What exactly is a Top Red?

After experiencing some forum threads and posts from the Twitterati and fan channels of late and some of the great work by @DaytrippingRed on calling these lot out with his recent Stretty News piece. I decided this is a good time to unleash this article.

The net is narrowing on these so called fan channels and respected content providers like @Malachians (Phil Brown) are beginning to call them out publicly and see them for what they are. Exploiters of our fanbase many of them overseas who think they know the script and ins and outs of the club. Like they know who we are signing next. What the line-up will be for the next game. It would appear, that in this case, The United Stand led by Mark/Brent Goldbridge is getting greedy and think they have a monopoly on content and interviews.

Phil Brown is a very amiable and down to earth guy and for him to get outraged by their behaviour tells its own story.

So, let’s go over exactly what is meant by the term Top Red? Why is it considered a derogatory term and what does this mean to you?

From experience it seems to be branded around anyone mentioning the following:

  • You mention you are a season ticket holder.
  • You mention you attend the odd home game.
  • You mention you go to away games.
  • You try to refer to the history of the club.
  • Traditions, culture (particular fan culture) and so on.
  • Reading between the lines certain fans appear to be quite sensitive about their redness. Now we all know that in life there are various levels of people with various levels of commitment. There are good chefs and bad chefs, good drivers and bad drivers with levels in between for example. I’m sure you get my point.

By the same token there are good supporters and bad supporters. There is also a very real difference between a supporter and a fan.

You can’t tell me that someone who drags their backside out of their matching United bedspread and pyjamas is showing the same level of commitment as a die-hard Stretty Ender who goes to both home and away games, sometimes getting into debt just to go to the games for the love of the club (yes, I do know some lads like this, United is EVERYTHING to them).

For those European aways takes time off work, time away from family – spending his/her hard earned on travel and tickets is not a better red than many. I’m not having it, its totally untrue and disrespectful of the lads who give everything they have to going to watch the team. I’ve known lads who’s marriages have been in trouble because of this commitment. Remember the flag that goes around (United, Kids, Wife) in that order. This is the mantra and dedication to the club, it’s real and it’s everything.

Club Brugge away – United, Kids, Wife banner pictured

Yet certain United fans seem to be very defensive about this. Comments like:

  • United is a global club (agreed)
  • You are no different to any other fan to those who go to games (disagree read above)
  • Just because you’re not from Manchester (again disagree, you just don’t understand rivalry nor experienced it).

Where does this stem from, is it their own insecurities as a United fan? My dislike of the Scousers for example isn’t just down to football. It was indoctrinated from my grandad who hated them with a passion (and my great grandad before him apparently) following the ship canal fallout. It runs deep, you can’t possibly understand this unless its real and you are there and it matters, it’s huge in context. I’m sure other match goers have similar tales, being chased around Stanley Park for example.

With modern day football we have the arm chair fan, Facebook and Twitter brigade poisoning our great club, and yet, the loyal supporter can’t say nothing, or reason with these people without the Top Red card being played.

Probably one of the most famous so called Top Reds is Andy Mitten.

Andy Mitten has been writing about football for 25 years, beginning by founding United We Stand, a Manchester United fanzine and has written for most English newspapers and several books and now also at The Athletic. He began writing about Spanish football in 2001 and now lives in Barcelona, covering Barca as well as his boyhood club Manchester United.

Mitten also gets a lot of this kind of abuse much the same as others who dare to question, or hint, that they may know better. It wouldn’t happen in any other walk of life. If I supported an American football team (which I don’t, I hate it by the way) I’d fully expect to not know the ins and outs of the rivalry or understand it. How it matters more (no Scouse pun intended) or the sacrifices we make to watch our team. How could I and why should I be bothered if called out on this? Not in our precious snowflake Twitter fanbase.

Andy is a voice of reason currently for United fans of a certain persuasion. Why? Because he knows about fan culture and runs a fanzine, the club, United have been in his family for generations and he just so happens to be a damn good journalist.

Also, why should we have to feel privileged for being born in Manchester or having real connections to the club who get it? I know lads who travel to Old Trafford week in and week out from the likes of Ireland and Bournemouth. Real commitment, from real reds not subscribing to super chats and fan forums and at the first chance spouting total tripe all over the social media platforms. You can spot the real fans a country mile off.

This type of fan (and I stress fan rather than supporter) doesn’t care about ticket prices or who owns the club because it doesn’t affect them directly. They form their opinions through the media and go about analysing tactics as if they should be perched on the Match of the Day sofa, passing on the opinions of others as their own.

Message boards are full of them (and the majority of them talking tripe, check out the match day threads on any forum or Twitter), same red breed in theory, but a different species who has nothing in common with the match-going Red.

