End of Zlatan, and won’t someone give Steve McClaren work?!

Matt Stead

Let The Sun shine
Mediawatch does not wish to accuse The Sun of panicking in their search for back-page news for Friday morning’s newspaper, but, well…

The ‘exclusive’ from Neil Custis is that ‘chiefs’ at Manchester United ‘fear’ Zlatan Ibrahimovic ‘may never be the same player following his horror knee KO’.

Considering Ibrahimovic was not expected to return until January at the earliest, writing him off after five substitute appearances seems a little harsh. But please, do go on.

‘Ibra has worked hard to get back just seven months after the career-threatening injury suffered in Manchester United’s Europa League win over Anderlecht. But the Swede, 36, looks a shadow of the player who was top scorer last season with 28 goals from 46 appearances for the Red Devils.’

Breaking news: 36-year-old not quite as good as he was before long-term injury that many thought would end his career.

‘He has made five appearances off the bench in all, totalling 73 minutes, without finding the net.’

How have they not sacked him yet?

‘And he made no impression when sent on to try and grab a point in last Sunday’s 2-1 derby defeat to City.’

Which is about as much of an ‘impression’ in 14 minutes as his teammates made in 90. So yeah.

Some might reserve their opinions on Ibrahimovic until he has played the equivalent of a full game, or perhaps even started one. Silly people.


Riyad to nowhere
Still, at least Ibrahimovic has a sensible hairstyle. The Sun are not quite as happy with Riyad Mahrez’s dyeing his hair blonde.

‘Riyad Mahrez has been a shining beacon for Leicester lately,’ reads a story in their paper, weirdly attributed to no-one. ‘That’s no surprise given this outrageous new hairdo.’

When did Garth Crooks start doing work for The Sun?


McClaren engine
Out of management since March earlier this year, Steve McClaren has supplemented his role as coaching consultant with Maccabi Tel Aviv by doing punditry for Sky Sports. And it is there that he delivers his delightfully misguided views on Friday.

“I think there is a lot of perception of foreign coaches coming into our game, coming into the Premier League, Championship and even the first division. Maybe they push out the British coaches.”

Of the last 14 managers to be appointed by clubs in the Premier and Football League, 13 have been British. From Jack Lester and Mark McGhee in League Two, to Richie Wellens and Chris Lucketti in League One, to Steve Cotterill and Nigel Adkins in the Championship, and finally to the recent influx of British managers in the Premier League. If “foreign coaches” are here to “push out the British coaches”, they’re doing a sodding terrible job.

The one outlier of the last 14 managers to be appointed in the Premier and Football League is Claude Puel, who McClaren might have noticed is faring rather well at Leicester. It’s almost as if nationality and ability as a manager does not necessarily correlate.

But of course, for McClaren this is all part of his big pitch for work back in England.

“I’m looking in the future to come back to England soon. I want to manage again, I’m still very ambitious. I feel like I’ve still got a lot more to offer to the game.

“Two spells with Derby proved my experience and worth in the Championship. A coaching career is all about experience. What I like to see looking back at England is the likes of Moyes, Allardyce, Hodgson and Pardew coming back from spells out of the game. With the older coaches, experience is vital.”

“Two spells with Derby proved my experience and worth in the Championship” is a brilliant way of spinning being sacked twice by the same club within 22 months.

Oh, and “experience” might be “vital”, but when your “experience” comprises being sacked from your last three jobs, expertly guiding Newcastle towards relegation in your last Premier League post and winning 22 of your last 71 league games, you might want to point the finger a little closer to home than abroad when wondering why you aren’t getting work.

Clue: It’s not Claude Puel’s fault.


Mail order
Writes Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail:

‘Southampton thought they were too good for Claude Puel.’

So did you. Just to jog your memory


Pep talk
The Daily Mail are not alone in taking Pep Guardiola’s Thursday comments and frantically beating them into a clickbait pulp. But what separates the Mail from their online peers is that they did the exact same in the newspaper version.

‘PEP HAS NEW POP AT JOSE’ reads the eye-catching headline to a piece by Jack Gaughan and Adam Crafton, with the first paragraph reading: ‘Pep Guardiola took another swipe at Jose Mourinho yesterday as he praised Tottenham and Chelsea for staying true to their tactical beliefs.’

Then to the second paragraph: ‘Guardiola did not include Manchester United as a team who believe they can impose their style on the opposition.’

He did not include Liverpool either. Or Arsenal. Or 14 other clubs. But then ‘PEP HAS POP AT PAUL CLEMENT’ would be a step too far, wouldn’t it?


On the Wayne
Still, at least their website cousins at the MailOnline are upholding journalistic standards and integrity.

More as we get it.


Ask a simple question…
‘Has Paul Merson revealed some huge Liverpool transfer news live on Sky Sports?’ – Daily Express.

‘No’ – Mediawatch.


Stuck in the middle with Hughes
With Stoke 15th in the Premier League, two points above the relegation zone, having won four of their 17 league games, one would forgive Mark Hughes for being a little fearful over his job. But then this is Mark Hughes, a man who eats fear for breakfast.

“I don’t do relegation,” he said on Thursday. “There are a lot of managers who have a badge of honour that they’ve never been relegated. I’ve never been relegated because I’m too busy trying to get in top 10s. I’ve never been near it so I’m not going to start now, am I?”

Hughes has indeed never been relegated. But he might well have Queens Park Rangers owner Tony Fernandes to thank for that. He sacked Hughes on November 23, 2012 after the club won none of their first 12 Premier League games, and were five points adrift at the bottom of the table. Harry Redknapp gamely steered the ship to relegation, but Hughes can certainly be credited with the assist.

“I’ve never been near it”…except for that time you really, really were.


Tunnel vision
From Charlie Sale in the Daily Mail:

‘Well-heeled Tottenham fans wanting to be part of the Tunnel Club at the new White Hart Lane – with its glass-walled restaurant and bar area giving a behind-the-scenes view of the players’ tunnel – are already too late for next season. The 104-seat facility has sold out despite the minimum two-seat entry cost of nearly £50,000, made up of a £15,000 joining fee plus the £9,500 season ticket. For that price, Spurs will have to make sure it all kicks off in the tunnel – as it did after last Sunday’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford – at least once a year.’

Or not.


Recommended reading of the day
Stuart James interviews the family of Abdelhak ‘Appie’ Nouri.

Seb Stafford-Bloor on Duncan Edwards.