Man Utd ‘could’ sign ‘England star’ for ‘cut-price £40m’ while Champions League ‘nightmare’ awaits

Editor F365
Man Utd targets Dan Ashworth and Jarrad Branthwaite
Dan Ashworth is reportedly pushing for Man Utd to sign Jarrad Branthwaite.

When is an England star not an England star? And when is a nightmare not a nightmare? Mediawatch finds itself pondering some philosophical quandaries today.


Forty love
A textbook example of how this all works today, with everyone agreeing on £40m as the cut-price fee Everton will accept from Manchester United for Jarrad Branthwaite.

Some of the headlines knocking around this morning include:

Man Utd eye cut-price £40m England star as first signing of Sir Jim Ratcliffe era – Mirror

Man United ‘eye cut-price £40m swoop for Everton defender Jarrad Branthwaite’… with Sir Jim Ratcliffe ‘ready to take advantage of the Toffees’ financial woes’ – Daily Mail, obviously

It is true that Everton have to sell whoever they can sell for pretty much whatever they can get over the coming days to avoid utter catastrophe, but where’s this £40m figure come from? Because that seems very cheap even for a fire-sale purchase of a player of Branthwaite’s quality and age.

Well the Mail and the Mirror both helpfully tell us it comes from The Sun. So let’s have a look.

Ah, yes here it is.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe in line to make cut price England star first transfer as Man Utd plot £40m Premier League rivals raid

So where have they got £40m from?

Ratcliffe, who is yet to make a decision on Erik ten Hag’s future after Saturday’s FA Cup triumph, wants United to be challenging for the top prizes as quickly as possible.

And he is now ready to take advantage of Everton’s dire financial situation by landing Branthwaite for a bargain £40m fee.

Okay, but you can’t just say ‘bargain £40m fee’ and magically make it true? Where does that information come from, lads?

And Everton could end up selling Branthwaite for half his £80m valuation.

Oh. They ‘could’. Convenient that it’s precisely half his valuation, isn’t it? A cynic might think they’ve just plucked this number out of their arse and now it’s just being parroted across the football media.

And we’ve not even touched on the thorny issue of whether a player with precisely zero caps truly qualifies as an ‘England star’.

Pot luck
It’s that time of year again when attention must turn to the potential for ‘nightmare’ and ‘worst-case-scenario’ Champions League draws. The Mirror are here with the news that Arsenal will find themselves in pot two, and proceed down the usual, well-worn path from there.

The Gunners’ six-year absence from the Champions League prior to this season means they are set to compete in the second seeding block alongside Juventus, Bayer Leverkusen, Atletico Madrid and Atalanta.

The reality leaves Arsenal staring down a potentially gruelling Champions League campaign, with pot one seeds now confirmed in Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Inter, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Barcelona.

Except… that’s simply no longer the case. The complete remodelling of the Champions League for next season means it no longer really matters what pot you’re in; only what pot everyone else is in.

With the move to the 36-team ‘Swiss model’, every Champions League team will play in one giant league in which they play eight games against eight teams – two from every seeding pot.

That completely changes the dynamic. In the old group stage, your pot really did have enormous potential consequence. If you were in pot one, you didn’t have to play anyone else from pot one. Now it doesn’t really matter at all; whatever pot you’re in, you still play two other sides from every pot including your own.

The Evening Standard get it right in their explainer.

Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Barcelona are in Pot One.

But, unlike in previous seasons, that is not a particularly consequential outcome for Arsenal, because they would have had to face two sides from Pot One even if they were a top seed.


A great thing here is that this Mirror story therefore gets it completely backwards. Arsenal being really, really good and in pot two is bad news for absolutely everyone else in the competition apart from Arsenal (and the other English teams who can’t meet them in the league stage). Far from being Arsenal who potentially face a ‘gruelling campaign’, it’s everyone else who does.

The other great thing is that the Mirror themselves pretty much say this out loud without realising their mistake and blithely carrying on.

The traditional group stage has also been ditched in favour of a league stage, which will see every team play two clubs from the four seeding pots.

You’re so close to getting it, guys! Just one more step down that road and you’re there!

And a third great thing is that they had already written this exact scare story with this exact same misconception last week after Atalanta’s Europa League success:

Arsenal face nightmare Champions League draw after Atalanta Europa League win

Nope. Or at the very least, Atalanta’s Europa League success does nothing much to affect that possibility.

In the worst-case scenario, the Gunners might have to face Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain from Pot 1 and Barcelona and Juventus from Pot 2 should they drop into the third seeding.

And they still could! Because it’s now a completely different format!

Quietly impressive to get this so wrong twice. Eyes peeled for a third.


Write Cliffes
You can always tell when The Sun have hit upon a new pun that they’re particularly pleased with. For many obvious and legitimate reasons there are currently a great many stories around involving Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Manchester United and their latest banter.

And without leaving their football homepage you can find:




Mediawatch predicts CLIFFE FACE as the next one, but remains open to other, better suggestions.