Harry Maguire is a ‘battle-harded winner’ with ‘the medals to prove it’; only Sir Alex Ferguson can save Manchester United and their captain.
Stuck in the medal
Manchester United were a bit of a mess against Leicester on Saturday and with Chelsea top, Liverpool and Manchester City both winning, Tottenham joining them in the top five and Arsenal on the right track, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players have picked up the Big Club Crisis Baton.
Graeme Bryce of The Sun was left unimpressed at the King Power Stadium:
‘The conundrum Solskjaer must solve is why his own warriors ran up the white flag while Vardy caused carnage?
‘Ronaldo, Fernandes, Harry Maguire. Pogba and Nemanja Matic are battle-hardened winners and have the medals to prove it.’
Seven league titles in three countries, five Champions League winner’s medal and a Euro 2016 champion; Ronaldo gets a tick. Pogba, too, as a World Cup winner with four Serie A titles and a Europa League trophy. Matic is a two-time Premier League champion. Fernandes is not quite on the same level but three trophies in Portugal and a Nations League victory in 2019 is a solid return. All ‘battle-hardened winners’ with ‘the medals to prove it’, no doubt.
One of those names is not like the others, though. That is an awful lot of stock you are putting into Maguire’s solitary career honour: the 2016 Championship play-off final. In which he played one minute as a substitute for Mo Diame and earned ‘battle-hardened winner’ status for keeping Gary Hooper and Sheffield Wednesday out in stoppage time.
Elsewhere in that match report…
‘After surrendering their English league record of 29 away games unbeaten, they prepare to face their biggest rivals at Old Trafford of all places.’
Well that is their home stadium. Why would they not play there ‘of all places’?
‘It is that serious their crucial Champions League clash with Atalanta on Wednesday has become almost a side issue.’
Only if you a) subscribe to the notion that the Premier League takes precedence or everything, or b) are indoctrinated to believe that Manchester United v Liverpool is the most important game ever ever ever.
Manchester United are third in their Champions League group; how is a meeting with leaders Atalanta anything even close to ‘a side issue’?
Insist by an angel
Over at the Daily Mirror, John Cross was treated to a spectacle at Saturday lunchtime:
‘Liverpool superstar Salah scored a wonder goal at Vicarage Road and Reds boss Jurgen Klopp insisted he is better than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on current form.’
Salah has ten goals and four assists in ten games for Liverpool so far this season. Ronaldo has five goals and no assists in five matches for Manchester United and Messi has one goal and no assists in his five Paris Saint-Germain appearances.
It really isn’t necessary to ‘insist’ that one of those players is better than the other two ‘on current form’; it’s quite obvious.
Don’t call me Shirley
Cross does some insisting of his own later on, discussing Salah’s wonderful strike in glowing terms:
‘It will surely be Goal of the Season because it deserves to be talked about for years to come.’
It’s still mid-October. What if someone scores an overhead kick from their own area? You can’t say something will ‘surely be Goal of the Season’ when there is more than three-quarters of said season left to play.
Leicester is more
Completing a hat-trick to rival Roberto Firmino’s, Cross starts to dissect the home side’s performance:
‘Watford were a mess, they did not look as if they knew what they were supposed to be doing. And if Claudio Ranieri can turn this around, it might just be his biggest achievement.’
In fairness to Cross, 2016 does feel like a sodding lifetime ago.
Mark Irwin was at Goodison Park for The Sun, indulging in a favourite hobby of the football journalist: remembering the past.
‘For years the duo slugged it out as Merseyside derby adversaries, with Benitez almost always coming out on top as Liverpool manager.’
He won eight of 15 meetings with David Moyes while they were at Liverpool and Everton respectively. Not sure that just over half of the time qualifies as ‘almost always’. Nor is Mediawatch convinced that Toffees fans ‘are still not completely convinced by Benitez and are waiting for the wheels to come off’.
‘Steve Bruce called for Newcastle’s owners to sort out his future as the club’s new era got off to a horror start. The party atmosphere following the £300million Saudi-led takeover turned toxic towards Bruce after he lost his 1,000th game as a manager’ – Oscar Paul, The Sun.
No wonder the fans want him out. A thousand defeats? Eesh.
Garth Crooks: the best bits
From the great man’s BBC Sport team of the week…
On Edouard Mendy: ‘The days when goalkeepers are expected to put their bodies on the line week in week out have long gone. They do their job and go home.’
Not really sure what that even means.
On Watford: ‘Any club who can dismiss their managers with such regularity can’t expect any sympathy from me.’
They will be devastated.
On Manchester United: ‘It would take Sir Alex Ferguson with all his managerial prowess to get the best out of this group of superstars – and Solskjaer is no Ferguson.’
Alternatively, it would not need the greatest manager in football history ‘to get the best out of this group of superstars’. A slightly better coach than the current one would probably suffice.