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Thread: The annual Red News MUFC Journos Question + Answers for 2012.

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    Default The annual Red News MUFC Journos Question + Answers for 2012.

    The annual Red News MUFC Journos Q&A. 2012. Number 1 - Jeremy Cross of the Daily Star


    Red News Q1. What was your United moment/story of the season?


    The look on Arsene Wenger's face was hilarious in the wake of United thrashing Arsenal 8-2 at the start of the season, but the moment of the season has to be the return of Paul Scholes, who took everyone by surprise, including most of his team-mates when he came out of retirement. To cap it all, it was at Manchester City of all places and he helped United to a thrilling FA Cup win as well. Crashing out of the Champions League in Switzerland was also hard to forget.


    Red News Q2. Sir Alex Ferguson+transition-'no value'=MUFC 2011/2012 - did Manchester United over or underperform in the 2011/2012 season?


    I think United over-performed, without a shadow of a doubt. This might be a United team in transition, but it is also a mediocre United team by their usually very high standards. This fact was demonstrated when Fergie asked Scholes to come back, but even this temporary measure didn't help them defend the title.


    United were without influential figures like Darren Fletcher and Nemanja Vidic for most of the season and became too reliant on Wayne Rooney for goals. United also lacked a world class creative force in midfield, so to push Manchester City to the final minute of the season was an achievement in itself.


    Red News Q3. With the finances of city and United as they are, do you think this 'challenge' tussle is different to the ones the club have faced before with say Arsenal and then Chelsea?


    Fergie is the master at seeing-off challengers from elsewhere, most notably Arsenal and Chelsea, but the one he now faces right on his doorstep is different. City have untold wealth, a manager with a determination to keep on winning and bosses who are determined to make them the most powerful outfit in Europe.


    Red News Q4. How are you finding the evolution of print journalism with all the new combatants like twitter?


    Print journalism is being left behind when it comes to breaking news stories, to such an extent that the industry appears to be in terminal decline. With the onset of websites, Sky and social media outlets like Twitter, newspapers find it more and more difficult to keep things to themselves and keep pace with the ever changing face of the media.


    Red News Q5. Do you think the 2012/13 season will be Alex Ferguson's last?


    Who knows when Fergie will retire. He must have felt like packing it all in when he left the Stadium of Light on the final afternoon of a truly incredible season!! He has nothing left to prove or achieve because he's done it all to cement his place among the all-time greats of football management, but I think winning a third Champions League still drives him on and the challenge of City is something he is too stubborn to turn his back on. I think he genuinely fears retirement because football is like a drug to him he cannot give up, but he cannot go forever.


    Red News Q6. It's time to start locating your mystical balls, what do you think Manchester United will do transfer wise this summer?


    United are the kings of keeping their transfers under wraps, but I don't expect significant changes. Fergie cannot compete financially for the likes of Robin Van Persie, Eden Hazard and Wesley Sneijder, but the fact remains he needs a top class midfielder, cover in both full-back positions and someone up front who can help Rooney and Danny Welbeck score the goals that win games. Shinji Kagawa promises to be a good signing and I would like to see someone like Clint Dempsey given the chance to show he can perform at a big club like United.


    Red News Q7. And what do you think they actually need to do if money wasn't the issue it is at the club?


    Sign a long-term replacement for Rio Ferdinand, sign two world class midfielders to replace Scholes and Giggs and try and tempt Cristiano Ronaldo back to Old Trafford.
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    The annual Red News MUFC Journos Q&A. 2012. Number 2 - Mark Ogden of the Telegraph


    Red News Q1. What was your United moment/story of the season?


    I think the European campaign – or lack of – is the story that has been overlooked so far.


    Obviously, the league campaign was up-and-down and it would have been truly remarkable had United won the title considering the injuries and general lack of star quality in the team last season.


    But for me, the disastrous Champions League campaign, followed by three defeats in four games in the Europa League, was the most alarming aspect of the season.


    This was a team that had contested a Champions League final last May, yet couldn’t even beat Basel or Benfica in the group stages. And the manner of Bilbao’s absolute domination of United at Old Trafford showed how far United have fallen behind.


    Had United been drawn against Ajax or Bilbao in the Champions League, people would have rubbed their hands and talked about easy games, but the reality was totally different.


    Complacency had set in, so maybe last season was a wake-up call. But I don’t see how next season will be much better because there is still too much of a gap between inexperience and old-heads in the squad.


    Red News Q2. Sir Alex Ferguson+transition-'no value'=MUFC 2011/2012 - did Manchester United over or underperform in the 2011/2012 season?


