Author: Herzog’s Child
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Question and answer sessions have a tendency to be dull. Prone to repetition and predictability, they offer too many opportunities for clichés and inanities to prosper. Questions relating to favourite players, or goals, or past glories have been asked and answered a thousand times. Still, given the nature of the current United, it is perhaps pertinent to cover already well-trodden ground – you know, just to try and make sense of it all. What follows below should, with hope, be somewhat different to the tediousness of the format’s general nature and provide readers with insight, interest and points with which they’ll identify with. Those handpicked to provide the answers were chosen for reasons that need no explanation here: in their answers – at times juxtaposing, at others startlingly alike – you will see why they were asked. For their time, effort and knowledge – I thank them sincerely. All of what follows is theirs and theirs alone. My own input was minimal. Lastly, I should note that the views expressed are those of the good folk below and do not necessarily represent the site. However, I feel compelled to state that whilst reading their replies, I felt myself nodding along throughout. Readers may agree or disagree with the views stated below, but hopefully all will at the very least be engaged whilst reading. Cheers.
1. Our reversion from the swashbuckling relentlessness of the early season’s heights back to a more conserved style of play has irked the majority who savour purism over playing it safe. However, despite shoring up our defensive frailties, problems remain. A resolution, it would seem, would be blending United’s archetypal style of going for the opposition’s throat, whilst having enough to shield the defence. Is our current squad capable of doing that? And who, for you, makes up an ideal 11?
@SportyMuslimah: When we consider a fully fit XI, I genuinely believe we are capable of reverting to that style. Granted, the early season excellent performances haven’t been reproduced, but that might be in part due the fact that the same XI haven’t featured regularly enough. The injury to Cleverley seemed to raise questions over United’s ability to actually command a midfield without their protégé, especially given how Anderson lingered in and out of games without ‘Clevz’ beside him.
If all players are fit, I would probably like to see Sir Alex go with:
De Gea, Smalling, Jones, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Cleverley, Carrick, Young, Rooney and Welbeck.
The inclusion of Jones over Ferdinand is one that would no doubt raise eyebrows, however, when we consider the types of performances we are wanting from United, Jones fits that mould perfectly. Many still believe he could have a place in central midfield, being able to switch defence into attack is a key asset of his. Whilst I remain a big advocate of Ferdinand and the stats clearly support his partnership with Vidic, the attacking ability of Jones would be one I’d like to see more often.
Smalling seems to have suffered from the rise of Jones, many forgetting what a supreme defender he is – looking accomplished both at central defence and at right back. Having somebody like Jones behind Nani, who makes mature footballing decisions on when to overlap and when to sit back, are basic requirements of a full back. Something, sadly, we haven’t seen too often from Evra. Whilst Evra has been in decline, he is still our best left back and is clearly capable of good performances still.
It is in central midfield where most of the questions are being asked. Anderson would be a likely inclusion for many after his early season promise and pre-season performances alongside Cleverley. Sadly, I’m beginning to lose some patience with him, despite having kept faith in his ability and capabilities of delivering. Carrick is a supreme midfielder, his ability to do the simple things means we as football fans often overlook him in preference of a commanding midfielder who makes crunching tackles and Hollywood passes. Carrick has become something of a scapegoat for many United fans, with a clear divide in the ‘for’ and ‘against’ camps. The ability and class they both play with would complement each another. Carrick especially is able to make quick decisions in a match and ‘see danger’, hence his shielding of the back four has often lead to many key interceptions and blocks. Cleverley’s eye for a pass, desire to drive forward with the ball and possible link up play with Rooney would make them a perfect midfield partnership.
@mierta23: This season has been rather odd, with us winning 8-2 vs Arsenal and then losing 1-6 vs City – freak results that probably doesn’t tell us too much about how strong we are at the moment, and to be honest I don’t have a clue as to how good we are. On one hand one could argue that we’ve got players good enough to win the league, players capable of giving almost every other team there is a tough game, including the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona, but on the other hand we haven’t really been able to combine a solid defence with a good attacking performance, something I blame on the centre of our midfield. Ever the optimist, I think everything will click for us soon. Right now we get the results, and the performances seem to be on their way after the games vs Newcastle and the first half vs Aston Villa. It’s no wonder we’re not exactly scoring ridiculous amounts of goals a la City considering the fact that we probably don’t have a single attacking player in form right now. As horrible as it might sound, losing Chicharito might be a blessing in disguise. He’s a wonderful player and we’ll have to rely on someone else to start scoring now (enter Phil Jones the saviour), but at the moment I think we’d be better off with someone who’s more involved in the all round game. It might force Sir Alex to play Rooney a bit further up front, and hopefully that will make him start scoring again. Getting Cleverley back will be a massive boost as all our fluidity seems to depend on him, and I look forward to seeing him play with Carrick or maybe even Jones in midfield, although we probably won’t get to see the latter combination. We might need reinforcement in the summer if we’re going to give closing the gap on Barcelona another go, but our current squad is capable of winning the league and if I were Mancini or Andre Villas-Boas, I wouldn’t exactly enjoy seeing Manchester United pick up points every weekend.
