Keep Your Enemies Closer: A Q+A With Man United's "The Busby Babe"

Blackburn....

Once again, our good friend, Gene Um, over at "The Busby Babe," has agreed to a very enlightening Q+A session before tomorrow's clash at Sports Direct. You can check out my end of the responses here.

Q: SAF called this weekend a "disaster," and after the City result came back, I'm sure most Man U fans feel the same way. What is your take on the dropped points, the missed chance, and City's recent stumbles? Where do you think Man United is going to end up on the table? And, since we're playing them next, what the hell happened with Blackburn?!

A: Shocking? Yes. Hugely disappointing? Certainly. Disaster? Maybe.

There was certainly some extreme reactions after the defeat (Note to self: stay away from the toxicity of Twitter after defeats) and no matter what the injury situation is, there is no excuse to justify a loss at Old Trafford versus arguably the worst side in the league. However, United clearly struggled with having winger Park Ji-sung and full-back Rafael in central-midfield and having Michael Carrick in central-defense. Wayne Rooney's andDarron Gibson's night out on Boxing Day (reports vary from a dinner with significant others to a 'boozy' night out) caused SAF to drop each of them and had they played, I'm confident that United would still have got a result (I can't believe our CM situation is so dire right now that Gibson was actually missed!). Nonetheless, we're not Arsenal nor their fans so this is not an excuse. That was three massive points dropped.

In the big picture, we are sitting on 45 points at the halfway mark and are level with City -- with them having the goal differential advantage. This equates to 90 points over a full season and for perspective's sake, we won the title last season with just 80 points. So the point total thus far is satisfactory. However, one could turn that logic on me by noting that City will finish with a high point total this season and that three points dropped versus a side like Blackburn is even more massive when considering this context. Points dropped this season may be punished more. Glass half-full or glass half-empty outlook I suppose.

It's hard to admit, but I still think City are the favorites for the title. Injuries have resulted in the 'noisy neighbours' clearly having a deeper squad and perhaps that alone could win the title if United don't bring in reinforcements this month. If City obtain an Danielle De Rossi type of player, then I think that bolsters their squad more -- in my personal opinion, both sides are in need of a deep-lying playmaker. On the flip side though, this deeper squad hasn't helped City recently as we've closed a five point gap while enduring our massive injury situation. I won't predict City winning the title, I can't type those words. But in my opinion, they do have the advantage...

More enlightening perspective from "That other United..." after the jump!
Q: How do you think the players are handling the disappointing Champions League result? Do you think SAF and co. will make a serious push in Europa, or just view Europe as a wash? \

A: Publicly, the players are saying all of the right things. On the pitch, they've responded well too -- prior to the Blackburn match, we were showing arguably our best form of the season in the previous 3 or 4 matches. But that is first time since 2005 that United have failed to qualify for the knockout stages of Champions League so it obviously hurts quite a bit -- for the fans at least since I can't speak for the players. That competition is the pinnacle for a footballer these days (in terms of highest level of competition) so I probably wouldn't be out of line if I anticipated that they were -- and still are -- gutted.

The only positive from not being involved on Europe's grandest stage is that United can put their full focus on the domestic title. There won't be the dual priorities of a potential title-decider on the weekend followed by a midweek knockout tie in Europe. Despite SAF's public intent to win the Europa League, I think it's probably about 3rd on the priority list right now -- behind league and the FA Cup (could be 2nd if we lose to City on Saturday in the FA Cup). I don't think we'll see a Carling Cup sort of lineup but I wouldn't be surprised if most first-choice players are rested for Thursday nights on Channel 5.

Q: I've read a few murmurings around the internet about the Glazers potentially selling the club. What is your perspective on life under the Glazers? Do you think it's time to sell the team? Why are fans still so loathe towards a family under which they have seen seemingly nothing but success? (Believe us, over at Newcastle we know a thing or two about hating your owner...)

A: I don't mean to provide a repeat answer out of disrespect to your question... but I recently answered a very similar question for the SBN Wigan blog prior to our recent match and I think my answer applies here:

"On one end of the spectrum, United have won four league titles, three League Cups, and appeared in the final of the Champions League thrice since the Glazer family purchased the club in 2005 -- albeit with loans secured against the club's assets. On the other end of the spectrum, Daniel Taylor -- in a recent piece for the Guardian -- shockingly pointed out that United's net spending on transfers in the past five years is a mere £56.9 million. Yes, I realize 'mere' is relative but consider some other comparable net spending totals during this same time frame:Aston Villa £68.2m, Sunderland £62.7m, and Stoke £61.2m. In addition, there are the obvious big spenders: City £437.1m, Chelsea £144.9m, Liverpool£84m, and Spurs £76m.

So.... despite not being as vociferous about it as many other United supporters, I'm in the camp that hopes that they are able to sell. No other club in the world tops United currently in revenue and yet, it appears there isn't money to spend that is representative of this fact. Perhaps the past five years is the biggest achievement of Sir Alex Ferguson's managerial career because I believe his ability has masked the challenges the Glazers have presented him. There is an element of unknown though (to me at least) and who knows if the Glazer's eventual plan to float a part of United on the Singapore Stock Exchange will be fruitful or not... I'm no financial expert. I just want owners that can spend the profits of the club on good footballers rather than on the debt they owe due to loan interest that exists solely because of the nature of their purchase."

Q: Who has been the most valuable player in defense, midfield, and attack? Has anyone surprised you with their performances this season (good or bad)?

A: Uh oh, it's probably not good that I have to think about this for awhile in regards to our defense. Patrice Evra has simply been poor this season while Rio Ferdinand andNemanja Vidic have missed a lot of time due to injury. So, it comes down to either Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, or surprisingly Jonny Evans. Jones has had the best season but he's spent much time in midfield. Smalling has done a job at right-back and he continually looks be class at center-back so I'll probably go with him. Don't let lazy pundits or analysts fool you though, Evans has actually been pretty decent this season.

I guess it depends on how you want to classify Nani: if you consider him playing winger as midfield then he's the easy choice. For central players, it's definitely been Michael Carrick. After not featuring much at season's start, he's been in tremendous form as of late and has been dictating matches from the center of the park. I whole-heartedly believe that we get the necessary result in Basel to avoid Champions League elimination had Carrick not been serving a suspension for that match. It attack, it's been Wayne Rooney although one could make an argument for Nani.

Q: Finally, after our last game, "dubious" penalty and all, how does the match end up?
A: I don't know if any more than 2 or 3 natural defenders will be available so I'll go with a 1-1 draw for now. If news comes out that Smalling and Ferdinand are available, then I'll predict a 2-1 sort of victory for United.
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