How I made it from paperboy to columnist

Gold sells well, Iron stays firm, and Andy Mitten makes it into the local newspaper

Old Trafford was superb on Saturday. Not only because of Wayne Rooney’s goals, but the protests against the Glazer family who are suffocating Manchester United.

The game was played against a backdrop of fan discontent with United supporters wearing green and gold scarves as a symbol of their objections to the Glazers, the owners who have presided over mounting debts now standing at £712 million.

For the uninitiated, United started life as Newton Heath, who wore green and gold.

"Come on Norwich! Er..."

Before the game, fans stood behind a prominent banner stating: ‘Glazer – Forever In Your Debt’ and most of Old Trafford sang ‘We want Glazer out’ and ‘Love United, Hate Glazer’.

The owners would have been worried about the spectre of 2,200 unsold tickets: Old Trafford now has empty seats for league games for the first time since 1992.

After the match, Paul Scholes is usually the first United player to leave the stadium - so early that the lads are still selling United We Stand to the dispersing crowds.

He’s not one for talking tactics in the players’ lounge or gladhanding with sponsors. Scholes usually winds his window down for a copy and this week he had a question for our seller Chappy.

“What was all the green and gold about mate?”

“It’s a protest against Glazer. You must want them out too?”

“I’d better not answer that one,” replied Scholes, before the window went up.

The next game I attended was United vs City – Scunthorpe United vs Manchester City in the FA Cup.

I was sent to write a piece and as I’d never been to Scunthorpe before, it was a chance to tick off number 80 of the 92 grounds.

I went with three Blue lads, one of whom has seen his team home and away for 30 years.

Another is a professional footballer with Ferencvaros in Budapest (they have a link-up with Sheffield United). The other is married to my sister.

I’d rather swim the Manchester Ship Canal with bricks tied to my feet than support the Moss Side Massives, but I respect many mates who watch them for being decent football fans who have followed their team through thin and thinner.

That said, I loathed some of the songs from the City end such as ‘We’re having a party when Fergie dies’ and ‘Malcolm Glazer is a Blue, he hates Munichs.’

The Blues I travelled with hated those songs too, but what can they do?

A few United grafters were selling City swag outside the ground, just as some of the touts at Old Trafford are City fans.

They were as surprised to see me as I was them.

“Care to pose for a picture for United We Stand?” I asked one, a former hooligan who was selling the '50s-style Mancini scarves.

You can guess what his reaction was.

My ticket was in the Scunthorpe section (nice one Chris and Sean), well priced at £19. I was surrounded by sensible middle-aged fans in glasses and Berghaus jackets.

They were proud of their team and rightly so. It was a great cup tie: there was terracing behind one goal and an 80s scoreboard which kept flashing up ‘Iron!’

"Don't do that again"

A couple of things intrigued me about Scunthorpe.

There’s not much room under the stands at Glanford Park, so maybe that was the reason all of the catering staff were under four foot tall.

And a lack of extractor fans means that the whole area had that retro football smell of onions and hamburger fat.

Also, why are the helmets worn by members of the Humberside police too small for their heads?

"Get a bigger hat, lad"

Back in Manchester, there’s a big buzz about the derby.

I’ve been very busy and after thinking about it since October, I’ve started a weekly opinion column in the Manchester Evening News, a paper I used to deliver for £2.20 a week between 1986 and 1988.

It’s weird how your memory works: I could still do that paper round and get all the houses right, but I couldn’t tell you where I left my phone last night.

My brief is ‘football’ and, as well as United and City, I’ll be making occasional forays to Rochdale, Altrincham, Bury or other teams in Greater Manchester.

I’m going to see the Alty manager on Wednesday for a chat.

It’s high-profile locally and along with Newcastle, Liverpool and Glasgow, there’s probably no bigger football city than Manchester.

That means that everyone has an opinion far more relevant than your own, so I fully expect to be slaughtered for whatever I write, especially by internet oddballs – the same people who want the birch bringing back and hanging for someone found stealing a bag of sweets.

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