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Saturday, January 14, 2006 response to Fergie-Glazer comments

Sir Alex has shown himself to be not only an exceptional football manager but also a very shrewd man. It would be an extremely foolish (and short lived) employee who did anything other than praise his employer in public.

We welcome the fact that some money has been made available and no doubt all Manchester United supporters would like to see a lot more to follow. Many feel the squad is in urgent need of strengthening and a cash injection of £100m might be required if we are serious about challenging for the top honours as we have done so successfully during Sir Alex's reign until recently.

Unfortunately until there is a change in ownership that kind of major squad investment will remain impossible due to the huge debt the current owners have saddled us with. Any squad investment is not coming from the Glazers own pockets but is simply adding to the huge debt, which must now be approaching £700m with the interest that is racking up.

The only long term solution for Manchester United is a club owned by supporters because there are no other owners who would allow 100% of the profits to be reinvested in the club.

This is the model already employed by giants of World football like Real Madrid and Barcelona who can afford to make this kind of major investment in their squads because they don't have to pay any of their profits to their owners. For this reason moving to supporter ownership is the only feasible long term plan which can re-establish MUFC at the head of the European football elite both financially and on the pitch.

MUST - the independent Manchester United supporters' trust

Formerly Shareholders United

Friday, January 13, 2006

Spoof New Sponsor Image

Thursday, January 12, 2006

United, United top of the league

Fergie on Glazers

"Without question, I have found the owners excellent. They have never failed in their promises and support in what we have done. They have demonstrated this by their commitment to signing Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic."

Luton manager says bungs aplenty

Mike Newell

"The thing that annoys me is that agents get paid for bringing a player to a club. If you go and buy a house you don't have to pay the estate agent, the sellers do that. But for some reason in football, clubs are expected to pay the player's agent to buy him or even to renegotiate a contract. I find it baffling and I don't understand why all the big clubs just let them get away with it. There are clear problems in football but nothing gets done. Why has it taken so long for people to realise what's been going on? And why aren't the Premier League doing anything? What it needs is for someone in the Premier League to stand up and shout about it. But what you find is that a lot of people involved with the agents and doing the deals are getting back-handers. You're not telling me that the only person guilty of taking a bung in the last decade is George Graham? I don't believe it. Have I been offered the chance to take money? Yes, of course I have. And I wouldn't even entertain the idea, not at all. Never. I wouldn't say it is a rarity, either. If I was interested, it would be a regular occurrence, because all I have to say is, 'what's in it for me?' Would I know which agents to ring? Well, they ring you. I'm passionate about this, because I've seen the money they are making at our level and I can only imagine the money they've made at the Premier League level. It is galling. If somebody high up makes a stand and says, 'no, we're not paying you to renegotiate a contract, take it or leave it', and believes that they are in the right, then it can happen. I hope the people who are dragging their feet, the Football League and Premier League, will get on top of it."

Graphic by zubov

Response from The Football League to

Dear Football Supporter

Football Stewarding

Thank you for your letter of 8 December outlining some of your views and the reported comments of others on the subjected of stewarding and, in particular, it’s perceived effect on the atmosphere and attendances at football grounds.

You will obviously be aware of a number of tragedies occurring at some of the football grounds in this country and abroad over a number of years. These tragedies have led to a reappraisal of the standards required in terms of the physical structure of football stadia, the facilities for supporters and crowd management. It is clear and right that the safety of supporters must take precedence over all other issues.

Seated stadia in the top two divisions are a requirement under the law and capacities are based on supporters being seated in stands designed to accommodate seated supporters. We are aware that there are some supporters who wish to stand at matches but he majority wish to sit down and watch the match form the seat they have purchased. They express annoyance at those who stand and impede their view of the match.

Standards in society change, with what was acceptable behaviour in the past being often not acceptable any more. We cannot ignore the views of those who find unacceptable behaviour in society at large as unacceptable in a football stadium.

Stewarding is a difficult role to carry out – dealing with partisan supporters who are often in a state of excitement is not easy and supporters do not always appreciate or understand their roles and responsibilities. The role of the steward involves a duty of care to supporters but also a responsibility to manage the crown in such a way as to ensure a safe environment is maintained. Stewards are also required to deal with a range of criminal offences and to enforce Ground regulations. Failure to mange supporters, including those who stand persistently in seated areas, can and has led to reductions in capacity at a football ground. Your views on the effect of stewarding on the atmosphere and the attendances at football matches are interesting but some of the best stadia in terms of atmosphere are those where the behaviour of supporters is excellent and where supporters remain seated. There is no doubt that a stadium perceived as safe is more likely to attract supporters than one seen as unsafe.

I am pleased to hear that Leicester City have been working with some of their supporters to improve relationships and understanding. This helps the supporters to understand the problems faced by the club and for the club to understand the views of some of their supporters. As a football authority we fully endorse the work carried out by all our clubs who work hard to create a good relationship with their supporters and supporter groups. Clubs fully understand the importance of their fans in building a successful football club.

We must always be aware that safety at football grounds is paramount and we cannot move from that position. In order to ensure the safety of the majority it is sometimes necessary to deal firmly with a minority who do not wish to confirm to the standards set by the club. One of the main reasons for the increases in attendance at many clubs is that the football grounds and their environs are sent to be safe, leading to an expansion of the stereotype supporter groups who attend matches.

Thank you for writing to the Football League. We will take on board your comments and continue to encourage clubs to listen to their supporters who views are so important. We wish you and those who had an input into your letter a happy New Year and a successful conclusion to your season.

Yours sincerely

Darren Bernstein
Customer Services Manager

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Mark Hughes - Fergie won't want to lose to me tonight

"Sir Alex doesn't like getting beaten by his former players and, knowing him and United as I do, they will want to redress the balance after losing to us at Old Trafford. We went there and won, so they'll want to come to Ewood and win. That will be their mindset. There is no apprehension whatsoever on our part, though. We rode our luck in the game at Old Trafford, but I have watched the video again, and we created three or four clear-cut chances ourselves on the day. The important thing about tonight's game is to make sure we don't concede easy goals and then have a mountain to climb. But we can cause them problems, and United know that as well. We are one of the better Premiership sides at this moment."

Fergie speaking in March 2004

"The gap between ourselves and Arsenal and Chelsea has certainly closed on the pitch this season. But in terms of size of club they will never close it. That's impossible - whatever they do. How can a club ever be as big as Manchester United? Just look at the support we have around the world from here to Singapore. We have always had that advantage and we will always have it regardless of what Arsenal, Chelsea or anyone else does."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Picture of grafitti spotted at Old Trafford ice rink

Quotes of the day

Fergie confirms Evra signing

"He is a good age and is still developing as a player, which is always exciting. We have been monitoring him all season and it is fantastic that he is joining Manchester United"

Ole on his return

"I am hoping that I will get back on the same level as before, but I know it will be very difficult. It will require much hard work and a long time. It will surely take months, maybe the end of the season, before we know how the knee will react. "

Tommy Doc hits out at Fergie

"I think Fergie should jack it in now. He's had great success but I think he's stayed on too long at United. The Burton game was a case in point. People want to remember him for what he did at United, not for what he is in grave danger of undoing. I think his decision- making right now leaves a lot to be desired."

Burton's Darren Stride

“We felt after 20 minutes some United players didn’t fancy it. Some of them didn’t want to be there at all. They didn’t want to get hurt and didn’t like the pitch. We had said we didn’t want to be embarrassed. It became clear we weren’t going to be. We just thought ‘s*** when Rooney came on!’ Rooney definitely wanted it. He was up for it.” When we saw the team sheet without some of their big players we thought we had a chance. The gaffer said 'they've given us a chance'. They still had players who have won European Cups but we were still optimistic. We created the better chances and they were forced into playing the long ball in the second half. We went out with the intention of not disappointing ourselves or getting embarrassed. But as the game progressed we were amazed that we were allowed to play so much football. They'll put a stronger team out in the replay. I don't think they'll take any chances."

Fergie looks back and forward

"We have been trying to rebuild like this for the last two years. The problems come when you have a group of players who you have got used to and they have grown up with you, but when you see them getting older it's not an easy decision to make in some cases. But evolution happens and there is no team in the world that stays together forever more. I'm very happy with the present squad and the intention is to bring this team together and let it grow together, just as we have with other teams in the past. This club always looks towards the long term but it can be hard to maintain your success and plan for the future. But we are not that far away from it and we think this present squad staying together can achieve that."

The Best of Quotes

Denis Law

"I'll miss Bestie dreadfully - I miss him already. It was like the night Jock Stein died in Cardiff. You can't believe you're never going to see someone who's so full of life again. That said, it was a blessing George went when he did even though 59 is such a tragically young age."

"I can't count the number of times he let me down, but I always forgave him; you always did. I think he got too well and the temptation of life overtook him again, and it was the beginning of the end."

his sister

"Today I am saying goodbye to GB, my brother and my hero. My love for you was unconditional and simple. He enjoyed what he was given, he never complained. Do not look on it as though George has gone, he has only stepped off the pitch. He travelled a long road from a boy of 15 in Belfast to far-off places and glittering heights. At times it was a hard road. But today, George, the long road has brought you home."


"No matter what has happened off the field since then, no matter what
people think, at the end of the day they’ll remember the football.
They won’t remember who I dated, fights and car crashes or whatever,
they won’t remember any of that, because it’s not important. They’ll
remember the football."

his manager and friend of 25 years, Phil Hughes. "He's gone somewhere where no one can hurt him. He's safe now."

QUOTES BEST-BY prepared by Eugene Webber

I used to love it when the punters had a go at me. I got awful stick,
with some vile abuse being hurled at me from the terraces. But I got a
buzz out of it. David has got to shove it up them.

George Best on David Beckham.

Seven hundred people turn up when I do a night with Rodney Marsh - half
of them to see whether I’ll turn up and the other half to see if I’ll
fall over if I do.

George Best.

When I’m asked if I regret anything I say that I wish I’d met my wife
30 years ago, except that would make her minus four.

George Best.

No-one can take away what I did, or claim I failed anyone on the pitch.

George Best.

Football is quite simple, it should be about having your best players.
Having others breathing down your neck makes sure you try to play well
every week.

George Best.

I hate to hear the final whistle, because if I’m playing well I want
the game to go on for ever, and if I’m struggling I want to keep
playing until I find my form again.

George Best.

Feet as sensitive as a pickpocket’s hands.

Hugh McIlvanney on George Best.

It’s a pleasure to be standing up’s a pleasure to be standing

George Best after winning the Footballer of the Century award.

I was probably earning £5,000 a week, but I was spending £8,000.

George Best.

If I’d been born ugly, you’d never have heard of Pele.

George Best.

What a pity Sir Alfred Ramsey wasn’t able to win the World Cup for
England by using men of flair and imagination.

George Best.

I survived because I was the best.

George Best.

I don't think he's a great player. He can't kick with his left foot,
he doesn't score many goals, he can't head a ball and he can't tackle.
Apart from that he's alright.

George Best on David Beckham.

