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  • Red News
    December 2008. Manchester United became World Club Champions. Here was the report from the trip to Tokyo

    This article first appeared in RN153

    World Champions Twice Embroidered Shirt

    I arrive at my hotel reception at 2am. The place is massive and even at this hour there are 4 staff who beckon me to sit down; the procedure to set a wake up alarm call for the airport bus involving serious consideration, at least two entries into two large diaries, a lot of nodding at computer screens, and my signature on two separate pieces of paper. I'm dishevelled, drunk, and dressed as Santa. Or at least I was, but each hours drinking seems to have seen caused unintentional disrobing of my uniform so I've lost my belt, my hat, and my reindeer, if I'd had any.

    Another Santa staggers in through the main doors, greets this Santa with a loud airing of a song from the game earlier - “Bring on the Martians” - and steps into the lift to take him to the 39th floor. This is Tokyo, we're World Champions, and not very much seems to have been lost in translation as I head to my room with the reception staff waving off this inebriated Santa to his lift. Life is good when it's this good.

    Rewind a few months and my post one-day trip to Moscow promise to sacrifice all it took (and that will be a lot this season) to see United in the Super Cup and now Fifa Club World Cup Finals (formerly the Intercontinental and Toyota Cup) this time around after regretfully missing out in 1999 meant I called on my trusted friend Barclaycard Visa and booked and paid for the flight and hotel to Tokyo at a time when sterling was holding its own against the Yen. Little was I to know that upon arrival in Japan everything already priced exorbitantly had that much more of a grip around the balls. I'd still had a result paying at the old rate as when I went to change up my spending money a week before the trip it's not an exaggeration to say Sterling was devalued by nearly 5% in the time it took me to leave the house, grab a coffee and get to the bureau de change. This supporting United abroad business is becoming expensive now it seems as though only United themselves are doing anything of note outside of the UK as the team holds its own but our economy flounders against any opposition as those running the economy show all the financial skill of Peter Ridsdale.

    I was disappointed that we'd approached the game in Monaco with only half interest in the lead up to the match, though of course the timing straight into the season didn't help, and though the approach to Tokyo had been regarded with disapproval at times because of the unnecessary further disruption to our league campaign (surely only in football land could FIFA arrange such a tournament just a few days before the real Santa got to work, madness timing...), I was worried that United would struggle to take this re-worked format of the tournament seriously. All season Fergie had seemed to send mixed messages about the event (at the start of the season even seeming to suggest he'd take a reserve side with Stoke in mind - “It is possible that I will leave a lot of our more senior players behind”), and then joking that Paul Scholes would be dreading his return to first team action because of where it was: “Paul Scholes will be available to go to Japan. He'll be delighted with that! He's taking anti depressant tablets already!”

    But as December approached, the tune began to change, and rightly so, and Fergie time and time again made more of the right noises about competing in a tournament that, as David Gill also suggested, could in years to come rise in stock, a potential for a proper world tournament for the top club sides to compete against each other. Fergie saw the light after we'd bagged the trophy: “I have no regrets about going to Japan. The prestige of being there was immense. We tend to be parochial about football in Britain, but the opportunity to become world champions is something money can't buy. To start with, you have to become European Champions to take part... United didn't become a global name by staying home. We are a big club, and bidding to become world champions is what we're all about. So we had to be in Japan”. And quite right too.

    We can't change the opposition put in front of you, and make no mistake, though the media (ironically playing the event down but many sending their best journalists out to cover it as Fergie also noted: “The English media don't take it as seriously as we do”) and the likes of Graeme Souness belittled it as nothing more than a half competitive series of testimonials, those Liverpool fans watching back home know we've now done something, twice, that they never could and Sourness himself knows that their own European Champions tried to achieve on three occasions what we have now down the twice. ‘You’re not famous anymore...’ indeed.

    After Moscow I viewed the trip to Tokyo as further proof of winning the European Cup, as if there was even more to be had from that particular achievement, a further icing on the cake. As this season fast forwarded quickly I wanted to win it, big time. Crowned Champions of Planet Earth. How often can you say that? Fergie best summed it so: “We're delighted to be going to Japan. We're going there because we've won the Champions League and I hope we'll be playing in this for the next five years. It's an achievement to just be involved. We're the only British team to have won it - and I consider that to be one of the club's greatest achievements. We won the Intercontinental Cup in back in 1999 and as the first British club to do that it was a prestigious piece of history for us. To win this would be even better. Of course it's worth it".

    Scolari managed Palmeiras when we beat them in 1999 and recently said: “Keane's goal is still in my mind. I don't want to think about that game again”. It matters, and will matter more so, so don't let the ABUs fool you otherwise, though of course we could do well with trumpeting it ourselves more, even the latest update to the Official History of United DVD didn't even mention our 1999 triumph, nor the testing ties against Estudiantes in '68. If it were the Scousers they'd already be seeking to keep the trophies, so I can't see why 'Champions of Planet Earth, 1999, 2008' shouldn't adorn the Stretford End as a new flag too. We have to celebrate it more to make it more.

    But back to the Santas. If it were Geordies or Siddy fans doing it I'd be taking the piss out of the sad bastards but whether it was plenty of the local Asahi beer or the unusually high temperatures that saw t-shirt weather in the day, it just felt right to be doing it for the Final, an inspired idea by Welsh Lee to buy 23 of the fuckers for £5 a go. Before that we sampled Japanese hospitality and even a little bit of culture; though it took some getting used to to sit on a toilet and be approached by a set of buttons on the seat itself, one trigger happy finger and you'd unleash a stream of hot water shooting right up your back passage before the main event had even taken place. People would no doubt pay money for that in some S&M clubs back home. By my return to UK I actually started missing the option of that wave setting after unleashing my very own Mount Fuji into the Tokyo sewage system each morning. It took me an hour to work out which button did what (never worked out why mind), and this toilet going lark seems serious business for the Japanese.

    I came here for a pre-season tour in 1997, and much has changed. The economy is still on a wave (people seem either rich or just plain very well-off, well apart from that single tramp we saw who just lay on the tube forecourt wanking himself off to puzzled looks but he seemed happy enough with his own company), but the place has more of a Western feel to it (the obligatory Starbucks on nearly every street corner now), and the locals seemed fascinated with us and by us, as well as a friendliness and kindness shown to the mini Red Army in town which seemed like a different world to the one I left back in the UK.

    My grandfathers generation may still have issues, and it would take a deeper mind than mine to theorise how they have come from A to B historically these past few generations, and the Japan I saw may well have a conformity to regulation that borders on the disquieting (nobody jay walked even if there isn't a car coming for hours, just waiting like Zombies for the man to change to green to walk on mass), but there was a cleanliness, and just plain nice feel to the place. Not one bit of graffiti, anywhere. Yes it's busy, and a million people seem to fit on every corner, but it was just bloody nice to be treated nicely. The tube and Bullet train made ours back home appear Third World, and maybe I didn't get to see the underbelly that no doubt does exist somewhere but it seemed safe, however drunk anyone was, and an air that this was everything that the UK now isn't - an atmosphere of a bygone era, of not much spoiled and I left hoping that nothing will change it in years to come and what once was back home.

    I'd say about 600-800 Reds made the trip across, and many drifted each night towards the Westernised Roppongi area. Even then there were a lot more locals than a decade before, and scouting parties would seek out extended happy hours where you felt you'd had a result if £4 pints could be negotiated in bars full of Reds, Western men, prostitutes of all shapes and sizes from various nationalities and the odd Japs there just to sample Western bars that truthfully bear no resemblance to any bars I've ever encountered anywhere West in my life. The trip to the States in 2003 has always stood out as one of the best in my life, but this was to match it and if one episode summed up the well behaved (but of course pissed up) nature of the Reds out there it was to a tiny train bar, designed as one single train carriage and packed to the rafters with all sorts, as one well known Red (Holty), surged the crowd inside one way or another as if he were leading the Stretford End Sway in the 1970s.

    The mass of bodies went left, right, up and down, with Mr Holt's bald head leading each particular sway, and such was the buzz inside that it actually attracted a crowd watching outside. The bar had a massive bell inside with which unsuspecting newbies would ring it, and then be shown a sign near to it that they'd have to buy the bar a drink. So many Reds got caught in this particular sting that I wouldn't be surprised if the owner retired on the profits from that night alone, and one Red punished with a big bill (JT), decided as he'd self funded a large investment in the bar by now, it was his right to try and take the bell. The bar staff defended the bell and rope as if they were soldiers in a Warzone. One of those truly great - and surreal - nights.

    Though some of the early games leading up to our entry at the Semi Final stage (strange that 4 teams had already been knocked out by the time we played our first game) were played in Tokyo itself, ours were to be played in Yokohama, about 17 miles away. Not many stayed there, bar the team (struggling with the jetlag and time difference so that many got no more than two hours sleep each night during the whole trip) and journos, and except for the ground and a few bars nearby there wasn't that much to do on a matchday, bar watch a cosmopolitan bunch of swag sellers from around the world (and Manchester) selling all manner of United gear outside the main station about 10 mins away from the ground, whilst once again United themselves seemed strangely and naively absent with their own commercial presence bar the odd item on the stalls inside the ground. You do wonder about the nous of our own marketing team if they didn't think to set up a few stalls selling gear to people desperate to get anything with United on it whilst fake Rooney shirts reigned supreme.

    World Champions Twice Embroidered Shirt

    The first game against Gamba Osaka was exciting stuff, well certainly the last 20 minutes were, and the home support cheered their own teams moves, and our own, and even locals in Utd shirts seemed to enjoy both teams' goals and contributions, the Utd contingent easily identifiable at both games as everyone bar us and the Gamba Ultras (behind their goal and excitable rather than menacing) sat down. In between the screams with each attack there was eerie silence (real silence bar the Reds nattering or bellowing), and then suddenly Ronaldo would have a free-kick and the sky would light up with hundreds of camera flashbulbs making it seem more like Oscar night. But job done. We all knew we were here for the Final on Sunday and it would have been unthinkable to have gone all this way to get knocked out so early and instead be competing in the pointless 3rd-4th Placed Final taking place before the main event. Between then Andy Mitten, UWS Ed, celebrated his birthday with a good night out in a new area of the city - the nights theme to be every Red there to debate, in some cases tirelessly, who they hated more; city, Sheep or Scouse.

    You wouldn't want to be claustrophobic when out and about in Tokyo and the sheer number of people going anywhere, at any given moment, is actually a little bit unsettling (unless you are a Man City fan and are used to a million people in one place like the hill at Blackburn...), but getting around is simple enough when you work out the maps, etc and it was good to hook up with a lot of familiar faces who'd made a lot of sacrifices to get out here and appreciated the absurdity of having a pint a 13 hour flight away (and I'll say now if Rio's back is a mess after being sat in the nice comfy reclining seats he had, he should have sat in mine designed for a dwarf there and back) as if Reds swapping stories all this way out here was the most natural thing in the world. We're so lucky to have seen United where we have, that you don't really appreciate it until 23 of you meet up dressed as fucking Father Christmas and consider it actually quite normal behaviour!

    I got a small idea of how Ronaldo must feel every day of his life as we posed, and posed, and posed some more, and then some, for pictures every step of the way from Tokyo to the ground by bemused locals. I don't think I've ever laughed as much as seeing these totally random figures, united in costumes, colour and team, stagger here, there and everywhere as the hours passed like alcoholic Santas. Pity the kids out there who thought we were the real thing actually delivering the presents on the 25th as we've ruined that mythology what with the beer stains and belching. At least enough of us had the beer bellies to prevent the need for any pillow padding to be required.

    So the Santas meandered to the ground, care of various photocalls, and the magnitude of the game started to hit home. Every Red may have viewed it differently; the tournament that is, as this game was none better than watching Sunderland at home, with LDU Quito showing the same attacking intent even when we were reduced to ten courtesy of another moment of Nemanja madness, but for me it felt, after Rooney's goal and we nervously eyed the clock towards becoming World Champions, that this was my pinnacle, the end of this particular road, but not the journey itself, as a United supporter.

    What I'd been waiting for. The league and Europe will always provide more satisfaction of course, and be the bigger lure and event but I felt all these miles from home as if we were really on top of the mountain, all our achievements summed up, explained by winning this name changing trophy that I hope one day will mean a lot more to many more.

    Next to me, and looking as ridiculous as me as another Santa, was my dear friend Paul from Ricky. We first met in Amsterdam before the 711 tournament in the 80s, and since then we've stood together in Rotterdam, and stared dumbstruck as we watched events unfold in the Nou Camp. Every big United drama we've shared, and through a friendship formed at United we've shared the highs and lows of life away from United what with its tragedies, melodramas and highs and lows. Pardon this sounding like Gwyneth Paltrow's Oscar acceptance speech but it just seemed right, however big a set of twats we looked, to hear the final whistle and know we'd done it, having seen so much before together. I wished my Mum watching back home could have been here. Maybe those here in 1999 felt the same, but however happy I was back then I felt detached watching it back home on tv, and I knew how fortunate enough I was to be here now. We all did.

    And the players perhaps realised that as they took the rare step of coming straight to those travellings Reds once the elongated and phoney presentation had taken place. The trophy was put aside, and led by Rio, the whole squad applauded the Red Army. It actually felt pretty moving, like we'd all been appreciated (for once, and Fergie even sent a letter to all who'd gone afterwards thanking us), and I waved hoping they'd understand that Santa would sort them all out in a few days times. "Ob bla di, Champions of Planet Earth", "Bring on the Martians", "Are you watching Merseyside", and then it was over, bar a few Gamba fans who'd stayed to applaud their 3rd placed team receive their own trophy and then wish us well. Job truly done, we'd achieved what we'd come for. How history will judge just how important that achievement is, I don't know or care, and I must put the selfish thought process of how do we go from this to Boro on a cold Monday night, because move on we must, and always do. This isn't a brag at being there, because trust me it's not, but I felt a passage of my Utd life climaxed dressed as an idiot, and I hope we all get plenty of opportunities to see us do it again.

    So the Santa costumes got binned, and I left Tokyo for probably the 2nd and final time, but so happy with what I'd seen and done, and at the peoples happy attitude towards Utd fans, the boisterous but never out of order actions of a Red Army at times maligned but when in smaller numbers always well behaved, and the laughs we'd had in the land of the rising fun.

    I now know why so many people in Tokyo wear the fog/smoke masks all the time though after I got back with a killer of a flu which I couldn't shake over Xmas! Next time they play it in Abu Dhabi, land of city's going down with a billion in the bank. Nobody out in Tokyo had heard of Man City, but enough knew about United (and Ronaldo, Rooney and Beckham in particular) for me to know that it's important that United continue to break the boundaries in all four corners of the globe. Liverpool and Bitter Blues playing down our trip is a back handed compliment and tells you something in itself. Some Reds may doubt the worth of this venture, but who knows one day, eh... Because Champions of Planet Earth/Universe has a nice ring about it, and though this journey ends, I suppose the fun is taking the steps back up a Mount Fuji like effort again to try and reach the summit time and time again so our rivalry extends to the best teams in the world as much as it has those in Europe and in England.

    And we did it all during the 50th anniversary year, a year that started so flatly against city but ended with us being Champions at home, in Europe and across the globe. Does it get any better than that? Fond farewell, 2008!

    by Barney RN153

    World Champions Twice Embroidered Shirt

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  • Red News
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    The more Sir Alex Ferguson talks about the Glazers, the less you want to hear of it.

    The more he does, the more I feel transported into an episode of Lost; we're not exactly sure of the year, but the in fighting between some Reds seems exactly the same whatever time in space we've landed on somewhere between 2005 and 2012.

    The depression if not surprise at Fergie's comments seemed shared by a large section of Reds judging by comments on forums and twitter but they are of course, as we are constantly reminded, not a barometer of general Utd fan consensus; who knows what proportion of fanzineland with its readers and forums is constituted as so amongst the the wider world, but dismiss it at your peril, as these are the bread and butter match goers, expected to subsidise the good ship MUFC through good and bad. And will do. Have done. Do so.

    Since those numbing events in May 2005 when the horse owners (who had been encouraged to invest, remember) galloped off and left the Glazers to snout up the rest of the overall control they had long since eyed, the horizon for many United fans has been a divided one. The Glazers prior to control even went as far as fighting the very club and senior staff who they would then flutter eyelids at to do their bidding, a very strange offensive manoeuvre (and some could say they are offensive full stop) to gobble up that which Joel so badly wanted - division follows them. As we are constantly told, the likes of you or I are not representative of United's overall fanbase. How could we dare be, there's 658,999,999 others out there so common ground with that many is but a state of mind. I can only speak for myself, so any talk of ‘speaking for United fans’ is always much ado about nothingness, but sadly there doesn't seem anything like a United-ness, a unity, anymore, bar for the 90 minutes on each matchday (thankfully). But that saddens me as much as anything bar their debt.

    Many thought the words uttered by Fergie that cut through Cape Town fog - ‘real fans’ - were solely made to his mate Bob Cass but that's not true, they were replies to questions from Cass (and Steve Bates) on a tour 'sit down' with those scribes who had travelled over (and weren't banned!) in SA. Some others present didn't think questions on the owners in any shape were allowed, because of rules affecting the imminent IPO, leading to speculation on just why the subject matter was chosen - yet despite conspiracies it seems nothing more than opportunistic questioning right at the end of the normal pre-season Q&A sit down.

    So thats the what happened, but what about the why, the response given? It's led to intense Miss Marple fathoming whether this was some scratchy back brinkmanship from Fergie - defend the Glazers now before the IPO, and then be backed more significantly, or simply that he is blind to the consequences of the debt being pointed out by all and sundry, finds it all part of their legal (but morally questionable) takeover and he will defend them whenever asked - as he always has, in public at least. It happened, he thinks, he deals with it. Fergie does what Fergie wants and tries to always get what is best for both him and the club, and after a quarter of a century, in his mind at least, both interests will be intertwined, and though you can at times separate them and proclaim self interest for some of his decisions, I do not believe he says what he did to just maintain his lucrative - higher than plc era - contract. But because of the length of his unbelievable management tenure, it can be a danger that what Fergie says, has to go. Word given, word must be accepted and taken. He is not always right you know.

    We're all tiny little ants in this, but what we all share as fans from all sides is that we passionately care about United, its soul, and the release that it gives us from a life that can be both heavenly and haunting, and my lasting memory of the legacy of the Glazers is that we did used to agree and get on so much more than we do now. We're still good, and times can ve great, but things aren't as grand, the sound at times of it all slightly muffled. The rows continue, even taking into account that you rarely, if ever, meet anybody who believes the Glazers are actually a good thing. Well, apart from SAF. And does he? Does he really? Away from the shackles of public conversation, I know lesser Utd staffers who have to put on a front at work, but feel as many fans do about their overall employers.

    Add modern communication, and the internet what it is, debate initially flourishes and then gets replaced by bile - ‘my view is bigger and better than your view’ type of thing. A tree hugger at heart, though I've never actually hugged any wood bar my own, I grew up in a naive atmosphere that United fans had enough enemies as it is so we should look after our own and get on with our own. And be proud of it. We'd have fall outs, but like a drunk pals' reunion where we are hugging and sharing ‘I love you mate’ at the end of each evening, all would be forgiven. Unfortunately 2005 changed all that. We know where we are, and where we've come from - the sacrifices that some have made, the blows traded to get here, low blows in between. But for now at Old Trafford nobody has really come up with any great plan to try and repair the pieces. Be it when the Glazers are gone, or now, so that at the very least we can get on better; plan and plot a course ahead, building upon that thing we all share; United.

    The United phrase book needs updating. ‘Limited number of Season Tickets Available’ is like a mantra you can repeat instead of counting sheep at night; it was inferred for many year, as if to put fear into the equation - if you ever dare not renew your support will combust in a black hole because you'll never be able to come back, that United for years had a waiting list that took no prisoners; you renewed or you would be replaced. It was true in the early years, when I had but an LMTB you'd jealousy eye Season Tickets like Willy Wonka's gold foldies themselves, and then when capacity was restricted in the 90s they were hard to come by but now, some six weeks after renewal deadline expired, we are bombarded by adverts and appeals - via email and texts - which presumably many of those 659m fans aren't seeing to guarantee the sell outs which are no longer assured. I renewed, I don't feel guilty for doing so, as some mates do, but I do feel sorry that so many loyal, good Reds are no longer able, through choice or finances, to do the same, and as renewal date approaches I do feel twangs of remorse and disgust at what the club have done to tarnish the process. And as a consequence Old Trafford gets worse with each season, and I've not even mentioned the ‘sit down, shut up’' regulations that so blight modern footballing stadiums. On the face of it, all is jolly well well at Old Trafford, scratch the surface and tickets can be easy to pick up, unsold even. And this when we're on top of our game, the world in our hands. Mr Potato hugging Fred the Red.

    There are so many aspects to the Glazer takeover and all that has passed since that it's hard to remember the way things were - but whilst some (and I don't blame them at times) just want to cover their eyes and ears to the consequences of it, Fergie's magic and his continually successful achievements have helped support and cover up the damage of nigh on half a billion pounds going down the Suwannee. We'll never get it back. It is such an obscene amount, just gone, click fingers, KAPOW, that it almost seems ludicrously surreal at times - has this all actually happened? Does Gill really feel comfortable with this?

    These questions have pinged around like a Pinball Wizard, they've been argued and frustrated about since Day 1 - and top Reds have achieved honorary degrees in smugness on all sides castigating others, but it has done no good, especially after the event, to tear at someone who sat with you. It rips open the plasters covering barely healing wounds and takes us back to square one. We look back rather than plotting the next stages and all that we achieve when it's mentioned (and it needs to, every day should be an awareness about their ownership, not because people want you to concentrate on finances and dull stuff instead of the football, but the consequences of how United have suffered because of it, and done so well in spite of it), is collectively we slide back down the snakes and ladders board.

    Much will now be written about Fergie's latest comments, though granted we don't known the context of his replies, and on the whole they are nothing new (,195...311574,00.html for example). We see the cold words staring back at us, and many don't like it, especially this dig at ‘real fans’ - as yet only darkly presumed what he might have meant by that. I am grateful it was SAF in charge during these dark financial years - imagine the repercussions of someone else having to deal with ‘no value’ (if we can leave his culpability in the Waiting for Midfield issue for another day) - as I never wanted United to decline to hasten their departure, granted a few think this toxic solution was the ONLY solution, but I could never bring myself to that point. I just didn't ever want them, don't want them now, and want them gone. I realise that saying that but doing as I always did by attending could be conceived as hypocritical - and not buying kits or beer at OT is small feed, but it is what it is, as dear old Zsa Zsa Gabor kept telling me. So what happens next? With you, I and others with all our differing views, sitting on this rather uncomfortable stool under the chestnut tree?

    You see, I don't think SAF has actually changed that much over the years, this is not a realigning in behaviour, outlook or personality, even though many talk about this change in his character and outlook as some significant turning event that has happened over the last few years. I just feel that people held him in such high regard pre-all this - so high it was deity like insufferable levels - that there was a failing to add a 3 dimensional texture to the human fallacy that we all possess - so that, transfer signings apart which are pulled apart at will, they failed to see he could make the same mistakes (as I'd see them) as you or I can make. He is only human. He was making the odd off-field mistake or error of judgement but ‘here comes the Treble. What did you say again?’ What he, you or I should do and what we actually do can be poles apart. It shouldn't be seen as blasphemy to love the whole but take to task over certain matters. That's what all good families should do. Errors of judgement over that length of time are inevitable, and though some will say ‘how dare you, you can't criticise’ - why not, every great figure should be open to constructive reflection. I readily admit I make mistakes, we all do. History will judge who is right or wrong here, but that so many fans - so many fans who have stood by him so often - consider he has let them down with these quotes, is pretty telling. These fans are ones I trust. These are the real ‘real’ fans, who traipse up and down the country and across the globe at vast expense, sacrificing much so they can support a team they adore and a club that turns its back on them more often than not. Most players not even showing a wave to travelling Reds on Euro aways, but these fans do it because that's what they do, loved or otherwise. I would stand side to side with them and know exactly where I am with them. And for those who think this is nothing; however much you can dismiss his comments, play them down, that the ‘real’ fans jibe didn't mean this or that, it was levelled at somebody, at some section of Manchester United fans.

    I don't think SAF should have resigned back in 2005, I never did, I still love him, he's changed our lives. But that's not a free pass over major issues. I know over any period of significant time there are going to be subjects where we'll disagree, that's what people ‘in love’ do, fall out even, even if fans are kept at substantial arms' lengths where we once were not, and could meet and talk, where these kind of distanced comments would have been followed by meetings to see what actually he'd meant. I have many friends who don't hold him in the regard that I do, but crucially the relationships developed over match going years means that we agree to disagree and move on (if it gets anywhere approaching heated). My wish would be that United fans as a whole - not the 659m - but a core (if we can even dare suggest one still exists) would realign, argue passionately but not get distracted, to place it in context in the greater scheme of things.

    If he can't raise questions in public about this debt - it's too late for that - and I sincerely hope he is behind closed doors, because it is #500m in pointless debt and PIKs and other unfathomables that could have been spent on his and our club, on securing a grand team for the final years of his final era - what I don't understand is why he goes out of his way not just to lavish praise on the hirsute Gingers from Florida, but put down those very fans who, yes, he may well not agree with, but who care passionately about the future (and past and present) of Manchester United. Who were doing it long before they arrived on the scene and will be there to pick up the pieces when they have left the ravaged landscape. Manchester United may not well do a Rangers, but will still bear the consequences of a debt that meant we were the biggest sports' franchise in the history of the world, and unable to properly exploit it, barely able to make ends meet at times. His comments were unnecessary and whilst everyone is big enough to not let words belittle his achievements, once again, the arguing starts, the real targets get clouded in mist and we're unable to use it as a launch pad not to reignite Green + Gold, but create something that lasts, that will have a longer affect, that will be inclusive and allow Reds from all the different avenues and choices made to at least reconnect if not follow set paths together.

    I'm not saying I expected him to tell the Glazers to sling it - but I do expect him to tread carefully when it comes to commenting on those loyal fans who give so much each and every season. Ignore all other comments if you will, or want, but ‘real fans’ was a slight. But SAF should no more be the target as United fans should be on opposing sides should; it does no good, it's counter productive, whatever the provocation at times. There is one entity to blame here, and one alone, whatever feelings towards facilitators. And it is the Glazers.

