As a young Jewish boy growing up in Manchester, Colin Shindler learned early what it meant to be part of a minority. When a cruel twist of fate determined he support Manchester City, rather than their more consistently successful neighbours Manchester United, the youngster was doomed forever to live on the margins.
Manchester United Ruined My Life is a delightful, humourous look at what it meant to grow up in 1960s Jewish Manchester. Reconciled with rival fans only in summer, when both could sit peacefully side by side at the unimaginatively named "Old Trafford" ground of Lancashire County Cricket Club, Shindler will speak for many with his frustration at the marketing machine that is Manchester United plc. Pulling no punches--"When Alex Ferguson finally clears his desk, it is more likely to be at the request of the chairman of the Stock Exchange than the traditional choir of disaffected supporters"--he vents his fury at the unashamed commercialisaton of the game, the diasporic fan base (many of whom have never set foot inside England, never mind Old Trafford) and the feisty Scottish manager himself, with an obsession only true fans of the game will appreciate.
But more than just a sporting commentary lamenting the bygone Halcyon days of English soccer, Manchester United Ruined My Life is one little boy's story of his struggle to establish his identity among the challenges of religion, family and death. Shindler's prose is easy and accessible yet lyrical and evocative; there is no doubt his love for his city has endured. That this affection is somewhat rose-tinted, tinged with the distance a successful television career in London allows, takes nothing away from the book. Manchester United Ruined My Life is a commodity more valuable than Old Trafford shares--it is an enjoyable, highly readable, football book with real literary merit. Highly recommended for everyone who has ever sung "Stand Up, If You Hate Man U". --Lucie Naylor
'This is a wonderful book ... It is also extremely funny' (Alan English, Sunday Times )
‘His prose ... is never less than sharp, smart and easy on the eye ... His writing is so attractive ... [I] would be thrilled to read more’ (Jim White, Guardian )
‘It is his childhood and absent friends that touch the rawest, universal nerve’ (Simon Garfield, Mail on Sunday )
‘Shindler’s art lies in conversational writing, and an ability to change gear deftly from humour to devotion and back through fanaticism to the black comedy of Manchester City’ (Howard Davies, The Times )
‘Shindler is both touching and convincing in his evocation of his formative years ... it’s skilful, entertaining and heading for the top of the league’ (Richard Pendlebury, Daily Mail )
‘Evocative, funny-sad and warm-hearted’ (Michael Henderson, The Times )
‘Sits in the same class as Fever Pitch ... Shindler’s down-to-the-bone honesty also reminds us self-indulgence can be great entertainment’ (The Times )
‘This could still be the most important football book since Fever Pitch capturing, as it does, the delicious irony that caused City fans to fall into a soon to be legendary chorus of "Are you watching Macclesfield?"’ (Mick Middles, Manchester Evening News )
‘As an example of the inherent irrationality of sport, his account - part autobiography, part social disquisition - could hardly be bettered’ (Stuart Bathgate, Scotsman )