The Betfair Big Interview: Viv Anderson on Mourinho and the pressure of Best, Law and Charlton

Viv Anderson
Easy rider . . . former Manchester United star Viv Anderson
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A few days after holding up Manchester City's title celebrations, and with an FA Cup semi-final coming up, Manchester United are in the spotlight. Betfair went to meet former United and England star Viv Anderson to talk all things Old Trafford . . .

"I'll back Manchester United at [9.0] to win their FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham 2-1 in the Correct Score market."

Hi Viv, so we've had to wait to talk until you got back from a bike ride. What's that about?

I'm riding the Football to Amsterdam event for Prostate Cancer UK in June, so it's time to get the training miles done.

Crikey that sounds a long way.

Yes - 148 miles in all over two days. I got asked to start off the event a couple of years ago because it begins from my old club Barnsley where I was the manager, and somehow got myself talked into actually riding it. It started with me and my brother-in-law, last year we roped in three others, and this time there are 14 of us in our team as part of 200 riding altogether. It should be good fun and it's a great cause.

So you could practise a bit more by riding to Wembley for the semi-final?

Ha, I might choose a more orthodox means of travel for that!

Will it be odd for United to have the semi there, bearing in mind it's a home game for Spurs?

It is what it is, you can't do anything about it. You talk to Spurs fans in the early part of the season and it was a hoodoo place for them. They couldn't win there, now they have turned it all around. To be honest the venue doesn't matter. I've played in semi-finals and have both lost and won. It is all about who handles the emotions best on the day. I'll go to this one with high hopes for United, though. I was at The Etihad last week and the way they turned that game around was brilliant.

A lot of United fans are still not convinced by Jose Mourinho. What are your thoughts?

I think he's still learning the Manchester United way. I know he is renowned for parking the bus and everything else, but slowly but surely, especially after the City performance, there are signs he is evolving. That proved they are capable of playing the way United supporters like them to play.

Still learning? He's in his second season.

I understand that with a man of his experience you thought he would learn straight away, but it takes time. You are going back to the traditions of Best, Law and Charlton, you score four we'll score five, and that has never been in Jose's DNA. I think we can have this discussion next year and I think he will have learned a lot from this season. Every manager since Sir Alex retired has been in his shadow, and until you have walked in somebody else's shoes you can't realise what it is like to be manager of Manchester United.

United a different world

You were Sir Alex's first signing after he came down from Aberdeen. What were the special challenges of Old Trafford then?

It is a different world. I had won European Cups at Forest and then played for Arsenal, and it was still a huge step up. You can go through the years of people who struggled to adapt. I think back to Garry Birtles, one of the best centre forwards I played with, but he went to Manchester United and he couldn't do it. For whatever reason I do not know. It is big pressure every week. Most weeks at most clubs you can play to a certain standard and get away with it, but at United you have to play to your maximum week in week out, day in day out. The pressures of Best, Law and Charlton and all the 70,000 plus supporters are always there. Some people can hack it and some can't, and that's what makes you a Manchester United player or not.

Is that why Paul Pogba has struggled?

He should have been ok because he was brought up through the system, but even he has found, coming back, how difficult it is. I'm not saying it isn't difficult to play for Tottenham, Arsenal or Liverpool, but there is something about Manchester United with their history that is very, very difficult. Unless you take it on board and welcome it, it can whittle you down and you end up leaving because you cannot hack it.

It's the style of football that people have grumbled about.

I think it is evolving - the latest performance it didn't so much evolve as revolutionise in one game. The second half against City, that is what Manchester United should be all about. Hopefully, this is a Jose Mourinho new phase of what is expected, and what he expects from his teams. Let's start from the beginning and play like that.

Need to be more consistent

It took Sir Alex four seasons to really make headway. Do you think fans will have to be as patient with Mourinho?

It was different for him because he inherited a crop of players that the staff at the time thought would go on to do really well. Instead only Lee Martin and Russell Beardsmore got in the team. It was only when the likes of Beckham, Scholes, Giggs, the Nevilles and Butt came through he had a crop he could rely on. Now Jose Mourinho has endless fortunes, he's spent more than £200m on players, and I think they will give him another £200m to spend again, to bridge that gap to Manchester City. Manchester United have to be up there challenging for that title. It isn't acceptable to be so far adrift. So he has to buy more players and hopefully some of the young lads come will come through too.

Would finishing second and winning the FA Cup constitute a good season?

I think so. Some of the games they have played well this season and there have been glimmers of good stuff, but we need to be more consistent and put those performances in every week. He has to know exactly when he picks his team what he can expect of them. At this moment it is still a bit not sure which side turns up. I just hope the top side turns up at Wembley.

We hope so too for you - and we've a free £50 bet to say thanks for your time with any winnings to a favourite charity.

Brilliant - obviously the charity will be Prostate Cancer UK. It's a disease that will affect one man in eight and one in four black men so their research work is vital. You can add the winnings to the JustGiving page for my ride! And I'll back United at [9.0] to win the semi-final 2-1 in the Correct Score market.

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