Team: De Gea – Jones, Vidic, Smalling, Evra – Nani, Carrick , Cleverley, Young – Rooney – Chicharito
@Karatejesus82: In many respects the issues outlined above have been present since the 2008-2009 season – where the conservative style that has become, with great success, the ‘norm’ in our recent Champions League campaigns has seeped into domestic performances (going back to the string of 1-0 wins that season and Van Der Saar’s clean sheet record).The start of this season saw this style abandoned to some extent but, following the capitulation against City, there’s been an understandable period of stabilising the team so that we weren’t conceding quite so many chances. Whilst conceding six to our nearest rivals is always going to be a shock, signs had been there that our defence were there for the taking – Arsenal could have scored a couple more in the mauling that they suffered, Chelsea should have scored at least three (although, likewise, we should have scored maybe double the three we got ourselves that day) and even Norwich had two or three outstanding opportunities when they visited Old Trafford and were unfortunate to come away with nothing. The key element to the early season goal-drenched wins was that we took our chances – we were second best, to some extent, against Spurs in the first half and Chelsea, again in the first half, too. It could be argued that it was only against Arsenal and Bolton that we had a consistently good performance over 90 minutes. Disregarding the Champions League campaign to date (the last few years has shown we go through the groups in nothing higher than second gear), our domestic form up until the City game had been the equivalent of continuously twisting in Pontoon which, whilst exciting, doesn’t necessarily lend itself to winning championships. Ironically, considering the result, the most encouraging performance of recent weeks came in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle where we could and should have scored four or five; we scored eight against Arsenal and arguably had less clear cut chances. One issue for me, and this doesn’t just apply to United, is the apparent switch from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 that has happened in the last couple of seasons. Both United and Chelsea looked at their strongest in 2007-2008 when both teams had a tendency to play one striker and three in midfield in the biggest games and this no longer seems to be the case. It’s a strange shift in approach as, 2 years ago, there was whispers that the 4-4-2 was dying, or dead, in the modern game. One of the problems for United is, perhaps, a lack of personnel and versatility to fit into the 4-4-3 shape. If we were to play that formation at the current time then Rooney would have to play as a number 9 and, given the array of strikers (and lack of central midfielders) available to Ferguson, it doesn’t seem his intention to go down this path. Despite this, in the biggest games and given a fully fit squad, my eleven would be as follows –
GK De Gea
RB Any one of Jones, Smalling, Rafael or Fabio (dependent on form)
LB Evra (purely due to lack of competition)
CM Fletcher / Anderson*
*I had high hopes this season that Anderson would step up to the plate (for something other than pie and mash) after a strong finish to last season. He did start the season strongly but, unfortunately like many of our players (Rooney and Carrick to name two high profile examples), he is very much a form player and when his form is poor, it’s bloody awful.
In many respects it’s hard to say how the above set-up would work as we’ve yet to really see this sort of system tried out with this group of players, but I’d hope this would give us the control we need in the centre whilst still having enough going forward to create problems. The strength of the squad is demonstrated by the almost impossible task of trying to pick a subs bench that would go with the above team and, in the end, I gave up trying to do so. While the above system is something I would like to see us try, I would expect Ferguson to continue with the 4-4-2 at this point, with either Welbeck or Hernandez taking the place of Fletcher or Anderson – leaving Carrick and Cleverley in centre midfield. Although this should be more than good enough in the majority of games, I think it leaves us at risk of getting overrun in midfield against better opposition.
@DoronSalomon: I think that style you refer to is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve. Few clubs get the perfect balance of attack and defence – Man City are probably the closest to it right now, with Spurs and even Liverpool just behind them. You get clubs like Arsenal who excel at the attacking side of it and we are probably best (but most boring) at keeping a game tight and seeing it out. I think we are capable of playing in that kind of way; the performance against Newcastle was much closer it. For me, Michael Carrick is the key to it. He’s not a fancy player and he won’t do the things that fans really want to see, but he allows those around him to express themselves. He’s the consistent shield in front of the back four. There’s been a resurgence of appreciation for that kind of player lately – Parker and Spurs and Lucas at Liverpool have both won many plaudits recently for some excellent displays.
United do have some attacking talents – Nani whilst greedy, is a match winner and on his day close to unplayable. Cleverley’s early form suggests there is promise there. Beyond the first team all eyes will of course be on Ravel Morrison; without a doubt he has the potential to be the best player of his generation. Personally I think we’re in a stage of transition, much like the time when we got taught a lesson in Milan. We’re building a new team and neither results nor performances are a given from the off.
With our current squad, if everyone is fit I’d pick: De Gea, Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Carrick, Cleverley, Young, Rooney, Hernandez
A mini explanation – despite concerns over Rio’s ability, I still think when he’s paired with Vidic they are still the best option we have. I think there’s much to be said about Rio’s attitude that his response to the early season criticism has been to accept being dropped and then when recalled put in some really classy performances. I think leaving Carrick and Cleverley provide the best balance in the middle whilst Young gets in because the team tend to play with better shape when he’s involved. Maybe it’s harsh to leave Welbeck out but The Pea has that goal-scoring knack.
