Curb your enthusiasm

August 7, 2012 Tags: , Opinion 26 comments

A full strength Manchester United drew against a poor Vålerenga IF on Sunday afternoon in sunny Oslo, in yet another dire performance on this year’s money laundering pre-season tour. Football romantics, and those of a nostalgic bent, will remember when a pre-season tour was actually a means of getting into shape before the coming season. Those days are long gone. Just ask United’s marketing department, which will surely be satisfied with a DHL-sponsored three-continents-in-a-few-weeks draining, but profitable tour.

United’s opponents – which hasn’t won Norway’s top division since 2005 – paid a reported £1 million to convinced the Glazers that the Reds should visit, and duly priced tickets at a whopping £90 (yes, a pound a minute). Yet the Ullevaal stadium was sold out, with almost 25,000 spectators in attendance – less than 20 from the home side’s own supporters club, Klanen, ‘the Clan.’

Vålerenga’s revenue from the game approximated 15 home matches in Norway’s Eliteserien – the ‘elite series’ – and sources claim the club’s entire budget this year depended on a sell-out crowd. That was nothing to worry about though. After all, Norway, being recession free, can afford the spectacle that comes with having United in town. Like paying legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel a rumoured £30,000 for being the main speaker at the Scandinavian supporters’ branch party at Rockefeller Music Hall on Saturday night. One could argue that was a fair pay day for Schmeichel to be his usual arrogant self and yell at kids who dared to ask for more than one autograph.

Yet, it’s nothing new that anglophile Norwegians enjoy spending their money on United – just ask anyone who’s ever been to the Bishop Blaze on Old Trafford matchdays.

All in, it was a great weekend with United in town though. The sun was shining, Norwegian girls were, as always, the world’s finest, and everyone bar paying customers – formerly known as “fans” – got a nice cut of the crazy money-spinning United tour. Like Spanish Bank Grupo Santander, provider of the ‘Manchester United credit card,’ which spat out credit cards at will from the company’s stand next to the Scandinavian supporters club in down-town Oslo on Saturday. Teased with exclusive opportunities to ‘get Old Trafford tickets,’ who can blame Norwegian fans for signing up as future debt slaves? Most fit Sir Alex Ferguson’s assessment of being real fans.

Having said that, the Manchester United’s Supporters Trust (MUST) has thousands of paying members from Norway, and the Scandinavian supporters branch did invite chief executive Duncan Drasdo to speak at their party Saturday night. Academy boss, and close Sir Alex Ferguson associate, Brian McClair was there too, and the pair seemed to get along well. What must the club’s employees really think of the current ownership?

Still, the match was alarming. Two weeks before United meet a hostile Everton at Goodison and the Reds can’t seem to score. The usual propaganda emerged: ‘this was a nice work-out, the fans were great, we’d like to give something back to our supporters in Norway,’ said assistant manager Mike Phelan post match. He didn’t fool anyone who actually paid attention on Sunday.

How is it that just a few weeks after the Euros, Wayne Rooney looks overweight and has seemingly lost his touch? Cynics might wonder whether his contract is up for renewal. Then there is Nani, who can’t seem to successfully dribble or pass round a few part-time professionals.

This is without asking why the club has failed to secure a left-back to ease the pressure on Patrice Evra. With Michael Keane politely described as ‘uncomfortable’ at left-back Sunday, Phil Jones sent home with a virus and Michael Carrick again deputising at centre-back after Nemanja Vidić was taken off in the second half, the question of whether United should acquire a defender is key. Bringing back John O’Shea? It’s tempting to ponder: “why the hell not?”

And many won’t believe that Sir Alex remained in Manchester to conclude a transfer deal or two – not for a second. More likely, the Scot was smooth-talking the prawn sandwich brigade into buying a slice of United’s much debated IPO.

As it stands, many will feel that this United side has no chance of beating a rejuvenated Chelsea or a confident Manchester City to the title, let alone Real Madrid and Barcelona in Europe. But so what? At least fans get the thrill of having a credit card with the club logo on, and the honour of paying Schmeichel to sing “who put the ball in the Germans net?”


Rony - August 7, 2012 Reply

Great article. We must prepare ourselves for one more trophyless season.

ja - August 7, 2012 Reply

Apparently Phelan has said United are ‘closing in on Barcelona’.

