With the commencement of 2015, Singapore’s SG50 celebrations have begun. And Courts is getting in on the festivities early. Courts hosted former Manchester United captain and No.7, Bryan Robson (a.k.a. “Captain Marvel”), who is now an ambassador for Manchester United.
“Courts’ birthday wish for Singapore is that we all get together and encourage people here in Singapore to really express their love and passion for the great game of football. And as part of that we are running 50 events during the course of the year, many of those involve football and footballers. There’s community events, public appearances and were going to invite a whole host of footballers over to Singapore, particularly here in the mega store.” said Tim Nolan, Commercial Director, Courts Singapore.
Recently you mentioned that United’s chances to win the league are as good as gone. Do you stick by your opinion despite it angering a lot of fans?
No, I don’t think I’m going to make them angry. I’m just being truthful in my judgment of football.
I still believe that Chelsea and Manchester City—they’ve had a similar squad even though Mourinho took in some players this season—but I just think they’re strong teams and they always looked like as if they were going to be the favourites to win the title.
We did have a disappointment last weekend against Southampton but they are not bad and I think Southampton will challenge Man United, Arsenal and Tottenham to finish third or fourth. Chelsea and Manchester City will either be first or second.
You’ve talked about the signings Van Gaal has made. Do you think he is going to make a spectacular signing this January, maybe someone in Lionel Messi’s league?
No, I think it’s always difficult to make a real top class signing in January because normally top class players are not available in the January window. It’s always in the summer, if you’re going to sign players like that.
I hope I’m wrong, because I’d love to see him sign a couple of real top class players again to strengthen the squad for the second part of the season, but I can only see this sort of improvement again in the summer. And I think the good sign of Louis Van Gaal is that when you look at the signings that he did make last summer, it definitely improved Manchester United and that’s why we are in 4th position at the moment.
But I’m pleased that Louis Van Gaal has made some very good signings for Manchester United. And I think what we’ve done—coming from last season—we actually put ourselves in a position where we look as if we are improving and we could actually finish in a Champions League position.
Not getting into Europe at all last season was a massive disappointment. To get into a Champions League position, if we could finish third, that’s going to be a great season for Manchester United and then, hopefully, in the following season we can start challenging Chelsea and Manchester City again.
How many new faces do you think United needs in order to challenge for the title?
A couple of good strong defenders and I don’t think we are too far off. When you look at the midfield players and the strikers that we have, we have got plenty of goals within the team.
The main problem for Manchester United this season has been the amount of injuries that we’ve had. So, hopefully in the second part of the season it’s not going to be quite as bad and we can improve on the second part of the season compared to the first.
Do you feel that Cristiano Ronaldo deserves to win the Ballon D’or?
Yes, I do. Cristiano had a great season, not just with Real Madrid but also with Portugal. He sort of single handedly got Portugal into the World Cup with his performance. He is a top class player.
We have not seen much of Falcao in the first part of the season in front of goal. Do you think it would change in the second part?
Falcao has taken some time to settle in at Manchester United and with the injury he had at Monaco that’s probably why United’s got him on loan.
Now, it’s about whether he can throw that and prove himself so that he can sign for Manchester United at the end of the season. It’s up to Manchester United and the manager to make that decision along with Falcao. If he is fit and he is playing all the time, then hopefully we’ll get more goals from him.
As a result we’ve seen Wayne Rooney move back to midfield again. Do you think it might be a permanent move for him?
I wouldn’t say permanent because Wayne’s still at an age where he can do whatever the manager tells him to do. And so when he is playing upfront, he plays really well, he scores goals or creates them. But when he move backs into the midfield area, he still performs really well. A little bit of what Paul Scholes did when Sir Alex moved him back into midfield.
Wayne has a great range of passing, great vision and he is a top player. That’s why top players can play in different positions and that’s what Wayne Rooney would do for the coach. Whatever role you ask him to do, Wayne will do it.
In 1983 you tore your ankle ligament in the semi-finals against Arsenal, which meant that you would miss the final against Liverpool and they won. Could you have prevented that from happening if you were playing?
Liverpool would have never won that match if I’d been fit. But yeah, it was a big disappointment for me because I missed the opportunity to play in the finals of the league cup.
Fortunately for me, that season we went to the FA Cup finals against Brighton and we won that game, so at least the season turned out quite well for me after the initial disappointment.
Do you think Van Gaal is the best man for United and does he know his best formation him always changing it?
He is still trying to find out about the players and what system suits them. I also think that his hand is being forced due to the amount of injuries that Manchester United have had this season—an unbelievable amount of injuries.
But, I do believe that he is the right man for the job. I think he is big enough; he takes Manchester United in his stride. He is not fazed about Manchester United and the expectations because he has already managed top clubs like Barcelona and Bayern Munich. He has been to these clubs and he can handle the pressure, no problem.
And I don’t think he is fazed about signing top class players. If he has to go out and spend a lot of money on a big player, he can handle that. So, I do think he is the right man for the job.
His 3-man defense has come under some criticism. What do you think of it?
I think that will always come under criticism because English teams are not used to playing 3-man defense whereas foreign coaches are. Manchester United has always been use to a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 so it takes a little bit of time for the fans to appreciate what he is trying to do and how he is trying to educate the players.
As far as I am concerned, as a coach, you try to educate your players and that’s what he is trying to do, so that they can play different systems and people don’t get use to the way you play.
What do you think about young players like Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair?
United, at this moment, has got three really good young players who, as long as they keep their feet on the ground, have got a great chance.
Blackett, McNair, Wilson—those three lads broke into the squad this season. They have had a few games under the belt. What they have got to do to stay level headed is to keep working at the game. Then they’d have a real chance to develop into premiership players.
How would you compare yourself to Manchester City’s Yaya Toure?
Toure, he is a bit similar to me as far as being a box-to-box player. I was probably a little bit better defense wise than Toure is, whereas Toure is a bit better than me in attacking.
The big question that I always get asked is why is Man United not finding a Roy Keane or a Bryan Robson because the fans have gotten used to those type of players over the years. Sometimes you look around the world and if that type of player is unavailable, then you can’t get them.
Fair credit to Manchester City because they went to Barcelona and persuaded them to allow Toure to join them. That’s a good management and scouting system. That’s what premiership clubs are all about. You’ve got to have scouts all over the world to improve your team.
If you had a chance to play again, where would you go?
I’d stay at Manchester (United) as the club is still dear to me and if I could, I would want to play for her again.