    But there is always hope. The thing worth remembering is you can't change what SAF says and feels, you can only react to it. And how you react to it and what you do could define you as much as you judge the comments. He has said similar in the past, he'll say the same again. It may be what he believes is the long game, protecting the club at all costs in the here and now as he has told friends, one that again you might not agree with, but if it were also just a short poker hand to try and flush out funds for this immediate challenge it's all a bit beneath the man, especially when you hoped such battles that we only find out after the event like his own with Martin Edwards were again, things of the past. Revelations may well only come when the next volume of his autobiography gets written. That’s a shame, as I’d love to know what he really thinks. I have such great respect for him - and I have been touched personally by his kindness - that it still hurts even at my age to be disappointed by anything he does.

    The worst type of reaction would be yet more infighting, it suits only one purpose; the continued awful deeds done in the name of profit towards Manchester United by a family who own it, though granted not its soul, but don't even attend games such is their devalued existence. There is nothing on earth like being a Red, never has and never will be, but I see an Old Trafford that isn't that what it once was. United were shifted to the Cayman Islands in a plot twist more depressing than fiction could dare create. Again, is this really happening?

    For too long any sense of 'United-ness' has lay dormant, the fans' groups don't meet, we believe in a core concept - the Glazers are not good - but as a collective we struggle to move forward from that point. How you get that inclusive-ness when you have polarised views within all the groups - hell there are lots of splits within all the contributors and sellers at RN but the crucial point is we get along - is beyond me as I am just the Editor of a small fanzine off Beetlejuice. We have the first step covered - the Glazers are not good for the health of MUFC. Step two is as hard to approach and fathom as what the Glazers have planned next. But 7 years down the line how far forward are we as fans at Old Trafford? Is it that improbable to then think of next steps. Together?

    But surely there has to be a way. We know there are some fans' groups that some don't agree with - but what harm can there be in everyone using this ‘teamunited’ idea not as a blueprint but as a chance to start afresh; maybe not to bring the walls of Rome tumbling down, but to just talk again, to start being more proactive, to reenergise, and to give United fans' not just more of a collective voice, but a sense of possibilities rather than the shrugging ‘what can I do?’ that exists now. It might be uncomfortable, the early meetings might not be pretty, but there can be no point with half measures; everyone who represents any section of Manchester United supporters from all sides should be invited, and Reds from all sections of our support then meet them. Together. And take it from there.

    I'm not saying any of this is the route to over throwing the Glazers, but it might well be to making United fans feel closer about, and to, each other. That can be no harm at all. For too long we've been pockets, we need to start feeling like a Red Army again. It may seem strange talking conciliation when these words from Fergie appear the very opposite - but if our representation of caring for the club is different from his, and we live in different worlds after all, then what better to use moments like this for good, rather than bloat in bile and further fall out? Fergie doesn't have to be nice to us. But he doesn’t have to not be nice about MUFC fans.

    Of course none of this is new, sad to say. The arguments from day 1 under them to day 2628 now have been regurgitated and lobbed back and forth, again and again and we are no nearer their overthrow, sadder still no nearer throwing arms around each other for a much needed group hug. But history tells us one thing. They will depart. As did all those who came before them. What state the club is in, we do not know. Nor who will come next, but we must not just start planning for that moment, as prepared as mere fans can be, but start the realignment Manchester United fans need to be in so we are better placed and in a better place than that which we are now.

    Being more United as United fans does no harm, and can help Reds - note redaway's fantastic efforts to secure higher away tickets allocations on our travels when host safety committee's want to reduce (and we really need to see less aisle standing as that seems the point they are gunning for us on) them. Helping Reds, unifying them. That's one lad on his own, imagine if we could reconnect a few thousand? We need to move on, looking back is doing us no good. In its purest form, whilst of course we are here to ‘just’ attend United and be entertained, to have fun, to care about United on and off the field and how it is run is not a crime. Nobody cares more than any other person, it's channeling all that passion into some sort of greater collective. And explaining why being called a fan who isn’t ‘real’, is no fun, and not fair at all.

    The Glazers don't talk to us. Well, they haven't talked to anyone about United since 2005. There's is a lead I do not wish to follow. Let us hope United fans in small numbers and large start to talk again. Argue passionately, and figure a way forward rather than fight. The divisions do us no good and if we can't convince SAF of that, let's hope over time we can convince ourselves of it. As the advert goes, it's good to talk. But anything is a start. And better than this place now. ‘There's no doubt about that’. Tree hugging can be optional.

    Barney. Wednesday 25th July 2012.
    You can read previous blogs at

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  • Red News
    The Reditorial from RN183 on kinship amongst MUFC fans

    What does Manchester United mean to you?

    Well, how the hell would I know, let alone any of us try and define it. I can guess, like you could mine, certainly sharing many similarities and offshots, but United means different things to different people. That's why the Uber Reds policy of dictating what Reds should do, dress as and behave will never work. We're all different.

    Because it's not simply about being a supporter is it, that wafer thin term ‘support’', not nearly enough? Fanaticism, fan, don't really do it justice either, because it's far more than just watching the team for 90 minutes and being behind them then. I don't mean the travel, the hassles, the excesses, both in financial and physical form, either, but if it were just about the 90 minutes, you'd put United to bed straight after a game when you got home, and not think about the club during the week, until the next game builds up.

    And that's just in relation to the team, there is a whole bunch of extras that go with it, let alone planning the next trip, or who you'll watch the next match with, who you'll meet up with away from the match. It's amazing with a support base so different, from so many differing strands, proper cosmopolitan with the odd purple smartie thrown in who you'll try and avoid, that we get on as well as we do. And this isn't about assessing support, that you have to go every week to count. Define it yourself. No pressure. Nobody to deliver to. That's why United is still special. The only time you really can do what you want. Support United as you see fit (though there are certain lines not to cross, most would agree on, anyway).

    United and us - this life led together - is so much more than just going to match. People may travel just minutes to see the 90, they may travel 90 (+) miles, or continents even, just to see the team, but whilst what we're heading to is certain, the way we do it all, the way we want to do it all, is a ragtag mix of hopes, dreams and achievements, and that's the support I'm talking about, let alone what the actual team will do that day!

    Some of the excesses of branding out the Utd name around the world may grate (the club so willing to sell its name any which way they can, ok, if it helps the debt and hastens their departure - yet never forget the £478m taken out which could have been used solely for the good of the club - but so unable to put the name attached to United which we'd all welcome to see; Football Club, back).

    And it isn't of course just about a matchday day. It never is ‘just’, whatever the scoreline, because every one takes an effort, has a story, has a tale to tell about somebody, about something on the way to a match or MUFC related. Even meeting a hero in some chance encounter. Some may eye their one a season visit, or go all the time, but it's more than a focus or event. It's glib to adopt the Nick Hornbyesque ‘way of life’', but for those who've done it, just do it, it is like that. It's not a hobby.

    Outsiders, those who you dread meeting who don't get it, don't get football, don't get the passion which yes can be absurdly lived out at times, may look down at this ‘hobby’ in their eyes, but this isn't planting flowerbeds in the garden once a month and forgetting them, or seeing floating fish in a tank when you've forgotten to feed them. Everybody knows when United are playing. if you can make it or not, if the desperate attempts (or easy for the lucky few) to get a ticket for an away game has come off. I veered away from people saying Hornby got football, when he didn't really resemble any life I've seen at games, and it suited a generation who wanted to pseudly attach themselves onto the blossoming revival and all seater stadiums to have a bible to admire and point to why they were now 'getting' football. Football books have stuttered since. I'm encouraged, even if he is a Spurs fan, by John Crace's autobiography as a depressed Spurs fan (aren’t they always depressed?!). He writes: “After my mum and sisters, Spurs is the longest relationship I have ever had, and it's an infinite source of enrichment: Spurs show me how to win and lose, how to say hello and goodbye. From 90 minutes to a lifetime.”

    Total context in one paragraph. I have known Manchester United now longer than anyone else bar my family. I know that when I'm at a ‘do’ and I hear Walking on Sunshine, I do a pathetic David Brent dance not because I like Katrina and her Waves (though I did fancy her when it first came out), but because when we played Boro hoping to win the league at thiers in ‘96, that was the song that came on before we left for the ground. A few pints in, we all sang it, to much bemusement amongst a group of Boro fans we'd drank with (and somewhat encouragingly they didn't chase us about as some Boro liked doing). Now I hear it. I think of that day. Of ‘down by the Riverside’. I've never thought of anything else when I hear them.

    Life is like that, the life united, United becoming life. We do other things, we enjoy other things but we are tied to them and spending how much of our life going to games, thinking about going or watching them, wherever that may be, or discussing them. It is the tug that pulls at us, and we pull at it, stronger a times or just safely there to cling to when we are distracted. We may hate what many aspects of the club have become, but at its core, that look at the ground, those first steps up to your seat; now sometimes ageing, drunken steps into the stands, are still as welcoming as ever.

    Our United does not judge. Does not do greed. Bar wanting trophies. And if our cycle ends, those who just do this thing, will stay and do this thing. We'll moan more, if that were possible, but doing is what we said we'd do, and most, will, do.

    It's not a crux, of course that is said many times, it a happy or sad escape, but that too is glib. It may help us escape from realities at times, but escape means running away from something when we're more likely running (if I could still run) towards this as something enjoyable. And it is here to be enjoyable even if we are put through the wire. We befriend people at games, or with more modern media resources befriend them even when we don't know them properly and haven't even met them in person (and hope they are ok when we finally do!) and they can become real friends. Meeting up at games, on way to games, after games, then maybe even away from United, though talk may no longer involve United as much or as often as company grows, and you discuss lives, it is still always Red based in essence.

    With Red friends becomes the usual circle of life; births, deaths and marriages. You grow older with mates, so they have kids. Christenings, where a good few Reds will attend. Sadly attending funerals where the majority of the contingent have been Reds to give a fellow Red a proper, respectful send off. To be remembered by this extended family. And weddings, be they ones with long suffering spouses who have long since given up on understanding the obsession/drug, but accommodate (most of time) their lives together with it. Or Reds who have even met at games, got on, got it on. And got wed as Reds.

    So it was on international weekend just gone, around 25 Reds from as far flung places as Greece, Wales, and Wythenshawe attended Dutch Erik’s - a Red of many years - wedding. Dutch Reds greeted us, the numbers bulked. We all knew each other from United, and here we were on a euro away without the football. It was quite fun without the inconvenience of the 90 minutes interrupting the company, no being batoned or penned in. Erik said it took him a while to understand why the UK was called so many things: United Kingdom, Great Britain, Little Britain (his only joke of the speech!). To those not part of this life and Red world, what United bonds we share would be equally hard to fathom, Reds treating it like a euro away without the football, considering it a United trip, following a team not playing for another week. And this would be replicated somewhere else that weekend, whether in Manchester, or elsewhere. Erik even asked us all to wear tuxedos, some request when most of us had never seen one let alone worn one. Mates known years, shared goals, games, grimaces, disputing maybe certain issues like selection or even ownership together but sharing something so special that it's unique. And, of course at such a thing, not one non Utd fan was stupid enough to ask for the band to play YNWA and make that unwholesome mistake!

    Football culture is different of course. I'm sure you don’t have scores of Harry Potter knobheads meeting in the pub away from the film or after they've read the book and sharing lives. Train spotters, always the oddballs of the universe, have to be admired for still doing their thing when every train now looks the same bar the name, but that's a hobby (or a crime, depending on your outlook). That is put in a box when they go home, not to be mentioned or shared until the lunchbox is packed and the duffel coat pulled on, and the flask is ready to be opened to spot the same Virgin train the next week.

    I actually have a mate (and a seller!) who sits nexts to me who likes Harry Potter but also getting rancid drunk at United and was an usher at my wedding. Behind me is Steve who has been there as long as we have, and the lad who was in the band that was eventually to become Oasis, to the left Jason, sat by us for years, all good lads, all of us different. After a game we'll meet the great and the good, all from different lives, backgrounds. It's easy to say we share a love of United, that it natural we are going to get on, but what does that mean? There’s that many of us it does not stand to reason. But on the whole we do, and that’s great.

    Some may be in need, needing help and a Red will go out of their way to aid just because they have heard the immortal words: “I’m a Red”. You can share a moan, a natter, a pint with a stranger before a match, see them again, say hi, and then becomes mates, which becomes talking shit at 4am in an odd seedy bar on a euro away. Even Justin Timberlake understands. “I can’t think of a faithful as strong as the Man United fans.”

    At times we hate what the cub itself gives us back in return, but the relationship is as strong now as it ever was with the untainted core. Not quite ‘United wife kids’ in that order then, because United is constant, at the forefront or in the background whilst we get on with the struggles of our lives. And then seek it out when we want some escape from them, or to top off a happy period. We go when we're sad, happy or buzzing. We go with loads, or few, or just by ourselves. Journeys can take a day, or trips last days. The 90 minutes is the focus, and why effort is made, but it's so much more than that. It would have to be to put up with all the hassles we now face.

    An obsession ‘for sure’, a way of life, rarely but a ‘hobby to most’'. We know what it means, we know how significant. So we can’t explain it at times, or tell anyone else how to do it. Of course there is always a jobsworth to try and spoil the fun. We're celebrating this way of life, but United being United, they can’t help but fail to get it or celebrate this passion from its own terraces. One well known Red (not Erik) once asked if he could use the crest on his own wedding napkins. About 50 to print. Nobody else would see them. The club in full congratulatory mode warned him, no, or else he’d face copyright issues and consequences. They don’t make it easy, do they?

    But whatever, this - being a fan - really is the only time we can ‘do what we want’. Match ticket hassles, etc, not forthcoming, we support United in the way we want to on the whole in terms of waking up, checking United news, and planning your next match, whenever that be. And then getting to it and (trying) to enjoy it. We do it with like minded souls or polarised individuals who we like doing it with. We are a family. Maybe not one big happy one anymore. As I’m not saying everything is rosy, especially under Gimpsville, and some who act up well beyond normal boundaries. But pretty much, we're on the right tracks still. We mix and mingle well with all the tentacles from far and wide and there is still, despite all the changes, nothing on earth like being a Red.

    Congratulations then Dutch Erik, and all of us like him. One of many in this United family who would scoff at any who think supporting United is just about watching 22 men wearing some poncy kit made out of recycled bottles kicking a ball around for two periods of 45 minutes each way. A culture, a way of life. Call it what you will. We call on it as often as we want. And we know that ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, or whatever way you look at United, it is always there.


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  • Red News
    Sir Alex Ferguson message of support and congratulations to Red News for the 25th anniversary

    "Dear Barney, I am writing to you today on behalf of the players and staff at Old Trafford to pass on our very best wishes for your 25th anniversary. We could not let the occasion pass without adding our best wishes to you all on this special day. 25 years what an achievement! I hope you all enjoy the celebrations and I wish you all the very best for the future.
    Yours sincerely
    Sir Alex Ferguson CBE

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    Red News 25th anniversary Reditorial from RN190

    When we first started Red News I was but 16 years old, and didn't have a clue (some would argue that, at least, has not changed). I had more hair than the Da Silvas, was still laughing at the antics of those in Laser Blue 3 stars, but couldn't contemplate a life beyond the dreams of winning just one solitary title that always seemed tantalisingly, or agonisingly, out of reach despite each false dawn summer and start of season hopes that ‘this could be our year’. Too many times, it was never that. It became endemic in our fabric.

    It was 1987. April 20th 1987 to be precise. And we came out for the home game against Liverpool. Jan Molby, Emlyn Hughes and Ian Rush the targets. The fat, the bad and the ugly. The craic was still grand, if the football wasn't, we'd made a consistency out of inconsistency, rising to the occasion and then floppily deflating whenever we thought destiny beckoned, and the honours board, as such as we could claim any contact with it back then, read Liverpool 16 Manchester United 7. city were still a laughing consistency, that won't ever change, but much less on our radar, the only note that year of finishing 17 points ahead of them from our uncomfortable ‘perch’ of 11th place, was that they were relegated once again. Times were thoroughly brilliant and bad all at the same time. Proud to be a Red, yet chastised that that lot down the East Lancs. had an almost relentless march to each title and not realising that such riches lay ahead for us as the tables were about to be turned. Fergie knew from his time at Aberdeen, and we knew from them, that winning breeds a winning mentality. Why this season was so important to stop city, for the continuing dynamic. In the end, city also stopped themselves...

    For Fergie's very own 25th anniversary, our cover said ‘he changed our lives’, and that is precisely what he has done, to those of my generation, born out of wedlock to those older Reds who had seen some of it all before via the 60s and ‘68, we all could not dream that these additional riches were dare possible. But also unique for those lucky younger Reds, who may well have missed out on better times in terrace support, but have known nothing but success these past twenty years. Any Red writing this script and presenting it to anyone bar Fergie back then would have been carted away to the Kenny farm.

    Yet this was never a Robert Johnson Crossroads stage, for all good pub talk of ‘wish we could have won all this with the way it was back in the 70s/80s’, that was never an option, or on offer. Be glad that we have and have had this success however infuriating some of footballs modern ways (and ills) are; imagine how shit it would have been if we'd have stayed as shit.

    Of course, there were bumps still to come. A 1-5, serious doubts over the ‘Boss’, much humble pie eating, Anfield '92, where many of us left cursing that we'd never see that one title triumph, let alone the avalanche since. There isn't enough time to list the highs and fewer lows, nor where exactly things changed, or the greed that has been bred from the success leading to sometimes excess gluttony with expectations, but in 1986/87 we won just one league away game all season. ONE! Guess where though? Anfield, not of all places, because it summed up the times. They'd never beat us, but the relationship so lop sided, it needed a divorce, because our game against them should not have been all that mattered and the focus, we are and should be bigger than that. They not even able to enjoy the small victories as we once did, and whilst those times hurt, this period must be of greater pain to any Mickey than even ours was back then because to have loved and lost it all, is a worse fall than to have never really had it after such a long time without.

    But whilst it's easy for any Red of a certain age to become the old codger in the local you try and avoid, Uncle Albert like starting up about ‘the good old days’, however good certain aspects were, it's part of life's rich tapestry (or rather, the ups and downs of all the good and bad bollocks that surrounds us on our journey) that it wasn't all this nirvana that some paint the 80s as. Old Trafford wasn't always bouncing, sometimes it could be dull and quiet, for all the joy of away days - and many were great - we were treated like shite. Still are of course, that to be the eternal damned curse of just wanting to watch your team? History gets re-written, many crowds during darker times flirted with 30,000 gates at Old Trafford, not sell outs, and certainly away fans didn't ‘come to see United’ as they'd now like to suggest. The gates of many of our rivals (Scousers apart, let’s give tham that) were embarrassing, like Newcastle, and as the centre spread shows, teams like the Geordies often bounced up and down in travelling numbers depending on their own fortunes. Many were part-timers, United able to cope better than others because we have such a loyal, core, supporting base who turned up good or bad because that's what we do. And will do again even if things go that way again.

    This picture from 1987 by RN reader Nic does show that there is a difference in the crowd arriving early compared to at kick-off now. Well then you had to get there early, if you were a Stretford End regular and you wanted the best spot, or 'your spot', and that helped as much as the flow of movement and freedom did to noise levels. With OT such a state now, it's why I, in principle at least, support this new Singing End idea. What have we got to lose? Hopefully Utd will help, encourage people arriving early with cheap ale prices, proper entertainment; improving dire fan-club relations. Get youngsters in, in greater numbers.

    It's mad that many of our readers - and contributors + sellers - weren't even born when we first started. It's very sad that as a consequence of being the young kid naively carrying bags and boxes for all these years, you see fellow Reds drift away, or worse still, depart this United world. The obituaries of faces you've nodded at, or knew, the singular saddest thing to deal with, and there are many great lads who have passed in our time, who will never be forgotten.

    The fanzine itself wasn't there to appeal to a set crowd or group of Reds. I always wanted it to have open appeal, rather than a closed shop, In fact I like it when people say ‘I liked that article, I wasn't expecting that, but I wasn't sure about that other piece’; well, maybe not so much the not liking some part of the mag but that's sometimes the price in not wanting to become predictable, I always want to try different things, some come off and hopefully not too many don't, but we're not seeking a set audience or adopting a set line on these pages; that you open the pages of RN and pretty much don't know what to expect (bar my over-elongated Ed’s and Pete Shaw's irrational celeb nude based rants) is a good thing. Each mag has individual content and any view that we/you disagree or agree with is the open appeal of a fanzine, you shouldn't have to agree with every article. Debate should spring. I hope I've never overplayed the importance of this tiny little mag outside Beetlejuice, I realise its place and how some view it. What I do know is I value greatly the loyal Reds who do stop off (be it at the ground or online) and support, and make a difference. We never did this for money, we did it to give you a voice. That great Utd emporium of swag/scarves/programme sales, Tony V once told me - and he was being complimentary! - that RN is ‘cerebral’. I liked that. To think is a good thing. Utd fans should think, challenge and have a mind of their own. I never wanted to seek the lowest common denominator. Of course we plunge the depths for euro away tales, 2nd division barminess and the like but equally on the next page it will hopefully bring a smile to your face or querying a piece and/or disagreeing with it. Making you think. It might not appeal to all, but i never sought all, more those who liked the road less travelled (with drink and goonage thrown in). That road isn’t so bad you know.

    Our greatest victory for not just our readers but all Reds was Teresa McDonald tirelessly fighting the club after the ridiculous policy of refusing to offer tickets for euro aways travellers going unofficially in the early 90s and particularly the '94/95 season - so that thousands of Reds had to blag their way into the Barcelona end for what was our biggest European tie since '91. She kept on and on at club and FA officials until they saw the wisdom of their way and offered euro away briefs for those travelling with the club and on their own backs. Since then, we've fought for those in the Loyalty Pot (even though I'm not in it) and all manner of vital MUFC fans' topics. We believe in that voice for United fans. As for what people can take from each mag, which takes 100s of collective hours to produce each one, I am minded by what John Steinbeck once wrote: “And just as any reader is like me, I hope my book is enough like him so that he may find in it interest and recognition and some beauty as one finds in a friend.” A round about way of me saying, for £2.50, I hope you take something of worth from each mag. We try our best.

    Because kinship - Unitedness - is what United is all about. It can occupy varying points in your life compass, and mean all manner of things to all people, but hopefully wherever we stand, we cherish what it gives us. The sadness away from United is that life in its beauty and ugliness reminds me as I'm quoting people, of what Patrick Swayze's missus once said: “I’ve learnt that life isn’t fair, it doesn’t give a shit, it carries on, or ends, regardless.” And what I love about United is it doesn't judge that, or what happens away from football, as it isn't forgiving or seeking forgiveness, it is, just what it is; a constant. It isn't an unreality, and we all take it seriously - beyond serious of course - but it is there at its core to if not be entertainment as that seems too contrite to describe what United means as ‘just’ fun, but it is everything then, to be the thing to look forward to, the escapism from all the shit even if the Utd shit can be pretty heavy shit at times. Life can be both beautiful and wank all at the same time. As in affect United themselves can be. But we treat the imposter of life different to the joys that United allow us to dream and embrace. And as long as we do live, United is a monumentally great thing to have in our lives.

    And what it gives us in return, is almost indescribable. It is my mates - nearly all of whom are United; at my wedding, me wearing Eric Cantona's underpants because we bagged them at the beach football and I knew they'd bring me luck, and it didn't seem an odd thing to do, more an odd thing if I hadn't have done it. Utd is all I've pretty much done - in terms of hobbies if I can dare use that term for this big thing - since I was 5, fortunate I repeatedly pestered my Mum after that first visit so she took me to shut me up, but I never did shut up and we kept going. And we got our LMTB’s in the early 80s and then we'd argue during the games about the game so much we went our separate ways, she to South Stand and me to K Stand in '89. She's had a serious stroke and can no longer attend, but the passion is there as she watches games on tv. It's not as important as life and death as she has fought that many times since the stroke, but it is also the most important thing we've shared together and one of the most important thing IN our lives. From drunken vodka bottles shared in Kiev with her and seeing her face as Ole's winner went in at the Camp Nou. To being with my Red mates on my stag do in Magaluf with Reds from Manchester, London, Holland and anywhere in between. All as mad, odd and great as each other. It's United, 'innit.

    These have been the happiest days of my life, as well as the toughest. That's life, and United mirrors that. One day this glory may end. But most of us will still be there to watch history unfold. I don't owe it all to United, I have an understanding wife, a baffled family, but this has shaped me, this fanzine I consider my baby, so that I would now be so well off if I never had desperately sought pritt stick and Letraset to complete the title of Red News in April '87, say doing a job without hassles of print deadlines and paying printers, and just going to the pub and heading to the match instead of selling in the rain; but I have no regrets. I did it because I passionately believed that Utd fans deserved a voice and always will and still do. It has been an honour to do this. Like talking to Busby Babes like Eddie Lewis or the emotion of Alex Dawson talking about his mates who passed. Of hugging Steve Bruce after the Double win in '94 before an interview, of nabbing those Eric underpants and wearing them (washed...) at my wedding, of wanting to be Vidic's friend as he was that nice for another RN interview. These high points have far outweighed the cold wet sales when people shout ‘Big issue’ for the millionth time or walk past going ‘it's shit’, as if half a brain makes them the funniest heckler ever. And thanks to all of you who don't pander, who do stop. None of this possible without you. And of course, the lads here. 900 selling days covered by over 100 sellers. 300 contributors providing over 8000 pages and 5 million words. Thanks to all, it's been, well, dirty fun. (and don't get me started on that new seller, poo Lee, and no, he’s not Chinese...).

    None of this possible without Manchester United of course and whatever the moans, never forget how great it all is; because the 90 minutes is just one element to what being a United fan is all about. The net has changed things, for better and worse, people seem more rabid, and we're certainly less United since 2005. But history weaves and the cycles turn and things do and will change. Edwards and co. may make their 90 millions profit, but their time passes, and we as a mass remain; we plan our trips and games as pretty much we always did, even if it's easier to actually book things now but actually more hassles to pay for and organise (and at times justify).

