Ahead of Saturday's game at Old Trafford, we
spoke to United fans Darren from
and Paul who co-hosts the pod-cast at
They gave us their views on United's start
to the season, their Champions League prospects, Louis van Gaal, and more.
You can follow Darren and his
site on twitter @theunitedpages
can be found at
How would you
view United's start to the season?
Darren: Unlike the press and a
vocal few I'm relatively happy with it. We're a handful of points off top spot
and well placed to qualify for the Champions League. I really can't see what the
fuss is about.
Paul: It's been a thoroughly
mixed bag. Ground out some early results, had a few wobbles, rarely looked
convincing, but we're top of our Champions League group and not miles out of
touch with the league leaders. But the last month has been rough.
Louis van Gaal
seems to have been the focus of a lot of negative press recently, what's the
current feeling of the Old Trafford faithful towards him?
Darren: I would have said the
majority were behind him. I think a few really let themselves down on Wednesday
chanting for the team to 'attack' when the whole game was played in CSKA
Moscow's half and then booing when Martial was rightly substituted. They need to
get a grip. Van Gaal is doing a good job in very tricky circumstances, they need
to cut him some slack. The problem is that we have been spoilt under Fergie.
People have very short memories in football, they seem to think we won every
game 8-0 back then when the reality is that we played crap quite a bit but a
late goal dug us out the crap.
Paul: Well, that depends on whom
you ask. The CSKA game saw the crowd loudly boo Van Gaal's tactical switch when
he brought Marouane Fellaini on for Anthony Martial. The entire Stretford End
rang out with chants of "we're Man United we want to attack." He has plenty of
people prepared to continue allowing him to try and build whatever it is that
he's trying to build, plenty of people that hate the football we're playing
under him but I'd guess relatively few huge fans among the United faithful.
There's been a
distinct lack of goals scored by United this season, any particular reason why?
Darren: United have been trying
to get used to a new style and shape and so far have not managed to find a
balance that works. Understandably the goals have dried up a bit but I'm not
overly concerned. Once a couple of key players regain their confidence and
settle into a position, or pattern of play they are used to then the goals will
come. Confidence is a footballers fuel. Without it even the very best of players
can suffer. A lot of focus has been put on the not scoring but nobody seems to
appreciate that we aren't conceding goals. We look a good unit across the back
line and midfield and that is vital if you eventually want to win anything.
Paul: Van Gaal's reticence to
pick attacking line ups is problematic. He has frequently played two holding
midfielders in games which were crying out for invention. Then there's Wayne
Rooney, who's having a shocking season, which the manager seems reluctant to do
After Tuesday's victory over CSKA, United look in a good position to progress to
the next stage of the Champions League, how far can you go in the competition
Darren: I'm hopelessly biased so
don't be surprised when I say we can go all the way. In this competition you
really have to be able to go away and get something and I fully believe that
this team can. United will always give anyone a game at Old Trafford. Then its
down to luck and how the footballing gods call it! Bayern and Barcelona will
take some beating but other than that its much of a muchness.
Paul: Who knows? The side that
got to the final in 2011 were hardly vintage, and the luck of the draw plays
such a big factor. But, quality wise, we look miles short of, say, Real, Bayern
Now we're a
couple of months down the line, how would you rate United's summer transfer
Darren: A lot moaned about not
getting a centre half but Van Gaal always wanted somebody at the back that can
actually play football. Otamendi and Hummels can't do that. In essence they are
just big stoppers and we have that at United already. Memphis has largely
disappointed so far but it's clear he has the ability. Martial is brilliant, so
is Schweinsteiger. Darmian started really well but has struggled of late.
Schneiderlin is fantastic and gives us a solidity in midfield that we haven't
had for ages. You look at who was actually available and all things considered
we did ok. I think another forward player will come in when the window opens
again in January. How much you want for Berahino? (joking!)
Paul: Very good - one of the
reasons I think Van Gaal deserves perhaps a fraction more credit than he's
getting. Most of the deadwood of the late-period Ferguson era have been cleared
out. The midfield has been well strengthened and Anthony Martial has been a
revelation. It hasn't all worked - Memphis is really struggling, but most of the
business was good. Hard not to think that not going after a centre-back will not
cost us at some point, although it has rarely done so thus far, and holding on
to De Gea in the manner we did was both hilarious and vital for United's
defensive strength this season.
the eye for United so far this season?
Darren: Two in particular. The
new signing at the back Mike Smalling. You might know his twin brother Chris who
played for us a few seasons ago and was very hit and miss! Since Louis mangled
his name up Smalling has been awesome. Who knew it was just an identity crisis
that was holding him back? Best centre back in the league for me right now. Of
course the other is Anthony Martial. He is simply a phenomenon. He has that dead
eye thing that the very top strikers have, where he very rarely seems phased by
anything. With a bit of luck he'll be a real world star in 3 years.
Paul: Martial has been the one attacking stand out. But the most consistent
player in the squad has been Chris Smalling. I can't think of a Premier League
centre half I'd swap him for on this season's form and that's not something many
United fans thought they'd be saying around 18 months ago.
Darren: Memphis. Started
promisingly but really struggled of late. His decision making is really poor and
I think what Danny Blind, the
Holland manager, said about him not being a team player is pretty
much bang on. Too many times he tries to take a player on or do a trick when the
simple thing would be so much more effective. I do remember being frustrated by
a certain young Portuguese player who used to do the same in his early days at
Old Trafford and he turned out ok. Young players do have a dip at times, I'm
sure he'll come good.
Paul: Rooney. He's not the only
one who's struggled - Juan Mata has only very briefly sparkled, but Rooney has
been almost exclusively dreadful.
Darren: At least second and a
decent run in the Champions League. We're more than capable and there is money
to spend in January.
Paul: 3rd. Unless something
really weird happens.
for Albion's season?
Darren: I look at your side and
I think you are very functional. Tony Pulis sides are always set up really well
so you'll be tough to beat but I think you will struggle to win games at times
so I'll say about 13th for you. I like West Brom as a club so I'd like to see
you do well in a cup, give your fans a bit of something to make up for the tough
Paul: No relegation battle, no
Europa League battle. Does that seem fair?
Darren: I think its us or City.
Arsenal have done some good business in getting Petr Cech but I still think they
are soft centred. Yes I know they beat us but we had a tremendous brain fart
that day and set up terribly. Finish above City this season and you'll win the
Paul: Please don't make me
answer this (City).
Darren: Norwich look in a bit of
trouble already. Bournemouth had some awful injuries and they'll struggle to
avoid it. Your friends across the city, Aston Villa will also struggle to escape
it. I saw them against Swansea and they were just so, so bad
Paul: Bournemouth, Newcastle,
Norwich. If Big Sam hadn't gone there I'd have said Sunderland instead of
prediction for Saturday's game? How are United likely to line-up?
Darren: I think we'll win and I
think now the goal 'hoodoo' has been broken we can get a couple. I'm going 2-0
to United. I'm expecting the back four the same as against CSKA with Ashley
Young at right back, Smalling and Blind in the middle and Rojo left back. I'm
thinking that Herrera and Schneiderlin will come into midfield to give us some
legs, Lingard right again with Mata left and Rooney and Martial up top. It not
be a 4-4-2, we'll have people in holes and withdrawn and such like. We have to
win the battle against your guys and then hopefully our football will come
Paul: United will play 4-2-3-1
and will hog possession. The crowd will get on the team's back if they don't get
a goal before half time. Pulis vs Van Gaal seems unlikely to bring about a
classic, I'll go with 1-0 to United.