Welcome to Ask the Oppo! Today Eldo71 talks to Sam Lee from our sister site: ahead of this evenings match at Old Trafford.
CE: United haven’t been totally convincing so far this season. What are your thoughts at such an early stage?
SL: It was always going to be a difficult season, and a transitional one. With the ins and outs of the summer it always looked like a total re-shuffle of the pack and of course that’s going to take time to get the team playing to their potential. It just remains to be seen what that potential is.
CE: Losing Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez would affect any squad. How much of a loss will they be, if any?
SL: Ronaldo is a huge loss, while Tevez not so much. Firstly let’s get Ronaldo out of the way. We were always going to miss him just because of what he could do for us; he was the best player in the world.
As far as Tevez is concerned, it’s not that much of a loss. A lot of United fans have been accused of hypocrisy over the transfer, but personally I didn’t want to sign him full-time for anything more than £10-15m from about November onwards. I admired the way he kept putting in 100% until the very end on the pitch even when he probably knew he was leaving and presumably didn’t like Ferguson very much, but he’s nothing that we can’t replace, certainly in terms of goal out-put.
CE: Up front you need a big season out of Dimi Berbatov and, of course, there is little Mickey Owen. Will either of these, or both, reach the level of adoration such as Rooney and Co?
SL: I’m not sure if Michael Owen could ever be adored by our fans because of his past, but everybody certainly wants him to do well. At the end of the day though, football fans are football fans, and if he scores 20 goals this season, including one or two against Liverpool, he’d probably be loved as much as anybody.
As for Berbatov I personally think he’s great. Last season I didn’t think he was right for us as he seemed to slow the play down on a lot of occasions, but now Ronaldo has gone I really see him pushing on this season in a team more suited to his style of play. As far as being loved as much as Rooney, his biggest problem is the old English mentality of work-ethic over quality. Too much has been said in the media about his laziness for him to shake it off now, and that’s just too much for some United fans.
CE: United-Arsenal matches are usually very lively for one reason or another but of late Fergie and Wenger seem like old dominoes partners such is their mutual respect for each other. Why has that changed and do you miss it?
SL: I think it’s changed because Ferguson hasn’t felt threatened by Arsenal for a long time. In years gone by it was only United or Arsenal who could win the league and Ferguson obviously had his reasons to stoke up a rivalry, partly through being riled and partly for effect. It’s probably got something to do with shipping out of all your most hateful players like Henry, Vieira, Pires and Keown as well.
It could also come down to the midfields of the two sides in a strange way. Both of our midfields have been supposedly short of an enforcer for some time now. Just compare the rivalry today to that of Keane and Vieira’s era, it doesn’t come close.
I do miss it because those games were absolutely electric, there were very rarely quiet, poor games in the epicentre of the hatred and they threw up some huge talking points and great results.
CE: We have Tommy Vermaelen alongside Bill gallas and we have been very impressed at the fact that he reminds us of Vidic. How big a player is he for United?
Vidic is massive for us; he’s one of the best players at the club and in the top three most important ones with Rooney and Rio.
His partnership with Ferdinand is the best in the world and the sooner they’re both back in the line-up the better it will be for United.
CE: How well do you expect Arsenal to do this season?
SL: I think they’ll be up there but ultimately fall short. I can see it being a repeat of 07/08 season where you’re stubbornly clawing to the top of the league but will ultimately fall away in the new year. It’s still nowhere near a title winning side, but I think you can close the gap as United adjust to the new system, Chelsea adjust to the new manager and Liverpool continue to be rubbish.
CE: Where do Arsenal come in your league table of teams you hate. I would guess/hope at third behind Liverpool then City?
SL: It’s funny really as I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, and it is a bit odd. But I think i’m the same as with the rivalry between the managers in that my hatred for Arsenal has mellowed in the last few years, mainly because of the lack of a challenge. Despite always bloody beating us in the league in recent years it hasn’t hindered our campaign that much by the end of the season.
As I said before you’ve also shipped out the most hateful players in the team and seemed to have replaced them with quiet, quality players. I’ve got a soft spot for Fabregas and van Persie and you can’t knock Arshavin can you?
There are those reasons, but you’ve also got to take into account the Champions League semi last season. It’s more a question of pity than hate!
To answer your question, I’d say 5th behind the two mentioned, Chelsea and Bolton.
CE: How long have Giggsy, Scholsey and Gary Nev from the ‘old guard’ got in them and to that end when will Fergie call it a day and who will follow him?
SL: Giggs could have another season in him after this, but I think Scholes and certainly Neville are in their last season as United players.
I think Scholes will make good on his promise of wanting to play for Oldham for a year next season provided he’s still in good enough shape. Neville though, in my eyes, is completely finished. He was off the pace at Wigan at the weekend, as you may expect from somebody just back from a lot of injury problems, but I think his legs have gone. 50 years in the stands as ambassador loom for England’s favourite right-back.
Giggs is proving a machine, and seems to be taking care of himself. Throughout pre-season Ferguson was saying how amazed he is at how well conditioned he still is. I thought he was on his way out a couple of years ago after some rubbish performances all round, but last season he pulled it all together again and got his rewards.
I’m not sure on the Ferguson one, I just don’t think he can let go. If this season’s a stinker then he’ll want to stick around next year and steady the ship for whoever comes in next, if we win the league this year he could call it a day on 19 league titles.
As far as a replacement I only want one man; Mourinho. It’s an unpopular choice at United for a lot of fans, but let’s be honest, as long as we’re winning things we’re all gonna be happy, and that’s what Mourinho can do for us. People say he plays boring football but I disagree. When he had great players at Chelsea he played great football, look at how they played when they had Arjen Robben.
CE: Would you like Aresene Wenger as a manager at Old Trafford?
SL: Wenger’s success at Arsenal has been based on a complete over-haul of the club from top to bottom, and I think that he’d need to do the same at United. He’d need to make the players coming through his players who look up to him and take on board what he says, the majority of Arsenal’s squad have that now, but it’d never work at United. If he had 10 years it might, but personally I wouldn’t want him to be United manager.
CE: So how will Fergie tinker with the squad today? And your prediction?
SL: I think he’ll go with Foster, O’Shea, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Nani, Fletcher, Carrick (if he hasn’t fallen out with Ferguson), Valencia, Rooney and Berbatov. So however many changes that is from Wigan. If he plays Neville at right back he’s at risk of being done for pace, and Fabio/Rafael commit themselves too much for the big games.
I’m going for a thrilling 2-2 draw.
CE: Cheers Sam, I would settle for that!
Please remember that we will have live text coverage of todays game here on Arsenalinsder.com from 5pm