Socrates, Pique and Fergie vs Barclay

I’d given up on the Socrates interview and suggested to the publishers that we find someone else to do the foreword for the Rough Guide to Cult Football.

Then a call came through last week.

“It’s the Brazilian Socrates here. I’m sorry for taking so long to get back to you, but I only saw your letter yesterday – I’m surrounded by rottweilers who keep people at bay as I get a lot of requests.

"But I’d love to do this, it would be an honour. You don’t have to come to my home town, why not come to Sao Paulo, where I do a television programme every Thursday?”

"Can't talk now, pal, got to speak to Andy Mitten"

It’s hardly like crossing the road, but flights were booked within a day.

I will change in Milan, which is handy as United are playing there.

I once swore that I’d never use Alitalia again, but I’ll make an exception as it allows a trip to the San Siro, where I’ve seen United play five times and never seen a win.

I’m not feeling too confident this time either as Ronaldinho is in superb form.

* * *

The weather has meant that my 15-year-old brother hasn’t played a competitive game for six weeks.

He’s been training at the one place benefiting from the inclement weather, the DW Soccer Dome near the Trafford Centre in Manchester.

Several professional teams have been training on the indoor five-a-side pitches including Stockport County, Accrington Stanley, Barrow, Oldham Athletic and Rochdale.

* * *

I spoke to Gerard Pique about setting up an interview for FourFourTwo magazine.

I first met him when he was a kid in Manchester. He was from Barcelona and spent 70 percent of his time in Manchester, while I was the opposite.

I always wanted Pique to make it at Old Trafford, but could understood why he moved back home. He unquestionably made the right decision.

I always knew he was a decent player, but his progress has been staggering at Camp Nou, where he’s now the best defender for the best team in the world.

"Nah, I'm alright here, thanks"

With hindsight, and the injuries to Vidic and Ferdinand, I’m sure that Sir Alex Ferguson would have kept him, but that partnership was impenetrable when Pique was at Old Trafford.

Besides, a senior football figure at the club was convinced that Pique wasn’t a top level defender. With hindsight, we’ve seen that he is.

* * *

The journalist Paddy Barclay joined us the other day for something to eat. He was in Barcelona to interview Thierry Henry for his forthcoming biography of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Ferguson, a keen biography reader, initially gave his approval before changing his mind.

He may be 62, but Paddy is indefatigable.

He was in Paris the day before to speak to Gerard Houllier for the same book and got back to Luton late at night.

He then caught a night bus across London to Victoria, which was closed.

A tramp told him that it opened at 3am. He was right and a train to Gatwick left soon after before a flight to Barcelona.

We spoke about the situation at Manchester United.

The club have gone from having a defensive strategy of near silence since the 2005 Glazer takeover to spilling its guts out in public as more money needs to be raised to pay the hideous debts.

Paddy wrote a piece in Saturday's Times which was very critical of Sir Alex Ferguson and while it might surprise you to hear this, most United fans would agree with it.

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