@Twisted_Blood: As much as United’s archetypal style is to go for the throat, we’ve not been proper jugular-botherers for years. The more I look back at the beginning of the season, the more I think that what was taken to be a glorious resurgence of pseudo-Busby/1990s-Ferguson thrill-seeking was, in truth, a fortunate run of fixtures against normally-tricky/tough opponents (Spurs, Arsenal, Bolton, maybe Chelsea) that for one reason or another weren’t functioning in defence. The problem the squad has is the lack of proven quality in centre midfield and the new-found vulnerability in defence (which remains, hasty shoring-up aside). The former is self-evident. The latter isn’t a question of quality — aggregated, United probably has the most talented group of defenders in the country — but of _state_: Vidic aside, the players are either hugely exciting but not quite there (Smalling, Jones, the Da Silvas), starting to seriously show their age (Ferdinand, Evra), or not quite good enough (Evans, he says, waiting for the abuse). Injuries, of course, have made all of that worse, but even with a fully fit squad, I don’t think United’s squad can have it both ways. (And even if they could, I’m not sure Ferguson would let them.)
My ideal XI: De Gea; Fabio, Vidic, Smalling/Jones, Rafael; Young, Cleverley, Fletcher, Nani; Rooney; Berbatov. We might not win. But it would be fun.
2. For the vast majority of reds, the most lamentable aspect of our current squad is a lack of real quality within midfield. Its present state is clearly down to a deterioration that has steadily progressed over the last 3 seasons. Fletcher has regressed, Anderson continues to be infuriating, and Carrick, for all his qualities, is only capable of so much. Elsewhere, you have a mediocre Gibson and a promising, yet ultimately untried, Cleverley. Time was invested but ultimately wasted in attempting to snare Sneijder and Nasri. Two quality players, but ones who on the face it weren’t the answer. Is it not disturbing that United’s extensive scouting network couldn’t source cheaper, more suitable options? Of the realistic options available, who would have been suited to what United are so in need of?
@DoronSalomon: Is it disturbing? Yes. However our midfield’s been good enough to help us to titles and Champions League finals. Maybe we’ve got to finals and won leagues in spite of our central midfield area. I think the thing with buying players is that it’s not easy to find the right player regardless of the position. Most fans probably play a video or computer game and sign a fantasy player, say Javi Martinez, and then claim he’d work at United. There are lots of central midfielders I really like as individuals but would they necessarily be right for how United play? Most of the best central midfielders seem to play abroad at the moment. We’ve seemed to avoid signing players from abroad where possible because of the language/culture barrier. It’s much safer to buy an English speaking player or one who’s already got Premier League experience. So in that respect I can understand why our scouts may not have found the best talent around the globe for us yet. Central midfield of course is a key area of the pitch – get it wrong and you’re fucked! Our central midfield for years has been functional; about winning the ball and shifting it out to our wingers or up to our strikers as quickly as possible. We like a 4-4-2 and for that reason, I’m not sure if we could really make a ‘flair’ or ‘creative’ central midfielder work. We need good efficient users of the ball which is why Carrick and Cleverley seem to do the right thing more than others. As for who I’d like: Scott Parker would have been a great option. I think for a couple of years he’d have added some much needed balls to our midfield and he’d have been a good age to not hinder the progress of our own talented kids. As for those from abroad – M’Vila, Martinez and Thiago have impressed me. If I was living in a fantasy land I’d probably suggest Gotze because he’s a little genius, Modric because he’d be perfect for us and Schweinsteiger because I think he’d tear the Premier League up.
@Karatejesus82: This has become the bruised and battered elephant of the Old Trafford living room during the last few years. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded Sneijder but that would only have worked if we’d played the 4-3-3 shape and had Rooney as a number 9 with Sneijder as a number 10 and, as things stand, I can’t really see that being practical (considering the aforementioned preference for using 4-4-2). His signing would not have been a bad thing but neither was it particularly necessary. Nasri too would have been a decent addition but, like Sneijder, would not have played the majority of his football as an orthodox central midfielder and this is where the issue lies. Unlike many United supporters, I don’t think Luka Modric is necessarily the answer either – I wouldn’t dispute his talent or his ability to improve our midfield as it currently stands but neither would I deem him to be worth the £30 million plus that Spurs would undoubtedly want. In addition, if the Modric horse is to bolt anytime soon, it doesn’t look like he’ll go anywhere bar a small trot across London. One reason for me not wanting United to spend upwards of £30 million on the likes of Modric is that there must, surely, be players out there at half the price who we can get in and develop ourselves – why, for example, sign a Modric or a Sneijder for £30-40 million leaving Spurs etc to go and sign the next ‘big thing’ for a fraction of that price when, in all probability, history will probably then repeat itself in four or five years time. My knowledge of football outside of Manchester United, the Premier League and the biggest European clubs, is not as substantial as many but I’d be as enamoured by the signing of Gotze or Martinez or M’Vila as I would any of the above three players. Although I haven’t seen these players play frequently, those whose opinions I trust speak highly of them and, for half of the cost, this would seem a more sensible route for United to go down at the moment. It would make sense to me that, going into next season, we would have six central midfielders available. At the moment it wouldn’t unduly surprise me if those six were Carrick, Cleverley, Fletcher, Anderson, Pogba and Morrison. In many respects I wouldn’t be that unhappy with those six but I’m aware I would probably be in a minority. I do find it understandable, to an extent, the reluctance of Ferguson to rip up his squad, so to speak, considering the successes we’ve had in recent years and there must be a degree of patience shown in what is a (apologies for using this dreaded word) a transitional stage. The proof will be in the Premier League pudding I guess and despite legitimate concerns, it’s easy to forget the numerous highs of recent seasons.