    I love the Fergie little old man heel-dance-skip when we score, and the fist pumps (Blackburn away recently, Highbury 2-2). For all talk - some justified, some not - of what he gets wrong, I concentrate more reassuringly and filling up with what he gets right. I love Alex Ferguson. How I can have this level of affection for someone I've barely met, only connecting via a love for Utd, only those who love them and him can explain and understand, but like all our heroes, we don't necessarily have to touch or bow down to, to appreciate. I've made mistakes, so has he. We all have. As he walked around the pitch for his testimonial where we could never have dreamed he'd have stayed on for this long, and won so much more, the tannoy played Fatboy Slim's ‘We've come a long, long way together, through the hard times, and the good.’ It remains 100% a song for him. The good far, far outweighs the hard. Cherish him for as long as we can, he is a genius and we are blessed to have had him AND Sir Matt.

    I can think of so many Utd memories off the top of my head. Blackburn home '93, Barcelona, '99 (and ‘94, gulp), leaving Anfield that ‘92 day, Fenerbahce in Istanbul and being guarded by a tank outside the Utd end! Of last minute winners by Yorke at Charlton which gave the team belief for the '99 finale, Ole's four, the 9 against Ipswich, doubts over Fergie, and then humble pie more than once. So many come to mind. But equally, I think of my best man, a Red, of drinks shared on all our travels, the funerals with United scarves and flowers draped over coffins, the love shared, the mates not seen in seasons and hooking up with, the anticipation of sorting away days and euro aways. It sad that we go to all these lengths, would fight to the bitter end for a club who eyes us more suspiciously than we ever do it back.

    I've not always hit the right note - I have made some errors and those of judgement too - but as I have said several times to SAF, I hope he or you never doubt that we have done this from a position of unequivocal love for not just MUFC but in wanting what is best for United. Martin Edwards told me: “I am not in favours of fanzines”. We are there to be the thorn, if needed. Not quite a badge of honour but we must have been doing something right to still be here, and have such warm words from SAF in his letter of congratulations.

    There is sometimes a view these days that a fanzine is no longer relevant in this online led world, well we may find out soon enough if people did turn their backs on the 3 important Utd fanzines, but not only would such an horizon at OT be a bit less bright, and less passionate, it may also allow even more excesses from those in charge of the club as our mere presence right next to the forecourt has always given them food for thought and a reminder, visually and in print, that we would challenge them. A fight alone from the net from people who don't go could be one of peril. You have to have a presence, not just sat at a pc. We do actually praise the club on occasion, when they get things right - like giving tickets to independent travellers which lasts still. I thank those of you who supported RN at any stage this past 25, it's been an honour and a privilege as much as it's created relentless demands on my time, for an understanding wife but not the apathetic mass, like daytrippers and the like growing in number, who just look you in the eye and simply do not care or look at you as if you are a leper. They didn’t even try one. What harm could it have done?

    I don't like selling as much as I did, especially as OT can resemble in the very early hours of a matchday like the mall in Dawn of the Dead by George Romero, but I get to see the ebb and flow before each match, and still at its core, what OT is, is ours and what we make it. Without being too pseudo if you don't mind! We still buzz off United, we may moan, too much at times, but think of Toni V. running towards goal at Blackburn, or news of Swansea's goal against city at OT, and it's not just a smile is it. It's life itself. We still get a buzz when we think United.

    It's been the best of times on the pitch and ‘only’ at times, the worst of times off it, if you push aside the curtains and Fergie's magic which cover the truth of life under the Glazers and their half a billion taken out of the club to go down black holes or to arseholes. I am so glad so many Reds from yesteryear who were time spent Reds got to see many of the early successes and just sad that so much has changed for the worse away from the glare on the pitch and its glory.

    The debt, the decline in atmosphere, the change in the make up of our support which at best the club haven't cared about and worst privately gloated about as they aided its decline. It's been am incredible journey but I can't help feel sad that we finally got all our dreams desired but in the process saw something lost in our matchday experience. The club don’t care, the fans do, that's the way it's pretty much always been and why we set up the fanzine in the first place. Sad that our lot has got worse and we're treated with the same disdain.

    Whilst we celebrate 25 I can't help but worry for the future and the next generation of Reds with an infrastructure so soiled and only saved by the miracle work of Fergie who kept things afloat and then some on the pitch and managed to maintain a feeling of family and kinship off it as we're owned by debt collectors who don't even attend matches they bleed from. Proper Machiavellian genius from them.

    The fight might seem as imbalanced as ever but it's one we still have to get up off the ropes from with hope that maybe miracles do happen. Because as Fergie has shown, there is still magic when you have belief and as his life changing era has shown from the Nou Camp, to Turin, Old Trafford of course, back to Villa Park, Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane; miracles do actually happen where Manchester United Football Club is concerned. Let’s hope one day that happens off the pitch as it has done on it. Thanks for all your support. Thank you Fergie. Truly, there is nothing on earth like being a Red.

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  • stalky
    i'd toss Anderson off for free

  • stalky
    Lovely stuff

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  • Red News
    Sir Alex Ferguson message of support and congratulations to Red News for the 25th anniversary today
    "Dear Barney,

    I am writing to you today on behalf of the players and staff at Old Trafford to pass on our very best wishes for your 25th anniversary.

    We could not let the occasion pass without adding our best wishes to you all on this special day. 25 years what an achievement!

    I hope you all enjoy the celebrations and I wish you all the very best for the future.

    Yours sincerely

    Sir Alex Ferguson CBE

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  • Red News
    Red News is 25 years old today. MUFC's First Fanzine. A message from the Editor.
    Red News is 25 years old today. MUFC's First Fanzine. A message from the Editor.

    Editing Red News has always been an honour and a privilege - and I am extremely proud to have edited RN for a quarter of a century. It hasn't always been easy, it has always been a labour of love - but we have provided a voice for Manchester United fans and an organ for Reds to express their opinions and challenge if necessary, with laughs on the way.

    It has become harder with the general print decline (though remember we are now in print and digital form), but for anyone thinking in this crazy internet world that a fanzine is less relevant we believe that a voice for United fans - and a visual presence outside Old Trafford each game (we have sold outside grounds for 800 MUFC fixtures) to challenge authority and any excesses shown by those running our club - is as vital as ever.

    We never knew that such glory lay ahead when we started; we'd have done this during dark or days of bright - because we do this as we firmly believe in our motto 'there is nothing on earth like being a Red'. We hope one day that the continual happy times shown by Sir Alex Ferguson (a genius and a legend) will also be repeated off the pitch when our ownership structure is one to be proud of, rather than one to cry about.

    Logistically, producing and selling a fanzine takes 100s of hours each month - planning, writing, art, graphics, printing to shouting 'new RN out today', and I would like to thank every single person who has made this possible; the sellers, the contributors, those who have offered help and given it, I won't be able to list everyone, because there are 100s, but I hope they realise they have a place in my warped mind which truly appreciates all they have ever done for Red News; and to every reader, young or old, new or long-term, RN is always your mag and I'd like to thank you all for stopping off in rain or shine to buy a little old fanzine with a big old voice, to laugh and sigh with.

    Here's to many more happy memories, but ready to fire ammo when we believe something is wrong.

    Here's to making it 20 on the pitch, and thanks to everyone for making it 25 unique, incredible years for Red News off it.


    April 20th 2012.

    Monday 20 April 1987. League Division One. 54,103 MUFC 1 - 0 Liverpool, Goal by Peter Davenport.

    Gary Walsh, Johnny Sivebaek, Arthur Albiston, Remi Moses, Paul McGrath, Kevin Moran, Mike Duxbury, Gordon Strachan, Norman Whiteside, Peter Davenport, Colin Gibson.

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  • Red News
    Well done Manchester United, the Editorial from RN187. You can read opinion pieces like this and memories, gossip and laughs in every RN.

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    This season was labelled one of transition, but perhaps ‘testing the water’, might be more apt. Here comes a storm ahead as we prepare for the make or break game in Basel, much like a gambler confident his last die will cast right, suddenly fate turns, and twists the knife, and we’re in the midst of a tornado, with Utd fans and press blowing a gust that even ruffle's Rooney's mini Jedward well paid for fake barnet.

    Then suddenly the sea is calm again. Phil Jones is again the next great thing - rather than a supremely talented kid learning his trade, with inevitable rough and smooth buffeting himself over the course of his first ‘real’ season - and those of us trying to point out that this season is neither doomed to failure or great beyond words, but somewhere in between (just the trying to pinpoint what, the extremely difficult part, as we're rocked back and forth like Michael Palin on some rickety boat), are shoved aside as two 5-0 victories, opposition and their failings forgotten in the scrum, show all is well and what January transfer window piffle it all is.

    Some realise that if you add the lack of needed experience in the centre (and only time will tell if the return of Scholes is a master-stroke or the sands of time have weighted heavy inside his boots), with such a young nucleus of not just young players, but youthful to this massive club and expectations, then it only natural that the ride ahead will not be known; like a perverse white water raft where you don't know what comes next and this season will be one of not knowing what to expect; so after Fulham, it’s Wigan and Jingle Bells, and then comes Blackburn and ‘oh hells’. And from a position of old elbows stretched back, relaxed, dipping toes in scenic calm waters, we're right back in the eye of a needle at St James’ Park, as if their rotund supporters minus shirts have farted a napalm cloud and United's form is travelling in its wake.

    Who knows what next, but the season so far, European Cup blemish apart and kick yourselves poor form in those two matches which won would have really seen if city could cope with the wobbles, is still looking better than it maybe should have, but not much better, all things considered, than it could. There are those who point to the form of Torres and Carroll throughout 2011, as proof that January purchases don't work. That's as maybe, or maybe they are both going to stay that way, like statues turned to stone, but we should have bought last summer to not be questioning any plaster solutions needed now.

    Some say this would be Fergie's greatest title, well we say that most years, what it would be is once again defying gravity and logic, a master juggling debt, age, a squad strong in spirit if not in world class strength; a Wizard pushing back the tide of city's excesses - a club who still can't sell out when given the riches they always dreamed of. He has an ability to cope. With the at times ridiculous knee jerk reactions to defeats, however annoying each one is, a loss is going to hurt after all, so that he manages himself to sail in a current of his choosing, not reacting to the here and now but plotting a course he is happy with, on the whole. And we either are, or have to put up with and contend with. You still can't tell me that he wouldn't want more financial backing, but for reasons known, speculation or unknown, he sticks to his and the party line, and manages the resources he has, the problems (debt, players, Rooneys, Morrisons) better than anyone could. That's not to say some seek greater clarity (and dare I say it honesty). He may well have walked from his seat when asked if United were struggling in Europe, “Struggling, thank you...scraped chair...are you serious...we're not struggling” but even the most devoted Uber Reds now know that events proved that we were. Likewise Evra confidently saying after Wigan: “United players can play everywhere, in any position, that's why you can put me and Carrick at centre-back and Valencia right-back - we're going to win because it's the teams effort and spirit”, negates the fact that like Fulham away in Dec. ‘09, there's only so long that you can get away with shuffling the cards before the Joker unexpectedly pops up and shouts ‘don't get too cocky’.

    Indeed whilst some just want to run away screaming into the Old Trafford woods whenever the Sauron like eye of us LUHG’s point to the lack of real investment at the club, and of course the obscenely comparisoned debt payments taken out, it is worth pointing out that when we moan and groan, there are focus points to our anger and desperation at a situation out of our control, and a fear of the potential for badness that this debt could still lead us to, especially without the miracles of Saint Fergie.

    But it may seem rare to compliment the club on what they do do, right. The club can mean many things to many people, and represent many more. We may moan at ticket ballots and OTT security at games, but for every bad egg there is a good apple working at OT, so the meaning of all that MUFC (and always FC to us who don't see it as theirs to bugger) is constituted in many forms. Whilst the hypocrisy of David Gill can have us creating Shrek like damage to our scalps where we've head banged it in frustration against walls, his relationship with Ferguson has allowed, as they may argue they always intended, for their partnership at least to reflect well to the outside world about what they are doing. Unforgivable as his actions were in 2005 and its wake.

    We rightly call United for many things, but never would a Fergie led club - and let's not ignore how much his power probably has even the bigwigs at OT quivering like a player experiencing the hairdryer - do the big things viewed by the world, badly. In terms of Liverpool's almost grotesque manipulation of the Suarez-Evra affair so that what started as a fairly simple piece of cast iron event not needed to pummel or manipulate in a certain way - apologise, be contrite, we may doubt you, but do the right thing from the very start - suddenly morphed into a distorted Elephant Man like affect that saw them on such a path that by their own stubbornness and inability to draw breath to contemplate reality, every turn they made just dug their hole deeper.

    We all know how much the rivalry means, such that any similarities in support create a greater chasm between us and them because what connects us must, disconnects us in anger and loathing, but whatever the disliking of their history, and ill gotten gains and behaviour (the Munich flags we can't forget), there was always I suppose a sick burp type respect for what they were; whether we liked it or not, a club on the world stage alongside ourselves. You need each other to enjoy a rivalry, so the argument goes.

    But any begrudging level of a nod has disappeared in what Barney Ronay described as: “When you find yourself fighting furiously for the right to call another man ‘negro’ you've surely taken a wrong turn somewhere”. You just know United - let's get it right, Fergie - would not have acted or allowed such ill thought out actions. No t-shirts, no refusal to see any kind of light in a particularly uncolourful affair. Ignore the fact that those shouting loudest probably got as close to reading the actual FA summary of the case as an Eskimo, our own protests against the world - many justified, some not - have never sunk below the level of acceptability from the club, and in truth not from our fans either. Rio's ban - some Reds even called him for it as much as the FA. Eric's? May have led to rage but the club managed to channel that, eventually. The closest to a riot was Gary Neville in an England team room, but considering the rest of the squad were as revolutionary as tomato soup and Nev more Citizen Smith than Kane, these things, injustices or not, were got on with. And that was when we had moral high ground to cling to, not thin air to hold onto as the swamp ate them up because Liverpool's argument was futile, meaningless and just plain wrong.

    We know we have many things to be thankful to Fergie for, if you can step over that massive pile of trophies even, and just focussing on the pitch his talk at the FIFA awards: “You don't always win in football - sometimes you lose but we always try to win.” makes another salient point that despite ups and downs, and the odd Carlozzz era grumbles, his teams have pretty much always tried to play the United way, even if we've argued if we have had the full and right squad to do it well enough.
    Of course, let's not forget the fact that United have behaved badly in the past. In terms of their treatment of the Munich survivors, and casting out, almost literally, Jimmy Murphy when they decided to cross the line from class into crass and stop his taxi fares to see ‘his’ boys train. Bill Shankly much the same at Anfield, such that he was left on the real peripheral watching on training from a distance, a horrible image to capture. Thankfully Murphy was eventually bought back into the fold, however marginally, but there were many times when the club acted cheaply. Frank O'Farrell may harbour too many grudges, still, but his point that the club forced him into signing on before he sorted out his deserved compensation package is belittling of the institution our club should be. There have been the odd ? marks since, the payment to Eric and chums for that Munich testimonial where we, rather than club, finally did the right thing.

    But since then, Florida oafs withstanding, from naming of stands, erecting of statues, anniversaries, if we can argue about the big issue (Gimps) clouding everything since, the smaller details with the world watching have hit the right beat. We may argue that the actual occasions at United in recent times have affected results on these ‘special’ days (which they have), but the legacy - in terms of commemoration and behaviour and legacy, pretty much works well.

    It is not just results on a pitch that define what you are. And however rabid we as fans are, you simply have to have an ability to take a step back, pause for reflection, and take things in. That may mean perspective after grand wins, or horrible failures, or knowing that United fans’ as a whole still remain class, though we still have a few of our own bad apples on the terraces to educate over an issue that sadly never seems to go away, because it's not been confronted full on. What good moving on, if you’ve not dealt properly with that crime scene?

    There was some demand after Liverpool's repeated statements that United should issue one to defend Evra or hit back. A Utd insider told RN, why? ‘The FA summary will speak for itself’. And it did. United did not need further insulate it into Utd vs., because they knew what was not just the right thing to do, but the bigger thing to do. Say nothing. Be judged rather than become the bar-room bore, drunk, wanting a scrap, ‘put ‘em up, put ‘em up’, because he has no other defence or line to his argument.

    We hope for a calmer path ahead, and that the rocky (for us, other clubs would laugh at our moaning) season so far, does hit that cliched ‘stronger half of a season’ that we hear so much talk of, but whilst the whole case was never about us or them, or worse still us vs them, rather what one player said to another, it is inevitable that you take a look at how both clubs behaved throughout it, and you can’t help be proud that United managed to keep their heads above water - and behaved as you hoped they would. They did. Well done United.

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  • Red News
    Why We'll Never Forget

    With each year, as time marches relentlessly on, there are more of us at Old Trafford who weren't around to see the Babes play live and can only dare imagine the indescribable burden of events that must have left such deep scars on supporters and staff alike who witnessed those tragic events unfold back in Manchester, let alone those present at Reim Airport to witness such suffering and heartache.

    I can't imagine this United side being decimated in such a way. Of course I can't. We live in times where we are protected against death, have no real understanding or comprehension of wars, watching them on our tv news, protected from the real images with censorship and control. The thought of any of our team dying in their prime just doesn't bear thinking about. So I don't. But that it happened to a team of ours does bear thinking about, and often too.

    I know of the Babes, their history, their impact and what happened before, during and after February 1958 because I am as passionate about the past as I am of the present for the club I support and adore. From an early age I immersed myself in as much United knowledge as I could. I may not win any quizzes, or remember the words to many of the Great United Songs which RN so admirably maintains but I have tried to educate myself as much as I can about OUR history. For ours it is. Mine, yours, and yours to pass on. Glazers come and Glazers go but we are here to stay.

    A chat with older Reds - sadly dismissed by many fans at games - is a fascinating experience because they have seen and lived through so much. Younger Reds of course don't have any blueprint to follow and, as with everything, each to their own on how they should go about 'learning' the United way. Nobody should be force fed stuff they don't want to know, and as I chose to seek out as much information as I can about our history; from record books to biographies and the like, I can understand that for a lot of younger Reds this doesn't appeal. All they may care about is the here and now; the present day and the present team. And one day no doubt, as it ever was, they will have seen enough to have their own fascinating stories about decades of 4 United history and support to tell and pass on to another, younger, generation.

    But when it comes to February 6th 1958, I do think that a basic level of understanding is something that every Red should go out of his way - and he doesn't really have to go that far to acquire it either - to understand. With ageing Reds sadly dwindling in number it is left to those of us who didn't experience the period to keep the memories of Duncan, Tommy and the rest alive. For a team died playing for the team we support - surely though no debt is ever asked the least we owe them is to preserve their memory.

    I understand from seeing United internet forums (a curse or a blessing, depending on which day you check) that there is an argument about how we should react to our tragedy so many years on. Each to their own of course, and people can commemorate the anniversary in whatever way they see fit, but commemorate it they should, however briefly. I don't care if people want to sing the Flowers of Manchester by the plaque or not - each to his own again, but as GreenhoffJ8 put it so well on the RI forum: “Yes, every year on the 6th, we remember it, each in our own way, for 10 seconds, a minute, or whatever, as long as we remember, it doesn't matter how...Anyone in Manchester the week Sir Matt died or at the game, knows exactly how Manchester United and its supporters feel about their legends, the memory of that day will never leave me as long as I live, and I'm sure those around at the time of Munich feel the same...”.

    But it saddens me when passing the plaque on occasion this season to encounter a whole host of people - wearing United colours and certainly old enough to know better - who appear to know nothing about the plaque and what it represents and whose ignorant questions and lack of understanding about the most simplest of United memorials defies belief.

    How can you (and I mean they) support a club and yet fail to ingratiate yourself with its history? How can you not know about the Babes? It's not asking for much? Of course they could go from that forecourt and want to find out more. But with each passing year I fear that more and more people will arrive at Old Trafford, caring little for the past, wanting their theme park experience and wanting fuck all to do with the remainder of our culture. Failing to realise that without our past there is nothing, for it builds and defines our future. We take the baton from our dads, we cherish it, and then pass it on to our kids. Those who just 'turn up', blindly unaware of anything bar Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo and only staying for success are a blight.

    And as we rightfully slag off Glazer for knowing nothing about the traditions of this club, we should also point the finger at those closer to home who will wear their ROONEY shirts with pride on a matchday, but know nothing about those who wore it before him. I admire Ruud for going out of his way to read up about the club when he signed for us. He knows the importance of a United education.

    I have heard it asked on the forecourt. “Who is this Busby?” when talking about the statue. Of course that's rare. But. A one off or not? You decide.

    As I dare not imagine what it must have been like to have been a United fan during those terrible times in 1958, I can only again imagine the horror to be a parent of one of those who died; a wife, the lover, the brother, the children. And so it is that whenever I think of that era, my mind always turns too to the survivors. There is always perhaps a greater tragedy in those that were left behind, forever haunted.

    If I picture my best mates and think of how it must have been to see so many perish in front of your eyes, as much as there is an incredible story in the way those that survived fought for this club to continue through the tragedy and keep their mates' memory alive, and, with the help of others, 10 years later, conquer Europe, it is impossible to imagine what affect this had on those that lived. Sir Matt, Harry Gregg, and Bobby Charlton to name but three of the more well known. There are many tragedies of that crash, and one was those it left behind, I'm sure of it.

    I shudder at them, over the years, seeing it thrown back at them as rival fans taunted us with Munich chants whilst they were present at games. How must the survivors have coped with that? What memories that must have brought back. And although Liverpool fans were as guilty as anyone of singing that sick song, I feel a great deal of sympathy to their fans who saw mates die at Hillsborough too. Again, I can have no comprehension of the horrors that day too. United fans who taunt that disaster should be ashamed of themselves.

    It's with that in mind, not that I clear him of all rude charges, that I always feel a great deal of sympathy when Bobby Charlton is accused of being such a surly man when encountered by United fans over the years. Maybe it's no excuse, but excuse him I do. Nobby Stiles said of Charlton: ‘He never forget the horror’, and Sir Matt years on said: “The recollections bring so much grief...although I do face it, I still wonder, at times, if the whole sorrowful business did really happen. The fact which must be faced, though, is the loss of many of my greatest footballers and my finest friends”.

    As we again cocoon ourselves in different times, in a more sanitised era, the hell of a war beyond our comprehension that many of these men came through as boys, only to be pitted into darkness once more is a story that weeps its own tears. How would any of us cope in such a situation? These lads gifted with incredible skills were normal lads, not the pampered stars of todays game, getting the bus to games with fans, working down the mine or in a factory at the weekend. And then their lives were shattered.

    Jimmy Murphy, a man who deserves much more accolades in our memories than he does, spoke 10 years on that: “The heartache of Munich is still there. To the generation which has grown up since then, those may be just names, but to me they were Matt's boys. My boys!”

    Recalling being back home when the crash happened, Murphy said: “I was too numb to take in the awful grief and savage heartbreak. Agony piled on agony as the hours ticked remorselessly on. Thousands hurried down to the ground to see if they could help; the police threw a protective cordon around relatives and friends who had lost their loved ones. Those of us left at the ground did our best to calm and console the grief stricken. But what word of sympathy could I find to comfort the bereaved. There was nothing to lift the blanket of despair”.

    When he flew to Munich to be with his players he met Matt. “The surgeons felt he might live, but no one except those of us close to him, ever felt he would be a force again in football. But I knew. In one of his conscious moments he whispered: ‘Keep the flag flying Jimmy. Keep things going until I get back.’ At that moment Matt didn't even know how many of his boys had been killed. I did. As I stumbled out of the hospital into the snow which still lay as a thick carpet over the city of Munich I was close to tears”.

    Tom Williams, the liverpool chairman, rang Jimmy Murphy and said: “Any of my star players we can give you to keep United afloat let me know”.

    How must the emotions have affected Sir Matt, attempting to take charge of the club once again. How can we view him in anything less than mythical status with what he did next. Not just coming back, with those tortured memories, but to lead us to glory. He wrote on returning to OT for the first time after the crash: “Resting in Interlaken, Germany was one thing and facing Old 4 Trafford another. When I approached the ground and moved over the bridge along which our supporters had squeezed fifty abreast in their tens of thousands to shout for us I could scarcely bear to look. I knew the ghosts of the Babes would still be there, and there they are still, and they will always be there as long as those who saw them still cross the bridge, young, gay, red ghosts on the green grass of Old Trafford.”

    Heavens knows how hard it must have been for Charlton. “I just couldn't take it in, and therefore it washed over me. I didn't want to accept what had happened. When I got home it was worse. I could feel and smell the tragedy then. It was unbearable when I met people I had known through players who had died”. In the weeks that followed games became more than just a game. Charlton explained. “We had not been playing football games in which one side lost and the other side won. We had to win. The alternative was a return of melancholy to Manchester”. Harry Gregg explained: “Reflecting on our luck in having a future again, and trying to blot out the awful memories of Munich by thinking fixedly about football...I had gathered that when Jimmy saw Mr Busby in hospital, the boss had told him things must go on”.

    Jimmy Murphy: “It was terrible at home. The papers were still full of the crash. I can't recall much about it, but then I don't think there is much to remember. The side wasn't being rebuilt - there wasn't enough time for that. It was being re-patched. The city was shocked, oh, it was so sad”. Of course there is a feeling that we became a mighty club on the back of the public support we received in the wake of the tragedy, but let us not forget that we always attracted superb support, 50,000 crowds regularly in '56-57.

    When the younger players looked for guidance in the days that followed, their father figures like Bert Whalley had also died. Who could they turn to? The inspiration of Murphy must have been immense. Bill Foulkes lost a stone in weight in a few short weeks. “Jimmy Murphy kept telling us not to bother about football, but we all knew we had to start thinking about the club's future sometime soon. I got into a worse state than ever, thinking we were never going to make it. The doctors told me that I should go away and have a long holiday away from it all, but how could I? I couldn't stop thinking of poor Jimmy Murphy on his own at Old Trafford”.

    Foulkes described the aftermath. “The remaining members of the team now went to Blackpool, to the Norbreck Hydro Hotel, which we had started to do during the European Cup runs of the previous two seasons. We virtually lived there, and I do not remember seeing my wife for more than one day a week for six weeks. We just had to get away from Manchester, with all its shattering atmosphere of hysteria and grief. Living together was essential to try to find some kind of team spirit, which we managed to do with such a strange assortment of players. In fact, the team spirit became quite incredible as we made our unsteady way to the Cup Final. I remember we posed for a photograph of the playing staff soon after arriving in Blackpool, and what a weird picture we made. There were a few reserves, who had played occasional games in the first team, but most of the rest looked like a gaggle of schoolkids...but how those lads fought”.

