The Manchester United ‘Who are You?’: champs despite City slaughter

David, with son, at Old Trafford

Canadian, married to a Liverpudlian whose heart lies at Anfield and working with a diehard Mackem, David Tack* really ought to reconsider his allegiance. But it’s Manchester United for him and he’s as avid from afar as anyone whose journey to Old Trafford can be made on foot. I make no comment about the thought process that inspired his choice of club and his answers to Salut! Sunderland reveal a thinking man’s approach to sport. Sadly, for us, he sees Saturday’s game going to script …

Salut! Sunderland: If I wasn’t sure where to start, I am now: which Old Trafford goal feast do you want to talk about, the one against Arsenal or the six Man City put past you?

Neither and both I suppose. While I did enjoy seeing the Gooners get a spanking, I was certainly gutted by our spanking from City. Overall, I don’t think either result was good for the league. Games among the top teams in the division should be fierce and closely contested affairs. When they become blowouts I feel a bit cheated by having not seen a great competition among the best teams in the best league in the world.

After years, decades even, of being able to laugh at City, they are now – if only for now – top dogs in Manchester. Is that good for the game or just a source of deep pain for United supporters?

Anything that makes the PL more competitive and less predictable is good for the league, the teams, and the supporters. The Manchester Derby has tended to be a bit of a limp, predictable affair in the past and now it has become a fierce nail-biter; how great is that! Now I have another team to hate besides Chelsea; how great is that! Besides, we’ll still see them finish as a bridesmaid at the end of the season; priceless!!

We wonder each year whether it will be Sir Alex’s final season. Have we reached that point now and how do you assess his reign?

For me, Sir Alex is a truly amazing manager and one of a kind. When you think back on his 25 years you realize that he has repeatedly adapted to an evolving game and continued to create a new dynasty of players every 7-8 years. Apart from his remarkable ability to spot and develop new talent he also knows when to move players on when they are past their best. When you look at the modern game you have to marvel at his ability to manage his squad through so many different cup runs all at the same time without breaking stride. All United supporters want him to reign for many more years and rue the day when he finally steps down.

Would you welcome a City-style takeover bid – Qatar is always being rumoured as interested – to bring massive new investment to the club?

The Glazers are tight-fisted with their money and treat Manchester United as a business. That is the way of North American owners and, frankly, you can’t argue with the results. Everyone wants to see heavy spending on big star players but no one wants to see their club’s debt get out of hand. The Glazers have done some financial restructuring to manage the debt so I’m not concerned and I’m sure we will be fine under the new “fair play” rules. Magical new billionaire owners that will shower wealth on the club is always a compelling idea but the reality never lives up to the promise.

Is it exhilarating or occasionally a bore to go into every game,home or away, expecting to win? What were you own minimum and maximum expectations for this season?

It’s always exhilarating. Manchester United are a giant with a big target on its chest. Every team they play gets up for the game and brings their best so every game has the potential to be exciting. United also play some beautiful football so it’s never a bore. As a minimum I expect them to win the Premier League; as a maximum I expect us to win the Champions League.

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What is your assessment of the stick United often get for being more corporate global brand than proper football club?

Anyone who says that Manchester United are not a proper football club doesn’t understand the game at the highest levels. I would agree that they are not a proper “county” football club but they are a proper international club that plays consistently at a global level of competition. At that level, global branding and marketing is inevitable and necessary.

Any knowledge or impressions of Sunderland: the club, its fans, the region?

I’m fortunate to have a rabid Sunderland fan here in the office (Jeremy Robson) so I’ve gotten a sense of the Sunderland passion and traditions. I think Sunderland is a wonderful club with outstanding fans and 130 years of history. Your fans are known for their faithful, passionate, and loud support. With the Tyne-Wear Derby to fire up the passions, what more could you ask for.

Roy Keane, Phil Bardsley, Danny Welbeck, Dwight Yorke, O’Shea and Brown, Jonny Evans, and of course Steve Bruce plus many more … any thought son the player/staff links between our two clubs?

Sunderland has provided a graceful trajectory to retirement for many Manchester United alumni. Not hospice care by any means but a nice retirement job none-the-less. Fortunately, our former players who take on manager roles at Sunderland seem to forget everything they learned at United. (Jeremy: Sorry, we Canadians can’t resist a little trash-talking; we also say “sorry” a lot.) To be fair, we owe Sunderland a great debt in their development of Danny Welbeck. His loan to Sunderland was the making of him and he was well supported by Steve Bruce and the fans.

Who is the greatest player you have seen or would have wished to see in United colours and who should have been allowed nowhere near them?

There are many players that have provided a season or two of greatness at United but only a few that have provided a long career of loyal greatness. For me, Giggs or Scholes fit that bill with many, many years of continuous excellence, development of young players, role models on the field, and continued involvement off the pitch for the club they love. That is greatness. There is also a long list of players that should never have been allowed to wear the jersey but a wealthy club can afford to get it wrong every once in a while. I suppose one great player that I think should never have come to United is Berbatov. He is a remarkably talented and skilled player but his skills have always been a poor match for United’s fast-break, counter-attacking style of play. He’s good to have around as a utility player for the right type of opposition but I think he is wasting his career with us.

