Rob Smyth Replies To Soccerlens

My rant on Rob Smyth’s Guardian piece regarding Manchester United led to an email conversation with the author himself, during which I found out that he was a Manchester United fan as well (which made sense considering some points in his article).

Rob also agreed to reply to my article and gave me permission to post his reply here.

I’m reprinting the complete reply below – my article is in italics, Rob’s comments are in CAPS. Here we go…


I’ve had enough of ignoramus critics, journalist hacks and piss-minded football fans taking potshots at Manchester United.

It may the case of the last straw that broke the camel’s back, but Rob Smyth’s asinine piece in the Guardian on Monday has got to be the worst case of kick-em-while-they’re-down BS that I’ve seen.

The article, in case you are wondering, is a scathing attack on Alex Ferguson and his role in the recent ‘downturn’ of Manchester United’s fortunes.

The man has taken half-truths and lies and turned them into a saga of a manager hellbent on destroying the very club that he had put on the top. It makes for a pretty story, and undoubtedly sells more papers, but not only is it not true, what readers will invariably fail to remember is that:

1) A football writer is biased – and this one is biased against Manchester United

THAT’S GENUINELY NOT TRUE, AS YOU NOW KNOW

and….

2) This writer is framing his beliefs for the sole purpose of serving his argument

Where is responsible journalism?

THIS IS A DIFFICULT ISSUE BECAUSE INCREASINGLY – ESPECIALLY ON THE WEB – WE ARE GIVEN THE CHANCE TO MAKE OFTEN STRONG COMMENTS, SO THE CLASSICAL NEED FOR IMPARTIALITY IS LESS RELEVANT. WHAT IS IMPORTANT IS TO BACK UP YOUR POINTS WITH EXAMPLES; I THINK I DID THAT, WHETHER PEOPLE DISAGREE OR NOT

Look at the article rationally, you say? Well, let’s do that.

First things first. Is United in a crisis?

The answer depends on your perspective of United’s potential and ability to produce results. We’re in a position for which most other fans would kill for. We’re better off than Arsenal, and I dare say that we have a better team (though not a better midfield) than Liverpool. Carrick’s signing, expensive and misguided it may be, has given the squad balance in its attack. We need to sign another midfielder and possibly a striker (although we could get away with the ones we have).

I’D ARGUE THAT, IN MANY WAYS, THE CRISIS IS GREATER OFF THE PITCH, WITH THE DEFENESTRATION OF THE VALUES OF THE CLUB

There are several lies Rob Smyth perpetrates in his quest to prove that United are in a crisis. First, it’s his statement that “No matter how many people they move in for – and if reports are to be believed, United have made offers for dozens of players – nobody wants to go near them”.

Here’s a list of players United have made official bids for this summer:

Michael Carrick and Tomasz Kuszczak. We signed Carrick, and decided not to sign TK when Bryan Robson asked for players plus the 4 mil on offer. Despite the rumours linking us to several players we have not bid for them or even approached their clubs. We have talked to Villareal about Riquelme, but no bid was made. That is IT. Ferguson has been after a creative and a holding midfielder, and he got one of them, and he’s close to getting another.

UNITED HAVE MADE BIDS FOR OVER 20 PLAYERS THIS SUMMER, INCLUDING ZOKORA, PETIT, SENNA, CARRICK, KUSZCZAK AND VARIOUS OTHERS

Surely a columnist from the Guardian has enough resources and knowledge to check his facts before hiding behind the cover of “reports”?

Second, it’s United ‘letting Duff’ slip through our hands. Duff? Hello? Why would United want Duff when they already have four wide players in their squad, 3 of them for the long-term and 1 (Giggs) their most experienced midfielder?

IN MY OPINION DUFF IS BETTER THAN ALL THE LEFT-WINGERS AT THE CLUB, EXCEPT RONALDO. GIGGS IS BETTER IN CM, PARK IS GOOD BUT NOT AS GOOD AS DUFF, AND I DON’T RATE RICHARDSON

But the BS doesn’t stop there. Next, Manchester United’s second-place finish is criticised on the grounds that Arsenal didnt play well enough and Liverpool and Tottenham are getting much stronger so it is unlikely that it could happen again.

I think we heard the news about Liverpool ‘getting stronger’ last year. They still came third. Despite their improvements to the squad I don’t see them overtaking us next season simply because our squad needs less tinkering. United under-acheived last season, but you wouldn’t believe it if you knew that our first choice central midfield was John O’Shea and Ryan Giggs – a utility defender and an attacking left winger remembered for his runs and goals rather than his bossing of the game from central midfield.

I’D SAY LIVERPOOL ARE ON AN UPWARD TRAJECTORY, UNITED THE OPPOSITE.

Two more points that made me boil – one was his attack on the current crop of United players, calling them spoiled and arrogant.

Were you born under a rock? United players are no different than the players at any other top club – overpaid and well-stuffed. They still manage to win games. The players he singled out – Richardson, Ferdinand, Rooney, Ronaldo and Wes Brown – form the core of United’s best starting 11, and are without a shadow of a doubt 5 of the most hard-working players on the field. Ronaldo has his quirks, so do Ferdinand and Rooney, but then Gerrard has this need to be the center of attention, Cole likes to dive, Lampard goes AWOL and Terry can lose concentration.

