On the Wayne, Part 1
One would have been forgiven for missing it completely, but Thursday saw one of the biggest football news stories of the year broken by the country’s most popular newspaper. This is no snarky Mediawatch joke; this is a massive story.
It has everything. ‘EXCLUSIVE’ in capital letters; a Man United ‘source’; a ‘reveal’; two huge names in the sport.
— The Sun Football ⚽ (@TheSunFootball) September 15, 2016
Mediawatch managed to read the headline and the author, and already the alarm bells are ringing. This is a snarky Mediawatch joke.
‘Manchester United transfer news: Jose Mourinho to consider selling Wayne Rooney next summer… with Gareth Bale lined up as replacement’.
Where to even start with that? Perhaps with the fact that Gareth Bale would be a shoddy replacement for Rooney; they play in completely different positions.
One must also note that it is Daniel Cutts who has written this story. Not Neil Custis or Neil Ashton, who both have contacts in Manchester, but Daniel Cutts. Here are a list of his most recent ‘EXCLUSIVES’:
‘Arsenal in talks with Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez as Gunners wants to get winger as well as Jamie Vardy’ – June 6.
‘Man City may miss out on Ukrainian whizkid Oleksandr Zinchenko in order to get Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre Emerick Aubameyang’ – June 13.
‘Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger holds talks with talented strike duo Alexandre Lacazette and Romelu Lukaku’ – July 4.
‘Toni Kroos wanted by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola in £60m transfer from Real Madrid’ – July 6.
‘West Ham out to hijack Crystal Palace’s £30million move for striker Christian Benteke’ – July 6.
‘Arsenal transfer news: Gunners in for double swoop for Manchester City’s Jason Denayer and Borussia Dortmund’s Matthias Ginter’ – July 18.
‘Arsenal transfer news: Arsene Wenger will only buy a ‘superstar’ striker as he targets Robert Lewandowski and Antoine Griezmann’ – August 10.
‘Jack Wilshere has already held talks with Arsene Wenger over signing a contract extention with Arsenal after loan to Bournemouth’ – September 6.
Yes, ‘extention’. And Wilshere himself denied this less than a week later. We could go on.
But back to Cutts’ latest exclusive: That Manchester United ‘are considering the sale of star Wayne Rooney next summer’.
‘United believe next year could be their final chance of getting a substantial transfer fee,’ Cutts writes. ‘And Old Trafford chiefs are already actively looking for a superstar to replace him –with Real Madrid ace Gareth Bale their number one target.’
What follows are quotes from his ‘Manchester United source’. Put all that together, and you have a story that you can publish at 12pm on Thursday – peak time for website traffic – with a URL which includes the words ‘Manchester United’, ‘transfer news’, ‘Wayne Rooney’, ‘Jose Mourinho’ and ‘Gareth Bale’.
Selling your soul for SEO, the Sun way.
On the Wayne, Part 2
There is something even more interesting to note on that mammoth Manchester United ‘exclusive’. Here is The Sun‘s back page on Friday:
— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) September 15, 2016
Forgive Mediawatch, but surely such a big ‘exclusive’ would warrant some space on the back page of your newspaper? Even Ian Wright is afforded the top-right corner.
Not only is the Rooney ‘exclusive’ nowhere to be found in the newspaper edition, it is buried halfway down the homepage of the football section of The Sun’s website.
Some of the stories ranked above it include:
‘Neymar ditches peroxide blond locks for a stylish new bob… and Barcelona team-mate Jordi Alba cut it’
‘Raheem Sterling and his girlfriend Paige Milian dine at fancy Middle Eastern restaurant’
‘Think half-and-half scarves are bad? Feyenoord have taken it a step further with HOODIES’
At least own it, guys.
Lawro, Lawro laughs
Paul Merson is on a roll. After avoiding Mediawatch last Friday, the Sky Sports pundit repeats the trick a week later.
Well, almost. Stoke will be thankful for his sage advice – “They have footballers in their team and it’s OK to have footballers when you are winning” – but, by and large, the Magic Man is sensible enough for such a giddy man.
Another staple of these pages is not quite so lucky. Mark Lawrenson is in fine form for BBC Sport.
On Hull City, Lawro says:
“Hull earned a point against Burnley last time out thanks to Robert Snodgrass’s wonder goal but, after winning their first two games of the new campaign, I think it is starting to sink in what their season will really be like.”
They are eighth in the table. Their last two games includes a narrow loss to Manchester United, and a hard-fought draw with Burnley.
Lawrenson, of course, has Hull and Watford bottom of his predicted table so far, both sides with four defeats from four games. Crystal Palace are third, with nine points. Obviously.
Odds one out
On Thursday, The Sun‘s website published a news story concerning Diego Simeone. The Atletico Madrid manager has renegotiated his contract with the Spanish club, meaning his deal will now expire in 2018, not 2020.
Most outlets reported it; only The Sun reported it as a ‘boost’ for Arsenal. Why? Who knows? But they did. The Daily Mail, who have actual contacts in Spain, stated that he wished to join Inter Milan and would not be moving to the Premier League any time soon.
Fast forward to Friday, and The Sun have stooped to new lows. ‘Arsenal news: Odds slashed on Diego Simeone swapping Atletico Madrid for the Gunners as their next manager,’ reads their headline. Oh bother.
It is a story based solely on betting odds. And betting odds from just one firm, more to the point. Ladbrokes have ‘slashed’ their price on Simeone to become the next Arsenal manager from 16/1 to 7/1.
