Sorry Pogba, but it's time for you to leave
I know, I did say that I enjoyed the previous international break. However, the current break couldn’t have come at a worse time. After all, the Red Devils have found their form again and are finally clicking - even Fred is playing more like the Paul Pogba we expected when he signed for us from Juventus, not the Paul Pogba we’ve gotten so far.
But, should the team mysteriously suffer yet another poor run of form after the current international break, I might seriously begin to consider cancelling my football subscription and watch Channel 8 dramas all day long instead. At least that way, not only do I get to save a few dollars every month, I also get to feel good about supporting local talent.
Yes, I’ve always backed local talent, especially when it comes to our footballers, like Aleksandar Duric, Fandi Ahmad, Hariss Harun, Ben Davis...oh.
But I digress. What I actually wanted to say is that I’ve found something to take my mind off the international break.
And that is by reminiscing about the great Manchester United sides of yesteryears. You see, these past few painful years have given me a new perspective of just how great United were under Sir Alex Ferguson. And, by looking back at the past United sides, I’ve come to realise that I never truly appreciated all those great moments we had.
Take for example, this moment where Dimitar Berbatov ended James Collins’ career with this deft turn in 2008.
Or this Wes Brown ‘header’ out of nowhere against Liverpool the previous campaign.
Now, Brown might not be as high-profile as some of those who have played for United. But to me, he represents exactly what the club was under Ferguson, typified by his desire to give his best every time he wore the famous red jersey. All this, just so he could give the fans something to cheer about, especially when it came to games against the old enemy, Liverpool.
Which is more than you can say about…ahem... Pogba.
But what stands Brown out from the crowd is his impressive loyalty to the club. Because even when he played for Sunderland during the latter years of his career, he still found ways to contribute to United. Remember the own goal he scored in 2011 which helped the Red Devils secure a win? Or that time he got himself sent off in 2015, which allowed United to go on and notch a 2-0 victory?
And even now, he steadfastly chooses not to criticise Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team, unlike his former buddies Rio Ferdinand, Roy Keane, and Paul Scholes.
Well, I got to meet Brown this week, as he is currently in town for the Battle of the Reds, organised by World Football Legends Asia. The 40-year-old is part of the Manchester Reds team, which include Dimitar Berbatov, Teddy Sheringham, and…Eric Djemba-Djemba, who is a legend in his own rights for convincing Ferguson to sign him in the first place.
The Manchester Reds are set to take on their Liverpool counterparts, who comprise the likes of John Arne Riise, David James, Fabio Aurelio and Luis Garcia, as well as the Singapore Reds, who are represented by local legends like the aforementioned Duric and Fandi at the National Stadium on Saturday (Nov 16).
Now, the first thing I noticed about Brown when I interviewed him is that he’s very nice in person. So nice in fact, that he actually thinks there are a few players in this current United side - namely, Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Marcus Rashford - who would be able to walk into the great United teams he was a part of.
“I think I've been surprised a little bit by Dan James... he looks a dangerous player, he's fairly quick,” Brown told FBS. “Aaron Wan-Bissaka, defending-wise he's top notch. Excellent on one-on-ones, does his job perfectly. Rashford as well. He's a young lad, he's got a lot of responsibility, you can see the talent he has.”
Surprisingly, there was no mention of Harry Maguire. Keeping that centre-back spot for yourself, huh?
Brown added that he saw similarities in the playing style of Ferguson’s United and the current Solskjaer-managed team.
“Since he’s (Solskjaer) come in, you see a little bit of change in the way they’re playing. He took a while with the team to get them performing the way he wants to play…over the last few games you could see the style of football (starting to take shape),” said Brown.
He did, however, admit that the team seriously needed reinforcements, because no matter how loyal Brown is, even he cannot delude himself into thinking that this current United squad is good enough. But he stopped short of being as deluded as his former captain Keane, who suggested a few weeks back that United should sign Harry Kane.
“We’ll see what happens in the summer. If a striker is injured at the moment, we are limited. On who (to bring in) is a completely different thing,” said Brown, who added that Kane would probably cost “too much money”. I was hoping he would call Keane a useless pundit as well, but he didn’t. Perhaps his loyalty was at play again. Or perhaps he was just afraid of Keane’s retribution - justifiably so, I might add.
I then cheekily asked if he thinks he could still do a job in the current United team. No, I’m not off my meds for asking that question. I was just echoing the viewpoint of plenty of United fans in Singapore who have suggested that the old guards could play better than the current players, should they choose to put on their boots again. Brown laughed when he heard that question, although I couldn’t figure out whether he was laughing at me for asking the question, or laughing at the question itself.
He then gave me a stern look and replied: “Nope, no chance at all.” (Ok, he was probably laughing at me).
And just like that, I was reminded of what Ferguson’s teams were all about. It was fun watching them, but when it came down to business, they were all serious.
And I hope they will get serious on Saturday. Because there’s only so much I can take hearing about Liverpool’s dominance this season, and it will be a nice change if United can humiliate Liverpool again - just like they did in the past.
Catch the Battle of The Reds 2019 at the National Stadium on Saturday, 7pm. Tickets are available at www.sportshub.com.sg/BOTR2019.