Revealed: The Premier League table topped by Man United

Date published: Monday 22nd January 2018 12:15

The ‘Sanchez’ count on the Express football homepage stands at 37 at 11am on Monday.

One of those headlines poses an intriguing question:

‘Is this the clue Arsenal will sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to replace Alexis Sanchez?’

No, it’s a PR e-mail from a bookmaker which you have shamelessly attempted to package as inside information.

You did ask.


Breaking news from 2010
Mediawatch has a certain degree of sympathy for those who write about one club for one website and are under constant pressure for more and more page impressions. So we can almost understand the thought process that leads to such headlines as this in the Manchester Evening News:

‘What Manchester United great Sir Alex Ferguson said about Alexis Sanchez’

The quotes are almost eight years old, but old news is apparently still news in click-hungry 2018. We don’t have to like it.

This is Samuel Luckhurst’s penultimate paragraph of a mercifully short article:

‘United and City both made contact with Sanchez’s representatives six-and-a-half years ago but he joined Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona for €26million after United bought Ashley Young.’

Within two hours a headline appears on the Express:

‘Alexis Sanchez: Man Utd transfer rejected by Sir Alex Ferguson because of one player’

For f**k’s sake.


The magic number
Everybody on Twitter, Sunday evening:

James Cooper, Sky Sports News, Monday morning:

“Manchester United have a very famous shirt that lies vacant this morning; it might be that by this afternoon they will have their new No. 7 in Alexis Sanchez. No confirmation of that as yet but it is a big shirt for a big player and Alexis Sanchez certainly fits the bill for that.”

You don’t say.


Man United are the champions
Now you may look at a Premier League table and see Manchester City (won 3-1 against Newcastle on Saturday) 12 points ahead of Manchester United after the latter notched a 1-0 win at Burnley thanks to one of two on-target shots and think that perhaps things were going a tad better at City than United. But then you are probably not The Sun’s Neil Custis.

Now we have been here before with Custis, who watches a pretty rotten 1-0 win and feels the need to defend the defensive. Back in November, United were ‘a force again’ after a 1-0 win over Brighton; two weeks later they lost 2-1 to City and Custis was oddly quiet. Presumably he was too busy feeling the force.

So his match report from a 1-0 win over Burnley is headlined ‘Jose is causing a clean sheet storm’ and is accompanied by a Premier League Clean Sheet Table which shows United are top. Give them the non-existent trophy now.

It begins:

‘THERE seems to be something dirty about keeping clean sheets these days.’

Does there? Do carry on…

‘Not part of the beautiful game it would seem. The lauding of Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola just over a week ago was understandable given the fabulous game that we had all witnessed between Liverpool and his Premier League leaders.

‘But City were hammered, 4-1 down before their late rally.’

Firstly, football matches do last 90 minutes, Neil. And City were one converted free-kick away from a draw. And Guardiola was not ‘lauded’ for his team’s performance against Liverpool; he was merely given leeway for one defeat because his team are 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League table.

But that’s hardly the point here…you were presumably sent to Burnley v Manchester United to write about Burnley v Manchester United and yet you do not even mention that game until the 17th paragraph. Burnley themselves had to wait until the 27th paragraph for a name-check.

This is just getting weird now…

‘Jose Mourinho went to Anfield earlier in the season, however, won a point in a goalless draw and got slaughtered. He had parked the bus apparently. But the fact is that Jurgen Klopp took no risks on that day either.’

That will be that day three months ago. It may be time to get over this.

‘The Kop boss did not go hell for leather for a win. All his subs were like for like because he knew if he left a gap Mourinho would pick him off.’

Seriously, has somebody checked he is alright? That game was in October.

‘Now there is no doubt that with the players they have and the way they play City are the stand-out side. The Red Devils, however, should not be dismissed and certainly not for getting clean sheets.’

We suspect they are being dismissed because they are 12 points behind. Literally nobody in the world has dismissed United because they are defensively good. That would be mental.

‘City have improved markedly on last season because Guardiola has changed his goalkeeper and sorted his defence out, the rest they were already doing.’

Well, they have scored 70 goals in 24 matches as opposed to 49 at the same stage last season, so let’s not get too hasty here…

‘While Mourinho waits for it to click, he has to continue doing what United do extremely well and that is to keeps teams out.’

Because of course elite coaches simply ‘wait’ for things to click; what else could they possibly do?

‘United were good on Saturday. Good at stopping Burnley and good at wearing them down faced with with two resolute banks of four.’

Yes, it takes some special defending to stop a side who had scored four goals (two of them against United) in seven winless games.

And two shots on target really does show that this is ‘a United team that is growing and will only improve now Sanchez has arrived’. Basically, they are brilliant.


Opinion of the weekend
“The thing is that Andy Carroll, without injuries, would be Harry Kane” – The Sun’s Neil Custis, Sunday Supplement on Sky Sports.

Now Mediawatch could call Custis a fool or an idiot, or even just a misguided Geordie defending another misguided Geordie, but that would be to do the man and his ideas an injustice.

It would be remiss of us not to point out that back in 2011, Carroll was without injuries; he was available for the entirety of the 2011/12 season as a fit 22/23-year-old, playing in 35 Premier League games and starting a credible 21 games. He scored four goals.

For reasons of comparison, a similarly aged (22) and similarly fit Kane played in 38 Premier League games in 2015/16. He scored 25 goals.

The thing is that Andy Carroll, without injuries, would still be Andy Carroll. And Neil Custis would still be a silly sod.


Headline of the day
‘After leaving for Arsenal at just 20, Van Persie returns to Feyenoord 14 years later as his wife joins him for unveiling’ – MailOnline.

But what was she wearing?


Ordinary world
‘To sack manager Marco Silva for responding to Everton’s interest in him prior to Sam Allardyce taking the job is quite extraordinary – Garth Crooks, BBC.

Except they didn’t sack him for that, did they Garth? And sacking a manager after picking up just 11 points from 16 games is really not extraordinary at all. In fact, it is pretty bloody standard nowadays.


Small-time Crooks
* ‘The finish by Willian was just sensational. The Brazilian is playing out of his skin at the moment.’

Pesky fact: It was his first Premier League start of 2018.

* ‘Roy Hodgson has done a wonderful job in a very short space of time, but many more beatings like this and I fear his Eagles will find themselves plummeting back into the relegation zone, fighting for scraps.’

Pesky fact: Palace have taken 14 points from their last eight games; only the top five have taken more.

* ‘I think the Gunners might be Mahrez’s best option. He won’t, of course, be the first player to have played for a move, if that is the real reason for his spike in form, and certainly won’t be the last. Whatever the reason, the point is he is a top-class player and should be playing with a top-four team.’

Pesky fact: Arsenal are not a top-four team.


Recommended reading of the day
Adam Bate on Marco Silva.

Jonathan Liew on Arsenal.

Mark Godfrey on Red Star.

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