I think so highly of Beckham. He could be the Cantona of United and
reach similar heights with England.

George Best.

When I look at the way United protect Ryan Giggs from the media and
everything else, I wonder if that might have helped. There is a lot of
advice for stars like Ryan, but I don’t know. If they had told me how
to behave I would probably have done the opposite.

George Best
George Best.

Exchange between a punter and George Best during one of the roadshows.

How do you rate Jimmy Greaves ?

The only man who could drink more than me.

George Best at a question and answer session.

Who is your favourite manager ?

The manager of Stringfellows.

George Best at a question and answer session.

No matter what has happened off the field since then, no matter what
people think, at the end of the day they’ll remember the football.
They won’t remember who I dated, fights and car crashes or whatever,
they won’t remember any of that, because it’s not important. They’ll
remember the football.

George Best.

I never felt that I ever let the team down or that I let myself down on
the field. A lot of things were happening off the field that maybe I
would have changed. I left Manchester United with a clear conscience.

George Best.

In 1969 I gave up drinking and sex. It was the worst bloody 20 minutes
of my life.

George Best.

If a fellow has to kick me it means he is not as good as I am.

George Best

Her aunt owned a cake shop in Manchester and we went to bed for the
first time in the flat above the store. Then we rushed downstairs
again and helped ourselves to cakes

George Best on an early fling.

I know there are those who would like to see me in the gutter. They’ll
never have that satisfaction, though.

George Best.

Just as I wanted to outdo everyone when I played, I had to outdo
everyone when we were on the town - always the last to go home.

George Best

If Tommy Docherty says good morning to you you’d better check the
weather outside.

George Best.

Every team had a hard man. We had Nobby Stiles, Chelsea had Chopper,
Arsenal had Peter Storey, Liverpool had Tommy Smith. Leeds had eleven
of them.

George Best.

Hard men ? Well, there was that picture of Vinny Jones holding Gazza’s
wotsits. In my day we called someone who did that a poof.

George Best.

I couldn’t get up and mingle even if I wanted to. There’s always
someone who wants to start a fight. Every time I go to the gents a
couple of friends have to come along as well for protection.

George Best.

There are plenty of reasons why he won’t last and the main one, sad to
say, is he’s just not good enough

George Best on Paul Gascoigne.

When Geoff Thomas traps the ball it goes as far as I used to be able to
kick it.

George Best.

Quite honestly, if England played in my back garden I’d close the

George Best in 1970.

I love taking the piss out of players too. Like ‘nutmegging’ them.
That’s sticking it between their legs and running round them. When I
first started I did not mind the hard men too much because it gave me
the chance to rubbish them with my skill. I’d go past them and they’d
say, ‘Do that again and I’ll break your f****** leg !’ And next time
I’d do them again and they’d say, ‘Right, I f****** warned you.’ Next
time I got the ball I’d stand on it and beckon them to me. I used to
be like a bullfighter, inviting them to charge me. They rarely got me.
I was too quick. At moments like that, with the crowd cheering, I
used to get the horn. Honestly. it used to arouse me, excite me.

George Best.

I never subscribed to Sir Alf Ramsey’s doctrine of hard running off the
ball. I am a footballer - and that means having a football at my feet.

George Best.

When I’m on the field nothing gives me more pleasure than making a fool
of somebody.

George Best.

Skill is something I’ll never lose. I’ll have that when I’m a hundred.

George Best.

The goals you saw were masterpieces of their creator’s craft, jewels to
set in any crown.

George Best of Brazil’s goals in the 19970 World Cup.

That game in Portugal for me was something of a starting point. That
was probably the occasion when I decided it was only going to get
better. From that match on I actually believed there was nobody better
than me. It is amazing what one performance can do.

George Best recalling United’s 5-1 defeat of Benfica in the European
Cup in Portugal.

Perhaps it is simply because I have got older, but the soccer scene
today doesn’t excite me as much as when I made my debut eight years
ago. Everything was new and exciting. I believe that my job is to
entertain the people who have paid money to see me play. One of the
big problems with modern-day soccer is that it has become too
stereotyped with everybody preoccupied with defence.

George Best in 1972

If you are going to be beaten, you don’t mind if it’s by the great man

George Best who came second to Pele in a worldwide poll to see was the
greatest player on the planet.

They’d done it, they were proud and they had every reason to be. And
then they sat back and you could almost hear the energy and ambition
sighing out of the club. It was not that the willingness to win had
disappeared completely. It was still there. But after the European
Cup it didn’t seem quite so important. It was like being in at the
winding up of a company.

George Best.

Seems I can’t walk along the street without somebody wanting to know
what it’s all about at Old Trafford. Still, it’s nice to meet mates,
even if most of them are being met for the very first time.

George Best.

I might go to Alcoholics Anonymous but I think it would be difficult
for me to remain anonymous.

George Best.

Everyone makes mistakes - mine just seem to get more publicity than
other people’s.

George Best.

Do they seriously think I don’t want to change? Of course I do ! But
I can’t change. I know myself well enough to realise I can’t promise
to change. I can only try and go on trying. I can get whacked from
the back or hit when the ball has gone 28 times in a row and do nothing
or say nothing. I don’t know why it should boil the 29th time, which
has been no different. It just happens.

George Best.

A lot of rubbish is talked about destroyers and tough defenders. I
call them dirty bastards.

George Best.

I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just

George Best

They tell me to do so many things, so many bloody things: shave off my
beard, cut my hair - as if that would make me into what they wanted me
to be. Jesus Christ had a beard and long hair and they didn’t want to
change him.

George Best.

He is accused of being arrogant, unable to cope with the press and a
boozer. Sounds like he’s got a chance to me.

George Best on Paul Gascoigne.

Most of the things I’ve done are my own fault, so I can’t feel guilty
about them.

George Best

Mentally and physically I am a bloody wreck. Not eating. Not
sleeping. Heavy drinking and staying out until four or five in the
morning because I was frightened to go to my gold fish bowl of a home.

George Best.

Sometimes I feel like a one-man zoo.

George Best in 1973

I don’t really class myself as a footballer. I call myself an

George Best.

Was I the fifth Beatle? Not really. What I think they meant was that
I wasn’t your average don’t do anything until Saturday footballer.

George Best.

He is flawless in his dealing with us. He can remain aloof and yet
human. He can tear us apart and still command respect. He can praise
us, and we know it to be genuine. He can advise us and we know there
is no dark motive afoot. He can talk to us and we will always listen.
The manager-player relationship at Old Trafford is ideal.

George Best on Sir Matt Busby.

If you want the secret of my success with women, then don’t smoke,
don’t take drugs and don’t be too particular.

George Best.

I wouldn’t kiss any girl if she smoked too much

George Best.

I would like the girl I marry to be a virgin. It used to be one of the
most important things I used to think about. Finding a girl who was a
virgin. But it’s almost impossible for it to work. In fact it’s
almost impossible to find a girl who’s a virgin. My ideas must be
changing though, ‘cos I don’t feel as strongly about it as I used to.
And if I did find a girl who was a virgin I probably wouldn’t like her

George Best.

Once I started playing football I realised I was in the perfect
position for pulling birds. I had the limelight, the publicity, the
money. Where could I go wrong?

George Best

They say I’ve slept with seven Miss Worlds. I didn’t. It was only
four. I didn’t turn up for the other three.

George Best

What would you do if you weren’t a footballer ?

Manage the Miss World contest. I might get the four birds I missed.

Exchange between a punter and George Best during one of the roadshows.

Mary Stavin is the only woman to whom I was almost always faithful

George Best.

In those days when I was a kid the only thing I shared my bed with was
a football. I used to take the ball to bed with me. I know it sounds
daft but I used to love the feel of it. I used to hold it, look at it
and think, ‘One day you’ll do everything I tell you.’

George Best.

In addition to the letters, I have a fan club of 900, a personal
secretary, two spare-time assistants, a literary agent, an accountant,
a teenager’s boutique, two more shops on the way, a white 3.4 Jag
convertible with radio, tape-recorders and dozens of girlfriends.

George Best at the peak of his fame.

I saw a sign saying Drink Canada Dry.

George Best explaining why he went to America.

I’d have to be superman to do some of the things I’m supposed to have
done. I’ve been in six different places at six different times

George Best

Sometimes I think it would be nice to get married and settle down, but
there’s a long time for that, isn’t there ?

George Best.

Let me say, here and now, that I do not believe in tactics. There is a
lot of rot talked by a lot of people about tactics and coaching. These
are the people who wear their lapel badges to boost their ego, take
their holidays at Lilleshall and talk of the coaching manual as if it
was a football bible.

George Best

George Best Edwardia Ltd

The title of George Best clothes shop company.

You won’t find me getting involved in any of the violence that
sometimes meet the Springboks in this country, but I do feel tempted
sometimes to join in the peaceful sit-ins by way of demonstration, even
if I feel it probably wouldn’t do much good, except maybe give some of
the knockers a reason to have a go at me ! Fact is that the South
Africans simply shouldn’t be allowed here at all next summer, unless
something is done about that rotten apartheid business back in their
home towns.

It’s pure rubbish to suggest that playing test matches at cricket will
show how life should be led. Test cricket isn’t a bit like real life,
not life as it is today, and the many years of series between the two
countries hasn’t done the slightest bit of good. Meanwhile Arthur Ashe
and that Indian golfer are not allowed into South Africa.

Let ‘em stew in it, say I. Let ‘em do without competitive
international sport until the way is laid open for anybody, regardless
of creed or colour, to represent his colour and get the full reward for
his skill.

George Best in 1970.

Jim [Baxter] went a lot further down that dark and dismal road than I

George Best.

In her youth the Queen was quite a stunner. Who knows what might have
happened if I’d met her at Tramp in my heyday.

George Best.

No-one can take away what I did, or claim I failed anyone on the pitch.

George Best.


In February 1961 he took a fifteen-year-old Belfast boy on to his
playing staff, and although he didn’t know it at the time, by doing so
he achieved his ambition and fulfilled his dream. The boy’s name was
George Best and from the moment he signed for United nothing was the
same again, not for Sir Matt, nor the club, and most certainly not for
George Best.

Michael Parkinson, journalist.

Boy Best Flashes in Red Attack.

The Manchester Evening News’ headline after George Best’s debut for
Manchester United against West Brom.

You played a lot of football. Do you think if you hadn’t played as
much football you wouldn’t have been so thirsty?


British football is so mundane, because everyone’s influenced by
midfield players instead of being influenced by George Best.

Johnny Marr, former guitarist with The Smiths

George is full of good resolutions and good intentions, but he must
learn that it is not enough to give them. You have to keep them.

Frank O’Farrell.

Feet as sensitive as a pickpocket’s hands.

Hugh McIlvanney.

I was able to stay in my natural environment and develop there as a
respected member of the community. If I had been 15-years old and
pulled off the streets of Belfast on to the pitch at Old Trafford I
feel I would have ended up as George Best has.

Barry John, the former Wales fly-half.

George was like John Curry, Robin Cousins and Torville & Dean all
rolled into one. He was the Nureyev of football.

