Man Utd Fans Blog: Welcome

Man Utd Fans Blog: Welcome to the sometimes sugar coated, sometimes vinegar soaked opinions of a home and away red. Updated weekly between August 2011 and July 2015, now only written occasionally. Any blues, scousers or sheepshaggers reading this, this is written for the amusement of United fans so if you don’t like it, seek solace elsewhere.

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Manchester United 4-1 Portsmouth – 7th May 1988

Brian McClair scores a penalty on a dusty, dry pitch in front of the Stretford End (photo and caption courtesy of Kay Dickinson)

The Pride Guys – Juventus 1984

This is what it’s all about, genuinely back in the big time and the visit of Juventus for United’s first European semi-final since the AC Milan tie of 1969 and the infamous goal that never was, scored by Denis Law. Juventus, with Michel Platini, Paolo Rossi and Zbigniew Boniek and the brilliant but the eternally dirty bastard, Claudio Gentile, possibly the most inappropriately named footballer I’ve ever seen. Of the six Juventus players that were part of the Italian World Cup winning squad of less than two years prior, five were still at the club. In Boniek, Juventus had a skilful centre forward who moved like shit off a shovel and in Michel Platini, they had the present Ballon d’Or holder, half way through his three year reign of being so and in my opinion, the best footballer in the world at that time. Platini would soon be an instrumental part of that magical France side which won the European Championships that summer. In the meantime on this warm Spring night at Old Trafford, Platini and his cohort were up against a United side that had both Bryan Robson and Ray Wilkins (captain and vice captain respectively) out injured. United had Paul McGrath, a centre half, playing in midfield alongside the tenacious Remi Moses and John Gidman, a right back who’d been out injured for most of the previous two years playing on the right wing. To say United were up against it is an understatement.

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Match programme cover

The pre match build up for this European Cup Winners Cup semi final and expectation had, if anything surpassed that of the famous Barcelona match which occurred three weeks prior. To no one’s great surprise, Barcelona, with Diego Maradona and the superb Bernd Schuster beat United 2-0 in the Camp Nou in the first leg.

The return saw United unexpectedly win 3-0 against a side completely overwhelmed by an Old Trafford crowd which was given officially as 58,547. Touts that night were asking and getting an astronomical £10.00 for Stretford End standing tickets. With the confidence gained from that special night and the great momentum United had at that moment, even a side as great as Juventus obviously were held no fear for United.

The night of the Juventus match was a quintessential European Old Trafford night. The huge floodlights seemed to beam that little bit brighter, the streets en route to the ground packed with nervous anticipation and old boys stood outside the main stand in their camel coats smoking stogies. As we took our places on the Stretford Paddock, the Stretford End was in full voice with nearly an hour to go to kick off (imagine that now!). An official crowd of 58,171 was in the stadium. This was smaller than the Barcelona game, indeed, on Warwick Road touts were trying to sell tickets for below face value as what became abundantly clear was that everybody who wanted a ticket, had one. In the touting circles, this night became known as the ‘Juventus bonfire’ (oddly enough, tickets for the second leg of the European Cup semi final 15 years later between the two sides had the same fate)

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In the press before this tie, there had been heavy speculation and innuendo about referee, Jan Keizer, being spotted talking to officials of Juventus at Schipol airport. This wouldn’t be the first time there had been suspicion about the behaviour of an Italian club in a European match. Both United and Liverpool lost hugely controversial European Cup semi-finals against AC Milan (1969) and Inter Milan (1965) respectively. The reactions of the managers being as their usual character, Matt Busby quietly dignified but seething inside, Bill Shankly hilariously outspoken, as was his wont. In 1973, Derby County lost a European Cup semi-final against Juventus, which led Brian Clough to say to the gathered Italian press corps that he “would not speak to cheating bastards” after Juventus centre forward Helmut Haller, he who scored the first goal in the 1966 World cup Final, was observed accompanying match referee and German compatriot Gerhard Schulenburg to the changing rooms at half time. Contemporarily, the same night United played Juventus, Nottingham Forest were playing Anderlecht in a UEFA Cup Semi Final, a match which was revealed to be corrupt in favour of the Belgians by UEFA in 1997.

