Manchester United's Singing Section Has Winning Feel
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Manchester United trialled a new “singing section” at Old Trafford on Wednesday night in the UCL match versus Real Sociedad. It was an attempt to boost the much-maligned atmosphere at the Theatre of Dreams. But did it work?
In the 1970s and 1980s, Manchester United fans had a fearsome reputation.
Unfortunately, their behaviour, as with so many supporters of the day, often spilled over in to much worse than just raucousness.
However, with regards to noise and colour, the Stretford End and United’s away support back then were a great example of the fabled “twelfth man” in football. In the intervening years from then to now, football and football support has changed in many ways and for many different reasons.
Today, it is more often the case that, rather than being seen as an intimidating fortress, Old Trafford is an arena where away fans happily mock the home crowd for being so quiet. The puzzle is that the support that follows United to away games is as vociferous as anyone, if not more so.
With this in mind, the club decided to trial a “singing section” in the match against Real Sociedad on Wednesday night.
The idea was to group together a large number of like-minded noisy individuals to recreate the atmosphere of United’s away support within Old Trafford. These fans would be drawn from those who might usually be found scattered around the ground attempting, without success, to get songs and chants started amongst those nearest to them.
According to The Guardian, the position of the supporters was recommended by acoustics experts, and the high numbers of supporters applying to sit in the 1500 capacity section meant that it was heavily oversubscribed—showing a clear desire for such an innovation.
The positioning of the section was actually very interesting, placed as they were in the corner of the ground where the away fans are usually situated. The 1500 present knew that they would be up against it trying to match the 6000 Real Sociedad fans that were packed in next to them, up in the second tier of the East Stand.
The Basque club also had another few hundred supporters on the other side of the United singing section, which meant that there would be a good chance of the home support still being outsung.
In the end, they weren’t.
An attempt to roll back the years to the rollicking 80s has probably been helped by United’s uncertain start to the season. The supporters realise that they are needed to do just that—to support—and help ease the transitional period as their new manager beds in.
When specifically asked about his views on the singing section in the press conference after the match, David Moyes mentioned the unique sound of Celtic Park in full voice that had entranced him as a youngster. He stated that the atmosphere at football matches is a big part of the reason that you get hooked on the game.
He did express surprise about the general view of the atmosphere at United and said that he “always thought that there was a good atmosphere at Old Trafford,” but he added that it was particularly noticeable against Real Sociedad, “I think it worked, it was really good.”
The singing section ran through the whole United repertoire, celebrating players past and present and didn’t stop throughout whole game. The rest of the ground only sporadically made themselves heard, usually after the singing section calling out for them to do so.
Therefore, coupled with Real Sociedad’s fans being at the same end of the ground, there were instances where Old Trafford felt sonically lob-sided.
Overall, though, it must be viewed as a successful experiment. With such vocal and organised support being noticed, it may filter through the ground eventually.
European nights at Old Trafford always have a very distinct atmosphere compared to the league matches. The end of a long working day, a few drinks before the match, the floodlights and crisp autumn air—combined with an early goal, the specific singing section and a large and noisy away support—all helped to create something very enjoyable.
Other supporters may mock the idea of a dedicated “singing section” in a football stadium, but if Wednesday night’s atmosphere can be transferred to a home game in the EPL versus the likes of Norwich City, for example, then Manchester United might just be on to something.
'All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.'
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