Club Focus – Manchester United – Gill warns over Red Knights as Rooney-Valencia partnership excels

One of the recurring themes this season is that when a break in domestic football occurs due to an international fixture, the talking at Old Trafford does not subside as the lack of football often gives an opportunity to air opinions about the financing of the club. The fans have been making their opinions known about the club’s current owners – the Glazer family – and the current financial situation throughout the season, with planned protests and various other campaigns. Without a midweek playing fixture, however, it is often time for an important figure within the club to publicly give his backing to the current regime.

This week that duty has fallen to current chief executive David Gill. Gill hasn’t outwardly backed the Glazer family as such, but he has been very critical of the proposed takeover initiated by Red Knights. The aim of Red Knights is to persuade a host of wealthy investors to bring in sums of over £1 billion in order to purchase the club and alleviate the current debts of over £700 million. Gill has stated that he cannot understand how a system seeing up to 30 or 40 different high profile investors would ever work. The chief executive has also directly criticised one of the men involved in Red Knights – the Executive Chairman of stockbrokers Seymour Pierce, Keith Harris. Reportedly, Harris was an instrumental figure in bringing in the Icelandic consortium which took over at West Ham, causing the club a great deal of financial difficulties. Gill has been keen to stress this point, stating that he feels that Harris has an unimpressive track record in football.

Gill may be correct in his assumption that a large number of investors may not be the best way forward for the club, but if it can rid the club’s debt then the primary aim has been achieved. Clearly it would be untenable for Gill to offer any criticism towards the Glazer family, but it would be fair to assert that the Glazers need to have more of a public image and provide some information directly to fans regarding the direction of the club – something that is seldom forthcoming. The issue that has always been apparent since the takeover in 2005 is the club’s finances and under the current regime this shows no sign of improving. The Red Knights proposed bid is providing the fans with hope that the debt could soon be gone, and thus has the backing of the powerful supporters group – the Manchester United Supporters Trust.

Aside from talk of the persistent issues behind the scenes, it has been another successful week for Manchester United with the club retaining the League Cup with the victory over Aston Villa – made even sweeter after the goings on at Stamford Bridge. Wayne Rooney has been given the plaudits for another winning goal, but it was the performance of another young United forward which again caught the eye. Antonio Valencia is starting to hit his best patch of form for United since his summer move and he once again provided the telling cross to enable Rooney to head home. Rooney finishing off a Valencia cross from the right hand side is proving a consistent fixture for United of late. Valencia has pace in abundance but he seems to understand his role perfectly, constantly watching the movement of his front players and knowing exactly when to provide his delivery.

Following the signing of Valencia, criticism was often directed at the winger’s inability to score goals and although he hit a purple patch in that department over the festive period, it has never really been his forte in a United shirt. Nevertheless, a winger’s job, first and foremost, is to provide quality deliveries and that is what Valencia has achieved. The Premier League may have got used to Cristiano Ronaldo hitting the 30 to 40-goal mark but that surely can’t be expected to be the norm. United have replaced a goalscoring winger with someone who plays in the traditional manner – a move that has got the best out of Wayne Rooney. The performance of Nani at the Emirates last month has all but been forgotten as Valencia has taken his chance and looks extremely unwilling to forego it.

United will attempt to at least counter balance the turmoil off the pitch when they travel to Wolves this weekend. The players have done well to ignore the current problems facing their club and have still managed to achieve success on the pitch, with this fixture seen as a must-win game prior to the visit of AC Milan in the Champions League. United’s challenge may be down to two trophies but with some key challenges on the horizon, it is unlikely that Sir Alex Ferguson will wish to rest many of his stars. With this in mind, it is likely that the Valencia-Rooney combination could again prove fruitful in the two upcoming fixtures.

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