Sunday, July 22, 2012

Fergie deflects attention from real issues with withering attack on fans. It's a PR disaster and one that won't help United's latest IPO...

Things aren't going too well for Manchester United both on and off the pitch. Ferguson's shadow squad have just completed the first-leg of the 2012 summer tour in South Africa, with two unconvincing performances.

Off the pitch, the Glazer family are in the process of making their third attempt to launch an IPO (Initial Public Offering), this time on the New York Stock Exchange. The previous two attempts to sell shares in the club in South East Asia failed miserably and if we are to believe reports from across the pond, the proposed NYSE IPO could also suffer the same fate due to lack of interest.

This latest IPO will not be helped by Ferguson's stinging attack on large sections of United's supporter base who oppose the Glazer family. For the record, United didn't have a penny of debt prior to the 2005 Glazer family takeover - since then over £500m has been drained out of club coffers to pay swinging interest payments. The Glazer family borrowed over £500m to fund their heavily leveraged acquisition of United - this debt has been transferred onto Manchester United. Despite paying out over £500m in interest payments and charges, after seven years, those debts are still in the region of £430m. 

With concerns that Ferguson needed to add quality to his squad this summer in order to compete with Manchester City and that the manager is being hampered by the club's financial position, no wonder supporters have genuine concerns about the long-term well being of Manchester United.

It's also worth noting that even the Glazer family have now tacitly admitted that they want to reduce these mountainous debts - that is the stated intention behind this latest IPO. The NYSE IPO prospectus  highlighted that debt could hinder the club if left unchecked. Let us also not forget what United CEO David Gill, famously said in 2004 - "Debt is the road to ruin".   

Ferguson was ill advised to deliver what will be interpreted as an attack on many of the club's supporters; as far as market analysts are concerned, this verbal volley may well be viewed as yet another "red flag" and it could well be another reason not to buy into this latest IPO.

It's worth asking why Ferguson chose to deliver this stiff rebuke to the anti-Glazer movement: was it to deflect attention away from the fact that his squad needs strengthening, and because the manager doesn't have the funds at his disposal? Yet if we believe Ferguson, the Glazer family are "great owners" and they have always supported him in the transfer market. 

No matter what Fergie says about the Glazer family - talk is cheap. It is now seven years since Roy Keane was sent on his way, despite continuing to win silverware, United haven't come close to finding a suitable long-term replacement. 

Earlier this week, Ferguson suggested that Michael Carrick will be the key man for United this coming season. This blog takes no pleasure in putting down our own players, but Carrick isn't even an England regular. He has failed to cement a regular starting place in the England team. In the eyes of many observers, Carrick is a 'poor-man's' Pirlo. It wasn't that long ago that Carrick fell out of favour with Ferguson;  he was in and out of the team amidst talk of a possible departure. Admittedly, Carrick played very well for United last season - but as we all too painfully saw against Barcelona in those one-sided Champions League Finals he desperately needs help in the engine room.

Ferguson may well have signed Japanese star Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell, but both lack Premier League experience and it remains to be seen how well they will fit into the United squad and what part they will play, but neither are seasoned box-to-box midfield generals.

Over the weekend, Ferguson gave us a lamentable excuse for United's awful Champions League failings last season. According to the manager, he 'made too many changes'. Ferguson used to be known as "Tinkerbell" due to his continual tinkering with his team, but over the years his squad rotation system has paid dividends, most famously with the all conquering 1999 treble winning side. Ferguson' assertion that United's failings last season were down to too many changes will only fool the deluded and the blinkered.

United are in serious danger of being left behind by big spending Manchester City. Ferguson continues to paper over of the cracks by asking veterans Scholes and Giggs to carry the team. By his own admission, City are signing players who are in the right age bracket, the ones with experience aged between 25 and 27. Fergie says that City don't have any over 30 year-old's in their squad, he also questions their youth policy. In contrast, Fergie says that 31 year-old Michael Carrick will be United's 'key man' this season...

