In a game between Manchester United and England, at the moment, Man U would probably win, although it seems according to the Observer that the interesting action would be in the fighting beforehand.

I know that if I had heard MU fans singing “Are you England in disguise?” to Leicester fans, I would have reacted very strongly because I would have interpreted it as racist, given Leicester’s famously multicultural population. Maybe anti-England sentiments on the part of Man U fans are sophisticated but if I were slapping myself on the back for being so clever, as the fellow from Red Issue appears to be here, I’d want to be very sure about the complex ways in which my songs might be understood.

I don’t know a lot about Leicester but is it possible that Leicester being an England-supporting City might be sophisticated in itself, an instrument of inclusion? Community is a complicated thing, whether at a national, international or local level and it’s the active exclusion of individuals from communities which is to be fought.

Mark K-Punk writes a fascinating and excellent response to that article, identifying a three-way tension in between MUFC as Sir Alex’s bastion of working-class pride; MUFC as the international entertainment Corporation of the PLC board; and the FA (do I feel like mapping these onto Superego, Id and Ego? I’m not sure).

Manchester United, it seems, manages to give (a section of) its fans something which England can’t, whether that’s a sense of cosmopolitanism, or a distance from ‘Eng-er-land’ or just a useful bargaining chip in a never-ending game of one-upmanship. Mark’s right that it seems strange that the thinking of (some of) the fans should be so close to the line of the PLC rather than the Ferguson-Family-Community way.

My memory of Red Issue is vague: I don’t suppose I’ve seen a copy since the very early 90s, but I certainly don’t remember it as a great bastion of progressive thought, and most of the Man U fans I knew hated the thing so I wonder how seriously we should take it. A lot of football fans are becoming better-versed in effective collective action (even at a corporate monster like Man U: Shareholders United have been surprisingly effective at getting a voice heard). Mark’s right, it is too easy to equate ‘localism’ with fascism but the key is to use localism – community – as part of a real actual fight against fascism. As our football industry correspondent Dave B argued in his piece here last month, hardcore football supporting can be used as a tool of exclusion, of slamming doors in outsiders’ faces. But that’s not the whole story. I might as well quote a whole para of Dave’s article, really, since it puts the positive side to the rather frightening K-Punk piece (‘Kapital’s Id running wild’? Brrr…):

“There is a kind of nationalism that can work positively; an inclusive nationalism, which sees the nation not as trans-historical and metaphysical, but simply the place where we live. Recognising the value of communities, and the value of collective action, it seeks to include rather than exclude; it’s a nationalism of the future, not the past; where are we going, not where we’ve come from. The price of entry is a commitment to being here right now; of not opting out of caring.”