When i saw the team-sheet i was totally underwhelmed. Nanis had a good couple of games, but Park? Roo again isolated up top?? urgh!
What we witnessed today in 90 glorious orgasmic minutes was the Manchester United we all love, demanding its favourite table in its favourite restaurant..you know..the one with the panoramic view of the Premier League trophy. Champions bring it when they need to. Up to now we have somehow stayed in the top three with stumbling performances and a fairly dodgy set of results. But today we saw United in top freakin' gear. Pace, power, a trick here and there, and most importantly brimming with confidence.
I wrote before the City game in midweek that this was the most important double header of the season so far. And United have timed their increase in form absolutely perfectly. These were real must win games. One of them was about pride and respect. The other was about sticking the knife in for the pursuit of the title. And we've done it with more than a little bit of style.
Which leads me on to Nani.
What they are now feeding the boy at Carrington is beyond me. He has gone from 'totally not' too 'totally hot' An absolute amazing transformation. At Old Trafford the most excruciating sight has been Nani trying to throw seven tricks to outwit a defender, only to fall over his own feet and lie there sulking in the glare of The Faithful. Honestly, we just wanted him gone. Absolute liability. But that's why we do not pick the team. Sir Alex has transformed him, and is now helping him realise his potential. But lets not go all mad! He has had three brilliant games. lets just reserve judgement and let him go with it. We could be wanting to bin him again by the time we all travel out to Milan!
The formation is one that has never really tickled me, but it really looks like 4-5-1 is now United's bombastic formation. Flood the midfield and play counter attack. I really thought today's team couldn't execute that so convincingly but they soooo did. Even Park proved his worth. He has become a big game player. He shines when the pressure is on. The three central midfielders were also awesome today, especially Michael Carrick. The Geordie boy has kicked and screamed his way back to form after a difficult few months since the Champions League final mess. He has looked totally a shadow of his former self. But today he bossed things quietly and confidently in the centre. The biggest compliment you can give him is he influenced the game twice as much as Cesc Fabregas, who cut a frustrated figure today. A bus ticket to Barcelona may just be that bit closer after today for the Spaniard.
I'm still not totally comfortable with Brown and Evans as a pair, but they are more than capable deputies. They were never troubled by the centre forwards today..mainly cos Arsenal didn't have any! They did their jobs, and we really should have given Edwin Van Der Sar his 100th clean sheet for the Red Devils. I also want to mention Rafael, who bravely played at right back today. He is a rough diamond. Nowhere near the finished article. But for me he is first choice now. He will only get better. I'm convinced he will give us exactly what Evra gives us on the opposite side, sooner rather than later. He is an awesome prospect, as is his twin brother.
So this Sunday is a beautiful day for us United fans. Infected by the fight against the Glazers, its a fantastic shot of adrenalin we all need. The Glazer trouble wont be sorted out over night. But as long as Sir Alex and the team give us stellar performances like that we wont be having to complain about anything going on on the pitch
Glory glory Man United. The title race starts.........NOW!
Yesterday Mr Dimitar Ivanov Berbatov was 29 years young.
Its a good age for a modern footballer. The age where you are at your technically best. Yes, you may not we 21 anymore, but physically you are normally perfectly balanced with your mental attributes. Its what managers like to describe as 'at their peak'
However, for Dimi its quite possibly the age that will convince Sir Alex to bin him. Berbatov's goalscoring contribution to the team since his arrival eighteen months ago has been less than spectacular. He hit a 1 in 3 average in the Prem last season. This year he is more like averaging 1 in 2 in the league, but injuries have warped this figure due to lack of appearances. A return of 21 goals in 68 total appearances doesn't seem like the worst stat in the world, but combine this with the common perception of many United fans, then you suddenly have a stick to beat him with.
United's common policy of singing young players is well known, even if we do flout this whenever we so choose to do. At the time of his signing, a last minute interest by City inflated his price tag up to £30 million..but that's not his fault. Value for money is more important than ever with the Glazer money issues, and unfortunately Mr B is not living up to the billing.
We know Berba's strengths are there..he holds the ball well and chooses the right pass. He has consummate control. His brain is almost MENSA standard when it comes to playing the game. But the fact remains that he is a shy lad, who is playing in a team where personality is everything. I'm not so naive as to say that if he beat his chest like Tevez did and ran around a bit more that that would solve everything..but it would help his defence in a court of law. In fact, Tevez only managed a goal ratio of 1 in 6 last season in the league..and he played just 2 games less than the Bulgarian.
So what do we do with him? Is there a way forward? Personally i think he has improved this season. He looks more comfortable in a United shirt. But he is way off Rooney's chart at the moment. Not even on the same page. They do not look like a pair. That may well be Roo's fault as much as Dimi's but Mr White Pele is the one scoring the lion-share of the goals. Fergie still favours Berbatov more than any after Roo..that's for sure. But at 29 years old and 2 years into a 4 year contract, this summer may see the end of him. Is he worth a big new stellar contract in 2010-11..well, maybe if he turns back into that player that led Spurs so well. But as it stands, he is a commodity that the manager could utilise to get funds for transfers. He would still be worth about £15-£18 million now, but how much in a year? He will be in his thirties before we blink, and we would be stuck with a player who could run down his contract and skip away on a Bosman. That would be a disaster to the club in this financial climate.
He is standing in the exact same shoes that Juan Sebastian Veron was stood in. Big money signing - couple of steady but not top notch years - fans on his back - trying to reach heights that we know he should be hitting - got sold. Veron went on to have an injury plagued few years but has just been voted South American Footballer of the Year for the second straight time after some consistantly dazzling displays in Argentina. The quality of the player was never, ever in doubt. It was he just couldnt peform his magic at United. He was a circle trying to fit into a square.
If Berbatov does not realise his potential in the next few, short months, I think it would be wise to trade him somehow. Would he fancy a trip to Spain? Maybe a part exchange to Valencia? Possibly. He has let it be known that his desire is to succeed with us, but time is hugely against him. He is not an old man. But he is a potential time-bomb waiting to go off.
When will Fergie run out of patience? Well, if no fourth straight league title is becoming, then that may flick the switch.
Every now and then this blogzine veers outside the walls of Old Trafford and looks at other football matters. So I'm going to give my two cents on the John Terry matter now before it really kicks off and all the dirt and scum and bile gets dredged from the bottom of the tabloid ocean.
The matter in hand i need not explain..John Terry is an idiot footballer. The kind that thinks he can walk on water. He is a fine centre back and has led his club well over the 'Russian' years. On the pitch he has led by example, putting his body on the line, striving for the ultimate prizes in the game...but he is still an idiot.
JT could probably have any woman in the world if he so wanted...i even remember then hot supermodel Caprice having 'dates' with a certain Tony Adams back in the day...and he was no oil painting but a very rich footballer. I wonder what the allure is? Anyhow, Mr Terry can have his cake and eat it..in virtually every circumstance..except this one.
If the allegations are true about him and a certain best friends England team mates missus, then he really has found that straw that will break the camel's back in half. There has been talk today of Tiger Woods parallels, 'footballers unwritten conduct' being broken, and whether Terry's team mates would take his side or not. But its all alot simpler. Had Terry 'played away' with any other footballers wife then there is not really much of a story or issue here. Since Georgie Best and beyond, English football has been full of playboy and Ashley Cole characters. Its nothing new. But to do that to a mate who may have to play next to you in a World Cup finals..a player that you will have to captain..is totally and utterly unacceptable. It is idiocy in the extreme but this is not a case of morality.
If this was an office workplace, a team environment where morale can swing one way or the other wildly, then this would be a no brainer. The senior worker to have the affair would not lose their job, but they would be disciplined for publicly bringing their role into disrepute. I do not think Terry should lose his place in England's World Cup squad, but he can no longer LEAD that squad. He must be disciplined for bringing the armband into disrepute. He has cut the throat of a fellow team mate..a man he recently called his best friend..a man he was responsible for motivating on the pitch..and he expects to keep the armband!? I think not.