It was in this suspicious atmosphere that the match progressed at Old Trafford with some very strange decisions being made by the Dutch referee. Claudio Gentile in particular with a foul on Arthur Graham that would earn him a six match ban nowadays, did not even get a booking. With all the media innuendo and the weird decisions, the Stretford End soon started loudly singing “Bribery, bribery, bribery” to the tune of Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa.

In the 10th minute, United, already badly hampered by absences to key players saw Gidman substituted for Alan Davies after he broke down injured. Four minutes later, United were caught out by a classic Italian sucker punch. From the Scoreboard End box and a United attack, it took 12 seconds for the Bianconeri to score. Boniek picked the ball up near the D on his own half way line and with his frightening pace, ran past Kevin Moran like he was a chicane, he fed Rossi on the mid-point of United’s 18 yard line, who shot and took a deflection off the luckless Graeme Hogg’s knee and past Gary Bailey’s left hand side of the Stretford End net. There was virtually no travelling Juventus supprters in the stadium, so the silence that greeted the goal was eerie.

From this, relentless pressure was applied by United against a team very experienced at soaking up this kind of football. Like a lot of contemporary Latin clubs, Juventus were a dab hand at the dark arts and United, like most English clubs of this era, had an almost Corinthian attitude and honesty to playing. In short, United were very naïve in a European sense. It would stay this way for at least another decade. Allowing for Juventus’ impressive composure under this pressure, in the 45th minute, an Arthur Albiston cross from near the halfway line caused chaos in the Juventus box. A Norman Whiteside shot from five yards was parried by Stefano Tacconi and Davies placed the ball into an unguarded net. It was to be his only goal for United.

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Frank Stapleton hits the bar in front of the Stretford End with the goal at his mercy

Halfway through the second half as Boniek was about to take a corner in front of the J Stand, he collapsed as he was about to run up. We then had all kinds of histrionics on the pitch as an assortment of men in very expensive suits were walking around gesticulating wildly at the referee. Later in the game, Frank Stapleton had the chance to win the game for United in front of the Stretford End. Another chaotic scramble saw the ball fall for him in a similar way it fell for Davies. Stapleton went for the big finish and the ball crashed against the bar and out to safety for a very relieved visiting side.

United don’t bother with moral victories, we leave that to clubs with a smaller mentality, but there was a real feeling of pride as we left Old Trafford that night. This Juventus side, which would go onto win the tournament and the European Cup the following year in tragic circumstances were on paper, far superior to what United had available. United went for this Juventus side in the only way it knew how to, with guts and bravery. It worked against Barcelona (another technically superior side), it very nearly did against the Bianconeri, but heartbreak reigned a couple of weeks later when a last minute goal by Rossi ended any dreams reds had of heading to Basel in the middle of May. The following night, the once great Manchester Evening News had a back page photo of a dejected Paul McGrath walking off the pitch at Turin’s Stadio Comunale and a headline of “The Pride Guys”. It was spot on. For the return leg and like the previous tie in Barcelona, United officially took no supporters. This had become club policy after the debacle in Valencia in September 1982, when the local police started indiscriminately belting United fans with batons in the Mestalla. This caused a knock on effect after the match and United obviously felt that taking an official contingent to European aways was more trouble than it was worth.

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A tiny gathering of reds amongst home fans in the Stadio Comunale. Those lads had some bottle

United’s next match after the home leg against Juventus was an away trip to Meadow Lane, where they lost 1-0 Notts County, a club who’d inspired the Juventus strip in 1903. This result caused massive harm to a team whom still had a great chance of winning the title, but it also nicely summed up the mid 1980’s United side in a microcosm. Play one of the best sides in the world on a Wednesday night and be unlucky to only draw against them with half your side out injured and then, lose to a relegation bound Notts County four days later. Nothing ever changes really.  

Originally published in Red News, November 2018.

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The True Manchester Club

Has anyone ever witnessed a more rapid abandonment of principles than that shown by City fans this week?

For years they have banged on about being the people’s club; a football club that is still a football club as opposed to an organisation obsessed with money; supporters who were in it for the love of the club, the love of the game; 30 years and we’re still here; the true Manchester club; ‘This is our city’ and all that nonsense. An entire generation of fans who have built their identity purely on being whatever United are not.

