So as we are about to enter the joys of Christmas, its been an eventful past seven days: Michael Owen scores a brilliant hat-trick on German soil and then gets dropped; The club was left stranded with just one fit defender; We then go and send our collective gold, frankincense and myrrh to Chelsea in the form of a loss to Villa; and it all ends with the feverish speculation of a Far East consortium buying out our ever popular American owners and Ryan Giggs being crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Just another week in the life of Manchester United Football Club!
I wanna start with Owen, because ive been banging his drum for weeks. I was so pleased with his goals against Wolfsburg. Many of the most ardent Scouse-hating United fraternity wish him to fail but slowly he is even converting these lot. It was a hat-trick of a predator. Now i love Roo, and i am taking a shine to Mr Berba, but neither of these two can finish like this boy..erm...man! We know the question with him will always be fitness, but at the moment (touch wood) that does not seem to be an issue. He showed that if he plays up top that he still has what it takes....which is why it was so frustrating to see Fergie revert to type and drop him against Villa.
I have a lot of respect for Martin ONeill. He is definitely near the top of my Post Fergie Era managers who could take the position. He has built a Villa side who are skillful, industrious and entertaining...a good blend of power and finesse. So my heart dropped when i saw our formation and team when i got into the Theatre at 4.30pm on Saturday. Two defensive midfielders with one up top?? Now i know Villa deserve respect, but this formation really played into their hands. We had too many players in a narrow defensive mode which was always gonna allow Young and Downing the space on the flanks to cross the ball into their powerhouses in the middle, and low and behold this is how they won the game. Now i am not an advocate of United playing 4-4-2 every week. Sometimes it is vital to play 4-3-3 and even 4-5-1. However, when you have your three main strikers fit and available it makes no sense in expecting Giggs, Park or Valencia to make up the second striker when we attack.
I will always trust the manager and his decisions but the simple truth is he got it very wrong on Saturday...but that's life! You could argue in his favour that had Carrick, Valencia and Park played better and that Fletcher didnt look as spooked as he did playing right back, that we would probably have got some sort of result....but we didnt. Lets hope for a more convincing display against a confident Wolves team.
The week ended with red tops going crazy about a 'mysterious Chinese billionaire' who has got six of his billionaire mates together to put together a billion pound bid to see off our billionaire American owners. Ive already read comments from United fans on their interweb portals claiming that this is 'great news' Somehow i cannot fathom this. In the years that the Glazers have run the club we have won three consecutive Premier League titles, been to two European finals winning one of them, and seen us collect World Champions titles, European and World Footballer of the Year crowns...a run of unrivalled success. I understand how the infamous 'debt' that the club carries is worrying to many, but not to me. If you owned a house worth £200,000 and you managed a down payment of £50,000 (lucky in this day and age!) leaving you with a £150,000 mortgage would this seem so unreasonable? Not if your earnings, assets, etc covered the bills. The Glazers have a £700 million debt that is currently very serviceable. They own the club and therefore the clubs profits are tied into this, meaning that the ratio from earnings to repayments is about 8%...which is NOTHING in business terms. Compare this to Liverpool whos ratio is closer to 30% when they are being successful.. playing in Champions Leagues and competing in the Prem...now THAT is something to worry about, especially with their current standing.
I cant help but feel that there is some odd xenophobia going on when many talk about the Glazers. We dont like Americans owning our English institutions...but a Russian? Yeah thats fine. A Chinese guy who we know nothing about but says he is a die-hard red and has been to Old Trafford twice? Yep thats all cool. YOU PEOPLE NEED TO THINK WITH YOUR HEADS! As i said before, if you are uncomfortable with the fact that United are a global company now, then there is always FC United down the road to take you and your family back to supporting a grass roots team. I will reiterate what i have said before. I do not care who runs United. What i care about is that the Manager is happy (Fergie has done nothing but praise how the Glazers allow him to 'just get on with it') and that they back the team in the transfer market allowing us to compete for the biggest prizes. They have ticked these boxes. I dont care that Malcolm Glazer is an ugly fucker..id rather him than an oil baron playboy like Chelsea have who could drop his whim in a second. And lets be perfectly honest. If they ever were in need to sell the club due to financial pressure would they really have a problem doing that?
My season ticket is £600. It went up £16 from last year. I can live with this. However if i supported Arsenal or Chelsea i would be paying over £1000. If the Glazers really wanted to mug our wallets i think we would be seeing them force us to pay the 'going rate' that the Londoners do...and we all know it has nothing to do with a North/South economical divide! They could also sell the rights of the stadium name for a pretty penny. But currently we do not play at the 'Mars Bar Theatre of Dreams' thankfully. But it would be a simple option for an owner wanting a quick buck to pay the debtors. I have zero love for the Glazers..for they are not Mancs..but they are just doing what Martin Edwards did to United for many many years...and yes..he was/is an Englishman. Interested in making his bank account value a tad larger. Its always better the devil you know than the devil you dont. Be very careful what any of you wish for.
