Justin Young: I dreamed of being a steward at Old Trafford!

Friday 17 November 2023 15:00

When I was four, I saw a feature on the kids' TV show Newsround about a boy who had more than 20 Manchester United shirts.

I loved football, but I’d never considered following a team – my dad was ambivalent – so I chose Manchester United because they were the only team I’d heard of and I loved the look of all those red shirts. 
I grew up near Southampton and, like many people my age, have been told my whole life that I have no legitimate claim to the throne, but I guess I just got lucky when picking. Once I’d made my bed (Manchester United sheets, of course), I became obsessed. Any merchandise, memorabilia or mention of Manchester United and I soaked it up. 
I even had a photo of TV chef Gary Rhodes on my wall for a while – because he was in a Man United shirt.
Justin at his beloved Old Trafford.
I’d buy all the season reviews on VHS and watch them until the tape wore out, so I saw every red kick of a football too, even if I couldn’t be there in the flesh. 
I told my parents I wanted to be a steward at Old Trafford, because I knew I’d never be good enough to play in the team but I wanted to be there every week. The first time I did go to Old Trafford, though, I saw about as much of the game as those stewards probably do. 
We went up without any tickets to try and watch United against Derby, but we left empty-handed (via the Megastore, of course). 
It was probably for the best – Derby won 3-2 and I got Schmeichel’s away kit.
The first three times I did see United play, we lost. I was there at The Dell when Southampton beat us 3-1, 6-3 and 1-0.
The 3-1 is infamous, because we changed out of our ill-fated grey shirts at half-time and never wore them again. No wonder Teddy Sheringham didn’t want to give me his autograph.

I started to worry I was cursing them. It certainly didn’t feel like glory hunting.
The controversial 3-1 defeat to Southampton in April 1996 was one of Young's first United matches.
In reality, of course, I was very lucky to follow the club through a time of so much unprecedented success. I still cry when I hear the commentary from the last few minutes of the ’99 Champions League final.

It’s no wonder so many Manchester United fans are perpetually disappointed, having lived through a period of so many highs – countless great victories, trophies, players and teams. 
In my mind, what sets that dominance apart from the more recent dominance of teams like Manchester City and Chelsea is that it was built so organically – before the age of big money and the instability that seems to bring with it. In today’s world it's hard to imagine being able to rebuild something in a similar fashion, but the romance and the intent remains.
Memories of Solskjaer's famous goal in the 1999 Champions League final can still make Justin emotional.
It’s been a tough decade or so since Sir Alex left and, on the whole, we haven’t been good enough. But through all the pain there have been some great moments. Re-signing Ronaldo felt, momentarily, like a fever dream. Winning the Europa League for the first time was amazing. And there is no stronger emotion than hope. It’s what keeps us coming back for more, week after week, month after month, year after year. 
I know we’ve been through some comparatively tough times as a club in recent years, but it does feel like we are about to enter a period of real change. We’re a great club, worthy of greatness. 
I’m more optimistic than ever about what the future holds.
Check out The Vaccines' latest single, 'Sometimes, I Swear', available on all digital streaming platforms now.