Published: Sept 20 98
"Were we City in disguise?"
Well, do we start worrying yet?
For the second time this year United have been turned over by Arsenal to the tune of 3-0, and I have to say
the team I watched lose to the Gunners this weekend bears little resemblance to the Manchester United I have been
used to seeing for the past 5 years or so.
There was so little confidence in this United performance. They looked like 11 men, later reduced to ten-but
more of that later- who had been introduced to each other during the coin toss. There was no fluidity in that performance,
a perceptible lack of understanding among the players.
I must admit to considerable confusion and not a little disbelief at Alex Fergusonís starting 11, and even greater
perplexity at his failure to introduce others into the game.
I know when Fergie bought Jesper Blomqvist he talked about playing him on the left, thus freeing Ryan Giggs
to a more central role. But I have to question the decision to experiment with the strategy against Arsenal at
Highbury. I donít believe this was the time or team or place for the switch.
With the combination of Yorke and Solksjaer having proved so effective already this season, why break it up
against the team who took our title away last year? And when it became obvious the formation was not working, why
were substitutions, yes plural, not made? As the first half ended with United having just gone two goals down,
I felt the right move would have been to have Giggs revert to the left wing at the expense of Blomqvist, bringing
on Ole to link up with Yorke, and replacing Nicky Butt with Paul Scholes. Each of those two can conjure a goal
out of nothing, and if there was to be any way back for United they should have started the second half.
Any chance of a revival died when Nicky Butt was sent off, wrongly I feel, by referee Graham Barber. The ref
indicated the red card was shown for a tackle from behind, but I donít believe that was correct. It was more of
a late tackle from the side, and a yellow card would have been the right decision. I hope the FA decides Butt has
been punished enough and doesnít impose a further suspension.
By the time Butt went off, United could, and should have been down to ten men anyway. I have defended David
Beckham against all those who claim he ruined Englandís World Cup chances by his sending off against Argentina.
In fact my very first "Devils Advocate" was devoted to the young manís defense. But had the referee or
his assistant seen what Beckham did to Stephen Hughes and the United man been dispatched to an early bath he would
have got what he deserved. We saw both sides of Beckhamís game against Arsenal. Those great free kicks which give
goalkeepers fits, and that ugly side which prompts him to lash out in anger. In my view Beckham deliberately stamped
on Hughesí upper leg after the Arsenal player went down under a challenge by Roy Keane.
There is no excusing such an action and I am wondering if Beckham is ever going to learn to control that part
of his nature. I am aware Becks took an elbow to the head a short time earlier, but the referee had booked Hughes,
United had been given the free kick, and that is where it should have ended.
It is going to be interesting to see what changes are made for the game against Liverpool. (If you are reading
this toward the end of the week please note this was written the evening of Sunday 20th September.)
Last week I wrote of my opposition to the proposed sale of the club to Rupert Murdoch and what I believe to
be the difference between Martin Edwardís attitude toward Manchester United F.C and the feelings of those who have
supported the club all of their lives. To Edwards it is, first and foremost, a business, and the aim of any businessman
is to make a profit. Those who support the club do so for life, and no amount of money can change their allegiance.
While I must admit to having had mixed feelings when I first heard about the Sky takeover, I am now convinced it
must not happen.
By far the best comment I have heard on the current chairmanís role in all of this was from Andy Walsh, the
head of the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association. I am sure most of you have already heard it,
but for the few who might not have Walsh said "Martin Edwards knows the price for everything but the value
That is it in a nutshell. I am not going to repeat all I said at the end of last weekís column. Only that Edwards
doesnít understand or appreciate how the "common" United fan feels about the club. Rich kids never do
appreciate their toys as much as poorer kids do.
If you havenít read the manifesto which came out of the meeting sponsored by Andy Walshís group last week, you
should. Itís at a number of sites on the net and encapsulates the feelings of all true Reds fans. I am going to
reproduce some of it here. I havenít asked permission from IMUSA yet and apologize for not doing so. Yet I am sure
they wonít mind if it helps get the word out to any supporter who hasnít yet heard what United fans can do to show
their displeasure with the sale of the club to the Murdoch business empire.
The following is the introduction to the fans manifesto.
Many supporters think the future of Manchester United is destined to be in the hands of one man - Rupert Murdoch.
IT IS NOT. This club has been built on the loyalty of its supporters, and the efforts of Matt Busby, Alex Ferguson
and great players past and present, But since the launch of the plc we have seen our club taken further and further
away from its loyal support. This latest fiasco is a step too far. Decisions affecting the future of Manchester
United will be taken on the other side of the world. Our club will no longer be independent. We will be owned and
manipulated to further the business interests of the Murdoch empire. So when Alex Ferguson says: "We are United
to the core", remember so are we and so are you. Show your support for the club as we know it and help to
stop this takeover before it makes us into the club we don't know.
I couldnít agree more. Too many clubs these days are in the hands of "businessmen" who have no feel
or regard for the rich traditions and proud histories of their clubs. Take a look at White Hart Lane and Goodison
Park if you need proof of what happens in such cases.
If you agree with IMUSA then take note of this, the final paragraph of the manifesto:
THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE. The heart has been ripped out of this football club in recent years, but its soul still
exists within the supporters. We will never give in to the sale of our club to a man whose only interest is the
money, manipulation and the power it can bring him. There is an alternative to Rupert Murdoch. This campaign requires
money. Please send donations, however small to: National Westminster Bank Stretford Branch, 20a King Street, Stretford,
Manchester M32 8AE. Account no. 32055595, sort code 01 08 52.
Contact the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association (IMUSA) PO Box 69,Stretford, Manchester M32
Shareholders United Against Murdoch (SUAM) - organizer Michael Crick - would welcome help from any United shareholders.
SUAM can be contacted at1 Sumburgh Road, London SW12 8AJ. Tel: 0171223 5847.
I would like to add a couple of suggestions. As I said early on in this column businessmen do what they do for
the profit. Money is all they understand. So letís hit them in the only place they have any feeling. The wallet.
Donít buy meat from Martin Edwards company. Donít buy "The Times" or "The Sun" or any other
Murdoch owned newspaper. Cancel your SKY subscription until the Murdoch takeover bid is withdrawn or rejected by
the board. I donít know who most of the board members are or to what they owe their fat bank accounts. If anybody
does, let me know. Iíll print their business names and we can boycott them too. If you truly love this club sacrifice
your satellite channels and your Page 3 pin-up for a little while. We have to let this business bully know he isnít
welcome at Old Trafford, and we will do whatever we can to stop him from making it his own. This club has almost
gone under a couple of times since itís birth as Newton Heath and both times people who truly cared saved it. The
better part of this team died on an icy runway 40 years ago, and the team was rebuilt by a man who, instead of
giving up, fought back from his own plane crash injuries, to lead the club to European Cup greatness.
Rupert Murdoch traded his national heritage for an American broadcasting license. To allow such a man to walk
the same hallways once trod by Matt Busby would be a travesty, an insult to Sir Matt, and all those who played
for him, and loved him. It can not be allowed to happen.