Guest Contributions

Rooney for Nothing, Cheques for Free

Brian Roy

Definition of “Greed”: intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food. Without referencing obvious jokes about food in the case of Wayne Rooney, it is often, among the non-prawn-sandwich portion of Old Trafford at least, “greed” that is the basis for what is often an overlooked vitriol (outside of Old Trafford) towards the England skipper.

It will surely be one of English football’s great mysteries, that a player who will be England and Manchester United’s top goalscorer, will never quite be truly loved by either of the supporting contingents. That’s not to say he will be remembered with pure hatred, but he will never be in the same category of Moore, Gascoigne, Cantona, Giggs or Scholes when his professional record surely deserves to be. Cries of “Rooney, Rooney” often appear to be heard as a course of habit in what is a simple, yet oddly catchy, chant. These same supporters will rarely state any true affection for who is without doubt the most naturally gifted player of his generation.

So lets start with the less complicated issue: England. There is much less contempt from England fans as opposed to disappointment. Rooney left us buzzing with the way he burst onto the international scene at Euro 2004. That was now 11 years ago, and it’s safe to say that that was the best we ever saw of him in an England shirt. A player who has been relatively consistent at United could never quite turn it on for England at a major tournament, with just one of his 48 international goals in a World Cup. 

There are mitigating circumstances and luck has not always been on his side. 2006 was the infamous metatarsal when he returned half-fit midway through the tournament and culminated in his red card for a cheeky stamp on Ricardo Carvalho. 2010, when Rooney had come off his best season in terms of goalscoring and won the PFA Player of the Year award, the platform was there for him to succeed. He scored 9 goals in qualifying. But once again, he seemed out of sorts and had an angry aura to him, highlighted by his embarrassing camera rant after the goalless draw against Algeria. Euro 2012, he missed the first two games due to suspension, and despite scoring the winner against Ukraine, was limp against Italy in the quarter-finals. And 2014 was a disaster all round for England, although he did bag his first World Cup goal in the 2-1 defeat to Uruguay. In between all this he has scored regularly in friendlies and qualifiers, making him seem a bit of a “fraud” for his impressive international goals-to-game tally. 

In contrast, few United supporters would say that Rooney’s performances are the catalyst for a feeling of disappointment and among some, resentment for the boy from Croxteth. In his pomp, he was electric, with high awareness and an ability to get his first touch out of his feet on every occasion (a distant memory to us now). Who can forget that first time volley past Shay Given against Newcastle at the Stretford end, moments after screaming his head off at the referee? He has an excellent goalscoring record (170 goals in 340 appearances), and even during dry spells, there’d be little concern as his contribution had always been far beyond goals at United.

The nuts and bolts of the missing “love” surround his management, or Paul Stretford’s management, of his ugly, protracted contract negotiations which lead us nicely back to the topic at the top of this piece: “Greed”. Rewind to 2010, Rooney is relatively out of form at the beginning of the 2010/11 season on the back of an abject World Cup, and the line is that “Wazza” is disillusioned at the club’s “lack of ambition” and has handed in a transfer request. Sir Alex Ferguson quickly, and smartly, responded by suggesting it was a money-motivated transfer request with no small influence from Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford. United fans, however, should remember that Rooney was not wrong. For a club of United’s stature, to have not bought a single truly high profile signing since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, it was questionable what the club’s policy was. There was no word of a Class of ’92 influx of young talent, and United seemed to be pulled by Ferguson’s brilliance alone when a centre midfield comprising any two of Anderson, ageing Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher, John O’Shea, Darron Gibson and Ji-Sung Park, albeit some respectable players, was not the ilk required to win a Champions League (testament to Ferguson’s genius that this team got to the Champions League that year, but we’ll forget about that).

