Tag Archives: mufc

Up To Our Hips

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Well that escalated quickly, didn’t it? There I was, quietly buzzing after a derby win and chuckling at Liverpool getting knocked out of Europe. Then the next thing you know I’m sat in the house, drinking too much, steadily munching through a fridge full of stockpiled food and cut off from the world outside. Pretty much a standard weekend then… but then they announced Coronavirus had arrived so normal life was promptly cancelled.

To be honest readers, personally speaking, it’s been an absolute doddle. I’m already an anti-social curmudgeon so being told not to go out hasn’t really affected me. Plus, let’s be honest now, a lockdown where you’re still allowed to leave the house every day isn’t really much of a lockdown at all. Being office-based meant I could work from home which proved another huge bonus. It started off being weird then quickly became ace once the realisation dawned I can do my job without getting dragged into banal conversations about things that people have read on Facebook every 10 minutes. 6 music on in the background, sun streaming though the window, showering at lunchtime… I honestly think I could live like this for another 12 months.

Not everyone sees it as a positive of course, because in reality it’s really fucking bad out there. Me, happy as a pig in shit inside my own little bubble is one thing, but it’s really not funny at all when there’s a deadly virus on the loose and hundreds of people are dying every day. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands who are unable to work at all because they currently don’t have a job. Then you’ve got the NHS workforce and an army of key workers risking their lives on a daily basis, lacking essential PPE yet still intent on keeping everything ticking over until this shitstorm of a virus eventually subsides.

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The overall mood isn’t helped by the fact we’re being led by the shambolic troupe of gaslighting fuckwits who compose the senior-level of British government. Not an ounce of compassion or common sense between them, they saw this thing coming a mile off yet still managed to balls it up completely at every turn. Blundering through press conferences, manipulating testing figures and showing themselves up as the lying, evasive, deceitful twats you always suspected they’d be during a time of national crisis. It’s almost enough to make you wish football would come back.

Almost, but not quite. Because as anyone with even the teenie-weeniest bit of common sense would agree, talk about professional football resuming right now is not only grossly insensitive, it’s completely fucking idiotic. Straight away they were at it, before the death toll had even reached 3 figures. The very moment matches were cancelled and precious revenue streams turned off, the self-interested guardians of the sport immediately started dribbling on about the need to finish the season at all costs to preserve ‘the integrity of the game’. Integrity: “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles”. Hahahaha, you couldn’t make it up.

The Premier League’s interpretation of integrity seems a little more abstract than how most people commonly interpret the word. In their desperation to launch #projectrestart it quickly became apparent that they were prepared to do literally anything to get football back on television. Playing in China, playing behind closed doors, neutral stadiums, shortening game lengths and banning spitting(?) were just a handful of the ever more ludicrous suggestions being mooted as deaths around the country continued to rise.

We all know that top-level football did its utmost to absolve itself of any sense of social conscience and civic engagement many years ago. It happily sold its soul in pursuit of untold riches and anyone opposed to the frantic cash grab was left feeling like a tree-hugging relic. We live in a world where people dedicate their lives to arguing on twitter that owning a tiny portion of land in East Manchester and laundering billions of £‘s into a football club to legitimise a murderous, despotic regime is actually something to be applauded.

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Greed and self-interest are nothing new in the football world. However, during the current doomsday scenario of a global pandemic, the intention to plough on in spite of the obvious risk to everyone connected was absolutely breathtaking. I mean, we know football administrators are morally deficient in most cases, but I wasn’t expecting them to be so unapologetically brazen in announcing the fact. Surely now would be the time to demonstrate some decorum by keeping quiet for a few months? Maybe prioritise the health and well-being of employees above all else, just like every other workplace has been forced to. More fool me for expecting anything different, I guess.

One unexpected thing I didn’t see coming was how well our own club conducted itself throughout. Unusually for the PR disasterclass that is MUFC, there wasn’t a misstep to be seen whilst other Premier League clubs continued to make complete arses of themselves. Season ticket renewals frozen, a commitment to refunding any games unplayed, casual staff paid until the end of the season and players donating 30% of their wages to the NHS. We’re the first to point out when the club does something wrong – it’s one of this fanzine’s raisons d’etre – so it’s only right we highlight those odd occasions when they get things right. Fair play to all concerned.

