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Entries in Man Utd away (16)


Spurs in turmoil

Manchester United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 3


Someone, please hold me.

I swear, hand on heart, before the game kicked off, in the build up to it I was not in the slightest bit nervous. I guess because it’s Old Trafford and the memories of the past twenty-three years have turned the occasion into a foregone conclusion. We know the script, we’ve read through it dozens of times before. It's a seasonal tradition. At full time I was a complete mess of a man. Why? Because of that oh so common anomaly that can sometimes crop up when we play them. On those rare occasions, perhaps two or three times in amongst the twenty-six games without a win in their back yard, there is sometimes an inclining of hope. That moment when you almost believe because you think the players believe.

On those rare occasions we’ve had that cruelly and sometimes brutally and many times comically snatched away from us, without remorse. It’s in these moments of hope where you suddenly care so much more. Not that you never care about what transpires for Spurs but you care more so because the very thought of losing is soul destroying because you believe you've got a grasp on victory. Hope is the unequivocal reason. Hope, hope takes you, grabs you by the throat and drags you to the very brink of hell, pulling you down, making you experience all you witness in slow motion. You suffer every second, it becomes unbearable. This is what it feels like to be a supporter of any club. For us it’s pretty much the standard.

We have had to endure being out classed, losing to dubious referring decisions and a variety of capitulations that were birthed from the fact that for all the desire to believe, there was nothing to truly back it up when it mattered most. Why was that? Probably because we allowed that negativity to become synonymous with playing them. 'United, they’re bound to beat us', and they do, every time. Thinking it is enough to constitute believing it. A single shred of doubt is enough. In my match preview I said that for all the years and games played, in many ways, none of it should be of any relevance to the present day and the game to be played next. Why should it be? Fact is, bad luck and decisions aside, we have never been good enough to beat United at Old Trafford. Tactically and mentally. On this occasion we got it right and to make certain of the three points, a footballing God up in the heavens decided that there would be no thunderous rain to drown us in. They looked away for once.

This is a new Tottenham Hotspur, in its infancy in terms of maturity of system and tactics but eager, hungry and willing to impress. It’s still early days. There’s still plenty to improve on, but you can take a performance and a result like this and you use it as evidence of squad harmony. It feeds into boosting morale, confidence. Also, it adds to the justification of the faith placed in the coach and in being patient. The great fallacy about football is that if one person says something another believes this to be true simply because it’s been said. One person says 'pressure' therefore another believes there must be pressure. What pressure? Who cares? The word is sometimes nothing more than a commercial commodity to make money from the hyperbole it generates. Villas-Boas isn't under pressure, he's just probably irritated. His emotional celebrations are a release. No doubt the frustrations and experience at Chelsea still need to be worked out of his system along with one or two other bug bites that need to be scratched.

The game itself was fascinating because it illustrated just how juxtaposed when comparing one half to the next.

The first half was exceptional. 1-0 up in no time at all. Half man half amazing Jan Vertonghen bursting into the box to score. It was easy, too easy. Too earlier? Was hope planning to drag me down kicking and screaming within the opening couple of minutes? We continued in good form. Bossing the game. More pace, more power and some beastly performances in midfield and on the break. Sandro starting a move with a brilliant tackle on van Persie, playing the ball out to Dembele who released Bale for the second. 2-0 at the break. The most telling aspect of our play was the intensity of our movement, always looking to hurt United. Composed and effective passing. Confidence in abundance. Which is where that ominous whisper makes its appearance, that voice in your head, pulling you back from being overcome with excitement and bravado. Hope.

“We’ve been here before”, it whispers, "...You know what happens next, don't you?"

Would have been naive to expect United to come out second half and not attempt to claim some type of stranglehold on the game. We were deeper, sitting back too much and not defending the flanks but then we never got hold of the ball enough to dictate tempo. One stat I saw shared on Twitter was that we only completed around 35 passes in the second half, such was United’s dominant pursuit with making a breakthrough. You expect them to make that breakthrough too. Regardless of our past history with them, it’s United, they’re famous for it. It’s what they do.

From being in control with splendid work ethic and intelligent movement in the first half, we chased down shadows and surrendered that intensity to the hosts in the second. We got teased and slapped around by hope once more, as she loves to do. That anomaly, that rarity. Once more into the heart of darkness we stared.

Perhaps there is a solution to being pegged back like that. Something VB noted for future reference. The ball, when sent forward, was instantly lost and United pressed on over and over again. We failed to take the sting out the game, we failed to slow it down. This resulted in a variety of emotions and cursing and praying. But we did not collapse or give in or lose focus and concentration. Yes, the wood work saved us a couple of times. Yes, there was a decision in there that might have, could have gone United’s way. Yes, they missed a couple of chances that they could so easily have buried. But these are the very same incidents that all clubs suffer but sometimes succeed with, week in week out. Just because we’re the benefactors of luck this time, doesn’t demean it. Justice for Pedro, right?

That second half was more to do with Manchester United waking up than it was to do with our tactics. Much like United's first half performance was influenced by our dominance. Tactics aside, the players had to dig deeper than ever to find that resolve and that belief, which is usually nothing more than an empty shell at Old Trafford but this time was fleshed out the size of Godzilla fighting off an army of attacks.

At 2-0, after the second forty-five kicked off, I made a dash to the toilet. Butterflies in my gut had morphed into piranhas. I returned and stared with sheer amazement that the score was now 3-1. I had time to blink and it was then 3-2. No no no, not this I cried out. The game, in the space of 140 seconds had gone clinically mental. For all of that structure of the first forty-five, the game had opened up massively. As games do. Tactically, the game had relaxed. Loosened up. You can argue the way things panned out initially is how we had planned. We set out to attack and pressure and hassle United and it worked. The second half was probably going to be the same from us but perhaps with looking to turn defence into attack, on the counter. Yet it become a game where United were always in the ascendancy and we became reactive to everything they threw at us. We lost the remote behind the sofa and had to endure forty-five minutes of a tv show we didn't want to watch. Aside from luck, it’s here that mental strength can come in quite handy.

Tottenham believed. And for once it was not false or deluded or misplaced. For once it wasn't an empty shell.

For all those years, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t ecstatic about this. United might not be the team of previous seasons but this is more about the team we can become rather than the state of the teams we play. They still have the experience. We still have to earn it. This win goes some way to setting the foundations for future victories.

Friedel – Did his job. Held onto the ball when it was imperative to do so. Safe hands.

Walker – He still hasn’t got a grip on positioning which means we’ll be punished for it, inviting pressure on. More discipline required.

Gallas – Experienced. Proving a fair few wrong. Looked suspect earlier this season, almost felt last year was his last run out and yet he’s managed to retain some influence and composure at the back for us. With no Ledley there, it’s perhaps fortunate we kept Gallas.

Caulker – Didn’t panic, but he’s hardly a Premier League fledgling. Gallas by his side helps.

Vertonghen – Did I see a Superman celebration? Keep this form up and he’ll easily be our Player of the Season. Brilliant in defending as he is bringing the ball out. Risky with the shirt pull, but his run in the early minutes was deserving of the goal he got. Not too shabby at left-back.

Sandro – This might well be the season we see him mature. Beastly as ever, and much like Bruce Banner, in control of the monster within. A vital element to the way the side sets up. Holding midfield, defensive midfielder, brick wall. Call his role what you want, he doesn’t just defend. By virtue of winning the ball he can spark an attack with a simple ball. That tackle on Robin van Persie.

Dembele – Another powerful performance but struggled a little with his passing in the second half.

Dempsey – Scored. Still finding his groove, still has to work on his awareness and movement with new team mates. He'll score a few by attacking the penalty area.

Bale – Much more like it. Scores and assists.

Lennon – I’d like to see Villas-Boas to work on how he can use his runs more effectively. Honestly, at full pelt, running at defences, he can be unplayable. Doesn’t happen enough, but he’s started this season in superb form. 14 key passes so far this season.

Defoe – Worked hard. Will always struggle a little with holding up the ball when were up against it (something we desperately needed in the second half) but can’t fault his performance and link up play when we attacked. Was involved in two goals. He’s a much better footballer under VB. His run left Ferdinand and Evans in no mans land for Bale's goal and he held the ball up wonderfully well in the build up to Dempsey's.

