If there’s one word you’ll hear in football over and over again, it’s ‘passion’. It’s what fans look for when they decide who will be their favourite player – someone who plays for the shirt rather than the pay packet. Some of us go as far as having a player as our screensavers, getting their names on the back of our own shirts or even dedicating a Twitter handle to them. But, in all honesty, our emotional attachment to footballers is getting out of hand.
In the digital age we live in, football fans feel that little bit closer to their team and favourite players thanks to social media. Any good player posts regular updates about the team (“Good win, proud of the team” … “Not the result we wanted but we keep fighting” …you get the gist) and we decide who we like more on this basis. Some players ‘just get it’ and some don’t. And Manchester United fans, among many many other fans of Premier League teams, are no different.
Take a look at Bastian Schweinsteiger. He is almost a mythical figure under Jose Mourinho – he had disappeared into nothingness before being brought on against West Ham at the end of last year. He just hasn’t quite had the impact we all had hoped for the former German captain; what we were expecting was a player to keep the game ticking over, getting a lot more game time than he is, and to offer support and guidance to his teammates considering the immense career he has had. If anything, he has spent far more time on the road supporting his wife. But, because Basti always posts something nice about the team, or what a joy it is to be a part of this historic club, our hearts go out to him. We love the man because he’s smart about when to post on social media. We naturally assume he’s a nice guy. Is this not a bit absurd?
— Basti Schweinsteiger (@BSchweinsteiger) January 7, 2017
Emotions running high can also be seen in the case of beloved defender Patrice Evra, or affectionately known as ‘Uncle Pat’ to some. Panic set when Evra, along with Vidic and Ferdinand left following a fairly horrible transition to life under David Moyes’s management. It would have been a tough blow to lose just one of these players – but all three was heartbreaking. Evra had been at United for eight years and became a firm fan favourite, for much more than his performances on the pitch.
It was well documented that in his spare time, Uncle Pat would spend hours learning about the history of the club he was playing for. Evra was quoted as saying:
“I got a load of DVDs. About the Munich disaster and the Busby Babes, about Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law, about Cantona. The whole story of the club. You meet these people around the club and I wanted to know who they were. What they had done for the club. Out of respect. Because when you shake the hand of Sir Bobby Charlton you can feel the legend. All the young players here need to understand the history of the club. After I watched those DVDs I realised I needed to respect the shirt. I needed to respect the story. Every time I play that is in my head. What a privilege it is to play for Manchester United. When you pull on the shirt you are pulling on history, and I say thanks to God that I play for this club.”
It pulls on your heartstrings doesn’t it?
But once January rolled around, and papers needed filled with transfer stories, rumours began that Evra could be making a dream return to the club he held so dear in his heart, a club he still openly praises on social media. Fans backed it to the hills – but doesn’t this sound a little familiar? Of course it does. Almost a carbon copy of the story that circulated almost exactly a year before that. Then it was concerning Nemanja Vidic – and fans dreamed of having that crazy Serbian firmly placed where he belonged; in their backline.
Vidic still carries the Manchester United logo on his shinpads. what a man. LEGEND! pic.twitter.com/0ATqiVkgWF
— Manchester United (@ManUtdChannel) December 7, 2014
Vidic didn’t return to Manchester United during Louis van Gaal’s tenure and there was little to suggest that Evra would follow through with a move back to the Premier League. Once the rumour starts, it is easy to get tied up in the dream that a player you loved for many years at the club you have supported your whole life will return. What would you get out of Patrice Evra now? The players who currently take up his position have an advantage of being at least eight years younger than him: Luke Shaw is 14 years Evra’s junior. Are we expecting 2008 Evra to suddenly appear and contain the likes of Diego Costa and Harry Kane? Or will our hearts break when we see he just isn’t the player he once was…
Sure enough, on the cusp of the close of the transfer window, Marseille announced their new defensive signing. None other than Patrice Evra. The heartwarming reunion of Uncle Pat and Old Trafford just wasn’t meant to be and you cannot fault Jose for not buying into the idea of bringing Evra back.
— Olympique Marseille (@OM_English) January 26, 2017
It’s not just Evra, and it’s not just United fans – believe me. Case and point: Arsenal fans and Alexis Sanchez. I don’t question why you love that man so much, as I have seen him play with my own eyes. But you must take a good, hard look at yourself for paying actual money for a banner of his dogs. What goes through ones mind to get to this point?
— Sir Mesut Özil (@SirMesutOzil) January 20, 2017
Finally, there are guys like this who love their club more than words could ever express. Middle-aged men pulling a Weird Al Yankovic and creating parody songs over players. It doesn’t get much more emotional than this:
— Bafa Renitez (@goneforaburton6) January 5, 2017
— Oddschanger (@Oddschanger) January 8, 2017
Each Premier League clubs’ top wage earners will surprise you