    Murphy talked of that first game back, against Sheffield Wednesday. “I felt very sorry for the Sheffield side, they were never in the game with a chance, for I am sure everyone who took an interest in football willed us to win that night. I could not believe that the skeleton that was leading out Manchester United was Bill Foulkes. The crowd was hysterical, and I was not far away from being in the same state”.

    It is testament to Murphy and those around him that the club went on. To the players who survived the crash and willed themselves to keep the memory of their mates alive it is nothing short of miraculous, a strange term in such tragic circumstances. Harold Hardman on the front cover of the Sheffield Wednesday programme wrote: “United will go on....the club has a duty to the public and a duty to football. We shall carry on even if it means that we are heavily defeated . Here is a tragedy which will sadden us for years to come, but in this we are not alone. An unprecedented blow to British football has touched the hearts of millions. Wherever football is played United is mourned”.

    I'm hopefully trying to explain why it's still so important to everyone of us. I hope that if just one Red reading this who knows little of that time bar the basics then decides to takes time out to consider just what happened to our club that year and why it's so important that so many of us remember all year round, not just on Feb 6th. Remember a soon to be married Duncan Edwards, a Roger Byrne who never discovered that his wife Joy was expecting a child, that Geoff Bent never saw his daughter Karen grow up, nor Mark Jones his son, with Eddie Colman, David Pegg having all that to come. Tommy Taylor also to wed, and Liam Whelan whose last words to Harry Gregg, a man who watched his mates die say: ‘If the worst happens I am ready for death ... I hope we all are.’ All of those that died had their futures, their glorious futures, in front of them. We owe them their memories.

    I can't help but be emotional when I write this. You hear some people, some of the younger generation, saying that because they weren't alive it doesn't really affect them. But a team died who played for Manchester United. if that doesn't move, inspire and motivate you to educated yourselves in the MUFC way and traditions then you really haven't got a clue.
    Duncan Edwards was the Babes' talisman. The man who awoke from his coma and recognised Murphy. “What time's kick-off against Wolves on Saturday?” he asked. “Two thirty as usual,” said Murphy. “Get stuck in, lads,” were Edwards’ final words. They say he was the greatest. Sir Matt explained why this wasn't the mists of times propelling him into undeserved greatness.

    “I think about Duncan a lot. I sometimes fear there is a danger that people will think that we who knew him and saw him in action boost him because he is dead. Sentiment can throw a man's judgement out of perspective. Yet it is not the case with him. Whatever praise one likes to heap on Duncan is no more than he deserves. There was no other player in the world like him then and there has been nobody to equal him since”. His gravestone inscription reads: “A Day of Memory, Sad to Recall. Without Farewell, He Left Us All”.

    And that's what I hope all Reds realise; young and old alike, that the Babes left us all. And it is up to all of us to never forget. However you see fit.

    this article first appeared in Red News 122.

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  • Red News
    This article first appeared in RN186, published on 26th December 2011 and exclusive to the fanzine but now published here.

    This wasn't meant to be relevant to Gary Speed. This was intended as a long planned tribute to Alan Davies, as well as advice that if you ever fear for a mate who is in need, then go that extra bit to try and help them. Or help them find the advice that may help them. Speed’s another sad loss from many.

    One former RN seller committed suicide some years back. It still haunts to this day. His actions that day, we were to discover, were wholly irrational and out of character, on the surface at least, but to a mind in what state we do not know, maybe wholly logical. He walked for nearly 10 miles from home to place of study. And climbed up the many steps of the highrise flats opposite and jumped to his death. Why, why, why?

    This, or even depression and stress in its vaguest form, is not something many want to discuss, or admit to. Those who suffer from it can keep it hidden, and those who have never suffered from it, find the very subject hard to fathom, unable to conceive, let alone the condition itself. All these years on we've not - nor has he been - forgotten. A small tribute to the regard felt for a lad who may not have realised it in his final hours, but well liked, well thought of. Well loved.
    It made me realise you never know, or how quickly life can turn (he'd be on a good away day to Villa just days before and seemed ‘his normal self’, or so we thought), and it only in his and its wake that small details about stresses with Uni. and family that came out to give tiny pointers to such a turmoil I may never comprehend, yet which saw a lad with his whole life ahead see nothing ahead, so that his haunted last trip seemed, to him, both rational and an only course of action. Why, why, why? Or maybe not. It's all supposition. We can not tell, we do not know, we sometimes need not know, why pry into what drove Speed, what need, voyeuristic as it is and maybe never truly understanding anyway. Does there have to be one reason? Is there ever just that? Why seek a truth that is not ours to take?

    The sad passing of Gary Speed resonated not just for his age, perhaps for his levels of apparent decency and humility in a greasy game, but also for the shock that someone you had boxed off, a successful and wealthy career just gone and management just coming, could possibly take their own life. This isn't meant to judge Speed nor the wider issue of suicide itself, it too raw for some, and too distant for others passing ignorance or misinformation; so it is wrong to make any quick-fire judgements and debate in sparse pages of a football fanzine, but if one thing is clear, what drives a person to the ultimate depths of despair, no matter what the background, or their actual own background, it does not judge who or what they were, what they have achieved, what they could have, what they are and will be.

    Perhaps you have found yourself ‘there’, or close enough to breath a sigh of relief that it's not you, or wasn't you, or you feel happy enough not to have come anywhere close, but depression and mental illness is not something to take lightly, that it could always be ‘just’' the person next to you. Life can be cruel as well as brilliant, as dark as it can be colourful, and in a switch it can turn in circumstances and events that you have no control of, that seem uncontrollable.
    Martin Samuel wrote of the fear that Speed's act will not be a warning to some, but an inspiration. It can't be. They may not want your help, but you can offer it. We are fed the dream of capitalism along every step we take, every second we watch or listen, every newspaper page we turn. Sometimes that dream can become a nightmare, coping in a world where it seems to best hide that mask, afraid that ‘no, everything is not alright’, for fear of being labelled or worse, ignored. Smiley, happy people is the dream they sell, but not the reality. After Alan Davies, that very month, Martyn Rogers who'd made one appearance for United in 1977 at the age of 17 and drifted out of the game after a move to QPR, also committed suicide. Why, why, why?

    I always hope reflection is given to all those former United players who have died too young. Like Big Jim Holton, and Les Sealey, whose glorious footballing achievements still saw them cut down in their prime, and to Davies and Rogers. Every life cut short one to mourn. Understandably friends and those close to Davies don't want to bring up events from the past, but it is sad that in media outlets whenever his name gets mentioned (like in passing after Speed) you have to pass through words like ‘disillusioned footballer’ to describe his past, as if the very stigma that could have haunted still lingers and clouds. He was supposedly a really nice bloke. A local lad done good. That's the tribute to stand next to him, not a negative stance about his achievements.
    aybe we're moving on as a society. There was no minutes silence for Alan Davies, a bare mention in the United Review at his passing, though the press were quick to speculate as to reasons, both magnified, or mystified, touching upon intimate details that are not ours to paw at or watch on, because they are not our concern. All manner of theories again after the clinical event, the most damning that nobody may ever know. But words can brutalise, and it is hoped that ‘suicide’ doesn't condemn a man after his passing. That may have been their final, tragic, choice, if that's what you can call it, but it takes away what that person was, what they'd achieved, what they were, if every report just details the end rather than their history and life lived. Alan Davies played for Manchester United in an FA Cup Final, and that is the context United fans should remember as much as any quickly tagged tabloid use of ‘disillusioned’ to describe events since which don't have a full stop explanation and don’t deserve brutalising in a tabloid.

    It's disconcerting to know that earlier this month Davies would have celebrated his 50th birthday, chilling that he committed suicide 20 years ago this February. These are facts. Everything else is haze. Who is to know if his sudden emergence into the side, a startling story undoubtedly, played any part in a subsequent decline, and eventual transfer and descent, after all, isn't a move from United, always a step down? Why couldn’t the fact that he’d played in the Final be a good story rather than one to belittle subsequent career?

    It was something of a fairy tale for a lad who had only appeared just 5 times before, much more a regular in the Reserves. Laurie Cunningham had arrived on loan from Real Madrid trying to resurrect his career, and appeared 5 times and scoring once with an overhead kick against Watford in the run-in. If it was clear that he was not the sensation he had been, and had ongoing problems with his knees, he still did appear a certainity for the spot to replace the injured Steve Coppell in the 1983 Cup Final Squad, and team. Ron Atkinson said: “I had made up my mind that it was Cunningham who must replace Coppell in the Cup Final team”. With Coppell out since April, unable to feature for the reserves two weeks before the Final, or in any game since (and an injury that would eventually end his career), it seemed Cunningham was the natural shoe-in. Though the detail of exactly what happened is sketchy, Cunningham's pre-training session in London before the Final was of such poor standard that he ruled himself out of playing. Gordon McQueen did sympathetically say: “He was supposed to play but got injured”.

    Big Fat Ron was soon to let him go: “I really am sorry that Laurie failed to overcome his fitness problems. He is the kind of player supporters of United would have loved to see in full flow. What little we did see is nothing compared to what he was capable of during his days with me at West Brom. In fairness, there was no way I could justify paying a large fee for him in his present condition”. Atkinson also explained that training session: “Although he appeared to be moving very freely, Laurie was not happy within himself. He told me immediately that he believed he would be running the risk of letting me, the players, MUFC and himself down if he played in the match. It was a tremendously courageous decision to make. I cannot think of too many players who could have faced up to the facts when they looked as fit and as vibrant as Cunningham.”

    That selfless decision meant Atkinson could consider just Ashley Grimes and “a young forward called Alan Davies. My requirement was for a player to play wide on the right wing. Grimes could consider himself unlucky to be overlooked. If I had selected him, the balance of the team would have been all wrong. The selection of Davies provided an astonishing transformation of his career. When I had arrived at OT two years earlier, the young Welsh lad had been available on a free transfer, but I had insisted he stay at United until I had examined his potential for myself. I remember turning to this boy on the morning of pre-Wembley training at Roehampton and saying: ‘Do you fancy a game tomorrow, son?’ He just nodded his head. I don't think the lad could believe it, it was a fairy tale for him. He went on to play superbly in both the first game and the replay and very shortly afterwards played for his native Wales against Brazil.” Davies combined especially well to play a role in two of the goals in the Final replay after heading wide before the end of that ‘Smith must score’ first match. He played 13 times for Wales.

    Bad luck struck Davies that summer, as he broke his leg, and his first game back was to come on as an early sub in another huge match, the ECWC Semi Final 2nd leg against Juventus at Old Trafford. And he levelled the scores (with his only goal for United) after Hogg's unfortunate (and recurring) deflected own goal. In a United career that was to last just 10 matches, how many players have performed at such a level for three of them? But that again is just stats which hide context. He'd actually been at the club since signing schoolboy forms in 1976. His debut in 1982, he was to suffer niggling and larger injuries which did not help, and though his last game came in May 1984, he did not actually leave for Newcastle until a year later. So, though appearances were limited, it was, if you just start when he signed professional terms in 1978, a career that lasted at United for 6 years, and one that was eventually to see him make (mostly at Swansea) over 180 appearances with 15 goals in professional football. Those that label such a career as one of that as a ‘misfit’ are wide of the mark.

    It is of course too easy to also suggest after appearing in an FA Cup Final that everything else should be great because of that, or equally a weight upon their shoulders evermore. Because we see such things as black and white as fans, it's almost as if there is incredulity that a player dare be down, because we'd walk on broken glass for such rewards and highs. But they are not immortal. They are not free of the exact same shit and shackles as the real world, despite the obscene wages, people and demands that surround them and perhaps that intensity engulfs them.

    For the forthcoming Olympics, officials are taught how to handle the differing athletes and the condition they may be in. A source was quoted by PA: “The North Koreans are outsiders even in Olympic terms. They speak no English and they spend their time in their rooms smoking. It's not much fun.” It doesn't sound fun either, and not far detached from the travelling life of a footballer?
    Take Rio's video diaries of the US tour. Fun at times to watch but the underlying message is they are cooped up, doing not very engaging or taxing things in their spare time, to pass time. They seek solace in mates, and then spend it playing computer games of the very sport they actually do. I find that a bit strange, and funny, but what of the players lingering around, who don't want to play games, or find the hemmed in existence of a hotel a slog? They may well be creating their own space in their ipads, but there are not many opportunities around, nor players themselves who will express themselves, be creative, like the chess playing Schmeichel and Eric above the Bosphorus before that Galatasaray game. Lee Sharpe once got slated for saying he was “bored” whenever he wasn't playing or training (and also ‘you know what’, I presume) as he didn't know what to do on his own. Many can't understand it. But why would money ease boredom, especially for some more pampered stars of today? It must make it harder then if that boredom leads elsewhere, for them to seek help, admit it's needed. Harder still when they approach the end of playing; what left, what future when that is all thy have known and chances of staying in or connected to the game are limited to those lucky few at the top?

    Of course this isn't singling footballers our for special treatment, but whilst we raise their pedestal we must realise that they are not unique away from the pitch. What we, you, or I go through, they must too; be it highs and lows, differing sexuality, health issues, as Fletch's unfortunate news bears out; if the whole sport, or certainly those running it, urges conformity so not to rock the boat, that can only stifle a person's ability to find help when needed or be different.

    “We may never know the reasons” seems a common line in such cases. I just want the likes of Alan Davies to be remembered not just for their careers as a whole, but for the life they had led rather than a few lines about the end. They deserve more than that, it should not be the word and deed that defines them. But we can also use their deaths as a way of education, if possible, where possible. This is an issue where more context, more understanding is needed, not isolation, of silence, where it does no good to avoid brining out into the open. The body and brain can work in ways we do not want it to, have control over. Most of the time, most people do have control. Great, but a breaking point isn't necessarily the domain of the lost, but those who just were lucky enough not to find that point in their own lives. ‘Don't be soft’, ‘pull yourselves out of it’. Is that really the right response to give?

    We always talk of pressure at United, but don't do any favours by adding to it, with such high expectations, even of kids, of debutants, meaning there is no time to settle. Ever. It's not new. Garry Birtles writes of feeling so down as he headed back to Nottingham after games during his long lean spell, it affected his safety when driving. Alan Brazil used to be sick before games, Mickey Thomas ran away. Darron Gibson was abused off of twitter. Stick seems funny at the time, but what damage could it cause? It seems slicker and sicker, the way the internet has allowed hate campaigns, but you've now got to have a double thick skin to come through, and if they don’t, God help then. Do you think they don't give 100%, is it always their fault? If we bemoan they are not close to us, those who try to be get moaned at, criticised, photographed. Of course they are not like Bill Foulkes working his summer months down a mine, but they can't be, it’s a universe they exist in not of their making, which granted they, or those working for them, exploit, but a forcefield of protection, from us, rightly or wrongly, does not protect them from the worries of the world, depression and neurosis or fragility of the mind. Some would say it could exacerbate it.
    So seek out a mate if you feel down. Some will walk away, will want to ignore the subject, but some many just want to chat with you, just be that person with a lending ear and support; there are many good organisations out there who don't judge, who do want to help. You may not comprehend it, but never say ‘it is the easy way out’ - not to them, not the torture which leads to torturous, obscene thoughts. The act as selfishness or not is always open to interpretation but they've judged themselves so why should you? There is such a void left if you know someone affected, and it is always too late for retribution or remorse. They may seem perfectly happy, that may make it worse. Tell me you don't think at one time or another that life is precious and then at times life is really shit.

    The Alan Davies story is such a sad one, the United aspect just our connection to a man worth remembering by all. Who knows - who cares? - if it was too much, too soon, or whether he eventually found the right level for his career, but his footballing career and how it panned out is not the tragedy here.

    You may want to know more, but that's the point, there is no clear cut explanation, a ‘why?’ box to tick an answer to. There are a stream of unanswered questions. Does it matter? Is ‘why, why, why’ not a question but a response, the sadness? Only a few know these ‘stars’, and the many are just left with their memories from a distance. Don't judge him, or them. Don't label them cowardly or selfish, don't label them at all, so we can help those who need help, but may not know it, realise it, let on or even want it even though it can make the difference. Life can sometimes not be as easy or simple as we want it to be. Life can be pretty crap whether people may see it or not, it's the helping mates and friends through those periods that can make the difference. We're United in more than name. We share many things with people we share a football team with. The offfer of help is a very small returned favour from being a lifetime mate together. RIP Alan Davies and those like you. We all wish you were all still with us. 0300 123 3393 [email protected]

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  • Red News
    Nemanja Vidic interview.

    This interview first appeared in RN163 in November 2009 - you can read interviews and features and much more in every edition of the fanzine - entirely different from web content, exclusive to the mag. Different - don't miss a single edition.

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    It's half-term and Manchester is still smarting from the Liverpool defeat. It's my first visit to Carrington. I'd been to the Cliff many times and know that during the school holidays, the car park there would be packed with excited and expectant kids wanting to see, touch and get a scribble off their heroes. The closeness to the players was lovely, endearing.
    That's all changed, which undoubtedly is a shame. The numbers have dwindled as a consequence of the restrictions and barriers, now two checks to get into a car park where once any Tom or Dick could just walk in. You only need to see from those waiting outside the gates that though there are still some kids hoping that despite the rules they will still get to see, speak and obtain said scribble from the Utd players as they depart the training ground, there are also now professional autograph hunters, waiting for their chance to make a killing off of ebay. It's all a far cry from yesteryear.
    It symbolises then and now of course, as there are no doubt many a grown Red who will fondly recall their days of stalking out the Cliff to catch a glimpse of the team, but society and footballing culture has changed so perhaps there is a need to restrict the nutters and blaggers. But the cost of a kid catching a glimpse is sad nonetheless; nearly as sad as when we depart and see the few kids outside excitedly get up to see which player it could be, only to slump when they see it's two fat Red Newsers.
    Carrington is immense. Everything the Cliff wasn't, really. And though there is sadness about what once was, this is progress and can that be denied for a team who want to be the biggest in the world? What is pleasing is to see such a state of the art complex filled with United staffers who have been there years. There is no false bonhomie to fool visitors here, people genuinely seem positive and to get on and though some will frown at the cliche of United still being a ‘family club’ despite all its excesses that we can’t stand, that's exactly what it feels like at reception as players come and go, greeted by Kath the receptionist, as Barry (Baz) Ellison who once ran membership but now players liaison, mingle with the comings and goings at front of house.
    Nemanja comes to the front and receives a very large box in the post: “Yes! I've been waiting for this!”. He's delighted, the contents of which we never did discover but he apologies for keeping us waiting (even though we're early), and says he'll be out in 45 minutes. He's nearly spot on, changed from his training gear (though at the time he was out of the first team with the reported calf strain) and leads us to the smaller press room, saying he doesn't want to do it face to face across a table but both sitting down on it, happy to be speaking to Utd fans and a United fanzine.
    He goes well over time, and is not the steely lunatic that has created a mythical character on messageboards where he's a mix of Rambo and Die Hard; instead happy, smiley and at ease with himself and our questioning. Happy to be here, still, and to have won all those individual awards last season, though annoyed his family was used in stories amidst the transfer rumours last summer. It was a delight to be honest, and me and Ste (taking the pics) want him to be our Inbetweeners “new friend”. After leaving us he greeted a coach of disabled Utd fans and we headed off, buzzing from meeting a United player who lived up to his hero billing. Those waiting outside might not have had the same privileges unfortunately, but it's nice to know that though the walls may have gone up from 20 or so years ago, when they are taken down the United players of today are as down to earth and top quality as the heroes from the 1980s were when you met them at the Cliff.
    Though Nemanja's English is spot on, there were of course a few words which he mispronounced. You will be aware that in the past his comments have been misquoted or had more dramatic misrepresentation. So knowing that the papers will steal his quotes from here we have decided to keep his answers as exactly he said them so they don't create a sensationalist story and angle where there wasn't one.

