James from Manchester United podcast Written Offside answers our questions ahead of our clash with the Red Devils on Sunday.
How long have you supported United and what was your first game?
I began supporting United in 1983 (age 6). My earliest memory is of the 1983 Milk Cup final (now Capital One Cup) vs Liverpool which we lost 2-1 but that was quickly followed by FA Cup success that season against Brighton with my boyhood hero Bryan Robson excelling. My first game seeing United live was probably against Ipswich in the mid 1980s as my family had season tickets at Portman Road.
Best and worst games in your time as a supporter?
Best games would have to be at moments of triumph. The ones that stand out are the FA Cup wins in 1983,1985 and 1990 which led to my lifelong love affair with the competition. Other highlights would be the Champions League final in 1999 which led to the clinching of the treble after such a dramatic season. The one that really stands out is the game after we had won the first Premier League in 92/93. The sheer euphoria and relief in that game vs Blackburn at Old Trafford after a 26 year wait for another league championship was amazing to behold.
The worst games are ones where we have lost in major finals and any time we lose to Liverpool.
Who is your favourite ever player and manager and why?
Favourite ever player is Bryan Robson for his all round package. He was the original and true captain, leader, legend. He drove the club on almost single handedly at times in the 1980s with his desire and no little skill. Still to this day, I have not seen a more complete midfield player in a United shirt.
My favourite manager is obvious. Alex Ferguson was the man who brought the glory days back to Old Trafford after years of just being a “cup team”. His level of success over a sustained period will never be surpassed and to do so playing such attractive football made watching the team a joy. He had many flaws but he built the modern United and we may not see that level of domination again.
Are you happy with your start to the season?
Well, it is certainly better than last season when we lost to your boys on the first day of the season and failed to shine until the latter part of the campaign. It is hard to be critical after 2 wins and a draw but the football has often been dull and slow which is the antithesis of what the club stands for. It is early days but after a transitional period last season, I was expecting more and I think we have to get used to the pragmatism of football under van Gaal. That is okay when we are winning but questions will be asked if we are not challenging for the title this year after the decent amount of money spent. As things stand, I cannot see us finishing higher than 4th which would ultimately be disappointing.
What do you make of your activity in the transfer market, do any positions still need strengthening?
For years, United fans bemoaned the lack of quality in our central midfield. Now that area looks well stocked and with good quality. The focus mainly lies in the attack where reinforcements are required at centre forward and out wide. With under a week to go until the transfer window shuts, it is looking increasingly likely that our business is done and that is worrying with only Rooney (when fit and firing) offering any quality. Memphis will be a fine signing but needs to be given time to settle in.
Darmian has been an excellent signing and his battle with Montero on Sunday could be a game defining one. Romero looks a good no 2 keeper but no more which is why it is imperative we keep De Gea and get him fully focussed. Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger were much needed and have added real class and stability early on.
What are your expectations this term?
As mentioned earlier, as things stand I feel the best we can hope for is 4th based on our abilities plus the quality of City, Chelsea and Arsenal. I don’t think we will score enough to challenge for the title and we may end up looking nervously over our shoulder at the likes of Liverpool, Spurs and Swansea!
What do you make if Swansea and which players if any are you wary of?
I was impressed last season (and the season before) and I have been really impressed thus far too. Swansea have lots of quality all over the pitch and I admire the way the team barely seems to lose stride when a big player is sold. Most people thought you would struggle when Bony left but Gomis has stepped up with goals and Ayew was an astute purchase. Ki is a player I like a lot and although I don’t think much of him as a person, Shelvey has been really good and seems to be a focal point of the team these days.
Montero has probably been the most eye catching player thus far after ripping Ivanovich and Janmaat to shreds in the opening weeks. He has real pace which full backs hate and is so direct. As I said earlier, his battle with Darmian will be a cracker and a true test for our new Italian.
Predict the score and where both teams will finish
I think it will be a tight 1-1 draw. I can see Swansea finishing top 8 and maybe pushing higher if they steer clear of injuries while as I have said I think we will finish 4th.