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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 RooneyâÂÂs 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 ã712 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: âÂÂGlazer â Forever In Your Debtâ and most of Old Trafford sang âÂÂWe want Glazer outâ and âÂÂLove United, Hate GlazerâÂÂ.

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.

HeâÂÂs not one for talking tactics in the playersâ 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.

âÂÂWhat was all the green and gold about mate?âÂÂ

âÂÂItâÂÂs a protest against Glazer. You must want them out too?âÂÂ

âÂÂIâÂÂd better not answer that one,â replied Scholes, before the window went up.

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

I was sent to write a piece and as IâÂÂd 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.

IâÂÂd 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 âÂÂWeâÂÂre having a party when Fergie diesâ and âÂÂMalcolm Glazer is a Blue, he hates Munichs.âÂÂ

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.

âÂÂCare to pose for a picture for United We Stand?â 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 ã19. 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 âÂÂIron!âÂÂ


"Don't do that again"

A couple of things intrigued me about Scunthorpe.

ThereâÂÂs 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, thereâÂÂs a big buzz about the derby.

IâÂÂve been very busy and after thinking about it since October, IâÂÂve started a weekly opinion column in the Manchester Evening News, a paper I used to deliver for ã2.20 a week between 1986 and 1988.

ItâÂÂs weird how your memory works: I could still do that paper round and get all the houses right, but I couldnâÂÂt tell you where I left my phone last night.

My brief is âÂÂfootballâ and, as well as United and City, IâÂÂll be making occasional forays to Rochdale, Altrincham, Bury or other teams in Greater Manchester.

IâÂÂm going to see the Alty manager on Wednesday for a chat.

ItâÂÂs high-profile locally and along with Newcastle, Liverpool and Glasgow, thereâÂÂs 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 â the same people who want the birch bringing back and hanging for someone found stealing a bag of sweets.

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Andy Mitten
Andy Mitten

Andy Mitten is Editor at Large of FourFourTwo, interviewing the likes of Lionel Messi, Eric Cantona, Sir Alex Ferguson and Diego Maradona for the magazine. He also founded and is editor of United We Stand, the Manchester United fanzine, and contributes to a number of publications, including GQ, the BBC and The Athletic.