So, the new era as begun. Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United crushed the L.A.Galaxy 7-0 in a testimony to Oranje style and an affirmation that Woodward and the Glazer’s may have finally got the right man, twelve months too late….
That 12 months resulted in an enforced hiatus for United, an enforced break for myself due to work and health reasons. But, we’re both back!!!
I thought I’d re-introduce myself with a chat to America based podcaster, @NipunChopra7, about all things United. Here’s how it went…..
I started listening to, and tweeting with lifelong Manchester United fan, Nipun Chopra, & his friend Smitty a little while ago after discovering their podcast on iTunes. The juxtaposition of the unitedandliverpoolfans.podbean.com site intrigued me greatly, how self-dubbed Manchester United and Liverpool fans could co-exist let alone be friends….
As it turns out, they mange it with much comical banter, insults, an unhealthy Love of Gabe’s mom, insults and some degree of reflective honesty. Oh yes, and more Insults!! Even so, being some 3500 plus miles away from this fiercest of rival epi-centres undoubtedly helps. With the beginning of the United US Tour games and the new Louis Van Gaal era, we’ve checked in with Nipun to see what the view is across the pond.
Welcome Nipun… Thanks for talking to RedRants pal!
Q. So how did a neuroscientist in America become a Manchester United supporter? What was your first game?
NC: I was a United supporter long before I became a neuroscientist! I think it is accurate to say that United were, are and will remain my #1 passion. Growing up in India, I was exposed to a lot of cricket, and there wasn’t a lot of premier league on the small screen. While flipping through the sports channels one day, hoping to catch some Tendulkar highlights, I came across Ryan Giggs striking the ball from the halfway line. The audacity of the volleyed strike made me pause and then I happened to watch the rest of the game. It was United v Arsenal and we hammered them 6-1. Yorkie scored a hat-trick and I became obsessed with everything United. I styled my hair like Becks, tried to dribble like Giggsy and tackle like Keano. All unsuccessfully, of course!
In ’02, I moved to the states for my studies and watching footy became difficult once more. This was before the illegal websites and YouTube appeared, so I would follow all of United’s games through gametrackers on ESPN. My fingers still hurt from all the times I hit refresh! One of my favourite memories involved the 4-2 win against Arsenal – after Silvestre got sent off. “(John O’Sheainho… John O’Shea… O’Shea… O’Shea… John O’Shea… O’Shea…. O’Shea…)” I couldn’t believe how we turned that game around – and following it on gametracker was a special experience that has stuck with me. Makes me appreciate how lucky I am to watch all these games in HD TV or on my iPhone now.
Around ’06, I noticed a change – we were starting to see more and more premium channels show the premier league and I can say that in the last 7 years, I have missed two games (one was a pre-season friendly) that United has been involved in. My life is planned out around United games.
Q. And more importantly, how on earth did you and Smitty team up and where did the inspiration for your site come from?
NC: During one of the months where my neuroscience experiments weren’t going too well, I tried to find a way to distract myself with what I loved most – United and footy. It started with a now-defunct blog and eventually lead to the ULF(United and Liverpool Fans) podcast with my close friend Uday Jhala. Eventually, Gabe – who was the goalkeeper on my team – took over and the podcast has really taken off in the last 12 months. He is a terrific co-host, friend and pundit. I think at times our banter takes centre stage, but I think Gabe’s ever-expanding knowledge of tactics and personnel is an integral part of the ULF podcast. I would say that even though I’ve been watching footy for much longer, Gabe’s expansive reading and research drive the serious tactical conversations of the podcast.
The inspiration for the pod was a combination of the desire to discuss footy and, frankly, the availability of a co-host. At that time, I was surrounded by Liverpool fans. It would be a bit disingenuous for me to say that I had planned that all along. Producing the podcast has pushed me out of my comfort zone. I have had to learn to record, produce and edit. I have learned to promote stuff via social media and also to deal with the criticisms that come along with that exposure. And it’s allowed me to connect with fellow United fans such as yourself, ‘Joanie’.
“Thanks’ for that Charchi!!!…. It’s been his nick-name for me ever since he decided I bitch like a Girl!!! In fairness to me though, Moyes tenure was doing nothing for my mental health!!!!”
