View from the opponent – Manchester United

Opponent Blog: We All Follow United

1. United have had a mixed season so far. You thumped Arsenal early on, then lost 6-1 to City and also exited from the Champions League. How hard has it been to take all those setbacks in the stride and look forward with optimism?

It’s been a difficult season, one that in all honesty I didn’t see coming before the season. However after our second league game at home to Spurs (which we won 3-0) where we were outplayed for the opening 55 minutes and looked vulnerable in defence, the warning signs were there for all to see. We were fortunate to beat Chelsea who could’ve scored 4 against us in the first half. We looked vulnerable at the back against Arsenal and then after some good defensive performances came the Manchester Derby defeat, which was a shambles. Despite several clean sheets since, other teams now go into games thinking they can score against us which is a worry.

2. Midfield has been one area where United are certainly weak but there has been no investment in that area. Is Scholes really the answer?

Of course he isn’t the answer. Scholes can do a great job whilst he’s back but he’s not the long-term answer and shouldn’t have been the short-term answer. He is 37 years old and the club should have made a key central midfield signing in the summer. Saying that we have had injuries and whilst Anderson and Tom Cleverley looked good at the start of the season, they’ve both had injury problems. A midfield wizard has to be signed to add magic and vision to the midfield. If it was up to me I’d sign one of Wesley Sneijder, Matheiu Valbuena, Mario Goetze or Nicolas Gaitan.

3. City have had a stunning rise to prominence over the last three years. What is the view of United fans on them?

The view is that we welcome City’s challenge. It’s good news for everyone connected with both clubs that they are fighting it out at the top of the league and in other competitions. It makes the rivalry greater. I can’t say I am pleased that City are now doing well, but you need to spend trillions these days to reach the top and City will win a championship in the next 2-3 years, it’s inevitable. Their success just means every victory over them means more now and that’s a great thing.

4. With the Dubai billions propelling City, are United fans concerned about United’s ownership? They’ve brought the club under huge debts and do you fear a lack of investment could affect United’s progress?

United fans are still concerned about the current financial situation at Old Trafford and in a dream want the Glazers out of the club as soon as possible. The club’s debt situation is far from ideal but then again Real Madrid, Barcelona and other top European clubs all have debt issues and are coping and winning trophies. Whether or not the debts are the reason why Sir Alex Ferguson hasn’t been able to spend as much as he’d have liked to is another question that only those in the club will know the real answer to.

5. How big a loss is Vidic to United’s title challenge? Ferdinand is under tremendous pressure and Jones looks like an unfinished article?

Firstly Vidic being out for the season was a disaster. In truth he was one of our defenders this season whose form had been outstanding throughout along with Phil Jones. The man is a warrior and would have been even more amazing had he played in the 1960’s where defenders were men and you could get about with doing anything. Losing him has hurt us and we don’t look the same at the back understandably. Rio has been a great servant of the club, but he’s past his best and the fact he’s grinding out performances when not 100% fit has been a credit to him. Jones has been outstanding and aside from the own goal at Newcastle has been outstanding. He may be an unfinished article, but he will captain England and United and long-term will be as great as Vidic has been.

6. How frustrating is Rooney? He is yet to reproduce the kind of form he displayed before the World Cup and has been involved in several off field issues. United fans will surely want more from him?

We want more from Rooney, but let’s think about this. Is he one of the top 3-4 players in the world? The answer is no. He’s a fantastic player but he’s not in the league of Messi and Ronaldo. He is still someone who on-form can get 25-30 league goals a season but he hasn’t been the same since the world cup. Then again it’s important to think about it from a defensive side of the game and defenders are clearly working him out better and that’s something that doesn’t get mentioned in the press. He’s a fantastic player but he’s struggling due to the team’s midfield struggling which means he is dropping deep to win the ball and is losing the space up front that a striker has up front. He is a great player but perhaps expectations need to be lowered of Wayne, he just can’t do it every week.

7. Coming to Arsenal, do you think Arsenal deserved the 8-2 score line? What is your take on their steady recovery after that humiliating defeat?