AGREED THEY ARE THE SAME ELSEWHERE – BUT THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN A TRADITION OF UNITED PLAYERS HAVING A LITTLE BIT MORE CLASS THAN THE REST (SEE THE TEAM OF 93/94, OR WHEN KEANE RULED THE ROOST). THAT IS NOT THE CASE NOW.

Players today are well-paid and their quirks are magnified because of the constant media spotlight. It doesn’t change the fact that they are there to play football, and that they are willing to bust their chops to win.

I THINK IT GOES BEYOND THAT, THOUGH – IT IS NO COINCIDENCE THAT PEOPLE LIKE FERDINAND AND FOWLER HAVE WON LITTLE OF SIGNIFICANCE IN THEIR CAREER.

Ferguson was at fault for not reinforcing the midfield last season – but considering that he had Alan Smith earmarked for that role, had Keano and Scholes there already, plus O’Shea and Fletcher to back them up, I don’t see how Ferguson could have predicted Smith’s injury, Scholes going blind, Keano being kicked out, Fletcher being injured and both O’Shea and Giggs (our replacement midfield) being injured. This led to an emergency pairing of Ferdinand and Rooney (two of our best players).

HE COULDN’T HAVE PREDICTED SMITH’S INJURY BUT HE COULD HAVE SEEN THAT HE’D BE SHITE THERE! AND THAT SCHOLES WAS PAST IT, AND THAT FLETCHER WAS RUBBISH, ETC. JUST MY OPINION.

Surely you cannot plan for 6 midfielders being injured at the same time?

EVEN IF EVERYONE WAS FIT SEASON – AS THEY WERE FOR MUCH OF THE CL CAMPAIGN – WE STILL COULDN’T SCORE A GOAL

Ideally we could have brought in someone else instead of Park last summer (but we needed to plan for Giggs leaving), or a midfielder instead of Evra (we had no left-back with heinze injured and Silvestre needed in the centre of defence). Injuries were a major problem for United last season, yet all people can think about is that we are in a crisis and don’t have any players.

I DON’T THINK UNITED SUFFERED FROM INJURIES MUCH MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE: ROONEY AND RIO, FOR EXAMPLE, HARDLY MISSED A GAME.

The crisis came and went last season. We survived it, and are stronger as a result (despite the loss of Ruud).

I HOPE SO – AND I THINK THE LOSS OF RUUD IS A GOOD THING – BUT I DOUBT IT.

Some valid points were raised about Ferguson, but the author chose to barrack him with baseless accusations instead of listing concerns truthfully. I’ve already covered most of them in this article, so go read that.

The second point was how the writer compared the current crop of players to the ‘men’ of the 90s – Robson, Cantona, Keane. All the talk about Ferguson being from a different era (especially if you throw in Strachan’s rant about how Ferguson didnt treat him right at United) is justified, but are you fuckin’ kidding me? This guy would turn at the drop of a hat and call Cantona a cheating, kicking, flying maniac and talk about all the deliberate tackles Keano made if you gave him the right context. Now he’s singing their praises.

I DON’T KNOW ABOUT THAT: KEANE IS MY FAVOURITE PLAYER OF ALL TIME. I DEFINITELY PREFERRED PLAYERS FROM THAT ERA.

I don’t like Ferguson for the way he’s treated some of our best players, but the fact is that he’s what we’ve got (just like Glazer is what we have) and at the end of the day, we have to make do with what we have.

If the old man knock Chelsea off their fuckin’ perch (as he did to Liverpool), I’ll be the first to bitch-slap every piss-taking United-hater that I see for one whole year.

AND I’LL TAKE THE DESERVED BITCH SLAP IF WE DO

I’m out.


First up – thanks for the reply Rob. Nice to see a measured response to my angry post, but hearing that you wrote this as a United fan clears up a lot of things (especially your remarks about the current team).

The one thing that still rankles me is the amount of players United has bid for, as I strongly believe that the number is far less than reported in the media. Diarra, Zokoro, Vieira and Berbatov were not bid for, merely inquired about – that’s the same as Chelsea asking us about Ruud and us turning it down earlier this summer.

In response to my question ‘where is responsible journalism?’, Rob said:

THIS IS A DIFFICULT ISSUE BECAUSE INCREASINGLY – ESPECIALLY ON THE WEB – WE ARE GIVEN THE CHANCE TO MAKE OFTEN STRONG COMMENTS, SO THE CLASSICAL NEED FOR IMPARTIALITY IS LESS RELEVANT. WHAT IS IMPORTANT IS TO BACK UP YOUR POINTS WITH EXAMPLES; I THINK I DID THAT, WHETHER PEOPLE DISAGREE OR NOT

Now that’s well and good, but mate you represent The Guardian, a news agency that millions of people read and respect. Examples can be provided by any joe blow for the purpose to suit his argument, but relying on examples makes your arguments selective to certain times and are not relevant or applicable in a broader scenario. I’m not asking for impartiality, but for backing your statements with facts.

Because of the Internet and how easy it is to publish your opinion and have it heard, it’s easier to get away with half-truths, rumours and lies. As a journalist, and as a representative of an organisation like the Guardian, it’s your responsibility to be ‘above’ the ‘i can prove anything i want with examples’ routine, and present genuine facts to support your argument.

Other than that mate, thanks again for the reply.

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8 Comments

  1. COLIN 4 August, 2006
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