One might have assumed that literally all the possible Paul Pogba stories were published on Thursday. But by Friday, one is already made to look rather foolish.
The Sun describe Paul Pogba as ‘more desperate than ever to escape’ on their back page, with Neil Custis exclusively saying the Frenchman is ‘fed-up’ and ‘will make a fresh move to quit Manchester United in January’.
And there you were thinking he was delighted to be spending what could be his peak years in the Europa League, scraping past Rochdale in the League Cup and level on points with Sheffield United and Crystal Palace in the Premier League. It turns out this World Cup-winning Champions League finalist is actually ‘fed-up’.
As for this ‘fresh move to quit Manchester United in January,’ here was Neil Custis on August 12:
‘Paul Pogba could fly this season and looks like a player who wants to stay at Man Utd’
Seriously though, what is the exclusive here? That a player who wanted to leave in the summer still wants to leave in January because little has changed? Or is it the fact that he is ‘more desperate than ever’ to do so? And if so, how on earth is Neil Custis measuring this?
This renewed determination to go must be because Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ‘snubbed’ him for the captaincy and ‘blocked’ him from taking a penalty on Wednesday. Right?
Are you Gunnar go my way?
Ah, about that…
Could it be that Pogba has “been captain before” but giving Axel Tuanzebe the armband instead was “just a way of telling him that we trust him,” as Solskjaer himself revealed on Thursday?
And could it be that Pogba was not one of the first five designated penalty-takers because he “got a knock to his ankle, which is very swollen,” as Solskjaer himself revealed on Friday?
Make a meal of it
But The Sun do not even have the biggest Pogba scoop of the day. That honour goes to the Daily Mail (and a story that is shoved into the bottom left-hand corner of their newspaper to make room for Peter Kenyon’s large face).
Over to you, then, Simon Jones. You seem to have an exclusive AND a…
‘REVEALED: Man United star David de Gea treated team-mates to dinner at Juan Mata’s restaurant in team bonding night out after sneaking past League One Rochdale in Carabao Cup… but Paul Pogba gave it a miss!’
He ‘gave it a miss’? Sorry, he ‘gave it a miss!’? Perhaps he really is ‘fed-up’ and ‘more desperate than ever to escape’.
So everyone else turned up then?
‘Though around 10 players attended, there were notable absentees with some players not in the mood following the nature of their display against Rochdale and others mindful of commitments they’d made for Thursday’s day off.’
‘Notable absentees’ sounds an awful lot like a plural…
‘Marcos Rojo, Sergio Romero, Ashley Young, Paul Pogba, Phil Jones and Harry Maguire were among those who gave the meal a miss though they remain influential figures in the dressing room.’
You’ve named six players there, including the actual captain and the expensive summer signing already pitched as a future captain by the actual manager. Yet Pogba is the one crowbarred into the headline?
The best part? There is absolutely no mention of Pogba whatsoever in the newspaper article. It’s almost as if they need to use the most searched name and make him look like something of an outcast to maximise clicks online. And almost as if that’s a massive c***’s trick.
From The Sun‘s version of that story:
‘The Frenchman, 26, became a dad earlier this year and no doubt wanted to be with his family – or simply head to bed – after the game, which did not finish until almost 10pm.’
What a d*ck.
Back to The Sun now, and a Neil Ashton exclusive with this headline:
‘Man Utd ready to move for unsettled Mauricio Pochettino and £32m buyout would be a bargain’
It promises fresh information – he has ‘the inside track on football’s big stories’, after all. It teases a story, as an exclusive, that no-one else has. It states in no uncertain terms that United are ‘ready to move’ for Pochettino and pay his ‘£32m buyout’.
What it does not say is that this is no more than an opinion piece that, among other things, tells us:
‘United, who first courted Poch when they fired Louis van Gaal in May 2016 and again just days before Jose Mourinho was sent packing last December, are likely to try again at some point.’
So ‘ready to’ has already become ‘likely to’. Lovely.
‘When he signed a new five-year deal at the start of last season, he did so without inserting any exit clauses in to his contract.’
And this ‘£32m buyout’ is not a clause but literally just what the rest of his £8.5m-a-year contract is worth.
It really is worth reiterating that Ashton is guessing, putting the 2 of Pochettino’s uncertain future and the 2 of United possibly needing another manager sometime soon and coming up with the 427 of ‘to make it happen, it will cost them £32m. For United, it’d be worth every penny.’
Yet we still get these headlines:
‘Man Utd willing to spend £32m to snap up Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino’ – Daily Express.
‘Manchester United ‘line up Mauricio Pochettino as a replacement for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’… but Ed Woodward will have to pay £32m up front to bring Tottenham boss to Old Trafford’ – Daily Mail.
‘Man Utd able to snatch Mauricio Pochettino from Spurs in complex £32m deal’ – Daily Star.
‘Reports: Manchester United set to move for Premier League boss as Solskjaer replacement’ – Fox Sports Asia.
Top work all round, guys.
REVELATION of the day
Sorry we ever doubted your Pochettino story, The Sun. Without it, you wouldn’t have produced this masterpiece.
Cannot wait for Tottenham to let Manchester United take Mauricio Pochettino, Toby Alderweireld, Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane from them.
Or for Pochettino to play Paulo Dybala in a midfield three.
Or for him to spend all that money but not improve on Scott McTominay. pic.twitter.com/5DI2CSyZZ5
— Football365 (@F365) September 27, 2019
Textbook. And ensuring there is no Pogba is very on-brand. Well played.
Recommended reading of the day
Sid Lowe on Rodrygo and La Liga’s 21st-century boys.
Phil Hay and Dominic Fifield on Lee Bowyer’s career (£).