Diplomatic relations were established between Salut! Sunderland and Republik of Mancunia a couple of seasons ago. Scott the Red is the republik’s head of state and comes here from time to time to offer his thoughts or ask for ours on SAFC/United-related matters. Who better to preview the Champions’ League Final from a United perspective? And while we’re on, congrats are in order: Scott’s site came second in the EPL Talk blog-of-the-year awards (M Salut prefers to draw a veil over our final position). He’s a bit pessimistic about tomorrow night but loyally predicts a United win all the same …
Republik of Mancunia: delighted to come second or miffed at Arse Blog coming first?
Arse Blog is an excellent blog with a massive readership, so of course I can’t feel hard done by coming second to them.
After the last time you met in the Champions League final, is it fair to say Manchester United – for all their trophies and history – have something to prove?
You want to win every final you’re in but after the way we were outplayed in 2009, there’s the extra incentive to give a good account of ourselves.
The Premier title was won relatively easily in the end despite persistent doubts about quality during the season, What is your assessment of the quality of the present squad?
It was only easy after we beat Chelsea. Before that point, it was touch and go, particularly after our defeat against Arsenal. I think we’ve got a great squad this season but our central midfield has been lacking all season. Then Valencia and Park have missed most of the season and Rooney was awful for the first half of the season. We’re one or two players away from being a real force to be reckoned with, if winning the league and reaching the European Cup final doesn’t say enough about our current qualities.
* Do you have a ticket? Describe how your day will proceed. If not, how hard had you tried and where will you watch it?
Tickets for the final are like gold dust. We applied but were unsuccessful, twice. I think I’ll just watch the game in my local in Manchester. Had there been some big screens or anything half decent organised in London I would have fancied that.
* Who will be the key players on either side, and what is your reckoning on who has the stronger team?
Obviously Barcelona are the better team. All season people have been talking about how they are one of the greatest teams of all time whilst our side in the worst United side in years. But the mentality of our lads is brilliant, they are winners and you can’t underestimate the extra fight they’ll have in them because of 2009. Whether that fight is enough to compensate for their quality is something we’ll have to wait and see for. Park Ji-Sung will be our most important player I reckon but our midfield in general is vital. If Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick play like they did against Chelsea, we’re in with a chance. We need to involve Rooney as much as possible and just hope for that one perfect chance to fall to Chicharito.
What means more to you, winning this or winning the Premier?
The league is always the priority, particularly winning this 19th title. The record is broken and now we can push on with it. Winning the European Cup is massive but it doesn’t mean as much as it should if you’re not the champions of your own league as well.
;And how do you see next season developing in terms of additions, departures, SAF?
We’re a few players short of being a truly great side which will only get better. We’ve got so many young players in the side that the future certainly looks bright. If I could pick one player for us, it would have to be Modric. We’ve been lacking magic in the centre of the park this season and he could be the one to provide it. It’s interesting that we’ve gone for such a young keeper, but Cech, Hart and Reina were all young when they started in the Premiership so there’s no reason why it can’t work. We can’t afford a repeat of the shambles that came with replacing Schmeichel.
What is your view of the state of play on United ownership and financing?
It’s a nightmare and it’s disgusting the Premier League allowed it.
Three Sunderland questions:
Do you want Danny Welbeck back or can we keep him?
I’d like him to come back. He won’t be in our starting team but he would definitely have a part to play in the squad. If it didn’t work out we could always sell him to you.
Do you want Jordan Henderson?
I think he’s a bright prospect but it’s coming at the wrong time for me. In any other position on the field, I’d be happy to wait for a young player to develop. But we need someone great there and we need them now. If we had loads of cash to splash, maybe, but I can’t see it happening this summer.
If you’ve heard that Phil Bardsley won our player of the season award(s), or now that you know, is the correct United reaction “good on you” or “I’ll never forget that dive”?
Ha ha. I won’t ever forget that dive! But he’s a good lad and I’m pleased that he’s doing well for himself.
Cheating: did Barca v Real Madrid propel it to new depths or, as I ask oipposing supporters every week, is it just part of the modern game that old reactionaries should accept?
It is a part of the game and I don’t think we should accept it, but there’s no point getting too worked up about it until FIFA make dealing with it a priority. That semi final had been built up so much and I guess the fuss came because people were so annoyed that instead of it being all about the football, they were cheating left, right and centre.
* Your predictions: scoreline in United v Barca, top four in order in the EPL next season
I’ve got to be positive, even if in reality I know we’ll probably lose. 2-1 United
Interview: Colin Randall