IT’S always amusing when a Manchester United fan mentions the word history.
It happened in a telephone phone-in on Tuesday night when the world’s inanity addicts gathered to discuss whether Manchester City or United were the biggest club in the city.
The answer is United by a Sir Matt Busby-long distance, but that’s another matter.
Manuel Pellegrini started it by saying City were bigger than United.
That guy has learned English quickly and seems intent on using it for evil.
He’s only been here two minutes and has already upset Jose Mourinho, blamed referees for losing and annoyed United fans.
It was amusing listening to one caller to Tuesday’s phone-in trying to laugh off the City manager’s bigger-club claim.
Throwing in the word massive – City fans’ apparent favourite word – as often as possible, he failed to get the irony when he used the word history, the default and meaningless single-word argument used by United fans down the years.
If it means one club has won more than another then that’s success. If it means a club has more supporters that’s popularity. If it means more things have happened to a club then that’s eventful.
United have certainly had an eventful past, they are popular with more people than any other club (interestingly they are also unpopular with more people than any other club, but that’s another matter), and they have been more successful than any other club.
But do they have more history?
United weren’t always big. I give you 4,530 – United’s average attendance in 1902 (City’s was 16,825).
Then there’s 11,950 average in 1915 (City’s: 20,205), and 18,599, 11,685 and 13,011 in 1930/31/32 (City’s: 37,339, 26,849 and 24,173).
For the first 60 years United were a small speck on the football horizon. Rare success, often in the second tier, almost extinct (City made a huge donation to keep them alive), small crowds.
The war years changed everything. Before it United hardly ever had bigger average crowds than their Manchester neighbours. After it, from 1947 onwards, they have had every season.
The caller in question said City did not have any history. Really?
Taking that argument down the divisions I wonder what the caller thinks of Bolton Wanderers. Yes, the team that beat United in the 1958 FA Cup Final.
And what about the likes of Bury and Rochdale, or even FC United for that matter? Presumably they are complete irrelevances to those who think they can put football clubs’ histories onto weighing scales.
Of course they’re not. Neither are all the non-league clubs who give tens of thousands of people fun, enjoyment and a sense of belonging.
Every club is important to those who care about them. But if you really must use the history argument, remember history didn't start in 1947.