The England Captain's position has always been a position of trust and honour. Yep, many dishonourable acts have been perpetrated by the national skipper over the years..both Robson and Beckham have been caught with their pants down. But the HUGE, MASSIVE difference is that they did not affect their position to lead their piers. I'm sure the other playboys of the England squad may not be bothered one iota that JT has been nailing someones WAG, but maybe..just maybe there is a few players in that dressing room who DO care. Who are bothered about how Mr Fullback is feeling. Maybe they will be repulsed by his actions. Maybe they wont want to listen to him barking rhetoric at them on the pitch..and the truth of that is it may harm England's slim chance of glory in South Africa.
If Terry is half the man anyone though he ever was, then he should do the honourable thing and fall on his sword..God knows that 'sword' has got him into trouble this time! Be prepared to be destroyed by every crowd at every ground in the country for the foreseeable future JT..it wont be pretty.
The United footballing machine has kicked into gear..its January, the month the season really begins.
Much will be said after a pulsating third installment of the Derby of Manchester (and there's still one more to come!) United took the tie by the scruff of the neck in the second half, and played their best football of the season to snuff out the blue tyranny from across the City.
The performance level was just the tonic us United fans have been craving for months, since our abysmal dismissal at the hands of Barca in Rome. It's not really been the same since that apocalyptic performance against the Spaniards, but you felt that last night that the team and the crowd were one again. A force of nature. Hell bent on dragging themselves kicking and screaming over that imaginary line in the sand. There is no doubt now that the Manchester derby is up there in world football terms as the marquee game with the most hatred and passion. Its our Super Classico now. Move over Boca Vs River. The Merseyside and Glasgow derby's seem like Sunday strolls now. London derbies are not even starters. The world rightfully centred itself in the North West of England last night.
Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez once again stole the headlines, as the script dictated. Craig Bellamy tormented as well..how that coin and bottle didn't end up in that motorway sized gob of his i do not know. He is like a yapping dog that needs a visit to the vets to be put out of its misery..but he is also a fine footballer..maybe the best hunchbacked footballer ever to play the game. Nani also decided to join the show. It wouldn't surprise me if Sir Alex has made some sort of Nani flesh-super-suit that hes found a good footballer to wear and impersonate the Portuguese lad. He looked supercharged last night..looked like a player who actually gave a damn. It was great to see.
The midfield was also greatly improved. I vented at seeing Wayne on his own again, with effectively a five across the middle. But credit to the manager..it worked. If Carrick and Scholes can maintain that sort of form going forward then we need not worry about much in that position. And with Darren Fletcher showing adrenalin levels which are positively un-human, we have the drive and engine the side needs.
There's every chance that Roo is in line to become European Footballer of the Year. As Messi and Ronnie have their own little personal dual in La Liga, it could be a case that Wazza sneaks up on the rails and pips them by a nose. He is in the form of his life, and probably the most feared footballer plying his trade in the Premier League now. He has always had that potential, but his performance levels are off the chart. The best bit for me was not his goal or his cartwheel..it was the check back inside and his 40 yard cross field drilled/floated/magic pass that he played during the phase of play for the first goal..it was pure genius.
Its a shame this morning that the radio and press are talking about United fans as 'thugs' because of the Bellamy incident. Anyone worth their salt knows that there is rarely any trouble at our ground. Our stewards do a great job, and today on Talksport they are destroying their good rep. Now they're calling for micro-fine netting to be put up. Whatever. It is not a huge issue at our club or in English football as a whole. You can never condone any sort of football violence, but this is a massive storm in a giant tea cup...maybe 3 or 4 people in a crowd of over 76000. I don't remember Roma fans being punished for throwing bricks and razorblades at us a couple of years ago..of course we punished them the best way with a seven goal mauling. The people who threw objects will be identified and will get life bans. Simple. It is the right thing to do. But if we get an FA fine for that then its a must that so should City, for the lighter thrown at Evra last week.
So on to a Wembley! I will admit i have no feeling at all for this cup. Villa are welcome to it. But we are there now so we will fight for it. Its what we do. City are getting very close to us now, but i have always felt that competition is a healthy thing..it keeps you vital. Puts a spring in your step. It was a magnificent night but the most important game is now to come..and that is the game at the Emirites. Three points there will really be dreamland stuff.
Our blood is Red, but our hearts are Green and Gold.
News is breaking that Fulham have accepted a bid for their talented young centre back Chris Smalling, from Manchester United
The 20 year old made an impressive debut for the Cottagers just last month and has broken into the England U-21 set up. Arsenal were also keen on Smalling, but had a bid rejected by the West London club.
The player arrived at Fulham in March 2008 from non league Maidstone United. His prefered position is to play on the left hand side of the central defensive positions. His elegant style has lead to obvious comparisons to Rio Ferdinand with Roy Hodgson commenting that "he has maturity that i should not be able to expect from one so young"
The fee is likely to be in the region of £7 million.
It is without doubt that this is United's biggest week of the season
The double header against City on Wednesday and then at the Emirites on Sunday represent whether United are true challengers for silverware this season. If you could only win one then i would go for the Arsenal game..three points against them would be a vital blow to Wenger. But the game against our neighbours seems to take on new significance with every passing hour.
With the growing revolt against the Glazers, the filthy mouth of Carlos Tevez, Gary Nev's spiralled finger and the smell that there might be crowd trouble in what will be the most heated derby in a generation, the thermostat seems to be set to 'very very hot'...nothing new as you see..but the way this season has gone, nothing seems to be predictable and that makes it feel that we all sit on some sort of proverbial knife edge.
I think United have found their feet in the last few matches. Its been a slow process but that is typical of our team. The return of Rio Ferdinand is not only a welcome boost to the defence, but is also symbolic in the sense of what he represents. And that is on his day he is the best centre back in the world and no striker fancies facing that. Yeah i know his form has been indifferent this season, but the truth is that Tevez and co would rather face Brown and Evans, than have Rio patrolling them. I'm really pleased to have him back..its similar to Van Der Sar returning..no offense to the replacements, its just you get a warm fuzzy feeling when you see them on the team sheets..a feeling of hope.
I'm sure the boss will rotate slightly in these two games. The emergence that Nani may not be a pile of drivel is a boost, but the news today that Anderson has chucked his dummy out of his pram and gone AWOL is a kick in the guts. It could be a case that both now have their gooses cooked as far as having a career at Old Trafford, but you are only as good as your last game. We will see what Fergie thinks of both of them when he names his next two squads. And whats happened to Obertan? Seems to have fallen off the radar in the last few matches.
The key for us will be Wayne Rooney. His form is electric at the moment. But it has been the overall attitude of the whole team that has been pleasing on the eye just recently. For me, Wayne is the cherry on the cake, not the sponge and jam centre. We have to give him the opportunities like we did against Hull (even though that was a bit of a late show with a flattering scoreline) As ever, I want to see Owen play a part in the derby. In a game that we need to win by two clear goals, i wanna see him play central, giving Roo the room to roam. But i think the manager will go with Berba..its his favoured attack. Personally im not interested in all this one-man-team talk that the press are going on about. I dont care who scores the goals, just as long as someone does. Rooney needs ten guys playing with him. Its not his duty to carry the whole team. Just because he bagged all four goals against Hull doesnt mean that he beat them on his own. Far from it.
If we lose both of these games then it would be a mammoth attempt to gather any gold this year. It will knock the stuffing out of us and give all our competitors the edge. But I'm quietly confident..not shouting from the rooftops confident but just sitting back waiting for it to happen confident. If we can get Vida back soon, and Hargreaves (Ive forgotten what he looks like now) and maybe get the fringe players like Nani and Diouf contributing, then the season may be just about to catch on fire..its a slow burner rather than a forest fire, but the smell of smoke is in our nostrils..lets hope its the start of a United inferno.
So all week Ive been reading how NOBODY was gonna touch these United bonds with a bargepole...too high risk, too inflexible, way too deep in a recession yadda yadda yadda.
