There are two types of fans of clubs like Manchester United, according to common wisdom.
There is the season-ticket holding, locally-bred 'real' fan, with generations of family support and an economic investment in the team's success. The fan who sticks by the club through thick and thin, who backs the manager and demands the same passion from the players as they show from the stands.
Then there is the 'plastic' supporter, neither local to nor invested in the club, from another part of the country or even world, who watches the games at home or in a bar, and has a sometimes amusing tendency to take to social media in reactive anger every time something goes against 'their' team.
Of course there are exceptions and levels of variance, such as the irritating gobby tool sat or stood next to you who won’t stop berating his team’s players or coach but erupts in delight when a goal goes in; exceptions such as the legions of armchair fans who are reasonable and measured in their support from afar.
Old Trafford regulars have prided themselves on their unwavering loyalty to the club, to the coach and – provided they don’t horse about demanding transfers or ludicrous wage rises – players. If the lads put in the effort, they get the backing.
The thing is, United fans have not had much to moan about for a couple of decades. Outright dominance of the domestic game and a status among Europe’s elite often spoils fans of other clubs – the white handkerchiefs at Real Madrid and the bizarre behaviour of some Chelsea fans is embarrassing to many. But not United supporters, who remember the days of being also-rans, and not just in the pre-Fergie era.
The patience of United fans has not really been tested in 20 years. Not until now where, in the post-Fergie era, David Moyes is having what can only be described as a nightmare start to life at Old Trafford.
However you approach it, booing one’s own team and players never helps. Ever. It is the epitome of counter-productive behaviour. It is demotivating and intimidating – there is a reason why the more impassioned home supporters of many clubs boo every touch of the ball by opposition players. It puts off, distracts and upsets.
United’s home support, who previously have only ever booed individuals deemed to have transgressed in some manner, booed the entire team off at half-time, while they trailed Stoke City 2-1.
When you boo the whole team – and not just Nani, who got the treatment later as he was replaced by Adnan Januzaj – you are booing the players and the coaching staff. It is pretty irrefutable that the target is collective, not individual.
And it is totally unhelpful. Unless your chairman is an over-emotional Italian retail mogul, or your supporters are hooded gangsters who strip managers at press conferences, booing is not going to force your board to fire an unwanted coach, and it certainly isn't going to inspire the troops on the pitch or the touchlines.
Gary Neville Tweeted that he was “embarrassed” by the reaction of some United fans:
Embarrassed at some of the tweets I've seen! The essence of a United fan is to always"BELIEVE"the team will score and it will never give in"
Perhaps not quite as embarrassed as he would have been by this tribute to David Moyes following Manchester United’s 4-1 win over Swansea at the start of the season, but a certain shade of claret nonetheless.
G-Nev has a vested interest in supporting the current regime – his kid brother Phil is an assistant to Moyes on the bench.
But, as a red-blooded local, he will recall the late 1980s, when Sir Alex Ferguson was struggling to turn United’s fortunes around, when protests were staged against his management, and when his teams were on occasion given the treatment from the stands.
Die-hard United fans may arguably be less fickle than the handkerchief and papier-mache waving sorts at the Bernabeu and Stamford Bridge, but historically they are no more special than most other supporter groups. They’ve just not been challenged in this way for the best part of a generation.
Moyes need not worry too much for now though – a couple of smart substitutions saw his side overcome Stoke in the end, with some fans celebrating like they’d won the league. And a glance across to rivals Liverpool and Moyes will see Luis Suarez hailed as a true hero following his spectacular hat-trick against West Brom; a couple of months ago he was public enemy number one after trying to engineer a transfer away from Anfield.
A fickle bunch are football fans, and United’s are no different.
By Reda Maher - On Twitter @Reda_Eurosport