Jimmy Greaves.

The complete player. He could ride tackles, hit the ball with either
foot, send superb long or short passes. He made a tremendous impression
on young people with his ability. As a person I always liked him and
we've travelled the world together for matches and on the after- dinner
speaking circuit.

Denis Law.

Unquestionably the greatest. There was simply nobody to compare with
him _ he had all the attributes. It's so tragic circumstances led to
such an early retirement from the game. He's a nice lad -a genius.

Alex Ferguson.

He was such a great player he could get away with almost anything and
that was a mistake. He should have been kept on a tighter rein. He was
strong, athletic, good tackler, good in the air and could score goals.
He had everything when at his peak.

Tommy Docherty.

He was the most perfectly balanced player I've ever seen. Frankly, I
thought the criticism levelled at him when he finished at 27 was
unfair. He played 11 seasons of First Division football with United and
paid his dues to the public. He started early and was entitled to
finish when he did.

David Meek, journalist.

A great wee lad; the good, bad, the ugly.

Bertie Peacock, the former Northern Ireland manager who gave George
Best his first cap.

We’ve a young Irish boy here called Best, and if he doesn’t make a
bloody genius I haven’t seen one. It’s all there; the heart, the
ability, everything.

Matt Busby.

If George had been born ugly he probably would have played till he was
40.... just look at Peter Beardsley.

Pat Crerand.

George knows he let a lot of people down a lot of times. But what he
also did was to make people’s dreams come true.

Denis Law.

Once you get the taste of George Best you never want to taste another

Angie Best in 1979

When he’s boozing he’s the most deplorable, obnoxious, sarcastic,
ignorant, horrible piece of rubbish.

Angie Best in 1982

Let’s get the record straight. I’ve never seen George the worse for
drink. He doesn’t smoke and he does train hard.

Bobby Charlton.

He’s one of the most intelligent, considerate and generous of men. I
still love him, but there are problems better solved on his own.

Mary Stavin as left Best.

Best has given footballers a bad name and I saw it as my job to repair
their reputation. It took a long time and a lot of hard work, but I
like to think I helped

Kevin Keegan

Keegan couldn’t lace my boots as a player. He’s been very, very lucky,
an average player who came into a game when it was short of

George Best

Keegan is not fit to lace George Best’s drinks.

John Roberts , journalist.

Every day there was a story in the papers about George Best - but most
of the things we were reading were not about what he had done on the
field, but about sleeping with three Miss Worlds or whatever. I
cancelled the Daily Mirror, because I was sick to death of reading all
their stories about George.

Jack Charlton.

I have often wondered and perhaps you’ll tell me, George. Exactly how
big is your willy ?

A question from a girl to George Best during a question and answer
session at a personal appearance.

Where are you now, Georgie ?
With those boots that laced up the side
And that Irish shirt you wore with pride
And that picture of you with Mike Summerbee and bride ?
Where are you now, Georgie ?
I dreamed of you dribbling past City’s back four
And leaving Joe Corrigan fumbling on the floor
And the Stretford End singing, ‘More, Bestie more!’

From Where Are You Now, Georgie by Sportchestra

He is a son of instinct rather than logic.

Geoffrey Green, journalist.

You can watch a replay of his magic and still you cannot see how it was

David Coleman.

It’s like George Best once said to me, ‘When you’ve had the last three
Miss Worlds, then you can start talking’.

Maurice Johnston.

The bewildering repertoire of feints and swerves, sudden stops and
demoralising spurts, exploited a freakish elasticity of limb and torso,
tremendous physical strength and balance that would have made Isaac
Newton decide he might as well have eaten the apple.

Hugh McIlvanney, journalist.

He should have been captain and more respected as a footballer, because
he’s an intelligent lad, not the fool that people take him for.

Eamon Dunphy, journalist.

Mr. Best, how did you manage to sire such a marvellous son ?

Why madam, if I was to show you here, we would both be thrown out.

A conversation between Dickie Best and a director’s wife during the
celebrations after United won the League Championship in 1965.

All my lot can stay out till four every morning if they can play half
as well as George.

Anonymous manager.

George thought he was the James Bond of soccer. He had everything he
wanted and he pleased himself. He had money, girls and tremendous
publicity. He lived from day to day. Until right at the end he got
away with it when he missed training or ran away. So he didn’t care.
People made excuses for him; he didn’t even have to bother to do it

People talked about pressures and depressions. it was rubbish. He
just hadn’t any responsibilities, nothing to worry about at all. All
kinds of people covered up for him, even the Press, and he was lucky to
get away with it for so long.

Willie Morgan.

I don’t want to end up like him.

Paul Gascoigne.

We were going to Portugal for our holiday, but now it looks like
Bermuda. That may be just far enough away to steer clear of George
Best and all his problems.

Bobby Charlton.

Shellito was taken off suffering from twisted blood.

Pat Crerand after Chelsea’s full back Ken Shellito was given a the run
around by Best.

I remember one game where Best glided past Harris’ waist high tackle,
struck the ball through Marvin Hinton’s legs, sent Eddie McCreadie one
way and Bonetti the other before scoring. If he’d only gone past
nightclubs the way he did defenders, he’d still be playing.

Wilf McGuinness.

George Best can do more things than anyone in all history. He is a
magnificent distributor of the ball. He can beat a man on either side
using methods that no one has ever before thought about, he can shoot,
head, tackle and keep cooler than anyone at the same time.

Pat Crerand.

Cruyff was manufactured on Earth. George Best was made in Heaven

Derek Dougan.

Let him alone. Don’t try and coach him. The boy is special.

Matt Busby’s advice to training staff at Old Trafford after George
Best arrived.

He had ice in his veins, warmth in his heart and timing and balance in
his feet.

Danny Blanchflower.

I don’t care if he’s George Best or Pele. Unless he’s willing to do
hard training, he won’t get a look in.

Malcolm Holman, manager of the Ford Open Prison football team after
Best’s arrival.

George Best had been felled by a full back who was noted for his
ability to get in a really tough tackle. The referee gave the defender
a ticking-off. The culprit answered back, ‘What else do you expect me
to do? He’s making me look a right idiot.’

Alex Stepney.

What Best didn’t realise until it was too late was that whereas Paul
McCartney could stay up until the small hours and then write a pop song
about it, George simply found it more difficult top keep himself at a
level of fitness required in a top athlete.

Michael Parkinson, journalist.

Why can’t he have been like Tom Finney ?

John Anthony, journalist.

‘Tragedy’ is a greatly devalued word, as often applied to an own goal
as an earthquake. But when you think of Manchester United and George
Best and when you consider the sheer pleasure which they and he used to
offer us, it becomes impossible to by-pass the word.

John Anthony, journalist.

I could strangle all the people who have a go. The pressures that are
on him are terrible. People invade his privacy and give him no
breathing space. What people don’t realise is that he is shy and
bashful. You couldn’t meet a nicer bloke. Don’t forget it was the
public who created the image.

Terry Neill.

They say that he’ll be burned out by the time he is in his
mid-twenties, that no one can live at the pace he does. Well, I’ve
played alongside him now for a long time now and I’ve seen nothing to
suggest this.

Bobby Charlton.

We had problems with the wee feller, but I prefer to remember his

Sir Matt Busby.

I’m a better ball player than George Best. George definitely had the
edge over me in finishing but when it comes to beating people and
creating chances for others, well, I could lose George at that.

Willie Morgan.

There was an earthquake when I gave birth. I witnessed bombing,
shooting, explosions and death at first hand. After that I can assure
you that George Best is pretty easy to cope with.

Mary Shatila, one of Best’s girlfriends.

He became a cult of youth, a new folk hero, a living James Dean who was
a rebel with a cause

Geoffrey Green, journalist, on George Best.

I live in hope that one day I’ll go along to a youth match, as in 1963,
watch an unknown kid for five minutes and find myself asking, ‘My
God,who is that?’

Pat Crerand on the search for another George Best.

Looking back I feel guilty. George Best was a youngster when he came
into a great side and I don’t think we senior players took enough
interest in him. Older players influenced me a great deal when I was
young, but we failed to influence George Best.

Bill Foulkes.

They should show the kids films of his matches. They’d learn more from
five minutes of George than they would from five years of coaching

Pat Jennings.

I am going to protect Ryan all I can. I have got to be honest and say
George Best is the role model of what to avoid with our talented kids.
I use George’s case as an example when I speak to parents of young
footballers. Everybody wanted a piece of George. This club is a
refuge for Ryan. He can come and be sheltered by us. When the time
comes and he can handle it, then we won’t stand in his way.

Alex Ferguson

I have found a genius.

Bob Bishop, United’s Northern Ireland scout, to Matt Busby.

Tell me, Mr. Best - where did it all go wrong?

A porter who arrived in Best’s hotel suite to deliver champagne where
he saw £15,000 spread out on the bed and a half-naked Miss World, Mary
Stavin prancing about the room.

My only reaction upon hearing that George Best had been named
Footballer of the Year by claiming 60 per cent of the vote was to ask
my informant, ‘Who on earth did the remaining 40 per cent vote for?’

Michael Parkinson after Best became Footballer of the Year in 1968.

People say he wasted his career. Nonsense, he was hunted down by
defenders for 11 full seasons, starting at 17. He paid his dues all

David Meek, journalist.

Just my luck. They give me George Best’s liver.

Rangers’ icon, Jim Baxter, after a liver transplant failed.

El Beatle

Portuguese newspaper description of George Best after his brilliant
performance in United’s 5-1 thrashing of Benfica in Lisbon.

He is famous, he is rich, he is Irish. Not a good combination.

Nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow on the troubles of George Best

Monday, January 09, 2006

United's Lost Plaque

The classic terrace tribute to the Busby Babes starts: "There is a plaque at Man United, it's underneath the old Main Stand, It bears the name of Duncan Edwards, he was the finest in the land...", and in the previous four volumes of Great United Songs, there has been, by way of further information, this: 'this refers to the original Munich plaque, which is now hidden and part of Old Trafford's brick work within the Main - South - Stand".

Though I'd always been fascinated as to exactly what happened to this original plaque, I have to admit, somewhat shamefully, that that was as far as my knowledge went. I presumed that, for whatever reason, the plaque was now somehow enclosed within the fabric of Old Trafford, and knowledge about how this came to be and why was just another one of those little mysteries we'd never fathom.

But in preparing the centre-spread for RN112, which featured the shot from the early 60s by C Stand showing the crowd approaching the ground, we discovered that the original plaque was in the corner of the image, above the old Directors Entrance. For some reason this compelled me to find out more about the Plaque, to thankfully get off my arse and see what the exact script was.

And thankfully Red News managed to find out quite a bit. As far as I knew, the original Munich plaque was apparently too fragile to move during ground redevelopments made in the mid 1970s. It was said that the club decided to keep it in its original place but it would not be possible to see it as it became part of the building work itself of Old Trafford. That was as much information as I knew.

