The final countdown
– On Tuesday evening, Manchester United beat Hull City 2-0 to put one foot in the EFL Cup final.
– On Tuesday evening, Manchester United extended their winning run to nine games.
– On Tuesday evening, Juan Mata was excellent and scored Manchester United’s opening goal.
– On Tuesday evening, Marouane Fellaini scored his first Manchester United goal of the season.
So what is the first paragraph of David Facey’s back page in The Sun on Wednesday morning?
‘Wayne Rooney failed to grab his 250th Manchester United goal. The England striker, 31, missed out on moving clear of legend Sir Bobby Charlton when he was substituted after 59 minutes.’
And what is the first paragraph of David Anderson’s back page in the Daily Mirror on Wednesday morning?
‘Wayne Rooney was forced to wait for his record-breaking 250th goal on a frustrating night for the England skipper. The England captain was replaced with 30 minutes to go.’
We’ve reached the stage where Rooney scoring is big news and Rooney not scoring is back-page news. Please just score that sodding goal, Wayne.
‘The old master showed the young pretender he still has a bit to learn. New Hull boss Marco Silva – the man dubbed ‘mini Mourinho’ in Portugal – had threatened to frustrate Manchester United.’
So begins Martin Blackburn’s piece in The Sun on Manchester United beating Hull City. Odd because Mediawatch has tried and failed to find anyone dubbing Silva the ‘mini Mourinho’ before the English press predictably did so after he was appointed Hull City manager.
As Silva himself said: “It’s not good. Never it’s good when you compare some different people or coaches – it’s not good. I am very happy because Mourinho is a Portuguese coach and what he did in his career is fantastic for him and our country. But I am a different person, a different coach.”
Still, the important question is this: Would ‘mini Mourinho’ not be Mourinhoinho?
In the Daily Mail, Chris Wheeler continues the ‘mini Mourinho’ theme. Because we couldn’t begin to understand who Marco Silva is without comparing him to another Portuguese manager.
‘He strode out along the same touchline where Jose Mourinho famously introduced himself to English football nearly 13 years ago, sliding on his knees in celebration of Porto’s late goal at Old Trafford. If Marco Silva wanted to avoid comparisons with his Portuguese compatriot, he could have done without facing Mourinho and his resurgent Manchester United team here of all places just five days after taking over at Hull City.’
Blaming the League Cup draw and fixture scheduling for the comparisons is a bit of a stretch. He’s not forcing you to make those comparisons, guys.
‘There are plenty of reasons why he has been dubbed the mini Mourinho; a similar career path in Portugal and the same agent for a start.’
Mourinho was assistant manager at Benfica, then stepped up to the top job for three months, then resigned. He then joined Uniao de Leiria, the team that had just finished fifth, and stayed for seven months before joining Porto in mid-season. He stayed at Porto for two-and-a-half years.
Silva got a job at Estoril, who were in the second tier, and stayed for three years. He then joined Sporting Clube de Portugal in the close season. He stayed for one year.
By ‘similar career path’, do you mean ‘managed in the same country’? And, if so, can we call Eddie Howe the mini Allardyce?
‘A fifth Premier League title for Chelsea, the end of Arsenal’s lengthy run of top-four finishes, and heartbreak for Swansea, Sunderland and Hull. They are the verdicts of SAM (Sports Analytics Machine), the super-computer built by Ian McHale, professor of sports analytics at the University of Salford, together with his colleague Dr Tarak Kharrat’ – BBC Sport.
Important point to note on this super-computer’s (which makes it sound like something from Tomorrow’s World) findings: There will only be one change of position in the top eight and bottom five places combined.
‘SAM takes into account a wide range of factors to work out match results, looking at average performances so far and calculating what that means for the remaining fixtures.’
Or ‘we’re assuming teams will carry on playing just about as well as they are’, hence the lack of changing positions.
‘It is based on players remaining fit and continuing with their average performance levels, so an injury to Chelsea striker Diego Costa or Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli, for example, would have a significant impact on these predicted outcomes.’
Conclusion: Real life will make a difference to real-life results. Who knew?
Holding out for a hero
Our sincere thanks go to Sky Sports for revealing the ‘unlikely heroes’ of the Premier League. Every day truly is a school day.
‘Which players make the difference for your team?’ the piece asks, negating to mention that they only have the answer if you’re a fan of a top-six club, Bournemouth, West Brom and Everton. Screw you, other teams.
‘While star strikers grab the headlines, a Sky Sports study has revealed unlikely heroes whose presence in the starting XI has had a positive impact this season.’
Thank you, oh wise ones. Without you how could we know that Tottenham are better with Toby Alderweireld and Liverpool with Joel Matip? And we’ve never been told a thousand times how much better Manchester United are with Michael Carrick. Revelations.
FIFA’s World Cup expansion plans have understandably got various knickers in twists, but Mediawatch’s favourite reaction came from John Dillon, now mostly to be found at the Evening Standard:
— John Dillon (@JohnDillonSport) January 10, 2017
— John Dillon (@JohnDillonSport) January 10, 2017
Wouldn’t the equivalent just be having more teams in the cricket and rugby World Cups?
The Wyett act
The inside cover of The Sun’s sport section on Wednesday contains a plug for the paper’s coverage ‘in print’, ‘on air’ and ‘online’, and includes the following boast: ‘Sunsport brings you brilliant pundits, searing analysis and breaking news every day.’
Six inches below, Charlie Wyett points out that FIFA president Gianni Infantino looks like the baddie from Thunderbirds: ‘Let’s hope the boys at Tracy Island can put off battling their adversary The Hood and will answer fans’ pleas for help’.
This comes under ‘searing analysis’, doesn’t it?
Like ten thousand spoons
‘Ironic that Mkhitaryan’s biggest contribution came with his head, a nod-down for Mata’s goal’ – Daily Mail.
Through the Metro filter
“The last game against Leipzig was not optimal for me personally, since I did not play. There was more space than in the games before. It was a game I could have enjoyed. Of course, I’m not sitting there with a grin on the bench”
*Through the Metro filter*
‘Man Utd target sends clear warning to club after tough start under new manager’
Recommended reading of the day
Rory Smith being positive about a 48-team World Cup.
Amitai Winehouse on Broxbourne Borough Under 18s.
Alan Tyers on British and Irish managers.