    RN: So after a defeat like Liverpool, do you put it out of your mind or use it as an inspiration/reminder for the rest of the season?
    NV: I don't still think about it, but it's definitely the big game and we lose it and we are not happy with that. It's one of the games you don't want to lose even if you are in a good position, or even if you are top of the table, so far from the others. But it's happened. It's a game away. We didn't play great but we need to put it right at the next games and to use it like an inspiration.
    RN: From our point of view, it's a bad game, you get over it. But the press.. you were saying last week, you have one mistake and it's seized upon, they don't mention all the good games. We've just won 10 games, we've drawn one, we have one bad game and suddenly it's Liverpool aren't in crisis, one of the papers said United are! Is that what you have to deal with these days?
    NV: I mentioned before this season, when we started, I said this year will be very difficult, as well as these things, because United have won the title three years in a row and nobody has done it the four times, and as well everyone looking forward to someone else winning the title so we need to deal with that and definitely this year we have more pressure from the media as well. This is my point of view, this is what I mentioned in the beginning. We are still in a good position. I don't think when you compare the three years (we won it), the start we have now is far behind from the start we had in the last three years. We are still there, 2nd in the table, obviously we are not happy that some of the games we play we lose so many goals, especially as a defender I am not happy with that. We need to improve, we need to play better but like I said think better times are coming for us. From now we need to improve the form, always get in good shape and good form. I hope that some players that have injuries I hope they are fit to be ready for the times that are coming.
    RN: We have more points now than we had at this stage last season, so is it United or just the press hype everything?
    NV: I can't say it's the bad things, but it's the normal when you're at the top, everyone wants to shoot you down, for someone else to win. Obviously we know that and we don't need to think too much about it because it would be too much energy, you can't fight like that. You can't win. You need to deal with it and play. To go on the pitch, play the game to win. And this is the way.
    RN: The press, again, have been saying about you and Rio, but you've only played is it five games together this season, do you think it's just a matter of getting a relationship going together again and time?
    NV: I think it's the beginning of the season, it's not excuses, but like you say we've played 5 games, Rio has some injuries, I have some injuries and I think it happens. You make mistakes and you need to be honest and say ‘I made a mistake’ and you try to not do it the next time. I think this is what's going on at the moment about speaking too much about Rio and me. They say we are ‘bad form’, ‘not good players’, ‘fear of some of the players’ and these are things that make me laugh, you know. You can't forget to play football. The partnership we have over the three years. It's not gone straight away. It can't go. Obviously we need to train more, to work harder, and obviously play good games as well.
    RN: It's as you said last week, you kept the 14 clean sheets and everything last season gets forgotten...
    NV: It will happen this year. It will happen like I said but we can't fight against that. We can't afford to go to war to fight against them. Obviously the media have big influence on the people, on the fans, on everyone and they see just one way, this is what they are writing and what they are saying. How we can deal with that is to play the games, to win the games actually. I think some of the games, we maybe have some of the players though maybe we lose the game, maybe he has the good game but because we lose, they say that he has the bad game. But that is why I say we need to win the games and we win the games, they can say happy things!
    RN: Onto the Liverpool game, when you saw the red card, did you think, I can't believe this, 3 on the trot against them?!
    NV: Yeah. It's strange. 3 times. Twice I have two yellow cards. I didn't have four bad challenges. But it's happened. I can't explain it. To be honest in a way I need to say, two red cards have happened in 80/90 minutes. The time is, I need to say, is not too bad on the team, happening in the 50 or 45 minutes and even worse. But 3 in a row is even crazy and I can't... if someone told me before it happened all this, I say ‘no chance man’. I don't do that. 2nd time, not 3rd time. I feel bad about that but I can't explain it. I can't explain it.
    RN: We saw you before that saying something to Jamie Carragher (after his ‘tackle’ on Michael Owen), were you saying to him 'I was sent off last season for what you've not been sent off for now’?
    NV: I was just talking, I didn't say anything bad to him. I just explain things but I don't want to be too involved in that because obviously these things have happened, I try to use the right words... yes, maybe for some of the decisions I think can be different and if it happens the game could be different, could be an affect on the game if he got a red card and changed the game but he didn't and this is what happened.
    RN: We spoke to Patrice last season and he said how difficult it was when he first arrived to adjust and you've said before it was difficult when you first arrived; was it just the football, the culture...
    NV: Other things, always when you change country, you come to something (new) it's always the first time you have difficulty. When you change country, city, it's always difficult. And I found the game so different from the way I'd played before. It was very hard. But after 3/6 months when I had the first pre-season, afterwards it was getting more easier and I understand the game and I try to adapt, what you need to do, because if you want to play in a good way you need to understand the game and to adapt, most important thing to be 100% ready for these games because it's a physical very strong game.
    RN: Gary Pallister said when he arrived in 1989 there was an exact game a year or so later when he thought he knew he'd made it at United and felt settled, was there an actual game when you felt ‘I'm ok here’?
    NV: Um. You need for other people to say because sometimes you can be wrong. You think you play a good game but it is not you know. I think you see when you play week in, week out, if you are always in the first option of the coach, you think ‘this is it’, in a good way and I need to keep going to play the same. I think I realised after maybe the first year, after maybe one and a half year, I am doing well at the moment and I still can improve, I still can play better but this is the way how I need to play. But I need to say that after the first pre-season, when I am getting fit, when I train with the lads and then I play some of the games, getting used to playing with some of the players, after it was more easier. And as well, the team play well, and if the team play well, it's even more easier.
    RN: Football is quite brutal, if I moved to Moscow in a job we'd get time to adjust but in football you have to be ready straight from the off!
    NV: I think especially for the big clubs. For example in my case you come to play for United you don't have time to say ‘I have two games to play badly, no problem, I still have the chance’, because in this club you need to win the games, win the trophies and this is the only kind. Obviously it's big pressure... every week they need to win, need to put the right performance every game, week in, week out because you can't afford not to. Your mistake can affect the result.
    RN: How do you cope with that pressure? Because it's a pressure that has destroyed players in the past at United in the 1970s and 80s when we weren't doing well there were players who buckled under that pressure.
    NV: You need to deal with that. At different type of times in my career, I had like the game against AC Milan in Milan, was a very bad time for me, you can say you forget the game. It's that game I think you remember, you want to not happen again. This is what I think is pushing me. I don't think I forget my bad games. Obviously I remember my good games but I more remember my bad games. And that feeling I have after those games I don't want to have again. And that keeps me focussed and to play good. And me personally, I like pressure because when you have the pressure you have more focus, that feeling in the stomach, that brings you to do the right effort. If you are so relaxed that can make you to make mistakes.
    RN: Do you feel settled in Manchester now?
    NV: Yes, definitely. I made the family here, and I'm nearly 4 years here it will be in December and definitely. In the beginning I need to say it was so difficult. I changed my life so much. First of all I was a young boy, so many things happened when I came here, so many good things, and I lead the life now, quiet, family and they give me as well the good energy and good feeling.
    RN: Do you manage to escape the limelight and the press, switch off and get away from it?
    NV: I don't have a problem here...
    RN: No paparazzi...
    NV: No, no. It's happened a few times. The last few times I was shopping I was surprised and they catch me because before I didn't have the problem, now I need to be more careful! To be honest I didn't have a problem until now. Because my life is too far from the things going on. It's more the pitch, home, maybe some good restaurants. This is the type of life I lead and I enjoy it.
    RN: In the summer there was a lot of transfer rumours in the press and we as fans were worried reading about it...
    NV: First of all I need to say so many things that was in the paper I never said. Because after the Champions League I didn't even do one interview. Not about leaving. Not about anything. Not about the football because I just wanted to finish because obviously we had the bad Final and everything and I didn't want to be involved. I wanted to have good rest. Two or three of the papers write some things I never said. You can't deal with that as well, this is the thing with the press, they see the one way, and the people that read that see the things, they make their opinion. You can't do nothing about that. I did a statement on Man Utd website, saying I didn't do the interview.
    RN: Do you see yourself after the contract ends staying until the end of your career here? Would you like that?
    NV: To be honest you never know what is going to happen. I'll have 30 years (then). I can't say what is going to happen in 1 year, two years time. At the moment I'm happy and I'm here. See what the club is going to say, what it is going to be. I want to win more trophies, I want to play here well and for the fans and everyone to be happy with me, to see that I give the right effort, to give my best, to give 100% and don't feel I cheat. This is important to me. What is going to happen in the future, that no-one knows. I definitely have two and a half years contract here and I will stay here.
    RN: You mentioned the summer. As fans we went to Rome, it was strange because we were so happy we'd won the 3rd title but because the last game of the season was Rome, we felt sad, so we were a mix of emotions, did it feel the same for the players?
    NV: Yeah I talk with some of the players, and I said I wish we don't go to the Final if I'd known we'd lose because you feel so bad after that. Because you play all year, you are successful and you go to the Final and you lose and you feel like the loser but all the things that have happened it's a bad feeling. Very bad feeling. You are so, so close.
    RN: What do you think went wrong?
    NV: Hard to say. Definitely say we played a bad game. The first ten minutes I think we played well, we had a few chances, if we score, maybe definitely we change the game, I think we would have a good chance, we have the more special the counter attack and I think we were in that position we are at that time the best team in the world. We won it in Moscow when Terry is shooting the penalty and he misses and we won the Final. This is the small things that happen, small details that win the game. I did look at the game after when we lose it. I don't think they made so many chances, they played better, they keep the ball, they had more possession, they was the better team but I don't think they had so many chances or battered us in that way. And I mentioned I think is the affect on us. It's not an excuse, it's never going to be an excuse. But I said the acclimatization in Rome it was the difference. Because we come from England and it was 15 degrees, you go to Rome and it was 70 degrees, and in Italy in Rome, it's the most humid city in Italy. And Barcelona they had the time, in Barcelona the last two months, all the time hot. I think they were more sharper in that game than we were and we looked so heavy. I think I can compare the game Liverpool play in Fiorentina they played, they looked so heavy, they didn't look as sharp against that team. These are the things that have an affect as well. Because definitely in that game we didn't look sharp.
    RN: Having Moscow...
    NV: With the same acclimatization...
    RN: Does that make you think, the planning for Madrid if fingers crossed we got there...
    NV: It's difficult to plan. Because you can go there 15 days before, it's hard to adapt. But definitely I think this is one of the things that make you feel heavy and feel different. Because when we had the two days before and we had the 15 degrees here, and when you play, your chest is open and you can run but when you come there, you feel so heavy, humid and everything. But this is what I look and I see after the game. First of all I said ‘we didn't look sharp’, because always with one step we didn't look sharp. But again I need to say, this is not excuses, definitely Barcelona is the better team, they were playing better, they were a good team and they had a great year, I don't want to say excuses. Just the reason it can be a factor of the game the small details, then you can change things. But we need to find it ourselves the problem.
    RN: As fans we debate if we could only choose one, if please we were to win another one this season, the 4th league in a row, or the 4th European Cup? Do you have a preference? IF we were!
    NV: To be honest it's hard to choose. These are the trophies I don't want to choose! Two! Hmm. It's difficult to say because the 4th time first of all is breaking the records and to be honest for me personally I would like to be involved in the team who has broken the record and to be the only team. 2nd of all we would win 19 titles. We do the big thing. But to be honest I think United will win many more. Champions Leagues as well these are the biggest things. It's difficult to say, I want to win both! I don't want to choose, to want say I want to win that one, I want to win both!
    RN: Sir Alex has said we could face Cristiano in the future, do you think that might happen?
    NV: It might happen. And why not? It would be interesting.
    RN: Are you still in contact with him?
    NV: Yeah I still have contact, still text message and I had a good relationship with him. I think he doing well at the moment, I see a few games. At the end of the day he did well for the club. Last three years he was a very, very important player for us, he scored so many goals.
    RN: He handles his departure well, because he didn't slag off United...
    NV: The best thing for the player is to show on the pitch, sometimes the players can't always play the great game, sometimes you have good games, some bad, you have bad form, you have injuries. I think most important to see the players who want it. If you see the players who don't want it, who don't play, you can say the bad things. I think Ronnie in that case, he did well.
    RN: Utd fans portray you as this very tough Arnie/Sly Stallone type figure? You eat mice for breakfast?!
    NV: Laughs. Yeah, yeah!
    RN: Does it make you laugh?
    NV: Smiles. I think this is the way how the people see me. I think you can see now I can smile as well! But I think when I go to the game I change my mentality because definitely this is the way how I play. I like to play strong but over the four years I didn't have the bad tackles, I didn't injure anyone, I didn't have the straight away red card, I have the two yellows and the red and that type of thing and that shows I'm not a player who plays in a bad way. I think I have more injuries than make people have injuries! Because people think I'm strong and always go in hard against me, yeah! When I'm going to the game I try to be focussed. I'm going like it's not a game, it's more than a game for me because I don't want to have the feeling that someone beat me and score the goal, to pass me and score the goal, to jump me and score the goal. And that's why before the game I try to be focussed. Don't laugh, don't speak with other guys, don't involve even with the referees. Because when you involve with the referees and try to talk too much you lose the concentration and you lose focus on your game. And that's why sometimes I try to avoid that and try just to be serious.
    RN: Like Portsmouth when you had the blood streaming down, you remind me of Kevin Moran and Steve Bruce, who went in without fear...
    NV: I think sometimes I don't protect myself enough and that's why I have got so many knocks! Yes it happens. I have a few injuries but these injuries are like cuts and things. Especially during the game you don't feel them because you are excited, you are focussed, you are running and you are hot. You don't feel and you just keep going.
    RN: So you are not Arnie away from the pitch?
    NV: No, I don't go into the pubs and fight, I'm not that type of man! I just go into the game and obviously you get knocks and you can't complain. It happens, it's part of the game. I was always like this. When I was young I remember I always fell down and my knees always had blood and everything and I go quickly home to wash and I say put something on and I go again. This is when I was young, my family were like that. My Dad is like ‘come on man, be boy, not girl, come on, play football!’.
    RN: Patrice again said to us that he thinks of Sir Alex as the grandfather of United, is that how you see Sir Alex?
    NV: Yeah, he is the grandfather. He knows to talk with the players. Obviously when I came here I hear so many things about the hairdryer and ‘did it happen to you/” and that type of thing. I think I came in different time of him. I think he understands now the players he obviously knows how to speak with the players. From the beginning he gave me the confidence when I came. This was an important time for me, the first six months, and he realised that and understands that and he helped me and gave me support. Yeah, he is the guy. He knows how to talk with the players, he understands, he wants to joke with the players as well. Obviously sometimes when he needs to be strong. If you don't do the job or take it too easy then he is the best and what he is doing. Nothing new to say about him that someone didn't already say.
    RN: You've scored goals throughout your career?
    NV: I scored 12 goals in 67 games for Red Star, in Moscow I score maybe 6 or 7 goals in 40 games.
    RN: Which is the better buzz, to score or to save a goal?
    NV: Oh, save. Because I always feel like I am a defender and I always try to be defender. Play simple, don't allow forwards to score the goal. And this is my target. I give you the other side. I think (scoring) goals, they make the players to feel even better. In your career you say I score these goals and it's helped the team and as well it's helping your image but I am defender and I want to be a defender. But it's a good feeling when you score the goal, it's a great feeling! I say I prefer to score nil because when you play for United you have players who can score the goals.
    RN: What would you say your best and worst moments so far have been?
    NV: I have a few worst. I remember the few worst. As I say AC Milan away Semi Final. Liverpool last year. And I need to say Barcelona that thing that happened for the goal but all game I didn't feel that bad. Yeah, these are the bad feelings. These are the three games I most remember and most dislike feeling like, and FA Cup the game when we lose when Drogba scored. These are the four games.
    RN: And the highs?
    NV: The Final in Moscow. I would say Wigan when we won the title away. I would say as well... you see I remember more bad (laughs!), the good ones I forget.
    RN: I loved you wearing the Russian hat during the celebrations in Moscow, have you still got it?
    NV: Yeah, I have it at home! To be honest I have so many things that go around the house, I don't put it all in one place because I don't have the place, but I will, to be honest when I finish the football, to put some of them, all the things I have, especially last year I have the two very important trophies, special.
    RN: Who is your best friend at United?
    NV: I have relationship with all the players. I think it's different type of relationship, we are more like friends on the ground and we come here and we spend so much time, and play the games together, it's more than one player. After that we are home we are more private and we go with the families and we don't have so many ties to go. But I can't say just one player. Definitely over the years I have very good relationship with Rio. On the pitch as well. Outside of the pitch we understand each other. The other Serbian guys that come. And Berba is here, he has come and he knows the Serbian.
    RN: Is it true you two try and get the music going, trying to get Rio's music off?
    NV: Yeah. I think we always come to training and you don't be bored you always complain about something. I told some bad things to him, he say bad things to me and we make fun.
    RN: So your music is better than Rio's?
    NV: Of course.
    RN: If you could choose one tackle you've made which would be your favourite?
    NV. One tackle? Phew. I don't know. (RN: Too many!) I don't look at it that way, too many, to say the big tackle is difficult to say because I think the most important tackle is the ball goes to the goal and I save it in the last second and we won the game.
    RN: We read somewhere that said you didn't like the song that the fans sing about you?
    NV: No, no. That is wrong. I said in the beginning the most important thing for me is the relationship with the fans. That they are happy with how I play. I think it is the same with all the players that when they play the game, they say ‘they play for the fans’. They don't play for themselves, they play for the fans. They want to feel happy when the fans are happy with his game. And obviously I feel it is a compliment when the fans sing about me. I love the song. But I just said when they asked me, I think it was to a Serbian paper, I said ‘yeah, I don't like the reputation Serbia has over the years.’ but for the song I'm very happy and I enjoy it. It's nice. It means they love you and they respect the game I play. And I don't have a problem with the song in that way. But I don't think the people make wrong meaning with that song, they don't mean it that way.
    RN: How hard was it growing up in Serbia during all that time as it's something I can't imagine.
    NV: Yeah. I think over the last 20 years we were hard times in Serbia. With wars, even with not wars, because the difficult times we going through. We have the sanctions, we have the wars, bombings and all that things. But it's passed, it's best thing is to forget and looking forward to don't happening again and to make that things don't happen again and this is the best way. Like I said, in the game I like to remember the things, the bad I did, but these things that happen, it's not good, not just for the Serbians, I think it's not for the Croatians, the Bosnians, the war don't bring anybody good, and some bad things happen. It's best thing to forget, to try and avoid things so they don't happen again.
    RN: It must be a great pride that you are through to the World Cup?
    NV: Yeah, it is the good thing especially because now we are just Serbia because before we were Yugoslavia, and Serbia and Montenegro. Now we are Serbia. This is the first time that we as a country we have qualification and qualify and it's good for the history of the country and everything.
    RN: Do you think you could be a surprise?
    NV: I think we have some good players. Like Milo? Krasić in the CSKA games he played well. Branislav Ivanović in Chelsea, myself, Stanković, Tosic. We have very good players. How far we can go, difficult to say, these are Cup ties, depends on the draw, not going to be easy draw because this is the World Cup, hey. But I think we can do something. I think we can pass the group. To pass the group and afterwards what you do is an achievement.
    RN: Do you try and put the World Cup out of your mind now until the end of the season?
    NV: We've qualified. This is the most important thing. I forgot that. I am not the type of player who is thinking so far (ahead) because I am the player thinking always the next game. Because if you thinking ‘I have a game now against Chelsea’ but I play now Blackburn on Saturday it's no good. It's no good mentality, no good for focus, no good for yourself. So I don't think about that at the moment.
    RN: Who is your favourite player of all time?
    NV: I have a few players I love. They always the forwards, I have never had the defenders as my idols. I always love the forwards. I love that generation because I am a big fan of Red Star and we won the 1991 European Cup, that whole generation for me, it was a big thing. Savićević, Jugović, these are the type of players. I have idols in the forwards, but not idols like defenders because even at that time, I never looked at defenders! Defenders are not important! But I think now it slightly changes, still obviously the forwards are always important.
    RN: We have got Ryan Giggs as the talisman on our latest cover?
    NV: What is talisman?
    RN: (Struggles to define! Makes tit of myself gabbling on not explaining properly!) er ...Everything that Ryan touches turns to gold, mystical...
    NV: I think I just need to say one thing. 17 years! But first of all I need to mention Paul Scholes as well. I can't separate those two guys as well. Because they are so, so good players. Like Gary Neville, but again you see - the forwards! I think mentally Giggs is very strong, in this time it is very important. 17 years to keep pushing yourself to be on the big level is the biggest achievement. You can be good player, and to have 1, 2, 3 good years and you have big respect but to have 17 years to play for this club and to always be at the top level, this for me is the biggest thing from that. As well to be focussed, to have the hunger, to run like he runs, this is the things that no-one did like him.
    RN: What ambitions do you have left here and career wise?
    NV: I don't think it's finished, my ambitions. Keep going. To be at the top, this is so important. To win the trophies, keep going, to improve, to be better, especially when you play for this club when you have the chance. When you have the good players around you, you have all you need to have to win the trophies. And when you finish football to be happy with what you did. But first of all I look to myself, to improve, to work hard, to be better. This is the way how all the players think here. This is the greatest we have here. The players are so professional. You always for 9.30am we need to be here, but when you come at 9.30, you don't see anybody in the dressing room because they are in the gym, they are doing some other things, or treatment. They keep going to improve themselves. I am very happy when I came here first, I said I'm very happy I came here because the influence you have from the other players. And the new players that come here they have great influences for the players that are here to improve, and to build up and be better. And I want to be better, and I want to improve and to win trophies.
    RN: Thanks so much Nemanja. Next time we'll work out the definition of talisman!
    Cheers! n
    © Red News 2009. That means credit us!

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  • Red News
    Paul Scholes interview.

    This interview first appeared in RN183 in September 2011 - you can read interviews and features and much more in every edition of the fanzine - entirely different from web content, exclusive to the mag. Different - don't miss a single edition.

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    Paul Scholes, My Story, out in September, £7 off advanced order here

    It is the morning after the day before. That day being the quite surreal and superb 8-2 win over Arsenal. Loathe of the media attention as we well know, RN has been after a 2nd interview with Paul for some time, and he kindly agreed to speak us as his football career ended, and his coaching one was about to start. We don’t need to list superlatives for him. We will miss him. I already do, even though the future looks in safe hands. Blessed to have seen him. As we all were.

    RN: Hi Paul, how are you then?
    PS: Ok mate, you?

    RN: Fantastic after yesterday!
    PS: Yeah, what a result that was.

    RN: It was just mad, where did you watch it?
    PS: I'm on holiday in Portugal so I watched it here.

    RN: What is it like seeing a game from that perspective now?
    PS: A little bit weird but it’s good. Obviously I knew my time was up anyway, so it’s great to watch and to see the young lads, it is refreshing really.

    RN: Did you cheer and were there many ABUs around you?
    PS: I was just sat with my son and a couple of friends watching it so yeah it seemed like we were up every two minutes it seemed like!

    RN: You said on the MUTV interview that you haven't missed pre-season and that you didn't enjoy them anyway. How has it felt now the season has started?
    PS: Yeah, I haven't missed it, I've missed the lads and stuff but I haven't missed the games one bit really, I've had my time, I had a long time playing and that time is over now and it is gone and I'm looking forward to watching United now and just being a fan.

    RN: Can I say as a fan that I still think ‘one more year please’.... I know it sounds corny!
    PS: (Laughs) No, my time was up, I knew that, the way I felt towards the end of the season wasn't brilliant and if I had stayed another year I might have played ten or fifteen games and I don't think that would have been justifiable really.

    RN: Gary Neville in his book is quite detailed about his West Brom game and how bad he felt then and just knowing. Was there a moment for you or was it just a gradual thing?
    PS: It was just a gradual thing for me, up until Christmas and the Rangers away game I felt brilliant, absolutely brilliant, the legs were fine and I got a slight groin injury and I should have been out for a week really and I kept coming back too soon and ended up being out for several weeks. From then on I never felt great, my legs... I can't remember a day when I actually felt good whether it was training or in a game. So I knew unquestionably towards the end that the time was right to go.

    RN: At the Blackpool game and you pinged a fifty yard pass near the end and I thought I know the final was to come but I can take that memory of you. Was there a moment when you thought that you were happy at the end here?
    PS: Not really, no, the last few months I didn't really enjoy it at all, physically I felt shocking I was in pain every day with my legs I was taking anti inflammatories everyday just to try and feel good but nothing seemed to be working so more than anything my legs were telling me that it was time to go. That Blackpool game was actually my first game back after being out for seven or eight weeks and I didn't feel great.

    RN: I was at Port Vale where it all started, how do you look back on it all now, are you getting time to reflect?
    PS: Not really, no, it’s not’s gone now the only thing I am thinking about now is starting my coaching to be honest with you. It’s nice and I enjoyed my career , I loved playing for United for so many years and I found myself very lucky to have done that but it has gone now. There are maybe some nice memories here and there but it has gone and I'm looking forward to starting a new part of my life now.

    RN: Are you excited by it all? Speaking to a few ex-players and they say this period afterwards is exciting but a little bit scary because you haven't got the day to day routine.
    PS: That's something that I hope I will have and it is something I do want, I want to have that day to day routine of knowing who I am coaching, who I am going to watch. I want to have that definite kind of job if you know what I mean and hopefully in the next few weeks that will be sorted out for me.

    RN: Xavi did an interview just before the European Cup final and he said his coaching belief was what Barca do that from the ages of 6 or 7 they are working on the short passing, they all know each other and they all know what they are going to do. Is it something that you believe in, that you grow up as a unit?
    PS: Yeah I think so, it’s something that from five or six of us breaking through to the first team and we all knew each others game inside out. I don't think we played the same way as Barcelona but I think in England it is something we have aspire to. There is definitely something over there that they are doing right. Their football and the way it should be played. I think first and foremost it comes from the manager, Guardiola who was a very similar player to the likes of Xavi and Iniesta and that’s transitioned through to his team.

    RN: Do you think that is what was so important about the class of ‘92 that you all knew each other and all knew what each other would be doing during matches?
    PS: Yeah, definitely like you say Barcelona have that similar kind of thing now and they have been more successful than we have winning the European, the Champions League and stuff but it was very similar, we knew each other from being 14, 15 years of age so that definitely helps and once we got into the youth team we knew we were a good team playing on Saturday mornings and stuff and at 16, 17, but we never really knew it could be possible to go onto the highest level of the game but thankfully it was.

    RN: When they all came for you to grab your shirt, did you think of running away? How did you choose who gets it after the Final?
    PS: I think that’s all become a bit of an exaggeration! There was only Iniesta who asked me and I was proud that did ask me, it’s just good the winning goalscorer from the World Cup Final, one of the best players in the world so it was a great shirt for me to get.

    RN: Without brown nosing too much you were clearly one of the great players in the world, is that how you saw yourself or were you quite humble- if that makes sense?!
    PS: I know what you mean but I don't agree with being one of the best players, the best players in the world, these players go on to win European Championships, they go on to win World Cups and I always felt I fell short of that level. I have only won one European Cup where as the top players in the world like your Xavis, Iniestas are there year in, year out, these are the players, I mean your Zidanes, Ronaldos these are the ones who are winning World Cups, these are the proper players and I think I fell below that level.

    RN: Both you and Gary mention about England, it seems such a long term problem, can you see it changing, can you ever see it improving over the next say ten years?
    PS: You would always like to say ‘yes’ but for me at the minute no I can't, you can go over the last, I don’t know, what? The last four or five tournaments, England may have got to a couple of quarter finals but there is nothing else to show for it and South Africa was a complete disaster. I just don't know why, maybe there is too much expectation on England, I don’t know. I think the England team these days are treated like world superstars from what they do at club level and I don't think that helps when they go to England because they are all molly coddled and pampered, they are treated like they are world champions before actually being a successful team to do that.

    RN: Somehow United seem to handle that expectation and pressure, how do you think that works?
    PS: Maybe that comes from the manager, I don't know. I just think the England manager these days changes that often there can never be that stability and I think managers just go out for the England job for the money these days.

    RN: You might not have seen yesterdays Mail but they have done Gary's extracts and he has talked about the apprenticeship punishments and the Clayton Blackmore love making with the posters! Did you have to do any of that?
    PS: You what, sorry?!

    RN: Mark Hughes and Bryan Robson make Gary Neville pretend to make love to a Clayton Blackmore poster!
    PS: (Laughs) Yeah, there was a little bit of that! (laughs again). Yeah, Gazza got it! Gazza has mentioned it in his book I think ain’t he.

    RN: It sounds scary!
    PS: There was all kind of things that they made you do when you were an apprentice but it’s all part of growing up isn't it and it’s something you have to do. It’s not nice but you get through it for that first year and away you go!

    RN: Now you can get your revenge on Robbo!
    PS: (Laughs) Get revenge on Robbo?! I don't think so!

    RN: We asked our readers what they thought your best performance was and there were so many different replies, not for a goal say, what was your happiest game?
    PS: It’s always nice when you’re coming to the end of the season and you have played well and you need to win something. Scoring a goal in an FA Cup Final will always be special. The FA Cup Final against Newcastle, the mid leg of the treble was a brilliant day for me I’ll be honest, I passed the ball to Teddy to score and I ended up scoring a goal afterwards so that is probably one of my most memorable times.

    RN: Was the low point, the Arsenal League Cup situation?
    PS: Yeah, that was a stupid thing to do, I know that now but at the time you think it is right, you're young and you’re not as experienced as you should have done. It’s something I should never have done. I will always regret that but it is done now and there is not much I can do about it.

    RN: Your testimonial goal was a belter, did you just think that was perfect, written in a script?
    PS: Yeah, It seemed that way. I don't know, I just shot, I've managed to score a few of them over the years and in my last ever game at Old Trafford it was nice to be able to do it again, I just caught it perfectly and gave the keeper no chance (laughs). I was very pleased with that goal actually, being the last game in my testimonial, it couldn't have worked out any better.

    RN: Does it feel strange the way everyone is talking about your career over now when you are still young and you still have your life ahead of you.
    PS: Nah, it doesn't feel strange to me. To me, it only matters what I think really and to me my official football playing life is over. Brian Kidd always said to me when I was 17/18 that it will be gone in a flick of your fingers, and your career will be gone and I thought he was mad because I thought I’m hopefully going to play until I'm 35. I managed to play until I'm 36 but he was dead right, it’s come and gone, it’s flashed by but it is over with now, my playing days are gone and I have to make sure that whatever I do now I can be as good as I can at doing that as well.

    RN: Did people talking, and joking, about your tackling do your head in at times?
    PS: I don't know, it just happened didn't it, I never felt I was that bad a tackler really, obviously I was late a few times but I think towards the end of my career it also affected referees and every time I tackled somebody I got booked which got annoying really but that is something I have brought upon myself I suppose by gaining that sort of reputation.

    RN: Now you are doing these interview which I know are forced on you (PS: sniggers in agreement) with the book and the testimonial can we see this as a new Paul and you will be on Sky with Gary next?
    PS: No! I wouldn't have thought so, no, I will leave the talking to Gary! Gary is brilliant at what he does it is the perfect job for him, he is as honest as the day is long and he will tell it how it is which is what people need to hear.

    RN: If you could sum up the whole United experience what has it meant to you?
    PS: It has been my life since I left school and hopefully it will be my life for the next good few years as well. It’s been an amazing experience to play with some of the greatest players in the world and I just find myself very, very lucky to have done that and as lucky to have won as many trophies as I have done as well.

    RN: It’s true that you are seeing Sir Alex when you get back from holiday about the coaching?
    PS: Yeah, I'll go and speak to him when I get home and sort something out hopefully.

    RN: Good luck for the future and it has been an honour for all of us to watch you play from all of us. PS: Thank you.

    RN: Thank you for agreeing to do the interview and we hope to catch up with you in the future. Have a lovely holiday.
    PS: Brilliant, thank a lot. Bye.

    Interview: Barney. Transcript: John. Thanks to Paul for his time, especially to interrupt his hols for RN. Thanks to Hannah Corbett at Simon & Schuster. Paul Scholes’ My Story is out and available, discounted, through the RN Amazon links on the site.

    Paul Scholes, My Story, out in September, £7 off advanced order here

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  • Red News
    In 2007 I interviewed Paul Parker when his autobiography Tackles like a Ferret was published

    details of the book at

    this interview first appeared exclusively in RN128-130

    The names can be reeled off effortlessly. Schmeichel, Parker, Irwin, Bruce, Pallister, Ince, Keane, Kanchelskis, Cantona, Hughes and Giggs.
    Of course players like Bryan Robson, McClair and Lee Sharpe played their part during that season, but those are the names of the team which now seem synonymous with our imperious Double winning season of 1993/94.
    In fact that team only played together in less than half the games that season but they were the backbone for some glorious football, most personified when that very 11 hammered Sheffield Wednesday 5-0 on a March night. Hughes’ thunderbolt, viewed by that fat Tango supporter of theirs who watched games with his shirt off. Crestfallen and cold he looked that night. And we were hot!
    Paul Parker helped shore up a rickety defence and played a vital part during those groundbreaking seasons. He’d always looked the part when he played against us for QPR. I remember him man marking Peter Davenport out of the game once. Granted not the greatest of our players, but when called upon he even gave Sparky a run for his money when they faced each other.
    Since retiring he’s tried his hand at management and didn’t like it. He’s now turned to becoming a pundit and to be fair has come on leaps and bounds. As with this interview, he’s starting to not be afraid with what he has to say and even gets to tell it like it is alongside Lou Macari on mutv. Much more objective than Paddy Crerand, however welcome he can be at times in an ABU world.
    Better still, Parker is a genuinely nice guy. There is a book to plug but he isn’t forcing it on you (review next mag), and in a first for Red News he not only gives us his mobile number, but also sends a text later saying if ever there is anything we need in the future, just let him know. The tape runs out after 30 minutes and he - now this is a first - is glad to continue for another 30. His wife is shopping nearby anyway so he has plenty of time!
    It’s during the World Cup, but the bar where we meet is surprisingly empty. Two city suits whisper something as one recognises Parker, and after we’re done he heads off to meet his wife and I make sure I haven’t fucked up the recording, again (see past RN!).
    I forgot a photo and curse my incompetence, only to see Parker as I head back towards Liverpool Street Station. There he is, on his mobile, but talking unrecognised amongst those around him. Inconspicuous I’m surprised he isn’t spotted, or greeted. But I suppose most of those wetting themselves at the time hadn’t even heard of Italia ‘90, let alone Paul Parker. We know him though.
    He’s a bit like Denis Irwin really. Got on with his job. Enjoyed the glory, and no doubt the wealth, but never lost sight of who he really was. A normal, decent down to earth guy. The likes of Parker, Irwin, Pallister; David May even, should never be forgotten. Just because they didn’t grab the headlines doesn’t negate their huge impact on United. Without the quiet men - without these honest Joes - we wouldn’t have had the glory times that will now never be taken away from them, or us.
    That side of 1994 had flair, power, goals and Cantona of course. But it was that back four with Schmeichel behind it that kept things together. And the more players you have like Irwin and Parker, the more welcome it should be. n
    the interview
    We began by talking about his work for mutv.
    PP: To be honest when I was a kid I was a Spurs fan, but once I started playing football I didn't really support anybody. The only team I look for other than United is QPR. But I sit on MUTV, and I love United. I can't do a Clayton Blackmore. You know when United get beat and then start blaming the grass and the shape of the ball. If you support them and you love Manchester United - you tell the truth.
    Parker was never a real fan of Ruud...
    PP: I've never - never ever, and never will be - a fan of Ruud van Nistelrooy. I can't stand lazy players.
    RN: Funnily enough, a reader said he met you in Milan after the AC Milan game and you said we should cash in on Ruud then and go for Torres, so you were predicting over a year ago...
    PP: It's about appetite. A year ago all he was bothered about was making this World Cup and finishing the season in the golden boot position. That's what he's got the hump about - he couldn't win that Golden Boot. Ruud Van Nistelrooy will not score goals now he's left. I don't think he can, I don't think he can make a goal.
    RN: Why, because he's given his all for United, or that's the type of player you think he's always been?
    PP: That's the type of player he is. I think he's gone to that level where he needed a change. His appetite had gone and he needed a new beginning to start again but I still don't think he'll go and score the amount of goals he scored for United. The days of doing that have gone for him.
    RN: When the bust up happened from the League Cup Final onwards with Ruud, say when Ince and Kanchelskis were off during your time, how do the players respond when there's uneasiness in the dressing room?
    PP: You get on with it. In my time at United there were a few bust-ups with players going, and players were unhappy because they were not playing but you got on it with it because you're not bothered about it. It didn't interfere with you, you never got involved. To be honest those players kept their own business to themselves, they never involved us. It happens. Ruud's biggest problem was he still couldn't accept - or couldn't see why - he wasn't playing a League Cup Final. But if he'd have opened his eyes he would have seen. How could the manager leave out someone like Saha who scored all the goals to get them there, and was playing well. Now you hate being left out, but you have to be honest and have a look. And if someone is playing well in front of you, as I had Gary Neville playing well in front of me, I had to somehow accept that there is no point in me going knocking on the Boss’ door as he'll hit me with that. And the truth would hit me even more even though I knew it, so I accepted it.
    RN: You mention your injury at the end of the Double winning season but that you didn't get it seen to until the following November (“But I carried on until November of the next season, knowing the ankle wasn’t right. By then it was too late. I ruptured it again when I came back and I was never the same player.”). I didn't realise how serious it was that May?
    PP: I knew in myself, in my own heart that I'd lost major strengths in my game. With the ankle it affected me, in my running, my twisting and turning and I think mentally - my jumping, because I always jumped off my left foot, it's my standing leg so it's my strong side so I jumped off of that and obviously landed on my other leg - and those little things were in my mind. And I just don't think I mentally really recovered from it.
    RN: Why did you wait until after the Barcelona game that November, why not during the summer of ‘94, was it Fergie?
    PP: I was being asked to play because of the three foreigner rule in the Champions League. If that situation could happen again I would say: ‘Sorry boss, I need to get this done, because of my long term career’. But when you're in the position I was in. Maybe it being Manchester United and the fact that I wanted to play in every single game. After just winning the Double I wanted to be involved. There is nothing worse than being on the side watching Manchester United win games, because you start feeling like a spare leg. So it was down to me more than anything. People have tried to put words into my mouth that the Gaffer forced me to play. He asked me to play. And me with my ego and my willingness and wanting to play for Manchester United, I kept playing when in theory if I had have stopped, had the operation, then I think my career would have been a bit longer.
    RN: You mention David May coming in and not settling in, it was 2 years until Gary Nev really came in there. Did they ask you for advice about the right back role?
    PP: No. Players who come and play for Manchester United - in theory they might go and ask the manager and coaches - but they very rarely come and ask another player because you are deemed as good enough already. It's as simple as that. When the Boss put Gary Neville in, he deemed Gary Neville ready to be Manchester United's full back. When he bought David May, he saw at some point David May was going to be a Manchester United defender.
    RN: Up until that injury you'd hardly missed a game, in the Double season you only missed 3 league games, it must have been upsetting to know it wasn't your time (age wise) to end at United but it was happening?
    PP: Oh it was. That's the thing that made it harder for me as well. After those two years and that success 4 over those two seasons that is what kept me going - that's why you don't want to miss out on situations like that, those good times are great and you don't want to miss out on them. But my ego got ahold of me and I should have stopped but I couldn't do it. And there were a lot of players like that in my time, a lot of players were playing with injuries while in today's football, when one of the players get twinges, they stop. But me, I wanted to play. Maybe that I was on appearance money plus the win bonus was always a good thing for me then as well. But now there's not those added bonuses anymore, you're getting this, you're getting that, win, lose or draw, injury or no injury, you're getting paid that. While I was playing it wasn't the case.
    RN: You mention when Spurs were after you before you joined us, offering more money than United did. In previous interviews with players we've conducted like Whiteside and Stuart Pearson, they’ve confirmed United weren't the biggest payers, it's bizarre to think that Spurs pay out more than us?
    PP: But maybe Spurs feel they had to, to try and get to the level of Manchester United. United have got to where they are, just by the fact that players come here and they come and play with their hearts because they want to represent that club. I was a Spurs fan as such. I turned down Spurs to play for Manchester United. If they hadn't have come in, I would never have left London.
    RN: It says in the book that Terry Venables says to you, ‘you won't come back’, when you said you were having talks with Fergie...
    PP: I think he knew it. He's obviously been there. I'd played at Old Trafford previously for QPR. I knew it as a player but he obviously knew it as a club. The way the club does things. The way the club sees itself and everything. I think he knew in his own mind that I would have gone there and wanted to play for Manchester United. And he was 100% right. The moment I drove up there and saw all those cars. When they used to park at the front, along Sir Matt Busby Way, outside where the club shop is now, there used to be all parking. I assumed that there was a game going on. It wasn't - it was people there, as the Boss said to me the day I signed, ‘they come and watch the grass grow’. Once I came I knew I wanted to be there. If it had been about money I wouldn't have signed. And I've got no regrets at all because what I have got is a (trophy) cabinet. And I've got memories. If people want to come into my house, when people come in sometimes they want to stand there and have a look at things. What I did was the right decision because if it wasn't, maybe I could bring people in and maybe show them a bank book, a cheque book. My idea when I started playing football was about winning things, playing for the best team, going as high as possible. Now I could have maybe have played for England. But playing for England AND Manchester United? I don't think you can get much higher than that. People could maybe contest it and talk about Liverpool. But in my eyes I played for the two biggest names that any player in this country can do.
    RN: And were part of the success...
    PP: That's right. That was the icing on the cake, winning those things. I look at playing in Cup Finals but one of the best boxes you can ever tick is to win a Championship. To go and do it again was an achievement.
    RN: That ‘93/94 side. I know we won the Treble but if you ask certain United fans, they can reel the names off, that was the team...
    PP: A lot of people say that to me. I get stopped all the time walking to the ground and people introducing me to their kids and they say it, but you bite your tongue because you don't want to say anything like it, because that's not me. I'm not that way. I don't like to say: ‘yeah, you're right', because people have got their own opinions. If you ask any boy of maybe 24/25 he's going to say the best team ever was the Treble winning side because they won the Treble. Now you speak to older people who watched the season before in ‘93, when we won the first Premiership and then saw the Double, they would have seen similar players, a similar side, bar one or two changes, but they saw an even more hungrier side which you don't generally see. It was even more hungrier and so difficult to play against because it wasn't so much about great skills, though we had players of great ability, but everybody had a hunger, and everybody would make a tackle and nobody would shirk responsibility.
    RN: It was Norwich first game of that Double season, we came out and won 2-0 and I just thought we mean business here. Was it pre-meditated, making sure it wasn't a one off?
    PP: It was the manager. The manager has got that mentality. The manager went out and all the players he bought in, or looks to bring in, are players he believes are not only happy winning things once, they want to do it again and again. And you look at the players Manchester United have had playing for them over the years, namely the Giggys, the Roy Keanes, the Scholseys, the Gary Nevilles, the Denis Irwins. All the players haven't just come there and won things once, they've gone and done it again. All his players in theory are willing to have a hunger, not just to be happy doing it once and sitting back on laurels like a lot of other clubs do, he wanted the whole club to be seen as a club that wants to keep doing it again and again and again.
    RN: After we lost the league to Leeds. That day at Liverpool, I have to admit I walked away just thinking: ‘I'll never see United win the league’. You mention the belief, did you really think we'd come back and do it?
    PP: It's not one of those things where I'd want to come out and say we talked about it, because I think I'd be making it up. It was just everyone in their own heads knew we gave it away. We lost it that year. Leeds didn't win it. Manchester United lost it. We were the best team by far that season but what we didn't have at the end of it - we were struggling to score goals because teams stopped us playing.
    In the end the Boss knew that and fixed that problem by going out the November the following season and bringing in an Eric Cantona. He didn't panic during the summer, and try and get someone in a quick fix. He knew he had enough there to keep going but he knew somewhere along the line he had to try and change it but add the right player. And that's exactly what he went and did. It was easy to panic and think we need this and we need that because of what happened at the tail end of the 1991/92 season. But he didn't panic. And the following season he went out and he got a Roy Keane to add something different in midfield because he knew he had an ageing Bryan Robson and he knew he needed a change and he went out and did that. And that's the way he's dealt all the way along.
    There's a lot of people who keep looking at what he's done to certain players when he's let them go but what he does has been proven right the way he's gone about it. People go on and whinge about it - there's always an issue when top players leave. The reason why there's always an issue when top players leave is because they don’t want to go. Because they know how good the club is, that's why they kick off. And in my opinion the Boss loves that because he knows he had the right animal at the club at the right time because that person does not want to leave. If someone goes out quietly and accepts it he might just see that as thinking: ‘Oh well, it was too mentally hard for him, couldn't handle it’.
    RN: We know how the players react when we won the league - you're going to have a good time. But the summer we lost the league. What did you do, were you down the whole time? We as fans were gutted?
    PP: I was gutted. Because I felt I didn't do enough. Because at the end of the season I had a hamstring problem so I missed out and couldn't pull my weight towards the end when maybe I felt I could have done something, even just to stop a goal going in, maybe nick a point somewhere along the line. I think it was embarrassing. Especially losing it to Leeds as well. I suddenly got into it, being up there I realised the mentality of the supporters about Leeds, City and Liverpool. You just know they are games that every United fan wants to win not lose. I realised that. The thing that made it worse for me was sitting there watching Norman Whiteside's testimonial against Everton. Knowing it was such a poor attendance for such a great man, who was a great player for Manchester United. When knowing that if we'd have won the league he would have got what he deserved. It was such a poor turn out for him and as a team, in theory, we let him down. People might have stayed away because they were so hurt. People were hurting inside for a long time.
    RN: Neil Webb became a bit of a scapegoat at that Forest game...but it wasn't one player walking off slowly as a sub that cost us, we should have won the game before then?
    PP: We should have won that. It's easy for a player to come out and say I was made a scapegoat but all it 4 is, is frustrated people picking on something they see and other people jumping on the back of it, ignorance more than anything. Unless that one person is out there being lazy and not giving everything... If someone is out there constantly giving the ball away but if he's still looking for the ball, still being brave and wants it even though he's not having a good day, then you've got to hold your hands up to him and say at least he's having a go, he's not hiding. But you can't come out and say you're being ridiculed, or made a scapegoat, because collectively it's a team game and you can't pick on individuals unless they are hiding or they are being lazy.
    RN: You mention in the book the camaraderie between the lads, do you think that's lacking for today's team?
    PP: It's definitely gone out of today's football. The mentality is that footballers can't drink or can't socialise. You can do. You're human. But it's about doing it right, and doing it at the right times, when you've got 3/4 days before a game, you can do it, go and sit down and get together. It's not about going out and getting drunk and falling all over the place. It's about getting together and having a drink. Not being there until 1am or 2am in the morning but socialising and doing your own thing after if you want. I think that's lacking out of the game now. It's more about being in the right bar, being seen in the right bar, being with the right people, being with the people who you are going to get your photo with. Sitting with a top dj, sitting with a top actor. When before... I was happy just sitting next to my mates. If I was out somewhere, maybe sitting there with Denis Irwin next to me and having a drink and a chat with Denis. That was good enough for me. I didn't need the big name next to me to think ‘great’.
    RN: It was pretty unique, a lot of you really were mates?
    PP: We all got on very, very well. I look at it today. To talk about it right now (during the WC). I'm fed up of picking up a paper and seeing England footballers wives in the paper. I'm totally fed up with it. At the end of the day those men are out there to work. I was away from home during that 1990 World Cup for a month. A month with the players. There were no wives. They didn't come out until the Semi Final. It wasn't a case of ‘we want them out here’. Now it's all about their wives going out and it's getting on my nerves! I'd like to think who is paying for all this, is it the FA forking the money when those players should be there concentrating on playing football. And the manager has given them two days to be with their wives. Well, sorry, after a poor performance, two days off? They should be there reflecting. They get enough time. They are not 9am-5pm workers. But anyway, we're digressing!...
    RN: Lee Sharpe mentioned in his book that Roy Keane was quite a piss taker in his early days, and used to take the mick out of you. And you say he arrived and he was ‘brash’. When did you first start to see the change in Keane?
    PP: I didn’t really see the change as such because I wasn’t at the club when Roy changed. I just knew Roy as Roy... RN: Who was Roy then?
    PP: Roy was just a lad. He’d just go out, Roy would drink the same as everyone else, Roy would sometimes lose his head over silly things and you had to calm him down a bit. But that was his mentality. He loved going out with the players but he didn’t like people he didn’t know. Roy likes his own people around him. Anybody who he doesn’t know, who came in, you’d have to tell Roy who it was and why they were there. ‘They’re a friend of X. A good friend of Y’. People couldn’t poke their nose in a conversation, come across and say ‘can I have your autograph?’. Roy had to see them asking 4 or 5 of us before, before they got to him. He needed that. He’s very shy. He didn’t like people jumping in. Roy’s reaction if someone jumps in at him and says: ‘Can you do this?’, he would say: “Who are you?”. And he wasn’t being rude, he just had that bit about him.
    RN: Do you think that’s why he drank, which he mentions in his own book, to get this other side of him out, a more assertive side?
    PP: I think that was... It’s an easy excuse to make when it’s drink related but Roy was a very, very shy person. I don’t think anyone would ever believe that but he is. Roy was a great bloke and people looking at him now and saying this and that about him... To be honest, I saw Tony Adams a few weeks ago. And me and Tony lived in the same town, grew up through football, he was at Fulham initially with me before he moved to Arsenal. And we grew up together. Tony lived in the same place and we drank together. He was at Arsenal, I was at QPR. We drank in the same place where I live in Billericay and then he realised his problems, he stopped drinking, became tee-total, admitted his problems. Now I saw him the other day; a completely different man. You would never believe that we have known each other from such a young age. Because once you go that way and decide to do that, you have to completely change your ways and cut away. You can’t go back to knowing people and getting all pally because you don’t really want to - because you think they might take you back to where you were. So you have to cut off. So Roy’s change is part of a pattern that those people have to follow. And people have to accept that and not pull faces and respect what those people are going through and what they have had to do to change their lives. And Roy’s done it for his families sake and the people that are benefiting are the right people - his family.
    RN: Do you think that’s why he became more intense on the pitch. Was he a ranter and raver when you were there?
    PP: Always! Roy rants and raves, he used to scream at you when you used to have five players around trying to kick shite out of you but Roy would be on the other side of them saying ‘give me the ball!’. And you’re fighting to try and keep hold of it! If you lost the ball or whatever, Roy would have a go at you - about why you didn’t give it to him. And you’d look at him and you’d think ‘don’t get in an argument’, because you’re not going to win an argument with Roy. But he wanted the ball so much, that you couldn’t even bother arguing because that man had such desire and so much belief in his own ability it was absolutely incredible.
    RN: You say every team needs someone like that?
    PP: You’ve got to. I was very, very fortunate that I played for a team where there was 8 or 9 of them on the pitch who all had belief in their own ability out there. They all wanted the ball and it made my game so easy because at QPR I was seen as just a defender - and I wasn’t bad at it. But I went to Manchester United and it added a little bit extra to my game. Because I was never asked to go forward. As far as I was concerned, corner or anything I was told, ‘you mark X, get on the halfway line, we need you at the back there because you’re quick’. People talk about how well I jumped but never once did QPR or Fulham ever allow me to go forward, to go for a corner. Yet they wanted me to go and mark the biggest man on the pitch, defensively, yet I was never allowed to go up for a corner, which seemed strange, maybe they knew my prowess in the opposing penalty box!It seemed strange that I couldn’t go up and attack a ball.
    RN: Were you happy with the right back role. I remember seeing you play at Old Trafford at centre back when you had Peter Davenport in your pocket. When you signed, I actually thought you’d signed for a central defending role?
    PP: To be honest when I signed I never even went into any conversation about: ‘where are you going to play me?”. Maybe I was naive but I just wanted to sign for Manchester United and worry about it after. And after seeing Brucey and Pally I knew it. I think the Boss looked at me as a replacement for Brucey. All of a sudden Brucey - the way he was - saw a bit of a challenge and stepped up another gear. So he placed me at right-back and that was the first time I actually played there for a long, long time as a full back. Before that I’d finished up at Fulham at centre-half, at QPR I was a centre-half or a sweeper. So I had to learn to become a full-back. Which seems strange for someone 5 foot 7 tall to learn to become a full back! But I did, that’s what I had to do, learn a new position, even stranger learning at the biggest club in the country and a side that needed to win the Championship.
    RN: You complimented Kanchelskis. But if he had a bad game you were in the shit?
    PP: Oh, I had so much to do. But it suited me. I didn’t mind it. Never did I ever scream ‘Oi, Andrei, come back and mark’ because I knew whatever happens, if Andrei had the ball he’d take 2 or 3 people with him anyway. Andrei made my life easy as much as maybe I made his life easy. I think it made my life easy having someone like Andrei in front of me.
    RN: Did you get on well with him?
    PP: Everyone got on well with him. Andrei was a likable rogue. He had his own manner about him. He was just like a typical, what you saw, as a Russian. You’d think to yourself: ‘there’s a devious side to him, a KGB side to him’. And he loved mentioning it all the time, he’d come out and say things. He was mad, absolutely mad! Along Chester Road he kept getting done on the speed cameras all the time. He didn’t bother paying them. That was Andrei. He came across and he didn’t have a care in the world, just wanted to play football.
    RN: Were you surprised when he left?
    PP: That’s a story that I’d really love to get the end of. I think only one person will tell you the truth and that would be the manager. People have got their own ideas but it seemed a very, very strange move to leave Manchester United for Everton. It just seemed very strange.
    RN: Your relationship with Fergie, did you ever cross swords?
    PP: No, maybe there were a few issues. When he saw I wasn’t doing my job right on the park, maybe I answered him back once when I should have known better because you never answer him back. Maybe I did something wrong off the field, which one of his big things is: ‘You represent Manchester United. Don’t let me or Manchester United down or there’s trouble’. Which in fact is the unwritten rule. The one thing about him is he never bears grudges unless you have done something to him personally or affected Manchester United, embarrassed the club, then obviously that is when your time is up. I still go and see him as much as possible. People can call it creeping but I call it keeping myself in with the right person. He’s been as good as gold to me. He did the foreword for the book. The only other person I think I would have asked other than him would have been Bobby Robson to be honest.