After days of confusion, and reports that Rooney was prepared to sign for Manchester City, the next picture was Rooney with Ferguson, smiling as he signed a chunky new five-year contract. Apparently he’d been given assurances that the club would invest heavily in talent and that swayed him to stay. What assurances suddenly came about that weren’t offered before he signed the contract? It all seemed far-fetched, and either Ferguson had manipulated the minds of many, or Rooney was simply after more money. Most fans seem to believe the latter. Twisted irony is the fact that this was the same season that Rooney scored what is arguably the greatest goal of all time at Old Trafford with his stunning overhead kick winner in the Manchester derby. However, Ferguson did not forget.

Fast-forward to 2013. Ferguson declares after his final home match against Swansea that Rooney did not play because the player “wants to leave the club”- an absolute hospital pass for the incoming David Moyes. Ferguson is aware enough to know that no incoming manager should be thrown a clanger like that before day one, but it was clear- this was personal. He did not want Rooney at his club, and it was his club, whether he was manager or not.

Rooney insisted he did not want out, that it was Ferguson stirring his personal agenda. Rumours surfaced that Ferguson had been angered by what was seemingly another imminent contract saga, the basis this time that Rooney was unhappy at not being played in his favoured position up front, and that Rooney was not prepared to hand in a formal transfer because his existing contract stated there would be denied bonuses if he did so. Rooney’s camp denied this. Rooney at this point is angry enough with Ferguson that he wanted out on the basis of Ferguson’s original claims that he wanted to leave the club. And he felt Ferguson’s presence would still be a felt at the club and that he wanted out even though Moyes came in. Chelsea clearly want the player through the whole summer, as the saga rumbled on into the start of the new season with a despondent looking Rooney not celebrating with team mates in the opening day victory at Swansea.

But once again, Rooney signed a new contract in February 2014. Rooney subsequently said it was purely to do with his position that was the root of his discontent. At the Club’s Player of the Year awards at the end of Louis van Gaal’s first season, the captain said he is “capable of playing in different positions and will do so for the good of the team”.

Rooney will never openly say he was just after more Sterling (no pun intended to our latest saga-star Raheem). However in the eyes of many, this was just excellent engineering by a player and his agent to eek as much money out of the club, and was prepared to go the lengths of alienating the club’s hierarchy and supporters to do so. More poignantly for a lot of fans, at £300k a week now, Rooney is in the wage echelons of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. While a very good player, no one in their right mind would suggest that he is in the category of these two freaks, yet somehow he’s managed to negotiate a contract that matches theirs.

Any other man in any other job would be using any bargaining chip to get the best deal for himself. Should a footballer, for all their objective wealth, be any different and be lambasted for it? The money is relative after all, and if it’s the case that there were no other reasons to motivate Rooney’s actions, there in theory is no reason to castigate him as “greedy”. The shame however is that regardless of the truth, the fact remains that England’s and United’s all-time leading goalscorer-elect, through his actions, unfortunately will never be truly remembered in the way that the moments he has provided deserve, and perhaps for the wrong reasons. But maybe he is as much of a pragmatist as the layman and doesn’t really care anyway.

Contract negotiations came naturally to Wayne.

Contract negotiations came naturally to Wayne.

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Nectar from a Poisoned Chalice

Phil Hudson

Alan Scott Pardew has recently swapped the Northern cauldron of St James Park to return to the verdant meadows of Sarf Landan where he is revered as ‘one of our own.’ This is a far cry from the maelstrom of hate that ‘Pards’ (copyright national red tops) has had to endure every single home game that he was a manager of Newcastle United by that fearsome Northern tribe who pass as the militant supporters of that club. Pards was hounded out despite doing a ‘terrific job’ in ‘exceptionally difficult circumstances’ whilst working with ‘his hands tied behind his back’.

The purpose of this discussion isn’t to dissect the job that Pardew did at Newcastle United. For what it’s worth this correspondent believes that he did a passable job, one that the board were extremely happy for him to do. He was a perfect front man for the Newcastle United board. But he made mistakes – players played out of position, out of form players stuck with because they were perceived to be ‘grafters’, alienation of significant talent. But as I’ve said this article isn’t about Alan Pardew’s job performance.