They don’t know what it’s like to be a supporter because they’ve never been one, never been treated like cattle outside an away end, never pulled their hair out because they were missing a token (or credit) to get a cup final ticket or an away game, never had to consult their bank manager before applying for that European away. Couldn’t care less about the increasing costs of attending games to see your club and so on. Some say you should be privileged to have this problem. This is just a cast away response, the fact is when you have grown up around the club you support and love why should you? Do you feel privileged to go to your local school or library? Easy thing to say when you are at a distance and not supporting the club in amongst it week in, week out.

It’s not being precious and at the other end of the extreme there’s nothing more boring than the Über red who defines his life through the reflected glory of the football team, but true Reds who actually go to matches are now in an overwhelming minority and we are beginning to get our voices heard.

Every time United lose a game which has been more and more often the past few years and quite topical this week with the results against Sheffield and Arsenal. A Sheffield team who defended like Baresi’s Italy only to turn into keystone cop defending at our noisy neighbours this week, typical. We have to contend with thousands of these muppets slaughtering individual players and even taking that to sickening new levels with Axel, Tony and Marcus this week. Then demanding new signings they’ve heard about playing FIFA on their consoles. They don’t represent the views of most who go. Twitter is full of crap like this for example and before you know it this diatribe is being adopted by others and it spreads like a disease. You can look at any tweet on social media after a bad result.

Typical of the first ones to jump on anyone with the Top Red retort. The United haters in our midst will hide back into the shadows after a good result, but they’ll be back soon enough (RB Leipzig, Sheffield, Arsenal), with their worthless bile as soon as United lose another game. Watch out for them and wonder when being a supporter changed so much.

This is the modern fan channel fan (not supporter remember), the knee jerk brigade, the faceless fanbase who crave instant success and believe it is a teams god given right to win a football game just by turning up. No more is this true than of the fickle United fan who have been spoiled since the Premiership began (blame Fergie). It is the swell of this uneducated fanbase that is poisoning social media with the Ole out rants (or any manager before him it doesn’t matter to this lot), some after only a few games. Luckily the crowds at Old Trafford and particularly at aways show more support and are prepared to give Ole time to build. I know it’s been a while now but we need to get back into stadiums up and down the land to get our voices heard and get some perspective, to set the standards. It’s been a real eye opener for me during lockdown to see what’s going on during games.

That’s not to say we blindly support Ole no matter what but judge him at least after two seasons in the job, with appropriate backing bringing in the players he wants and that progress is being made in the right direction.

Ole is made of sterner stuff (he isn’t called the Silent Assassin for nothing) and he has shown some steel in the last few months, he’s had to. Changing managers at the drop of the hat is not the United way, it never really has been bar the odd occasion. The era of building a football dynasty maybe over these days, but as a lifelong United fan I would love the club to make a stand for this tradition. A club needs to stand up to the constant crap of chairmen and media madness that is prevalent in the modern game, I hope it’s us that can show footballing values are not lost and can still work.

Most United fans in the know will be continuing to support the club, players and manager through what is, and what was always going to be, a turbulent transition period striving for that consistency and our DNA back. The hopeless romantic in me would love to see Ole win something and shut this lot up? Wouldn’t you, admit it?! Just how much better would it feel being in the ground winning something under Ole (loved as a player and as a manager, he gets the fans and the club). That would be the stuff of dreams. You can’t buy memories like that they live on for generations through families.

Don’t let faceless keyboard warriors play the game of one-up-manship with you. Call them out. Some of us are better fans/supporters thats just simple facts. It’s just the way it is with United and with life.

See you on the other side, if you’re not there you would be no great loss anyway!

Read more: Southampton make extraordinary referee request after 9-0 defeat v United

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  1. I have massive respect for the guys that go the extra mile in their support of the club but for you to disrespect the good fans that watch every game and get to go to the odd one, read every article, buy loads of merch and have an opinion on the running of the club, players, managers and tactics and have, like myself, been that way for over well over 30 years (pre-Fergie) when United were no more than easily a top half side is disgusting. I completely agree that the glory hunter, prawn sandwich brigade and the ones that are more fans of an individual player than the club probably Pogba fanboys would be the most notable in these times are numerous but we ALL count in making Manchester United what it is, granted there are plenty and I’ve met and know a few we could do without. If it wasn’t for the huge worldwide fanbase those ‘top reds’ post Fergie would have less opportunities to go to big european away nights as it gives us the financial muscle to hang in there in the last 10 years as we have entered the billionaire owner era and to put up a fight against our own horrible owners who you fail to even mention in the whole article (seriously), who are only interested in keeping their personal bank accounts full and not our trophy cabinet. Another thing that annoys me about you lot is that unless you see everything in a positive light your not a real fan. FFS we have standards at this club set in motion by Sir Matt Busby and only picked up again properly by Sir Alex and I,m 100% sure he would agree that 9 out of 10 fans matter in there own way. This aticle is nothing but elitist drivel from someone who doesn’t seem to understand we need all fans as long as they are loyal and stand by the club over everything else. I live in Belfast oh and your welcome for Bestie, pity he wasn’t a Manchester lad ey! You say I don’t know rivalry, put it this way 8 out 10 football fans in the whole of Ireland are either United or Liverpool so I probably deal with more of that showers fans on a daily basis than anyone who lives and works in Manchester. Anyway you’ve set me off on a rant, big time. This will never get put up on your site so all I’ll say is, massive respect to the type of fan you talk about but if you are an elitist c*** like this you can f*** right off!!!

