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Manchester United's appeal is global.

EVER since I came to Huddersfield in about 1887 (well, it was a long time ago) I have had to justify my football allegiance to Manchester United and counter the attacks of cynics who claim they have more fans in Yeovil than on their own doorstep.

"How do you confuse a Manchester United fan? Show him a map of Manchester."

Most are johnny-come-lately fans, they say, attracted only because of the club's fame and trophies. Not so, I claim. The vast bulk live in the conurbations around the city. I grew up in Timperley, a few miles from the ground where a condition of residence was that you had to support United. Besides, I went past Old Trafford every day on my way to school and was a Red before Munich.

Oxford Internet Institute recently confirmed the fanbase is incredibly strong in its heartland of West Manchester. Facebook says 170,000 United fans live in Manchester.

However, it has to be accepted that we do have fans around the globe. This month, a survey said the number worldwide was 659 million. Which is probably more than Beyonce.

This is why United have more fans in the Maldives than Norwich City have in Norwich and more in Azerbaijan than Ipswich Town have in Ipswich.

These are lovers of football who admire from afar, I say to doubters. They watch the games on television. Except that the more I delved into the fanbase, the more I realised that the 76,000 who fill Old Trafford each week to gaze upon the Field of Dreams, contains quite a few from afar. Like the Irish fans with whom I regularly share a flight from Derry or the coaches that are lined up outside the ground after every game listing destinations from all points of Ireland and the UK.

And to top them all, my brother-in-law Ian Lennon arrived at Manchester Airport on holiday from his home in America. He had flown from Seattle with a change of aircraft in Iceland.

"How was the trip?" I said. "Great," he said. "The flight from Reykjavik was full of Manchester United supporters on their way to Old Trafford."

I give up.

CAPTION(S):

FANBASE: Old Trafford

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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 12, 2013
Words:369
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