It’s largely down to Paul Merson. ‘The Magic Man’. A corpulent ex-cocaine addict and alcoholic who is now paid to spout absolute nonsense on Sky Sports. He’s a character is ‘Merse’. Merse is adamant that Newcastle fans don’t know how good they had it with Pards. They’ll only understand how good he was for the club now he’s gone. No one in their right mind will go up there and do that job in those circumstances, says Merse.

Taking Merse’s lead, the Independent ran a column on New Years’ Day ‘Why does nobody want the Newcastle job?’ The article was mainly conjecture and only offered up the Red Adair of the Premier League, Tony Pulis, as a man who didn’t want the job (a job he was never offered.) However, the message appeared to be clear – that the Newcastle job is a poisoned chalice, working for a megalomaniac owner in front of a wild horde of 52,000 who want the team to win the league every year, lest their frustration be taken out on the local equine population.

So what are the reasons given for the Newcastle job being only desirable for the Joe Kinnears of this world? There’s plenty of them, but the vast majority are largely meaningless or, at worst, plain falsehoods to anyone with the ability to tie their own shoes (in light of this the struggles of the ‘Magic Man’ are perhaps understandable.)

At the front of all this is Newcastle United. A one club city, Newcastle and its people are intrinsically and inextricably woven with their football club. A successful football team drives the economy, the nightlife, the whole city. The stadium dominates the city, standing on the top of the hill like a Cathedral. With 52,000 passionate fans attending mass every other week, there’s surely a draw there for any manager. And the man who delivers silverware to this club will be deified for the rest of his life. Put simply, Newcastle United is a big football club. They have the 3rd highest average attendance and the 7th highest turnover of any club in England.

Ah, but those fans want the club to challenge for the title and play in the Champions League. They hounded out ‘Pards’ and they hounded out ‘Big Sam’. They have ideas above their station. But do the facts bear that out? When Newcastle finished 5th and Alan Pardew was LMA Manager of the Year he was greeted and serenaded by the Newcastle fans like a lovechild of Bobby Robson and Joe Harvey. The following year Newcastle United were nearly relegated. A resurgence in the start of 2013-14 season had Newcastle 5th at Christmas. Then came 2014. Prior to a Lazarus-like comeback in October, Newcastle had only won 3 games in 2014. Even after the remarkable run they put together in the autumn they still finished the calendar year with the 4th worst record of any club in the entire Football League. It is inconceivable to imagine that the incumbent who oversaw this level of performance would have been allowed to remain in post at any other Premier League club. So in fairness was the reaction of the fans that outrageous? And this is outside of flying headbutts and the “shutting of a pensioner’s noise” that had previously gone on. Though I personally think headbutting an ex-Sunderland player was totally justifiable and should have won Pardew manager of the month, I accept I’m in the minority. All in all, seems like the Newcastle fans have at least some just cause for complaint?

Which naturally, dear readers brings us to the thin end of the wedge. Or in this case the not-so-thin end of the wedge, Mike Ashley. The pantomime villain who sits in his control room somewhere in London moving chess pieces around like a modern day General Melchitt, sweeping away his pieces every January when the third round of the FA Cup comes round. Everyone in the media seems to conclude that Mike Ashley is a terrible owner to work for and no manager in their right mind would ever subject their career to spending some time under him. This is almost deemed an indisputable truth now.

Except it’s bollocks.

The national press constantly bemoan the managerial merry go round, the lack of continuity that clubs subject themselves to by tearing up the strategy and starting again. Mike Ashley gave his most recent manager 4 years in the hotseat, and even under unbelievable pressure had faith in his man and did not sack him. How many current managers would have killed for that level of support from their employer? Señor Moyes for example I’d imagine. Neil Warnock, too. By contrast Alan Pardew has joined a club who’ve had 5 full time managers during his tenure in NE1 – hardly a bastion of stability. There can be no doubting that Mike Ashley backs his man, and steadfastly believes in what the club are doing.

