Tag Archives: mcfc

Roll With The Punches

kate upton

Last month I had a proper whinge about our abysmal home form, a moan about the relevance of the FA Cup and ended with a flippant call for Moyes to do something to sort things out. To be fair to the manager, my gripes have certainly been addressed over the last few weeks. We’re now losing away games as well (evidence that we’ve discovered some long overdue consistency of performance) and we’ve been knocked out of both domestic cups. This time out I’ll limit my requests to next week’s lottery numbers and a night with Kate Upton if you’re reading, Dave?

I’m writing this in the aftermath of the Stoke game: another mess of a performance and our 8th league defeat of the season – this one with the added bonus of losing two more centre backs to injury. Despite results getting steadily worse as the season progresses, this car crash of a campaign remains quite captivating… in the same way one feels compelled to gawp at someone with an unfortunate facial disfigurement. It’s far too early to start trumpeting ‘things can only get better’, because the very distinct possibility exists they could get a whole lot worse over the next few months.

The one upside of regular defeats is that they stop stinging after a while. For the last 20 years, a narrow defeat in a game we expected 3 points had the ability to wreck an entire weekend. Not anymore. The blows have become so frequent of late that I’m barely flinching now. City are scoring a million goals per game and look unstoppable whereas we’ve gone shit. To deal with it, I’ve focused on not dealing with it – and I’ve discovered that being utterly impassive is helping immensely. It’s a bit mard, I know and I’ll have to face up to things eventually but in the meantime, don’t judge me. This is just how things are… the new reality. We’re surveying the wreckage of the post-Fergie apocalypse.

Even during these dark times, however – there are days that come along which give you a spring in your step, a fresh sense of optimism and some renewed hope that things might be heading in the right direction. No, not the Juan Mata signing – we’ll get to that in a bit. What I mean is that whatever David Moyes does or doesn’t achieve in future, he’ll always have my eternal gratitude for finally ridding us of that appalling, fat waster Anderson.

fatpig

Quite how this clown managed to complete 6 and a half seasons at OT will be difficult to explain to future generations. He was constantly out-of-shape, his re-fuelling habits a source of mirth even amongst his own team mates and when he did manage to get himself on the pitch, his performances were frequently dreadful. He didn’t tackle, he lacked the energy and discipline to play box-to-box and his passing was woeful… I’m not even going to comment on his shooting technique. Actually, I will – it was completely shit.

The only time Anderson ever looked like he had a genuine (no pun intended) appetite for any on-pitch physical exertion was during end-of-season trophy presentations when he’d rouse himself from his perpetual stupor and head straight for the cameras, doing that samba dance routine that’s mandatory for all South American ex-pat footballers. That’s the sum total of what we’re going to miss from Anderson – his ability to dance and balloon about the gaff whilst sticking his tongue out. I just hope to Christ he manages to convince Fiorentina that his loan move should be made permanent in the summer so we’re rid of him for good, the fucking fraud.

The departures didn’t stop there. Fabio left for Cardiff, which seems a hell of a comedown for a still young, international footballer who featured in a Champions League final less than 3 years ago. Unfortunately he just never seemed to kick on and find a settled position at United – looking identical, playing in the same position and sharing the same impetuous streak as his brother all counted against him in the end. Wilfred Zaha also headed to South Wales and following his debut, has already racked up the same amount of assists that Antonio Valencia has managed all season. The way our season is unravelling, don’t be surprised if he continues this progress and ends up picking up the PFA Young Player award.

Amazingly, it turns out that Federico Macheda is still on United’s payroll and has now been loaned out for something like the 17th time in his career – this time to Birmingham City. Quite why he was ever given a long term deal remains a mystery – as it was clear within weeks of his career high debut that he was incredibly limited and unlikely to make the grade at the top level. Still, he started well at his new club too, scoring a last minute equaliser in a 3-3 draw – which Wikipedia informs me is his 10th goal in 6 seasons. Prolific or what? If he keeps this up, expect United to bring him back in the summer and reward him with a new 5 year contract.

mata

Moyes signalled the start of the transfer window by stating that although he didn’t expect any significant arrivals, “the number of big players who want to join Manchester United is incredible.” Really? Whether this meant ‘big’ as in ‘good’ or ‘big’ as in ‘tall, like Fellaini’ remained uncertain, but within days we’d actually managed to not completely mess up the signing of Juan Mata. This was something of a shock and surely evidence of a u-turn in United’s thinking. In the summer we didn’t pursue a reputed interest in Özil due to still having hope that Kagawa would prove his worth, but surely Shinji’s legion of internet fanboys/apologists would now concede that he simply hasn’t worked out?

