My stadium’s bigger than yours…
‘Are Liverpool or Manchester United the bigger club?’
It’s a beautiful headline from Sky Sports, who are really not daft. Light the grenade and sit back as people scream ‘five times’ and ’27 years’ at each other ad infinitum while click-clickety-clicking to their hearts’ content.
So how have Sky Sports measured this? By ‘league table’ in the first instance, and over 50 years, Liverpool beat Manchester United in ‘average league position’. 1-0 to Liverpool.
And then by ‘trophies’, with Manchester United edging ahead with their two pots last season. You might think that Champions Leagues would carry more weight than FA Cups but no, it’s just about totals. So 1-1.
And then by ‘attendance’. Actually, no, we need to stop you there. Giving Manchester United a point for having a higher average attendance is basically giving them a point for having a bigger stadium. Which is absolutely ridiculous.
As Manchester United are eventually handed a 3-1 win – and thus declared the ‘bigger club’ – because they have a bigger global audience (fair), we really do demand a recount.
Unless, of course, somebody wants to argue that Tottenham and West Ham are currently bigger clubs than Liverpool? After all, they do have bigger stadiums…
Online gubbins ahoy
His own Twitter bio admits that his job is ‘Online Gubbins @TheSun’ while he largely tweets about wrestling rather than football, and yet Daniel Cutts is the man behind The Sun’s rabid output of online football exclusives.
This Thursday morning he is the brains behind an outstanding claim that ‘MANCHESTER UNITED boss Jose Mourinho is eyeing a record £170m swoop for Tottenham star Harry Kane’.
An ‘Old Trafford source’ has apparently told Cutts, presumably in between discussions about the latest RAW, the inside information about a British record transfer…
“The club had asked about Kane’s availability a few years back. They were told by Spurs there was no chance. Jose is a big fan and is very interested.
“Zlatan Ibrahimovic will move on next summer, more than likely, freeing up a load of cash they plan to use.
“The problem for United is the money could get to a ridiculous level. It’s going to be more than Kylian Mbappe.
“It’s money they can lay their hands on but it will be interesting to see what Levy’s stance on the whole thing will be.”
Is this the same ‘Old Trafford source’ that told Cutts that Chris Smalling ‘will now be sold during this transfer window to free up extra cash as Mourinho eyes defensive replacements’, or the same ‘Old Trafford source’ who told him ‘Gareth Bale is being lined up as Wayne Rooney’s replacement’? We presume it is the same ‘Old Trafford source’ who told him ‘Manchester United chiefs have resurfaced a private road into their training ground to protect their stars’ multi-million-pound fleet of luxury motors’, which is our very favourite Manchester United exclusive from Daniel Cutts.
The most ridiculous thing about Daniel Cutts and his ‘online gubbins’? Within a few minutes of him hitting publish…
‘Manchester United plotting £170m swoop for Tottenham’s talisman Harry Kane’ – Metro.
‘Man Utd news: Jose Mourinho plots £170m bid for Tottenham star Harry Kane’ – Express
‘Jose Mourinho wants Harry Kane in £170m deal to partner Romelu Lukaku at Man Utd – report’ – Daily Star.
It’s not ‘news’ fellas, it’s online gubbins. That’s what the man himself says anyway.
Can you read my mind?
The Sun’s Mark Irwin has a deep, deep disdain for Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal (just Google ‘Mark Irwin The Sun Arsene Wenger’ for a window into that disdain). Nothing usually surprises us about Mark Irwin and Arsenal, but even Mediawatch was a little baffled by his back-page story announcing that ‘ARSENAL are facing a new Alexis Sanchez crisis’.
And what is this ‘new Alexis Sanchez crisis’? That ‘nobody at Arsenal knows what frame of mind the sulky striker will be in ahead of Saturday’s trip to Watford’.
So the ‘new Alexis Sanchez crisis’ is that he might be a bit sad, but actually, nobody knows, because – well – they’re not mind-readers.
Hold the back page
At least Mark Irwin does not claim Alexis Sanchez’s possible state of mind as an ‘exclusive’; he leaves that to Neil Custis and his claim that Manchester United want Jose Mourinho to sign a new contract and the ‘Red Devils boss is ready to sign’.