I understood the press would take this line. Its a very nice way to get us United fans backs arched up like a rabid dog. It doesn't take much for people to want to start bricking the windows at Old Trafford, if they think they have a valid excuse.
As it turns out, the bond issue was successful at a canter, just as i have been saying it would. Bonds in the biggest name in global football are very attractive to top line investors. There is virtually zero probability that United would ever go 'bust' even if the Americans sucked every last penny out of the club..and that is because the truly massive names of football are recession-proof. Profits may go up and down, but ultimately shirts will always be sold, TV rights will always be stupidly high, and even if bankruptcy was just around the corner, there would be a United fan with enough cash to take on the mantle. As for the bonds, the Glazers got their £500m from just 50 private investors who are all deemed as 'low risk' in financial terms. The money now means that the club can now quickly service its high interest debts such as the PIK loans and hedge funds..in layman's terms you cant under estimate how this moves the financial goal posts for the business
All of this is part of the reason i personally haven't banged on about the debt per say. This bond issue was ALWAYS going to work and come to fruition. Now the trick is to see what the Glazers actually do with the money. Of course, i think this has done nothing to impact the rise in tickets and merchandise sales, on the contrary actually. But as long as the rises are acceptable in my eyes then you wont hear me get on a soap box about it. You see.. i view things like tickets and shirts purely as 'product' If i deem that product to be above its worth, i simply don't buy it. Having worked for many years in the music industry i have seen the same happen with CDs. When we were all 'boom and bust' rich 10 years back, you picked up a CD for £15..now those equivalent CDs are less than £7. Its simple economics that equates to supply and demand. If the day comes that i think my season ticket is too costly..i will bin it. Yes, with a very heavy heart but i would do it. The £1.50 a game rise from last year didn't bother me...as i said to many, I'm more bothered about the extortionate price of petrol or train tickets..these are things to get upset about in a recession.
Quietly I'm hoping that we see a bit of a splurge in the transfer market now but im not holding my breath. Klass Jan Huuntelar would be an interesting signing..and i think he would be easily tempted to come to United. But he would not be my first choice signing. All of this doesn't change the way i feel about how the club is being run. The Glazers need to be up front NOW about everything..they need to communicate with the supporters. They know they're on a hiding to nothing, but as owners its their duty to be vocal..even those muppets at Liverpool have a better dialogue (bar a stupid director son)
So today in financial terms, things look a tad rosier. Yeah i know there will still be fans who don't give jack sh*t about this and want the Glazers out unconditionally. I too want the Glazers to go, but this is gonna be a subtle and long drawn out protest. Id like to see those United fans that do give a sh*t to get into the ground early before kick offs to protest and sing, rather than taking their seats five minutes before kick off and then fcuking off ten minutes before the end. Id like to see them wear the green and gold NHFC colours and to make it known that WE are not going anywhere. I normally get into the ground an hour before kick off..mainly due to superstition..but i still get that buzz sat there in my seat observing the stadium i have grown up in. I do wonder why others don't. Maybe that last pint in the pub is way too important. So much for all this bleating on about the meaning of 'club' The Glazers have got it good and they know it.
I will leave you with this one last point: The Glazers have openly said that the ability for them to run the club well (and that means making THEM alot of money) is highly sensitive to the success of the team on the pitch. Do you think this means they wont invest in the team?!! If so, it would make them out to be a bunch of dodgy market traders rather than billionaire businessmen. The liquid cash is now there to spend. If i was them i know exactly what i would do next.
It was a night when i thought City may run riot over us, but instead they used their get out of jail free card to take the edge in the tie..
Simply put..Scouse referee Mike Dean had a shocker..or a great game if you are a Blue. Usually i put down bad decisions to the nature of margins in football..some you win and some you don't. So its my expectation that we are due a massive Roy Carroll ball-over-the-line sized slice of luck pie after last nights derby ding-dong.
Despite the result i was pleased with how United played. Its the first time in weeks that we have passed the ball with any authority. And for once we put our opponents under sustained pressure. Its still evident to me that we lack that bit of flair that our former Number 7 used to provide with gusto, but overall i thought we were the better team. But the truth is that the ref was their twelfth man last night.
Being no more than 15 feet away from Bellamy's 'fall' in the box, you expect a ref to not start 'imagining' fouls. What foul he saw after Rafa's initial tug 10 yards outside the box is one fuelled by Alice In Wonderland make-believe. Not much has been made of Bellamy winning the penalty, but dare i say its on a par with Eduardo? OK maybe not as theatrical, but none the less a dive and the same result. But of course he is a 'real honest pro' so we shall not talk of it (sickening)
And of course well done to the classless whore which is Carlos Tevez. People say he wants revenge on United. What revenge? For offering his agent the £25 million they wanted and Tevez the full contract requested. People are now overlooking this fact. The man was offered his deal in the February before he left. But he got offered double-bubble from City and scooted his way across the town. Via Stockport. So there is no validity of revenge. That's why we booed the fecker at the last derby. And thats why his United career has been completely devalued. If anyone should want revenge then it should be us..but players come and go. I'm not surprised that Captain Nev gave him the finger... Tevez should get over himself.
Bar the scoreline, the main downside for us was the performance of the centre back pairing, and particularly Jonny Evans. The Irishman has looked a bit of a mess lately. He looked nervous last night and his decision making is shot. The fact that he chased the ball down at the corner for City's second goal, smacks of a player who is not mentally all-together. He is still young so i don't think anymore than that he had a bad game. But like Ben Foster and Nani, he is having a chance at the first eleven and is not doing a great job of it. But lets not do a Gerard Pique with him, eh?
Anderson also baffled me last night. It seemed that he was given the freedom to support Rooney and he did a very average job of things. However i want to see him given this role more as it is what he was signed to do. At Porto he was an attacking midfielder but as we know Fergie's used him in a more conventional manner. Along with Berbatov, i think he has got til the end of the season to prove if he is worth the hassle.
Last point is about Wazza. He was excellent last night. But I was proved right in the last 20 minutes about my theory of what we should do upfront..and that is play Owen centrally and Rooney off him. Roo looked so dangerous playing inside left, and the fact United hammered City in that last period shows that we can play that system. I still have no clue why Fergie doesn't trust Owen, but long term i want to see Rooney playing off a lead striker. He is less effective when he has a centre back right up his arse..let him have that 5 yards of room to weave his magic. Its too simple not to do.
So yes, City won the battle..but not the war. I'm not bothered whether we progress in this competition, but i was scared before the game that the balance of power had shifted and that City would muller us. That didn't happen. We were more than worth the ticket price...oh and what happened to that wonderful City support?? All very very quiet in the second half, even for the BBC commentator to say "By the crowd reaction, you would think we were playing at Old Trafford as its United doing the cheering. The City fans sound dumbstruck like their team is!" Brilliant fans them Bitters, eh? Whatever next? Scousers booing their team off the pitch?
The first seeds of form were sewn last night, and that is the solace i take after the game. It stings to lose..but then again it always does. Bragging rights are rightfully with the Blue half today cos they got the result. However if we are holding the Premier League or Champions League trophies at the end of the season, then their words will be hollow. With Rio and Vida back soon, maybe our season is only just beginning.
So Ive just had to rip up the article i wrote due to be published today.
It was about what we can realistically do to show our support for Manchester United Football Club against this mess which is brewing and being lived out in the press and on the seated terraces. What could be done without aggravating stewards at Old Trafford and more importantly, without resorting to violence and vandalism.
The original piece was quite open-ended, as my writings tend to be..more suggestion based than a demand. I spoke of having a visual effect at games to get the point across. If you regularly read this blog, you will know that i am a bit of a moderate when it comes to the subject of Glazer's ownership, but now there is talk of ground sales and whatnot, and my fellow fans are genuinely upset, I'm starting to get itchy feet. I feel I'm more dedicated to my fellow supporters that walk up the Warwick Road to The Theatre with me every other week than i am to a boardroom of suits.
