Daniel James, Memphis Depay and the worst segue ever…

Date published: Monday 24th June 2019 12:09 - Sarah Winterburn

Right here, right now
Watch this video. It won’t take long. It features new Manchester United signing Daniel James training in Dubai with a performance coach. Watch as he shoots the ball into an empty net. Marvel as a £15m footballer signed by one of the biggest clubs in world football controls the ball under no pressure. It really is a wonderful watch.

Now close your eyes and say the first name that comes into your head. Is it Memphis Depay? If so, then congratulations, you are Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News and that suit you are wearing comes direct from ASDA.

Imagine watching that video and then somehow coming up with a 676-word piece for which ‘Manchester United signing Daniel James is already doing what Memphis Depay wanted to do’ is the headline. Imagine. And then cry a little.

The first five paragraphs of a piece inspired by that video are given over entirely to an anecdote from Depay’s book in which it is revealed that former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal did not want Manchester United winger Depay to practise with his left foot four years ago.

And how does this relate to Daniel James in 2019? Well, we have to wait nine paragraphs for the Welshman to get a mention, because first we really have to wade through some utter nonsense…

‘Attackers are no longer pigeonholed and if a right winger is right-footed it is seen as problematic.’

Yes, it’s certainly proved ‘problematic’ for £100m-rated Manchester United target Jadon Sancho. It’s really held him back.

‘Liverpool have a left-footer on the right and a right-footer on the left to complement Roberto Firmino, a number nine who has broken the 20-goal barrier once in four seasons on Merseyside.’

Lovely little dig there. He’s sh*t, that European champion Roberto Firmino.

‘Manchester City occasionally line up in a more conventional attack with Raheem Sterling on the right and Leroy Sane on the left but it would be disingenuous to dub either as old-fashioned wingers. Besides, that trademark City goal of a low cross to the far post requires a forward to run into the channels.’

‘Occasionally’? The left-footed Leroy Sane never plays anywhere but on the left, and 19 times last season, he played on the left while the right-footed Raheem Sterling played on the right. In fact, Pep Guardiola said in February that Sane is “the best in the world playing out wide”. And they are the best team in England.

Anyway, where are we going with this?

‘United do not have a single forward as versatile as those at Liverpool, City or even Tottenham. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have played across the front three but only convince in one area. Romelu Lukaku is an unabashed centre forward. Jesse Lingard has the intuition minus the ingeniousness. Alexis Sanchez? fuggedaboutit.’

Agreed. Though that last bit was weird.

‘And United have just recruited another right-footer whose primary position is on the left. Including Daniel James, they have four options to occupy the left flank out of seven forwards and even Paul Pogba has a preference for the left-hand side. Rather than level out their attack they have lopsided it even more.’

Okay. Which is presumably why they actually wanted to sign the ‘problematic’ Jadon Sancho for that position.

We’re still not sure where you are going with this though, Samuel…

‘James has already offered that clichéd sound bite about ‘playing wherever the manager wants me to play’ and why wouldn’t he stress his aptitude in a squad laden with questionable attitudes.

‘”I think being versatile is important,” said James. “It’s important you can play different positions. This year I’ve played left, right and I’ve played up top and I have enjoyed all three. It’s important not to just play and enjoy one position. To play all three and enjoy all three you have more chance of getting in the team.”

‘James moved to the right in Wales’ recent European Championship qualifying defeat in Croatia but switched back to the left.’

Right. We’re nearly at the end of the piece now and all we know is that Memphis Depay wanted to practise with his left foot and that Daniel James would happily play on either side.

‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer received glowing reports from Giggs about James and will be encouraged the 21-year-old was honing his two-touch finishing during a training session in Dubai with his right and left foot. That right-hand side remains vacant and if James is to take ownership of it he is going to have to develop that left-footed versatility Depay lacked.’

Oh. My. F***ing. Word. This whole piece was written because the right-footed Daniel James used his left foot in that training video. LIKE EVERY OTHER FOOTBALLER WHO HAS EVER DONE ANY TRAINING OF ANY KIND.


Coulda Woulda Shoulda
You know what does all of the numbers? Liverpool transfer news.

You know what is in short supply this summer? Liverpool transfer news.

But never let it be said that certain websites let that get in the way of chasing some serious SEO.

