Clear-cut View

Brian Cleary

Reading Between the Side-Lines

They say actions speak louder than words, and in football they can be deafening.

In a previous post I spoke about social media directly linking players and fans for a more ‘personal’ relationship. Tweets and posts delivering direct quotes, thoughts and comments from the men themselves. Actions, however, can often form the best communication between said parties – because actions ‘say’ what the players never will. And, more often than not, actions can’t get twisted in the press or taken out of context. Take, for example, when a player scores against his former club – a non-celebration shows the respect he has for his previous employers and fans. This is something that Wilfried Bony did over the weekend and something which Swansea fans would all have appreciated – well as much as you can appreciate conceding a goal!

With so many rumours at this time of the season, the actions of players are being scrutinised during their final home game of the season. Everyone is looking for some kind of insight, some sort of commitment or even a farewell gesture and last Sunday, at Old Trafford, we certainly got a few…

Falcao WavingRadamel Falcao, the man every Utd fan wanted to do well, said his goodbyes. His name was sung regularly throughout the game and even after he had been substituted. His substitution brought back memories of Carlos Tevez’s last game at Old Trafford. Not only did he applaud the whole stadium as he left but also gave a couple of waves, signalling his time was at an end. We all know that once he gets his form back he will return to being one of the best strikers around but that doesn’t look like it will happen with Man Utd. His efforts have been more than appreciated, his attitude never called into question and his desire to make things work – even though they just didn’t – very much recognised. The one remaining action possibility left for Falcao is to say too much about his time at the club when he leaves and then to sign for one of our rivals. Let’s hope that his conduct at the weekend is where the similarities to Tevez ends.

A lot is being made about David De Gea applauding the four corners of the stadium during his warm-up and has been interpreted as a wave goodbye to the fans. However, if you compare this with every other warm-up he has done this season, and previous seasons, then there is very little in the difference. He acknowledged the Stretford End as he came out onto the pitch. He continued to jog along the 18 yard line, acknowledging those in the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand and the South stand while also applauding those in the East stand at the far end of the pitch. This is not something new; this is part of his routine. Maybe he did linger a little bit longer than usual but let’s remember there are only a few thousand people in the stadium at this point so it’s not exactly a great time to acknowledge ‘all’ the fans. When he got substituted, with 15 minutes to go, you would think that this was the best time to acknowledge everybody and say goodbye – yet he didn’t. He applauded the fans in the direction he was walking as they had sung his name all through the game. This was the fans’ way of saying thank you, please stay.

De Gea clappingDe Gea kept his head down during the lap of the pitch with the rest of the players at the end of the game.

He appears to be a man with alot of his mind. His family and girlfriend all live in Spain and travel over every few weeks. It’s been confirmed that he has been offered a new improved contract at Man Utd, yet he hasn’t signed it. I’ve no doubt he loves the club and everything about it but he is a young man, far from home and with a long career ahead of him. His love of Man Utd is pulling him in one direction while the call of a successful club from his home city is tempting him in another. It has nothing to do with money and everyone knows that.

The fans would love him to stay, but if he doesn’t only good things will be said about him; because his actions throughout the last four years have earned him that right.

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Respect the Tech

It’s a far cry from the origins of the game but these days technology and football go hand in hand. The introduction of goal line technology, where real time decisions are impacted, has changed the face of it irreversibly and, in my opinion, absolutely positively. No longer is the referee or assistant referee left unaided as he makes a split second decision, which could effect the outcome of the game; while any serious incident that goes unnoticed by the referee during the game can be referred to an independent panel, in the week following, using video footage. This allows them to decide if there is to be any retrospective punishment for those involved. And even though the debate continues over the usage of it for more real time decisions, as time goes by I see it playing a larger role in other critical decisions – similar to how it is currently used in rugby.

For the fans, technology is also crucial. We have all had times where we can’t be at a match or it is not being televised – our smart phone is hardly out of our hands looking for live updates. Not only for our own team but to see how everyone else is doing and hoping that results go as we would like. Sometimes the 3G connection might let you down and it will feel like a carrier pigeon would be faster in delivering the information to you, but overall we’d be lost without it.

Technology gave birth to social media, which brings us closer to our heroes and players in a way that feels a bit more personal. Transfers, updates on players, good news and bad news seems to break on Twitter etc, faster than any other outlet and the effect is that you always feel informed. There is, however, a dark side to this. A side that showed itself in full this week when the tragic news broke, that Rio Ferdinand’s wife, Rebecca, had lost her battle with breast cancer. The football world united in paying its respects and passing on condolences to Rio and his family. Rio’s teammates, past and present, as well as players who he has battled against for most of his footballing career, all showed the respect they have for him through their public sympathies.

