Hello again, dear reader. My apologies for such a substantial delay in posting, I’m pleased to see my good friend Mr Mantle has kept this place ticking over, but it’s about time I played my part.

Now there have been a few interesting topics since I’ve been away: Capello and England, Danny Murphy’s mouth, Marlon King’s return to the game and Arsene Wenger’s ‘war on tackles’ to name just a few. However, in this week there is only one place I can start: Wayne Rooney, and Manchester United.

I see Mr Mantle has posted on the topic already this week, clearly taken in by the idea that Rooney was away to pastures new. Now I never totally accepted that idea, and the reason why was Fergie himself. Normally when a player crosses the manager at United he is out the door in less time than it takes Rio Ferdinand to say “drugs test”. However, the key was in Ol’ Red Nose’s language: “my door is always open”.

Let’s be honest here. If this whole argument was about money, there’s no way Rooney would have wanted to leave. Manchester United, no matter how much debt they are in, can and will match anybody in the world as far as wages for top players go. Anybody. And that includes both Manchester City and Chelsea, as well as Real Madrid and Barcelona. When this is considered, you have to assume that there is something else in this whole stance.

It is easy to say (indeed many already have) that Rooney has disrespected the fans and the club by his stance. Perhaps my views are because I’m not a United fan, but I entirely disagree with Hayward and his ilk. I think Rooney’s stance showed him to be at one with the United support, positioning himself with the green and gold campaign seen in Old Trafford each and every week.

“But Mike, he asked to leave…” I hear you ask. Indeed, that he did. But what better way to criticise the club’s owners by demanding a transfer, even when you don’t actually want to leave? If that isn’t a big “we’re going backwards” type of statement, when the best player at the club publicly questions the ambitions of the country’s biggest club, I don’t know what is.

This time last year, Rooney made a public statement which said that he wanted to stay at United for the duration of his career. Had that really changed in just  12 short months? Of course not, and despite the off-field activities of ‘Shrek’, United was as good for him as he was for them.

So now United fans feel let down by Rooney. What I have to ask is ‘why’? Because he questioned where United were going? Because he felt United couldn’t sign the kind of player that’d take another European Cup to Old Trafford? Because he questioned whether United could attract the best players in the city of Manchester, let alone England? Where have we heard this before? At last, one of your biggest players has come out and said exactly the same message as you have all been giving out for years.

Much like Liverpool under Hicks and Gillette, the debt at United is gradually strangling the club. The money that is generated through the turnstiles, the TV revenue and merchandise is now being spent on servicing the ridiculous-near BILLION pound debt acquired by Mr Glazer, rather than being reinvested into the squad or (heaven forbid) reducing ticket prices so ordinary fans can turn Old Trafford into the cauldron of noise it should be (think Celtic Park on a European night.)

I’d suggest United fans should use this as a springboard to continue the campaign to rid the club of the Glazer family. Continue to question the ambition of the club under the Americans. Continue to ask why Fergie isn’t given the kind of cash to match your “noisy neighbours”, especially when you consider how much is made by the United ‘brand’ (I now feel very dirty, thanks.) And continue to ask how you can replace Cristiano Ronaldo with Nani.

Although I do have to be honest here and admit that I find the state of United quite amusing. It’s almost like Fergie is playing a real life game of Football Manager, selling all his best players and signing Steve Guppy in their place. As to whether this is good for English football though is certainly open to debate…

Ah, Liverpool. Despite what Sky, The Sun, and most from Cornwall will tell you, England’s most succesful club. The third most succesful club in Europe, and one of the best supported clubs in the world. However, they’re a shambles, both in the board room and on the pitch. As ever, there’s a danger of getting egg on my face with this post, but hey ho, I’m going to plough on into it like a two-footed Paul Scholes challenge.

Despite the backing that Benitez has received from Hicks and Gillett publicly, privately I’m certain they’re imagining his head on the chopping block. However, the complete farce that is their ownership of the Reds already has them on the brink of expulsion, and the removal of Benitez will certainly see them in the abyss. Indeed, due to his close relationship with those on the terraces, Benitez is pretty much unsackable

While Hicks and Gillett still got on, they approached Jurgen Klinsmann about the possibility of taking Benitez’s job. This was met with fury from the Koppites, who adored ‘Rafa’ for his European Cup win, and the board rightly backed down. That being said, now is the time that any board should be considering the Spaniard’s position.

Out of the Champions League, out of the FA Cup and only just hanging on to the coat-tails of Manchester City and Spurs in the race for fourth, Benitez should certainly be clearing out his desk. Despite taking the club to two European finals and an FA Cup win, his team just don’t have the depth to sustain a title challenge when Torres and Gerrard are injured. In his time there, he’s allowed Bellamy, Robbie Keane, Peter Crouch, Jermaine Pennant and Xabi Alonso to leave the club, leaving his club desperately short in genuine quality. Many Liverpool fans have blamed the lack of investment from the owners for Liverpool’s weak squad, but keeping those five would have gone a long way to reinforcing Benitez’s team.

I get the impression a section of the support are at last turning against Benitez, many believing the final straw came against Reading last week. However, before Hicks and Gillett start rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of finally getting rid the bearded one, they should have a long, hard think. There are many more Liverpool supporters wanting to see the back of Hicks and Gillett rather than the ‘FSW’ (‘Fat Spanish Waiter’ to fans of other clubs) and the removal of Benitez will see a massive protest.

So where does this leave Hicks and Gillett? Do they stay at a club where they are despised, swimming in debt, unable to invest in the squad and slide into mid-table mediocrity? Or do they remove Benitez from his position, and then get forced out the club by 45,000 angry Scousers? Or do they sell up to an owner with the financial muscle to take Liverpool forward?

This wouldn’t be a problem to them if they hadn’t dragged the club into ridiculous debt when they purchased them. Much like the Glazer’s did with Manchester United, Hicks and Gillett put their own greed above the supporters of the club. The attitude of the Hicks/Gillett team was summed up last week by Hicks Jnr’s email to a fan concerned at his club’s slide. The staggering arrogance of Hicks Jnr led to him being removed from his position, and proved that the Americans really don’t understand ‘soccer’ and it’s supporters.

Unless, of course, your name is Randy Lerner. Despite his ridiculous name, Randy is the perfect chairman for a Premier League club. He has very quietly set about making Aston Villa a true force in the game, backing his manager with funds, and allowing him to build one of the most exciting teams in the country. At the same time, he’s ensured Villa’s future is secure, tickets are reasonably priced and he is loved by the Villa support.

The two different styles of ownership are night and day, a million miles from each other and I truly hope Villa sneak into the top 4 at the end of the season. I would be surprised if there aren’t a few Liverpool fans praying for a bad finish too, in the hope that they can use the anger that will inevitably bring to force Hicks and Gillett out the door.

Liverpool finishing out of the top 4 and United claiming a record-beating 19th title might just be enough. I wouldn’t fancy being a ‘copper’ in the North West that day though.