For me as a supporter of Manchester United, this season has continued the bad marriage that has been going on way too long and no one has the ability or desire to get a divorce. This marriage is so horrifically bad that instead of being a loyal spouse to a club I don’t know how I got married to I was somewhere else. At a bar. With another club. I do not feel the least bit guilty. Why? There are so many reasons, but it comes down to one simple fact: it’s a bad marriage, the kids left the nest years ago, and United and football has made me morally ambiguous as a fan. There are definitely degrees of moral ambiguity. I am choosing Don Draper circa ‘Mad Men’ season 3 level ambiguous.
Manchester United played Leicester yesterday. In the days prior to the match I heard every United podcast or videocast speak endless doom and gloom that they were going to lose and Cousin Ole was going to be sacked by Christmas. I heard over and over that this was the worst start since 1992 (true). I heard that Leicester had a better manager (probably true) and were going to knock United out of the mythical top six. I also heard that Pogba (who has been playing for Real Madrid for two years in a United kit), Martial, Shaw, Wan-Bissaka, and Lingard were either going to be out or probably out due to injuries and/or indifference. This left Cousin Ole having to throw out on the pitch either youngsters or players who are slower than orange Tic Tacs on a dirt road in south Georgia. Watching players like Young, Matic, and Rojo did not fill me with any joy or hope and was a reminder that this marriage is still bad. Like Bobby Brown-Whitney Houston bad.
Then there is the (noisy) hot blue next store neighbor, Manchester City.
Manchester City is owned by an oil rich country. I know that Sheikh Mansour has said that his purchase of the club was a “personal” business investment. When you are the member of the ruling royal family of a country there is no such thing. Just think what it would look like if Donald Trump bought the LA Galaxy as a “personal” investment. The country has poured 10 figures into the club for players, facilities, cotton candy, and “miscellaneous.” They have a beautiful stadium, a beautiful squad of top world class players, a beautiful manager, a beautiful hot sky blue kit, and beautiful domestic trophies. Look at Pep. I even have a man-crush on that dude. He’s analytically savvy, wears great clothes, incredibly successful, speaks with an accent, focused like the sun, and wears balding amazingly well. Who would not have a crush on him? Dippy the Pirate Bear is so deeply in love with Pep that he wants to spend a week with him at a Motel 6 off I-95 outside of Baltimore.
As an aside, Dippy the Pirate Bear is a 27 year old emo guy in a pirate bear costume working at a hotel on a beach in Virginia entertaining kids while their parents play on the beach (or elsewhere). Oh, and he is a Manchester City fan….and is a gigolo with clients who are middle aged women.
So Manchester City is super blue hot. They are what United used to be and I have been cheating on United with them for two years now.
Manchester United has a bunch of old trophies with the last one being the Europa League in 2017. They are owned by the same clowns, the Glazer family, (NOT the one from ‘It’ which if that were the case would be an improvement) who own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (do they still exist?). They have taken close to 10 figures OUT of the club. They have used the club as their own ATM. The club chairman, Ed Woodward, looks and acts like a German prison guard. He is great with money and making a profit from bleeding everyone dry, but horrible at football directing. Their stadium, Old Trafford, used to scare the living everything out of opponents is now crumbling, leaking, and creates about as much fear as a pirate bear. The manager, Cousin Ole, is everyone’s favorite cousin at a family picnic. He’s optimistic to a fault as he glosses over obvious major problems (“No, no. Paul (Pogba) doesn’t play for Real Madrid. He plays for United. He’s a great guy. He’s wearing a red kit.”) He also has no business managing a football team in the Premier League. He simply does not possess the technical and emotional intelligence needed to manage a club of this stature. United’s best finish in the PL since Sir Alex left was 2nd in what was actually the best job that Jose Mourinho has ever done. Ever.
