Speaking With the Enemy – Man Utd
Big week for Chelsea as we play United twice within the space of four days, although I imagine the teams will vary greatly between the League and Cup games. We’ve searched high and low and have managed to find a Manchester United fan who seems quite a sensible chap. You can follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisW3102
How do you think United as a team is looking this season?
So far I see a lot of similarities with the last third of last season. We have been capable of scintillating football and have scored plenty of goals – we are top scorers in the league. But our defence has been leaking goals far too easily in all competitions – only two teams in the top half of the table have conceded more goals than us. This has culminated in some exciting games where we have had to rely on our uncanny knack of making comebacks far too many times (six to be precise, 4 in the league). Injuries to key defenders have obviously not helped matters and as they come back to fitness I think we will see some more solid defensive performances. Overall I believe we have had our customary slow start whilst managing to stay in touch with the top of the league. We always improve as the season progresses.
Are you happy with the business United did in the transfer window?
As everyone knows our transfer activity has been somewhat hampered over the last few years due to a certain parasitic bunch of Americans. But I can honestly say our two biggest signings before the start of the season brought huge excitement to myself and every United fan I know and follow.
Robin Van Persie is a world class striker who almost single handedly carried Arsenal into the top four last year, was top scorer and everyone’s player of the year. The other big signing of the summer was Shniji Kagawa – an attacking midfielder and an integral member of Borrusia Dortmund’s double winning team from last season. Many United fans, although excited, expressed the opinion that these were areas that didn’t necessarily need strengthening and that we are crying out for some midfield reinforcements. But if we had been told during last season that we would be signing the player of the year from the Premier League and Bundesliga we’d have probably told you where to go!
It has also been nice to see us bring in some young English talent. Nick Powell from Crewe is a player many Premier League clubs were sniffing around so to get him is great – we’re expecting big things from him. The one negative is the sale of Dimitar Berbatov. He was a firm fans favourite (mainly for choosing us over City on transfer deadline day). I always thought of him as a real Manchester United style player – bags of skill, flair and the ability to score a magical goal. The boss didn’t see a future for him and who am I to question his judgement :-}
Which Chelsea player should United be worried about? And vica-verca (RVP one would assume?)
The player that stands out to me is your little Spaniard, Juan Mata. He causes so many problems for defenders – just look at the way he tore Spurs to bits last Saturday. He is difficult to mark, assists lots of goals and is a deadly finisher. He has hit form the last few weeks and our midfield will need eyes in the backs of their heads on Sunday. The threat in Chelsea’s team isn’t limited to him though so I could go on! As for United’s threat, if I’d have answered this question a month ago I would probably have said RVP. But I’m going to plump for Wayne Rooney. Since he returned from injury a few weeks ago he has looked in great form, he looks fresh and he has a decent record against Chelsea at the Bridge. He has so much to his game and I see much of our forward play going through him.
What do you make of Rio’s stance on the John Terry “issue”?
The fact Rio is the brother of Anton makes his behaviour surrounding the matter a big talking point even though Rio is not involved in any part of what happened at Loftus Road or any part of the fallout. Rio is clearly a strong willed individual and he has used Twitter to indirectly state what he is thinking and what his opinions are. I found his ‘song of the day’ game particularly cringe-worthy and I have been close to unfollowing him several times due to things like that. But overall I think his stance has been everything we all expected. He has supported his brother when he has needed it and that can’t be criticised.
Do you think he got away lightly with his “choc-ice” tweet?
At the time Rio described the tweet he re-tweeted as ‘sarcasm’, which in my opinion is nonsense. It was offensive and he should count himself lucky he didn’t receive a ban from the FA. To my mind I thought United as a club should have dealt with it too (maybe they did behind the scenes). Unfortunately he is just another in a very, very long line of footballers who didn’t think before opening their mouth.
Do you think that after publicly defying Sir Alex, Ferdinand’s time at United is fast approaching the end?
This is a matter I was angry about at the time. I watched Fergie’s press conference last Friday when Fergie clearly stated he didn’t agree with Jason Robert’s plan to not wear the Kick It Out shirt and that all of his players WOULD be wearing it. When Rio decided not to I saw it as him defying his manager’s wishes, however it has been made clear it was a breakdown in communication and Fergie didn’t give a direct instruction to Rio between the press conference and the match. So whilst I disagree with Rio’s decision not to wear the shirt he didn’t defy his manager’s instruction. But Rio is approaching the last few years of his career now and I am sure the manager, as he always is, will be planning for a future without Rio. I see a big future at United for Chris Smalling and Phil Jones so when the time is right Rio will be moved on or his involvement will decrease.
Man City’s benefactor has allowed them to finally compete on equal(ish) terms with United – is this something you have welcomed?
In a word, no! I always promised myself I wouldn’t be bitter when City started winning things and I think I have kept my promise. They are a good club that have a good structure and they don’t take themselves too seriously. They have lived in our shadow for so long and who am I to begrudge their fans some success? They have built a great team so far and there is no use in complaining about the financial muscle and plastic silverware, they’re here to stay so we may as well enjoy the challenge they present. United have never shirked a challenge and I don’t see City’s as any greater than that of Chelsea’s when you built that great team under Jose. Having the number 1 and 2 teams in the league is brilliant for the city and creates a huge buzz so both sets of fans should embrace the situation and enjoy it – I know I am.
