Anfield man's arrival splits Old Trafford opinion

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In 1989, Real Sociedad had only used Basque players in the modern era. Those which hadn’t been snared by neighbour Athletic Bilbao were not deemed good enough to play for La Real.

The club had a meeting and decided to break with tradition and buy a goalscorer. Basque nationalism dictated that the outsider could not be a Spaniard, so they chose a Scouser: John Aldridge.

Aldridge didn’t want to leave a classy Liverpool side, had no idea where Sociedad were from and didn’t appreciate the significance of being Sociedad’s first non-Basque player for over three decades.

'Ald-rigger' in Sociedad attire

“I’d been told that they mistrusted outsiders and that you had to be Basque to fully be accepted but I wasn’t aware of the importance at all,” he stated.

“I could see my name in graffiti around the town, but couldn’t understand the Basque words around it. When I asked somebody what it meant they got a bit embarrassed. It said: ‘No outsiders welcome here’.”

One man stopped him in the street. “Ald-rigger,” he snarled, mispronouncing his name. The moustachioed goalscorer waited for him to complete his sentence but he simply spat on the ground.

A few weeks later, despite complaining of “the sh*ts,” Aldridge scored twice for Sociedad in the Camp Nou. The fans decided that foreigners weren’t so bad after all and he bagged 22 goals that season.

Dalian Atkinson and Kevin Richardson duly moved to the wonderful city of San Sebastian, where Sociedad play. And when Aldridge left, there were protests in the streets.

It’s one example of fans being feckless hypocrites.

Alan Smith was hated by Manchester United fans when he played for Leeds. He was considered a badge kissing, Vimto lipped Yorkshire *******.

There were stories of him flicking the vees up at United fans on the M62 - after admittedly being provoked to do so.

Then he signed for United. And worked hard on and off the field. Smith became reasonably popular.

Smudge kisses the badge on his chest etc...

Many Manchester United fans are outraged about the signing of Michael Owen. Two weeks ago he was a rat eating Scouse ****. His glossy brochure and downfall was sneered at.

Last Friday he signed for United, provoking a huge and far-from-favourable reaction. 

I’ve read one disgusted fan offering his recently purchased season tickets for sale at a 20 percent discount because of Owen’s arrival.

And while message boards don’t accurately reflect reality, there are plenty of sane United match-going fans with serious reservations.

One United We Stand contributor told me that while Michael Owen might get 25 goals a season, he’ll never be a United player.

Another said: ‘Hmmm, not sure about this one.’

Owen played for Liverpool. He was a hero on the then McDonald’s sponsored Kop. He nearly decapitated Ronny Johnsen. He gambled with abandon.

At Madrid, he learnt no Spanish, while the anything-but-Oxbridge-bright Jonathan Woodgate made the successful effort to slip into local life by learning the language.

"What's he on about Woody?"

Now, Owen’s signed for the club I support. And, in football terms, I can see that it might be a Ferguson masterstroke, a small gamble for a potentially great return.

Football’s all that concerns Ferguson, who has liked Owen since he first saw him as a kid. Probably in the bookies.

I left an interview with David Gill in Tokyo four years ago convinced that United were about to sign Owen. It didn’t happen, but Ferguson’s followed his progress. Or lack of it.

Ferguson also has no time for the hostilities of fan culture. He saw the damage that sectarianism did to football in the west of Scotland and despises what he considers bigotry.

He doesn’t like United fans singing songs against Liverpool, Leeds or Manchester City.

He also doesn’t like being told who he should and should not sign. And if he did listen, where should he draw the limits?

Not sign Southerners, Yorkshiremen, former players from Liverpool, City, Leeds, Arsenal, Chelsea or Stoke?

Or should he avoid signing tools? From my 90s United book, it seems that while Peter Schmeichel was considered the best goalkeeper in the world… he was also seen as being, well, a bit different.

"Look, I don't care who he is. If he can score, he's in"

Professional footballers see things totally different from fans. They spend the Saturdays of their youth, not on coaches to away games, but on municipal playing fields and in academies.

They don’t really hate rivals – though there are a few exceptions.

If Owen scores against Liverpool and celebrates like a happy Smurf, many United fans will be all over him like a bad rash.

He’ll be briefed to say the right things. If he’s lucky he’ll get a decent song. 

And if he doesn’t, then he’ll remain a rat eating Scouse **** (who’s not actually a Scouser) with a child’s voice.

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