David Hammond, a Seattle resident born and bred in Manchester, shares with us his passion for the club and his experiences the last three times the Red Army has invaded the Emerald City.
I have been a lifelong Manchester United fan; My love for the club started out when I was 4 or 5. I grew up in Manchester, 10 miles from the ground, and when growing up in Manchester you can really only support two teams, United or City. Thankfully, I was born on the Red half of town. I remember my great aunt telling me stories about how she used to drink tea at the same tea shop as Sir Bobby Charlton. Other than being “Cantona” on the school playground, my biggest and earliest memory of United was going to my first game at Old Trafford; It was my birthday present and we played Arsenal. It was an amazing experience, I believe we won 2-0, and I still have the match day program.
My mum recently told me a story of how, when I was six or seven, I asked for the latest United away kit. I think it was the classic black United kit from the 93-95 season. She said she had the choice of getting herself a new pair of shoes (her shoe had a hole in it) or the kit for me. The kit won, and she put a bag in her shoe to keep her foot dry. I think she knew what it would mean to me.
I only met and saw a few United players when I lived in Manchester. Steve Bruce’s son played against our rival primary school, Schmeichel drove past my school once, and I had a brief sighting of Cantona in a hotel. It was during his Crystal Palace fracas, where he was staying at a hotel near town and he walked past me in the lobby. This was the first time I had really ever seen a true hero of mine. I must have been around 11 years old. I froze in the moment, I sat down and just cried, overwhelmed with emotion. I couldn’t quite believe it, my mum had to go and get his autograph.
I moved to the states in 1999 due to my dad’s job. My biggest concern was, “How am I going to watch United?” At first it was mainly online, just getting score updates or following a play by play because they didn’t have many games on TV. Obviously 1999 was a massive year for United; what a year to move away! I took the day off school for the Champions league final. The game was at 12pm PST, but what a game!
As the years went on, and because Soccer was becoming more and more popular, more Premier League games were being shown. We all know that United have such a huge worldwide following, so I was lucky enough that FOX Sports would play more United games than others. However, living on the West Coast isn’t a great time difference. We are 8 hours behind the UK, so I have taken a lot of long lunches to watch midweek games, and wake up at 5am AM for those United Liverpool games… but who wouldn’t? The sport has become so popular now that every EPL game is now live on TV! That really just shows how big the sport has become.
Another example of how big the team and sport has become is United travelling to the States. In July 2003, United came to Seattle as part of their pre-season tour when they played Celtic. I took the day off work and came up to Seattle and found the hotel they were staying at. I couldn’t quite believe what I saw next, Sir Bobby Charlton was sat in the Lobby, Sir Alex was walking around. I was 6,000 miles from home, and I found myself in an elevator with John O’Shea and Ruud Van Nistelrooy. There were probably around 15 fans in the hotel and outside. I remember the one police office that was at the hotel asking me, “Who are these guys?”
Fast forward to July 2011. United we staying at the Four Seasons Seattle, and you would have thought we were in Manchester, there were hundreds and hundreds of fans. The roads surrounding the hotel were blocked due to the amount of fans. I was lucky enough again to get my shirt signed and a picture with Sir Alex. The passion for the sport in the States, especially in Seattle, is really impressive. I have been to a few Sounders matches, and the passion of the supporters is next to none within the MLS. Seattle is known to be called “Soccer City USA.”
It was the same experience last year. I flew to Denver to watch the game vs Roma. The ground was 90% red. Again, outside the hotel there were hundreds of fans. I was lucky enough to meet Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, and a few club legends like Yorke, Cole and Irwin!
I was excited to see United coming to the states again this year. I am really excited about the game against Club America where I hope to see the new signings in action. These are really exciting signings and, in my opinion, exactly what we need. Our midfield now has so much depth and will be hard to be matched. I am also flying down to San Jose next week to watch the game against Barcelona, not a bad game to watch!
I am a mad United fan and you can easily find me driving around… I’m the guy with the MUFC license plate!