Of course, according to the latest odds from all leading bookmakers, Simeone is only the fifth favourite for the post. We cannot wait to hear about how the ‘odds have been slashed’ on Eddie Howe, Joachim Low, Roberto Mancini and Dennis Bergkamp to become the next Arsenal manager.
Mediawatch isn’t saying this is what happened, but allow us to play Devil’s Advocate. Theoretically, you *could* sort out a handy little relationship here, whereby:
1) Bookie reads news story (Simeone ‘boosting Arsenal’ by renegotiating his contract)
2) Bookie alters their odds (on Simeone coming to Arsenal)
3) Bookie rings the newspaper
4) Bookie tells the newspaper that the price has been lowered, or, even better, ‘slashed’
5) Bookie gets free exposure; the newspaper gets easy clicks.
Everyone is a winner. If ‘everyone’ means The Sun and Ladbrokes.
Friday is a great day not only because of Paul Merson and Mark Lawrenson, but because Neil Ashton bestows upon us his knowledge.
Or, in the words of The Sun, Ashton brings us ‘The inside track on football’s biggest stories’. This week, his sources have been busy in the Jack Wilshere camp.
‘It cannot have escaped Jack Wilshere that he would have made Arsenal’s bench for their Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday,’ Ashton writes. Sure.
‘Instead, Wilshere – who held up a Bournemouth shirt when he signed on loan – is talking himself into a permanent move after claiming he now considers himself to be a Cherries player.’
Mediawatch has just a few questions:
a) Why would Wilshere not hold up a Bournemouth shirt when he signed on loan?
b) Why would he not ‘consider himself a Cherries player’? He plays for Bournemouth on loan; he is a Bournemouth player for this season. If he said he didn’t feel like a Bournemouth player then he wouldn’t start many games.
c) Considering Wilshere actually said “I’m a Bournemouth player now in my head” on Monday, can this really be dubbed as ‘the inside track’? The quotes are four days old.
‘Outside track’, more like. Right, guys? Guys? Oh whatever.
On the Wayne, Part 3
And, finally, the Wayne Rooney trilogy is complete in Friday’s Mediawatch. It’s like Lord of the Rings, but with only one Ork. Burn…
You will, of course, remember Daniel Cutts’ ‘exclusive’ that Manchester United are considering selling their captain next summer? Well, fortunately, Ashton’s inside track includes a few paragraphs on the 30-year-old. Shed some light on it for us, Neil.
‘Nobody messes with players’ heads quite like Jose Mourinho,’ he begins.
‘The idea that Wayne Rooney is suffering with burn-out after four Premier League and one England game is ludicrous.
‘Zlatan Ibrahimovic is 35 in a couple of weeks time and that did not stop him travelling to Feyenoord for United’s Europa League tie.
‘Rooney’s omission is a deliberate strategy, a shot across the bows for Manchester United’s captain after a poor performance against the noisy neighbours last weekend.
‘Mourinho claims Rooney is being saved for Watford on Sunday but the reality is that the Special One is expecting a big reaction from the forward.
‘Word out of United is Mourinho believed Rooney’s mobility was exposed during the 2-1 defeat by City at Old Trafford.
‘For that reason, he needs to get his head down and put in the hard yards.’
Nothing about United considering selling Rooney. Not from the man who claims to have ‘the inside track’. Does Daniel Cutts know something Ashton and the rest of us do not?
No, probably not.
It was nice to see Mark Hughes accept the blame for his dismissal during Stoke’s defeat to Tottenham on Saturday, wasn’t it?
“It was my fault – I came out of my area,” the Welshman said. “I wasn’t happy as I thought they missed two decisions. I was disappointed with that but I was also disappointed with my reaction.”
Well played, Mark. Take the decision on the chin, accept the likely subsequent ban and move o… oh, what’s this?
“It rubbed a little bit of salt into the wounds to be perfectly honest,” Hughes said on Thursday. “On the day the incident itself was maybe misinterpreted differently to how I felt it should have been.
“Clearly the charge relates to the area in and around the technical area which is another directive this year which seems to be imposed differently from one game to the next and needs to be more consistently followed by the officials.
“I was sent off for leaving the technical area and my understanding is that the improper conduct charge is because I didn’t leave immediately, which was a bit difficult because I didn’t know where to go and was hanging around for clarity.
“I was asking the fourth official Moss who, my understanding is, should know that information.”
“It was my fault” on Saturday. It was everyone else’s fault less than week later.
You make me Scholes again
Paul Scholes likes Michael Carrick.
“I’ve always found him very easy to play with. He’s capable of doing anything. He can create goals, score goals, he’s a great passer of the ball and is a big strong lad with a lot of presence who can run all day long” – January 2012.
‘Paul Scholes: It’s amazing Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick has so few caps for England’ – March 2015.
“He is the best central midfielder for a centre forward. He’s the one who will find you. You make your runs and nine times out of ten he will find you” – November 2015.
“I thought Carrick should be playing. Michael probably isn’t in the best form of his life, he’s picking up injuries and he can’t stay fit” – March 10, 2016.
“[Pogba] needs a controlling midfield player next to him. They probably need to go into the transfer market for somebody like that. Michael is capable of it” – September 15, 2016.
See? Paul Scholes likes Michael Carrick.
Google a simple question…
Fresh from bravery stats, Sky Sports News are now comparing top Google searches. Number 4 for Conte is a belter. pic.twitter.com/exPDHOO0IH
— Andy Ha (@_AndyHa) September 16, 2016
Recommended reading of the day
Miguel Delaney on Romelu Lukaku.
Richard Hall on Gheorghe Hagi.
Will Sharp on The Battle of Nuremberg.