Erik Ten Hag eats food just days after Man Utd defeat as Arsenal are now plucky underdogs

Editor F365
Declan Rice and Erik ten Hag.
Declan Rice and Erik ten Hag.

Erik Ten Hag popped out for some lunch with his wife on Monday, unwittingly stumbling into peak JUST DAYS territory given he should have been confined to barracks due to Manchester United having lost a game of football.

Meanwhile, Arsenal winning the title is best for everyone and Rio Ferdinand’s nonsense sparks further Mirror mischief. Big ol’ Mediawatch today.


Meal Deal
Regular readers will know there’s little that tickles Mediawatch’s fancy quite like tabloid anger (or more accurately tabloid attempt to foment fan anger) at football players or managers having the temerity to engage in normal, everyday activities JUST HOURS or especially JUST DAYS after losing a game of association football.

Unlike your proper players and managers from the olden days who would follow each defeat by spending at least four days in sackcloth and eating only dried crusts and definitely not going to nightclubs with models, your pampered modern stars will very often still be found doing unacceptable things like eating food, walking down the street and in some extreme cases – and we’re shaking with anger as we write this – even smiling.

Manchester United’s admittedly really quite bad home defeat to Fulham at the weekend was always likely to catch someone out, and it is our sad duty to report that – in further evidence that a fish rots from the head down – manager Erik Ten Hag has brought shame upon himself and the good name of Manchester United Football Club.

On Monday, JUST (TWO) DAYS after the Fulham game, he – and you may wish to sit down before taking in the full horror of this – went for lunch with his wife at a restaurant. Sorry, not a restaurant, a ‘lush artisan brasserie’. We know it was a ‘lush artisan brasserie’ because the Daily Mail are inexplicably delighted with that weirdly specific phrase and use it in headline, copy and even picture caption.

Plenty to chew over, Erik? Ten Hag heads for lunch at a lush artisan brasserie in Cheshire with his wife… just days after Man United’s shock home defeat by Fulham

So close to a perfect Mail headline there, with the only disappointment the lack of any ALL CAPS to tell readers which bit is supposed to really annoy them. Loads of different options they could have chosen here.

Plenty to chew over, Erik? Ten Hag heads for LUNCH at a lush artisan brasserie in Cheshire with his wife… just days after Man United’s shock home defeat by Fulham


Plenty to chew over, Erik? Ten Hag heads for lunch at a lush artisan brasserie in Cheshire with his WIFE… just days after Man United’s shock home defeat by Fulham


Plenty to chew over, Erik? Ten Hag heads for lunch at a lush artisan brasserie in CHESHIRE with his wife… just days after Man United’s shock home defeat by Fulham


Plenty to chew over, Erik? Ten Hag heads for lunch at a lush artisan brasserie in Cheshire with his wife… JUST DAYS after Man United’s shock home defeat by Fulham


Plenty to chew over, Erik? Ten Hag heads for lunch at a lush artisan brasserie in Cheshire with his wife… just days after Man United’s SHOCK HOME DEFEAT by Fulham


Plenty to chew over, Erik? Ten Hag heads for lunch at a lush artisan brasserie in Cheshire with his wife… just days after Man United’s shock home defeat by FULHAM


Plenty to chew over, Erik? Ten Hag heads for lunch at a LUSH ARTISAN BRASSERIE in Cheshire with his wife… just days after Man United’s shock home defeat by Fulham

Or… well you get the idea.

The content itself is, inevitably, absolutely nutbar: when the entirety of the story truly is that a wealthy man and his wife went out for some lunch on a Monday, there really is no way of spinning that out to an acceptable word count without sounding insane.

Following the defeat, ten Hag was spotted – with his wife Bianca – grabbing some food at a lush artisan brasserie in Cheshire.

‘Following the defeat’ is doing a lot of hard work here, but there’s that ‘lush artisan brasserie’ again.

Never mind that, though, Mediawatch simply won’t be able to relax until we know what clothes they wore for this shameful event. We can see them in the several photos of a man and a woman walking into a lush artisan brasserie, but we need the Mail to explain it in great detail, please.

Don’t panic, they’ve got us covered.

Ten Hag headed to Junipers, in Hale, for lunch – where both he and his wife sported casual outfits as they headed into town.

Bianca opted for an all-beige outfit with a brown scarf, while ten Hag was in all-black – including a waterproof Adidas jacket.

A relief to know he wouldn’t have been caught out by a shower.

We then get the usual scouring of the restaurant’s website to desperately eke out the word count slightly more.

At Junipers, customers can treat themselves to steak sandwiches, chicken souvlaki and seabass for the price of £18.

