Monday 22 December 2014

Scholes delivers brutal reality check for United

Rachel Wyse

Published 29/03/2014 | 02:30

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 25:  Manchester United fans display a David Moyes banner during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on March 25, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
The much-talked about banner at Old Trafford proclaiming David Moyes as the Chosen One is upsetting some Manchester United fans
John Magnier: a man who rarely makes mistakes

Tuesday night in Manchester was all about the truth. In the aftermath of the derby, the words of Vincent Kompany and Paul Scholes were brutally honest, and while the men were from opposite sides of the football divide in Manchester, working to different agendas, the sentiment expressed amounted to the same message.

And for the red half of Manchester, how bleak a message it is. Manchester City's captain Kompany described his side's 3-0 victory as "just one little step".

Technically he is correct. This was nothing more than three points in City's quest for another championship. But derbies are no ordinary games. 'Three points' has never defined derby clashes. From Milan to Merseyside, derbies stir emotions like no other.

Manchester United's season has followed a very unfamiliar path, yet this defeat to their neighbours marked a crossing of the line in the sand. The truth has finally hit home for the Old Trafford faithful.

They are turning on David Moyes. Efforts to remove the 'Chosen One' flag are indicative of the anger levels. The fans now know what has been apparent for some time: the club is in a tailspin.

ARISTOCRATIC

Kompany's post match comments indicated the mindset within the City camp, and how the one-time poor neighbour now views its aristocratic rival. Beating United was no more than a little step.

In 10 months, United have plummeted from being champions, to a team rivals challenging for the title expect to beat with ease.

United risk a fast descent into mid-table mediocrity. From the all-conquering heights of the Alex Ferguson era it is a remarkable development.

Those who know United best, who love United most, are sensing danger.

Glories of the past, tales of great victories and a widely recognised brand name are of little value if the downward spiral continues.

The fortunes of every football club are dictated by events on the pitch, and United need success to function seamlessly.

I suspect that the brutal honesty displayed by some fans on Tuesday night will spread like a bushfire, and this will be the catalyst which will force United to change course.

Could there be a role for Scholes at United as the Red Devils seek to restore their standing in the Premier League?

Throughout his playing days Scholes was noticeably withdrawn when dealing with the media.

He was never one that revelled in a spotlight afforded to those who sought the glare of a camera.

The spotlight at the Theatre of Dreams was sufficient for Scholes, the place where he was most comfortable.

In this context his presence on Tuesday in the Sky Sports studio was surprising. I can't help but feel Scholes recognised that desperate times require desperate measures. It was a calculated appearance by the midfield maestro. A move loaded with meaning.

Aside from representing the club with great distinction, Scholes is a local lad, born and bred in Salford. He joined United at the age of 17 and 22 years later he was one of the few professionals who committed their entire career to one club. Scholes never conformed to a stereotype. His priorities never became distorted. His genuineness was always apparent.

Nothing was ever said or done for effect. And as a result his words carry credibility. They have meaning. People recognise it as the truth.

Criticism of Marouane Fellaini, of team selections, and the mentality of the present team is hardly an opinion that hasn't been aired by any amount of people who have watched United in the past few months. But unlike the noise made by so many, the words of Scholes will have been heard and noted in far reaching places.

His opinions deliver a brutal reality check for United's decision makers. It is confirmation that their eyes haven't been deceiving them.

United face a desperate situation. So desperate it has tempted a man of Scholes' character to lay bare his thoughts in the most public of forums.

I suspect it wasn't a decision taken lightly. Just as in his playing days his commitment to the cause was clear for all to see. And those who hold power can't say they haven't been warned.

 

Magnier's Ruler deal a real statement of intent in pursuit of equine supremacy

Last Sunday, as another Flat season began at the Curragh, we saw Dermot Weld return to the winner's enclosure in more familiar and indeed local surroundings.

On the same day we learned that Aidan O'Brien believes his colt Australia – despite only racing on three occasions – is the second-best horse he has had in his care.

Whether this is spectacular hype or an ominous warning to the three-year-old's competitors, only the summer months will reveal.

This week we also learned that O'Brien's employers have also been busy.

News confirming the sale of a 50pc stake in Dubai World Cup favourite Ruler Of The World was unsurprising; we have seen such developments before. In recent times John Magnier and associates have shared ownership of their horses with a select group.

However, the sale of Ruler Of The World is different. It signifies a cordial relationship between two powerhouses of the industry – Coolmore and Qatar's ruling family member Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani.

It also represents a new departure as historically the relationship between those minds driving the Coolmore operation and rivals from the Middle East have struggled under the strain of competition – so much so that for many years Coolmore did not enter their horses at the Dubai Carnival despite the extraordinary prize funds on offer.

The origins of a frosty relationship between Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed and Coolmore can be traced to the heady days of Keeneland's yearling sales in the '70s. Powered by Robert Sangster's funds and guided by the genius of Vincent O'Brien's eye, Magnier orchestrated the purchase of Northern Dancer, bloodlines upon which the Coolmore empire would be founded.

When Sheikh Mohammed emerged into the bloodstock world in 1980, Keeneland became a considerably more competitive marketplace. Another purchaser with massive resources was glorious news for the stallion owners and breeders in the US.

The competition drove yearling prices sky high. And neither Magnier's men nor Sheikh Mohammed wanted to be seen backing down.

More than 30 years later the rivalry continues as Coolmore and Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin vie for supremacy both on the race track and subsequently with the stock they send to the stallion sheds.

The nature of that relationship was determined from inception. It would appear Magnier is keen to ensure history does not repeat itself with Sheikh Joaan. Qatari influence in the equine industry has been relatively recent but the impact has been unmistakable.

The brilliant success of Treve in last year's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe confirmed Sheikh Joaan's status at the top table of the bloodstock world. With a fortune at his disposal, the level and type of investment to date suggest his plan is a long-term one.

This week's transaction indicates that Magnier is of the same belief. The willingness to sell half of an Epsom Derby winner is a considerable statement. But Magnier is a man who rarely makes mistakes. The gesture signifies the beginning of a friendship which will undoubtedly have consequences for competitors.

Have no doubt, in his pursuit of equine supremacy, the part sale of Ruler Of The World marked a fair day's work in Magnier's career.

Irish Independent

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