@SportyMuslimah: With the emphasis being placed on ‘realistic’, Tiote would be an instant decision for many Manchester United fans, understandably so. The manner in which he has slotted into the Premiership, his commandment of midfields during games and the quality with which he’s shone in this Newcastle side have been clear to see.
For me though, he would be a third choice. Mario Gotze of Dortmund and Yann M’Vila of Rennes are the two players who have the ability to completely renovate the United midfield. Their possible acquisitions wouldn’t stall the development of Ravel Morrison either, who, has a potentially bright future at United. Ferguson knows best as to why he has not yet been introduced into the first team.
Watching Dortmund play over the past several seasons, the manner in which Klopp reignited his squad and won the Bundesliga last season was utterly breath-taking. My limited knowledge of Bundesliga was the reason I initially started watching them. The young German side who took WC2010 by storm, also played an essential role in the success of BvB. Nuri Sahin left for Madrid at the price of a packet of crisps. At a time when United were screaming for such a midfielder, it was bewildering we didn’t move a move for him.
Gotze is a player we can’t pass on though. His playing style fits in to the United mantra of attack minded, resilience, a team player with panache and simply put, he’s a class above anyone else. Even in this talented Dortmund side he stands out. He was likened to Ozil early on, with the speed he has, technical ability and above all his eye for a pass before his team mates even see it. Last season he ended with some 15 assists, as he became prolific in the final third creating umpteen chances for the attackers. Anyone who watched BvB will confirm how infuriating it often was that the chances he had placed on a plate weren’t finished. And then, we talk about ‘assisting the assist’, a speciality of Gotze. I genuinely believe he would take United to the next level and become the midfielder that United have craved since the retirement of Scholes and maybe even before.
With players like Rooney and goal poacher in Hernandez, the question would be how many will United score. Defence splitting passes, close ball control and an ability to weave his magic through the heart of the opposition. Exactly the type of big game player that teams crave.
Talking of big game players, Yann M’Vila pops up! He first caught the attention of many for France during the youth World Cup tournaments, but his performances for Rennes have catapulted him to an essential part of Blanc’s French side – almost to the point where the team are now playing around him. This may sound crazy for a player still making his name and relatively young, yet his natural talent is obvious for many.
M’Vila is able to intercept play without being the brute of a defensive midfielder we often see who ends up giving away free kicks. He wins the ball, keeps it and aids fluid attacks – he is the player United could well do with. M’Vila and Gotze, would complement one another well, both being relatively young and ready to learn. M’Vila has excellent distribution skills, surprising for someone whose game is synonymous with breaking up play. Given his age and potential, I struggle to find an obvious weakness to his game. I am fearful that if we don’t move soon, someone else will take him and he’ll become one of the best defensive midfielders in world football.
@Twisted_Blood: I’ve never liked doing this, since I obviously know nothing/little of the personal circumstances and preferences of these players, and much as we like to assume they don’t, players do turn down United for both footballing and non-footballing reasons. But since you insist … The two best central midfield purchases of the summer both went to Liverpool. Sorry, no, Juventus. And while I would melt into a happy mess were Andrea Pirlo ever to pull on a United shirt, it’s the other one that really stands out as the missed opportunity: Arturo Vidal, bought from Bayer Leverkusen for €12.5m. 24 years old, technically gifted, clever, creative, versatile, talented, available, and relatively cheap. So far this season he’s played eleven games for a Juventus team that aren’t looking too shabby. Other than him, though, there isn’t much. I’m more agnostic on Scott Parker than some but he’d have represented a decent short-term option. Javi Martinez is one of the next great European midfielders, but would cost a lot. Nuri Sahin has decided to waste his talent on the bench at Madrid; Santi Cazorla might not have worked outside of Spain; the Bender twins are probably a touch too young; ditto Christian Eriksen, who’s probably not quite the right player anyway, sadly. Ferguson’s pen-pal Steven Defour joined Porto; he might have been worth a look, as might his new teammate Freddy Guarin, if only for his long shots. But I’m on the very edge of my knowledge there! Hanging over all of that is the Ashley Young decision. I like Young and I think he’s done fairly well, but spending that money on a winger made no sense. If a team is going to have to improvise, better to do that on the flanks than in the centre: I’d rather see a Da Silva twin on the wing than Rooney in midfield. And while I think Ferguson got a bit of unnecessary stick for his “no value in the market” — not completely true, but not totally false either — the complaint sounds a bit hollow when you’re buying players you don’t need at the same time.
@mierta23: What confuses me is that we were so close to signing a player, Sneijder, who clearly wasn’t the answer, for such a big amount of money. Apparently the money was there, so why didn’t we spend it on someone else, someone more suitable? I’m sure Sir Alex has a lot of faith in Tom Cleverley, who has been brilliant when he has been fit, but the fact remains: a club of United’s stature shouldn’t be so dependent on a 22-year-old who has only played a handful of games for the club and on top of he’s injury prone. Before the season had started, I was convinced that we didn’t need an attacking midfielder but a defensive one, but now I’m not so sure. We seem to be lacking in both areas, although that might be because the more creative Cleverley isn’t available right now. I’d love Modric at United. I have no idea if you can say that he’s a realistic signing, you probably can’t, but I’d be a very happy girl if we signed him. Tiote is another option. I don’t think we’ll sign him but he could certainly do a job for us. To be honest, most midfielders out there would probably be capable of doing a job for us at the moment, and one that I would very much like to see is Athletico Bilbao’s young Javi Martinez.