    RN: So people who doubt he can do the business again, you think he can?
    PP: There’s no person at this moment in time who could do anything (better) because his desire is there to go and do it - and he will achieve. The only thing that is stopping him from winning another Premiership is 4 the amount of money at Chelsea. You have to remember, United finished 2nd in the league last season. In my opinion they finished 2nd by default because the team at the moment they are up against is a team that is running £100m in the red. Any other business would have been closed down and chased by everybody, but because of the money that’s what United are up against. And as far as I can see, nobody can compete against it. United finished 2nd to a team only there by default. I don’t see it as winning a Premiership. Titles are won by teams who build and go on and when they win it, they build and contest it the next year by building on from what they’ve done. To keep going out and spending that kind of money without balancing the books right, it’s not business.
    RN: Who would you buy then, if you could buy the defensive midfielder we need?
    PP: I couldn’t honestly tell you ‘who’. I think we’ve got too obsessed with this defensive midfielder talk. I can’t see why we suddenly do it. The reason why? Roy Keane is to blame with this issue. Roy was never a defensive midfield player when he came to United. He was an upper and downer. After his injuries, Roy had to adapt, to change his game, to suit his needs. Roy couldn’t keep making those runs. So he regulated his runs, changed his game, became an organiser, getting the ball. Roy got the games tempo to suit him to be able to make his runs and see his runs better. So then people start seeing Roy sitting deeper so they start saying: ‘Oh, Roy’s playing in a defensive role’. No he wasn’t, Roy changed the game to suit himself to make the game better for him. And what it did, it made United a stronger side with Roy doing that role. Roy’s football brain helped it and it allowed Scholesy as well to play that little further forward with his passing ability to pick a pass and allowed Roy to run deeper, to make runs forward. Still 4-4-2. Every team - all they need is 4-4-2 - one midfield player goes, the other one sits. So nothing’s changed. We’ve got this thing in our heads for looking for this player. There's no players out there because that kind of player doesn’t exist. Every midfield player wants to score goals. No-one wants to sit back and let someone else get all the glory. So it’s just a case of finding that player who is unselfish, who has got the energy to make those kind of runs but is unselfish enough to go and sit to let someone make a run and maybe score a goal as well. We’ve made a defensive midfielder position out of nothing.
    RN: There’s criticism of Carlos and the tactics that some say he’s bought in, is that relevant?
    PP: My answer to that one is there’s only one manager and the manager makes the decisions. And whatever way Manchester United play, the manager will always hold his hands up and accept the performance because he’s made the decisions. You can blame coaches, they are the ones who do things in training but the buck stops with the manager. You can’t blame a coach because the manager decides if he goes with what the coach wants or what he wants. You can blame the players, if they haven’t pulled their weight but you have to ask the manager if they haven’t, why aren’t they pulling their weight on the park for you? Or why aren’t they doing that job right, why are they allowing people to win headers in the box all the time and score against us or work the goalkeeper? It’s the managers decision, it’s him who has to answer all the questions after the game. It’s the manager who gets his head drawn as a turnip!
    RN: Robbo in a previous interview was raving about Kiddo...
    PP: Kiddo was the best. I was fortunate enough to work under three very good coaches in my career. Peter Shreeves at QPR, Ray Hartford and Brian Kidd. Kidd went to another level. He was doing things which I’d never seen before. When I played at lesser teams as such, (I use that word loosely), we had to work that little bit harder in training, so it was more physically demanding. While Kiddo was more about ball skills, passing. You were still working hard but it was more with the ball rather than running without the ball. Kiddo had a presence about him where he’d say ‘we’re going to do this run 10 times’. But he had a way about him where it made you feel as if it was easy, it was a doddle. Even when you were knackered, Kiddo had a way to suddenly make you feel that you could go and do another 6 anyway.
    When the Boss was shouting and screaming at you at half-time or whenever, Kiddo had a way of coming round to making you understand what the Boss was saying, but in a better way. Obviously the Boss is frustrated, he wants United to win and sometimes he says things and you can’t get your head around it and you want to bite but you have to keep your mouth shut. But Kiddo had a way of trying to cement in what the Boss was trying to say to you. And you go out knowing that what you did was wrong earlier and you get around it.I've seen the Boss and Incey have a major flair up at Norwich. Major. And I’ve seen Incey throw his boot on the floor and I’ve seen Kiddo go up to him at half-time and talk him around it and Incey go back out on that field and put in a 2nd half performance as Incey does - never stop running, people hanging on to his shirt tail trying to stay with him. Incey walks back in the dressing room, the Boss puts his arm around him and give him a big cuddle. At half-time they wanted to kill each other! That was Kiddo’s influence, settling it down, and the Gaffer coming in, not bearing a grudge because he knows someone has gone out and given him something. Take a rollicking, accept it and go and prove the manager wrong, shove it back where it’s come from. Good managers will accept that, put their arm round them and say ‘you’ve done it the right way, rather than sulking in the corner’.
    RN: I remember Teddy Sheringham saying that Fergie’s a great man-manager but not a great tactician. Were the tactics big in the dressing room?
    PP: He was a tactician. I think he is. The Boss knows what he wants and he knows how teams play. There’s people who know it. But you need someone, like a Brian Kidd, who can organise. Brian Kidd might not be good the other side, managing players, as the Boss is but he’s good at organising players to do what the Boss wants. The Boss knows what he wants but to try and get that out and explain it is very difficult. Same as any business. The manager will sit there and organise the people, but you need your shop steward or co-ordinator to sync it altogether for you. It’s what Brian Kidd could do, it’s what Steve McClaren did, and what Carlos is trying to do, to sync it all together to what Sir Alex Ferguson wants to do. I think it’s wrong to say he’s not very good tactically. He’s very good because of what he’s achieved, you can’t question that but you need someone to sync it all together for him to get what he wants. He knows the way he wants Manchester United to play but it needs someone to put the pieces together for it to happen.
    RN: When Kiddo sank to his knees against Sheffield Wednesday, did everyone slaughter him fot it!
    PP: Oh we caned him after! But we knew Manchester United is in his heart more than maybe any other player that has ever played for United. That was just relief. You could have a Carlos there, or a Steve McClaren there but they would never, at that first Championship, have had that emotion that Brian Kidd had on that day against Sheffield Wednesday. Never in a million years would anyone have been that emotional as Brian Kidd was. It was something that will always be in the history books. You show Manchester United over the last 15 years, and that clip will always be on. In United fans’ 10 most memorable clips, guaranteed that will be on everybody's list. If that ain’t in there then that person doesn’t know Manchester United!
    RN: Say like that night before Blackburn in ‘93 - ‘the title piss-up’ - what time did it go onto?
    PP: It was the early hours. The very early hours! I think we all just forgot there was a game the next day. It was absolutely incredible how we managed it. Because in the first half we were staggering, we were poor. I think the occasion and the half-time semi-rollicking sorted that out. Some of the clips were on Brucey’s video, it was more about the Boss telling us we were embarrassing ourselves, and all the good work we’d done will be forgotten and people will just talk about all of us enjoying ourselves before. Because the one thing we hadn’t really done was win it ourselves. It was won for us. So he wanted us to go out and win that game at home to say, yep, we would have won it anyway. And we went out for that second half and it was a chalk and cheese performance.
    RN: Summed up by Pally with the free-kick. Did you go out that night as well?!
    PP: I think we all got a second wind! I think we spent a lot of time with our families, we all had our own little thing on. I think that one night killed a lot of us off. We had our next lads thing when we went to Chester races. We had a day there.
    RN: What was Eric like when he was amongst you?
    PP: Eric was the same as me and you. Same as anybody. Eric mixed in. I don’t think todays foreign player would ever be like Eric. He got on with it, moulded in with it. He was English as anything. His wife spoke good English, she was an English teacher. Eric could understand English, could speak it. We knew what Eric meant. You knew when he had a mood on, you’d leave him alone. But Eric would join in. When the players went out, he was always there. Always there. People make up these things about him and say things, they say it because they never knew the man.
    RN: Do you think that camaraderie has gone? Where as then you had a couple of foreign players in a side, now there are so many... do you think that home grown aspect has gone?
    PP: It’s gone from many clubs. As long as Sir Alex Ferguson is at United he will always try and keep it there but the one thing he will make sure is he won’t do it for the sake of it because those players have got to be worthy to wear that shirt. They can’t be just going out there because they are from Manchester or have come through the ranks. They’ve got to be worthy, and got to be equal to what has been there before.
    The one thing that is lacking now, generally in football, is you go to most places and there is no players’ bar anymore. And it wasn’t about going there and getting pissed up. It was a case of after a game, you get in there and you have a drink together; win, lose or draw. Not to talk about football, you might get in there to slag the manager off because he’s given you a rollicking after the game and you disagree with it. Just to get in there for half an hour. Now I think there’s too much of when a game finishes to jump in the car and get away from it.
    Maybe I’m from the outside looking in because Manchester United losing affects me more than when I was playing. The last thing I want to do is sit on MUTV and be negative. I want to be positive. If United win but don’t pay well, were fortunate to win, I will say that. If United lose, and I think they’ve been vastly unlucky I won’t come out and slag them off. But if one individual I thought was poor and should have done more, I will come out and say that. I won’t hide.
    Me and Lou (Macari) have got the most difficult job, because we’re on straight after the game. We don’t get the opportunity like a lot of them have coming on, on Talk of the Devils, or Denis with his bit on the Monday. Because I would love to be able to read the papers on a Sunday. But then I’d love to read a paper on a Monday. To read the instant reports straight after and the ones on Monday - they are two different perspectives. To gel it all in and talk about it straight after is hard. There’s been many a time when I’ve driven home after a game, normally on a Saturday I drive straight home, so I’ve got a 3-4 hour drive home and I reflect maybe on the game and reflect on what I’ve said and I think to myself ‘maybe I shouldn't have said that’.
    There’s a newspaper reporter called Neil Custis. I’ll say his name. I think he’s a lazy journalist. Because all he does, if he can’t get it from the players - and I want you to mention his name by the way - is write from what me and Lou say. He never mentions that me and Lou are talking on MUTV. He talks as if he knows me and Lou and he’s spoken to me and Lou. And we have to work straight after a game, when we don’t get a lot of time to think - we’ve got 5-10 minutes to adjust ourselves after a game finishes to go straight into it. We normally get people ringing up saying ‘oh this, and you’re that’ when those people will listen to the game on the radio, 9 out of 10 of them haven’t seen the game. They don’t see what we’ve seen. ‘Don’t have a go at him, he’s this and that’. Sorry, we sit there, sometimes we do go overboard because maybe we’re looking from a players’ perspective. If we had that time to reflect, maybe even an hour, sit back and think, we’d more than likely be different.
    RN: In a way the papers are stitching you up, taking one line out of a two hour show...
    PP: It’s been awful a few times. I’ve been sitting at home on a Monday and I’ve been sitting there with my missus and I’m sitting there cringing and I’m worried what the Gaffer is thinking. And a few times I’ve rung him to apologise, to say something. But to be honest the way he is, he says: ‘Don’t worry, I know what they are like and I know what they are trying to do’.
    I saw Custis today in the paper saying that United will never be the same without Roy Keane. Well, what about Bryan Robson? What about Eric Cantona? The club have gone on and won things without them. United finished 2nd without a Roy Keane. Manchester United went on and had a great run after Roy Keane left. It’s stupid.
    People keep saying to me about Beckham and we should never have got rid of him. I say ‘why?’ ‘Because Van Nistelrooy struggled’. Well maybe Ruud should have adapted his game differently. Andy Cole came to United.  Andy Cole could only score facing the goal. All of a sudden he comes to United and changed his game, became a better player. So why couldn’t Van Nistelrooy? You are never too old to learn as a player or a manager. As a supporter even.
    And people say about Beckham going to me now. My opinion is, if there’s an issue in the dressing room, if you’ve got say 26 players. Then you’ve got 24 players who are not happy with the situation, what’s happening around them. Or you’ve got a player, who is maybe doing too much off the pitch, when maybe he could be mixing with the players, but yet he’s going to do something else, putting that person before his team-mates. Then you’ve got to look at the majority. Life is about majority rule. You might lose that individual but if the majority are happy with you, that’s a happy ship. And if the manager feels that his ship is a bit unstable, one person has caused it then he’s got to weigh it up. How important is that one person? 9 times out of 10 that one person is not going to be as important as the rest of the squad because you can’t go with one person up against 11 players. From the club point of view, I think it might be the right decision. And you’ve got to look at the way the club has gone since, maybe it was the right decision.
    RN: And Ole at the time was doing better than him on the pitch?
    PP: And he (SAF) saw something. More towards maybe United’s way of playing rather than David Beckham’s way of playing. You’ve got to play for Manchester United, play United’s way, the way you’re asked to play, rather than the way as an individual you’d want to play.
    RN: You say in the last 10 years that the wages have gone through the roof, do you look with regret that you’re not on those wages now?
    PP: No, I don’t at all. I look at the era I was playing in and I think the players I was playing with or against were maybe better players, were more mature than the way things are at the moment. Were better people. Someone kicked me, or I kicked them. We’d fall down, we’d look back, and if I meant to kick someone they’d laugh at me because they’d say ‘you mug, look where I am now’. Or if I caught somebody and it was an accident, they wouldn’t turn up and want to snarl at me. I’d look at them, say ‘sorry’ and they’d get up and smile at me and run away. I look at footballers today and it’s all like a bit of pantomime. It’s like being in court, it seems when you get up, you want to confront, you want to have a go at the ref because they’ve fouled you. Instead of just going: ‘Well, I’ve got a foul, I’ve got what I wanted. Great, 4 let’s just get on with it’. I think the more money that’s gone into it, the more players are changing. Players don’t smile on the pitch anymore. It’s an easy thing to say when you’ve been out of the game. But players don’t smile. No-one has a laugh or joke anymore. I think that element has gone out of it. You don’t see players talking to supporters anymore.
    I always used to get somebody, maybe a habit from when I was playing years ago when I used to get a lot of abuse. If someone used to abuse me, I used to look around and I used to say something funny back in relation to them. Never nasty or anything, but question something about him. ie; ‘You’re having a go at the colour of my skin, has anyone told you about that t-shirt you’re wearing!’. That was my way. But you don’t see that anymore. If someone has a go at you in the crowd, players want to turn round and eff and blind back. Yeah, it can get a bit personal but you’ve got to remember they are making themselves look like idiots with other people around them. So they are the ones that have got the issue more than what you have.
    RN: You mention racism in the book, did it play any part in football when you got to the higher levels, in the dressing rooms?
    PP: No, it never got to the dressing room. Never. There’s plenty of times on the pitch when someone has called me a ‘black bastard’, a footballer has. But it’s an instinct thing, a reaction. It’s what they think they see as a weakness. I just look at them, and 9 times out of 10 there’s another black player in their side. So I’d go up to him and say: “Oi, you know your mate just called me a black bastard, are you happy with that? I hope you’re going to say something to him about that. Hopefully he’ll apologise to you.” That was my way of looking at things.
    Andy Mitten did a thing in the club magazine and he had a go at United fans relating to me. He said ‘don’t think we’re whiter than white’, remember about a certain player who was playing for QPR, who knocked the ball out for a corner.’ Well, I made a tackle on Lee Sharpe and the Stretford End started singing ‘Shoot that Nigger’. That happened at the Stretford End, about 1988. It’s ignorance. A lot of those people never meant it, it was just something they’d better follow.
    It’s in my book, you are never going to get rid of it. This Kick It Out campaign is great but as long as those people are doing it for the right reasons and they understand that you are not going to get rid of it tomorrow or the next day or in a years time. It’s going to take another ten years for it go forward another five yards. Because it’s a generation thing. And then as long as people bring up their kids in the right manner and explain it to them. 
    RN: Then you see what’s happening in Italy and Spain...
    PP:That’s ignorance on their part. But it will get there, it will take longer. I had that when we played in the Eastern Bloc. They did it because they didn’t know what else to do. They’ve just seen videos of English games years ago - ie Cyrille Regis and them playing - and they hear those noises, and think ‘oh English football, we’ll do it too’.
    If kids come out and say something derogatory to my kids, I know those kids are getting it from somewhere. 99 times out of 100 it comes from home.
    I was at Fulham playing at Barnsley. I was 19 years old and I had this fella calling me all sorts. I went to get a throw in and he was shouting: ‘black this’, ‘go back to where you come from’, ‘you nigger this’. I turned around and just said to him: “Mate, call me what you want, but don’t do it in front of your little boy there’. A 5 or 6 years old boy. He goes: “Don’t worry about him mate, he’s going to hate all you niggers as well.” So that’s the mentality. And that doesn’t happen anymore... But you’ve got to remember that just because it doesn’t happen in the top flight because it’s supervised well, the lower down you go, it’s still there.
    RN: Because you had that role at Folkestone and Invicta. Is it at that level?
    PP: You can hear it more. You can hear people do it. It’s a mentality. Deep down they are not racist but it’s a weakness. When I saw the Ron Atkinson thing. About Big Ron. There was Ian Wright going: ‘get rid of him, he’s a racist’. What he’s done is he’s sat back and relaxed and made... you’ve heard Ron before. He makes big gaffes. He said something silly. Now I played in the Brian Moore charity game at Gillingham. Now my boy was doing a project at school about taking a bear out and having pictures with the bear. I went to this thing and all the ITV Champions League people were there. And I went up to Big Ron and said could he have a picture with my boy for this school project. My boy was only 6. Big Ron had the picture done with him and then picked him up and took him round with John Barnes, Gabby Yorath, her husband, took him around about 8 different people having these pictures, whilst holding him. So on his wall he’s got all these pictures of Big Ron with all these different people. 
    Now, is Ron a racist? Was he doing it for affect? No, because nobody was really interested. It was an area full of ex-pros. He wasn’t showing off. So when you get people like Ian Wright who want to have a go at him and get rid of him, I feel sorry for those people how they can do that, but don’t call them racist. We’re too quick to call people racist in todays world. Now if I’m walking down the street and somebody abuses me out of their car, then that’s a problem.
    Sometimes even now I get people ringing my mobile and abusing me. I don’t know who they are, because they hide their numbers, but obviously my number has gone about. But I won’t change my number. My number is important to me because I’ve had it for years. But that’s what people do sometimes and that’s the problem. You are not going to get rid of them and you hope that they are going to allow their children not to have their problem, simple as that.
    RN: What would your highlight be at United?
    PP: My highlight would definitely be that first Championship, without a shadow of a doubt. I call it Championship because it is, Premiership sounds too foreign. The occasion, everything about it, the sheer emotion. I think if you ask any real Manchester United fan who was there, they might talk about the Double and Treble but that first one will live in the memory. You’re never going to get celebrations like that again. Maybe if United were to win another Champions League...
    RN: Biggest regret?
    PP: Was definitely leaving United. It took me a good year and half to get over it, to get it out of my system, that I wasn’t there. Mentally it took me a while to get over it and to be honest I still regret that I wasn’t mentally strong enough to get it out of my system and then I could have gone on and maybe when I went to other clubs I could have done it right rather than blame other people. I should have been looking at myself and realise and remembered where I’d actually come from. I should have been better rather than looking for them to be what I wanted. I should have remembered what I was before and where I came from and related to them. Players relate to football clubs, clubs will never relate to a footballer. And that was my problem , I wanted it to change for me and play football the way I was used to. Before I went to United and played for five years I played differently, and previous to QPR for 4 seasons I came from the 3rd Division and I should have been better. 4
    RN: And where do you see the future? Coaching or more tv...?
    PP: I’ve got no interest in coaching or anything like that. I’m enjoying doing MUTV and all the media stuff I do because it gives me more time at home.
    RN: To be with the kids and that?
    PP: Yeah, sometimes they get on your nerves tho’! I’m just around to do a lot more, meeting different people, involved in a little business thing I’m doing in office furniture. If you’re involved in coaching, non-league level or professional, it’s 52 weeks a year. I can go on holiday now and not worry. If I turn my mobile phone off for a week it doesn’t bother me, all I’d be missing out on would be media opportunities. I haven’t got to worry about ringing people asking about players. That’s the worst thing.
    You ask the Boss, even now. Ask the Boss does he go away and really enjoy a holiday? I bet he doesn’t because he’ll be on the phone talking about players. It would be easy to say ‘I’ve got David Gill and Carlos, to do it for me’, but I don’t think there’s anything better than as a player than you can get a chance to speak to the manager before you come. You want to hear in his voice: ‘I want you, I really need you’. David Gill and Carlos can’t give you that. You want to hear Sir Alex Ferguson tell you that and then you know it’s right and you’re going to sign.
    RN: Are you surprised at those from the team of ‘94 who have gone into management?
    PP: Steve Bruce wanted it all the time. I’m looking at some people and I think: “Bloody hell, I’m quite happy with the way I look because if managing does that to you!” I just wouldn’t want to be that way. I like to think I’m a youthful 42, and I don’t want it to change. So if management does that to you, then for all the money in the world I wouldn’t want to do that. You’re meant to be enjoying yourself, well paid, I think there’s more to life than that, to put yourself under that much stress, to have that many people who want to hate you - it’s not my way of life. I tried it at non-league level, and I didn’t enjoy it at the end. Didn’t enjoy it all. You’re going out there and you’re trying your best and your life depends on 16 people to give their all for you. I don’t want to make mistakes, I want to do it off my own back and I can turn around and kick myself if I do. I don’t want to go around and have other people doing those things for me, making mistakes in my life.
    RN: Are you still in contact with many of the United team?
    PP: I speak to Denis, and David May quite a bit. I see Clayton at the ground. Lee Martin is still there as well. Generally you see a lot of the players still around.
    RN: So Reading, fluke or not?
    PP: Fluke. 100% fluke!
    And then the 2nd of our tapes ran out, and a fascinating hour long interview was all but over. Parker was a proper gent throughout, and carried on chatting long after the tape had run out. He wished we’d still had space because he’d been dying to talk about United fans’ treatment on euro aways - and how bad we are treated compared to opponents fans’ who get the prawn sarnie service when they come to Old Trafford and we get the equivalent of cheap food service when abroad. He’d gone to Milan a few years back and was appalled at the treatment, “awful really. I wouldn’t want my son suffering that, really feel for the fans. Straight from the airport we had hassles.”
    Parker only watches United games now, doesn’t want to and won’t see any other team and you get the feeling that his time at United has really etched the club into his heart, as it does for so many ex-United players. In a way circumstances have seen him become a fan, and there’s no doubting he cares about the club and the team, and Fergie especially, who he has immense respect for. Like many of the ex-players we speak to, they all still hold Fergie with the upmost regard. Despite the way the papers like to portray it, there are very, very few players who do have a bad word for their ex-’Gaffer’.
    In these days of Bentley driving wannabees earning a fortune at United but realising little about what it actually means to be AT United, Parker’s interview was uplifting on many levels. He lived the dream, appreciated it and revelled in it, but when it ended never took it for granted and gives thanks for the rewards, riches and accolades he received through hard work, skill and good fortune. If only they were all like Parker.
    PAUL PARKER: TACKLES LIKE A FERRET With Pat Symes (Know the Score books), is out now.