I suggested in the original article that we use both social networks and an anti-glazer t-shirt to highlight our issue..a peaceful, yet visual, noisy and CONSISTENT protest. One which will grow week by week. One which the media will jump on...for its also about manipulating the press..God knows they try and manipulate us all the time.
So this morning i get an email from MUST (The Manchester United Supporters Trust)
I will admit i am not their biggest fan. I totally get the sentiment, but i suppose i don't know enough about them (as people) to really give them my full backing. The email contained the first thing that has fired my imagination regarding all of this. It explained an idea by the lads at Red Issue. The idea was about a visual impact that we could have at games. They suggest that we revert back to the clubs original colours of Green and Gold, as in the Newton Heath days. This would stand out against the Red and White of Old Trafford, and allow us to be individually identified as those against our club being dragged through the mud..
..and that is the reason that im gonna go for this idea.
The Glazers are making us a bit of a PR disaster. As Ive quoted previously, i don't know who should own the club. I'm not convinced that an Arab or Chinese consortium could do a better job. But i object to the feeling that their ownership is having on the bread and butter supporters of my club. Opinion is split on what we can do to Unite against them, but i think this is a bloody great start.
Therefore, i will no longer wear my Red jersey to games anymore. I will now adopt the Green and Gold until this mess is sorted out. Personally, i don't have the solution as to to how and when this will all end, but we need to show vocally and visually that WE are Manchester United...and that we will not tolerate being the laughing stock of English football..cos that is what its beginning to feel like. "Do i not like that" as one turnip headed Englishman once said.
I hope many of you, both locally and globally pick up on this idea. And that you tell your friends..both United loving and hating. The idea will only grow by people talking about it and pinning their colours to their chest. Its a simple idea and easily executable, so theres no excuse not to do it. SCARFS are available for sale here for anyone who wishes to support this idea (click on the word scarf). Im sure we will also start to see them for sale at match days very soon.
As we seem to do, we look back through history for inspiration for the future. The football landscape has changed forever and i am accepting of that. But i cannot accept to stand by and watch my team sink because of in-fighting. I refused to support FC United because i support Manchester United FC. So i will wear my green and gold with pride. I still have my green and gold away kit from the 90s that i will dust off and rejuvenate for its new run out at Old Trafford.
Its time to get active. And if a moderate like me feels like that, there must be trouble on the way. So don't go out tonight, unless you're green and gold.
PLEASE SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH ANYONE YOU THINK WOULD BE INTERESTED IN IT..POST IT TO YOUR TWITTERS AND FACEBOOKS. THANKS x
Glazers Out Facebook Group http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=237878324590&v=info
I remember my fleeting phonecall to my Manchester City supporting wife the day it broke that her team had just become the richest on earth.
"oh have they?" she said with little interest.
See, City fans are used to having their confidence built up for it only to blow up in a dirty great big blue mess, in their faces. My missus has seen it all, so this for her was just another false dawn. Id been sat with her the day The Bitters were relegated to Division Three. I remember the tears in her eyes as i refrained myself from dropping to my knees in some sort of silent emphatic delight. It was run of the mill for her to hear of something as preposterous that City were now richer than any other..it couldn't really be true....later that day the club bought Robinho and her ears pricked up.
Despite this next Manchester derby 'only' being the Mickey Mouse Carling Beer Cup it is without doubt for me the most important derby game in memory. Not because of what is at stake..a place at Wembley. To be frank, i couldn't give two craps about that. What is important is its significance and that its played over two legs.
Manchester City are now officially 'Players'.. Yeah i know they have still won sweet FA, but its clear to see that the recent change in manager has cranked things up another notch. And as we enter a transfer window in which we will never EVER be able to compete with them in, its evident that we are now the poorer brother in bank balance, but also in form on the pitch.
With Tevez on fire, Petrov injury free and a supporting cast of impressive proportions, this derby could well be the litmus test of who goes on to dominate this next decade, from a Manchester perspective. The mess with the Glazers doesn't help things, but there is a real feeling with fans that we are walking some sort of footballing tightrope.
A two legged affair allows us to take away the old adage that "well you were at home..course you shoulda won" It gives you 180 minutes of aggregate scoring to see who is the best. As things stand, United lack the engine of inspiration that has carried us through choppy seas before. Confidence is an issue, and despite us still keeping possession of the ball well in a statistical capacity, its what you do with it in the last third that counts.
So will Fergie stick with the kids? I get the feeling he might. Is it worth playing your strongest team with a mounting fixture list, the restart of the Champions league and a worrying treatment room packed to the rafters? Im sure City will go for it. A win in this competition will give them the first bit of silverware they are craving. And if they can say they've slayed United on the way...well, what could be better.
Its not really in my nature to worry about things that haven't yet happened in football. However i can see a big Blue Monster on the horizon and its sharpening its teeth. Never could any of us have imagined (and i include City fans on this) that one day we would be living out this scenario. One where a derby match was more than just bragging rights..but is a watermark on defining and shaping the future footballing landscape. Call me dramatic..but i like my football dramatic!!
So in true supporter style..this is a call to arms. It feels like yesterday that United were the underdogs in almost every big match. And as supporters we loved it. Everytime we played Liverpool back in the day we were underdogs. Everytime we came across a European giant like Barca or Juve we were underdogs. And we would sing 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life' in their supporters faces, as we bucked the trend and ripped up the form book time after time. It was part of our fabric...before we started winning absolutely everything from 1993 onwards.
So lets rediscover some of that! We are Manchester United. Both loved and hated in equal measures. Lets stare into the faces of our Blue neighbours and not budge an inch. Yeah, they may wipe the floor with us in this tie, but they will never ever BE US. As every gallon of oil that gets pumped out of the ground in the Middle East makes them stronger, it is our history which makes us unique. A uniqueness that money cannot buy. Roberto Mancini described us as "immortal" this week and he was one hundred percent correct.
We'll never die we'll never die. We'll keep the red flag flying high, cos Man United will never die.
Anyone that has ever run a business, or had the responsibility of managing large sums of money, will tell you that at many points of these roles you will be deemed as unpopular. This is because you have to make horrible decisions that effect many people, and generally these people will not like them.
Buying the keys to the door of Old Trafford was always going to be a tricky affair for the Glazer family. Despite having extensive knowledge of sports franchise ownership and the marketing behind that which makes a company rich, they didn't take into account the fickle attitude of the English football fan. A foreigner owning United? Mancs would rather have a Scouser as chairman. And the fact that they originate from a country that we perceive to not be of the 'global football family' we straight away condemn them to hell...or Tampa Bay...or Disney World.
Malcolm Glazer was never gonna be able to charm his way into the United Faithful's hearts. An old decrepit weird looking gentleman, who openly has no interest in supporting the football club in the way we expect a man to support a football club (note: Geordies loved Mike Ashley when he first donned a black and white shirt and rehired their Godhead Keegan...look what happened there)
Personally i have and still do not care who owns the club. Having been born into the Martin Edwards era of club ownership, i had seen that they first and foremost cared about money and secondly about the fans. This is the commercial and corporate world that football sits in today. But back to the point of this article...
The Glazers should prepare to sell the club now. One thing that people do not recognise that at the end of the day Manchester United is an asset in the global business of the Glazer family. And the truth is that it is them that pay the bills...not the fans. Yes we contribute with our shirt sales, season tickets, etc etc but they control the purse..for example i am wearing a Nike shirt - does it mean i should have a say in their financing? Its of no interest to them to make a loss at the football club. Currently with their several hundred million pounds of debt, they could still make a massive profit on what they purchased the club for. No doubt in my mind that there will be an Arab or a Russian or maybe an Indian or Chinese-man who has a couple of spare billion that they would lose in order to have the worlds most expensive seat at The Theatre of Dreams.
The Glazers are fighting a losing battle. Business is not about popularity, but its long term popularity which fills the coffers. In a new world, where cash has become king once again, a cash bid of £1.5 billion would see them make a very handsome profit..and they could escape this stupid world where eleven blokes on a football pitch generates so much fuss.