3. United’s failure to secure a midfield option in the summer paved the way for many to invest a hope – a hope that has sometimes bordered on desperation – that what is broken in the first team can be repaired by those waiting in the wings. Are we perhaps guilty of piling heaps of too much pressure too early into their careers? Ravel Morrison, by far the club’s brightest talent, is impeded by issues that are well covered by now. Paul Pogba is a fine talent, but seasoned observers rightly assert that he’s a considerable distance away from being mature enough on the field to cope with the league’s rigors. Ferguson, thus far, appears reluctant to blood them. Is he right to be given how, realistically, neither appear fully ready for the step up? Or would biting the bullet in the hope they would flourish under the spot-light be worth the risk given how our current midfield is floundering?
@Twisted_Blood: All fans everywhere are guilty of being too desperate to see young players come through, because watching a young player come through the ranks and into the first team is perhaps the most sustained long-term pleasure that following a football club can offer. That said, it’s the manager’s job to be more clear-eyed than the fans, and I’m fairly certain that if Ferguson thought that playing Morrison or Pogba (or whoever) in the Premier League would mean United were more likely to win, then he would. And if he thought that, then there’d be no reason not to: playing in a winning team is the best development possible. “Not ready” — at least by my reading — doesn’t just mean “not ready personally”, it also means “not ready to contribute”.
@KarateJesus82: One definite positive so far this season has been the development of the young players who are currently being blooded – from signings such as De Gea, Smalling and Jones to those developed by the club such as Cleverley and Welbeck. I’d also like to give some praise to Jonny Evans who has, unfairly, become a scapegoat for a high percentage of, how do I put this, fucking idiots, who judge on name rather than performance. He has flaws, of a similar nature to Nemanja Vidic – i.e. don’t pull them down!!! – but his performances in the main have been excellent this season. I mentioned previously that it wouldn’t surprise me if both Pogba and Morrison were part of our ‘group of six’ going into next season. Neither, however, would it surprise me if neither were with the club, considering the steady drip drop of news about Pogba not signing a new contract and Ravel being, well, precocious at best. Morrison in particular is exciting as, even in the small cameos to date, he has shown the ability to light up a match which only a small number of players can. I think it’s inevitable people will get over excited about that but you’d like to think the club will handle him, and our other youngsters, as well as any club can. I do find it odd that both are currently behind Gibson in the pecking order considering the inevitability of Gibson’s ultimate departure (something that is needed for the player himself as much as the club). My only understanding would be that Gibson has experience if he were called upon but it would be more beneficial for everybody, I believe, if players like Morrison were given a place on the bench instead of those who will be sold within twelve months.
@mierta23: The hype surrounding these two is ridiculous. They are both huge talents but I think we have to trust Sir Alex and the coaching staff on this one, because let’s be honest: they’re the only ones who know what the youngsters are like on a day to day basis. There’s no way we, as supporters, can know the attitude or progress they’re showing in training. They both have some bulking up to do – Ravel looked very slight vs Crystal Palace and Pogba often reminds me of Bambi on ice with his long legs. On top of that, we have Pogba’s rumoured refusal to sign a new contract and the ever present possibility of Ravel hitting the self-destruct button. That said, I don’t think that giving them outings in the league would do them any harm. As I discussed with someone a couple of days ago, there hasn’t really been a good opportunity so far, so I don’t understand why some people are angry that the youngsters have yet to be introduced. Looking at our fixtures ahead of Christmas, we have a couple of “easier” games, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we see Pogba or Morrison on the bench at some point, maybe even with a short cameo appearance at the end if we have a comfortable lead. I’d say that, providing that the pair of them sort out their self-destruction/contract issues, we might see them pushing for a place in the first team in next summer’s pre-season, but not before that. Fryers, however, might be a bit closer to the first team, especially considering the twins’ injury problems.
@DoronSalomon: I think the majority of football fans are guilty of hype. I think Ravel’s ready for snippets of action; he has shown in his brief appearances that he can mix it with the first team players – it’s just about a slow integration. The rest of the kids aren’t really ready though. Pogba’s much further away than many fans realise or care to admit. The speculation over his future hasn’t helped as some fans have suggested he should be played in order to convince him to stay. Zeki’s impressed me so far; he’s always been impressive as a schoolboy and then in the Academy but I thought his injuries would have set him back much further. Ultimately, we aren’t like Arsenal – our approach to integrating the players is measured and done over a long period of time. Arsenal prefer to blood them much younger but they’re able to do that because their game is based on technical skills rather than a combination of technique and physicality like ours. The encouraging thing is that it’s been a long time since so many 18-20 year olds have been involved with our first team, even in training sessions. Even Ferguson and the coaching staff have been talking quite candidly about them recently. They are a very good group of players as shown by their success last year. Now the club and the fans just have to be patient with regards to their integration.
@SportyMuslimah: I remember reading how being excellent at sport is more about mentality than it is ability. This may sound like a cop out of an answer, but I have faith in Sir Alex to do the best by these youngsters. Pushing them through out of desperation may work for us short term, but the long term consequences probably aren’t worth it. A few losses, some poor performances, and the fans will not differentiate between being a youth player who has come through the ranks and a senior regular. ‘If you’re good enough you’re old enough,’ is what many say and whilst that is undeniably true, there are other extenuating circumstances to consider. United are one of the biggest clubs in world football, Sir Alex needs to be 100% sure that these players can aid United in their quest for glory, rather than push them through quickly for the sake of doing so.
