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From Poland immigration to Old Trafford: A Manchester United love letter



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A love letter to Manchester United – the greatest team that the world has ever seen.

Despite their relative failings over the last decade or so, Manchester United Football Club has given me so much. Their performances on the pitch have left me devastated, delighted, or distraught. The club is the founding force behind the relationships I hold with some of my dearest friends. It is the team that my dad passed onto me and, one day, ultimately, the same team I will pass on to my own children.

The child of Polish immigrants who fled to England in the wake of World War 2, my dad’s journey into supporting United was a matter of chance and good fortune. After a clothes delivery that consisted of Stoke City socks, a Manchester United shirt and Tottenham shorts, it was a one-in-three chance over what would be the football team to help shape the emotional core of the next generations of the Kostecki bloodline. Safe to say, with the benefit of hindsight, he chose wisely.

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Personally, my introduction to the Red Devils was far less dramatic. Taken on the stadium tour as a child, I’ve been told my favourite player at the time was Alan Smith, which is as rogue a shout as you’ll ever hear. Years later, I’d go again, this time to watch us stick two past a Valencia side that featured David Villa and future Red Juan Mata. But, still, I don’t think I got it, not all the way, at least.

Even with the less-than-subtle nudging by my dad, I failed to realise how significant United would be throughout my life until I was approaching my teenage years. I knew I supported Yanited, and I knew that they mattered, but I was a chubby little awkward child who liked wrestling, Guitar Hero 3 and Mr Kipling. I hardly had the time to follow a sport that I lacked the coordination or friend group to play myself.

Now, all these years later, I suppose a lot of that remains the same. I could still kick your arse at Guitar Hero, I’m still a touch too chubby for my liking, and if you swapped Mr Kipling for Mr S. Artois, I’d say we’re largely in the same boat. The big difference, though, is United. Because at some point over the last nearly fifteen years, it hit me, hit me hard – and ultimately, this club has become more important to me than anything else. 

The first time you go to Old Trafford as an adult is difficult to describe. You’re stumbling into a sacred place, something I mean literally and metaphorically. Because sacred is what Old Trafford is. I don’t care about dodgy roofs or disrepair, it’s a place that exists to create history, not hyperbole.

A place where, for years, only the best played and the rest feared. In the years since, it may have lost its charm to some, with a lick of paint here and there since 2006, far from proper maintenance. But, as you stand in the Stretford End, the banner of Sir Matt Busby opposite you tells you all you need to know, “There’s nothing on earth like being a Red.”

Over the last few years, I’ve seen the highs and lows supporting this great team. I watched us lift the FA Cup. I’ve been to Seville, and Madrid, I got to repay the favour and take my dad to Wembley and Istanbul. I’ve seen historic comebacks against Barcelona and City, as well as paying my part in purchasing a United flag featuring a now-discontinued soft drink.

But I’ve also watched Liverpool stick five right down our goal-hole, as well as the worst Champions League game of all time under Ralf Rangnick. So, it hasn’t all been rosy. Yet, in the face of it all, I’m not sure I’d do a single thing differently. 

The truth is you can’t really impact what happens on the pitch, but what happens on the pitch never fails to impact you. That applies to those at the ground as well as those at home because once it gets a hold of you, like any other club, there is no going back. A team that has stood for nearly 150 years, it will stand for 150 more, of that I’m certain.

So, where does that leave fans of Manchester United as we approach the first season of Ineos ownership? It’s simple, really. It leaves us exactly where we have been for every other season over those nearly 150 years. Whether it’s Erik ten Hag, Thomas Tuchel or even Fred the Red, for all I care, you get behind the manager until the next manager takes his place, and then, you get behind him, too. 

For the match-going fans, an old friend of mine once said, ‘Don’t let the football get in the way of a good day out at football,’ which is as smart a mantra as any other I’ve heard. For those who watch from home, you’re playing your part. To end this, my message is simple.

Firstly, cheers, Dad – you picked one hell of a team. Secondly, to everyone else, enjoy the ride. If next season things get worse if the stadium should fall down, or if it’s another decade before we lift the Premier League once again… Well then, it’s still Manchester United; we’ll be alright.

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