LIVERPOOL welcome Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United on Monday night, in what is promising to be a big occasion under the floodlights at Anfield. We spoke to Ste Armstrong from fanzine United We Stand to get his thoughts ahead of the game.
Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself and United We Stand.
Twenty-eight years ago a young fresh faced lad from Urmston called Andy Mitten borrowed £20 off his mam, wrote some stuff, got it copied and stapled together and sold it. And kept on doing it.
His editing, leadership and journalistic ability have not only kept a printed mag going this long, it is a printed mag still doing well in a very digital age. There’s a great team of writers ranging from respected journalists to former players who, along with dickheads like me, go home and away every week take a lot of pride in what is produced.
It’s available digitally, in shops and to subscribers but there is nothing like the feeling of buying your mag at the ground. It’s good for a chat too. ‘Is that the programme’ is a frequent question as is ‘where can I get a drink’, ‘where’s the ticket office’ and on one occasion I was asked ‘where is the Stretford End’. If that wasn’t bad enough Gareth Roberts was stood with me at the time. He let us off the hook by keeping it under his hat, and only mentioned on the website, podcast and in that fucking book. The twat.
Out of the fanzine came our infamous coach ‘The Monkey Bus’. That’s still going after 26 seasons which is quite incredible. One day we’ll do a book about it and perhaps enjoy some reward for that after we have all been released from prison.
We have pushed the podcast this last couple of seasons. Andy does insightful, informative ones with various key people in the game. I do really shite ones with the UWS sellers after the game at Old Trafford and an even worse one on the coach to away games. They’ve become incredibly popular and we are made up with the acclaim we have had for basically sticking a phone under someone’s nose and asking them for some opinion on the game.
UWS cares about fanzine culture and we’d like to think that we epitomize the really great things about what going to the match with your mates is all about. I’m not sure if he ever did pay his mam back.
What are your personal best and worst moments at Anfield?
Without question my best ever Anfield moment was the 3-3 on Easter Monday in 1988. We were down to 10 men after Colin Gibson was sent off, which wasn’t a particularly bad thing if I’m being honest.
What was bad was that Steve McMahon was just bossing everything and at 3-1 you sort of got the sense that a massive hiding was on the way.
On came Norman Whiteside, who totally understood what this fixture meant and he took McMahon out with a fucking brilliant piece of shithousery. A proper horrible stamp on his ankle and Liverpool simply caved in after it and Strachan (who’s a nob it has to be said) got the cigar smoking equaliser.
Last minute winners are all well and good but you can’t beat physical assaults on players. A loaded gun always beats four aces as they say.
Worst? The 4-0 in September of 1990 hurt. We’d won the cup in the summer and felt like Ferguson was getting us moving. Fuck me we got taken apart and never have we felt so far away from getting to where Liverpool were back then.
Some twat tried to knife me outside as well. Had a great new coat on that day and he ruined it. I was cool with the knife thing but ripping that coat proper pissed me off. I still moan about it now, something my wife reckons I need to get over.
United are currently sixth, with four wins from seven, how do you think it’s gone so far?
Its coming together. The manager is taking his time and having a good look at everyone and I am enjoying watching him piece the jigsaw together. Getting beat by those tramps at home wasn’t great and we were shite against Watford.
Outside of that we’ve played well in large parts and you can see who he’s starting to like and who he thinks might be surplus. He’s spent lots but that was needed. Most fans just want the boss…to be the boss and to take care of whatever needs sorting. He’s doing that and so far, despite what you could rightly call an average at best start to the season he’s doing a lot of things well.
Given how it’s gone, are fans still confident of a good season?
Fans are rightly confident. Should we be competing for the league with that manager and squad? Absolutely. Will we? You get the sense that this might be a fourth season of trying to transition out of the Ferguson era but you also feel that this manager knows what to do and how to do it.
You can apply a lot of United now and the impact on the supporters to your situation last season. Jürgen Klopp didn’t have a pre-season and was underwhelming on the field. Off it he’s stoked the fires and got everyone buzzing and on the same page with the same agenda. The product of that is what you are seeing this season.
You can chuck the amount we’ve spent in and it’s a fair argument. But new managers and players, regardless of their talent have to bed in and that’s where we are at.
People will cry louder that we’ve spent half a billion pounds. I couldn’t care less as I understand, given my job involves leading several thousand people, that results don’t happen overnight. Structure building and process implementation can and that’s going fine.
