McLeish sees post-Ferguson Aberdeen in Manchester United

The former Scotland international was part of a successful Dons side that lost its edge when the legendary manager left for Old Trafford

EXCLUSIVE
By Sam Lee

Alex McLeish believes there are similarities between David Moyes’ current Manchester United squad and the Aberdeen side left behind by Sir Alex Ferguson in 1986.

McLeish was part of the successful Dons team that won 10 major trophies under Ferguson between 1978 and 1986, including the Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup and Super Cup, but saw the club struggle after their manager departed for Old Trafford.

The former Aston Villa boss says there will be an inevitable adaptation period for Moyes as his players get used to new methods and life after Ferguson, but is confident the new boss will be able to guide United through the transition.

“That bunch of boys [at Aberdeen] all had a strong winning mentality anyway. But what [Ferguson] gave us, he was just relentless,” he told Goal.

“His drive, relentless, relentless, relentless. So you couldn’t let up. I knew I was playing for my place in the team every single game. I wasn’t in fear of Sir Alex, I was in fear of losing my place in the team. And that’s what drove me, but he was the guy who was behind it driving me.

“Then when he left in ‘86 a lot of them breathed a sigh of relief … ’Thank God he’s gone’, you know? Although one or two players had left I knew a lot of the boys who were delighted to see him gone would be the first ones to miss him. And I see that a little bit in Man United just now.

“Players can’t go on playing forever – although Ryan Giggs seems to be the exception to that rule! Maybe subconsciously some players have dropped a gear, it would be more of a psychological thing … ‘Phew, he’s not killing me every week’, you know?

“When you’ve got a cupboard full of trophies like him then every player’s going to listen. And that’s what I’m saying, they’ve probably just subconsciously dropped off a little, there’s an unintentional kind of drop off in terms of the foot on the gas.

“It’s not that Moysey cannot live up to it. Moysey could be the biggest shouter in the world, I could go in there and be the biggest shouter in the world, but it’s not the same. It won’t be the same voice as the one who has had 25 years of success. Inevitably there has to be an adjustment period when players get a new manager for the first time in many years. The players are clearly experiencing a transition this season but I have every confidence that David Moyes will lead them through this.”

Moyes spent a club record €45 million on Juan Mata in the January transfer window, and Goal has learned he will have more than €120m available this summer as he looks to overhaul the squad.

And McLeish believes things will improve for United when Moyes brings in some new faces to consolidate the talent that he currently has at his disposal.

“I back Moysey to be successful,” he added. “It’s easy for me to say that, Davie’s got to prove himself but I think he will.

“United will keep faith in him, and there’s no doubt that when he makes more signings of his own that things will change. If Moysey spends on players that are capable of playing for Man United then it will be completely different results than what we are seeing through this inevitable period of adjustment.

“The difference between bringing your own players in and inheriting players is that they were groomed under another manager and they’re set in the other manager’s ways.

“The existing Manchester United players certainly have the capacity to adjust successfully to working under Moyes and those players that he signs will be saying, ‘This man trusts in me, he’s signing me for the mighty Man United, he must think I’m special’, and that’s where I think that will make a difference.”

Mourinho silent on Wenger row & new Rooney deal

The Blues boss refused to be drawn on the week’s major talking points ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash with Everton at Stamford Bridge

Jose Mourinho refused to comment on his row with Arsene Wenger, Wayne Rooney’s new contract at Manchester United and a host of other issues in a bizarre pre-match press conference.

Tensions between Mourinho and Wenger flared again a week ago when the Chelsea boss labelled his Arsenal rival a “specialist in failure” for not winning a trophy since 2005.

Perhaps upset by the reaction to his words, the Portuguese limited himself to saying as little as possible when questioned by reporters ahead of his side’s Premier League clash with Everton.

When asked whether he had a response to Wenger labelling his comments “embarrassing”, Mourinho replied: “No.”

When pressed on what he made of the problems experienced by Arsenal and Manchester City in the Champions League, he responded: “My Champions League starts on Wednesday [against Galatasaray].”

When asked whether he was disappointed that Rooney had elected to sign a new long-term contract with United, he replied: “I don’t react. We did show an interest in the past. It doesn’t bother me at all.”

Mourinho could not even be prompted to speak at any real length about Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea at Everton this season.

“I don’t speak about Romelu Lukaku until the end of the season,” he insisted. “Until then he is an Everton player. He is our player but I prefer to see him as an Everton player for now.”

Yet despite his apparent unwillingness to comment on any issue, the Chelsea boss insisted he was not unhappy and had not taken a vow of silence.

Vidal plays down Real Madrid link: I want to win more titles at Juventus

The midfielder says he remains fully committed to the Bianconeri – despite admitting earlier this week that he is flattered by speculation linking him with the Santiago Bernabeu

Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal insists he wants to stay at the club to win more trophies, despite interest from Real Madrid.

The Chile international has been in sensational form for the Bianconeri this season, scoring 16 goals in all competitions for the Serie A leaders.

Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti is believed to have made a move for Vidal his priority in the summer transfer window but, despite admitting earlier this week that interest from los Blancos was “flattering”, the 26-year-old has reiterated his desire to stay in Turin.

“I want to complete all my objectives, and to do so with Juventus,” he told Radio Cooperativa. “I work day after day at Juve to give everything on the pitch. Even if there is interest from Real Madrid, I continue to work hard here and hope to achieve all my goals.

“In Turin, my family and I feel at home. I still want to win so much with Juventus.”

Despite the club season reaching a pivotal point as Juventus continue to challenge for both the Scudetto and Europa League, Vidal already has one eye on this summer’s World Cup – a tournament in which he believes a youthful Chile side can pull off a few surprises.

“I’m preparing to be 100 per cent ready for Brazil. It will be a very difficult competition, but we are a good team with young players who dream of doing great things,” he added. “It will be important to arrive in our best shape.”

Why Inter are wrong to sign Nemanja Vidic

The Nerazzurri’s new president, Erick Thohir, claims he wants to rejuvenate Walter Mazzarri’s squad, which makes the imminent arrival of the Serb utterly baffling

COMMENT
By Mark Doyle

It’s often claimed that those who cannot learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. The worry for Inter fans right now is that new owner Erick Thohir seems not only incapable of learning from the mistakes of predecessor Massimo Moratti – but also his own. How else can one possibly explain the Indonesian’s imminent acquisition of Nemanja Vidic less than a month after a horribly ill-advised attempted swap deal involving Fredy Guarin and Mirko Vucinic?

At the start of February, Thohir claimed that his “main aim is to lay the foundations for the future” but that is surely at odds with the acquisition of a 32-year-old Vidic, whose best days are clearly behind him? But then, little Thohir has done since becoming the Nerazzurri‘s major shareholder last October makes much sense.

The media mogul has repeatedly spoken of his desire to rejuvenate Inter. Indeed, even before acquiring the San Siro side, Thohir encouragingly spent much time assessing the quality of the club’s youth teams, while in November he stated: “Inter have one of the best academies in Italy, even in Europe. I want it to be one of the best in the world.”

Investing heavily in youth would be a perfectly sensible, long-term strategy, particularly for a club operating within the necessarily frugal world of Italian football and bracing itself for the full effects of Uefa’s Financial Fair Play regulations. Yet, in January, Thohir not only handed over €20 million to Serie A rivals Lazio for Hernanes, who will turn 29 in May, he also initially sanctioned the Guarin-Vucinic swap deal with Juventus. Thohir ultimately pulled the plug on the deal but not because he had realised the folly of taking a profligate and past-it 31-year-old forward in exchange for a 26-year-old Colombian midfielder of genuine star potential. No, the Inter supremo had merely bowed to fan pressure.

Of course, the fury of Inter fans was wholly unsurprising. They have seen their side go from champions of the world to the European wilderness in just four years, primarily because of the short-sightedness and wastefulness of their player recruitment programme. Indeed, it is widely acknowledged that Jose Mourinho, who left for Real Madrid immediately after leading the Nerazzurri to a historic treble in 2010, got out of San Siro at precisely the right time. The Portuguese left behind him an ageing squad that Moratti inexplicably refused to strengthen under Mourinho’s successor, Rafa Benitez.

Inter fans had hoped that Thohir’s arrival would herald the dawn of a new era – yet the more things change, the more they stay the same, as the club’s Curva Nord supporters’ group duly noted in January.

A New Hope? | Thohir promised to rejuvenate Inter but the fans are already losing faith in him

“If you haven’t changed the ways to do things, we at least expected that the same mistakes shouldn’t be repeated,” they fumed in a statement released in the midst of the proposed Guarin-Vucinic swap.

“It’s nothing we’d wish for, but you [Thohir] are seconds from going from Superman to Super-loser.

“We have already thrown away one year – if not more – because of the ‘strategies’ of this club. This is becoming the second; is there a third, fourth and fifth we should expect?”

The fans’ fears are legitimate, certainly if the Vidic deal is anything to go by. Yes, the Serb will arrive at San Siro on a free transfer but Inter have agreed to pay the centre-half a basic package of €3 million per season, which could rise by a further €500,000 with bonuses. Given one of Thohir’s primary goals was to remove well-paid veterans from the roster, that contract beggars belief, particularly as Vidic, who will be 33 in October, is now as prone to injuries as he is susceptible to pace.

But then, Thohir is not even attempting to hide the fact that Vidic has been signed with a view to boosting Inter’s profile in Asia.

“All of the decisions are collective; when we think of building a team we think of the pitch but also marketing,” he confessed. “If we can have him it would be good since he is famous in Asia. The Premier League is the top in Indonesia; the player would add value to the club.”

