Choccy’s Diary: Travels, Transfers and Troubles at Old Trafford

FansBet ambassador and former Manchester United and Celtic footballer Brian McClair discusses United's current problems, potential transfers and his recent travels.
Brian McClair  |  3rd October 2019

Choccy’s Travels

Recently I attended a dinner celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dungiven Celtic Football Club in Northern Ireland which was a really enjoyable night. After the formal part of the evening had ended, a lady asked is she could FaceTime her son to say hello to me, even though he was a Liverpool fan!

I obliged and on the call there were three others that were United fans shouting football abuse at her son. I hope she knew the other three as their language was choice to say the least! I also had numerous people asking for photographs on the night, which was great, until I was told many of the fans weren’t even United fans but supported Aston Villa, Arsenal and Liverpool to name a few!

On my way down to Manchester earlier this week, I was entertained by another one of my train stories. A couple who were maybe a few years older than myself boarded the train at Preston. As we arrived in Manchester, the lady commented on how Manchester was very popular, like London, but her husband argued that London was pretty horrid and he would never live there.

She replied talking about how nice the galleries are in London, to which he replied: “That’s not a bloody reason to live there!” Their conversation made me laugh, and I really wish I had listened to them from Preston!

After watching Manchester United’s cup tie with Rochdale, I was really pleased to see former United academy player Oliver Rathbone on the pitch for Rochdale. He was at United when I was there and I was impressed by his performance.

I tweeted my opinions and was really happy to see that he had replied. For me this shows the positive influence that United’s academy has on the players as he showed real class not only through his performance but through taking the time out of his day to respond to me. I am delighted to see him still playing professionally, he has always shown just how much he loves the game.

Troubles at Old Trafford

I think everybody agreed that Monday night was not a great game of football. I know sometimes it can be out of the coach’s control, and I do think the conditions can sometimes make a difference regarding what you expect to see, as it can be difficult to expect good control of the ball and fast attacking passes with heavy rainfall.

However, I think Jamie Carragher encapsulated it perfectly when he said that both teams not only sit in eighth and 11th position in the league, but they also looked like the eighth and 11th best teams in the Premier League on Monday.

The game does give you food for thought. I expected more goals from United minus the one from Scott McTominay. Roy Keane summed it up when it came to the Arsenal’s equaliser, commenting on the fact that all United defenders were out of position. I was mesmerised by the passing of the ball with people in the box, so close to your own goal line.

One of the main rules of football is you don’t pass the ball square; you pass it forwards or back and I have to admit it was a great finish from Aubameyang. I know there was talk of a whistle being blown but I don’t believe there was.

One player I must talk about is David Luiz. During his time at Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, he looked like somebody that was always going to make a mistake, but it does look like he’s really enjoying himself at the moment. He’s playing like it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to him and it’s a shame because we don’t see enough of that in the game.

Europa League

This week in the Europa League there is a tough away test waiting for United. The Reds face AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands, but the match will take place 70 miles away from Alkmaar’s stadium.

Last month their stadium roof collapsed meaning that the fixture will be taking place in The Hague at the Kyocera Stadium. However, this means that the team will be playing on an artificial surface that was laid back in 2013 primarily for a hockey competition.

I think that due to the pitch there will be some concerns regarding Ole’s team selection and it could mean that he has to make some changes, especially due to injury issues at the moment.

It won’t be an easy game, with Alkmaar currently third in the Eredivise with six wins and just one loss, versus United’s dismal start to the season. If the team can get a win and get through the game with no injuries it will be a great result.

The Kyocera Stadium.

Transfer Talk

One of the most interesting things that I am watching with the team at the moment is the starting XI. We don’t know what the team is going to be, especially with the artificial mid-week pitch that has the potential to cause some injuries. One thing that has been brought to light due to the current injury situation is the need for a striker in the transfer window.

Mario Mandzukic from Juventus has been mentioned as a potential signing in the January. Allegedly United agreed a fee but it didn’t go through due to the delayed sale of Romelu Lukaku which I find worrying.

Despite Mandzukic being older, I think he could work well in the squad and would fit in as a potential leader and somebody for the young players to look up to.

However, talking about strikers there are a few that I would consider. Top of my list would be Harry Kane – and why not? He scores goals and that’s what we need. I think somebody like Kane would provide some healthy competition for the other strikers in the squad.

Sometimes psychologically to know there is another striker in competition with you battling for a spot in the starting XI can make you work harder, it’s something that we see now at Manchester City and Liverpool.

Celtic

On the other side of the border, Celtic will be hosting CFR Cluj in the Europa League. It will be a tough game after having already suffered defeat against the club, meaning that Celtic will want to get off to a good start.

Celtic also have Livingston waiting in the wings, which is a must win in order to extend our lead at the top of the table. I fancy us in both games as although Livingston did well last week in their cup game, we are defensively stronger than a few weeks ago and I am confident we will get a win.

Rugby World Cup

I’ve been glued to the TV each morning watching the Rugby World Cup over in Japan. It was a great win for Scotland on Monday, and there have been numerous captivating games.

I really enjoyed watching New Zealand vs. South Africa, and watching Australia vs. Wales was fascinating as Wales managed to just hang on until the end. It’s been a great tournament so far and personally I would like to see it in Japan every year!

Due to the time difference the games fill my mornings and are a great start to the day. It’s also been great to see the enthusiasm for the game over in Japan and I’m looking forward to seeing how the tournament unfolds.

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