Abject apologies yet again to the growing number of people I hear about, from Canada to the North East, who cannot currently visit Salut! Sunderland – and may therefore not even see this apology – or can gain access only intermittently. Arrangements are in hand to shoot the techies.
For those who are still with us, here is our second “Who Are You?” preview from Old Trafford ahead of tomorrow’s game at the Stadium of Light. We turned to our old friend and sparring partner Scott the Red, who runs the mighty Republik of Mancunia fan site. Scott you may recall, was horrified by the incident in which Phil Bardsley was judged to have dived in hope of a sneaking a penalty equaliser in last season’s game. My initial thought was that Bardsley had simply fallen clumsily. Whatever the truth, he was booked for cheating and slagged off unmercifully at RoM for being a Salford lad who ought to have known better when United were still just about in contention for the title. Scott talks more fondly of other Sunderland folk with United links …
Salut! Sunderland: I take it that after your unexpectedly dropped points at Fulham, Everton and Bolton, while Chelsea bomb along, you’re tempted to fax Stamford Bridge conceding defeat in the title race.
We lost at Fulham and Everton last season. We drew this season. It’s frustrating to concede when we did but when Chelsea have played a few teams who will finish in the top half of the league, we’ll be in a better position to judge. Their first ‘test’ was away to City last weekend and they failed miserably. City didn’t even play well but made Chelsea look distinctly average.
Have you forgiven Phil Bardsley yet?
What is your view of the present state of the boardroom at Old Trafford? What will it take to resolve the ownership/financing structure to your satisfaction?
I’ve thought about this a lot and from the situation we’re in, there’s no ideal solution. You look like the model Barcelona have and that’s enviable, but it’s also impossible for United now. The ideal for us is to have owners who don’t raise prices every season and allow us to spend the money we make. I wouldn’t want a sugar daddy. But Forbes have us down as the most valuable sports franchise in the world (outranking Real Madrid, Dallas Cowboys, NY Yankees etc.) so an owner who would let us reap the benefits of that would be nice.
Salut! Sunderland says: for another United view, see our first “Who Are You?” preview by clicking on the gods – and divers – of Old Trafford
Not content with the existing links between United and Sunderland, Steve Bruce has now brought in Danny Welbeck. Do you think he has what it takes to become a top premier player?
I think he has what it takes to be a Premiership player, but a United player? Well, I’d like to think so. He’s still so young so it’s hard to tell. He’s shown some moments of class in his short time with the first team squad at United, so, why not? He was born 10 minutes from the ground, of course you always want players like that to succeed with the club.
Leaving aside the mischievous tone of the first question, what is your minimum expectation from this season?
The minimum expectation is to win something, whatever it may be.
And what will be the finishing top four in order, and the bottom three?
Top 4: United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs. Bottom 3: West Brom, West Ham and Wolves.
Which away fans make most impression at Old Trafford and which other Premier ground do you find the quietest in terms of home fans’ noise?
I’ve been disappointed with all the away teams this season. Saying that, I sit in the opposite corner, so couldn’t be further away. Newcastle were alright but I expected a lot more considering they bill themselves as some mental bunch, particularly with it being their return to the top flight. Any away team that scores sings for a bit but otherwise generally unimpressive. Stoke are pretty noisy, but that’s usually more to do with berating United players/fans than supporting their own players. Going away, Middlesbrough are rubbish and Blackburn are dreadful. It always amazes me how few chants so many clubs have.
We banged on a lot last year about diving, feigning injury and haranguing refs to book or send off opponents. People point fingers at Rooney and Nani but every club has its candidates (some say Bent and Malbranque go down with great ease). Is it time to abandon high-minded principles and accept cheating as part of the game?
If refs could watch video footage of games after the final whistle and hand out punishments for diving/feigning injury, I’d be all for it. But until it’s handled properly, there’s not much point in making a fuss. Until the FA take it seriously, how can the rest of us? Same goes for players backchatting the ref. Nobody wants to see their players cheat and you really don’t want to see your opposition cheat (particularly when they get away with it) but the FA, Uefa or Fifa don’t seem too arsed about dealing with it.
What do you make of Bruce’s progress at Sunderland, and how did he rate in your affections, when a player, by comparison with Keano?
Brucey brought out a video called Captain’s Log when I was a lad. I watched it over and over. Bruce is very much associated with our return to the top so will always be remembered fondly for that reason. He also is a genuinely nice chap, down to earth, who loved being a United player. Keano is very different but he has as much, if probably not more, respect from United fans. If Keano wasn’t a United player, say he had been at one of our rivals, I probably would have hated him. Fans tend to love players like that when they play for you. He was a proper scrapper. I remember seeing an interview with Fergie about him and, whilst not quoting word for word, he said something along the lines of… ‘Keane wasn’t the fastest player in the squad, but in training, he would always be the first to the ball.’ He dragged us through games and if not for his performance against Juve in ’99, we’d never have won the Treble.
Did the World Cup leave you cold or cannot you wait for the next one?
I’m not a big fan of International football but was strangely looking forward to the World Cup this summer, which is probably why it was an even bigger let down. None of the big players showed up. Spain and Holland didn’t blow teams away the way you imagined they would. They looked more like Inter Milan than Barcelona. Boring.
Best players you have ever seen in United colours – and worst?
Best players are Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Cristiano Ronaldo. The worst? Taibi, Prunier and Bosnich.
Will you be at our game? What will be the score?
I applied for tickets but didn’t get them. Story of my season so far where away days are concerned. I think we’ll win 2-1.
* Scott the Red on Scott the Red’s site:
Things with the site – click here – are going really well. We just had our busiest day ever a couple of weeks ago which was pretty cool. The biggest project we have going on at the moment is ‘Dig out your old shirts’, where we’re urging fans to go retro and wear shirts of days gone by instead of purchasing Glazer’s latest shirt, in a bid to put more financial pressure on them. Over the summer, we’ve been giving away old shirts every few weeks – one winner is pictured – which has been pretty cool.