If any of you are regular readers of this feature, I apologise for its absence last week. Looks like Liverpool blogs have a particularly uniform habit of not responding to any mails because that is what happened with me. I mean, what is the use of having a CONTACT form if you aren’t ready to reply to the people who contact you? Some of those blogs have big reputation so I don’t want to name them here but even a courteous ‘No’ would have meant a lot.
Moving on, we go to Old Trafford in the backdrop of two absolutely massive wins and it is no surprise that the United folk are out there with knives drawn telling anyone who’d listen that they, not Arsenal, are the favourites for Sunday. And Wayne Rooney is making sure everyone is noticing him ahead of the game with some comical comments but can you blame him? If last week was anything to go by, he’ll probably be invisible on Sunday along with that Dutch c*** because the BFG and Laurent Koscielny will have them stuffed into their pockets.
Anyway, I got in touch with Doron of Stretty Rant, a United blog and he’ll be our guest for the weekend. And since United have a large fan base in Asia, it was only fair I got a couple of my fellow countrymen to take part as well. Sundar has been a United fan for over eight years now while Raj is a new addition to the United bandwagon and not to forget, one of my best friends at University.
Read below to see what they’ve got to say ahead of the game on Sunday.
1. How huge is Sir Alex’s retirement from a United perspective? It must be strange to not see him down the touchline?
Doron: Forget the United perspective, consider the football perspective. Love him or loathe him, he’d have impacted your enjoyment and emotions towards football over the last 25 or so years. Clearly it’s a huge change and at times it is still very odd but with every week that you don’t see him, you become more accustomed to it.
Sundar: Pretty huge. Even United’s stock value took a hit at New York stock exchange after he announced his retirement! It is strange to not see him on the touchline motivating the players and I think United are missing the “fear-factor” under the Moyes regime.
Raj: It is a huge loss from a united perspective. His experience is something no other manager in the world can currently match and his understanding of what Manchester United stands for set him apart. Of course there are talented young managers around and Moyes is one of them but the ability extract the best out of every player in the squad was Ferguson’s hallmark and I am not sure if Moyes has that ability.
2. Do you feel David Moyes is being judged too early into his reign and people are suddenly overlooking his impressive tenure at Everton?
Doron: No not at all in the sense that it was inevitable for whoever took over. He’s right in that the fixture list meant it would be very hard to have the perfect start but it’s also right the some of the selections, tactics and performance delivered have been queried in the same way Fergie got questioned after odd results. I still think there is an overriding sense that his time at Everton is widely considered to be excellent but lacking a trophy.
Sundar: Yes. Every manager needs time to settle in the new surroundings. Having inherited a title winning team, the expectations are quite high and Moyes is finding that difficult to handle that having spent his entire career at a mid-table club.
Raj: Yes. David Moyes is more than capable of bringing home the league once again for Manchester United, if not now, maybe in the coming years. All he need is a certain amount of time to get settled and help the club move on from the Ferguson years. He is slowly settling down with the team and I think it’ll help as the season progresses.
3. United have stuttered so far but does the eight game unbeaten run show that the players are finding their feet under Moyes?
Doron: I think that’s fair but also a reflection of everything just settling down a bit. It’s a bit misleading in some ways as it implies we’ve been consistently solid which we haven’t.
Raj: It is too early to draw conclusions because quite a few of those results were stalemates, like the one in midweek. But there is a growing sense of stability and Sunday is a chance to show the improvements made after a poor start to the season.
4. How much an attraction was Ferguson for players given United’s failure to sign targets this summer?
Doron: Impossible to know for sure. For some players he’d have been a factor but for many the opportunity to play for the club, with our history and success is enough. Our failures this summer were more than likely down to unrealistic targets and inexperience amongst the new hierarchy at the club rather than the lure of Ferguson.
Sundar: United are THE best supported and THE most famous club in the world. Ed Woodward, the new CEO is to blame for the failure to sign players. It has very little to do with SAF leaving despite him being an attraction for players. The entire window was mishandled and better planning and a structured approach would certainly have delivered the results we wanted out of it.
5. The player who has impressed you most?
Doron: I think you have to admire Rooney despite the recent fiasco. He’s not always been good but still has been delivering for us. He looks leaner and much fitter than he has for a while. Obviously a hat-tip to Januzaj who’s an extraordinary talent and I think recently Evans has been a rock at the back. Now I think about it, de Gea has been brilliant too. Not a single sane football fan can really question him anymore.
Raj: Wayne Rooney. Even when I wasn’t much into football, I loved the way he played and this season, he has continued to impress. He has had his issues off the field but he has stuck in and worked hard and the stats tell the rest of the story.