After a shocking 4-0 blow out of Chelsea, United took fans on a dangerous roller coaster ride (anything the Glazers operate has no safety features) with a draw at Wolves and a horrific loss at home to Crystal Palace. After the loss against Palace, their first win against them in the Premier League, I went on an orange Tic Tac and Starbucks cold coffee fueled rampage on a Discord channel using language only my late grandmother would use. As I have for many years now in this bad marriage, I begged for release in the next game against Southhampton. In that game, United went up on a Daniel James goal in the 10th minute, then went on cruise control in the dark, and then gave up the tying goal. Inexplicably, despite have a man advantage for the last twenty minutes, United stayed in the coma brought on by Cousin Ole’s bad man management, poor tactics, and sleepiness onward leading to a 1-1 draw. This should have led to another rampage. However, my eyes went over to the hot blue neighbor’s house.
I spent the international break (Dippy the Pirate Bear’s favorite part of the season) watching re-plays on demand on CityTV Manchester City’s first four games of LAST SEASON. That is how desperate I got to watch beautiful hot blue kit football. Dippy, drooling the whole time over Pep’s wardrobe decisions in the rain, and I went through them all. I had no shame. I am Don Draper ‘Mad Men’ Season 3.
So as my spouse club was playing on Saturday morning in a match I was certain was going to be a disaster because any United game that Ashley Young starts in is a recipe for a complete clumpy cat litter box, I was with the Official Borussia Dortmund Fan Club of Atlanta for a 9:30am start of Dortmund’s match against Bayer Leverkusen. We were at an awesome Irish pub in mid-town where as part of the deal club members get free shots for every Dortmund goal. Dortmund scored four. Yes, I am as a fan completely morally ambiguous as I am cheating on my spouse club with an elite Bundesliga club wearing hot yellow and black.
What do my club mistresses have in common? Each has an Amazon Prime special.
Then something crazy happened, at some point I made it home and decided to watch on DVR not my spouse club, but, Dippy and I watched my other club mistress, Manchester City. Every prediction for that match was either 3-1, 4-1, 4-0, 28-0, and 3.14-1 for City over Norwich City. The Canaries featured the new darling of the EPL, Teemu Pukki who I thought was a Finnish hockey player or a star of one of Dippy’s “work training” videos. City was a 22-1 favorite to win. Dippy complained the whole match that City was not wearing hot blue, but black kits. I was reminded watching Norwich City that I used to play FIFA and get multiple red cards as I was attempting to injure a Norwich player because they had the same last name as an old girlfriend. Man City slept walked through the whole game thinking that they were Mike Tyson circa 1989, then Pukki slammed a goal in making it 3-1 while Pep’s face was buried in his hands. By the time Rodrigo woke up enough to make it 3-2, it was too late. Dippy drank all the Corona Light in the house and started dialing from his contact list on his burner phone. Man City lost 3-2. My eyes started to look away from the noisy blue neighbor.
Another crazy thing happened, Ashley Young started for Manchester United. So did Matic. So did Wan-Bissaka (luckily). Leicester had what appeared to be their full squad. Cousin Ole was dressed like a Norwegian hit man. None of that seemed to matter. Rashford showed emotional football intelligence and got a penalty and then converted it. The mid-field played as bad as a gerbil on an ice rink in Manitoba. Matic and Mata filled in and looked like they should play for DC United. De Gea had a return to some form and got a clean sheet. Cousin Ole should have made his substitutes earlier, but he did make the right ones (for a change). Despite all this, United earned 3 points and there is a flicker of hope.
Hope. A singular important word that keeps even bad marriages alive a little longer. Hope also keeps supporters going maybe one more week, one more month, one more bad wardrobe decision, and even one more season in a leaky stadium run literally by clowns. As they say, as United start a Europa league adventure, it’s the hope that kills you. Here it is, with hope for my spouse club, but because I am morally ambiguous I have my mistress club dressed in hot yellow and black in Germany and there’s always the blue neighbors.
Author: Keith Lisenbee, mental health professional, writer, and soccer enthusiast is from Atlanta, Georgia by way of Virginia. I was in love with soccer until Agüero destroyed my soul and Manchester United's title hopes in 2012. Came back for the World Cup in 2014 and through the use of DVR I am back with the force of orange Tic Tacs and IPAs covering the EPL, Bundesliga, MLS, and La Liga. You can follow me on Twitter @keith_lisenbee and Instagram @lisenbeekeith got more random soccer thoughts.