skip to content

Martin Samuel: 'We're Manchester United, we do what we want' (... well, not any more you don't!)

07 Apr 2011 00:27:36

Martin Samuel: 'We're Manchester United, we do what we want' (... well, not any more you don't!)

Considering that the last month has brought a five-game touchline ban for the manager, and a charge of bringing the game into disrepute for the most valued player, it might bebest to stop singing that song now. You know the one. To the tune of Sloop John Bby The Beach Boys. 'We're Man United,' it goes, 'we do what we want.' It started as a message of disobedience at away games, a belligerent response to the instruction of home officials to sit down. Then, last October, after Nani scored a controversial goal against Tottenham Hotspur, it was picked up by supporters at Old Trafford, too. Nani very obviously handled the ball and Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes presumed a free-kick had been given and rolled it out to the position from where it would be taken. Stopped in their tracks: After being chastened by the FA, Wayne Rooney and his Manchester United team-matescaught the train to London Referee Mark Clattenburg, however, had waved play on and Nani, the first to realise this, slotted the ball into the unguarded net. Chaos ensued but, rightly, the goal stood. 'We're Man United,' sang the crowd, 'we do what we want.' And, quite often, they do in the best possible sense. Against West Ham United on Saturday they did exactly what they wanted for the 45 minutes of the second half and it was magnificent. One can argue whether Avram Grant, the West Ham manager, might have been quicker to react, considering thatManchester United went from playing Wayne Rooney alone up front with Ryan Giggs in support, to playing Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov and ripping the home side apart, but, looking at what he had onthe bench, a change would have made little difference. Jonathan Spector, his only option to shore up midfield, was not going to stop Manchester United in this form.Teddy Sheringham said the finest sight in football was watching Manchester United chase a lead and the statement is as true today as it was when he uttered it, 13 years ago. The 3-0 down, 5-3 up game against Tottenham at White Hart Lane in 2001 was the epitome of their art, but the match at Upton Park on Saturday came not far behind, because of the finely poised nature of the title race. Arsenal were playing Blackburn at home that afternoon. Had United lost, it would have been a tremendous fillip for their rivals who, by the end of the day, could have been two points behind them, with a game in hand. Instead, United revived, Arsenal shrank and the title race is now all but over. This was United doing what they want in a good way. Yet we all recognise the underlying message in the song. It is United the immovable object, the unstoppable force, bearing down on the competition with all their power, wealth and influence. It is the  swaggering arrogance of a club at the pinnacle of the elite, a clubfully aware of their importance and political sway. Manchester United are a terrifying beast for the FA to take on, as former chief executive Mark Palios discovered when he ordered Rio Ferdinand to be left out of an England team, prior to a charge of missing a drugs test. That nearly ended in a players' strike, orchestrated in part by Gary Neville but with, the FA always believed, Sir Alex Ferguson loading the bullets. 'We're talking about a ?30million asset for Manchester United here,' Palios was warned by United chief executive David Gill. Under a cloud: Palios (left) gives his version of events as then England boss Sven Goran Eriksson (right) ponders a player boycott against Turkey And, of course, some eight years later, the FA have not been spurred into action by a terrace song, but make no mistake the sense of entitlement contained within it is what football feels it must address. No point knocking over the small-timers,the petty thieves, the scowling street thugs, either. If you want to break the gang up you go for the big boss. In a week in which a report by the Cricket Foundation and the MCC found that just 17 per cent of parents believed their children to be gracious in defeat, it is clear these are problems that must be tackled from the top down. The standard complaint when discipline is imposed on an employee of Manchester United is that this would not happen to another club; that United are picked on, singled out, persecuted. It is nonsense, of course. United suffer the same vagaries, the same inconsistencies, as all clubs. There are some lucky escapes, some instances of rough justice.   