Respect however, is not mandatory on social media. People hide behind their profiles and post whatever they want. Some of these imbeciles (and I wish I could use a stronger word than that) posted some absolutely disgusting messages about this sad news. I will not quote any of them here as they have already achieved what they wanted in getting the attention they have so far – but suffice to say, I don’t care who you support, who you dislike most in football or who you couldn’t give a toss about – this news goes beyond football, this news is about human loss.

And because of it, it is a time for the upmost respect for a man and his family as well as a time to be grateful for the loved ones we are lucky enough to have around us. Nobody ever wants this news to knock on their door.

So respect technology, don’t be a troll and no matter who you support remember that we are all human.

My sincerest sympathies go to Rio and his family.
#Respect #RIPRebecca

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Let’s Get Back On Track

It’s been a while since I penned a blog,
so to cover all in between would be some slog.
But some highlights, yes, I’ll mention a few,
and next week I’ll bring you something new.

The injury list got better, then it got worse,
and we got hit by that Stamford Bridge Curse.
Of the top four, we could only dream and hope,
until we sent The Scousers on their slippery slope.

Speaking of which, it was part of a big three,
beating Spurs, Pool and of course City.
The FA Cup is better left unsaid,
after Danny returned and forgot his time as a red.

The last two games haven’t gone our way,
but let’s get back on track against WBA.
The Champions League has made the call,
let’s show ‘em what we’ve got – let’s play ball.

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Just Chant Get Enough

Me and PeteWHEN I asked Pete Boyle, the Manchester United king of chants, to tell me the most interesting thing about himself, the last thing I expected was to be told that he was a red by pure chance.

The flip of a coin nonetheless.

When his Dad was just a kid, a childish game in which he was designated a team to follow, was decided when his comrades flipped a coin. From that moment Pete, who says he would only ever have followed whatever side his Dad did, was destined to become a Man Utd supporter and for over four decades there’s been none more devoted than he.

Visitors to The Bishop Blaize on match day will be familiar with the way he orchestrates the crowd and sets the tone for the day, with chant after chant. The atmosphere is always electric, the buzz is palpable and the camaraderie unbeatable – because he makes it so.

Club players and managers, past and present, know him by name and he counts our dear friend, Cantona, as one of his closest contacts. With a Match Day talk show, a CD collection that would make The Happy Mondays blush and an unofficial role as club ambassador, he has carved out a career of sorts from his upmost passion.

And still, it would seem, he is an unsung hero – which is ironic really.

When I caught up with him I wanted to know everything. I had been in his presence many times, I’d read his blog, I’d sung his chants at the top of my lungs from the Sir Alex Ferguson stand – but I had no real idea who he was. And this is what I found out. He’s the real deal. A quick-witted, straight talker who is red to the core.

Tell me, I said, why you’re chanting about United. How did it all start?

“My dad took me to my first game, aged 4, in November 1974. It was United v Aston Villa in a Division 2 game. If my dad supported anybody else I would have done also, because he was such a big influence on me. He was an orphan and was brought up by nuns. It was united by the toss of a coin. As a kid he was playing football and when picking teams they said “heads city, tails united” and that’s how it all started.”

The day before the 1979 FA cup final Pete led a group of his school mates around the playground at lunchtime singing united songs and at just nine years old, the writing was already on the wall.

“I was always fascinated by the songs and scarves and my dad often told me to turn around and watch the game. I learnt most songs of the day and sung them all the time.”

So what was the first chant that you remember?

“Pride of all Europe probably is, and will always be, my favourite song. It’s our original and if sung slowly is the only anthem we need. We don’t need the gimmick of a pop song with no relevance to our club or history.”

So how does a four-year-old go from hearing their first chant to ending up creating and releasing albums of them?

“My first chant was probably a simple ‘all this way for nothing,’ to away fans who’d travelled a long way after we took the lead at Old Trafford. All football releases had been cheesy releases so I decided to record my first album of basically uncensored songs and chants to prove it could be done. It proved a real critical success and although I realised it was never going to make me rich, I could see that it could help me attend the games so I’ve created the niche and have done it ever since.”

Sometimes the atmosphere at Old Trafford comes under criticism and for a man who creates such frenzy among the fans before the game it must be tough to hear this criticism during the match, I mused. What’s tough, it would seem though, is the biased coverage of what is perceived to be a lack of atmosphere and the unbalanced accounts from different games.

