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  • Red News
    One of the many attractions Manchester United bestows onto its followers is the desire to not just win, but win in style.

    Some players might feel burdened by the demand that we go out and win every game, and if we don’t, then we gave it a good go, but others, well, when in form, rise to the challenge. Rio Ferdinand saying of Robin Van Persie: “Robin Van Persie loved it. He told me that at Arsenal you wanted to win, but at United you had to win.”

    Alex Ferguson had many regular catch phrases, and one of them was to accept any challenge, because there is always one at the club a size of United’s. And the challenge for any Manchester United manager is to play attractive football in going and getting those wins. It was a demand created and installed of course by Sir Matt Busby, but the great thing about Fergie, after a dreadful opening few seasons, was that he didn’t just provide the long demanded glory, but added to our mix, so we also fought until the end. It was never too late, so many times.

    It is quite remarkable the decline at United since we celebrated a 20th title on scaffolding. I hate to keep bringing him up, but David Moyes’ disastrous reign, though only near enough a full season, it felt like many more, has had a remarkable affect on our mindset and confidence. Confidence is crucial in football, with it the football quality improves and anything is possible. That first title season in 1992/93 could quite easily have turned out differently; until Eric’s arrival that is. Turgid at the start of November, by the turn of the year we were playing with him some of the best football I’ve seen at Old Trafford - Eric onto Irwin, etc.

    Moyes drained the life out of the team, and us. And we are still climbing back up that particular sorry mountain. Lacking confidence, everything seems in isolation. We need to see the bigger picture; United managers are given time for a reason, to prove themselves and build, we know that Moyes with time would have been a disaster but I am confident enough in LvG not just because of his self confidence and stature, but by his achievements. They are in the past and he has to prove himself, but I think 10 games in is too early, we’re going micro with our view of the here and now rather than macro.

    Winning breeds confidence and so on, so a win yesterday was vital. It came over performance and you don’t enjoy seeing United look poor, but you realise how important it can be in this bloody ‘process’ we keep hearing about.

    What I love about United fans is our demands; I think the players and LvG would have realised quite early onto into the bizarre tactic of keeping the ball near DDG with McNair, Carrick, Shaw and co, quite scarily passing to each other as you could smell a mistake coming, United don’t do that not just because we want to sell the ball at the other end, but because we’re not very good at it! But the message from the terraces is ‘attack, attack’ and I like that - they will get the message.

    Palace either defended brilliantly or we were not quite with it yesterday. A mix of both, we have a hell of a lot of our players out of form right now; Adnan, RVP, Rooney again doing lots but not much with it, and Di Maria joining them out of sympathy, and with so many front players not at the races, you can be happy that we did manage to drag a win out of this.

    The atmosphere was better, the singing section finally woke up to its challenge after all the hassles creating it, and I thought Shaw had his best game, pacey, good in a challenge but looking excellent going forward, we saw why we’d paid that much and all the hype, but I thought McNair looked solid beyond his inexperience too, and Blind may be criticised for not being more creative but he’s quietly efficient, sometimes you just need a rubber band in the engine room to keep things ticking, look what Hargreaves did for us that season.

    The challenge is for the attacking players to add the magic, and you saw here it never quite coming off, a blocked run or misplaced pass, and with United taking too many touches we lacked the zip in play we need if we are to do well this season.

    The squad is much better than last season, and I do see progress, but we need to see more. Chelsea’s passing was superior against us and if our whole ‘philosophy’ is based on keeping the ball, we have to do it better and be more clinical. And faster. At the moment RVP is slowing play down, and that’s painful to say, Wilson showing a spark that might have deserved a full 90.

    Mata came on and despite his poor 3 game audition during Rooney’s suspension, he has a great knack of scoring often because he is prepared to have a go. I have lost count this past year when United players haven’t taken the gamble, been more brave, and on many occasions we’ve not had enough shots on target. Have a go. That too comes from confidence I know.

    So winning helps confidence and confidence helps performance. So we need a winning run. This past year and a bit has been what Fergie recently said was ‘one step forward, two back’, when we’ve not gone on winning runs, the bricks to all our successes. Arsenal is a huge game now. We can’t afford to not get a win away as soon as possible and with their own problems it could be 5-4, but United don’t just need a performance and win for confidence, but to kick start our season.

    Again we’re thinking too much about United. Fretting, concerned, where for years we just took it all for granted. When LvG says he needs three years we can recoil, but we need to see where we are at the end of the season, not in November when we’ve missed those midweek fixtures to help things too. We’re enjoying the madness of post Fergie, there is a buzz about going to games we also took for granted, and I’m glad despite the lack of edge to our play yesterday that we just reminded them ‘in-game’ that we need to see better, attacking football, but the win can’t be underestimated. It’s the sort of game we threw away last season.

    Another international break now. Bollocks. Stop-start the theme of a season where clubs in England if not abroad are feeling a World Cup hangover. At United we’ve had one hell of a fucker of a Moyes hangover. We need to start seeing past that. We have quality, success ridden players. Hopefully their confidence will return, because with it, so will the winning and the quality of our play.

    5/10 but still hopeful for the future. Let’s look forward, not backwards.

    Barney 9th November 2014. T-SHIRTS and more!
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    PS. Bizarre as it is to say about a player who only just joined but I do think we are missing Herrera as a link man. Think he started well and the team will look better, and offer more, with him.
    Last edited by Red News; 09-11-2014, 06:26 PM.

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  • Red News
    Reditorial on why supporting Manchester United is about so much more than the 90 minutes

    Red News is 27 years old on the 20th April 2014.

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    The Reditorial from Red News 2012 - guarantee every mag at

    I’m that fed up with this season maybe now is the time to stop writing about it! For all our angst, it will play out this way or that. And whilst it's been that toilet we'd just like to flush it down the pan, and erase it from memory, such is what Gary Neville called United fans’ collective will to “dream” that, however absurd we know it to be, in those desperately few happy hours after the Olympiakos win, we could enjoy a rare few hours conjuring images of supping Superbock in Lisbon.
    Then we drew Bayern...

    The season has been woeful, as have the players for much of the time, and so part of you was searching out a claims form - injury to my senses - after the Liverpool game (the Scousers had nicked all the forms however) yet just 72 hours later, however poor the opposition, you were left to wonder where that type of performance had been all season. Yet we know that the doom that Sunday was far more indicative of the season itself, yet life is always better seeing our red glasses half full so we cling to the game where dreams hoped for better. Moyes has to deliver them, if not, his fate will be sealed, but for now, one solitary game appears a job saver and has put back his Doomsday Clock (see last ed). For now.

    As has been said, whatever his fate, we can look him in the eye even if some players can't, that at games our support has been solid, and much better. As good as it's been in years at home. Whilst online you get the impression that every single United fan is a moany mard arse their whole existence, we are dreamers and being a football supporter is much more fun if you embellish realism with hope, and actually do what it says on the tin; support. The atmosphere has improved, and so, perversely, we're enjoying our participation this season more than we usually do, when we sat on our arses moaning at success. Let's have some fun! So good or bad, and mainly bad, we have had fun.
    As we well know, the 90 minutes is just an iota of what supporting United is all about. It is the fixed location of our week and attention but however much of a hold United has over each and every one of us, the 11 men kicking a football is just one tiny aspect of this whole, for want of a better word, mad drug. And like with every drug, there are highs, come downs and over doses.

    Since last issue, Reds near and far travelled far and wide to pay their respects to RN founder Teresa McDonald as she was laid to rest. The connection was that 90 minutes, but the bond was infinitely more. Manchester, Cockney Reds, Greece, Norway and many other places in between were represented as a section of United's hard core match going crowd were represented; Tony O'Neill, Boylie, Tommy G, Phil Holt and Welsh Phil amongst many. As one Red quipped: “more than city get for an away game.”

    It was incredibly moving to see this United turn out for something as far removed as travelling to a game as you could get, wanting to pay their respects for someone they had shared many matchdays with. This diverse, eclectic mix a representation of the United crowd itself; a builder next to a banker, rampant right wingers next to looney lefties, the don’t knows in between; the multi coloured spectrum of Planet Red.

    Teresa was much more than just a Manchester United football fan, as we all are. We have our lives, our realities with which we use United to escape to and form, or just to enjoy our lives with United in our lives. There is no set formula, no actual ‘top red’ manual way to do it, do it how you want, how you please, so long really as it pleases you as supporting United is a force for good, should be good, enjoyed. It should not be the negative maelstrom of moaning mard arses that dominate the net so that you think some get no pleasure whatsoever from it.

    Teresa ran a jazz bookshop for some years, serving amongst others the poet Phil Larkin who once praised her for her ‘civilising influence’. The singer, and friend, George Melly described her as “short, intelligent and formidable”. She took photos of Louis Armstrong. She lived. And she lived a varied life but settled upon and knew that at United she was most comfortable, and had the most fun. She realised it can be a wonderful thing; just this. It is often now a derided term, ‘the United family’, it sounds like one of those horribly arsey branded statements the marketing men have bastardised, but the reality is that at United games there is still a United family. The link can be tenuous, just letting on, a nod at a game, or strong, so that a goon together at a game can develop into lifelong friendships. We are not all the same so it's pretty amazing that so many of us get on for starters, and of course you converge towards more like minded people, but if United's spectrum is rich, we are enriched by becoming good friends with people you may never have met, or entertained, were it not for United.

    Two lads who started to go to games with our wider circle, became friends, became RN sellers, were ushers at my wedding, and these two oddballs (Ste and John) will be friends for life because we stare at men in red shirts. We share beers, we share lives; Reds have babies, get married, and yes sadly as a consequence of the fucked up nature of life's cruel tricks, funerals. We take the rough with the smooth at the game, and so we have to when life gets dirty, and Reds will mourn with you, help you through the tough times. The messages of support and kindness from so many of you helps a great deal. Whilst it might not have felt it seeing us stuffed by Liverpool as it looked like a dreaded “shift in power”, even when crap, United is mint.

    United conjures up so much; we remember trips, goals, goons, moments and also mates no longer with us. When we look towards a forthcoming game, again the focus is of course on *it*, the day is much more, we can plan trips with mates, look forward to the pre or post match beer and know that when it comes you can hopefully pack up all your troubles and just get involved and play whatever part you can. Watch United, and dream.

    The modern United is seen as a curse, and whilst the owners, the prices, the hassles are fucking irritating/disgraceful, it is not a curse, and should hopefully be seen as what it is, a blessing; supporting United, and you need to be doing it right I suppose, is life fulfilling. It is unlike anything else bar a drug I suppose. And as far as I can tell, no drug comes close to this fucked up shit we go through each and every season! It is not a hobby but a way of life.

    Mum loved looking after her Utd family as she saw it, these mix of bricklayers, and office workers; male, female, young, old, part of the madness or just part of United, these people she drank, sang, and had a laugh and a life with, and they came to give their respect to someone who got it and lived Utd the right way; to just enjoy it. Fret over defeats, smile over wins. But enjoy the whole experience as much as the moment.

    The players will come and go, as too, though it seems hard to ever accept that with their millions squandered, will the owners (or as she said when wheelchair bound last year: “If I could get up and boot a Glazer up the arse I would:), indeed when one former manager questioned her attendance at a far flung friendly he was told “we will be here long after you've left”. The players, the here, the now, the noise, is a filter during happy times on pitch or off it, but we’ll always remain Reds, we’ll always still go, one way or another, however we see fit.

    With United we can all be kids at heart, we don’t have to lose that, of course treat United with the same scrutiny as the real world but don't necessarily succumb all the time to lifes negativity. On one online poll I saw, nearly a quarter voting said they’d take us losing to Olympiakos if it ‘rid’ the club of Moyes. I just don’t get anyone, ever, wanting their own team to lose. Our team.
    Somewhere along the way, they’ve lost the fun, the point, and their marbles? This is supposed to be fun; to angst, gnaw, as this is United, after all, but to do it with a smile, and a swagger.

    We're all a bit mad, have to be to be doing all this, to be this obsessed with what is just a game after all, and we nutters travel many miles to see blokes who sometimes don't want to wear this shirt, on obscene wages, and we go away, dissect what we’ve seen, have our beers and take something from it. You may go to the game on your own. But hopefully you will find out that there is a United family and when you are need, they will come good.

    Maybe for a while in the aftermath of 2005, with many good people gone to FC, we lost a bit of that United-ness, which is on its return as a new generation who get it start to appear on the scene, got back that bit of community, which if our own club will ignore and not encourage, we can, to help each other out, to just do the decent thing when the time comes. There will always be the few scumbags who want to be in it for themselves, to fuck Reds over, but most get it, what Utd is all about. What it’s really about. Why you’re a Red. Why we’re different.

    My own United journey started with Mum. We sat together in J, H Stand in the 80s with our LMTBs that then became the golden ticket of a Season ticket, her funding my habit when a kid. I saw her happy face against Barcelona in ‘84, and in ‘91 and in Barcelona itself in ’99. I saw her swoon at Eric, love Ronaldo, and get so excited when Stevie Coppell was on the wing. Yes we do like to dream at United and we demand a style of play not for the glory, welcome as it can be, but to get off our feet and feel the buzz, that United go about things differently. Why you know long after a game there will be pockets of Reds here or there enjoying each other's company and the bonhomie and enjoying the day, whatever the game has been like.

    One lad at the wake said how he’d been short of money on one trip, ‘here’s a few quid’ Teresa said, and he never forgot that. So he made the long five hour journey by bus, and five back to say how important one Red has been in his Utd life. That helping of fellow Reds out may be reciprocated back to you one day; sorting a spare, offering a lift. This Red journey is a hell of a lot better not just with company but if we share it. They might not share your politics, but they can share your life. Because it is, as it always has been, a buzz. Even during the shit times we have moments to take to the bank with.

    Utd is not the club who tell us what to do - usually aggressively, with a look down - it is everything. It is as much about the anticipation of the day itself and the day itself as the game. It is often joked that the game can get in the way of things.

    People would have you believe that there is a new representation of the very modern United family with the half and halfers and tourists and whilst there are too many interlopers, at its core, we still have a core. That’s United. That’s why whatever happens this season, for all us sadomasochists, we’ll be there again come August. At the game, or watching it. However you do it.
    When someone is told who we support, you know if it’s a Red or not who answers back, the froth from outsiders driven by an ABU inspired agenda, blinkered, but we know, we get it. We can tell, mainly, and whilst we have no right to ever say who should support Utd, you can begin to tell who supports Utd on your own wavelength.

    Someone reading this will have a family member they are taking to their first game with soon, or going with their Dad, or Mum or have a new born they hope to take one day. Whilst the changes to our culture have been at times as horrible as they are unfamiliar, deep down the circle remains unbroken and goes on, as long as we are allowed to, and can afford it. It is magical, it still has that feel what Busby said: “a sense of romance, wonder and mystery”.

    We go to United because of our own ‘X Factor’ and reasons. And I/we/you will continue to go United so long as we have our health and finances allow. Or if we don’t go, we will not end this support, or link. Success is enjoyable but it does not define our support. We will go when United are shit, or when they are good, though we will demand, angst and want the latter, we will not shirk the former. And we like doing it with like minded individuals, so next time United themselves try and steal the ‘United family’ as some marketing fluff, the real United core means as much now, and is still there, be it at games or watching them somewhere, as it ever did. To that United family, I salute you.

    It is, obviously, not more important than life or death. But it can be life fulfilling and become the most important part of our lives, and whilst football is its core, supporting United is so much more than cheering a bunch of egotistical prima donnas about led by coaches who say ‘try’ a lot. Or as Carlo Ancelotti put it: “Football is the most important thing amongst the least important things in life. And that’s the way it should be.”

    Or better still, “Manchester United stands for something more than any person, any player, any supporter. It is the ‘soul’ of a sporting organisation which goes on sea- son after season, making history all the time”. 28th August 1937, the United programme Editorial.

    Forever and Ever. T-SHIRTS and more!

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  • Red News
    From the Editorial of December’s RedNews208, published December 21st 2013.

    New RedNews209 out Saturday 11th January 2014.

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    With all that change, with all that we’ve seen come our way, scared to lose any of it, we were bound to have if not squeaking bum time, then leaking arses with nerves during any ‘transition’, a term that both explains the upheaval and mystifies in that a squad still so capable, has at times looked anything but.

    As Fergie was a paradox so were his teams, and at times their achievements were beyond what we thought possible of them, and whilst some see the facts clear and simple that this squad won that 20th league by that many points, so how can they decline so much now, others knew Fergie’s magic was papering over certain cracks and without the necessary Polyfilla this summer - what we all said was a huge series of mistakes that could bite us back - there is only so long you can keep flogging that horse, convincing it that it can go on and win again. And take away that genius convincing them of all that, and here is where we are.

    But the Champions should be doing better, and would be right up there with Fergie still here, but the midfield issue was always going to eventually cave-in - and a debate for another day just how lacklustre we’ve been at signing proven quality midfields since the mid 90s (once you take away the name of Roy Keane out of the equation) - as our rivals did the spending that we should have, so us coming a Roy Cropper was somewhat inevitable. We can all agree that the drop back down to reality should not have been as bad as it has. That none of us expected.

