At the end of Manchester United's demolition of AC Milan on Wednesday night, returning hero David Beckham left the field to a well deserved standing ovation. As he left the Old Trafford pitch for probably the last time, he picked up a Green and Gold scarf thrown to him by the fans, and wrapped it around his neck.
Unless you have been living on the sunny side of Mercury you are probably fully aware that the scarves represent the "Love United, Hate Glazer" campaign, allegedly aimed at removing the American family from ownership of the club because of fears over the huge debts they have loaded onto their beloved football club.
Now, while I can fully sympathise with Manchester United fans over this issue, the whole protest seems a little, well, flawed. So the basic idea is to wear Green and Gold and not to wear Official Club merchandise, therefore harming the one thing the Glazer's do care for, their bottom line. Well, as the picture atop this article shows, that part of the message is getting missed.
Then you have a serious number of fans considering not renewing their Old Trafford season tickets to further the cause. That's a noble, but ultimately empty gesture. Perhaps empty is a poor choice of words, as that is the one thing Manchester United's ground will never be. The games continue to be virtual sell-outs each and every week, appetite for the world's best known club is huge, with many not giving a second thought to who owns the club.
Indeed for foreign visitors on match days, buying a Green and Gold scarf is part of the experience, right after paying a visit to the club shop of course. It is fast becoming Manchester's hottest fashion accessory, a must have item for all visitors. Which kind of defeats the object, don't you think?
Beckham wearing the scarf reinforces the point, especially as he moved so quickly to distance himself from the protesters. “I’m a Manchester United fan and when I saw the scarf, I put it around my neck because it’s the old colours of United." was his response when asked after the game.
I do not doubt the sincerity of true United fans who began this campaign, nor their motives, but until the fans genuinely backing this great idea make a real stand, its point will continue to be lost. Perhaps there are not many areas where English fans can learn from their Italian counterparts, but protesting is something fans in the Peninsula have down to a fine art.
Disgruntled fans regularly organise themselves to miss matches or turn up 15 minutes late, thereby ensuring large sections of the ground remain empty. Other tactics include not buying any products related to the company in question, turning up in huge numbers at the company headquarters, or as Juventus fans did recently, actually setting fire to parts of the ground!
For hard-nosed, real businessmen like the Glazer family, it will take so much more than some different coloured scarves, a few banners and aggressive songs to convince them that selling up is the only solution.