Finally, Sir Ryan of Giggs won the Sports Personality award last night. Of course, the large non English contingent interested in MUFC will probably think nothing of this but it has always been a big deal in the UK. Ive been delighted how many have already vented their spleen that us United fans rigged the vote...i will admit i rang in twice! But these are the same who say he shouldn't have won Player of the Year last year, despite the fact that it was voted for by Giggsys fellow non-United playing professionals. Whatevs! The man is deserving of the award. He is a hero. A legend. When we are all dead the name Ryan Giggs will still be remembered in the same vein as Duncan Edwards, the holy trinity of Best, Law and Charlton, the managerial genius' of Busby and Ferguson and our modern day King Eric. He will forever run down that Old Trafford wing in our minds..feared by the Blues and loved by the Reds. We will NEVER forget. He will ALWAYS tear you apart...again.
So once again we wake up to a bit of a PR disaster this morning as we learn that the plug has been pulled on signing the youngster dubbed Little Kaka. Im gutted about this.
Much has been made of the young Serb Ljajic. Never before has a youngster had such a build up to joining a club, but that is the way it sort of works at United. Every deal is scrutinised in the press and to be fair, United do a lot of initiating this hype. Plenty of pictures have been released by the club over the past 12 months of Ljajic training with the first team...Ljajic cuddling up to Berbatov and Giggs at Carrington...Ljajic with a United shirt...the usual fandango that goes on when a team tries and sells to its fanbase a new player that we knew little about before last January. Youtube has been battered by hits of fans (like myself) desperate to see his skills. Im even part of a facebook group that has been following his individual development at Partizan this last year. But now, in the flick of a switch and a garbled club spokesman statement the deal is now dead.
First and foremost, if Fergie does not think this lad is worth £10 million after being able to monitor him closely for 11 months then he is of course doing the right thing. Breaking the poor lads heart now is better than him joining the club with a fanfare only for him to be slaughtered if he does not have the skills to pay the bills. But as a fan that lives and breathes this club like many of the Faithful, you cannot help but feel a little bit duped on the whole saga.
As fans we invest alot of time on the club...its an inconvenient habit most of the time. We read up on every possible transfer. We show a level of interest that is so intense that if we had all applied it at school we would all surely be doctors with lots of letters after our names now. Its a focus and dedication that you just cant buy, or switch on or off. So when things like this happen you do wonder if we should all step back a little. Should we wait for players to do it on the pitch before we pontificate about them? Maybe. Do we let go of our obsession a little so we dont feel hollow disappointment when deals like this collapse? There is a strong case for this.
I remember a few years back when United had all but signed Ronaldinho from Paris St Germain. Then United tried to haggle one too many days on the price (thanks for that Peter Kenyon) and Barca swooped. The rest is history. The cloud did have a silver lining though as we went on to sign a young Portuguese lad to play on the wing. The point is that United do not handle these things well with the press. We know how in Spain that Madrid have the power to manipulate its press in order to openly tap up players but United do not have that luxury over here. Therefore when the orchestrate deals like the one for Tosic and Ljajic, and then sell it so blatantly to the fans..well, its all a bit of a con job. Whats next? Will we dump Mame Diouf before he kicks a ball? Should we be bothered about this French boy Pogba?? We hear how great they are before thay are ACTUALLY great. It makes me feel i should be more cautious on these matters. I once told many how great Manucho was going to be after watching him perform brilliantly in the last African Nations Cup...and look what happened to him.
One thing i will add is that i 100% back the manager. If Fergie thinks he is not good enough then that is fine by me. We all know that he is human and is liable to make mistakes like us all, but he is the one that has taken this club from also-rans in the late 1980s to where we are today. Therefore, i will back him until he one day hands the keys to Old Trafford back to the Glazers. We know that he probably missed a trick with Diego Forlan and Giuseppe Rossi, but we also know that when they did get their chances in a United shirt that they generally flattered to deceive. There will always be players that slip through the net. Lets hope we dont see Ljajic in the future, performing miracles at a Madrid, or marvelling the crowds at Milan. Lets hope that Sir Alex has got this one 100% correct.
Manchester United fan since the age of 9 when he saw Norman Whiteside curl the ball into a Wembley goal in the dying minutes.
He is an Old Trafford season ticket holder in the North Stand Tier 3...and cried tears of joy, on his knees with the many in Moscow.
Rob is a contributing author/editor at Man Utd blogzine 'The Faithful'