    And it is after each setback when concerns over Moyes intensify. Some I feel are valid, he is yet to properly grasp the ‘United way’ and manner and sometimes in front of cameras he has the air of vapidity, saying more the wrong thing than the right and his perceived negativity - which I have no doubt is a self defence mechanism - overplayed our opening five games so that we were on the back foot from the off. Too negative an outlook. The football at times too has been depressing to watch, an un-United way. Games that, and this is unsettling us all, we no longer feel confident about as we approach. I can’t remember the last game I felt we’d win, for sure, beforehand. How spoilt of me I know, but I’ve not enjoyed it!

    But whilst those at United games have been solid behind him during these early stages - even if some keep their counsel just after the game - online it’s been a bit of a mess. I suppose that’s inevitable when those that make the necessary sacrifices to get to a or the match will be shouted down by those sat comfily on a sofa ready to tweet their disgust during and after a game they’ve made little effort for, the exaggerations of opinion forget that only two years ago we were playing in the latter stages of the Europa League, a title quest still on silenced what was an awful, and mainly ignored, set of fixtures on Thursday nights. This squad, as well as its football, has been up and down for a while; Fergie, RVP’s arrival, and results over style kept the din down.

    There were signs that this was coming. We knew Fergie could be worth X amount of points with strength of character and convincing his players alone, and Moyes would be well advised to embrace what we stand for; our ethos, not just the will and want to win, but the way that we do it. Those fans singing all game on the Stretford End in a rather dour game against Shakhtar will continue to stand, and stand with him, if he does actually play like Fergie’s boys, rather than, and this has oddly disturbed me as much as any one thing this season, pulling all our players back for opponents corners, rather than having an outlet, allowing us a chance for one of our famous counter attacks. Seeing United play like an away team at Old Trafford is not good for the soul. It is understandably unsettling after years of our teams, well, in the really good days, running towards not just any challenge, but any fight, but now seeming to refuse it; or, at the very least, refuse belief in themselves that Fergie gave them. A few should take note of Darren Fletcher’s incredible will and determination to wear the shirt that you fear some take for granted.

    Everton fans are loving this up and down season. They’ve even changed our song (youtube it). “Stuck with Moyes, stuck with Moyes, Man Utd, playing football in a negative way.” And a few nodding sages will agree, saying they never wanted him. Well we have him (a move I supported), and to suggest getting rid after just 15 games is lunacy. It’s not United, we don’t want to become a Chelsea, a nother side, and what would it do for future managers to know they are judged on such short scraps. This is not Moyes’ team, it is one that has too few stars, one he needs to rebuild. He deserves to build a team then if not in his honour but in ours, to see where we are in a year’s time, without the deadwood. Mixed messages everywhere too. Rio, error strewn this season on and off the pitch, suggesting teams can play at below par and win - well we can’t, never have! - and then United’s clown apprentice tweeter who told us, via Moyes, that basically it’s the whole god damn thing that needs improving. Lads, that doesn’t look good. We should be better than that.

    At times you wish they’d all be a bit more quiet. David Moyes doesn’t appear as media savvy as you’d hope for someone so experienced, and seems to give them too much of his time, and too much information, a scatter gun series of up and down quotes that come at us when we’re reeling and don’t inspire like Fergie’s aggressive, ‘youse are all fucking idiots’ could, enabling a siege mentality. Somehow Fergie, and he did get stick for it, managed to glue the mess together and make it art. Brilliant art. With Fergie we could get away with saying if it ain't broke don't fix it, but we felt the parts did look worn and now it looks broke, we’ve been too slow reacting after the event and ignoring too many long term warning signs. Each time we’ve seemed to have started to turn a corner - Arsenal, Leverkusen - we’ve hit a red light, let’s hope the win at Villa was significant, but at least some Reds are greeting this strangeness with good (gallows?) humour: “We are staying up, we are staying up!”. We have to stick together (I won’t say it in a Brummie advert voice).

    But if we were winning all the time, we’d be ignoring the little traits that are now picked up from every angle aimed at Moyes. Because it’s different, people don’t like it. They never like change. I’ve felt jittery even though I experienced time before SAF, I suppose after joking that we’re ready for the crap days again if needs be, none of us actually are, nor want to go back there, especially if it’s swapping places with the Scousers. I think we have to take a backward step, to be a bit more patient, because these are not the crap days, that’s when you can see what he means when he says it is transition, and try and avoid the lunacy of modern football, that already seems to have seen the vultures circle over nearly every manager in the Premier League this season, and each appears defined by their last three or so results. It is disappointing that after Arsenal, when we thought a more positive corner had been turned, we reversed back into arse flapsville, but the nuclear fall out after the two home defeats seemed much more of a bleak winter than the good feeling from the unbeaten run. Again, somewhere in between, probably this season lies. Not great but there you have it. And it’s still good enough to get into the top 4, and beyond, with a bit more positive thinking.

    Many make issue of him getting rid of Fergie’s coaches, though let’s be honest, with DDG ever improving, it’s only Rene we pine for, for his one to one work. But I can understand Moyes’ thinking, imagine now, with these results, if he suspected the old guard were whispering about his faults, behind his back? United life, on terraces, with the owners, is poisonous enough at the best of times these days, that would have been another minefield. We can’t have that poison spreading and becoming terrace rebellion at the start of this new tenure, look how bad the Scousers looked when they took on Houllier and relentlessly went for him. Bile during games does not build.
    In a week when Utd fans were once again choosing sides between Fergie and Keane (it’s getting as tiring a series as Rocky Part 56 now), a rare dose of tranquility came from the Corkonian on ITV at the Shakhtar march: “I think there’s been a slight over reaction to the past week. I think it’s time for cool heads. Give the manager an opportunity to make his mark on the club and give him a bit of time. I think everybody needs just to relax just a little bit and give him a chance to put a marker on it over the next year or so. United fans aren’t daft, they’ll be right behind him, they’ll understand what’s been going on, and I don’t think there’s any need to panic, United fans are great, I think the fans are eight behind and will get behind David Moyes.” When Roy is telling us to relax, you know some of us have tensed up to almost Rigimortis levels.

    When some leave games and say “I’ve never seen it this bad”, they’re telling porkies. The expression the last few seasons in this column was “our bland efficient” approach was working - it’s been pretty uninspiring to watch now for three or so years, ever since Ronaldo left. Teams have sussed us out, worked out that we’ve been weak at Old Trafford for a while now, letting in too many goals for a couple of seasons. For all the negatives and head shaking - and we can’t deny them, there have been positives; him stroking Rooney’s ego, the chances for Adnan, him taking full responsibility for results when that’s not quite the truth, but it’s the right thing to do and something others might not have done. He has not hid even though some wish he might have. Eyes trained on him and him alone though means some of the players have coasted, when it should be their bollocks on the line. It will be though, when he sorts out who has or hasn’t been siding with him. And, sadly a recurring theme, not enough fingers pointing at the owners who wank the commercial devil but whilst millions slipped out of our fingers into theirs and their banks, under financed our squad, woefully and willfully after the Ronaldo sale, so that to think life after Fergie could also survive on the relatively low annual spend as others build is as daft as anything Lee Ryan would say. You despair that whilst we’re great at signing partners, we seem pretty abject at signing players.

    Fergie too, perhaps knowing he didn’t have the energy or time to rebuild yet another squad, also left a weakening squad, even if it were a title winning squad, a problem for any successor to deal with. He knew last November of his change; we don’t know how strong he made his message about how important it was to strengthen from a position of strength, but the club failed in doing so. And whilst he notes in his book that city lost their chance for successive titles by not competing in the transfer market immediately afterwards, we saw all our rivals really go for it this summer; and just looked amateurish ourselves. We all saw this coming and like a rabbit caught in headlights, failed to comprehend that it was so close.

    I also think the players got more complacent than they should have, that coasting Rio’s tweet alludes to. They were allowed also to celebrate ‘20’ for way too long, it went on for weeks. There didn’t seem to be a buckling down - move on to the next trophy aim - like we always hear as soon as the changeover was announced. Kept partying. Results were sliding from April onwards.

    But the press are loving this as are ABUs so that alone should make us close ranks more, when that doesn’t happen it makes me feel slightly uncomfortable seeing such venom towards our own from our own on public platforms; it’s what ‘THEY’ all want. We all know they and ABUs have waited years for this opportunity to propel a shitstorm, United fans, in front of them, can’t be seen to encouraging and actively creating more even though at times it’s hard to take, especially for those experiencing this seasickness of really up and down results for the first time. The sight of Moyes wrestling with Ben Arfa for the ball in the dying minutes against Newcastle was more embarrassing than inspiring. Again, he needs to quickly find that United handover booklet and be better briefed.

    What is Manchester United about? It’s about support, difference, and certainly backing and giving managers time. As well as the football we want to see. Many thought there was no hope with Fergie in ‘89, and yes different times with a really crap squad but then we’d go 14-15 matches without one win. There is always hope at United and why you have to give it time. Not indefinite, but United, and surely sanity, is not about saying after 4 months, with his predecessors squad, without backing from loathsome owners, away you go. It’s not unconditional, nor indefinite but people need to realise, you do know when faith leaves, when it is time. It becomes clear. It’s bottling out of titles, fans showing real hatred, teams totally fucked (Atkinsons, after that 85/86 ten game run), or a continually bland un-United football that lasts for years (Sexton). It is not now. To even suggest it suggests some have become a bit too new age fan. You may not like Moyes, we all have fears, but you have to be calm. As someone on the RN forum joked: “Its all fucking Alex Ferguson’s fault, he was just too fucking good for too fucking long.”

    There is a fear from some that if this haphazardness continues the repercussions grow, more in players not wanting to join us than financial losses for the leeches (and our best players wanting out, whilst part of me thinks fuck them, is a concern), would make the job almost impossible. I don’t know… We simply have to get into that top four, that is a given, though I dread the fact that we may have to celebrate ‘just’ that achievement as if worthy of note come May. I think we’ll do it though. That first trophy, quickly, is vital.

    We can’t have him being shaped by the galleries though. “I was due to take RVP off after 60 minutes, but if I had, people would have said, ‘What are you doing?’” That creates more ‘Dithering Dave’ fears and whilst many looked at that negative quote before Newcastle: “They are coming to OT and we will make it as hard and as difficult for them as possible.”, I didn’t like his comments to MUTV that day which got ignored: “Because I know what it’s like, to try and win 3/4 games in a row in the PL is a hard thing to do.” It’s not though, is it, certainly not at United. A few days later he finally did say the right thing: “The fact at United I know the job is to win. Win well. And be much better.” Yes!

    I feel this season is like being put inside a fast spin in a washing machine. I’m fascinated, disturbed and unable to grab a compass point. We’ve stopped asking what would Fergie do but maybe we should remember what he did do. “I am a gambler - a risk taker - and you can see that in how we played in the late stages of matches.” If we go down fighting, all guns blazing, it’s better than limply conceding records to sides like Newcastle, and bigging them up before we face them. United should hope for the best but prepare for the worst in terms of being able to cope with a poor season, and out of the top four, but by going for it with a United attitude and stance will give him more time to get there. If we see real effort, we’ll all give it back.

    Thomas Carlyle once said. ‘No pressure, no diamonds.’ Let’s hope so. But let's be honest here, Moyes will not last by playing as cagey football and being as cautious with his attitude as time goes on, offering second rate football at the biggest, or so we always hope, club in the world. It’s been too long since we regularly watched good, attacking United football. We’ll give him the time needed, but he needs to come out fighting. So do the players. Be, and act United.

    From the Editorial of December’s RedNews208, published December 21st 2013.

    New RedNews209 out Saturday 11th January 2014.

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  • Red News
    Editorial from RN204 on Edward Woodward's summer, David Moyes' pressure and how following Manchester United is still fun as a fan

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    David Moyes may already have taken a walk around Old Trafford on a non-matchday to see the club he now manages in all its glory. He could have driven down Sir Matt Busby Way, parked on the road soon to be granted the status of Sir Alex Ferguson Way (always his way, of course), and walked past the Alex Ferguson Statue as he sat and looked at the stadium that whispers such memories from a seat in the Alex Ferguson Stand. That in itself is some weight of history, or as Robert Penn Warren noted: ‘the past is always a rebuke to the present.’ Few manage to hush it.

    If the weight of all that expectation from history wasn't hefty enough, you can't help but feel that alone with his thoughts, Moyes may have given one of his angry Gollum like stares at a transfer window that seemed so complex, much of our own desperate making. For such shoes, ground, statue, and roads to fill, he needed a huge helping hand - he needs it off us too (see last Ed) - from senior management who had agreed with Fergie’s request to appoint him, and instead seemed to produce a window best summed up as one we’ll never want to repeat. Or live through again.

    We always have the right to prod, probe and ask questions, but there comes a balance. We wanted more than we got, but this is what we got. I think too many people moan too often about United, ignoring the real big issue, or picking it up at convenience, on a whim; the Glazers should matter more often than just when we don't sign X or Y, or lose a few games. I repeat that if some fans are not prepared to give a new manager, following all that, not even a season to judge what he's about here then it says more about them than it does actually him. Granted most of the real bile heading towards Moyes is on twitter, at times more rancid than a walk across Stanley Park to the United entrances in the 1980s, but life is different shades of colour, and so is United, and we have to try and weigh up all that happened this summer with perspective. I mistrust the Glazers, I don't think a new manager AND a new Chief Executive was a wise move, and I think both should have done better in the transfer window, but as with every argument and event at MUFC, there is texture, it is not done and dusted in 140 characters and nor is what you or I say or think at a particular moment in time ever completely right, both sides can make salient points rather than ignoring another view out of hand as if only yours matters.

    So whilst many of can agree it was a summer of fiasco, unhinged drama, inexperience, pain, draining, and ended with many of us ultimately agreeing we did not get what this squad needed, namely it was Fellaini and A N OTHER(S) that we required to help us maintain a serious challenge, on all fronts, we won't know for sure the impact, if any, until the very end of the season. And equally, there is THE paradox. Despite the madness of the window (and it was lunatic, come deadline day I think we were all in some sort of frenzied zombie dimension, and in what fantasy world would Harry Redknapp talking out of a car window considered to be part of its fun?!) we did actually improve the squad, albeit by one, and so that whilst doubts remain over the whole, it is still a better squad than last May. And however tiresome he and his sagas (preferred it when he was flirting with SAGA) are, we still kept the fat Scouser who can win us games alone.

    But this isn't a post briefing let off for United. It was badly handled, seemed to border on the absurd, it was way too public at its start, then desperately concluded, and maybe because of all that, our post-window reactions pretty much ignored that we finally got that long sought after lesser spotted midfielder (Henry Winter after his own briefings suggesting we'd been trying for that spot since 2007, as if the very position was a near extinct animal), but a title winning squad was improved. That is important.

    Yet many of us feel we needed more, that this transfer squandering, and doggy paddling isn't actually anything new, that the sum of all these parts bar the Fellaini arrival this summer was still bathed in classic Glazernomics; history certainly suggests so, as we realise it's just a net spend transfer wise since 2005 of £132.4m, or a rather deflating £14m per season, that the Ronaldo money was never actually spent, and then when pacified with briefings that it was still ‘always there’, stored away in Gill's office like some humongous piggy bank saved for a rainy day, the reality in the Woodward invester conference call last week: “we don’t expect to build up large cash balances.” (ie, not on ground development, or big transfer spends). So despite talk of unlimited budgets and ambitions to the media, in the real world, they haven't even spent the rather small £25m a season they promised in their original business plan. They are so lucky they had Fergie. We can rejoice with sarcasm at an official nutritional supplements partner in Japan, but continue to ask exactly where does all that commercial money end up if not on the stadium, or the players that fill it?

    The achievements since their arrival could be pinpointed to the genius, and madness of his miracles, of Sir Alex, and without his power of winning say a few extra points each season by his je ne sais quoi, the man with the unenviable task of replacing him clearly needed a transfer budget larger and spent more wisely than one that positioned us lodged between Cardiff and Norwich. But football, especially Manchester United, is not Football Manager despite what a 15 year old blogger in Timbuktu may tell you. We have always had problems signing players; it can be traced back to the 1970s when we were underwhelming payers of player wages, to the 80s when we couldn't attract the names (Butcher, Lineker) needed to transform us earlier than we did, and then the ineptitude of the likes of Kenyon with Ronaldinho or the near endless DVD repeats of ‘he may come this summer’ that always ejected near the end for the likes of Batistuta, Kluivert, and that old favourite, Wesley Sneijder, so close to coming that I even stored to lasting memory how to spell his name without checking. Our underwhelming reaction to the transfer window is nothing new. Usually results, or the new players, then surprise us. Can we keep pulling that rabbit out, even under new management? When others year-in, year-out continue to outspend? Can United - with all that turnover - keep not buying targets like Baines because of ‘value’ and look so inept in the market?

    I'm told it was a deliberate policy to go from the Fabregas daily briefings to radio silence until that rather unedifying final weekend as United realised early summer mistakes and we are told Woowar will learn from this. But I'm more concerned with his amateurish human errors, than his business ones, telling people like longstanding fans' reps in Sydney that ‘Fabregas was a done deal’ is only going to bite you on the arse. I look unfavourably not at what he missed out on - that unfortunately is still, shit happens, especially if you're under bidding or leave it so late - but the way he handled it. Not fronting up after he went awol from Sydney, when we were all laughing at him by that stage, to appear and cop the flak is the point you start to look bad beyond fanzine circles and do something about it, well, the good Chief Executives do.

