Welcome to the twelth issue of The Red Report, the round table discussion of all things Manchester United by your favourite United blogs: The Busby Way, Stretford-End, Bangalore To Old Trafford, ManUtd24, United Youth, Red Flag Flying High and Red Force Rising.

After a brief absence we’re back and with a new contributor! Fergie, Scholes, our fans and the player of the year are all on the agenda…

Sir Alex has been criticised lately and charged by the FA for his comments about referee Martin Atkinson. How do you think Fergie handles the media and should he be able to speak his mind?

Chudi | The Busby Way: I’m in two minds with this as it can be detrimental at times but at other times it can be beneficial. People kicked up a fuss about the blackout but had SAF came out and said what he felt following the Liverpool game we could be looking at more than a 5 game touchline ban with all the decisions Dowd missed.

In regards to being allowed to say what you feel, you should be able to but within reason. At our club, in football and in the world in general nobody is above being criticised but it appears the second you express displeasure at some of the referee’s decisions your liable to be hung drawn and quartered!

Herzog’s Child | Stretford-End: Ideally, managers and players would be allowed to tell the truth when discussing topics after matches. There is, however, a simple problem: harsh criticism of referees, whether merited or not, can undermine them – which puts them in a fairly precarious position for the next match they officiate in. Extensive criticism is a dangerous exercise; it ensures the next referee’s performance will be subjected to intense scrutiny, and, as a result, conspiracy theorists will be provided with ample ammo should something go wrong. Silence from their side is a detriment, and would, if reversed, lead to less public criticism of them, I reckon. I’m fully supportive of referees coming out after games and discussing their actions. Honesty is always the first casualty in all conflict. The advent of it would clean up the game. Managers, players, refs, chairmen, the F.A. – there’s a huge lack of honesty, and the game suffers greatly as a result.

Personally, didn’t see a whole lot wrong with Fergie’s sentiments after Chelsea. Atkinson got several key decisions terribly wrong. Again. Most criticism subjected to referees is merited, you’ll find – but if we’re honest, I think most will agree that Fergie should have known better. He’s in the game long enough now to know what’s allowed and what isn’t. It doesn’t help either that there’s strong hypocrisy in his grievances. He attempted to shrug off Rooney’s elbow as mere slight contact, but then, a few days later, he recoiled in indignation after Luiz was not sent off. He can’t have it both ways, even if his intentions are right. It grates a little when he espouses about the lack of leeway for truth within the game, when he, of all people, is one of the most consistent blatant bluffers.

Should he be allowed to tell the truth? In a sense, yes. But there’s a way of doing it. Disappointment can be emphasised without personal criticism. Creating a siege mentality is fine – but applying severe pressure to refs in particular could have the reverse effect: they may not, as a result, look upon us favourably in future games. Look, the rule is there – and it’s not too difficult to live by it, even if it’s a bloody silly one. I’m personally not a huge fan of the after-match interview, anyway – so soon after a game, a manager can be frustrated, angry, and can say things in the heat of the moment. Sadly, this is not recognised by the powers which enforce the ruling, so you’re left with comments being said that they will be forced to take action against. Later interview should suffice.

Justin| Red Flag Flying High: I think he’s got the right idea in creating a siege mentality at United with the press. The whole “us against them” idea has always seemed to have been around during Fergie’s reign and I don’t see the harm in it. No matter what United do, the FA and the press don’t offer any real support. Take the world cup bid years ago when United dropped out of the FA Cup to play in that meaningless tournament in Brazil, because the FA thought it would help England’s hosting chances.

No one gave us any credit and the press vilified us so I think Fergie should carry on treating the press with the same way he always has, speaking his mind. Touchline bans and fines are overblown and have little or no real effect on what happens on the pitch anyway.

Siddarth | Bangalore to Old Trafford: Sir Alex’s method of handling the press is rather brutal than required, but after the kind of refereeing that was seen in our match against Chelsea, it deserved a reaction like that! I do agree what Sir Alex said goes against the respect campaign, and he has been properly punished, maybe a bit harshly. But I think Martin Atkinson should also be taken to task for one of the worst refereeing performances I have ever seen! The media meanwhile is its usual self, hypocritical vultures, just waiting for a chance to denounce the club! Just can’t do anything about it, we have to live with it!

TG | ManUtd24: The way he handles the press isn’t one for other managers to aspire to, to be brutally honest. Does he have to say what he thinks if he knows the consequences? He can express his opinion, but he must know his limits. I don’t think his recent comments on referee’s and Martin Atkinson were ideal – and I personally think that his five match suspension was, ultimately, the correct decision. Sorry! As for the FA and the media, you can’t blame them. The FA acted correctly and the media, as annoying as they may seem, are like predators waiting to seize on every opportunity. That’s just how it goes, unfortunately.