Sig, Huddlestone and Dawson – all helped out when coming on. It was hardly the easiest of games at the time of arrival. Chris Hoy will be able to tweet without any repercussions concerning mistaken identity. Sir Alex will still be complaining, as officially 'Fergie Time' isn't due to finish until Monday morning.

As for our coach? Top marks. Let the haters keep on hating, let there be a siege mentality if necessary, but everything outside of Tottenham that only exists to criticise is hardly of any true relevance any more. Most of it is borderline fantasy mixed with unintentional parody. Such is the lack of substance. Club in crisis. Villas-Boas wins the three games he had to win to save his job < insert canned laughter here >.

We won the game because of the first half. United were only as good as they were in the second because of the performance we put in. The spirit and survival instincts displayed our character isn’t one dimensional like past teams that flattered to deceive. We can be bullish and we can be bullied, but we can still come out on top. It’s just one game, but its testament to the work being done at Spurs. A fantastic result for a club in turmoil, where players hate training and dislike their coach by refusing to play for him and then mockingly hug him after the final whistle.

The game left me both physically and mentally exhausted by the end of it. But utterly joyful at the same time. Only our fifth away win in eighty games against the old traditional top four. Another hoodoo gone. But more importantly, twenty-three years aside, justification in support of our coach.

So onwards to the next test and the next step. Where no doubt hope awaits once more to suffocate our beating hearts.


I blame Howard Webb

Okay, so this is going to be depressing.

There was a point in the game when I actually thought to myself we were competing really well and there was little difference between us and Utd other than perhaps just that little bit more zing in their play. Opening ten minutes, we kept possession well (just not as slick with the passing and movement as we can be) but United found their players with more intent in going forward and as the game progressed we retained that the same level of composure but didn't improve where it mattered. Meaning, when United stepped it up, they created and when they create then tend to score. Which they did. 1-0 would have been okay. 2-0 hurt. 3-0 was just taking the p*ss. We were hardly outclassed in the game in terms of start to finish, just outclassed when it mattered.

That despondent shrug we do so well. It made a flipping cameo. Which is hardly of surprise considering the location.

Whilst United are decisive up top, we dithered far too many times. Fairly limp, illustrating the necessity to announce and play our new forward (Adebayor) because any new forward will completely change the dynamics of how we play our football when charging forward. I know that is such a cliché to drop in a match review but I think we've been stale for too long upfront and players like JD will find themselves galvanised by having to compete for their place rather than settle into it when selected.

But just so that I'm not buried by some of you, I'm only stating what we all knew for practically the whole of last season. My 'bring in the new blood' war cry is just a continuation of that rather than singling out Defoe and using him as a scapegoat.

Our wingers still need to produce the goods in terms of finding the forward(s) but again, I wouldn't go mental on nit-picking the lack of productivity. It's just one game, 90 minutes, and the side was just not good enough in the end to contain and punish United.

Defoe, (I'm not picking on him here, honestly I'm not, just an observation on his performance) was unintelligent when in possession in and around the box. Just too eager to either lash the ball (not very well) or hold onto it for too long. Unlucky with the woodwork though.

The midfield worked hard. Impressed with Livermore simply because he did not appear to be overhauled although he was nothing more than a bog standard no fireworks Jenas, tidying up in midfield and fulfilling Harry's instructions. He grafted, unspectacular but it warms me to see a yoof player in Lilywhite and working his socks off. Niko is no Luka. And regardless of the reasons for his (Modric) absence it was telling. The team simply doesn't function in the same way.

We played football without any genuine impetuous and in the end all it took was for United to change gear. Sure, we had moments of attacking purpose but tbh I'd rather lose to a Howard Webb assist than lose this way. Midfield was simply not strong enough or industrious enough and certainly not capable of dictating tempo and pace. No fault of the players selected. You almost wish we were nearer full strength because < insert scenario that would have played out to our advantage in a parallel universe >.

Substitutions confused me, but then something was needed. Just felt the midfield was weaker for it. Fact of the matter is, there was no authority in the middle and no apparent influence. Harry citing characters in his post-match interview and the need for them. Diarra a character? What's that? Did someone just say Barton?

So, there we were living with United quite well. Used the space pretty well too when running into it but not quite using it as we should have when looking to play a final killer ball. Conceded one then came the dizzy spell then it was over.

I don't know, first game of the season at a notoriously impossible away venue where we get nothing season in season out. Should we really analyse this to bits or just wait for us to lose to City first?

Joking. Expect a more accomplished performance at the Lane. We'll probably dick 'em.

Some other footnotes:

Brad in goal, not sure I understand this. It's almost like saying 'we don't trust Gomes'. He played well though, no denying that. I guess Harry prefers him. For the moment, there is no doubting the selection.  Defending for the goals conceded, not exactly oozing confidence and awareness. But then I guess that's why they scored. No grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck, collectively. You got that impression when United pushed forward (the scruffing of necks).

So convincing win for the home side, not so convinced of the need to knee-jerk. We have to fashion a working midfield in time for the next league game. The Lane has to be rocking when City come to town.

All in all, disappointing night but hardly end of days. Was actually confident pre-match and for a hefty chunk of the game you'd not have disagreed with me. But alas, it's out of our system. We never pick up points at Old Trafford. This hoodoo is not for breaking. Not yet. United, nothing special or amazing and you can see how they could get beaten by sterner opposition. Just that, there is very little stern opposition about these days so Fergie will be more than content his side will compete once more.

Anyways, someone let me know when it's safe to hit the forums again. Twitter is already a massive mess this late evening.

Honestly, hand on heart, no drugs, still think a top 4 challenge is well within our ability. Just call me a  loon. We'll make those signings and we'll push on. Certain of it. Just a downer it ended 3 nothing in the end.

This weeks podcast should be a joy to record.



The Fighting Cock is a brand new THFC podcast. You can stream it or download it here on DML (make sure you have a Quicktime plug-in installed).

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Flav, tehTrunk, Spooky, Ricky, Chicago Dan.

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Modric. Again.

Another day, another Harry throw-away soundbite that gets savaged on like a pack of zombies eating through a bit part character in The Walking Dead.

This illustrates why Redknapp should just say 'no comment' or just decline an appearance (although he's probably the one inviting himself). Personally think he has said something off the back of something we already know. Luka wants to leave. That's different, very different to the club looking to sell him and then publicly and indirectly suggest that the player is refusing to play. Just a single soundbite chewed and spat out by the gaffer, and suddenly the player is on the verge of signing for Chelsea again.

Redknapp, hardly the articulate type, probably wasn't suggesting what the media are lapping up at the moment whilst they continue to push their Modric to West London agenda.

The player is injured, not fully fit. The additional commentary on the state of his head (last time I noticed it was still sitting on his neck) was unnecessary and is also pretty much common knowledge. It's like Harry can't help himself (consciously or subconsciously) by stirring it up a little bit by stating facts of truth that only serve to feed the hungry journalists and sports desks.

Breaking news...Modric's head hasn't been right from the moment the Daily Mail published that interview from the yacht.

Once more I refer you to:

Levy has stated its a closed matter and the player won't be sold.
Modric and agent agreed a 6 year contract, of the ilk of an actual gentleman's agreement where pen gracefully touched paper.

All the alleged engineering in the world won't change the fact that regardless of the fact that this now transcends the player himself (he is simply a chess piece), the club can not go back on their word. This is not the same as the Berbatov strike and United move.

Redknapp (you might have missed this particular soundbite) cited the fact the chairman wont sell the player. He probably just needs to read off a cheat sheet next time to avoid using the wrong terminology.

Onwards to the only thing that should matter today. United at Old Trafford. Spirit of '89 and all that.




The Fighting Cock is a brand new THFC podcast. You can stream it or download it here on DML (make sure you have a Quicktime plug-in installed).

Love the Shirt.

Flav, tehTrunk, Spooky, Ricky, Chicago Dan.

The FC Podcast group on Facebook.