A good season for this season will be like what was a good season for you last year. Getting straight and having a pop at a cup and then we’ll kick on next season.
What is the feeling like towards Jose Mourinho?
He must have a contract with the Ts and Cs written on a roll of fucking wallpaper. He’s trying so hard to not be the cunt he was at Chelsea so he’s been very well received.
A lot of people, apart from the board, saw him as the only man to replace Ferguson so he had many on his side already.
He’s not David Moyes, sat there in awe of his United mousemat in his nice shiny office, or Louis Van Gaal who just wasn’t wired up right. He’s not overawed. He’s not a figure of ridicule in house or out of it. He’s a world class coach, attractive to world class players and someone with a point to prove. We like all that.
What do you make of the criticism of Wayne Rooney?
Wayne Rooney will never not be one of my favourite ever United players. He’s been a sensational player for us during our most successful ever era.
Unfortunately for him, he’s become the first player ever in the history of the game to start slowing down and not being as good as he used to be in the 15th year of his career at the very top level.
He wasn’t really forgiven by many for the transfer request, which is fucking pathetic really. It’s like he’s the first person ever to have said I don’t like my job and I’m thinking of a change. No one was arsed when he turned on his boyhood club to come here were they. It really fucking winds me up. He made a mistake, said he was sorry and then worked hard at trying to put it right.
His form, however, has been poor. He doesn’t deserve to be in the side and he isn’t. I think he’s taken that well and handled it very professionally.
I would like him to fuck England off. I wanted him to do that when he was 18, to be honest. If he does he can get back in the United side and carry on being a key person in the dressing room and on the field.
If he doesn’t, and carries on hiking it round the world to play pointless games in front of loads of people who voted leave, then he’s probably finished at Old Trafford. I will forever be in his debt for a contribution that outside of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville is without equal.
From what you’ve seen, what are your thoughts on the current Liverpool side?
Good sides with great managers beat great sides with average managers. Liverpool have become that. I should add here that I don’t tend to watch football a lot so I can’t sit here and offer an authoritative opinion of how you are playing. If horses are racing I can’t tear myself away from that to watch football.
I do, however, pay attention to what lads who do watch games say and on a recent UWS podcast there was a unanimous opinion among people who had been drinking a lot that Liverpool were currently playing the best football in the country.
I don’t take much notice of glory performances. Most 4-0 wins are 2-0 wins and then another one after the white flag has gone up.
I take real notice of slug fests at tough grounds where results are ground out. Fulham away for us years ago with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring late springs to mind.
I listened to your Swansea game in the car and that seemed to be one of those types of situations. I thought then ‘oh hello’. That was the game I became convinced Liverpool were in the thick of this title race and not likely to be going away from it.
Which Liverpool player worries you the most, ahead of the game?
I’m not a worrier so it’s the wrong question to ask me. I’m going to pretend I’ve just been asked ‘which player do I want someone to snap in two as quickly as possible’ if that’s alright.
So the player I would like quickly snapped into two is the very brilliant Philippe Coutinho and then Daniel Sturridge who when in the right frame of mind is very hard to play against.
James Milner played for Leeds and Manchester City. He needs crunching into just for that.
That Sadio Mane is pretty good as well, isn’t he. Fuck me, we’d be down to seven men in no time if I was manager of this so it’s best left to the experts.
Where are you expecting both teams to finish?
Hard one that. Two from Chelsea, City, Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool and United aren’t making the Champions League. As it stands, based on performances, it does look like United are favourites for fifth.
If, as you would expect, United get a run going, Arsenal turn into Arsenal when it gets tasty and Spurs to fuck it all up at the death there’s a possibility that the top three comprises of United, City and Liverpool.
The bookies, who I pay a lot of attention, to suggest that City and Liverpool are going to fight it out, which is another fucking awful proposition really.
Can you give us a score prediction for the game?
If both teams turn up and mirror the form that has gone before now then Liverpool win. If United deal with the atmosphere and avoid shitting their white shorts, like they did in the Europa League, and soak up the frenzy of attack that they will encounter in minutes one to 20 then I think Mourinho will take that and then go to work like the cunning fox he is.
You wanted a score, didn’t you? If it’s 0-0 at 20 minutes I’ll be confident of a good draw or pinching it by a goal. If it’s 2-0 after that time then it’ll end 3-1 and Nemanja Vidic, despite having left three years ago, will get sent off.