The RN website can be a bit of a pain, a few lads trying to do their best and update the news in their spare time yet getting abused by e.mail for not having stories up and ready by 9am! But if the negatives of dealing with abuse and bizarre enquiries from Timbuktu, the positives are that through the internet we have opened ourselves up to loyal readers, new and old alike, who go out of their way to help us with appeals such as this we put out.

Before that though, I came across this priceless first step - - which details the exact architectural and chronological elements of the original Plaque. That revealed that it was unveiled on the 25th February 1960, and was to become the first of three such plaques.

Three? I knew of two, this original (which had a green pitch as the main frame) and the one currently residing by the East Stand entrance to the right of the Busby statue. Their website explains: "Several ideas for a memorial were considered by the club before one based on the Old Trafford ground was decided upon. The design was produced by a local architect, J. Vipond...The names of those who died were incised in black and gold glass on the green faience.

Its construction was undertaken by Messrs Jaconello (Manchester) Ltd. The cost was £2,100. Above the memorial was a carving in teak of two figures, representing the players and spectators, standing with bowed heads on either side of a wreath, beneath which was a football, inscribed with date, 1958.

The memorial was placed above the main entrance to the Directors' box. It was unveiled by Matt Busby in a ceremony attended by the relatives of those who had died, survivors of the crash and members of the present team. Two further memorials were unveiled on the same day: a bronze plaque naming the eight journalists who died in the crash was placed in the press box by Frank Taylor of the News Chronicle (a survivor of the crash) on behalf of the Football Writers' Association, and a memorial clock, paid for by the Ground Committee, which was erected at the front of the stadium.

Alterations to the ground in the mid-1970s necessitated the removal of the memorial. However, due to its fragile nature it proved impossible to do this without damaging it, and the decision was taken to leave the memorial in situ (now part of the East Stand) and commission a new memorial. This was a somewhat simpler and smaller representation of a football pitch in slate, on which the names of the dead were recorded. It was installed in 1976. A third memorial was commissioned to coincide with the installation of the statue of Sir Matt Busby, it having been decided that the statue would stand beneath the memorial at the Old Trafford end of the ground. This followed more closely the design of the original, showing the pitch and stands. It was the work of Mather & Ellis, stonemasons, Trafford Park, and installed in 1996.".

I decided to contact the club to see what their take on all this was, and if they could shed any more light on it, as RN readers started to send their own memories in. The consensus, proved above, was that the old plaque had not been destroyed, but was, as we thought, walled up inside the re-building of the Main Stand, no longer visible. But did that mean it was still visible within Old Trafford, say to club staff?

The first contact we had from a RN reader - and there were many - confirmed the worst, that the plaque had been damaged during the reconstruction in the 70s. Tony told us: "What a load of bollocks about it being safe. Having been brought up on the Stretford End when the match was over and we came out we'd all be headed for the forecourt via the main entrance, you'd ALWAYS look up to the plaque above the main entrance and momentarily quietly pay your respects to the great ones whom tragically met their fate as you passed by. BUT as the building work progressed I distinctly remember seeing a huge hole cut out of the plaque with a concrete beam going straight through it - and that is on my kids lives! I could not believe my eyes, it was shear sacrilege on behalf on the club, my heart sank to the bottom of my stomach. I just couldn’t comprehend something like that being allowed to happen. It should have been saved and placed in the Museum just like the original main front doors were and that red bench you can sit on and the row of wooden seats. Fuck me, they can dig out and resurrect dinosaurs and put them back together (why not this?). Ask them to cut a hole in the tunnel roof under the Main Stand side above where the main door was - my thinking is the proof is there!”

Though you can't help but feel times have changed, so that if the same thing happened now, building practices are such that this would never have been allowed to happen, it doesn't say much for those at the club who didn't keep their eyes on the ball to prevent this damage back then, as PE Red wrote on 4 the RN forum: "If the plaque was damaged in building through lack of care, that would really piss me off. Somehow, though, I think this would be typical of some aspects of MUPLC (or the club and the people running it at the time) - the appreciation of history goes amiss in the chase for the dollar/pound/yen, etc.” One reader dates the damage happening after 1977 when it was still visible (and safe).

As someone else put though: "The romantic in me likes to think that the plaque is there, out of sight, built into the stadium and represents the heart of the club." Then Mike Thomas of had this from a source at the club: "The first one is the one which it was not possible to move, the second one which replaced it is currently in store (and will be relocated to the Museum soon) and the third one is now on the corner of East Stand."

A few readers informed us that the club have a whole warehouse full of memorabilia which is currently not on show at the museum, including that 2nd plaque. We hoped then that the 2nd plaque was well protected and Mark Wylie, the excellent curator of the Museum (who even collects RN), told Red News that:

"The second Munich plaque is indeed waiting to come over to the museum. It is currently in store at Old Trafford and we are planning new display panels for our Munich commemorative display. Once we have the new panels we will then have the plaque and panels installed together, as the current display panels are the wrong shape and size. It is literally just the 'pitch' section of the plaque with the names on, not the complete memorial.

There isn't really either a warehouse or a room full of items kept in storage for the museum but located outside the museum. There are various storage areas around the ground containing all manner of things from spare seats to the aforementioned plaque, but the plaque is only in there because we had no room in our Museum store for something so large. We do have a museum object store within the museum, which contains the club collection. It contains a large number of items that are periodically displayed in the museum."

United's Communications Dept then got back to us and even managed to get a reply out of one of the Kens (we're still not sure which one, Ramsden or Merrett!). They told us: "The plan was to move the original when we started to create Exec facilities, (it was located above the Directors Entrance). It was set into concrete, I think, but in any event was damaged and could neither be repaired or removed." Again, no doubt moving such things would be possible now, but Cliff Butler also informed us about the memorial in the press room. "The original one was stolen from the Press Box in the 80s, the replica is now in the Press entrance behind the counter." Which journo stole that then?

United's reply doesn't give much hope that much of the original plaque remains (if any?), and the cynic in me wonders if there actually is any of the plaque there at all, and was this story put out to appease any fans' anger if it leaked out. Sibelius on the forum wrote: "Perhaps it was fixed, and remains in place, but I wonder if reference to the plaque still being insitu is actually a reference to its remnants." 

Whatever did happen, it is a sorry tale, for the fact that so little was really known about what happened to it, and why someone wasn't able to preserve it. But in the RN appeal another source of information came forward in a mailed letter.
Mick Wilkinson of Darwen wrote in: "I work at the factory that made it and know one of the people who worked on it so I asked him about his memories of it. Trevor was in his 20s when he worked on it, he's in his 70s now. Shaws of Darwen who made it, actually made two. It was made in seven pieces and fitted together on site. The pitch is in 4 pieces, the figures 2 pieces, and the central feature between the figures the last piece. Two were made in case any part split or cracked when it was fired up in the kiln.

It was made of clay and then sprayed to the colours it was and he thinks the lettering was picked out in gold leaf. When it was fired in the kiln it came out perfect and the 2nd one was not needed. This spare one stayed in the warehouse until 1982/83 when the company went bust and the site was cleared out so it went in the skip. The company opened under new management and is going strong to this day."

A revealing insight into its birth, and two things immediately spring to mind. Firstly, if it’s sad that nobody was able to preserve the original, how unfortunate that United didn't contact Shaw as they had a replacement that could have been used to replace it with - as it is this rare and lost duplicate is probably somewhere out there, who knows where. And secondly if little old Red News can find out all this information, in little under a month with our limited resources, you would hope that a massive institution like the club itself would be better able to keep a tab on certain valuable pieces of information about our history and aspects of it.

As it is, at least the current plaque resembles the first, though I don't like the idea of the plaque being 'around the corner' as it is now, displaced because of the Megastore. As some readers argued, surely when the ground is redeveloped and that area is filled in and the plaque has to move once again (make sure you don't fuck this one up United...) shouldn't it be in a more prominent position. For good this time.

What the Papers Said... May 2005

martin samuel. times-news of the world.

Where do you think it went wrong - and right - for United this season?

Right: buying Wayne Rooney, because he may turn out to be one of the greatest players in the world and the team could be built around him for many years. Wrong: buying Wayne Rooney, because the massive expenditure on one player meant other, more pressing, areas were neglected, which has been a problem. The continued failure in the knock-out stages of the European Cup must be a worry, plus the fact that this United team gets fired up for high profile matches with Arsenal, then slips against the smaller clubs. That never used to be the case. The old United got the job done, big or small.

What do you think of United's relationship with the media? How could things improve?

Who cares? Media relations are a bore. I don't waste a second thinking about them and neither should you.

United fans think the media is anti-United, would you agree?

No. All this ABU stuff is bollocks. Any good writer will call it as he sees it. Fans tend to focus on the negative opinions because they provoke the strongest, and therefore most enduring, reaction. I remember the treble season. Every week was 'Magnificent United' 'Wonderful United' and every trip ended in a 3am argument with two guys in a bar over why the media hated United. I'd go to bed thinking: 'What papers are this lot reading?' There is no anti-United agenda. You cannot sustain an agenda. You end up writing something daft, something you do not believe, for the sake of it.

There is one piece I regret. Criticising Eric Cantona for his behaviour when winning Footballer of the Year. I was given duff information by my office. I wrote to him and apologised. Since then, I've been more single-minded. You cannot let other people push your buttons. So, I was on Ruud Van Nistelrooy's side last season after the match at Old Trafford, but thought United tried to kick Arsenal off the park in the same game this season. For the FA over Rio Ferdinand, against the FA in dragging United's players to America this summer. With the club in pulling out of the FA Cup in 2000; outraged by its plan for seeded knock-out rounds in the European Cup in 2005. As a columnist you could no more be against one particular club, than for one (the exception being MK Dons, may they rot in hell). I suppose if your instincts are with the little guy, you will always be suspicious of the power and influence of a club like Manchester United. But I don't think that is being anti-United. It is healthy to question the establishment. There should be more of it.

How do you view the Glazer takeover proposals?

Not good. If you look at what he has done at Tampa, he has hardly been successful in maximising profits of late. His business plan puts too much at risk and there is something inherently wrong in a national institution being controlled by a man who has no feel for its national significance. Having said that, the definition of irony is a guy in a pressure group called Shareholders United holding a placard reading: United - Not For $ale. OK, then - so how did you get your shares? The sad truth is that once United became a PLC they were always vulnerable to an unwelcome takeover. The surprise is it has not happened sooner.

How do you think the next 12 months may pan out for United and Fergie?

I don't think they get back at Chelsea, if that is what you mean. We seem to be at the end of an era.

Have things improved for your paper and the press in general since Paddy Harverson and then Phil Townsend took over the Communications Department role at United?

Maybe. I had a very nice lunch with Phil Townsend and David Gill recently and I think we understood each other better after that. I paid, though.

Stuart Brennan. manchester evening news

Where do you think it went wrong - and right - for United this season?

That dog's dinner of a start was the key, for me. Players out injured, others swanning off to the Olympics, and Chelsea away in the first game. Fergie said recently that the league was lost in the opening game of the season, and that is not as daft as it first sounds. It set the tone for Chelsea's season, and contributed to an unconvincing start. Before we knew it Chelsea had opened a big gap, and have never really looked like relenting.