Also listen to The Fighting Cock via:

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e-mail: thefightingcock at gmail dot com - we want your feedback, suggestions and e-mails.


Spurs lose to United at Old Trafford again

Match previews for games at Old Trafford are all pretty much based on the same template no matter the season. We sort of know we're going to lose so we dress up the pre-match war cry to cite how 'it's all about the performance' and that it's important to show a good account of ourselves by fighting with ample tenacity and display desire and other such emotive footballing clichés.

Arguably, losing to Manchester United is hardly something that will leave us tainted with disgrace across our faces. They've been known to win silverware, domestically and in Europe. They have instilled in them a belief system that is pretty much second to none. In other words, they know how to play and they know how to respond positively if they're on the ropes.

My point is, its pretty much okay to cite 'it's all about the performance'. If we go up there on Monday and play stupendously well in a ding-dong game and lose because of a moment of brilliance or the simple fact they deserved it that little bit more - it's not RIP or end of days. Take it on the chin, move on.

But there's more to it than just that. Hence the same recurring template no matter the season.

There is a deep rooted psychological issue at play. We capitulate. We choke. Sure, the great footballing script writer in the sky complicates matters by adding that seasoned ingredient of controversy, usually in the colours of the referee and his assistants. It's a supporting role, sometimes starring...but we still remain accountable for allowing our heads to drop and for the inevitable to consume us. We accept it on the pitch and then post-match we spit blood in protest.

We've done alright at the Lane against United. We just black out up north.

So, to make it as simplistic as possible, we need to play for the shirt and look to win the game. Take it to them. Don't think we need to over complicate matters tactically to combat their team. I don't mean that disrespectfully. United, regardless of their current transition, still won the title off the back of sheer guts and determination. And skill and luck. All glued together by that classic emotive cliché 'belief'. Obviously, that part about skill along with additional qualities like focus and tempo and punishing clinicality are equally essential. As are the top drawer players. Belief is hardly enough if you don't match your opponents on the field of play, pound for pound.

And we can do so. We've hardly got a shabby outfit. Perhaps not strong in certain areas but perhaps as strong in others.

We have a bloody good squad of players. Quality through the spine of the side and we'll improve further once we announce Adebayor and Diarra (and hopefully another player). There is no need for fear or even a sheepish look back in anger to the past painful defeats.

Look forward. Take the game to them. Play football, play it the Spurs way. And for the love of all things Lilywhite, remove the potential for any controversy to shape the games life-span by embracing destiny, in fact no, forget the embrace, just kidnap the dizzy cow, tie her up and throw her into the boot of the car. Take control, unequivocally and without remorse. Want it and want to win otherwise what's the point? We have the players to compete. We need that belief to glue it altogether.

No apologetic looks up to the sky or shrugs at the man with the whistle. No implosions or mistakes. No longer be the victim. Commit the crime. Be ruthless b*stards. I guess the question that needs answering is - do we have it in us (that combination of belief and quality of players) to see it through.

Speaking of the apologetics, worth noting that I'm not suggesting that its our fault Howard Webb is so horrifically inconsistent with decision making or the linesman who was looking down instead of across and missed the Mendes goal. Just that none of it will matter if we're simply better than them on the day and it pays off with goals. Like I said, remove the potential for it to be used as an excuse.

It's a big ask. It always is. But it's hardly impossible. I know that. Let's hope the players are just as aware. We've broken so many hoodoos in recent seasons. This is one that remains with much frustration and mockery.

This preview actually fits perfectly into the aforementioned seasoned template for this encounter. Let's hope the usual outcome doesn't knowingly nod it's appreciation.




The Fighting Cock is a brand new THFC podcast. You can stream it or download it here on DML (make sure you have a Quicktime plug-in installed).

Love the Shirt.

Flav, tehTrunk, Spooky, Ricky, Chicago Dan.

The FC Podcast group on Facebook.

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68 games and counting...

Utd 2 Spurs 0

I wont be mentioning that goal.

In the grand scheme of things, another loss at Old Trafford probably doesn't change anything. In fact, from a psychological perspective, it probably didn't even hurt our players - who displayed more oomph in complaining at the death of the game than across the whole limp ninety minutes.

It was a performance that lacked spark, ideas and cutting edge in the final third. There just wasn't enough there to carve out enough chances to stake a claim on the three points.

Far too many under-whelming Lilywhites, under-par and from the looks of it under the big bruising thumb of United. Again.

The Manc side were not exceptional in any great way. Efficient. And focused. But not beyond the realms of defeat. They could have been got at if we had some of that long lost intensity and desire. But I guess if you can't pluck up the courage, you're still a level away looking up at them rather than fighting to compete.

Ignoring certain old skool inclusions in the side and missing players - we still had enough about us to give it decent go. We saw evidence of growth and evolution last season - even with injuries and tinkering. What I don't like is this almost defeatist attitude in the manner of our play, as if this game did not warrant that extra lung-busting will to better the opposition.

If the gaffer drills it into the player in the week leading up - this game is a must win game - then we'd have had a right go at them. I don't believe this is as good as we can get when facing a not that scary United side.

Dare I mention Tuesday and Inter. It looked like their minds were on this game and not on the one playing out at OT.

We played some good football, there was some decent movement, but nothing that made me believe we would score or win. Their first goal was thanks to some non-existent defending. Kaboul poor for giving away the free-kick and then losing his marker. He's not a centre-back.

At half-time you'd still have believed something might give, if we stepped up the pace. But we kept stalling the car. Failing to turn the keys, but then why bother turning them when the tank is empty? Long walk home it is then.

Tottenham, I'm afraid, simply did not want it as much as they could have wanted it, considering that a win would have meant far more than a win on Tuesday (because the game on Tuesday is not a decider, the ones against the Dutch and German clubs are).

Beating United at OT would have been far more significant.

Still, perhaps the selection wasn't the best for the occasion.

Keane, wasn't that great, but then did okay for someone playing in a position which was slightly isolated and as he didn't come deep too often to collect the ball, his performance looked worse than it did. But still, you have to accept his time is over. He just hasn't got the mojo.

Jenas played the ball forward once or twice, which for him is rare positivity. But he's not strong enough in mind and spirit to make us stronger. Our midfield was brushed past too often.

Both are not first-team players and it showed why.

As for the rest? Some mentions:

Hutton is detrimental to Lennon. The more the Scotsman got forward the less Lennon impacted the game. Azza did have a good first 45 until Hutton decided to take over the offensive duties.

Modric faded a little in the second half, but although he was busy dinking around the pitch, it's still far from vintage.

vdV was superb in the first half not so superb in the second and I'm hoping the hamstring injury was exaggerated a little, only in the sense that now we've lost, he can be fit for Inter. Cracking effort off the woodwork.

Did Bale get his beach holiday or not? Very quiet evening for him.

I find myself slapping my face with this one, but Roman improved us when he was subbed on.

As much as I do agree a new forward and another midfielder/defender might elevate us further, there has to be a change, another evolution, in terms of priority and focus with these games.

It felt far too ominous for me early on. It's tiresome now Spurs. Let's stop playing for DVD's in Europe and start playing for morale boosting points in the Prem.

Tactically, it didn't work. We had no apparent plan. We need to smarten up for these types of fixtures once and for all. I keep calling for us to up the tempo like we've done against Chelsea at home in recent seasons or play smart football like we did against Arsenal at the Lane last time out when we let them play pretty football which amounted to pretty much nothing then hit them hard twice.

Best post over on GG was the statement that went something like 'f*ck attempting to play free-flowing footie, just do a Stoke on them'. The idea here is to get in their faces, push and hassle and do the utmost to stop them playing. Play ugly and win. Just to get out of our systems. Just to edge that psychological barrier closer for us to jump over. I'm not someone who would usually suggest that and if I'm honest, I want Tottenham football the way it should be played, but it's time we took a leaf out of the United way and recycled our possession and made opportunities count.

Be relentlessness and punish. Of course, perhaps the reason why we can't always manage this and never seem to be able to do so away to these teams is because we don't quite have what's required on the pitch. And perhaps on the bench in terms of management. No knee-jerk here, just that at some point we have to show some b*llocks and stand tall.