    I think United over-performed, but then under-delivered, if that makes sense?


    The team should never have been in contention to win the league, but moving eight points clear with a month to go gave them two hands on the trophy, so they should have won it, without question.


    But anyone who saw the 6-1 or the defeat at home to Blackburn, or the defeat at City, would admit that this wasn’t a championship-winning team.


    Winning the league might have papered over the cracks, but it’s funny how a lack of silverware can focus minds and make people raise their game.


    Red News Q3. With the finances of city and United as they are, do you think this 'challenge' tussle is different to the ones the club have faced before with say Arsenal and then Chelsea?


    Yes, because the landscape has changed completely for United. In the past, they could offer trophies first and money second to players and, generally, the lure of winning things would appeal to the top players ahead of boosting their bank account.


    Now, City can offer the trophies AND the money. So how do United compete with that?


    City can now outbid them financially and point to the trophy in the cabinet.


    United can play the ‘history’ and ‘pedigree’ cards, but look how well that has turned out for Liverpool and Arsenal…


    Attracting the best players really is a challenge that United must address. Losing Eden Hazard to Chelsea showed that they must overcome threats from City and Stamford Bridge to secure the best.


    Red News Q4. How were things between the press and United (the club, SAF, the players) this season, did things improve?


    The players are good and, despite the perception that they’re all too frightened to talk to us, most of them will always stop.


    Rio, Patrice Evra, Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher (when he was playing) and Rooney will all stop more often than not and, away from games, those same guys will stop and chat if you see them at airports or off-duty.


    I did a couple of interviews with Giggs and Phil Jones last season and there were no issues from the club about seeing them. They used to ask for copy approval on all interviews, but I didn’t have that problem, so that’s a sign of progress.


    Fergie ended two or three long-term bans last season, which again, was a good thing and the right thing.


    The one area I believe there needs to be an improvement is the line of contact between ourselves and the very top, i.e David Gill and the Glazers.


    I don’t see the Glazers changing their stance anytime soon, but I don’t think there would be any harm in David Gill making himself available more than the once –a-year chat on tour.


    Red News Q5. How are you finding the evolution of print journalism with all the new combatants like twitter?


    Twitter has just become an environment for people to goad you and pick holes in whatever you do, and that applies to fans of all clubs.


    It became pretty boring a long time ago and my Twitter output definitely reduced last season.


    Also, we as journalists don’t help ourselves at times, particularly when there is a ridiculous rush to tweet a team or some banal observation from an open training session.


    No wonder people take the piss out of us..!


    Red News Q6. Do you think the 2012/13 season will be Alex Ferguson's last?


    No, but if it is, I just hope that it happens while I am halfway around the world and out of mobile phone and Twitter contact for at least a week!


    Red News Q7. It's time to start locating your mystical balls, what do you think Manchester United will do transfer wise this summer?


    I suspect they will find some good value in emerging talent and make a lot of noise about how the club will not become embroiled in over-heating the market like Chelsea and City.


    They might break the habit of not buying players in their late-20s this summer, however, because there is definitely a lack of players who would be in the ‘peak’ category.


    I can see a Luka Modric transfer saga brewing, but only because Chelsea have signed Hazard and City have Silva and Nasri. Maybe that was the plan all along – wait until the wealthy rivals don’t want him and then make your move.


    Red News Q8. And what do you think they actually need to do if money wasn't the issue it is at the club?


    A new left-back, a new Vidic, a new right-back. A holding midfielder, an attacking midfielder and a new striker to ease the burden on Rooney and Welbeck. And if money wasn’t an issue, a move to bring Ronaldo back.
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    The annual Red News MUFC Journos Q&A. 2012. Number 3 - Ian Ladyman of the Mail


    Red News Q1. What was your United moment/story of the season?


    I think the exit from the Champions League was a telling episode. As bizarre as it sounds - given United's record of reaching European finals in recent years - I thought they had been getting away with it for a while against the continent's best teams and this was a campaign when a few chickens came home to roost. It showed, in my view, that the cracks that has appeared in terms of genuine quality could no longer be papered over.


    Red News Q2. Sir Alex Ferguson+transition-'no value'=MUFC 2011/2012 - did Manchester United over or underperform in the 2011/2012 season?


    They over performed domestically. There is no doubt about that. For that squad to get that many points and run City so close was a remarkable achievement.


    Red News Q3. With the finances of city and United as they are, do you think this 'challenge' tussle is different to the ones the club have faced before with say Arsenal and then Chelsea?


