Mikel Arteta says the north London derby (and every other game) could be CALLED OFF. Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo are also in the news.
Insult to injury
The following exclusive sits atop The Sun website‘s football homepage:
‘Cristiano Ronaldo a doubt for Man Utd’s clash at Aston Villa as he is forced to leave training early with thigh injury’
But Mediawatch fears they have missed something. Doesn’t that mean that Ronaldo will be DROPPED? Isn’t that how his – and only his – absences through injury are described?
CALLED an audible
The Sun website saves their Caps Lock for some fairly anodyne Mikel Arteta quotes because of course they do.
‘Spurs vs Arsenal at risk of being CALLED OFF as Arteta admits Gunners may struggle to field a team with eleven now out,’ reads a headline that leaves little wiggle room.
Then you see the quotes from the Arsenal manager himself, who said: “It is a possibility in every game. From our side, from the opponent’s side, because of the amount of issues everyone is having and because it is happening every week. We try to prepare games thinking we are going to play. If something happens along the way, it is what it is.”
So yes, the game could be CALLED OFF. Every game right now could be CALLED OFF if circumstances change and certain criteria are met. That has been the case for a while now. Arteta was talking generally, not specifically. He literally said “it is a possibility in every game” so will the build-up to each match for the rest of the season feature panic-inducing block capitals about it potentially being CALLED OFF?
The same goes for the MailOnline (Mikel Arteta admits Arsenal’s north London derby against Tottenham on Sunday is at risk of being CALLED OFF…). He’s not ‘admitting’ anything. He’s pointing out that things are currently a little bit volatile.
It was no surprise to see Manchester United reach the ‘Can you imagine Bryan Robson’ stage of their current one-defeat-in-10-games crisis last week. Ken Lawrence of The Sun picks up that baton on Friday and sprints like hell into the distance.
‘HARRY MAGUIRE needs to step up as captain at Old Trafford.’
Good start. Seems fair.
‘And if he can’t unite the Manchester United dressing room then he should hand back the famous armband.’
As brilliant as the image of Maguire forlornly trudging through a chaotic dressing room and into the manager’s office, placing the armband on a desk and walking back out without saying a single word is, it seems unlikely.
What follows are numerous laborious paragraphs about the role of a captain: that it is ‘far more than just shaking hands at the coin toss’ as it involves ‘banging heads together or putting an arm around team-mates’ – but presumably not both – while also ‘leading by example and showing authority and understanding’. It is about taking the initiative both on the pitch and off it. All of which Maguire obviously needs telling by this man.
It is not long before Robson is glorified for ‘often playing through pain and perhaps the occasional next-day fuzzy head’. Roy Keane is next; he certainly ‘stood up like a lion’. Then there was Gary Neville, who ‘was never afraid to confront opponents’. Finally, Nemanja Vidic was proof that ‘when you are captain you are the boss on pitch’.
This just in: Harry Maguire is not as good as three Premier League legends and one First Division stalwart, each of whom won numerous championships and played in teams far, far, far better than this version of Manchester United.
‘Nobody’s saying he needs to grab one of his under-achieving, under-enthused, under-the-radar team-mates by the shirt.’
It kinds of sounds like you might be saying that.
‘But it might help. If not on the pitch, then in the dressing room.’
Ah. So you are saying that. And you have literally no idea what Maguire does in the dressing room. He might have Bruno Fernandes hung up by his collar for all you know.
And therein lies the key. Lawrence repeats that the role of captain is about leading ‘off the pitch as well as on it,’ but the only specific example he offers of Keane, Neville and Vidic ever having done so is Keane telling Patrick Vieira “I’ll see you out there” in the tunnel about five minutes before a game. And the precedent Robson set was to ‘tell senior colleagues like Viv Anderson to organise a session in the pub’. Not sure Maguire is best advised to follow that path.
No-one knows what else they did as captains in the dressing room and off the pitch. Plus it’s all well and good saying that ‘who the manager happens to be doesn’t matter that much for 90 minutes’ when you are captain – it does feel pertinent that those four captains all thrived under the actual Sir Alex Ferguson and Maguire has instead had two different coaches in two and a half years, both of whom were interim appointments at first. It probably matters a little bit.
What a difference four months make
‘CRISTIANO RONALDO demanded team-mates show their love for Manchester United by “sacrificing everything” to bring back the good times.’
‘A source told SunSport: “Ronaldo’s speech was very powerful and uplifting. The whole group of players and coaching staff listened in silence.’
‘He told the squad he believed in them and that they had enough talent to bring back winning ways.
‘He added: “You are all amazing players and I believe in you, or else I would have not returned.”
‘Following the emotional speech, the players gave Ronaldo a round of applause’ – Neil Custis, The Sun exclusive, September 14.
‘Man Utd flops intimidated by Cristiano Ronaldo as workaholic superstar attempts to fix culture after ‘nightmare’ season.
‘No-nonsense Ronaldo has been shocked by the culture at the club and attitude of some of his team-mates, warning of a “nightmare” season unless it changes’ – Neil Custis, The Sun exclusive, January 14.
That second exclusive continues…
‘Now on his return, he is trying to take on that role of the senior player but finding he is not being listened to.
‘In fact, many players feel intimidated by him – particularly on the pitch.
‘SunSport understands some players are even wary of making a mistake or failing to pass to him because of the reaction they might get.’
Am I, a 36-year-old adult who throws a strop when someone misplaces a pass, to such an extent that my teammates are now fearful of making a mistake because of my reaction, so out of touch?
No, it’s the children who are wrong.
On the Wayne
”Manchester United have to be a top-one team, not top-three’: Wayne Rooney hits back at Cristiano Ronaldo’s assessment of Red Devils and insists they should be winning the Premier League title EVERY season’ – MailOnline.
It’s up there with the worst uses of ‘hits back’ ever.