So to conclude from an overall perspective taking everything into account, at the minute, 4th spot is as good as it will get which means we need to start to better Man City's results and make sure Everton and friends do not fly past us.

The battle for fourth is on. We can review again after Christmas and the closure (after the re-opening) of the transfer window and decide then if there's anything more to be had.

I'll leave you with the billion dollar question: How do we improve our mentality?

In the meantime, COYS.



Clattenburg 2 Tottenham 0

Let's get the Nani goal out of the way first.

I'm doing this from memory as I watched it on a stream and if there is anything that's not quite on the money with regards to the time-line of the incident and it's events, then talk up. That's the whole point of a discussion thread.

Okay, so here we go...

1) Nani in the box, Kaboul is pulling the red shirt down, and the United player decides he may as well give into gravity and tumble over. He handballs the ball after falling (diving). The ref doesn't award a penalty - which is contentious because they've been given for that sort of thing in the past - but equally so, you could argue he went to ground with relative ease. Would have been soft if it was awarded. Probably because Nani tried far too hard to con the ref when it wasn't necessary.

2) No matter if you think it was a pen, a dive or just a nothing incident - there was no indication from the ref or the lino at this juncture that the hand ball had been acknowledged by either of them. Was not a penalty for certain as far as the ref was concerned. And I don't remember that much of a protest from the United players who got on with the game.

3) Now this is where it gets a bit messy. The only certainty at this point is that Nani had blatantly and unequivocally handled the ball. So much so that the Spurs players - and especially Gomes - do not, for a single second, think that it is anything other than a stone cold free-kick. So much so, they take it for granted.

In fact, note the assistant referee at this stage of the incident. He doesn't raise his flag because he assumes Clattenburg - who witnessed the fall (dive) in the box and the handball - is taking control because of the obviousness. What I mean by control is - unquestionably making it clear it was a free kick. Except the ref doesn't make anything clear.

4) So, this far, we have a blatant handball, Clattenburg (as far as I could tell) was in clear sight. But either he didn't see it or did see, but either way - as the official - doesn't make it clear to anyone other than the voice in his head. The assistant ref (the lino), sees it but makes a mistake. He doesn't raise his flag and wave it about. Had he done so, Clattenburg would have been forced into using his arm and hands and voice to clearly state free-kick/play on/whatever - although a free kick would probably have been given due to the raising of the lino's flag. And everyone's mistake it to accept the obvious, i.e. a free-kick from a dead ball.

4) Gomes, dear innocent Gomes, places the ball down (having looked at Nani and shook his head at the player and then looked at the lino for confirmation which might have been given with a stare or again a telepathic assumption, which is hardly the basis you should accept). Again, another massive assumption in the belief that everybody on the pitch understand that Nani handled the ball.

And I'm certain everyone on the pitch did. Including Fletcher (I think it was) who shouted at Nani to drop back to defend. Everyone apart from Nani, who knew he had handled the ball and also knew the ref had not blown his whistle or made it abundantly clear what was meant to be going on. I think Clattenburg was running back to the half-way line at this point. Which begs the question, did he think Gomes was taking the free-kick or that the keeper was going to play advantage?

5) So Gomes places the ball down (twice) ten yards from the actual incident, then remonstrates with his players to get out of he box, and Nani looks around (did he ask permission from the ref or someone if it was okay to kick the ball?) and then kicks the ball under Gomes and in. Apologetic celebration, looking around at first, making sure it counted. Which it did. Which he accepted.

6) Everyone (in Lilywhite) goes a bit mental, Gomes running to the lino smacking his arm/hand, and the lino decides now is the best moment to be lifting his flag up and waves it for the attention of Mark. Clattenburg has already given a goal, but runs down to his assistant, listens to his assistant (who has already mouthed to Gomes 'I know' in response to 'handball') but's not disallowed.

Too much has happened. Clattenburg signals again, it's a goal. Two things here - the lino flagging when prompted by Gomes (why did he not do it when the hand ball happened so he can make sure the ref saw it so they could both be on the same page in terms of the flow of the game? Or do such incidents, where hand ball occur, always result with a free-kick, therefore, no need for communication? Well? Second thing worth mentioning; Pav flapping his arms like a chicken at the lino.

7) Also - you've got to laugh at our players being told to walk away from the lino whilst Rio is allowed to stand next to both Clattenburg and the lino and stick his oar in. Although if he talks like he tweets, there's a likelihood neither understood his complaining.

8) It's 2-0 and that's that.

9) If you look back (on my stream of the game) the goal was missed because they were showing a replay - so that makes it the linesman, the fans (me and everyone else watching it would seem), the players on both sides and the frigging television producers - all making the assumption it was a dead ball kick. Playing advantage only works when the keeper with the ball in his hands actually knows it's advantage - which the ref failed to do.

10) Therefore: No communication from Clattenburg. Nothing definitive. Other than the ref running up the pitch away from the box where the ball was. Would you run up the pitch if you (the ref) had decided that the ball was still in play? Why not remain close(r) to the action until you can work out what the keeper is going to do?

11) Can I mention the handball again? If the ref saw it, which he must of if he was playing 'advantage' - then why exactly? It's slack. Also, where was the yellow card for Nani? Or is it okay to dismiss it and just forgive and let us have advantage so no time is lost in our favour? And loop yourself back to 10 again.

12) Do you see how the ref is responsible for birthing this bastard United debauchery of balls? No matter laying blame on Gomes for not playing to the whistle, it's still comes down to a creation of a goal out of subtle yet chaotic mismanagement of an incident. I'll say it again: If you're going to not do the obvious ( award a free-kick, yellow card the player) at least signal it's advantage. If by not doing anything, its therefore advantage, then it allows for too much ambiguity.

Also - Did the ref whistle at any stage? If he did initally, then surely its a free-kick. If he didn't - then why the f*ck not?


Fact is Clattenburg should have either made it abundantly clear it was an advantage - regardless of 'play to the whistle'. Everyone (apart from Nani who was sulking on the ground because he didn't get a pen) run off down the pitch - it tells you they all thought it was a free-kick. Had Clattenburg awarded the free-kick. No controversy. Had Clattenburg signalled advantage, no controversy. There is remonstrating of Gomes to his players around the box that might hint at some type of confusion, I did notice that. But I think that had more to do with Gomes wanting to pass it out to one of them rather than booting it down the pitch.

I wish we lost 1-0, instead of having that second go in. Because people will talk about yet another injustice when the reality is, we didn't quite have it going on in the final third. It's almost like we can't just lose at Old Trafford, we have to lose and there has to be something ridiculous in there to mess with our minds.

Lesson for us is simply: Do not entrust in the officials, do not leave doubt and ambiguity in what plays out simply by playing to the whistle. Talk to the ref if you have to. Just don't make assumptions even though it was more than obvious it was hand ball and should have been a  free-kick.

Should, should, should.

Ref f*cked up. No question about it. It's now two for Clattenburg (you haven't forgotten about the Mendes goal have you - the one that would have blipped this woeful 68 game run of no wins away to the monopoly). Oh Howard, at least your calamities were more straightforward.

Next season, let's save ourselves a journey up there and just default the game.

Next blog article - I will not refer to any of this and just talk about the actual performance and players. Don't want all this dizziness to get in the way of what really matters. The football. And our season.


The Theatre of Tears

Continuing on from this, United truly wind me up. But equally, so do Spurs on occasions (so many occasions) when they allow self-defeatism to drag them towards the inevitable empty points haul that we leave Old Trafford with.

The last time we won there can probably be found in the depths of the Spurs Shop store room on a dusty Betamax in a damp corner. Long forgotten about other than the mouse chewing away at the tape. Until said mouse notices a far more appetising VHS.

So with no Howard Webb in the equation, what will give way and will it give way our way?

Potential scenarios (based on historical depression):

1) We start brightly, pressure United, score, United come back into it, make it 1-1, we go on the back-foot and then go 2-1 down, and then United score a third to kill us off.

2)  It's a scrappy match, both teams struggling to get a stranglehold on the midfield, United get a penalty which they score, the game continues to be scrappy, United get another goal, this one a screamer from about 30 yards out. Misery. Heads down. Still nothing since 1989.

