they bleed red, white and black Name: Adrian Berry. Age: 75. Nickname: Sat Nav (I know the way to every ground in the country). Where do you live? Roslin, Midlothian. Are youmarried/single/birded-/bloked-up? Married. Occupation? Retired. Where do you sit inside OT? First tier, Sir Alex Ferguson Stand. Whatwas your first United match? Wolves v Man United, 1947. We beat them 6-2 at the Molineux. Whois your favourite ever United player andwhy? Duncan Edwards. He was simply the greatest player I have ever seen at Old Trafford. Favourite all-time United XI from players you have seen? I have seen many players come out of the tunnel at Old Trafford but I cannot see past the Busby Babes. Special mention though to Law, Best, Schmeichel, Scholes, Keane, Cantona, Hughes and Van Nistelrooy. Which one opposing player, if any, would you like to see playing for United andwhy? I’m going to go back in time with this one and say Tom Finney. He played for Preston North End as a striker and outside right. He truly was the best of his time. Best ground you’ve seen United play in? Wembley. Worst ground? Olympique de Marseille. Best atmosphere? Old Trafford – well, it used to be! Favourite ever game? I have two. United v Real Madrid in the semi-final of European cup in 1957. It’s the only time United wore all red. Madrid wore all white. It was also the first time that United played at Old Trafford under floodlights. The score was 2-2 and all four goals were scored in the Stretford End. I’m glad that’s where I was standing that night. The other was, of course, the 1968 final.
Nobby Stiles and coach Wilf McGuinness are all smiles as they return to Ringway from Milan following the European Cup semifinal in 1969. After some dubious refereeing, holders United had lost the first leg 2-0, a score line they were unable to overturn, winning 1-0 at Old Trafford thanks to a Bobby Charlton goal.
Worst? Against Crystal Palace in the League Cup this season. It will haunt me forever. In howmanycountries have you seen United play? 10. Favourite European trip andwhy? It just has to be Moscow when we won the European Cup. Wherewould youmost like to see United play? I’ve seen them play at all the stadiums I wanted to see them so I am quite happy to watch them anywhere. Most despised rival club andwhy? Liverpool. Winning the league 19 times is a memory I’ll cherish. Most despised rival player andwhy? Ron “Chopper” Harris, who played for Chelsea, and Norman “Bites yer legs” Hunter, who played for Leeds, both in the 60s and 70s. They were the most aggressive defenders I have ever seen. What is the biggest sacrifice you have ever made to get to a game? My wedding anniversary is 11 March, so I have missed plenty of them! I have been forgiven though, as we are still together. What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen at the match? When Man United played Spurs in the Charity Shield in 1967. Pat Jennings, the Spurs keeper, kicked the ball out of his hands from his own goal line. It flew miles passed the centre circle, only for it to bounce over Alex Stepney and into the back of the United net. It still makes me chuckle to this day. The match finished 3-3, with Bobby Charlton scoring one of the greatest goals the world has ever seen. Fav magazine? United We Stand. Website? I’m 75 years old and have no interest in all that website and computer malarkey. Newspaper? The Mirror. It has a great sports section. Film? As I am a bit of a romantic, it has to be Casablanca . Book? Any sport autobiographies. Television programme? Eggheads. It keeps the brain stimulated. City? Manchester. Steeped in history and tradition. Album? Any Elvis Presley. Do you collect any football-related memorabilia? I have the odd old programme or two. Any chance encounters with United players? I met George Best and Bobby Charlton outside old Trafford once. What’s your take on the Glazers? I am not a huge fan of the debt the club is in. However, we are doing well on the pitch so I cannot complain too much. Whowouldyoumost like to see replace SAFwhen he eventually retires? I’m not 100% on this. It’s a toss between Mourinho and Guardiola at this moment. Have you ever decked an opposition fan? Never. I’m too much of a gentleman. Tell us something impressive about yourself without sounding stupid... I have been to all five European Cup Finals. Can you play football to any sort of standard? At my age? No, not today. When I was younger, I did play a bit at local league level on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Describe a perfect day. Good breakfast, good company and United winning. I’m not a fussy man. Howwill United do this season? We will finish this season as Champions.
