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31st Aug 2019

Is it time Manchester United fans embraced mid-table mediocrity?

Wayne Farry

“Bunch of absolute wasters!”

If you, like me, are a Manchester United supporter, you’ll have found the football club destroying your weekends for quite a few years now. They used to be times of celebration, but since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club they have been something to dread.

Saturday or Sunday brings disappointment, and Monday is welcomed as the farthest point from the next soul-destroying result.

We take it as a given, as something we simply have to endure, but do we?

The weekend, if you’re lucky enough to have one or both of the days off, should be enjoyed. It should not be ruined by a bunch of useless overpaid wankers who don’t know to kick a football. Why don’t we pay soldiers their wa… Ahem. Sorry.

The weekend is there to be enjoyed though. It’s there to relax. To go for a walk. To spend time with family and friends. To, if possible, avoid allowing a football team to ruin a good time.

So how can you actually do this when Manchester United are intent on ruining every single opportunity we get to chill out; when their raison d’etre appears to be solely to annoy us beyond the point of exasperation?

Perhaps the real problem is all about perception. As Manchester United supporters we have grown accustomed to success over the years. If you grew up during the 1990s in particular, you were treated to title after title, and you most likely came to expect victory in every single match.

Those days are gone though. Manchester United have, at the time of writing, three wins in their last sixteen matches since defeating Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League second round last season. That’s relegation form. And it doesn’t really show any signs of improvement.

So what can you do? Well maybe, rather than allow yourself to lose your mind with anger at yet another poor performance, you need to view this team through a different spectrum; the spectrum of mid-table mediocrity.

The term ‘mid-table’ has negative connotations to it. To many, it reflects stagnation and a lack of ambition. But to others, it reflects comfort and a lack of wild expectation. You can settle down in mid-table, build a semi-detached house, live your life and raise you average intelligence children.

In the face of all the anger experienced by United fans in recent years, maybe this is the answer?

Based on current expectations, United’s start to the season – one win in four and currently three without a win – is absolutely unacceptable. Their draw this weekend against Southampton the same.

But based on the expectations of a mid-table team, this isn’t actually that bad a run of results. A barnstorming win against a Champions League team in the form of Chelsea, an unlucky defeat against another mid-table team in Crystal Palace, and two steady 1-1 draws away from home – it’s the sort of start to a league season that plenty of teams would be relatively pleased with.

Now, this sort of thinking might not sound like a solution for most United fans, but when compared to the current situation of mid-table form with title aspirations surely it is preferable?

Imagine for a second a future where United fans’ expectations are actually proportionate to their performances.

In this imagined future the team’s inconsistency, their under-performance, is expected.

Europa League qualification is welcomed – a huge achievement for a side of their stature.

A 4-0 win against Chelsea: greeted with the enthusiasm of a run to the cup final.

A point away to Premier League stalwarts Southampton? A solid result.

This could be the future awaiting Manchester United fans if we just accept where we have found ourselves. It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. It doesn’t have to be lamentations over how far we have fallen. No more obsessing over the team’s strike rate, no more praying for a better future. It can be unexpected joy, plucky performances on the road and the warm, grey simplicity of just being alright.