    Despite the dubious briefings to Winter or Taylor after the event, whilst the Rooney saga did sap energy and spirit at the club with their constant reassurances to force staying (though United still did expect a request or final push from his people, and this isn’t over), it did not take every waking moment and they had long enough from things settling down leading up to Swansea, to not look so desperate then floating down the Suwannee in the days that remained. An hour or so to placate the ever noisy Rooney brigade still leaves plenty more time, unless the rest of Woodward’s time was spent trying to orienteer back from Sydney from wherever he actually ended up - and if it was the island of Lost, by now we all certainly felt in purgatory.

    What the summer showed is exactly what United now are, a completely new run United, fears that it'll be even more Glazer inspired, when it could be argued, Fergie's more private way, away from the fellatio to the likes of Mr Potato and Manda Fermentation, saw the club being run very well as it was; if it ain't broke and all that.

    And yet, the other side of the coin, this complexity that exists on all levels at modern Utd; many of us don't want city like spending, quick plaster strips just to buy five more in, throwing money like a fat twat in a strip club ‘because he can’, many of us want youth to come through the system as it always has, yet get impatient if players like Daniel Welbeck show immaturity and inexperience when in the first team. We want it all, yet at no cost. At times it can all fit the jigsaw, at other times, none of it makes sense.

    David Moyes said at Everton: “It is good if you can get your boys in at pre-season and get them involved. It gives everyone a lift.” And that was, in this post Fergie haze and maze, what we all wanted, was a lift. It's probably why we frothed so much on September 3rd. Some may argue why do we need it, we're Champions after all, but we appear light for any European campaign against clubs who we should be competing with every single season now with our resources (in theory). But for yet another another window, it didn't happen. So do we sulk, or get on with it? There should become provisos with that of course. Them... The lingering presence of the Glazers can be traced back far longer than Edward Woodward replicating Quinn Paterson in the Mad Dogs series in Spain this summer. Their lack of communication back to us - still nobody official at the clubs speaks to its oldest fanzine - all seems rather immature.

    And despite the hideous caveat it's done because of the debt, is the fact that transfer wise we are living within our means something to be pleased about, so our only debt, is their debt, unlike others who ignore FFP, or do we enviously end up eyeing the sugar daddies like at city where the disparity of transfer money spent, compared to income, is stark and, as we sarcastically look towards Platini, seemingly no end in sight. Should this make us happy that we do business as we do, that Utd despite the Gimps, are run apart from that as a debt free year on year business (there is a sad irony to all that), or is the whole thing simply so fucked, that none of football industry makes sense anymore, if it ever did, so if you can't beat them off the field, just join them? Paris St Germain would argue that latter point, yet it's all a bit sad, as Anzhi Makhachkala would now testify. Everything seems to fucking complicated.

    This complexity of opinion extends to the terraces too. We know Old Trafford can be a right old sea of oddballs at times for games these days, and the changes to it have seen many changes, not many for the better. It has its moments but its lost something too. With a bit of club-fan dialogue that can change - and eventually who knows, lead to the promised land of some safe standing - but it also at times gets completely written off, as if abandon hope all ye who enter here, as if there is nothing to be had from going to a game anymore, certainly no fun. When in fact, on its day, it can still be a top day. Not as often as we'd like, with not as many, and that decline slowly eroding to away games too, but again, that gets written off, sometimes by people not there which probably helps them deal with not being there, as they say ‘United is finished’, ‘the matchday is finished’, and whilst it's awful much that has happened to our culture - what they have done to us; our game, our conditions, mistaking the need for safety and the good that came from that with being greedy with a host of shit add-on conditions like prices, kick off times, Sky on deadline day, Hull Tigers or whatever bollocks it is, Cardiff in red. But United is and never will be finished.

    The away match day goon can still be top quality. We may rightfully groan at the half and half scarf brigade, and point out the ones wearing them at say Anfield, but also rewind, still be thankful it's only one or two being noticed, and because they stand out as a minority - still - that's why you are noticing the oddballs. As pictures like this half and halfer in our end at Anfield splutter around the internet, what about the 1000s who still get it, because despite all the self fulfilling prophecies of shitness, away games are still the same familiar faces - at times too old - not quite as high numbers as we'd like what with finances and hassles a problem for us all, but enough still there, and a good few kids coming through too who with a bit of nous and education (not from the likes of me, I've still not learnt how not to be a bit of a dick when ale is added!) will carry the baton. Whilst jester hat has entered the Utd lexicon apart from the odd few how many do you actually ever see with you in your pubs before a game, or at OT; so slightly OTT?

    It is never the doom laden experience pronounced by the doomlords; attending United games is still a great element to our lives, which adds to our lives. I'd still choose a United game and going away with United (when I can afford it), or a pre or post match pint with mates over 99% of the dull life away from Utd what with Jim White shouting, or Phil Mitchell shouting on a soap, Simon Cowell earning millions leeching on no hopers or Dev getting away with murdering acting skills. United is better than the drone of real life, and the real world; and I actually really enjoy my real life away from United! At United there is always hope and the fact that the majority of us will still buzz and goon at a goal, game, and matchday, discounts the theory that it is all simply finished; again an all too easy put down which ignores the many complex issues around it. Football as it was has gone. We've sadly struggled to deal with that ever since and shape what we want to come next. But don't make out football ‘back then’ was perfect either; we had plankton follow us then, it's just higher numbers now, at a higher capacity, changed, sat down, ignoring you or I, Old Trafford.
    Following United may have many ills, and we must never stop fighting at the ones who diseased our club with their debt, but it is not game over, and nor hopefully is this squad that once again has been written off. Fellaini without the A N OTHER now shoulders big expectations but who knows, he may just like that and grab that challenge. We've seen it before at this club.

    So many views, so much shouting. Sitting there then, Moyes may quietly have taken in the magnitude of the club during this transfer window, and it might not be such a bad thing to learn, mistakes and all, that the demands here seem as big as anyone bar Real Madrid. And on our part, it's alright to realise, we can be right, and wrong, on certain topics from time to time, and they can change, about this thing we love. It's also ok to have fun too after an online rant. In a world where we can be a mix of pessimists, optimists, realists, pragmatists, and annoying gits, United has always made me see its glass as half full rather than half empty, as we've in recent times seen our (football) glass overspill. Going to games for me, and from the buzz of people at away games, and the odd home, is still a glass half full experience, despite what those with empty glasses may tell you. Nobody knows if Moyes will prove the doubters wrong, or his supporters right, but I'd rather be one of those who gave him time to find out, rather than not enough to properly tell. And sing a few songs and get behind the lads in the process.

    History is on his back. We don't have to be.

    So whilst the arguments around this transfer window were as complicated as they were troublesome let us remember what Sir Alex Ferguson said in that fascinating Harvard project: “From the moment I got to United, I thought of only one thing: building a football club. I wanted to build right from the bottom.” With that job done so that United now is another beast in size to then, now is the time to look at it from the top rather than bottom. And from up top, senior management must give Moyes the right resources next time to preserve that football club which the commercial and financial side, so depends on. Whilst we worry about half and halfers going to Utd, I ignore them as much as I can as the game is still more life absorbing and life affirming than it is not - it is still despite it all a great thing in our lives, and our concentration should be more on those who are employed to run Old Trafford, and who own it, than those sorry few who sit in it with their odd paraphernalia.

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  • Red News
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    Well that was the ultimate bad sex then, like a Michael Bay film; all noise (usually the voice of Sky's Jim White) and a lot of hyped action but the actual dialogue and reality leaves you feeling a bit flat. And in need of a lie down.

    Is that all there was?

    I'm a Fellaini fan. He ticks the box for me with a bit of bite, and guile don't forget, and a steadily improving player who, hopefully, as none of us really know, will continue that trajectory at a higher rate at a bigger club. But I hoped he'd be if not the sideshow to the main event, not the big signing alone.

    But he is, it seems as though he's the only one (of note, right now, the Fabio Coentrao stuff rumbles on) so whilst that flatness gets slightly flatlined as it's not quite the doom of nobody that we feared at around 10.58pm last night, we know rivals have strengthened, possibly quite or very well, and as we heard talk of United's unlimited ambition - and backing - few would have thought this would be the end result. We fear it might not be enough. Granted, the bloated excess of United fans sometimes means we always fear and moan it's not enough; but on this, we had a point. We had no Fergie.

    We'll regroup of course, we always do. We're mumble amongst mates and under our breath over pints and before and after games but if some hysterically cry for the return of David Gill after years of slagging (though Pete Shaw has a point, he should have maybe given more time to showing Woowar the ropes), we'll back United - well, most of us - during games with the support they need.

    But we're allowed to ask questions, more importantly finally seek adult answers and head scratch as to what exactly happened as whilst journos get to grips with stories of imposters in Spain pretending to be United officials (and no, apparently this wasn't Edward 'Woowar' Woodward himself), we wonder what exactly did occur this summer; the talk of deals coming in the next few days, months ago, that disappeared exactly like Woowar's farcical own departure from Sydney that we never seemed to recover from transfer wise. What message did that send out?

    The problem there is we looked not like the biggest club in the world, certainly not with might, more in fright, and all with the bloody air of Garry Cook at city, all that's missing Woodward greeting his new arrival with 'alright brother' on the official site video next week, as we were unhappy voyeurs to this window, griping after United continuing to pluck official partners like a magician out of thin air (how many tyre companies can they bag, can there be?!), yet ours more of the Paul Daniels variety. Oh, and poor old Ander Herrera in all this - we finally had a player who had said yes to us, and we left him stuck outside the cinema like a jilted blind date.

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    Questions Woowar might consider then…

    - why bid so low for Fabregas right from the off? A World Cup Winner after all, and over rely on that bid, without a Plan B (as one wag wrote in RN203, he'd have taken Ben Drew by the end), and then rush around deadline weekend like Dale Winton chasing us with a stopwatch.

    - this urgent business bollocks, it was a rod for his and our backs, and then after that, then just go awol and tap fingers for a good few weeks and then suddenly leave everything until the very last weekend. It's not very professional, is it?

    - why try and beat the clause system, this is United. Clubs try and fleece us. Always will, always have. You are not going to suddenly get them to reduce the price as if you're buying a carpet at a market place.

    - the debt is still 300m and an always ongoing worry but nonetheless half of that which it used to be, as official partners stream in from tomato juice to tyres - the money from that which would seriously shake the bigger teams and tempt them and their players always seems to be held onto, like me clutching a rare £50 quid note in my pocket and not wanting to let it see daylight. The Ronaldo money was always there, we were told, but never used. Will it ever be? (and that's not including the topping up to that which should have happened… adopts cynical pose).

    - Fellaini was a target in May. He was Moyes' shoe in, they reckoned. And we left it until the final hours of the final deadline day to force through, paying more than his actual clause was that ended a few weeks earlier. Take that on Dragon's Den and see where it gets you. It seriously defies logic.

    It's time questions were asked. And answered. We asked Woowar for an interview, no copy approval, hard stuff, but no answer, it'll be honey coated when he does it, cheese to camera. All fake smiles and shiny suits. No real depth, or serious engaging.

    I fear that whilst Woodward needs to answer questions about these senior management mistakes early on, Moyes will be included in the abuse too - and look, I realise this is a huge new role for Woodward but some of my concern is that some of these were basic mistakes (pr or otherwise) that should have been stopped right from the off, a new role doesn't stop you from realising hyping up deals won't work well unless they are signed. He's old and canny enough (you'd hope) to have not made some of these basic human errors. Do not inflate your own ego; the club should speak for itself.

    Moyes of course has some questions though; why he didn't fancy Thiago, or think Modric was up for the big games, and stayed clear of Ozil, the very big names, who have done it at the highest level, that matched those very big bold ambition statements we heard talk of in July, yet he seemed to not want to work with them; he's got to learn for a club our size, we seek the stardust, the arrogant, the best.

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    But surely he must feel disappointed at the lack of backing from above. Not words, their (in)actions. When he saw at Anfield despite all the talk of a good performance - really? - that we needed the midfielders, that he himself had talked of in July and Mike Phelan had also identified now he was no longer 'on the inside.' We've now known it so long it's almost like a bad in-joke, makes me so lunatic I wonder if we'll ever properly address it.

    I continue to make it clear that I want to see Moyes' given time, and hope it will work out and he is given the crucial early support he needs from Reds. It will take time but with the size of United, and expectations, to then see his new boss mishandle such a vital transfer window will not do him any favours. He needed support. On many levels.

    It'll show his talent - hell, it might even mean we finally see Kagawa get a run of games and see if he's as good as some think or as duff as others fear, I'm the former by the way - because we know Fergie was able to get an extra percentage, or ten!, from the players, which probably gave us a healthy extra few points than anyone else would and without that to rely on, Moyes will have to work harder to not see that reduced too much when the title race is decided (and yes doomlords, we will be in this title race). With Fergie's squad and his main man he always wanted, we'll be able to see a direct show of how they compare, if of course not like for like, how well Moyes can do to keep things on track. It was quite obvious real backing in the market would have helped with this.

    None of this is new of course, we've bagged a few big ones in recent times - Rooney, RVP - but for some time struggled to really get to grips with dramatically improving the squad each season, remembering Fergie's point that we were always a moving bus, instead now chasing impossible rainbows and somehow symbolic of 'great owners' who though backed in press conferences by their managers, don't really show it in return in transfer clout, or in real backing. However obscene the whole sorry dance of this transfer window is, the fact is during the biggest transfer market ever, with a new manager and a squad that needed backing because if it didn't got away with it last year (and at times it did) it certainly over relies on certain players, we spent only slightly more than Cardiff this window.

    As RN forumite red lester put it:

    "11 points ahead last season over two clubs in disarray for most of the season. Not the case this time round."

    There are so many things to either cry, vent spleen or be absolutely baffled about this window, but as fans we don't get much time to dwell, we have to plan our next games, support, because that's what we do, and we'll once again have to don the tin hats, because there is always a siege mentality at this club, because these are the cards, back the team and Moyes on a matchday but away from that, we need to keep asking these questions, why I think it's shambolic Woowar disappeared and didn't return in public wherever he was to face the music, not fronting an interview so Moyes faced a barrage all tour about transfers and Rooney, and basically left to it. Whilst Woodward did what exactly? 'Worked on deals. Lots of them.', no doubt. And not all come off, as we know from even PLC days. But this was one of the most important summers in recent memory.

    Get behind the lads then, direct pertinent questions to Moyes, and demand serious answers from senior management who seemed to act nothing like is fitting for a club of Manchester United's stature and with Florida hands all over our purse strings, continue to fail to grasp the fact that if they give proper backing in the transfer market, it actually makes their life - and plans - easier.

    A message to them then, the owners and Board. We do our bit. We hope the manager will grow and do his but, and the team, his team now, if though still lacking in *that* (shudders) area, will continue to do theirs. How comes time and time again as your grubby hands finger our beloved, you fail to do yours?

    I am pleased we got Fellaini, but wanted more. I do think, however tired of him, that Rooney staying is important, could be vital and hopefully will be crucial come next May, but it's all been such a sorry dance that you can't help but feel dirty by it all - all our hopes, all those hours wasted checking for it to happen, and then a rather deflated feeling that it was all pretty much a waste of time. Fellaini will want to prove that feeling his a bit disrespectful. I hope so. Prove you're United class then, because we need to start signing the best, the stardust, to stay ahead of the pack in this post Fergie era.

    That feeling of 'meh' can't last for long. United have 35 league games to fight for the league as holders, and we have to back them, and him. And we will do. Those who manage him however, need to ask themselves though if they gave him the backing that he needed in these crucial early days.

    Thank God it's over. I seriously never want to go through that again.

    Barney 11.58pm September 2nd 2013.

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  • Red News
    From the Reditorial of the RN202 Summer/Fergie Special that came out in July 2013…

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    So how do you try and sum all that up then? This Fergie, is the really impossible dream!

    But here goes. It will be, as it has been then, emotional.

    The wholly expected, seemed unexpected when it finally did arrive, and that which we should have been well prepared for, left us anything but. It still feels emotional. It was quick, it was sudden, it was right, and it was a fitting end, even more so, certainly when it comes to boring relatives in years to come about these years, that it ended the way it did, not just with overall success, but in a 5-5 emotionally draining bloodbath.

    There were three eventualities left for Fergie's end, an unusual combination of age and achievements affecting where, since 2005 at least (and a lot of humble pie eating on occasion from us all, as he often reminded the press of that period: “Don't forget, you lot had me at the door three years ago. Bloody hell! You had in me in my bath-chair down on Torquay beach!”) any sacking was out of the question; leaving retirement or that sometimes over lightly throwaway comment of ‘he will die on the job’.

    This perhaps was a comment not meant to shock or harm but only as his resignation sunk in did I realise how horrible it would have been to play out to this conclusion - for everyone, those attending any such game, those playing in it, his family. It could and should not have been like that, so he made sure it wouldn't. He would have known when, so he strode to it face on; the question of ‘when?’ was beginning to follow him around in every significant press conference he'd given in the last two or three years, and despite jovial replies, there was a point to this; a man who could pretty much do what he wanted, could not fight time. Even he knew it. “The sand is drifting through now”. Where once Patrice Evra just two years ago talked of Fergie saying: “No chance will I retire. I have worked all my life and I will work until I die. This is my victory. I cannot walk away from this.” But he had to. Philip Roth famously said ‘old age isn't a battle, it's a massacre’. and those of us who have seen the curse of age know it does catch your pace eventually. Fergie did bloody great fighting it off for as long as he did, more so than pretty much any sporting great in this era, that he was allowed to go out on a high at 71 with so much - hopefully - still to do and see is a great feat in itself.

