Sanchez, Stormzy and Brian McClair: United’s Ever-Changing Identity

Manchester United

Let’s be honest with each other. The money in football is ridiculous. To say that the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham are on a moral high ground to Manchester United is petty when you consider that both clubs themselves pay several of their players £12 a minute and over £700 an hour.

TV deals and modern football means that even “humble” relegation candidates West Bromwich Albion can afford to pay 9 of their squad over £50,000 a week.

However, Sanchez’s move to United seems to be another marquee transfer in the next wave of globalisation, led in recent years by the two Manchester clubs, Paris St-Germain, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The Red Devils’ hierarchy were jeered and mocked two summers ago for the “Pogback” announcement video, and even though secretly everyone thought it was actually rather cool, it did make you realise that it’s a different world now than it was in 1992.

A title-winning attack of Brian McClair and Mark Hughes in the 92/93 season is a far cry from the current dressing room of Lingard, Ibrahimovic, Lukaku, Pogba and now Sanchez. 2 of those players are brands as much as they are players and the other 3 could be too if they so desired.

Feel free to prove me wrong United fans, but somehow I doubt you’ll find a video announcing Brian McClair’s signature to the club in 1987, with NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” as the soundtrack to the striker’s £85,000 transfer.

Mancunians were also mocked by Liverpool fans in the nineties for their merchandise and branding. Manchester United bedsets, mugs and key rings with the famous badge imprinted on them seemed cringe-worthy twenty years ago.

However the revenue and reach to worldwide audiences proved vital as United claimed 13 Premier League titles in the next two decades and leapfrogged their Merseyside rivals in all-time top-flight championships. United saw an opportunity and set the trend of a club’s revenue being more than just the gate receipts.

This all seems a bit too far though.

Close to £500,000 a week before tax means the Chilean attacker will have earned Brian McClair’s entire transfer fee within 29 hours of signing his contract. At time of writing United are yet to announce the deal, but I’d expect Stormzy is on standby provided Alexis passes his medical.

Or maybe a Latin American twist this time. Luis Fonsi with Despacito perhaps?

Either way, Manchester United aren’t a franchise yet. Despite their best efforts to become one, the connection between supporters and the team are too strong. Remarkably it’s a two-way relationship and out of the five super clubs mentioned earlier, none of them have anywhere near as good a fan culture and respect towards supporters as United do.

At Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez would’ve never jumped into the away end after a late winner for Arsenal on the road, but after a few games in front of the travelling Stretford End, he may just do so. United are one of the only teams in Europe to have a plus 70,000 seater stadium and still generate an atmosphere week in week out. That’s probably a social class issue. In which case I’m definitely not getting into it, in this “light hearted” article.

When I sat down to write my column this week I was fairly set on writing the usual script that has been churned through the mill the last few days. Damning United’s vanity and labelling the club as a corporation which throws money at the feet of multi-millionaires.

All the above is probably true but as much as I’d love to take the moral high ground on this one, United fans don’t have to worry like the Parisians or Madrid faithful have to. Yes, the brands of Sanchez and Pogba will bring the fanboys out to twitter while many true Reds will blush about it all and maybe think back to more humble days. But United’s support and English fan culture in general, provides resistance to the franchising and globalisation of clubs.

All the money in the world won’t stop Mike from Salford giving the wanking hand gesture to Cesc Fabregas repeatedly. And when United inevitably go through a rough period in the next decade down in 6th or 7th place in the league, the fanboys and celebrity supporters will migrate until success returns.

Fear not United supporters. As much as it kills me to say it as a Liverpool supporter, United are a real football club and will be alright. And if the glamour, money and sponsors ever become a bit too much, just remember Brian McClair’s 9 league goals in 1993.

All the best.

About the Author

Liam Divilly
Irish Student and LFC supporter