Monday, January 29, 2007

How's United Getting On?

No, not Man United, Newcastle United, DC United or any other marginally big United. With little shaking on the XIDevils front (aside from the interminable Portland Timbers hot-stove season, which has reached its annual "bitching about the shitty USL schedule" phase), it's time to check in on FC United of Manchester.

You may remember FC United: the DIY micro-club started by Manchester United supporters after American oligarch Malcolm Glazer bought the giants of Old Trafford. The Glazer deal, which saddled Man U with an enormous debt, was merely the last straw for a lot of old-school United supporters, who have watched their beloved side turn into a global commercial empire over the last two decades. Rising ticket prices, weird match times, a notoriously dead atmosphere at the ground—all inspired a group of Mancunians to take radical action. They formed their own team, jumped into the weird world of minor-division, regional football, and haven't looked back.

Last year, FC United flattened their rivals in the North West Counties Football League Division Two—which, if my calculations are correct, is ten levels down the pyramid from the Premiership. Duly promoted, the Red Rebels took off at a gallop in Division One this season. It was starting to look like FCUM (nice, huh?) would plow straight to the Football Conference (the lowest fully national division), or maybe even the League itself.

But you can't be a real club without some adversity, and FC have faced some harsh realities over the last two months. They were knocked out of the FA Vase, the national tournament for lower-division teams. Worse still, they've seen derby rivals Salford City overtake them atop the table. Can they get off the schneid and resume their cruise to glory? This week's fixture against Bacup Bourough (the club names in lower-division English football are fantastic) will go some ways towards providing the answer.

Meanwhile, check out two YouTube samples of what some of the FC United people like to call "punk football". First, a stunner from the center circle:

Then, a taste of the terrace atmosphere FCUM fans generate at the tiny stadiums where the club does its thing:

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