It’s no secret that I adore the English Premier League. I come from a soccer-loving family. My brother and I played from grade school through college. I have followed the EPL for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that I started following the league regularly. That’s when the US sporting networks started broadcasting matches, complete with hilariously bad commentary. Seriously, listening to American announcers comment on English football was like listening to the Kardashians discuss physics. The coverage was dreadfully embarrassing, but hey, I finally got to see the best of the best play in real time. Beggars, choosers, blah blah blah. Years later, NBC picked up the broadcasting rights, employed English announcers, and all was right in the world.
Every Premier League fan has a team. It’s not enough to just enjoy quality football. No, you must choose, and choose wisely. For once your team is chosen, there is no going back. You will stick with that team through thick and thin, even if they get relegated or acquire Mario Balotelli. No crying, no whining, you stick with them forever like a tattered piece of luggage. And so, I decided to pick my team. I had watched the EPL for a few solid years and it was now the mid 2000s. At the time, four big teams dominated the league: Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United. Every weekend, there was one club I looked forward to seeing in action more than any other … Manchester United.
Under the guidance of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson, United dismantled teams every week with the surgical precision of a pack of ninjas. It was mesmerizing to watch, especially with the likes of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs in their primes. Take this insanity for instance…
And that was against FC Barcelona in the Champions League, not some struggling mid-table team in the Prem. These guys were simply magical to watch, and thus, one day I realized that I had become a Manchester United supporter.
It was an easy thing to do. United are the global equivalent of the NY Yankees. Everybody knows the name, they are one of the richest clubs in the world, and their merchandise is easy to come by. Before long, I had my Ryan Giggs jersey and was joining other fans at local bars to watch the games. I can recall numerous magical moments, everything from Wayne Rooney’s bicycle goal against Man City to Robin van Persie’s mind-blowing volley to seal the title. United even forced me to like Christiano Rolando, something I still haven’t forgiven them for.
But then something terrible happened: Sir Alex Ferguson retired after 26 years in charge. Anyone who knows anything about the EPL is intimately familiar with the aftermath. And to anyone who needs an explanation, let’s just say that United has tested my fandom over the last several years. To say they fell from grace would be a gross understatement. The team has been comically terrible at times. And then, as icing on the cake, they hired perhaps the biggest douchebag manager in world football: Jose Mourinho. Now don’t get me wrong, the guy is an exceptional talent and a force to be reckoned with, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a douchy douchebag.
And yet, I persist in my support, adhering to the expectations that I outlined above. Once you choose a team, you stick with them through the good and bad, even if they hire the managerial equivalent of Donald fucking Trump. And so, whenever that all-too-important question arises among fans, I can no longer cock my neck, flex my pecks, and declare my allegiance to United. It feels more like I’m making a painful admission at Alcoholics Anonymous.
Hello. My name is Zachry Wheeler and I’m a United fan.