Spyin Kop: Manchester United

Posted by Armin on January 20, 2006, 02:37:27 PM

Sunday sees one of the biggest games of the year when the forces of light (Liverpool) battle once more with the evil empire down the East Lancs (Der Mancs).  As ever on these occasions emails to the United fansites are liable to go unanswered so we have once again asked United supporter Steve aka Ole Gunnar Solksjaer's Right Boot to do the needful.  Last time he was such a success that some supporters wondered if he could possibly be a Manc?  One possibility is that there was a mixup in the hospital, so if you see a CroMagnonesque figure at the City of Manchester stadium (not including Richard Dunne) you'll know the reasons why...

Manchester United Honours etc (handy hint, if you want to skip these just remember they've won less than us in everything except the FA Cup, Cup Winners Cup and the Intercontinental trophy):


1878 - 1880: Newton Heath  LRW
(Lancashire Railway Workers)

1880 - 1902: Newton Heath

1902 - Present: Manchester Bucanneers


1949 - Present: Old Trafford
2010 - The Tampa Bay Glazerbowl

1908 1911 1952 1956 1957 1965 1967 1993 1994 1996 1997 1999 2000 2001 2003


1909, 1948, 1963, 1977, 1983 1985, 1990, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004

1968 1999



1936, 1975


Enough stats and on with the questions:

RAWK: How has the season been shaping up for our beloved comrades down the East Lancs?
OGSRB: Actually not as bad as the media and some of our fans would have you believe. We've moved away from this 4-3-3/4-5-1 experiment which was choking us, and although it (along with other things) has cost us in Europe, I think the Football we've been playing is far better than anything for the last year or so, excluding all of 2006 of course, which has been pretty drab, but you know with United it's all about confidence, it'll return soon enough, just hope we haven't lost even more ground on you and Chelsea by then!.

RAWK: What are your expectations for this season? Have they changed from day one?

OGSRB: I would expect us to finish second, because simply put I think we're the second best team in the league. We have the second best manager in the league my view and some very good players, unfortunately most of these players (and the manager) are used to title-run ins, and when they don't happen (as they wont this year, Chelsea are light years ahead) they tend to drop off and meander for the rest of the season, lose interest even, which is scandalous but United aren't accustomed for scrapping for second place, and I don't think there that interested in it either from previous seasons. But the long and short of it is I expect us to finish second...whether we will or not is something different.

Thats a bit of a politicians answer isn't it? I feel a bit like John Prescott...

RAWK: Who do you think is your most important player(s)?

OGSRB: Rooney, obviously. The boy is something quite special, and for a lot of the time he carries us. If only we could de-scouse him he would be the perfect player! Really astonishing, at the age of 20, to be literally leading a club of Manchester United's stature, as well as England. Terrific, thank god Newcastle thought they were big enough to get him and forced Fergies hand into it, because with the Glazers coming in the next year (don't get me started) we'd never have been able to afford him as planned!

RAWK: Is Scholes bothered any more?

OGSRB: Sometimes. His role has changed somewhat, since we went back to 4-4-2 he doesn't get into the box as often as he did because his legs simply mean he cant get back as quickly and it leaves the teams shape vulnerable, so he tends to dictate from deep these days, this perhaps gives the impression he's not as bothered, I think he still is, though he doesn't have the urgency he used to, admittedly. No doubt he is still extremely important, when he plays we really play.

RAWK: Has Rio Ferdinand been forgiven by the United faithful for his dithering over contracts, drug tests, marking players etc?

OGSRB:  Depends what section of United's support you speak to. Speak to the 'core' fans from Manchester and they'll probably tell you no, but in my experience Manchester folk can be quite fickle and hostile toward those from the South and this probably doesn't help Rio. I would say the 'hardcore' fans are still suspicious and a little wary of him, and he only has to make one mistake to become the scapegoat, whilst some of the Manchester born or long-standing players can under perform for as long as they wish without a word said against them, it seems, that's the way a lot of our Manchester-based fans work, not sure if you had a similar thing when you had Fowler, Murphy etc. in your team.
The rest of the fan base has forgiven him I would say, yes. He is a cock no doubt, but unfortunately he is an excellent defender, and very important to our team.
So yes, half and half, since when have our fans ever reached any kind of consensus?!, except in our hate for Liverpool, of course! :) One thing we always agree on!

