After yesterday’s pre-derby interview with Darren Richman, today we welcome Surge Biscuits to the blog. Surge is one of the funniest people on Twitter, so if you’re on there you should follow him. I asked him about Valencia’s form, the brilliance of Scholes, and managed to elicit the most wide-ranging score prediction imaginable. 😉
I get the feeling this may be Paul Scholes’ last season at United. He’s been an incredible player; the finest English midfielder of my generation. How good as he been for United?
Brilliant, superb, phenomenal, I could list superlatives all afternoon and still not do the lad justice. His range of passing, his vision and his reading of the game are a wonder to behold, unparalleled in the recent history of English football and the fact that he’s done it for so long only makes him more exceptional. United fans love to reel out those quotes from other players and managers about how good he is but the truth is, if Zinedine Zidane says Scholes is the best player he ever played against, there’s not much anyone else can add. Maybe it’s because he’s so quiet and unassuming that he doesn’t really get the praise he deserves. I read something a while back that said he’s overrated because he’s English but I think, if anything the reverse is true. The fact that he was forced to play second-fiddle at international level to the axis of disjointed, soul-sapping mediocrity that is Lampard and Gerrard tells you everything you need to know about the state of English football.
What on earth has happened to Valencia? He was absolutely flying last season, yet appears to be struggling this.
To an extent he’s simply been found out. I like the lad a lot but he has the versatility of a light bulb. His left foot’s so poor I’m surprised he manages to stand on it when kicking with his right and I think a lot of opponents have realized that if you show him inside, you neutralize him as a threat. He also seems to be sorely lacking confidence, he’s become very ponderous when he gets around the edge of the opponents area. Whether that stems from sensing himself that defenders have figured him out or a feeling that he needs to add another dimension to his game but not really knowing what that is, I don’t know.
Is it really hard to believe Carrick is not Scholes?
United fans often say that the rivalry with City isn’t that big, and that your rivalry with Liverpool is far fiercer. Given Liverpool’s recent plight and City’s rise, is that changing?
Of course, because the dynamics have changed. If you live in Manchester and go to school or work with blues then the rivalry has always been important but, with the greatest respect, other than local bragging rights, you haven’t really featured on our radar much in the last 20-30 years. Likewise, the Manchester/Liverpool thing will always be there but, when I was growing up, Liverpool were the top team in the country. They were where and, in one very specific sense, what we wanted to be and that added another element to the rivalry between the clubs. But that element is always transient; that’s why our rivalry with Arsenal, for example, isn’t what it was ten years ago. As you guys emerge as our main opponents in terms of trophies, another dimension has been added to the local rivalry. The derby has always mattered and it always will, but it matters now in a way it hasn’t done for a long time.
What’s the situation with Rooney? There’s been speculation about his future. What do you think will happen?
Never say never in football but I can’t see him leaving. We’ve entered into this weird symbiosis with Rooney. The party line amongst a large section of reds is that he’s an overweight mercenary who’s never to be trusted and, if we lose, it’s because him and Fergie hate each other and he wants to leave but for all his faults (and there are a lot of them) he’s still our best player on his day. At the same time, I don’t think he has a lot of options. There’s only a handful of clubs that are realistic destinations for a player of his talents and profile, and I’m not sure how many of them would actually want him, especially considering the baggage he comes with and he’s hardly the most cosmopolitan of fellas. There’s always the chance that someone like PSG will come along with more money than sense but my suspicion is that he’ll sign another contract with us then see out his playing days hoovering up cash in America with the Pittsburgh Potbellies.
United fans seem obsessed with Ronaldo coming ‘home’, something I find odd. Do you think he’ll ever return?
Only if we get Real Madrid in the Champions League again. Putting aside the fact that, as long as the Glazers are in charge, we’d struggle to keep him in Brylcreem, I don’t think he’d ever want to come back. I don’t believe he ever considered Old Trafford his home; as far as he was concerned it was only ever a stepping-stone on his way to fulfilling his destiny at Madrid. United fans like to work themselves into a froth every time he says something flattering about the club but talk is cheap; he spent two years engineering a move away from United and said we were treating him like a slave by refusing to sell him when he wanted to go. There’s no doubting his ability and there’s no question we’d be a better side with him but it’s demeaning to keep pining over a former flame who lost whatever interest he had long ago. I think United fans need to get over it to be honest, he certainly has.
Who’s been United’s Player of the Season so far?
I was amazed at how well RVP started. He really seemed to embrace playing for United and, for want of a better phrase, rose to the occasion. That being said, he’s been pretty quiet for the past few weeks which probably stems from not being used to being in a team that still has something to play for after pancake day. After an inauspicious start, Rooney has been brilliant at times but it’s always feast or famine with him – literally, if his waistline is anything to go by. In terms of consistency, it’s hard to look past Rafael and Carrick. I’m tempted to pick Rafael because of how well he’s developed and the goals he’s chipped in with but, more often than not, it’s Carrick who’s made us tick this year so I’d have to say him (he’s still not Scholes, though).
Why do you think we’ve not played as well this season?
This might sound strange in light of last season but I’m still not convinced by Mancini. There’s a massive, Calciopoli-shaped asterisk next to his success in Italy and I think your title win last year (congratulations on that, by the way… no, really) owed more to individual brilliance than any overall cohesion. I know he’s complained about a lack of signings but the players you have now were good enough to win the league last year. You’re obviously in a better position to judge than me but it seems that too many of those individuals have failed to produce consistently this term and I’m not sure if they’re resting on their laurels but there seems to be a real lack of motivation, particularly in the less glamorous games. You never get the impression that City are greater than the sum of their parts and I think, ultimately, the responsibility for that rests with the manager.
Which City player would you most like to take to Old Trafford?
The two players that have impressed me most this year have been Zabaleta and Nastasic but we’re pretty well stocked at centre-back and I think Rafael’s well on his way to becoming one of the best right-backs in the world. Although he’s one of those who’s gone off the boil a bit this year, I think Yaya Toure is a wonderful player. You may have noticed the barren, post-apocalyptic wasteland that is our central midfield and he possesses so many of the qualities we need.
If memory serves me correctly, I think you won at Old Trafford last season. Fergie has a habit of wanting to make statements in games like this so I think he’ll be play a very attacking line-up trying to reap a certain level of revenge but that could easily backfire. I think there’ll be a lot of goals; I’d like to think more for us than you. Either that, or it’ll be like watching two pensioners play chess through the post and end up 0-0 (think I’ve covered all the bases there).
interview by Rob Pollard