It will always be beyond me why supporters take so much interest on what goes on behind the scenes in the politics of a football club. Fans wish to be part of some sort of 'family' and therefore think they have some emotional connection to absolutely everything. So when United sign a new player, its actually them who signs the player. Not the people who actually control the finances. But ACTUALLY THEM. Its incredibly short sighted beyond belief. I am 100% passionate about my team. But i can understand that someone has to balance the books, pay the team, buy the biscuits. And id rather have little knowledge about all that. I want the men on the pitch to perform and that is final. If the owner cant buy players then i will rise up against them, because that is the only responsibility that they have on the sporting side. The rest of the profit, well they can stuff it. If it ain't an American getting rich it will be someone else. Does that matter if they are from Salford or San Diego?
It wont be long before the Yanks have gone. In a World Cup year the planet goes football crazy. With many markets now coming out of recession, many playboy billionaires may think its time for them and their pals to gather together, in that magic word we always hear in football ownership..'consortium'..and get their grubby mits on our team. It is at that point i will judge Malcolm Glazer. And i will judge him on how many trophies he has or hasn't won, and what players he bought and sold. Because at the end of the day, Alex Ferguson doesn't have a magic wand. The man picks the team, but without the right owner backing him he is totally prostrate. The boss says the Glazers have done him good so far and that is good enough for me....for now.
Just think we could have ended up with Hicks and Gillett. Now that would have been worth crying about.
So its all agreed that we would all like to see new recruits this transfer window. The rumour mill has been very quiet up to now but the gossip is starting to heighten on Benfica's Argentinian wing wonder Angel Di Maria.
Di Maria has had two very impressive years playing in Portugal and making his full international debut, with high praise from his manager Diego Maradona. He is very much on the cusp of what he could achieve which means that his price-tag is relatively cheap at the moment. As i stated in my last article 'Ronaldo Roulette' with World Cup year upon us, players transfer fees will rocket after the tournament. It is a very real possibility that Di Maria could emerge as one of the marquee wingers in the game if Argentina progress through the competition.
So why would Di Maria be good for Manchester United? Well, with Valencia progressing well on the wing and finding more form every week, it is evident that United have no balance. If we persist with playing Rooney in the central strikers role, as its obvious the manager will, then we need a balanced wing attack. For me, Park doesn't bring you that. Neither does Darren Fletcher when he is pushed out there. Ryan Giggs can still cut it, but it would be clever to bring someone in now to learn from the master while he still has the legs. The other consideration is Gabby Obertan. He has started his United career well. He has a trick in his boots, plenty of pace and his future is bright. But the issue of position lies at the failure of Nani
His inability to take his opportunity in a Ben Foster fashion has given Sir Alex very little choice. Having two competent pace men in Valencia and Obertan is not really enough, and it could be Nani's failure that eventually leads to us landing Di Maria. £12 million plus the backflipping wonder is being touted to Benfica, but i doubt they will go for that. Inter and Chelsea are both sniffing around as well, but if United can get the cash figure right and chuck in a player who is still very highly regarded in his own country, it may just be enough.
Di Maria would bring that balance that we need, and give us vital creative options that we currently do not possess. Yes, Sir Alex may be looking towards Owen Hargreaves to give us some quality in wide positions in the near future..he has a brilliant cross on him..but we all want to see that boy in the middle, biting chunks out off his opposing number. The shape of the team would be very nice with Evra behind Di Maria. And it could be the mid priced option that Fergie is publicly craving.
With Adem Ljajic so acrimoniously chucked in the bin, we need a plan for this wide position..a place in the team which has always been coverted in our famous 4-4-2 formation. "Attack attack attack" as we sing at Old Trafford. This would go a long way to help that call.
So today (The 11th of January) Manchester United have announced profits of £48 million, and the prudent £500 million bond issue which will save the club some £30 million a year in interest payments (nothing to be sniffed at) The press have of course focused on 'that debt' but with the Glazers effectively wiping out two thirds of the interest payments they would pay every season, means there is minimal doubt that there is money to spend now, and in the future. The Ronaldo money has seriously bumped up the bottom line into a positive figure which looks good on paper, but the bond issue means that a Dimitar Berbatov size transfer fee has just been freed up on an annual basis (I know this doesn't mean it will go on transfers!) It is very clever business, and shows that the American owners are not the dummies we would like to believe they are..it seems that Liverpool acquired those ones.
So the team is not playing well but we have players returning. However, even with everyone fit it is now apparent that we need some more troops. And i don't mean frontline fighters, more like special SAS crack commando ones. The ones that cost a bit of cash. Its time that the manager rolled the dice. Normally i would say wait til the summer but there is a problem. That being it is World Cup year.
The formula reads: Player+Good World Cup+Manchester United Interest=Extortionate Transfer Fee.
Remember when Karel Poborsky had a brilliant Euro 96? One lobbed goal of brilliance just about doubled his transfer fee when Sir Alex went sniffing after the tournament. And i think with all the new money brought into the game by the Middle Eastlands owners and Real Madrid's new found gluttony we will probably see players go for the sort of price we didn't think we would see in this lifetime. Ronnie's £80 mil is gonna look like chicken feed.
So who should the manager go for? Its the age old pub debate with its origins in the sands of time. The next signing is always so precious to the fan. The last player i was desperate for the club to sign was a certain aloof centre forward from Tottenham. We got him at the last minute as we all know, as i spent 18 hours of my life that day glued to Sky Sports News for the confirmation. What a waste of 18 hours that turned out to be. I also obsessed about Owen Hargreaves before he arrived. Month after month i would trail through news items to see if he had finally had his head turned and that Bayern would cave in..its just not a healthy preoccupation!
Now i have a new obsession.
Two players who i think....I KNOW will give us what we need. And market forces may just dictate that if we are swift then we could do the greatest January transfer deal of all time
The two players i want play for a club who are financially in trouble and are technically referred to as 'in the shit'.. That club is Valencia.
David Villa and David Silva are precious commodities. One is a complete goal monster and the other is a creative wizard. Its clear that these are two elements we have sadly missed this season after having it in abundance the last few seasons. And there is every chance that if Spain do absolutely anything at the 2010 World Cup that these two will play major parts..and then we will see the inflation of success kick in.
I don't need to bang on about the qualities of these two..any football fan worth their salt know all about them. But what i will comment on is the economics. Villa's price tag sat in the fifty million bracket only last summer, but the confusion over his on/off transfer to Madrid, coupled with Valencia's desperation to hold on to him for one more season, blew the deal to shreds. Currently, Valencia are near to bankruptcy, with in excess of half a billion Euros worth of pure debt. However they have plucked away with grim determination and currently lie third in La Liga. Surely an aggressive cash bid plus a player or two would seal a deal?
I think £60 million plus Nani would broker a deal. Then again, maybe add Berbatov to that and knock the price down to fifty? I think this would seriously tempt the Spaniards. Two internationals plus a huge bag of cash. It would give them some genuine liquid assets and two players that need a fresh opportunity. It would also mean that we haven't spent the entire Ronaldo transfer and have also lost two high earners off the wage bill. Its a deal that suits all parties.
This is all a bit of a fantasy, but there is no real obstacles in the way..except that if these two become available that Man City would arrive in Spain with a Lear jet full of one hundred million quid of cash to gazump the deal. That's a very real threat. But with some Fergie charm, a very nice wage deal, and the history of Manchester United and Old Trafford displayed like a beacon of light, i seriously think we could broker this...
But if we wait til June we have sweet FA chance of it!
Sometimes you have to break the bank. Villa and Silva would bring an edge to the team that would frighten the whole of Europe. It would also demonstrate to the fans the owners dedication to success...and Chelsea would wet themselves! If we don't get one or two marquee players i think we will be in a vortex of 'ifs' and 'buts'.. I know United have pulled off the seemingly impossible before, but something feels wrong about this year. I think this is the correction to that feeling.
