What is the biggest story in the football world at lunchtime on Friday? Let’s take a look. A reminder that each of these articles are the lead stories on their respective websites.
‘Bastian Schweinsteiger on the golf course as Manchester United prepare for Southampton at Old Trafford’ – MailOnline.
Man plays golf.
‘Who should be in Arsenal’s starting XI against Leicester? We asked Football Manager’ – The Metro.
‘The STUNNING moment Man Utd fans risked their lives to see Pogba, Rashford and Smalling’ – Daily Express.
This. Is. Brilliant. The article includes the following sentence: ‘Click through the gallery for shocking images of young fans dicing with death in an attempt to collect Man United autographs.’
Just what we all wanted: a gallery of people supposedly nearly dying. Now we can all finally enjoy our Friday lunches.
It’s a kind of Magic
It’s Friday, which means it’s Paul Merson day on Sky Sports. Rejoice, for the Magic Man has bestowed upon us his knowledge. Here are the best bits.
On Manchester City:
“I didn’t see anything different against Sunderland despite all the pre-match talk. It was the same team that didn’t move the ball quick enough last year.”
If only they hadn’t played – and thoroughly beaten – another side 5-0 in midweek.
“The Cherries have a lot of possession but don’t really look like scoring.”
Aside from the goal they scored against Manchester United – and the one you predict them to score against West Ham in a 2-1 defeat.
On Bournemouth’s opponents, West Ham:
“Slaven Bilic has more match-winners on his team and that could make the difference.”
A reminder that West Ham’s ‘match-winners’ have inspired them to one victory from four competitive games at the start of the season.
On Crystal Palace:
“Palace had a shocking result at home and it looks like they need a forward.”
Let’s hope they have a club-record bid accepted for one soon then.
Wonderful. But he is not done there. Not by a long shot…
Says Merson of West Brom:
“If they didn’t have Tony Pulis, you would have West Brom around the relegation scrap, but with him as manager you know that’s not going to happen.”
Hold on, Mediawatch actually has to agree with Merson here. Across his spells with Stoke, Crystal Palace and West Brom, Pulis has finished eight seasons as a Premier League manager. He has never finished lower than 14th. He is a veritable safety net employed by clubs with the sole intention of keeping them up. Spot on Mers…
Oh, what’s this? ‘Paul Merson predicts final Premier League table for 2016/17‘ reads the headline to a Sky Sports article from August 9. And oh, who is this down in 17th? Why, it’s West Brom.
“With him as manager you know that’s not going to happen.” Unless of course you predicted it would happen just over a week ago.
Having a Paul
Jose Mourinho on Paul Pogba on August 18: “Yes, he’s ready to play. The condition is OK to play some minutes.”
Paul Merson on August 19: “I’m not sure if Paul Pogba will play to be honest because I’d be surprised if Mourinho changed his team.”
This is the last of Merson. Promise.
Karanka it up
Actually, no it isn’t. Here is Merson on Stoke, who face Manchester City on Saturday:
“Stoke had a good first result at Middlesbrough, which is a difficult place to go on the opening day.”
The Riverside Stadium is indeed a “difficult place to go on the opening day”. Except Middlesbrough’s record from their past five opening-day home games reads as follows: Played 5 Won 1 Drawn 2 Lost 2. They beat Birmingham the season before last, but have lost to Leicester (2013/14) and Ipswich (2010/11), and drawn with Portsmouth (2011/12) and Sheffield United (2009/10).
But aside from that, it is a “difficult place to go on the opening day”.
Possible line-up graphic? Check. Football Manager? Check. Obvious typo? Check. The Metro have a front-page story. pic.twitter.com/YanGJoy4mN
— Football365 (@F365) August 19, 2016
Keep up the good work, Metro. That is one of three ‘possible starting line-ups’ on their homepage – their homepage – by the way.
Stan Collymore really is not happy with Eden Hazard in the Daily Mirror. ‘The man who always speaks his mind’ is, well, speaking his mind.
‘Eden Hazard’s performance for Chelsea against West Ham on Monday just went to show how much of a cheat he really was last season,’ Collymore begins, and it is quite the strong introduction. Many may feel that Diego Costa’s performance was more befitting of such a strong term – ‘cheat’ – considering the striker could arguably have been sent off before his winner. But let’s allow Collymore to state his case.
‘I use that word purposefully because to go from a Premier League champion and PFA player of the year to being a liability for most of last season before the Euros tells me there’s no way he will ever play in a Barcelona or Real Madrid shirt.’
That is a bet many would happily take, Stanley.
‘If you’re a Real or Barca manager or scout, you’re looking for big characters who step up when there is adversity, not cheats who will quite happily get their boss sacked.
