To be honest, when I started my journalism course, I couldn’t wait to be a sports journalist.It was all I wanted to do. I was dreaming about travelling all over the world getting to talk and listen to the greatest minds in the sporting world. I believe that a lot of the journalists sitting in the Manchester United press room once had a similar dream when they were younger. Sitting in the same room along with one of the game’s most successful managers as well as probably the brightest mind in world football. Having the opportunity to pick the brain of Louis Van Gaal must be an absolute dream come true.
Just imagine about their disappointment when instead of this highly intelligent and interesting man, they are met with a petulant and unresponsive 64-year-old child. The dream was to discuss the beautiful game with a man who’s spent the majority of his life studying it. In reality however, the press conference was a horribly awkward affair with the journalists having to cautiously coax answers from a man who is being paid to answer said questions.
The big topic of discussion was of course the daylight robbery of supposed United transfer target Pedro by rivals Chelsea. Van Gaal and his team had reported interest in the Spanish forward since the start of the summer with a deal almost finalized. Naturally the question about United’s inability to sign the former Barca man arrived and was met with a terse and confusing reply that was almost barked by the Dutchman. A reply which in all fairness serves no purpose. Doesn’t provide any answers, doesn’t put the manager in a good light, in the end, it was totally pointless. The only real positive anyone can take from the response was that Van Gaal had supposedly “got one over” on those filthy journalists with their prying vulture-like eyes.
Yes it’s fun to bash the media, in particular the sports media, for asking stupid and unnecessary questions. The internet is full of videos uploaded with a quick rub of the hands and a smile of pure glee detailing a manager so called “destroying” hard working journalists for asking what is usually a badly timed or badly researched question.
However, gone are the days of Brian Clough and Ron Atkinson with their knowledgeable replies and quick witted responses. Nowadays journalists have to be happy with whatever Van Gaal mumbles under his breath which usually amounts to “I’m the manager so shut up”. Let’s be fair here, he’s not the only one. Jose Mourinho, once the darling of every Sky Sports news report, has decided that moaning is the way forward. Instead of a critical analysis of his teams failure’s on the opening day of the season, Mourinho took aim at his own medical staff in a bizarre and quite frankly, embarrassing episode.
Look, I get it, managers do have a tough job. They know that they’re always one loss away from being thrown out the door and to admit defeat is to resign yourself to the unemployment line. Yet, is moaning and complaining the better alternative to honest and open criticism? For me, one of the stars of last season’s campaign was Manuel Pellegrini. Sure, his side came a bad second and failed to follow up a title winning season, but Pellegrini was a breath of fresh air. There was no blaming of the media, no pot shots at backroom staff with no voice, Pellegrini owned up to mistakes like a manager should. A dangerous tactic given the hierarchy at Man City’s fondness for firing but he’s still there. What’s even better is he’s winning. City are looking far more composed this year to last year’s mess. What’s apparent is the club has taken a look at themselves, identified weaknesses and are now reaping the rewards. All this is down to Pellegrini’s honest leadership and management.
Hopefully the joy will return to the press conference and people like me will be able to bring you the public, the best sports reporting possible. All we need is a little give and take from those in the know.