More from Martin Samuel... Martin Samuel: Wayne's simply a world apart... with fun as his new F-word06/04/11 Martin Samuel: Harry's best laid plans ruined by Bernabeu blitz06/04/11 Martin Samuel: It's hard to avoid whiff of hypocrisy in Rooney's FA charge 04/04/11 Martin Samuel: Harry's done miracles ... so why don't Spurs love him?04/04/11 Martin Samuel: Rooney seems a man motivated only by vengeance and spite03/04/11 MARTIN SAMUEL: A sad state of the arts? Get a proper job!31/03/11 Martin Samuel: England's stand-in Lions fill boss Capello with pride 29/03/11 Martin Samuel: You're alright Jack, but Little Pea will end up Mushy Pea 29/03/11 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE Butsuppose United were now being closely policed? Suppose somebody at the FA decided they had to take down some of United's heavyweights as a way of bringing the sport into line. Would that be entirely fair? Perhaps not, but it would be a start. If the FA wish referees to be treated with more respect, there is no stronger message than the sight of Ferguson spending five games in the stands. When the greatest manager in the English game is no longer untouchable then the rest would be wise to fall into line. The same goes for Rooney. His charge is flawed because the FA ignored similar behaviour when he was on England duty, but if the best player in the country is banned for swearing into a television camera, others similarly motivated will have to think twice. Would it happen to a player at Burton Albion? No, because a player at Burton would not be going live to the nation at lunchtime on Saturday. Manchester United cannot enjoy all the benefits of being part of the elite the financial rewards, the lucrative global exposure which adds hugely to turnover without acknowledging that certain responsibilities are part of this deal. There are plenty of clubs at which Rooney will never be troubled by pitch-side TV cameras, but they tend not to offer salaries of ?200,000 a week or play Champions League quarter-final ties against Chelsea. That is the contradiction. Everything about Manchester United may lead them to believe they can do what they want; but, as football gets serious about addressing extremes of behaviour, they may find it is time to learn a new song.  A major title is a must to be No 1If a major isn't major, what is the point? It is a question worth asking as the greatest golfers gather in Augusta for the Masters and we hear, once more, that Lee Westwood's failure to win any of the game's four great prizes should not have inhibited his status as the world's best. Westwood, who rose to the top of the rankings before being replaced by Martin Kaymer of Germany, is vexed by the issue, particularly with the intervention of six-time major winner Sir Nick Faldo. 'It's interesting how times change, how you can get to No 1 without winning a major,' Faldo said. 'I never understood the points system. I wanted to be No 1, but the majors are the biggest, because you have to win them, to finish them off.' He is right, of course. If major golf is not the pinnacle of achievement in the sport as the four Grand Slam tournaments are in tennis what is all the fuss about? In the swing: Westwood has the popular support ahead of Augusta If the Masters matters no more than the Valero Texas Open next week, and valued above all is consistency, then why have major tournaments at all? Westwood is a brilliant golfer, we know that, but Faldo is correct that a question will remain until he has won a major, because that is when the competition is at its fiercest and the pressure at its height. Counter-arguments about the significance of majors invariably settle on Andy North, who won the US Open twice, in 1978 and 1985, and one other PGA Tour competition the 1977 American Express Westchester Classic in his professional career. If we make major victories the sole marker of achievement it follows that North is a better golfer than Westwood and, plainly, that is not the case. The answer is simple: we don't do that. Winning a major does not necessarily elevate a professional above his contemporaries, but no golfer and no tennis player, either should be ranked higher than second without one. Without overcoming the intense test of the final day of a major competition, the scrutiny of the chasing pack, the realisation that one mistake could alter history, it should be impossible to lay claim to premier position. Colin Montgomerie was the leading golfer in Europe seven years in succession between 1993 and 1999, but he still needed the Ryder Cup to define his greatness. He didn't quite have the package, without that major win. That is why there is so much goodwill towards Westwood in Georgia this week. We want the loose end tied up; we want to praise him like we should.  Taking the MichaelMohamed Al Fayed has generously invited supporters of Fulham to go to hell, or Chelsea, if they do not like his Japanese monster figurine statue of Michael Jackson, erected at Craven Cottage. Neverland: Al Fayed's bizarre statue risks alienating a new generation of fans They won't, of course. Fans mate for life. But their children are a different matter. Nobody wants to be a laughing stock in the playground. If Fayed is not careful the next generation may well beat it. AND WHILE WE'RE AT ITUpset: Porterfield Ireland will play no part in the next Cricket World Cup, which will be limited to the nine Test-playing nations, plus Zimbabwe. This seems harsh as Ireland are currently ahead of Zimbabwe in the one-day rankings, but the International Cricket Council have belatedly recognised that this year's competition was unwieldy and overlong. 