C-c-c-c-called a u-turn
‘GREAT teams define eras,’ writes Neil Ashton in The Sun as he brings you the ‘inside track on football’s big stories’, and today’s ‘inside track’ is that Mauricio Pochettino is doing rather a good job at Tottenham. How on earth does he know these things? Contacts, we expect.
‘Spurs have a way to go yet before they can be compared with the greats, but Poch’s commitment to marry entertainment with results commands total respect,’ concedes Ashton.
Which is odd because we have just celebrated the anniversary of this belter from Ashton:
‘EVERY once in a while, English football enters a golden age.
‘Think Busby Babes, the great Liverpool side built by Bill Shankly or Sir Alex Ferguson’s swashbuckling United teams.
‘At this rate, in years to come, everybody will want to say they got to watch Tottenham live.’
A year later, they still ‘have a way to go yet before they can be compared with the greats’. Go figure.
Ashton then convincingly argues that winning trophies really is not important in this quest to be remembered as one of those greats.
‘No doubt they would love to convert it into something tangible, to finally walk up the steps inside a stadium to lift some silverware.
‘If it never happens, it does not mean that this team cannot be appreciated.’
So it must be a different Neil Ashton who wrote in The Sun in November 2017 that Tottenham are ‘all fur coat and no knickers’, comparing them to David O’Leary’s Leeds side that won nothing. As he caustically wrote:
‘Silverware, especially when it has been in such short supply at Spurs over the years, is a precious commodity for a football manager.
‘That is how they like to be judged – with United boss Mourinho, City chief Pep Guardiola and Gunners’ manager Arsene Wenger obsessed with the idea of being the best.
‘Pochettino wins hands-down when it comes to popularity – charming English football with his attentive, easy-going and engaging manner.
‘It is good for PR but it will never take Tottenham to the very top.’
Hmmm. Fast-forward less than 15 months and Ashton – having realised that Pochettino’s career trajectory makes him an important person not to antagonise – is singing rather a different tune about a manager who ‘is on the way to creating something unique with Spurs’.
And as for those who would suggest that trophies should really be part of that ‘something unique’, Ashton has a message:
‘The final, reflex argument of the desperate man is always about the trophies.’
And that desperate man was you, Neil. Not so very long ago. Before you belatedly realised that it’s important to make friends with those who wear no knickers.
Against all odds
— Man United News (@ManUtdMEN) February 15, 2019
It’s a clever tweet from an account that has over 200,000 Manchester United-supporting followers.
But it’s a shameless tweet when you know that the odds have actually dropped the tiniest fraction from 4/1 to 11/4. Oh and that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains the odds-on favourite at 2/5.
Sticking with the Manchester Evening News, this is quite the headline:
‘Manchester United might have found the perfect transfer after what Solskjaer said.’
Deliciously vague. Let’s dive in. And what an opening line this is:
‘If Jose Mourinho had De Bruyne, Salah and Lukaku then Pep Guardiola had Eto’o, Kroos and Sancho.’
It’s a bold start. Let’s take those Guardiola escapees one by one.
Yes, Guardiola did sell Eto’o – after his goals helped them to an unprecedented haul of trophies – but his Barcelona team then won two more La Liga titles and a Champions League trophy, so you could argue that it was hardly a disaster.
Toni Kroos simply chose not to sign a new Bayern Munich contract, despite Guardiola trying to persuade him to stay. “We tried to convince him to stay at the club but I understand,” said Guardiola, who was thanked at length by Kroos for his guidance during their one season together. It’s not quite the same as De Bruyne, Salah and Lukaku.
And then there’s Jadon Sancho, who turned down a £30,000-a-week deal at Manchester City to join Borussia Dortmund. “We did absolutely everything but I think it was not [about] the salary, maybe he thought he would get more minutes at Dortmund and I can understand that,” said Guardiola.
So a strong start from Samuel Luckhurst there, as he writes that obviously Sancho would be the ideal signing for Manchester United. Of course he would.
‘United have not signed a specialist right winger since Wilfried Zaha over six years ago but made an audacious attempt to prise Sancho away from City 18 months ago.’
Are we all just pretending that Henrik Mkhitaryan does not exist now? As Mediawatch has noted before, Luckhurst was happy to call him a winger until it turned out he was a bit shit.
Anyway, Luckhurst details Sancho’s development at Dortmund and then writes, really quite bizarrely:
‘Sancho wanted a clearer pathway to first-team football and he has got it at Dortmund. Sancho has already played 41 times for Dortmund and could play a pivotal role in ending Bayern Munich’s domestic hegemony. Dortmund are five points clear at the Bundesliga summit.
‘Christian Pulisic, ousted from the first XI by Sancho, is moving to Chelsea, where Callum Hudson-Odoi is not getting on the bench. Ironically, Hudson-Odoi kept Sancho on the bench in the Under-17 European Championship final.’
That’s not ironic, it’s just nonsense; both Sancho and Hudson-Odoi played in the Under-17 European Championship final.
Oh and ‘a Premier League transfer seems inevitable in the future’ only because you cannot see beyond the end of your own nose. He seems quite happy in Germany, thank you.
‘There is bound to be room for a marquee magician, though. Juan Mata’s future is yet to be resolved and if United cut the cord on Henrikh Mkhitaryan after 18 months they could do so with Alexis Sanchez.’
Yep. We’re pretty sure United would love to ‘cut the cord’ on Alexis Sanchez like they did with that bloke who definitely wasn’t a winger. But good luck on getting somebody to take on the obscene wages offered by your club just to spite Manchester City.
Jumping through Hoops
Neil Ashton also takes the time to bemoan the treatment of Steve McClaren at QPR, writing that he ‘deserves credit for riding out all that abuse’ after his own club’s fans turned on him in August.
‘With an FA Cup quarter-final in sight, those same fans will be roaring Rangers on at Loftus Road when they host Premier League Watford.’
What Ashton does not mention: QPR have lost their last five Championship games and have not won a league game since Boxing Day. We don’t think the fans have changed their mind about McClaren just because they beat Portsmouth in a replay.
Mediawatch is confused by the back page of Friday’s Daily Mirror…
— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) February 14, 2019
Surely everybody knew that Jose Mourinho was paid £15m by Manchester United to bugger off. Certainly, the Mirror themselves knew, as they themselves wrote in mid-December that ‘United were forced to pay Mourinho £15m to leave after giving him a contract extension in January’.
And now we’re supposed to believe – two months later – that his £15million pay-out is ‘staggering’. Just because they had nothing else for their back page.
Clickbaiting a tragedy (Part 427)
‘Emiliano Sala’s ‘secret lover’ dedicates memorial tattoo to Cardiff City striker’ – Daily Mirror website.
Once again, we ask why ‘secret lover’ is in quote marks when you are the only people using that phrase? Oh, because it generates clicks. As you despicably were…
Ask the expert
‘Newport County’s FA Cup dream will quickly turn into a nightmare this weekend.
‘That’s the expert verdict from Mirror Football columnist Robbie Savage, who thinks the League Two club could also go for a Burton against Pep Guardiola’s quadruple-chasers.’
You don’t f***ing say.
Recommended reading of the day
Daniel Storey on Swansea City
Richard Jolly on the FA Cup
Jack Pitt-Brooke meets Heurelho Gomes