    It's a little early to say. The mistake the Chelsea made was to force Jose Mourinho out and then change manager like most of us change our socks. That policy certainly worked in United's favour as Chelsea never really kicked on from their early success under Abramovich. If City behave sensibly over the next two or three seasons and implement some strategic long-term planning then I am afraid they may prove very difficult for everybody to live with.


    Red News Q4. How were things between the press and United (the club, SAF, the players) this season, did things improve?


    Well from my point of view, I managed to bring my 18-month ban from Fergie's press conferences to an end so that was a bonus!! The frank and interesting discussion I had with him at Carrington in February about all things media was illuminating. He feels the pressure of the spotlight even more than perhaps even we in the media imagine.


    Red News Q5. How are you finding the evolution of print journalism with all the new combatants like twitter?


    It's not been seamless and things like Twitter and rolling 24-hour news now makes it even harder to keep tit bits and stories quiet and then break them exclusively in print. However, we are all getting used to that. I enjoy Twitter on the whole but get irritated by journalists who take themselves too seriously on there. You need a sense of humour and a thick skin to prosper on Twitter. I will leave it to others to decide whether I have either.


    Red News Q6. Do you think the 2012/13 season will be Alex Ferguson's last?


    I suspect it might be. But I don't know this. If I did it would have been in the paper by now!!


    Red News Q7. It's time to start locating your mystical balls, what do you think Manchester United will do transfer wise this summer?


    As I write this they have already signed Kagawa and I suspect they may have another go for Modric and try and sign a left-back and indeed a right-back. Fergie will surprise us with one more left field signing. He always does. I also think Nani could yet be sold.


    Red News Q8. And what do you think they actually need to do if money wasn't the issue it is at the club?


    As well as the above, United need a world class holding midfield player and another playmaker. They have become predictable and one-paced. They also rely on Wayne Rooney far too much.
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    The annual Red News MUFC Journos Q&A. 2012. Number 4 - Richard Tanner of the Express


    Red News Q1. What was your United moment/story of the season?


    There were so many ups and downs in a bizarre season not just for United but for the Premier League generally. The 8-2 win over Arsenal and the 6-1 humiliation to City stand out as an obvious high and low but probably the most exciting game was United's comeback from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at Chelsea. Having said that, Chelsea were so awful at the back that day, United should have won it in the end!


    The most frustrating game from United's point of view was the 4-4 home draw with Everton. Yes, they lost at Wigan and City around that time, but at least they could have no complaints about those defeats. The two points dropped to the Toffees when they were 4-2 up with only eight minutes left ultimately cost them the title.


    Story of the season was Scholes' return from his premature retirement on the day United knocked City out of the FA Cup at the Etihad.


    Red News Q2. Sir Alex Ferguson+transition-'no value'=MUFC 2011/2012 - did Manchester United over or underperform in the 2011/2012 season?


    There is no doubt in my mind that United over-performed in what was a transitional season. When you take into account they were without two key players in Vidic and Fletcher for virtually the entire season, had Valencia missing for the early months, had an ever-changing back four before Christmas, plus a new goalkeeper who struggled initially to adapt to English football, as well as other players feeling their way, it was a tremendous achievement to take the title race to the final seconds of the season.


    And let's face it, having established an eight-point lead with only six games left, United really should have nailed down their 20th League title - and arguably the most unlikeliest of them all. That was the most frustrating aspect for the club and its followers: not so much that City won it, more that United let it slip from their grasp.


    Red News Q3. With the finances of city and United as they are, do you think this 'challenge' tussle is different to the ones the club have faced before with say Arsenal and then Chelsea?


    The big difference of course is that the challenge comes from within their own neck of the woods and obviously it hurts United and their supporters more if City win trophies.


    But don't forget that in the early years after Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea, they spent massively on some of the best players in the world. It brought titles and other trophies to Stamford Bridge and for a while Chelsea looked as if they would blow everyone, including United, away. But United stayed patient, re-built and reclaimed the high ground, just as they did with Blackburn in the early 1990s and Arsenal in the late 1990s and early noughties.


    City have spent ever bigger amounts than Chelsea in a shorter space of time simply to catch up but now must rein in the spending because of UEFA financial fair play rules. Make no mistake, they are here to stay and will continue to try and buy the best players but balancing the books will be difficult. Player like Emmanuel Adebayor, Wayne Bridge and Roque Santa Cruz underline City's problem. They have spent long spells out on loan but no-one is in a rush to buy them because of the cost of the transfer fees and wages. Keeping players like Eden Dzeko, Adam Johnson and James Milner happy with limited pitch-time is also a problem for City.


