This Northern Casual

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We weren’t about to buy two train tickets to manchester this week so we sent Jimmy on to the mean streets of Wigan with the difficult challenge of finding us a Manchester United fan to talk to.  As unlikely as it seems, he found one, Paul aka @NorthernCasual gives us a different perspective on Sunday’s FA Cup 4th Round tie….

It’s now four years since Wigan Athletic faced Manchester United in a Premier League fixture and could be a while before we ever meet again in the league. Apart from the easy three points, do you miss us?

Yes of course. Aside from the shortest away trip I could manage there was a lot that Wigan offered the Premier League that fans of a lot of clubs were sad to see go. Firstly there was the generous away allocation, there’s currently no clubs in the PL that give close to a 5,000 allocation to away fans and unless you or Blackburn make a hasty return it is unlikely to occur again. Add into that that the prices were always reasonable, I’m pretty sure we only paid like £25 there.

Weigh that against the fifty-odd quid I paid for an away ticket to Hull on the last day of the season when they went down and you can see why a lot of folk were sad to see you go. Look at the preseason friendly last summer and the giddiness that brought! Plus Wigan was always a good trip for folk. The pubs are plentiful, close together and reasonably priced. And who can forget the scores of fans from London clubs queuing out the door of the pie shops getting something that would probably cost them a tenner where they’re from!!

Let’s get the thorny one out of the way. How did you come to become a fan of Manchester United and not your fine home town team Wigan Athletic? What is your, or indeed, the typical Wigan Reds sentiment towards Wigan Athletic, or does that differ depending on whether you are a rugby fan as well?

I became a fan because of my dad. He was a United fan since he was a kid and so I followed suit. When I was old enough to outgrow Star Wars figures and get into
football he set about making sure I followed in his choice of club. He took me to my first game, my first trip to Wembley and so on.

I’ve got a lot of time for Latics though. When you were in the PL if United were away and I didn’t get a ticket quite often I’d end up watching Latics. There’s not really anything to dislike about them. I’ve been to Bolton when United have played there and seen them and their weird sense that they’re somehow a rival of United, maybe just to give themselves some sort of identity. Whereas at Latics, you never had that issue. You’ve always seemed comfortable in your own skin.

When you landed in the PL it was a sense of celebration, and each year you stayed there was the same. You knew your place, if that makes sense. A lot of clubs get promoted, stay up then start demanding more success and such, which then leads to their downfall (pretty much Chartlon there). But you did things the right way and then had your day in the sun at Wembley in 2013. That was an incredible achievement and I was happy for all the Latics fans I know, firstly for claiming a part of history as your own, and secondly because you’d all get the one thing football fans covet the most… European trips!!

I think since then you’ve made your own identity again, specifically in that season you had in League One. I’m not sure any group of fans have celebrated success quite like what happened that Sunday afternoon in May when the town centre was brought to a standstill!!

From my experience, I think any anti-Latics feelings amongst any Wigan reds tends to fall into two categories. Firstly you have your Wigan rugby fans who follow United (in whatever guise) that have their distaste for you lot but I think that’s less to do with their association with United and more to do with the long running ill feeling between both sports teams of Wigan.

The second lot are the Wigan reds that don’t go the game (for a plethora of excuses) and inhabit places like Berkeley Square when United are on TV. It’s been known that whilst they’re watching the reds from their favourite spot near the bar that they’ve cheered a Latics score when they’re losing. I don’t get that at all. I honestly don’t know any match going reds, Wigan based or not, that have any negative feelings about Wigan… Well there is one that goes with me but he falls firmly into the rugger category so we’ll leave that as it is!!

Moyes, van Gaal, Mourinho. Will anyone ever live up to Fergie’s legacy? Given you’ve been perpetually in sixth this season, is Jose still considered the special one?

Moyes was a bad choice from day one. At the time I wanted and hoped it would be Mourinho. I couldn’t see how anyone could walk in and shoulder what Fergie had left. Moyes had it wrong from the start and never recovered. He just didn’t have the right mentality. The best example was when we played Liverpool at home. We were terrible and they were aiming for the title. We’ve a chance to scupper that bid and Moyes is in the media saying they come as favourites. We all know that but you don’t say it do you?? He’s proven since that he was never, ever up for that job.