By sheer coincidence, the Mail have managed to pick out the three most expensive items on the menu. What happenstance.

We also get a partial reveal for the source of the Mail’s favourite phrase…

On their website, the chain is described as ‘a collection of artisan brasseries, serving an internationally inspired menu of fine food and beverages.’

We can only assume ‘lush’ is editorialising.

The word count is cleverly bolstered further by several paragraphs of Ten Hag’s post-match quotes before a genuinely baffling denouement.

Ten Hag is no stranger to a meal out in Manchester, having been spotted out for dinner with his wife back in October.

Mediawatch is delighted to learn that by the Daily Mail’s apparent definition of ‘twice in five months’ it too is no stranger to a meal out in Manchester.

The United boss cut a relaxed figure as he attended his favourite Italian restaurant Piccolino with Bianca, just days before their clash with Manchester City.

Now we’re talking, though; ‘just days before’ and ‘just days after’ in the same story. Absolutely sensational. Interestingly, Manchester United also lost both those games; clearly the secret for Ten Hag is to be a stranger to a meal out in Manchester just days before and after every game. But he probably won’t make that sacrifice. Shame.

Finally, it’s always important to end any news story with a flourish, and the Mail delivers with a cracking final anecdote about Ten Hag’s meal out five months ago.

As Ten Hag left, the Dutchman held the entrance door open for his fellow diners, but one insisted he should leave first.

Whoa. No wonder they lost to City just days after.


Up the Arse corner
A curious piece of Luke Edwards nonsense in the Daily Telegraph today, in which he begins with his own entirely legitimate personal opinion that it would be nice if Arsenal won the league, takes it to an absurd extreme by then insisting it is an opinion that ‘must’ be shared by ‘every neutral’ – he graciously concedes Tottenham fans are exempt from this three-line whip, which is good of him – and then even more outlandishly says this is because Arsenal have done it without spending all the ghastly money that your Manchester Citys and your Liverpools do.

Arsenal do not have the title-winning knowhow, they have fallen away before, but Arteta’s side are playing better football at the moment than City or Liverpool. They are crushing teams on cruise control. They are making it look easy. Ruthlessly efficient is not a phrase we have been able to write about an Arsenal team for decades, but we can about this one.

‘Decades’ might be a bit strong but also technically correct we suppose given it is now two of them since an Arsenal side went a whole league season unbeaten. Whatever. Fair enough, yeah.

Newcastle were sliced apart on Saturday evening, outplayed and outclassed from first whistle to last. Not many teams have done that to Eddie Howe’s side, even in this disjointed and injury-disrupted campaign.

Hmm. Arsenal did give Newcastle a right old shoeing, no doubt about that. But Tottenham beat them by the exact same score-line in December. Liverpool pounded them into xG oblivion while somehow ‘only’ beating them 4-2 a few weeks later. Luton scored four against them. They’ve conceded nearly as many goals in their last 12 league games (31) as in the whole of last season (33). Quite a few teams have done that to Eddie Howe’s side in this disjointed and injury-disrupted campaign.

But again, whatever: Arsenal were absolutely excellent, yes, and have been for a good few weeks now. This is true.

English football needs a strong London club, it needs a proper heavyweight contender, it needs Arsenal to win the Premier League.

Wait, what? English football needs a strong London club? A proper heavyweight contender? These opinions are presented as facts so obvious they need no further explanation. It’s London, baby. That’s all you need to know.

Also, London does have quite a few quite big clubs, really. Even by capital city standards, London is a conspicuous outlier for the sheer size, number and breadth of its professional football clubs. Two is the generally accepted maximum for number of top-level football teams from a city. But half of the ‘Big Six’ are London clubs. More than a third of the Premier League’s clubs are from London, with an eighth just about close enough to have a tenuously named airport.

A London club won a European trophy last season, and a London club won the Champions League two years ago. The third most recent winners of the Premier League are from London.

But apparently London needs a proper heavyweight contender, fact. English football needs Arsenal to win the Premier League, fact. The alternative simply doesn’t bear thinking about.

That is surely the outcome every neutral must be hoping for in May. It is the best outcome, proof that with the right manager and the right recruitment, you can build a team that can beat the financial superpowers of Manchester City, United, Chelsea and Liverpool.

And here we see the classic column-writing error. Whereupon a perfectly reasonable personal opinion is inflated to become the only possible reasonable opinion, followed by an attempt to rationalise this that instantly and entirely falls down.

First and most obviously, you have to be a pretty arrogant tagnut to imagine your own opinion is one that not only should but must be shared by ‘every neutral’. Even if this were rational, football fandom has nothing to do with rationality anyway.