The United manager can point fingers at City when questioning their policy on signings, but it's beginning to sound like sour grapes. As Fergie well knows, and as Arsenal fans have found out to their cost, principles don't always win prizes...

This blog fully supports Ferguson the manager and his team - we don't support the man and there is a difference. We applaud the manager's stance on signing young players and turning them into superstars. We don't not support the Glazers' and like many fans' we want to see that huge debt mountain wiped out.

Ferguson has worked near miracles with a limited budget at his disposal and despite doing the job magnificently, albeit with one hand tied behind his back, you have to wonder how much longer United will continue to get away with it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pogba and Fryers gone: Who is to blame, agents or could United have done more?

Manchester United are smarting following the recent defections of Paul Pogba and Zeki Fryers. After making just seven appearances for the first-team last season, in so doing showing signs of real class, to the consternation of United supporters and surely Ferguson too, Pogba snubbed the club's overtures and instead opted to join Juventus - a move which has understandably upset United. As if that wasn't bad enough, talented defender Zeki Fryers then decided to quit United and join Spurs.

Young players come and go on an all too frequent basis at a club like United and so there's nothing particularly new about that, but this time it was different, because in the case of Pogba,  he has the potential to be a huge star. Pogba could have saved United tens of millions in the transfer market - a fact that makes United's failure to agree a deal all the more baffling and frustrating. The former Le Havre youngster looks to be every inch the central midfield player Fergie's squad so badly needs. United's engine room is short on genuine quality and in Pogba the Scot knew he had someone who could well go on to be a very special player. Pogba's decision to leave is a bitter blow for everyone connected with United - especially in the current financial climate, in which Ferguson finds himself slugging it out with 'moneybags' Manchester City with one hand tied behind his back.

Until the last few weeks of last season, Ferguson had worked wonders and against all odds looked like securing another league title - only for his team to do a Devon Loch and falter in the final stages of the title race, as United gifted the Premier League trophy to Roberto Mancini and his players. The lapses which led to what was an alarming collapse were and still are unforgivable.

So as we headed into the summer to lick our collective wounds it was with the hope that Ferguson would bolster his squad with quality additions and come back ready for next season with the players who are capable of bringing the title back to Old Trafford. Pogba, could and SHOULD have been part of that squad.

The fact that both Pogba and Fryers chose to leave raises many questions.  In the case of Pogba, should United have been willing to meet his demands? Perhaps they were, but we haven't been told the full story, save for a few barbed comments from Fergie about 'lack of respect' - but there's two sides to every story. In the final analysis the club failed to agree a deal and that's a fact, one of the few we the fans' can be sure of.

But did it have to end this way? Manchester United have always been willing to make 'exceptions' for 'special players'. Surely United's decision-makers could see what many observers could plainly see, that is Pogba is going to be twice the player the likes of Anderson will ever be.

In the aftermath of the departures, there has been much debate - the argument that the club had to keep within its pay structure for all of its youngsters has been touted. In the light of what happened, should United now be prepared to make exceptions for special cases like Pogba? The alternative is to risk losing the next really talented youngster - after all there's no shortage of suitors.

Pogba has been labelled as 'greedy' by some fans, but we could say that about many top-flight players, including Rio Ferdinand who it is claimed is worth £40m and yet according to reports, he's balking about signing that new deal.

If we accept the notion that most players are sadly more concerned about money than anything else, it's not that difficult to see why it was easy for Juventus to prize Pogba away from United.

If United needed a reality check, they've had one - if they don't meet the financial demands of the most talented players, as we found to our cost with Pogba, someone else will.

Monday, July 16, 2012

United 'fraud squad' set for summer tour as concerns grow over Fergie's transfer activity...

The dust may well have settled on the season that's just gone, but the disappointment and manner of the its conclusion will linger on for quite some time. In the intervening weeks, since United unforgivably handed back what just a few weeks earlier had looked to be league title number 20 to Manchester City, not an awful lot has happened to suggest Ferguson and his players will be capable of wrestling control of the Premier League trophy out of the grubby clutches of our 'noisy neighbours'.

