Fan's eye view: No 219 Manchester United

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I have a secret which nobody really knows about, although those closest to me have an inkling that something may not be quite right. I am a respectable middle-class mother from a leafy suburb of north-west London, and I am not having an affair. Nor am I squandering money on vodka or scratch cards. My secret is a growing obsession with Manchester United, who everyone else seems to love to hate.

How did this all begin? After all, men and young boys are supposed to feel passionate about football, not women from Pinner approaching middle age. I have certainly been captivated by United and life may never be the same again.

My family is divided on football, with my two young sons supporting the same team as their Mum, my daughter a rare breed of Liverpool fan who does not hate MUFC and my husband, a rather tormented but relieved Brighton fan. Although I have never been the sort to jump on the female "football is boring" band wagon I may have complained about it being on the television constantly or not understood my husband's need to read the sports pages first without checking to find out if World War Three has broken out.

I feel rather sorry for my husband at the moment. It cannot be easy when your wife of 13 years suddenly seems to know the odd fact about football that you don't. I gave him little sympathy over the plight of poor Brighton last season, distracted by my own concerns about United's fate in Europe.

I am quite conscious not to join in too much when we have friends round. Football chatter usually leaves the other women bored stiff and the men unsure. Every time my husband asks me out for an evening we have to fit in with United's schedule. I think he would probably draw the line at a poster of Alex and the boys above our bed.

Trevor Hicks, who lost both of his teenage daughters at Hillsborough, said, on the dramatised documentary about that day, that football was the one thing they did as a family together, a common interest. I feel that it is like that in our house.

We all watch football together, the boys play football, we have Subbuteo, we have table-top football, we have computer games, we have football shirts and videos and a library of books from Glenn Hoddle's "Spurred to Success" to Garry Nelson's wonderful "Left Foot Forward". My daughter and I discuss who is better looking: Giggs or Beckham?

Yet there is still a stigma against women football fans - that you've got to be a bit of a pints-and-roll-ups type - although things have got slightly better over the years. When we went to England v Mexico at Wembley, they were selling small plastic bottles of Chilean Chardonnay, so they must have expected some women. Maybe now I am being sexist, it's just that I did not see many men giving up their bottles of Carlsberg in favour of warm white wine.

Well, my secret is out now, l am a big Manchester United fan and proud of it. I don't think that this is a passing phase; I am going to enter middle age a committed United follower.

The other day I rang Old Trafford for details of the fan club (for my sons, of course) and found that an elderly lady who lives down our road is also a fan. Another closet Man United fan in Pinner! I will have to knock on her door and share a cup of tea and talk about winning this year's Premiership title.

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