“Last season with the team struggling our support was amazing and my abiding memory was after our hated rivals, Liverpool went three nil up at old Trafford,” he said. “The media/Liverpool fans and ABU nation all expected most of the ground to empty and rest in silence. What they got, however, was non-stop singing and total support for Manchester United – until the final whistle. The press didn’t focus and hardly mentioned this, though. Compare that to just recently, after Real Madrid went three up at Anfield – you could hear a pin drop and only Gary Neville mentioned this. When Liverpool fans sung at the end of game the clichés of great support were launched from every media outlet.”

Fair point.

So what about his famous mates? There is a well-known photo of Pete, drinking with the one and only Eric Cantona; and rumour has it, it wasn’t a one off. So how does one happen to befriend one of the biggest footballing legends of all time?

“I’ve been lucky enough to socialise with Eric on numerous occasions. I was like a schoolboy on a first date – so nervous – when he spoke to me first,” he laughs. “The first time I met him was in 1994. I was upstairs in Peveril of the Peak pub, rehearsing some songs for my album Songs from the Bathtub, when the landlady of the pub came over to me and said that there was someone I may like to meet downstairs. I decided to go down and see who it was and couldn’t believe it when I saw Eric, playing table football with a couple of his mates. He was injured at the time and the landlady walked over and introduced me. She told him that I had a couple of songs about him so I sang a few of them and he seemed to really enjoy them. We sat and had a drink and, to this day, I still have the privilege of meeting up with him occasionally when he visits the UK.”

It’s clear from chatting about Cantona how highly Pete rates him as a person and a player. There is no doubt that he would be in his all-time greatest Man Utd team, but who else would be there I asked? There is a slight pause while he figures out his final 11 but then names the following with great conviction.

“Schmeichel, Gary Neville, Stam, Buchan, Irwin, Ronaldo, Robson, Scholes, Giggs, Cantona and Whiteside.”

To put him on the spot even further I ask him to name his ultimate five-a-side team, which can only consist of ex-players who he has been involved with for functions and supporters events. There is a wry smile, which tells me he may upset one or two people, but he pronounces.

“Ah, I would have to go with Van Der Sar, Gary Neville, May, Robson – and Eric of course.”

Thinking about those names brings back memories of success and celebrations, some really great nights at Old Trafford and we chat and laugh for a bit. However memories of last season bring us both back to reality and I wonder what is his take on David Moyes’ reign? Was he given enough time or did he just lack the experience of managing a huge club?

“He was and is an honest man, who took the fall for an aging team that needed a big clear out. In hindsight, the job was probably too big for him. LVG has had to and will have to clear out so many more players. But it’s next season before I think we can genuinely challenge for the title and after that we can dream of another European Cup.”

Indeed, I agree, there is renewed hope among Man Utd fans that LVG can deliver again and he will be afforded the time to build his team. In the meantime, however, it will fall to the fans to keep the spirits high but like the official squad they need an animated leader – Pete Boyle is just that.

So can we dare to hope that the bar will take his weight on a match day for another four decades? And has he someone to carry on the legacy, like he did for his old man?

“I have kids who I take to some of the games but I’d rather they went the conventional route of Uni and a good job and went to football as a hobby, not an obsession like me!”

Well, an obsession it may be but it’s a healthy – enough – one, which has benefited millions of Utd fans down the years and will continue to do so.

Now, the next time you hear a chant at a game and you’re singing along, hammering the stands or wiping away a sneaky tear – remember that it isn’t by chance you are doing it. The likelihood is, that whatever the words, this man will either have endorsed or created them, because as luck would have it, that coin landed the right side up for all of us.

Click here if you would like to buy any of Pete’s albums.

Click here to view Pete in action before Chelsea game on 27/10/2014 singing Eric the King.

Click here to view Red Square Live.

Follow @clearcutview and @PeteBoyle70

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Roaring Rooney Leads Us


The images of Rooney, shouting and berating his own players in the last game has prompted much debate – but I see it as a positive and think it will be one of the turning points in our season.

With a defence that has so many holes in it, it is reminiscent of Swiss cheese – it was the cause of a comfortable lead turning into a defeat – then it’s a captain’s God-given right to make his feelings known. Fans and players alike look to their leader in situations like this and all too often they are met with a shrug of the shoulders, an apologetic hand raised or a head focusing on the ground to avoid eye contact with team mates.

Not this time. Last season we were crying out for passion from the players – this season we got it. The moaners aren’t opposed to Rooney’s reaction, they are sore with the result.

The fact is, Rooney was fully focused on the game from the very start. The concentration and determination was evident from his Roy Keane-like stare in the tunnel as he was about to lead out his team. He is all too aware that the squad drastically underperformed last season and is a man looking to make amends.

