It was thin gruel. The second city derby seemed more about fear than a passion to win.

And Reo-Coker. What was that about? Houllier had to take him off to prevent him being sent off.

There is some good news though. Barry Bannan, on the back of his display on Sunday, will get more playing time. When he was introduced into the midfield we became a far better team and I assume the manager recognised this.

Then I read some more good news:

Gerard Houllier
He needs to work harder. He played against Chelsea and did well. He played against Sunderland and was not good enough to me. Simple as that. He needs to work harder.

Talking publically about his view of a player’s worth was never O’Neill’s style, so we had to speculate as to what was going on which, inevitably, led to some confusion among the fans. Publically trashing Ireland is not something I expected, but I welcome it. We actually have an idea as to what’s going on. And, more to the point, so does Ireland. And the rest of the squad.

The public message is: “Shape up, or ship out”. How refreshing! And before some of you tell me how disrespectful this is to the pampered little princes, let me remind you of something: they are paid handsomely to please us. Without some discipline no team will ever win anything.

If Ireland doesn’t get his poo together, he’ll never be any good to us, so he might as well know the truth.

What’s going on with Cuéllar and Fonz, I have no idea beyond the comments ak made here recently. It’s hard to believe that Cuéllar would be a troublemaker.

I’ve also just read Doc Bowles’ comments and I’m a little surprised. Essentially his criticism is summed up in this passage.

You don't have to be a member of Mensa, a NASA astrophysicist or an Economist statistician to work out that things got better when O'Neill arrived and was backed by the owner and have got worse since the owner decided he wasn't quite as ambitious as he thought he was.

I’ve quoted this because I hold Doc’s opinion higher than anyone else’s on this blog. I feel obliged to point out that O’Neill’s departure had nothing to do with Lerner’s ambition, or lack of it. The size of our wage bill was grotesque and, to ensure the survival of the club, it had to be dealt with. O’Neill knew it was beyond him to operate within a budget – something that every manager, bar Mancini, has to do. It’s part of the skill-set required to manage a business.

I do not see that requiring his manager to operate within a (generous) budget demonstrates a lack of ambition.

The recent events at Old Trafford show how imperative it is for a manager to operate with firmness and honesty. Rooney and his agent took Ferguson to the cleaners. Man United have just experienced the terrible pain that they were accustomed to inflicting on everyone else. Rooney was tapped. How sad! You have to laugh – it couldn’t have happened to nicer people.

Ferguson’s life collapsed. At his press conference he appeared a broken man. How could Rooney do this to him? And to the ‘greatest club in the world’? Ferguson had that awful feeling in the pit of his stomach that caused O’Neill to scuttle away. The game was up. The biggest bully in British football was himself being bullied.

I know they got Rooney to sign – eventually – but it’s been a sobering experience for them. Heaven alone knows what it cost them to save face – and make no mistake, this is what it was all about – but I’ll bet the sums were breathtaking. It appears Rooney has more than doubled his salary.

It’s been speculated that it was the media exposure and the pressure that came with it that caused Rooney to lose form. If that’s true then things are unlikely to get better any time soon. Rooney’s football must now redeem what may well be the most expensive football contract in history and he’s playing like Harewood. And the crowd now hate him.

At the moment there are at least a half a dozen players at United playing better football than Rooney. Ferguson can anticipate a visit from some or all of them or their agents to discuss their contracts. The pressure on Rooney grows exponentially. I hope he can cope.

Ronaldo has gone, Rooney is in the worst form of his life and the rest of the great team that swept all before it is approaching its sell-by date. The club has preposterous levels of debt and struggles to beat the humblest of teams. Moreover, the contract that they just got Rooney to sign could easily be voided by a judge since an agreement negotiated under duress isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

The ‘Men In Black’ have seen to that and, in any event, there’s a break clause voiding the contract if they don’t spend a shed-load on new players that meet with Rooney’s approval. The road they’re about to travel on has been mapped for them by Liverpool FC. Its name is mediocrity.

The confused football manager, Ian Holloway, gave us the benefit of his thoughts on the whole topic, moaning that the players now had all the power. Errr...Yes?

Who does he think the fans pay their money to see? Who is the game all about? He thinks it’s all about the club. The club is nothing without the players.

Holloway thinks the ‘Bosman ruling’ has wrecked the game. On the contrary, it has released players from servitude. Being managed by a tyrant like Ferguson is bad enough without being handcuffed to a radiator in the dressing room as well.

Meanwhile we can relax and observe the vicissitudes of fate as Nemesis reserves a seat in the main stand at Old Trafford. The Mona Lisa-like smile playing on her lips tells us she is planning something interesting for ‘The Greatest Club in the World’.

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