Are you sat at your desk on Wednesday, about to tuck into your unfulfilling packed lunch, wondering quite why Manchester United are about to extend the contract of Marcus Rashford?
If not, what on earth are you doing? The Daily Mirror are here to answer a question that literally no-one is asking.
‘Why Man Utd have triggered contract extension as Rashford talks rumble on’
The mind boggles. What is it about this 21-year-old popular Academy product and vital first-team player with just over 12 months left on his contract that United are so bothered about?
It is rather simple and obvious: United wish to ‘cover’ themselves in ongoing negotiations with Rashford, having recently failed to get him to sign a new five-year contract. They remain confident of keeping him beyond his current deal, but pure business sense dictates that they will activate the one-year option in his contract to give themselves more time.
That is not quite enough, of course. We need an entire story with a weird headline. And said story begins:
‘Manchester United are set to extend Marcus Rashford’s contract by another season – despite growing frustrated by the negotiations regarding his long-term future at Old Trafford.’
That makes almost entirely no sense. They are going to extend his contract ‘despite growing frustrated’ that they have been thus far unable to extend his contract?
The idiots. Do they not know they’d be better off sulking and risking losing him for free at the end of next season?
‘The forward’s current deal, worth £75,000-a-week, expires at the end of next season, with the option for an extra year.’
It’s almost as if United put that option in there for a reason.
‘It’s claimed that the Red Devils will indeed activate the year extension in his current contract, which will tie him down until 2020.’
He signed a four-year contract in May 2016. If United activate the one-year option in that deal, it ‘will tie him down’ until 2021. That is how maths works.
The best part of the whole story is that it first appeared on The Sun’s website as a Daniel Cutts exclusive on Tuesday afternoon. And as ever with a Daniel Cutts Manchester United transfer exclusive, it is nowhere to be seen in Wednesday’s paper. How very strange.
But are the Mirror about to let that stop them during a difficult international week? Hell no.
At least the Daily Mirror website appears to have come across the perfect formula to drive online traffic at a time when no-one is reading. The following headlines all appear on their football homepage at Wednesday lunchtime:
‘Why Zlatan Ibrahimovic has no plans to go into football management’
‘Why Man Utd was only English club Ibrahimovic would ever join’
‘Why Salah isn’t on international duty with Egypt this week’
‘Why Man Utd fans will be keeping tabs on Ake’s potential £30m Italy transfer’
‘Why Wolves are the only side who can stop Man City winning FA Cup’
‘Why Arsenal chiefs had a surprising reaction to Monchi snub’
‘Why Kylian Mbappe denied Angel di Maria a hat-trick with PSG penalty gaffe’
‘Why Sergio Aguero’s socks have Man City fans worried’
International man of mystery
You might think that the international break means no Sky Sports predictions. You would be wrong.
Charlie Nicholas is doing the honours by running the rule over the midweek European Championship qualifiers and friendlies. Let’s take a look.
‘Estonia are an awkward side, they turn up and defend.’
Estonia have lost six of their last ten games, keeping two clean sheets in that time.
‘It’s mainly the atmosphere at Windsor Park that wins these games for Northern Ireland.’
Northern Ireland have lost four of their last six home games.
‘Mick McCarthy is new, but I do not think there will be a massive change in style from Ireland. I think they will work hard defensively and get the ball down and pass. I expect Daryl Murphy to play, so they could knock it up long and get up the pitch and pin Estonia in a bit.’
Sure, but the Republic of Ireland are playing Gibraltar. Even Estonia aren’t ‘awkward’ enough to play two games thousands of miles apart in the space of 48 hours.
Some outlets are still valiantly ignoring the international break, of course. Credit to them. We’re trying to do the same.
The Manchester Evening News are here to tell us ‘the advantage Manchester United have in the Premier League top-four race’, which is enough to pique the interest of a weary Mediawatch.
After paragraphs of bluster, they finally show their hand:
‘However, United potentially have a crucial advantage over three of their rivals in the battle to finish in a Champions League spot at the end of the season.’
‘Supporters would be forgiven for letting out a loud sigh when they saw the news Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku have withdrawn from their respective national squads through injury. Three of the most consistent performers this season are out of the national set-up and the full extent of their lay-offs remains to be seen.
‘The trio of setbacks might be bad news for supporters in need of a vague interest in the upcoming international fixture schedule, but it might just come as a blessing for Solskjaer and his coaching staff.
‘That is because his withdrawal means United now have just six players away with their national sides over the upcoming break, a clear advantage when compared with some rivals.’
Forgive us for doubting how big an edge this is when the following headlines all appear on your homepage, guys:
‘Manchester United handed fresh Romelu Lukaku injury blow’
‘Manchester United suffer another injury blow as Nemanja Matic ruled out of Serbia fixtures vs Germany and Portugal’
Can something simultaneously be both an ‘advantage’ and a ‘blow’?
Reads the back page story from the Daily Mail:
‘Jadon Sancho could be given his first competitive start for Gareth Southgate’s England when they take on the Czech Republic at Wembley on Friday.
‘Sancho, 18, may replace Marcus Rashford, who is struggling to be fit for the Euro 2020 qualifier due to an ankle injury.’
A ‘could’ has already been reduced to a ‘may’. This doesn’t bode well.
Reads the story on page 77 of the Daily Mail:
‘Jadon Sancho is in contention to make his first competitive international start when England kick off their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign against Czech Republic at Wembley on Friday.
‘Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford missed yesterday’s training session at St George’s Park with an ankle injury and could miss Friday’s clash at Wembley.
If Rashford fails to prove his fitness ahead of the game, then Borussia Dortmund sensation Sancho will be a strong contender to replace the Old Trafford star and line up alongside Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling in attack.’
A ‘could’ that became a ‘may’ is now an ‘in contention’ and ‘a strong contender’ if someone is sidelined through injury.
‘HAS RASHFORD BLOW OPENED DOOR FOR TEEN SENSATION?’ reads the question on the Mail’s back page. Be lovely if they could answer it.
Kiss from a Rose
‘Danny Rose has praised Raheem Sterling for using social media to speak out against racism and claimed the forward had the full support of colleagues in the dressing room.
‘England and Manchester City star Sterling criticised the negative portrayal of black players in the media on his Instagram account after receiving abuse from Chelsea fans earlier this season. He claimed the disparity in the way stories involving black players were reported was a contributory factor.’
The Daily Mail there, confusing their own website with ‘the media’.
‘Bernardo Silva is officially the Premier League’s most underrated player, ahead of Son and Lacazette’ – The Sun.
…according to a poll of Sun readers who voted on a shortlist chosen only by Sun writers.
Aside from that, and the nonsensical notion of someone being ‘officially underrated’, no problem.
Defence of the day
“I am not homophobic, I am ‘Mr I love this game’.”
It’s almost enough to help you forget Patrice Evra calling PSG “f*gg*ts”. Twice.
Recommended reading of the day
Ben Fisher on Coventry.
Darren Lewis talks to black referee Reuben Simon.
Adam Crafton interviews Jamie Lawrence.