This is the second season that players have had to adapt to new tactics, formations and style of play so they can’t be expected to go out and play as fluidly as they did in 2012-2013. For a start, five of the first team were summer signings and they need time to gel together as a unit. We will get beaten this season by teams who play better than us on the day, but on Sunday we beat ourselves and that’s clearly what irked Rooney.

Keano spent most of every game shouting at his own players – even when we scored it was common for him to still be having a go at someone during the celebrations. This was due to his fear of failure and he did everything he could to prevent that. Rooney is a very different player but he is now in the prime of his career and his fear of failure is coming to the fore. Lifting premiership trophies was almost commonplace under Sir Alex, but Rooney knows that he needs to inspire and motivate the team back to a level where we can even be considered challengers again.

Last season was a wake-up call – but one that we dozed off after. Last Sunday, however, was the final time we hit the snooze button. It’s zero tolerance from her in otherwise we’re in for another nightmare.

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LVG – Leadership Vision Goals

As the dust settles on a busy fortnight, from the transfer window closure to an epic win over QPR, we can now take stock of our players and see how, as a team, the formation will bode for the forthcoming season.

Using our manager’s initials so, let’s look at how healthy we are at the back, in the middle and up front – and what that means based on ghosts of pitches past present and future…

L for Leadership?

Leadership is one of the essential ingredients when looking at your goalkeeper and defence. We have lost Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra. Three players, all of whom lead by example and each of whom captained the side with great pride and honour. They were all very vocal on the pitch, which was key to the development of David De Gea and should not be underestimated for the role they played helping him through his first season – and the so-called “shaky” start to his career. Rafael, Evans, Jones and Smalling all benefitted from playing with these guys and soaking up every syllable all advice. The need to replace this leadership and experience was one of the key objectives during the transfer window and while we were linked with Hummels and Vermaelen for a lot of the close season, alas, they did not find their way down Sir Matt Busby Way. Instead we signed Rojo and Shaw. Great talents and in time I have no doubt they will one day lead by example – but for now they are young players getting used to playing with the biggest club in the world. Their focus will be on their own game and settling into the Utd system and way of life – and given that fact we are going to have to be patient.

V for Vision?

Vision and versatility from our midfielders will be key this season. This has been the weak point for many years and while we still wait for that central midfield general to step forward there has been a lot of good work done in the transfer window. Herrera has settled well and is a player who always wants the ball and is always looking for that killer pass, while controling the pace of the game. Blind, who I assume will play mostly in midfield this season, will occupy that holding midfield role while others are given the freedom to go further forward. He is solid, comfortable on the ball and knows the way LVG likes to play. Di Maria’s record speaks for itself and he will guarantee plenty of assists while chipping in with the odd goal himself. A Vidal/Carvalho/Strootman-type player didn’t materialise, but the fact remains that there is definite improvement in this area within both the defensive and offensive roles.

G for Goals?

Goals, goals, goals – these are the first three words I think of when I see Falcao, Rooney and RVP in the team. Whether they all play together or not, the threat they pose to opposition defences is immense. RVP and Rooney can both play slightly deeper whereas Falcao is an out and out goalscorer. We lacked some creativity in this area last year but now with these three; plus Di Maria, Herrera, Mata and Januzaj all possibly providing the ammunition required, there is a sense of excitment among fans that hasn’t been seen in recent years.

It’s not possible to overhaul the full squad in just one transfer window but LVG and Woodward have made a great start. The vision and goals they have for Man Utd will be seen on the pitch also, but a possible lack of leadership in a key area might be the only chink in our armour.

That said, we are building this team again – our leaders will emerge and in time we will once again take our place as league leaders in all aspects of football.

This you can be sure of.

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Woodward to the Wire

While David Moyes didn’t get a second season to redeem himself, our CEO, Ed Woodward has this transfer window to put things right – and it’s make or break time.

After the disaster of last summer, which was put down to a new CEO and new manager starting at the same time, Woodward is currently feeling the heat. There is no time or patience this season for the huffing and puffing that saw him panic-buy Fellaini for €4million more than had been required four weeks previously. It’s do or die, in career terms, for him this time around.

His poor planning, poor selection and poor execution have drawn the wolves to the door.

The initial signings this summer of Herrera and Shaw bought him some time while we waited for the one or two marquee signings that are needed. Having announced to the world that we have the money available and are willing to break the transfer record if needs be, there was a definite change of tack. And while it all sounds great the flipside of it is that the price for all players has now automatically gone up. But the bigger question is – who are we chasing that would even warrant us to spend big?