Van Gaal came in and did a job. I thought he’d get some discipline and structure back into the club, which to a certain extent he did. But my God, it was boring. We’d have a few beers pre match on a Saturday, turn up at the ground buzzing for the match and within 20 minutes we’d be looking at each other thinking “what time can we get back off to the pub”. The amount of Saturdays Van Gaal nearly ruined was incredible. He was a character though, that side of him I really did take to.

Mourinho now is putting the swagger back into United. He’s bought these big players with big egos that aren’t afraid of going out on the pitch and playing. He’s also not coaching them to within an inch of their life like Van Gaal did. Earlier in the season when we weren’t getting the wins a lot of the media were doing their usual tricks of comparing results after a number of games to other managers, but everyone that goes the match could see it was a million times better than it had been the previous few years. He looks more comfortable now as well which is good. He’s saying the right things and has the fans firmly behind him. The sixth position thing is weird, like some sort of twilight zone. But there’s some massive games coming up where we’ve a chance to close the gap.

Any thoughts on Warren Joyce and his reputation at United? Has your Under 23’s team gone to pot since we poached the be-shorted one?

Honestly whether it’s selfishness, laziness or indifference I don’t watch much of our U23 games. He did well though and over the years he’s managed some terrific players… Some that we’d spend fortunes on years later to get back!!

When you first appointed him I was sceptical. The Championship is probably the hardest league in Europe and you’d appointed someone who’d never sampled first team football in this country, never mind the slog that is the Championship. But whenever I spoke to any of the Latics fans I know they were massively positive about him, which is a good sign really that you can look beyond a few disappointing results and want to stick with the manager because you believe he’ll get it right. There’s not a lot of clubs fans that would do that. I am with a lot of you lot though, a manager wearing shorts should be banned!!

The game on Sunday. Would you even be bothering going if it wasn’t Wigan? How do you see the game going? What sort of team will you have out? How is the “match day experience” holding up generally at United?

Honestly I doubt it. If it had been any other Championship club or lower PL then we’d have probably tried to shift on our tickets (given we have to buy them anyway!). We’d have obviously preferred it to have been at your place, but it is what it is. As soon as it was drawn I was giddy with the idea of a day out in Manchester with your lot! I play five a side with quite a few Latics fans and one summed it up perfectly the other week when he said “it’s a game between the biggest club on twitter versus the best club on twitter” and I had to agree. I don’t think anywhere has claimed a part of social media in a way that Wigan has. You can’t have a breakfast or a chippy tea or a visit to a pie shop now without verification from a Wiganer. It’s amazing!

Mourinho will field a fairly strong team, but not his first XI. It’ll be much like the team he put out versus Reading I’d imagine. I’ve not seen a lot of you lot this season so I don’t know how well you’ve been playing, just that results have picked up. Obviously I want United to win but I’d like it to be in a manner where you lot can walk away reasonably happy, if that’s possible in defeat, but you know what I mean.

The “match day experience” at United is an odd experience. I understand that not everyone has the means to go all of the time, but one thing I can’t get my head around is those that stand there with their phones out, videoing everything. It’s like they’re watching the match through their phones. That or they’re taking selfies. Since when did going the match become less about the football and more about checking in at the ground with said selfie, or going home later and posting several videos of corners that went astray or a free kick that hit the wall? I suppose that happens everywhere though amongst PL clubs. There’s no home ground where the atmosphere is intense and loud for 90 mins, you have your groups that keep it going but they’re in the minority.

Pies. We always ask our interviewees about their local pie variations but as you’re from Wigan, we expect an informed opinion. So what’s your favourite pie and more importantly, please don’t tell us that a “United pie” is really a thing at Old Trafford?

My favourite pie? Hard work that. Greenhalghs make some crackers, they did a steak and stilton one that was immense. Muffin Man in Wigan is belting, their meat and potato takes some beating, and pretty much any pie out of Galloways is a winner!! I can’t pick one to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever gone into a pie shop and bought just one anyway!!

Yes, the “United Pie” does exist. It’s filled with steak, cheese and chilli in what I can only assume is an attempt from someone in the marketing dept at Peter’s Pies to replicate the red, white and black colours of the club. It’s not bad to be fair, although it’s hotter than the sun when you get it so be aware!

Thanks to Paul for the interview, you can follow him on Twitter at @NorthernCasual

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