Cleverley is a prime example of this, his loan spells came at the perfect time for him and United. He returned from Wigan a better player, his appearances in the Premiership gave him a better understanding of the demands and what is expected of him. Playing in the reserves is great but put simply, you cannot beat the Premiership.
I am not an advocate of short term solutions.
4. The misery beset upon United since the Glazer’s debt-laden take-over has been well covered by now. The spoiling of profit on interest payments compounds the lack of investment in the team in recent years. Yet, despite their loading of debt onto the club, lack of investment into the team, and overseeing rises in ticket-prices, the vast majority of United’s support remains apathetic towards them. Why do you think this is the case? Underneath love for glory on the pitch, is there a real lack of care for the club’s health? Has Fergie’s continued vocal support for them ensured any wrath that may have existed initially has quelled? Or has United’s continued success on the field skewed perceptions of the owners because, as the delusion goes, if things are going well on the field, they must be going well of it? Will they ever leave?
@Karatejesus82: Firstly, it strikes me, there’s a vast number of football fans who, for want of better words, don’t give a fuck beyond the here and now – this is reflected not only in feelings towards the issues outlined above but also in general views that are put across on everything from a players’ form to a rational perspective on the highs and lows experienced during each season. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this as not everyone will have football, and their given club, as such an important cornerstone in their lives but, for those who do, a certain resignation comes from hearing opinions that are held due to a common consensus rather than actual educated opinion (for example, see the above point about the form of Jonny Evans).I doubt any United fan who has any knowledge on the subject would welcome the Glazers as a good presence at Old Trafford but, for me, there are a few reasons why the antipathy towards them has eased off during the last eighteen months. Firstly, and most importantly, it does appear to be transpiring that, whilst haemorrhaging money because of the debt imposed on the club, the worst case scenario (as in the debt spiralling to such an extent that United ‘do a Leeds’) fears that were originally held for the safety of the club have, in the main, been eased. Seeing money drain out of the club due to nothing but it’s owners is infuriating but, considering the team has maintained a successful record, this has not become crucial in the way it would have should investment have faltered at a time when the silverware dried up. Inevitably, criticism is less vocal in times of triumph than in times of crisis, regardless of the rights and wrongs of this. The worst knock-on effect that the debt has had is the effect on ticket prices but, it could be argued, United still charge relatively competitive prices when compared to their rivals and this is a problem that is wider reaching in football and other forms of entertainment, such as live music, as a whole. The ACS is an absolutely awful scheme however and by removing this you would think the club would have more to gain than they would lose. Ultimately, football tickets and pricing will conform to supply and demand as much as any other product (vomit) but the glass ceiling is being reached in my opinion. I don’t have a season ticket and am not a member but can pretty much get a ticket for most games these days – in the last year I’ve had tickets for Champions League quarter and semi finals plus Arsenal and Liverpool in the FA Cup and Arsenal and Blackpool (on the day United lifted number 19) all at face value off United supporters online. I’m got a free ticket for Palace thrown in with games against Newcastle and Wolves due to the lack of demand. It’s becoming more economically viable to stay outside the system than it is being a season ticket holder or a member. I have a hunch that I could get a ticket for every game next season and pay less than a season ticket holder – there’d be some games you’d overpay for but others you’d pick up for very little and, whilst naturally you’d lose the chance of getting tickets to any major final, you’d not be tied in to a system that means an average priced season ticket, in real costs, is near to £1,000. Anyway, trying to get back on to the question at hand, the easy answer to the question would be that, whilst United continue to challenge regularly for the biggest trophies and the club aren’t threatened by insurmountable repayments, I don’t think the protests against the Glazers will become anything other than a gesture. They will leave eventually, in my opinion, and they’ll have made a fortune from the club but then, in all honesty, that’s pretty much the way it has always been and probably always will be. Football is a good microcosm of society in general and, over the last hundred years or so, the pursuit of wealth has become more and more important. I can understand, to an extent, those who have had enough of the money coated modern game but, personally, I enjoy more about football than I dislike and would prefer to focus on the good rather than the bad. Otherwise, what have you got? If you try and look at football as an industry, it’s horrible. The only safe bet is to remember that it is ultimately just a sport and, like with anything, if you feel more hate than love, you’re best just walking away.
@mierta23: No one, especially not us fans, knows what those greedy, selfish Americans are planning on doing, but I have a feeling they won’t stay for much longer than one or two more seasons. Thankfully the club is a moneymaking machine that is recognised worldwide, so the debt probably won’t put potential buyers off. Those scary rumours of the Quatari royal family keep resurfacing, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were true. If they just discarded the debt and then allowed us to go on as we always have I would have no complaints with them taking over, but the worst thing that could possibly happen (except a new Glazer family) would probably be mega rich new owners turning us into Manchester City. However, English football being owned by Arabic multimillionaires is frightening. Sooner or later they will run out of gas and oil and what will happen then?I don’t think anyone is happy with the Glazers and I do think many would like to do something about it, but the situation feels hopeless and I think they’ll leave only when they want to. That said, they would probably already be gone if Sir Alex hadn’t supported them, and to think about who we could have signed if they were gone is quite frankly depressing.
