United are the team for me: Namrata Yadav
The Manchester United Women match programme’s new series – entitled ‘United are the team for me!’ – looks to salute the Reds’ most dedicated fans.
That is where Namrata Yadav (above, left) is more than happy to live her life on ‘Manchester time’! Here is her story…
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!
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.
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?!”
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.