Fan Stories: If you're United that's all that matters

Never before was a season so tightly packed with fixtures. Every three or four days, United were embroiled in big matches, whether domestically or in Europe. It kept Reds everywhere engrossed but, for some supporters, football will only truly restart when crowds return en masse.

Jill Pearson is one of them. Though born in the USA, she’s lived in England for almost 34 years – the vast majority of them spent trekking across England and Europe following United.
 
“I still remember my first match and coming up into the stands from the concourse, and just the size of it, the cheering, the fans... it was proper goosebumps,”
she remembers. 
 
“I never looked back. It was like a religious experience – even though we lost! I’d never experienced something so amazing.”
Sadly, Old Trafford was off-limits last season, but it’s not just M16 that the Londoner has been pining for. 
 
“Manchester is my spiritual home,”
Pearson explains.
“That sounds a bit lame, but it really is! It’s so nice to get out of London. Northerners are very different from southerners, and Manchester always felt like my home. Friends say I’m an adopted northerner.
 
“United’s really changed my life,”
she continues.
“I’ve made so many friends through football that have stayed friends, of all different ages and backgrounds. I’ve always loved the before-and-after at the match: the humour, the songs, going to the pub. The fan culture especially means a lot to me. Nobody ever asks: ‘What do you do?’ If you’re United, that’s all that matters. You’re in. 
 
“I’m a season ticket holder and probably get to 90 per cent of away matches, plus quite a few European matches. It’s quite a commitment, travelling hundreds of miles every week, so I haven’t missed the journey. But I will be absolutely thrilled to do it all again! It feels really weird and alienating watching on telly. I got so used to being there.”
Before our chat, Jill cast her mind back across decades following United and was amazed at the amount of memories that quickly stacked up. 
 
“We used to go everywhere,”
she marvels.
“We’d be at the San Siro all the time, and Rome. Everything was just big groups of friends and lots and lots of fun. Obviously, watching the team under Alex Ferguson was fantastic: the first time we won the league, the Double Double, Barcelona in ’99. In the Treble season, I missed so many days of work I almost got sacked! But it was worth it.
 
“You’d get excited about the draw. Not because of who we’d be playing, but because it was: ‘Where are we going?’ Smaller places like Cluj; places you wouldn’t necessarily go on holiday.”
All that surrounding buzz has, for the moment at least, been placed on the shelf. And although Jill is loving the performances of Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood et al, the circle won’t be complete until she’s back in M16.
 
“I’m just taking things as they come,”
she confesses.
“The main thing is not where we are in the table, but the day we’re allowed to go to to Old Trafford, or away grounds. I miss it and I’m desperate to get back there.”

Recommended: