Crawley Town play Manchester United in the FA Cup today (19 Feb kick off 17:15) and it is a time of deep inner conflict for the inhabitants of Crawley. Usually, they are mostly* Manchester United supporters but on this occasion they have to pretend to be Crawley Town supporters, primarily so they can get tickets for the match, but also out of some kind of twisted guilt-related feeling that perhaps they ought to at least try and identify with Crawley if only for a couple of hours.
Crawley is not a real place; it is a 'New Town' and exists principally as an adjunct to Gatwick airport and were it not for the residential presence of Stinky Pete and Fragrant Jeannine, there would be little or no reason to even mark it on the map. Simon Calder of The Independent explains that Crawley is an 'easy place to leave'.
Hitherto, the people of Crawley have either ignored the existence of their local football club or merely laughed at it. The club faced bankruptcy and closure only a year ago as a result of apparently being nothing more than a vehicle for the fraudulent business practices of its former owners. Typically, the club hadn't paid their taxes and underestimated the relentless character of the Taxman in pursuing the debt. It wasn't until March of last year that the High Court was convinced the club was in the clear. But now the club has a new sugar daddy who has provided funds for new players and has been able to persuade their manager to stay at the club. That's not to say Crawley Town play good football; the best you could say about them is that they show determination, but they are basically a bunch of cloggers.
Any road up, assuming Sir Alex doesn't pick a team of 14-year old trainees, it won't be long before the people of Crawley can revert to their usual loyalties and get back to supporting Manchester United. Having said that, I wouldn't mind at all if Manchester United were to be shown the door and took an early bath...
Note: Call it post-modern irony if you like but Crawley Town play in red and call themselves 'The Red Devils' - just like Manchester United (and several hundred other unoriginal plonkers).
* Inevitably, there will be a small contingent of fairweather Chelsea glory hunters