Q. How do you think your collaboration would be viewed in the wider United fan base? What feedback have you received?
NC: The reception has been mixed. There are purists who would never listen to the podcast because they consider any collaboration with Liverpool fans to be blasphemous. While I can see why certain fans feel that way, given the limited (but growing) popularity of footy stateside, there is a certain camaraderie amongst fans of the beautiful game here. Yes, we argue about each other’s teams, but we are still the outsiders here – and that is why there is the space for a ULF podcast here. On the other hand, there are fans (such as yourself) who get the podcast for what it is – Gabe and I are having fun discussing the teams and the sport we love. We don’t try to be Football Weekly or Teamtalk – we have more unadulterated banter and mom jokes!
Initially, when I started the podcast, I was obsessed with the tactical side of things. Two years in, I realised that there are far better tacticians out there (since I stopped playing Footy manager) and I’ll leave the pedantic analysis to them. Besides, I like to record special podcasts – such as serious interviews about concussions with Dr. Vincent Gouttebarge (chief Medical officer of FIFPro) and ridiculous interviews (such as the character I made up – Chuis Suarez, twin brother of Luis Suarez). The myriad of topics keeps the podcast fresh and fun to record.
“That Interview with Dr.Gouttebarge was a really interesting in-depth discussion on Football’s provision for mental health, acute head injuries and the link with Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)… really worth a listen and still and can still be retrieved from their feed on iTunes.”
NC: Overall, we have scores of compliments and have been able to collaborate with well-known members of the footy community stateside. Such as Phil Schoen (commentator for BeIN Sport).
Q. Do you feel there is a rivalry/disconnect between match-going fans and our brethren in the MUFC Global community?
NC: Great question! Yes, there certainly is. Being a regular season ticket holder gives people an automatic validation amongst the rest of us MUFC fans. I consider myself to be an obsessed fan, but I have never been to Old Trafford. So, perhaps the OT faithful would consider someone like me to be a fair-weather fan. But the truth is, there are so many of us who love United as much as regular ticketholders. I plan my life around watching United games; my experiments, my relationships, etc. everything is placed second to watching United. So, for me, I consider myself to be a real fan. However, there are those who would not agree – since I’ve never been to OT. And, honestly, that’s okay with me. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. United has 360 million fans worldwideTM – obviously there will be differences in opinion. I’d like to think that if a match-going fan were to meet me, they would realize that I am as knowledgeable about United’s history (especially in the premier league era) as they are. Certainly, I’ve been told that by regular listeners of the pod.
“I think that a great point. We see it a lot on twitter, where opinions of Non-match going United fans are seen as second-class by the plethora of (lucky-to-be) match-going ‘Top Reds’ out there.”
So dude, onto the ‘New Era’….
Q. I know from your Podcast you agreed with the decision to replace the beleaguered David Moyes, but when did you lose your faith in the ‘Chosen One’?
NC: Let me start by admitting that I supported the decision for Moyes to become manager. I have a lot of respect and admiration for David Moyes. I think it’s an oversimplification to place all the blame on him. Additionally, I strongly believe that no matter who replaced Sir Alex, they would have struggled – including Mourinho. And I think some of the nonsense on twitter about Moyes is embarrassing to read; as I believe that nuanced United fans realize that he had to go – but he certainly wasn’t the imbecile he has been made out to be. The flyover banner was incredibly embarrassing.
My faith waivered early – around xmas time. But, I thought he deserved more time to turn things around and when he signed Mata, I hoped that things would get better. The first time that I found myself declaring that he should be undoubtedly fired was after the Liverpool game. We were squalid and disgustingly impotent that day. And I knew it was only a matter of time; he was fired about a month later. At the end of the day, Moyes is a good manager, and will show that in the future at another club; possibly abroad for now. I think maybe a move back to Scotland might be best suited for Moyes. Although, if he ends up anywhere other than Celtic, he’s not going to win anything, is he?
“That’s a bit harsh on Celtic Charchi!; we DID have a good relationship with the Parkhead club, don’t go messing it up with wishing Moyes on them!! I must admit I was getting called a ‘plastic’ by September… Even by then I felt you could see how the team were not responding to Moye’s training or (non)tactics….. Queue the revolution of tactics and training under Van Gaal and his team of talented coaches…”
Q. It must be great to have United back in your country again, is there much interest post-WC and have you managed to get a ticket?
