Is this the worst Manchester team ever?

Date published: Thursday 8th September 2016 11:53

Hold the back page
While the rest of you curse, Mediawatch oddly loves international week as it forces the tabloid newspapers to scrape the biggest of barrels to find back-page stories. And of course they’re all ‘exclusives’, because if you are going to scrape the barrel, you may as well claim that the barrel is made of the finest gold.

We start with The Sun, who have not one but two exclusives – helpfully labelled EXCLUSIVE 1 and EXCLUSIVE 2.

As is traditional, we will start with EXCLUSIVE 1, which sees Phil Cadden claim that ‘MARCUS RASHFORD will be in boss Sam Allardyce’s next senior England squad’.

Yes, Phil Cadden is claiming that he ‘exclusively’ knows that a striker who went to Euro 2016 and has this week scored a hat-trick for the England Under-21s just after the senior England side took 60-odd minutes to conjure a shot on target against Slovakia, will be in the next senior England squad. The fact that Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate said on Tuesday that he was tempted to say “It was nice working with you!” to the substituted Rashford was the signpost – were it even vaguely required – that the Manchester United youngster might just get a full England recall. Just 48 hours later, Cadden has inside information. How did he possibly find out?

It is to Mediawatch favourite Neil Custis that we owe The Sun’s EXCLUSIVE 2. His claim is that ‘JOSE MOURINHO will bury the hatchet with Pep Guardiola by inviting him for a drink after the derby’.

Mediawatch might swallow the idea that this is an ‘exclusive’ – even if a sh*t one – if Custis had not already pretty much given the game away 24 hours earlier in his piece detailing how ‘Jose Mourinho has turned Manchester United around to become the force of old in just three months’. Apparently one of the ways Mourinho has turned around United is his re-introduction of post-match red wine, with Custis writing that ‘opposing managers will like what he has changed as well’. A day later he is ‘exclusively’ claiming he will offer said wine to opposing manager Guardiola.

A reminder, should it be required: It’s not a back-page story if the exact opposite would be far, far more interesting. And still sh*t.

And so to the Daily Mirror and their ‘exclusive’ from David McDonnell that ‘MARCUS RASHFORD is set to be unleashed in this weekend’s Manchester derby’.

He seems pretty sure. This could be a bona fide exclusive, people.

And then we get to the second paragraph: ‘United boss is considering giving Rashford his first club start…’

And then the fourth: ‘Mourinho is said to be leaning towards including the rising star…’

From ‘set to be unleashed’ to ‘said to be leaning towards including’ in fewer than 100 words. Shameless.

And so to the Daily Mail and their back-page ‘exclusive’ that ‘NIKE’S backing of the England team is said to be in serious doubt’.

Quick question: Who gives a f***?


Marcus value
The Sun have come up with a foolproof way of calculating exactly what Marcus Rashford is worth. The answer, of course, is £72m. But here’s the working-out:

‘Martial has scored at a rate of 0.25 league goals per game in his top-flight career and Rashford’s strike rate is double that. So if anyone fancies tempting the Red Devils’ latest starlet from their grasp, the bidding might have to start in the region of £72m!’

Because of course that’s exactly how transfer fees work.


Rash decision
It’s not that journalists are getting carried away by Marcus Rashford, but Sam Wallace of the Daily Telegraph has picked him in his best Premier League XI despite claiming that he has picked a side ‘going strongly on current form’. He has played a very impressive 19 minutes so entirely deserves his place ahead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Sergio Aguero ‘on current form’. Odd then, that Wallace’s colleague Luke Brown puts Rashford in United’s second-string XI. Is it possible to be the best in the Premier League but not the best at Manchester United all at the same time?


Combination boiler

Mediawatch does not know where to start with Jamie Jackson of The Guardian’s combined XI ahead of the Manchester derby. Actually, that’s a lie, we know exactly where to start:


This is a ‘centre-half’ who has played a grand total of two games at centre-half in his whole career. In almost 400 matches for club and country, Kolarov has been fielded as a centre-half just twice – against Sunderland and Steaua Bucharest in the last month. For City’s last game against West Ham, Kolarov was on the bench – picked as neither left-back nor centre-back. And yet Jamie Jackson has opted for him ahead of both Nicolas Otamendi – City’s actual centre-half – or either Manchester United centre-half.

So why did Jackson choose Kolarov over the very impressive Eric Bailly?

‘City and United have issues in central defence and the Serb is chosen for the convincing way he has moved across from left-back. Daley Blind and Eric Bailly have a case, but the former lacks the muscle and thirst for the tackle of the latter: two attributes Kolarov also possesses plus, vitally, far more experience than the Ivorian.’

He does indeed have far more experience that Bailly. At bloody left-back. Why not just pick Michael Carrick in there? He’s played loads.

Anyway, let’s move on. To Marcus Rashford (who has played 19 minutes of Premier League football this season) being picked on the wing ahead of actual winger Raheem Sterling, who has so far this season notched two goals and an assist in three league games. Jackson does not even mention Sterling in his piece. Did he just forget about him?

One player Jackson could never forget is Wayne Rooney. Regular Mediawatch readers may remember that Jackson wrote in October – when Rooney was turning 30 – that he would go on to break Alan Shearer’s Premier League goals record.

‘Shearer retired at 35. His career was blighted by serious injury, which made his achievements more admirable. Given Rooney’s desire to continue for the foreseeable future, his ability to operate in differing roles and his benign injury record, he should play until the same age as Shearer, at the very least.

‘That means the Liverpudlian should be able to surpass Shearer to set a new goal record.’

At that time, Rooney was 73 goals behind Shearer, which meant he needed to start scoring goals at a rate of around 15 a season for the next five years to catch the Geordie. He has since scored seven times. It’s a bloody good job that the ‘fire still burns as Rooney’s dying-seconds creation of Rashford’s winner at Hull illustrates’. He might have to play until he’s 43.

‘Be indignant, be scandalised; enjoy’ writes Jackson. We’re not scandalised, Jamie; we just think you’re a numpty.


Magic Mike
We knew who would be in Nicky Butt’s combined XI. From his interview in The Times.

On Marcus Rashford: “It depends how the manager is going to play; if he plays a Michael Carrick, who can clip balls in for Marcus to run on to, then it’s all different, he can run in behind all day.”

On Man United ‘winners’: “We need Ibrahimovic, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Bailly and Carrick, players who know how to win.”

On Man United height: “Look at the United squad, they’re giants. Pogba, Carrick, Zlatan, Schneiderlin, Smalling, Bailly – athletes.”

Premier League minutes played by Michael Carrick this season: Zero.


Recommended reading of the day
Sachin Nakrani on Liverpool fans’ misplaced blind faith
Adam Crafton on the rise of Eric Bailly
Paul Wilson being sensible about Marcus Rashford

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