Dissolved Into the Winter Sky, just another summer at Old Trafford

Earlier in the pre-season, United had bid £12,000,000 for Leighton Baines and £16,000,000 for Marouane Fellaini. These bids were, according to the media consensus, ‘angrily’ refused by Everton. United have recently come back with a cunning plan, offer a combined £28,000,000 for the pair, surely Everton would fall for that. Despite what some of my fellow reds may think, most scousers are not thick and even if so, not even the thickest scouser would have fallen for that ruse. There is now speculation that United’s next move for Baines and Fellaini is to offer four payments of £7,000,000 staggered over five years. There’s clearly some real guile controlling the transfer budget at Old Trafford.

Marouane Fellani scoring the winner for Everton against United in August 2012


United now have Ed Woodward doing the job previously held by Martin Edwards, Peter Kenyon and David Gill. That trio oversaw the failure to sign Ian Rush, Gary Lineker, Peter Beardsley, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldinho (amongst many others). Ed Woodward is well on the way to equalising that impressive list of failure. This close season alone United have missed out on the signing of Thiago Alcântara and Cesc Fabregas as well as Woodward being the brains behind the risible two bids for the Everton duo. It was widely reported in the media that Woodward had suddenly left United’s pre season tour in Sydney due to  some ‘urgent’ business back in the Manchester that he had to deal with. Five weeks later and with no further word on this urgent affair, I can only assume that Woodward had accidently left some lettuce and tomato out of the fridge in his office at Old Trafford and had to fly across half of the world as nobody else could access his office to put it right. With the passage of time, I hope that’s all it was. If it was anything of more importance, like maybe signing a new central midfield anchor, then anybody reading this should be grateful that Woodward isn’t your local GP. If he was, then you’d be really in trouble. ‘But hang on’ I hear more moderate voices cry, maybe I’m being a bit harsh on Woodward. This summer United have signed multi million pound sponsorship deals with (amongst many others) Aeroflot, True Corporation Plc and Pepsi. United may not have made any significant new signings but the sponsorship partner portfolio has, according to The Guardian, expanded to thirty four. I take it all back and should look at the bigger picture, the fact that United have secured all that sponsorship should put all our minds to rest.

 Ed Woodward, new Chief Executive of United

To be fair to Woodward, it looks like Cesc Fabregas used United as a stalking horse for better conditions in much the same way that John Terry did when he batted his eyelashes at Manchester City in the summer of 2009. On the 8th of August, in the aftermath of a £30,700,000 bid from United, Fabregas issued a statement saying “Triumphing in Barcelona has been my dream since I was a child” and “I am very happy at Barcelona and I haven’t spoken to any other club in the last two years.” Fabregas may not have spoken to any other club himself but it didn’t or doesn’t stop his agent, Darren Dein – son of former Arsenal vice-chairman David, from talking to United on his behalf. A very well informed journalist who happens to be a United fan, was privately adamant on the 15th of July that Fabregas wanted to come to United. Whatever Fabregas’s wants or intentions, it took him twenty four days from when the speculation commenced to his statement saying that he was staying, to put a lid on it all. He wasn’t exactly in a rush to reassure Barcelona or their supporters of his wish to stay at Camp Nou. I know who I believe.

Wayne Rooney scores his first senior goal against Arsenal in October 2002

Wayne Rooney has had a turbulent summer. It looks like Sir Alex Ferguson delivered and almost freezing serving of revenge to Rooney in the week he announced his retirement. Sir Alex said just immediately after his final home match as United manger that ‘I don’t think Wayne was keen to play simply because he’s asked for a transfer’. Rooney’s camp have since furiously denied the claim made by Sir Alex. The main problem with this dispute is that both claims are perfectly plausible. Rooney’s demeanour and game have, with the odd crucial exception, been off the boil since since the most recent versions of Auld Lang Syne dissolved into the winter sky. Rooney was widely reported on the 16th of July of being ‘angry and confused’ over his position at Old Trafford. This is the same Wayne Rooney who was left “bewildered and angry” in June 2006 when Sir Alex attempted to veto his participation in and England friendly whilst he was recovering from a metatarsal injury gained at of all places, Stamford Bridge. When Sir Alex claimed to the press on the 16th of May to have “never held a grudge”, there was so much rueful laughter from certain people worldwide who have crossed him, that it registered on the Richter scale. Anybody who is familiar with Sir Alex’s modus operandi know that he possesses the classic celtic trait of never forgiving a wrong. Sir Alex is also infamously disingenuous (to put it politely) in his dealings with the media. Even if Wayne Rooney had told Sir Alex that he wanted to leave, Ferguson could’ve privately informed David Moyes of Rooney’s wish rather than leaving a sulphuric smelling mess for his succesor to deal with in the formative days of an already daunting job. David Moyes and Wayne Rooney have crossed swords previously too. In May 2006, Rooney was accredited with saying in the execrable first instalment of the pentalogy of books he’s obliged to write for Harper Collins that,