‘BUT THERE’S NO MONEY TO SPEND!’ scream the errant hacks from their laptops. Who wants to go anywhere where they can’t buy players? Since 2010 Newcastle United have spent approximately £100 million of new players, with 33 players coming through the doors. They have a net spend of £6 million during this period. In order to give some context to these figures during the same period Everton splashed £4 million of their hard earned and Tottenham parted with readies to the tune of £12 million. So it’s clear that Mike Ashley will sanction the signing of players.

Merse now wants to weigh in again ‘But they’re a selling club, they always sell their best players. How can you build a team like that?’ Under Pardew, Newcastle have sold 4 players who the fans wouldn’t have happily carried to their new clubs – though in the case of Kevin Nolan this might have been a touch hard on the old lumber region. Demba Ba went due to a clause in his contract. Andy Carroll went for a staggering amount of money. Matthieu Debuchy and Yohan Cabaye both went to Champions League clubs for significant profits. But unfortunately Merse-asauras has shown his prehistoric grasp of modern day football – beyond the current elite with their Oligarchs and their Emirs ALL CLUBS are selling clubs. Even the Mersonosaur’s beloved Gooners. They couldn’t keep hold of Henry, Song, Fabregas, RVP who all departed when the bigger fish came a-feeding. Or you could look at Everton, they’ve sold Fellaini, Rodwell, Arteta, Lescott and Andy Johnson in the last 5 years. Southampton – who are all that is good in football according to the media – basically sold their entire team over the summer. Every club sells their best players now, it’s the reality of modern football. This is especially true on the continent, where Newcastle have indicated their next manager is likely to come from. Consider Frank de Boer at Ajax. Since 2010 Ajax have made profits of £81.6 million pounds on their transfer dealings. Would De Boer not fancy a crack at the Premier League based on Newcastle’s model? Huge exposure to a much bigger global audience and a stepping stone on to bigger and better things. All played out in a full stadium in a vibrant cosmopolitan city. All of a sudden, it’s not that much of a poisoned chalice is it?

However, Arsenal’s most celebrated nasal socialite won’t give up. ‘But the Noocarsel manager doesn’t get to pick who he signs, who’d sign up for that?’ Well Paul, pretty much any continental coach worth his salt will be comfortable with it. The standard continental model is for a Head Coach to work under a Director of Football who handles signings. Newcastle don’t have a DoF – they have a Graham Carr. Graham Carr is the scouting wunderkind who is in charge of Newcastle’s recruitment, and his record is exceptional. This is a man with a serious grasp of the Football Manager database. He also still has another 6 years on his Newcastle contract. He will have a big say as to whom Newcastle’s next coach is. During Pardew’s tenure, Newcastle have managed to sign Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Mathieu Debuchy, Hatem Ben Arfa, Moussa Sissoko, Daryl Janmaat, Jack Colback, Davide Santon and Ayoze Perez for the same money as they received for Andy Carroll alone. Perez, Colback and Sissoko arrived for less than the sum Newcastle received from Crystal Palace for Pardew – a man they would have had to pay £4 million to sack. Frank De Boer, Thomas Tuchel, Christophe Galtier, Remi Garde have all worked on the next step down on the food chain – in charge of clubs who sold these players to Newcastle. They’d kill for the opportunity to work with players of this calibre as a collective. On the whole, Newcastle’s recruitment is lauded as one of the things they do very well.

Sooooo Merse. What we have here is a massive club, one of the biggest in the country. They have a policy of bringing in quality international players with a resale value who are motivated by the prospect of playing in a huge stadium in front of massive crowds in the biggest league in the world. We have an owner who is committed to a long term strategy that is honest enough with any potential appointee enough to tell them that they’re buying into a plan that the club will not compromise on. An owner who has proved he will not bow to public pressure and will back his manager in full with the time he needs to succeed in his project. A club that works with a structure that lots of continental coaches are familiar and comfortable with, with greater financial clout and exposure than many have worked with in their lives. So how is there any justification in portraying this as a job that no one wants? A better assertion would be that Newcastle have to be cleverer in their recruitment, and as their transfer policy shows they are well ahead of the curve there. Newcastle, like Southampton, are at the forefront of modern football in many respects – now they merely need a coach to complete their blueprint. I doubt there will be a shortage of forward thinking candidates. Dinosaurs need not apply.