Of course they didn’t deserve the score line. You had an inexperienced defensive, a midfield who wouldn’t even make Spurs bench on that day, had a man sent off and missed a crucial chance in the game which would certainly have changed the dynamics of the game when Robin van Persie saw a penalty saved by David De Gea. Your recovery has been outstanding but I’d expect nothing less of your club, your manager and the players like Alex Song, Szczcesny (who is one of my favourite players in fact!), Van Persie who are the heartbeat to your team. I want the Premier League to be tough and if there are 5/6 teams fighting it out at the top then that makes United play better and makes every win over a rival mean more. All your side needed after the 8-2 defeat was time to bounce back and a few signings to beef up the team which is exactly what has happened.

8. What is your opinion on Arsene Wenger? Do you think he is one of the greatest managers in modern football?

The man is a genius. I don’t think you can rank him behind or above Sir Alex or Jose Mourinho, etc. Different managers have different styles and Wenger has stuck to them. He likes to build a team of young players into superstars and although he’s missed out on buying some proven-experienced players the man knows how to win games and play attractive football. The press at the moment have got a stiffy about Harry Redknapp, but if Wenger was English, they’d love him and rightly so and go on about him 24/7 like they do about Harry. He’s a great manager and a great person.

9. How do United fans view Arsenal in general? Unlike City, do Arsenal have some respect among you guys?

Respect. You respect rivals and players over past battles and certainly United’s battles with Arsenal from about 1997 up until about 2004 were viewed as title-deciders, 6-pointers, call it what you will. Some of the games shared by the two teams over the years were great. Pizza-gate, Keane v Vieria in the tunnel, Ruud’s penalty miss, Wiltord’s winner at Old Trafford, those are all great moments that fans will talk about for years. There’s a great respect between the two clubs, the managers and the fans and as much as I used to hate Arsenal, you are a club who I love to watch and hope to see win things, just as long as it’s not at the expense of United in a final of course, I don’t want to see another ‘2005 FA Cup final day’ again.

10. If there was one Arsenal player you’d love to have at United, who would that be?

Well in past years I would have chosen Thierry Henry or Tony Adams. Henry’s been a legend and is one of the pioneers of the Premier League. I had the treat of seeing him live twice, one of those games being at Highbury during the title run-in of 2003/04 when he scored THAT goal past Roy Carroll from about 35 yards out. Henry was in many aspects the definition of what a modern striker should be, he had flair, brains, power, pace and a great habit for scoring goals. Tony Adams was one player who – when I was playing at school and for my U13 team – I based my game on. I was a defender/defensive midfielder and I would love nothing better to do than slide in and win the ball and if that meant hurting myself in the process, so be it. He was a great player.

But if we’re speaking about current Arsenal players, in a dream world you’d want either van Persie or Szczesny, 2 players who excite me and have everything about them. In van Persie you have the best forward in the Premier League and in Szczesny the best young keeper in the league who right now is maturing game by game and is well on his way to becoming a Premier League legend. They are both two players who every football fan across the country respects and would love to have in their team.

11. Who is you top 4 for the season? And relegation candidates?

Like Jennifer Love-Hewitt, I’ll keep this one short and sweet. The top 4 will be Manchester City, United, Spurs and Chelsea, I think Arsenal will just miss out by a point. Although I’d loved to be proved wrong and for Arsenal to finish above Chelsea. As for who do I think will get relegated, I can’t see Bolton staying up unless they spend about £50m, they look short on ideas. Wigan just dont’ have enough quality to stay up and the remaining place will be between Wolves, West Brom and Blackburn and as much as Steve Kean’s doing a great job, I think Blackburn will go down, which would be a disaster for their fans – not that their owners, The Venky’s, care about them.

12. Predictions for Sunday?

Obviously I’d like United to win, but it’s a very difficult game. After losing 8-2 at Old Trafford your players, your club and your fans will be out for revenge and will be looking to avenge that defeat. Of course a win for you guys would hurt us and play into City and the hands of Spurs. I think it will be a close game but I can see a late goal from van Persie or Ramsey nicking it for you guys. I’d take a draw if offered it right now. I can see us scoring though, so it may end 2-1 to you. That’s my honest take on the game and my gut feeling.

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