For me, Michael Owen has produced the two most special moments for Man Utd in the last few months. Firstly his hat trick against the German champions of Wolfsburg was excellent. Three very different goals that showed what he can do as the man that leads the line. His run from the half way line and cute finish was joyous to behold.
The other moment was of course 'That' Manchester derby. A goal which rocked Old Trafford like nothing since and rarely before. It will live in my memory for ever and i feel blessed that it all happened just yards in front of my face.
Fergie has come out recently and said something that we have all felt whilst watching England play over the last several years. And that is that Rooney and Owen do not really blend as a pair. Its a strange thing for a manager to admit but i think honesty is always the best policy. I think at twenty grand a week basic and a pay as you play deal with no transfer fee was an awesome bit of business. But now I'm starting to question the whole 'arrangement'
Owen seems to be perennially stuck on the bench. The manager obviously sees him as an impact striker..20 minutes here. 10 minutes there. But at 30 years old and with plenty of cunning left in that little head of his, is this the right way to get all we can from the Ex-Scouse Kingpin? I have always believed that no matter how well you play or how many goals you leak, that its essential that you have a consistent threat at the right end. There is no doubt that Rooney is that threat in most United fans eyes and certainly in the managers. But it is very much the lack of goals this season that is the problem. Its a game by game issue. No goals against Fulham. No goals against Burnley. No goals at home to Villa or..gulp..Leeds Utd. No goals away to either Liverpool or Chelsea (both hemorrhaging goals for fun against lesser teams) It is clearly a problem.
Yet we have a former European Footballer of the Year sat on the bench, who now seems to have fallen behind a Senegalese 22 year old who has played 11 minutes for the club. Anyone else think that is a bit weird?
Now maybe Diouf will become a sensation, but the odds are stacked against him. Mecheda had a flying start only to disappoint with recent form. And Danny Welbeck? Well, he is a striker that..erm..never plays up front but gets a wide birth when he gets an opportunity. A role he clearly doesn't relish.
So Michael Owen, with all that predatory instinct that he has..the knowledge to score a goal out of half a chance, gets left as the bridesmaid. Holding the bouquet of barbed-wire while players with a tenth of his experience get in the wedding photos. And this leads me back to his contract.
Pay as you play sounds nice, doesn't it? 'Eh Mickey O! You play for us, score us some goals and you get a nice fat appearance and goals bonus' All very nice in cloud cuckoo land. If the boy doesn't play...AT ALL..he cant score. Its not algebra. Of course this leads back to other articles i have recently written such as The Rooney Obsession where i question what the hell we are actually doing in the forward positions at the moment, but this isn't some sort of rant. I'm genuinely baffled why Michael Owen has not started more matches.
If Fergie has had a look at him and now thinks he doesn't fancy him then that's OK. But it means that we need to sign a striker immediately in the January transfer window. I am not happy going forward with just Rooney, a Bulgarian who doesn't score enough, an Ex Scouser who doesn't play enough, and three promising kids to lead the line. Its just not acceptable. I agree with Fergie that the transfer market is crazy. But when has there ever really been value out there? Yep..once in a blue moon (did i just say blue moon?) you pick up a Cantona for peanuts and he turns out to be a messiah. But that happens once in a lifetime. For about half of the money we sold the Winker for we could pick up David Villa. For a quarter we could probably get Dzeko. I dont believe in panic buying, but oh lord we need reinforcements of the highest kind. With a midfield that has no goals left in it whatsoever, the emphasis is firmly on the front men.
I think Owen's United career will be over as quickly as it begun. And i think that is a real shame. Im convinced next year he will end up at an Everton, or an Aston Villa and he will score goals..and lots of them. He doesn't need to sit on the bench of the biggest club in the world, especially when he is on a basic wage of what the youngsters earn. It was a gamble for him and United to form this marriage. Rather than it be a failure or success, it just turned out to be a loveless union of convenience.
Its difficult when you write a football blog that is specifically about one team. You are thankful for the forum to be able to write for the public and also vent your spleen at will. However you have to be cautious when you write something that many will find unpopular and possibly downright treacherous
Having just watched another lackluster performance against the Brummie boys i was very interested to see what the manager had to say in his post match interview. As we know, these interviews rarely touch on the truth of the game and club managers generally use it to attack the opponent and the ref. At 68 years young, Sir Alex is the master at these games. But lets call a spade a spade. United are currently playing the biggest load of trash i have seen them play for many a season. And i would like Sir Alex to be constructive and show some wisdom on the matter. Instead he went about calling our first half performance as "brilliant" and then ripped into Mark Clattenburg for giving two deserved yellow cards to Fletcher, who walked a tightrope all match. Of course this is designed to knock us all off the scent of the stink produced by our team, but lets face it..its all codswallop. Don't pull the wool over the eyes of your own fans, boss! He then snapped at the young interviewer for suggesting that Rooney looked a bit isolated up front on his own...just pathetic really. Smells of Brian Clough in the latter years of his life at Forest.
The performance and the managers comments greatly disappointed me. I expect and want better. When we play bad we should hold our hands up and say so..i don't want us to be Arsenal who go..'oh we play pretty football but we still only drew..but we were pretty don't ya think?" Nope not interested in that bull. I want honesty, solutions and real assessments. And I'm starting to ask questions that i knew one day i would ask, but you honestly hope you never will. I think we are getting very close to a change of management. Readers. You must understand that this is not a bandwagonesque attempt to jump on a bad performance. I am a United fan that genuinely cares...probably way way too much. But if you cant detect my sincerity from my words then i apologize now.
At this time in his life i doubt that Fergie will want to go on a huge rebuilding mission, as it becomes more and more apparent that losing Ronaldo and Tevez has effected the team more than any of us wanted to believe it would. We lack flair. We lack drive. We lack leadership. You will never hear me call for Sir Alex's head...he has done too much for us for that. But every good thing comes to an end. The unpopular Glazer family are in a no win situation. They could NEVER sack Fergie, cos the fans would rather burn down Old Trafford than back them. But at some point there will be a transition of power and we must be ready for it. The last time this happened it was 1986 and i was 10 years old. Its gonna hurt. The sting will not be pleasant for any of us.
My natural mindset is to always think ahead..be one step advanced of everyone. So i can't help but speculate what Manchester United need not today, but tomorrow. To replace Alex Ferguson is impossible..It took us nearly twenty years to get over Sir Matt Busby. I fear we could 'go south' if we don't get it right. I don't wanna be sat here in 2030 remembering the United golden years and wondering why it all went wrong. Oh, and in 2030 Sir Alex will be 88. I hope his shadow will not loom so largely over the club as Busby's did..this led to relegation in the 1970s..only years after the Babes had won everything on the planet..lightning could strike twice unless we start to forward think. There's only one man i want to take the helm. He is proven. He has won everything. And he has the ego we need.
Jose Mourinho is a bit Marmite to many, but the fact is he breeds success. His players always run through brick walls for him because of unbridled love, and most importantly HE VERY RARELY LOSES. Not losing is a habit that we have cultured at United since 1990. Twenty years of this may fool people that this is endemic..in the DNA. But it isn't. Its because of the manager. His rules. His ideas. His players. If we get this next move wrong in this game then we could end up in a Checkmate - Think Liverpool hiring Graeme Souness. We must secure the best manager possible, and with Mourinho pontificating about his desire to return to Old Blighty and his love for the Prem, I feel the time is right for EVERYONE. They say a change is as good as a rest, but i don't want a rest from winning trophies. So maybe..just maybe..its a change that we need
Soon when i walk up Sir Matt Busby Way, there will be a new statue in place with that of the Babes Creator supreme and the Holy Trinity of Best Law and Charlton. Sir Alex is immortal already. I don't want to remember him go out in a sea of disappointment. Think how Forest fans felt..Clough's last game resulted in the relegation of the club and yet they had to say goodbye to their greatest hero in disgusting putrid circumstances. Despite promotion the following year they haven't ever really recovered their status. That was back in 1993. Seventeen years in the blink of an eye.
