Manchester United lost; blame that Paul Pogba chap

Sarah Winterburn

Kicking the Pog
Mediawatch suspected as much when we read the back pages on Tuesday. That if Manchester United failed in Leipzig against a team they previously beat 5-0, a whole wheelbarrow full of blame would be laid at the feet of Paul Pogba. Step forward Neil Custis in The Sun, whose ‘big-match verdict’ is nothing of the short – just a lengthy excuse letter for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. How could he reasonably be expected to manage Manchester United to victory after *checks notes* an agent said his player wanted to leave the club?

‘HAVE no doubt, Paul Pogba played a part in this result.’

Well yes, he scored the goal that brought it back to 3-2.

Custis then explains that Pogba ‘popped United’s bubble on the eve of this massive game’ and that Solskjaer’s Manchester United were ‘up and pumping’ and ‘full of confidence’ before the ‘narrative changed’.

All of which is bizarre because we do not recall any Pogba shenanigans ahead of the disaster in Istanbul or last week’s defeat against PSG. It’s almost like this is a Manchester United side and manager that can cock things up pretty easily themselves.

‘Suddenly it was all about Pogba.

‘The player – sat among his friends and team-mates on the plane to Leipzig – had already planted a seed of destruction.’

So as Aaron Wan-Bissaka failed to look over his shoulder to see Angelino for the first goal, was he thinking about Pogba?

Was he still thinking about him ten minutes later when he gave the same player acres of space?

Were Harry Maguire and David De Gea pondering Pogba when they combined to gift Leipzig a third goal?

Was Bruno Fernandes consumed with thoughts of the Frenchman as he repeatedly gave the ball away?

Were Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood thinking about the narrative as they repeatedly failed to combine?

Was it praying on the mind of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as he decided that the only way to change the course of this game was to repeatedly change the left side of his defence?

Or is it all a load of bollocks designed to excuse the Manchester United manager and all the players he has championed?


Kicking the Pog again
Over in the Daily Mail, Chris Wheeler could not resist writing about Pogba either, with the headline declaring that ‘POGBA STILL THE PROBLEM’ even as the writer reluctantly admits that ‘Pogba should really escape much of the blame for United’s failed Champions League campaign’.

And yet that did not stop Wheeler beginning his supposed Champions League colour piece with a story about Pogba and a Rolls-Royce before claiming the ‘biggest match of United’s season (was) kicking off under another dark cloud created by Pogba and his verbally incontinent agent’.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is presumably why Manchester United were a bit sh*t.


Talking of narrative
Spot the difference, by the way, between the back page of The Sun – which leads on Paul Scholes’ comments about David De Gea being a ‘bottler’ – and the back page of the Daily Mirror, which leads on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shouldering the blame. And then ask yourself which newspaper employed Manchester United PR man Neil Ashton until early 2020?


Slam funk
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said this about his Manchester United players in the aftermath of the defeat in Leipzig:

“We started too late. Great spirit and comeback again but different to the Premier League. You can’t give a team a three-goal lead and expect to come back.

“Just too late. Unlucky towards the end. I thought the character and effort was there. I thought it was in at the end.

“We weren’t good enough. In a difficult group of course, we started really well in this group, but the big defeat to us was the defeat away to Istanbul.

“That’s the one we look back at and lost the points we should have had. Today we were close, we knew we had to defend crosses and balls in the box but we just couldn’t clear them.”

So of course…

‘Man Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer slams players after RB Leipzig Champions League defeat’ (Express)

For f***’s sake. The man couldn’t slam a tequila.


Question of the day
‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer repeated Louis van Gaal mistake for Manchester United vs RB Leipzig’ – Manchester Evening News.

Did he bring on Nick Powell?


Rule the world
In a sea of Pogba – just the 17 mentions on the Mirror football homepage – they hit pay-dirt with this headline:

‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s earnings show Man Utd have broken Sir Alex Ferguson rule’

The story? That Solskjaer earns less than some of his players, which really does not seem like a story at all. Of course he earns less than some of his players; we would be utterly astonished if that were not the case. Apprenticeships are good learning opportunities but they are not highly paid.

The ‘Sir Alex Ferguson rule’ was that no Manchester United player ever earned more than Sir Alex Ferguson. You cannot ‘break’ a rule long after the man himself has left.

It’s only slightly less misleading than ‘Paul Pogba posts Instagram update after Mino Raiola confirms he wants to leave Man Utd’ when ‘Instagram update’ = generic, anodyne pictures.


We’re loving Angelino instead


Spot the man who has recently released a book about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: The Red Apprentice.

Imagine working for The Guardian and thinking that there should be no difference in approach for different opposition and different scenarios. Imagine working for The Guardian and using gifs.


Recommended reading of the day
Mark Critchley on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United

Barney Ronay on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United

Harry De Cosomo on working in the football media with a disability