A third start of the season for Delph, but if his appearance against Huddersfield Town was one step forward, the performance took him two steps further back. When he was substituted after 69 minutes, he was given a public dressing-down by Pep Guardiola.
The positive spin is that the manager’s frustration with Delph indicates that he believes the midfielder is capable of performing to the level he requires, but it’s a thin silver lining to the greyest of clouds. The reality is that with Ilkay Gundogan injured and Guardiola yet to spend big money on his central midfield, this was the season for Delph to impress. If you’re annoying your manager with your performance against Championship opposition, don’t expect to be trusted in the Champions League.
Ian Watson wrote plenty in 16 Conclusions about Joey Barton behaving like a douche, but that meant I didn’t get my go. So now I will.
Barton’s is a special brand of preciousness, one that is accompanied by a stubbornness that he can never be wrong. This makes his presence on social media a ticking time bomb. Every time he does something controversial – and this is another time bomb – he receives abuse and is provoked into offering his impassioned and lengthy defence.
What Barton does not realise – or at least what he chooses to ignore – is that his reaction to controversy only extends the shelf life of said controversy. Had he chosen to keep his disappointment private, by Sunday morning this would no longer be a point of discussion. And yet there he was, more than 24 hours after the game had finished, still bleating that Match of the Day had stitched him up and that the referee, Matt Rhead, Lincoln City and everyone watching the game had misjudged him.
Newsflash: There’s no conspiracy, Joey. When you act like a plonker, people will call you a plonker.
Matt Stead expressed his concerns for Jesse Lingard’s continued presence in Manchester United’s first-team picture, but at least he started. Lingard has only managed 1,037 minutes in all competitions for United this season, but that’s still 17 minutes more than a £30m left-back.
You can tell when Shaw is about to be left out of United’s first team, because it is preceded by Jose Mourinho talking about him. The manager rejected rumours that Shaw could leave the club in the summer after failing to hold down a place, but was in no mood to pour praise on a player still getting over the effects of career-threatening injury.
“He knows what I like in a defender, he knows that I like stability, that I don’t like mistakes, that for me it is to trust a player totally and he has to work to get it,” Mourinho said “When he is on the pitch again he has to try to give me that step by step because he is still only a young player.”
Mourinho went on to discuss just how much he likes Shaw as a player, but actions speak far louder than words. Injuries have indeed curtailed the defender’s potential minutes this season, but he has started one game in all competitions since November. Having played 90 minutes against Wigan in the last round, Shaw then featured in none of the next four matchday squads. Even if that was due to injury, illness or just not being selected – reports are conflicting – an FA Cup tie against Blackburn was the perfect opportunity to get Shaw match-ready for the Premier League. Instead, he stayed on the bench throughout.
Whatever Mourinho says – and he is a manager for whom obfuscation has become an artform – Shaw’s patience with United must be wavering. The suspicion is that he is still paying the price for rejecting Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2014.
Another new low? Should we fetch a new barrel?
In choosing to make ten changes to his Leicester City team, Ranieri was portraying the message that he didn’t care too much for FA Cup progression. You can blame the players if you want, and they clearly shoulder some of the blame, but when a manager is so obviously deprioritising a competition by picking a team of reserves, it’s hard to demand full motivation from your players.
Ranieri now has all his eggs piled into the Champions League basket, with a trip to Seville on Wednesday that may well decide the manager’s fate. Play as they have in recent weeks and Leicester will lose by two or three goals, and that will be that.
For all the memories garnered over the last 18 months, heavy defeat on Wednesday would leave anticipation only of a relegation battle in which Leicester are the side in freefall. Still, at least they have the memories.
Millwall have achieved an awful lot in the last month. Largely thanks to the wonderful work of the Guardian’s Barney Ronay, Lewisham Council abandoned their compulsory purchase order of the ground around The Den that would have evicted the club after an investigation uncovered more murky dealings than a Mafia poker night. Millwall’s FA Cup run is the perfect celebration, a demonstration of what can be achieved when everyone pulls together.
And then the minority went and spoilt it for the majority. Just as Millwall supporters should have been celebrating their triumph over Leicester as one, a large number of fans chose to storm onto the pitch and head straight to the away end to taunt the away support. Objects were thrown into the away end, with police on horseback forced to enter the pitch and form a blockade between the two sets of supporters. Three men were arrested and charged with affray, and Leicester’s fan coaches windows broken on their exit from the area.
For all the good news stories, people tend to remember the bad. So well done to that group of f**king morons. Well done indeed.