John Cross, Daily Mirror, January 14: ‘David De Gea’s one-man show puts Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in pole position for United job.’
David McDonnell, Daily Mirror, January 15: ‘Caretaker boss Solskjaer has won his first six games in charge, putting him in pole position to land the Old Trafford job full-time.’
Neil Custis, The Sun, January 15: ‘OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER has moved into pole position to become Manchester United’s next permanent boss.’
The latter is of course a back-page ‘MAN UNITED EXCLUSIVE’. Go figure.
The campaign from the Manchester Evening News to crowbar the names of ‘Solskjaer’ and ‘Ferguson’ into the same headline continues apace…
‘Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer makes Sir Alex Ferguson rule change.’
Yep, ‘Man Utd players wore their Paul Smith suits at Wembley for their Premier League fixture vs Tottenham as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made another change.’
Frankly, we would now be surprised if Solskjaer did not now stay for 26 years and win 38 trophies as Manchester United manager, such are the similarities between the two men.
But perhaps our favourite line about the pair is in Samuel Luckhurst’s inside story of ‘How Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has transformed Manchester United‘:
‘Ferguson is ‘very, very involved’. Solskjaer said at his parading in the Jimmy Murphy Centre at Carrington less than four weeks ago he would pop round to Ferguson’s home in Wilmslow for a cup of tea. Instead, Ferguson has made two visits to the training ground and Solskjaer has gone as far as to sound him out on team selections. For Ferguson and Solskjaer, if there are cups there has to be silver.’
We seem to have been just a little bit sick in our mouths.
Solskjaer Ferguson Solskjaer Ferguson
The MEN really are not alone though; the narrative is well and truly in motion. These are all from the last 24 hours:
‘Man Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer executed ‘masterplan’ like Sir Alex Ferguson to beat Tottenham’ – Evening Standard.
‘Man Utd news: Solskjaer has asked Ferguson about a problem Mourinho could never solve’ – Daily Express.
‘Suited and booted! Ole Gunnar Solskjaer orders his Manchester United players to wear club suits before matches like Sir Alex Ferguson’ – MailOnline.
‘What Alex Ferguson is helping Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with before Man Utd matches’ – Daily Mirror.
‘Solskjaer getting help from Man Utd legend Sir Alex Ferguson on picking team’ – The Sun.
‘Man Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gives squad ORDER and copies Sir Alex Ferguson tactic’ – Daily Express.
‘Man Utd boss Solskjaer is using this Sir Alex Ferguson tactic to succeed – Ameobi’ – Daily Star.
Mediawatch loves talking and reading about tactics so we were delighted to see this headline on the Daily Mirror website:
‘Paul Pogba explains key tactical change Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made for him at Man Utd.’
Click. Let’s go deep and read some insight.
“I’m playing a bit further forward. I’ve more security behind me, it gives me the freedom to go forwards to try to get into the box and support the strikers.”
Thanks for that.
We really needed that tactical explanation because our eyes simply do not work.
The Daily Mirror really are shameless with their social media work. Or perhaps you think the only way to sell player ratings for a Monday night clash between Manchester City and Wolves is to pretend it is transfer news?
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) January 14, 2019
Click and you will see that the actual rating – from John Cross – reads ‘The Wolves fans absolutely love him but little chance to shine or impress’. Because even Crossy recognises that you cannot judge a defensive midfielder in a ten-man performance in a game against one of the best football teams in Europe.
But at least John Cross did not claim that was the only talking point. For that we turn to The Guardian’s Jamie Jackson, who started his piece thus:
‘If Kevin De Bruyne was a surprise omission for Manchester City, this was an evening when Rúben Neves could illustrate why Pep Guardiola rates him highly enough to be a potential replacement for the near-peerless Fernandinho.’
Firstly, De Bruyne was not a surprise omission – he has started just one Premier League game all season – and secondly, it really was not the right evening for Neves to illustrate anything. And absolutely was not the right evening when Wolves lost Willy Boly in the 19th minute and the job became one of damage limitation. It’s at that point that anybody but Jamie Paradise would have changed tack. Maybe write about Gabriel Jesus, fella?