Change can be horrible but sometimes it is necessary. The manager will always define this period of this club, but he will be the first to say that no one individual is bigger than Manchester United. I hope the end is graceful and fitting..its up to all of us to prepare properly so this can actually happen. A real tribute to a great man, whilst giving our club the self preservation it needs.
As the song goes..."Every single one of us..loves Alex Ferguson"
Its funny how people's perception of a player is sometimes born of how they look or what their style is on a pitch
At the moment, Ryan Giggs continues to defy the doubters with every month that passes of his career. Like a fine wine, he almost seems to improve with age. However that statement is a fallacy. Despite his wonderful consistency, he is not the same player as he was 10 years ago. The rose tinted glasses we wear are because of the spark of magic Giggsy boy can still produce. That millisecond of inspiration. Giggs has learned to taylor his game. Curb the natural instinct to run, run and run again at defenders. He passes with more precision. He has made sure that ageism doesn't affect his chance of being selected. And for that...we love him.
Gary Neville on the other hand, will never produce 'moments of inspiration'..at least not to the watching public. Last night, radio numpty Adrian Durham (drive time host on Talksport Radio) described Neville as 'Ferguson's nodding dog' and belittled his achievements in the game, saying that he was lucky to come through the United Youth system and was no better than an average full back. Yes. An average full back who happens to be England's most capped right back? Winner of eight league championships and 19 major titles in all? Who has been named the Premier League's right back of the season five times and was also named in the 'Premier League Team of the Decade'....Not bad for an average player.
There is no doubting that Gary Neville's unerring dedication to 'everything United', his lack of outright flair, and his less than pleasing features (when compared to his best mate Becks) have made him a hate figure to many and widely unpopular. He also has a big mouth and allegedly hates Scousers. Of course, all of this has made him who he is, and he was always going to be club captain at some point of his career.
I will admit that in the 90s i was not what you would describe as a fan of his. He had displaced Paul Parker for club and country, who i thought was a better player than him, and he looked small up against alot of his opponents (yes i know Paul Parker was a bit of a midget!). The biggest thing that used to get me though was that he was a bit error-prone. Not enough for you to want to bin him, but enough for you to notice..a bit like Wes Brown can be. My opinion of him didn't really change until the Noughties were upon us. Coinciding with the sale of David Beckham, he stepped up a notch and became a better player. His heart was as big as any striker or winger that would have a go at him. Tactically he had improved greatly, and his service, overlapping and crossing the ball going forward, was excellent. He totally won me over. And all of this when i would have sold him in the blink of an eye..its the sort of template that Darren Fletcher followed...'Zero to Hero'.
So after the Leeds game many are calling for Gary to hand the armband back to Fergie, do his little jog around the pitch with his daughter in his arms and wife shedding a tear of pride, and say goodbye to the Faithful one last time. Its just the end of his shelf life. Someones gotta take a bullet for United's poor form. But lets look at the facts:
Last season Neville made 29 appearances for the club. Not bad for a player who is not first choice. And again this year he has made 12 outings before the turn of the year. Yes he had a horrible game against Leeds...but so did ten other players. I'm still impressed with the way he crosses the ball..(for me he has provided the best cross i have seen at Old Trafford this season) and at 35 he still gallops to overlap like John OShea can only do in his dreams. There's no doubt that his days as first choice are gone. I want to see Rafael installed as first choice ahead of all other choices. But we have let players go too early before when as a squad we still could have benefited from them.
It was only recently that Sir Alex mentioned that one such case was when Teddy Sheringham left the club. At 35 years old we let him go because of his age. This was in-spite of him scoring 21 goals in 42 games in his last season. We all dictated that that was it for him. Time to hang up the boots for a team as big as United..so we let him trot of back to Spurs. Teddy went on to play another 7 seasons of football (5 of those in the Prem) playing an astounding 225 matches scoring 70 times. Not statistics for a washed up footballer me thinks. Its a lesson that when an old player has a few bad games that he may just be suffering from what the likes of a younger/fitter/stronger Micah Richards (Golden boy one day. Pile of trash the next) is..and that's a bad run of form. We allowed Denis Irwin to go, and he still managed another 75 games. At 30 we let Andy Cole go, and he went on for another 10 seasons with 7 of those being in the top division. The point is that with his knowledge and experience, is he worth just a measly one year deal? I believe so. The biggest question lies against his fitness, but if we can squeeze thirty games out of him like last year then i think that's a good return. Some fans wont accept this, as they will demand we send him off to the old peoples home and replace him with a faster, cleverer and better looking more 'United' like player.
But for me, there is not a player that embodies Manchester United more than Gary Neville. People talk of retiring the Number 11 shirt when Giggs moves on to that great big Sky Pundits executive box in the clouds. But i say we should retire the Number 2 shirt as well. 582 times that lad from Bury has put his body on the line for the club. I think he will make 600 before he is anywhere ready to stop running his gob off..
So the wound caused by the defeat to the Yorkshire filth is starting to heal with a very faint scar in place.
The reaction to the game has had United fans react in so many different ways..from total apathy to manic hysteria..this is the norm whenever the reds lose. Many have started to point fingers at individuals. Blog writers have started their autopsy on the young players of the squad, the older members of our team, and of course our very own current fan's pariah Dimitar Berbatov. It is human nature that when things start to go wrong we look for the easiest target and we go for the jugular. However, Ive always believed in prevention rather than cure...firefighting gets you absolutely no where. Ive read (for want of a better word) 'attacks' on Gibson, Owen, Berba, Anderson, etc etc...and I'm afraid to say they are all pretty hollow assessments as to why we are playing like a bunch of schoolgirls.
The one player that seems to skip under the radar though is a certain golden child who plays up front. The all action, scouse marauder, savior of English football...Mr Wayne Rooney. Firstly, i love Wazza as much as anyone. He is a modern United legend..and still only about 15 years old (don't be fooled by that receding hairline!) With Ronnie and Filthbag Moneysucker gone, he is without doubt our singular most important player..
..And that's where the trouble begins
Every Englishman and woman appear to have the obsession that no matter what, no matter how good or shit we are playing, that Rooney MUST MUST MUST play up front. And why is this? Its because..erm..he is..erm..a genius. And genius can do no wrong. Genius will always find the back of the net. The strange thing about the monster which is Wayne Rooney is that the weakest part of his game is his finishing and his general goal tally for a centre forward..yet the world and their mothers still insist that he plays up top.
I watch the boy wonder every week. On the telly its easy to assume that he is infallible. On the ball, turning at players he is excellent. Better than excellent at times! But what you don't see on the TV is his off the ball work and the way he interacts with whoever his strike partner is (generally Berbatov) And that side of his game needs ALOT of work. The only player i have ever seen Rooney really gel with up top for any amount of time was when Carlos Tevez first joined the club, and they looked like mental midget twins terrifying the opposition with intuitive artistry. Has he ever hit it off with anyone at international level? Michael Owen? Nope. Emile Heskey? A little bit. But the fact is that when he plays as the primary central striker, whoever plays second fiddle to him normally gets a bum deal.
And the question has to be raised...why?
Its not that Rooney isn't intelligent. Or that he is greedy. Or that he does not care. However, i feel his cavalier attitude (something we all love about him) is his biggest weakness. Maybe with the years this will change. We know he isn't the nutjob he used to be. The mouth still barks at referees way too much but he isn't trying to kill anyone anymore. But it does not disguise the fact that if you micro analyse the things that makes a team tick..especially a team like Manchester United, that Rooney does not cut it as the centre forward. Now of course, the boy is scoring goals this year, and I'm sure that is the bomb that many will throw in my face after this article is published to the Interweb World. However my retort will be three words:
Ruud Van Nistelrooy
Ruud used to score goals..and LOTS of them. But during his five year tenure there was just one league championship, an FA cup win, and the Mickey Mouse cup. No European finals. No consistency in success. Rubbish. Now its fair to say that this wasn't Ruud's fault. 150 goals in 219 games proves his contribution. But the problem with having Ruud Van Nistelrooy up front was that IT WAS ALL ABOUT RUUD VAN NISTELROOY. If he didn't score then invariably we wouldn't win. I'm starting to see a mirror image with Rooney. Once again you could argue that this isn't Wazza's fault.. Hes paid to score goals. But United last three years of phenomenal success have come after Fergie ditched the idea of having just the one hitman and decided we needed a more complete threat from the team.