Mata, like Kagawa, is undoubtedly a great talent. Unlike Kagawa, however – he’s demonstrated the ability to adapt his talents to the demands of English football. If Moyes has lost patience with Kagawa’s failings and come to the conclusion his future lies elsewhere, then I at least applaud his decisiveness. One of the obvious shortcomings of United’s squad at present is that there are too many habitual under performers – limited players on top wages and long term deals who are going to prove difficult and expensive to replace. Young, Cleverley and Valencia (the first 3 who come to mind… there are more) need to be moved on ruthlessly and efficiently. Signing a player of Mata’s calibre is all well and good, but it’s only going to start paying dividends when he’s joined by 3-4 more of a similar standard.

It was interesting to note the reactions of certain blue-tinged acquaintances of mine following the Mata signing. It’s fair to say they were a tad miffed by events, with them being so well-versed now in outspending United during each transfer window. One on my radar even attempted to outlandishly claw back some moral high ground by asserting that “City have never spent that much on a player.” This didn’t ring true at all, which prompted me to check and discover that Aguero cost them £38M and Tevez, reputedly as much as £45M. City fans taking umbrage with United’s spending – you have to admire their chutzpah, you really do.

Even more comical was the recent publication of City’s accounts for their financial year ending May 2013. Everything appears to be going swimmingly for ‘the project’: losses are down to a mere £52M and their income is now the 6th highest of any club in Europe, a total of £271M. It’s only when you scratch beneath the surface they reveal this figure includes £143M from sponsoring themselves and another £44M from selling intellectual property rights (again, to themselves.) Unsurprisingly, with this fantasy island income stream in place, they are more than confident of meeting UEFA’s FFP requirements. “Growing revenues and controlled expenses are bringing the club to break even in the immediate future, and profitability thereafter.”

I’m going to presume they edited out the “…LOL, not really!”

Copyright Red News – February 2014

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Complete Control

Despite the less then startling football served up over the last few months, yet again we’re nicely placed in the title race as the season ebbs towards its conclusion. Barring a couple of mid-noughties exceptions, it’s incredible to think this has been the case for the last two decades…and it doesn’t get old. Each title win carries a special significance: 1993 after a 26 year wait, the first double, the treble year, upsetting the odds to topple Abramovich/Mourinho in 2007, beating Liverpool in 2009, ‘19’ last season…the list goes on.

This year of course, it’s all about beating City. The very thought of going toe to toe with them still seems slightly surreal for this 1970’s child – 5-1 aside, I’ve spent pretty much my entire football watching life basking in the glory of our undisputed dominance over them. Throughout the nineties (in the years they’d remembered not to be relegated) derby games were fantastic. For the most part they couldn’t get near us – and even if they’d get close, we’d routinely pull something improbable out of the hat and break their stupid hearts in the process.

This marvellous state of affairs was best illustrated by the 3-2 win at Maine Road in November 1993 – easily one of the top three games I’ve ever attended. City were revelling in our Champions League exit at the hands of Galatasary a few days earlier, as evidenced by a plethora of Turkish Delights being flung over the Kippax divide. They raced into a 2-0 lead courtesy of a pair of Niall Quinn headers but United produced a Cantona inspired, 2nd half fightback and nicked it late on courtesy of Roy Keane’s winner. It was era defining stuff – each and every red in attendance floated out of the ground that night.

The dynamic shifted about 10 years ago. Possibly tired of doing the hapless loser thing indefinitely, City adopted a win-at-all-cost mentality and began to revel in the role of plucky underdog. Whereas previously we’d come to expect routine capitulation and surrender, from nowhere they appeared to sprout a pair of bollocks. Victories in the last derby at Maine Road and the first at Eastlands ended years of United superiority and the cue for mass Bertie celebrations.