012 united we stand 217 In all the aftermath of the derby, there was one thing that really hurt for United supporters. One thing that stuck the knife deep between the ribs. Statistics – as Barcelona demonstrated against Chelsea – can bemisleading. Opta rarely tells the full picture. We all know that the only figures that really matter are those detailing goals and points. But this one told no lies. In their most critical game of the season, one they could not afford to lose, one in which they had a full 45minutes of play in which they were trailing and needed to find an equaliser, United managed not a single shot on target. Joe Hart was not obliged to make a single save. Nothing rattled the Etihad woodwork. There were no last-ditch goal-line clearances bymen in blue. In fact there was nothing. And that was pain indeed. Long time United watchers will have seen it coming. This season against Basle, Athletic, Wigan, Crystal Palace, in the home derby, the Reds have been found horribly wanting. Poor passing, poor defending, poor finishing: apart from that, all was well. But not a single shot? That was a new low. And –whatever you might have thought from the immediate post-match reaction among supporters – it can’t all have been down to Ji-Sung Park.
Indeed, put that performance into wider perspective and it could be argued it has been coming for four years. Back in 2008, United won the European Cup with a team at its very pinnacle. Van der Sar; Brown, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Hargreaves, Scholes, Carrick; Ronaldo, Tévez, Rooney: that was a side. Four years on, six of those players were, for a variety of reasons, missing from the line up at the Etihad. And few outside their ownmother’s imagination could argue that their replacements offered an improvement. Nani is no Ronaldo, Park no Hargreaves, Smalling no Vidic; right now, in truth, Jones is not even Brown. What’s more, of the five whowere there, all bar Rooney are another four years on from their peak. It could be said, compared to 2008, even Ferdinand and Scholes are no Ferdinand and Scholes.
In short, what wewitnessed at city was the culmination of four years of decline. It was the final demonstration that four years of applying industrial quantities of sticking plaster cannot address a downward trajectory. And for Reds, as they analyse their own misfortune, they know it is amplified by what happens to city now. With the injection of confidence that came from beating United in such a vital game, the title is theirs to lose. For them, this really could be the start. Mancini’s lot are not yet a great team. They need pace on the wings, some creative support for Silva, a couple of decent full backs. But with the financial support they have, those will soon come. The fact is, the manager can buy who he wants. It is not hard to see both Eden Hazard and Robin van Persie being lured in by vast rewards this summer. Plus they will pick up a few others merely to weaken their rivals. The trouble is, even if city slip up at Newcastle – and, however unlikely, they might just do that – a gifted title will not change the fundamental issues that need to be addressed at Old Trafford. The squad needs a significant injection of both quality and quantity. And it needs it soon. Sure, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck might come really good. Sure, Paul Pogba might turn out to be as indispensable to the cause as he and his agent seem to think he is. If he stays, that is. Sure, Nemanja Vidic might come back stronger than ever. But even if all that happens it only resolves a couple of issues. Even if the Premier League trophy once more finds its way into the Old Trafford museum, the fact will remain that, with city building from a position of untouchable financial strength, if United want to remain competitive, urgent work remains to be done. The only spark of optimism on the horizon to suggest we should not be entirely despondent is this: it has happened before. That is the comforting thing about history, it can provide a clue to the future. Soon after the turn of the century, United failed to win the title three seasons on the trot. Twice they came third. In that time, Chelsea had just been taken over by Russian money and, under astute management, looked set to dominate things for a decade. Arsenal, meanwhile, had the invincibles. By comparison United looked moribund, finished, a spent force. Ferguson himself – as Danny Taylor so brilliantly chronicles in his book This Is The One –was being widely advised to retire lest he tarnish his legacy. Yet from that wholly unpromising foundation, the manager built his fourth great side, the 2008 European champions. He did it remarkably quickly, too, putting, with a couple of shrewd buys, his side back into swift contention. If he has done it before, he can do it again. Undoubtedly he has the energy. And, witnessing his frantic touchline confrontation with Mancini, his competitive instinct burns ever strong. While wemay all despair, you never know, hemay yet have his eye on the next Ronaldo. Because if he is out there, boy, do United need him. Well, you have to hope. Just as you have to hope in the obduracy of Newcastle and Queen’s Park Rangers. Because after a goalless, shotless, chance-free Monday night in east Manchester as dispiriting as any I can remember, hope is largely all that is left.
jim white The Telegraph’s resident red on all things United subscribe to uws for the next 10 issues Send a cheque/postal order* made payable to ‘UWS’ and details of your address to: Subs, UWS, PO BOX 45, Manchester, M41 9GQ, UK For subscription enquiries e-mail: email@example.com £28 – UK, £34 – Eire and Europe, £40 – Rest of the World
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