Friday, 14 March 2014

We need to talk about Robin

First, an admission. This is ANOTHER Man United blog. Necessary evils and all that.

So, Robin van Persie has announced he has no problems with Manchester United manager David Moyes. Which raises one important question: How on earth did someone get a gun into an interview with Robin and use it to force him to say such ridiculous things?

Van Persie has gone through this season with all the enthusiasm of a stoned man running a marathon. Is he trying? Of course. Does he rate David Moyes? I don’t think so. How can he? Moyes is good manager and one who is worth persevering with, but will a world-class player like van Persie appreciate being told what to do by a man who has won diddly-squat?

United’s whole season has been a bit like the Russian Police Choir, who memorably covered ‘Get Lucky’ at the Winter Olympics. In other words, it’s been entertaining, well-rehearsed and you can see what they’re trying to do. Unfortunately, like with that example of musical excellence, only a few of the protagonists look interested, and the quality is actually rather poor. Therefore, you get a collection of men trying to re-create a classic; searching for a much better version of what they’re able to achieve. However, like that choir, I can’t stop watching them.

Van Persie has even scored 14 goals this season, a great return for a man who has been injured for vast chunks of the campaign, and for one playing in a struggling team. However, it’s his attitude which has concerned many, as well as a slight decline in his overall play. Of course, these are small details, but in a time where the team has as much consistency as lumpy custard, it is far more recognisable.

In many ways, as a United fan, I wouldn’t be too upset to see him go. He left Arsenal in acrimonious circumstances and left to join a United team with a lot of potential and a manager in Alex Ferguson who looked set to be around for years to come. Ferguson did not mean it of course, but Robin would later be duped by Fergie's retirement. The Dutchman did more than most in securing a record 20th English league title for United, so us fans owe him a lot of gratitude.

In addition, there have been times this season when United have looked better without their talisman. Danny Welbeck may have all the composure of a virgin during his ‘first time’ and probably struggles to finish his dinner, let alone a football move, but he does help the team. His pace and work-rate allows him to stretch defences and helps the likes of Adnan Januzaj, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata find space. How do I know this? It happened against mighty West Brom, that’s how. We beat West Brom, so we’re on the way up.

It may well be that van Persie is telling the truth and wants to see out his career with United. It was the ‘little boy’ inside him that made him join in the first place. However, little boys often beg their parents for something they are convinced they need, but soon get bored and dispose of the item all the same. If United are fearing a life after van Persie, they need not. United have suffered greater problems in the last few months, this would be merely another blow to recover from. Out of crisis often comes opportunity.

In the meantime, van Persie can back up his words with performances on the pitch. This week, he is likely to be called upon to help United come back against Olympiakos in the Champions League and hopefully inspire a surprise win at home to Liverpool in the Premier League. After significant, late misses in the away games against those teams, this week would be a good time to make amends.

Van Persie has already given United a lot. If he wants to give us more, he has to start now. No one is questioning his talent or goal-scoring, but at United, you are measured by more than just that.

Formula One's step into the unknown

F1 Malaysian GP
It seems like only yesterday that Sebastian Vettel was crossing the line at the Brazilian Grand Prix to take his ninth straight victory and put the final seal on a season which, let’s face it, was pretty fucking dull. Well it’s back!

And like The Beatles song of the same name, ‘yesterday’ was when Vettel’s problems were so far away. Indeed, for the time being at least, it looks as though they’re here to stay.

Why? Well, the reasons are boring and technical and, more importantly, I don’t understand half of them myself. Therefore, it would be a bit embarrassing for a Formula One ‘expert’ to not know shit about the biggest changes seen in the sport in a generation. But it should make for an exciting year, and that’s just on the track.

Off the track, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone remains dogged by bribery charges and other business naughties. Yes, naughties. Basically, he undervalued the price of Formula One in a sale to a broadcaster in order to maintain control of the sport. Or something, I don’t really care. What I do know is that Ecclestone DOES know how to run the sport, but does NOT know how to work a revolving door. (Look it up, you won't be sorry.)

Fittingly, a revolving door would probably best describe the driver changes that have gone on during the off-season, with drivers flocking from one team to the next with less commitment than Kim Kardashian at a speed-dating event. Kimi Raikkonen returns to Ferrari, Felipe Massa has joined Williams, and a young Dane called Kevin Magnussen has joined Jenson Button at McLaren.

As for Red Bull, they have seen Mark Webber replaced by friendly Australian Daniel Ricciardo. The theory clearly being that Vettel works best with Aussie drivers who are good, but not great.

As it happens, Ricciardo has some differences to Webber, including a kind of permanent, happy-go-lucky smile. Not in a creepy way, more in a ‘I can’t believe I lucked into the best car in the world, only for it to turn crap’ kind of way …a bit like winning the lottery with a ticket made of melting chocolate. Either way, it's in stark contrast to Webber's 'everyone around me is a total wanker, but I'll humour them for a while' persona.

Red Bull have struggled to get to grips with the major regulation changes which have been put in place over the winter and, in spite of being four-time World champions, they look set to begin the season at the back of the grid. This has apparently made Vettel a little grumpy. This is understandable, but at the same, it’s highly amusing and refreshing.

At the front are likely to be Mercedes, including earring-wearing, worldy-dating, cliché-spouting Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who has great hair. The German team excelled during testing in terms of both speed and reliability. Expect them to be on the front row in Australia, or at least close to it. Of course, I say that, but expect nothing, I have no idea what is going to happen. It could be like Whacky Races, with Fernando Alonso taking the place of Dick Dastardly.

Heading back to off-track matters, seven-time World champion Michael Schumacher remains, at time of writing, in a medically-induced coma but is apparently showing signs of recovery. Whatever you thought of him as a driver, we should all be united in our hope that he recovers as soon as possible.

Schumacher was at the forefront of Formula One’s most boring era, when he would only have to look at his Ferrari and it would win him races. Hopefully, he wakes up in time to witness the start of what could be the most unpredictable Formula One season ever.