United in France

France: for all the wrong reasons—headline news at this moment. #JeSuisCharlie and #Nous SommesCharlie have become unforgettable hash tags. Despite the tragic events, life will continue, though with increased security.

#NousSommesUnis (#WeAreUnited) could be symbolic not only for the civilised world but for the Old Trafford faithful. As an ex-resident of the U.K., I miss those halcyon days as a season ticket holder in the Stretford End (West side upper). Nevertheless, news about everything United is not only available on the internet but also appears frequently in the French press. Only recently, L’Equipe reported the demise of Red Issue and match reports even appear in local editions of Le Populaire.

Since leaving the U.K. for the tranquillity of south west France, my son and I have dedicated ourselves to following the team whenever they play over here, always hoping they draw French opposition in the Champions League. On the occasions they have played against teams such as Marseille, Lyons, Lille, Montpellier & Nantes, we have acquired tickets through France Billet, a national ticketing agency. Sitting amongst the opposition fans is not ideal but, so far, they have been extremely polite and welcoming. Maybe being residents and speaking their language helps, though I believe many are ‘closet’ Manchester United fans!

The page d’accueil of the French version of the United Web site offers the same information and news as the English version. Naturally, the interest increases when there are French international players in the squad: Blanc, Sylvestre, Evra, Pogba and of course, Cantona. This was equally apparent at the multi-screen cinema in Limoges where we watched the French version of ‘Looking for Eric’. However, many here have little regard for Le Roi after his contretemps with Henri Marcel, the French national coach, in 1988.

Looking at the current United squad, there are many deficiencies, mostly in the defence and central midfield. As a fan from across the channel who has supported United since the Busby Babes era, I trust that the club and supporters will give LVG time to repair the damage caused by Ferguson’s failure to forward plan beyond his retirement and Moyes’s inability to manage a ‘big club’. It is time to clear out the ‘dross’ and resurrect the passion, pace and skill that is synonymous with Manchester United.