I suppose we should give a nod of acknowledgement to Corona for the two-footed, knee-high challenge it delivered to Liverpool’s title-challenge just as they were clean through on goal. I know this makes us look incredibly petty and bitter but what else are we supposed to do? Should we forget the decades of intense rivalry and start lighting candles for them instead? I don’t think so. Let’s make this perfectly clear. The clamour to restart Premier League football is motivated by money, but never underestimate the scousers’ influence and the consequences for any individual seen as conspiring to deny them their moment of glory.

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If it was any other club top of the table, there would be pressure to resume playing again but the narrative being played out in the tabloid press would be vastly different. My mind keeps going back 20 years to when any MUFC defeat was greeted like VE Day. If this was a United team closing in on a 3rd consecutive league title, I fully expect there’d be speeches in Parliament calling for the Premier League to cease and desist. Instead, we’re being fed the message that football’s return will somehow “lift the nation”. I suppose it might if you’re a Liverpool or a Leeds fan, but no one else seems to regard it as high on the list of priorities right now. Most are of the opinion it’s a ridiculous idea.

Ultimately, your response to a crisis like this reveals a lot about a person. You either take the sanguine approach and accept shit happens in life or you make an almighty tit of yourself, running round the supermarket hoovering up 700 bog rolls. No matter how much Liverpool delight in their hilarious ‘Tory Tory Man United’ jibes, let it be remembered that we weren’t the club furloughing staff and arguing with our own mayor after he deemed the Premier League’s resumption a “non-starter”. Interestingly, according to a report in The Times, Liverpool were supportive of moves to abandon the Women’s Super League on safety grounds. Probably just a coincidence that they’re in the relegation places there, I expect.

Anyway, that’s me done I think. We live in strange, uncertain times and whatever your situation, I hope you’re doing okay and filling your time productively. Try not to strangle your loved ones and I’ll see you next season when we’re all 25 stone and suffering with chronic liver disease. Wash your hands, take care and enjoy the extended break.

Copyright Red News – May 2020

www.rednews.co.uk

Fail We May, Sail We Must

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Football fans in this country really are easily pleased. Having commented on the growing discontent amongst the fanbase which led to an air of protest in and around Old Trafford last month, it’s now all but evaporated. What happened? It clearly doesn’t take much to win us over, does it? Win a couple of games + sign a new player = everything is well in the world. I despair at us sometimes. The Glazers and their appointed puppet masters are most likely laughing their heads off.

Cast your mind back 20 years and the likes of MUST and IMUSA were asking genuinely pertinent questions about the running of the club and key issues affecting supporters. Major battles were won, notably stopping the Murdoch takeover attempt, but ultimately the war was lost in 2005 when the Glazers took control. It still felt there was an ideological resistance in place, however. Nowadays our supporters groups’ objectives appear to extend little further than being served Strongbow Dark Fruits on draught.

The single fan collective boasting a visible presence inside OT and an ongoing dialogue with the club is TRA. Judging by the rapid fall-off in audible dissent since we returned from the winter break, it really is no wonder the club are keen to engage with those running the group. As far as I can make out the extent of their demands amounts to little more than cheap ale for their members and permission to stand without being hassled by stewards. Their intentions to help improve the atmosphere can’t be faulted, but I can’t help think they’re selling themselves short with their extremely limited, self-interested manifesto.

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We all know that so-called ultra groups have had success in affecting change at clubs on the continent. Perhaps it would be nice if TRA used their new-found status to push for something more than just a weekly piss up and a group singalong? Those running the group probably never considered the implications of entering into a close dialogue with the club, but things start to look a bit suspect when open hostility within their section drops to a murmur within the space of a few weeks. Still, at least everyone involved can pat themselves on the back now they’ve coincidentally been promised a significant number of additional seats for next season.

