With all these easy or easyish home draws, are we going to end up as cup winners twice over but relegated? Well, the easy bit comes top an end tomorrow night when Man Utd arrive for the first of the two legs of the Capital One Cup semis. Beatable these days but hardly a pushover for the Lads. Busby MUFC *, proper name supplied but withheld as a matter of personal choice (he cites a valid reason), was discovered at Twitter where he has no fewer than 38,000 followers …
Salut! Sunderland: Upper midtable mediocrity (by your standards), a scrape into the top six or a late surge to the title?
None of the above. I’m being optimistic but I think we still have it in us to hit the top 4. It’ll take a big improvement but hopefully we see some of our more influential players returning from injury to lead that charge. Robin van Persie has been a big miss for us as has Michael Carrick. We’ve also missed Phil Jones in recent games too. The players that have come in need to step up and show what they’re capable of and if they do we’ll be ok…I think…I hope!
Was Sir Alex Ferguson an unfollowable act or is David Moyes just the man, given patience on the part of board and fans, to lead United to a new era of glory?
Sir Alex was an unfollowable act for sure. He was arguably the greatest manager in the history of the British game and certainly up there with the greatest in Europe. For me, obviously, he was the best ever so I can see that it’s difficult to follow someone like that.
And maybe that’s part of the problem. There’s been a lot said about David Moyes and anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I’ve never been a fan of his but he’s in an impossible job because he’s trying to follow Sir Alex. I don’t think he has the character to stand up and lead this side as his own so a lot of what he’s doing seems a bit like a poor imitation of the great man. He is too in awe of the whole thing and he increasingly looks like a man who realises it’s all going wrong for him and he has no idea how to retrieve it!
It’s not solely down to him; the players need to step up and he wasn’t supported in the transfer market. He’s also had a number of injuries to deal with which some see as unlucky whilst others blame his training methods. I can’t really comment having never watched a training session but he’s certainly had a number of issues to deal with; some through his own actions and others through no fault of his own.
I hope he proves me wrong because I’ve heard great things about his coaching ideas and his huge thirst for knowledge in terms of European football. People more knowledgeable than me have said some amazing things about him so hopefully that starts to come through soon. It needs to for his sake to be honest because I personally don’t think that the Glazers will put up with not making the top 4 despite him having a 6 year contract. I think they were prepared for a transition period but I don’t think even Sir Alex thought it’d be this bad.
If not already covered in the above answers, is the Champions League trophy within United’s reach this season?
Anything can happen. We saw Liverpool win it in 2005 and they were by no means the best side in Europe and, similarly, Chelsea won it two seasons ago. It’s a cup competition so it’s one off games and we’ve shown we can beat the best having overcome an in form Arsenal side at Old Trafford.
Paradoxically, considering Moyes’s lack of Champions League experience, we’ve actually been quite good in Europe this season. We leathered Leverkusen home and away and they’re second in the Bundesliga having recently beaten the much vaunted Dortmund side in their own back yard. It shows that we do have it in us to win big games so there’s always a slim chance we may turn it on just at the right times.
Realistically speaking though, I think we’ll come unstuck sooner rather than later but as a fan you have to hope you can do it.
And how important, if at all, is the Capital One cup – even though we almost certainly need the distraction even less than you?
It’s a trophy. Moyes has never won anything as a manager so any trophy is vital for him. And it could be the kick-start he needs in the same way it was a kick-start for the likes of Rooney and Ronaldo when they won it. Until you win something you don’t know how it feels or what it takes so it’s important to get that first one out of the way. The manager needs it, the players should want it and the fans need something, anything to cheer about! It wasn’t our main priority at the start of the season but now it’s looking like our only realistic chance of some silverware.
What did you make of the whole anti-Glazer and FC United of Manchester phenomenon?
We could spend all day just talking about this alone. It’s a complex issue that can be summarised as follows: They’re sucking our club dry and the only way to get rid of them is to boycott games, which damages the club. I love United and they’re completely destroying the club from within but I’m not sure what I, as an individual, can do about it. I love watching United and it was a life ambition to get a season ticket and now that I’ve achieved it I don’t want to give it up.