“I began to think there was one person who seemed to be a bit upset and envious of what was happening to me – and that was Moyes . . . when he realised I was getting so much of the limelight I felt he resented it. I would have gone anywhere to get away from Liverpool and David Moyes”. (Wayne Rooney, 2006)

Exactly two years later, Moyes successfully sued Rooney for libel for that comment. The two antagonists did reconcile in 2010 and judging from United fans positive reception of Rooney at Swansea on Saturday just passed, all may not be lost yet for Rooney on the terraces at least. United are publicly digging their heels in on Rooney’s position with rarely displayed zeal. As for his team mates, looking at Daniel Burdett’s photograph immediately after Robin Van Persie’s goal on Saturday, there could be a lot of work to be done there after his excellent cameo performance was barely acknowledged by them, but it’s not insurmountable. Wayne Rooney will be subject to a third bid from Chelsea after the match on Monday, a bid which Jose Mourinho has been falling over himself to claim is ethical. With Mourinho having been fined £75,000 by the Premier League in August 2005 over the ethically dubious contact with Ashley Cole, it’s no real wonder that Mourinho is using the word ethical like a sanskrit mantra.

 Nearly all the United players celebrate Robin Van Persie’s second goal Swansea (photograph courtesy of Daniel Burdett)

There was a lot of belief that Jose Mourinho was heir apparent to Sir Alex Ferguson. The Old Trafford job, like the one at Inter Milan and Real Madrid was big enough to satisfy his elephantine ego in a way that the job at a relative backwater like Chelsea will never be. Two things maneuvered Mourinho to Stamford Bridge. One was the obvious snub delivered to him by not offering him the United manager’s job. It’s been an open secret since before last Christmas that Mourinho was effectively working his notice at the Bernabeu. His uncharacteristic sanguine humility after his Real Madrid side knocked United out of the European Cup in March coupled with old father time not waiting, even for Sir Alex, meant that there was an assumption that Mourinho was Old Trafford bound come the summer. Mourinho has since claimed that the offer of the Chelsea job was always the most enticing to him but that statement reeks of the spurned lover. He couldn’t have it so he didn’t want it anyway. It must be a completely different Jose Mourinho who on the 28th of July 2009, was quoted by ITN as saying “I would consider going to Manchester United but United have to consider if they want me to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson. If they do, then of course”. There has been talk that United director Sir Bobby Charlton had put the block on Jose Mourinho’s appointment at Old Trafford. Sir Bobby told The Guardian last December that “Mourinho is a really good coach but that’s as far as I would go, He pontificates too much for my liking”. That Charlton wasn’t enamoured with Mourinho is obvious but for all that, Sir Bobby doesn’t have the political influence at Old Trafford that he once enjoyed. At the World Cup in Mexico in the summer of 1986, Charlton quietly sounded out Alex Ferguson who was Scotland’s caretaker manager in the tournament for the Old Trafford job. When Ron Atkinson was sacked as United manager in November of that year, Charlton was instrumental in influencing that decision. Since the Glazer family took control of United in May 2005, the footballing priorities at Old Trafford have been outweighed by the financial bottom line, something Sir Bobby has no real experience of. This is another crucial factor in the appointment of Moyes over Mourinho. David Moyes did magnificently well at Everton  with a net spend of an average of £1,700,000 per season in his eleven years there. Mourinho has always operated on a large budget, something even the most ostrich like of United fans will now acknowledge will never be made available for as long as that family control the club. Since the Glazer takeover of 2005, United have averaged a net spend of £11,700,000 per season. A pittance in an era where Chelsea have averaged a net spend of £40,000,000 per season and Man City spending a net of £55,000,000 per season. That United have in that time, won the title more times than Chelsea and City combined, is testament to the genius of Sir Alex Ferguson, no matter how jarring his vocal support of the clubs owners have been. There has been some consternation over David Moyes recent positive statement about the Glazer’s but I struggle to understand why. Having just been given the keys to the managers office at Old Trafford, he was hardly going to publicly call his new bosses a bunch of twats. An annual statement of support from the incumbent United manager towards the Glazers now appears to be a contractual requisite in much he same way that, before they became a project in days of yore, all new signings made by Manchester City had to refer to their new club as either big, huge or massive. The appointment of Moyes however is a big gamble for the Glazer family. Moyes, a hard working, disciplined and deeply religious man who conforms to all the no nonsense, presbyterian Scottish stereotypes, has taken a professional step up to a level I believe he’s still getting to grips with. I’ve no doubt that Moyes has got the balls and the bottle for the job, I just hope he’s given the time to implement his ideas without any kneejerk decisions being made. Moyes has never won a trophy as a manager, he’ll only be given a fraction of the time that his predecessor was granted to change that.