    So I say what I have said everytime since the news; it was the right time, completely, because there'd be no perfect treble hoisting other right time to go, only these moments, not infinite, that would run out, or it would then become the wrong time, when life just came along and played its tricks. And so reclaiming a title was his last target (“I really need to go out a winner”) and something we sometimes again too glibly call ‘our trophy’ after what happened just last May seems as right as right can be. And not just the right time for him. This is the important bit, for the club it's the right time too, more than just being his time, it is ours; leaving a title winning side, at the right(ish) average age, with potential (with additions of course), so it is far removed, we hope, from post-Busby shenanigans. We know this is new territory, and it is scary, but we must embrace it. Hell it showed this was a new era when Fergie's dancing to the Courteneers at that mental title parade!

    Of course if we listed all his strengths, and the glory, we'd be here longer than city waited for a trophy, but suffice to say he rebuilt the stature and then glory and great sides of this great club, not just in the image of Busby and his vision for football and conduct (though ABUs would feed you bollocks about that) but adding his own, mixing it all up to add late winners and miracles to the United mix that makes this club of ours so unique and wonderful at its core. I have said before we are blessed to have had both these men, and maybe now we have time to reflect we will appreciate if not just what he achieved, than what Fergie was, and stood for. The last dinosaur of his earth, who managed when it was changing all around him to adapt and survive. Punch extinction on its general managerial nose.

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    Of course there were frailties; that is I am afraid part of our human condition, to err. I always felt wary after the early years to go for him as some did, especially with off field issues, for however disappointed I was with choices, I know I have made many mistakes so lectures seemed hypocritical even if we'd all wished from Coolmore, horse jizz and Glazers he'd come out more on our side, or acted the way we thought he may have once.

    We have had our run ins and our make ups even here. We had greater access in the early days when United wasn't the monolith it was now. When we started in the late 80s on pre-seasons where crowds were in their low thousands and there were no mobs outside hotels, you could walk in and be granted an interview. When those early days seemed to shift from scary waters to danger signals of relegation battles, these pages represented the views of concerned Reds who were beginning to doubt he could do it. If we'd known of course... but he told us that he was fundamentally opposed to fanzines if they criticised any of ‘his players’ as any sort of public slight, against any of them, automatically made you part of the problem, and not a support.

    This came to a head with RN founder (and lifelong Red) Teresa McDonald on a pre-season trip to Perth and after a friendly chat with Brian McClair agreed to a post match interview. Within earshot, Fergie came and grabbed Teresa, in front of a rather embarrassed Sir Matt it has to be said and ranted that we were all a disgrace to United and we could stuff this fanzine up our arses. (I never tried). He'd read an offending piece and reacted; she didn't have time to say she wasn't the actual author and as she then gave as good as she got the poor home staff didn't know what the heck was going on. It lasted seconds and seemed like hours. It seems mad now.

    And the next time they met, just a short while later? He hugged her and said ‘how are you doing?’, as if none of it had ever happened. In his mind it probably hadn't, to the extent that those recipients will remember it like an oven burn, scarring, and whilst we can argue over both fanzine and Fergie being in the wrong, I'd rather point to the bigger point that both forgot it, moved on, forgive and forget and all that and when Teresa fell seriously ill a few years ago, he immediately sent an inspiring and moving note of motivation with a package of items. The positive affect in that hospital when she read it I will never forget. He had that affect. It should always be good outweighing any bad. It was with him. He best summed up this complicated - and we all are such - nature up recently: “But I’ve never held grudges. In all the times I’ve banned you (the press) I’ve never borne a grudge. I don’t think it’s my style. I react, then forget about it some time later.”
    Perhaps his greatest gift was he made people forget he was human. If it is of our nature then to make mistakes, his genius was they were so few and far between so when they did occur, people were surprised or even shocked because they saw him on another level. They treated him like a God and reacted surprised when he showed his human side. This 71 year old man was viewed not as that or even like his peers but surpassing; he had elevated himself to such a level people couldn’t see his actual self. He performed miracles but he was not a miracle. He just had a knack. It worked. We can talk how and why, it just did. He got United and we got him and they sort of became entwined, even if at times after all this glory, we seemed to moan more than we should (or even used to during the shite). He is not United but he was at the same time. Thus, we felt so disappointed when he did make errors of judgement. Because we no longer saw him as one of us, even though he just was.

    As he performed that Mexican wave in the Legends game against Madrid, this man we had long depended upon, and looked up to, looked what he was, an old man - who has done remarkable things. But even with - still! - a relentless, possibly unique at his age, drive, there was no way he would be able to turn back time anymore, even if his sides often did.

    But this is not an obituary, and that is important because it shows it was the right time, and as such it doesn't mean you can't constructively deconstruct some of the darker moments, or even try and see how they were used for any team recovery. You see whilst there were achilles heels over a poorer record in Europe, and consistently playing people out of position, at times, at least when it came to tinkering, it began to work; for whilst us becoming accustomed to it is neither here nor there (though of course that pre-match raised eye brow at some choices would never cease), the players bought into not playing, so that whilst of course they all hoped they did, not many ever rocked the boat when they didn't.

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    As we see at other clubs - or don't see as they kick off about it - this was another part of his genius; as well as a protection of his players in public even though we can only guess at the bollockings they were getting in private. “I've said time and again that my job is to keep us out of the press. That's my biggest job. That's why I give you lot nothing.” And of course the purple faced defence of his players (as an extension, his club) from telling Geoff Shrevees to fuck off after he'd tried to dig for answers after a meagre FA Cup tie against Boro, to dig at Ronaldo’s falling down, or those violent purple attacks. The players recognised this as Michael Carrick put it so well: “I'm proud of the boys and the character we've shown this season but it all comes from the manager. You don't just play for this club, you live for this club once you're here.”

    And because he did give the press nothing, be it the odd lie or side step gossip, and they didn't forgive such Perth like bollockings as we did, they harboured, maybe without even knowing it, grievances that would come to the fore during any bad period; pathetic (both looking in design and execution) empire crumbling nonsense of our crest after just a few ropey results, something we must fight back against when it happens under Moyes. My generation coming from an era where we maybe wouldn't win for 10 or so games, to this one now, genius again, where so rare is it that two bad results on the bounce would have the press wanting to light the smoke in the chimneys for ill thought out ‘Fergie must go’ campaigns. He played them like a violin. One hand accusing them of being “youse are all fucking idiots”for criticising Veron, on the other deflecting scrutiny of a player he would not long after concede defeat about by selling, sort of validating their questions! Even in adversity, always ahead. Devious at times, of course.

    Pardon this particular analogy but it does seem to fit, so to speak. Once we went on a path which now seems so remarkable it's almost blase to recall; a title we never thought possible, and if it happened we'd happily just take the one, then to realise he meant business when he said we'd have lift off and go on and on, then Doubles, then a bloody (bloody hell) Treble, to the odd shakey moment but nothing major and certainly never any earthquakes so that this all seemed so settled, so nice and wonderfully predictable by the end, that I saw Fergie as an old treasured piece, like a trainer. There were uncomfortable early days settling in, then a few doubts but for that final end period you are in perfect harmony until you can go no further together. You want them to last forever but you know it can't, only hoping the next one will be half as good.

    You get me?!

    In a sport that is unrecognisable for many of us from our start, he was a reassuring constant, a link between past to worrying present. That has now gone, it closes that era, it'll never be the same. That's exciting and scary, and as an aside the greedy fuckers up top could have even more of an open session than maybe when Fergie might give them a withered look as to not go too far (if official noodle and Mexican banking partners weren't far enough!). He was us, even though it didn't feel like it at times. He was more us than we can ever hope any of the others in this greedy game to ever be. That's why Moyes feels ok, (and ok is ok when you consider the magnitude of change), because he's more past and present than future, with Chelsea and city a good look in the scary face of what the future of modern fucked up football is becoming.

    You spend your 20s and early 30s thinking you're invincible, then the remainder of that decade thinking you might not. By your 40s you know you're not so that all that remains is fighting off the inevitable (and I’m an optimist!), so for Fergie at his age to be not just seeing off the tide (as well as all comers) but dashing here and there whilst controlling not just the biggest club in the world but the one most rapidly expanding is pretty much incredible. Lost in a career that was defined by so many incredible facets you lose track. And only now he's gone will we realise in even greater magnitude that which we already realised, or should have; just how blessed we were.
    Let's be honest, though not United, football in general CAN be tiring, dull, settling into nothingness, bland to watch and be fed. United under him for 99% of the time was nothing like that. Even last season when we felt less excitement, it still had so much goonage and last minute thrillers (West Ham. Soton, Newcastle and on and on).

    I have sold outside probably 75% of all Fergie's games in charge. I have seen all the emotions, missed some of the goals, stayed in for the big ones (Nou Camp) but seen our emotions evolve. Bouncing with big wins, changing with the small ones, as if they are a conveyer belt and also seen greed enter our mindset. Did he change that much, or was it us? I hope we realise that we can't win them all, however much we want to, and that moaning our way through this next stage of evolution will do us no good whatsoever.

    So what memories to take, to cherish the most? An ability to always keep moving for starters. “I never count titles. The next one is always the best.” Of checking for sauce under the pastas, of bloody hells. Of winning over half of all the trophies this club has ever won. Of always being ahead. When asked after a defeat to Chelsea in ‘08 how he was feeling, “top of the league, semi-finals of the European Cup. Disaster”. We smiled some more.

    In his very last press conference. “It's difficult to know what to do for the best, but I certainly have no plans to start hanging round City's training ground. I gave up council housing a long time ago.” Of those child like jigs, and fist pumps, of pointing at watches, of creating exasperation and even the odd moan from the stands (I don't mean the tosspots not happy unless it's 5-0 at half-time) as we then score and you're trying to grab those words back down your throat. Of chewing gum as we chewed nails and begged just give us one final big comeback and we'd never pray for another (yeah, right!). Of changing the attitude of a club in decline (“My job was to bring in players who were hungry, who would react to adversity.”). Of not being afraid of progress (embracing so much use of science at United - “I’m a dinosaur, but what I am is a winner”), and his players embracing his concepts as he would them.

    Of always wanting the win, when everyone else would settle for the draw, Denis Law saying “He was conscious of playing attractive football to give value to people who pay good money.” Of squeaky bum time. “No question about that”, of revelling in adversity, buying into it and selling it to his players so they didn’t shirk it.

    And, of course, “My greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their fucking perch. And you can print that.”, but doing it so well that Liverpool have long ceased, bar the ongoing off field rivalry, of being anything approaching relevant. Noisy neighbours, and not selling Madrid a virus (shame he then sold them Ronnie instead…), the hairdryer, and the vendettas. Of Lee Martin and Mark Robins, the opposite of big names, setting the ball rolling. Of recovering from 1992. Of Eric. Embracing him and his collars as well as his temperament and utilising it with the siege mentality that would leave us in such good stead. Of spotting Bayern’s knack and getting so many ex-players back involved at the club... Or it's just too bloody hard to try and break it all down.

    As he himself said: “It's hard to actually go through 26 and a half years, it's impossible.” He achieved the impossible (that song again). Peter Schmeichel said: “There are thousands of better coaches. But management? The handling of men? There's nobody better.” Harry Gregg talked of his achievements: “Alex Ferguson rescued an institution not just a football club.

    He talked in his final week of his life ahead. “I am going to fill it with nonsense and madness!” He gave us both, in unimaginably great ways. We have said before, he changed our lives. Those of us who saw dark days, now bathed in success shared with people who have known nothing but success and light. He changed United, but still managed to remain much the same man - the good and the occasional bad - who arrived over half a century ago in a world much changed, and often gone mad.
    Think of his final speech on the pitch, one that down played any self interest, inspiring a long injured player, telling the players of the responsibility of our shirt, and how we must all send our encouragement to David Moyes. It was unscripted majesty. This era was exactly that. You couldn't have made this up. Nobody would have believed you. For that, and everything else, thank you Alex Ferguson and as important as anything, I hope he gets to enjoy this well deserved retirement. Bobby Charlton talked earlier in the season of him never leaving: “I think he’ll be there for the rest of time, to be honest". But he will be. He wasn't Manchester United but he became part of it, part of its very fabric. Life sometimes doesn't turn out quite the way you want it to.. but United, somewhat incredibly, did turn out exactly the way we'd not just like it to, but dreamt it to be - proper pie in the sky, ‘please let this happen’ Hollywood stuff.. and then some.

    He gave us anxiety, then trophies, then Eric, then the league, then great football, then the Holy Grail, and he didn't let up, so neither did we. Every one of us loved him, to varying degrees, myself pretty much unconditional by the end (bar Gimps support), but without doubt every one of us had a better life - not just football but the contentedness that footballing success can bring to your wider worlds - because of him. He didn't try. He did. The boxer Joe Louis at the end of his time said: “I did the best I could with what I had.” Fergie did even better than he should with what he had, and made greats and truly great times from what he had.

    Fergie, bloody hell. Thank you Sir Alex. For everything.

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  • Red News
    I have written something on Fergie's departure and the excitement and fear of this new era over at

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  • Red News
    that was written for RN112 before the most recent plaque was houses in a permanent location

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  • Red News
    The classic terrace tribute to the Busby Babes starts: "There is a plaque at Man United, it's underneath the old Main Stand, It bears the name of Duncan Edwards, he was the finest in the land...", and in the previous four volumes of Great United Songs, there has been, by way of further information, this: 'this refers to the original Munich plaque, which is now hidden and part of Old Trafford's brick work within the Main - South - Stand".

    Though I'd always been fascinated as to exactly what happened to this original plaque, I have to admit, somewhat shamefully, that that was as far as my knowledge went. I presumed that, for whatever reason, the plaque was now somehow enclosed within the fabric of Old Trafford, and knowledge about how this came to be and why was just another one of those little mysteries we'd never fathom.
    But in preparing the centre-spread for RN112, which featured the shot from the early 60s by C Stand showing the crowd approaching the ground, we discovered that the original plaque was in the corner of the image, above the old Directors Entrance. For some reason this compelled me to find out more about the Plaque, to thankfully get off my arse and see what the exact script was.
    And thankfully Red News managed to find out quite a bit. As far as I knew, the original Munich plaque was apparently too fragile to move during ground redevelopments made in the mid 1970s. It was said that the club decided to keep it in its original place but it would not be possible to see it as it became part of the building work itself of Old Trafford. That was as much information as I knew.

    The RN website can be a bit of a pain, a few lads trying to do their best and update the news in their spare time yet getting abused by e.mail for not having stories up and ready by 9am! But if the negatives of dealing with abuse and bizarre enquiries from Timbuktu, the positives are that through the internet we have opened ourselves up to loyal readers, new and old alike, who go out of their way to help us with appeals such as this we put out.

    Before that though, I came across this priceless first step - - which details the exact architectural and chronological elements of the original Plaque. That revealed that it was unveiled on the 25th February 1960, and was to become the first of three such plaques.

    Three? I knew of two, this original (which had a green pitch as the main frame) and the one currently residing by the East Stand entrance to the right of the Busby statue. Their website explains: "Several ideas for a memorial were considered by the club before one based on the Old Trafford ground was decided upon. The design was produced by a local architect, J. Vipond...The names of those who died were incised in black and gold glass on the green faience.
    Its construction was undertaken by Messrs Jaconello (Manchester) Ltd. The cost was £2,100. Above the memorial was a carving in teak of two figures, representing the players and spectators, standing with bowed heads on either side of a wreath, beneath which was a football, inscribed with date, 1958.

    The memorial was placed above the main entrance to the Directors' box. It was unveiled by Matt Busby in a ceremony attended by the relatives of those who had died, survivors of the crash and members of the present team. Two further memorials were unveiled on the same day: a bronze plaque naming the eight journalists who died in the crash was placed in the press box by Frank Taylor of the News Chronicle (a survivor of the crash) on behalf of the Football Writers' Association, and a memorial clock, paid for by the Ground Committee, which was erected at the front of the stadium.
    Alterations to the ground in the mid-1970s necessitated the removal of the memorial. However, due to its fragile nature it proved impossible to do this without damaging it, and the decision was taken to leave the memorial in situ (now part of the East Stand) and commission a new memorial. This was a somewhat simpler and smaller representation of a football pitch in slate, on which the names of the dead were recorded. It was installed in 1976. A third memorial was commissioned to coincide with the installation of the statue of Sir Matt Busby, it having been decided that the statue would stand beneath the memorial at the Old Trafford end of the ground. This followed more closely the design of the original, showing the pitch and stands. It was the work of Mather & Ellis, stonemasons, Trafford Park, and installed in 1996.".

    I decided to contact the club to see what their take on all this was, and if they could shed any more light on it, as RN readers started to send their own memories in. The consensus, proved above, was that the old plaque had not been destroyed, but was, as we thought, walled up inside the re-building of the Main Stand, no longer visible. But did that mean it was still visible within Old Trafford, say to club staff?

