Colin Randall writes: I’ve seen us beat Manchester United at home, at least – but probably only – once, unless I’ve forgotten another one, at Roker Park and once (League Cup) at the Stadium of Light. Others will have seen more, plus those crucial away wins and the League semi-finals home and away. I cannot pretend to be optimistic about Sunday, but who knows? Our United man of wit, warmth and wisdom is Nick Duckworth, who feels we will profit from a season, maybe two in the Championship and that Moyes would be the man to get us back. Interesting responses all round; how many of us, asked to name the best United player in a recent history that includes Cantona, Scholes, Ronaldo (who gets an honourable mention)
and David Bellion, would have said Ryan Giggs? …
Salut! Sunderland: Joe Mourinho will reportedly play weakened teams in the league to ensure a CL place by keeping his best men fit to win the Europa. Not sure that helps Sunderland much but would you regard it as a sensible or disappointing option?
Nick Duckworth: I don’t think I personally agree with the statement if I am honest. With the number of games to play the demand to perform at the best and intensity required two times a week can be tough and I think we are currently starting to see some of the pain to that with injuries to some key staff and lacklustre performances (especially sharpness in front of goal).
I think Sunderland play us at the right time when the league is being suggested as not our priority, giving influence to the players to concentrate their efforts on Europe and our current load of injuries and suspensions, but I think Jose is still trying to push for the league too so don’t see him easing off in any way. Plus we still have a strong enough squad and personnel which can stand up against a Sunderland team.
He had a lot to do at United, and the usual weight of expectation. What is your assessment of how well he has done?
I was not one of those who wanted to take him at United if I am honest as I felt his approach was all built around three-year plans, which is where he has been at through this career. However I must admit I think he has done something neither your man Moyes or Louis did, and that is bring back that winning mentality to feel like we should be pushing until the last minute and should be winning the majority of games. I think we had lost that a bit. Whether Jose will progress the club past three years and show a continuation of management, time will only tell. But I am happy at the moment, so let’s see.
No shortage of talent in the squad, even if Rooney is in decline and Luke Shaw failing to impress the boss. De Gea, Valencia and Zlatan get a lot of praise but who has stood out for you?
I think Herrara has been outstanding this year and giving us some tempo and drive for others to play around in the middle, but the stand out player this year has to be Zlatan.
I was worried his lack of pace would continue to slow us down in attack like Rooney’s has done over the last year or two. However he has shown how good he is. He continues to run in behind, he is a monster when playing direct to him and can only be a positive for people like Rashford to learn from – and helps attract players like Pogba to come and play with. Winners want to play with winners. Lets hope we re-sign him and then others to come and join the fun.
And where are United too weak to mount a serious title challenge?
Left back has been a struggle and it’s disappointing about Shaw at the moment. The lad was absolutely flying before he did his injury. However I don’t think I would pinpoint just this position as it’s a long league and we have been close to winning the majority of our drawn games which had we done we could be up there challenging.
It’s obvious we need to get a settled back four and in my opinion another mobile central midfielder to work with and rotate with Pogba and Herrara.
Has it required huge adjustment to go from expecting to win just about every match to having to scramble even to make the top four?
Yes…..it hurts still, but really hurt the first two years, we had too much success, if you can say that.
However long you have been supporting United, how does Jose’s squad compare with the greats of the past, whether you saw them yourself or have to rely on old film?
It’s a very good squad, but I suppose you have to compare it to what you have to compete against. I could say it’s a better squad than any other apart from the approx five years either side of the treble, but then those squads we had at other times were still better than others. Right now you have a lot of other clubs with strong squads so when you compare it against those, we should be top three on squads in the league in my opinion.
*** Guess the Score and maybe win a prize at this link**** Guess the Score also benefits Bradley Lowery in a small way. And you still have time to help Olivia Hutchison raise lots of money for Bradley’s fund at her Just Giving page. She makes her parachute jump tomorrow (Saturday) and is already approaching three times her original target of £500
Does it please or annoy you that untold millions around the world proclaim themselves United supporters whether or not they could actually place Manchester on a map?
I don’t really think about it to be honest, but you get used to the same old jibes from fans. I am not from Manchester, but from north of Manchester close to where Accrington Stanley are (about 40 mins drive). There is a huge discussion to be had on why people pick teams, some of it being just because a brand is sold which is where I think you are probably coming from. United are good at that and we as United fans have to want that because its one of the things which makes us one of the best football businesses in the world and allows to us to compete in the market so well.
