of schadenfreude in the surroundings is palpable.

Years of being tormented by United fans basking and gloating in their team’s success has taken its toll on the rival fans, who are now perfectly placed to hit back and give as good as they got. Message boards are flooded with fans sniggering at United’s misfortunes, Facebook groups are filled with memes mocking Manchester United players, and David Moyes has suddenly become the messiah for rival fans, the chosen one who will drag Manchester United from the top of the pile to the depths of despair.

And United’s recent 2-1 defeat at the hands of West Brom on their home turf has only made the rival fans more giddy. It’s hunting season, and Manchester United, and their fans, are fair game.

And why shouldn’t United fans suffer? By constantly proclaiming their team as the greatest ever, they have made a rod for their own back. They have managed to piss off many a rival fans, and with United’s legend deteriorating with each passing day, it stands to reason that the payback will be swift and brutal. And never-ending.

For those who recently started supporting Manchester United, the abuse and vitriol they receive from rival fans will come as a shock and a surprise. Most United fans have probably never seen their team lose two matches in a row, leave alone lose a single match. It’s a new experience for these young ones, and it will only prepare them for the future.

Ask any Arsenal fan and he will tell you what it is like supporting a team through thick and thin, in the face of constant leg-pulling and having to defend the club, regardless of silverware and success.

Ask a Chelsea fan and he will tell you how difficult it is to watch the team constantly self-detonate, destroying themselves through player-politics and manager upheaval.

Ask a Liverpool fan and he will tell you what it feels to have experienced the highs of that night in Istanbul, and the lows of losing to Swansea, Stoke and Sunderland. And still supporting the team, bellowing out “You’ll never walk alone” and believing that the glory days will come back once again, even if that belief is borne more out of despair than hope.

Today, Arsenal are top of the table, Liverpool are looking good once again, and the Mourinho-led Chelsea cannot be underestimated. If it stays the same way till the end of the season, the Arsenal fans’ unwavering support would have been vindicated.

Ask a Manchester United fan, and he will tell you how humiliating it is to watch his side lose two games in a row. What else can the Manchester United fan say? He has never seen the dark days, and even if he has, those days have already been forgotten, consigned to the history books by virtue of the team winning multiple titles and silverware.

Winning makes you feel invincible, and winning all the time makes you feel untouchable.

For United fans, this too shall pass, the club will stand up once again – it is simply too big to fall away. For rival fans, it’s a wonderful time; for once, they are the ones doing all the talking, singing and trash-talking. And how they are enjoying this moment in time!

And for the neutrals, a fascinating sight, watching as Manchester United and their fans learn to deal with this flux.

Just as Imhotep proved that immortality is possible but only fleetingly, Manchester United fans would do well to embrace their new-found mortality, accept the brickbats along with the bouquets and support their team no matter what the scoreline is. That’s what their previous manager wanted them to do.


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