Tactics Truck on order.

Tactics Truck on order.

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The Power of Positivity and the Dangers of Dour

Elliot Berger

I’ve always thought Peter Andre was an awful human being. You don’t get voted CBeebies’ National Laughing Stock of the Year – on two separate occasions – for nothing. If Peter Andre was a workplace meeting, he’d be one in a small windowless office. With Greg from HR. Where you’re getting fired. And Greg has BO.

Now granted, I have no knowledge of Peter Andre’s activities since 2006. Maybe now he is, in fact, a wonderful person. Perhaps I’m no better than those who indignantly proclaim Didier Drogba to be a selfish, cheating scumbag. Well yes, I suppose Didier did always want to take the free kicks. But, then again, he has built 5 hospitals in Africa and prevented over 100,000 children from dying of malaria. So maybe let’s rein in the character assassination a little, eh?

I doubt Peter Andre is a wonderful person, though. What I *will* give him credit for, however, is having one hell of a positive attitude. When our antipodean friend entered the I’m a Celebrity jungle, there before him stood a vision. An angel. A national treasure. Jordan. Who, it should be added, at the time had a boyfriend!

Peter shouldn’t have even dared to think he had a chance. He should’ve acted like the rest of us would on meeting a Page 3 model: mumble your name in introduction, have a panic attack, and walk silently away. But he didn’t. His relentlessly positive attitude and self-belief led him to finally break down her resistance, and they kissed, live on national TV. It was beautiful. A year later they were married and, as far as I am aware, have lived happily ever after.

Positivity doesn’t just get you laid, though. It’s a crucial weapon in life. Positivity gives you the confidence and vision to achieve more, and removes the doubt that can trip you up on the way.

Which brings me to Everton’s new manager, Roberto Martinez. A man who Steven Pienaar said “might just be the most positive person I’ve ever come across”. The *most* positive, Steven? More than your fellow countryman Oscar Pistorius, so optimistic that he’s convinced he’ll be found innocent, even though he clearly hasn’t got a leg to stand on?

Roberto’s reign at Everton has exuded positivity from the start. It even got him the job in the first place. In his interview with chairman Bill Kenwright, almost the first thing he said was “I’ll get you in the Champions League”. Kenwright later admitted that he lapped it all up, like Roman Abramovich at an overpriced strikers’ convention.

Since starting, he’s clearly made it a priority to boost the club’s self-image. Moyes christened Everton “The People’s Club”, which was really just code for “Smaller Club in Liverpool’s Shadow”, and revelled in Everton’s role as the plucky underdog. Now, Martinez talks about the nine league titles Everton has won, and how it’s in the club’s DNA to be competing for titles. He talks of playing with “arrogance”, of injuries to some as opportunities for others, of dominating the big teams away from home.

The new manager is bringing sunshine to the fans in dreary Merseyside, too. For example, December saw “Blue Crimbo”, a series of heart-warming community events. Such as when 93 year old Annie Carson got a lovely surprise, when the handsome Spaniard swung by her house. He gave her flowers, and stayed for a nice, long chat. Moyes never would have done that. Though probably best he didn’t, as she likely would’ve dropped dead on seeing his face, assuming the Grim Reaper had finally arrived.

Martinez Christmas

Right now, the vibe coming out of Goodison is so good, you half expect the Beach Boys to perform a half-time show. But it’s not all just Fun, Fun, Fun. The feel-good factor has quickly spread onto the pitch.

In a miraculously quick time, the Spanish Jesus got Everton playing an altogether more confident, flowing brand of football. They now have the 4th highest possession stats in the league. Goals per game are at their highest in 18 years. And the all-important ‘fans watching with a hard-on’ percentage is through the roof.