3) United steam-roll us, we never get into the game. They turn it on. Tabloids proclaim the return of majestic form for the biggest club in the universe.

4) We score a legitimate goal which gets disallowed for no apparent reason other than incompetence. And lose 1-0 to goal from a defensive lapse.

5) We start brightly, take the lead, then take a position that suggests there is simply no way back for them and then we…choke. Textbook 'flatter to deceive' performance which sees United shove us aside nonchalantly as we fall back to our textbook position - on our arse at OT. Four or five home goals. Match of the Day removed from Sky+ series link.

6) We turn up. Boss the midfield. Play with confidence and belief. Score. Score again. Remain strong. Make clever tactical substitutions. United get a goal back. But it's too late. We win. We end our miserable away to a 'top 4 side' record. Spurs fans across the forums and blogs of the internet rejoice with suggestions that one striker in Jan will mean = title contenders. Fans in the away end French-kiss. I get a tattoo on my back of Harry eating the Champions League trophy. Man Utd fans in tears, Bale signalling to the home crowd 'I will never join Utd, you prawn loving losers', whilst Modric plants a flag in the centre-circle of a Cockerel and ball.

I've stuck £1000 on number 6. This is the best chance we've had in years of getting something up there. Sure, I'm not naive enough to believe United are suddenly worthless, far from it. They have enough players of quality on their day to beat anyone - even with their light-weight midfield and lack of Rooney circa 2009. The difference is, we've improved. Probably not massively this season in terms of stepping up a gear, but this game on Saturday, its one that can define our season for sure.

Step up Harry. Step up Bale, Modric, Huddlestone, van der Vaart, Lennon. Sandro. No matter who starts. Step up Crouch or Pav (I've sort of ruined the speech now haven't I?). Step up not just guile and tenacity - but for once, let's see some of that relentless never say die we're going to beat you any which way we can belief that them in the Red we face churn out season after season.

Get in their faces. Invade their personal space. Show no respect. Dish out to them what they routinely dish out to us. And never - not for a second - take a single moment for granted, no matter the score.

Want to play in the big boys playground? You need to kick 'em in the nuts first, show them you can handle the pace. Make their eyes water.

To dare is to stick it up the bollix of Berbatov. COYS.



This really winds me up

There are many things in life that wind me up. Things that pull at my nerve endings till they break through my skin and then proceed to strum a tune with them. The type of ear-bleeding, head-pounding, gritted-teeth…oh please just do one type of wind up.

For example, I cannot stand the London Underground. I use it so therefore tolerate and thus deal with it because I have no other choice. I generally find it to be the toilet basin of travel with everyone taking an anti-social dump of frustration in it. And never flushing.

What grates me is the complete lack of social decorum and lack of common courtesy. Perhaps it's an English problem. We find it easier to be rude, obnoxious and generally shy away from doing a good deed because…well, someone else will do it for you, won't they? Best illustrated by people who suddenly fall asleep or bury their heads in their newspapers when a pregnant lady walks on clutching her bump, never looking directly at someone, waiting for that rare moment of chivalry.

What is tenfold worse than people who show a blatant disregard are the ilk of people who are oblivious. Honestly, hand on heart, if I was ever to go postal, then I'd do so on the Central Line. Nothing worse than numptys who have absolutely know sense if their surroundings and just sleep-walk around waiting for the Tube fairies to guide them to their destination.

How hard can it be?

You walk down the stairs, you turn either left or right to walk onto one of the two platforms depending on whether you are going east or west. When you make your decision and walk towards the arched entrance…why, why stop dead directly under it facing the platform? Why stand there looking confused? What in the f*ck is there to think about? Surely basic instinctive awareness would tell you three things:

1) You can turn left or right into the platform you are facing
2) If you make the wrong turning, you can - believe it or not - turn yourself around by the art of movement - face the opposite direction and walk towards it
3) There are people behind you, people you are blocking

Just f*cking move you imbecilic douche bags. It's not exactly a decision masked in mystery is it? You don't need Sherlock Holmes to hold your frigging hand.

Step the f*ck forwards.

They should introduce a law allowing legalised 'punches to back and neck' when someone just stops for no other reason other than stupidity and block your path. I'd also apply the same law to people who gleefully stroll down the platform when it's nigh packed, as if they're walking the dog in Hyde Park without a care in the world.

It's not just tourists, and I'm not a complete uncaring a*sehole, I get it…people get lost or confused. But get this. Stepping onto said platform from under the arched entrance…it doesn't mean you can't ever return from it. You're not going to be sucked into Narnia if you just keep on placing one feet in front of the other in that movement we like to call walking.

It's a train station. People are looking to get from a to b, and usually after 4:30, most are looking at getting home in the quickest way possible. Yes I know, it's all rush rush rush, everyone's in a hurry, but if everyone - every single person - was in a hurry, then we'd all be getting from a to b at the same pace meaning nobody would get angry and upset. i.e. me. Actually, to be fair, it's not that I'm in a hurry. I'm just focused to the task in hand. I'm respectful of the people around me, even if they don't deserve it.

The all-time classic was when I stood at the edge of a platform as a train pulled in. Doors opened - I was in a position that meant I could walk into the carriage first, but I allowed two people off the train (I know, heart of gold) and the bloke behind me was getting agitated and trying to force his way though. Which I did not allow. When he got on after me, he stood nearby swearing to himself, talking to himself - and quite obviously repeating the C word over and over again for my benefit. He was genuinely upset at my behaviour. I mean come on, get a grip.

And why was said tool upset? Because he had to wait 5 extra seconds to get onto the carriage? Because the people ON the train had right of passage before us and I respected this unwritten but obvious code of conduct?

I told him to shut the f*ck up which resulted with another gentlemen standing between the two of us before what would have been the most ridiculous reason to fight (ever) kicked-off.

"Yeah, yeah, I got into a fight the other day"
"Who with? Headhunters? ICF?"
"Nah mate. Bloke in a suit on a train. I kept him waiting cause I was proper hardcore, letting people off the train before I stepped on it"

Christ, my palms have gone all sweaty, ranting and typing. I want to punch people in the face now. I've lost my train of thought (still have the power of the pun). Okay, so what was the point I was trying to make with all this tube rage anecdotes?

Oh yeah, that's right, things in life that wind me up. This has turned into the longest link ever.

Things that wind me up? More so than slow walkers and dizzy motherf**ers on the Central Line?

Always, always losing to Manchester United. Even when we're winning we manage to allow the forces of fate to place a pillow over our face and we surrender and do not put up a fight as the air we breath is suffocated out of us.

For once, can we please just push the unequivocally annoying bastards in red out of the sodding way?

Punch 'em in the neck.



Interview with a Manc

mancunia chats rooney glazers and spurs - part 1
manchester utd yoof spurs targets and the project - part 2

Spooky on...




Manchester Utd yoof, Spurs targets and The Project (Part II)

For Part I click here.


Part II

Spooky - Okay, enough of the boring off the field shenanigans and boardroom politics. Let's talk a bit of football. Does it get boring winning everything, you silverware-hugging show-off you?

Scott - Honestly? No. You hear our players talking about it and I think it reflects the fans' opinion too. The more you win, the more you want to win. You get greedy for it. You win the league title, and whether that's the first time for a few years or the third time in a row, it feels f***ing brilliant. I can't claim that the last time we won the league in 2009 made me feel the same way a City fan would feel if they won the league this year, because I imagine being used to winning things takes the edge of it a bit, but no, never boring.

Spooky -
What's the gut feeling for this season then? Plenty of suggestions in the world of blogs and forums that United are over-extending themselves, masking over the cracks with one or two bacon-saving individual performances. It would be unwise to write you off considering that if currently United are considered off-key, you're still top 4 early season. Are you perhaps worried that there's not enough genuine balls deep world class quality in your side to really push Chelsea? Do you accept that you wont win the title?

Scott - I think we're going to win the league every year. We're not looking great right now but we haven't really got going yet. Nani and Berbatov have definitely stepped up to the plate, but players like Fletch and Evra who have been so important in years gone by, have gone off the boil. United tend to do well after a World Cup but it's looking to have a negative effect this time around. If we don't win the league, it's because Chelsea do, but I can't see Arsenal or City finishing ahead of us.