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And what were United? A greedy, rich club that bought success with its vast wealth. Wealth which came before all else, acquired through disgraceful commercialism and a soulless disregard for the beautiful game. Fans who cared only about trophies and expensive signings, and who understood nothing of what it meant to be a true football fan – a City fan for example.

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But this is the United whose fans at least cared about retaining its identity as a Mancunian football club. When foreign owners with the wrong motives came sniffing round Manchester United, they fought and fought and fought to keep them away. They used every means legal, and some illegal ones too. They mobilised, collected, protested, campaigned, lobbied, vandalised, wrote, phoned, emailed, rallied, marched, flash-mobbed and rioted. They made it impossible for the Glazers to visit Manchester peacefully. And the loss of their club to people who didn’t give a toss about its identity and traditions meant so much that some of them walked away altogether. Home and awayers with decades of fanaticism to their names had decided that forming a new club, with the incredible effort that entailed, was the only alternative to seeing their club used as some egotistical plaything.

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Contrast this with 1st September 2008. The only sound you could hear that day was that of 100,000 zips being simultaneously lowered as the blue quarter of Manchester collectively dropped its trousers and bent over, willing to be shamelessly violated by some slimy rich man. Not a shred of pride, not a moment’s defence of their supposedly salt of the earth club; just a panting mass, all ready to be anybody’s b-itch in exchange for money with which they can buy success.

There really is only one true football club in Manchester, and it’s not Manchester City

Written by Lee Thomas and first published on September 4th, 2008. Shared here with his kind permission

Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent – Betrayal of a Legend, 30 Years On

Originally published in Red News, September 2019

Anybody under the age of 40 could be forgiven for thinking these are amongst the worst days in the modern history of Manchester United. There’s no doubt that there’s an awful atmosphere amongst supporters and with protests against the club’s malignant ownership organised during June and with them rearing their head again recently, it’s fair to say that now is the Winter of our discontent.

As bad as things are around United at present, there have been worse periods, such as the one highlighted with great clarity by Michael Crick and David Smith in Betrayal of a Legend, first published in May 1989. This piece will review what was said in that book and how it resonates with the Manchester United we watch and support today.

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Betrayal of a Legend by Michael Crick & David Smith

Betrayal of a Legend was written ostensibly from the perspective of David Smith, who had been deposed as Supporters Club chairman in the summer of 1987, in favour of the new fangled Membership Scheme which Margaret Thatcher’s government was trying to impose on all football clubs. The policy idea for compulsory membership was thrown out in January 1990, with the Taylor Report commissioned in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster of April 1989 saying that it “could not support a scheme of that kind, because he could not believe that the technology would work well enough to avoid the danger of congestion and disorder.” However, United, knowing that they were onto a good thing financially stuck with it to such a degree that it is now nigh on impossible to officially gain entrance to a United match without one. While the book gives a less than flattering account of the club’s methods of how they dealt with Smith (Crick & Smith 1-7: 1990) and Sir Matt Busby’s stewardship of the now rather quaint Souvenir Shop which his son used to run (Crick & Smith, 268/269: 1990), the forensic detail that Crick analyses the governance of Manchester United, mostly by the Edwards family and how it concurs with the modern running of the club by Glazer’s is what gives the most interesting reading from a modern perspective.

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Michael Crick’s brilliant 2002 biography of Sir Alex Ferguson