    Sir Alex Ferguson's shrewd eye in the transfer market and United's ability to develop young players - whether bought from other clubs or home-grown - will ensure they will always be at or near the top.


    Red News Q4. How were things between the press and United (the club, SAF, the players) this season, did things improve?


    Things improved slightly. For starters the club beefed up the wi-fi in the press area making transmitting copy from lap-tops and beating deadlines easier! And after domestic games the national dailies were allowed a couple of representatives down to the tunnel area on occasions to carry out 'pooled' post-match interviews with a player, although not always the one we wanted.


    The manager hasn't held post-match press conferences for the written media after domestic games for over a decade now and no-one expects that to change. But he is invariably a source of good copy from his pre-match briefings, although the demands from TV, radio, agency and Sunday papers mean the amount of time for questions is frustratingly short. To make matters worse, on a couple of occasions last season, the daily paper 'embargo' was breached by broadcasters, causing a great deal of friction among the media.


    Red News Q5. How are you finding the evolution of print journalism with all the new combatants like twitter?


    It is becoming ever more difficult to provide fresh 'news' because usually within minutes of a press conference the key elements have already been tweeted, put on the internet or broadcast on radio and TV. And if the club have something to announce it is put on their website first. Also making contacts with players is near-on impossible because of the lack of accessibility. With so many games broadcast live on TV, and the basic details accessible on the internet as the game unfolds, much of the print journalist's job now is 'interpretation' - giving your own take on events and trying to put them into some perspective rather than just recording what happened or what was said.


    Red News Q6. Do you think the 2012/13 season will be Alex Ferguson's last?


    Only if United won the Champions and Premier League double! His energy and enthusiasm show no sign of waning. He will certainly not want to go out with City in the ascendancy so I expect him to be around for two or three more years yet.


    Red News Q7. It's time to start locating your mystical balls, what do you think Manchester United will do transfer wise this summer?


    The manager has recognised they need three or four top players and has made a good start by buying Shinji Kagawa. Only seen him on TV and YouTube but he looks just what they need in midfield - pace, skill and goals. A good character as well, by all accounts. He could prove a bargain compared the £32m Chelsea have paid for Eden Hazard.


    Red News Q8. And what do you think they actually need to do if money wasn't the issue it is at the club?


    A midfield enforcer and a left back because Fletcher's return from illness is uncertain and Evra is on the wane. It is no secret the manager is interested in Tiote and Baines, although not at the prices quoted by Newcastle and Everton. If money wasn't an issue I'd like to see them buy both of them plus Modric and a goalscorer to ease the burden on Rooney. I was hugely impressed by Bilbao's Fernando Llorente last season although getting him to Old Trafford is another matter.
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    The annual Red News MUFC Journos Q&A. 2012. Number 5 - Stuart Mathieson of the Manchester Evening News


    Red News Q1. What was your United moment/story of the season?


    Paul Scholes’ return from retirement was excellent because it was largely one of those out of the blue stories. Yes there had been some speculation it might happen. News buzzed around the press room at City before the FA Cup tie that something was afoot and then came the confirmation. Great theatre in many ways. Frustrating not to get the exclusive story but I still loved the fact that even the players didn’t seem to know it was going to happen. Spoke to Chris Smalling after the game and he thought Scholesy was on the coach just for the ride! Loved that.


    Red News Q2. Sir Alex Ferguson+transition-'no value'=MUFC 2011/2012 - did Manchester United over or underperform in the 2011/2012 season?


    This is a fine line. To go from Champions League finalists, albeit surprise ones in my opinion, to a group exit was disastrous and they certainly under-performed in that because the group was easy even in the so-called days of ‘no easy games in Europe!’ Complacency did for them. But in the Premier League, considering the crippling injury and illness list and lack of additions in midfield last summer, I think you have to take your hats off to the Reds and say they over-performed. Bit of a mixed season really.


    Red News Q3. With the finances of city and United as they are, do you think this 'challenge' tussle is different to the ones the club have faced before with say Arsenal and then Chelsea?


    Yes. United had a better squad in depth when competing against Arsenal and Chelsea. And as a born and bred Mancunian I have to say you cannot ignore the extra intensity that a local battle at this level brings. City’s cash is awesome and I think it is going to take something special for the Reds to bite back like they did in 2007. Then they had Cristiano Ronaldo running into peak years. Not sure they’ve got that plus this time. Well at this moment in time they definitely haven’t got a player who can inspire like that.


    Red News Q4. How were things between the press and United (the club, SAF, the players) this season, did things improve?