RAWK: Ferguson calls a press conference for next week. Two friends in the know get advance warning of the purpose. One says that Malc has offered Ferguson a 3 year contract and he's accepted. The other says he's retiring at the end of the season. Which friend do you hope believe and which do you hope is right?

OGSRB: Good question Armin, Paxman is browning his kegs as we speak.
Firstly, I would believe the latter, as Ferguson would not announce he was retiring at the end of the season after it caused problems in 01-02. How devilishly slippery of me eh?
What I would want to believe is more difficult to answer as we're hot off the heels of (yet another) derby day charade, and thats enough for even the most devout to have doubts. I would say that we probably do need a fresh injection of ideas and approach, but the trouble is I don't see anyone better realistically available; as I said earlier, I think the only manager better than Ferguson in the Premiership is Mourinho and he wouldn't leave moneybags Chelsea to work under the Glazer gimps.
Other touted candidates are a gamble; O'Neil has always played a style of Football that wouldn't see him last two seconds with our fans, and Hughes is inexperienced. Capello would need time to impose his own style and would probably be trial and error for the first year domestically as he adapted to the Premiership (like Benitez at Liverpool, for example), and given the impatience of our fans and the negative Football he'd initially bring, I don't think he would go down too well.
Therefore I would prefer to believe Fergie is staying for a further three years (though I happen to think he'll stay for one more) as there are simply no other viable candidates, and change for change sake is always dangerous.
Another rambling answer...I'm not very good at this.

RAWK: Does Alan Smiths' football future lie in midfield, attack or in selling hot dogs outside Elland Road in a Groucho Marx disguise mask?

OGSRB: Alan Smith has the mental ability and attitude to be a success in midfield, but he cant control games quite simply, and I don't know whether we have the time to really give let him learn to do this, I get the impression he's a stop gap in the centre rather than a long term fixture. And he wont get a game upfront. I think he would be a useful squad player, but whether he'd accept that I don't know.
Mind you, he'd be risking a bit of a kicking going as Groucho Marx to Elland Road.  Although Lee Bowyer has left of course.

RAWK: The government of the day finally listens to the people and banishes United and all their followers. You get to pick a DVD of one match between our two teams to a desert island. Which do you choose and why?

OGSRB:ChArmin' as ever, armin.
For entertainment sake I would pick the 4-0 drubbing we gave you at Old Trafford in 02-03, great Football and to make things better, you were really bloody terrible, on our way to collect another Premiership trophy.
96' is my favourite game against Liverpool for the obvious reason, the manner in which we won, and what we won, but the game itself was fairly drab...mind you, could I ever get bored of watching Eric smash it in from James's slap? A work of art!.

RAWK: Forlan gets the golden boot, Veron is back to his imperious best in Serie A, how long before Djemba Djemba makes the FIFA world XI?

OGSRB:Quite, I should say both players respective success, particularly Forlan, shows what a change of league can do, and that we donít buy too many crap players; Forlan and Veron simply weren't suited to the physical nature of English game. The physical end-to-end hurly-burly is what makes the league so enjoyable (most of the time) in my opinion, but it does claim it's tragic victims, such as Veron, as he was ridiculously talented but always wanted more time on the ball than he was allowed. It's always a risk with players from a slower league I suppose, which told with Forlan and Veron.
As for Djemba-Djemba, Christ, what can you say...can he even pass water? Hideous! An exception to the above rule. Possibly an undercover spy.

RAWK: In the build-up to United / Arsenal Ferguson said that this was the bigger game and that they were generally played in the right atmosphere, at least on the pitch. Was he right or just on an Arsene windup?