Over the eighteen months, there has been strong speculation about the appointment of a Director of Football (DoF) at United. Writing about this possibility for the Daily Mail in August 2018, Mike Keegan came out with an article which by his admittedly low bar was brimming with originality. Keegan said that “there appears to have been a belated recognition at Old Trafford that the old system and the days of Ferguson-esque tenures are over and that the club needs to come first”. While Keegan for once makes an interesting point, the reality is that at United, this is nothing new. Earlier this year figures like Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Darren Fletcher were speculated as potential candidates for this ‘new role’. Even allowing for the fact that at the time of writing, January 2020, no appointment has been made, in reality, it’s just a rebranding of what’s been happening on and off at United since Matt Busby handed over the team managerial reigns to Wilf McGuinness in June 1969, while he himself stayed on as ‘General Manager’ (Crick & Smith, 1990: 86). Busby eventually resigned from United’s board in August 1982 (Crick & Smith, 1990: 180) and in the summer of 1984, United replaced him with his stalwart skipper, Bobby Charlton. “Martin Edwards needed Charlton as a name on the board for his football experience rather than for any business activity” (Crick & Smith, 1990: 181/182). In effect, Charlton like Busby before him, was operating as United’s DoF before the job title had been invented. Crick & Smith (1990: 238) say that Ron Atkinson and Charlton came increasingly in conflict during the two years they worked together at United and that Edwards would generally defer to Charlton’s opinion. Crick & Smith (ibid) point out that in the summer of 1986, the year Atkinson was sacked, Charlton effectively vetoed Atkinson’s requisition of a £700,000 bid for Ipswich Town centre half, Terry Butcher. This is similar to Ed Woodward vetoing the signing of Harry Maguire when Jose Mourinho requested him in the summer of 2018. In his outstanding biography on Alex Ferguson, The Boss, Crick says that Atkinson believes that Charlton was a central player in persuading Ferguson to come to United, a claim that Bryan Robson backed up (Crick, 2002: 252). This is the classic case of a DoF at work and while Atkinson sailed off into the sunset with a £115,000 severance (Crick & Smith, 1990: 235), Ferguson, strongly aided by Charlton, set about the lengthy and at times torturous job of a root and branch rebuild of United. Without Charlton’s staunch support throughout that period, particularly the grim winter of 1989/90, it is unlikely that Ferguson would’ve survived as United’s manager without Charlton in his corner. (Ferguson & Mcllvanney, 1999: 280)

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Alex Ferguson’s first autobiography, published in 1999

Atkinson’s last match as United manager was a 4-1 thrashing at The Dell as Southampton knocked United out of the League Cup on November 4th, 1986. Two days later, his dismissal was announced and Ferguson was installed as manager post haste. Crick & Smith (1990: 240) claim that Ferguson said that offer of the United job after Atkinson’s dismissal was a “complete surprise”. However, a decade later, Ferguson said in his autobiography, Managing My Life, that he was approached for the United job the night before Atkinson was sacked (Ferguson & Mcllvanney, 1999: 232). Reading this, it is difficult to ascertain what it was that completely surprised Ferguson after Atkinson was sacked.

Ron Atkinson’s last match as United manager

May 2005 saw the Glazer takeover of United. At Ferihegy Airport in Budapest just prior to United’s 3-0 win against Debrecen the following August, Ferguson came across a pair of reasonably well known disgruntled United fans at the arrivals carousel of the airport. According to Mark Ogden (2015), then of the Daily Telegraph, One of those traveling reds said to Ferguson “you fucked us over. You could have spoken out about it.” Ferguson said in reply that “I’ve got a job to do and fifteen staff. They come first. If you don’t like it, go and watch Chelsea.” While Ferguson’s concerns for his staff was touching, these were also the words of a man of huge political power within Manchester United. When Betrayal of a Legend was published in 1989 and even allowing for the new three year contract granted in September of that year, it would be a safe bet to say that Ferguson would not have dared say that to any United fan under any circumstances. Then, he was far more vulnerable politically, particularly as the winter progressed and relegation became a plausible prospect (season 1989/90 concluded with United finishing six points clear of relegation).

That year though, Ferguson got some very long overdue luck, both on and off the pitch, which along with Charlton’s endorsement, brought him some crucial time. As well as the completely unexpected 1-0 win in the FA Cup 3rd round away at a very good Nottingham Forest side, the ongoing debacle of the proposed sale of the club by Edwards to Michael Knighton in the summer of 1989 took a lot of heat off Ferguson. While United’s abysmal form was certainly noticed by the wider world, the shenanigans at board level was providing even more amusement to everybody else.