Denial at all levels of the club?

Damian Garside - August 7, 2012 Reply

Reminds me a bit of the scene in the film Downfall where Eva Braun takes everyone “upstairs” to party like its 1999 : only to rush back down into the safety of the bunker when the Russian artillery (new “Hazardous” artillery paid for by the Russian) starts to zero in from their positions all of 800 yards away. talk about not being up for it: it’s almost as if the club are half thinking of taking a footballing holiday this season. More agony for the lot of us, on the (United credit) cards unfortunately

Alfonso Bedoya - August 7, 2012 Reply

Shameful way to treat our Norwegian brothers… if I were you, I’d lobby your Government to stop sending us Christmas trees.
By the way Mate… “Pont Neuf bridge”… did you know, that’s the same one from “The Bourne Identity”?… couldn’t resist that “cheeky” little fact.

“Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

BiscuitBarrell - August 7, 2012 Reply

Vidic saying we were unlucky with injuries and lessons have been learnt – says it all. Prepare for a year of turgid catenaccio, and the odd appearance of Phil Jones at centre forward.

Gopher Brown - August 7, 2012 Reply

Hey, maybe everything will work out alright! I mean, it’s only pre-season, we’ve got a good squad, Kagawa looks good, Mike Phelan’s back in his shorts.

No? Okay, I’ll get me coat…

Denton Davey - August 7, 2012 Reply

All is doom. The sky is falling in.

Clive - August 7, 2012 Reply

This makes me quite depressed the football is back soon, especially because of the UK Olympians doing so well – I say swap the likes of Rooney and Nani’s wage packets with our gold medalists and see how the primadonnas like that…

Yes – its UK not GB…

Gabagool - August 8, 2012 Reply

You miserable sods. Pre season is a training run where not getting injured is the main aim. I swear half the posters on here just come on to moan like fuck. Heads up, we’ll be there at the top come the end of the season, just like always.

Damian Garside - August 8, 2012 Reply

Yep, we’re going to win alright Fergie and Malcolm flew to NY to speak to our supporters in the Corleone family (sorry, Genco Olive Oil) and give certain players an “offer they can’t refuse”. Cut to early morning in the Hazard, Toure and Aguero bedrooms in the early morning, as we watch the players wake up (split-screen or parallel cutting) feel beneath the sheets and scream with horror as they find their favorite boots with the laces slashed, the toe parts cut off, and what remains of their sponsored footwear smothered in tomato sauce.

Damian Garside - August 8, 2012 Reply

My wife tells me your monniker is Setswana for “doing the Pozdan”. Also you appear to have forgot what I told you ten mins into the first lecture of Philosophy 101: if people talk about something it MUST have meaning.

But I am not going to argue with you: I had a prophetic dream in which AF receives three trophies on behalf of the club. not football trophies, but Tv Emmy awards and thus from the exposure/ publicty point of v iew, much much better. In fact: Three Emmy awards: best reality TV. comedy; best reality TV tragedy, and best TV adaptation from a script written by The Seven Dwarves

19 and Counting - August 8, 2012 Reply

This is United RANT so that’s exactly what I am gonna do. Leaving aside the Glazers, the IPO and all the other BS associated with our lovely owners, just focusing on the squad itself makes me pretty fuckin glum – and SAF and not the Glazers have to shoulder the blame here.

Instead of strengthening the squad with the right additions in the right places, Fergie has fucked around by making supposed bids for players we don’t need. We already have a plethora of attacking options with Kagawa’s arrival and the likes of Welbeck and Chicharito – never mind Macheda and Berba – must be wondering how they’ll fit into Fergie’s plans this season. The CM problem inexplicably has still not been solved and our defensive options are looking limited. Fergie is sure to play players OOP again – something that we’ve already seen in the pre-season matches – and that will only make supporters even more disgruntled than they already are seeing Phil Jones in CM and Valencia at RB. SAF lets Fabio go out on loan and still we have no backup LB when it is clear that we need to replace Evra who was defensively suspect on numerous occasions last season and is on the wrong side of 30. Rafael may or may not be our starting RB but he needs a few weeks to recover after the Olympics and his fitness and ability to defend are questionable. Smalling and Evans are injured atm and We don’t know how Vidic will react after such a bad injury and a long time out. Not adding some defensive cover in the next few weeks would be suicide IMO.