6. Anyone from the team you think is finished as a United player?
Doron: I never enjoy picking out players like that but one suspects Anderson is on the way out. Moyes gave him a couple of chances and he didn’t take them. He can’t even get in the League Cup team any more.
Sundar: Quite a few actually. Young, Nani and maybe even Kagawa.
Raj: I am not if he is finished at United but I’d be happy to see the back of Ashley Young. His consistent ability to court controversies because of his diving is not something I’m happy with given the dip his performances have seen in the past 18 months.
7. What’s the view on Arsenal as a club in the United fan base?
Doron: I think the rivalry has gotten soft simply because recently there hasn’t been a rivalry. That Arsenal are proper challengers again is brilliant because we love to hate each other. I imagine there’s plenty of admiration for how Arsenal play and so there should be but praise for them should only be given begrudgingly!
Sundar: They are a good team no doubt about that. But winning the title as Arsenal fans expect is ‘pushing it a bit too far’. It is too early in the season and also, Arsenal’s inability to challenge these past five years means their performances should be viewed with optimism as well as caution.
Raj: Arsenal are a great historical club. But as a United fan, I do have some hatred for you guys and the reason for that could be the guy who’s asking me these questions!
8. Do you agree that Ozil is a game changer for Arsenal as many pundits put it?
Doron: Heh, I may be made to eat my words on this one. When he signed I said he was a brilliant addition but questioned, like a lot of Arsenal fans did, whether he was essential given that there were other areas that needed strengthening too. He’s certainly lifted everyone at the club but I do think that focusing on him does a disservice to many of the other players who’ve grown, matured and stepped up this season: Szczesny, Gibbs, Ramsey, Giroud etc
Sundar: He creates many goal scoring opportunities. We saw that at Real Madrid and they were foolish to let him go. Arsenal’s main man though, has been Ramsey not Ozil.
9. Arsenal sit top of the league. Do you think they deserve their position and which Arsenal player has impressed you most?
Doron: Unquestionably. Forget the fact the fixture list has been kind; they’ve been consistent, convincing and entertaining. Picking out one player is hard but I think Szczesny deserves a lot of praise. He’s had a couple of unconvincing seasons but he’s been superb this time round and his concentration appears to be much improved.
Sundar: They do. The league table never lies and the five gap lead over the rest shows they’ve delivered the results consistently. If I have to name one player, it is quite obviously Ramsey. He’s performing admirably and his all action displays have been a treat to watch.
Raj: Of course they deserve to be on top because they have been consistent throughout since the opening day. If a team play better than anybody else in the league, they’ll be on top and that is the case so far with Arsenal.
10. One Arsenal player you’d love to have in your team?
Doron: On current form you’d have to say Ramsey.
Raj: Mertesacker. He got a bit of stick early on at Arsenal but he has now become consistent and United could do with his reading of the game at the back where we’ve sometimes looked shaky.
11. Robin Van persie will again be the focus. Your take on the whole saga looking at it now after 15 months?
Doron: There’s no saga. A player wanted to win trophies and moved clubs to do so. It’s that simple. If he was after money he’d have gone to Juventus or Man City. It’s understandable that if still rankles with Arsenal fans because he was idolised and adored but his move was justified last season.
Sundar: He has settled at United well. He was 30 and wanted to win a title and he didn’t see that happening as an Arsenal player. It is as simple as that but the Arsenal fans have blown it out of proportion given his importance at Arsenal but it all actually makes sense from the player’s viewpoint.
12. Where do you think the game could be won and lost on Sunday?
Doron: Midfield. Traditionally we’ve struggled against the better sides that play three in the middle as we’re reluctant to match them. This season even some lesser sides have had success against us this way. That said, at home we’ve often somehow overpowered Arsenal but the way they’re playing it’ll be even more of a crucial part of the pitch this time.
13. One United icon you would die to have now at United.
Doron: Die is a bit extreme! But give me Roy Keane or Bryan Robson. Or both. Can I have both?
Sundar: Paul Scholes. We are lacking the bite in midfield and he’d go a long way in shoring up that area of the field.
Raj: Paul Scholes. United are still trying to find a player similar to Scholes and I don’t think that search is going be that easy.
14. Predictions for the game?
Doron: Depends if Arsenal are fatigued from Dortmund or running on adrenaline still. Strangely I think we might edge it but the sensible opinion is to go for a score draw.
Sundar: United 2 Arsenal 0
Raj: Man Utd 1-1 Arsenal
Thanks for reading,