At whose expense though? Well that’s becoming a familiar pattern now, isn’t it? The Family Stand is being packed off into North Stand Tier 2 in a similar move to the evictions that took place in the Stretford End last year and J Stand before that. I’m sure it’s completely unintentional, but these switcharounds always seem to involve people sat in cheaper seats being forced to move into more expensive areas against their will. ‘You can pay for next season at your current rate then after that… well that’s your problem’. Still, as long as TRA have got Peroni and Estrella available and personal abuse of Woodward is quashed, no harm done and happy days.

Anyway, what about this Bruno Fernandes, eh? Whilst I’m not quite full-on, head over heels smitten kitten yet, I will happily admit to being slightly aroused by what we’ve witnessed so far. How refreshing it is to have someone demanding the ball constantly who looks totally comfortable in possession. It’s going to take a while to get used to this again after watching Lingard and Periera perfect the art of hiding in plain sight over the last couple of years.

I guess the note of caution comes from the fact we’ve experienced numerous false dawns similar to this in our desperation to herald the arrival of a game changing playmaker in recent times. Kagawa, Mkhitaryan, Di Maria and Sanchez all gained similarly rave reviews during their nascent United careers before fading miserably within a matter of weeks. Let’s hope the Bruno-inspired feel-good factor is still in place after 50 games and this current honeymoon period proves to be just a taster of what he’s capable of.

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The true end of an era is fast approaching now, with it all but inevitable that Liverpool will end a 30 year drought by winning the Premier League at some point during the next few weeks. As someone who grew up in the 80s, the thought of Liverpool waiting that long for a league title back then was completely absurd. Their victories were as routine as United’s failures – as a child it felt like Liverpool winning the league was almost pre-destined. That’s why Michael Thomas’ goal was celebrated so riotously in 1989, it was a genuinely life-affirming event to witness Liverpool beaten in such impossible circumstances.

Since then, I suppose we’ve had it pretty good overall. We’ve picked up more trophies and league titles than my 16 year old self could ever have anticipated and Liverpool’s ongoing travails have provided some truly glorious entertainment along the way. Honourable mentions going out here to Giorgio Armani, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Diego Forlan, John O’Shea, the United flag at Anfield after #19, Gerrard’s slip, Demba Ba, Patrice Evra, Luis Suarez, Crystanbul and Kenny Dalglish being the bitterest man on earth.

Yes. I’ve already come to terms with our fate and rather than feeling sorry for myself, I’m choosing the path of stoicism and self-reflection. We had a good run so we just have to suck it up now. At least they’re going to win the thing in March with a 55 point lead. Imagine how bad it potentially could’ve been if they’d scraped it on the last day with 80 points. Just don’t sweat it, Coronavirus is coming. By the time they pick up the trophy, the lucky ones amongst us will be living on Super Noodles and sleeping in oxygen chambers whilst everyone else is eating soil and bidding for used space suits on eBay.

It’s happening. Deal with it.

Copyright Red News – March 2020

www.rednews.co.uk

Something/Anything?

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Here we are again. Alongside the erratic form that has become the team’s hallmark in recent years, its ability to nosedive into a crisis every couple of months has become a constant. On the one hand, in recent weeks we’ve cruised to victory against Newcastle and Norwich and progressed in the FA Cup. More tellingly, we’ve been soundly beaten by Liverpool, City and Arsenal before the latest nadir of losing to Burnley at home. That win at the Etihad seems a long, long time ago now.

In the not too distant past, defeat to 3 rivals in a calendar month would have triggered a major inquest. These days it barely registers. It speaks volumes as to how far expectations have sunk that defeats are greeted with a weak smile from the manager and a shrug of the shoulders from everyone else. There’s no point blaming Solskjaer for the state we’re in, but his post-match interviews are now unwatchable.

Ole’s dogged determination to sprinkle sequins on dogshit seems to be working though. I’ve never known a time during my football watching life where in the aftermath of a trip to Anfield, some people you speak to seem almost enthused by a 0-2 defeat. “At least we had a go 2nd half.” Yeah, at least we had a go.

It appears we’ve made a similarly forlorn attempt at bringing in much-needed reinforcements during the transfer window. I don’t know what it is about this club, but whatever the internal process is for getting deals done seems to make an already tricky process even more convoluted. As per usual, strategy and long-term planning are unfathomably inconsistent. Back in August the club were briefing the usual suspects how they were irritated by the Fernandes rumours and simply weren’t interested. 6 months later, after his price has skyrocketed, United are suddenly all over him.

