This is McFootball.659 million fans. 1 out of every 10 human beings.
As I travelled home last night, I read the "news" (once Eden Hazard had let everyone rest easy on their seats rather than perching on the edge in excitement) - it was a rather slow news day - that Manchester United were gleefully telling anyone that would listen that they had 659 million fans worldwide. Oh, and that shows that the Glazers, like Guinness, are good for you.
Following the capitulation in the league, leaving bitter cross-town rivals as champions.
Following Chelsea lifting old Big Ears, in a year that United were appalling in Europe.
Following another year of mounting debt and a £71 million-sized black hole and the news that a long-term target and ego of the year chose to live in London, rather than the North.
Following all these and more, was the wonderful news that all is well at Old Trafford, cos we have considerably more fans than anyone. Richard Arnold, United's commercial director, might well have been sticking his tongue out and waggling his hands around his head, shouting "na na - na, na na", I'm not sure - but that is the vibe that I get from reading this.
"We finished the season in first place, and city finished winning on goal difference," he said. That's second place then, mate.
"Competitors come and go. The one thing that remains constant is Manchester United," he continued to opine, going on to tell us what a great job he and the club were doing to win fans all around the world, because United are so great.
Now, I gave my season ticket up about 6 years ago. I saw that lovely Rooney volley against Newcastle in the last game I attended as a paying customer. Since then, I have contributed the princely sum of £3.50 to the club, in the form of a pint of liquid refreshment a couple of years ago, whilst there as a guest of a friend at my one and only time in Old Trafford since.
That is about 350 pence more than about 658.5 million of those fans then. Put together.
Yet these fans are courted, cherished and celebrated. This is McFootball. The big challenge now is not to look after the local, long serving, paying fans - they will probably be there anyway, buying tickets and going to games. No, the chalenge is to come up with ideas how they can make a few more of those millions spend a little more of their hard-earned on chasing the United dream, buy the tv plans, spend at the megastores and look ubercool in red.
Except this grand, old club club, as we all know, is much less than cool. Probably just about the most uncool football club on the planet.
Mind you, despite how sad it is that United have to report such "findings", they are obviously not alone in doing so. Take FC Barcelona, everyone's current favourite club, no?Alongside their wonderful current brand of football, they go around telling the whole world how great they are, usually just in a game of one-upmanship aagainst Real Madrid, how they are "mes que un club," Along with this recent upward trend in the actual footballing-stakes, they have found an upsurge of millions of admirers around the world that posture in their shadows and laud them as the greatest ever, wishing that every club could be run in the same way - from tactics, to academy (oh La masia, of course) to business (without actually knowing too much about any of them in a lot of cases). Despite all this - they are also held up as every inch the coolest football team. I find it all a bit mawdling, to be honest.
More than a club? You are just another football club, Senor Barcelona. Just like any other. You just happen to have hit a very purple (and blue) patch. Unless by "more than a club", you are counting all those basketball and hockey and whichever other teams bear your name and whose trophies reside in your museum. Perhaps more than just a football club, then.
Old news, but I found the Unicef shirts a little too much to stomach as well. Nice gesture, but we all know it was only to soften the blow of them realising that they had to act like every other club and sell the space on the front of the shirt like everyone else. Do a quick two-year hit for charity, everyone loves us, then BANG, and the dirt is gone. We can sell to highest bidder as the ad-free shirt no longer exists.
"But we represent a whole nation, the nation of Catalunya" is another attempt to justify the claims - the Espanyol fans that share your city put it quite well "Qatar is not Catalunya" - the shirt went to the highest bidder, no matter where the money was coming from (and there are plenty of rumours about the Qatar Foundation to cause worry).
Furthermore rumours abound that naming rights of the Camp Nou are under discussion - giving more credence to the thought that everything has a price in McFootball. History, tradition - even coolness.
Not got a particular axe to grind with these clubs. Just McFootball. But like our favourite fast food, we all love our junk football as well.