Naturally, the story in the media following our encouraging nils apiece draw at Old Trafford on Saturday was how United (sic) had failed to batter Newcastle and the Reds’ need or otherwise for a cutting edge in attack. I certainly could not argue with the stats which had the home team with 70% of possession but if any team had the best chances it was Mitro’s header which came back off the bar and Thauvin stretching and almost connecting with a ball flashed across the goal in the last few minutes. There you go, that’s the way football coverage is in this country quite a lot of the time. It’s partly why the likes of us exist to offer an alternative view, as partisan as a fanzine kind of thing will always be.
No-one with any real understanding of football would claim anything other than Man Utd is a substantially better team than Newcastle United. They have a bigger and better squad. That is just a statement of fact. But we dug in and I’m always happy when we get to HT and there is still something to play for. There was and I thought as the game went through into the second half, we became more comfortable and the realisation grew is that with the retirement of Ferguson, Old Trafford has lost something of its intensity as the old bastard glowered from the touchline using his Machiavellian football genius to squeeze something from a game his team may not have particularly merited. That isn’t there any more and nor are there the same players with the edge to put an average team like us to sleep. We have a chance there now more than we have had for a long time. I fear going to Stamford Bridge and the Etihad more than I do Old Trafford these days.
But I felt we were full value for our draw. We have a new coach and several new players and we’ve just completed a pre-season training which the sub-text drawn has been particularly inadequate. Carver is getting the blame for that but that neatly absolves Charnley and Carr of any involvement. Oh well let’s just hope we get fitter a bit faster.
I thought we looked very well organised and as someone who has been a big fan of Colo for a large part of his time at United, I was delighted to see him roll back the years and put in an excellent performance. I’m not a massive fan of Steven Taylor but Colo does perform better with the lad from the coast alongside him. Haidara has been under the microscope for a while and some would like to see a LB come in (me amongst them) but I felt he had a good game and the whole backline looked like a unit including Mbemba jobbing in at RB as a result of Janmaat’s suspension. It’s somewhat satisfying for me to know our Dutch RB won’t necessarily walk back into the side after his ill-discipline.
It would be mean-spirited to say any player didn’t perform well and I felt it was a good all round team performance of the type we have to deploy at venues such as this over a season. It augurs well that we managed with corners (still gash at taking them mind) and that we have this kind of game plan in our locker. I had a lot more confidence in McClaren barking orders from the touchline on Saturday than I ever did with Carver (though that’s perhaps damning with feint praise) and the result should give everyone a lift going into the League Cup tie tomorrow and a tough game with Arsenal this Saturday coming.
We are now in the bewitching hours of what remains of the transfer window. We’ve done a lot more business than we’ve usually done though gaps remain in the first team and I believe we have priorities at CH and CF for this window if we are to make real progress this season and achieve Ashley’s ambition for a top eight finish and runs in the Cups. We may need some players to leave and it will come as no surprise to see the names Williamson, Goufrann and Obertan linked with moves away as we have seen Cabella, Abeid, Vuckic move towards the exit doors. It would also appear that Tiote and Cisse are in that area of wanting one last big contract and with United’s policy of signing players with a sell-on value probably aware they won’t be getting one at St James’ Park. They will likely be canny earners I’d imagine. Sissoko is another who may have reached the point on a Charnley spreadsheet of needing to be sold though I expect his injury might heal-up after this weekend if no club has come up with the readies. For me, he’s not done enough to earn a move to a CL playing club in the PL and were he to be moving to AC Milan he might games in the group stage at some point but in many ways, that move could be viewed as downward in terms of his career. I know, it sounded mental when I typed that up – a move from Newcastle United to AC Milan being a step down – such are the modern phenomena of football finances, mega TV deals and the Champions League.
I’m not really arsed about how much we spend. For a club in our position I don’t see that alone as a measure of how well or otherwise the club is being run or its ambition. I’ve always felt our squad should be stocked with a mix of big money signings where they need to be made, cute deals like Cabaye and Ba but also players being brought through the Academy as well. There seems very little coming through the Academy right now, we’ve spent a decent sum of money (not before time) so if Carr knows some good central defenders going for a song then he should get to work.