I like the addition of Kagawa to our team but I still don’t know how SAF is going to set up this team going forward. His best position is in behind the striker but isn’t that where Rooney is supposed to be at his best? Will FErgie change his formation just to accomodate Kagawa? Perhaps even he doesn’t know the answer as he makes ‘bids’ to acquire Moura and RVP – feeble attempts to sign players we knew we’d never get (or need) anyways.

There are HUGE questions marks in CM with Fletcher’s career seemingly over and a reliance on Paul Scholes whose – let’s be honest – glory days are over. Then there’s Giggsy who should be enjoying retirement and Anderson who should be in Burger King and not on the football pitch. Cleverley is always injured and has proven nothing yet which leaves Carrick as our best option in CM – not exactly a confidence-booster when playing the big sides in Europe.

I am amazed what SAF has done for this football over the years even though I haven’t always agreed with his comments or actions. But perhaps the time may be to finds a successor and move the club forward in a different direction – Glazers or no Glazers. The problems we face are flippin’ obvious to everyone and to do nothing to rectify them again is not good enough. The ‘real fans’ comments only make things worse for him and will only reignite the passion for change at the club.

He has a few weeks left to regain my trust and prove me wrong. This has to be the most depressing summer I’ve ever experienced as a United supporter and I fear things will only get worse before they get better.

ja - August 8, 2012 Reply

TBH, the club has the same end of era feeling as the late 60s. Then all fans knew we needed a centre half to replace Bill Foulkes (then about Scholes/Giggs age) and to refresh the midfield with Charlton/Crerand on their last legs.
We were all screaming to sign Mike England but Busby felt there was ‘no value in the market’ and England went to Spurs for 95K whereas Busby valued him at 80-90 apparently. Ditto the young and v dynamic Alan Ball who went from Blackpool to Everton for 110K. Instead Busby signed a winger Morgan, who proved a loyal servant but at that time an inferior George Best.
Busby finally bailed, handed the reins to Mcguiness (cf Ferguson to Phelan) and every season got worse till relegation. As Marx ssid, history repeats, first as tragedy, then as farce.

Damian Garside - August 8, 2012 Reply

I think you are absolutely right here. I wondered why we always in the 60 s were a team of 3 geniuses and some absolute also- fans.

What we do for one unquestioned football genius now: probably Bobby because of the dire situation in midfield

ja - August 8, 2012 Reply

thats a bit unfair
Dunne Noble
Crerand Foulkes Stiles
Best, Law Herd Charlton Connelly

were at their best in 65-66 (Stepney arrived a year later). They were all international class but starting to age and suffer injuries (Denis especially) and of course Noble’s sad car crash. They should have won the European Cup in 66 but Best got injured. If so, maybe Busby would have signed new blood. But he kept the team together for one last shot at Europe (remember only the champions qualified then).
But with an annual budget going forward of 20-25 million, superstars are never going to come while the gimps have their foot on the throat of the club and sucking its blood dry.
Boycott till they go.

Damian Garside - August 8, 2012

I take your point: but I think if we had got Alan Ball from Blackpool — instead of him going to Everton then we could have been invincible instead of just very, very good. But then in the 60s managers were not aware of what constitued a great midfield player and how a player who might not be up to the standard of being a United winger: Johnny Giles, might in fact turn our to be a fantabulous midfield player. It was also Liverpool in the 70s who really pointed out that there could be such a thing as an invincible football team. Fergie was the one who proved that the name of the team that was invincible could change (knocking them off the perch, when actually it was more like knocking them off the summit of a mountain).

ja - August 8, 2012

I agree we should have got Ball. I know Best wanted the club to sign him. Who knows, if Ball and one or two other decent players had arrived instead of reserves like Sartori, Steve James, Paul Edwards etc, Bestie might have been inspired to cut down on the booze and fulfil his real potential.
If only….
If only the plc board had organised a poison pill defence against the gimps or similar raiders…

Damian Garside - August 8, 2012 Reply

Here’s a thought about AF: he won so much with us because he never won anything. His drive to win was always fired by a tragic failure to appreciate winning. His malady and the club’s glory were inextricably linked. But it meant for him that winning was the key to who he saw himself as being: hence the rise and success of City has really damaged him: suggesting that he is not who he longs o be but what he fears the most: failure. Hence he is crippled by the memory of the few errors and failures in his spectacular career, to the extent that he stops. buying players, eschews innovation, no longer behaves like a decisive leader during matches. He is a man lost who doesn’t know how to find what he was.

