Excuse me, Mr Precedent
Manuel Pellegrini is accused by the Daily Mirror’s Chief Sports Writer Dave Kidd of ‘tossing off’ the FA Cup. He claims City threw a ‘childish strop’ and that was ‘a new low for a once-great competition’. Which is obviously balls. But Kidd has come up with what he believes is a precedent.
‘The richest club in the world will ensure a three-hour flight to Ukraine is no great hardship. Yet apparently it precludes their players from doing what Chelsea did on their way to winning the FA Cup and Champions League four seasons ago.
‘On that occasion, Roberto Di Matteo and Chelsea’s hierarchy whinged for weeks about having to play Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday teatime before a Wednesday-night visit from Barcelona.
‘Yet Di Matteo chose his first team for both semi-finals and Chelsea beat Spurs 5-1, then defeated Barca 1-0 on their way to an aggregate victory – so ‘knackered’ that they shut out Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas.’
Not exactly what Chelsea did then? A few things…
1) It’s actually a five-hour flight from Manchester to Kiev. Which Chelsea absolutely did not have to endure between playing Tottenham and Barcelona (at home).
2) At the time of that Tottenham game, Chelsea were 25 points off the top of the Premier League table; Manchester City are currently six points adrift.
2) Chelsea did actually make three changes between those two matches that were three days apart.
3) That Tottenham game was an FA Cup semi-final. We’re pretty sure Manuel Pellegrini would have made a different decision if he was 180 minutes away from a trophy.
4) Chelsea were not missing seven first-team players through injury.
5) Juan Mata, Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Raul Meireles, Ramires and Ashley Cole were all rested for Premier League games either side of these two key fixtures.
6) It’s really not the sodding same at all, is it?
The wonderful thing about The Sun bringing Alan Shearer, Ian Wright, Steven Howard and Charlie Wyett together to talk England and Euro 2016 is that they appear to be on some kind of mission to out-do each other for utter, utter nonsense. Was there a lunch at stake? We can think of no other reason for some of the tripe proferred in the middle pages of The Sun’s pull-out.
* He picks Michael Carrick. Yes, Michael Carrick. A player who has won one of the last eight games he has played for Manchester United. A player restricted by injury to only one appearance for England this season. A player who is 35 in July. A player who is a product of the same Wallsend Boys club.
* He also picks Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Ross Barkley in central midfield. Width? Not for Wor Al.
* ‘I would have four experienced players in my team and the rest should be kids,’ says Shearer. Has he now reached that bitter old age when the 26-year-old Ryan Bertrand is a ‘kid’?
* ‘I am very excited about the whole tournament. I always am.’
Just wonderful. Pure Wrighty.
* ‘The only decision to make is to make sure he picks the players who are playing well.’
* Like Shearer, Wrighty picks Dele Alli wide on the right – in a position he has literally never played. He does this to accommodate Jordan Henderson, a player who has never produced one single impressive performance for England. And yet Hodgson ‘must not pick players on reputation’.
And now chief sports writer Steven Howard:
* ‘This is a very poor tournament.’
Only the grumpiest man in Christendom could claim Euro 2016 is a ‘poor tournament’ almost four months before it starts.
* Howard advocates Wayne Rooney playing wide left and John Stones at right-back. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the chief sports writer of the nation’s biggest-selling newspaper.
* He then blames Roy Hodgson for Ross Barkley’s poor form last season: ‘I would hazard a guess Hodgson totally undermined the youngster’s confidence.’ Aye, that’ll be it. We should all ‘hazard guesses’ about a footballer’s emotional wellbeing.
* All the kids should obviously start because ‘Glenn Hoddle didn’t do so badly with a young Owen, Beckham and Scholes all in the team the last time we played a tournament in France’.
Except, well, at France 98, it’s true that young Scholes (23) started, but Michael Owen (18) and David Beckham (also 23) did not start either of England’s first two games. You could also argue that the youthful petulance of Beckham well and truly cocked up England’s World Cup chances. But yes, start them all. Every one of them. And Rooney on the left. And Stones at right-back (ignore what happened the last time Roberto Martinez tried that trick).
Last but not least, football editor Charlie Wyett, the real expert:
* ‘All the younger players should start.’
Yep. All of them. Except John Stones because Gary Cahill needs to start ‘due to his experience’.
* ‘The big decision is to pick the players who have had the best season. Should not be difficult.’
And yet you still picked Gary Cahill.
* ‘An obsession about playing experienced players has got England absolutely nowhere in previous tournaments.’
For the record, all four have picked a team featuring Harry Kane as a stiker. Just to clarify, is that the same Harry Kane who is yet to score in five games as a starting striker for England?
Guess the journalist
Tottenham lost for the first time in nine games against Crystal Palace on Sunday. They rested Toby Alderweireld, moved Eric Dier into central defence and gave rare starts to Josh Onomah and Nabil Bentaleb. They lie second in the Premier League.
So who wrote the following?
‘Now comes the real test of Tottenham’s resolve.
‘Out of the FA Cup, they have got Fiorentina in the Europa League on Thursday, followed by Swansea, West Ham and Arsenal in the Premier League.
‘Only then will we discover whether defeat to Crystal Palace can be a blessing in disguise or perhaps offered a worrying sign that Mauricio Pochettino’s men are running out of steam and ideas.’
Why, it’s the Daily Mirror’s Arsenal fanboy John Cross, of course. Mediawatch is just surprised that he didn’t write ‘fingers crossed’ at the end of that sentence.
The Daily Mirror, February 16: ‘Ryan Giggs is reluctant to do another stint as Manchester United caretaker boss.’
The Daily Star, February 20: ‘Starsport understands Woodward will still resist sacking Van Gaal even if United lose all three, with No.2 Ryan Giggs not interested in taking the job on a caretaker basis, and Jose Mourinho unwilling to take the job on until the summer.’
The Times, February 20: ‘Ryan Giggs would have serious reservations about taking over as Manchester United manager on an interim basis for a second time, in the event that Louis van Gaal is sacked or resigns, if there was no promise of a permanent position.’
The Sun, February 22: ‘RYAN GIGGS will need persuading to take over as caretaker manager again if Manchester United sack Louis van Gaal.’
Anybody got any idea whether Ryan Giggs would want the caretaker job?
It makes something of a mockery of The Sun’s Dream Team ratings when Steven Howard writes in his match report that Cesc Fabregas was ‘running the show and creating a succession of chances’ at Stamford Bridge but he is then awarded 6/10; apparently only three players on the pitch were worse. So that’s Cesc ‘running the show’ Fabregas – exactly as good as Willy Caballero, described elsewhere in The Sun as ‘still dodgy’.
By the book
The Sun have added a little ‘book’ graphic to their ‘what we learned’ snapshots. Which is nice.
Mediawatch wonders which book Justin Allen was reading when he ‘learned’ that ‘Danny Welbeck looks lively again but was frustrated by Hull No1 Eldin Jakupovic’. Simply replace the book graphic with a pair of eyes and call it ‘Five things what we saw’.
Worst intro of this or any other day
‘LUIS SUAREZ is infamous for using his teeth – but Arsene Wenger thinks they light up one of the most infectious smiles in football’ – John Dillon, The Sun.
Offered without comment
— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) February 22, 2016
Recommended reading of the day
Sid Lowe on Luis Suarez
Michael Cox on Cesc Fabregas’ bewildering performance against Man City
Matt Barker on Silveo Berlusconi’s 30-year reign at Milan