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RedRanter On… Dippers, Our Best XI, Anderson and the Chelsea Threat

The end of this season will mark the 18th season Liverpool have gone without the title. Whilst this nice little record keeps on developing, United are closing in on their own record for total league title wins. Last season marked our 16th win, two short of Liverpool’s 18. With less than two months until the end of the season, United could be lifting their 17th title, meaning we’re potentially one season away from equalling the English record.

As United take on Liverpool this afternoon, we could be picking up three points which could prove vital in us taking another step closer to our goal. Liverpool, with nothing but pride to play for after yet again ruling themselves out of the race before the turn of the year, will be eager to throw a spanner in the works.

In our past 11 meetings, we have won 9, drawn 1 and lost 1 against the dippers. The last meeting came at Anfield in December, with Carlos Tevez getting the only goal of the game. Fernando Torres was feared as the main threat, scoring four goals in the four preceding games, however Rio Ferdinand kept him in his back pocket all game. Torres is enduring another bout of great form, with an impressive six goals in his previous four games, but Ferdinand will keep confident of winning the battle again.

To mark what most United fans would consider the game of the season, I’ve had a few words with fellow blogger at RedRants.com

Republik of Mancunia: Hello RedRanter, thanks for taking the time to talk to us at RoM today. Ahead of the Liverpool game, what lineup and formation are you hoping to see Fergie pick today?

RedRanter: I have given up on predicting the first XI. It used to be easy earlier in the season but with the depth of the squad, especially in CM, not anymore. But here’s what I hope will be fielded.
EVDS (if fit)
Brown – Vidic – Rio (I hope he’s fit) – Evra
Ronaldo – Anderson – Carrick – Nani
Rooney – Tevez

But I am not really sure if it IS the right XI, and I bet even Fergie isn’t too sure what his best XI is.

RoM: What are your thoughts on United this season? How have they played so far?

RR: I have been generally happy with our performance this season. Of course, last season, we stayed top for most of the season, but this season we have continued to play football of an unbelievable variety. It’s amazing though that, out of the top four, we have lost the most games in the league. We have destroyed teams but we’ve also been more profligate this season than last. It’s perhaps our lack of goals from midfield, unlike last season, or Rooney’s injury afflicted stop-start season — Ronaldo, to me, no longer qualifies as a midfielder.

RoM: Who do you think has been our player of the season?

RR: I would not say the obvious, i.e., Ronaldo, but apart from that it’s been Rio Ferdinand. He is clearly playing at the peak of his game and Vidic, for all his qualities, seems half the player without the assurance of Rio — we just saw that against Derby and Bolton. Rio’s presence in our team is priceless. I also think his heart is set firmly on staying with the club despite some reports about his wage demands.

RoM: Do you think there is any room for improvement where Ronaldo is concerned?

RR: I am a little undecided on this one. Last season he seemed to have found the right mix between assists and scoring goals. This season he’s been scoring goals for fun but his assists are well below what he managed last season. There’s a hint of selfishness, but he’s been winning us games, so I guess it’s a double-edged sword? Or could it be the profligacy of Rooney and Tevez, of late, that potential assists aren’t being converted into goals? I am not really sure. Although, I would love Ronaldo to float the ball in when 30 yards away from goal rather than going for it himself.

RoM: Which player has surprised you the most this season?

RR: Anderson. Never expected so much of him so soon. I was bloody angry at Daniel Taylor (of the Guardian) for writing off Anderson based on the Coventry game — Fergie said that he thought Anderson (along with Pique) was among the better players in that defeat, and yet, Taylor wrote him off based on what appeared more conjecture than anything else. (I ranted here in case you are interested) From the Wigan game onwards to the Liverpool, Arsenal ones we saw what the young lad is capable of.

RoM: What have been your main disappointments in our season?

RR: To be honest, despite set backs, I haven’t been too disappointed. I was positive despite a slow start to our season. But three games would rankle as disappointments. One, to lose to City, by a solitary goal, despite overrunning them. Two, losing to West Ham due to schoolboy defending and allowing them to beat us — looking at the way they are shipping goals now, it really beats me how we contrived to lose that one. And three, putting on a sorry display against City in February.