All manner of ‘neutrals’ will have all manner of reasons for favouring any one or none of the teams in the title race. This is really basic stuff for anyone who has ever met or spoken to or interacted in any way with a football fan ever.

They might have a friend or relative who supports one of the teams involved. This might make them more or less likely to want that team to prevail, depending on their own personality type and how obnoxious said friend or relative is. They may have a fondness for one of the managers, or more likely – because football fans – a strong dislike for two of the BASTARDS. They may have a soft spot for one of those teams because of some now barely remembered incident from their childhood.

They may just want Manchester City to win it again because it will be far less noisy that way and we’ll all get a bit of f***ing peace.

But that’s not even the worst bit, is it?

…proof that with the right manager and the right recruitment, you can build a team that can beat the financial superpowers of Manchester City, United, Chelsea and Liverpool.

That bit is just b*llocks. Edwards must be absolutely distraught Liverpool are in this title race, because they ruin it for him, don’t they? You can’t just put ‘…and Liverpool’ on the end of that and hope we won’t notice. Because if there is any tangible difference between the Liverpool and Arsenal approach at all it’s Liverpool who arguably better fit the description of right manager, right recruitment and team-building.

Mikel Arteta has spent north of £600m as Arsenal manager. Which is absolutely fine, but does sit slightly incongruously alongside the image of him and his team as Davids trying to slay assorted moneybags Goliaths.

Even more inconveniently, Arsenal’s net spend over the last five years of £550m is more than Liverpool and, er, Manchester City. It’s behind only Chelsea and Manchester United, which is in itself admittedly very funny and we’re glad we looked it up.

Their title bid is currently being brilliantly propelled by a midfielder who cost them £100m – more than ‘financial superpowers’ Liverpool have ever spent on a player.

And Arsenal signing Declan Rice was if anything a move straight out of the Liverpool playbook. It’s squarely in Alisson and Van Dijk territory, isn’t it? Showing that it’s not (just) about spending big, but spending big on precisely the right player at precisely the right time.

It’s also great that we currently have almost an entire football media landscape trying to pretend Liverpool were plucky little underdogs in the Carabao final against Chelsea, while Edwards veers off in the entirely opposite direction and attempts – equally absurdly – to portray them as deranged overspending menaces in comparison to teeny weeny little Arsenal.

It’s fine to say you want Arsenal to win the League, champ. It’s absolutely fine to want someone different to win it, especially given the absurd football they’re currently playing as they go about it, and it’s fine to worry if it’s healthy for any team to win it four times in a row. But don’t pretend Arsenal – or Liverpool, for that matter – are something they’re not to justify that opinion, or that this is some undeniably rational viewpoint that all should share. That’s just weird.


A hundred reasons
We’re sure you’ve all seen Rio Ferdinand’s very silly quotes about how Mikel Arteta would definitely leave Arsenal for Manchester United if the chance arose. It’s a wild opinion of the sort often favoured by Ferguson-era United players in their ongoing and apparently doomed struggle to adapt to a changing world a good 10 years after everyone else.

Absolute daftness, for sure, but catnip to content farmers and we are absolutely fine with everyone doing stories on those quotes. They are ridiculous but they are real and legitimate. We did it as well, look.

What we can’t have, though, is the Mirror’s headline.

Two reasons why Rio Ferdinand believes Mikel Arteta would ‘100%’ quit Arsenal for Man Utd

We genuinely read the story four or five times looking for Rio’s reasons until we twigged what the cheeky scamps had done. It’s right there in the intro.

Rio Ferdinand believes Mikel Arteta could move to Manchester United IF Erik ten Hag is sacked or goes to Bayern Munich.

So the ‘reasons’ are 1) if Ten Hag is sacked or 2) if Ten Hag goes to Bayern Munich.

Except those aren’t reasons, are they? Those are scenarios. ‘Reasons’ – as the Mirror know full well – suggests Rio has offered a pair of specific justifications for why he thinks Arteta specifically would ‘100%’ make that move from Arsenal (who are good) to United (who are crap).

It really is quite something for a story with a high-profile former player offering an opinion as batsh*t as this about two reliably click-yielding football clubs to just fall in your lap and the Reach headline machine tasting it then still deciding ‘Hmm, needs more bullsh*t.’


My camera never lies
Quick one, but we simply cannot let this line from Wayne Rooney on his new role as a BBC pundit go unchallenged.

Having played and managed in the competition, it’s great be on the other side of the camera this time and hopefully I can bring some of that FA Cup experience to the coverage.

Other side of the camera?