To date, Ferguson has left many supporters' underwhelmed with his summer signings. The addition of Nick Powell from Crewe and Shinji Kagawa from Dortmund may well go on to prove to be excellent value, but neither has experienced the hurly burly  Premier League.

Perhaps worryingly for United fans, Ferguson says, although Powell was used as a forward at his former club, it is his stated intention to use him as a central midfield player. Quite what Powell thinks about this would be good to know, but more importantly many observers will be left wondering if this is a sign of desperation on the part of the manager.

Manchester United's problems in central midfield are well documented, this area of the squad is widely accepted as its weakest - the one that needed the most attention this summer. Yet, Ferguson has signed a striker who we are told will eventually be transformed into a central midfield player and in Kagawa we have a potential long-term replacement for Paul Scholes.

There's likely to be a period of adjustment for Powell and Kagawa - who doesn't speak English, but hopefully, they will both settle quickly in the coming weeks and go on to prove their worth.

But, who else will Ferguson sign and who should he be targeting, those questions are a constant source of debate among the Red Army.

According to reports, (don't you just hate that phrase?) Ferguson is trying to sign Brazilian Lucas Moura; now here's the thing, Moura is yet another forward - and so it's worth asking if there's any truth in this rumour?  Not only that, but the same reports claim Moura is wanted by (among others) Real Madrid. Question: so when was the last time United won a transfer battle with Madrid?

Seasoned followers of the club will no doubt concur that we've been down this road before; the pursuit of the unattainable is a well trodden and all too often fruitless path. Back in 2003, the media led us to believe that United had come close to signing Ronaldinho - only for the brilliant samba star to sign for Barcelona and to add insult, he made his debut against United on the Reds US summer tour (yours truly was there).

So, is it fair to ask if this story is just another piece of creative writing - or is it the case that United's spin doctors' have sent the media on another wild goose chase?  Nothing can be ruled out. To those who say that is too far fetched, whoever would have thought Ferguson would have sanctioned the £7.5m transfer of Bebe and then to our consternation admit he'd never seen him kick a ball?

That leads us nicely on to United's latest summer tour. Hard to believe, but some fans are actually claiming to be 'excited' about the prospects of the squad which has been described as a 'mixture of youth and experience' - that's one way of describing them. The more cynical among us might describe the tourists as a mixture of 'hopefuls, experience, imposters and expensive failures' or even the 'fraud squad' as a time-served Red, jokingly put it.

There's little point in slamming Bebe (again), suffice to say, I wish I had a tenner for every Red who voiced their misguided belief and trust in a player who pretty much from his first kick was plainly never going to make it in a United shirt. 

While, it was obvious from the start that Bebe hadn't any hope in hell, United fans, who to their generally great credit are extremely patient with new signings are now pretty much resigned to the view that Anderson isn't going to make it either.

Anderson was brought in as a potential goal-scoring replacement for Scholes. It's true to state that his progress has been hindered by injuries, but it's also true that he hasn't lived up to his transfer fee - an eye watering £25m. Having made 145 appearances in five seasons and having scored just seven goals, Anderson has proved to be poor value and worse still, he hasn't eased Ferguson's midfield woes. No surprise then that reports are linking Anderson with moves back to Portugal.

Having been up for sale for a lengthy period, and without securing a move, the supremely talented yet all too often frustrating Dimitar Berbatov will also be boarding the flight to South Africa along with the rest of the United squad.

The sad thing is, Berbatov could have gone on to be a United legend, but he has no stomach for the fight and lacks heart; the fans' love his skills, but despair at his lack of application. The Bulgarian made the big mistake of publicly stating "I'm not changing" and that was the final straw for the former steelworker from Govan - aka Ferguson.

So the message to Fergie is this: we are not expecting rave reviews from South Africa and Scandinavia, but we bloody well are expecting you to pull your finger out and bolster midfield, before the season starts.