Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, FC United and an unbelievable dream

Source: Sportingo

There's an uncanny connection between the elite of French football and a rebel club with links to the double champions.

by Dominic O'Shea on 01 April 2009

Not often will you see FC United and Paris Saint-Germain associated with each other.

After all, one is a club formed as recently as 2005 in the shadow of the World, European and Premier League champions. And while boasting a notable attendance given their status, FC United play in the Northern Premier League, one below Conference North.

The other, of course, boast attendances upwards of 40,000, are currently well-placed to end Olympique Lyon's run of seven consecutive Ligue 1 titles, and boast Ronaldinho, Youri Djorkaeff and Nicolas Anelka amongst their alumni.

It doesn't take a genius to work out which is which, but it requires some thought as to the links between the two clubs. Seemingly a football chasm apart, it is, in fact, their humble beginnings which see the two clubs' paths cross. For FC United could be Paris Saint Germain some 30 years ago.

For those who don't know, FC United of Manchester (to give them their full title) were born out of the frustration of Manchester United supporters following Malcolm Glazer's controversial takeover which led to hundreds of supporters briefly defecting from the club. They are affectionately referred to as "The Red Rebels".

The way in which the club was formed has attracted attention from all over Europe, with television crews from Holland, France and Germany all tracking the progress of the fledgling club.

Since forming ahead of the 2005-06 season, FC United have won promotion in each of the following campaigns, twice as champions and once via the play-offs. This puts them in the UniBond League Premier Division, the seventh tier of league football in England.

FC United are firmly in their infancy, and it's those very beginnings that they share with Paris Saint-Germain. Whilst the original 'Stade Saint-Germain' were founded in 1904, in search of a place in the upper echelons of the French league, the club merged with Paris FC in 1970, and in their sole season together, they won promotion to the top division.

The success was short-lived. The mayor's office was none too pleased with the unification. It felt Paris FC had sold out, and was none too pleased with supporting a club outside of Paris, no matter how near that place might have been. The mayor's intervention saw the club disolved. Paris FC were to remain in the top division as a professional football club, andtheir offspring, Paris Saint-Germain as we know them today, were to trawl the lower leagues.

Relegated to the bottom division of the League, Paris Saint Germain were now an amateur club. Despite the obvious restrictions however, PSG gained consecutive promotions to the top division, with an ironic twist seeing Paris FC, their illustrious neighbours, relegated as they won their promotion.

While Paris FC had yet to bottom out, and continued to tumble through the leagues, PSG went from strength to strength, comfortably establishing themselves as the leading club around the French capital. They moved into the newly refurbished Parc des Princes, ironically once the home of Paris FC, and won French Cups in '81-'82 and '82-'83, putting the icing on the cake with the 1985-86 French league title.

Following that success, fortunes have been up and down. Highlights include a second League title in 1994, three Cup successes in the '90s and indeed a European Cup Winners' Cup triumph in 1996. The club have not been without their trials, however.

Recent seasons have seen off-field traumas dramtically effect the on-field performance, and relegation looked certain at points in both 2007 and 2008. Now, under the stewardship of Paul le Guen, however, they are once more challenging near the top of the division.

So that is some link FC United can enjoy. Figures at the club have set some illustrious targets, and they can certainly take heart from Paris Saint-Germain's rise from the ashes. Whether FC United can replicate PSG's meteroic rise and pass Manchester United on the way is, of course, another matter.

Given the level of domestic and European success the Red Devils have enjoyed, it's certainly unlikely. But sport has a tendancy to write the most unfeasible of stories. Simply nothing is impossible. FC United, 2020 Premier League champions? You heard it here first!

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