Nick | United Youth: On the one hand, some of the grudges and the black-outs and silences and somewhat fatuous complaints about officials (Wiley for example, an obvious case of conjuring something to complain about to deflect from a poor performance) are a little embarrassing and unbecoming. On the other, I sort of admire his refusal to kowtow to the press in certain aspects. Post-match interviews in particular are a joke concept – thrusting a microphone under a manager’s nose in the heat of the moment and often almost explicitly trying to get them to talk themselves into trouble is ridiculous. While he went too far in questioning Atkinson’s fairness, I can’t blame him for being extremely angry in the wake of what was obviously an utterly inept refereeing display.

Should he say what he thinks? If he wants to stay out of trouble, obviously not. I’d like to see him answer all post-match interview questions with bland answers and ‘no comment’, just to expose them as the terrible idea they are. There have been complaints from the media that by not speaking, he’s depriving the fans somehow – personally I’m not that bothered whether he speaks to us immediately after games and think the media are being somewhat insincere and far more concerned about having to do more actual work with the lack of juicy quotes or ready-made ‘SAF lashes out’ stories.

Potentially the problem here lies in the post-match interview. Maybe the manager’s should only do it having been able to see highlights of the game?

Our second topic is Paul Scholes. He’s still an incredible player but for the sake of the team’s progression, should he retire at the end of this season?

Justin| Red Flag Flying High: Scholes should retire for two reasons. Firstly he’s coming to the end of a glittering career and I’d like to see him finish it at the top rather than fading gradually. Secondly it’s time for some of the players who’ve been dazzling us in the academy and reserves to finally get a chance and show what they’re made of.

I’d love to see the likes of Cleverley Pogba and Morrison being given a chance next season and if Scholes retiring increases their first team chances, I think it may be a difficult but worthwhile step forward.

Nick | United Youth: Scholesy’s still an absolute genius, but he’s also still the only midfielder we really have of his type, which is an unacceptable situation when you consider his age. I don’t think him retiring would be best, but us having someone to ease the creative burden on him would be ideal – whether by bringing someone in or fast-tracking a Morrison or Petrucci for example. Scholesy can still play an important role next season in a more infrequent capacity, although whether he’d be happy with that may dictate whether he does stay on for the extra year.

TG | ManUtd24: I’d like him to stay another year. He showed against Marseille that he is still hungry and willing, displaying another midfield masterclass. No hyperbole. He’s been a revelation in his deep position; and seems to show a great understanding with Michael Carrick and the rest of his teammates. He might not cover as much large distances as he used to, but he still has found success in spite of that. And long may it continue.

Siddarth | Bangalore to Old Trafford: As long as Scholesy is there, we know we can depend on him to control games, and out pass the opposition. But we really feel the pinch when he’s missing!! We have no one else who can step and provide that kind of creativity right now. Possibly Anderson, but he’s been injured too much off late! I think we should keep Scholesy for another year and hopefully Sir Alex also signs someone who can at least offer some creativity in midfield.

Herzog’s Child | Stretford-End: Tough one, this, and highly dependent on what movements come about in the summer. Ideally, Paul would stay on another year – his experience is of huge benefit to the team, of course, and as shown on many occasions this season the class is still there. That won’t change. However, there is huge evidence of reliance – huge reliance – on both him and Giggs this season, which tells two tales. Firstly, that they’re both miracles of a kind never to be seen again. Secondly, and most crucially to United now, it’s a reflection of how below par we are across the middle 4. Gibson is not good enough. Anderson has done little to suggest he’s ever going to be a top class player. Owen Hargreaves isn’t likely to return for very long. Carrick and Fletcher have slumped this season.

I’d keep him on, but only if the midfield is reinforced with quality. Two central midfielders are imperative, it can be argued. If they arrive, sure – keep Paul, and hopefully – for us – his chances will be limited. If not, it will again highlight not only his eternal greatness, but also a persisting problem – our midfield. If keeping him on will result in not addressing the midfield area, it will be hugely problematic. Increasingly, he’s unable to withstand an intense 90 minutes. We cannot keep on relying on him – it wouldn’t be good for him, for a start, and – most importantly – it would be a huge, and unlikely to pay off, risk for us.

So, in conclusion: Staying on will be great, if he’s surrounded by a plethora of quality. If not, and he’s made an integral part again, it would be detrimental.

Chudi | The Busby Way: Paul Scholes is a quality player even at this stage in his career. Marseille was an example of how good he still is but you have to wonder how long he can keep it up. The fact he isn’t picked every game is said to be the reason behind his reluctance to sign a new deal but you have to ask if he is capable?

Personally I would want him around as long as possible, there is the factor that if he leaves we may be forced into buying a replacement but I’m more than happy with what we have!

Real mixed bunch of responses. In short I don’t think anyone would complain if he stayed on but certainly his retirement this summer wouldn’t be the worst thing.


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