Stretford-end.com moderator Yolkie contacted the Sun over the weekend with regards to Steven Howards piece on Saturday. What do you think of Yolkie’s e-mail and should we be refreshing our mailbox every minute waiting for a response?
I’m writing in response to Steven Howard’s piece on Saturday 21st June regarding Ronaldo.
Manchester United fans who read the Sun have had to tolerate your evident disregard for our club for some time. I, myself, stopped reading in April after a game at Chelsea when you inexplicably attacked Sir Alex and his assistant in your column – a column in which you declared Ferguson had made a “tactical and selection blunder” in the game at the Nou Camp, and dismissed the penalty appeal at Stamford Bridge in the incident involving Ronaldo/Ballack, while at the same time stating the decision against Carrick was “perfectly correct” – comparing it to Gallas’ clear handball at Old Trafford.
Of course, you don’t need to be told that you got it horribly wrong when criticising Ferguson’s tactics, but the sheer hypocrisy in the same article was what initially turned me away – coupled with the undeniable fact that you have had major trouble accepting that Arsenal did not play the best football over the season.
I was alerted to your column in Saturday 21st June’s edition by a friend who thought it would make me laugh – but all in all, I found it compelling to read. It’s pre-season, United have just won the double, have done nothing of note in the transfer window and have denied the talk of the sale of Ronaldo. But you cannot resist having a swipe at United fans, with no real evidence to support your insults. Your first two paragraphs are presumably some kind of bold statement – when in actual fact, it has been rival fans calling him a “cheating, devious, underhand” individual and are crowing about him being the best in the world now that there are strong links attaching him to Real Madrid.
You go on to state that “even rabid Reds should realise the hypocrisy”, stating we “cherry picked” the best players, naming as examples, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, and Carlos Tevez. As a journalist you will know Newcastle were negotiating for Rooney, Man Utd simply came in with an offer, that was negotiated higher to almost extortionate levels, just because it was us. Of course we can never be sure of how much Everton invested in him, but something of which I’m certain is that they were handsomely rewarded. Leeds demanded £29m for Ferdinand – I suppose, again, it comes down to what you define “nicking” as. Personally, I don’t believe that term really applies to paying over the odds just because of the club you are. I wouldn’t exactly call it law of the jungle, Mr Howard, but you are very naive – clubs don’t sell players under contract that they don’t want to sell, it’s a little thing called “the transfer market” and has been part of the game of football since it’s conception. United aren’t the only club to buy a player when he had a contract, that’s why the fee is called “a transfer fee”.
“Nicking” may however apply to your beloved Arsene Wenger, who offers sky-high wages to mid-teens considered the best in the world in their age bracket to lure them away from their clubs, though I suppose that is exempt from your criticsm.
Concentrating on Ronaldo again, you make the point that Ferguson didn’t make him the player he is. You highlight the fact that not every single player has become the best player in the world under Ferguson’s tutelage as proof that he didn’t. Maybe he isn’t solely responsible, but is the fact that he resolutely refused to sell him after the World Cup not the biggest defining chapter in Ronaldo’s career – to return, in adversity, to develop the character to play without fear in any arena. Much as Beckham had to in 1998. Much as he shielded Giggs from the spotlight, as Giggs became the most decorated player in the history of the English game. Much as Eric Cantona resisted the temptation to quit as he was being hounded out of the country in 1995, and returned to inspire United to a double, and much as Roy Keane became the on pitch personification of his gaffer.
As I said, you make a good point, but it is surely only salient if you can identify a manager who has created a higher concentration of home-grown or acquired players into world class players with a greater success rate. People fail in every job, Mr Howard, it is not Sir Alex’s fault some don’t hit the heights. You conveniently neglect to mention that of those players that don’t succeed at United, a great number go on to earn a living as a professional footballer. I would even like to gamble that there are more ex-United players playing at a good professional level in the lower leagues than there are from any other club.
Further on, you comment that he is bored of the defenders in England, nod to Real Madrid’s greater trophy count, and the fact that he will line up alongside “Robben and Van Nistelrooy” as three big factors that make a move attractive to him.
It is on these three points that I have grave doubts over your pedigree as a football journalist.
As a professional writer of the sport, do you honestly believe that the defenders in the Villareal or Real Madrid teams pose a sterner test to him than those of Chelsea or Liverpool? That Racing Santander, Athletico Madrid and Mallorca provide a substantial leap in terms of gulf in class over Arsenal, Aston Villa, or Everton?
The English league has four fully professional divisions and as a country has possibly the greatest concentration of professional clubs fighting for trophies. Real Madrid do have a greater trophy haul but with fewer strong opponents is that really any different than using the argument to prove that either Glasgow club are far bigger than either Real or United? Five of Real’s European Cup wins came in the era where the Busby babes were tipped to be the dominant force, as Munich ended those dreams. Another followed before United won their first one – it’s very well using their history as a reason, and it is a very proud history, but your argument holds no more water than it would if you were arguing that he should move to Liverpool. Preston North End were proud unbeaten champions of the first league championship, why isn’t everyone lining up to play for them?
Which nicely leads in to the quality of teammates he could prospectively play alongside. Are the likes of van Nistelrooy and Robben favourable when compared to Tevez and Rooney, and friends Nani and Anderson? I appreciate that the point would be made but surely, again, it’s only a worthwhile argument if the point you are attempting to make is overwhelmingly conclusive. Furthermore, you use in inverted commas the term ‘the great players at Old Trafford’ as if it is somehow derisory – but how is a move from the current European Champions anything but a step to a lower calibre of player? Old Trafford boasts players who have a far greater success rate than those at Real. In Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, and Paul Scholes, we have legends that even the great Raul hasn’t matched in terms of success, bar one more European Cup.
You state that “it’s becoming too easy for him, like it did Henry”. I am aware that you are either a huge fan of Arsenal or another side that will not conflict your love-in with the Gunners, but surely you cannot be serious? Henry moved in 2006 after 2 years of decline at Arsenal, which was mirrored by the teams performances, and he moved at the last chance that Barcelona would make a move that didn’t look like just an easy way to end his career. Ronaldo is at the peak of his game, despite your protestations, because of the effort, quality and selflessness of his teammates. He has just won the European Cup and Premier League, and has already achieved arguably more in 5 years at Old Trafford than Henry ever did at Arsenal. Ronaldo may move, but using it as a chance to somehow elevate Henry to his status considering his decline (something, which, tellingly, has accelerated incredibly despite playing against these supposed magnificent opponents) is poor journalism.
A final, telling point, is your insistence that Ronaldo should be allowed to “pursue a move to his dream club which is Real Madrid”. As you will.. or I should say, should, be aware, Ronaldo’s “dream club” is Benfica. I’m aware that the situation as it stands may be a repeat, and Ronaldo could join great rivals in the name of the almighty dollar/pound/euro, but to somehow explain the situation in terms of United standing in the way of a players dream and suggesting they are guilty of doing worse than Real in the past is ridiculous.
As a journalist your role should be to at least evaluate the facts and present them in a considered way, but you have neglected to do this, and instead have once again abused your position to slate United.
I do not expect you to respond to this email or even read it, but it enabled me to get the chance to get things off my chest. If you do read it, I hope that you at least take on board that perhaps it is time to stop such shameless and clear disregard for Man Utd – what you are currently doing is not journalism, it is just a soapbox.
Howard – Angry.