NC: Yes, I think the interest has taken off. I was interviewed by many radio outlets during the World Cup – NBC sports radio, Yahoo sports radio and other local radio channels. “(You’re such a name dropping Top red Charchi!)” That level of discussion and interest did not exist in the 2010 World Cup. Moreover, having the premier league on a mainstream channel (NBC) has really increased the exposure.
It truly is amazing to have United back here stateside. The United-Madrid game sold out 90k tickets in less than a day. Now, that’s impressive. And Yes! I’ll be watching United v Madrid on August 2nd. I paid an arm and a leg to get a ticket, but it will be worth it. Dream come true, really.
Q. Do you agree with the LVG appointment? What do you see him bringing to ‘the best football team in the world’?
NC: Yes, I think he is a great choice. He will bring stability, stature, vision and passion to the club. I see LVG as a part of a 3-4 year cycle where his experience will allow the club to emerge from the shadow of Sir Alex. His stature within the game will ensure that someone like Rooney will not be given a 3rd chance if he acts up again (which I expect that he will). LVG is known for his reliance on youth and therefore his vision will allow the likes of Januzaj, Lawrence, Wilson, Lingard, Powell “(about to join up with the squad after recovering from Injury)”, Petrucci, the and Keane “(Michael gave a great account of himself in the second half)” twins, etc. to train with and embed into the first team. Finally, just from his interviews, you can tell how passionate LVG is about football. And, that will only bring back the desire that I think we lacked last season. LVG has no patience for mediocrity, and I think there are certain United players who have been getting away with it recently.
“Got to agree totally with this. By the end of David Moyes tenure, the press pack were simply running rings around him and generally taking the ‘Michael’!! LVG is already in control of the press conferences. I simply can’t wait for that infamous Van Gaal explosion and I’m quickly drawing up a list of hacks for him to target!!”
Q. How do you think he’ll approach these pre-season friendliest especially since he’s renowned as a slow starter whilst embedding his playing philosophies and tactics?
NC: He is also known for his focus on fitness. Which will be his first priority. Post-World Cup summers are always difficult with players coming in at different times. But, we have been able to deal with it well. In the premier league era, except for the 94-95 season where we lost out to Rovers, United has won the premier league after every single World Cup year – 98-99, 02-03, 06-07, 10-11. That can only bode well for us.
Fitness aside, I don’t expect to see much of a tactical imprint in the pre-season friendlies. Let’s not forget that this will be a time for the likes of Zaha, Chicha, Cleverley, Smalling and Nani to convince LVG if they are worthy of a place in his team. Plus, the issue of captaincy. So, I think there will be other things LVG will be focusing on during pre-season. I think we might start seeing some tactical operation around the Madrid/Valencia games. And frankly, I cannot wait!
Q. If you were LVGs assistant, what do you see as the top 3 Issues you’d advise him to address?
NC: Apologizing to my brother and sister-in-law (get it?) ”(Well she certainly did….)”. Once he has done that – centre midfield, centre defence, lack of playing identity.
Q. Is this title winning squad, as bad as 7th last year, or what was the major contributor to United’s season of woe? How does LVG address this?
NC: There were a myriad of factors. I think the one that contributed most heavily was a lack of desire shown by many United players. LVG addresses this by letting go of the riff-raff, ruling with an iron fist (Fergie style), bringing in some new signings and bringing through some youth players. Also, cloning Bebe. “(You’re going to see a Bebe theme soon…. )”
“For me, I got twitched as soon as you had all the Everton lads coming out saying they’ve never trained so much with the ball. You expect them to be praising their new manager, but when you coupled that with the evidence on the Goodison and Old Trafford pitches, I was appalled just how poorly United passed, controlled and kept the football…. From then on I soon became anti-Moyes….”
Q. What would be your next 3 realistic and attainable signings?
NC: I think it’s tough to know who is attainable in this market. Based on Ed Woodward Scissorhands’ statement that money isn’t an issue, perhaps if he could get me Hummels, Strootman and/or Vidal (in that order), I’d obviously be delighted! But realistically I’d settle for just one of those.
Q. Following from that which 3 players would be shown the door if you had the say?
NC: Ashley Young, Nani and dare I say it “(Dare!…Dare!…)” – Wayne Rooney.
