Mediawatch: Why Man United will sign Stones

Date published: Friday 12th August 2016 12:02

The magic returns
Mediawatch could not sleep on Thursday night. Every attempt was met with a brick wall on which the words ‘The Magic Man’ were scribbled. Thoughts of Revels, wearing slippers on glass mountains and willfully mispronouncing the names of foreign players pervaded our thoughts. Premier League football returns on Saturday; Paul Merson returns on Friday.

He wastes absolutely no time in continuing where he left off with Sky Sports. Leicester vs Hull is first up as the early game – what does Merson reckon is in store for the champions?

‘It’s a good first game for Leicester but the result does depend how Hull approach it. I think they will probably sit back and be pretty defensive.’

Fair enough. Most would argue that Leicester will be too strong regardless against a side with about ten available first-team players, but it’s his opinion. Of course, his thoughts have been transcribed word for word yet again – ‘the result does depend how Hull approach it’ makes no sense whatsoever – but still. Oh, what’s this?

‘Still, even if they do, I don’t see anything other than a win for Claudio Ranieri’s side.’

Ah. So the result ‘does depend how Hull approach it’, but ‘I don’t see anything other than a win for Claudio Ranieri’s side’. Glad that’s clear.

Next, Merse has some advice for Crystal Palace and Alan Pardew:

‘What Palace need to do this season under Alan Pardew is to break their slumps quicker than they have done in the past.’

There you go, Alan. All you need to do is stop being so sh*t a bit quicker than you managed last time. Easy.

‘They can reel off six wins in a row but they can lose eight games on the spin too, and that’s why they are so inconsistent.’

Again, stop transcribing his every word verbatim. ‘They are so inconsistent and that’s why they are so inconsistent.’

Still, isn’t it good to have him back?


Spurs them on
Says Paul Merson: ‘Tottenham have a team already but I feel they need to add more to their squad because they’re a bit light.’

Said Paul Merson two days prior: ‘Tottenham won’t be far off either because they already have a team while everybody else has had to buy a team.’

It seems that Tottenham ‘have a team’. But can (former Arsenal player) Merson please decide whether they need to sign more players, or whether they’ve done well because ‘everybody else has had to buy a team’?


Mane man
Says Paul Merson: ‘Sadio Mane will be a big miss for Southampton…’

Said Paul Merson two days prior: ‘Southampton are a steady club and I think they’ll be able to cope with the loss of Sadio Mane…’

It’s bloody good to have him back.


Picking a ‘player to watch’ for the upcoming Premier League season is a difficult task. It is based on that player performing well not just for one match, but throughout a whole 38-game campaign. Selections are therefore difficult to make, aside from the obvious. Telling people they should ‘watch’ Zlatan Ibrahimovic is hardly ground-breaking, but also not worthy of particular criticism.

Still, Jamie Redknapp’s list of ten for the Daily Mail brings an excellence only a Redknapp can provide. He believes everyone should look out for relative unknowns John Stones (£47.5m signing), Leroy Sane (£37m signing), Sadio Mane (£34m signing) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£26.3m signing). In fact, only two of his selections have not moved clubs this summer for more than £10m.

There are gems to be found within Redknapp’s picks, too. They include:

* Granit Xhaka being described as ‘not a player who likes to put his foot in’. No player received more Bundesliga red cards last season (three), while only two committed more fouls (73). He even clattered his own brother at the European Championship this summer.

* Claiming that Liverpool ‘have been crying out for someone who can go past people and put in good crosses,’ and that Sadio Mane can provide that ‘different dimension’. This is the same Mane who completed just 0.4 crosses per game for Southampton last season – six Liverpool players completed more.

* Saying that Liverpool ‘have made a mistake in letting’ Jordon Ibe go. We’ll just leave this here, Jamie.


Mirror, mirror
‘Joe Hart has been left fearing for his future at Manchester City,’ the Daily Mirror tells us in a back-page exclusive. ‘England keeper Hart is concerned that Pep Guardiola still wants to being in a new No.1, with Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen set to be his next big-money target.’

That sure does sound familiar. Let’s look deeper into this ‘exclusive’.

‘Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola wants to raid former club Bacelona for goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen’ – a Daily Star exclusive, August 12.

‘Pep Guardiola wants Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to replace Joe Hart as ball-playing goalkeeper’ – The Sun, August 7.

‘Manchester City hoping to sign Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen’ – Daily Telegraph, March 30.

There is also this from the latest edition of the Sunday Express: ‘Exclusive: Man City boss Pep Guardiola eyes Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to replace Joe Hart.’

Not only is the above an ‘exclusive’, it was included in the Daily Mirror’s own round-up of rumours on the same day. So not only is the Mirror’s Friday exclusive not an exclusive, it is taken from someone else’s exclusive which they themselves reported. And now Mediawatch has confused itself.


Mustaf gadget
John Cross follows up that back-page non-exclusive with another transfer story in the Daily Mirror. He’s a busy guy.

‘Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi has agreed to join Arsenal,’ reads the first paragraph to his story. This is big news, considering most are more careful to phrase the story as ‘Arsenal are closing in on…’ But an agreement has been reached? Wonderful.