Spooky - So, in that case, you don't face a battle on your hands to finish in the top 4?

Scott - No.

Spooky - Do United fans prefer having to fight tooth and nail for the League with Chelsea or whomever, or do you prefer the 90s when you won everything at a canter, more or less?

Scott - Oh it's far more exciting having to fight for it. Winning the league by a point on the last day feels so much better than wrapping it up a few weeks before the end of the season. I wouldn't say we won things at a canter in the 90s though. You look at 99 and 96, with our squad spread across winning other trophies, and we just scraped through at the end.

Spooky - What do you think the fans reactions would be if you finished just outside the Top 4 and SAF was another year nearer retirement?

Scott - Devastation, I suppose. How would the fans react if we got relegated? How would the fans react if we won nothing for 10 years? I dunno. It's too hard to answer a question about a scenario you just can't imagine happening.

Spooky - Talking of which - who do the fans feel is likely to take over as Manager after SAF's retirement?

Scott - Erm, Mourinho is desperate for the job. I would rather Laurent Blanc or Pep Guardiola, and have battled long and hard against Mourinho getting the job, based on his dreadful personality and the job he did at Chelsea. He spent a f**k load of money but the team he left them with was inferior to the one he inherited. It's hard to argue with what he's achieved at Inter and is achieving at Real Madrid, playing the attacking football we require.

Spooky - Concerned about City? If not this season, next?

Scott - No. If anyone will f**k this up, City will. This is the 3rd year of The Project (TM) and they're not nailed on for anything. They've got less points this season than they did with the same games played under Hughes a couple of months before he got the sack, their best player is repeatedly talking of his unhappiness and wanting to retire, and as every transfer window passes they seem to make it their challenge to bring in a player with an even bigger ego than the ones the window before, to try and battle it out with Mancini's massive ego. They will implode sooner or later because all these stars who joined with the promise of lots of money and trophies will soon get bored of lots of money and no trophies. I think Robinho put it best at the start of this season: "When I arrived, the directors at City told me that, in a couple of years, we would overtake United, but the time has passed and nothing has changed."

Spooky - United have harvested a lot of young talent from around the world, sometimes at eyebrow raising expense (Bebe, Mame Diouf, Obertan, Tosic, Smalling). Are Utd fans concerned that very few of these appear to be worth the money paid? I know it's subjective, but it's a question birthed from the curiosity of other fans assuming United fans are scratching their heads.

Scott - All of those players are 21 or younger, so I don't know how you can say whether they're worth the money or not. Diouf has scored a hat trick at Blackburn this season, as well as scoring against Arsenal, Bebe has scored for Portugal's U-21, Smalling is doing well for England U-21 and has scored for them, Obertan is a fans' favourite. Tosic is the only one of those that didn't make the grade but we got our money back for him, so no biggie.

If we start writing players off when they're 21, we're in trouble. Ronaldo scored 9 league goals in 33 games for us when he was 21. He was a one trick pony, a waste of money at £12m.

Spooky -
On a similar note, who is the best of the home-grown Utd talent (i.e. Cleverley, King, Drinkwater, James etc etc)? Have United still got a stranglehold on the best of the country's youth?

Scott - Cleverley looks to be the business. Ravel Morrison is the next one for the future. Corry Evans (Jonny's bro) looks good, Will Keane too, and James Chester. Our youth set up is really impressive and Solskjaer helped the Reserves to be crowned champions of England last season.

Spooky - Are you worried that you have VDS, Rio, Scholes, Giggs, Neville, Berbatov, Owen, Hargreaves etc to replace in the next 2-3 years but have (i) no cash and (ii) a lot fewer decent young players making it into the first team squad than historically?

Scott - Neville, Hargreaves and Owen hardly play, so that's not such a worry. The idea is that Cleverley can fill Scholes' boots (nobody can fill Scholes' boots, he's the best midfielder the Prem has seen, but he'll give it a good crack), Chicharito, Macheda and hopefully Welbeck are options for up front, Bebe/Obertan to fill the gap on the wing. The only position that hasn't already got plans is the goalkeeper, which I imagine the club will take very seriously after the farce we endured once Schmeichel retired. There will be some money to spend though, if the players who have been earmarked for these positions aren't up to scratch.

Spooky - Berbatov and Rooney should be the strike partnership to end all strike partnerships. Why isn't it?

The casual guide to feeding squirrels by Dimitar Berbatov


Scott - Who knows? The manager can't get the best out of them and they never seem to hit form at the same time. Berbatov and Chicharito is a far more potent combination.

Spooky - Will you stop attempting to tap up and steal our players now you are so poor?

Scott -
We should really take a leaf out of Spurs' book. Levy and Redknapp never attempt to tap up and steal players.

Spooky -
Steady now. Our Daniel writes letters of an apologetic nature to the fans. He can't possibly be underhanded. What with all the donations to the Tottenham foundation. I might as well ask this so we can all prep ourselves for the inevitable knocking of the door...What do United fans think of the current Spurs squad? Which of our Lilywhites would you want at United and why? How many Utd players do you think would get into a combined Utd/Spurs side?

Scott - I remember towards the end of last season and we were still in the race, and Spurs came to Old Trafford. As the players and subs were read out over the speaker, it really hit me how many top class players you have. Probably the best squad to come to Old Trafford last season, no exaggeration. I mean, you didn't play well, but there's loads of great players at Spurs.

I like Dawson, Modric, Van der Vaart, Bale and Palacios but working out a best XI is difficult. Bale and Nani on the wings, and Modric and Van der Vaart in the centre of the park alongside Fletch (he isn't playing well this season though :S) or Palacios. Berbatov as a lone striker? I'd have Van der Sar over Gomes (WBA mistake aside), Rio and Vida over Dawson and King (even when they're not on the treatment table), Evra at left back and right back? Well, we've played O'Shea there more often than not this season, so I'd have Hutton over him. I like Rafael though.

Spooky -
Bale, Modric, vdV…all linked already. Honestly, hand on heart. Can you see yet another one of those Levy complaint letters doing the rounds on the official site next summer?

Scott - It wouldn't surprise me if Bale and Modric came to United. I can't see Spurs doing well in Europe AND retaining top 4. Something has to give. Fergie is a fan of both and I imagine both would be interested in coming. But maybe Levy won't be so f***ing retarded as to send them on a plane to Manchester though.

Spooky - You're breaking my heart over here. And finally, we might as well mention Utd v Spurs. History tells us United will win. Regardless of Howard Webb or lack of goal line technology. We tend to implode up at Old Trafford. I'm sort of confident that we could get a point or even do the impossible and win away from home against a 'Sky Sports Top 4' side for the first time in 400 years. Thoughts on the game? You've not been amazing thus far, but neither have we. In fact, we have both dug deep to win games. So, close game? Dare you predict?

Scott - Given the strengths of your squad, this should be a game to make us worry, but like you say, you don't tend to do very well against us. You'll score against us, because everyone does, but I fancy a United win. 2-1.

Spooky - I fancy a Spurs 2-1. Ooh. It's going to be a corker. Cheers mate. I guess all that's left for me to say is - pleasure as always. And make sure you d*ck City at the very least. Ta.

Scott - Only if you make sure you do the same.


And they both lived happily ever after. Well, only one of them. To find out which, watch the game on Saturday.


The End.



Mancunia chats Rooney, Glazers and Spurs (Part I)

Once more we stand at the gates of hell staring into the devils eyes.

We have no fear.

Say it louder.

We have no fear.

Okay, look, standing there shaking like a leaf and stuttering the words isn't exactly going to work. Believe the words you speak. Live the words. And then follow it through rather than capitulate and implode.

Now onwards, Harry and soldiers of fortune. Onwards into the pits of hell itself...

Yes. It's that time of the season when we visit the Theatre of Howard Webb. We've not done badly in spurts against United in recent years. Taking the lead, bossing it, but then proceeding to fall back, bending over for them to all the deliver of their seasonal thrusts of hurt. United are not on top of their game at the moment and if we hold our nerve...Well, I guess we'll have to wait and see. Would dearly like us to finally win away to one of the traditional Top 4 sides for the first time in 60+ games. Letter to Santa posted.

