Man United ‘officially’ in title race amid Pogba confusion

Date published: Friday 18th December 2020 12:32

Pogba Raiola Man Utd

Coulda been a contender
‘Yet this title is there to be won. Yes, even for Man Utd’ – Neil Custis, November 23, after a 1-0 home win over relegation-battling West Brom through a retaken penalty.

‘It could take 30 (years) for Man Utd to (win the title) as well’ – Neil Custis, December 14, after a draw with recent champions Manchester City.

‘IT’S on. As mad as it sounds given how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lurches from crisis to crisis, Man Utd are officially in the title race’ – Oscar Paul, December 17, after a win over literally the worst team in English top-flight history. The ‘officially’ is our favourite bit. According to whom?

They work for The Sun and they execute enough U-turns to cause whiplash.


Gunnar make you sweat
Their colleague, Martin Blackburn, even lurches between contenders and pretenders in the space of just two paragraphs:

‘But Solskjaer’s men cannot keep doing it if they are to be genuine title contenders.

‘Right now, in theory at least, you have to say they are.’

Cheers for clearing that up.


Top Pog
Neil Custis was frustratingly not on report duty, thus he missed an influential performance from “the most disliked Man Utd player of all time”. Although this suggests he at least enjoyed Paul Pogba’s contribution to the fun third goal:

The Manchester Evening News certainly noticed the Frenchman. Just take a look at two of their leading headlines:

‘How Paul Pogba gave Man Utd what they needed at Sheffield United’

‘Paul Pogba gave Man Utd what they’ve been missing in Sheffield United win’

Yep, those are two different articles. Samuel Luckhurst and Tyrone Marshall have clearly been comparing notes and changing them ever so slightly in the hope that nobody notices. Maybe don’t put them literally next to each other on the front page next time.

The first piece, from Luckhurst, is based mainly on quotes from Solskjaer. But it is very funny to see ‘How Paul Pogba gave Man Utd what they needed at Sheffield United’, when he wrote an article titled ‘New signings show Man Utd are moving on from Paul Pogba’ on November 24.

Then, ‘Pogba is still present at Man Utd but may as well be consigned to their past’. Three-and-a-half weeks later, he has started three consecutive Premier League games – two wins and a draw – and looks crucial again.


Magnificent seven
Pogba, by the way, gets no higher than a 7/10 player rating in any of the national newspapers, despite playing a huge role in the final two goals.

Bruno Fernandes got an 8/10 in The Sun. Victor Lindelof got an 8/10 in the Daily Mirror, who hail Pogba’s ‘fine display’ but give him the same mark as Harry Maguire and Oli Burke.

Even the MEN check their praise by suggesting Pogba ‘did not turn up until well into the match’. He literally assisted the second goal in the 33rd minute with a brilliant pass. Why does it feel like his bar is higher than anyone else’s?


Down and doubt
Writes David Anderson in the Daily Mirror of this apparent statement victory:

‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed he would be disappointed if his Man Utd players did not believe they could mount a title challenge.

‘No-one should have any doubts after they came from behind yet again to make it six wins out of six on the road.’

They can indeed go 2nd if they win their game in hand against Burnley. That would be quite the achievement and they are clearly doing very well domestically.

But to suggest ‘no-one should have any doubts’ as to whether they can win the title or not on the back of inflicting a club-record eighth straight defeat on Sheffield United, first falling behind and then hanging on for a 3-2 win, seems a bit silly.

If they fare well away at Leicester and Liverpool over the next month, while establishing some sort of actual form at home, then ‘no-one should have any doubts’. Just about beating a team that has one point after 13 games neither confirms nor confounds said doubts.


Hello Dean, you’re a stupid head
Ian Ladyman of the Daily Mail was at Bramall Lane and had an issue with one Solskjaer choice in particular:

‘Here Solskjaer’s selection of Henderson felt odd and proved flawed. Having spent last season on loan at Bramall Lane, was there really any need to slip him into the team for only his second league start here of all places?’

And this is what Ladyman had to say on December 9:

‘Dean Henderson deserves his chance. Give Henderson a go. If it doesn’t work, Man Utd can be reassured they have the most gifted No 2 in world football waiting in the wings!’

‘Was there really any need to slip him into the team for only his second league start here of all places?’ Yes. You recommended it.

Eight days later, starting him ‘felt odd and proved flawed’. It’s remarkable what hindsight can help you see.


Ocean’s 11
Ever wonder why Mark Lawrenson’s managerial career spanned just 21 months in the late 1980s and early 1990? His BBC Sport predictions offer an insight:

‘Arsenal’s first aim has to be to end the game with 11 men.’

Everton can win 7-0 as long as Dani Ceballos doesn’t nut anyone.


Son of a gun
‘Premier League release statement on why Son’s goal stood at Liverpool despite Tottenham star appearing offside’ – The Sun website.

Is it because he was actually onside? Say it ain’t so.


F365 shithouse headline of the day
‘Gossip: Arsenal look to new Bale for ‘deep crisis’ solution’

The ‘new Bale’ being Isco, Real Madrid’s latest bench-dweller.


Recommended reading of the day
Nick Ames talks to David Ginola about Jean-Marc Bosman.

Miguel Delaney on Man Utd v Leeds.

Daniel Taylor on Manchester City.


Recommended watching of the day

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