Mediawatch: Wenger’s biggest ‘blunder’?

Date published: Tuesday 23rd February 2016 1:08

Justice for Custis


Heritage w*nk
‘Commanding United stroll through to quarter-finals,’ reads the Daily Telegraph‘s headline on the match report from Manchester United’s victory over Shrewsbury on Monday.

‘This could not have been any more comfortable for Van Gaal as Manchester United secured a stress-free path into the quarter-finals,’ John Percy tells us. ‘The only shock at Greenhous Meadow was that United did not score more goals.’ A successful evening for the beleaguered Dutchman, you’d think. Progression to the FA Cup quarter-finals after a comfortable victory. There can be no negatives to come out of this stress-free evening.

Unless you are Percy’s Telegraph colleague Jim White, of course. The headline offers a glimpse of an article which Mediawatch simply cannot resist: ‘The only defrauding on a cold Shropshire night was of the heritage of Manchester United.’ Wonderful.

So, how was the ‘heritage’ of Manchester United ‘defrauded’ exactly?

‘The club of George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham, of household names and international faces, the club that, as the United Calypso sung endlessly by their supporters insists, demands that when they are playing in your town you head straight to the football ground, is now represented by Guillermo Valera, Joe Riley and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.’

That’s right. The ‘heritage’ of Manchester United, a club whose two most famous eras were built around players promoted from their youth ranks, was ‘defrauded’ by Van Gaal fielding, you guessed it, players promoted from their youth ranks. Won’t somebody think of the heritage?

‘And this was the best available United side. Unlike Manual Pellegrini, Arsene Wenger and Mauricio Pochettino, for Louis Van Gaal there was no resting his key players ahead of more important fixtures.’

This was indeed United’s best available side; Van Gaal certainly did not rest his ‘key players’. He did not have the choice, considering David De Gea, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Wayne Rooney and nine other players were injured.

But White saves his best stuff for Van Gaal’s new free-kick routine, borrowed from Europa League opponents FC Midtjylland.

‘After winning a freekick on the edge of the Shrewsbury area, United’s Memphis and Juan Mata stood on the ball, while Antony Martial, Chris Smalling and Morgan Schneiderlin lined up five yards beyond the Shrewsbury wall. Clearly this had been worked out on the training ground, a new plan straight from the Dutchman’s iPad. Memphis shot, the ball looping over the Shrewsbury wall, before, to the huge amusement of the local crowd, it hit Martial on the head and scooped several yards over the bar.

‘This was the philosophy in action. Like Van Gaal’s attempt to drink from a water bottle without squirting himself in the eye, it was comically inept, leaving you wondering why anyone might think building a second defensive line would do anything other than keep the ball away from the goal.’

Twenty minutes later, United repeated the free-kick routine with a ‘second defensive line’, from which Juan Mata scored to double their lead. It is a goal of which White makes no mention. That crazy Dutchman’s iPad trick worked.

‘The only defrauding on a cold Shropshire night was of the heritage of a grand old club. If this was the best he could muster, no wonder Van Gaal’s job is under unrelenting threat.’

Just to clarify, a ‘commanding’ young Manchester United side ‘strolled’ to an FA Cup fifth-round 3-0 win.


White stuff
As an aside, the below are the headlines to Jim White’s last 12 articles on Manchester United.

  • ‘Meet the Shrewsbury star who has pedigree in humbling United’
  • ‘Shrewsbury’s Micky Mellon wants to add to Manchester United’s woes in the FA Cup’
  • ‘Manchester rivals left rudderless by lame duck managers’
  • ‘Louis van Gaal finds no respite at Stadium of Light’
  • ‘Manchester United accounts show how TV is driving football’s excess into whole new age’
  • ‘Late Charlie Austin winner sinks sorry United’
  • ‘Adidas’ put down of ‘boring’ United is board’s biggest concern’
  • ‘LVG storms out of press conference’
  • ‘Man Utd must put Van Gaal out of his misery’
  • ‘Weekends will be drabber without Mourinho ‘
  • ‘The Premier League needs characters like Mourinho’

‘Is Van Gaal guilty of Old Trafford ‘crimes?”

The question is, does Jim White think Van Gaal should remain Manchester United manager?


Blunder bus
There can only ever be one author to a Daily Mail piece titled: ‘That ‘Poundshop’ bid for Luis Suarez was downright classless… so here’s my top five Arsene Wenger blunders at Arsenal’. Step forward, Adrian Durham. It reads like an extended version of ‘five things we learned since 2004’ – the cut-off point Durham elects to use for Wenger’s ‘top five blunders’ at Arsenal, a club he has managed since 1996.