Mark Robins scores the goal that saved Alex Ferguson’s job

One thing Ferguson was scathing of in that period was football agents. Ferguson said of the agents influence that “It’s a rat race and the rats are winning” (Crick & Smith, 1990: 222). Happily, Ferguson to an extent made his peace with agents to such a degree that his son, Jason, ended up as one and indeed, did a lot of business with United, including transfers involving Kleberson, Tim Howard and Jaap Stam (amongst many others). In 2004, Sam Wallace of the Daily Telegraph claimed that Ferguson “has faced allegations in the past, from former players Jonathan Greening and Mark Wilson, of pressurising young players to sign up to his son’s agency”. Grown men obviously do move on and it was good for the club that through using his son, Ferguson could find somebody trustworthy to do the rats work for United at the club’s benefit. Alas, for Ferguson, this practice was soon scuppered when he chose to get into an argument with John Magnier and JP McManus, two of the club’s major shareholders, over stud rights to a horse he had been gifted a half share in. In retaliation, Magnier and McManus publicly submitted 99 questions about United’s transfer dealings, many of them involving his son. To this day, the implications of that row cast a grim shadow over the on pitch fortunes of United.  

The first match of the 1989/90 season saw United play the League Champions, Arsenal. A day of glorious weather saw United thrash the gunners 4-1 and as an added bonus, the club’s shy and retiring new proposed owner displayed an impressive amount of ball control pre match in front of a rapturous Stretford End. The deal had been announced two days before on the ITN News At 10 and was such was the comical incompetence of the deal by Edwards, Bobby Charlton and fellow board member Michael Edelson only found about the deal “minutes before the news broke” (Crick & Smith, 1990: 278). This piss poor excuse of communication was not to be the last event of staggering incompetence over the forthcoming winter, a season which nearly turned United into a laughing stock comparable with City. 

Michael Knighton interview on Grandstand August 19th, 1989

Edwards was never a popular chairman, but for right or wrong, he had a vision for Manchester United that it could be a multi-disciplinary sporting institution, à la Barcelona and Real Madrid. Some people lost their shit in a big way when United announced the formation of a ladies team in the middle of 2018/19 season. They lost it even more when it was announced on the 3rd January 1985, that a basketball side playing under United’s name would soon commence. This happened because United director and solicitor, Maurice Watkins, was approached by FSO Warrington Vikings basketball club in November 1984 and asked would United be in interested in taking them over (Crick & Smith, 1990: 248). This set the wheels in motion for a deal which cost United approximately £47,000 to have a basketball side. Not only were traditional United fans baffled by this extension to the club’s identity, it was also ended up being a financial drain. By the 1986 club annual general meeting, a net loss of £253,000 had been imposed on Manchester United by the basketball club (Crick & Smith, 1990: 252). To nobody’s great surprise, Edwards sold the basketball club for £150,000 in January 1988. This gave even more evidence to Edwards’ detractors, something that was in healthy supply in those days.

Crick and Smith (1990: 259) said that few areas of Old Trafford are not exploited to full advantage. With United’s seasonal gate receipts of £5,000,000 (approx) accounting for two thirds of the annual income, the long term intention was to get outside revenue accounting for at least half of the revenue. With TV revenues and other spurious sponsorship deals, this seemingly ludicrous prediction in 1989 has now not only come true, but any other way of generating mass club revenue seems equally far fetched.

The Knighton debacle of 1989, when in desperation, he tried selling the club’s shares before he had paid for them looked even worse on Edwards’ part. Newspaper publisher, Eddie Shah, was called one night by a representative of Knighton, asking him if he was interested in buying Knighton’s share of United, a deal which would have made Knighton a profit of £6,000,000.  (Crick & Smith, 1990: 287). To put it bluntly, this made Edwards look a fool. Not only had he been taken for a ride by a smooth talking chancer with no due diligence performed, he had also drastically undervalued the club that he owned a 52% share in. There was much amusement at the time about Knighton trying to sell shares in an institution he had not yet paid any money for. That amusement wears thin thirty years hence when Darcie Glazer takes out a $6.8m loan secured against 393,000 shares in Manchester United, shares that have been procured by debt.