    The first contact we had from a RN reader - and there were many - confirmed the worst, that the plaque had been damaged during the reconstruction in the 70s. Tony told us: "What a load of bollocks about it being safe. Having been brought up on the Stretford End when the match was over and we came out we'd all be headed for the forecourt via the main entrance, you'd ALWAYS look up to the plaque above the main entrance and momentarily quietly pay your respects to the great ones whom tragically met their fate as you passed by. BUT as the building work progressed I distinctly remember seeing a huge hole cut out of the plaque with a concrete beam going straight through it - and that is on my kids lives! I could not believe my eyes, it was shear sacrilege on behalf on the club, my heart sank to the bottom of my stomach. I just couldn’t comprehend something like that being allowed to happen. It should have been saved and placed in the Museum just like the original main front doors were and that red bench you can sit on and the row of wooden seats. Fuck me, they can dig out and resurrect dinosaurs and put them back together (why not this?). Ask them to cut a hole in the tunnel roof under the Main Stand side above where the main door was - my thinking is the proof is there!”

    Though you can't help but feel times have changed, so that if the same thing happened now, building practices are such that this would never have been allowed to happen, it doesn't say much for those at the club who didn't keep their eyes on the ball to prevent this damage back then, as PE Red wrote on 4 the RN forum: "If the plaque was damaged in building through lack of care, that would really piss me off. Somehow, though, I think this would be typical of some aspects of MUPLC (or the club and the people running it at the time) - the appreciation of history goes amiss in the chase for the dollar/pound/yen, etc.” One reader dates the damage happening after 1977 when it was still visible (and safe).

    As someone else put though: "The romantic in me likes to think that the plaque is there, out of sight, built into the stadium and represents the heart of the club." Then Mike Thomas of had this from a source at the club: "The first one is the one which it was not possible to move, the second one which replaced it is currently in store (and will be relocated to the Museum soon) and the third one is now on the corner of East Stand."

    A few readers informed us that the club have a whole warehouse full of memorabilia which is currently not on show at the museum, including that 2nd plaque. We hoped then that the 2nd plaque was well protected and Mark Wylie, the excellent curator of the Museum (who even collects RN), told Red News that:

    "The second Munich plaque is indeed waiting to come over to the museum. It is currently in store at Old Trafford and we are planning new display panels for our Munich commemorative display. Once we have the new panels we will then have the plaque and panels installed together, as the current display panels are the wrong shape and size. It is literally just the 'pitch' section of the plaque with the names on, not the complete memorial.

    There isn't really either a warehouse or a room full of items kept in storage for the museum but located outside the museum. There are various storage areas around the ground containing all manner of things from spare seats to the aforementioned plaque, but the plaque is only in there because we had no room in our Museum store for something so large. We do have a museum object store within the museum, which contains the club collection. It contains a large number of items that are periodically displayed in the museum."

    United's Communications Dept then got back to us and even managed to get a reply out of one of the Kens (we're still not sure which one, Ramsden or Merrett!). They told us: "The plan was to move the original when we started to create Exec facilities, (it was located above the Directors Entrance). It was set into concrete, I think, but in any event was damaged and could neither be repaired or removed." Again, no doubt moving such things would be possible now, but Cliff Butler also informed us about the memorial in the press room. "The original one was stolen from the Press Box in the 80s, the replica is now in the Press entrance behind the counter." Which journo stole that then?
    United's reply doesn't give much hope that much of the original plaque remains (if any?), and the cynic in me wonders if there actually is any of the plaque there at all, and was this story put out to appease any fans' anger if it leaked out. Sibelius on the forum wrote: "Perhaps it was fixed, and remains in place, but I wonder if reference to the plaque still being insitu is actually a reference to its remnants." 

    Whatever did happen, it is a sorry tale, for the fact that so little was really known about what happened to it, and why someone wasn't able to preserve it. But in the RN appeal another source of information came forward in a mailed letter.

    Mick Wilkinson of Darwen wrote in: "I work at the factory that made it and know one of the people who worked on it so I asked him about his memories of it. Trevor was in his 20s when he worked on it, he's in his 70s now. Shaws of Darwen who made it, actually made two. It was made in seven pieces and fitted together on site. The pitch is in 4 pieces, the figures 2 pieces, and the central feature between the figures the last piece. Two were made in case any part split or cracked when it was fired up in the kiln.

    It was made of clay and then sprayed to the colours it was and he thinks the lettering was picked out in gold leaf. When it was fired in the kiln it came out perfect and the 2nd one was not needed. This spare one stayed in the warehouse until 1982/83 when the company went bust and the site was cleared out so it went in the skip. The company opened under new management and is going strong to this day."

    A revealing insight into its birth, and two things immediately spring to mind. Firstly, if it’s sad that nobody was able to preserve the original, how unfortunate that United didn't contact Shaw as they had a replacement that could have been used to replace it with - as it is this rare and lost duplicate is probably somewhere out there, who knows where. And secondly if little old Red News can find out all this information, in little under a month with our limited resources, you would hope that a massive institution like the club itself would be better able to keep a tab on certain valuable pieces of information about our history and aspects of it.

    As it is, at least the current plaque resembles the first, though I don't like the idea of the plaque being 'around the corner' as it is now, displaced because of the Megastore. As some readers argued, surely when the ground is redeveloped and that area is filled in and the plaque has to move once again (make sure you don't fuck this one up United...) shouldn't it be in a more prominent position. For good this time.

    by Barney

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    Alex Ferguson's last interview with Red News from RN151
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    RN: Out of all your achievements at United, which has been the most satisfying?

    SAF: It has to be winning the league for the first time, it was really the start of what we see today, although winning the European Cup was an amazing achievement.

    RN: If you could choose one United game from your time as manager to re-live again, which would it be and why?

    SAF: One that sticks out in my mind was when we were at Spurs (in September 2001) and we were 3-nil down - but then we went onto beat them 5 - 3. It was such an amazing turnaround, the fans played their part too in that victory. Great game.

    RN: You mentioned to mutv after the game in Moscow that you had some moments with Edwin Van der Sar after the game when you headed to the press conferences inside the stadium, I wonder if you are able to reveal what you talked about, and how did those moments after the game in Moscow compare with those in Barcelona in 1999?

    SAF: Mmmm, I really can't remember what Edwin and I talked about! Both occasions were very different although the sudden impact of winning is what catches you, you can't react. In that way Barcelona and Moscow were the same. In Moscow I thought we were dead, then John Terry missed and I thought we have a break here. In Barcelona there were 3 minutes to go and I was thinking what am I going to say to the players? Then we get two goals and we win! I was so stunned. The players were all over the pitch celebrating, I had to go and speak to the TV's so we were all split up, we didn't all get together as a team until a long time after the game. I remember walking into the dressing room but it was so quiet in there, so I went for a walk on my own around the corridors just taking it all in. Moscow was different, it was so wet I think everyone was glad to get in the dressing room! So both occasions were different but still fantastic.

    RN: So much at United has changed since November 1986, which do you think is the singular biggest change at the club?

    SAF: Two things really, firstly the stadium. You see it now and it has been gutted, we have three new ends and even the old railway side has been refurbished so it's more or less like new. The increased capacity is now fantastic - so that's massive progress. Secondly the playing side, you can see the progress there with the ever growing backroom staff of coaches, medics, sports scientists, etc.

    RN: When you first arrived at United, did you set any personal targets and targets for the team itself to achieve over a set timescale?

    SAF: No, not really, it was simply to win the league, other managers had failed and I wanted to turn that around. I had no personal targets, it was to win the league for the club and for the fans.

    RN: If Sir Alex were interviewing Sir Alex, what one question would he ask?!

    SAF: Mmmmm. Tough one, I honestly have no idea!

    RN: Every former United player we interview describes the club as a ‘family club’ - how important is that to maintain?

    SAF: I got that feeling when I first came. I went around the club and tried to get to know everyone's names. I went to the ticket office, the laundry, the souvenir shop, membership, etc. You could see that people had worked there a long time. I used to go to the Steward's dance, they were fantastic. The steward position was a position that would be handed down through the generations, a family honour. These people were devoted United fans. But that was the past, obviously now with health and safety it can no longer be run that way but it is still a family club and everyone who visits here says the same thing.

    RN: You revealed the infamous ‘envelope’ that was mentioned to the players at the start of the 1993/94 season to such success, has any prop like that been used since?!

    SAF: Ha ha. Not in that way...just the shotgun! (only joking!). n

    Interview © RN 2008. (that means credit Red News, hacks). Thanks to Di Law.

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  • Red News
    There's Only One Bryan Robson

    from the programme of the 10th anniversary Tom Clare dinner held on Friday 3rd May 2013 with Bryan Robson as guest speaker

    We could disregard all the drinks, food and grand company tonight and spend the whole evening on just one topic - just how good was Bryan Robson? Well... ‘that’ good!

    It’s a further good extension to the pub argument of comparing ‘Robbo’ with Roy Keane - just be blessed that we had both rather than having to pick just the one in any imaginary side. In saying that, it’s always been Robbo, Number 7 - what else?! - in my all time fantasy side. Then, along with Eric, start thinking about the other 9 to choose...

    I recently watched a programme on ‘Lawrence’ Dallaglio and he talked of knowing before his first Rugby World Cup Semi Final that he was going to have a good game as he’d been building up - born in a way - for that moment. I wonder what went through Robson’s mind as he waited in the dressing room before the European Cup Winners’ Cup 3rd Round 2nd leg tie against Barcelona at Old Trafford on 21st March 1984.

    We’d been written off before the tie - did that help the mindset? Did he know what was in store? Did he know just how good he was going to play? You can’t quite say he was building towards this moment, the world had already taken notice of his efforts in the shirts of Manchester United and England; be it early goals in World Cup ties or significant Cup winning goals in the red shirt of United. But this was another level.

    This performance on a night those of us there will - and have - never forgot is as good as we tell it as. He was the perfect midfielder - up and down, all around really - as he posed problems in the opposition penalty area and would then chase back to put in a telling block to halt them in our own. He covered that pitch. And this night was his night. Maradona didn’t get a sniff, great Barcelona players were made to look ordinary. There are many wonderful moments and memories of Robbo in that ever changing Manchester United kit - crucial FA Cup Semi Final goals in 1985, ‘90 and ‘94 - but none would ever touch this for individual brilliance. Carried off, aloft, by the Old Trafford faithful now on the pitch, his rapport and affection by United fans was cemented forever more.

    We’ll all have other favourite Robbo moments - indeed whilst he would be too accommodating to suggest he carried any United side, we at times did over rely on his brilliance, because he was that which he’d been tagged; Captain Marvel. We feared any injury, hand covering mouth when he went down - I even wrote as a young boy to a Doctor to see if he had any advice to cure that shoulder problem of his- and rejoiced as any return to action approached.

    He deserved more league titles to his name, but I am thankful he got there in the end. In today’s game - where we pay more notice to stats and detail - he would be priceless, he would top them all. Back then, he was priceless! But in the era he played in, he led as Captain, player and midfielder, and it is forever fitting (and symbolic) that he scored our final league goal in that very first season - 92/93 - back as Champions, and then in the next game the following season as defending Champions.

    He talks now of not being selected for the 1994 Cup Final as a vital lesson for future management, and it always makes me smile seeing photos of him watching training at Carrington, hoping he’d dust down the training bib and get involved and start clattering them with one of those, how shall I put it, ‘robust’ challenges. His advice to anyone coming through would be invaluable. He had a vision of where the ball would be - just watch that game against Barcelona again (always a joy anyway!). He knows where to be for the first goal, his header, but the second is sublime. He bides his time on the edge of the box, and after great work by his under-rated partner Remi Moses, he just glides in, knowing exactly when and where to be. Norman Whiteside has nothing but praise for this goal, saying it sums up Robson’s intuition. He’s right.

    I signed the petition for Robbo to stay and not be ‘lured by the Lira’ in 1984 - and I am forever grateful he stayed to help make history at our great club. Former Utd trainee Alan Tonge says: “Everyone was in awe of Robbo. He was the top dog. Class, class player.”

    There are the goals against Brighton, that belter in the FA Semi Final of ‘85 against the Mickeys, sharing the lift of the original Holy Grail in ‘93 with Steve Bruce, even his signing on the pitch (which considering how unique that was, showed how good they knew he’d be!), with that hair! Big Ron telling us ‘trust me, this fella is good’. And then some. But away from the obvious of Barcelona, locate this moment around 2.20 in at - Against Notts County, Robbo starts the move off near our penalty box, then as Moses and Muhren get it wide, our Captain Marvel races into the box to connect with the cross for a sublime - box to box player, for that is what he was - goal. In a palatable bit of Martin Tyler commentary, he simply calls it a “brilliant goal”. 

    Robson was brilliant, and every other name under the sun. He was as good as we say, and as we remember. We were blessed to see him when we did, during a difficult era, but as ever, Robbo had the last say. Champion.

    by Barney Chilton, Red News Editor

    Manchester United Cup Winners Cup Winners 1991 - Bryan Robson Signed Limited Edition

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  • Red News
    The Reditorial from RN198, February 2013 - a new RN199 is out on Saturday 2nd March 2013.

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    Nobody does loud indignation quite like football. Throbbing veins, bloated, be it the media (bringing in and casting aside their David De Gea screams like the bins), social media (‘THE BALL BOY WAS A TWAT’, ‘NO HAZARD IS A TWAT’), or those banter giving (which we'd rather not accept) pundits where you have to question the gene pool of professional footballers where all it can give us back is the likes of Jason Cundy, Mark Bright, Niall Quinn, Alan Smith and so and so on. Going on and on.

    And of course Alan Shearer. Where let us mourn the death of irony after his recent gem: “I am surprised to see Remy go to QPR instead of Newcastle. I would have a good guess financial things had a part to play. While I hope QPR get out of it, I find it hard to say he chose them over Newcastle.” Cough. A lot. Then go to the Doctors for it. Shearer talking money. He’s his own comedy sketch show nowadays.

    But this is the modern game, sickly itself for much of the time, where everything yesterday gets quickly forgotten, and today's non events will hog tomorrow's news for less time than Katie Price can hold onto men. Where anybody can reinvent themselves, ready to patronise us ‘mere’ fans in the procession line of football razzmatazz. Showtime.

    But sometimes it looks into our eyes and stares back. They will toss it aside like a badly cooked chip, but we cling on to the recent agenda flung towards news copy once again regarding ticket prices, hoping that this time it might be different, but expecting the same script. We've been here before of course. Every so often we and they do a sorry dance shrinking away from us as Tess Daly must feel when Bruce lunges his arms forwards as we have something to agree on; away ticket prices are wrong (and I’d like to highlight all high prices, not just away from home). And then it'll be gone. Our concern but no longer theirs; each United away ticket announcement mentioning that abhorrent tax on us on our travels just because we support a successful team (and some of us doing this since when we were once not), Category A, producing more shrugs, wondering just what our own limits will and may be.

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    First it was a £40 ceiling, then that became £50, but we still go, unable and unwilling to say enough is enough. That's not a dig. I reached the grand old age of 42 recently - Douglas Adams once reckoned that number was the answer to the universe (and life, and everything), so I'll keep you posted on that one, but as you embrace middle age much like you would an approaching Scouser, you get to that point - well I have - where you look at then and now, all you dreamed of, where you ended up, ambitions dreamed of and discarded. Happy with your lot or not, the script produced unable for rewrite.

    This isn't a sob story. I'll leave that to Joe Hart on European nights in front of an unfortunate camera, but I know that when life has been both good and shite that United has been a constant throughout. Not just a part of my life, but lived alongside my life. It is both a drug and that statement also devalues its worth at the same time. But whilst when I first starry eyed looked at the mass of the Stretford End in another footballing world (where you could pay on the gate and everything) 36 years ago I was too innocent to allow United to be an escape from a life where basically Action Men, United and fish fingers ruled. But then adulthood arrived, and United was always eyed each weekend to allow some breathing space from the rest of the shit that the world would offer. I realised how important United in our lives was and could be.

    And it's stayed that way, despite real life shit (Glazers) interfering with the bit that was supposed to be the escape and greed pawing at the heart if not the soul of United like Tom to Jerry. We can talk - as we like doing - about the 70s and 80s but those days have long gone. Whatever steps the game takes next, those days will not return. Ever. You either stay on and enjoy what highlights the ride still has to offer, or get off and content yourselves with the great highs you had when United rose like a dipper, lifting emotions, you and mates like no drug ever can.

    £50 was my ceiling for away tickets. So when Chelsea first went there I thought ‘fuck that’ (and them), and if I got Chubbed, I decided I wouldn't try the network of mates at face value that we all utilise (and I hope United's new plans for away ticket distribution doesn't mess with). There is a small, communal (and very drunk) group of Reds who long since stopped going, but still travel to aways (though not in as big numbers as say 10 years ago), the self proclaimed ‘Matchday club’ who in Manchester or far would support United exactly like you or I do, but either too skint, or principled, or whatever reasons, wouldn't or couldn't pay the obscene money now asked to watch just 90 minutes football and where comparing to a night at the theatre is both so stupid and indicative of those within the game now that I just wish I could leave them all to it. So I joined TMDC, at a pub in London watching a Chelsea away a few years ago, about 50 present in this pub and a great drink was had, with every much as concern, cheers (if not songs) and support as was going on the short distance away at the actual stadium. It was a buzz, everyone knew each other but I left convinced that whilst I will undoubtedly do it again (and more often if they keep going with prices), it just wasn't the same as being there. That being there such a hold.

