Untold Premiership (part one in a series of 19): Manchester United
Sitting here this morning in the rain waiting for an airshow (at Sywell) and listening to Radio Five reminds me that I told Tony I wanted to write an occasional series of articles about the way the press treats other clubs. We are aware of the perceived bias against Arsenal and the counterproductive efforts of the AAA, but is this unique to the Gunners?
I’ll start with Man Utd because they are the biggest club side in England and have dominated English football for over a decade. Last season, with Moyes at the helm, they flopped and failed even to finish top four let alone challenge for honours. This year they have been the subject of a media love-in (again) as the press fall over themselves to welcome Louis van Garrrrrrrl. But I discern another dynamic as well: United are no longer unbeatable, Old Trafford is not a fortress. Moyes’ brief stewardship ended all that. Just ask Gary Monk and Swansea.
On MoTD Alan Shearer said the defeat to Swansea might be a blessing in disguise, because it will force the board to spend big. Van Gaal declared that he too wants some new blood but wanted to take a look at what he has. The Telegraph football correspondent Henry Winter, speaking on Five live, suggested it might be hard to recruit players without European football (something they have been telling us for years) and cites the fact that Tommy V chose Barca as an example. This represents a change in previous rhetoric, which has always claimed that when United come calling most players will jump at the chance (Ramsey famously didn’t). So maybe it’s not United, it’s success and the chance of more that draws players (and loads of money of course).
How are the papers reacting to United’s defeat (the first home defeat in the opening game of the since 1972 didn’t you know)? I’ve carried out a mini sweep of the internet (I’ve not bought a newspaper in over a year and I’m not about the start now) and have had a quick butcher’s at what some of the United blogs are saying.
EPSN said that the defeat was ‘indelible proof that the club no longer has the personnel to compete to win the Premier League’; the Mail observed that not much had changed despite the arrival of a Dutch tactical genius, ‘United are what United have been for a while: ordinary’ wrote Ron Draper. The Mirror ran a story on a smiling Luke Shaw being seen out partying with his mates just after the defeat and tracked fans reaction (generally negative it seems) on Twitter. Paul Wilson in the Guardian was more balanced but agreed that reinforcements are need, and quickly.
What about the blogs? How about this (sound familiar?) from Redrants.com
‘We operate in a way that is entirely different to any other club in the world. Take Real Madrid for example. They asked Monaco how much it would take to sign James Rodriguez. Monaco replied and Madrid gave them the money. Chelsea. How much will it take to sign Costa and Fabregas? They got the reply, they paid the money. Instead we have Woodward giving out rhetoric of how we are prepared to break the transfer record, yet we continue to penny pinch and miss out on targets.’
This can be translated as ‘spend some f***ing money!’ and this supports the discourse coming out of the media. United must buy, and buy big. 3-5 or more players, top ones, are needed the pundits agree.
The Republik of Mancunia ended its sober reflection on an opening day defeat with this:
‘How much further will we fall behind before the fans begin to make a stand again? Moyes faced the brunt of the frustration last year but it is unlikely that Van Gaal will face the same fate. There’s no questioning his credentials and his ability to make title winning squads. But there are huge question marks over the owners and CEO. If they want top four football this season they need to act now, before one dodgy season turns in to decline.’
Or as the AAA might have phrased it, “Ivan Gazidis, what is it you do?”
Stretty News carried much the same tone as well. In its ‘5 things we learned article’ number one was ‘spend, spend. Spend’ and 5 was a need to reappraise ambition this season. Five (or was it six?) pre-season victories had raised expectations – Swansea burst the bubble.
So the press and the bloggers are agreed, United need to spend some money. Do they have any? Undoubtedly. Will they find clubs willing to sell them the quality of players they want at the right price? Maybe. Will players want to come to United to be shat on by the local bird life? Who knows?
United have lost one game, and that fielding a somewhat makeshift side. The Dutch skunk is not match fit, it’s early days (Arsenal weren’t that good on Saturday) and the transfer window has two weeks to run. You write off United at your peril.
What I’ve learned is that there ain’t that much difference (so far) in how the papers and fans react to United losing their opening game and us losing ours last season.
Who shall I do next folks?
- Are Arsenal really making progress, or are we starting to slip back?
- Luton 3 Arsenal 4: maybe it is time to say positive things
- Luton v Arsenal – the referee, the team, Saka and Cliff Bastin
- Luton Town – how do they play the game. The tackles, fouls and cards.
- Luton Town v Arsenal: Grim football, fewest goals, lowest possession rate