Sing When You're Winning: famous football fans reveal their allegiances
‘Martin Edwards is a f**king tit,’ laughs Mani, sitting back and taking another sip from his pint.
‘That geezer would slap Kipling Cakes all over the United shirt if he thought it could make him some more money. He just hasn’t got the club’s best interest at heart, especially when he starts slagging off Fergie in the papers.’
The Primal Scream bassist – originally a member of The Stone Roses – feels he has good reason to be upset with the United chairman. Over 30 years of supporting the Old Trafford side, he has seen his club change from a working man’s team into a corporate money-making machine. And he’s very angry.
‘We could have had Batistuta, Salas and f**king Rivaldo at the club, but he was too tight,’ says Mani. ‘He’s been lucky because he’s managed to cash his chips in at the club and make loads of money for himself, but he was gutted when Murdoch didn’t take over. Fan power and people power and the independent supporter really got up his nose because we didn’t want him in.
'That’s great, because nobody asked the people – whose game it is – if they minded having their game nicked off them and given to businessmen. The people turned round to Edwards and told him we wanted our game back and he didn’t like it.
‘We’ll see how big they are if people become really unhappy and stay away in droves and the club has empty stands. If United fans were to vote with their feet and didn’t put their money through the turnstiles, it would really hurt the club. Football fans are notoriously fickle like that.
"IT'S OUR F**KING HERITAGE"
'I would love it if I could stand outside the ground and go, “Nobody go in, they’re being c**ts, let’s leave ’em with an empty stadium.” It’s our game, man. It’s our f**king heritage. It’s the working man’s game and we want it back.’
Mani has supported United since he was four (when he was still called Gary Mounfield), going to his first match (a reserve fixture against Ipswich) with his dad. By the time he was eight he was hooked, taking his younger brother on the number seven bus that ran from outside his house to Old Trafford.
‘I think my love of United was preordained before I was even born because the club is in the family,’ he says. ‘My Auntie Pat is Pat Stiles so there’s a sort of tenuous link with Nobby there. All my family are United. They’re all Irish immigrants living in north Manchester, which is pretty much the hotbed of Man U, so I don’t think I could have been anything else.’
Unlike certain other celebrity United fans, Mani’s early years with the Old Trafford club coincided with one of their darkest spells, as the side struggled during the early Seventies. Meanwhile, across town, neighbours City went from strength to strength.
‘I’ve never been tempted by City. I couldn’t have been anything else but United. I used to put up with watching Liverpool win everything and seeing players like Alan Brazil turn out for us, which were pretty dark days. But I used to go all the time because there was nothing better to do. Me and my brother would get on the Manc special train, head up to West Brom or Ipswich and watch a pretty mediocre United team.
"EVERYTHING TOOK A NOSEDIVE"
‘I’m not a glory hunter or a part-time fan,’ he continues. ‘I saw United go down and everything. That for me was my lowest point, because City put us in the Second Division with Denis Law’s backheel. That just made it doubly snide. But I think we might get the same scenario again because after the Denis Law/Charlton era everything took a nosedive and I think the same thing could happen again, especially if Edwards doesn’t sort it out.’
FourFourTwo is enjoying a few beers with Mani after sitting in on a Primal Scream rehearsal at the Depot studios in north London. With the Scream’s new album Exterminator due out this month, the band are preparing for a world tour. But gigs, groupies, and enough alcohol and drugs to lay out a herd of elephants are the last thing on Mani’s mind at the moment.
‘I think we’ve got a great side,’ he says, lighting a cigarette (he chainsmokes through the interview). ‘But it could be better and that’s down to the Edwards thing. We’ve got Bosnich but we should have got Van der Sar. He’s a quality player, but Edwards missed the boat because he wanted to get him on the cheap.
'Then we got Taibi in. I mean, he’s had a couple of howlers but I don’t think he’s as bad as everyone makes out. I mean, he had to replace Peter Schmeichel who was a f**king legend.
'But saying that, he let that absolute nightmare [against Southampton] through his legs, didn’t he? He was saying it was down to wearing the wrong studs. But if you’re getting paid 15 grand a week, you should know what studs to put on. He better not do it again.
"WE'VE HAD A FEW DODGY KEEPERS"
‘But we’ve had a few f**king dodgy keepers in the past. Paddy Roche: do you remember him? And what about Jim Leighton? He couldn’t see through all that vaseline over his eyes. He used to wear contact lenses purely for his own vanity ’cos he didn’t want to wear glasses, but apparently he never told Fergie, so Fergie thought he had perfect vision.
'During one game he lost his lenses and had a f**king howler. He told the manager it was down to losing his lenses and he got the full Fergie hairdryer.’
Like most celebrity fans, Mani admits to experiencing a strange feeling of awe when meeting his United heroes, yet being part of one British pop music’s most influential bands and then joining critics’ favourites Primal Scream means Mani has enjoyed the company of some unexpected guests backstage.
‘Brian McClair was the boy,’ he says, laughing. ‘When he was at United we got him backstage at a Stone Roses gig ’cos he was a massive Jesus And Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and Roses fan.
'We were backstage having loads of charlie and he was just looking at us in disbelief saying, “You boys are unbelievable.” He couldn’t believe it. But he could come on the road with us as far as I’m concerned. He’s a top geezer.
‘When the Roses were playing in Manchester, I remember looking up into the seats and Bonehead and Liam and Noel were there and that, but Brian was there with Peter Schmeichel. It goes to show that not all footballers are into George Benson. But I think footballers respect musicians and vice versa.’
Does it bother him that the athletes representing his club week-in, week-out might be prone to go on the odd lawless session during the season?
He laughs. ‘No, man. Nicky Butt always boozes around my way and he always lets on to me. He’ll say, “Alright Mani, how’s it hanging, lad?” I’ve seen Giggsy in some right states as well.
'After the Oasis gig at Maine Road him and Lee Sharpe were rolling around in a right mess, man. It was a right laugh. It’s great meeting people like that who you respect. I used to get a bit nervous when I used to see ’em, but I’ve got used to it. I always see ‘em knocking around.
"MY BLOOD WOULD BE GLOWING GREEN"
‘But they’re younger than me, getting all that money and they behave themselves? That must be impossible. If I was getting what they earn a week I’d be off my f**king trolley completely. I think they do well to stay in. I know if I had to have a drugs test every other week my blood would be glowing green.
'But if you play well then I reckon they deserve the money. I mean one bad tackle and your career is over. Look at that poor bastard David Busst. His career is over. It’s only a finite time you’ve got in the game, so maximise it, but don’t be greedy.’
Is Roy Keane greedy? ‘You’ve got to pay Roy Keane £50,000 a week,’ he says. ‘He’s a fucking inspiration, man. The wage structure had to be smashed at Old Trafford to allow the best players in the world to sign for us.
'The biggest players in the world aren’t going to come to rainy old Manchester for £30,000 a week, so I don’t begrudge players like Keane getting paid that money. It’s the same with Beckham. He’s a supernova-bright bastard when it comes to playing football and he provides a lot of entertainment for a lot of people.’
He pauses as if something has suddenly struck him. ‘You know, football is rather like music,’ he says. ‘There are only so many people who are really good at it and they’re worth every penny they get. And when it all comes together, whether it’s on the pitch or on a record it makes it all worth it.’ He smiles. ‘It’s f**king beautiful when that happens.’
From the March 2000 issue of FourFourTwo.
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