MANCHESTER

Robert Duncan concerns himself deeply…

Manchester_UnitedOut of all the things I would hate to be involved with – beer drinking until you fall over, earning my living as a teacher, eating batter covered Mars Bars, saying haitch instead of aitch, trying to read labels on small hotel shampoo bottles, people that say toilet, the works of abstract artists, the work of minimalist artists – the worst is football.

Two things have happened. My darling six year old son is proving to be rather good at it, and today I visited Manchester United’s home ground. The former I have no control of, and if he happens to bring home £150,000 a week, so be it. The latter is far more worrying.

Today I was at Old Trafford to do one of my conference cartooning gigs, and found myself not only wanting to visit the merchandise shop, but actually wanting to admire the sacred turf. If I was a United fan, which hopefully I’m not, I would go on this pilgrimage and check out every panel, blown-up photo, statue and winners board of this extraordinary institution. They clearly have enough money to do precisely what they want, and for pocket money they rent the place out to the likes of my client, who took over several of their cavernous areas to entertain the few hundred people who attended, to see (but not mainly) my cartoon efforts.

I was drawn in, and wished I was one of the millions who treat this place as the Mecca of their dreams. The hush as Wayne Rooney or some other pretty ordinary bloke runs on to the beautifully tended turf, the roar when the first boot makes contact with the ball, the mayhem when the most unexpected happens, and someone scores a goal.

I walked back to my hotel, past Matt Busby Way or something, thinking how totally wonderful it would be to be interested – admiring every poster, cheering on your dream team, brandishing your scarf as you carefully protect your souvenir bag, with your red shirt, MU keyring and David Beckham model in it.

It could be an interest that could take over, or save, your life. On the escalator I asked a kindly steward if he loved football. ‘Ooh yer man’ he said, in what I presumed was a broad Manchester accent, ‘It’s my world!’

Can you imagine the exhilaration he’ll feel on match day? I’m not sure if I ever feel like that – apart from when Jamie scores a goal, I complete an above average cartoon, Sam gets the marks he wants, and Cathy finds the handbag of her dreams.

She’ll tell me off for that, so replace the last sentence with – captivates her class with her ground-breaking Viking lecture…

And don’t worry about the football. It was a passing fancy – like when we won the World Cup in ’66.