Have you ever wondered why crowds at a Tottenham v Leicester football game insist on singing 'Stand up if you hate Man U...'?
A Brief Introduction
Here's how it works. In England there is the Premiership. At present, supporters of the different teams in the Premiership can be split into two groups: Manchester United fans and the rest. The rest are often labelled 'ABUs' or Anything But United. This is the reason that you will often hear the song 'Stand Up If You Hate Man U ...' at most Premiership grounds, whoever the opposition. It seems to be that anyone who supports any team other than Manchester United in the Premiership actually despises them and just wants them to lose. Some supporters have gone as far as to say that instead of supporting a certain team, they will go the other way and support every team whenever they play against the team which is the object of their antipathy. These are true ABUs.
This kind of phenomenon seems to occur elsewhere as well, when there are local rivalries such as the one that exists between the Merseyside football teams Liverpool and Everton, or between teams like Newcastle and Sunderland. But nowhere else is it the case that the whole country hates them, apart from their own fans. Probably the closest to Manchester United, in terms of an entire nation's dislike of one particular team, is Arsenal. It used to be that crowds would unanimously sing the words 'boring, boring Arsenal' whenever they played the North London side. But these days, this has died down in favour of a continued, demonstrative anti-Manchester United fervour.
Of course, it all has to do with the club's enormous success. They are probably now almost as dominant as the glorious Liverpool side of the '80s. They are also showing that they can do it in the cups as well. And people just don't want to have one side dominating everything. They want to have a wide open contest each year, and so they want to see United slip up. They want to see an upset, see the underdog pull off a surprise victory and therefore ABU fans passionately support whichever team United plays against.
There is another theory going around which states that this dislike stems from the massive support that United have, especially support from those who don't actually live in Manchester; in fact, from those who don't even live in the country. It is said by some that in the city of Manchester itself, there are more Manchester City1 fans than there are fans of Manchester United. So maybe this widespread feeling of antipathy is a reaction to seeing coachloads of various Manchester United Supporters Clubs arriving at the ground... from anywhere but Manchester. It's as if the club is perceived by those who don't support it as being somehow more homogeneous and 'corporate' than all the others, somehow archetypally representative of the new breed of modern club, where older values, such as local loyalty, have been lost in the mad dash for profits and pounds.
But, everywhere you go in the world, excluding probably Manchester and Liverpool, you're bound to run into United fans, and everywhere you go in Manchester or Liverpool, you're bound to run into ABUs. It's a funny old game.
The message, then, for United is this, if you don't want to be so unpopular, stop winning and give everyone else a chance.
1 Manchester United's under-achieving local rivals, who have in Liam and Noel Gallagher of the British rock band Oasis, two very devoted fans.