As the Daily Telegraph’s Sam Wallace told us last month that ‘Jose Mourinho is expected to be approached over extending his Manchester United contract in November’ and Mourinho himself said as far back as December 2016 that “if one day they bring the contract, I will sign it, I don’t even need my advisers, I’ll sign because I am loving it”, this has all the hallmarks of a classic Thursday morning back page after no Wednesday night football.
“Have we got anything for the back page, Neil?”
“I could knock out something about Manchester United, Jose Mourinho and a new contract that absolutely nobody will deny…”
“It is an exclusive?”
“Well it could be.”
When is a borefest not a borefest?
Neil Custis loves Jose Mourinho. We mean he really loves Jose Mourinho, who has ‘transformed United into a potential title-winning outfit’ just a few short months after they finished sixth.
He for one is very excited about Saturday’s clash with Liverpool, writing in Thursday’s newspaper:
‘JOSE MOURINHO has warned Jurgen Klopp he will be facing a much stronger Manchester United than 12 months ago.
‘Then Mourinho took the Red Devils to Anfield and shut up shop for a tedious goalless draw to stop a free-scoring Liverpool.’
So he definitely won’t do that again? We have your assurances, Neil? Because we remember what you wrote before that fascinating game…
‘JOSE MOURINHO is desperately trying to rid Manchester United of the memories from the Louis van Gaal era.
‘That is why he will never serve up a borefest like the Dutchman with his much vaunted ‘philosophy’.
‘Mourinho’s side travel to Anfield tonight where Van Gaal somehow squeezed out a 1-0 win last January.
‘But as so often with LVG it was the way it was done and that is certainly not the Mourinho way.’
Forgive us if we once again use our own judgement and don’t just make a banner saying ‘I HEART JOSE’.
Peak Paul Merson arrived this week with the neat intersection of his views on Arsene Wenger (boo) and Harry Redknapp (yay).
“Tactically, he’s one of the best I’ve worked with. If Arsene Wenger had Harry Redknapp’s tactical nous, Arsenal would win the league.”
Firstly, Arsenal have won the league three times under Arsene Wenger, something only achieved by nine different managers in 25 years. None of those managers have been Harry Redknapp, who was recently sacked by Championship club Birmingham City.
And as for Redknapp and his ‘tactical nous’, we can either listen to the views one of his players, in this case Rafael van der Vaart:
“Harry is a very special man, that’s why I already feel at home at Spurs. It feels like I’m back on the street.
“There are no long and boring speeches about tactics, like I was used to at Real Madrid. There is a clipboard in our dressing room but Harry doesn’t write anything on it.
“It’s not that we do nothing – but it’s close to that.
“For instance, last weekend Gareth Bale scored a header against Blackburn from my corner.
“But we didn’t train one minute on it, it was pure luck. Good kicking, good heading, nothing more.
“And our win at home over Champions League winners Inter Milan was a clear example of playing on intuition. You can’t train the goal I scored in that game.”
…or we can listen to the views of the man himself:
‘YOU can argue about formations, tactics and systems forever, but to me football is fundamentally about the players.
‘Whether it is 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, the numbers game is not the beautiful game in my opinion.
‘It’s 10 per cent about the formation and 90 per cent about the players. If you have the best ones and they do their jobs, then they can pretty much play any way you want them to.’
And then there’s the time he revealed his instructions to the interpreter of Russian striker Roman Pavlyuchenko:
“I just told him to tell him to f***ing run around a bit.”
For a man who has so much more tactical nous than a three-times Premier League winner, he hides it extremely well. Most spectacularly, from himself.
And what is Harry Redknapp doing with all his ‘tactical nous’ now he has been sacked by Birmingham?
— Harry Redknapp (@Redknapp) October 12, 2017
Back to Merson: “People say he’s a wheeler-dealer and it’s so disrespectful.”
Recommended reading of the day
Nick Miller on the Colourful XI.
Dave Hytner with Chris Kirkland.
Jason Burt with Gianluca Vialli.