Rivalry, vindication…and Bob Dylan
For many, Sunday is a day spent in the company of the family and friends, reading that unfinished book, or watching a new episode of a favourite show. Over at United Rant, it’s a day spent catching up on the beautiful game. Join us, in Rant’s weekly round-up of United-related news and blogs – Media Digest. This week, delivered a little late!
Players vindicated, rivalry lost, deadly sins resurfaced and the search continues in this week’s blogs.
“The Loser Now Will Be Later to Win”
Steve Jobs loved Bob Dylan. “The Times They Are a-Changin’” was among his favourites; Jobs even quoted the song when unveiling the Macintosh in 1984. Steve was a controversial figure: “a Buddhist and a tyrant, a genius and a jerk”.
It’s doubtful that this generation’s footballers will be spoken of in the same reverential terms, but all their skills and flaws, just like Steve himself, some are gradually winning over the critics. Meet this week’s guests: Anderson, Jonny Evans and Javier Hernández.
For some time now, Anderson presented a major challenge to United’s coaches. Anderson has always been able to learn new skills and make use of the old tricks up his sleeve, but in order to achieve that, you had to feed him really well.
The Brazilian posted pictures of his meals on Instagram, and got replies such as this from omar_chowdhury: “You need to stop eating and go to the gym! You always look a bit fat when you come back to pre season”.
And while we sighed and laughed, for the most part, fans just felt sad that Anderson had not lived up to lofty expectations. It’s not that the latter were too high; it’s the player who usually failed to deliver despite boasting so much talent.
Fans missed the confident young man who drilled the ball into the net in the Champions League final shoot-out, but too often was nowhere to be seen. Injuries didn’t help either; paired with Tom Cleverley, Anderson drove United forward in the first months of the 2011/12 campaign, but the idyll ended too soon.
In some ways, this season resembles the previous one; Anderson had a good start. In what might be his “do or die” season, the midfielder has scored one goal in four games and assisted all three against Chelsea.
The 23-year-old has impressed some critics, although many seem reluctant to accept that the player is good enough until he has proven his worth over the season.
Tom Coast does not want to wait though. Tom even wrote a letter to United’s “midfield magician” (“Letter to Anderson”, Can They Score):
DEAR ANDERSON, I would like to start off this letter by saying “I knew it”. “Knew what?” I hear you ask. The answer is simple: I knew all along that you had it in you. That you had it in you to turn critics around (so far) and show the world what you are capable of. Your last few performances at the club have been nothing short of wonderful. People said you had lost it, that you should be sold, that you were a waste of space. Those people are now very quickly changing their minds. It shows how fickle human beings can be.
It’s fair to say that Tom loves Anderson, going so far as to criticise Sir Alex Ferguson for Anderson’s lack of fitness: “Starting once every 2 weeks or so can only hinder one’s fitness… This is not your fault. If anyone’s, it’s Sir Alex Ferguson’s.”
In the end though, United fans should probably follow two rules. The first: ‘support your team’, with the implication of being patient with players even if they under-perform. The second argues that fans can only support players so far, as Matthew Perry’s character says in his latest show Go On: ”It’s our job as fans to say ‘thanks for the memories, you make us sad now, please, go away!’”
Evans is another player who divides opinions. While the majority of the fans view the Northern Irishman as a future leader, some of them simply refuse to buy into the assessment.
Of course, that Evans has been at United since the age of nine warms the hearts of many, but his performances, especially in the absence of Nemanja Vidic, helped to silence his critics more than anything else.