They’re a huge part of our current problems having massively underinvested in the team and relied upon Sir Alex to keep us competitive on the pitch. The on pitch malaise has already resulted in over £200m being wiped off the value of the club which can’t have gone unnoticed by the Glazers. They treat United as a business so anything that hurts the team financially will certainly impact them.
The best case scenario is they cut their losses and sell up but that won’t happen so I just hope they recognise the deterioration and fund a few big signings sooner rather than later.
As a season ticket holder, what is your view of the worldwide army of professed supporters with only the vaguest diea of where Manchester is?
There are plenty of fans who don’t like the fact that Old Trafford has become a bit of a tourist attraction for our worldwide fan base but it comes with the territory. We’ve been hugely successful over the last 20 years or so and, naturally, that leads to a larger fan base around the world.
I have no real problem with it but there’s an argument to suggest that the influx of tourist type fans has had a detrimental effect on the atmosphere at United but having sat in several parts of the stadium recently I can safely say that it’s not solely down to these “daytripper” fans.
As long as I still enjoy going to the game, which I do, I pretty much let people support the club how they want to. Saying that, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a half & half scarf!
The links between our clubs have thinned with the departures of Keane and Bruce, and some of the players they and predecessors had at their disposal. Any vivid memories of those we still have (Wes Brown – our best defender when fit – John O’Shea or Phil Bardsley)?
He’s big, he’s bad, he’s Wesley Brown…! I do miss Wesley’s crunching challenges. Sir Alex once described him as the best natural defender in the country and he certainly showed why he was rated that highly in the 2007/8 season when we won the Champions League. I’m not completely blinkered; I know he wasn’t actually the best defender in the league but he was very good. He was also unforgiving in the challenge and would regularly leave strikers in a crumpled heap! I used to love watching that.
It’s a running theme through some of my favourite players that they do that; Robson, Keane & even Cantona weren’t ever afraid to get stuck in (sometimes illegally) and I think someone like Chris Smalling could learn a
thing or two from Brown.
My overriding memory of John O’Shea is in his debut season when he nutmegged Luis Figo playing against Real Madrid. It was class! We thought we had a real star on our hands then. He never quite developed that way but he was a very useful player. I think what O’Shea lacked was a bit of Wesley Brown’s aggression to be honest but he certainly had good talent on the ball. I also remember vividly his chip away against Arsenal; he was put through one on one with the keeper and I remember thinking that he looked like he was about to have a nosebleed but he nonchalantly lifted the ball over the keeper into the net to make it 4-2. Brilliant!
Did Sunderland’s disastrous start to the season, and the PDC farce, surprise you or did you see it coming?
Di Canio was a mistake in my opinion. He looks like someone who’s in the managerial game for the wrong reasons. He likes to be the centre of attention and dominate the limelight without actually focusing on the team. There’s only so far you can go with “passion”. I think Sunderland did well to get rid but I’m not so sure that the current incumbent was really that much of a step in the right direction. Saying that, I don’t think I can talk about managers too much considering the struggles we’re enduring with our current one.
From a long list, who are the greatest players you have seen – or wish you’d seen – in United colours? And who should have been allowed nowhere neat them?
It’s a very long list! I recently tried to compile a “Best United XI” team from players that I’ve watched live and it was very hard. Cristiano Ronaldo is probably top of the list in terms of his efficiency on the pitch. Literally every move he made was for the sole purpose of getting United closer to the penalty area and the goal. I absolutely loved watching him play.
In terms of sheer talent and arrogance you can’t look past Cantona. The way he transformed the side was unbelievable. His presence was palpable even from the stands. He was a great character as well which added to his aura on and off the pitch.
For me though, Roy Keane is everything that I love about football. He wasn’t the most talented compared to the likes of Cantona, Ronaldo, Rooney, Giggs etc. but he was a leader and a winner. I suspect part of my current love for him stems from the fact that he’s exactly the type of player we’re missing in our side right now. What an absolute beast of a player he was! Him and Robson are my two favourite players and the two players I would pick to bring back into our current side without a doubt.