@Twisted_Blood: Why should they leave? They’ve got a gigantic money-making machine that they can dip into at their pleasure, they’ve got a fanbase whose idea of protest is to continue to hand over money but do so wearing a green-and-gold scarf, and they’ve got a legendary manager who declined to lead the fans in a genuine revolt for the sake of himself and his close friends and colleagues. Would you leave?
@SportyMuslimah: I agree with the notion that if things are going well on the field, then they are off it. Where there is no media furore there is no lingering resentment that comes to the forefront. If we look at recent clubs where protests have occurred towards the owners and the board, Newcastle and Blackburn primarily, this has been after a sustained period of poor performances.
Arsenal were almost on the brink of something similar, where fans began to voice their anger. United are a very different breed, where one fan will make a stance and not renew their season ticket, there will be another ten waiting in the wings to possibly take that ticket instead.
If United go through a barren period, or God forbid, are knocked out of the lucrative Champions League this week, then we may see more people speak up. Many already blame the Glazers and their mounting debt, on the lack of a summer midfielder; especially given that many clubs are now demanding over £35m for a ‘world class’ midfielder.
I do believe the Glazers will one day up sticks, they’ll either get bored or the bubbling resentment will come to the top. This may particularly be true once Sir Alex leaves, if the next manager isn’t good enough, if games aren’t being won, if the ‘United way’ is being shamed upon, many fans won’t accept this and could demonstrate accordingly.
I don’t have the figures to hand, but annual interest payments on the loan seem to hit the kind of figures that we could be reinvesting in the squad via M’Vila and Gotze. The constant stream of advertising revenue that the club are attracting also seems to have made many believe that the Glazers are astute businessmen, especially in the DHL training kit deal. Whereas in reality, the fans are bearing the brunt of costs through ticketing, the automatic cup scheme and pressures of purchasing merchandising at year-on-year higher prices for younger family Reds.
@DoronSalomon: It’s a tough one to answer really. Majority of the club’s supporters live abroad and don’t necessarily feel the knock-on effects that the Glazers have had – such as high ticket pricing leading to rubbish atmospheres etc. As long as the team are successful on the pitch, many fans are happy. With regards to fans closer to home – I think a lot of fans were disillusioned with the Red Knights and whilst the G&G campaign was a good short-term awareness project, it fizzled out and there was nothing to take over from it. I think fans are starting to accept that the Glazers probably aren’t going to sell. Should we care? Again that’s a hard one to answer. In the olden days(!) fans weren’t worrying about who owned the club and a club’s finances – that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to worry today. Owners today are chasing the profits from their investments so the motives behind owning a club have changed and therefore fans should probably be more savvy to what’s going on. I’ve no doubt that Fergie’s support for the owners has helped to calm down the anti-Glazer activity but I can’t blame him. I know that’s not necessarily a popular thing to say but I can’t imagine he was happy with the off-field distractions and in reality he’s not going to speak out against the owners. I think they’ll leave but it’ll be about the timing and getting the right price. There is a chance though that they’ve missed the boat – the time to sell may well have been and gone. United’s value is only rising and the group of people who could buy the club is getting smaller and smaller. It’s a sad state of affairs. Interest payments etc aside they’ve run the club well enough in a financial sense. The work they’ve done on the commercial side has been excellent albeit another sad sign that football is even less about what happens on the pitch these days. I don’t think we’ll ever see big football clubs run the right way again.
5. Doron and I, in the wake of the Newcastle draw, discussed Wayne Rooney’s impact on the club since his arrival. Whilst his contribution to the cause has been largely enormous, we couldn’t help but assert that something quite indefinable still wasn’t adding up. Spells of brilliance, in terms of goals, assists and all round play, come about regularly only to be stagnated by large bouts of inconsistency. He’s still unquestionably United’s most important asset, but is it fair to suggest that he hasn’t quite become the player his early potential suggested he would be? The young whippersnapper, full of boiling blood and loaded terror, appears to have been displaced by a selfless focal point ever willing to sacrifice himself for the team. Eamon Dunphy, a rarefied oaf at the best of times, has regularly stated that United’s constant tinkering with Rooney – placing him on the left, as a lone striker, in a supporting role, as a midfielder, and as a filler-in in nearly every position – would ultimately hinder him to beyond repair. What do you make of the current Wayne Rooney? Is Dunphy right, or is it simply a case of the player suffering due to a lack of quality surrounding him? Is criticism of him justified?
@DoronSalomon: I’ll try and be brief. When he signed 7 years ago this isn’t quite what I expected. I think he’s a really great player but I think he’s matured almost too early. I miss mad-Wayne, the kind of player who would get sent off but also do something incredible and be so full of energy, much more so than he appears to be now. I don’t want this to sound like a heavy criticism, he’s one of my favourite players and I’m pleased he’s at United and nowhere else. I do think there isn’t enough quality around him and despite the fact he has a good partnership with Hernandez, I don’t think his role in that partnership brings out his best qualities. Flip it round though, one could argue he’s sacrificing himself for the team at the moment; having to play deeper because there is no Scholes there or no Ronaldo. I still think the best is yet to come from him and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him break Sir Bobby’s scoring record.