Eddie Shah was not the only significant media figure to have taken an interest in Manchester United during Edwards reign. Robert Maxwell expressed an interest in buying the club in February 1984, an interest which, thank fuck, never got past a preliminary meeting with Edwards as Maxwell felt that Edwards’ valuation of the club at £15m was too much (Crick & Smith, 1990: 186). In 1998, BskyB came into the equation, an interest which was originally mooted in Betrayal… and first occurred during season 1989/90 (Crick & Smith, 1990: 300).

To prevent a fiasco like the attempted Knighton takeover ever happening again, or indeed United being at the mercy of a predatory asset stripper, Charlton said “I don’t think any one person should have charge of United and the best safeguard is for the club to be floated on the stock market” (Crick & Smith, 1990: 298). This was eventually done in the summer of 1991. Edwards diluted his shareholding significantly, whilst retaining his political power at United, a power that lasted until the winter of 1999 when his risible handling of Roy Keane’s contract demands saw him lose most of his authority, eventually becoming a ceremonial presence within the United hierarchy (he is now United’s ‘honorary president’). Whilst Edwards stayed in situ for eight years, Charlton’s comments about a flotation remain of most interest, particularly in light of what happened in May 2005. On a pre season tour in Houston in July 2010, Sir Alex Ferguson said “when Manchester United went PLC, without doubt it was always going to be bought. It’s unfair that because the Glazers’ have bought the club, they should come under criticism when anybody could have bought it”. It is unknown whether Ferguson and Charlton ever debated this matter in 1991 when the flotation occurred, but taking Ferguson’s words at face value, it is clear that he thinks Charlton, his strongest ally on the board, was wrong with what he said about a flotation protecting the club. United were always vulnerable post flotation and there is no way that a dispute between Ferguson and the club’s main shareholders over horse stud rights caused the ‘inevitable’ debt loaded takeover. Absolutely not. Get that silly idea out of your head right away laddie.

The conclusion to Betrayal… said “Even the world’s most brilliant football manager could not transform Manchester United, so long as the club is run from the Chairman’s office in the way it has been. United have been dragged into mediocrity by both administrative mismanagement and an obsession with money which has infected the whole club” (Crick & Smith, 1990: 303).

In their wildest dreams, Crick and Smith could not have seen what was around the corner for United, a turn which happened at Nottingham Forest in January 1990 and it began an era when Alex Ferguson became indisputably United’s most successful ever manager. United continued to be a money obsessed club with an attitude of high handed arrogance towards fans, which barring the odd exception from certain club figures, survives to this day. The consistent success and brilliance of the United sides from 1990 to 2013 softened that blow considerably to die hard supporters (even allowing for the formation of FC United in 2005 by time served reds), but it’s tragically ironic with his laughably amateurish political maneuvering over the Rock of Gibraltar, the club’s most successful ever manager has inadvertently led the club to the mess it is today. Betrayal of a Legend goes to show that while there has been many huge changes in thirty years, with Ed Woodard at the helm now and Martin Edwards then, a farcical incompetence of prevails at the club. I would recommend Betrayal of a Legend to any red. It becomes obvious that some things will never change.

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We Got Sanchez, Paul Pogba and Fred…

…Oh Christ, so we have. A song sung with such annoying repetition over winter months by the faithful, it was relatively easy to gloss over the somewhat dubious respective merits of the lyric as United made a storming start to Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s reign as United manager. We have Ole at the wheel and with the obvious love for him from the terraces, it really does feel good. However, doubts are already creeping in. On the concourse at Goodison on Sunday at half time, there were murmurs from the usual moaning twats about Solskjær’s suitability for the job. He maybe at the wheel, but there’s already a few passengers getting travel sickness.

Paul Pogba not missing his chance to get his face on the telly after the match in Paris

Thinking of passengers, we got Sanchez, Paul Pogba and Fred indeed. Batting away the people moaning about Solskjær, there really is a bitter irony to those three players being celebrated in song from the terraces. Sanchez has the heart of the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. It comes to something when a swap deal involving Henrik Mkhitarian sees United come off worse. Sanchez arrived with great fanfare playing John Brown’s Body on a grand piano and with two adorable Golden Retrievers, he even set up an Instagram page for them. I reckon those dogs could’ve done a better job in a United shirt than he has. He has been shit. As for Pogba, I doubt it was a coincidence that for United’s best night of Solskjær’s reign to date, he was suspended after getting sent off in the first leg against Paris Saint Germain. Fear not, he was all over the post match celebrations, there was no way he was missing that photo opportunity. Fred also had his finest moment in Paris, when he hustled Juan Bernat away from barracking Marcus Rashford as he was about to take the penalty in the Parc de Princes. Has Fred done anything else worth remembering as a player since he signed for £50m+ last summer? If you can remember anything then please leave a comment at the bottom saying so as I’ll be fucked if I can.