They’ve had the temerity to shake up the League’s big boys. David Moyes was humiliated when Everton came to Old Trafford. I haven’t seen so much fear in someone’s eyes since Audley Harrison first fought without a helmet. The following week, Arsenal got outplayed at home. Wenger hasn’t looked so uncomfortable since the Nagoya police launched an investigation into the youth academy at Grampus Eight.

Roberto’s self-belief is rubbing off on the players, too. Like Ross Barkley, who barely got a game last season. Now he’s the saviour of English football. Seamus Coleman famously cost just £60,000, but he’s been the league’s best right back this year. Even Gareth Barry looks a new man. He may have the pace of a constipated geriatric’s bowel movements, but he seemed to think he was Thierry Henry when he picked up the ball at the half-way line, and drove a 25 yard screamer past Norwich.

Now, it’s early days. And the PMA might get a little grating if results start going the other way. Wigan fans will attest it is of little comfort, when you’ve just been relegated, to be told the youngsters are playing with wonderful confidence. The more grounded amongst the Goodison faithful are playing wait and see. But they’re sure about one thing. It’s a refreshing change from the last guy…

I’m not one to jump on a bandwagon. You don’t become a bad manager overnight. And no amount of photo-shopped images on Twitter of David Moyes getting rogered by a horse will convince me otherwise. He did a great job at Everton. And the team was slowly but steadily improving. People are quick to forget that, this time last season, the Blues were also in the hunt for the Top 4.

In late September of the last campaign, a dominant performance against Southampton saw Moyes’ Everton rise to 2nd in the table. The post-game interview was an opportunity to make a statement of intent. To break Fergie’s low-hanging balls. Instead, Moyes warned the fans not to get “too dizzy” and moaned about their high expectations. He then said “I certainly don’t think [the Manchester teams] will be worried about us”, before helpfully reminding everyone that “the first thing is to avoid relegation and get 40 points and, for me, that’s always going to be the way it is”.

For me, that’s always going to be the way it is. Not really the most positive words ever spoken. And you just wonder if the players *might* have made the Champions League, if their manager had shown some genuine belief in their ability to do so. Given them that little bit of extra confidence, when it really mattered.

The one time Moyes got Everton to a cup final? They blew it like a South London whore. And when it was Roberto’s turn? He somehow talked a dreadful Wigan side into beating Manchester City. It’s competitive at the very top, and winning can come down to the smallest of margins. Can Moyes get his new team believing they are the best, and playing like Champions? I’m not too sure.

Positivity isn’t everything. You can’t just talk a big game. You have to back it up with ability. But you need a positive attitude if you want to bang Jordan. Or if you *ever* want to beat the Germans at penalties. And who knows, a positive attitude might just have Everton winning the Premier League in the next 2 or 3 years. I can imagine it now… The Toffees clinch the title in the last game of season, current youth team coach Duncan Ferguson goes mental, charges out the stadium with the trophy under his arm, and runs all the way to Luis Suarez’ house, to punch him in his stupid rat face.

If that thought doesn’t bring you sunshine, I don’t know what will.

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Sorry David, but your shoes are f**king rubbish.

Sorry David, but your shoes are f**king rubbish.

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Cold Turkey in Salford this Christmas

Daniel Dockery

The most exciting draw of the footballing year is not the third round of the FA Cup. Nor is it the Champion’s League knockout stage. Nor any international qualifying stages or competition that may occur. It’s not even the draw to see which work experience boy has to act as the target at the Chelsea training ground. It’s the Too Good For The English Game office Secret Santa.

As everyone’s name is bundled into a hat you begin to wonder who you’ll get. Will it be a disappointing lower league clash as you pick Graham from HR who has a penchant for stuffed bears? Might it be a dodgy tie against Seth from IT who, as luck would have it, likes dodgy ties. Or will you get your dream match up and get to spend your sanctioned £10 on a highly inappropriate gift for Sadie the temp in the copywriting office?

Whoever you pick, four things are for sure. You’ll hate the gift you get. You’ll think others got better gifts. The person you bought for will barely notice your gift. And you’ll get angry that others seemingly flouted the £10 maximum rule of spending on presents. This is despite the fact that you also flout this rule believing your present to be so exceptional that you, and only you, should be allowed to bend these rules. Secret Santa is a minefield of disappointment.

