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Manchester United’s away section raises questions going forward

by Zoe Hodges

It was Manchester United’s day on Saturday as they came from behind to beat Arsenal 3-2 in front of over 40,000 fans at the Emirates.

However something taken for granted in the men’s game – a dedicated away section – was on show at the Emirates and it really made a difference for the traveling fans and the visiting team.

It is something the supporters club has been pushing for for a long time with the help and support of United and there was nothing but praise for it after the game at the Emirates.

Though there were United fans sprinkled throughout the stadium, the vast majority of around 1,500, took up the typical away section in the ground with a line of stewards separating them from the rest of the crowd, just in case.

It created an incredible atmosphere within the ground, which the players thrived on as well.

The fear from neutrals and home fans before the game was that United fans, known for their vocal support and selection of songs and chants, would drown out any home support and this fear caused Arsenal fans online to rally round and improve their own support.

Although the fans began singing five minutes before kick off, it wasn’t until the second half that you really felt the atmosphere and that atmosphere clearly impacted the game.

As Arsenal took the lead, The Athletic reported that United fans showed some ‘unsavoury methods of tribal football fandom’ but on the whole, the United fans pride themselves on a family friendly atmosphere and they rallied behind the team, singing loudly, believing that they could fight back.

When Millie Turner equalised for the Reds there was pandemonium in the away end and when Russo went one step further and put them into the lead deep into stoppage time, the traveling fans were delirious as the players peeled away towards them celebrating.

Deborah from the MUWSC has played a big role in the campaign to get an away section, particularly at this fixture. “Winning at Arsenal was great but having the away section made it even better. All those reds able to celebrate together made the feeling even sweeter.”

She continued, “The celebrations after the match were unforgettable. We’d love to see away sections become standard but also allow people to choose a neutral section if they’d prefer.”

Meanwhile Marc, who is also at the heart of MUWSC and travels home and away supporting both the men’s and women’s team, added, “To have an away end at The Emirates was brilliant. Over 1400 fans in the away end all supporting United. It was the closest you will ever get to how a men’s away end feels.”

He continued, “From minute 1 to the 99th minute we never stopped singing and we were still singing 30 minutes after the game had finished.”

At the end of the game, the team headed straight to the away section with a number of players knee-sliding into the corner to celebrate and applaud the traveling fans.

Journalists and pundits have also shared their thoughts on the topic with Ian Wright using his platform to assist the United fans in getting the away section at the Emirates.

The banter and atmosphere it creates is a vital part of the match-day experience for most fans accustomed to the men’s game and though we don’t want to see some of the banter that spills over into abuse and obscenities that is so often associated with football fans, it is a breath of fresh air that clubs are beginning to listen to and acknowledge the importance of dedicated sections in the women’s game.

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