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    They had me. Chelsea that is, a team I couldn't care a less about, well actively loathe with what their modern club represents (though saying that, not much time for their neanderthal 80s version either), but still grasping and tickling my balls like a late night stripper in the Dam (so I’ve heard). So I went back for the fix. Slightly guilty, a stand with no leg to stand on. And the prices continued to rise.

    We look to Germany with envy. And with justification. In the vacuum of the terrible events of 1989, sadly finance stepped in as it does in most walks of life. It seized an opportunity as men with no real interest or care for football realised the best moment to step into a business is when it’s on its knees, and whatever hope we had for the right sort of changes to be made in our name and those who lost their lives quickly evaporated as this actually became cleansing in all but name. Knee jerk reactions; how did we end up here and Germany there? A social conscience compared to one that doesn't seem to have one at all? Yes, they were thankfully spared disasters, but why then now do we still seem so many light years away from their model and moving further away from it?

    They are all at it here. We all know the now often repeated joke. Sky reporter to Evertonian: ‘Why are you travelling to Southampton on a Monday night?!’ Evertonian: ‘Because of you lot.’ And we all laughed. But it's hollow, because they fuck with us and we gobble up the morsels of a few Saturday home 3pms and yet with our pants down the fight - the fight as fans to say enough is enough - seems as hollow. We just want to go, close our ears and eyes to all this but just doing that allows them to screw us tighter.

    We rightly mistrust rival fans, especially those who so actively hate us all year round, but perhaps our only option is to try and agree on this one thing - a basic starting point of this is fucked - so that we can talk about what can we do to save it together. United fans of course should pretty much joke at city about everything but it was unsettling to see some laugh at city not selling out at Arsenal and then boast at how many thousands applied for Real Madrid's more expensive tickets. We should be proud of our massive support, but not at what we are charged. On this one point, the bigger point is how wrong it is to be charging its core audience - still, for now, the average working man - to see the team like they always have and want to. No man (utd fan) should ever have to give up not because of their own choices, but the prices decided by men who eye pure profit margin and probably hope they wish they could charge us more.

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    It comes down to us. It shouldn't be our battle alone, sadly. But inaction leads to further greed and more of our game gone. In theory, fighting for us, its people, is what we vote Governments in for, or MPs at least, to fight for us, not to turn their backs. But they say it's up to the Premier League and they in turn (now as they did when Red News asked them these same questions in RN133/RN134 - a full six years ago) that they can't do anything about it, it's up to each club. And they eat at all the profits together. And we serve them.

    The elephant in the room heavily breathing like Joseph Merrick is that only empty seats will really make a difference. Look at those clubs walking towards the bright and very sane door of safe standing backing - because they can't fill their own seats. The Premier League on this, again, turns 180 degrees on us - attendances up to 95%, nothing to worry about here. But that's at the biggest clubs, and their theme park attractions, elsewhere there are questions and concern, and whilst the game masturbates itself about best league in the world, that classic Fergie foreboding of cycles in football means the game bloats on thinking this will last forever. They even said the average age at PL games was 41 years old compared to 45 last time they did a survey and this was a good thing. Laughable. Premier League stadiums are full of dinosaurs. They have pissed off younger fans, or not even connected with them. What are their plans when we're all too old? Somebody else's problem. Until then, only bank balances, 39th game proposals, and squeezing the goose matters.
    We can chant ‘Against Modern Football’ all we like, but we have to create a new view of what comes next rather than blindly pointing to the 70s and 80s and saying we want it back. That's gone. What comes in its place is something we have to keep banging heads at (that old brick wall approach we loathe so much), to maintain this dissatisfaction vocally and visibly enough that they can't turn it off like a switch and we'll all refer back to it in 6 years again as it disappears like smoke. That’s what they would want.

    We have so many examples of excess to choose from. The noble efforts of United demanding we get charged the same as West Ham's £20 home fan charge in the FA Cup game only for us to rule out any exemptions for the Replay and place a non-members fee on their fans when why the hell would they be a member at OT? The only time United seem to show us love is when they text us - about spare seats, or quick fire snatches of funds for the allergy inducing Automatic Cup Scheme. The missus could (well, she's seen me in the flesh so maybe not) think I’m having affair it bleeps that often near a Cup game; just telling me when they will take money for games we've not even progressed to yet. We get it. You want our money. Now. Yet you don’t seem to want anything else from us, not even dialogue.

    Adverts in the MEN, infamous waiting lists, student discounts that normal ST holders paying large wedges up front don’t qualify for - not the under 16s they should be enticing, but Uni kids offered discounted tickets for home Cup ties we've paid full price at (what is that all about?). All the time devaluing the Season Ticket ‘experience' with next to no chance in away ballots, making one seem more and more pointless, and a bloody nose I suspect awaits if they think they can push up our own prices next season on an already under pressure United collective household. The almost offensive ACS system means many have to buy for games they won't or can’t attend and struggle to shift, and it manipulated so that to apply for aways you have to stay in it - the small print not saying that not only are home tickets spare and available for most matches nowadays (even the biggies), but you’ve as much chance of finding Luis Suarez telling the truth - and his teeth onside - as winning an away ticket in the ballot if just in the standard pot. The pull for a ST not quite as strong. Unless those around you still make the whole experience worthwhile.

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    It's across the board. UEFA fine Ajax fans for a noble flag. City fans showed a very british protest whereas in Italy and Germany they'd be protesting outside but here we pay up and can’t even hold banners up as a yellow jacket creates some new rule so TV doesn’t capture it and ruin the ‘experience’. Don’t mess with the brand We know city fans are part-timers (and they can't even sell out their own ground let alone an away end), and any talk of their own noble boycott at the Emirates probably had more to do with them never going there than the £62 tickets but it at least gave us the opportunity to see yet more hang ringing and buck passing from the likes of Dave Richardson and Hugh Robertson. Our questioning makes them uncomfortable.

    £40 quid limits become £50 become £60. Our fight against this exploitation like Brucie’s tired old pecker itself, presumably every once in a while rising to the fore only to limply be forgotten. Will this debate get brushed under another carpet? Will we see the £70 away ticket next season? Prices have risen an unreal 710% collectively in the past 20 years. Our wages haven’t. As @Luzhniki2008 points out, Arsenal was £26.50 a decade ago, and £38 five years ago. Now it is £62. city just £21 in 2003, yet even Norwich over £50 pounds this season.

    We can complain to each other, we moan on twitter but do you do anything about it? I say that as a person who can’t give it up, knowing with open eyes how wrong this modern machine all is - but also that going to games is all I have ever done, but then if not ready to dance with elephants, there are aways lesser avenues, dull even, but worth persisting at; keeping it in the news, writing to your MPs, gnawing at them like they do us with prices. It is all head banging, but maybe just maybe we create a small dent to eventually crash through. Join the FSF campaign.

    The prediction of the demise of this boom period has been rumoured and greatly exaggerated for so long, the game cares little for those they walked over to intrude into our game. But they forget, it’s you and I, and people like us, working people, who buy the tv packages, the kits, the tickets - and it all comes down to when will people have had enough. If not through choice then economic reality? Value for our money may well be when Van Persie bangs one in in the last minute but up and down the country where they don't have such luxury, fans are rising up and leaving empty seats because what's the point for them. Charged a fortune to watch Darren Bent squander yet another chance is not half as evocative as the brand that has been violated to the point we could call in a plastic surgeon on the ‘Premier League’.

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    People will pay the £60 break through of the ceiling. Some will not. United’s problems, for now, only lie ahead. Football should, but it won't, develop a conscience, as somewhere football missed an opportunity in the wake of ‘89 and the Taylor Report to not just do right thing, but do the right thing by its principle stakeholders - us. Protect us. Not just physically, but financially, and that of our clubs. Instead the stakeholders became share holders and they rinsed us in the name of progress. We're now so far behind Germany, all we can cling to is safety. They should have kept us safe in the 1980s. And now, morally.

    We're an old Old Trafford. If the true average age of ST holders is now 50+, Utd have so mistreated not just those still there, who go with cynicism and try and leave it at the gate so we can goon at our love, but also their sons, or the kids of those priced out. The future is not as assured as Mr Potatoe and Utd's official noodle and tyre sponsor would have you believe. Many new arrivals may just be here for the glory. And if that goes, and they do too, the affect may be more stark than any of us feared. Because those they let leave might never come back.

    We're here for the love of United, they for the love of money. It's a lopsided battle, it's a sorry dance that usually has one conclusion. But let's try once again and see if anyone will listen (or take notice of our political and financial threats). United now then, fans, or we disappear one by one through gerrymandering through long term pricing. Many good ones already gone, many unable to leave because of the hold of this glorious drug which can still create so much pain along with the joy but leaves their lives away from United so skint. But somewhere along the line enough surely has to be enough, be it individually or collectively. Better then to collectively try and do something now. What then? That's the next step, sadly, and that is what we disagree and fall out about. But let's hope we get there quicker than a club does with its £100 match ticket. The people's game no longer for its people.

    Nobody in their right mind disputes the good changes made to the game over the years but that didn't mean then steamroller over all that was good enough not needing change. And it shouldn't have to be that people who just want to go as they always have done, some for many, many years are told. or worse lectured ‘you should not go, don’t be selfish’ as it doesn't cut it, but knowing that, in theory at least, having to boycott and flirt with the elephant might be the only way to achieve anything, even if for one game to send a message. These are such complicated conversations, with all of us caring, at times too much, but lets not again constructive debate be drowned out by those arguing the loudest. This was, has and hopefully always will be our game, not theirs. So when do we start reclaiming it back then, because we're not going to get it back by sitting on our arses? Or waiting for others to act. Change modern football, then. But how? Let the discussion really begin, and not get forgotten for another six years.

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  • Red News
    With a new RN198 out on Sunday 10th Feb, here is the Editorial from RN197 on the paradox of Sir Alex Ferguson and how Reds view him

    For me, this ( then, a stunning image: Fergie out of his element, yet in his element.

    Taking a class at the prestigious Harvard University, after giving unprecedented access to one of its Professors for a case study, who knows the reason as to ‘why?’, but perhaps it is because like all great leaders in their last days, they start to become intrigued by their legacy. Courted by businessmen and politicians, SAF seems no longer to be viewed as a mere mortal, certainly not just another football manager, or even THE boss, and with that comes understandable fears that like say a Tony Blair figure, or any leader removed from his roots if not feeling that way themselves, talk of legacy becomes an obsession which unravels, can be their undoing. Staying on too long, or making decisions which appall the very people who helped mould him and support their journey. Talk of Fergie’s legacy can split United fans when they take in every facet. Talk football alone however, and his legacy is planted in stone already; in a bronze statue, a gold Knighthood, and more silver than Buckingham Palace. Your view of his all round legacy is your take alone, to make alone but with consideration from others, history however will probably form its own natural and inevitable conclusion. A lasting legacy.

    A few years ago we feared that Fergie had lost his hunger - a kick out at a water bottle at Watford in 2006 in front of a startled Ryan Giggs put paid to that, as he rose to yet another challenge (this time from Chelsea, as rivals, noisy or not, come and go) but resurfaced last year as Mike Phelan seemed almost horizontal as we struggled at Norwich, crying out for inspiration on the pitch and by its side. Not this year though. Days shy of his 71st birthday, it was incredible seeing the passion and hairdryer still on show. At home to Newcastle. A half of a season still to go. The man for all occasions, the man for all comers, showing who is still boss and whose single minded drive is as stubborn as the character it rules. And from it, comes this incredible era. Without him, none of this. Blessed as well as blistered.

    But if you know anyone that age, health can wreck havoc, whether they or we like it or not, and whilst we observe perhaps ever more closely every cough and splutter in interviews, it is remarkable that so many take for granted what none of us can. Yet, on the outside at least, there seems no let up in both drive and energy; tireless rather than tired looking. So you wouldn't bank against him still doing this at 81, with the help of old Lady Fortuna and our hopes, but there is a feeling aided by nudges from some of his pals who we know from his Aberdeen days who think he may well retire this summer. We've been here before of course, but not quite at this crossroads in age, which makes me want to celebrate every badly timed jig at a goal more than ever. To love him more than I dislike some parts of his decision making. I may question the man at times, but I love the manager unconditionally now, and I respect what he is if not all he has done off the pitch, and in a dull repetitive world where we make or break heroes and crown legends rather too easily, Fergie is the antipathy to the apathetic, giving us all we ever dreamed of yet making many feel that's still not enough. With us for 26 years, not a few seasons.

    That Newcastle game, and his behaviour during and after, was perhaps a microcosm for his and our United time together; ups, downs, scares, goonage, rants, ABU over reaction (to a goal they got given remember!), raised eyebrows from us and them, and a fist pumping departure as we marvelled at just how we and he keep doing it, time and time again, even though by now we should be more accustomed and less startled when it plays out as we know it can. Ignore Newcastle surrounding the officials themselves of course, Fergie is ALWAYS the story.

    Whilst Fergie's marmite layer might be understandable as ABUs don't get him and lash out because it's us, and they wish he were theirs, there is still a section of United's support who remain unconvinced, doubting and even betrayed by events in 2005 and since. Who use understandable gripes to plant grenades.

    Every decision dissected like biology lab rats, achilles heels are probed like planets - his obsession with rotation, his lack of tactical nous, especially at the highest levels, the midfield, always the midfield, and the paradoxes that separate the man from manager as character faults and managerial errors get poured at like a kid with a magnifying glass on a sunny morning near an ant hill.

    The case study by Anita Elberse is interesting not just for the greater insight it gives into his recent thinking - as he seems to court and give American media and historians time that others closer to home eye with envy, and he reveals that these comebacks aren't just flukes, which we all knew of course. But they are worked on in training as Rene Meulensteen explained: “We practise situations for when the going gets tough, so we know what it takes to be successful in those situations.”

    He may have a latter day Sir Matt coaching routine these days which is viewed from an office at a distance away from the actual training (which leads to inevitable questioning of Mike Phelan's impact when results go wrong, but rarely when right), but again praise is always reserved when it comes to Fergie’s innovation, as it gets directed elsewhere. First Kiddo, then McClaren now Rene get the praise for scientific foresight. Yet it is he who employs the sports scientists, and whilst there are understandable concerns over our higher injury rate than it should be, it is interesting that he explains how he now sees three layers to his United squads now - over 30s, 23-30 year olds and then the kids, all to keep the conveyer belt continuous - and has installed a Vitamin D machine at Carrington ‘put there to help Utd counterbalance the lack of sunlight in Manchester’ as he suggested this season staggered one week holiday breaks (which the press haven’t yet twigged at) in the Winter for each player ‘to replenish vitamin D’. The team now wear gps vests in the close season which give detailed individual player analysis twenty minutes after each pre season game. These ideas may all come from others, but Fergie is quick to utilise them. There are mistakes, of course, and after this amount of time the marvel is how few there have been, but at times some get exaggerated at any particular moment because it's the here and now, no patience for formed opinion, where perhaps muffling the sound of the moans might be worthwhile with hindsight. There are of course also the more serious concerns - deals like Bebe, and all that surrounds them like rotting fish waiting to be discovered as the smell lingers, but though from time to time he may lose the plot, the key is he has never lost the plot.

    As we revel in city's latest circus act as manager and player squared up like headless chickens, we know that Fergie doesn't just like keeping things in house (“We fine the players, but we keep it indoors”), but perhaps the propensity to rotate is now a tool (as much as a curse!), he uses, however frustrating at times to watch from the sidelines, to prevent the individuals over weighing the team boat, as he rids the likes of Carlos Tevez for more rounded team players, somehow keeping them all happy, or at least onside. Results obviously help, but the team go along with this limiting of their mass appearance numbers and talk it up in interviews. “I tend to say to them ‘look I might be making a mistake here’, I always say that - ‘but I think this is the best team for today’. We may argue with it at the time, but it gets us ‘there or there abouts’ each and every season.

    Crucially when we delve into the bigger picture, the all around personality, we should have an adult conversation without resorting to abuse about the whole package. And ignoring those who crudely condemn him with words usually aimed at rivals than our own. Yet also with Fergie it's almost deity levels that you don't dare criticise him. Why not though? We do with other people we love and have great regard for - parents, lovers, barmaids, each other - so why can't we pull him up on Coolmore, ‘grown men moving on’, ‘he wouldn’t sell Madrid a virus, but he'd sell them Ronaldo’ and not challenging the Glazer frugality with one hand as they take with the other, whilst accepting all the other good things he provides alongside.

    Perhaps because I am of the view of separating on field from off field - foregoing his view that he feared for his staff and that greater singular debate or selfishness or just plain selfish - I never thought he should walk in 2005, and though I wish he wouldn't be so toadying to the Glazers, for reasons as yet unknown but which he insists are just because they leave him to it, he has found, it seems, as happy a working medium with manager-COE-owners as any during his time. It sits uncomfortably with me - that their leeching of half a billion pounds in pointless debt prevented him for using it to build in transfers and greater investment in the club. In a grown up world I'd love to see him properly questioned and explain his views, but I will not condemn him like some do with language I find startling coming from our own, to one of our own.

