The only reason Manchester United lost out to Tottenham in the £40million race to sign James Maddison this summer was obviously to do with Paul Gascoigne.
Jordan Henderson, selfless and altruistic soul that he is, has kindly sacrificed himself by stepping in the line of an international break fire which might ordinarily have been aimed at Harry Maguire.
England play Ukraine on Saturday, you see, and when Maguire inevitably features for half an hour of that match from the start he will have played more minutes for his country than his club this season. And that is obviously despicable.
‘GARETH SOUTHGATE is set to keep faith with Harry Maguire for England’s Euro 2024 qualifier away to Ukraine tomorrow,’ Martin Blackburn writes in The Sun.
The centre-back’s nightmare at Manchester United is continuing as he has featured just once for Erik ten Hag this season.
Some people have nightmares about falling, being chased or dying. This particular 30-year-old adult male apparently has nightmares about being paid £200,000 a week or so to play one football match out of four. And that’s fair enough.
Yet controversially he is set to remain as the lynchpin of England’s back four in the Polish city of Wroclaw with Southgate not helped by a string of injury problems.
Maguire has 57 England caps. The other four central defenders available to England this week are Marc Guehi, Fikayo Tomori, Lewis Dunk and Levi Colwill, who have a combined eight England caps. And no, let’s not pretend Kyle Walker is an option to play there.
There are a few ‘controversial’ things going on related to Manchester United right now. Maguire starting for England when he has more than seven times the international experience of the other four competitors for his position combined is not one of them.
Gareth Southgate’s hands are indeed tied due to an abnormal amount of injuries in central defence. But according to Blackburn, the England manager ruled one possible solution out himself:
Conor Coady is now playing for Leicester in the Championship with Southgate unwilling to pick from that division.
Well he is selecting players from the Saudi Pro League now so perhaps that is more an indication of where Coady himself sits in the pecking order, rather than a reflection of Southgate being generally ‘unwilling to pick’ from the Championship.
The switch to England coverage can only mean one thing for the newspapers: how can we make this about Paul Gascoigne?
James Maddison did give them an open goal by sharing his father’s love for Gascoigne, although some naturally take that much too far by describing Gazza as Maddison’s ‘childhood hero’ despite the latter being seven when the former retired, long after his star had waned.
But there is an unrivalled brand of nonsense from the Daily Express with this headline:
Man Utd were denied £40m summer signing due to Paul Gascoigne as playmaker lifts lid
That is unadulterated guff and it is glorious. Manchester United were barely linked with Maddison this summer but they bring the clicks so into the story they are crowbarred.
And it gets little better with this opening paragraph from Matthew Dunn:
James Maddison has singled out Paul Gascoigne as the reason he simply had to sign for Tottenham this summer ahead of anybody else.
Maddison obviously says absolutely no such thing; it would be bizarre to ‘single out’ Gascoigne, who left Tottenham four years before Maddison was even born, as ‘the reason he simply had to sign’ for them.
He does express admiration for “players who show their personality when they play,” citing Gascoigne as “a perfect example”. But Maddison also says Wayne Rooney “was the big one in my childhood” in terms of a role model, while “I loved Philippe Coutinho when he was at Liverpool and David Silva, who had 10 brilliant years at City.”
Maddison also mentions Christian Eriksen, which is a far more relevant example of a Tottenham player he might want to emulate, albeit not one which allows newspaper journalists to relive the 1990s.
Erik ten Hag has come under enough pressure for headlines such as these from the Daily Mirror website to be considered not absolutely ludicrous:
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer requirements for Man Utd return after being spotted back on sidelines
The idea that the power balance between Solskjaer and Manchester United is such that the former would be laying out his ‘requirements’ to the latter before taking a job is wonderfully preposterous. But go on, what are they?
“There are so many clubs, but I’m not going to work just for the sake of working. It has to be something special, a new culture, or a club that really excites me.”
That bleeds into the next paragraph…
And which club is more special and likely to excite “the Baby-Faced Assassin” than Manchester United? A return to the dugout remains highly unlikely, but don’t rule it out completely, especially if the aforementioned “new culture” arrives.
And that’s more than enough of that. Of all the ridiculous things to have happened in 2023, being told not to rule out a Solskjaer return as Manchester United manager tops everything.
By the way, Solskjaer was ‘spotted back on sidelines’ coaching his son’s U14 team. Erik ten Hag should watch his back.
But Solskjaer will not have a free run at the Old Trafford hotseat, as the Manchester Evening News tells us.
‘Manchester United legend is slowly preparing to become future manager at Old Trafford,’ they say. And they have one thing absolutely right: the ascension of Wayne Rooney to the big job is rather ‘slow’ indeed.
It seems the whole thing has only been written because Rooney dominates Friday’s back pages as a target for the Birmingham City post which, again, is a couple of rungs below Manchester United on the appointment ladder.
Rooney has been regularly linked to the Everton vacancy when it’s been available, but he said last year ‘the only reason’ he got into management was to manage Manchester United, which he ‘will make happen’ in the future.
Erik ten Hag is currently in charge at Old Trafford and there’s no sign of his reign coming to an end anytime soon, but perhaps in the future, Rooney’s ambition could be realised, providing he continues to make progress in management.
You’d be brave to bet against the fiercely driven Rooney not accomplishing what he set out to achieve.
Mediawatch is already reeling from being told not to ‘rule out’ Solskjaer as a future Manchester United manager; now we can’t ‘bet against’ ex-Derby head coach, current manager of bottom-half MLS side D.C United and reported Birmingham target Rooney from taking over.
Manchester United might have been able to sign Maddison if they had Rooney as manager, to be fair. It’s just a shame Gascoigne isn’t coaching any more.
Quote of the day
“It’s not a conscious effort to try and be the showman. That’s just how I play football. That’s just how I am as a person, [when] I go for a roast dinner with my family, I like to be the main man” – James Maddison.