“Controversial Nipun… A player that splits opinion on the web… in the press…. And on the terraces! Rooney was probably one of the few Moyes’ ‘successes’ last season, despite dipping in form in the latter part of the season. So what’s your thinking behind Off-loading the ‘Angry and Confused’ one?”
NC: Wazza’s tantrums seem to come in 2 year cycles. Which means, we are due for one towards the end of the season. I can see a situation where LVG drops Rooney for some tactical or form reason “(Think RVP at the WC!)” and Rooney responds by asking for assurances and possibly a move away. In fact given that Wayne goes through patches of poor form every season, LVG dropping him (especially given how front-loaded we are) is inevitable. Lastly, this is probably the last year we can collect a sizable fee for him. We can then either re-invest or bring someone through. Lets not forget, that in his two best positions – No.9 and No.10, we have Chicha, Welbz, Shinji, Mata, Januzaj already and have Wilson, Petrucci, Powell and Lawrence breaking through. “(The Januzaj situation intrigues me as LVG seems to have settled on the idea of United primarily playing his 3-4-1-2 Oranje World cup system, allowing him to play 2 strikers but reduce opportunities for a Januzaj, who would have to oust players like Shinji, Rooney, Mata and even Herrera after his great debut…!)” If we get £25 odd million for Wayne, it can go towards the “pay whatever Juventus wants” Arturo Vidal Fund.
Q. Where do you think LVG can finish this season?
NC: In Bebe’s arms. Also – he can finish 1st. He’ll probably finish 2nd or 3rd.
And Now, for the ‘The Good… The Bad… and the Ugly…!’
What’s your favourite Manchester United….
> Memory? Watching the United players wear ‘For you Smudge’ after winning the league cup. Made me proud of the players and the manager.
> Game ? 7-1 Roma or 8-2 Arsenal
> Player ? Bebe, of course. Current player – Darren Fletcher. He epitomizes everything that is wonderful about Manchester United. All-time – Toss up between Becks or Scholesy.
what’s your worst Manchester United….
> Memory? Seeing the headline “Manchester United has accepted a bid for David Beckham” on United’s website.
> Game ? 6-1 against City.
> Player ? Liam Miller, Djemba-Djemba or David Bellion – pretty sure they all signed around the same time. Not Sir Alex’ finest year that one. I remember being excited about Miller, in particular, who was touted as the next Keano. About that…
What’s the Ugliest thing you’ve seen in football… Player, game or incident ?
Joleon Lescott’s hair!!
And lastly, just to judge what sort of Flava of United supporter you are…..
Just one word answers please…..
Q. Messi or Maradona ? Messi
Q. Cantona or Ronaldo ? Looking for Eric
Q. Edwards or Best? Big Dunc
Q. Adidas or Nike ? Adidas
Q. keano or Robbo? Keano
Q. FAC win 1977 or 1983? 1983. Special team that – Robbo-Ray-Stapleton-Whiteside-Albiston-McQueen etc. “(One Word!)”
Q. Van Nistelrooy or Rooney? Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud
Q. Stam or Vidic? Vida
Q. Solskjaer v or the Law-Man? Son of a fisherman from Aberdeen
Q. Gary Neville or Phil Neville? Gaz
Q. 1984 v Maradona’s Barcelona or 1991 CWC final win v Barcelona? 1984 – Robbo made Atkinson look like a genius. “(One… Oh I give Up… Bl**dy scientists!)”
Q. 1999 season v 2008 season? 1999
Q. Scholes v Giggs? Scholesy!!
Thanks for answering those questions Nipun. It’s been a real insight. I’d definitely suggest folks catch your Podcast… especially with the coming season whilst listening to Gabe implode now Liverpool are Suarezless!! Have you anything to say to the RedRants forum or United fans in general?
RedRants – You guys are one of the websites I visit to research the pod and to get a flavour of what United fans (especially England-based) are opining on. I often find myself yelling at or affirming to the many excellently written articles. Don’t stop what you’re doing! Most of all, thanks to Jony for thinking of me when he decided to write this up.
United fans in general – Appreciate Bebe. He is #B3B3L3G3ND
“(Oh Christ.. Enough already!!! I’m seriously worried about your frame of mind when he joins Benfica!!)”
Thanks again and….
….Glory Glory Man United!!