United are the team for me: Namrata Yadav

Saturday 18 November 2023 12:58

The Manchester United Women match programme’s new series – entitled ‘United are the team for me!’ – looks to salute the Reds’ most dedicated fans.

The pilot edition features in Sunday’s issue for the WSL Manchester derby against Man City at Old Trafford, and takes us to Bangalore, India.

That is where Namrata Yadav (above, left) is more than happy to live her life on ‘Manchester time’! Here is her story…

Read the United Women v City programme


An exclusive Leah Galton interview features inside a jam-packed Old Trafford edition, which you can enjoy here.

I live in Bangalore, which is four-and-a-half hours ahead of the UK, but I’m used to living on Manchester time whenever I need to. I’ve done it for a few years now. For a night game that could mean staying up very late! For the PSG away leg, it was more like 4am – I was up chatting online after the game for a couple of hours, as I just couldn’t sleep after that one. 

Like a lot of fans, my love of United began with the men’s team. Euro 2004 was the first time I properly watched football with my dad, and I just really liked Wayne Rooney, who was England’s best player and about to join United. I know this sounds superficial, but United’s 2004/05 kit was really nice, so that was another reason why I started following United. Hey, these things are important when you’re 11 years old!
It wasn’t as easy to follow United back then. I lived in New Delhi – I moved to Bangalore four years ago – and I’d check newspapers and read the internet to keep up, and eventually I was able to watch a few games online. As I got older I started following the US women’s national team but it was during the Women’s World Cup in 2019 when a friend of mine put in our WhatsApp group that Jackie Groenen had scored [in the semis for the Netherlands]. It’s funny, we’d never talked about women’s football before – ever! – but as Jackie had just joined United it just got us both excited, and I’ve followed United Women closely ever since. 

I’ve never been to the UK but I’m hoping to get over next May. I’ll have to try and make it for the football season, but I’m told I wouldn’t like it any earlier in the season, as I’m used to 25-35 degree heat every day! It would be amazing to see the players in the flesh, and properly meet some of the people I’ve been chatting to for a few years. 

United Women has a strong fan community. For the men’s team, there are millions of fans who, like me, can’t actually go to games, and as such it’s easy to feel like you’re on the periphery of the fandom. But with the women’s team, although there are far fewer of us, we all feel connected, and we can discuss our opinions without the noise that can surround those who follow the men’s side.
Jackie Groenen recently faced United with her current club PSG.
We can have strong opinions about a game – as I often do! – but most people on social media are mature about it. The journalists who cover the women’s game are approachable too, and you can put forward your points to them. Lots of people might tell you your opinion is wrong, but you can usually have that open discussion. It’s much harder to do that with the men’s team.

This team is genuinely inspiring. I’ve followed United for almost 20 years but the first time I’ve felt like I wanted to go out and play football since I was 11 was after I started following United Women. Only when you see people like yourself playing, it makes you want to get involved as well. 

I’m used to watching us play on my phone, and at least that gives you flexibility! I remember being at a wedding and watching United Women play West Ham. Indian weddings usually go on late so it was perfect. If it had been Liverpool v United – the two biggest teams in India – the other guests might have understood, but they were like, “why are you watching West Ham at a wedding?!”
Namrata has created impressive United Women sketches, like this one.

I’ve had a few interactions with the squad, which have been really nice. On my birthday last year, Leah Galton – my favourite player – was asked if she could wish me a happy birthday. That was the best present! I’ve also done a lot of sketches – I did one of Casey Stoney when she left, which a year later she commented on to thank me! That was great. 

When I heard about Emma Watson’s injury, I wanted to make her a card. I was thinking about what to sketch, and I thought of her name, and Hermione Granger making a potion to help her get better. I put a lot of heart into it, but after I sent it I got worried she might not have seen Harry Potter due to her age... but she had!

It was a shame we couldn’t go further in the Champions League, and that’s what kept me awake until 4am. But we have to remember it was our first time in the competition, and we were knocked out by a very good side. Once we’ve qualified two or three times, that’s when a team can be more confident of making a proper impact. I’m sure we’ll be back again.

Read much more exclusive pre-match content in the free digital version of the official match programme here, while a special collector's edition will be available at Old Trafford on Sunday for a bargain £2. Tickets for this weekend's derby can also be purchased here.