In at number five is Wenger’s decision to sell Robin van Persie to Manchester United in 2012. The sale ‘made a mockery’ of the Frenchman’s continued insistence that he would not improve a rival, writes Durham. Had Arsenal sold to Manchester City, the only other club willing to match Arsenal’s asking price four years ago, would Durham be more content?

‘Wenger became obsessed with Financial Fair Play’ comes in at number four. This can be roughly translated to ‘Wenger followed the rules which other clubs opted to break’.

But what is the Frenchman’s ‘biggest blunder’ of the past 12 years in charge of Arsenal? Triggering a player’s release clause. Obviously.

‘What a blunder from Wenger. [He] gets a tip off that Luis Suarez has a £40m release clause in his contract, decides to offer £1 more than that figure to trigger the release, fails to realise the player needs persuading to move to Arsenal.

‘In a million years, will a player who values himself highly just walk out on one club failing to compete for the very top honours, to join another club failing to compete for the very top honours, simply because that new club values him just £1 more than his release clause?’

Luis Suarez in August 2013, on Arsenal’s bid: “Last year I had the opportunity to move to a big European club and I stayed on the understanding that if we failed to qualify for the Champions League the following season I’d be allowed to go. I gave absolutely everything last season but it was not enough to give us a top-four finish – now all I want is for Liverpool to honour our agreement.

“I am 26, I need to be playing in the Champions League. I feel I have done enough to be playing in the Champions League at this stage of my career. Now there is an option for me to do that and I want very much to take it.”

Durham concludes by suggesting that Arsenal would have signed Suarez had they offered £80million. Because of course release clauses are inserted into contracts so that clubs offer double the valuation.


What a difference a month makes
The Sun‘s Antony Kastrinakis, January 22: ‘Juventus manager Max Allegri is mad for the Premier League.’

The Sun‘s Antony Kastrinakis, February 4: ‘Max Allegri is ready to walk out on Juventus — and take charge of Chelsea.’

The Sun‘s Antony Kastrinakis, February 23: ‘Juventus boss Max Allegri is ready to snub Chelsea.’


Setting the Standard
Page 62 of The Evening Standard, Monday February 22:

‘Losing to Palace might have been the best thing for Tottenham’s title challenge. Spurs looked short on energy and ideas […] Sometimes defeats turn into the launchpads to success. This might be a game Spurs look back on with relief they lost.’

Page 63 of The Evening Standard, Monday February 22:

‘If Tottenham believe elimination from the FA Cup to be a blessing in disguise, they should use the memory of last season to banish that thought from their minds […] When teams are alive in three of four competitions during this period of a campaign, it stretches the players’ physical capabilities but can forge a spirit that carries them through the pain barrier.’

Translation: It could go either way, so we’ll back both to be sure.


Stat’s entertainment
The following are all headlines on The Metro‘s website as of Tuesday lunchtime:

‘Incredible stats show Arsenal forwards more dangerous than Barcelona’s MSN’

Arsenal (12.6) have created more goalscoring chances per league game than Barcelona (11.4) this season. For those who judge scoring goals as more indicative of a ‘dangerous’ attack, Barca have scored 26 more in one fewer game.

‘Stat shows this amazing Chelsea wonderkid more dangerous than Neymar’

Charly Musonda, currently on loan at Real Betis, is fouled more often per game than Neymar. That is literally it.

‘Stats show Arsenal would top Premier League if video replays were in use.’

For fu…


Prior engagement
Take a bow, Alex Richards, for this is sterling work for the Daily Mirror.

‘Ex-Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers completes a transfer in New York City,’ reads the headline to Richards’ piece.

Richards proceeds to use over 200 words to tell us that Brendan Rodgers has proposed to his girlfriend, sorry, has ‘completed a transfer’, in New York.

According to Richards, Rodgers has ‘thrashed out a deal’ to finalise his divorce with his previous partner, with the split ‘rubber-stamped’ in December. Surprisingly, Rodgers is not described as having ‘swooped to land a free agent’.

The year is 2016, and out-of-work managers proposing to their girlfriends is news, ladies and gentlemen.


Payet in the sky

Actual headline in the Daily Telegraph story: ‘Magic Dimitri Payet is as good as Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, says West Ham defender James Collins.’

As it happens, neither versions are accurate. Actual mentions of Gareth Bale made by James Collins? You know the answer.


Recommended reading of the day
Adam Bate on why Arsenal must stop Sergio Busquets.

Uli Hesse on Thomas Muller: the modest assassin.

Gabriele Marcotti on the FA Cup, Francesco Totti and Barcelona.


Thanks to Mediawatch spotters Kartik Valipay and Nik Roseveare. If you see anything that belongs on this page, mail us at, putting ‘Mediawatch’ in the subject field.

More Related Articles