In the “The Transformation of Jonny Evans”, Stretty News, Rowlesy argues that “the laughing stock tag seems a distant memory”:
During this sublime spell of high-class defending from Evans, he received high-praise from the manager as a result of his stellar showings. Sir Alex said, “I don’t know what the fans thought but there were never any doubts in my mind about Evans. He had a period of a few injuries but he has toughened up now, he’s done a lot of work in the gymnasium and he’s 24 years of age. He’s been a top player for us this year. There is no doubt he has been helped playing alongside the experience of Rio, and he is now arguably the best defender in the country. “I must admit my heart sank a little when I learned just how long Nemanja Vidic was going to be out. He and Rio Ferdinand had become the cornerstone of our defence but Rio responded brilliantly, despite his back problem, and has now struck up a fine partnership with Evans. Together they have been rock solid to give us great consistency in defence.”
With Rio Ferdinand and Vidic getting no younger, United must seek for the players that are ready to lead the club’s future defence. While Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have bright futures, it looks like Evans, who is only 24, is the one to rely on in the near-term.
After all, Evans is yet to commit a foul this season. He will, of course, just as the defender will make mistakes too. Will the fans have his back? They really should.
Meanwhile, Hernández – who suffered second season syndrome and was written off by many fans after United bought Robin van Persie this summer – is having the best of times in recent weeks. Five goals in eleven games from United’s fourth choice striker!
In “Little Pea, Big player – Don’t write off Javier Hernandez”, Stretty News, Chicharito is branded a 2010 version of Ole Gunnar Solskjær, a ‘super sub’ of another era, the player who provides United with pace and energy.
Another key element in order to see off your rivals is squad harmony. Many initially believed that the marquee signing of Robin Van Persie would force Chicharito to consider his options, as chances appeared to be limited, at least on paper. Not once, however, has the Mexican complained or thrown the toys out of the pram at not starting every week. Chicharito appears to be a very level-headed human being, who seems to just be eternally grateful that he is playing for the best club in world football. He is still living the dream.
“United will and have found time for him this season,” the author goes on. It looks like Hernández, who has little future at Old Trafford according to some, is thriving on challenge.
In Thus Spoke Zarathustra Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: “The spirit now wills his own will, and he who had been lost to the world now conquers the world.”
Well, here’s to United’s under-appreciated trio winning over their critics and bringing trophies to Old Trafford!
The Arsenal-United rivalry
Even the delusional Piers Morgan couldn’t help but tweet: ”We haven’t sent a worse side to Old Trafford in the Premier League since…oh, last year” just a day after the broadcaster claimed that he would renew Wenger’s contract for “1000 years” should Arsenal win, and that he would rather Arsenal beat United the next day than Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League final.
However, the Arsenal-United rivalry that once was the benchmark to both clubs and the League itself, ceased to be so recently. As Sean Geraghty rightly notices in his article “We Used To Have Something Special” (7Cantonas), it is special no more.
Thinking of Keown pouncing on Van Nistelrooy still riles me up. Or pretty much anything Henry ever did against us, the brilliant bastard that he was. But nothing defines the rivalry more than Vieira versus Keane for me. Two battling midfielders who drove their clubs to success. Two men who probably had a begrudging respect for each other. But on the pitch, they were enemies and they went to war. Two generals leading their armies out to the field of battle. It never got any better than that. Sure, Arsenal have had some snidey players over the years, but it’s just not the same as it used to be. There’s no players left there who you could really care about one way or another, nobody you love to hate. Szczesny’s good for a quote, but that’s about it.
While Sean argues, United too is not the power it once was, the club has managed to contend for titles at home and abroad in recent years. Arsenal has slipped from a lofty pedestal with no recovery in sight. Moreover, the spirit is gone too; Liverpool have been in United’s shadow for two decades, but the side manages to up it’s game when United is in town. The same can’t be said about Arsenal.
As Sean concludes, “There’s just not that spark that there used to be. And it’s sad.” Don’t you think so?
“Pride in their port, defiance in their eye”
Often blogs and press alike write about the same themes each week – although for all the need for professional journalists to be objective, fan blogs are often more honest in their opinions than ‘paid’ colleagues.
Original ideas are hard to find, which is why the “Deadly Sins” series on ManUtd24 is a whiff of fresh air.
