Belfast Telegraph

Biting Back: Roar of the real fans is where it's at

By Jim Gracey

I once heard a text message beep on my mobile phone, under two layers of clothing, midway through the second half of a routine Manchester United win over Birmingham City at Old Trafford.

It was around the time Roy Keane was bemoaning the soporific atmosphere inside the, some would say aptly-named, Theatre of Dreams.

Keane blamed the influx of the prawn sandwich brigade, as he witheringly called the new breed of hospitality box United supporters, raised on a diet of champagne celebrations and top table feasts.

Keane scored that day, probably as much in an effort to rouse the corporate troughers from their slumbers, but to no avail. He probably heard my phone beep, too.

He was totally right in as much as United supporters, real and imagined, were spoiled during the Fergie era, the old ground resembling a day trip destination on Saturday afternoons and only really coming to life on European nights, now a memory.

How times change in the Old Trafford comfort zone. Winning is no longer a given and, surprise, surprise, a weekend pin-drop test revealed United v Crystal Palace as hitting the highest decibel level in the Premier League.

Granted Old Trafford's 75,325 was 30,000 higher than the nearest Premier League comparison. And Southampton v Leicester (31,297) was next in the noise level stakes.

It may have taken a slump in fortunes to act as a wake-up call but, love them or hate them, wouldn't you rather hear the roar of the real fans over the silence of the lambs as the glory-hunters in the hospitality boxes call for more mint sauce.

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