Italy v England: Behind Enemy Lines - An Italian Manchester United Fan's Experience

What's it like supporting Manchester United from afar when a team from your own country comes up against them in the Champions League? finds out with a fan interview...

Meet Anthony Weatherill, Manchester United fan extraordinaire. From his home in Italy he follows the Red Devils by TV and the internet, cherishing a love that's been blossoming for his entire life. He spoke to about the forthcoming Champions League clash against Inter.

Anthony Weatherill is half Italian, half English and was born in Manchester, but he now lives in Italy. He saw his first live match at Old Trafford in 1959, when he was an 8-year-old. It was the era of Bobby Charlton and the great Scottish coach Matt Busby, who was none other than his neighbour and godfather!

Will you travel to England to watch Manchester United-Inter?

"Yes, I always try to be at Old Trafford for the big matches, particularly the Champions League ones. This time around, I have been reserved the seat of my godfather, Matt Busby.

"Moreover, it’s always nice to meet old friends such as Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law and have a chat with them, possibly recalling legendary games, when Old Trafford was not the amazing ground that it is now. Its ‘sound system’ was so perfect that my brother and I could talk to each other from one stand to another!"

What do you expect from this prestigious tie?

"It won’t be easy, no doubt about it, but I feel that Manchester United can cause a surprise like they have already done in important clashes in the past. I am sure they will amaze us again.

"Furthermore, Jose Mourinho’s presence will be an added challenging factor for Sir Alex Ferguson, who thrives on these situations. He has gone through a lot of them during his 23 years in charge of United!"

It’s amazing, particularly from an Italian point of view, that a coach can remain at the helm of a club for so many years…

"This had already happened at Manchester during the Matt Busby era. I think that this is down to the great rapport between the club and the supporters, which is based on mutual trust.

"After United were listed on the stock exchange in the mid-1980s, this rapport somewhat deteriorated but Sir Alex has stayed put and is a reference point for the fans, who trust all his choices.

"After all, he is phenomenal in dealing with the most diverse situations. For example, he wanted Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford and he helped him become a phenomenal player and then managed to keep him in England. I wouldn’t stake my life on the Portuguese remaining with Manchester forever, though."

Is it true that United have somewhat disappointed so far this term?

"They have performed below expectations on several occasions, possibly due to Dimitar Berbatov struggling to settle in or because of the ‘Ronaldo affair’. However, the Red Devils have been crowned World Champions and are still fighting on all fronts. Should they manage to improve their performances, it will be hard for anyone to beat them."

Do you think they can retain the Champions League trophy?

"Of course, but it’s the fan talking and I cannot be thoroughly objective. I believe and hope that United can win Europe’s premier club competition again. They have the means and the experience."

Luca Manes,