Using Pogba-like Fernandes to pile on Pogba…

Date published: Friday 31st January 2020 8:04

The Sun‘s Neil Custis knows Bruno Fernandes. Which is slightly odd in itself, because anyone paying close attention to a competition as out of the way as the Portuguese Primeira Liga would surely be due the Custis Pitchfork on Twitter.

‘It was Paul Pogba’s failure to follow instructions that drove Jose Mourinho to distraction.

And it is Bruno Fernandes’ willingness to follow them which finally made Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer go for the Portugal midfielder.’

Ah, because Paul Pogba is the Kevin Bacon of Manchester United Land, just with one degree of separation instead. Everything is about him.

We’ll get to that.

First of all: this team-centred, ultra-humble Bruno Fernandes. Maybe, but he doesn’t really fit the picture of the selfless component. Only two players in Portuguese football have given the ball away more often than Fernandes this season and while Custis is absolutely right to note his goal involvements, the portrait is hardly that of a deferential player.

A very good one? Maybe, but let’s not pretend he’s Darren Fletcher. In fact, he’s probably closer to… oh no, here we go.

Right, Pogba.

Custis’ central thesis seems to be that Bruno Fernandes is the kind of player who Alex Ferguson might have signed, what with his ‘willingness to follow’.

‘There has not been enough of that kind of analysis since the great man’s retirement.

Do you think he would have countenanced Bastian Schweinsteiger travelling the world watching his partner play tennis while he recovered from injury? Or allowed Paul Pogba to shoot hoops in Miami while coming back from an ankle injury? Can you imagine him coming to the sidelines to give instructions to one team member, only to watch that player flagrantly ignore them?

That is exactly what happened two years ago today with Mourinho and Pogba in a game against Spurs at Wembley.

Mourinho called him over to tell him what to do — and Pogba didn’t do it. Pogba thought he knew better and wanted to play his own game.’

Where does this lionising of Ferguson’s transfer record come from. In fact, with regard to players’ mental characteristics and the suitability to playing for for Manchester United, did anybody get it more wrong, more often than he did?

With Pogba, can we just not? Can we not distil a player’s career down to one moment within one particularly toxic relationship. Or play dumb to just what a challenging individual Mourinho can be.

Pogba was signed to play his own game. You know, after Ferguson allowed a future £100m player to leave the club for free.

Manchester United bought him back, in part, to correct that era and prove that they could attract a player of that stature. They built a preposterous marketing campaign around him, incorporating one of the world’s largest sportswear brands and the UK’s leading Grime artist into his unveiling video. United wanted him to be an ego and got bent out of shape when they (and the manager they appointed) proved incapable of building a team around him.

So – yes – it’s Brexit Day and The Sun’s offices are probably like something out of The Wolf Of Wall Street at the moment, but can we stop the giddy character assassination and turn our guns elsewhere?

 

Video nasty
Chastened by the parody that became Alexis Sanchez playing that piano in the centre-circle, Manchester United downscaled their unveiling videos for a while.

Good news, though. They’re back and with a lovely visual metaphor for the constraining effects of their limited squad and their under-qualified head coach.

“Youse just wait and see”, Solskjaer said, trying ever so hard to sound like Alex Ferguson.

 

Strategy
One more little United nugget, courtesy of Samuel Luckhurst over at the MEN.

‘Bruno Fernandes is not at the specific age Manchester United have determined is ideal to sign players, though they were careful not to restrict themselves to just 23-year-olds.

Club sources said in October the recruitment department believes a player’s development barely changes between the ages of 23 and 28. Fernandes, a 25-year-old who does not turn 26 until September, nestles nicely in the middle.’

First of all: what?
Secondly, when was the last time United signed a 23 year-old player? Not Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka or Harry Maguire. Not Fred or Nemanja Matic. Victor Lindelof was a month short of his 24th birthday when he joined, so that just about counts, but this prime age theory doesn’t seem to be overly instructing United’s policy.

 

Without (much) comment
From The Mirrors Jim White Bingo, recycled from this day a year ago.

‘The Scot’s catchphrases (also known as ‘White-isms’), are as much of a feature on Deadline Day as the transfers themselves, so we’ve come up with ‘Jim White bingo’ for you to play along with at home.

Have a look through Jim’s common Deadline Day expressions, and once you’re done, jot them down and tick them off when the presenter says them.’

Do you reckon anyone actually does that? Is there a plucky Clive or Norman out there who takes the day off work, cuts out the checklist and spends the day TICKING OFF WHITE-ISMS.

Anyone looking for a nice change of pace can also enjoy the Jim White quiz widget, full of trivia gems such as WHY JIM WEARS HIS TRADEMARK YELLOW TIE.

 

Me, me, me
Liverpool aren’t expected to do very much on Deadline Day, which is a problem for the type of fans who need their team to be the centre of attention all the time.

Fortunately, Liverpool.com is prepared for such a scenario.

‘Barcelona’s transfer deadline day desperation shows just how much Liverpool defeat hastened collapse’

Buckle. Up.

‘Did Liverpool break Barcelona’s psyche?  What remains a fever for fans of the reds is a nagging nightmare in Catalonia. How? Why?’

Splendid stuff. To say nothing of this lovely bit of meta-gore.

‘That night at Anfield served as a perfect juxtaposition between the two clubs. Liverpool were a club together — supporters, squad, board, manager. Barca were a club divided, ready to fall apart at the seams as soon as they took a punch.’

Anyway, if all this feels slightly familiar, then that’s because it is.

In the land of Lionel Messi, Liverpool’s heart is beating stronger than ever before – 26th December.

Liverpool’s effect on El Clasico – 19th December.

Why the ghost(!) of Liverpool looms large on Real Madrid and Barcelona’s El Clásico – 18th December.

Liverpool are Champions League supervillains, and Lionel Messi could see Neymar as hero to stop them – 26th November.

You know those really old maps. The really, really old ones drawn to show Australia as being the size of Lichtenstein, the whole of Russia to fit inside Durham and the United Kingdom to be absolutely, bang in the centre. Yeah, that.

One more, just because.

Kylian Mbappé and Neymar remind Liverpool how Anfield no longer tolerates circuses – 16th August.

 

Recommended reading:
Tony Evans lobbies for safe standing.

Ed Aarons interviews Cheik Kouyate.

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