As Albus Dumbledore gazed upon the stupendous dining hall at Hogwarts over his crescent moon glasses, the students packed inside were about to receive a nugget of wisdom far beyond their tender years.
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies,” a smiling Dumbledore said. “But it takes a great deal more bravery to stand up to our friends. I, therefore, award 10 points to Neville Longbottom!”
Many of you will scoff at taking a line from a children’s book to start a football article. Others will respond that, in a world as vividly and lovingly created as Harry Potter, the lines between reality and fantasy are blurred.
But JK Rowling used her multi-award-winning book to make a valid point; it’s very true that standing up to people you don’t like can be hard, but standing up to people on your own side is harder.
This interaction came to mind during an incident in Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Aston Villa on an unseasonably cool afternoon at Old Trafford.
Jadon Sancho, tentatively making his way into the United XI, was dispossessed during a promising attack for the home side, producing a ripple of groans from three-quarters of the stadium.
The slackness of Sancho also produced an adverse reaction from one of his team-mates; Bruno Fernandes could be seen expressing displeasure in the manner of a helicopter mum manifesting her passion for horses through a visibly disinterested child.
Considering the trials and tribulations of his time at United, you’d have expected Sancho to bashfully put his head down and concentrate on redeeming himself with his feet.
But the former Borussia Dortmund winger located his cojones and told Fernandes to simmer down. Taking one of the big beasts in the United squad, despite his mistake, is the biggest sign yet that Sancho is beginning to become himself once more.
sanch 🤣 pic.twitter.com/4CoXiL3tw2
— belles (@sanchoSZN) April 30, 2023
“Sometimes I go over the line,” Fernandes told Sky Sports last month. “I know that. It can happen in the game and it is difficult to control emotions.
“But I never try to be disrespectful with anyone. We are all competitive and we all want to win. The way I play and feel the game, the passion I feel for it, is how I feel better and how I give the most for my team and to my club. That’s why I play in that way.
“I’ve also been like that since I was seven years old, I don’t want to lose my game – I am really competitive and want to give to push and give the best of myself. And I demand the others to give the best of themselves.
“If I see someone on the pitch and I’m trying to say something to them, it’s because I believe they can do better. Sometimes I can even be giving credit to them but on the television you can’t see that.
“You see the waving of the arms, but that doesn’t mean that you’re moaning at someone. It’s sometimes the way you can express yourself on the pitch. With 75,000 at Old Trafford, it’s difficult to feel or listen to other people so you have to make gestures with your hands.”
We’ve all worked with somebody that expresses their dissatisfaction in this manner; dominating their room with their hot-take and, in the heat of the moment, paying scant regard for the feelings of the recipient.
But we’re pleased that Sancho took inspiration from Neville Longbottom and stood up for himself. As Dumbledore said, that’s often the hardest thing to do.
By Michael Lee