RoM: Are you surprised at Arsenal’s form for the majority of the season?

RR: This might appear to be analysis helped by hindsight, but when the press were writing Arsenal off following Henry’s departure I couldn’t help but relate that situation to the one we faced at the beginning of 06/07 following Ruud’s departure. I had a nagging feeling that Arsenal might be a serious threat despite the loss of their star player. But I must say, I was surprised that they’ve managed to sustain their title challenge for as long as they have done.

RoM: Are you concerned about the threat Chelsea are currently posing?

RR: Yes. I very recently acknowledged that in one of my articles. Chelsea have been playing just like they have been ever since Mourinho took over. They are extremely hard to beat, and although this season they have been hurt by a porous defence, Avram Grant or no Avram Grant, they are still unbeaten at home for, like ages! At the end though, I think they might do a decent job nicking points off Arsenal, Liverpool or (heaven forbid) us, but they will still come up short at the end, thanks to an incompetent manager. But that could be more hope. At the moment though, they seem a greater threat than Arsenal.

RoM: What result will you be hoping to see at Stamford Bridge this afternoon?

RR: The best result for us would be a draw. I think Chelsea at the Bridge are always going to be difficult to beat, plus both teams haven’t been in the best of form.
Chelsea’s leaky defence though, would be cause for concern.

RoM: Is the league and European Cup double a reasonable aspiration for us this season?

RR: I would take the league over the Champions’ League any day. I wouldn’t cut my wrists if we didn’t win both the Champions’ League and the Premiership. I would love the CL, definitely, but as long as we don’t lose to ‘pool (or any English club) in the final I can live with that. I want the League title though, and will be distraught if we didn’t win it — close as the race is shaping up to be.

RoM: Concerning yourself, what’s your favourite United moment?

RR: Being a United fan in the 90′s makes it extremely hard to answer that question. Thanks to Sir Alex, we United fans have been so spoilt with success that seasons like 05/06 were termed disasters. There were moments where you would jump up after the game and say yes, this was the best United moment. Like, say, the 4-3 win over Madrid (even though we got knocked out). We knew we were playing a team at the peak of their powers and Ronaldo (the Brazilian one) was wowing the world with his skill. Yet, we did give a good account of ourselves and I felt proud of the team. 1999 had a lot of moments like it would for any Red: Sheringham, and then Ole, against Bayern set the pulses racing. But another moment stood out from that season. These moments you would appreciate especially if you look back in time. Keano against Juve — if rumours about Keano’s rants in the MUTV interview in ’05, on players not playing for the shirt, were to be believed, you’d have to look back to that day in ’99 when he showed what it meant to be wearing the red shirt. So what if he wasn’t playing the final! You still had a job to do to get there.

Another two moments were more recent: the 2-1 win at Fulham and the 4-2 against Everton, not to mention how sweet it felt to win back the league title last year. I could also talk about 95-96 when I, as an impressionable teenager, was enchanted by the Cantona-inspired side that took us to the title and (from 96-97) Beckham’s goal from midfield against Wimbledon is still fresh in my mind… but then you asked for only one moment, didn’t you? Oh well!

RoM: Tell us a bit about your site.
RR: Red Rants is a blog for Manchester United fans, run by Manchester United fans — at the risk of sounding cliched. In our site, we update daily (at least we try to) with article(s) covering news pertaining to United and our comments on said news items. We also intersperse these daily news roundups with opinion/column posts that — apart from providing readers with our 2 pennies’ worth — seek to stimulate debate among our readers. The most happening place in our blog is the comments section, where we have a lot of passionate Reds from around the world venting their spleen. The readers continue to grow and hopefully that’s a sign that we are doing something right.

That said, I must add that you are doing a top job with the RoM blog, forum and t-shirts. I envy your privileged status as a season ticket holder in Manchester. I wonder if my day job would somehow post me around that area but then, such are the stuff of dreams. At least for now.

RoM: Finally, prediction for today’s scoreline?
RR: 1-0 to United! But, I guess, if Rio doesn’t play, it could complicate things for us.

Thank you Red Ranter :) Check out the Ranter at RedRants.com

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About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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One Comment

  1. Sam says:

    My two heroes, united.

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