R.I.P. Kevin O’Neill and Derek Digger Vost, two of the soundest blokes you would ever meet who left us this summer.

12 thoughts on “Dissolved Into the Winter Sky, just another summer at Old Trafford”

  1. Great piece Murph and great to have you back!

    I know it’s early doors as far as Moyes is concerned, but I am seriously concerned about his (and Woodward’s) failures in the transfer market this summer. We are the current Champions, we are United f.f.s. – yet we still can’t nail down a decent creative midfielder. Just look at the resources Bayern Munich can call on from midfield – Schweinsteiger, Martinez, Alcantara, Gotze, Kroos, Ribery, Robben, Shaqiri – and compare that to our paltry bunch.

    It’s like ‘Groundhog Day’ – the same crap goes on every summer. The only thing missing so far – and it’s surely only a question of time – is for someone to tell us that this is going to be a big season for Anderson; how many times have we heard that in the last 6 years?

    The simple truth is that Carrick is now the only quality midfielder we have . I don’t count Giggs, simply because he’s on borrowed time or Kagawa because he’s perceived as a forward player. Tunnicliffe has been sent to Ipswich on loan, whilst Anderson & Cleverley just aren’t good enough. Januzaj might be promising but, right now, he’s too young and too physically slight.

    As Rooney seems intent on going, looks like we’re going to get lumbered with a left-back we don’t need, who, in any case, isn’t as good as Evra in my opinion – and a beanpole Belgian midfielder who in my view isn’t of sufficient quality to be a United player anyway.

    One thing Woodward and Moyes need to do before too much longer is to completely overhaul the scouting system because it’s not really working. This year was always going to be difficult, but they need to get their targets for next summer identified and bought early. We can’t afford too many summers as poor as this one has been so far.

    Still, we can always hope that Ronaldo will have a last-minute change of heart….

    1. Agree on Fellaini, disagree on Baines, I like him a lot. Whatever I think of either player though, United’s bid to Everton for Fellain has taken the piss. Fellaini is a very good player for Everton and United have offered virtually no more money for him than what Everton paid Standard Liege for him in 2008.

      1. Take your point, but a ‘very good player’ for Everton doesn’t necessarily mean a very good player for United.

        Baines could handle the step up in class but at 28 going on 29 is this the right move, especially when Evra is playing so well right now and we have the promising Buttner as back-up – not to mention Fabio da Silva? Left back is hardly a problem position for us, so why bother with Baines?

        I just don’t see these moves as anything other than a security blanket for Moyes – these are players he knows will come to Old Trafford.

        He will be acutely conscious of having failed to land his major targets and he will know how weak we are in central midfield.

        He undoubtedly thinks this will demonstrate to the sceptics that he is doing something to shape his own team.

        As far as Fellaini is concerned, United’s bid is surely just an opening ploy. I am sure Moyes will go to £20 million for him – the question is, is he worth it? Not convinced myself.

