That might have been the most unwatchable broadcast of a game in recent memory. And TNT Sports and Rio Ferdinand revelled in their Manchester United bias.
The idea that Rio Ferdinand would not have seen the backlash to TNT Sports’ coverage was soon undermined by the broadcaster themselves proudly posting a video of their commentary team’s reactions to the six goals scored during a ludicrous game.
For the last of those, a stunning equaliser from Kerem Akturkoglu, Ferdinand can be seen looking at his phone as the move unfolded. He glances up to see Andre Onana beaten again – understandably on this occasion – before holding a hand to his head, then offering a couple more furious scrolls through what can only be presumed to be one of his social media timelines.
Ferdinand later accused Manchester United players of “immaturity” and “boredom”, for what it’s worth.
He had already tweeted during the game to celebrate Scott McTominay’s goal, before reposting that clip – a minute and eight seconds long – of the ‘crazy scenes’ and ‘rollercoaster ride’ in which he and Robbie Savage contribute four words between them while Darren Fletcher carries the load.
And the Galatasaray fans were the ones “silenced”.
They did get off their seats a couple of times to be fair (for Manchester United goals), so it was basically Alton Towers.
“Oh my days,” Ferdinand exclaimed as Bruno Fernandes made it 2-0, before an affirmatory celebration of McTominay restoring that cushion early in the second half.
This was 𝐄𝐕𝐄𝐑𝐘 Manchester United fan on Wednesday 😬
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) November 30, 2023
He was online alright. He might be the most online of all current pundits, vibing with five and such. So it would have been impossible not to witness how dreadfully received TNT’s curious transformation into MUTV was.
Partisan punditry is neither a new nor necessarily a bad concept. It can give a unique flavour to proceedings and provide supporters with an accessible voice. There is room for it in football coverage if done right.
Having Ferdinand and Savage on co-commentary before cutting back to Paul Scholes and Owen Hargreaves in the studio – three former Manchester United players and one Robbie Savage – for a Manchester United game was not right. It wasn’t representative. It wasn’t balanced. It was barely watchable. It was a Paddy Crerand or Mark Goldbridge short of being a dedicated fan channel.
And that might appeal to some supporters. Misery loves company and there is nothing quite like sitting in a circle of peers while repeating “this is Manchester United Football Club we’re talking about here” in a gradually higher pitch for 90 minutes. But charging a premium price for that service is as ludicrous as Fletcher at one stage referring to looking at the game “from a neutral’s perspective” when the exact opposite lens was provided all evening.
It actively subtracted from the spectacle of two ridiculous teams trying to out-daft each other. Mentions of “Bruno” fall under the increasingly pervasive “Trent” sub-category of eye-roll-inducing but ultimately harmless, while Savage’s “look at Fernandes, just look at the captain, look at that recovery run…look at him now, he’s still going!” as the Portuguese received a yellow card and conceded a free-kick from which Manchester United subsequently conceded was entry-level commentator’s curse stuff.
But shouting “let’s will it in!” as Manchester United sought the goal that would restore their grip on qualification was jarringly one-sided. It was a punditry performance summed up neatly by the series of incomprehensible noises offered in place of actual insight when Facundo Pellistri almost scored in the 90th minute.
That TNT and Ferdinand decided to farm engagement from the whole fiasco instead of trying to deliver something in any way palatable was the final insult to paying customers.