It may be a long way to Tipperary but that’s the part of Ireland from where Dale O’Donnell* hails. And his heart lies at Old Trafford. Dale is the editor of Stretty News, which describes itself as ‘one of the most popular Manchester United related blogs in the history of man’. His passion is almost tangible and, while we may question the collective sense of humour breakdown (suffered by him, too) concerning that little Poznan dance at the Stadium of Light when City pipped them for the title, it is refreshing to encounter a United fan able to ‘enjoy these testing times’ …
Salut! Sunderland: Sixth top and out of the title race. An acceptable transition period or shocking underachievement?
Dale: This is Jose Mourinho’s first season. There’s need to panic or to overreact despite that’s what many fans nowadays specialise in. We see the progress our team has made under his management, and I firmly believe it will get better.
Jose can sometimes seem a bit of a caricature but it still fondly remembered by many at Stamford Bridge as the Special One. Will be be special for you and how long will it take assuming he’s given the time he may need?
He’s already brought a mentality to Old Trafford that we’ve not seen since the Ferguson years. United, regardless of not sitting on the top of the Premier League, are back to boiling p*** again. Rivals genuinely fear what may be next.
Looking at one recent match report (the 1-1 v Arsenal, picked at random after looking up United tops and flops and landing first on French site), I see plenty of praise for Pogba, Martial and Mata. Who have been the tops and flops for you?
Martial is still young and we were over-reliant on him last season, but what a promising talent Mourinho has on his hands. Now, it all depends on whether he can stop moaning to his agent and put his down.
Pogba is world-class. Idiots did their utmost to write him off from the start, like the Mirror did to Martial, but he’s got better the more he plays.
As for Mata, who doesn’t like our little Spaniard? He talks the talk and regularly walks the walk with sheer creative spark. Not a starter every week, though, which I almost understand.
Sir Alex’s reign was indisputably a great one by any standards. What do you make of all that has happened since, including the brief Moyes spell, and is there an argument that the place wasn’t left in as good an order as might have been expected?
It was a joke replacing the greatest manager of all time with someone that has won f*** all, but we can’t blame Moyes for accepting such a job.
Then the club had to go through a transition without not only Ferguson but David Gill, United’s former chief executive, who knew the club inside out and how to conduct transfer business. Ed Woodward took a while to learn just the basics.
Does the relative success of City make your own decline harder to bear or do United fans still see Liverpool as more the local rival?
City appointed Pep Guardiola and everyone thought the world would stop at their feet. It’s early days yet but I find it hilarious when people write Mourinho off and sing the praises of the former Barcelona and Bayern boss.
Liverpool are and will always be our fiercest rivals. I grew up hating Liverpool, and I don’t think my feels towards them will ever dilute.
Looking back over a succession of exceptionally gifted sides, which period and which players have given you greatest pleasure – and how do you think they compare with the past masters such as Best, Law and Charlton that you may not be old enough to have seen in a section?
I’m still a very young Red. One gifted to be spoilt under the Ferguson years, but I didn’t take it for granted and equally enjoy these testing times.
The best team of my time has to be 2008 when that mouth watering three-pronged attack ruled Europe. Solid defensively, good in midfield but outstanding in midfield.
Who knows how they would compare to the greats of United’s history. My grandchildren will probably ask the same question about Ronaldo in many years to come.
And who should never have been allowed anywhere near Old Trafford? I half-expect to see David Bellion mentioned.
Best and worst moments as a United supporter?
Best was winning the European Cup in 2008, but the worst has to be the season we lost the title on goal difference. The infamous ‘Arguerooo’ commentary was cancer to my ears.
Your thoughts on our three signings from United this season: Paddy McNair (who seemed to us to be just about coming good until his bad injury), the less-spotted Donald Love and the deeply unimpressive, so far [though now coming good – Ed], Adnan Januzaj?
Paddy McNair joined a club to meet his limited standard as a defender [just when we beginning to think you had none of that United arrogance, Dale! – Ed], but that should not be taken as an insult. I hope he comes back from his injury stronger and better before having a solid career in the top flight.
As for Januzaj, I am not one bit surprised to hear you’ve been unimpressed. His head is firmly up his a*** and there is a lack of willingness to learn, which I’m surprised is occurring under Moyes, a manager that previously got the best out of him [and may, we hope, be starting to do so again – Ed].
Is Sunderland’s time finally up and is it any more than you expected after last season’s latest great escape?
You know, I thought Moyes would just about cross the line and keep Sunderland up. But I’m not sure since hearing there won’t be much, if any, investment made in January. A sad state of affairs.
Any other views on the club, its fans, the city and the region?
Yeah, I thought we looked after you a bit when Steve Bruce was in charge with the likes of Brown and O’Shea. Then your fans took the p*** a bit and Poznan’d at our expense. That has to be one of the worst small-time things I have seen as a football fan, and I highly doubt it will happen this season if Sunderland face the inevitable.
Does the extent of the worldwide fan base, including countless people who’s struggle to place Manchester on a map, make you proud or cringe?
Ha! I couldn’t care less. Whenever I go in the world, I mention Manchester United and a conversation evolves. I have also met some wonderful people that come to Manchester from afar and spend thousands doing so! Football is a universal language, something we should all embrace.
This season’s top four in order and do you fancy United to win a trophy or two and where will they finish if not in your top four?
Top four: Chelsea, Arsenal, United, City/Liverpool
I think we’ll win the League Cup…
Sunderland, Hull and Swansea
Diving: an utterly dead issue since everyone seems to be at it, including those (eg Snodgrass) who insist they are just “not that kind of player”. Or is it still worth trying to eradicate?
Woah! I’m not sure how we tackle it other than hand out strict suspensions which I don’t see happening. There’s also a different between going down easy and diving – which, for referees, is difficult at times to call.
Best ref, worst ref?
Will you be at the game and what will be the score?
I won’t be there due to work. My old man will and he’ll be sure to get behind the team unlike others that boo their own (Fellaini). United 3-0 Sunderland.
Interview: Colin Randall