    1. A total rant and wall of text but I will do you a courtesy of a reply and break it down.

      First the article is about terrace culture versus the modern day fan channel and social media fan. It isn’t about the ownership. No United fan I know would say we have great owners but that is very much a separate and more complex issue. Fergie who we all love and you revel in your post had a huge part to play in that by the way.

      Im from Manchester yes, Im a season tick holder yes, I go home and away yes. Again, people just seem to rough shod over local demographic and enchantment area fans as though we are nothing. Remember in many cases the club as been in the families and handed down over generations. Not because we won the treble in 1999. I wonder how many of these fans would be around for clicks and social media if god forbid we go relegated down the divisions?

      It appears your redness has been ruffled, thats fine. Im not making any apologies for standing up for fans like me who have been raised with United in their blood for generations and live within a stones throw of Old Trafford. Its seems to be quite topical to have a pop at us and how relevant we are in recent times. Your point about George and Ireland (we all loved him fantastic character and player) is totally irrelevant in your argument. We have had other great players from Ireland and also Scotland (particularly around the 70s) and everywhere else. It doesn’t support your debate whatsoever.

      We are a global club, the article indeed states this but somehow you’ve missed the entire point and validated exactly the point of the article in your rebuff.

      Finally, I don’t think Im elitist and many lads I know don’t either. I do know though that there are more committed lads than me to United and also a lot more who are less so. It doesn’t bother me in anyway, my redness isn’t in question you see. Obviously thats not the case for people like you.

  2. You say you’re not an aletist but end both your post and reply with a sly dig at anyone who doesn’t live in Manchester, hold a season ticket and go to every game pretty much. I obviously ended mine rudely but it was in no way sly.
    The only reason I mentioned Best is because I was saying I’m from Belfast, I wasn’t exactly making a big point of if, that being more a throwaway comment as my point was highlighing the rivalry in Ireland between United and Liverpool. I too am from a family of United fans going back generations but I guess as we have been that way across the Irish Sea it means very little.
    I have revered our Away support as the best in the world many times over many years and that will never change unless they/you do. Yes I guess you could say my redness was ruffled as I feel you more or less dismissed fans like me and that hurt me as I absolutely love my club and that hasn’t wained since Fergie left and our standards and competitiveness have dropped off levels at times.
    I don’t do social media but I do see the odd video from the United Stand and Full-time Devils although I think they have changed name to Stretford Paddock if memory serves and have foynud myself both shouting at them to shut the fuck up and nodding my head in agreement but I have my own opinions but can change that opinion if something changes or someine makes a great point that makes me reassess. They neither add or take away from how I support united as there wasnt even fucking internet for half the time I’ve supported United. What it has added is the ability to watch pretty much every game and not sit for an 2 hours trying to make out the odd word on five live and constantly refreshing teletext to know what’s happening.
    At the end of the day, you do your thing and let me do mine without ramming how much better a United fan sorry supporter you are because you’re a match going Mancunian. I’m a working class husband and dad from N. Ire and I could count on one hand the matches I’ve not watched on tv the last year and could say the same about matches I’ve actually attended. Friends and family call me die hard but I know what that actually entails yet do not feel the need to belittle any United fans around me that didn’t watch the game on Saturday or go over 3 or 4 times in a season. I took a nosey on twitter today and the devision in the fan base shocked me. I seen many having a pop at fans like you, fans I feel are the lifeblood of the club so I see the types your trying to get at but find myself in the cossfire or maybe just in the firing line I don’t know what to make of the stuff I’ve seen today from yourself to the Ole out c****. I won’t be back on that site or this one again and stick to my uaual stomping grounds of real life as I’ve never felt belittled there! Keep it flying high and give some people a break mate.

    1. Thanks for your reply. Again the article specifically points out the lads I know who travel from Ireland and the likes of Bournemouth. Some week in week out 10-12 hour round trips and some whenever the can. Again I’ll try and stress that wasn’t the point of the article.

      I feel Im beginning to bang on and on here about the point. I try to outline the divide and difference between terrace culture versus fan channels and social media support, call it fickle if you will.

      We used to be the majority now it feels like certain fan demographics are trying to minoritise us. We will always be the beating heart of the club home and away, no matter what.

      I guess we have had enough of cast away comments from the groups mentioned. Like I said I don’t apologise in anyway for the sentiment of the article. It will strike a chord with many and ruffle feathers for others in equal measures.

      I’ll say again its not meant to be elitist merely giving the other side of the argument these days. Which, sadly, seems to be overlooked by many.

      Keep the red flag flying high indeed and UTFR.

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