Reds of the World will be a series of interviews with supporters from around the globe. If you’d like to participate, get in touch with me via Twitter, @kframpton.
This time we roam more than 10,500 miles from Manchester to Australia’s most populous city, Sydney. Like my hometown of Calgary, the New South Wales capital is an Olympic city – having hosted the 2000 Summer Games. You are no doubt familiar with some of Sydney’s world-renowned landmarks like the Opera House and Bondi Beach, and maybe [like me] you’ve always fancied a visit to see it all for yourself.
If you go, there is no shortage of Reds ‘down under’, with four official supporter’s clubs throughout the massive country: Brisbane @BMUSC | New South Wales @ManUtdNSW | Perth @PerthMUSC | Victoria @VICMANUTD
But until that time, let’s have Matthew Galea [@mg91] – the founder of local MUFC supporter’s group @OZMUFC guide us through his experience as a United fan.
1. Who are you and where are you from?
My name is Matthew Galea and I’m from Melbourne, Australia. I currently live in Sydney.
2. How did you come to support Manchester United?
As a kid in Australia we never really got full games, and when we did they were on far too late for me to stay up and watch. However, we did get the weekly highlights show every Monday night.
I remember when I was seven or so and starting to play football myself I used to relish coming home from school and watching the highlights show. The more I watched the more I’d wait for Manchester United’s game because United had the best player in the world – at least, that’s what I thought of Andy Cole at the time.
Anyway, the more I watched the more I liked United as a team and being quite a keen reader as a kid I’d bug Dad to get me books on the club. From there, as I learned more about the club’s history the passion just grew.
3. Who is your favourite current player and why?
This is a question I find increasingly harder to answer as I get older, particularly since Paul Scholes retired.
I really enjoy watching Juan Mata play. For the aesthetically pleasing nature of his game, I’d probably have to opt for him, but it’s a hard call – and not necessarily for the right reasons anymore.
4. Who is your favourite past player and why?
This is a much tougher choice, this time for the right reasons.
I usually answer Paul Scholes to this question, so I won’t change my tune now. The guy was world class and everything a football fan wants in a player. Passionate, loyal and a top-notch footballer.
Ryan Giggs is obviously up there as well and Andy Cole always rates a mention too.
5. What is your favourite MUFC moment?
I have two favourite moments.
Winning the Champions League in 2008 and being in Old Trafford to watch Wayne Rooney score one of the finest goals the stadium has ever seen against Manchester City in 2011.
6. Have you ever been to Old Trafford or seen the club live on tour?
I’ve been to two games at Old Trafford during the 2010-11 season and again in Sydney in 2013.
My first game was a midweek Premier League fixture against Aston Villa, which proved a great night. Rooney had us 1-0 up in the space of seconds after Edwin Van der Sar lumped it up field and then there was a class goal from Nemanja Vidic towards the end.
It was a bit of a surreal occasion. We were about four rows from the front near the players’ tunnel so in the second half I was spitting distance from Ryan Giggs at times, something I doubted would ever happen. Hearing the crowd erupt for the first goal was special as well.
Next up was the Manchester derby just a couple of weeks later, which proved a great occasion not just for the goals but for getting to meet a number of class United fans the night before.
We even caught a glimpse of David Beckham and Gary Neville eating at Rio Ferdinand’s restaurant.
The game itself was of course legendary, not least of all because of Rooney’s inspired goal. What a moment.
7. How do you typically watch MUFC matches? And if United kick off at 1500 in Manchester, what time is it in your country?
A 3 PM kick-off is typically a 2 AM kick off in Melbourne or Sydney, so it can make watching the games anywhere but at home a bit of a hassle.
I always try and get to a pub for early kick-offs. I haven’t made it to a game with the New South Wales supporters club but I used to get down to the Charles Dickens Tavern in Melbourne to watch with the Victorian Supporters Club whenever I could.
8. Is football the most popular sport in your country? What others do people watch?
The popularity of football in Australia has steadily risen since the Socceroos made the 2006 World Cup. The local national competition, the A-League, is about to commence its 11th season, although the game has obviously been played here for much longer than that.
It’s still not the most popular sport, though, although I think it’s the most played sport.
In Victoria, Australian Rules (AFL) footy is king, in New South Wales they love rugby league.
9. Where will MUFC finish in the Premier League this season?
I’d pen us in for a top-four finish – but not expecting anything more than fourth, to be honest. I can’t see where the improvement is coming from. We’ve obviously strengthened midfield, but at the expense of our forward line.
10. Will MUFC win a trophy this season? If yes, which one[s]?
I’d like to see us win something, obviously. The League Cup, maybe? I can’t see us winning the Premier League or Champions League, so I’d like to see us take the League and FA Cups seriously and really push for the wins in the Cups.