Welcome to this weeks Press Red, a fortnightly look at all things United in a round table style panel discussion where journalists and Manchester United supporting personalities give their opinions to 7Cantonas. This week freelance & Mirror journalist Annie Eaves joins Simon Monaghan of the band “Daystar” to discuss United’s good form, the goalkeeping situation, and the “Rooney Rule”, among other things…
Si, You’ve certainly been doing the rounds – You were on ESPN’s Talk of the Terrace this week and now you’re popping on 7Cantonas Press Red. The band is comprised of Reds, save for one. Must be quite the banter – how are you enjoying this spell in the limelight?
Simon : Yeah it’s top. Feels like we were meant to do this and each new thing we do feels completely natural to us. We intend to enjoy more limelight as we grow. We have only been playing live since March 2010 and have been on TV twice, been played on XFM, BBC Radio 2 & 6, Q Radio and also are brand ambassadors for Manchester clothing label Barneys (www.barneysmcr.com) so considering the length of time we have been around people seem to like us.
Regards the banter – yeah it’s top and the fact that there are four reds is great but to be fair to Ste our Bass Player who is the token city fan he is very good at arguing his case and like most City fans likes to study the history of Man United & Man City so he has an answer for everything. Sometimes I think city fans spend more time thinking about how they can slag us off and if they used that energy to actually attend the Etihad Stadium then the ground would actually be full all the time like Old Trafford!! Ste does go a lot though to be fair so not including him in that.
A fantastic start to the season has been temporarily derailed by the rather flat (if perfectly acceptable) draw with Benfica. It’d be foolish to ask if you were happy with our start to the season, but what has most impressed you in terms of how we’ve played?
Si : I think the thing that has most impressed me is the sheer speed of our attacks and the one touch passing. I thought Arsenal were kings of that? Ashley Young & Tom Cleverley are the big plusses for me though!
Annie : Wild youthful abandon. United have been all over the opposition like ants on the rampage and it’s produced exciting football, the way they close down upon loss of possession is similar to what Barca have been doing for some time. Ashley Young has impressed me a lot but to be honest we all knew what he could do, Phil Jones has been a revelation and raised his game a notch from his days at Blackburn Rovers. De Gea has brought urgency from the very back of the pitch, he gets the ball and immediately looks to start an attack off which has helped the relentless nature of attacking. It’s always nice however to bring through lads from the academy so Cleverley and Welbeck have been especially pleasing and it’s such a shame they picked up injuries. That Wayne Rooney chap isn’t doing badly either.
Michael Carrick’s role against Benfica was similar to how he played last season; last Saturday against Bolton he seemed to have accepted that he needs to match Tom Cleverley’s less ponderous style of play and was pretty good at the effective. Which Michael Carrick do you think will turn up on Sunday?
Annie : Are we sure he will play? If so I believe he’d be partnering Anderson and not Fletcher which changes his play on its own. I’m happy for Carrick to remain deeper as Anderson pushes on but with Fletcher at his side there seems little forward drive from either making it a static area, I’d also expect us to play Young with Nani which gives more distinct wide outlets for Carrick to release to. I wasn’t shocked that United’s less dynamic play led to the usual chorus of ‘Let’s blame Carrick the crab’ but it’s as boring as it is incorrect, United missed the attacking threat down the wings that wasn’t as apparent on Wednesday night as it has been.
Si : I still think he plays very deep and I don’t think he really has it in his game to be like Cleverly full time. I like him and his pass completion rates are great. (92%against Benfica) I think there is a misconception that he doesn’t pass forward which is bollocks. Last season in the champions league he made 417 forward passes I read. Iniesta made 384. He does pass forward but I think people need to get off his back really. I think it’ll be the usual sitting deep Carrick on Sunday.
Wayne Rooney is a player who divided opinion last season but there can be no doubting how he’s started this season – Terry, you’ve often said just how highly you rate him. Would you say he’s in the form of his life?
Si : Like Fergie said the form of his life was season before last but I think if he carries on the way he is going he will be World Player of the Year.
Annie : That’s always a difficult question to answer, at his age we don’t know if he’ll go on to improve even more. Last season was difficult with the contract situation but he seems to feel he has a cause to fight for, that the fans are back behind him. I think this started when he got the ban for swearing and the entire country wanted to hang him out to dry, United fans had knocked him before that but defended him on this occasion. He’s got fire in his belly and something to fight for, Wayne Rooney is an emotional chap and these things help him raise his game.