The last two seasons have seen firstly Arsenal and then Chelsea, have exceptional runs, and even if United had been bang in form - which they clearly haven't - they might have had problems keeping up. It has also been a season of transition, with young lads like Rooney and Ronaldo gradually taking the burden off the shoulders of more established players. It bodes well for the future, but doesn't help the present.

What do you think of United's relationship with the media? How could things improve?

United's relationship with the media is appallingly bad, and there are faults on both sides. I think United's biggest failing is that they see the entire media as part of an ABU conspiracy. If one newspaper writes anti-United trash, we all seem to get punished. Trying to write about United fairly, or even with a Red bias, as some of us unashamedly do, brings no reward, in terms of being granted exclusive interviews (not that the hope of a reward is the reason for writing pro-United stuff).
Fergie clearly uses his sense of outrage at the media to fuel his hunger. You get the feeling he would be uncomfortable if the media were fawning sycophants, as it would give him nothing to feed off. Busby was the opposite, if you talk to the older press lads. At every home game, he ensured that journalists were given a pre-match meal, and would turn up BEFORE the game and chat with the journalists. Almost literally, he had them eating out of his hands. Fergie has the charm to do that, he just chooses the darker path.

He doesn't even come to post-match press conferences, using MUTV as the vehicle through which he talks to the fans. Too many of the players can't take any kind of flak, either. They were rightly slated by the press for the no-show at Norwich, and then after beating Newcastle in the semi a week later, all bar Darren Fletcher refused to stop and speak to the press and radio. It is par for the course.

Not that the media is innocent, although most of the excesses are committed on the news pages these days. I think things will only improve when Fergie is no longer manager, to be honest, as he doesn't feel the need to improve relations.
United fans think the media is anti-United, would you agree?

Generalisation is always nonsense. As in any walk of life, there are United fans throughout the media, although they tend to be easily spotted through their writing or broadcasting!

I don't think there has ever been any kind of conspiracy, but plenty of newspapers, radio and even TV stations have reacted to Fergie's bans and player snubs by promoting the negative side of United. Fergie is not interested in pallying up with the media - and the same with Sven-Goran Eriksson - and there are a lot of egos that don't like that, and write out of spite.
I must admit, despite having been a rabid Red all my life, there have been times when United's attitude makes you think that a good dose of mediocrity might do them some good, bring them back to an even keel. So there is plenty of anti-United feeling, and plenty of pro-United feeling in the media, but the club encourages the former and neglects the latter, so even the pro-United faction ends up frustrated and pissed off at times.

How do you view the Glazer takeover proposals?

Dead against it, all the way. I sometimes wonder if United still has a soul to save, given its corporate excesses. But, at the risk of coming over all maudlin and Scouse, I realise that the soul of the club lies with the supporters, and no-one else. Glazer just doesn't seem to get it, which means he is being badly advised. He has to be a fool if he thinks he can take over and everything will be rosy. I am sometimes given free rein to express my opinions in the M.E.N., and anyone who has read the pieces I have written about Glazer could be in no doubt where I stand on the matter. Not for Sale.

How do you think the next 12 months may pan out for United and Fergie?

We keep hearing worrying rumours and gossip coming out from behind the Iron Curtain at Carrington - but so often in the past similar talk has proved to be exaggerated or untrue. I think there is a terrific group of young players coming through, most obviously in the likes of Rooney, Ronaldo and Fletcher (who doesn't get the credit he deserves from some United fans). Looking a bit deeper, the prospect of the likes of Rossi, Pique, Spector, Chris Eagles and Lee Martin is exciting, and I think two or three of them will start to make their presence felt in the next year or two.

Obviously a new keeper and a replacement for Keane are big headaches, but we all said the same about replacing Charlton, Robson, Cantona and umpteen other United greats, and these things tend to come good in the end. As a United fan modelled by growing up in the 70s, I am an unquenchable pessimist - even at the height of the Nineties triumphs, I always felt things would go horribly wrong - so perhaps I am the wrong person to ask.

As for Fergie, as long as the fires still burn, he will be a formidable manager. Those fans who think he should get the push on the back of a few bad results should be strapped to a chair and forced to watch videos of the Dave Sexton or Frank O'Farrell years.

Have things improved for your paper and the press in general since Paddy Harverson and then Phil Townsend took over the Communications Department role at United?

No. Paddy was always willing to give you a "steer", but Phil's brief appears to be more on the business side than the football side, which means he has less contact with the press than Paddy did - that's a shame because I have found him willing to be helpful where he can be.

The truth of the matter is that no matter who heads up media relations at United, Fergie and the players remain in charge and are not about to be told what they should and shouldn't do by a suit. I think most journalists are resigned to the fact that relations will not improve until Fergie leaves, with the hope that the next manager might need the press on his side a little more.

brian woolnough. Daily star.

Where do you think it went wrong - and right - for United this season?

Too inconsistent and a goalkeeper and centre half have to be signed in the summer. When you can't name United's strongest team, when the best side doesn't role off the tongue there has to be problems. Rotation didn't help nor did injuries although top sides can't hide behind that excuse. The plus was the signing of Rooney, if he can be controlled and handled properly off the pitch. The best talent English game has produced since Duncan Edwards.

What do you think of United's relationship with the media? How could things improve?

Media at Old Trafford is shocking, second division. For the simple reason noone in communications side is allowed to do their jobs. Fergie runs the club and is the spokesman. For the biggest club of all, United must look at their media side. There must be a head of communications who knows what is going on and trusted to generate ideas, answers and the right kind of publicity.

United fans think the media is anti-United, would you agree?

Not at all. Media has to be honest and if United don't do well, they have to be criticised. United have set the standard for years and enjoyed some fantastic publicity, and rightly so. There is no anti United feeling although Fergie's siege mentality doesn't help.

How do you view the Glazer takeover proposals?

With a great deal of worry. Don't like the look of the bloke, let alone fancy him in control of United. There are too many business millionaires taking over football who have no love of the game, let alone the feel for a great club like United. I hope United continue to resist and encourage the fans to show their feelings, but in a responsible way of course.

How do you think the next 12 months may pan out for United and Fergie?

Fergie is a legend and will go down in history. I just hope he doesn't go on too long for there is nothing worse than looking at a legend and thinking 'if only he had quit a year ago.' He will want one last crack at the Premiership although his and United's problem are Roman Abramovich's money at Chelsea and Jose Mourinho, very much the new kid on the block.
Have things improved for your paper and the press in general since Paddy Harverson and then Phil Townsend took over the Communications Department role at United?

No, not all. Thought Harverson was a puppet, who quickly hid away when he realised he had no power. As good a bloke as Phil is, Fergie rules. As far as I'm concerned there has never been a meeting between Harverson/or Townsend in an attempt to improve United relations. It is a shame because someone like Gary Neville, if he was allowed to talk more, could be a huge ambassador for the club.

Stuart mathieson. manchester evening news.

Where do you think it went wrong - and right - for United this season?

United have always fallen back on the belief that they were stronger after New Year. It has often been proved true and seen the Reds storm away following a dubious first half of a campaign. But it is not a God given right that that will always be the case. There are no guarantees that it happens and I wonder if the urgency wasn't there early season because they felt it would all be right come the turn of the year. Unfortunately when you have Chelsea performing like they have you give yourself too much to do.

Circumstances didn't help that early season form. Heinze and Ronaldo settling down after the Olympics etc, no Rooney until the end of September and his settling in period. No Ferdinand until mid-September, then he had to settle in again. No Saha virtually all season - I think his link up with Ruud last year was promising . And of course no Van Nistelrooy when you really needed him.

Sounds like excuses but they are contributory factors especially when you don't have sufficient quality back up to stomach all those misfortunes.

Maybe I am naive but I still can't fathom out why United's '99 style was 'found out' so quickly by opponents and thus modified. The lone striker tactics has made the defence more sound - one or two matches when they've been got at makes me wonder whether they'd be as mean if they didn't have so many bodies in front of them - and of course the system does preserve Roy Keane's inclusion. But sadly it has all been at the expense of United's attacking qualities.

What do you think of United's relationship with the media? How could things improve?

Relationships aren't brilliant and it is a minefield of a problem to solve. We have a better relationship at the MEN than the nationals do but it is still very frustrating. Personally I get to speak to the manager once or twice a week but when you have six days to fill you need more. Getting player interviews is a nightmare. Sadly, having to ensure their own MUTV station, radio, magazines and match day Review are sorted out means everyone else is largely 'way down the list’ and we lose out. Nicking MUTV stuff doesn't give you job satisfaction! I am feathering my own nest here but I will always argue that the local paper should be treated as well as the club's own outlets.

Perhaps the players should be made to understand that there are other outlets that need to be satisfied and at the end of it all it is the fans they are actually not talking to. Not every supporter subscribes to MUTV.

United fans think the media is anti-United, would you agree?

I think some London offices have an agenda. There is a certain culture of wanting to dethrone the successful. Chelsea are finding that out! If there is an anti-United feeling it comes from frustration over access. But I think big issues like the Ferdinand drug test affair, the row with Magnier and McManus, the Glazer takeover has largely been conducted correctly, written factually and very much pro-United in the latter case certainly.

How do you view the Glazer takeover proposals?

With obvious suspicion. If United has to be a plc then I don't think it can be run much better than it has done. Obviously there will always be some issues supporters won't be happy with but it is a case of better the devil you know. Everything I have read and heard about Glazer only fills me with trepidation if he was ever successful in getting hold of United.

How do you think the next 12 months may pan out for United and Fergie?

They are going to be playing catch up with Chelsea obviously. United can improve but can Chelsea? You hope that seeing Chelsea's success is hurting as much as they say it is. For United to improve I think that old resolve and never-say-die spirit needs to be taken on board by the newer members of the squad. You don't want that to fade as people like Keane, Gary Neville, Scholes, etc come into the twilight years of their careers.

Fergie will stick around because that's Fergie and United is like a drug to him. But if it is another European Cup that is keeping him going then on recent evidence he might be around for a while. United have gone backwards in the Champions League really and have some ground to make up to challenge again at the crucial knockout stages. They are far too good for the group stages but not quite there after that.

Have things improved for your paper and the press in general since Paddy Harverson and then Phil Townsend took over the Communications Department role at United?

Well at least there is a spokesman there now to say 'no comment'. At least you can tell the desk that United won't respond!
In fairness there is also a bit of guidance given out on major issues that helps you with the truth as opposed to speculation.
kevin mccarra. guardian.

Where do you think it went wrong - and right - for United this season?

United did have injuries and players away at the Olympics at the start of the season, but I also believe that the manager thought that he could afford to give a longer summer break to those who had been at Euro 2004. He was not alone in assuming that the team could make up ground later, but he was very wrong.

I first came across Jose Mourinho just before Porto beat my team Celtic (grrr) in the 2003 Uefa Cup final and I am sure that everyone there sensed that he was exceptional. I knew he would transform Chelsea but the speed of it was astonishing. After winning the first match of the season against United they never gave them any hope of recovering.