    I've said before it's probably because we held him in such high regard that some for a long time thought he could do no wrong - this snarling, passionate man on December 26th is no different to the one telling the “social club” of players their days were numbered back in '86 as he wanted to turn it back into a “football club”, or the one that thought any criticism of him, was against him as he snarled at Red News' Teresa McDonald after a friendly at Perth as he said criticism of players in a fanzine was counter productive. She gave him as good as he aimed at her, about the players then needing to show that same sort of passion on the pitch then. The next time they met, all was forgotten, forgiven, with a hug. These were different times, a lifetime ago when the football was not what it is now.

    Life and relationships are complex. Treat SAF as such. Though the company he receives and the status may be different, I see nothing different, for better and worse, in Ferguson throughout his time. Capable of extreme acts of kindness, and venom if crossed. Viewed as a God, people became upset that he showed fallibility as a human. It's what he is, what he's always been, because he was always going to have the human frailties we all possesss. But with superhuman skills to get the best out of the tools he has had as United manager.

    Because my life is pretty meaninglesss the mistakes I make will involve too much ale, over spending and not visiting the gym enough (or at all!), Fergie's will involve the big guns and the big decisions. I do not know what I would have done in his position, so try and be less judgemental if not still disappointed when feel let down.

    It is right when Reds feel uncomfortable that it's almost taken as a given that MUFC is now his club - David Gill incorrectly stating “Steve Jobs was Apple, Sir Alex Ferguson is Manchester United” - but he has become at one with it, transforming its fortunes and creating sides in his own character; tough, never giving in (shaped after his departure from Rangers as he talks of “the adversity gave me a sense of determination that has shaped my life. I made up my mind that I would never give in”). What he has made is United as a character. His character. Therefore a legacy can only be properly discussed when it's our children or grandchildren doing it.

    Like men in such power, his words carry great distances. Where else would a small “wee” loudly reverberate through the UK and landing at Pardew's uncomfortable ears like a weighted epitaph heavy now on his shoulders. All the time playing the press, from “youse are all fucking idiots” when asked about Veron, who he sold, or dismissing Dalglish's daughter when quizzing about which goalie is Number One - “I don't know why you're asking these questions, you're just looking for stupid little things.” deflecting a seemingly still pertinent question. He arrived from Aberdeen having 13 local scouts in Scotland, staggered that Untied only had 4. That changed immediately. “Football management in the end is all about the players. You think you are a better player than they are, and they think they are a better manager than you are.”

    He knows how to time the grenades, so much so that we all start seeing mind games when they may not even be there. He knows how to play the press, if less so the more questioning fans. It is strange to hear him so vocal about German supporters (“The crowds in Germany are fantastic and it is very cheap in relation to English football, which encourages supporter participation.”), yet keeping Utd fans’ at arms length, only really acknowledging now with the odd bow and fist pump rather than our concerns. But it is what it is. It can be argued that Fergie has always looked after number one, as some remember him threatening not to lead the team out at Wembley, the saga with son and agent, and then the sorry tango from that which would lead to horse jizz rows, 99 questions and an inevitable descent to Gingers eating us up like a black hole. That single mindedness probably is what makes his United so successful. That is his and our paradox, though it may well not be his legacy. Because that will be what he gave us, the riches, that which we'll tell our grandchildren about, the good times. After all, there were aspects of Sir Matt's past not in the microscope of today that should be left alone. There is even the first chink that he has his own questions towards the owners. “They have generally been very supportive.” We'd love to see that ‘generally’ defined.

    There is a right to constructive criticism but people who weren't even born before the really shit days at United seem to think one defeat makes throwing the toys out fair game. It's knee jerk overreactions to on field events which don’t help. He has maintained an ethos that Sir Matt instilled; family and ethics as well as ethos. Fergie telling Harvard: “Win, lose or draw. We show our face, and keep our dignity. We are Manchester United.” And “We cannot sit still at this club”. His demands after each success for more, probably his greatest triumph.

    We have a right to demand the best, but when it's not happening, it's equally important how you deal with it and react. For 58 minutes of the Newcastle game, Utd fans near and far seemed to be grumbling like Mount Etna - we can still make a difference and maybe as we urged the team in the last 20 we did, but we need to show sometimes all game we're not the over bloated greedy whingers the ABUs/media portray us as. Ignore the execs. and their prawn sarnies, it's what we do that counts. How we back Fergie in his final days at the match and then let off steam about all the aspects to his human condition away from it with mates. We're having all these 3-2 wins and yes the journey is excruciating, painful and at times head fucking, but the destination is a right old goonage and as good a buzz as we’ve had in years. We always said ‘you score two, we'll score three’, now we've got it again, most don't like it! Never happy, us!

    The key is with squad decisions made, whatever frustration at midfield deficiencies (ongoing that one!) that have gnawed at us like psoriasis itching on skin, this is what we have, so we can but support in the final months. We can't affect decisions, but we can maybe shape a game or moment. Look at the Newcastle game, we fretted over defeat, and a lead cut back, instead city lose, we triumph and we extend the lead. So much can happen in a single game, spleens split and spent early on can be counter productive - so many imploded when 3-2 down, if any side it is worth waiting for, it is Fergie time! It really is if as if some prefer the sado masochist aspect to it all than the inevitable (hand) relief at the end! If we can't defend, whatever the angst, we're enjoying the attacking. United's very own yin and yang then, but you can't deny infinitely more exciting and memorable than the last couple of seasons. As Paul at Rantcast said: “We're not very good, but we are great. And I wouldn't swap it for the world.” We owe him so much. It's got conditions of course. It's bound to with that length of time. Yet that time can cloud rightful praise.

    We know the difference that Van Persie has made to this side, but it is the bigger unity that Fergie sells to all who arrive, so that RVP actually thinks it is those around him who have aided him: “I feel that I'm surrounded by Champions.” Fergie’s powers come in many forms, his siege mentality and even minor details, all well prepared. There is always usually method in his perceived madness. On ‘Fergie time’ and his watch tapping: “All I do is point at my watch to help the referee make the right decisions!” On banal post match interviews? “I know there is a time factor in these interviews, so my response is long and doesn't give them anything that is critical. And I certainly never discuss an individual player. The players know that - it stays indoors.” And the players remain on their toes. Fergie told Harvard: “I like to tell different stories and use my imagination” as Ryan Giggs explains: “You can never tell what he is going to say. I remember we once lost to Southampton even though I had scored. We were expecting a tough post game talk, but he just said ‘Ryan's goal might have just won you the league on goal difference”.

    We are all flawed. But some are better with their frailties than others. And we still buzz off him, this 71 year old man. A septuagenarian working magic! In the wake of ‘wee’ club gate, a much more important ‘wee’ got ignored. On last season: “I've still got a wee bit of anger in me, thinking how we threw the league away last season. My motivation to the players will be that we can't let city beat us twice in a row”. That anger drives us, his team, his players and his and our club forward, at the same incredible pace he's maintained for over two decades in an era where everything changes, his an almost calming influence if we can maturely argue moot points about ego and self interest. He is our manager. He was a man of his time. His time in charge is nearing its end. Let's make the most of it. There will never be anything like him ever again. I will never feel as strongly or care for a Manchester United manager as much either. Every single one of us doesn’t, but I wish every single one of us did love Alex Ferguson.

    ‘No question about that.’


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  • Red News
    The Editorial from November's Red News 195 - a new RN196 is out this Saturday.

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    Why do you support United? It's a very personal subject, some get the hump when asked it, close to our hearts about our love and passion for a thing we care about in both quantifiable and unfathomable measures, and our answers can embrace the simple to the elongated, but where both points entwine somewhere up the path to Sir Matt Busby Way where once was Warwick Road.

    Such talk - which can level the most hardened as we talk of family reasons, or out of our tragedy, or Bestie, or whatever, - can stroke our subconscious as we remember those early days of support when life and United seemed so simple; way before Automatic Cup Schemes and Gimps and where first visits can raise a conversation to goosebumps talking about our first time with more resonance than any sexual encounter around a similar rites of passage path. Older, balder, fatter yet not much wiser I still get the buzz when seeing the lights of her; always her, my Manchester United which I visualise as untainted away from all the club and funny commercial/finance business, and on the approach to the ground after being pissed off about and pissed on by the heavens when selling, I waddle to my seat packing all my troubles away for the next two hours - with troubles on field about to nag just as much - with the excitement that youth can conjure and perhaps only MUFC and big breasted nudity can still stroke.

    Sadly in the age of the internet and a more informative world, it also seems less tolerant of ways if not in ways of behaving, and whilst arguments about whether we're heading (sit down, shut up) too far in one direction than the other, instead of regaling each other with talk of first times and welcoming all comers, it becomes twisted so some lecture others on why and ways they should support United, if they came from this path or that, or intolerant of how the person next to them is behaving even if he really isn’t misbehaving. Don't get me wrong, I raise quizzical eyebrows at some 35 year old from wherever planting himself at Old Trafford for the first time who only decided to trot down Sir Matt Busby Way a year before because we win things, but I try and suppress the lectures because who am I to dare pick out, decide and tell anyone what to do when I possess the frailties of the human condition which makes any such ‘top Red’ guide to being a Red redundant as every case will be different and who the fuck should decide anyway.

    But I very much doubt that there is a single Red out there who decided to support the greatness of being that is Manchester United Football Club because they wanted to argue the toss at 2am on an internet forum over the pass ratio and worth of Michael Carrick, or because they fancied threatening another, half their age, on twitter because debating somewhere down the line became arguing which morphed into lecturing and then a blind ‘I AM ALWAYS RIGHT, FACT, YOU KNOW NOTHING, YOU ARE WRONG’ view of the world. We can all succumb to this on occasion, a strange fear of saying ‘you know, what, I just don't know about X or Y’, and in a depressing post 2005 world of supporting United with all the factions and frictions now nearly a decade on, it's almost as if as a collective we've forgotten how to have as much fun as the old days, that we have to put a morose face on the world, and sift through the weekly life of United like a gold digger, picking out the bad bits to sigh and moan at before we enjoy the better morsels of rare gold nuggets in the pan.

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    Don't get me wrong. As those who moan that I moan too often about the Glazers in my Editorial will know, my long term opposition to those who have taken £500m out of our club on needless and pointless practises ‘just’ to take their lot and reduce a debt we didn't have to a more ‘manageable’ £359m is clear, but that doesn't mean - with the decisions I made back in '05 - that I'm not going to enjoy my matchday, my United mates, my United life. You can separate the good from the bad.
    Whilst of course it is still the United way despite the more cavalier return to United ways to test our patience and blood pressure each game, you can't argue that it's not been a lot more fun this season than the football of the last two years and I was slightly crestfallen in the stands at Chelsea as we finally put the league win hoodoo to bed to have two blokes in front of me who seemed to be studying up on a Masters of Miserabilitis. Of course the knee-jerk reaction to throwing two goals away can be understood in the context of fearing the worst, but even at 2-0 up as United dominated the early stage, there seemed to be more zest to shout out at the bad pass, or giving the ball away than what we were doing well. Now such high demands are great, but it appeared to be a teeny weenie bit out of control. Temperance and all that. In Braga and after Villa I know lads who after coming to terms with the great comebacks, countered with ‘but the first half was shocking’, and though they were legally right, please break out in a smile they were reminded (with swear words!).

    A mate summed up this strange United psyche as he moaned about the new stickers appearing on our travels. “We've got flags, stickers and songs celebrating a soap character who isn't real person, has no connection with United, has never played for United, when we don't even have songs for players who have been here years, what the fuck is all that about?”. He has a point of course, but can be perceived as a somewhat miserable one! At least they are singing something, trying, having a go. They may overdo it, but let’s hope they learn rather than scorn from the off. That sort of drive and passion develops into next generations, into us, into future Reds going all over. As we pointed out to him ‘do you remember when you were young and did daft things?’, hell a few hours later on the Portuguese super ale he was doing daft things himself!

    We can often drown ourselves in this self fulfilling prophecy talk of it not being like the old days. It isn't. Seating butchered that in an instance, and whilst we must fight for better treatment (and safe standing, not just give up on that with a shrug), if you slump back in your seat, however old, conceding defeat and looking at nothing but a bygone era it gets you nowhere. You're still going to games now, at a high cost, why not if not recreate the old days, slip into the new ones more comfortably than we do. Fight for change. Nothing to lose, and however frustrating so few kids at United is, and how lowly they are encouraged by United, there are some on our scene who must be encouraged by us. Told off if it goes too far on more extreme behaviour - but not scorned as if a bounce and goon here and there is a sin. United need to realise this. Fergie praised the fans in the 2nd half of Spurs. Well that game the stewards in K and co. stopped patrolling telling us what we couldn't rather than could do, and Utd fans didn't throw themselves off any top tiers; they supported, as loud as in recent times. Disappointment afterwards in defeat but still many saying this was the best atmosphere and buzz in some time. It raised cockles. Utd not encouraging this each and every game is criminal. Work with us, not against us.

    But we need to do our bit too. Be a bit more tolerant, less abusive or scornful of the Red next to you be it on twitter or at the game; judging on first impressions rather than over time does harm. There are some knobs in our support, if we judge them at that first particular moment we think that, they may stay viewed as such, and though some might be 24-7, others won't, as they could think the same of me when a slobbering wreck on the now occasional Euro Aways. Too often we preach, and in practice whilst it's cliche land to say we're all different so group hug, every argument doesn’t necessarily define them as a person. We may feel uncomfortable at United slobbering themselves at this global fanbase, and pour scorn at some of their laughable figures, and at some groups of tourists arriving at United for their theme park ride before quickly getting off but watch this video of Indian Reds back home, mimicking the classic '93 youtube K Stand's Barmy Video- and tell me that doesn't make you smile, and then buzz off the emotional legacy of what this club does to people near and far. Proud of this Red Army.

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    I'm here to enjoy myself. I will continue to fight for better owners, but also share this era with like-minded souls and make the unpleasant as palatable and pleasant as possible. That's not selfish. I do this fanzine at a near loss not to earn profit, but to give United fans a voice. There is no vested interest, not here for the buck. Supporting United is such a buzz, it is what I did before this and will do after, nothing on earth and all that. So that however unpleasant this era is off the pitch I am staggered that so many- online at least, always online! - seem to find it so hard having anything pleasant to say about the on pitch, and, well, anything. That's not borne out at aways where Reds have the craic, if at home the atmosphere tends to be more like a care home for the elderly when everyone is fed and they want to prepare for bed, but as I sell the mag people seem happy, on the whole; they go with mates, on their own, in groups, pissed, sober, late or early as they always did. So why inside or online do they seem to turn into if not moaning Muppets, then Waldorf & Stadler. “This is rubbish…” “But we came back from 0-2 down to win 3-2 and go top of the league…” “But it was a rubbish 3-2!”. There was criticism of Wootton and Keane when we went out of the League cup, and in the words of reply from one RN seller: “give your head a wobble, it's the league fucking Cup where they're meant to learn”. Maybe we should amend the words from ‘we’re a right bunch of bastards when we lose’ to ‘right bunch of whinging bastards whatever the result!’. Of course our ethos, our history and demands to play football the right way, the attacking United way, is a blessing and must not be compromised, but it can be somewhat of a curse when titles and trophies pass us by and we still pick multiple faultlines. Sometimes ‘it’ is never enough. Sometimes it should be. We're bloody hard task masters. Rightfully so many would argue, whilst covering our ears when the bloke next to you at a game personifies that!

    The real world is not nice at times if it fucks with you, and though I'm not naive to think United - as shown by the Gimps - can escape that, we do come to United for the escapism so that it should get as many free passes as possible. With bile, moaning, and hatred (aim it instead at the ABUs) it doesn't become the satisfying pleasure United should be - the reason why you still go after the delight of the first time and all the ones in between. In essence it is a most simplistic pleasure. Walking to ground, after a beer or before, with friends or family, see the ground, the buzz at the stands, the highs and lows that follow. We are right to voice disapproval at those underperforming, at poor performances (though not for booing during a match like at Spurs for Christ Sakes), and demand much, but you don't want to veer into the greedy, the never happy territory of the Moaning Dead.

    There is, as Banksy and RN covers passim would testify, always hope. Maturity, perspective, age can either burden you or make you less uptight. Alcohol helps of course. After the Wigan game eight of us sat down and one beer merged into quite a few more and the topic of our best United XIs came up. Now to highlight the madness of my point here, I actually saw a row on twitter about who should, or should not be included in your best ever XIs - it's a bit of fun I felt like shouting out. Players you've seen, players all-time, it doesn't matter, just go with it rather than squinting to pick fights out of nothingness. We are all anal about something and any anonymous conflict online can itch that; but here we were, in person, arguing, saying ‘bollocks’ to put down another's suggestion yet laughing about it afterwards. There is a lot to be said about real life encounters whilst utilising the best of the virtual world (in seller Lee’s case that is endless looping of

    Anyway, this group of all ages, upwards of 50 and downwards towards teens put their cases forward. We started to sing our nominations, which made it all take longer and us drink more which was probably the point but ‘Stevie Coppell on the wing’ and ‘Andrei Kanchelskis’ to the Russian Song became ‘Ruud Van Nistelrooy tra la la’ as we belched out these songs to the bemusement of those non Reds around us, as I persuaded the majority that I felt Schmeichel couldn't be included because of what he'd done to the United fans staring depressed after beating us in city colours, and finally a few relented and in came Van der Sar. (it’s a controversial one!). We did not care if it was 4-4-2, or 4-3-3, and only one having seen Bestie live and in his prime, his passionately, starry eyed description of his play had us all switch to him in an instant even though we'd said it was players that we'd all seen play. In a way it is the most inane and beautiful debate you can have, great with a few of you, your best United XI, but at the end whilst you actually begin to ignore the silliness of leaving X and Y out, it just shows how blessed we are to have seen so many true greats. At any particular time - Eric, 1999 - we say it'll never be as good but there is nothing like a Utd chat, and its memories, which gives hope to the future in remembering its past. You don't down tools that we had Eric, wail that's it, give up. You dream of another. They had King Denis, we had King Eric. It does happen. And there always is another.