Time is ticking and still we wait.

With the day the transfer window closes, growing ever near, we can hear the faint familiar sound of that huff and puff and it’s uncomfortable listening as we hang on the borders of panic buying territory once more.

It’s our inexplicable inability to compete for the top players that leads fans to question if the money is really there. Most players are happy to sacrifice one year without Champions League football and with clauses for absolutely everything being inserted into contracts these days, the reality is, they could add one in if they were that worried.

We certainly haven’t lost our global appeal after one bad season, either. But talk is cheap and the Glazers apparent reluctance to ensure our club is number one will be to blame. The fans are crying out for them to invest in the club and stop lining your own pockets to make up for the failings of their other businesses.

One thing is for sure impatience is rife among reds everywhere with recent Twitter trends literally speaking for themselves.

From 24th July to 16th August, for example, there were approximately 3,000 tweets that contained #WoodwardOut and 1,000 tweets with #GlazersOut.

During the following seven days, however, these rapidly rose to 25,000 and 110,000 tweets respectively.

The fact is, this trend will continue until we see change. The Glazers need to put our great club first and also carefully consider if Woodward is the right person to be in charge of our transfer business.

This is a man who seems quite comfortable with making commercial deals but he needs to understand that fans don’t travel to Old Trafford every season to see sponsors. We want to be entertained by top quality footballers, playing the United way and fighting for honours every season.

We don’t care what food and drink brands you can buy from the shop at half time, what advertisements are flashing up on the billboards or that Bulova is the official timekeeping partner.

Remember, the fans are your timekeepers Ed, and unless things change very rapidly, then yours will soon be up.

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Is Silence Golden?

With 13 days to go until the transfer window shuts I can’t help but feel the tingle of excitement with every player linked to us. Yes, I am aware that most will not transpire as United players but in the meantime there is no harm in a bit of fantasy football as we play around with the “What ifs?”

Every day newspapers, Twitter and various rumour websites are linking about 200 players at a time to MUFC; and it’s an anxious wait for someone from the club to officially confirm the truth behind any one of them.

This time last year there seemed to be a change in the way Man Utd handled their transfer business. In the Ferguson era anyone who dared ask about a rumour or potential transfer target was met with a deathly stare. Would they ask that question again at the next opportunity? Not if they wanted to continue having press access. However, last year, David Moyes talked more openly about these things. Yes, we were interested in Fabregas. Yes, we did lodge another bid for him and yes, we wanted Baines and Fellaini. This was exactly what we wanted to hear – or was it? As a fan you always long to be that fly on the wall of the Carrington boardroom gaining inside knowledge on who the club has set its sights on. But is publicly declaring an interest in these players something that works?

We all know the answer to that now…

Maybe the prices for these players suddenly went up, maybe the players were settled at their current clubs or maybe they were waiting to see how Utd got on without Sir Alex in charge. This we may never know – what we do know is that most of these players never made it into a red jersey and the one that did didn’t ever get consistent game time. And all the while the game of cat and mouse continued. I wonder how Patrice Evra felt knowing we were chasing Baines all summer and even tried to get Coentrao right at the last minute. Probably as painful as Sir Alex kicking a boot at your face.

With Louis Van Gaal now in charge and Ed Woodward more experienced on transfer dealings and another year wiser (hopefully), there is a return to the familiar silence. Ander Herrera was signed and then Luke Shaw in quick succession but the first we heard from the club, on them, was when it officially confirmed the deals.

So, we wait in hope to see who will be next.

The truth is we are still no closer to finding out who we are interested in bringing in and who we are interested in letting go. LVG, it seems, is cut from the same cloth as the mighty Sir Alex and keeps his cards close to his chest without seeming like he’s shutting the door on current players. This keeps the players working, the fans hoping and the press guessing.

Because of this there is a universal feeling that we are more capable of attracting the players this year – even without the Champions League. We are more confident in Woodward closing the deals and getting the right players – and the mystery surrounding the ice cool Van Gaal just adds to the anticipation. Confidence and expectation have soared during the summer watching him lead the Netherlands to third place in the World Cup as well as listening to the current squad speak enthusiastically about what is going on.

But that’s about all we have to go on – that and speculation coupled with what is, for me, a reassuring silence.

At the end of the (match) day football is not just about what happens on the pitch anymore. It’s about every second before, during and after. It’s a business and a lifestyle but above all it’s a guessing game. If I play you in Poker do I show you my hand? Perhaps that’s what made Moyes the joker in the pack. So too then could LVG’s silence make him the Ace we have been looking for.

At this stage it’s anyone’s guess.

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