So for the tradition of pre-match banter I thought I'd return the seasonal favour (no, no, not thrusts) and this time interview the Red over at the majestic Republik of Mancunia blog, rather than have him ask me the questions. It's the polite thing to do.

So warm welcome to Scott the Red losing his DML cherry. I promise to be gentle.

With thanks to the army of anti-United fans over at Glory Glory for their suggestions for questions. So enjoy. It's a good read. One or two fallacies about the Manc club we love to hate placed to bed. 


Spooky - First up, let's get Wayne Rooney out of the way. All a bit of a mess, no? What went down exactly? Stretford choking money out of United for his client? Ploy by Fergie and Wayne to get the Glazars to promise funds for the war chest? Surely it's not been done to maximise a potential future fee off the back of the five year contract signed? What's the feeling with how events unfolded in and amongst the United faithful?

Scott - We know football is dominated by mercenaries and I suppose United fans feel foolish for believing Rooney is any different. He'd kiss our badge, bang out about how he wanted to be like Giggsy and Scholes and spend his career with United, that he loved the club etc. And we believed him. So of course, it's disappointing to learn you've been conned.

It isn't just that he's money led though but that he was prepared to leave us for City. The deal was done but he bottled it after the reaction from the manager, the media and the fans. I think he figured out there would be a bit of fuss, some booing when he came back to Old Trafford and that would be that. I don't for one moment think he instigated it all, that would be former vacuum salesman Stretford, but Rooney is accountable for his own actions and shouldn't choose to associate with such a ****.

Still on the upside, it now looks we'll bring in top players, which is great. It also means we're in complete control of where Rooney goes and for how much. Before he signed the contract, we would have had to ship him off in January to whomever was prepared to pay the most, but that's not the case now.

Spooky - So, will you be accepting Wayne 'once a red always a red' Rooney back with open arms or accepting that he's royally mugged off the club and fans for a bumper pay packet always with that option to still move away?

Scott - He's completely ruined the relationship he had with the fans. There will be some who will revert to how it was the moment he starts scoring important goals, but for me personally, that's that now. I'll celebrate the goals he scores and I'll hope he does well, because he's a United player and I want the club to do well, but I'll never feel for him what I did. I suppose it's similar to the Robbie Keane situation, although Rooney hasn't gone around kissing someone else's badge saying it's a dream come true.

Spooky - And Fergie's quote about the cows?

Scott - Yeh, weird wasn't it.

Spooky -  Do you think there's any chance at all that Rooney would have agreed that Man Utd had an acceptable level of ambition and trust in Ferguson if an angry mob hadn't turned up at his house in the middle of the night threatening to kill him if he joined City?

Scott - You think Rooney agreed a five year deal with a club because 30 lads in black showed up at his gates and couldn't get in? Be serious. I don't think Rooney was fearing for his life.

Spooky - Thirty lads? I heard it was Robbo, Paul McGrath and Norman Whiteside, all loaded with booze and waving broken bottles. Or perhaps not. Regardless, it all smells a bit funny to me. Just doesn't sit right. Rooney's form hasn't been anywhere near decent for a while. Would be disturbing if he played out of his skin when he returns to first team action. So is he genuinely injured?

Scott - Rooney has been injured since March when he did his ankle against Bayern. He was rushed back for the second leg, for the away game at City, with us wanting him around for the vital games at the end of the season. Had there been no World Cup he'd have been having treatment most of the summer. But obviously there was the World Cup and he carried his injury through the summer until the start of the new season. That's what was so bizarre about Rooney's claims that he'd never been injured. We'd all seen him sitting on the bench icing his ankle at the Reebok after being subbed off after an hour the week before, so who did he think he was kidding? The fact that he's been waiting for the wh*re story to come out and a deal with City to be finalised probably hasn't helped his state of mind though.

Spooky - Ah City. What is it with City fans and their obsessions with getting tattoos of players they've not (and don't) sign?

Scott - They're giddy. They've been waiting their whole lives to compete with United (think about it, a City fan would have to be at least 40-years-old to even have vague memories of his team winning something) and so desperately cling on to anything that seems like glory or success.


Spooky - Talking of the enemy, what about those pesky Glazers? It's good spin for them, no? Responding, supposedly to Fergie and Rooney's 'demands'? Perhaps a spin worthy of an ounce of respect from the dark depths of your soul?

Scott - Ha! The Glazers could come up with a cure for cancer, United fans still wouldn't have any time for them. You know, Forbes magazine this year said we're the most valuable sports franchise in the world... more so than the New York Yankees, Real Madrid, all that, so should we not be holding on to players like Rooney? Contrary to what the papers quote as his salary, which includes image rights and bonuses, Rooney has signed for £160k a week. Obviously that's an insane amount of money for normal people, but when you compare it to what Tevez, Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Adebayor earn, it's not great. When it comes to signing players and paying players, money should be no object to a club like ours, but it obviously is. The fact that the Glazers have managed to keep Rooney (I assume our season ticket prices won't be frozen for next season!) is standard, not something they should be praised for.

Spooky - On the subject of Yanks, considering the success Liverpool have had ousting their bogus owners don't you think as fans you have been a failure in ousting the Glazers? If that's been the attempt. Some would argue - the problem at OT - is practically the same as the one at Liverpool but at a far slower and less chaotic pace. Is it because there are too many glory hunters that are not hardcore enough that don't understand the situation? Many whinge bitterly about the Glazers, yet continue to hand money over to them every week by going to games - thus giving them their main source of revenue to pay the interest on the debt they've attached to the club.

Scott - Liverpool cost £300m. United cost £1b. Our problem is finding someone to pay that amount of money for us. If it was just a case of finding someone prepared to pay £300m, this would have been resolved years ago.

I renewed my season ticket this season and for the first time really considered not doing so. I had read stuff from MUST saying that since 2005, something like 50,000 people had given up their season tickets, and they'll be thousands more on top of that who didn't have season tickets but have stopped by match day tickets. But Old Trafford has 75,000 every home game, despite the fact that many people or more have boycotted the ground. Whilst I still believe that my seat will be filled by someone else, who doesn't sing, who views the ticket as a nice day out, I won't give up my seat. That's selfish on my part and it doesn't sit right with me, but if you give up your seat to get rid of the Glazers, and you do get rid of the Glazers, you don't get your seat back.

Spooky - How 'realistic' was the Red Knight's alleged bid?

Scott - Well, the Red Knights could be viewed in a similar way to NESV. A group of people who couldn't individually afford the club, but collectively could. You have to be wary that you're not just jumping out of the frying pan and in to the fire, but anyone who claims to have the fans best interest at heart is surely better than owners who refer to the fans as 'customers'. MUST gave their backing and the RK ship hasn't sailed just yet, but who knows what will happen.

Spooky - So are the yellow and green brigade fighting a losing battle?

Scott - The g&g was about raising awareness and putting on pressure. We went 5 years with limited media coverage and with the Glazers not feeling the heat at all. But a few months in to the campaign you have David Beckham joining in and the Red Knights talking about buying is, two things that never happened before. Maybe g&g is over now, I dunno, I still wear my scarf, but it has served a purpose.

Spooky - I guess wearing Norwich City scarfs is highly unlikely to scare off the Glazers. Perhaps pigs heads thrown onto the pitch will be far more effective? Or if possible a scooter?

Scott - It was never about scaring them. It was about getting worldwide recognition of our plight in hope of putting pressure on the Glazers to leave. We're not there yet. We could have saved the pig's head for Wastelands if Rooney had gone.

Spooky - Betty's hot-pots? Would be easy to smuggle into the ground and you could get a fair distance when throwing them? Err…anyways, moving on but remaining on the subject of the Glazers and scarfs, I've always scoffed at the irony of wearing the green & gold scarf then draping it around an AIG logo. It's akin to Spurs fans during the dark days throwing their season tickets onto the pitch in disgust…on the final day of the season.