    Sadly not really. Weekly Friday press conferences are still the only access to the manager and everybody is after their own agenda. Trying to get a word in and a decent line for local consumptions when you have all the nationals looking for their angles is a bit of a bun fight. European mixed zones are still productive and you have to say fair play to the players for stopping and talking well in those circumstances.


    Red News Q5. How are you finding the evolution of print journalism with all the new combatants like twitter?


    Approaching my mid-50s and am a print man at heart so though I am trying to embrace Twitter I am not a big fan. Too many journalists seem to be breaking stories on social network when it should be saved for the newspaper. Don’t get that. Abuse on Twitter is a pain. So tempted at times to answer my critics and explain reasoning behind some stories you write but haven’t the time to get into a arguments that would probably rage for ages!


    Red News Q6. Do you think the 2012/13 season will be Alex Ferguson's last?


    Feels like I have been answering this one all my MEN career! Who knows? It’s got to happen soon hasn’t it?


    Red News Q7. It's time to start locating your mystical balls, what do you think Manchester United will do transfer wise this summer?


    I averaged out United’s buys over last few years recently and came to the answer they’ll go for a £10m 22-year-old! Cannot imagine the pattern will change much.


    Red News Q8. And what do you think they actually need to do if money wasn't the issue it is at the club?


    Costly big names are not always the answer as Dimitar Berbatov has proved but still think quality central midfielder or two a must as well as another proven striker, left back and probably a right back – not a makeshift one - wouldn’t go amiss either.
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    The annual Red News MUFC Journos Q&A. 2012. Number 6 - James Ducker of the Times


    Red News Q1. What was your United moment/story of the season?


    I had a pretty consistent flow of good exclusives over the course of the season but nothing on the earth-shattering scale United wise. In terms of moments, the 8-2 win against Arsenal was pretty memorable but the defining moments of United's season for me were the 6-1 humiliation at the hands of City at Old Trafford, that dismal 2-1 defeat by Basle in December that confirmed their elimination at the Champions League group stage and the late season collapse. United seem to think everyone always has it in for them but I think they got off lightly given the eight-point lead they let slip in the space of five weeks or so - the dramatic final day sort of took the focus off them. On a similar note, I remember a few of us speaking to Rio Ferdinand after the Basle debacle and he seemed convinced that we were all delighted United were out on the basis that we were asking some awkward questions. I've a lot of time for Rio - he always stops and fronts up - but it never ceases to amaze me how personally footballers can take certain lines of questioning. We're an objective bunch for the most part, but Rio's reaction did amuse me because several of the journalists in the group questioning him were United fans. Other than that, my abiding image of the season was watching United flatter to deceive time and time again and yet still push City all the way. Really, how did they finish with 89 points?


    Red News Q2. Sir Alex Ferguson+transition-'no value'=MUFC 2011/2012 - did Manchester United over or underperform in the 2011/2012 season?


    I think given how little they've spent in recent years, how many key players they've lost and how many big injuries they had (I'm not sure City would have won the title had Kompany been missing for six months like Vidic was), it was a minor miracle that they finished second on goal difference with a points tally that would usually win you the title. That said, standards have slipped in the top flight - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, for example, were not what they have been in the past in Premier League terms and teams like Villa, Bolton and Blackburn used to provide tough opposition. Everyone lauded Swansea and Norwich - and they do deserve some credit, of course - but I think they would have found the going much harder in some previous campaigns.


    Red News Q3. With the finances of city and United as they are, do you think this 'challenge' tussle is different to the ones the club have faced before with say Arsenal and then Chelsea?


    Financially, no one had ever seen anything like Abramovich-funded Chelsea on these shores so the sudden riches bestowed on City did not come as quite the shock as it might have done previously. The differences for me between the challenges presented by Chelsea and Arsenal in the past is: 1. City's owners appear to be much longer-term, strategic thinkers than Abramovich. Had Chelsea operated less on the whims of Abramovich at times, they may have enjoyed more sustained dominance 2. City are on the rise at a time when United are seriously burdened by debt and interest bills and 3. They are immediate neighbours. I just think the fact that the local rivals who were once a comic punching bag are now a huge threat adds an extra dimension to proceedings. That said, it will have to go some to topple the rivalry that existed between United and Arsenal in the late 1990s and early 00s.


    Red News Q4. How were things between the press and United (the club, SAF, the players) this season, did things improve?


    A lot of those who were banned were let back in during the course of the season but what troubles me is that some reporters were excluded purely for offering an opinion that the manager did not like. It's one thing to ban a journalist for writing something that is blatantly and dangerously wrong, another for venturing an opinion that someone might disagree with. That, surely, is a very unhealthy stance to adopt.