And this week it is Pride, featuring Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Andy Cole, Sir Alex and Sir Matt: (“Manchester United’s Seven Deadly Sins: #2 – Pride”, ManUtd24).
Auclair revisited Cantona’s return to Elland Road, his first since leaving Leeds United, and of his provoking of a hostile crowd. As the pre-match practice was coming to a close, Auclair writes, through the help of a friend present that day, when “the moment came to return to the dressing room, drowned in an ocean of noise, a sewer in full flow, Cantona took the ball, juggled it for a while and signed off with a volley into the top corner. The jeers doubled in ferocity but, as David [his friend] remembers it, intensified by the admiration the crowd couldn’t help but feel for such arrogance (‘We had to admit — this guy had balls’).” He had big balls.
The Future Perfect
Every fortnight, or thereabouts, there is an article in which the author tries to guess Sir Alex’ replacement. For many this is as hard as it is to imagine someone else in charge at United. But with every new season, we are closing on the inevitable, and if the past taught us anything, it’s that it is hard to find a proper replacement to a great manager, at a great club.
This time it is Jonathan Escott who is evaluating David Moyes, Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in his article: “Ole, Jose, Pep & Moyes: The Battle to Replace Sir Alex”, Red Flag Flying High:
For me, Solskjaer is a big dark horse for the job. My biggest worry about him was that he wouldn’t be assertive enough, but after seeing numerous videos on YouTube, it’s clear to see that the baby faced assassin can give his players a good old telling off, similar to what Sir Alex has been renowned for in the past 20 years. He will bring something new to the job, something no other manager would be able to bring. Also, it may result in a possible link up with some of the club’s senior players like Scholes and Giggs, which could be an interesting proposition. So it’s safe to say, David Gill is going to have a very very difficult 18 months or so.
Many will prefer Ole – if the former Red proves his managerial skills by the time the position becomes available. So far, the striker-turned-coach has done well with Molde – the side is on course to become champions for the second time in as many years. But as a fat girl might sing, Manchester United and Molde is “a thousand miles and poles apart”. There is a long road ahead for Solskjaer.
And while we are at it, there was an interesting question posed in the latest Red News: what about Gary Neville? The England coach is a big United fan, an ex-player (and a good one at that), and is the most reasonable pundit on TV right now. Besides, Neville would be a better assistant to Fergie than Mike Phelan. Something to ponder …
Although United did knocked out of the Capital One Cup, fans saw plenty of positives in the game. Youth, mixed with second-string players, was seconds away from a win at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea, meanwhile, relied on first teamers such as Juan Mata Eden Hazard and Oscar to avoid embarrassment. To remind you of the beautiful side of the game, Beautifully Red picked nine moments of Chelsea game and made some wonderful GIFs.
“Clattenburg: Referee, Leader, Legend” read United fans’ banner on Stamford Bridge last Wednesday. However, United fans can laugh all they want, as Red Rants has photo evidence of Terry celebrating the Irish Premier League title, won with Sligo Rovers.
Meanwhile, By Far the Greatest Team argues that Ferguson and Arsene Wenger are wrong to doubt Chelsea’s racism claim. While it is seemingly unlikely that Clattenburg really abused Chelsea players, one is on a “dangerous ground to give 100% of your support,” as two high-profile racism cases have shown in the past year. However, the accusations led to a banner in the United end on Wednesday reading “CFC… standing up to racism since last Sunday.”
Finally, the goalkeeping saga at United may be irritating at times, but it’s hard to deny that the club has two fine ‘keepers. While David de Gea and Anders Lindegaard fight to become United’s Number One, the Reds’ younger keepers are hatching a plot to overcome them.
Red Flag Flying High reports that Ben Amos views his loan to Hull City as a unique opportunity. Guided by the former United goalkeeper Gary Walsh, Amos believes he can get himself the best possible chance of knocking David and Anders off their perch.