Excuse me, miss
An awful lot has been written in defence of Jose Mourinho’s season to date, mostly based around the notion that Manchester United could never have been expected to challenge Manchester City because the squad simply isn’t strong enough.
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville is the latest to jump to his defence, taking to Twitter to explain why little of this is Mourinho’s fault.
‘On United. We should be closer to City irrespective of their incredible run but City did have a better squad than United when Jose came in.
‘The recruitment under LVG / DM all over the place. The club should be signing players that suit the values not being taken from one extreme to another by managers with differing principles.
‘It’s a very costly exercise and means the waste is huge. The players signed by Jose are much better and more aligned to the club’s values. He should be supported in the TM with more players that meet the club ethic.’
Fair enough. But Neville mentioning ‘one extreme to the other’ takes us to comments that he made in August. Those recruitment issues weren’t so obvious then:
“You can’t just drop your expectation because they haven’t won it for a couple of years. They have to win the league. Jose Mourinho has to win the league here. The money that’s been spent, his own personal expectations and what he’s always delivered has been titles, so I would say United have to approach this season to win the league.
“I have never seen this league won without power and pace and a really strong spine, and it looks like United have got that. They look like they are going to mount a challenge. It’s day one, but they look like they have the attributes to mount a challenge for the title because they seem like they have everything.
“There is no excuse for Manchester United not to challenge for the league. That’s not putting pressure on the players or Jose Mourinho, but they have to challenge with the money that has been spent and the players that have been brought in.”
“No excuse” to plenty of excuses for the lack of challenge? So which is it, Gary?
Hazard a guess
Writes Stan Collymore in his Daily Mirror column on Tuesday:
‘Will Real Madrid make their move for Eden Hazard this month? That is the big question for Chelsea fans. If the Spanish giants do come for the Blues player-maker (sic) then Roman Abramovich needs to reject their bid out of hand… losing the Belgian would be more damaging for them than losing Philippe Coutinho would be for Liverpool.’
We entirely agree, but it is interesting to hear Collymore’s opinion on Hazard shift so sharply. In April 2017, he said Hazard ‘turned to shit’ and was a ‘disgrace’.
Then there was this, in February 2017:
‘Players aren’t worried about creating legacies anymore. They’re just happy to move on from club to club knowing that another hefty pay cheque is just around the corner come what may. Take Eden Hazard for example: he was going to be the next Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo two years ago. But he got a little bit of criticism from Jose Mourinho so he chucked it in.’
And this, in August 2016:
‘Eden Hazard’s performance for Chelsea against West Ham on Monday just went to show how much of a cheat he was last season. I use that word purposefully, not lightly, because to go from PFA Player of the Year in a side that became champions of England to being a liability until three or four games from the end of the season to get himself ready for the Euros tells me there’s no way he will ever play in a Barcelona or Real Madrid shirt.’
No way he’ll ever play for Real Madrid. But Chelsea should reject their apparently incoming £120m offer all the same.
‘Jesse Lingard is a better forward than Harry Kane, according to the stats’ – The Sun.
Mediawatch is gloomy enough about it being the start January without wanting to click on guff like this, but two immediate thoughts without looking at it:
1. The ‘stats’ probably don’t present the whole argument.
2. The Sun, who usually refer to anything to do with statistics as the work of ‘boffins’, have deliberately selected and interpreted the ‘stats’ to present a controversial hypothesis as fact.
New year, same Sun.
Maths, with Jose Mourinho
When a manager makes claims in his post-match press conference, it is easy to simply swallow what he says. Deadlines are tight, and so you end up writing what you hear without question, simultaneously trying to determine the best angle to sell the story.
So when Jose Mourinho spoke about Manchester United absentees after the victory at Everton, people listened:
“We will compete always, we competed and we didn’t have I think nine players. Nine players were not here.”
So, those nine. Romelu Lukaku, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marouane Fellaini, Eric Bailly and Antonio Valencia were all injured and Ashley Young was suspended, which makes six. We will also give him Michael Carrick too, although the only game Carrick has been picked for was against Burton in September.
As for the other two, your guess is as good as ours. Pretty sure they don’t exist.
“And there is another situation, maybe I’m guilty of it: I never speak about injuries,” you will remember Mourinho saying in October. “Other managers, they cry, they cry, they cry when some player is injured. I don’t cry.”
Not cry. Just deliberately miscount instead.
‘Alex McCarthy has told England goalkeeper Fraser Forster to get used to being on bench duty,’ reads the first paragraph in The Sun on Tuesday.
That’s sounds very inflammatory for something said by one teammate to another, so Mediawatch’s interest was piqued by McCarthy’s quotes. Strap in:
“I’ve had a tough couple of years with injury, but the main thing for me is to stay fit and keep pushing. I want to keep improving. We’ve got a good group of goalkeepers here and we’re always pushing each other every day.”
‘Watford look as though they have gone. If they didn’t beat Leicester when they went 1-0 down then they would be one of the favourites to get relegated at the moment. That was a big result for them. But then if they had beaten Swansea they would probably be safe’ – Paul Merson, Sky Sports.
A difference of three points between Watford being ‘probably safe’ and ‘one of the favourites to get relegated’. Right.
Ask a simple question
“I don’t see why my decisions are questioned. I am brave enough to take it on the chin. Everybody talks about the changes we made but Rafa Benitez made six changes, what’s the difference?” – Mark Hughes.
Sticking with Mark Hughes, and this doozy:
“It’s to be expected. I think for the last two or three weeks the agenda in the media and social media… that was going to happen.”
You missed out the agenda in the league table and Stoke’s performances, Sparky.
Ask another simple question
‘Why is anybody resting players in the Premier League? This isn’t one of the cups, this is the bread and butter. It’s people trying to reinvent the game, trying to be clever’ – Stan Collymore, Daily Mirror.
It’s because the players are knackered and thus at risk of muscle injuries, Stan.
Recommended reading of the day
David Squires on New Year’s resolutions.
Donald McRae with Juan Mata.
Adam Bate on Mark Hughes.