    Red News Q5. How are you finding the evolution of print journalism with all the new combatants like twitter?


    I don't think anyone knows what is going to happen in the future and I've given up trying to predict what might happen. If newspapers can find a way of driving revenues online and ensure that their online products are innovative as well as informative then the future will be healthy but, clearly, the challenge is still to find a model that works. News International have obviously decided to go down the paywall route - the frustrations for writers with that is that their words are not read by the mass audiences on the Guardian or Mail websites, for example, but then I agree with the reasons for going down that path. It costs a fortune to invest in serious journalism so why should they give it away for free. Yes, while there are quality alternatives out there that remain free, many won't pay, but I don't know too many successful businesses that give their products away for free. I'm a fan of Twitter - the loons on it aside - and I think social media has a crucial role to play. As a consequence of the internet, though, there is more and more duff information out there - if United got linked with 100 players a season in the past, they must get linked with 1000 a season now - and I think as that has become more apparent, it's underlined the need for reliable, trustworthy media outlets. Clearly, with phone-hacking etc, a minority have betrayed that trust and so it's a challenging time for journalism but hopefully the industry will be better in time for the Leveson Inquiry.


    Red News Q6. Do you think the 2012/13 season will be Alex Ferguson's last?


    Not a clue. We've been having this debate for years and years and he's still here so what is to say he won't be five years from now. Every few months a story appears saying next season will be Ferguson's last and time and again it's proven to be inaccurate. I actually believe Ferguson when he says his health and family will determine any decision. I just wonder whether he could bring himself to step away unless the decision is as good as taken out of his hands. I don't think he'd cope very well with leaving it behind. It's a phenomenally stressful and taxing job, yes, but it's what keeps him young.


    Red News Q7. It's time to start locating your mystical balls, what do you think Manchester United will do transfer wise this summer?


    Well, Kagawa is obviously already on board. I believe Ferguson wants Modric, but he also wanted Benzema, Villa, Sneijder, Nasri and Hazard among others and didn't get any of them so we'll have to see how that one develops.


    Red News Q8. And what do you think they actually need to do if money wasn't the issue it is at the club?


    Two top class midfielders - one of a defensive bent and one who is attack-minded - in addition to Kagawa. I think they need some steel as well as silk in the centre of midfield. I'd like to see them sign Athletic Bilbao's Javi Martinez, but I think he'll go to City if he doesn't stay in Spain. All the best teams have a combination of that. I yearn for Ferguson to give up on 4-4-2 and play 4-3-3 consistently so whether another striker would curb the progress of someone like Danny Welbeck, who I rate highly, I don't know, but you have to think that team would benefit hugely from having a top class forward on board. A new left back is a must in my eyes - Evra, for the most part, was dreadful last season and hasn't been good since early 2010 - and since Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are viewed as centre-halves and Rafael has regressed, a right-back would not go amiss.
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    The annual Red News MUFC Journos Q&A. 2012. Number 7 - David McDonnell of the Mirror


    Red News Q1. What was your United moment/story of the season?


    The disastrous European campaign, which was extraordinary given United had made the Champions League final in three of the past four seasons. Complacency was the root cause of United's exit from the easiest group in the competition, but the glaring deficiencies within the squad were also exposed with the embarrassingly early exit. There were some remarkable results, like the 8-2 win over Arsenal and the 6-1 defeat by City at Old Trafford, but the most damaging result - and the one that ultimately cost United the title - was the 4-4 draw at home to Everton. United's remarkable capitulation in that game gave City the renewed belief in their ability to go on and win the title.


    Red News Q2. Sir Alex Ferguson+transition-'no value'=MUFC 2011/2012 - did Manchester United over or underperform in the 2011/2012 season?


    Domestically you would have to say they over-performed last season, given the injuries suffered and the limitations within the squad. To get 89 points and still not win the league shows just how far the bar has been raised by City, because that total would have been enough to win the title in 10 of the Premier League's 20 seasons. But the success of players like Demba Ba (free) and Cheick Tiote (£3.5m) at Newcastle refute Fergie's “no value” ethos when it comes to the tranasfer market. There is value for money out there, but the trick is consistently finding it, as United did with Javier Hernandez a couple of years back. That is something they must continue to do, given the crippling financial backdrop against which Ferguson – and the club as a whole - is operating under the Glazer regime.

    Red News Q3. With the finances of city and United as they are, do you think this 'challenge' tussle is different to the ones the club have faced before with say Arsenal and then Chelsea?