Demba Ba gave us good value for money despite having his eye on his next move almost from the moment the ink dried on his United contract but I think for strikers you generally have to tip up a good slice of wedge. Our name has been linked with Charlie Austin all summer. There are some who believe there is no chance of him coming to United because of his age (26) and how that reduces his sell on value but also because of his injury-record. I’ve had two pretty well connected people tip me off that the club do want to sign him and the deal is all but done but for QPR holding out for the maximum they can get for him. I don’t believe for one second the talk of him being offered a new contract at Loftus Road against a background of their reduced income, Financial Fair Play and potential earnings in the Premier League. Who might be after him? Well, it would seem not West Ham given Sullivan’s silly comments about him last week. Chelsea? Don’t make me laugh, he isn’t at the level and although his name has been linked with Spurs and Everton I don’t really think he’s what they need. Villa? Sunderland? Well, it doesn’t appear as though Sherwood want him or that Sunderland have a pot to piss in at the moment. Smiley face thing here. It is also true that whatever Austin’s value really is now, next week on 2/Sep/15, if he’s still at QPR it will plummet as he’s in the last year of his deal in West London. It seems Fernandes has run QPR with the prudence of a drunken sailor on shore leave for a while but this all seems a bit crazy even for him and QPR.
Do we need him? Yes, I think we do. Mitrovic has a load of promise but this is his first season and there will be times when fatigue and loss of form will kick in and that’s without considering injuries and suspensions. Cisse isn’t durable and I’d guess is keen to move on himself with Galatasaray a potential destination. Who knows if De Jong will ever be fit for any length of time and Riviere has all the threat of a one legged man at an arse kicking party. They should look to cut their losses on him ASAP.
As ever, we will watch with interest and draw our conclusions just as you will and as do every fan of every other club in the country at this time of year.
A number of long term Mags I know have been put off from going away with United in latter years. Obviously the woeful performances haven’t helped but what is often quoted is the behaviour of what has appeared to be a growing number of our fan-base. I know I’m rapidly turning into an old pain in the arse but there is something bewildering about throwing beer about in stadium concourses. Banter, apparently. It’s a small irritation of mine that within our chant of United, United some have in the Leeds style started to insert Toon. We really don’t need to do that in my opinion. But its shite songs about empty seats (ironic as we often don’t take a full allocation ourselves), such and such a place being a shit hole but games on Merseyside being a particular worry given songs about benefits, the dole, starving Scousers, rats in bins and all other Chelsea-like shite sung by people from Gateshead, Wallsend, Jarrow, North Shields, Ashington etc. Everton last season was horrific in the Upper Bullens. How I wished a kid in a Stone Island jumper his Mam had bought for him had met some of the County Road Cutters I did an excellent job of avoiding in the 1980s. But Saturday was better at Old Trafford. I didn’t see or hear any Munich shite that I have previously feared was creeping in down there and generally our lot gave an excellent account of themselves with a 90-minute non-stop support. Okay, we need to relearn the real words to the Blaydon Races and not sing it at 6000 bpm as some kind of Blue Monkey hard-house anthem but it was better and it was more like what we are about 10-15 years ago. It was good.
Hey, it’s the League Cup tomorrow night and its even at home to lower league opposition. Personally, I think we should have enough in the squad to give some of our regular first teamers a rest and this is a game we play the likes of Williamson, Goufrann etc from the off and any youngsters we might have who could potentially do with a proper game at SJP. We should have enough to beat Northampton. Cobblers, I hear you cry and those of us a certain vintage will immediately think of Eric Morecambe and Christmas Specials. Wahey.
Back to the game at the weekend or rather the coverage of it. It is insulting and ignorant for commentators, the media and anyone else to refer to Man Utd as “United” when they are playing us or any other club with that suffix to their name. We weren’t the first team to be called United, I believe that was Sheffield but we were well before Man Utd (1892). Indeed there is considerable room to believe that when the team in Red looked to change their name from Newton Heath (the choices Celtic, Central and United) they were in such admiration of our Edwardian achievements that we influenced the choice. Incidentally, their stadium isn’t in Manchester (its Trafford). I’ve long put it down to a post SKY bollocks but it grates when I hear someone we all admire as much as Alan Shearer joining in the practice. Highly respected local journalist and good egg George Caulkin (The Times) has tweeted that it is the required house-style of certain newspapers that this is now required. It boils my piss. It should be stopped and I think you, yes you, should do something about it.
As a start, we can all start calling our club United as frequently and as often as we can (as we used to before the fashion for Toon came from the underground to go mainstream) and we can check anyone we feel is failing to recognise the tradition and heritage of our club. I know, I get worked up by all kind of shite. It can’t be good for me.
Have a great week.