Wouldn’t Sunderland want some random people to inject some cash in to the club so you could bolster your transfer kitty?
Sunderland look doomed. About time, in your view, or a sad loss to the Premier League? I think it will be good for them as they appear stale and need to rebuild.
Part of clubs playing attractive and quality football is the confidence in what you are doing and Sunderland have been scrapping for too many seasons which I think has affected that. When you don’t play nice or well you don’t attract players of the right calibre. Maybe going down will give you that chance to address that, allow you to build with talent.
Any other thoughts on the club, the supporters, the city, region and, of course, Moyes and Januzaj?
Wow, widespread question there. I will tackle the last two. Moyes plays too rigid and very structured. It’s why when Roberto Martinez came in he prospered so much allowing some freedom of attack built on the structure and sound system Moyes had instilled, but also why Martinez was found out after a year and half as that started to slide away with Martinez’s influence.
I think I would keep him if I was Sunderland and allow him to bring you back up which I think he will do definitely within two years. Januzaj in my opinion was always over hyped and overated. He is OK, but not a top player and don’t think he will be either as he does not have enough in his game. I always say 25 per cent of the game is defending, which he is not good at, 50 per cent in retaining ball, movement, possession, tempo and the other in 25 per cent attacking skill. He has the latter, but struggles with the middle in my mind meaning he will always need carrying a little bit.
So what will be the finishing top four in order, and the bottom three?
Top four in order. Chelsea, Spurs, City, Liverpool (I think the fact they rest more often means they pip United with Arsenal slipping away. Bottom 3 – Sunderland (sorry), Hull and Boro (not in that order)
Your minimum expectations for next season?
I don’t expect anything anymore, but my minimum target would be top four. I think that’s all you can say is the least you would want and then push on from there, see how things roll and see if you can then win everything.
The Chinese takeaway (of so many Europe’s top players): a serious concern or just a fad?
Concerned people go there, as it’s quite clear money is ruling everything then. Before people had a balance of taking more money in the Premier League for a tough ride, a little less in Spain for not such a demanding game, but same champs quality, but if players start to go to China, there is no Champions League and no competing with the best anymore. Until of course they take everyone and become the best. Could that happen, could we become the new Scottish league??? Not sure, but let’s hope not.
Diving, play-acting and other forms of cheating: still worth trying to stamp out or so prevalent that we may as well give up and accept it as part of the game?
Definitely keep trying to get rid. I like the idea of captains only speaking to the ref, but I also say go strong for long!! By that I mean we keep coming in with initiatives, we do them for a bit then they slide away (eg pulling in the area on corners). It’s got better, but it still goes on. Same with other things. Diving is hard to sort, but if someone is rolling around on the floor when they have not been touched, the ref should be able to point to the big screen in the stadium and ask them to play it there!! You would have the entire ground peeing their pants with laughter, the guy on the floor embarrassed and that would stop him.
Follows on from that: best ref and worst ref in your view?
Best ref…….I think Michael Oliver probably at the moment, I have been impressed with him at times. Worst…..I think Anthony Taylor makes some real howlers so I am going for him!
Your own best and worst moments as United supporter?
Worst is that darn Aguero goal. It still hurts and you hear it all the time on the radio or TV and stomach sinks every time. I mean goal difference to win the damn league!!!! Best I would say between the Champs final last minute winners, the Juventus win sits in my mind, but I would go with that Arsenal win in the semis of the FA Cup where Giggsy scores that goal. That was amazing for everything in the game as I thought we had lost it a few times.
And from an impossibly long list of candidates, the best you’ve seen in United’s red?
Ryan Giggs!! He is the most decorated footballer in the English league game. For his longevity of quality of years he provided you have to say him. Best for the brief period he was there though was Cristiano Ronaldo. He could simply get the ball and score a goal. You would expect it!
Who should have been allowed no where Old Trafford?
David Moyes – and this is with hindsight only.
Will be you see our game? What will be the score?
I will be away in London so not at the game, but I will go for a 3-1 win for United.
* Nick Duckworth on himself: I am a regional manager for a facilities management/property company and have been supporting United since 1986/7 (memory serves me). I was born in 1979 so before this time I was given hand me downs of Liverpool shirts as my brother supported them for some reason. My father was not big on football, so it was my brother who coached me and pushed me in football and I think probably what in some ways made me a United fan, as who better to support than United to compete with my brother. I think with Captain (Bryan Robson) Marvel playing too who was my inspiration and hero at the time, there was no other love for me.
Interview: Colin Randall
And a peek at things we’ve done before on United …