'We beat England, we scored the World Cup's fastest century, what more could we have done?' asked William Porterfield, the Ireland captain. And, yes, that was a brilliant display; but it was one match. Ireland made just 178 against Bangladesh, were comfortably beaten by India, lost by 131 runs with 16.3 overs remaining against South Africa and finally won a dead rubber against Holland. Is it worth enduring such a moribund qualifying process on the off-chance of one fine day? Ireland are also said to be upset that their campaign for inclusion in 2015 has not been more publicly supported by England, so it is nice to see that they are prepared to put the hatred we are told is such a vibrant element of sporting fixtures between the countries to one side, when it suits.  UEFA want 20 clubs to take part in a soft implementation of the Financial Fair Play rules in preparation for their introduction in 2012. They should be told to get stuffed. The plan is for a cross-section of elite clubs to file their annual accounts, with impunity, to ensure they are moving in the right direction. 'There will be no sanctions, but the aim is to test the processes to see how the clubs react,' said Andrea Traverso, UEFA's head of club licensing. 'When it comes to 2012, we will already have a historic record of various clubs. The financial control panel will need to assess whether the club has shown commitment to move in the right direction. If they find the club has done nothing, they may recommend a harder sanction.' So, just to recap: you help UEFA test their rules and, in return, if you fall foul of them you receive an even heavier sanction than may previously have been awarded. You've got to admit it is an attractive offer. But get stuffed.  Playing for England helpsWe hear a lot about the drain of international football on players, but club managers are less likely to credit its positive effects. On Saturday, Aston Villa turned in a rather promising performance at Everton; certainly, their England players did. Darren Bent, who scored England's second goal against Wales, found the net twice in a game for the first time since he was a Sunderland player, Ashley Young won a penalty against Wales and looked in fine nick after impressing in two internationals, and Stewart Downing followed an excellent display for England against Ghana with one that made him by most reckonings man of the match. Villa still could not win, but manager Gerard Houllier spoke as if this was their best performance in some time. Morale has been poor at Villa lately and, without doubt, their three England players would have benefited from a change of environment, particularly as it proved a successful and important time for England. So international football did good. Not that Premier League bosses will ever admit this, of course.  Maracana messThe delays to the rebuilding project at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro will come as no surprise to any that attended the first Club World Cup in Brazil 11 years ago. The minimal upgrades back then were completed in the nick of time and just days before the opening game, facilities in the stands were still a mess of unconnected wires and sawdust. The greater Maracana project was due to be completed in 2012, in plenty of time for the 2014 World Cup, but has been put back a year already. 'Brazil is running a huge risk of embarrassing itself,' said Pele, an ambassador for the bid. A state of disrepair: There is much to do before the Maracana's renovation Yet these days, as sport chases the big bucks in the emerging nations, we are used to living by the old showbiz motto that it will be all right on the night. The refrain could be heard through the Athens Olympics, the South Korean Grand Prix, the Commonwealth Games and Cricket World Cup in India, and now around the Ukraine leg of the 2012 European Championship. One day, of course, this bravado will be exposed with at best chaotic, at worst tragic, results and there will be all manner of hand-wringing recriminations. As if such an event was unforeseeable; as if we did not have enough warnings and near misses in the past.  Explore more:People: Alex Ferguson, Colin Montgomerie, Ryan Giggs, Ashley Young, Gerard Houllier, Nick Faldo, Dimitar Berbatov, Rio Ferdinand, Teddy Sheringham, Stewart Downing, David Gill, Darren Bent, Wayne Rooney, Mohamed Al Fayed, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Gary Neville, Michael Jackson, Nani Places: Rio De Janeiro, Germany, Wales, Ireland, Brazil, Ghana, The Netherlands, Bangladesh, United Kingdom, India, South Africa, Europe Organisations: International Cricket Council


Daily_Mail

Sponsored links

advertisement

Related Manchester United News

advertisement

advertisment