Paul Pogba on Twitter immediately after Jose Mourinho’s sacking

After the euphoria of Paris, there was a relish in the air as United went to Arsenal the following Sunday. A 2-0 defeat was disappointing, but not the end of the world. United played well at Arsenal, it was just one of those days. The following weekend, United were knocked out of the FA Cup by Wolves at Molineux. That was harder to take due to it being United’s only realistic chance of a trophy this season and the fact that Wolves, for the second time this season, had played United off the pitch. What was even harder to take was a couple of weeks later United deservedly losing again to Wolves. The most annoying thing about it is that Wolves have only won twice since the beginning of March and both of those victories have been against United. We’re truly through the looking glass when we’re looking at a match against Wolves as an elephant trap. United have only won twice since that night in Paris and both of those wins, against Watford and West Ham, were very lucky.

This was drama in the classic United tradition

Talking of elephants, Romelu Lukaku has the mobility and the physical presence of one on a football pitch. For the hat trick, he also has the first touch of an elephant. Lukaku has an eye for a goal, nobody can doubt that and, as Paris proved, he also can do it on the big stage. However, looking at Lukaku, I can’t help feeling that at £70m plus, United have been done like a kipper again in the transfer market. If Everton had United over for Lukaku, they also royally had United over on the Sunday passed. For years I have lamented United’s delivery of crosses and corners. I rarely expect either to beat the first man, however, on Sunday, Everton’s second goal was scored less than ten seconds after a United corner. It has come to something when the opposition are more dangerous from a United corner than United are. There’s no doubt that Everton deserved the win and only a fool would ever take a trip to Goodison lightly, no matter what form Everton are in, but that performance on Sunday was a disgrace. Easily as bad as any under Mourinho or van Gaal’s stewardship. Say what you want about van Gaal and Mourinho, but these are managers who between them have won three European Cups and have managed Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Ajax. These are decorated managers, respected throughout the world and both have come to United and have eventually looked like mugs. When that happens, the structure of the whole club has to be looked at from top to bottom. At the top, we have owners who extract great profits from the club, so nothing is wrong from their perspective, but anybody who thinks the Glazer’s own the club because of their love for United or football want their heads examining. We now have a relative novice ‘at the wheel’, I hope it comes good, I really do, but as per 2014 and 2016, you’d better belt up for the ride, because it isn’t going to be a smooth one. Ole’s going to need all the support he can muster as he tries to sift through that coven of a squad he has. Don’t underestimate what he’s up against. Players with bad attitudes on long and lucrative contracts and in Ed Woodward, a boss who’s a genius at signing sponsorship deals with brands that have tenuous links to football, but a complete half wit when it comes to football itself.

€100 for this view. Travelling reds deserved better than what they got in Barcelona. (Photo courtesy of Peter Garton)

In the meantime, look forward to tomorrow night’s derby match as the pride of Cheshire and the Beswick branch of the Abu Dhabi United football group come to Old Trafford. Reds might feel like turkey’s on Christmas Eve, but you never know. From 2002 to 2010, I saw lousy City sides beat great United teams, so there’s no reason why United can’t beat City tomorrow night. As for the implications of a potential United win? Fuck it, I’m going back to bed. Wake me up in August.

Return Of The Pink Paper

The front cover of the United Review for the Tottenham match set the memory bank running for this piece. A homage to the Pink Final which used to be sold outside Old Trafford and Maine Road, it was in reality a promotional tool for United’s ghastly new change strip, which made its debut at Turf Moor the following Sunday. As awful as the new away strip is, the piece itself was written with the good taste that the United Review editor has, a fine man who knows the score and is a time and travel served red. Continue reading Return Of The Pink Paper