In spite of their enduring shiteness, derbies had become evenly contested again – aided perhaps by a sense that some of our players’ efforts didn’t quite match the fervour of the blues’ revised approach to these fixtures. Put simply, our campaigns were 60+ game affairs focused on the ultimate goal of winning the league title and/or the European Cup. City meanwhile, were fixated purely on the parochial – their season was deemed a success purely on the basis of whether or not they’d managed to get a result against Man United.

It’s all changed now of course. Successive regimes (Forward with Franny, Bungling with Bernstein, Wobbling with Wardle, Shafted by Shinawatra) promised the earth but delivered nothing other than further entertainment for us amused bystanders. Whilst we still had Garry Cook as a rich source of old school Bertie buffoonery to enjoy, the Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008 proved to be the real deal finance-wise, and things would never be the same again – half a billion pounds later, they finally had a trophy in their newly procured cabinet and the 34 YEARS ticker was reset.

If watching them win an FA Cup and gain CL qualification proved unpalatable enough, the thought of them winning the title is surely the ultimate nightmare scenario for any of us unfortunate enough to come into contact with City fans on a daily basis. After witnessing the delirious reaction to their new found wealth and ensuing transfer policy (throw money at anyone who’ll come and instantly proclaim them ‘legends’) – for 2 or 3 years now we’ve been subjected to ‘tick tock’ and ‘blue moon rising’ soundbites pretty much every time one of them opens their mouths.

It didn’t take a genius to deduce they’d be serious challengers this season, indeed I reached that conclusion myself in these pages back in September. Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs didn’t look anything like potential title winners, which only left City and us. As they smashed everyone in sight whilst we looked decidedly out of sorts and suffered injury after injury, prospects were looking pretty good for them prior to Christmas.

As a supporter, experience would have told me to keep quiet, acutely aware there was a long way to go and things can change very quickly. ‘Restraint’ isn’t a word in the Berties’ vocabulary of course. How did the City fans at my place of work greet the 6-1? Did they offer satisfied smiles and a few pisstaking comments? No chance. I walked into work on the Monday to be greeted by the sight of 4 grown men doing the Poznan. In true City fashion, the flags were up, replicas were on and one of them had brought in a cake. Yes, a cake.

Prior to winning the league in ’93, I don’t recall any United fan ever being daft enough to suggest ‘it’s in the bag’ – everything was kept as low key as possible. No one was bold enough to sing ‘We’re Gonna Win The League’ for fear of upsetting the footballing gods and cursing things. There was plenty of time for ballooning when the thing was actually won. We communicated in hushed tones and kept things on the down low – mainly for fear of looking and sounding like total twats should the unthinkable happen.

The transformation in Blues’ demeanour over the last few weeks has made for fantastic viewing. The late winner at Norwich seemed to plant the seeds of doubt and since then they’ve quickly descended into full-on wibble mode. Tears at Swansea, the Tevez SOS call, rowing on the pitch last week v’s Sunderland, Balotelli now an accepted liability as opposed to the trusted talisman…all tremendous stuff.  I’m hesitant to use the word ‘meltdown’ as there are still some 7 games left at the time of writing, but fuck it…the wheels are buckling and we’ve not even reached Easter yet.

Whilst Mancini hasn’t quite reached a Dalglish state of dishevelment yet, he’s appeared more and more erratic of late. The two late goals against Sunderland should surely have been greeted as a positive? Normally, whatever his private thoughts might be, you’d expect to see a manager praise the character of his team in coming back from 3-1 down and take the opportunity to offer some sort of public rallying-call. Instead he’s there at the post-game presser with his chin on the floor, looking for all the world like a broken man. Fergie on the other hand, appears to be in cruise control. Brushing aside Vieira’s little outburst with a smile and acknowledging the travelling reds at Ewood Park with a double fist-clenched salute. Been there, seen it, done it, hasn’t he?

Consequently, there’s been very little excruciating ‘footy banter’ in our office over the last 3 weeks, texts from blue mates have ceased completely and the old bloke across the road disappears into his house rather than letting on and rushing over to tell me all about Super Mario’s latest pretend exploits. Here’s hoping we can finish the job as quickly and ruthlessly as possible so this remains the case well into the coming months. Plus, that guard-of-honour at their place sounds good…

Copyright Red News – April 2012

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