The candid thoughts of Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.
I know what you’re saying, Dave, but being at or near the top of the table is an end in itself. An end in itself, Baz: it means it’s something worth achieving, however it is done. And it applies to Manchester United because they’re getting stick even though they’re actually up there, doing well.
I’m not sure Louis Van Gaal knew what he was getting himself into, despite all his travels and experience. United hadn’t been crowing about how positive and attack-minded they were under Alex Ferguson, they just got on and did it. And they happened to have some exceptional attacking players. When Beckham and Giggs and Scholes came through, that just happened to be what the grocer delivered, mate. Sure, Fergie bought well too, but basically he was just allowing these exciting players to be themselves, and he made sure he had the back door locked up tight.
Van Gaal, for a start he hasn’t had a settled back four all the time he’s been there. He’s got a mix of expensive foreigners and young local lads, but you couldn’t pick four and say these are his first choice. Could you? And without that basis, there isn’t the confidence further forward.
It’s like Gary here going to get the drinks. He knows he can get three pints in that solid group between his fingers. And a bottle in each jacket pocket and maybe one down the back of his jeans. But he couldn’t do all that fancy stuff if the central trio wasn’t solid. One of those goes a bit wobbly and the whole set-up suddenly becomes a worry.
Cheers, Gary, pint of Jaap Stam, please.
So, David, if I’m not stretching the analogy too far, if you’ve got Daley Blind – who I like – with Paddy McNair and Claudia Winkelman, you’re in trouble, aren’t you? Because, Baz, you don’t need Claudia, you need big ugly Nemaja Matic. I know it’s obvious, that’s why I put it in those terms, so it was clear to someone of your ability.
If Van Gaal – or David Moyes, for that matter – had Gary Neville, Rio, Matic and Patrice Evra at the back, he would get more out of the likes of Memphis Depay and Antony Martial, who are both quite young. And don’t forget you’ve got Rooney up there complicating matters like an old potato going soft and sprouty.
No, I don’t like Van Gaal either. He’s a great big spoilt kid who’d run to the teacher if you grabbed his crisps and squashed them, but he’s tried a few things and they haven’t really worked. If they had worked, they couldn’t be much further up the table but people would feel good about them.
All I ask of the top teams is that they do okay for us in Europe. You don’t have to love Liverpool to enjoy seeing them win the Champions League. We used to complain about Ferguson and fergie time and all that, but I’d rather see him breaking into his annual grin than the current Barcelona manager, wouldn’t you?