This weeks’ Press Red sees former United forward Alex Notman and freelance journalist Annie Eaves chew the fat over United’s recent form, Paul Scholes’ return, the study of statistics, footballers on Twitter and Patrice Evra playing at Anfield…
Results have picked up recently – the impressive away wins at City and Arsenal sandwiched the Bolton home win – are those back to back losses against Blackburn and Newcastle now under the category of “slip ups” or a worrying sign of something more problematic?
AN : I don’t think there is anything problematic, every team goes through a bad spell and United have had theirs now. I don’t think the squad is as strong as it has been in years gone by but I still think they are more than capable of winning the league. I would have loved to have seen a couple of new signings come in, give a bit more depth to the squad but that doesn’t look like it is going to happen now. It is going to be an interesting few weeks ahead as there are a tough run of games coming up so I’m sure a lot of questions will be answered in the next few weeks.
AE : Points are points aren’t they. So six points lost is just as hurtful whichever team it’s against, how awful would it be to not win the league because of a home defeat to Blackburn? I don’t think either defeat was a sign of anything other than poor performances but it seems too weak to class them as ‘blips’ when they could quite realistically cost United the title.
Paul Scholes made a shock return from retirement to play for United again- so, desperate situation that will ruin his legacy, inspired choice that could prove decisive in the run-in, or on the fence?
AE : This is a difficult one. Paul Scholes is a hero of many and of course it’s brilliant to see him back and I believe he can help the squad. However, how many people were genuinely shocked at his retirement? I don’t recall tides of people being astounded that he’d retired too early. The general consensus seemed to be that he’d picked the right time to go.
I don’t think he can ruin his legacy because if it doesn’t work out then the Glazers will be blamed. I think he’s a useful squad member and it makes me think Ferguson has his eyes firmly set on a summer target and this is just a stop-gap.
AN : I think it’s a great move to bring Scholes back. I dont think Scholes could ruin his legacy at United as the guy is one of the best players ever to wear a United shirt. The fact that he was the one to say he wanted to come back shows he still has that hunger to win more silverware. He certainly hasn’t looked out of place in the games so far and he will only get better with the more games he plays. Class is permanent!
Sunday’s win at Arsenal raised an interesting question for me in the form of our central midfielders. Michael Carrick may have recently returned to form but for a long time apologists defended his pragmatic approach as crucial to the team; Ryan Giggs was the main target of fury for supporters on Twitter for his use of the ball in the first half at the Emirates which was, at the very least, adventurous. There was a statistic I saw that Giggs’ passing completion success is the worst for an outfield player at United this season – but yet again, he provided the moment of magic that made the breakthrough. If two polar opposites in statistical reference can prove influential to success, then does that make the reliance on stats and chalkboards a little meaningless?
AN : For me there is too much emphasis on stats nowadays, they can be made up to look how you want them to. You could be a player who tries the killer pass 5 times, 4 might get cut out but the other provides a goal, it’s not going to look good stats wise but you have provided a goal? Or you could be someone who sits in midfield and plays little passes but never plays that killer pass and have a 96% pass completion rate, does that make you a better player? Personally I wouldn’t take much notice of the stats
AE : That’s a bit of a meaning-of-life question! I once wrote something for the Mirror poking fun at stats but I do accept they’re useful as a tool to back an opinion up, as opposed to being a tool used to form an opinion. Each additional stat, that becomes part of general football debate, weakens the value of stats as a whole in my opinion. You get to a situation where one set of stats can suggest a player had a bad game and another set of stats can paint him as man-of-the-match.
Joey Barton continues to divide opinion; Rio Ferdinand posts painfully cringeworthy advertising pictures; Cristiano Ronaldo has an account clearly run by management. Youth footballers are ridiculously over analysed for every comment they make and others make tasteless, instantly regrettable comments they can’t take back. Your view on the way that Twitter has changed the way people see footballers, and your favourite and worst player on there?
AN : I think it’s great that footballers are on twitter, it gives the fans an insight into their lives and their thoughts on games et cetera… Obviously the other side to it is if they say anything controversial everybody picks up on it and the comments are then attached to the club also. Joey Barton is actually my favourite on there – he just says it how it is and I like that. Worst on there has got to be Robbie Savage, he only posts pictures on there about how good he looks!!
AE : Gary Neville is my current favourite, effortlessly incendiary. Tom Cleverley irritated me a bit when he started his, it seemed almost like a right of passage now that that he’d ‘made it’ and his tweets about his website and the brand just didn’t sit well – it’s probably more a frustration with football in general though.
Twitter doesn’t make people idiots it just gives them a more immediate platform. When I hear managers and middle aged people criticise it, I feel disappointed in them. Twitter is just a platform, like television, radio, or the internet in general. Rio Ferdinand did a Twitter advert this week for Snickers which was a bit cringe worthy, but that isn’t Twitter’s fault, it’s just the modern version of a commercial.
Patrice Evra should return to Anfield this weekend for the first time since the Luis Suarez race row. However Sir Alex Ferguson has form for making bold decisions taking his team to the city of Liverpool; in the wake of international break misdemeanours over the last 18 months, Wayne Rooney was dropped for the September 2010 trip to Everton and then the October 2011 trip to Anfield. First of all – do you think Fergie will pick Evra, and secondly, would you?
AE : I have no idea what Ferguson will do and wouldn’t want to second guess him on this. If I was him though I’d ask Patrice Evra what he wanted to do. Perhaps there’s a wider context too, if Evra doesn’t play because he’ll get incredible levels of abuse then what does that say about fighting racism in football? A player reports another for using racist insults and that player is then found guilty, yet during the ban of the offender the victim has to miss a game because he’ll get abuse for playing? It’s just all kinds of wrong and equates to a one game ban for reporting racism.
Both sets of fans will be right at it on Saturday, they’ll be all kinds of chants going on. The hatred will be at levels not seen for a long time and the chance of actual violence will be increased. And why? Because a player rightly accused another of racially insulting him.
AN : I really don’t see why the gaffer wouldn’t play Evra against Liverpool, after all Evra is the innocent party in everything that has gone on. Yes he will come in for a lot of stick but I don’t think it will be anything he couldn’t handle. These are the type of games you want to play in as a professional and I think the gaffer will have no problem in playing him. He is in great form at the minute and I certainly wouldn’t have any hesitation in playing him. Wouldn’t it be great if he got the winner!!
Follow Annie on Twitter. When Annie isn’t causing mischief on Twitter she’s running the excellent Sports Witness website.