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Elsewhere in the footballing world, these feelings are being echoed loudly this Christmas. Fans unhappy with what they got. Complaining not so quietly that others got better deals, or that they cheated on their spending. And worse of all that either their situation is getting too much attention. Or not enough. Or any at all. Welcome to Salford. Twinned with Expectation. And Disappointment.

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There’s much being said on Moyes and his short tenure at Manchester United so far. His failings in the transfer market to add effectively to his squad. His over-priced purchase of Fellaini who has equally failed to find his place at Old Trafford. (Clue it’s in the queue behind Rooney and Kagawa for the ACM role). His cautious tactics in big games. His failure to understand or use his squad to maximum effectiveness. His disappointing ability to control the media and message at Old Trafford. A lack of confidence in the team. And the slow dismantling of the fortress that used to be Old Trafford. Rightly or wrongly, much is being said.

This is not to say that Too Good agrees with all, if any of these points. But the current so called crisis at Old Trafford is the most consistent, most reliable thing coming out of Salford so far this season. And that’s worrying.

Just to be clear though. Too Good is not picking sides. We’re independent when it comes to the partisan politics of football. We’re the Switzerland of the reporting world. The Louis Walsh of choosing sides. We’re just as happy with a Rich Tea as we are a HobNob. What worries us here in our tinseled, pumpkin spiced offices is the lack of preparedness on some fronts for the changes at Old Trafford. And why the level of expectation is still so high.

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Many are disappointed with Moyes. He’s certainly been hesitant in both his tactics and his shopping list at Old Trafford, but this has hardly amounted for many of United’s issues this term. Much like their much talked about youngster Januzaj, they’ve been mercurially brilliant and disappointing average this season. And while it’s nice of old David to take the heat off his players by taking the blame himself, it’s also misguided. His failings don’t extend to cover all of the issues that have been seen this season. Further his decision to allow all the blame to fall on his shoulders, shows just how different the current regime is perhaps from the previous one.

Of course many of those disappointed in his performance were all ready set to be disappointed. Most new managers have to get to know the club before they can disappoint the fans. Moyes managed it months, even years before he took the job. For these fans, Moyes would never be Ferguson. But unless the Moyes extended family has an expert geneticist in their midst, this is something we’d all have to accept at some point.

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With the string of high profile changes at the top of major clubs in England this summer, others have wondered if Moyes, though not being a bad choice, was the best choice. It’s a strange fact that after the dynasty of Sir Alex that lasted 26 years, that the top three longest serving managers in the premiership are Arsene Wenger, Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce. Sam Allardyce? Long standing? Not if there was a chair available he wouldn’t be.

Other than Arsenal, sitting comfortably at the top of the Premiership currently, the other three clubs who were the top four last year have new managers. And though Mourinho has returned, it’s a very different team than he left. So those United fans and journalists who claim that the Red Devils are in a state of transition before they return to their dominance should note that Manchester City and Chelsea are also transitioning. And arguably Chelsea have been in a constant state of transition since Abramovich arrived. In that time they’ve won three Premierships, three FA Cups, two league cups, a Champions League and the Europa League. Change and flux is expected at big clubs. It is no longer a viable excuse. It is just that Old Trafford isn’t used to it.

There aren’t that many big name managers out there, and certainly not many whose careers matched the expectancy at Old Trafford that when you sign on, you sign on for life. It was believed at Old Trafford that taking the job meant consistency and time to get things to work. Moyes’ six-year contract speaks to this as does footballing pub wisdom. You go down your local and listen to the old hands with their whippets and flat caps you’ll hear much the same advice. And while you nod sagely along with them, you’ll wonder how you ended up in a pub in a fictional version of the North from the 1940’s.

Those clubs at the top demand success and quickly. Gone are the days of Dario Gradi. Expectation at United was for both a huge name in the manager’s seat as well as a new dynasty. But you can’t have both these days.