So what does this all mean? Well, to me its relatively simple. Yes, we could go out and break the bank, and I'm convinced that at some point the manager will bring in new faces. But for the time being we need to play to our strengths AS A TEAM. Not to individuals talents. I'm definitely not saying "lets drop Rooney" or "flog him to Real Madrid" But the times i have been most impressed with him is when he can drop deep, turn onto the opponent and terrorize them face on...a bit like Lionel Messi does for Barcelona. Would you call Messi a winger? No. But he attacks from a wide position. And that is what we should do with Wazza. This means we would have more of a threat on the pitch in either a 4-4-2, 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 formation. At the moment we are trying to get 10 players to feed a singular entity up front. Been there..done that..won nothing.
There is no doubting that the team has to take all of this on the chin..its a collective issue. But for me the games we have lost this season have come from our inability to score at vital times. Yes the defence has been bonk and our midfield have looked like amateurs at times, but it is worrying when our ability to score goals weighs so heavily one player. Yes, Ronaldo did score most of the goals of the last three years, but as in the 90s the goals were shared out among several players. Goal threats were everywhere. At the moment we have Michael Owen warming a bench he doesn't deserve to be sitting on. What could we be if we managed to integrate him, Berba and Roo in the same side? It would be awesome...and it IS possible.
Rooney will never be a Ryan Giggs..running down the wing. But he has the talent and God given ability to diversify and do a top class job for the team. Berba WILL play better with Owen up top with him (someone who will properly work the channels for him..Roo drops too deep for this) and Michael Owen will do what he does best - guarantee you 20 league goals a season. I know this can work. I hope Sir Alex gives it a pop against Birmingham
So its the day after the Leeds United humiliation, and many disappointments are apparent for many reasons. Happy new year NOT
The turn of the decade has started with many stating the dreaded word when used in reference to a football team.
Yep, I've heard it several times now...so a team that has got to the last two European Cup finals and won the last three league titles is now in transition. Okay. So we lost the best player in the world from our ranks and a scampering Argentinian. So this now means we are in transition? I don't buy it at all.
The performance against Leeds (and you can add Villa, Burnley, Fulham and all the other bits of mediocrity this season) has fuck all to do with transition. It has to do with attitude and quality. The injury plague that hit every defender at the club was not very helpful at all as we know, but winning games will always be about outscoring your opponent..something we have always prided ourselves in being able to achieve. To not 'outscore' a team from the third tier of English football with what was a decent selection by the manager with his first choice strikers, borderlines on criminal. But worse than that it is becoming a reoccurring bad habit.
The result against Wigan clouded what alot of fans are thinking at the moment, and that is we are not very good. Somehow due to Chelsea's crapness and Arsenal's inability to put a run together we are still in the thick of the title race and i am thankful for that. But the performance level this year compared to the last few years has been trash. Individually you could pick the bones out of every player, and not one of them is up to scratch, except maybe Patrice Evra. People may point to Wayne Rooney's increased goal haul this season, but as positive as that is, he is one of the reasons why we are underperforming this year. He and Berbatov seem to be becoming increasingly estranged to each others game..one good pass against Hull may make people think that this is not the case, but they are wrong. We have a former European footballer of the year sat warming our bench who cant get a game because of the faith shown in this partnership, which i have a feeling of doom about. It simply does not work week in week out
We have a midfield which is playing as inconsistently as i can remember in recent memory...i have no clue who our best two central midfielders are at the moment...just as Carrick or Anderson give you a good game, they play utter tripe the next. Fletcher will always give you endeavour but his quality on the ball has not been good recently. Scholes and Giggs are in and out as their age dictates, which leaves you with Darron Gibson who's metaphorically played about 10 minutes of top class football. And lets not even start up about the mentally damaged Owen Hargreaves.
And whats going on wide? Park? Valencia? Obertan? Giggs? Me? Nobody seems to be able to cross a ball at the moment...not with any consistency. The best crosses i have seen this year have come from the full backs..which worries me when i think that Gary Neville has excelled at this part of the game more than the wingers.
Then there is Nemanja Vidic. The press say he wants to go and he says he wants to stay..but doesn't it all have the stink of the Ronaldo debacle we all went through? Yesterday, he didn't feel right so did not play. I DO NOT like the sound of all that. Rio is desperately needed back but his persistent injuries may turn him into our very own Ledley King...which a club like us doesn't need or want.
So.............maybe we are in transition.
And if so..do we rely on a man who has just turned 68 to rebuild again? Yes the man is a legend, and a genius. But do we go for a younger option? Or are we gonna allow Sir Alex go out the same way that Jock Stein did? I sincerely hope that our greed for success does not dictate that. I for one hope that he gives his family his future years and we don't see him collapse in a dugout somewhere. If Mourinho is up for it, i hope the board are already in some sort of consultation. Planning for the future has always been the United way.
This leads me to the fans yesterday. To be honest I'm normally quite apathetic to whether the fans sing or not at Old Trafford. I pay my money, I sing, I enjoy myself. I also normally wouldn't have bothered with yesterdays game. I spend enough time and money following my club over a season that on a freezing cold, snow covered Manc day during the Xmas break, is better served with my family than watching a Cup match that I'm forced to purchase under the terms of my season ticket. Yes its like chucking thirty quid in the bin. But yesterday i attended because it was Leeds. A team we sing about every week. Yes they have fallen from grace but they will always be one of the natural enemies. So i thought, "lets go to this one, have a singalong and enjoy what will be a great atmosphere" As i walked up to Old Trafford i could hear the United Faithful singing with more gusto than usual..you could cut the tension with a knife. And i loved it! As i took my seat an hour before the game, the 10,000 Leeds fans were already bleating like sheep from the away end, and i smiled to myself as i thought about other matches that invoke this sort of passion. Everything went to plan up until the 19th minute of the game.
The home fans arrived..we all started to sing..getting louder..and louder.. WE ALL HATE LEEDS SCUM WE ALL HATE LEEDS SCUM..and then Jermaine Beckford scored. In years gone by this would have prompted a vocal retaliation from the crowd. As they went to kick off after the goal a couple of dozen of us stood up without thought and started singing. This led to several shifty looks from some sat around me (not season ticketers i might add) Here i am..in my ground..watching my club..with people trying to make me feel bad that I'm trying to lift my team with their unapologetic eyes. The sound levels never recovered after that, so you could say that the crowd played just about as well as the team did. I really thought that a game against a club that we hate on a par with Liverpool may produce a vintage collective chanting display
I was wrong
Losing to Leeds was bad enough, but to allow 10,000 away fans drown out the remaining 65,000 'alleged' United fans is not right..it never will be. And don't kid yourself that its the corporate or the Prawn Sandwich brigade cos its not. They make up just a handful of the attendance. Its the normal people. The dad with his son. The middle class bloke who does his 'football thing' at the weekends. It was them that weren't singing yesterday. And it makes me sick. These people expect success and think that they have the right to enjoy it while giving nothing back. WRONG. This isn't Stamford Bridge you know! Also, far too many are buggering off on the 80 minute mark to get back to their cars, whether United are winning or not. Yesterday the team needed us, but they didn't have their twelfth man. I feel ever so slightly ashamed.
Funny things are starting to happen at Manchester United. The fans seem sanitized as much as the players do. We have an aging manager who may just think this time that he is better off following his thoroughbred horses at race meets around the globe. We should remember that Liverpool are the prime example of what happens to teams when it starts to go all wrong, even when you are the top dog. Next league championship in 2030 anyone? All of this is possible.
Its up to us to sing our team to success and demand that they put in the same effort that we do. It is us that puts the Glory into Man United.
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'