Question: How many games did the Premier League fixture ‘leak’ that both the Daily Mirror website and MailOnline reported on on Wednesday get right?
Answer: One. Congratulations on being wilfully naive for the sake of predicting Bournemouth v Sheffield United, guys. Same again next year, yeah?
We’ve got a live one
‘Premier League fixture release LIVE: Arsenal handed nightmare start, Liverpool to face tough run-in as clubs discover schedules’ – Daily Mirror.
It’s a list of games that was published three hours ago. AND IT’S LIVE.
Luk who’s talking
Of course, the biggest story to come out of the fixtures announcement is the ‘clear sign’ that someone is ‘on his way out of’ Manchester United.
You see, United have rather handily collated their games month-by-month on Instagram. It makes the information easily digestible to help their fans. It’s nicer than just staring at a block of teams and dates. But it is also their way of telling Romelu Lukaku to f**k off.
‘Man Utd leave Lukaku out of official Prem fixtures unveiling in clearest sign £75m striker will seal Inter Milan transfer,’ reads the headline on The Sun‘s website. And you thought players definitely leaving/not leaving because they were part of a kit launch was bloody stupid.
Duncan Wright tells us that United ‘ignored’ Lukaku in their announcement, and so ‘now all the signs are pointing to him heading out of the Premier League’.
Make no mistake: The Sun are entirely serious here. They say United used ‘carefully chosen shots of key players,’ and that ‘nothing is published on official club channels without careful thought and the desire for maximum exposure for the brand’.
‘So Lukaku’s absence means he is unlikely to be part of Solskjaer’s squad by the time the season starts in August with a home match against Chelsea,’ Wright adds.
Of course, this means that the only players Manchester United aren’t selling are Victor Lindelof, Scott McTominay, Diogo Dalot, David de Gea, Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Andreas Pereira and Marcus Rashford. They won’t be able to field an actual starting XI in any game, but hey, they were ‘carefully chosen’.
It also means goodbye to each of the following: Lee Grant, Sergio Romero, Joel Pereira, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, Ashley Young, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Matteo Darmian, Axel Tuanzebe, Juan Mata, Fred, Nemanja Matic, Alexis Sanchez and, of course, Lukaku. Oh, and new signing Dan James. Sorry, fella.
Manchester United are indeed selling 17 first-team players this summer because there are only ten calendar months in a Premier League season.
The big deal
Forget the fixtures and the ‘clear signs’, because Neil Custis is here for The Sun, and back with a vengeance:
‘Manchester United may have celebrated the signing of Dan James yesterday – but the future of their three biggest stars is still up in the air.’
Oh, we’ve heard. Lukaku has been ghosted and Fred wasn’t even superimposed onto a list of fixtures for April. It’s all gone to sh*t.
‘Marcus Rashford and David de Gea are no nearer signing new contracts that have been on the table all year. They will both be free agents in 12 months’ time.’
Hold on, they were used for November and May respectively. They’re definitely staying.
A reminder that the same man wrote the following on February 8, just 125 days ago:
‘MANCHESTER UNITED players are queuing up to sign new deals in the belief that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be made permanent manager.’
Welcome to the house of fun
Is Custis done? Is he heck. There are great times to reminisce over (and completely misrepresent and decontextualise for the benefit of his current argument).
‘Paul Pogba, meanwhile, wants to start afresh elsewhere after three mediocre seasons mired with problems.
‘There was a time when Paul Scholes would just ask where to sign when a new contract was offered.’
There was also a time when Paul Scholes was one of the club’s highest-paid players, which he would probably have made sure of before he ‘just asked where to sign’.
And Paul Pogba was December, so he’s not leaving.
‘Those were the days when players desperately wanted to be at a club that was winning honours for fun.
‘Right now nobody at United has fun – and as for top trophies, well, that is a very distant dream.’
Woah there, Neil. Wasn’t it you who wrote this in February?
‘It is easy to quantify what a manager has achieved by pointing at facts and figures, yes even silverware – after all Mourinho won two.
‘It is more difficult to bottle up and exhibit a feeling at a club. A force, if you like. A sense that not only are results back on track but a club is too.
‘The way staff are, the way people talk, the way people carry themselves.’
‘Yes, it’s only February and big challenges are looming in the form of PSG and Liverpool. But United have been made into a team to be feared again.’
That sounds pretty ‘fun’. And trophies didn’t seem like ‘a very distant dream’. That was only four months ago; what happened?
‘United used to click their fingers and players would come running. Only Barcelona and Real Madrid could match them.’
We’ve been through this before. It was b*llocks then and b*llocks now.
And so is pretending Manchester United are in crisis because two players are yet to sign new deals and one wants to go to Real Madrid. Even for Custis, they have lurched from ‘feared’ to ‘no fun’ in record time.
At 23.52 on Wednesday, The Sun published the following Martin Lipton story on their website. It made their back page.
‘Manchester United want to make a last-gasp bid to hijack Antoine Griezmann’s move to Barcelona.’
At around 19.41 on Wednesday, quotes emerged from Atletico Madrid CEO Miguel Ángel Gil Marín stating that Griezmann was headed to Barcelona, and that he had been aware of the deal as early as March.
Can a ‘last-gasp bid to hijack’ something really come at least three months after it’s happened?
Not on the same page
‘PREMIER LEAGUE FIXTURES TODAY: 380 matches for the 2019/20 season are released at 9am today. Be sure to visit Mirror Football for the biggest and best reaction… and don’t miss your Mirror Sport fixtures pullout tomorrow’ – Daily Mirror back page.
Yay! This sounds fun! Mediawatch can’t wai…
‘Don’t forget, today is the day when next season’s Premier League fixtures are announced. Or rather a rough guide to where your team may be playing for the nine months from August dependent on the whims of TV executives. If you like to plan your life around going to football matches, read them through a crystal ball’ – Brian Reade, Daily Mirror, p.63.
Recommended reading of the day
Marina Hyde on the true victims of the women’s World Cup.