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Perhaps it is even that the decline of Manchester United has been too highlighted by the media. Too lauded by other sets of fans. But Too Good holds no water with this. The changing of the guard at Old Trafford is huge. It’s a giant shift in the ground that many around Salford, or perhaps more locally to their fan base in Kensington or Kuala Lumpur, are just pretending isn’t happening. Like carrying on with your lunch as the bombs fall and lying to yourself and the blind date you’re sat opposite to that it’s just a small shower and it will pass. The excuses come thick and fast. A similar line to which you will later try to use with your blind date to disappointing results.

True it has been an odd season so far. True Manchester City are also still somewhere short of where perhaps they would intend to be. True there have been more “upsets” this season than perhaps in the last two or three put together. True Chelsea have also been drastically inconsistent. But none of these are as important globally that the changes that have occurred in Salford in the last year. And hiding them or pretending they’re not happening is neither beneficial nor advisable. It’s just missing the issue.

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Nor is complaining the issues of football and the influx of money have damaged United. Too Good has heard on more than one occasion, ill tempered United fans complain that the oligarchial money of City or Chelsea has unbalanced the league table. But they fared just as well as these teams during the Ferguson era because they spent just as well. United fans who pretend that they’re also not a giant financial institution spending ludicrous amounts of money are as deluded as those who think the change of manager is as simple as one man leaving and another taking over.

United spend as much as anyone. It’s just they’ve been doing it for longer and more consistently so it feels like they haven’t. They’ve pretended that they’re above it. But they’re like an old dame in a fur coat complaining that their Trustafarian grandchild is buying skinny jeans for £500.

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Back in the offices, the Secret Santa hat is coming round to you. You begin to look around at people’s faces. Seeing who might not look you in the eye, or worse who might. Who has your name and who might still be out there. And all the while you keep tricking yourself. That it’s all okay. That Secret Santa is not a disappointment. On an almighty scale. But it is.

You’ve spent most of the year building up the idea in your head. Planning most of December as using it as a way to chat Sadie up before she returns to her journalism course at the University of Central Lancaster. But you’ve tricked yourself because you’ve had it so good for so long.

The Ferguson years were good to the reds. And good to the media as well. For those that labelled Manchester United a one-man team in his final year in charge, they were right. He was the man. The only man that mattered.

Never 100% right. Never infallible. But always in charge. He built a level of expectation at Old Trafford which still lives on with them of the old times. Of his glory. But he’s moved on and the media and the fans haven’t. Part of the reason for this may be because he still hangs out there like Marley’s ghost, watching over Moyes’ shoulder. Ferguson’s recovery from his hip surgery and demand to get back to the club would put Owen Hargreaves to shame. That’s if feeling shame wouldn’t have set Hargreaves’ injury schedule back another two months.

The spectre of Ferguson lives on at United and will do while he remains such a prominent figure there. He’s shown on the cameras every game. Commentator’s can’t help but muse what he must think about Moyes, as if it had any impact. Much of United’s problems aren’t really problems in themselves. They become much more so in comparison to previous years. United’s premiership winning side of last year was hardly vintage. But even they reeked of past glories. Last season they had an occasional central midfield pair of Scholes and Giggs who have the combined age of One Direction, or so Sadie informs us. But they, like Ferguson, are relics of the past and while they hung around, United can’t truly move on. They will be hampered by comparison and judged by the sins of their past.

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It’s not easy to forget what has happened. But sometimes we have to. The only reason we allow ourselves to take part in Secret Santa every year is because we don’t remember the weird presents. That set of Ikea slippers we got last year from, we suspect, Dave in accounts. We have to forget and hope that this next year will be better for us. And so for United, their fans and the media, they need to forget. They need to revoke Sir Alex’s season ticket. Ban him from the club and the gift shop. Otherwise they risk decades of hanging on to the good old days as Liverpool fans have had to endure for far too long. So tear down Sir Alex’s statue and melt it down for scrap. For the good of everyone in Salford this Christmas, what United need is a good helping of cold turkey.

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