Inside the Opposition: United (Part 1)

Robert Pollard

Scott the Red is arguably the most prominent United blogger there is. His site, Republik of Mancunia, is a treasure trove of United information, and the must-read blog for many United fans. He’s also editor-in-chief of the relatively new By Far The Greatest Team site, which has become one of my first stops for football articles. I interviewed him ahead of the derby and this is what he said.

United are consistently letting the first goal in but coming back to win. What’s your assessment of United’s season so far?

We aren’t playing very well but we’re top of the league, so I can’t complain too much. The injuries and constant rotation is seemingly having a negative impact on our performances which is frustrating. There have been flashes of brilliance and we’re scoring for fun, but the defence/midfield have a lot to answer for with all these early goals. We’re almost half way through the season and we’ve got away with it so far, but obviously I’d rather not have to see us go behind every week.

How hard is it going to be to replace Ferguson? And who would you most like to see take the job on?

It’s hard to know. A few years ago people like Martin O’Neill, Roy Keane and Mark Hughes were the favourites for the job. Things change quickly in football. The obvious choice seems to be Mourinho. Replacing Ferguson will be the biggest football appointment of all time and needs someone with broad enough shoulders to take all the shit that will come with every defeat and failure. He is also guaranteed to win you trophies. I don’t like him much but I don’t think we can afford to be picky when in the financial situation we’re in. We have to be successful or we’re fucked. The dream would obviously be to see Solskjaer come back at some point. He’s doing a great job in Norway but who knows.

Ferguson’s tinkering of his goalkeepers seems odd. From where I’m standing, De Gea is clearly the best ‘keeper you have. Why is he rotating them so much?

Who knows? He made a similar mistake with Tim Howard and Roy Carroll a few years ago. Howard had just been named PFA Keeper of the Season but that wasn’t enough to keep him in the team when he started making mistakes. The situation with our keepers baffles me. De Gea is quality and should start every game in the league for us.

Over the years, City fans have been said to be obsessed with United’s fortunes, which they undoubtedly have been. But do you feel United fans are becoming too concerned with us now?

Too concerned? No. We’ve spent the past 20 years challenging for the title and so you always have one eye on the team challenging alongside. I was far more consumed in the rivalry with Arsenal during the late 90s/early 00s than I am City now. That was probably because the managers hated each other and always talked shit about each other in the press, the players hated each other and the games were always proper feisty. With City, there’s none of that. Our rivalry revolves around the fans, but there’s no issues between the players or managers, and derby day has been fairly tame for years. If City’s success is more long-standing, then maybe things will change, but for me personally, whatever is said from United fans now is nothing like what we’ve heard from City fans for decades, because we don’t have the same jealousy. Of course we all wish we’d won the league last season, but there was only goal difference separating us on the final day, not a division or two.

A few of my mates who go to United away matches complain that your fans are singing about ex-players far more than any of the current ones. Have you noticed that?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong in singing about ex-players. It’s nice to sing for the players we have, and the likes of Evra, Carrick and Hernandez are without a deserved chant, but it’s good to remember the players who’ve contributed to making your club what it is.

Will Vidic and Ferdinand be at United next season?

I don’t think Rio will be and if we get a good offer for Vidic, he will probably go too. Fergie said he always regretted cashing in on Stam and so that might keep Vidic at the club. Rio has been here for over 10 years now though and as an injury-prone 34-year-old, I wouldn’t begrudge him turning down our one year deal on a pay cut for a longer deal worth more elsewhere.

Why can’t United find that box-to-box midfielder they are so desperate for?

How many of them are there? They’re so few and far between. They’ll cost a bomb and their wage demands will be ridiculous. For some reason, Fergie doesn’t seem that arsed about finding one either.

I really liked the look of Kagawa in pre-season. He seems to be one of those really clever players that sees things on a football pitch others don’t but he struggled a little bit with the pace and strength of the Premier League before his injury. I still think he could turn out to be a good signing. What do you make of him?

I like him a lot. He was voted the best player in the Bundesliga last season so must have a lot to offer. We didn’t see the best of him before his injury, although we saw signs of what kind of player he could be for us, but it’s down to the manager to find a way to use him effectively. He failed to do that with Berbatov so we’ll just have to hope history doesn’t repeat itself with Kagawa.

I’m prepared to sell you one City player for a reduced fee. Who you having?

Yaya Toure.

Match prediction?


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5 comments on “Inside the Opposition: United (Part 1)
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