The above image is from The Sun’s website. More on that later…
Load of old shirt
‘SHIRT HITS THE FAN’ screams the back page of The Sun. Yes, back page. A player swapping shirts at half-time – half-f***ing-time – is the leading story on the back page of the country’s largest-selling newspaper. ‘Hazard swap shame’ is a particular favourite from the sub-headline.
Mediawatch is left to ask just one question: Does anyone really give a shirt?
John Cross appears to be firmly besotted with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The striker scored one and assisted the other as PSG beat Chelsea to proceed to the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday. ‘Zlatan’s in the mood to impress,’ Cross begins in the Daily Mirror. Here are some of the best bits:
* ‘The Paris Saint-Germain striker was outstanding, proving there is life in the old dog yet.’
* ‘It was a complete performance, full of style and swagger. The big Swede lends to the French giants the X Factor that makes them genuine contenders.’
* ‘This was a man in the mood, a showman determined to take centre stage on the biggest of nights, the kind of superstar we need in the Premier League.’
* ‘Ibrahimovic is out of contract in the summer and by his own admission fancies a crack at English football – on this evidence they will be queuing up for his services.’
So Cross – who awarded Ibrahimovic with a match-high rating of nine out of ten – describes the Swede with the terms ‘outstanding’, ‘complete’, ‘style’, ‘swagger’, ‘X Factor’ and ‘showman’, before concluding that the striker is ‘the kind of superstar we need in the Premier League’.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the most over rated player in world football. 80 mill. You have to be joking. #Barcelona
— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) June 15, 2009
Time to learn some lessons from Stamford Bridge. The Daily Mirror, as ever, are our fountains of knowledge.
‘Kenedy has a future at left-back,’ begins lesson five. ‘Brazilian was preferred to £20million Baba Rahman. He coped well with Di Maria, forcing him to cut inside.’
A few inches to the left are John Cross’ match ratings. Kenedy is handed a six, with Cross stating that ‘he looked every inch a winger playing at full-back.’
But what of Di Maria? Cross rates him as an eight out of ten; only Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored higher. ‘Shame that he rarely played like this at Man United. Excellent,’ Cross writes.
Just imagine if he hadn’t been ‘forced to cut inside’.
The Daily Mail‘s Sami Mokbel on the referee for Chelsea’s draw with PSG, Felix Brych: ‘Tried to keep a flow to the game, which should be applauded. Kept a lid on proceedings during a high-profile night.’
The Daily Mail‘s Graham Poll on Brych, just two pages previous: ‘He was very weak, letting PSG break up play. It was a disappointing display from the ref.’
“There are too many f***ing Custis’ in this world”
The year is 2016, and yet The Sun still find these foreigns rather entertaining. These foreigns with their crazy, hare-brained schemes. These foreigns with their zany ideas and their madcapness. These foreigns with their silly foreign names and foreign accents. Ha ha, foreigns.
‘Lou what, boss?’ reads the headline. This is a story – a two-page spread, no less – concerning quotes from Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal. But they are not quotes previewing the Europa League game against Liverpool on Thursday. Oh no, these are rather different.
You see, Van Gaal, a Dutchman who has lived in England for under two years, turned to United defender Chris Smalling at the end of his press conference on Wednesday and said: “And you have learned again better, to me, who I am. Yeah?”
Mediawatch hardly had to check the author of the story. Neil Custis proceeds to describe Smalling’s “bemused expression” after the exchange, dubbing Van Gaal ‘Louis van Gaffe’, and writing that the manager ‘had better be clearer for tonight’s showdown with Liverpool’.
To reiterate, Louis van Gaal has lived in England for under two years since becoming Manchester United manager in summer 2014. The 64-year-old lists German and Spanish among his native Dutch and English as the four languages in which he is fluent. He has also previously stated that he has to speak French to communicate with certain United players. It is therefore understandable that he will sometimes – but rarely – struggle to communicate his views.
But let’s get back to laughing at the silly foreign who can’t speak English properly, eh guys? Let’s just hope Custis, who is presumably eloquent in numerous languages – is well on course to losing at least 15 pounds by now.
Sky is the limit
Hands up if you think Leicester and Bournemouth should have two representatives each in England’s starting XI for Euro 2016? No? No-one? Nobody at all? Hold on, I see a reluctantly raised hand in the back. Is that Sky Sports?
‘Who makes England’s Euro 2016 XI based on statistics?’ reads the headline. Tellingly, the byline is tellingly bestowed upon ‘EA Sports’. Weird name. Poor kid. Is he on work experience?
Anyway, who does indeed make this England XI based on statistics? Jack Butland, for starters, which is not groundbreaking. Joe Hart will start in France, but Butland has had a fine season at Stoke.
Then it all goes a bit mental. A four-man defence lines up as, from right to left: Simon Francis, Craig Dawson, Scott Dann, Charlie Daniels. To repeat, that is Simon Francis of Bournemouth, Craig Dawson of West Brom, Scott Dann of Crystal Palace, and Charlie Daniels, again of Bournemouth.
