Son won't stand United with dad

TENSIONS are running high in our house at the moment. There is a long running and increasingly fractious dispute that threatens to tear our family apart.

It's over an issue that I feel entirely ignorant about and frustratingly powerless to resolve.

I realised just how serious the situation had become when during World Book Day, a day loosely aimed at dressing up as a 'book' character, I asked my then seven-year-old son if he would like to wear his Manchester United football kit to school.

He looked at me sorrowfully and said: "Mummy, I would be embarrassed - all the other kids would tease me."

Words that cut me to the core - both because of his and his father's pain.

His reluctance to accept his footballing heritage has been increasing steadily and emphatically over the past year or so.

Last year one of my friends asked him which team he supported - "ummm Man United," he said . . . brief pause . . . "and Arsenal".

He was then asked why United? He looked up at me and said "ummmm" so I prompted him saying: "Because Daddy is from Manchester."

Quick as a whip, he answered back: "Well, I'm not!"

Fair point, I thought. But then again, neither am I.

As a Leodensian, there always seemed very little point in supporting my home team. It was just too depressing. I jest - I've never had an interest in football, so the passions and commitments that go with it have passed me by.

But my husband is a Mancunian and a proud one at that - his team always has been and, of course, always will be Man United, as was his father's and his father's father's.

He is a very mild-mannered, easy-going kind of guy - and I can honestly say the only time I have ever heard him raise his voice either in anger or excitement is at the TV while watching a United game.

So like every football supporting father, he no doubt looked forward to passing on and sharing this passion with his sons.

However, our eldest son sees things quite differently. All his classmates (so he says) support Arsenal, including his best friend and cousin (whose dad is from London).

Indeed, he insists there is not one United-supporting child in his entire primary school! So he's been asking for a Mesut Ozil kit, so he and his friends can form their own mini-Arsenal team.

When I gently suggested to my husband perhaps we should allow him to choose who he wants to support, you can imagine the response.

I was told in no uncertain terms supporting Arsenal was not an option. I can understand the pain on both sides here - so what to do?

My husband insisted once Man Utd were doing better Rafael's faith and allegiances would be restored.

I quietly suggested perhaps Rafael had absolutely no clue how well or badly United were doing - he just wanted to support the team that his friends supported.

Unconvinced, my husband took our son aside to present him with all the supporting evidence of United's superiority in the trophy tables and the glory of their not so distant past.

Two years is however a long time in the life of an eight-year-old and even then his friends made the point, valid or not, that Arsenal were ahead of United in the FA Cup stakes.

I feel for them both. I want Rafael to have the choice and also not to feel ostracised by his friends - but at the same time maybe making a stand and being the "odd one out" is character-building and would make him a true supporter (in the long run).

But it's tough to have to watch my husband hear his son reject his team and plump for one of their arch rivals. My loyalties are torn.

As the end of the season approaches, Arsenal and Manchester United are vying for superiority and fourth place in the Premier League with Manchester City; don't even mention them!

Meanwhile an FA Cup final awaits in which, if they triumph, Manchester United can tie with Arsenal's record.

Sky News presenter Samantha blogs at


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