Cross is kind enough to include quotes from Mustafi’s agent, Ali Bulut. “Shkodran and Arsenal agree,” he told Spox. “There are only the terms to be agreed on a transfer fee.”

It is important to remember that these are the quotes Cross used, and that Bulut is referred to as Mustafi’s agent. Because both of those points are misleading at best.

While Bulut was widely reported to have said the above, quotes emanated from the same man mere hours later which read: “There are discussions but there’s no agreement between Mustafi and Arsenal, or between both clubs.” These comments were made to German publication Kicker on Thursday afternoon, so had plenty of time to make it into Cross’ story. But alas.

As for Bulut being Mustafi’s agent, The Guardian clearly do not think so. Nor, apparently, do Arsenal or Valencia. David Hytner wrote for The Guardian on Thursday evening:

‘There was bemusement at Arsenal and Valencia, however, with both clubs indicating that they did not believe Bulut to be Mustafi’s official agent. Valencia said the player worked only with his father and they made it clear they expected to present him at the Mestalla stadium night before their final pre-season friendly against Fiorentina.’

So not only were Bulut’s most recent and relevant comments ignored, but he might not even be Mustafi’s agent anyway. Lovely.


After eight
It’s around about time that someone conjured up some online debate. And wouldn’t you know it, the Daily Telegraph are on hand to do just that.

Seems simple. Jose Mourinho wants to sign Raphael Varane or Leonardo Bonucci, two players linked to Manchester United recently. Fair enough. So let’s investigate.

The link, of course, takes us to a live Manchester United transfer blog – which has been updated twice since 8:04am, once with a Jose Fonte rumour, and then with a gif of John Obi Mikel nutmegging Paul Pogba. Because obviously.

Anyway, the story in question can be found towards the bottom. ‘Jose Mourinho remains intent on signing a commanding Nemanja Vidic-style centre-half to complete his team, but sources say he has been told the club will look to sell players first in order to balance business,’ we are told.

According to ESPN, United have already informally spoken to Juventus about Leonardo Bonucci and Real Madrid about Raphael Varane.’

To ESPN we go. Except the story is not immediately visible on ESPN’s website. After some investigating which would make even Sky Sports News HQ blush, the story is finally found. It soon becomes obvious why it could not be found so easily.

‘Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is turning his attentions to signing a central defensive leader in the style of Nemanja Vidic, sources have told ESPN FC,’ reads the first paragraph to an ESPN story from Miguel Delaney. Published on August 3. Eight days ago. Meaning the Telegraph are more than happy to lead their live Manchester United transfer blog on a rumour which is more than a week old.

Not only that, but ESPN make no mention of Varane, despite the Telegraph explicitly stating he is the ‘final piece’ in Mourinho’s plan. In fact, here is the only mention of either Varane or Bonucci made by Delaney in the original story:

‘Sources told ESPN FC that United raised the possibility of signing Leonardo Bonucci with Juventus in the process of negotiating the Pogba deal, and remain interested in the Italian, but are wary of more lengthy discussions with the Serie A club.’

Hilariously, that is followed by this paragraph:

‘United are also monitoring John Stones’ situation. Sources told ESPN FC that Everton would be willing to sell the 22-year-old for £50m, but the defender doesn’t fit the profile that Mourinho wants: an experienced leader in the style of Old Trafford legend Vidic or his old Chelsea captain John Terry.’

Why did the Telegraph not just lead their live blog with ‘John Stones to Manchester United’? At least, unlike Varane, he was mentioned in the actual story.

Long live online debate.


Battle failed
Writes Ken Lawrence in The Sun:

‘Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have picked identical times to launch their opening title salvos. The two managers will have their pre-match press conferences today at 1:30pm to mark the start of the Battle of Manchester.’

1) At what stage does everyone become bored with ‘Pep vs Jose’?

2) Antonio Conte and Jurgen Klopp will also hold press conferences at 1:30pm on Friday. What ‘Battle’ does that mark the start of?


Big slam
Thank the lord, as Neil Ashton brings us ‘the inside track’ in The Sun on Friday.

So what’s the hot take? What is ‘football’s big story’? Well, Sam Allardyce has been to a meeting. Oh yes.

‘Sam Allardyce is learning all about life as England manager.

‘He was forced to sit through a three-hour lunch with FA councillors last Sunday.

‘These stuffy affairs are something Big Sam, who attended the Community Shield with his assistant Sammy Lee, will have to get used to in his new role.

‘There are more on the way in the coming weeks.

‘But Allardyce should be left to get on with the job he was brought in to do.’

Mediawatch loves the image of Allardyce huffing and puffing as he is ‘forced’ to attend a meeting as part of his job. And also, how does Ashton propose Allardyce is ‘left to get on with the job he was brought in to do’? a) This is very much a part of the job, and b) His players are all busy with their clubs. You know, preparing for the new season.

A man with ‘the inside track’ really ought to have known.


Weirdest description of the day
‘The chunky transfer Mr Fixit’ – The Sun‘s Neil Ashton present a unique take on Mino Raiola.


Recommended reading of the day
Sam Wallace on Paul Pogba.

Louis Taylor on terrible pre-seasons.

Amitai Winehouse on sell-on clauses.

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