Beyond that, United are in transition. In essence the side is changing from one that was built (with that famous nucleus of homegrown talent) to one that is being bought. It hasn't come together fully so far and that might explain why United were so insipid at Portsmouth and Norwich. On their worst days, United are merely a jumble of players.

Although there have been some failures, the manager's transfer activity has brought in Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Gabriel Heinze. That is fantastic business. The difficulty of getting the right goalkeeper and the horror of replacing Roy Keane remain, but the potential at Old Trafford is outstanding.

They do lag behind Chelsea in the lack of a reliable method. I understand why Ferguson uses systems like the 4-2-3-1 formation. It ought to be less rigid and it gives you men behind the ball when the other team is in possession. Unlike Chelsea, though, United do not seem to be able to force victories with it in the Premiership. Maybe there are occasions when 4-4-2 would be more suitable. It shouldn't be so hard to switch systems when necessary.

What do you think of United's relationship with the media? How could things improve?

I don't have regular dealings with the press office because I am one of those Scots who have washed up in the soft South. My colleagues in the north-west have been known to grumble about United. We will probably never receive the access from any English club that is commonplace in, for example, Spain. I feel, though, that Ferguson should stop flouting Premiership roles and return to attending post-match press conferences.

It got a bit ridiculous when he had no immediate comment to make to anyone at all after the defeat at Norwich. Surely United fans were entitled to hear his reaction. My great colleague at the Guardian David Lacey wrote that Ferguson refusing to be interviewed on MUTV was "like Stalin blanking Pravda."

United fans think the media is anti-United, would you agree?

I am old enough to remember how much joy there was throughout the land when United won the title for the first time in 26 years. That benevolent feeling could not last, of course. The fall-outs between Ferguson and journalists may have caused some antagonism, but there are still a fair number of United fans in the media. If there has been a jaundiced tone now and again, it is probably because the team won too much for too long and made English football too predictable for the liking of the press. We want fresh stories! However, in view of Chelsea's domination United are no longer above the fray and they might get more sympathy.

How do you view the Glazer takeover proposals?

Glazer represents the supporters' worst fears. United have almost been too well-run and so made themselves a takeover target. It might be unwise to get too fixated on Glazer. There are plenty of other people in the business world who will draw the same conclusions as him. We see United as a club that has kept everyone happy by avoiding debt, improving the squad and paying dividends to shareholders. Men like Glazer just see huge, untapped profits. United will be in peril unless supporters can buy up a strategic stake to discourage all future takeover bids.

How do you think the next 12 months may pan out for United and Fergie?

I did a piece at the start of the season about Ferguson being up against it. United may conceivably return to win the Premiership, but the task will be greater than ever so long as Chelsea have access to Abramovich's money and Mourinho's talent. If Ferguson does not get the Premiership or 4 the Champions League next year, I think the board will decide that it is time to make the transition and, with as much diplomacy as possible, bring in a new manager.

Have things improved for your paper and the press in general since Paddy Harverson and then Phil Townsend took over the Communications Department role at United?

I do welcome the changes. I have spoken to Phil more often than I did to Paddy and I find him an engaging person. You must always remember, though, that the only real source of information on the football issues that concern newspapers most is the manager. Sir Alex utterly dominates everything to do with the team. I can't see that changing while he's there! Britain is still suspicious of the continental model where presidents, general managers and coaches all air their views.

David McDonnell. Daily Mirror.

Where do you think it went wrong - and right - for United this season?

Several factors and issues conspired to make this a season to forget for United, even if they do go on to win the FA Cup. They never recovered from their poor start, due in part to the after-effects of the ill-advised US tour, Ronaldo and Heinze missing the first six weeks of the season and Ferdinand's absence until his ban expired in October. The decision to host the Vodafone Cup was a farce, given United were involved in the Community Shield, a two-leg Champions League qualifier and numerous friendlies before the season got under way. So by the time they started picking up points, in mid-September, they were already too far back. And the meagre goal return from the quality of forwards at the club, even with the injuries they have suffered, has been unacceptable. The ludicrous goalkeeping situation, with neither Carroll or Howard knowing who is first-choice, also contributed to the demise. The plus points, of which there have been few, were the continued rise of Rooney and the assured way Ferdinand returned after eight-months out. A new No.1 goalkeeper and central midfielder to ultimately replace Keane are essential acquisitions this summer.

What do you think of United's relationship with the media? How could things improve?

United are the biggest, most newsworthy club in the world, so anything they do, positive or negative, is going to make headlines and come under scrutiny like no other club. But they don't seem to acknowledge that. The 'us against the world' siege mentality adopted by Ferguson and his players permeates throughout the whole club and is a major reason for the ongoing friction that exits between the media and the club. United do not always help themselves in terms of giving access to the written Press, in particular Ferguson's decision - now standing at almost four years - not to speak to us after Premiership games. He is the only manager who acts with such breathtaking arrogance but the Premier League are too scared of Fergie and spineless to do anything about it. Until Ferguson goes, the animosity between the club and the Press will remain.

United fans think the media is anti-United, would you agree?

Many United fans operate under the mistaken belief that there is some kind of agenda against United, which is simply not true. Granted, sometimes not all of the coverage is balanced. On occasions, I've accepted when I felt my paper has made mistakes with regard to our coverage of United. Yet United have to realise that works both ways. Rarely, if ever, have I heard the club accept they have made errors with regard to their treatment of the Press or handling of stories. Criticism is warranted if United play badly, just as praise is forthcoming when they do well. But any criticism of United is seen by many of their fans as part of an ongoing vendetta against them. You have to admire loyalty in supporters, but not to the extent of masking the reality. Stories, negative or positive, must be covered so the public know what's going on at their club. That's our job. But when a negative story is written it's all a conspiracy theory. Come on.

How do you view the Glazer takeover proposals?

I'm not a financial journalist with a comprehensive understanding of all the complex issues at stake, but I think it's pretty clear that allowing United to go back into private ownership would be a dangerous move. The success of Chelsea since Roman Abramovich took over may prompt some people to question why so many fans are against Glazer doing a similar thing at United. But from what I have seen and heard from those inside the club, Glazer's financial plan for United simply does not stand up and United would be plunged into an uncertain future with him in charge. Ultimately, I think the hugely-impressive campaigns against him by sections of United fans will see his proposals thrown out by the board.

How do you think the next 12 months may pan out for United and Fergie?

Fergie knows he cannot go three seasons without winning the Premiership. This season was the first time United have gone two campaigns without winning it, and I think he will be on his way if that record extended to three successive years. The worrying aspect for Fergie is that I cannot see where he is going to get the financial resources and the necessary players to challenge Chelsea, who are certain to build on their formidable success this season with a host of new players, almost certainly led by Steven Gerrard. That is the real challenge for Fergie. United used to be the first-choice club for players because it represented their best chance of winning trophies. But Chelsea have now taken on that mantle and in that respect, next season will certainly define the future for Fergie and United.

In short, they cannot afford another failed campaign otherwise major changes will be enforced.

Have things improved for your paper and the press in general since Paddy Harverson and then Phil Townsend took over the Communications Department role at United?

Harverson was an abrasive, confrontational character who was more interested in throwing his weight around and hindering reporters from doing their job than actually improving Press relations. Ultimately, this approach made him an enemy of the Manchester-based reporters, who came to realise they could not trust him on any issue relating to the club. Townsend is the antithesis of this, an affable and intelligent character who recognises the pressures us reporters are under and understands the needs of papers. Access to players and the manager may still be woeful but, as I have said, that is unlikely to change while Fergie is in charge. Harverson's departure has also allowed Di Law, United's press officer, greater authority in dealing with relations between the manager, players and the Press. While we have not always seen eye to eye, Di at least has tried to foster a relationship with the Press, unlike Harverson, who presided over a culture of mistrust and conflict during his forgettable time at the club.

steven howard. the sun.

Where do you think it went wrong - and right - for United this season?

Like Arsenal, you cannot have a goalkeeper(s) the defence do not believe in. Heinze looks a plus though he goes to ground too easily. It's about time Rio scored a goal or two. Like David O'Leary in the old days at Arsenal, he ponces his way up for corners and never produces. O'Leary never actually scored from a corner in almost 600 games. Keane's days as a European force are over - it's all very well playing it nice'n'easy in the Premiership with United fans drooling "Keano, Keano" but it means very little in the grander scheme of things. His big-shot, "I'll stroke it around from the back" philosophy puts even more pressure on Paul Scholes, a class player who thought his life would become easier after Sven drove him into international retirement.

Ryan Giggs? When he delivers, United deliver. How United fans must dream of a new, young Roy Keane so the team could play the 4-4-2 which is the club's rightly proud heritage. Rooney is one hell of a player, mature beyond his years and can play anywhere. It's just Ferguson hasn't found his best position within the team. This debate could go on for years. As for Van Nistelrooy, the man who should have been Footballer of the Year the season before last, his injury shows just how his goals have carried United for so long. Saha is a waste of both money and space - bought on a whim based on his performance against Jaap Stam on the first day of the season in 2001-2002. Stam never played another league game for United. He hasn't done so badly since (with or without alleged artificial stimulants). Another example of Ferguson's increasingly poor decision-making in the late-summer (make that winter) of a managerial career that has seen him blunder from one midfield transfer disaster to another. You have to feel sorry for Alan Smith, elbowed out of any team plans after Rooney's purchase. All in all, an ageing team, an ageing skipper who Ferguson dotes on - Keane is the embodiment of the player Ferguson would have loved to have been - and too many replacements who are simply not good enough for United. Had the manager never heard of Makelele?

What do you think of United's relationship with the media? How could things improve?

Piss poor. I remember the days when you could turn up at the Cliff and sit down with Robson, Bruce, McGrath, etc. Yes, you would have to run the story past them but, at least, you could get to them. These days I wouldn't even bother ringing Messrs Townsend and Law - you know the excuses they are going to come up with before they do. Things will only improve when Ferguson and the old guard move on.

United fans think the media is anti-United, would you agree?

Every club thinks the media is against them. So do the fans. United fans think I'm anti-United, Arsenal fans think I'm anti-Arsenal and Chelsea fans think I'm anti-Chelsea. But part of the media role is to deflate the gargantuan egos of sportsmen told how wonderful they are the whole time by lick-spittle sponsors and gooey-eyed supporters.

How do you view the Glazer takeover proposals?

A nightmare. Look at him - ok, that's a bit personal. To misquote JFK - "Think not of what United can do for you but what you can do for United". This praying mantis cannot do anything for United but harm. I'm surprised we haven't seen a picture of him kissing the badge yet.

How do you think the next 12 months may pan out for United and Fergie?

Ferguson has one last season. The players know it. It didn't work out too well the last time they knew he had one last season. But he deserves the chance after everything he has achieved. Strangely enough for someone based in the so-called anti-United media powerhouse of London, I hope he does it. If he doesn't - and I don't think he will because there are too many weak links in the chain - then it's time to go. He knows only too well that the jeunesse doree of Beckham, Butt, Giggs, Scholes and the busy little Nevilles handed him by Eric Harrison gave him the opportunity to dominate the Champions League for three or four years - not win it once. And even that was a fluke.