‘I bet Jose Mourinho watched Monday’s game thinking, ‘What an absolute, erm, rascal. There’s a player who essentially helped get me the sack and all of a sudden, for a new manager, it’s as if nothing happened.’
A few points, Stan.
* Zinedine Zidane, current manager of Real Madrid, called Hazard “a very, very good player” back in July. He quite likes him, despite the Belgian being a ‘cheat’.
* Jose Mourinho has never branded someone a ‘rascal’ in his head.
* Of all the individuals who ‘helped’ Mourinho get the sack at Chelsea, the Portuguese himself sits top of that list, not Hazard.
* While Hazard was certainly not the only one to under-perform in Mourinho’s final half-season, it is important to add that the winger previously apologised to the manager himself for his poor form as he felt “guilty”.
But still, ‘cheating’ b*stard.
By now, it is common knowledge that Mediawatch loves a ‘likely’ or ‘probable’ line-up before a match. On Friday, there is some disagreement.
* The Sun predict two changes to Manchester United’s starting XI for their game against Southampton. In come Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Daley Blind and Juan Mata.
* The Daily Mirror also predict two changes to the United XI; Paul Pogba makes his debut, and Mkhitaryan also comes in. Out are Ander Herrera and Mata.
* The Daily Mail go big, and they predict three changes to United’s XI. Pogba and Mkhitaryan start, but so does Morgan Schneiderlin. Marouane Fellaini joins Herrera and Mata on the bench.
* The Times stick with just two changes. Pogba and Mkhitaryan are in; Fellaini and Mata are out. The Daily Telegraph make the same prediction.
* Every newspaper predicts the exact same Southampton starting XI, except for the Telegraph, who say James Ward-Prowse will reprise his role in midfield. The rest say Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will replace him.
The Sun claim that these are the ‘likely line-ups’. The Mirror say that this is ‘how they line up’. The Mail say these are the ‘probable teams’, as do The Times and the Telegraph. How they can all therefore be completely different is baffling.
To summarise: As ever, no-one has a clue.
Slight difference of opinion
‘Manchester City are refusing to let Joe Hart leave on loan – and want a massive fee for the England number one’ – Alan Nixon in a Sun exclusive.
‘But [Jasper] Cillessen’s move to the Nou Camp has allowed [Claudio] Bravo’s proposed switch to City to go ahead, with their former No.1 Joe Hart now set to join Everton on loan for the rest of the season’ – David McDonnell, Daily Mirror.
Be a Star
Writes Ian Whittell in the Daily Star:
‘Jose Mourinho says £112m Paul Pogba will prove he is the best in the business.’
Since when did £112m equate to £89.3m – Pogba’s actual fee?
Writes Joe Bernstein in the Daily Mail:
‘Jose Mourinho will let loose Paul Pogba – the ‘best midfielder in the world’ – as Manchester United face Southampton at Old Trafford tonight.
‘The £100million summer signing is set to make his second debut for the club he left in 2012 in the first Friday night clash of the Premier League season.’
Paul Pogba cost £89.3m. The fee could rise to £93.5m. That is not £100m.
— Express Sport (@DExpress_Sport) August 18, 2016
Impressive, even by Daily Express standards.
Questionable headline of the day
‘Pep Guardiola dropping Joe Hart is a massive call and one which ultimately he will be judged on’ – Daily Mirror.
One suspects he will probably be judged more on winning Premier League titles and competing for Champions League trophies.
Getting the Humph
Yesterday, Mediawatch teased BT Sport anchor Jake Humphrey for his poor memory of his McDonald’s days. We promise this isn’t a thing, but… well, it is a bit of a thing.
That video (start at 1:45) shows Humphrey discussing his favourite Norwich City memories with Canaries Player, and involves a discussion of Norwich City 4-4 Middlesbrough, in which Adam Drury scored.
“I remember it well,” Humphrey says. “I was a paperboy at the time, and so the next day I was delivering the Eastern Daily Press around where my parents live, and the back page was all about the fans who left early, and I was loving it thinking ‘I was there’. I stayed until the bitter end.”
Mediawatch doesn’t quite know what to make of the following information, but Norwich’s 4-4 draw with Middlesbrough was in 2005, when Humphrey was 26 and working as a presenter on Newsround. Either he was the oldest paperboy in Norwich or his mind’s playing tricks on him again.
McDonalds at 16 and delivering papers at 26. He has the career of a mildly unsuccessful Benjamin Button.
Recommended reading of the day
Iain Macintosh on Friday Night Football.
Robert O’Connor on Vitalijs Astafjevs.
Rob Smyth on *that* David Beckham goal.