TF: Obvious question first, how is life without Alex Ferguson?
RM, UWS: Unpredictable, unnerving but ultimately exciting. Going to Old Trafford and seeing United win comfortably isn’t the given it once was and that has been reflected in the decent atmosphere this season. The club and the new manager need our backing at the minute and they’re getting it. Things seemed to have settled down after a turbulent start and a cohesive team is starting to emerge. Hopefully we can now go on a Fergie’esque unbeaten run.
TF: There was a lot of rumour Mourinho was in line and anted the Man Utd job – do you think Man Utd have missed the boat in getting him?
RM, UWS: There is also a rumour that Mourinho thought he was in line for the job and cried when he found out Moyes was getting it. A few seasons under Jose would have been fun and a great opportunity to add a couple of European Cups to our cabinet but his ability to stick with a club any longer than five years is still in question and United are a club that needed continuity and stability. Time will tell but I think we’ve got the right man.
TF: What is the perception of Moyes amongst Man Utd supporters so far?
RM, UWS: Reds set their stall out during the week he signed and fall into two camps. Many, myself included, are fully behind him and will give him the time he needs to grow into the role and make the position his own. Then there are others were against him joining the club from the start and aren’t shy in expressing this. Hopefully they will be won round.
TF: Ferguson memorably went five years without winning anything at Old Trafford, do you think Moyes would be allowed that kind of fallow period?
RM, UWS: The United that Ferguson inherited is a world away from the one Moyes took on both on and off the pitch. There will be a grace period I imagine as the new man puts his stamp on the team. As for five years? With the resources at his disposal I think he’ll need to be winning something within two or three.
TF: I’ve heard some criticism of the squad left behind by Ferguson, that it was on the wane, what do you think?
RM, UWS: I think the squad definitely needs strengthening but I wouldn’t say it is on the wane. Some of the younger players on our books such as David de Gea, Danny Welbeck, Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Adnan Januzaj are class acts and they’re only going to get better. The midfield issue is an on-going one though. I think we’ve been left behind somewhat in that department and it’s something Fergie should have addressed earlier. Losing Pogba to Juventus was a huge blow especially after watching his progress in the reserves. He could have been the answer. I don’t blame him for wanting out as we played Rafael and Ji Sung Park ahead of him during an injury crisis. Hopefully though after seeing the squad at close quarters Moyes will address this area of the field next summer.
TF: Were you surprised by the lack of transfer activity in the summer at Old Trafford?
RM, UWS: Yes and no. I knew the Rooney situation would drag on and take up valuable bargaining time. I also knew that as well as a new manager coming in we also had a new chief exec arriving at the same time and that would bring its own set of problems. That said it was farcical that United were swept up in a deadline day fiasco. Business should have been conducted much earlier on. We’re not Stoke after all. Hopefully lessons will have been learned for next time.
TF: Ryan Giggs recently turned 40 and is still playing in the PL – where does he rank in the Man Utd hall of greats?
RM, UWS: Up there with the very best. It’s frightening to think that I was 10 years old when I first saw him play. I’m 32 now and he’s still turning in influential performances. God knows how long he’ll go on for.
TF: For the last 30 years, Man Utd’s biggest rivals were always perceived to be Liverpool, given their achievements and geographical proximity – but the Mansour money going into Man City has changed everything – how has the relationship between the two Manchester clubs changed lately?
RM, UWS: The derbies are more intense for a start. It was a kind of lose lose situation for us when they were shit. A draw felt like a defeat and a close win always felt like it should have been more such was the gulf in class. When I was at school city were in the old third division. The derby simply wasn’t contested. But it’s hard to take them in their current guise. To me they’re not city any more. They feel manufactured. Football rivalries should feel natural and ours doesn’t. It’s almost like the fixture means more to Sky and the rest of the country than it does to us. Liverpool for me is still the bigger game. There’s a tension that you get in those matches that simply isn’t there to the same degree in the Manchester derby. Liverpool are a worthy foe, city aren’t. Yet.
TF: How has Moyes set the team up this season – what are your strengths and weaknesses?
RM, UWS: It’s too early to really assess what Moyes wants to do with this side. What he has done is rejuvenate Wayne Rooney, our best player by far, and give everyone else a chance. Some, like Kagawa, have seized this opportunity to shine. Others haven’t.
TF: This season Man Utd seem to be conceding the kind of last minute goals you have been better known for scoring – has there been a change in the Man Utd mentality or am I just reading more into something than I should?
RM, UWS: The latter. We’re in transition at the back and as a result daft mistakes are being made. We have Vidic and Ferdinand, prolific over the past five years but now getting on in years, and three potentially world class centre halves in Smalling, Jones and Evans who need games to realise their full potential.
TF: What’s the current situation with the Glazers? Ferguson persistently sticks up for them but for fans they seem to be as loathed as ever – what’s the real story?
RM, UWS: They’re opportunists who saw a cash cow that could be fattened up and exploited further. They bought it with the least risk possible to themselves and thanks to the sheer brilliance of Sir Alex Ferguson it was a gamble that paid off. They have a London office where they take in millions in sponsorships from around the world and don’t seem to be in any hurry to speak to the fans. On a personal level they aggressively hiked prices to ones my match-going mates couldn’t afford. My seat was £27 when they took over. It’s now £38. My mate’s dad would rather take his wife on nice holidays and watch the match in the pub than pay over a grand a season just for home games. This saddens me.
TF: What’s your perception of what has been going on at Newcastle United under Mike Ashley, Kinnear and Pardew?
RM, UWS: Ashley strikes me as an interesting character. He’s obviously no mug with the money he’s made outside of football but you can’t do things on the cheap year in year out. Pardew got some real bargains and I respected that when things were starting to click 18 months ago. As for Kinnear… I’m not really sure what he’s about. I just imagine him sitting in a broom cupboard with a Fisher Price telephone making pretend calls to pretend players and agents.
TF: There has been some rumours of Cabaye interesting Man Utd previously – have you heard anything at your end?
RM, UWS: United watch up to about 20 players at a time so he could be on our radar.
TF: What do you make of the current Newcastle United team?
RM, UWS: I’ve not seen enough of it to make a proper assessment. I will on Saturday. My Geordie workmate thinks things are getting better though. He moved down here 15 years ago and married a girl from Bolton. His kids are into NUFC and they watch games over the internet as the only matches his local shows are United and city.
TF: Where do you think Man Utd will finish this season?
RM, UWS: Top four realistically. We’ve got the potential and experience to go on a run. Who knows?
TF: Where do you think Newcastle United will finish this season?
RM, UWS: Top ten? I’m guessing.
TF: Tell us about Man Utd’s independent fanzine scene.
RM, UWS: It’s alive and well. We’re blessed with three great printed fanzines that are sold around the ground on a matchday. Red Issue combine Private Eye style investigative work with cutting satire. United We Stand offers a balanced, informative read from a variety of decent writers who you’d almost certainly love to have a pint with. And then there’s Red News, the Cockney Reds’ fanzine and oldest of the three.
TF: What’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?
RM, UWS: 2-1 United. Manchester United.
Many thanks to Rob for his time.