‘PAUL POGBA has told Manchester United he has no plans to quit in a sensational U-turn from just three-months ago’ – The Sun exclusive (with weird-hyphen), March 14.
‘PAUL POGBA is tearing Manchester United’s dressing room apart – which seems certain to signal his summer exit’ – The Sun exclusive, April 26.
Paul the other one
‘Pogba had already responded to Solskjaer’s style of management with two goals in each of the home games against Huddersfield and Bournemouth’ – The Sun exclusive, January 16.
‘[Pogba] is not convinced that boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the right man to turn their fortunes around’ – The Sun exclusive, April 26.
A month is an awful long time in football…
Neil Ashton’s hatchet job on ‘the four men who will be trusted to shape the modern United’ is quite something. He pulls no punches in his column for The Sun.
Not only does the chief football reporter describe Solskjaer as ‘drowning’, but he lays into ‘out of touch’ assistant Mike Phelan and first-team coaches Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna, who ‘lack conviction’ and ‘can consider himself extremely fortunate’ respectively.
To avoid any confusion, the headline is ‘DONE 4 WITH THESE 4,’ accompanied with a sub-headline of ‘Utd can’t move forward with Ole and his staff’. This is no fluff piece.
But Ashton saves his most withering comments for the manager:
‘The poor guy is losing his way in the job, overwhelmed by the sheer scale of managing United from top to bottom. His plaintive, pleading public utterances about being successful and getting players up to scratch are not becoming of a United manager.
‘On Wednesday, just as he did before and after the 3-0 defeat in Barcelona, he looked lost.
‘It takes someone very special to manage United because the demands and the pressure are unique.
‘To persuade players to move to Manchester instead of Real, Barcelona, Juventus or Bayern Munich demands a certain type of person.
‘Solskjaer is not one of them.’
A reminder that just 29 days ago Ashton wrote the following:
‘The results have been nothing short of spectacular. This is a Zinedine Zidane-style appointment, Solskjaer’s standing increasing the sense of belonging.’
‘United, the club where he won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and, famously, the Champions League in 1999, is home again.’
‘Solskjaer has given the players freedom, encouraging them to express themselves in a way associated with Fergie’s 13 title-winning teams.’
‘It is a throwback to the Fergie period, with United trying to clone their greatest manager with the appointment of one of his most studious former players.’
‘The FA Cup win at Arsenal and the late drama to beat Paris Saint-Germain was intoxicating. It is the United way. For that reason, Solskjaer had to get it.’
‘Solskjaer recognises the prestige of this job, the honour and distinction of being United’s 23rd full-time manager.’
Literally less than a month later, he is ‘losing his way,’ having been ‘overwhelmed by the sheer scale of managing United.’ His actions are ‘not becoming of a United manager,’ and he is not the man to take them forward. Even for Ashton, that is quite incredible.
‘When Pep Guardiola demanded an entirely new defence at City, he got it. United must do the same to compete with City or Liverpool.
‘They also need a creative midfielder, like City’s David Silva or Kevin de Bruyne, as well as an enforcer to dominate the midfield like Fernandinho’ – David McDonnell, Daily Mirror.
Nothing much then, yeah? Just an entirely new defence and signings comparable to three of the best Premier League players of the last decade.
Emery old time
‘Only the Etihad has been a harder place to visit than Fortress Arsenal since the start of last season.
‘But boss Unai Emery and his squad’s failure to cure the appalling travel sickness means the Gunners look set to finish outside the Premier League’s top four once again’ – Matthew Dunn and James Nursey, Daily Mirror.
They are fifth and outside the top four by a single point with three games left. Fourth-placed Chelsea play sixth-placed Manchester United on Sunday, with at least one of those sides dropping points. Arsenal might not finish fourth, but they are certainly don’t ‘look set to’ miss out at this stage.
Success Leeds to failure
‘Marcelo Bielsa is the £8million gamble in danger of backfiring on Leeds United’ – John Cross, Daily Mirror.
Alternative first paragraph: ‘Marcelo Bielsa has taken Leeds from 13th last season to 3rd this with roughly the same squad.’
It’s less snappy, granted.
As Cross himself adds, Leeds ‘spent all their budget on a big-name boss rather than the playing squad.’ And said boss has already earned them 22 more points with two games left than they managed in the entirety of last season.
But no, ‘the players already look worn out by their coach’s demands,’ Bielsa has ‘introduced a regime which punishes his squad mentally and physically,’ and ‘throughout his career, his sides have run out of gas – and it appears to be happening again.’
It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Patrick Bamford couldn’t hit a barn door with a bloody banjo.
Oh, and ‘£8million gamble’? Bielsa was apparently ‘persuaded to sign a two-year contract on £4m-a-year’ last summer. Which must be news to Cross’ Mirror colleague David Anderson, who described the Argentine as ‘the club’s best-paid boss on over £2million-a-year’ in June.
To be fair, £4m is ‘over £2m’. Just a bit, mind.
So Bielsa is the £8m £4m gamble investment in danger of backfiring on who has taken Leeds from 13th to 3rd and still potentially promotion to the Premier League either automatically or through the play-offs. Glad we’ve cleared that up.
Humblebrag of the day
‘I once had a season playing for Cambridge United where I scored 25 goals. I think I got in the team of the year but I can’t remember’ – Dave Kitson, (mysteriously) explaining to The Sun why the PFA Team of the Year is meaningless.
Mediawatch enjoys the idea that he knows exactly how many goals he scored in a season 16 years ago, but definitely has ‘no idea’ whether he made the Team of the Year or not.
First paragraph of this or any other day
‘They may both be German, but tonight will be the first time Jan Siewert and Jurgen Klopp have met’ – The Sun.
Mediawatch is creasing with laughter.
Recommended reading of the day
Barney Ronay on the Bernardo principle.
Adam Crafton interviews Emmanuel Adebayor.