Let me preface this by saying that I have a love-hate relationship with the Guardian. I love the community, I love the quality of writing and it’s in my top two alongside the BBC.
However, they tend to exaggerate and paint extreme scenarios and in the process get things completely wrong. And it’s not just about United – you could take a set of headlines for the last month for any club and compare their stories with the truth.
Here’s what they got wrong just this week:
1. Ferguson’s comments on Chelsea
What Ferguson actually said:
“Mourinho won the title two years in a row and beat us in the FA Cup final, so there’s no one who can improve on his record really. They [Chelsea] would have to go beyond Mourinho’s performance to really worry us.
Scolari is fortunate. He is joining a big club and he is joining a team of internationals. Chelsea have a lot of experience and that was the one thing I was a bit concerned about last season, but I don’t know how far that team has got to go. It’s hard to see where there’s going to be a big improvement with a team that’s really very experienced.
‘Plateau’ is maybe not the word, but how can they [Chelsea] accelerate beyond what they’ve done up to now? When you see the ages they’ve got, apart from Salomon Kalou [who is 22] and Mikel John Obi , they are an experienced side. I’m not saying necessarily that they’re old because, with the modern-day training methods, you should be playing in your thirties. What I am saying is that I don’t see outstanding progress in a team that’s in their thirties.”
In other words – Chelsea are a very experienced side but you’re not going to see players over 27-28 demonstrate outstanding development in their abilities.
The headline the Guardian ran? Chelsea are too old to win title, says Ferguson
And they rounded off this masterpiece by giving the average age of each squad by listing their likely first XI. Let me do that again here but by using some common sense to paint a more accurate picture:
Edwin van der Sar 37, Gary Neville 33, Rio Ferdinand 29, Nemanja Vidic 26, Patrice Evra 27, Michael Carrick 26, Owen Hargreaves 27, Paul Scholes 33, Cristiano Ronaldo 23, Wayne Rooney 22, Carlos Tevez 24
Average age 28
Petr Cech 26, Jose Bosingwa 25, John Terry 27, Ricardo Carvalho 30, Ashley Cole 27, Michael Essien 25, Frank Lampard 30, Michael Ballack 31, Deco 30, Didier Drogba 30, Joe Cole 26
Average age 28
If you notice, Chelsea’s first team is all 25 or above, with 5 key players at 30. United, on the other hand, have 3 players under 25 and only one KEY player, Rio Ferdinand, near 30 (he’s 29). What of Edwin van der Sar? If you remove him from the calculations, United’s average age falls to 27. In fact, if you consider that Scholes, Neville and Giggs are nearing retirement in 1-2 years and that Neville is coming back from a long, long injury and all 3 will play limited roles in the squad, you can add Anderson, Brown and Nani as equally likely to step in.
My point is – even in picking the most likely first team squad there are many different ways to do so, and what’s more, Ferguson was talking about the room for improvement and development in the starting XI players, not necessarily the average age. The Guardian deliberately simplified the argument into ‘Are Chelsea too old?’ and twisted the whole thing into something else entirely.
2. Tevez Quotes on Ronaldo
Red Ranter sums up the whole situation quite well: he’s giving a diplomatic reply and it’s been twisted into some sort of plea for Ronaldo’s emancipation.
The Guardian weren’t alone in doing this but surely someone would have realised that this is NOT news? United didn’t suddenly declare their intentions to conquer the final frontier, they said what they always say when asked about expanding their brand to areas where they haven’t gone before – yes, it’s a good idea, yes, we’ve been asked to do it and yes, there’s a lot of potential there.
Maybe if Gill had come out and said that Indians stink, their food sucks and Ronaldo doesn’t like the girls there and THAT is why United haven’t traveled to India yet, this would be news. But United interested in expanding to India (and positioned as part of United’s bid for global domination)? This is as big a story as Liverpool saying that they’ve won 5 Champions League titles or Real Madrid saying that they want Ronaldo. It’s obvious, we know, get on with it and tell us something new.
And this is just with United, this week. If one was to go through the headlines concerning, say, Chelsea (Kaka to get 1m/month? Really?), MLS (Richard Whittall neatly debunks the pop culture treatment of last week’s major story in the MLS) – interestingly they didn’t give the All-Star game as much coverage as the minor scuffle in the stands in the previous game) and others, we’d be here all day.
Come on Guardian, everyone (in the industry and the fans) looks up to you. Be the leader that you’re supposed to be, not a cleaned-up knockoff of the Sun.