This is a headline on the Daily Mirror website:

‘Liverpool’s ‘Fabinho alternative’ identified – and transfer could still be on’

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when a German website interviews the agent of a player – in this case Jean-Philippe Gbamin – and claims 18-month-old interest from Liverpool in that player. That the interview was published three days ago adds some serious deliciousness but let’s not get bogged down with details when the ‘transfer could still be on’…

Well, it could. According to the Mirror:

‘But with Klopp’s interest in Gbamin – who is currently with the Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations – now clear, it would be interesting to see if he calls for him again, especially if Dejan Lovren leaves this summer amid interest from AC Milan.’

Ah, ‘it would be interesting to see’. That is quite the downgrade from ‘could still be on’. Is there any more evidence?

‘In addition, Jordan Henderson’s switch to a more advanced midfield role could leave a vacancy as cover for Fabinho.’

Well it could. Though they kind of did okay last season with Naby Keita, Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner. They won a little trinket.

Still, ‘Liverpool transfer’.


England for the English
We were nodding along with Alan Shearer’s opinions on the upcoming appointment of Frank Lampard by Chelsea in The Sun until we got to the usual blathering nonsense about English managers towards the end.

‘In recent years, the Big Six clubs have avoided appointing English bosses.’

They have ‘avoided appointing English bosses’ in the same way they have ‘avoided appointing Egyptian bosses’; none of either nationality has been deemed of the requisite standard. ‘Avoid’ makes it sound like they have had to swerve to evade an English boss in their path when the truth is that not a single English boss has made a sustained case for promotion to that Big Six. Let’s face it, Lampard has not made a sustained case for promotion either (he literally flunked his chance of actual promotion), but he will be given the job because he ‘knows the club’.

‘Tim Sherwood was the last one when he was in charge at Tottenham for six months in 2013-14.’

Yep. And the Big Six have appointed nine managers since then. The only one of those nine jobs that could conceivably have gone to a better-qualified Englishman was Manchester United’s appointment of the under-qualified Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as caretaker and then permanent manager. And we all know they did that for exactly the same reasons as Chelsea are now about to appoint Lampard; nationality is of zero importance in either case.

‘And Chelsea have not had an English manager – or even a British one – since Glenn Hoddle left for the England job in 1996.

‘So it is about time someone like Frank was given a chance at one of our top clubs.’

Yes, it’s ‘about time’ one of the biggest clubs in the country appointed the manager of the sixth best team in the Championship. There’s nobody who deserves more of a break in modern England than the white, middle-class, heterosexual male.


What a difference a month makes
On May 19, Mike McGrath had an ‘exclusive’ in The Sun: ‘ARSENAL will test Crystal Palace’s resolve to get top dollar for Wilfried Zaha this summer. The Gunners are keen on Zaha but his £80million asking price will rule them out of the running. Palace are determined not to let the 26-year-old go on the cheap but Unai Emery’s budget will be around the £40million mark if they fail to reach the Champions League.’

On June 24, Mike McGrath has another exclusive in The Sun: ‘UNAI EMERY will ask Arsenal to break the bank for Wilfried Zaha. Gunners boss Emery had his transfer budget limited to £45million after failing to reach the Champions League.

‘But he will push for more cash to land No1 attacking target Zaha, 26, seen as central to his summer rebuild. Crystal Palace’s Zaha is a boyhood Arsenal fan, would be expected to cost at least £55m after his consistent form in the Premier League since rejoining Palace five years ago.’

Our advice would be to wait another month; Arsenal’s budget and Crystal Palace’s valuation of Wilfried Zaha is right on course to meet in the middle.


Knowing me, knowing you, Zaha
While researching the above, Mediawatch came across one of those bizarre holding pages beloved of the online tabloids to meet all of the possible Google searches.

So to save you the time and a Google, we will answer those key questions ourselves:

‘Why is Wilfried Zaha playing for Ivory Coast at AFCON 2019 and has he ever played for England?’

Because he is from the Ivory Coast. And yes.

You’re welcome.


Desperate headlines of the day
The quotes from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sound benign:

“Summer has been kind to us in that respect – so we’ll travel to Perth with the full first-team squad. Everyone should be available to be picked – hopefully they’re fit when they come back – so the first team is going to be there.”

The headlines?

‘Solskjaer hints at Pogba & Lukaku being part of pre-season tour’

‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer drops Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku Man Utd pre-season hint’

Oh Goal/Daily Mirror, you really are spoiling us/yourselves.


Recommended reading of the day
Jacob Steinberg on Manchester United’s missing director of football


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