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This leaves you with the impression that the club’s recently overhauled system of player recruitment still isn’t fit for purpose. A global network of 52 scouts, football development staff, a chief negotiator… yet successive windows come and go with the same end result. For all Woodward’s bluster in explaining his bold new vision during the recent UWS interview, it still feels like United are highly dysfunctional in this area. We deliberate too long, there are regular about-turns on priority targets and there’s little evidence of a long-term vision barring the painfully simplistic ‘try to buy young and cheap’.

For the last 6 months we’ve heard Ole acknowledge the fact we need strengthening several times, yet another transfer window has passed without any noticeable improvement to the squad’s overall quality. The club keep making noises that a re-build is in progress, but I don’t sense any urgency or desire to make the key acquisitions we’re crying out for.

It was obvious last season that our main problem was the midfield yet we spent all summer pursuing another central defender. The January window arrives and negotiations for Fernandes commence. If they broke down because Sporting hiked the price unreasonably, why didn’t United simply move onto the next choice target? Instead we retreat, sit on our hands and wait for the charade to begin again in June.

At some point, the penny might drop that much of United’s activity during these transfer windows amounts to little more than posturing. The proposed re-build doesn’t have to take years. Clubs aren’t limited to 1-2 signings during each transfer window. If there was a genuine determination to improve the team, there’s little doubt the process could be accelerated. Just because Sanchez was a disaster, it doesn’t mean every future piece of business completed in January would be similarly cursed. You can only assume that contrary to what the club likes to project, funds aren’t being made available for players that we desperately need.

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I guess it all comes down to priorities. Whilst the playing squad is crying out for reinforcement, the club have instead taken on Neil Ashton (ex-The Sun) in a PR role. Rather than keeping this on the down-low, Ashton announced he was set to work for United on live television as he signed off from chairing Sky’s Sunday Supplement. It’s absolutely laughable. Within days, nonsense puff pieces starting appearing all over the shop. ‘Ed’s doing a good job ‘cos the share price is booming’, ‘United to beef-up scouting efforts’ etc, etc. None of this guff will placate the perma-sceptical fanbase so presumably it’s a vain attempt at reassuring potential sponsors all is well. Priorities.

You know things are getting really bad when stalwarts like Ashley Young are jumping  ship, rejecting a 12 month extension for the chance to join up with Lukaku and Sanchez at Inter. I could join in with the misty-eyed, hypocrites praising his commitment and professionalism at this point but that’s no fun, is it? I never liked him and I’d be a liar if I started pretending otherwise. That stupid thing he does raising both hands before every shit corner annoyed me as much as Valencia standing still with the ball at his feet when facing an opposition full-back. He stayed 7 years too long and I feel genuinely enthused by the fact he’s gone.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the level of toxicity surrounding the club is growing by the week. Audible dissent has been heard at OT for the first time since the Green & Gold days and the always tetchy social media crowd continue to fling vitriol around with wild abandon. This is not exactly a new development of course, they’re always on the verge of a fresh meltdown, but each poor result increases the bile a few more notches.

The latest bone of contention was talk of organising a mass walkout during today’s Wolves game, somewhat crassly planned for the 58th minute. Having seriously considered the idea for a few moments, I reached the conclusion that it just wouldn’t work. Even if 15,000 leave the ground, that’s 60,000 still sat there singing ‘You are my Solskjaer’ in implicit approval of what they’re watching. End result is we’d be doing Ashton’s job for him.

Finally, in case you missed it, Red Issue’s former Ed came out of semi-retirement last month and unleashed, via twitter, a scathing expose of the parasitic fancam clowns who have attached themselves to the club in recent times. It was quite something and a timely reminder of how they’re still sadly missed in United fanzine circles. You were left marvelling, as ever, at both the forensic research carried out and the sheer level of invective they specialise in. We can all try, but nobody calls out bullshit better.

Copyright Red News – February 2020

www.rednews.co.uk