Who’s been your favourite United player of all time & why?
This is a pretty a tough one. In my lifetime I have been incredibly fortunate to have witnessed dozens of world class players represent United and have seen us win everything possible. That success has been built by Sir Alex but there are several players to whom I would attribute legendary status.
My favourites list rolls off of the tongue: Best, Charlton, Law, Robson, Keane, Giggs, Beckham, Ronaldo etc etc I could talk about these players all day. Fans of different ages would choose different players to me.. But I think it’s only fair to select a player I have seen with my own eyes. For me it is Paul Scholes. He made his debut in 1994 and miraculously is still one of our best players. He has it all, he is the most complete player I have seen at Old Trafford with the attributes of two or three positions rolled into one. He scores all types of goals, assists, is quick and his passing is up there with the very best currently playing today. OK, he can’t tackle to save his life and he has been known to lose his temper from time to time but nobody is perfect!!
However it is not just his ability that makes him my favourite and I hear fans of other teams sing his praises for this: he is a true professional. He has never wanted fame, never does interviews, never creates any fuss, and has never chased the money. He just turns up, trains, plays and goes home. He is obviously also a local lad and loves the club and has never even considered leaving. His presence at the club along with Giggsy helps to keep the younger players grounded and the squad hungry and I would hope the examples he has set continue to benefit the team. I was very sad to see him retire last season so when he came back I was like a kid at Christmas! I sincerely think he has a key role to play and have my fingers crossed he is still here come the start of next season.
Many opposition fans believe that due to Ferguson’s standing in the game & United’s dominance they are afforded more “sympathetic” refereeing – what’s your view on that?
My initial reaction when I read that question was ‘oh that old chestnut’! This is one of the greatest myths in sport. Did a Liverpool fan ask you to ask this one?! All joking aside I can’t see how any true fan can truly believe this is the case. Yes, United have benefited from many shocking refereeing decisions in the past but I can think of plenty of examples where we have suffered because of them (Drogba’s offside goal at Old Trafford April 2010 anyone :-}
For me, believing this is the truest form of bitterness any fan can demonstrate. We are all angry at the end of a match if we’ve lost the game because of a dodgy penalty or offside. My view is the decisions even themselves out so you should all get over it :-}
If you could choose any Chelsea player to join United, who would it be and why?
Hmmm, another tricky one. Chelsea have top quality all over the pitch and I’d probably take three or four. But right now I would go for Juan Mata. He is one of those players who can create something out of nothing – he scored a phenomenal volley against United in last season’s match at the Bridge and if not for a world class save from De Gea would also have scored a wining free-kick in the last few minutes. I think he has assisted the most goals in the league this season too so it shows how much of a threat he is. Mata is cut from the same cloth as David Silva at City and Santi Cazorla at Arsenal. They all have quick feet and dribble brilliantly. For me he’s a cut above the other two this season, yet he doesn’t always get in the Spain squad! At Utd we are blessed with creative players but little Juan would be a welcome addition to our ranks.
How do you think Chelsea will do this season?
It’s very early to make any firm predictions; there is so much football to be played. Chelsea have made a brilliant start though with comfortable wins against Arsenal and Spurs and have played some great football. Oscar and Hazard have settled very well and even Torres has shown glimpses of his old self. I think a lot of how the seasons pans out will depend on how well the squads are used. If Chelsea steer clear of serious injuries to key players such as Hazard, Torres, Mikel, Terry I see you mounting a far bigger challenge to the title than last season. The Champions League has been impossible to retain over the last 20 years and you have a tricky group to get out of too. But, with the experience gained from winning it last season I expect Chelsea to get to at least the semi finals. No team will want to come up against you. You also have the FA Cup to defend and with your recent history in the domestic cups and given how seriously you take them I expect another good run – quarters at the worst.
Finally, what are your predictions for the League and Cup games?
Chelsea v United is always a fixture both sets of fans look forward to. They are mostly tight games, aside from last season’s league game where we got ourselves out of jail after being 3-0 down. The league game will obviously hold more importance than the Cup game and I’d expect to see completely different line ups from both teams, although the size of the squads should mean that the teams in the cup game will still be reasonably strong and will make for a good match. As far as the League game goes I hope to see an entertaining game with United not conceding an early goal – that’s all we seem to be doing so far this season! I think it will be close with possibly a goal either way deciding it. If United play as well as we did versus Newcastle, Chelsea will find it hard to control the game.
Overall I see the midfield battle being key and whoever manages to control that area will have a great chance of winning. As a United fan I rarely feel inclined to say ‘a draw will be a good result’. But trailing you by four points behind means we can’t afford to lose and fall seven points behind, even at this early stage. So if we come away without losing I think that will be settled for. The cup game, not being as important means we can afford to be more experimental. Both teams will most likely field some youth and reserve players and its always exciting to see how the youngsters play.
I was at Wembley to see United win the League Cup three years ago so would love us to go far again. My predictions: League game: 1-2. Cup game 2-1.
Posted by Trizia