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Are Man Utd In Terminal Decline?

With Ruud Van Nistelrooy possibly about to leave for Chelsea and Arsenal nine points ahead in the premiership, things are growing increasingly precarious for Alex Ferguson and Man Utd.

Tony Cascarino, 04 Nov 2004

Their 4-1 hammering of West Brom shows that Chelsea are now a team rather than 11 very talented individuals who, while capable of winning games, hadn’t been making the most of all the possession they’d been getting.

Having talked to a good friend of mine at the Bridge, I think something big is going to happen at Chelsea come Christmas, namely a bid for Ruud Van Nistelrooy. United won’t want to know if they’re still in contention for the Champions League and the Premiership, but out of Europe and 10 or more points behind Arsenal and I think they’ll grab Roman Abramovich’s money. You’ve got to remember that this is a PLC who’ve given Sir Alex Ferguson £65 million over the past few seasons and been rewarded with 2-0 defeats at bargain basement sides like Portsmouth.

There’s a bit of a Galacticos thing going on in that the likes of Ronaldo, Rooney, Van Nistelrooy and Heinze are world-class players but they’re not adding up to the sum of their parts. Then there’s the midfield which has suffered this season from having people like Liam Miller in it who, solid professional or not, is nowhere near the calibre of player United need if they want to win honours.

Having built the empire, I’ve a nasty feeling that Alex is now presiding over its downfall. Don’t be fooled into thinking that his past achievements make him bulletproof. More games like the Portsmouth one, and a failure to progress past the quarter-final stage in Europe and he’s looking at the sack.

Even when the cracks are papered over like they were against Arsenal, it’s obvious that Man U are nowhere near as good a team as they were a couple of years back. Anybody who thinks Wayne Rooney is going to come to their rescue with 20 goals this season is fooling themselves. A hat-trick against a Mickey Mouse Turkish side is one thing, but is he enough of a predator to score week in, week out in the Premiership? I don’t think so. He’ll score his wonder goals, sure, but Rooney’s main talent is as a provider.

Something else that struck me watching the Arsenal game is that they hate the fucking daylights out of each other. The tackles and the stamps and the elbows are getting so bad that, come the Highbury return, I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody’s stretchered off with a really bad injury. If Fergie and Wenger were trying to defuse it, fair enough, but they’re pouring petrol on the fire with the comments they’re making about each other’s side.

The big story off the pitch is Chelsea sacking Adrian Mutu. Yes, he was a silly boy for taking cocaine, but do you honestly think Frankie Lampard, John Terry or Damien Duff would’ve been given the boot for doing the same thing? No, the club would’ve rallied round, sought professional help and got them back in the side as quickly as possible.

Paul Merson admitting to taking coke, Tony Adams smashing into a wall drunk, Fabrice Fernandez of Southampton getting pissed and jumping seven red lights – they’re every bit as bad as what Mutu did yet all they got was a suspension.

Which brings me to dear old Stan Collymore. I don’t know what did and didn’t go on the other night with those Bath rugby players, but in my experience he’s a guy who just makes excuses and blames everybody else. Some of the extracts I read from his book were absolutely scandalous. Talking about having sex with Roy Evans’ daughter on Cup Final night, and then refusing to say who the lad with two girls in a hotel room was because it’s his mate. Everything about him is a contradiction and a double standard. He did one week’s work with a radio station in London and then never turned up again. Very few tears are being shed in England over the predicament Stan Collymore’s got himself into.

Finally, I don’t know if the bet’s available in Ireland, but the Republic at 4/1 to win their World Cup qualifying group is too good not to have a bit of. The draw we got in the France game was excellent, and combined with their earlier slip-up against Israel means we don’t have to come out all guns blazing at Lansdowne. I’m not one to count my chickens, but the German lessons are coming on a treat!

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