Have things improved for your paper and the press in general since Paddy Harverson and then Phil Townsend took over the Communications Department role at United?

These people are mere ciphers who do as they are told. I may be wrong but there was supposed to be a story about Paddy going into the dressing-room on his arrival and telling the players how they should work to improve media relations. Naturally enough, he was told to 'eff off. No prizes as to who was doing the 'effing. Press officers - despite grandiose titles like Director of Communications - are menial barriers between press and players as opposed to conduits. Communications? You're 'Aving A Larf.

Sam wallace. independent

Sam was the Daily Telegraph's Manchester reporter for three years until he joined the Independent in December as their football correspondent. Which means he is no longer a member of the Manchester 'pack'.

Where do you think it went wrong - and right - for United this season?

When I think back to the two games against Arsenal this season it just seems improbable that United are in the position they find themselves in. Both of those matches were incredibly tense and tight and on both occasions United had the will to beat what some people thought was the best Premiership team ever.

It now looks like the issue of the 4-5-1 formation’s merits will dominate the way the season is analysed. In many respects a record of only four defeats, but 10 draws, reflects that conservative approach although it can’t be right to play that way every time. AC Milan at home was a good example. Most fans would have expected United to test their opposition more that night.
It shouldn’t be overlooked that since Christmas there have been some excellent performances - Everton away in the cup, or the mid-week defeat of Villa in January - but it’s hard to reconcile them with United’s current position. However, over the last two seasons they have been beaten by one club that went on an unprecedented winning streak and another that has been given the most generous transfer budget in history. That’s not a cause for despair.

The triumphs have been the development of Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. Because the latter arrived in the summer of 2003 with that strange crop of players - Eric Djemba Djemba, Kleberson, David Bellion etc - Sir Alex Ferguson doesn’t often get the credit for signing him. Within a year he had become one of the hottest properties in Europe. Scouting like that compares with the best of Arsene Wenger’s acquisitions

What do you think of United's relationship with the media? How could things improve?

Every reporter in the profession’s younger generation likes to think that one day they will return to that golden era when journalists could pop down to the training ground and chat to the players and management when the mood took them. Realistically, that time is gone forever. That is partly the fault of newspapers in the way they have aggressively presented certain stories but it is also indicative of the changes in football. Many of the players don’t feel they need to - or indeed have to - deal with us. The relationship between Ferguson and the Manchester pack could best be described as tense. Which is a shame because I got the impression he quite enjoyed the exchanges. Yes, there were flashpoints. But at least Sir Alex was sure of one thing: he always came out on top.

It’s pointless talking about how it might improve. Ferguson has his way of dealing with the press and of the generation of reporters that he appears to trust only one is still covering United on a daily basis. That means that it will always be difficult for the pack of daily reporters who cover United. Having said that, Ferguson’s rare one-on-one interviews - like those he has done with Glenn Moore, Robert Crampton and Michael Walker - have been fascinating reads. The openness with which he approached those interviews suggested that he enjoyed giving them and could see the value of doing it. Great for the reporters involved.

United fans think the media is anti-United, would you agree?

On the whole no, although I can see how you might come to that conclusion. The vast majority of reporters genuinely don’t have an agenda. They are competing for the best exclusive stories - good or bad - although a string of negative pieces about United can make it seem that way. Funnily enough, Jose Mourinho has started to hint that he thinks there is an anti-Chelsea bias in the Press. It’s not the case. Play well and the newspapers will write odes to your brilliance. Struggle and you’ll be criticised: is it any different among the fans?

How do you view the Glazer takeover proposals?

That’s an easy one. I can’t see anyone who is serious about football acknowledging that it is acceptable for a debt-free club that has such a strong history of success to be taken over by an American businessman to make money. I admire the level of organised opposition that United fans have put up and I hope that they continue that.

There is a school of thought that if Glazer was to take over and put up enough money to buy a couple of really decent players in the summer that protests would dwindle if the team were playing well and winning games. I have argued with friends and colleagues that would not be the case. I know that United fans would continue to agitate against Glazer.  

How do you think the next 12 months may pan out for United and Fergie?

United still have a relatively young team and they should challenge for the Premiership again. I resist the allegation that they have a weak squad because, having watched a fair bit of Chelsea this season, I don’t necessarily think their back-up  - Tiago, Mateja Kezman etc - is any better than the likes of Phil Neville or Alan Smith.

What I think has become a problem is the obsession with replacing Roy Keane. There will never be another Keane, not least because the factors that went into making the man - the tough FAI apprenticeship, the development with Brian Clough - have disappeared. If Keane was a 16-year-old now he would have been scouted and signed up to a club academy long ago. The beauty of the way he plays always seems to me that it has its roots in his struggle to establish himself. Which players have that now?

United have built around one exceptional individual over the last 13 years - Eric Cantona and Keane. I would have thought that Wayne Rooney is the next in line. Yes, they need a decent ball-winner in midfield, but more than anything they need someone who can eventually replace Keane’s drive and inspiration.

As for Ferguson, I think he will make the decision to quit based on the state of his health and no-one but him will know when that time has come.

Have things improved for your paper and the press in general since Paddy Harverson and then Phil Townsend took over the Communications Department role at United?

First of all, that kind of job is really tough. In the corporate world, the communications role means answering to the board. At United you have to answer to David Gill and Ferguson. Then there is the added element of dealing with players. It goes without saying that there are a lot of strong personalities at United and I guess that a lot of the time it’s a case of picking the right moment.

I think Phil, and Di Law, do an excellent job in demanding circumstances. All you can ask is that they are honest with you and that is certainly the case, even if the answer to questions is ‘I don’t know’. They can only tell us as much as they themselves have been told.

Shaun custis. the sun

Where do you think it went wrong - and right - for United this season?

It went wrong because Fergie gave too much power to Carlos Quieroz. If the players did not impress Carlos they did not get picked. Also United departed from the trusted 4-4-2 and tried to play like Chelsea with two forwards supporting a main striker. It did not work consistently. Ferdinand was banned until October which did not help either and Van Nistelrooy got injured then lost form and went sulky. Signing Wayne Rooney was the upside. Whatever you think of Rooney as a bloke, he's a top player.

What do you think of United's relationship with the media? How could things improve?

It's not great. Fergie does no after-match press conferences and regularly bans reporters from his pre-match briefings. The Sun and The Mirror are currently banned as are the BBC. There is also no access to players after games. Arsenal put United to shame in this department. Arsene Wenger is always available before and after matches and there are always players to speak to after games. Wenger does not worry about the press coverage and consequently no reporter has ever been banned in his eight year reign. That is not me being Arsenal biased it is just a fact. It would be nice if Fergie looked at things the same way but he is too long in the tooth to change now.

United fans think the media is anti-United, would you agree?

Arsenal and Chelsea fans think exactly the same. Arsenal fans think I'm biased toward Chelsea, United fans think I'm pro Arsenal, and Chelsea fans think I'm a United supporter. The fans who think the media is anti-United are the same ones who blame the ref when they lose a match.

How do you view the Glazer takeover proposals?

I do not understand supporters saying United is not for sale. When your club is a plac it's always for sale. Glazer clearly is not interested in football but that is the danger once you go public, the business is vulnerable to any investor in the world. Even if Glazer goes away, somebody will take United over one day, it's inevitable.

How do you think the next 12 months may pan out for United and Fergie?

It is impossible to say because a takeover could lead to all sorts of changes. Fergie may survive it but might decide he cannot be bothered with the upheaval. If United keep hold of Ferdinand and Rooney they will always have the basis of a decent side. It would help if they could find a young thrusting midfielder though.

Have things improved for your paper and the press in general since Paddy Harverson and then Phil Townsend took over the Communications Department role at United?

Only in the sense that there is always someone to talk to at United but it does not mean they tell you anything worth knowing. Both Phil Townsend and Diana Law are very amenable but they cannot make Fergie do press conferences. There are times they are both at games when neither the manager or the players are speaking to the press, making their presence somewhat pointless.

tim rich. daily telegraph.

Where do you think it went wrong - and right - for United this season?

The more I think about it, the more of a disaster the American tour seems. After dragging a half-fit squad around the United States to play a series of dreadful games, Manchester United make a feeble start to the season which effectively costs them the Championship. Alex Ferguson's attempts to refresh the side with Ronaldo, Heinze, Smith and Rooney have succeeded but there is still no long-term replacement for Roy Keane and the midfield is growing old together. In Europe, the decision to send a reserve team to Istanbul for the final group game seemed wrong at the time; United lost the leadership of the group and drew Milan. Lyon won it and drew Werder Bremen.

What do you think of United's relationship with the media? How could things improve?

Nearly all big clubs restrict the media's access to their players and the kind of relationships journalists used to enjoy 10-15 years ago will never return. Manchester United are more restrictive than most - Arsenal's players have been regularly interviewed in a way that would never be allowed at Old Trafford. Nearly all interviews with a United player come via MUTV, which is like asking Alistair Campbell to interview Tony Blair. If you have spent an hour with Robert Pires, Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard, you will think long and hard before attacking them in print. At Manchester United there are no relationships to ruin. It should be said, however, that our papers sometimes do themselves no favours. There is a belief among some sports editors that Manchester United can supply an exclusive back-page story every day and some of our attempts to fulfil this request with stories that have only a nodding acquaintance with the truth have been very damaging to us.
United fans think the media is anti-United, would you agree?

The media will always support the underdog - it’s always a better story. In the 1970s and 1980s Liverpool were wary of the press for that very reason. Between 1993-2001 Manchester United dominated the domestic game and clubs that attempted to knock them off their perch - especially media-friendly outfits like Keegan's Newcastle and Wenger's Arsenal - received more favourable coverage because they provided a different angle. If Chelsea become the dominant force in English football, their fans may come to feel the same way as United supporters.

How do you view the Glazer takeover proposals?

As a bucketful of poison. It is reminiscent of the leveraged buy-outs of the 1980s when small companies took over big ones armed with ludicrous amounts of borrowed money - the result was a crippling recession. Glazer would remove Manchester United's almost unique advantage in modern football - its freedom from debt.

How do you think the next 12 months may pan out for United and Fergie?

The question is can you see this team winning the European Cup? If David Gill really thought so he would not have asked UEFA to protect the club by seeding it for the knockout stages, a request that smacks of utter defeatism. When Ferguson is replaced by some faceless Eurocrat like Sven Goran Eriksson we will miss him painfully. Having witnessed Bobby Robson's tearful departure from Newcastle, I would hate to see the experience repeated at Old Trafford but the club careers of all the great managers, Stein, Busby, Clough, even Shankly have ended messily and enveloped by sadness. Enoch Powell once said that all ministerial careers end in failure because you eventually get kicked out by the voters. You could say the same about managerial careers. I would hope Ferguson wins his next trophy and rides off into the sunset, like his hero John Wayne, leaving Roy Keane to manage the club with Carlos Queiroz to hold the tiller.