One feature from the game against Benfica was the performance of Anders Lindegaard –he repeated after the game he’s “not here to pick his nose” when questioned whether he wants to challenge David De Gea. Fergie was strong in his defence of the Spaniard saying that he will start against Chelsea. Can Lindegaard realistically have a chance of being number 1 this season?
Annie : Unless there’s an injury then I can’t see it and I don’t want to either. Much as Lindegaard is a capable keeper I think we missed the quick and attacking distribution of De Gea against Benfica. However, if De Gea has anything less than an eight out of ten performance against Chelsea and Lindegaard does well at Leeds then the whole story will gain fuel. The Danish keeper seems a bit of a thinker and has already made comments about there being a hierarchy in the dressing room, of course he’s also fond of insisting he’s not a nose-picker. I hope he’s not one to sulk and I’d hate to see the modern tactic of ‘interview done with a magazine back home’, or similar, used to express his expectation to be number one. Denmark have a good chance of qualifying for Euro 2012 and if they make it then Lindegaard will surely want to be a part of it which could lead to frustration.
Si : I think that De Gea will play a lot more but Lindegaard has done his chances no harm with Wednesday nights display. He is hungry and obviously confident he can challenge but Fergie has parted with £18m for De Gea so will still play him more. But if he has a bad spell then he will drop him no mither.
Another player who didn’t even get a kick in Portugal again was Dimitar Berbatov. Is the writing on the wall for his United career?
Annie : It looks that way doesn’t it, you have to wonder if anything has happened in the summer, a move offered that Berbatov turned down or contract issues. He’s played less than half an hour of football this season and has been an unused substitute in the last four games. I hope he gets a look in as he’s a joy to watch, I can’t think of a player with a better first touch. United wouldn’t have won the league last season without Dimitar Berbatov and people need to remember that. He isn’t some failure sat on the bench in disgrace, he was the Premier League’s top scorer.
Si :I think so. I don’t know why he didn’t go in the summer. I think that his style is not suited to the new United style to be honest. I do rate him though.
One of the topics to dominate recent back pages and pundits columns is the proposed input of the “Rooney Role” which will feature “positive discrimination” in interviews for managers of football clubs – columnists such as Oliver Holt of the Mirror have supported it. What is your opinion?
Si :I think that is stupid. If someone is a good coach or manager they should get an interview just like in any job. It shouldnt be a case of ‘oh we need to interviewthis mixed race guy just to keep the quota going’ I don’t know enough about the ins and outs of it to go any deeper to be honest but that’s my first thought.
Annie : How long have you got? I feel positive discrimination is still discrimination and should only be used in the most extreme circumstances, a situation I don’t think we are in. I did an article where I looked at black players to have represented England and, of the 64 (could one or two out) to have done so, around half are still playing with a lot of those who’ve retired having only recently done so. It just shows that it’s relatively recently we started to see large numbers of black players at the top of the game and we need to give it time to let these players come through, get experience and training, and then take coaching jobs which lead to managerial positions. I think a lot of the things surrounding the Rooney Rule campaign have gone into a bit of a frenzy with people accused of being racist should they disagree, this doesn’t help anyone.
For every black ex-player who wants to be a coach supporting it, and there hasn’t been large numbers, I’m quite sure there are others actually in coaching who want them to shut up. I don’t think any normal football fan ever looked at Chris Hughton, Paul Ince, Chris Powell, Jean Tigana, Ruud Gullit and others and thought ‘black manager’ or indeed the same with black coaches. However I do worry that now people will notice the colour and mentally think ‘there’s a black manager, we don’t need the Rooney Rule’ or ‘there’s a black manager, we need the Rooney Rule to have more’ – it’s almost creating a stigma if that makes sense.
I’m really concerned that some will be suspicious when they see a black coach or manager appointed and they believe it stems from this, I dread a time where we’ll hear ‘he only got the job because he’s black’ in pubs or on terraces. Positive discrimination will always receive a backlash from some and this is why you can only use in the most desperate circumstances, we’re not in that situation. We just need patience.
Thanks to Annie and Simon for their time. You can follow Annie and her irreverent style on Twitter. You can follow Daystar on Twitter and also check out their music at their official website and YouTube channel.