    The major difference to the battles with Arsenal and Chelsea is that, of course, the one from City is right on United's doorstep, which makes it that much more personal. Chelsea's failure to embrace any kind of consistency or continuity in terms of their management ultimately ruined their chances of sustained success after Jose Mourinho had led them to successive titles. If City can learn from those mistakes and proceed with a coherent, long-term strategy for success, then I think they will present amore lasting challenge to United than Chelsea or Arsenal managed. City spent an absurd amount of money in a short space of time to get where they are, but now they must curtail their spending because of the imminent introduction of UEFA's financial fair play rules. United, recognising they simply can't compete with City financially, have gone the other way and invested in younger players, with a view to realising their potential and enduring transfer value over time.


    Red News Q4. How were things between the press and United (the club, SAF, the players) this season, did things improve?


    As bad as ever. I was banned for three months for writing a column questioning the decision to bring Paul Scholes out of retirement, a legitimate topic for debate and one which many United fans agreed was a regressive move, even though it worked short-term. In fairness to the players, many are only to willing to speak in mixed zones after European games, but the club still does everything they can to restrict access and information for the English press, which does the relationship no good and
    creates a mistrust between both parties. That won't change until Ferguson goes and a new era begins.

    Red News Q5. How are you finding the evolution of print journalism with all the new combatants like twitter?


    There's no doubt newspapers are facing a huge battle with the competition provided by websites, twitter and rolling news channels in terms of breaking news. Newspapers will always try to keep big stories and exclusives for the print versions, but with the popularity and ease of access of websites, and the demands of the online community,that's becoming increasingly difficult for many organisations to resist. Newspapers have to evolve, which is why some now consider themselves website-led entities ratherthan print-led, putting greater emphasis on online content.


    Red News Q6. Do you think the 2012/13 season will be Alex Ferguson's last?


    Like most, I've long since given up trying to predict when Ferguson will eventually call it a day. He's 70, but he has the vigour and drive of someone 10 years younger, so there's no reason why he can't carry on for another few years. Much will depend on how United respond to City winning the title. If City continue to win the league andbegin a period of domination, which is feasible given their financial power, Fergie may well be forced to call it quits, which would be an inglorious way for such a glittering reign to end.

    Red News Q7. It's time to start locating your mystical balls, what do you think Manchester United will do transfer wise this summer?


    They've already bough Shinji Kagawa who looks a good signing – two-footed, quick, a goalscorer and an intelligent passer with impressive movement. But, for me, United need maybe four or five more signings this summer. Patrice Evra was a liability at times last season and a new left-back is a priority, with Leighton Baines in the frame. They lack a world-class right-back, with Rafael, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones adequate rather than outstanding. Also required are a creative midfielder and an enforcer in the middle, with Luka Modric and Tiote two players Ferguson has identified for the roles. With Michael Owen having gone and Dimitar Berbatov on the way too, a new striker is also needed.


    Red News Q8. And what do you think they actually need to do if money wasn't the issue it is at the club?


    If money wasn't an issue? Bring Cristiano Ronaldo back, sign two world-class central midfielders to replace Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, as well as a long-term replacementfor Rio Ferdinand. The midfield is the biggest area of concern for United. Giggs and Scholes are surely in their last season, Darren Fletcher's future is uncertain with his bowel condition, Anderson has been a palpable failure, Michael Carrick is steady if unspectacular, while Tom Cleverley is still a work in progress, and worryingly injury-prone for such a young player. Kagawa is likely to operate just off the main striker or out wide, so key additions are required in the centre of midfield for United, who have little of substance there as of now.
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    The annual Red News MUFC Journos Q&A. 2012. Number 8 - Daniel Taylor of the Guardian


    Red News Q1. What was your United moment/story of the season?


    The 6-1. Don't mean to wind you up, but if you're talking about stand-out memories that was something that I never really expected to see: United getting dismantled like that. To have lived in Manchester since 1998 and become immersed in the football life of the city, it was just astounding really to see City side go to Old Trafford and do what they did – and a real 'moment' in the story of the two clubs.


    Otherwise – I've got to be honest – that final weekend when those goals went in during stoppage time. I pity you, seriously, you poor bastards, for what happened during those moments. It was just extraordinary, and brutal. I'd like to be able to pick out a happier moment for you but, really, there weren't particularly many were there? Giggs's last-minute winner at Norwich was a bit of classic United, but the performances in Europe were dismal and, to be honest, you'd have to pick the 4-4 against Everton as the other game that will really stay in the memory. Sorry, Barney, you did ask...