And what are you own highs and lows of supporting United?

Winning the Champions League against Chelsea in Moscow was a definite high. Watching John Terry lose it for Chelsea with a massive ass-plant during his penalty shot was icing on the cake – I still giggle when I think about it. The biggest low for me was our Champions League loss against Barcelona last year. We looked second-class and that hurt.

Living in Canada, do you have to settle for always seeing them on the TV or do you get over for games from time to time? To what lengths do you go to see them when they are on the box?

I have been to Old Trafford to watch a great game against Arsenal and I’ve seen them on tour in North America in the summers. For the most part we watch them on TV, in the pub, or livestream through the web; either way we never miss seeing them play. My wife and I plan to head over for a game in the spring – can’t wait!

Image: addick-tedKevin

Will Danny Welbeck be a great United striker, if he is not already?

I think Danny Welbeck is emerging as a great striker. He’s growing into his full size, learning his craft, and gaining in confidence. I think we will see his full abilities in a couple of years when his football begins to mature; at 20 he is only beginning the journey with lots of potential.

I believe you are involved in coaching young players. What is your view on the responsibilities of top, high-earning footballers towards the young boys (and girls) who see them as role models and idols?

I think all players have a huge responsibility to the fans who pay their wages and the youth that model their play and their behavior after them. Bad behaviour among top footballers can be modelled by young players and reduce the quality of the youth game. For example, abusive behavior against referees is commonplace in the Premiership so young players think it’s ok to treat youth referees in the same manner. As a result, we have a huge problem keeping youth referees in the game; no youth referees equates to no youth soccer. Same with diving and faking injuries, and other nonsense that is common in our game. In the end it all reduces the quality of the game we love and it all starts with the behaviour and professionalism of the top footballers.

This was the Eduardo Question, after his dive vs Celtic, and then the Walcott Question after he owned up to diving. Now it is the Barton Question. That covers diving and feigning injury but what form of cheating most angers you and what should be done about it, of it is not already too late?

Faking injury to draw a foul, a card, or a sending off is criminal in my books. It’s unsportsmanlike, it’s unprofessional, it’s unmanly, and totally unacceptable. We are a hockey culture here in Canada where faking injury is unheard-of. If you are flopping and rolling around on the ground in our sports there had better be a bone sticking through the skin somewhere. If you are suspected of faking an injury you will get a beating sufficient to discourage you from trying it on again. I think players with questionable injuries should be held off the field for longer to discourage the ploy but, frankly, I think it is up to the fans to register their dissatisfaction with any player that does it. It disrespects the game, and the players that do it disrespect their club and their fans.

Club versus country: who comes first for you and why?

For me it’s simple. I’m Canadian not English so it’s always club over country for me. Being a former colony doesn’t count for much there…. J

Who will finish top four, in order, in the Premier, who will go down?

I think the Premier League will finish Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Tottenham. I think Blackburn, Wolves, and Wigan will drop.

How will you follow our game and what will be the score?

I will be glued to my television set to watch Manchester United 2 – Sunderland 0. I don’t fancy your chances at Old Trafford, eh.

* David Tack on David Tack: I’m the vice-president of operations for a medium-sized human factors consultancy. I have four children who all played youth football and both my wife and I play recreationally. She was born in Liverpool and remains an avid supporter so the Liverpool v Manchester United games are a tense affair in our house. I am the deputy chairman of our local city club (Guelph Soccer) and I have coached youth soccer for more than a decade at the city competitive level.

I have been a Manchester United supporter for about 11 years. My reasons back then for choosing United as my team were based purely on pragmatism, even back then Manchester United was guaranteed to have a lot of television coverage and you wanted to be able to watch the team you support. Now we can watch all Premier League games and many Championship games on television but Manchester United remains my team now and forever.

Interview: Colin Randall

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2 thoughts on “The Manchester United ‘Who are You?’: champs despite City slaughter”

  1. This is a nice article. It’s an interesting perspective from someone who clearly folllows the game and understands the sport. The fact that David can speak so knowledgably about this subject evidences a lot of the things he says about the development of the game on the world stage. I wonder is he does feel as such a real football fan whether he was born/lives on the wrong side of the water in some ways! 🙂

  2. I liked David’s comments about the response of ice hockey players to feigned injury. This is something that modern players could learn a great deal from. The notion of one player lifting the offender to his feet in order to give him a bat in the mouth is hugely appealing. It would certainly stir the crowds if their was some collective support for dealing with those who fake it in this way.

    It used to be the case that a player wouldn’t want to show his opponent that he was hurt. Players took some pride in that. It’s a nonsense that has crept into the game increasingly over decades and is a real blight these days. The idea of another player being encouraged to kick the cheat up the arse as he lay on the ground could just catch on. That’s what Birflattians would have done in my youth.

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