Scott - Yeh and traipsing in to the Megastore to buy their United bedspread and lampshade and whatever else.

Spooky - You mentioned season ticket renewal. I'm assuming then that the 100k season ticket waiting list is a fallacy. People have alleged that getting tickets is relatively easy although the impression off the back of what some would call propaganda in terms of how hard it's perpetuated to get tickets.

Scott - Well, we know there is no waiting list now because they put the season tickets on general sale this year. If someone had told me ten years ago a United season ticket would go on general sale, I'd think we must have gone down to the Conference! But that waiting list has been whittled away year on year. We've got 52,000 season ticket holders now and over 50,000 people who have already given up their season ticket.


Continued in Part II



The future's bright, the future is still Lilywhite

What's that now? 68 games away from home against top 4 sides leaving us with a bitter taste of regret in mouth? Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I'm thinking I should embrace the fact that Wilson has not been great this season and we should have shown balls and kept the same line-up without having to shuffle players for the sake of over-cleverness. Even though I did think we'd be 'ok' if we did just that.

BAE at right-back, uncomfortable and out of sorts. Bale at left-back, almost felt like he'd been gagged and tied to a chair. Safe to say that Hudd/Moddle in the middle with BAE left-back and Bale left-wing should be our line-up for the remaining games. But don't fret, I'm not about to knee-jerk. We got it wrong. But take away two stupid clumsy defending errors (the two pens) and the roll-out of the red carpet for Nani (three errors then) and things might have been different. Even with the changes in line-up.

Though I still feel we didn't show half as much guile as we should of. Not disgraced, but all a bit of a limp effort in the end. We didn't give the occasion the swagger it deserved. But then it was by no means looking (from either side) to shape up into the classic game most (wanted) expected. On the bright side, Azza is back amongst us. King is a frigging freak of nature. And Bale is best played offensively.

We should have played football, taken the game to them. To dare is to f*cking do, right? I cited state of mind in my match preview. But perspective please. It was United. Perhaps not a storming version of Ferguson's men what with Rooney up in a box, but if you're going to make mistakes, you don't make them in their patch - especially when they have a title at stake.

So, six points from nine then? You simply cannot be disappointed with that, considering that few expected us to win even one of the three, let alone two of them. Makes you think that before we entered the month of April, only the insane (me) would have stated 'we will finish 4th' - considering our fixture list compared to others.

City drew at the Emirates (Zzzzz). Villa and Liverpool both won. This chase for fourth spot continues to twist and turn. Although nothing much has changed this past weekend other than the important footnote for all sides involved; that one more defeat will spell the end.

City v Villa will be the one to watch as it will no doubt shape the tension for our visit there. We first need to avoid the banana skin of complacency when Bolton visit the Lane.

So what next?

Spurs - Bolton home, City away, Burnley away
Villa - City away, Blackburn home
City - Villa home, Spurs home, West Ham away
Liverpool - Chelsea home, Hull away

Spurs 35 played, 64 points - 3 games max 9 points - 73 pts max
Villa 36 played, 64 points - 2 games max 6 points - 70 pts max
City 35 played, 63 points - 3 games max 9 points - 72 pts max
Liverpool 36 played, 62 points - 2 games max 6 points - 68 pts max

We may have failed to conquer our Old Trafford demons, but redemption awaits. It's in our hands. We have shown grit and heart and style through-out the season to continually remain up top in the mix. With every hiccup, we down a glass of cold water, and crow.

Bolton (H) - We need to be professional. Focused. The Lane has to rock in the same manner it did against the red and blue scum. We simply have to dismantle them and apply the pressure on the other contenders. As noted, pick up and bin that banana skin.

City (A) - Cup final day. The £30M+ game. Potentially. The irony that things might work out that City have to win at West Ham on the final day of the season to finish 4th is tinged with the type of irony that would see a new statue built outside Upton Park to commemorate the occasion. Tevez scoring the winner would have the home support cheering louder than the travelling City fans. And then there's the irony of us playing away to Burnley (same colours as WH). Shades of 2006 all over again. If City and Villa score-draw (if if if), a win at City's patch and it's done and dusted (as long as another 3 points is collected).

Burnley (A) - Relegated. If we failed to win here (no disrespect to their club and fans) we don't deserve to finish 4th.

So all this is easily simplified... Just beat Bolton and City and it wouldn't matter what the other sides do, it wouldn't be enough for them.

So all you crazies, keep the faith.

And keep on believing.


Bucking the trend, the Tottenham way

Another game live on television, another game against a 'top 4' side, another potential club DVD release in the making.

Spurs away to Manchester United. The Theatre of Illusions. Illusions usually comprising of us looking like we might do something positive and complete and then capitulating, mostly in cartoon fashion thanks to a decision that was forged in the Imaginarium of Doctor Webb. It's a conspiracy they cry. What about the Mendes goal, as tears are wiped from face. It's tiresome now. Much like losing to Chelsea was once upon a time a bore. And much like going 20 odd league games without a win against Woolwich.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (turn and face the strain).

We got brushed aside by Utd earlier this season, and ignoring last seasons OTT OT experience, we either tend to do well against them but never win at home (Tevez last second anyone?) and flatter to deceive away. It's the last remaining curse that needs ending. Less said about the Carling Cup game up there the better. That type of performance has to be avoided at all costs because it will leave most of us tragically empty.

No matter how you look at this fixture, pound-for-pound, it's a test on so many levels. We've beaten Arsenal and Chelsea, so all eyes on Tottenham because some are expecting to see us continue our good form and upset the Champions. Some (Chelsea) need us to. Others see United as the ones under pressure because they simply cannot afford to lose, which means an early Spurs goal could make it cagey for them (although if it stays at 1-0 deep into the second half we'll still have to score another three goals to be certain of a point once we enter Fergie-Time at the end of the 90 minutes). Harry is also under the spotlight. Tactically, he has been on the money in the past two games and the side have been galvanised with renewed belief and confidence. He wasn't meant to be good enough to out-wit the 'Big boys'. Fergie will no doubt attempt to stop us from playing. How they handle Modric and Bale will be of much interest and how Harry plans to counter any Fergie counters will be equally interesting. One thing about United is they work hard. We'll have to match that. And there's the Berbatov equation to consider. He tends to do alright against us. But arguably both sides have match-winners.

My panties are soaked in anticipation.

I understand the mathematics. With City the main threat, Villa should also not be discounted either. And as mentioned in prior weeks, defeat will not be a disaster (just remember everyone's predictions before we played the red and blue scum). But a point or more would/could demoralise our competition. And if Arsenal and Wenger, hurting badly, look to reclaim some of their lost self-respect against Adebayor and friends - the calculator will be hot with the pushing of buttons. But to be honest, I'd rather City thrash Arsenal and we beat United and then City when we play them and take 4th that way. The closer we get to the red scum the better. As long as we believe in ourselves and not the hype.

I'm not going to attempt to second guess Harry with tactics or selection. Palacios is back, he might play. He probably should but that could see Bale return to left-back and Modric to left-wing blah blah blah. Regardless of the who's and where's (Lennon super-sub back on the bench?) one thing we have proven this season is that we can mix-it up. The players have a decent (more then decent) comprehension of what it means to push for it. 'It' being progress and success. Success at the moment, measured in the way of proving to ones self that we are worthy of our position and worthy of more.

The players have a taste for it. A winning mentality. Only the brave can dare to push on further and continue the feast.

So, this club, this Lilywhite majesty of swagger and grit. Stand up, stand tall, be proud. And just go for it. Go for their jugular and use any obstacle or injustice as inspiration to punish them back. No textbook white flag of surrender. No apologetic here we go again looks. No turning of heads back towards yesterday.

What's happened has happened and can't be changed. The future is crafted by the hands (well, the feet in this case) of the ones who dare to control their own destiny. United are masters of it. This won't be easy. And most would agree, historically, out of the three 'horror' fixtures in April - this was the one we sort of expected to get nothing out of. Most of us didn’t think we'd get more than two points from the previous two. We're six up.

Don't worry or concern yourselves with the negatives when the positives are so much easier to embrace.

Buck. The. Trend.

To dare is to do. COYS.