There are plenty of players I would have loved to have seen in a United shirt. You do wonder how good Gazza could have been if Fergie had managed to sign him and, to an extent, Alan Shearer must wonder what might have been had he joined United instead of Blackburn and then Newcastle. But, of all the players that I’ve seen linked to United, two stand out as players I would have killed for! Zinedine Zidane and Roberto Baggio were linked (at different times) and I was ecstatic. This was way before the days of Twitter ITKs and newspapers were still the main source of information so you were more inclined to believe the stories, in particular if they were in the broadsheets. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be but they were brilliant players who would have improved any side.
Your own highs and lows of watching United?
My biggest high has to be the FA Cup Semi Final replay against Arsenal when Giggsy scored “that” goal. The match had everything in it. Two huge rivals, great goals, a saved penalty, an offside goal, a red card & one of the best winning goals ever scored in the FA Cup. And I was there to see it! You can actually see me, my brother and my cousins on the DVD firstly celebrating the penalty save and then after the game celebrating the result. It was an incredible atmosphere and a great game between the two best sides in the country. Arsenal weren’t far off from us that season and that result was probably the difference between the two sides in the league as it gave us the impetus to go on and win it.
My biggest low as a United fan is difficult, mainly because I love watching my team so I don’t consider any game to be much of a low. I think the lack of drive and passion from the players this season has to rank up there with one of my biggest disappointments. This season is the most lacklustre I’ve seen United for over 20 years.
Some of the players need to have a hard look at themselves because it’s not solely the manager’s fault. It’s easy to blame David MOyes but once they’re on the pitch the players have a responsibility to the shirt to give it their all. This season I’ve seen less & less of that which hurts.
It does tell you that they’re not fans in the same way that we are. Ultimately, the majority of them are paid to play and whilst they may grow to love the club they will never be as invested as a fan. That’s why we love the likes of Gary & Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and David Beckham. They were fans first and then they lived the dream. You’ll never a see a group like that again.
What will be this season’s top four in order and who – being as cruel as you must – is going down?
Top 4 in order: Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal, United (optimistic 4th place for us!)
Relegation Fodder: Crystal Palace, Cardiff (although Ole may make a huge difference), Sunderland (sorry but I think other teams have more about them). West Brom will get dragged into it though and West Ham will be in the mix too.
Will you be at our match and what will be the outcome over two legs?
I’ll be at the home leg hopefully but not the away leg. Unfortunately, with work commitments, mid-week games are way more difficult to get to for me.
I’d like to say I’m confident of winning it comfortably and in previous seasons I think that would have been true but this season anything is possible. We’ve been beaten at home by several teams that hadn’t had a sniff in donkeys’ years so the first game will be all important. Our away form isn’t actually that bad so if we can get a really good win at yours then I think we’ll do it comfortably. If it’s still tight when you visit us at Old Trafford you’ll have a chance. Overall, though, I think we’ll be too strong.
*Busby MUFC on himself: I was pretty much bullied into supporting United as a kid by my cousins who were, and still are, huge reds! I loved football in general and never really had a specific team that I followed but United were soon beaten into me and I’ve been following them ever since. I only recently got a season ticket because I couldn’t afford one beforehand but I’ve been going to games for years, scrounging spares off mates etc. and I’ve met some brilliant people at games and through Twitter and I absolutely love it. I’m a bit of a moaner on Twitter but when I’m at the games there’s nothing better than singing the songs, cheering on the team with your mates. I don’t get to Old Trafford as much as I’d like these days because I have a new son and my work commitments unfortunately get in the way but I’ll be going to a few more in the second half of the season I think. I travel quite a bit with work and end up watching United at stupid times in the early hours of the morning so I do have respect for the fans around the world who do it every week!
** Busby MUFC describes himself at Twitter as:
#Beard loving, beer swilling, sweary #MUFC ST holder, occasional blogger & reluctant doctor. Booze, betting, beards & Manchester United! #RiseAboveBeardism
Interview: Colin Randall
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