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  • Red News
    In 2008 I interviewed Lou Macari when his autobiography was published

    this interview first appeared exclusively in RN150

    Lou Macari's autobiography &lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f= ifr

    If Roy Keane’s autobiography raised the bar in honest assessments of a footballing life affected by ups and downs off the pitch as much as on it, then Lou Macari’s ‘Football, My Life’ (Bantam Press, out now) takes it to another level, an at times brutally honest account of a life that has experienced many highs, but incomparable lows and loss as tragically his son Jonathan committed suicide in 1999.
    The book details Lou’s life, and that on its own merit would make it a recommended read, but deep down it is a homage to a lost life, and though it brings back many happy memories of his United career, and a quite remarkable series of events after it (success at Swindon, then arrested and in court over fraud charges, to being treated like shite by Fergus McCann at Celtic), it is the final chapter detailing events in ‘99 that resonates. There is only admiration for Macari deciding to open up like this - and how hard that must have been - for the grief is incomprehensible. He told one paper: “I've got to be seen to be coping. It's tough, isn't it? I just know that I've got a commitment to my family and therefore I've got to continue working. But you're going back to a house where there's one missing.” Having read all the interviews Lou has done for publicity for the book, I really don’t want to pry about this. He has opened up enough, and some of those asking the questions, I feel, have gnawed away without caring about the consequences of their questions.
    It is an honour to interview Lou (Skip to my Lou was a hero to me growing up), and it turns into a privilege too as he gives his time and honesty for RN so that I feel humbled. But I feel uneasy about talking about certain obvious issues, as it doesn’t feel right. Lou may realise this as he talks at the start of our conversation about baring his soul in the book and coping: “It's tough, but there you go, you've got to move on haven't you. You've got to try... Without a doubt football is an escape. If I didn't have that to fall back on and to go and do some work at Old Trafford and things like that on the tv I'd go off my head to be honest with you. You'd be thinking more and more about the difficult things that have happened.”
    The rest of the book, detailing the footballing highs and lows, is a journey to events that I had either forgotten (my United bias meaning, I suppose quite scandalously, that I didn’t pay as much attention to them as they didn’t directly affect our club); the drama at Swindon for example, or not realised them at all, like the appalling treatment dished out to him when Celtic manager. Make your own minds up anyway, because it’s a book that challenges you, and leaves you thinking as much about life itself as Utd and football, and the incredible strength of spirit that Lou and his family have shown during their adversities.
    (He appreciates being part of the United family. “I think because United have made it that way, for ex-players especially. They've certainly appreciated that the ex-players from a few years back weren't as fortunate as the present day players are for example. We played at a time where in terms of the finances in the game you could play for 10-11 years and you were never secure financially. Hence the reason they used to give the players testimonials if they lasted that length of time. I think it's an appreciation for what you did for them and to be honest it's lovely to be appreciated, not everyone who goes through life in a job is appreciated in the way that most of us ex-players are.”
    Does that mean he’d have preferred to play in todays era? “There's great things from my era, and there's great things from the present era. Let's be honest that if you actually become a Manchester United player nowadays, you can set your family up for life, set your parents up who have looked after you in growing up, set everyone up and that would be wonderful to be able to do. That's something that the players in my time were never able to do unless you really struck it lucky. You could look after your own immediate family, but in terms of grandchildren and parents, looking after them the way people should look after them if that's possible, (we) never really had that opportunity. That's a massive difference to be able to have that ability at your fingertips to look after those who have helped you get where you have got, icertainly wasn't the case in my time.”
    But has there been a cost for todays stars, 4 certainly the fans don’t mix with the players like we used to? “I don't know how that has developed. I can't put my finger on that. When I played there wasn't a great deal of difference in the fact that you were a Manchester United player as they are today. You trained at a certain training ground, different one from today but still the public came in there. After the game you had to go home, or go wherever you were going which is no different to today but what has developed, I don't know how, is this shield round everybody. After the games all my ex-team mates after a Saturday as long as we won would head along the road to a pub near Sale, walked in and all the supporters would be in there, we were never pestered, people came up and asked for autographs but you were left alone, everyone was very polite and you were polite to them and it was no problem. And I just can't understand why it's so different today. Same - human being with human being - but for some reason we've developed this way that no-one gets near anybody.”
    And the worry is that when the last of the class of ‘92 goes, that affinity may be lost for good... “I think there's a lot to worry about when you do lose Giggs, Scholes and Neville because they are probably the last from the age of where football was probably what it should have been - I'm talking off the pitch now - where it was a case where you did mix with those players, get close to them, and they signed autographs. Picture it yourself; Scholes, Giggs and Neville gone, I have always said it's going to be a big loss to everybody in terms of their playing ability but also they really do represent Manchester United and I like that.”
    Lou was honest about his feelings about the Ronaldo saga during the summer on mutv, so now is it a case, somewhat, of forgive and forget? “I hope so. I think the lad is made of strong stuff because when he came back from the World Cup I thought then he's not going to ride this storm but he did and he came back and was fantastic. He's got another little storm to ride now - I hope it is only a little storm. But you know what it's like, if he comes back and starts playing well, I would say the large majority of the support will let him get on with his job because they know that job is helping Manchester United”
    I say my gut feeling is he’ll go next summer. “When you've got a player like him, and when you see way the game is nowadays, that gut feeling you may have, you may be right. But when you look around and see that Lampard was considering moving on, and he's a player playing for the big 4 as they call us, and Adebayor was thinking of moving on, and Drogba too, it was a bizarre summer with these new problems coming around the corner very quickly. Even players at the top clubs, it's always been a problem for the smaller clubs, when one of their top players wants to move to United, but it was never a problem for any of the big 4 that their players wanted to move on. But it just hit us right between the eyeballs, this summer especially. We had a bit of a taste of it when Gerrard was considering going to Chelsea and Liverpool supporters found that quite unbelievable. That was the first indication that there was going to be another change in the game where the top players at the top clubs were even considering moving on somewhere else - that most fans would find quite unbelievable.”
    One of my highlights of last year, of any year in fact, was to see Macari outfox that Chelsea legend (sic), Jason Cundy on Sky before the climax as Cundy gave it the big one about them pipping us, and Lou just told him United would win, and if they didn’t, he’d just kiss Cundy’s feet in Moscow. It was a great put-down. “Laughs... I've never seen him since! I will see him, don't worry, I will see him! But I won't be gloating too much because let's be honest that John Terry misfortune in particular was our good fortune. I was sitting in that stadium in Moscow thinking ‘this is it, the European Cup ain't going back to Old Trafford’. Then as you need in football, we got a break and that break was enough to win us the competition.”
    Lou nearly joined Liverpool, not United, and it was only because he was sat next to Paddy Crerand at Anfield before signing for the Mickeys that Utd made their move by pure chance. Has he ever wondered what if that seat had remained empty? “No. I don't think in football you can ever plan a course that you think may have happened because football is football, you go where fate takes you. I was only going to Liverpool because Jock Stein's best pal was Bill Shankly and they kept it quiet between the two of them that I was moving, and that's why I was smuggled down. I was supposed to go to Anfield that night and just sign a piece of paper. As a young lad, no agents in those days, you don't know if anyone else is interested in you because you don't get any phone calls from other agents, nor phone calls from managers phoning your house, you just think that when you are on the way, that’s the only place for you to go, and that's where you're going. It was an amazing 90 minutes for me that night. I started watching the game, Paddy was sitting next to me and he was only sitting next to me because there wasn't another spare seat in the Directors Box alongside Tommy Doc. Had there been another seat in there for him he would have been sitting there. Being an ex-Celtic player Paddy knew me, asked me what I was doing there, I told him, and he just said ‘Don't do it, I'm going to speak to Tommy Doc’. Spoke to Doc at half-time, ‘look, we're going to sign you’. When somebody says they are going to sign you it's not as guaranteed as being in Bill Shankly's office before the game with the forms there and him ready to get you to put pen to paper. I took a bit of a gamble there because one was a yes, contract there for Liverpool. And the other was Paddy with a bit of a promise!
    But I believed Paddy, when he said the words Man Utd, I then only had the problem of telling Shankly which wasn't easy! Didn't really have the balls to do it to be honest, I went downstairs and told him I wanted time to think over the move. I didn't really need any time I just wanted to get out of his office - telling him over the phone would be a lot easier I felt. A bit like Stein, he was a hard task master, one of the great managers at the time and I didn't really have the nerve to go in there and say I'm off to Manchester United. I thought I'd better tell him that from a bit of a distance! There's so much that goes on nowadays. My move was into a car and taken down to England not knowing where I was going. That wouldn't happen now.
    Now at certain times when this transfer window is open, motorways are full of agents and players going up and down, not too bothered where they are going, not picking and choosing, just quite happy to move on for some bizarre reason. I was very fortunate that right at the last minute Paddy came in, and as a Celtic supporter and player that was enough for me to say ‘Right, if I've got that opportunity, I'm heading to Old Trafford’. Even though in terms of winning, there was certainly nothing happening at Old Trafford at the time, it was a losing team...”
    Are there regrets in terms of what his United sides achieved, an FA Cup, but 2 or 3 players short of anything more? “There are times in every clubs history when you look back and say that was a bit of a roller coaster few years for the club. You could say the same about Liverpool just now. Never looked like winning the title for years. Not to say they are not going to win it in future years but I think we were the same at the time. Before I came the team that Frank O'Farrell had, hadn’t done very well, and one or two players were getting a little bit older, and there was a great change round in personnel, new players coming in with the Doc nearly every day of the week. Most of the time that doesn't work, especially at a club like United, you just can't go and replace people like George, Bobby and Denis and expect any of the incoming personnel to be anything like them. And that was the pressure that everyone was under, a pressure we were never going to get the better of. It took a few years. We went down, we came back. And when we came back we were definitely a lot closer to whoever was going to win the title, we were nowhere near them before that. We got closer, and again circumstances... the Doc went, Dave Sexton came in, and it was start again time.”
    So how did he find the Doc, as he details a peculiar incident at Mossley and suggests there was a little bit of Jekyll by Hyde in the maverick manager in the book? “Oh No. The great thing about the Doc was no matter what his relationship was with any of the players, he was the type of fella that he could walk up, kick you in the balls and the next day you'd be saying ‘Hi boss, how's it going’, because he was that happy go lucky fella and he's very, very funny and very witty and I liked that. There was never a4 dull moment with him. I just pointed out in the book that there was a Jekyll and Hyde side to him but whether it was me or anybody else, you overcame that, you wanted to overcome that because you wanted to be in is company, he'd be great company. He still is. Fond memories. The odd occasion you see him at OT, he's still got a spring in his step.”
    And the nicknames the Doc had for people - Drop Down Dead for Ted MacDougall, Big Chop Suey for Louis Edwards... “Laughs. He told Ted at the team picture at the beginning of the season to get right to the very end of the row, of the picture, so when he got rid of him, with a pair of scissors he'd just chop him off the picture. He said it to his face at the team picture! Typical of the Doc. Quite funny and even Ted had to chuckle at it. Those two nicknames stood out. To us all he was Mr Edwards and a great Chairman. And again he was great company, and without a doubt he found the Doc ideal for him; good company and great to be with, and the Chairman-manager relationship was a good one for both parties.”
    Defending Dave Sexton in the book, does he feel he got a bad rep from United fans, after all didn’t Tommy Cavanagh suggest the same when Sexton was in charge: “He is naturally shy man but is also very sincere and generous. I would like to get that point across to the Stretford End”. Lou says: “I'm not saying United fans from what they saw got it wrong. Because you form an impression from a bit of a distance. Dave was great. You speak to any of the players that played under him, he was a great man, generous. And I think he would admit himself he was football through and through and he wasn't into the pr side of it, didn't want press meetings, didn't thrive on sitting down talking about the up and coming game or the games that had just gone by. And there's nothing wrong with that, that was the type of manager he was. In terms of everything else, a good man, a tough man as well.”
    He describes his picky room-mate Martin Buchan asking to switch rooms on 3 occasions on the same trip due to different complaints, how did so many different characters gel together? “Well you realised back in those days you had to gel, if you wanted to be successful. Success for the team meant success for everyone of the players. You were so dependent on appearance money and so dependent on bonuses it was a case of in that dressing room you were ready to kill to be honest with you. To win that game meant so much to you, and your family, and of course it meant so much to the supporters and you realised that. All the players were fully aware of all the spin-offs from winning a game of football. You just geled together, a natural thing that happens.”
    I mention events at Swindon, and how from reading it afresh it seems unbelievable that it went so far (against him), and how badly he was treated. “People were pushing it a little bit further and further. People trying to take over the club at Swindon were heavily involved it. They would go to any lengths to get in there and get the present Chairman out who was there at the time. Those lengths they went to caused all the problems, and there's not a lot anyone can do after it was up and running, difficult just to put a lid on it and make it go away. It didn't go away and it was quite a dramatic time. Funnily enough I was at Swindon last night and everyone I spoke to there was talking about it and asking me about it, obviously they were very disappointed with the way things developed after I left. Had I stayed there probably none of it would have come to the surface, because people wouldn't have taken advantage of the fact that I'd gone and the Chairman was there on his own, a bit vulnerable, and started blaming the Chairman for me moving on. I'd done well at Swindon so they were lining him up for the chop and he didn't get the chop so they went down another road to stir the pot and it all ended up a bit unfortunate. We got over that then - we were on the march again.”
    His management record remains good overall, does he feel that a series of unfortunate circumstances got in the way: “That does happen. I was never really going to consider management after I lost John, I thought I can't do what I've got to do as a manager. What you've got to do as a manager is cajole the players along, listen to their demands and requests which is what you've got to do but when you've lost somebody and you feel that life has been a bit tough on you and you are getting whinging players coming in and sitting in front of you for various reasons coming up with all these pathetic excuses about different things I just thought: ‘No, I wouldn't be able to keep my cool’ which I'd always done because it pays you to listen and it pays you to try and help them in some way. I thought ‘no, I'll just blow my top’, somebody telling me how hard done by they were, that they are only getting £700-800 a week or whatever the figures would be. So I just thought that's going to be difficult.
    And I worked with Steve Bruce at Huddersfield and I was quite content to be in the background. Then Steve got the bullet and left me in the position where I was still in the background but people said to me there ‘would you consider the job’, and my first thoughts were ‘no’, they said ‘well if you don't consider the job and somebody comes in, you'll be out of the door’. And out of the door of course means you're not in employment and you've got family to feed, you've got people to look after so it left me with very little option and I had to end up saying ‘alright, I'll take the job’. I bought Joe Jordan in with me and that was a good partnership. Bought Ashley Grimes, another ex-United player in and between the three of us we had to get rid of a load of players and at the end of the season got in the play-offs and everyone on the Board was delighted and Joe was given a new 3 year contract, which he didn't persue (then) because Joe's a bit of a perfectionist and he wants to do things right and he said ‘I’ll wait until the end of the season when the football season is over, then I'll start discussing the new 3 year contract with you’ and the end of the season came and we went on holiday and when we came back Joe was going to sit down and discuss the new contract. I was still under contract and while we were away - Joe was in Italy, I was in America - we both got a text message to say we'd been sacked! Joe ended up going to a Tribunal for unfair dismissal, won that case, and I think was awarded £40,000, I was at that tribunal, I was delighted for him, I was due the same, I was due a six figure sum and they then went into administration. So both of us got nothing. Bit of a nightmare Huddersfield was for the two of us (laughs).”
    So there and at Celtic, you saw the money men interfere? “Oh yes, I would say that was the first signs of people coming into the game. I think I was a bit unfortunate that Fergus McCann was so out of touch, he had no idea at all about football. That was quite frightening, and he was a one-off. But when I look back he didn't just treat me the way he did, but future managers who he actually employed he treated the same, so it was just in his make-up. So I've slightly forgiven him for that but it was tough at the time. I was taking the team on a pre-season tour and arranged to go to Malaysia because the club was struggling for money and they were going to get a couple of hundred thousand pounds. The next thing on a Monday morning he's rampaging through my office door saying ‘What are you doing taking the team on a pre-season tour to Malaysia?’. ‘Well, I'm the manager, Fergus’ I said, ‘that doesn't matter, they are my property, I own them. They go where I say!’ he told me back. That was the first indication that, no, certainly this relationship between me and him wasn't going to work because I do believe that when I'm put in charge of a football club that the players are my property to look after and get the best out of. There's young players to look after and it's my responsibility to their parents or whoever it may be to make sure that they don't step out of line, that I look after them and they don't go wayward. I don't think Fergus understood that.”
    When Sir Alex goes, the fear is his replacement won’t have that control: “There is only one man that would be able to maintain that control, and that is Sir Alex. The control of players, getting the best out of them is a skill in itself, there's a knack involved with it and he's got that knack but somebody else new will come in, will they be able to do that? That's the first thing, let alone get results, keep a steady ship at Old Trafford, I'm not so sure. Funnily enough I was reading in the paper yesterday ‘3 Celtic players in a club in Glasgow’ got involved in a bit of a brawl - when was the last time we have seen that with a United player? You don't, because the manager demands that that doesn't happen. Alright we see the odd clipping in the papers of one or two of the players out enjoying themselves at certain times like Xmas and things like that which all footballers do but during a football season when they've not been given that license to go out by the manager, we very seldom have any problems like that. I think that's all credit to the manager.”
    I’ve heard the odd older Red compare Lou to Tevez, can he see it? “Never really thought of that, to be honest with you. I think it's well known I've got my favourite player. My favourite player is Scholes. I think he's a managers dream, he's what you want in a player, he's everything that you want. Alright, as time moves on, all players start to lose bits and pieces of their game and then the day comes when that's when they finish but let's think of Scholes at his very best; energetic, brave, fully committed, no problems to the manager, can score goals, from midfield, a match winner from time to time, he has got everything that you'd want so he's always been my favourite player for no other reason than I like what I see. I like what I see in Tevez, in Wayne Rooney too, and I'm waiting and hoping that this is Waynes big season. I'm really waiting for him to explode because apart from Rooney, England - not that I'm that bothered about England! - doesn't have a centre forward who is a natural goalscorer. Wayne's gone off the boil a little bit in terms of scoring goals and I'd put that down to maybe he's had a bit of an interrupted last couple of years with injuries here and there, which hasn't helped, so I’m hoping, thinking and preying that this is going to be a big season for him. He's a top player, he's a good finisher and I don't think we have seen the best of him yet.”
    Because a few years ago Ronaldo and Rooney were on a par to some extent... “That was the case, everyone was comparing the two of them and Ronaldo then went onto two seasons of brilliance and 80 odd goals, now Wayne went on to two interrupted seasons really, picking up an injury here and there and after a month out, came back again. Never ideal, it's not what you want as a player and sometimes you never really get back on track, back to where you were before. But I think this is a big season where he can do that, obviously the beneficiaries first and foremost would be United, but England without Rooney, I just don't think they've got a player up front who is a match winner. Wayne's got that class, he just needs to step up and I’m sure that he can do that. None of the Home Nations qualified for the Euros and it was a poor summer. I always knew it was going to be a poor summer but it got worse with the Cristiano situation so it was an absolute nightmare summer for everybody and I'm glad the season's back and up and running!”
    Pardon my ignorance but I didn’t realise Lou Macari’s chippie... was actually owned by... Lou Macari! “Oh yeah. 1978 I bought it. I intended to bring my Mother down, as you see in the book my Mother died. So that was me left with a bloody fish and chip shop. I wasn't considering it, I just thought ‘get her down here, living close to me again’, because I'd left her up in Scotland for too many years and I just got a feeling that that wasn't right and I was going to bring her closer to me and give her a shop and all that and unfortunately it never materialised and I never got her in there. It's one of the reasons why I'd never get rid of it, because it was for family and it will stay family. I rent it out to people now because it's hard work, hard graft on a matchday and I can't be rushing from mutv up to the chip shop, cooking fish and chips then back to mutv, it's just asking too much, no human being can do that can they?!”
    You had your differences with Harry Gregg when he was your Assistant at Swindon, which you detail, have you made-up? “I think it was circumstances. I took him in, he was out of work, he came to see me and I said ‘yeah’, I think I should have realised that he was far more mature than me, far more experienced and that maturity and experience leads people to want to do the Number 1 job. I think it's just normal and looking back on it, a lot of people in his position would have felt that they were better equipped and available to do a job as manager of a football club, than me. When I left United as a player, I'd never been in management, so thinking back now I can understand that, it's just at the time it probably wasn't on the cards because I was trying to get myself established, I was trying to make a name for myself as a manager, not knowing anything about the job, not knowing how difficult it was going to be, not knowing how to go about it, I just needed time to get my feet under the table and get a feel for the job, but at the same time I could fully understand now how somebody who had been in jobs like that for probably the previous 10-15 years in football in this country in a few jobs, would feel that he was better equipped to do the job but unfortunately that's not why I took him there, to be the manager, but to come there to be my Assistant, so it just never worked out like that.”
    You work with Paul Parker on mutv, and he told RN that it pisses him off to see one comment from a long show picked up on and twisted to make a headline in the tabloids, how do you feel? “I hope it changes because I was getting a bit fed up ringing Carrington on a Monday morning trying to justify what I'd said on mutv and obviously volunteering to send a tape of the show and all that and I was getting a bit annoyed about it (the press twisting of quotes). Because I know what I said and I know how I've said it. I don't intend to give the manager the hump but I'm fully aware that there's no pundit who can go through a time on tv without annoying somebody or without annoying a lot of people. I'm really only interested in Manchester United, and if I say something about them and I've said it, I'll stand by that but when things are twisted around and it's a big headline put on it, I don't like that. I don't think it's right. And I don't think it's right either that I've got to start backtracking and try and justify myself to the manager - he's got enough on his plate without worrying about me and everybody else. It's been a bit embarrassing from time to time, because both Paul, myself, or whoever else may have been on there, we maybe touched on things but then it's had big headlines put on. If the team hasn't done very well and you say 'well, we didn't do very well today to be honest with you', it's all twisted around.
    There's not a lot we can do about that. Apart from come Monday morning ringing up and just calling it that it wasn't the way it is in that paper this morning. And I'd like to think most of the time, if not all the times that I've had to do that, that the manager saw the difference between what I'd actually said - and he could see it for himself on a tape - and the way I'd said it, than the way the paper has put it. One of the problems Paul, myself or anybody on mutv has got, is that access to the players (for the media) is not what it used to be, they've all got to fill their newspapers. Back in my time when we used to go to the pub along the road, all the press lads used to follow and all sit in the pub with us, we'd chat openly there and I've got to say, I can't ever remember on a Monday morning picking up the paper and seeing something in big headlines about what I'd said in that pub to those press lads. It would have been out of order. It was always accepted, the co-operation that we were given, and we were friendly with a lot of them, so we weren't going to get a slap in the face. But their access to players after a game now is nothing so sometimes, and I can understand this from a press point of view as well, they've got to rely on the has-beens! (laughs). The people from the past. That's a fact, sometimes that's what they've got to do, we're yesterdays men, it's all about todays players but unfortunately todays players don't come into contact with those journalists.”
    So Lou, it’s been a real pleasure, and if you had to pick one memory from all of them at United? “I can pick out good and bad. The good was actually signing. I thought ‘bloomin' hell, I've cracked it here, I'm at the biggest club, certainly I thought in Europe, arguably the world' and I thought 'I've done it’. I'd played for Celtic, as a Celtic supporter which I was, travelled to games watching them, and I never thought I'd join them but I played for them and now I was at Manchester United. So that was the highlight for me; it was better than picking out any game or any moment because 11 years at Old Trafford - all the moments were magic. It was a great place to work, it was a fun place to work and even now, but certainly back then, there's very few dull moments. As a player if you're involved in a club that's all action, that's all go, then that's great. Of course my saddest moment is when you finish. Because you've spent 11 years, getting in your car, travelling along Chester Road, heading towards the Cliff and you can no longer do that. All of a sudden it hits you like a thunderbolt. That's it. Big Ron called me in. I didn't need to be told what I was coming in for because I knew my days were over because I couldn't do what I'd done before and that was the biggest downer. There were obviously downers in-between with results and all that but they are never as big as that final one when you're not going to be part of the club anymore.”
    We’ll carry a few more thoughts of Lou on all things United in future issues. Interview, Barney. © RN 2008

    The sort of thing you miss if you don't buy the mag, this interview first appeared exclusively in RN150

    Lou Macari's autobiography &lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f= ifr

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  • Red News
    In 2005, I interviewed former United player Liam O'Brien… who has just been made first team coach at Hibernian

    Having two United trivia questions to your name is some feat, especially if you only made 36 appearances for the club, but Liam O'Brien can claim just that. In retirement he's taken a unique path too, and in between the odd Masters appearances with former teammates for United, he set up his own limo business in Ireland.

    The claims which O'Brien can - if he wanted to - lay fame to? Well, he was Ron Atkinson's last ever signing for the club, a £50,000 transfer fee (plus clauses, from Shamrock Rovers) in October 1986, and lasting under the new Fergie regime until he was sold to Newcastle in November 1988 for £300,000. Oh, and he also has the distinction of the quickest ever sending off for a United player, lasting a mere 85 seconds from the start of the match after a late tackle (but never a red card, I'd still argue, as I recall that twat of a ref Roger Milford being the hoister of said card) at the Dell against Southampton on January 3rd 1987. 85 seconds!

    How does he feel about both records? “I remember the sending off as if it happened yesterday. It's a record I am not proud of, nobody wants to get sent off, especially after 85 seconds. I still don't think I deserved it, it was the first tackle of the game and I was not the sort of player that went out to ‘do’ any other professional. I was devastated as it was the first live game shown in Ireland. All my family and friends were watching it - so I was understandably gutted. The management, staff and players were great about it; they knew that I wasn't that type of player. As for being Ron Atkinson's last signing, someone had to be and it turned out to be me. I don't think I was one of his biggest signings (joke), I was one for the future.”

    That he certainly was when he signed, and though it can be argued that he'd possibly never have been able to carve out a lengthy career at United, his arrival didn't just coincide during a time when any player would have struggled in that underperforming United era, but he was also unjustly given the tag by some media that has blighted so many kids coming through at Old Trafford - ‘the next George Best’. Giggs of course managed to eventually conquer and distance himself from a similar tag but what pressure it must have been on a kid who wasn't as naturally gifted as Giggsy. But O'Brien doesn't see it that way: “There wasn't that much pressure on me, the manager made sure of that, also the players were very encouraging and supportive. They told me to enjoy it and just play my own game.”

    So how did the signing come about? “I was playing for Shamrock Rovers at the time and I was doing quite well for them. We played against Manchester United in a couple of friendlies and I scored in one game. Ron Atkinson was the manager at the time and decided to sign me. Seemingly, he had been watching me for quite some time. When I signed I was so nervous coming from a small club such as Shamrock Rovers to arguably the biggest club in the world. Its every boy's dream especially in Ireland to play for Manchester United, so just to be there was a dream come true for me. Being around so many world class players was fantastic, I learned so much from them.”

    It must have been strange that signed by Atkinson, his new boss was suddenly his ex-boss in a matter of weeks. “To be honest, I was only there for a month under Ron Atkinson, so I was mainly training with the Reserves. I never really got to know his management style. I remember when we were told that Fergie was to become manager, players that knew him were saying how brilliant but strict he was, which became very true, but I got on well with him. He was a very down to earth man whose background was very similar to my own. It's like with all managers, they have their own management style and he is no different, but the players all respected him. I got on quite well with Fergie, he was always very helpful to me as was Archie Knox, his Assistant.”

    I grew up in that era of supporting United that is hard to describe to youngsters- suffocated in success - just how bleak at times it was watching United. Not as bland and dull as Sexton of course, but soul destroyingly depressing as we contemplated the knowledge that these barren years - bar the odd Cup win - were all we had to look forward to as our biggest rivals, the Scousers, dominated. I remember in its former incarnation, the Masters indoor 5-a-side tournaments, actually involved current players and at one such event in Manchester after watching the first team falter for weeks, those present actually got a bit delirious that we could win the tournament. As if it mattered!

    We didn't win it, of course, but I can remember O'Brien scoring a cracker of a goal. It was the first time I'd really seen him play well, away from the first team, with no pressure. Mad times. “I think the team underachieved because one team - Liverpool - were winning everything at the time. With such a high profile club, you are always going to get people saying that there were drinking cliques. I didn't see it, I am sure the players liked a drink but they knew when it was appropriate to do so, they were all good professionals.”

    So how about being shunted straight into the first team by Fergie so soon after being labelled ‘one for the future’? “I didn't expect to be involved with the first team so soon, I was only there two months - and one month into Fergie's reign. I actually found out I was in the team for the debut (20th December in a 2-0 win over Leicester) on the Wednesday before, we were playing in a mini tournament out in Bahrain. I played well in the game and when Remi Moses got injured the Boss told me I would be playing on Saturday. Needless to say I was very surprised - but it was a nice surprise!”

    Good but not good enough, is that O'Brien's United epitaph? Certainly at times he looked like a gangly giraffe but here was a kid serving his apprenticeship, not in the reserves as would happen now but in a side under immense pressure. Who knows under different circumstances but he carved out a successful career after leaving OT at Newcastle. “I loved playing for Newcastle. I have been very lucky to play for two of the biggest clubs in Europe. Both sets of fans are so passionate and where I lived in both Manchester and 4 Newcastle the people were fantastic, so welcoming and down to earth, I have some brilliant memories.”

    A goal he scored against their rivals the Mackems is still fondly recalled by the Cry Babies Support. “Yeah, I was lucky enough to score in a few derby's against both Middlesborough and Sunderland. I scored the winner against Sunderland which is Newcastle's fiercest rivals, it was a free kick at Roker Park. Newcastle hadn't won there for 30 or 40 years so the fans still talk about that goal. To this day, 14 years on I am still being asked to sign the photo of that goal, so I still get a buzz out of it. I know the Manchester United fans have a laugh at Kevin Keegan but if it wasn't for him Newcastle wouldn't be where they are today, he turned the club around. We won the 1st division league under him, I enjoyed working with him, he was a very nice man.”

    Somewhat ironically, O'Brien's best game for United - where he showed a glimpse of what Newcastle fans would get more used to - was to be his last for the Reds. Against Villa he showed a composure we hadn't seen before and was starting to look the part. “I really enjoyed that game against Villa and as you say it was probably my best game for Manchester United. I was on a week to week contract since the end of June, that game was in November. The club didn't move on the contract, Newcastle were aware of that so they could talk to me without Manchester United's permission. Also my wife had just given birth to our first baby and I needed stability and security. Newcastle offered me a three year contract which I couldn't refuse. If Manchester United had offered me the contract I was looking for (and it wasn't much), and no agents were involved, things could have been very different, I probably would have stayed longer at the club, so in a way, it was very hard to leave.”
    How does he look back at his time at United? “I had two great years there and learned so much. I made 40 appearances for the first team, so it's not too bad, but it was always going to be hard for me to get a good run in the team with so many high profile players there. I was offered a new contract at the club but I needed to be playing regular first team football, that is one of the reasons I left.” He doesn't see much of the old team. “I think you will find most players don't keep in contact but I do bump into some of them occasionally and we have a good chat. I think if you ask ex-players, they would all say they would love to be playing now the way the money is, and I am no different. However I would say I have had a fantastic time, met some great people, been all over the world and I have definitely no complaints.”

    And what about our fortunes since he left. “In the 90s it was all about to change thanks to one person - Alex Ferguson.” And now? “It’s been an indifferent season for them by their own standards, they have had a lot of injuries to key players. Also Fergie is rebuilding at the moment, so it won’t be long until they are at the summit again.”

    On the takeover, we chatted once before Coolmore had sold out, and O'Brien said: “I would like to think that Coolmore don't sell their shares to Glazer, as they say don't try to fix something that isn't broken.” As we can relate to all too well now.

    So how did the limo business come about? “When I finished with football, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, so I discussed it with some business contacts I have and came to the conclusion that there was definitely a huge market from inside Ireland and from Europe and the UK for executive chauffeur service for corporate clientele. With my football history I felt I had a lot of contacts and could provide a service with excellent standards of professionalism and discretion. At the moment I am working with the K Club which will host the next Ryder Cup, so we have quite a number of groups arriving from the UK and we arrange all the transport for them. I am thoroughly enjoying it and everything is going well.”

    “After finishing my career with Tranmere Rovers, we decided to return to Ireland in 1999. I had one year playing with Cork City and in 2000 - 2003 I was player/coach with Bohemians F.C. I have a U.E.F.A. A license badge, so it was great to give something back to football in this country. We won two leagues in my time at Bohemians which was a fulltime set up but like most clubs in this country, they suffered financial difficulties and I returned to Shamrock Rovers for the season 2003 - 2004. I finished with them at the end of that season to concentrate on the limo business.” Any chance of a managerial comeback? “I would never say never, but I don't think it will happen, there are so many coaches and managers out of work in England, so for the moment I am concentrating on my limo business.”

    How does he look back at his career? “The highs were obviously playing for my country and getting the chance to play with and against so many great players. The lows would have to be all the injuries I have had; broken leg, damaged knee ligament, I went through the lot. I was very lucky to play with so many great players, and I must say not one of them was big time. The likes of McGrath, Moran, Whiteside, Olsen, Strachen, Bruce and Hughes, but I must say that the best player I have ever played with was Bryan Robson. He had everything, I have never seen a fitter player and what a lovely person. He was a midfielder like myself and it was a pleasure to be in the same team as him. Manchester United always have Irish connections and I was lucky enough to have Paul McGrath, Frank Stapleton and Kevin Moran who all helped me settle in and gave me lots of advice. Also I stayed in digs when I first moved to Manchester and another Irish lad Joe Hanrahan was there with me and he was brilliant.”

    copyright Red News

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