Thohir’s desire to broaden Inter’s horizons is undeniably a sound idea – and hardly surprising, either, given Moratti mused last October, “People mention debts, but the real issue is revenue. An Asian influence is fundamental to bring in new markets.” There has even been talk of setting up a football academy on the continent.

However, there is undeniably a worrying preoccupation with seemingly quick fixes. Thohir has been speaking of the “experience” that Vidic would bring to come and he wants the Red Devils skipper to take on something of an ambassadorial role with the club. However, surely he would be better served by ensuring that Javier Zanetti, one of the most respected figures in club football, commits his future to the club before the Argentine is lured away to Chelsea by Mourinho?

In the face of fan unrest, Thohir has insisted, “I am confident in our process and look forward to building the future for Inter together.” Odd then, that many of the players he is currently recruiting have little hope of being around to enjoy it. Even more worryingly, the supporters may well have lost interest by then, too.

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Desperate Manchester United have paid over the odds to keep 'selfish' Rooney

The striker held the Red Devils to ransom for the second time in his career and has been rewarded with a club record £300,000-a-week (€360,000) deal

COMMENT
By Greg Stobart

It says everything about the nature of Wayne Rooney’s relationship with Manchester United that the striker’s new five-and-a-half-year contract feels like a ‘victory’ for the player rather than a mutually beneficial agreement that reflects his importance to the club.

Rooney has challenged United to a high stakes game of cat and mouse and for the second time in his career come out on top, with an extortionate £300,000-a-week (€363,000) contract that will end a few months before his 34th birthday.

BUMPER DEAL

ROONEY’S MANCHESTER UNITED CAREER
APPEARANCES
GOALS
PREMIER LEAGUE TITLES WON
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WINS
CLUB WORLD CUP WINS
LEAGUE CUP WINS

430
208
5
1
1
2

The 28-year-old held all the cards, as his existing £250,000-a-week (€302,000) deal ran into its final 18 months and the player and his agent Paul Stretford have once again played their hand perfectly.

Twice Rooney has threatened to leave or refused to commit to United, twice he has walked away with a lucrative contract that makes him the club’s highest paid player.

United had little choice but to bow to Rooney’s demands as his value in the transfer market dropped by the day, with the looming threat of one of their few remaining stellar talents walking away for nothing at the end of next season.

United probably felt that, with the stock price tumbling and the team clearly still in a state of flux after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, they simply had to tie Rooney down to a new deal.

David Moyes will be relieved to have secured Rooney’s services given he has looked to build the team around the Liverpudlian, while United can claim that the contract reaffirms the club’s ambition, despite what has thus far been a disastrous season for the Premier League champions.

Indeed, along with the signing of Juan Mata in January, Rooney’s new deal represents the highlight of the post-Ferguson era. There’s certainly been very little to celebrate on the pitch.

Moyes has found himself under increasing pressure as he gets to grips with the unique standards expected of a Manchester United manager, but on the Rooney issue has shown himself willing to step out of  Ferguson’s shadow and be his own man.

The Scot was ready to sell Rooney and confirmed in his autobiography that the former Everton striker asked to leave the club for the second time in his career last season, although the player stopped short of submitting a formal transfer request. The Scot has suggested that money – namely the potential loss of signing-on fees – was the reason Rooney did not lodge a written request.

Sir Alex warned in his book that Rooney had already “lost some of his old thrust” that made him such a precocious teenager and added that the forward “needs to be careful” about his condition as he can be “swallowed up by a lack of fitness”.

The 72-year-old’s judgement on players was rarely wrong during 26 years at Old Trafford, so perhaps United fans should be wary that Ferguson wrote that “with that kind of physique it was hard to imagine him playing into his 30s”. If he is right again, a contract worth £70m (€85m) in wages alone over five years could well turn out to be more burden than blessing. 

Without doubt, Rooney has improved this season under Moyes, scoring nine league goals in 21 appearances, but he is not worth £300,000-a-week and does not deserve his ranking as the main man ahead of Robin van Persie or the club’s record signing Mata.

He has been granted access to privileged information about transfer targets – allegedly impressive enough to convince him of the club’s ambition – while he is likely to be made captain after Nemanja Vidic departs in the summer.

A captain who has twice attempted to engineer a move, demanded to be played in certain positions and spoken of having to be “a bit selfish” hardly seems like the right man to captain a side going through an extensive rebuild.

Rooney’s form has also dipped since he returned from a groin strain while his on-pitch partnership with Van Persie – himself understood to be dissatisfied at Old Trafford – has been virtually non-existent this term.

Rooney, who joined United from Everton in 2004, will talk a good game about being convinced by the club’s ambition but would no doubt have taken a different view had his move to Chelsea last summer materialised.

He has scored 208 times for United is now almost certain to break the legendary Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 249 goals for the club.

When Rooney stunned United by submitting his infamous transfer request in 2010, Sir Alex told him: “Just remember one thing: respect this club. I don’t want any nonsense from you; respect your club”.

He never got the message. And whatever happens now, Rooney will never become a United legend.

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