    This isn't a top Red thing. That's the last thing I ever intend. But in my lifetime as a Red I can take one simple thing from it - the pleasure. Yes it can be painful at times, because it replicates the good and the bad of life itself. We moan, rightly so, but try not to drift into a whine, like a spoilt brat. Many of us share that weird equilibrium of loving the purity and essence of MUFC but disliking the whored out and sold out MU bit. But I sense from some Reds, especially in the online world where thoughts aren't formulated, they are clicked on in seconds, for better or worse, that there is no enjoyment coming from some about, well, anything. Like our collective psyche is messed up. No united, in United. There is always a negative to be focussed on. I know, and do preach on that one thing, that there is a bigger picture of ownership that we should all focus minds on, but the smaller picture provides, as it should, that goonage and cockles warming delight that it always has. And even good times can be had drowning out the memories of the bad. Let's have a bit more fun!
    I am a firm believer that you should have as much fun - without harming anyone! - as you possibly can in life. Of course life being what it is it will do all it can to prevent this with the pitfalls that are thrown at you like the opening iconic scene of Indiana Jones and the double whammy catch 22 that too much fun will limit that very life you want to enjoy itself. But hey.

    The off field problems should not be used as a stick to beat on field. The cynicism towards the club sometimes rubs off misdirected at the team, raised eyebrows at certain value signings shouldn’t weigh that signing down. Miserableness spreads. From someone at the Fans Forum using the rare opportunity to put something to the powers that be and then asks why the jacket potatoes at OT are so cold, to every little morsel of fun being dissected and dismissed as if we’re all bloody lab rats being studied - they dared do what, jump up and down, at a football match?! Of course modern football is ill, how terminal we do not yet know but if you are still going (and this is not a dig at those who aren’t out of choice or forced through finances) it does no good to retreat into a darkened room each matchday. As that soppy stocking filler of a film Love Actually ends with Bill Nighy saying ‘come on let's watch some porn’, so let's watch some bloody United and have a laugh together. The world is odd and fucked enough without us making it harder for ourselves and trying to curtail the enjoyment of MUFC by battling each other. There’s enough days in the week to be depressed about rather than a Saturday (or Sunday, or Tuesday or...). Fucking Mondays for example. Bob Geldof was right on one thing.

    And whilst we celebrate the genius of my generation’s King, the smile permanently on our faces (well, in theory!) these past twenty years was though he may well have been the catalyst, it didn’t end with him, we carried on what he started to even greater heights. No rest on laurels, no rest on backsides shouting we’re doomed. Because we’re not. 1992-2012 - happy days. So let’s have some more. And let's enjoy these days more. Because we - the team, these heights, the trophies, us ourselves - won't always be here to enjoy them. Make the most of it. The internet is great for many things, including sharing memories and dare I use that dreaded word 'bantzzzz lolllll', but surely not for arguing at dawn's crack over William Prunier with a 16 year old in Fiji.

    So go on then… I will for a laugh. I realise they won't play together and I don't worry about how they will gel and try not to flagellate over who hasn't made it… But my best MUFC XI (that I’ve seen!). Van der Sar (Paddy Roche just missed the cut and Schmikes, ambassador or not, why did you do that, that day at Maine Road?!), Irwin, Albiston, Buchan, Stam, Ronaldo, Giggs, Robbo, Keane, Scholes, Eric. Subs - all of the rest! It'll change tomorrow. It usually does. That's the point. It's fun.

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  • Red News
    The Red News Reditorial from RN193 - Wayne Rooney - good...great...but still not world class

    The Red News Reditorial from RN193 -

    I wrote after Wayne Rooney's one-two with Ryan Giggs as he adeptly swiveled into the curve of the ball to glide it into the Wembley net in front of the Barcelona fans, one of his most intelligent of goals for Utd, that the world and its stage could now await for our Number Ten. Instead, barely 16 months later, rather than the world at his feet, its eyes are trained on his midriff as we shuffle uncomfortably upon hearing the ultimate putting down of any injury concerns from his manager: “The injury is maybe a blessing because he can concentrate on his fitness now in the gymnasium in particular.” Ouch.

    Fergie's man management can come in many forms, an arm around the shoulder, and the older ways of a tea cup hurtling towards it instead; it's just we don't often see either, it's all played out behind closed doors so we often don't get to hear about it until events are all played out; the livening up of a banal autobiography by a player who recalls the time Fergie tried to throttle him. Public criticisms and digs are just not his way, unless it’s an opponent or a journalist, until he feels such a timely grenade is necessary, and after weeks of tabloid speculation which we usually take with a pinch of salt, Fergie seemed to throw the very shaker at his star striker.

    With the wages that Wayne Rooney received after his October ultimatum and sudden turnaround, it has often been argued on these pages that such billing and paying should see him raise his game to such world class status and icons. That he did in terms of end result, ironed out inconsistencies with fewer creases, and a scoring season last which matches his very best. Yet there was still the odd raised eyebrow, of a perceived decline or levelling off by some, perhaps more apparent and caused by the way we seemed to over depend on him. If Rooney wasn't playing or well, or even just not playing full stop, then United didn't. That can't go on for very long and the Robin Van Persie arrival has more to do with rectifying that over reliance than anything else, but if we can quibble about how good, great or indifferent Rooney was last season, he's no nearer being on that stage that Ronaldo and Messi occupy each yearly European awards ceremony that some, myself included, hoped and possibly expected he would be.

    Some saw the burden of carrying the lofty expectations of the team, and the side itself, as a possible reason for yet another story brewing, others not so forgiving; the events that October though now beginning to become a distant dream (or would be nightmare), the elephant memories that most Reds possess, especially when crossed, makes some feel that whilst encouraging spectators, mere voyeurs to his greater script - if he were ready to use and abuse the greater name of United, they would do the same in return; until any inevitable parting, which some still think will happen, despite the continued protestations, sooner rather than later.

    But later is becoming just that, much, he's still here, and whether it be a gradual realignment since Fergie talked of cows and the grass this side being better than t’other, or because in one quick and significant signing, Fergie had devalued the overall importance and reliance of the player he once over depended upon, he’s not the only star in the United sky anymore. Now was the time, if any, when Fergie could swing the axe and raise, in public and private, both whispered or announced, his concerns. Fergie is canny enough to know that.

    I was always worried when Rooney himself as far back as two years ago said he doubted he could be playing into his 30s, his style of play the cause he alluded to, as Reds were more inclined to look through any metaphorical bins for diet and fuel habits. It can become a self fulfilling prophecy if you doubt whether you can actually do or achieve something, and whilst Rooney's advisors would ring Talksport a few weeks ago to clarify that his book comments about coming back to training overweight were in fact about 2009, not 2012, let us not forget that in 2011, even with a smile and in a light hearted chat, he admitted on England duty last August that: “The fitness coach gave me a programme to follow over the summer but I left it behind. I honestly didn’t lift any weights, run, nothing. I was a couple of kilos heavier than I should have been but I feel that has benefited me. I can easily put a lot of weight on, so I had to watch what I was eating. But I enjoyed the time with family.”

    Matt Dickinson of the Times used the language of Bobby Robson describing Gazza as he tweeted: “Wrote about Rooney fitness, refuelling concerns the other day. Can't say I find his explanation of weight issues in Mirror too reassuring”. We can hark back to the days when we could freely mix with Robbo, Norm and McGrath, but they are gone, and if truth be told it wasn't doing the culture of the club much good let alone the drinking culture - any player not following a well thought out programme, in an age where most players don’t touch a drop, is chasing the pack right from the off. Now Rooney readily talks about adjusting his career as he gets older: “I even think about playing in midfield permanently, but only later in my career. Why? Well, in midfield I don’t have to be as sharp as a forward.” That sort of talk concerns me. A player like Rooney, and any player at United, has to be as sharp as he can for as long as he can.

    (The Red News Reditorial from RN193 -

    We hear David Moyes felt like banging his head against a wall about what Rooney ate - I've heard for the penchant for sausages, and no, don't laugh - and whilst the odd fag and pint won't make that great a difference per say, the game has moved on, and when we're worried as to exactly whose company Rooney will eventually be talked alongside, with any headlines like these, it's almost back down the snakes and ladders board as out come the Gazza comparisons. More journo nonsense of course, but let’s not forget he was dropped for Blackburn last season after issues from a night out. “During the season, I don’t think there’s any harm having a take-away now and then. The club always has someone on hand to talk to me about diet if I need them.” Fast forward a few paragraphs: “When I get up in the morning after a game, I struggle to walk for the first half an hour. I ache a bit. It wasn’t like that when I was a lad.” In the modern game, there can be a connection where once nobody cared, or any were realised. We like saying he's one of us - a real lad, and all that - but the difference comes when you start acting like we do, surely? Piers Moron's missus, Celia Walden writing in the Telegraph of a meal with the two couples in June: “…the boy from Croxteth made his appearance later on when the drinks started arriving in twos, and he fell backwards into an oversized flowerpot at the end of the night, but by then the Roonster had won me over.”

    United fans will forgive most things - the Scouse heritage most obvious - and we know Rooney tries on the pitch as much if not more than any, but with him already being observed warily with every step since events back then, it does him no good to lads and lasses working their balls of just to see him and the team play to find suggestions about excess weight, like almost a joke, with not many laughing.

    You see we may well see Rooney and Fergie hugging come May, looking as good as gold, as thick as, er, well, you get my point. But we also know in our X Files marked Jaap Stam, Ruud, Beckham and Keano circa the end, that there is always a subplot and story behind the veneer, and only two games into a season the cold reply of why he didn't start the fateful Fulham game was met by a “He wasn't as fit.” You'd have liked to have seen, if anyone of worth was still allowed into press conferences to actually ask, Fergie queried as to why he wasn't fit. Euros there may well have been, but he'd still had a significant pre-season under his belt, or so we thought. Rather than he looking like he needed to re-notch his belt.

    Some thought the extracts from his book were fascinating. I found it all still quite bland, if not as bad as Hunter Davies' first book, still quite clearly more the words of the ghostwriter than the subject - “It feels like I’ve put my head in front of a BaByliss Turbo Power 2200.” (as if he said that). But I don't go for this cheap dismissal about his intelligence. His football brain, anyway.

    He is a deep thinker about the game, and I was always impressed whilst the likes of Michael Carrick admitted they wouldn't be watching the Rome or Wembley Finals again, he did; to study, to learn. David Winner in one interview for a short feature in the ESPN magazine last May got more significant thoughts about his footballing thought process than a rather dull description of that city game in his book where a highlight is him telling us what the scoreboard said the score is. And the quite ludicrous description of that controversial pre-season return (of ‘09): “The scales in the club gym tell me I've put on a few more pounds than expected – seven. Seven! Then I remember – I drank a few bevvies while I was away. I'm stocky.” ‘I remember I drank a few bevvies’, hmm, hardly Steinbeck eh…

    Perhaps Fergie once making his point is now going for the arm around the shoulder approach, public blast achieved, but the problem is you can't quite masking tape repair the gap between player and those who just don't trust him anymore in the stands. Minority some may still be, but it is a significant one. I asked on twitter how Reds now feel about him, if their views had changed, after yet another apology, this time in the book - though his dismissal of it as a ‘bad choice’ and ‘mistake’ were still wide of the mark to how significant it had been, well to us anyway - and the answers were split, if sided towards those who want him to do the business, and just best leave it at that.

    He asked himself which had been his best year in the Premiership. One well known Red tweeted him: “I liked the one where you almost joined City. That was a great one.” That's what happens when you ‘play’; with United, it is lop sided towards perceived fans’ trust and who they believe, and whilst I am more forgiving, I don't really trust any of them when it comes to transfer matters (see Rio meeting Cuddly Pete in that Chelsea restaurant to hasten a deal with Comfortable Gill or for ulterior motives), and modern footballers are not that which I grew up with; fewer heroes, less frequent doting. 

    So I love watching him play, want him to stay as long as he’s great and giving his all, understand some of the pressures he's under as the England toy thing to pick up and then discard by the press when he's in vogue or not, but that's about it. Rooney now says: “It is an episode that I am not proud of but it has helped me because it has given me great desire and hunger to be more successful at this club.” I’m not saying that should be it or good enough or appease, because Reds are allowed to still feel hurt, even though I'd urge it dull a bit, for sanity sake as much as anything as we'll see more like it if the Glazers remain with their false economy, but he has done what he said since then - given his all. Which makes the Super Fat me reality show this summer that much harder to accept. He's running out of time, already, to lift his Pantheon, and any culpableness in slowing down any possible arrival on that UEFA stage is frustrating as fuck.

    Take notice then of his own words about Ronaldo in 2007: “Ronnie’s ambition isn’t just talk either. In the changing rooms before the 2006/07 season I notice something different about him. He’s come back from the World Cup muscly and beefed up, like he’s been on the weights all summer. I know one thing: this change hasn’t come about by luck. He works bloody hard.” So do you Wayne on the pitch, but we also fear what you do off it... England didn't help either. Allowing that Vegas lads’ trip so soon before the Euros was madness. ‘These are grown men’. But quite often, they aren't really, are they? That raises questions too about United's approach of getting the best out of their most prized assets and their trust in their training away from Carrington.

    Rooney does admit in the book: “I don’t like getting shouted at by anyone. It’s hard for me to take, so sometimes I shout back. I tell ‘Fergie’ he’s wrong and I’m right.” You wonder if SAF, as can be his way, has that in the back of his mind when things aren’t going well. You always fear for a player who doesn’t just ignore the advice when he’s on top of his game, essential to the team, but when the tide begins to turn and he’s no longer as vital - as Becks. and co will testify.

    We’re not at that stage now. But this was supposed - I thought it would be - when the world was Rooney’s stage. Instead he is realising the MUFC world waits for no man and however great he’s been, this stage of his career could pass him by in a flash if he’s not too careful. Fergie often talks of not carrying any passengers, of the United bus always moving with momentum; shame then that the one we relied on for so long is having to jog behind blowing to make this season’s journey when he finally could have real quality help alongside him. He should have been waiting, primed and ready.
    We don't often defend Neil Custis on these pages but whilst Reds were quick to give him stick about his story that United could - could - offload for £50m, what it did suggest was that something wasn't quite right between the pair. We found that out later with a dismissal of it all like a teacher about a wayward pupil, the relationship once so lopsided to the player, now about turned, Fergie holding the cards, the story still plausible then, Fergie could offload if he wants to. In talking up the new boy, the new game changer, Fergie said: “Van Persie gives us that maturity and experience of a front player and I think we probably needed that.” That as much as anything should have been chilling words to Rooney. It's not just about having a rival, but someone who could now be a short term replacement. None of us want that.

    They may well hug, kiss and make up, but it'll now be the player who looks over his shoulder to see if Fergie has his fingers crossed rather than the other way around. As Christopher Davies the journalist put it to me: “The love affair with manager or fans not what it was. No split but sleeping in different rooms.” He is a game changer. He works his socks off and can raise our cockles as much as his. He is often the story, as well as changing and affecting it. But he's also now looking at a clock that has started ticking on him. Fergie provides a glowing foreword to the book: “I’d like to think I’ve made one or two good decisions during my time in football, but there is no question the signing of Rooney from Everton is up there with the best of them.” He wouldn’t have thought in publicising that book, Rooney would have to deny being sold, “if I'm wanted at this club, I'll be at this football club as long as possible.” Game, set and match to Fergie, where hopefully United benefit. Never another summer like this one tho’. Off plan. Wayne Rooney's next move isn't his own, it is Fergie's to make.

    It may seem strange debating how good a player is who has scored over 180 goals for United, who we have (over) relied on for so long. Those Reds who still feel betrayed (or feel he publically dissed his team-mates in the dressing room by questioning the greater ambition) don't let on during games about how they feel, and quite rightly so, be it for not wanting to cut open old wounds or harming the greater MUFC collective and impetus, and that's not the dance we're eyeing anymore anyway, more pressing concerns always come, and usually go.

    I love watching Wayne Rooney, but I have sometimes feared if Wayne Rooney now loves the game as much as he once did, but we can never question his enthusiasm for playing. Whether a Red in K Stand has forgiven and forgotten is neither here nor there. It's whether Fergie has, again. No Manchester United player should be called for their fitness, or seen an injury considered a ‘blessing’. It's not so much Rooney seeing out his career, or them going out for a nice Valentine's meal all made up that concerns me; it's that each summer I was rather hoping to see Wayne walk up that stage to the applause of his peers in Monaco, not read another headline about ‘who ate all the pies’. It can still happen, his stage, theirs. This might indeed be a ‘blessing’.

    The Red News Reditorial from RN193 -

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