By Proud Kev
As most of you know Manchester United are the biggest club in the World. We know this because we are reminded of it on a regular basis. This is a club that enjoyed domination of English football and the Premier League, using their financial wealth and their magnet-like attraction for big players. They were always able to attract and buy the best players, rarely faced with a richer or more attractive proposition.
There was always a suspicion that the power they held and the intimidation they applied to match officials, afforded them many ‘extra’ benefits. From the accusations of Fergie time to the claims made by Graham Poll about the systematic intimidation that became part of the Old Trafford culture, there was much suspicion about what went on.
There were jokes about referee Mike Riley, now head of PGMO, being Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s best strike partner due to the number of penalties he awarded for Manchester United.
Anyone wanting an example of the way Manchester United were able to win games, without actually winning them, should remember the infamous day when Arsenal tried to extend our unbeaten run to 50 games. Every time you watch a re-run of that game officiated by Mike Riley, his application of the rules of the game look worse.
An example of one team deciding that the only way they could win was to kick the opposition, safe in the knowledge that the referee would allow it. The treatment dished out to one player in particular, Reyes, started from the first minute, with both Neville’s smashing him several times, with Riley turning a blind eye. In that game, Riley failed to apply the rules of the game on too many occasions for it not to be called suspicious.
With Eduardo, Ramsey and Diaby all on the receiving end of brutal tackles from British players, a pattern emerges. No other manager of any club has had to witness three players carried from the field with horrific broken limbs. Coincidence? Read on and you will see it is not a coincidence.
Date: 24th January 2014.
Arsenal played away at Brighton in an FA Cup game. This game demonstrated what a great player we all know Tomas Rosicky is. So impressive was his performance that after the game Arsene Wenger made that memorable statement; “If you love football then you love Tomas Rosicky”.
Unfortunately this statement does not apply to the thugs in this country that sneer at skilful players. This has become evident in the way our referees and our media celebrate robust tackling and physical challenges and the sympathy afforded to those making the tackles. The players labelled ‘not that type of player’.
On BBC’s Match of the Day, there was an attempt to praise Tomas Rosicky’s performance. They showed a brilliant piece of skill, in which Roscicky deceived three defenders by looking in the opposite direction to the pass he made. He picked up the return pass and scored the sort of goal that gets us supporters off our feet.
One of the pundits in the BBC studio was former Manchester United player Phil Neville. Instead of praising Rosickys skill he went straight into rant mode. To the watching millions he said…
Phil Neville: “If that was a training session and somebody did that I’d be first over there and I’d probably look to two-foot him or take him out of the game. If somebody did that in training to me, winding me up, I would be straight in there. I’ld SMASH them”
This is a shocking statement. Telling all the kids out there that skilful players should be ‘smashed’ or ‘two footed’. There was some outrage about his comment and he was forced to make an apology. His apology was as embarrassing as it was insincere, claiming he meant it tongue in cheek. He didn’t, he meant it all right.
Date: 10th March 2016
Liverpool and Manchester United, two highly praised clubs in the media, met in a Europa League game. A competition designed to give smaller clubs like Spurs European competition, the game was billed as a game between the giants of English football. One of these giants has never won the Premier League in 23 attempts, the other has massively under achieved based on its financial advantages and the £350 million spent.
Liverpool won the game at a canter, with Adam Lallana proving that not all English players are technically inept. He produced a display of considerable skill, which all followers of football should enjoy. But not Paul Scholes, who like Neville seems to hate skilful play.
Paul Scholes: “United were a shambles. Every one of them, players and manager, are falling short of those standards. I see Lallana after 60 minutes stud-rolling; someone tackle him, SMASH HIM”
For years many of us have been saying that in English football, skilful play is disliked and that certain players are targeted. Arsenal have suffered more serious injuries at the hands of British players than any other team and that is not a coincidence. It is the result of an accepted tactic and one the dinosaurs in our game are proud of.
We know from previous articles and comments made by former referee Keith Hackett, that English referees apply the rules in a way to accommodate this tactic. Continental referees provide more protection to players, with less tolerance for reckless, dangerous tackles.
Manchester United prove this point. Both Phil Neville and Paul Scholes have used the word ‘Smash’ to describe their approach to skilful players. Gary Neville has also used this phrase during his brief attempt at punditry. Coincidence? No, it is clearly the language used by Alex Ferguson and the way Manchester United approached games and were allowed to get away with it. This explains that 50th game perfectly.
So next time you watch the pundits after a game, listen clearly. Have no doubt that ‘smashing’ skilful players is a tactic and one which has left resulted in our National Team being an embarrassment. The sooner we praise skilful play and remove this idea that skilful players should be ‘smashed’ the better.
But don’t hold your breath, remember the English invented the game. And Manchester United set the rules.
The Untold Books
The latest Untold book is Arsenal: The Long Sleep 1953-1970 with a Foreword by Bob Wilson, available both as a paperback and as a Kindle book from Amazon. Details of this and our previous and forthcoming titles can be found at Arsenal Books on this site.
- It is time to ring the changes at Arsenal
- They are not Arsenal supporters, I don’t know what but not supporters
From the Arsenal History Society:
- The March anniversary files have now been completely updated.
- Arsenal in the 70s part 23. At last another trophy. Jan to June 1979 – with July to December 79 to be published later today.