        1. I take your point about Baines’s age but the clock’s ticking for Evra and Buttner isn’t up to it from what I’ve seen, particularly after Victor Moses rang rings around him at Stamford Bridge last October. As for Fabio, the best I can say is that the jury’s out, I hope he makes it but I doubt he will. With all that in mind, I’d happily have Baines tomorrow. As for Fellaini, as I said, I agree entirely with what you say, all I can say in favour of Fellaini is that I’d have him in the side over Anderson, hardly a ringing endorsement though 😉

  2. Tony we spoke when Moyes was first appointed, I was worried then and nothing so far has changed my opinion, fingers crossed I’m wrong

    1. We did speak then Julie and I also remember speaking to you last night in the pub when I was well pissed 🙂 Moyes wouldn’t have been my first choice for United manager but he’s what we’ve got and he’s got to be given time to get to grips with the job.

  3. Excellent piece. I know of some old Reds, who have recently, been cold called about re newing lapsed season tickets. May be if the ‘project’ showed as much craft in the transfer window, as they do waffling about, great his great that, over the blower, them tickets would sell their fu@/ing self. But we still keep turning up. Nobody to blame but ourselves. Blame may not be the right word. Blind loyalty to the shirts is being exploited though. Starting the season with a genuine chance, of winning a cup, used to be enough to sell tickets. Now it seems that you must also win the transfer window also.

    1. Football clubs have always got away with an attitude of prendre ou à laisser because football fans can’t change allegiances (unless they’re cockneys or bitters) the way people would change supermarket or petrol station. When you get organised fan groups like IMUSA trying to improve the lot for loyal fans, they end up disappearing in a fog of misguided vilification or worse, apathy from the very people they are there to help.

  4. Hi Murph,

    Well said. Agree with everything you say here. However many way’s it is displayed, i still cannot get my head round the scale of the parasites’ financial activity at our club. £11m a season. wow. Despite the ‘£25m war chest’ banded around in ’05, pre-new TV deals and pre-price hikes and pre-numerous titles.

    Spurs have already spent the Bale money on four or five players. Whether they have spent it well or not remains to be seen. We spent the Ronaldo money on Valencia. And interest. And some bonds.

    Some directors/owners take a high salary and dividends etc, but SIX HUNDRED MILLION pounds on nothing, purely for the cheek of ‘owning’ our ‘club’, when none of us wanted the twats in the first place is salt in the biggest of wounds.

    Anyway i digress. Yes a few extra quid could have bought Fabregas and likely Thiago, possibly a few more in past years. RVP was a one-off player who saw history beyond the money. Hopefully Moyes will continue his shrewd bargain-basement activity, and I agree he needs time, which he’ll get from me.

    Should be an interesting season ahead!

    1. Like you, I clearly remember the £25,000,000 ‘war chest’ that the Glazers promised in 2005. I remember thinking at the time that it wasn’t enough but with what United have achieved since then and having not spent even half of that amount per annum is a miracle of biblical proportions (the feeding of the 5,000 etc). The fact that £600,000,000 has haemorrhaged out of the club since then and the that there hasn’t been riots on Warwick Road about it says everything. I vividly remember a couple of years ago, a long serving and well travelled red tell me with a straight face, that he thought the Glazers were getting a rough deal off United fans. With people like that, it’s no wonder that the Glazers are sitting pretty. It’s a miracle Rupert Murdoch never got his scabby hands on United in 1999.

  5. Nice to have to back here Murph. As I did not see you here even after our first 2 games of the season, I was about to ask you whether you were busy pushing Anderson out of Manchester !! Considering his current weight, that is a serious proposition, mind you 🙂

    The other day, Moyes indirectly signaled that there won’t be any major signing before the window closes. Even after considering some really talented youngsters we have (Zaha, Januzaj, Nick Powel), our squad appears slightly thin. SAF could leave our midfield unattended, but I think Moyes can’t. Probably that is why he is going behind Fellaini, after failing to land Thiago and Cesc, however one dimensional he is. I dont credit him of United quality, but he is quality nonetheless, considering the resources we have for midfield.

    1. Agreed on all points. As for not writing about the first two matches, I was on the other side of the world when they were being played but the truth is, due to time constraints and what have you, I won’t be blogging with the regularity this season as I did last. There’s only so much that can be said about no-mark clubs like Fulham, Stoke and a staggeringly poor Norwich City. They would have to be exceptional matches for me to write about them games and in regards to let’s say Stoke, I’ve never in my thirty odd years of football ever seen a good game of football that they’ve been involved in.

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