But then we would have lost paragraphs like these:
‘As the game kicked off, Neves’ vital statistics were similar, in some areas, to Fernandinho’s. Each had featured 19 times, playing 1,637 and 1,679 Premier League minutes respectively. Neves had scored once to the Brazilian’s three strikes, made one to his three assists, and both were on 15 chances created. Neves had executed 44 tackles to Fernandinho’s 41. The latter, though, had a tackle success rate of 80.5% to 47.7% and Fernandinho’s pass count was 1,397 to Neves’s 1,059.’
So the only areas in which the pair are actually similar are the minute count (both play a lot) and the number of chances they have created (not the priority for a defensive midfielder). For the love of God we cannot understand why Pep Guardiola has balked at the £100m price tag.
Talking of defensive midfielders, Martin Samuel is adding to the growing backlash against Chelsea’s Sarri-ball in the Daily Mail. He writes that ‘CHELSEA’S opening goal against Newcastle was the perfect example of what can be achieved when a move does not have to be routed via endless, slow, short or sideways passes through midfield. Jorginho has made 1,997 passes this season, creating just 15 chances, with zero assists.’
As noted above, that statistic of 15 created chances is pretty much par for the course for a defensive midfielder; Jorginho is creating chances at a similar rate to Fernandinho, Ruben Neves, Wilfred Ndidi and Georginio Wijnaldum. It’s really not their job.
‘David Luiz, one of Chelsea’s most imaginative passers, demonstrated the alternative, picking out Pedro from 51 yards.’
It’s almost like there is more than one way to skin a cat. Oh and also that possession pulls opposition players out of position to create space for that kind of admittedly incredible pass.
‘The lack of a clinical striker is Chelsea’s main problem, but the passivity of the forward play is not far behind. No team that includes Pedro, Willian and Eden Hazard should want for goals and Luiz showed what could be done, set free from the restraints of the system.’
Well that’s odd because in October, Samuel described Chelsea as relying almost entirely on Eden Hazard, writing that ‘Chelsea’s front six are mainly link men, toilers, pivots and passers’. He described Willian as ‘a forward but also a hard worker, which leaves Hazard as Chelsea’s real threat’, while not mentioning Pedro at all. The title of the piece? ‘If only Chelsea had a centre forward they could be champions…’
Mediawatch is a tad baffled. How can such a ‘passive’ team be second only to Manchester City in terms of shots taken this season? Could it be because Hazard and Willian are literally the top two chance creators per 90 minutes in the Premier League? It’s almost like they have their job and defensive midfielder Jorginho has his job. Though admittedly he was shite against Newcastle…
So Chelsea – whose form over the last six games in the Premier League is bettered by only Manchester United and Liverpool, remember – are also the lead story on the MailOnline football site on Tuesday morning.
Of course they are. It’s officially a crisis.
‘Alvaro Morata out, Gonzalo Higuain in? Cesc Fabregas out, Leandro Paredes in? Callum Hudson-Odoi and and Eden Hazard both off too? So, just what is going on with Chelsea in their chaotic January transfer window?’
Can a transfer window really be ‘chaotic’ if a team loses just one player who has started just one Premier League game this season?
‘Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea comfortably sit fourth in the Premier League, with Arsenal and Manchester United both six points adrift, but uncertainty risks rocking the boat this month.
‘We are half way through the January transfer window and the Blues have plenty of work to do.
‘Where is the striker they so obviously require? Why was Cesc Fabregas allowed to leave without his replacement confirmed? Do they even have a Plan B for when ‘Sarri-ball’ is not working?’
Saturday night’s 2-1 win over Newcastle suggests they just might. After all, ‘Luiz showed what could be done, set free from the restraints of the system.’
Recommended reading of the day
Swiss Ramble on the finances of Chelsea
David Squires on football spying and Neil Warnock’s Brexit views