OGSRB:This is the biggest game in English Football, there is no doubt about that. The Arsenal game is probably bigger for the players, or it was, as they really didnít like each other, but for the fans and for everyone else the Liverpool game is the first fixture you look for. You cannot match the sheer hatred, tradition, prestige and stature of both clubs.
This is something the London media have never quite grasped, and without sounding too pretentious, is a rivalry steeped in a history Chelsea couldn'tít dream of, or any of the London sides for that matter.
It is however played in a better atmosphere between players, but again this is probably because the players have tended to get on better than the United-Arsenal players...not that I say that as a good thing, of course!

RAWK: We know your main players all too well, who amongst the youngsters will make the grade? Note, we're not looking for the next Liam Miller here...

OGSRB:I'm not entirely convinced Miller was actually real. I never saw him anyway, I think he was an old wifeís tale.
We have a fair few good young players, as ever the test is whether they will have the good fortune, physical ability and more importantly mentality to make the step up to United's level. It's always a gamble with kids, but Iíd say the one with the best chance is a lad called Rossi, a class apart at reserve team level, has struggled a little bit in the first team but hopefully he'll fill out a bit and be fine...mind you, we've been saying that about Fletcher for ages!
I cancelled MUTV when Glazer came in so sadly I've not been able to watch the reserve/youth teams play, which always used to be fun. But, I've also been impressed with Pique at first team level, and I believe Blake and Martin are as imperious this season as they were last season, I'd say those two have a great chance too.
But as I said, it's all about who copes with the pressure of the top level at Manchester United, something you cant quite gauge until they are there.

RAWK: You have a hole in your midfield where an Irishman used to be. Who can/will fill it?

OGSRB:Iím sure I just told you Liam Miller didnít exist.
Well anyone but O'Shea would be nice, say, Lilly Savage or Terry Wogan might be able to do a job. But setting our sights a little higher, there really aren't many realistic candidates, we need a player like Gerrard who can drive the team forward from midfield and basically just create things and dictate tempo, as well as give us a bit of physical presence back in the middle. Gravesen could probably give us the physical force we lack, but perhaps not the creativity.
Ballack would probably be ideal (though I do think he's a little over-rated, more of a final third player than a box-to-box gut buster in the Keane mold), but that dream seems to be fading fast.

RAWK: Where do you expect United and the European Champions to finish in the Premier League?

OGSRB:I still cant believe they won it...jammy buggers those Greeks, they're an international side though, Armin.
I would expect United to finish second. As a matter of interest, I'd expect Liverpool to finish third.
I think Liverpool will go far again in a certain competition I'm putting my fingers in my ears to and pretending doesn't exist, though...

RAWK: Which Liverpool player can do you the most harm?

OGSRB: Probably Gerrard if he gets space in midfield, which he will get more of if we play 4-4-2, whereas in the past we had someone (usually Keane) sitting to plug the gap between defense and midfield, something I predicted in this section last year would win us the game at Anfield if successful...not to blow my own trumpet...which of course I am.
Hyypia is pretty key too I think, you'll be sitting fairly deep I think, and he's an excellent backs-to-the-wall defender who has stifled us before.

RAWK: We have loads of Benfica hats and scarfs available at bargain prices, would you like to buy one?

OGSRB:Not if it brings me the same luck as the AC Milan ones you fobbed off on to me last year...

RAWK: At this point it's traditional to predict the score:

OGSRB:1-0 United. I donít see it being a classic, these games arenít too often. You'll sit deep and put men behind the ball, we'll have problems breaking you down as we do with all teams who do that. I just hope we can nick a scrappy one at some stage, and hold out hope that thereís at least one person who hasnít drifted into a deep sleep to register the goal as being scored.

We'll Never Die.


Eek, a horrid thought to end our interview.  Mind you Dracula said the same thing right before Professor Van Benitez ended his unholy existence.  Our thanks again to Steve for his answers.  Hopefully he'll drop in to see your responses so keep it civil please, reserve your passion for Sunday.

(C) RAWK 2006

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