Gopher Brown - August 8, 2012 Reply

To be fair though, Fabio does need playing time which can’t be guaranteed at United at the moment. Although Evra has been poor the last two seasons, statistically he’s a valuable member of the team and the same stats show he didn’t have a particularly bad season last time.

If Fabio can get 30 games this season at QPR and can demonstrate his ability in a consistent manner he may very well replace Evra for next season. Bringing in a LB at the moment doesn’t seem like a priority as long-term we may be sorted there.

Baines is 27 and would be coming in as first-choice. We are not selling Evra this summer, so how can they both fit in the team? Baines is not a better LB than Evra, and Pat’s leadership and personality appear to be of great benefit to the club. If only Zeki Fryers had held on, he could have provided good cover at LB.

Damian Garside - August 8, 2012 Reply

This is bad. For the first time I’m starting to doubt my faith the God is also a Utd supporter. After all, if our messiah (Rooney) is as fatly out of shape as ou Norwegian frend says, then shouldn’t angels suddenly appear, whisk him of to Mt Sinai and administer the miracle of holy liposuction?

Jesus - August 8, 2012 Reply

Man are people on here pissed off.

Have you been watching the same game I was? Line-up was filled with players that haven’t played a minute of football for over a month and some coming back from long term injury, and yet played some entertaining attacking football. The Welbeck chances, the Rooney flick, Vidic dominating, the Valencia/Nani right hand side passage of play and a few amazing touches by Scholes and Kagawa… was I the only one who watched that? All that ignored in favor of a few bad touches by Rooney and Michael Keane not being comfortable as a right footed centerback playing as a Left back? Really?

All clubs with big fan bases go on commercial tours during the summer.
1- Inter Milan: Indonesia, Scotland
2- Man City: Austria, Beijing, Malaysia
3- Arsenal: Beijing, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Germany
4- Barcelona: Germany, Morocco, France, Sweden, Romania
5- Chelsea/Real/PSG/Milan: All corners of the US

Sure this preseason might’ve been a bit more hectic than the usual, however only 5 of the players that would stake a claim to the starting line-up featured in those tours, the rest of the squad were fringe players or reserve team members. Sure its not ideal but I think people are letting the doom and gloom from the non-football related stuff color their judgement a tad too much.

Damian Garside - August 8, 2012 Reply

After reading our Norwegian friend’s account of United’s per-season money-spinning expedition to his homeland, I wondered if there wasn’t a “Freaky Friday” kind of moment that happened during one of the derby matches: when we went home City and they went home United. They became us (Champions of the PL) and we went home about to take over from them as (who would have ever thought it that night in the Nou Camp) the PLs new source of comic relief. Now we need to get the two clubs back into their right “bodies” and everything will be back to normal, us chalking up the victories and trophies and their fans back to singing Blue Moon as a sad lament, not as a victory anthem. 

Damian Garside - August 8, 2012 Reply

After reading our Norwegian friend’s account of United’s per-season money-spinning expedition to his homeland, I wondered if there wasn’t a “Freaky Friday” kind of moment that happened during one of the derby matches: when we went home City and they went home United. They became us (Champions of the PL) and we went home about to take over from them as (who would have ever thought it that night in the Nou Camp) the PLs new source of comic relief. Now we need to get the two clubs back into their right “bodies” and everything will be back to normal, us chalking up the victories and trophies and their fans back to dining Blue Moon as a sad lament, not as a victory anthem. 

Violent Banana - August 8, 2012 Reply

Chasing shadows for 90 minutes tonight should help the team’s fitness no end

Denton Davey - August 8, 2012 Reply

“Details of moura transfer : 43 mil euros , salary 250k per week on a 4 year deal agent fees 9 mil.. Total transfer cost 100 mil.. That kis is an unprocen 19 year old. Fucking mental”

Glazernomics in action – UTD drove up the price ! Now the Qataris have only 999,999,999,999,999 quid more to spend – this year.

Denton Davey - August 12, 2012 Reply

19 and counting: “He [SAF] has a few weeks left to regain my trust and prove me wrong.”

He must be consumed with worry about that. Sleepless in Stockport ?

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