    Red News Q2. Sir Alex Ferguson+transition-'no value'=MUFC 2011/2012 - did Manchester United over or underperform in the 2011/2012 season?


    Over-performed, probably, considering the number of points would ordinarily have won the league and, despite City looking considerably like the better team at times, the fact they won the league only on goal difference. There's only probably Sir Alex Ferguson who could have got that much out of the team and, then again, there's only probably Sir Alex Ferguson who could carry on pretending there's nothing wrong with the squad and everything is hunky-dory with the Glazers etc.


    The thing about last season was that the competition wasn't great. Chelsea and Arsenal were poor for long spells, Tottenham were good for only half a season and Liverpool didn't get close. So it wasn't a great league and, in that respect, I think United might have got a bit lucky because there're no doubt in Europe the team got found out. Just not even close to being good enough.


    Red News Q3. With the finances of city and United as they are, do you think this 'challenge' tussle is different to the ones the club have faced before with say Arsenal and then Chelsea?


    It's different because it's City, and United have spent so long lording it over them I can envisage some seriously grumpy matches at Old Trafford next season if City get off to a flier and United are trailing. People think City will just carry on spending £100m-plus every transfer window though, when they are actually very mindful of the FFP regulations and there are, believe it or not, financial restrictions in place. Mancini, for example, wanted Thiago Silva this time last year but it was just a no-no. Obviously they're different to the kind of financial constraints that Ferguson is under and City are by far the more powerful club now financially. The problem for United is that City's owners are the real deal, it's not a plaything and you just have to look at their plans for the stadium and surrounding area to realise they are in it for the long term. So yes, we might be looking at a period of superiority for them and it's no longer the case that you can just say 'ah well, it's City, they'll balls it up.'


    Red News Q4. How were things between the press and United (the club, SAF, the players) this season, did things improve?


    My role changed midway through the season, so I'm not just concentrating on Manchester any more but from what I gather it's just the same. They keep the press a very long arm's length away. It's all a bit self-defeating as there's a definite arguments it helps football clubs when there is at least the basis of a decent relationship with the football writers on their patch. But Fergie's Fergie, isn't he? There was a point when there were only four national newspapers allowed in but the people who are banned miss next to nothing anyway. Seriously, tell me the last time one of his press conferences unearthed anything good? It's ten minutes a week – obliging questions and bland, formulaic answers - and, even then, it's often cut short. It's a shame, though, because when he does open up it's journalistic gold-dust.


    Red News Q5. How are you finding the evolution of print journalism with all the new combatants like twitter?


    We've embraced it at the Guardian and are now digital-first, which takes some getting used to, but others will follow. In short, we move stuff on to the website as quickly as we can now, embargoes permitting, rather than waiting until the newspaper comes out. It's a 24-7 industry now and as for Twitter . . it's got its ups and downs. I had one of your lads calling me a 'blue cunt' at one point, which sums it up. But then again, I think I've been pro or anti every top-six club in the country at one point or another. You get immune to it at some point but there are also a lot of decent people on there and it's very useful work-wise, if nothing less. I used to use it for a laugh, now it's more of a work tool. It's all a bit tedious when you're sitting at home one night eating a bit of toast and then your phone flashes with a little red light telling you someone is getting upset with you because you haven't been nice enough about their team. But in fairness, there are plenty of journalists on Twitter who make my teeth ache too.


    Red News Q6. Do you think the 2012/13 season will be Alex Ferguson's last?


    No idea. Who can say? We've been asking that question every year for X number of years and, every time, I usually try to fudge it by saying 'maybe the season after next.' This year I've decided there're no point. I don't know, and nor do any of the journalists in the country.


    Red News Q7. It's time to start locating your mystical balls, what do you think Manchester United will do transfer wise this summer?


    You know, (prior to this summer) United hadn't signed a central midfielder since 2007, if we don't count Paul Scholes . . I know I'm in the minority but I'm not certain Modric is the absolute answer. I'm not saying he isn't, just that I'm not totally sold on the idea. I haven't seen a great deal of Kagawa (this was written before Powell's arrival) but he's certainly getting good reviews from Germany. Otherwise, Ferguson likes at least four strikers so I'm pretty sure, money allowing, someone will come in to replace Dimitar Berbatov.


    Red News Q8. And what do you think they actually need to do if money wasn't the issue it is at the club?


    Two central midfielders (a schemer and a tackler). A striker and competition at left-back for Patrice Evra. Bring back a fit Bebe and things start looking up . . .
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