This morning, I was having one of our occasional cups of tea with my postman (we used to work together on the buses) and he was telling me that many of his customers had said that they would be rooting for Barcelona in tonight's European cup final in Rome and how, as a die-hard Manchester United supporter (he does come from Surrey, after all), he was a little miffed.
For my part, I wasn't at all surprised.
After leaving school, in the fifties, my first job was in Manchester where I discovered that most of the locals supported the team who played in blue. Later, in the sixties, I realised that it wasn't just City supporters who didn't care for the 'Red Devils' and I came to the conclusion (and it is a personal opinion) that a significant factor in this situation might have been the fact that, after the tragedy of Munich, United became the first British team to be put together on the basis of the buying-power of the chairman's cheque-book rather than by the skill of the manager.
In time, several Football League chairmen were demanding instant success and an early consequence of this new ethic was the gradual demise of less-wealthy, small-town, teams. Previously successful sides like Burnley, Bury and Grimsby, for example, couldn't keep pace with the big-spenders and descended into the lower leagues.
I don't believe many United supporters understand the contempt in which their side is held. However, the fact remains that many neutrals believe that their success is a direct consequence of their immense wealth. Accordingly, an element of envy will have played a fundamental part in establishing their unpopularity. Whatever the reason, as my postman has discovered, it is in the nature of the British to support an under-dog. So, it would be really interesting to see how many in the UK wouldn't shed too many tears if the team from Catalonia took the spoils.