Have things improved for your paper and the press in general since Paddy Harverson and then Phil Townsend took over the Communications Department role at United?

Perrier or Malvern? Ultimately whatever they want to do, the manager decides.

paul mccarthy. sunday people.

Where do you think it went wrong - and right - for United this season?

Where it went right for Utd? Wayne Rooney is thriving and could emerge as the finest player in the club's history - if handled correctly. Cristiano Ronaldo looks far more disciplined, Rio Ferdinand is the best defender in the world and Paul Scholes look re-energised after quitting international football. Where it went wrong? Injuries to Ruud Van Nistelrooy didn't help but I just think there's been a shortage of top quality signings save for Rooney. Djemba-Djemba, Kleberson, Liam Miller, David Bellion and even Alan Smith just don't come anywhere near to the standard United have been used to over the years.
I'm not sure the players who are there care as much as, say, five years ago. Too many are in a comfort zone and only Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Rooney have shown that true work-til-you-drop mentality that was previously the hallmark of all great United stars. Yes, they raise their game for the biggest of matches (Arsenal, mainly) but too often are found wanting. Sometimes that stems from the manager but more often it comes from a lack of desire.
Also, I wouldn't trust Fergie to buy another goalkeeper. Ever.

What do you think of United's relationship with the media? How could 4 things improve?

Let's be frank, there is no relationship with the media. Everything stems from the man at the top and if he won't, by and large, do anything, why should the rest? It wouldn't kill Fergie to do post-match press conferences in the Premiership. I know he does MUTV but what good is that to the vast majority of fans who don't subscribe, especially when he sometimes blanks them (after Norwich). The players aren't inclined to do anything. In fact, even Chelsea have a better PR image than United...and believe me, that's saying something. It's a shame because players like the Nevilles and Keane are fine ambassadors, intelligent, articulate and deserving of more credit than they get.

United fans think the media is anti-United, would you agree?

Every club believes the media is anti-them. You would not believe the amount of Arsenal fans who think I support United or Chelsea fans who think I'm a Gooner but that's the way it is, you're never going to change it. If there is an agenda against United it's fuelled by the fact reporters get so little help from the club as a whole that people are more inclined to stick the boot in. It's the same as in life, if the person you're dealing with gives a little then you're willing to give a little, too. Shame, then, that nobody in real power at OT sees that. Perhaps they don't feel a club of United's size needs the media so much these days.

How do you view the Glazer takeover proposals?

Frankly, I don't know enough about the Glazer takeover bid. Sadly, I think it may be inevitable because you're dealing with a man who has no real feeling for the club possibly buying out two men who have no real feeling for the club. It's a commodity and whether we like it or not (and I don't) the people with an emotional stock-holding in the club aren't going to matter, Glazer's made that abundantly clear.

How do you think the next 12 months may pan out for United and Fergie?

I think next season will be Fergie's last. And unless he discovers both an attacking system that brings the very best out of his team and an ability to plug the holes that opened up this season, I'm afraid he could be staring at a final hoorah without the title.

Have things improved for your paper and the press in general since Paddy Harverson and then Phil Townsend took over the Communications Department role at United?

Decent people though Paddy and Phil are, if they haven't got the support from Fergie their job demands, the press can take a flying wotsit at the moon. I like Phil even if he battles in vain but let's see how things change when there's a new, more media sensitive manager in the chair.

martin lipton. daily mirror.

Where do you think it went wrong - and right - for United this season?

The whole club was undermined from the outset by the Glazer issue. Not rocket science, but no organisation works properly if there are doubts over the medium-term, let alone the short-term as has clearly been the case. Having said that, the title was lost in the first two months of the season. By the time United beat Arsenal at OT in October, they were already playing catch-up. Even a fantastic run - as they went on - would only get them back in the race, not win it. Chelsea's consistency has also blown everyone away. You can't do much about a team that wins virtually every game.

Injuries haven't helped. Ferdinand's return came when you'd already dropped too many points, Rooney took a while to really settle, after the immediate impact against Fenerbahce, Scholes was a big miss and of course you would expect RVN to have scored 12 goals minimum in December, January and February. Plus no consistency in selection (and no goalkeeper worthy of the title). Positives? Rooney, certainly. He's been outstanding and will only get better. Don't think Alan Smith got the credit he deserved early on and his injury was a blow. Think Ferdinand has been excellent, while Heinze has had a good first season. But Kleberson, Saha, Bellion, both the Djembas have been bloody awful. They are NOT Manchester United players by any standards (except those of the team that got relegated in 74!). As for Europe, without RVN's goals you might not have got out of the group. But playing the stiffs in Istanbul was stunning folly. Win the group and you don't play Milan, probably get through to the last eight, and then who knows...?

What do you think of United's relationship with the media? How could things improve?

It would start to help if the self-proclaimed biggest club in the world started to act like that. At Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus, Arsenal, even (most of the time) Chelsea, you can expect to see the manager and players after every game, to ask them about the matches, incidents, forthcoming games and issues. That is the lifeblood of football. At United, it is Pravda TV or nothing, while Fergie only appears after Champions League games (avoiding a UEFA fine) or when he gets special request from the FA in big cup ties. That can't be right.

Surely even United fans don't buy into the "it's all rubbish in the press; they're terrible towards us and just go around stirring up trouble" nonsense. Why do Arsenal get such a good press? Because Arsene Wenger always talks, about any issue. He doesn't issue threats, doesn't swear (and when he does it IS a story), always treats us with respect even if he doesn't agree with what we say. Surprise, surprise, he gets treated with respect back. Strange, that. Also you can get access to players at Arsenal and Chelsea (even if Mourinho is as much of a law unto himself as Fergie). No such chance at United.
Are you telling me that the supporters thought the press were all "fucking idiots" for questioning Veron, that they're not worried about reports from Holland and Spain about RVN, or that the keeper situation hasn't been a massive concern all season? Of course not.

United fans think the media is anti-United, would you agree?

The media is not anti or pro anyone - with the exception of England. But there is always a desire to see the top dog knocked off the perch and for the best part of a decade United were the dominant force. Because we need to sell a contest, the rise of Arsenal was a massive plus, but it could have been anyone. Last season Arsenal were sensational. The record tells you that. United were not that good and the coverage reflected the truth. Likewise, look at the kicking Chelsea have received all season because of their behaviour off the pitch, and compare that with the coverage of their performances on it.

If you conducted a straw poll of the leading football writers, you would find their personal affections are split all over the place. If there is disproportionate backing for any club, it is West Ham. But if you ask me to go through the senior football writers, I could tell you there are fans of just about every club, including United. What you might find is that the next United manager will see far more goodwill towards him, reflected in the tone of some of the coverage of the club. The United reporters may not always be thrilled at the treatment they receive from the knighted one.

How do you view the Glazer takeover proposals?

Dreadful, but I fear inevitable now. I hoped he'd gone away in the autumn, but there is a persistence about the Leprechaun that augurs ill for the club. The problem is that Magnier and McManus, along with Dobson and others, are in it for business reasons, not football ones. If they are being offered 300p for shares that would be worth no more than 180p if the whole market had not been skewed by the Glazer interest, they are going to sell eventually.

The consequences will not be good - prices up, to make a profit, and the sale of the prime assets to help that profit. Also, owners with no sense of the history of the club and what it really means to all football fans (irrespective of their personal allegiances) will run the whole outfit without a thought for the repercussions of their actions. And it is the fans, the strongest voices and the ones who have acted with genuine passion and integrity, who will be the ones to suffer.

How do you think the next 12 months may pan out for United and Fergie?

It's not so much United, as Chelsea, that will drive that. The Abramovich money, and a proper manager who, for all his lunacy, is the real deal, may make them an unbeatable force for the next couple of seasons, especially as they can always go and recruit big - and have no time for any of the decencies of the game. The Premiership table this season does not lie - Chelsea are that much better than the rest, United included.

I think Rooney will be the key for United but even with his brilliant talent - and that is truly outstanding - the gap is huge, and you've not got that sort of cash at the moment. If you do not win the Premiership or CL next season, and at this stage I can't see that happening, then I think Fergie will probably decide - or have it decided for him - that 20 years at the helm is enough for any manager. Enter a certain M O'Neill, currently of Glasgow.

Have things improved for your paper and the press in general since Paddy Harverson and then Phil Townsend took over the Communications Department role at United?

You always have rows with clubs, although I sometimes think that clubs ignore the reality that the relationship between themselves and the written media is a two-way street. Harverson came in with plenty of good ideas - and soon realised that he would not be allowed to implement any of them. But instead of attempting to change things, he decided to meekly defend the status quo, becoming little more than a lap-dog. As often, people employed ostensibly as facilitators turn into screens and end up being actively complicit in the manipulation game. Prime example, blatantly lying last season when people asked if Fortune had broken his leg in training. Do you seriously believe that information would have been germane to the opposition planning for the next match?

Townsend, equally, has an impossible job to alter anything other than the external PR of the club while Fergie remains in charge. What was it Marvell wrote, "the same arts that did gain a pow'r Must it maintain" - ie Fergie has always been a believer in strong-arm tactics with the press, regarding us as the lamppost to his dog, so why should anybody think he's going to stop being one now? On a personal level, Townsend is a much better bloke than Harverson. You can actually talk to him. But he seems to be left out of the loop and in an Old Trafford version of the Clinton view on homosexuality in the US Army it's "Don't ask; don't tell". And nobody really wants to ask in case they get their head bitten off and spat out.
Bill Thornton. daily star.

Where do you think it went wrong - and right - for United this season?

It undoubtedly went wrong when neither Kleberson nor Djemba Djemba emerged as midfielders who would improve that department. Of 4 course, injuries to Kleberson, Van Nistelrooy and the seemingly jinxed Saha disrupted the team. It went right with the capture of Rooney and the blossoming of Ronaldo.

What do you think of United's relationship with the media? How could things improve?

In a word: poor. The club's Press office must be empowered to deal more readily and informatively with Press enquiries. If that were so, there would be less tension on both sides.

United fans think the media is anti-United, would you agree?

To a point. There is a particular tabloid that has been United-bashing for as long as I can remember - not the one I scribe for, I hasten to add. Going back to the previous question, I feel relations could be improved - and I admit to failings on our side - if there was bit more freedom of information from the club.

How do you view the Glazer takeover proposals?

I'm no businessman or City analyst, but my instincts tell me Glazer would be bad news. As I see it, United is a very well-run club. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

How do you think the next 12 months may pan out for United and Fergie?

If Ferguson signs a world-class central midfielder - more important, I feel, than the need for a keeper - I can see them challenging Chelsea and Arsenal all the way. For me, as long as Ferguson feels fit, he's the man for the job.

Have things improved for your paper and the press in general since Paddy Harverson and then Phil Townsend took over the Communications Department role at United?

Only slightly. Paddy wasn't much use to us, frankly. Phil is a good bloke who genuinely tries to help. As I said earlier, the problem is that he, like the media, too often labours under a lack of information.

May I add that, while we're working in a cut-throat, competitive business - like football is! - that doesn't preclude some of us from doing our best to be objective.