@Twisted_Blood: Dunphy, for all the piss and vinegar, knows his football, and he’s probably right to a certain extent. I can’t think of any player who improves playing different positions from week to week, and — while I don’t think it’s ever the plan at the beginning of the season — Rooney’s versatility and talent means that he does get used as a high-class stopgap, rather than as “Wayne Rooney: Second Striker”, or “Wayne Rooney: Fantasista”, or whatever. The lack of quality exacerbates this, though. If you’ve got your best attacking player in the quarterback position, or out on the wing, then your squad isn’t good enough. If Rooney starts and isn’t playing #9 or #10, then it’s a disappointment for us and a waste for him. But I’m not sure that this will damage him “beyond repair”, whatever that means. His status as the one genuinely world-class attacking talent in the squad means that his troughs of form are more noticeable than they were when Ronaldo was there to pick up the slack. And it’s worth pointing out that if Rooney were to retire tomorrow, then he wouldn’t have had a bad career, all in all. At least at club level.One final point. If people are disappointed in Rooney, then that may be as much a consequence of heightened and unrealistic expectations. Whatever the song says, he’s not the white Pele, and he probably never will be. But he regularly and consistently makes Manchester United better, even when he’s not scoring himself, so that can’t be too terrible.
@SportyMuslimah: Wayne Rooney the footballer is an enigma. Even for United fans it’s often difficult to pin down one particular reason for his spells of extreme awesomeness where he propels himself into the higher echelons of legends and ‘world class’ players. Yet for some reason there are times where people laugh and joke at how players like Andy Carroll offer more.
Rooney is our most talented player, and at the same time he’s the one player capable of playing several roles, making him a bit of a tinkering favourite for Sir Alex. For many, we were pulling our hair out when Rooney was shifted to the left in favour of Ronaldo playing upfront, as this meant we never got to see the best of Rooney. Yet this is one of Rooney’s best characteristics, his willingness to play where asked and do a job.
I guess it depends how you look at it; watching Rooney in full flow with exquisite flicks, passes, through balls, goals, tackles and running the length of the pitch to win back a ball is an amazing sight in a really weird way. However, we don’t see it often enough. When Rooney is playing well, United are invariably playing well. When Rooney isn’t, neither are United. His lack of a consistent partner upfront has surely had some impact on his development. When he played alongside Tevez and Ronaldo he had outstanding players on his level who could guess his movement and create devastating counter attacking play where the opposition players were being pulled apart not sure who or how to defend. The lack of another ‘world class’ player for United, has heaped a lot of pressure on Rooney. As good as Young is, he isn’t on the level of Rooney. We’ve often seen Rooney left infuriated with a misplaced pass as Young or Nani don’t exactly see where he wants the ball to be played.
I feel for Rooney, I could be deluded, but I believe he has the ability to be in the bracket of players like Messi and Ronaldo, even without the goal scoring and assisting stats. He brings such key characteristics to the United side. Yet, he won’t be remembered in their ilk because of the lack of goals over a prolonged period of time. As much as United are suffering without ‘world class’ midfielders, so is Wayne Rooney.
Players like Cleverley and Ravel Morrison are those who give glimpses and seem to have the real ability to be on the same level as Rooney. Once they’ve been fully blooded into the side, we may well see another Wayne Rooney, with less pressure and better, more consistent performances.
Criticising Rooney will always happen though, whether he has played well or not there will always be someone not pleased with something. People will expect Rooney to perform miracles every week, to score the winner when United aren’t playing well, being the complete #10 that he is – the kind of the performances Van Persie is now giving for Arsenal. But, he is a different player to Van Persie and we must remember, he has different pressures at United.
@mierta23: We can’t demand more from Wayne Rooney than what he gives us. He’s constantly working; he’s absolutely not a player who gives up. He plays for the team, even though it means some sacrificing on his part. At the moment he isn’t scoring, but that’s because Sir Alex has played him in a deeper role, something I believe has helped our midfield and defence immensely. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be back at his best by January and that will be vital if we want to win the title. One could argue that given his quality he should maybe be a tad bit more consistent, but this season you can’t blame him. He’s one of the world’s best strikers, if not the best, and there’s not much more we could ask until we get a proper midfield to support him.
@Karatejesus82: A question like this is all ifs, buts and maybes in the end. The potential that the young Wayne Rooney showed was so high that anything less than Messi would, to some extent, be disappointing. There’s no doubt that Rooney is a form player who has some unbelievable periods that can last anything from two weeks to three months before he settles back into just being a highly efficient cog in the current United machine. It’s almost an impossible question to answer, in many respects, as the versatility he has shown over recent years has in all probability impacted the extent to which his natural skills could have flourished. This isn’t altogether a bad thing, however, and there is a good argument to be made that Ferguson and United have done well to shape the Rooney of today (who, while nowhere near the level of Ronaldo or Messi is still an exceptional player) rather than have an indulgent virtuoso who relies on the team rather than the other way round. Rooney can be infuriating when he is not in peak form, such as now, but even then his general performances are still very good, it’s just we see less of the magic that was there in his younger days. However, if the boot was on the other foot and we saw that magic more frequently but from a player with less mature all round abilities, I believe people would be asking the same question but from the opposite side of the fence. The only time Rooney has had a truly horrendous period is during the last World Cup and the six months after where, unlike previous dips, it appeared his natural touch and desire to play the game had disappeared. Thankfully, he seems to have come through this period and, for the time being, it’s hard to envisage him as anything other than a key component in both the current side and for the club as a whole in the next half decade.