Friday, July 15, 2005

The Guardian: Born-again United put their Mittens on

Born-again United put their Mittens on
Louise Taylor at Hilton Park
Monday July 18, 2005
The Guardian,,1530810,00.html

Spying a woman curling the match programme in the palm of her hand with seemingly casual disregard, a passer-by felt compelled to intervene. "Don't do that," he advised. "It could be your pension. When FC United reach the Premiership it'll be a piece of history."

Obtaining this potential nest-egg involved a £3 outlay but the unusually pricey non-league programme reflected a unique occasion - FC United of Manchester's inaugural match.

No matter that they failed to muster a worthwhile shot on target, FC United were a running, passing, tackling manifestation of Manchester United fans' protests against the £790m Old Trafford takeover by Malcolm Glazer. And in Paul and Jonathan Mitten, great-grandson and great-nephew of Charlie Mitten, the United left-winger in their great post-war side, they boast a proud pedigree.

A former semi-professional Altrincham forward and one-time Old Trafford season ticket holder, Jonathan Mitten fully appreciated the occasion's significance. "This new club has great potential," he said.

It will certainly be interesting to see whether the bulk of Saturday's following - who despite the lack of goalmouth action, enjoyed the novelty of being able to troop down the Hilton Park touchline and change ends at half-time - will still be around come February.

By then FC United will have played over half their fixtures in the North-West Counties League, nine rungs down from the Premiership, and some fair-weather fans will doubtless have decided that the Glazers are not so bad after all and reverted to nibbling prawn sandwiches before watching Roy Keane and co.

Although FC United have pledged to play "the United way" and Tony Coyne, their alarmingly abrasive midfield enforcer, evidently believes he is Keane incarnate, this was pie and chips football. A clear indication of the class chasm came in the second half when fans who had been chanting "Glazer's gonna die" started urging their team to "try passing the ball along the ground."

That said, the two months since their conception in a curry house have seen FC United, who will share Bury's Gigg Lane, assemble a squad unusually formidable for the North-West Counties League.

Many are boyhood Manchester United fans who have dropped down several levels to be part of something special. Steve Torpey, a well-respected Football League marksman, has swapped Scunthorpe United for FC United. Even so, Torpey is not quite Wayne Rooney and Mitten was realistic enough to opine: "I imagine a lot of our supporters will watch us as well as going to Old Trafford."