In a selection dubbed ‘interesting’ by Mr Sports, the four take their places due to boasting a superior tackles won per game percentage than their contemporaries. Forget the fact that Francis and Daniels comprise half of a defence which has conceded more Premier League goals than all but the bottom four sides, they tackle players a lot. And Chris Smalling and his mates can shove their international experience; Europe had better be prepared for the central defensive stylings of Dawson and Dann.
Things are slightly less ridiculous in midfield. Ross Barkley and Dele Alli take a deserved and expected place in a four-man diamond. Danny Drinkwater is a foreseeable selection alongside them. But then the true motivation behind the article becomes clear. This was the only way someone could finally justify the selection of Mark Noble. As if Francis and Daniels don’t have enough on their plates in terms of tackling anything that moves, they are expected to provide plenty of width to supplement a very narrow looking midfield.
Finally, it is ‘revealed’ that Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy should start in the summer. Mediawatch is stunned at the revelation that they have scored a lot of goals.
As Brendan Rodgers once definitely, probably, maybe said: “Lies, damned lies and statistics.”
I predict a riot
It is always entertaining when people attempt to predict the line-ups ahead of a game. Thursday is no different. Numerous newspapers present us with their attempts to guess how Liverpool and Manchester United will start at Anfield on Thursday. Here are the highlights:
* Dailies Mail and Express, as well as both The Times and The Indepedent, claim that Daniel Sturridge will start for the hosts as the lone central striker. The Daily Telegraph have other ideas, starting with Roberto Firmino and dropping Sturridge – presumably – to the bench. The Daily Mirror dare to defy both, and they put Divock Origi in a starting role.
* The Daily Mirror are in a particularly awkward mood; they are the only newspaper of six to predict that James Milner will start.
* The sextet are also split on Jurgen Klopp’s formation. The Express and the Telegraph join forces to claim that Liverpool will use a 4-3-3. The other four report that it will be a 4-2-3-1 formation.
* In terms of United, it’s the Mirror who are again feeling mischievous. Each newspaper selects United in a 4-2-3-1 with Morgan Schneiderlin and Michael Carrick holding. All expect for the Mirror, who put Marouane Fellaini alongside the former.
* Finally, who will start as a striker for United? Anthony Martial is the man chosen for each newspaper – except for one. The Times choose Marcus Rashford as the centre forward. There would be parties on the street of their offices.
Out of the Woods
Ever get the feeling someone has run out of something to say? You certainly will if you read David Woods’ column for the Daily Star on Thursday morning.
‘Hazard swap shop suggests he’s Eden off,’ reads the ‘oh for fu… headline of the day’ headline.
The piece is used mainly as a vehicle for Woods’ puns, including classics such as ‘garden of Eden’, ‘Hazard lights only flickered’, and ‘the interim boss is not the Guus that laid the golden egg after all’.
Honestly, it’s quite something.
‘McClaren held talks with managing director Lee Charnley on the phone in the afternoon. The pair were due to meet for talks at St James’ Park, but the planned face-to-face meeting did not take place.’ – Sky Sports.
‘McClaren was due at Newcastle yesterday to meet Charnley but instead went home to North Yorkshire’ – Craig Hope of the Daily Mail.
‘McClaren took training yesterday before heading home after first speaking to Charnley over his future’ – Paul Joyce of the Daily Express.
‘McClaren is still in charge after talks with managing director Lee Charnley’ – Ian Dennis of BBC Sport.
Mirror, Mirror: Part one
A quick mention for David Maddock of the Daily Mirror, who writes that Liverpool are looking to avenge five consecutive defeats to Manchester United when they host their bitter rivals at Anfield on Thursday. You thought it was four, didn’t you? Well Maddock is on hand to remind you of the first fixture in that sequence: A 3-1 win for United in a pre-season friendly in August 2014. Martin Kelly, Joe Allen and Rickie Lambert all started that match for Liverpool. Mediawatch doubts Liverpool’s players are looking for ‘REVENGE’ for that one.
Then again, that would deprive us all of the ‘Mersey Marvels’, such as Jurgen Klopp as The Incredible Hulk, Daniel Sturridge as Iron Man, Adam Lallana as Captain America, and Jordan Henderson as Thor. The club captain does look rather fetching with longer hair.
Mirror, Mirror: Part two
A mention, too, for Brian Reade of the Daily Mirror. First, for ensuring the words ‘Proper Football Men’ proudly adorn your column. Secondly, for creating the most unedifying and haunting image possible by describing Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis as ‘The Viagra Men’.
‘West Bromwich have stepped up their pursuit of Laurent Depoitre by inviting the Gent striker’s agent to watch a match at The Hawthorns’ – Daily Mail.
a) Is ‘West Bromwich’ acceptable now?
b) Aren’t they supposed to be persuading him to join?
Recommended reading of the day
Daniel Taylor on Liverpool vs Manchester United: A tribalistic rivalry.
Uli Hesse on Spurs and Dortmund’s unique relationship.
Luke Ginnell on the 1978/79 season.