Beep, beep, beep
Neil Custis has had a weird summer. Despite spending time out in Perth and Shanghai for Manchester United’s pre-season tour, he has seemingly avoided any completely self-inflicted airport distress by actually turning up on time for his flights. And with the Sports Journalism Awards barely a speck in the distance and Louis van Gaal out of work, he has had barely anything else to complain about. Except the weather.
Currently walking round Shanghai where it’s so hot my shorts are currently welded to my inner thigh
— Neil Custis (@ncustisTheSun) July 23, 2019
The sun has clearly got to the man from The Sun‘s head, for he is tying himself in knots following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his broken squad.
Not even three weeks have passed since he claimed that United were heading ‘in the wrong direction’.
‘And the build-up to the new season does not suggest that is going to be reversed,’ he claimed.
A few friendly wins later, and victory over Tottenham ‘was another positive step on the road to new beginnings’. He adds that ‘there is now a new vibrancy about the squad,’ with ‘plenty of positives’ and ‘a very different mood in the camp’.
Much of that is down to winger Dan James, whose rough treatment at the hands of Moussa Sissoko showed that he ‘is now seen as a dangerman’.
‘James certainly has the attributes to excite Old Trafford this season and the fans definitely need a lift after the sorry end to their last campaign.
‘Comparisons have been drawn between James and his Wales boss – United legend Ryan Giggs – and you can already see why as he darts down the flank and cuts inside.
‘He certainly made light of the conditions in a sweltering Shanghai in the first half against Tottenham.’
He really is brilliant – the next Ryan Giggs, what with his being a Welsh winger and all. It must have been a different Neil Custis who wrote this on July 8, then:
‘Right now the biggest task for United is not bridging the gap between themselves and Manchester City and Liverpool.
‘The worry is keeping the likes of Wolves and Leicester at bay.
‘They are heading for mid table – not top of the table and the two signings made so far – Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace for £45m and Dan James from Swansea for £15m – are not going to change that quickly.’
You mean SPIDER-MAN and the Giggs reincarnate who ‘has the attributes to excite Old Trafford this season? They definitely seem to have changed your mind ‘quickly’ enough. Must be the heat.
Elsewhere in The Sun, Custis tells us that ‘Manchester United’s need for Harry Maguire was emphasised as injury-prone Eric Bailly left Shanghai on crutches’.
He is not alone. The Daily Mirror slap his beautiful head on their back page, accompanied with Simon Mullock’s words:
‘Manchester United could suddenly be forced to meet Leicester’s £80million asking price for Harry Maguire.’
— Helena Wilkinson (@BBCHelenaLee) July 25, 2019
The knee injury the Ivorian suffered ‘will spark a new bid for Maguire’ apparently. How has the conjecture of ‘could’ become the certainty of ‘will’ within a couple of paragraphs?
Mind you, we’re back to ‘could’ sooner rather than later.
‘Now Solskjaer could give United deal-maker Ed Woodward another nudge in the ribs over Maguire after Bailly looked in agony as medics carried him to the dressing room.’
Bailly started eight Premier League games last season. Three of those came under Solskjaer. He’s probably behind Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling in the central defensive pecking order, with Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe either on an even keel or not far behind. United probably won’t be ‘forced’ into spending £80m to replace someone who is only definitely ahead of Marcos Rojo.
It’s clever. It comes across as an update on an ongoing transfer saga that plenty of people are interested in. It will generate a buzz. But it is pure guesswork and conjecture masquerading as headline news.
When Custis commits only 140 of his own words to it, buried in the top corner of the most sensationalist newspaper there is, it probably doesn’t belong on any self-respecting back page.
Toby or not Toby
The Sun website is similarly here to pretend to move the Maguire story on in the absence of any actual new information.
‘Toby Alderweireld’s transfer value goes through the roof as £25m release clause expires leaving Man Utd desperate for Maguire’ reads the headline to a story that makes approximately no sense.
Apparently, the expiration of Alderweireld’s £25m release clause ‘will accelerate’ United’s move for Maguire, as ‘the prospect of missing out’ on the Leicester centre-half ‘and then unnecessarily overspending on Alderweireld would be embarrassing’.
The claim comes from the Daily Telegraph, who really ought to know better – although, again, they use the rather less definite ‘could’ instead of ‘will’. And their story was three days ago. And it clarified that Alderweireld was merely one of many ‘back-up options’ to Maguire.
Still, a URL of ‘toby-alderweireld-transfer-man-utd-tottenham-maguire’ is not an opportunity that is about to be passed up on.
On Monday, the Manchester Evening Propaganda told us that ‘Manchester United have an attacking conundrum in Anthony Martial’. Oh dear.
His role seemed ‘unclear’ and ‘his form has suffered because of it’. This was quite a serious problem: ‘A goal in Solskjaer’s first game against Cardiff was a false dawn. In fact, Martial has scored just three times under Solskjaer after that and is yet to find the net from open play in pre-season.’
A goal against Tottenham – from open play, no less – three days later and the Frenchman ‘shone’ in a ‘confident’ display as he ‘allayed concerns about the Romelu Lukaku situation with his standout performance’.
Martial ‘was approaching his optimum’ against Tottenham, having ‘improved game-by-game on tour’. Funny, that. Conundrum over.
What a Mes
Football SEO gone mad is The Sun publishing a feature on all the cars Mesut Ozil owns because he was nearly attacked by two men wielding knives. pic.twitter.com/7WClG0mnzI
— Football365 (@F365) July 26, 2019
Mesut Ozil will be thankful for The Sun‘s support in this time of need.
Dani, are you okay?
‘Arsenal splashed out a whopping £42million on two “loan” deals yesterday’ – The Sun.
They definitely didn’t. That’s not how transfers work. Unless you want to pretend that ‘the wages and loan fee totalling £15m’ for Dani Ceballos were paid in full on Thursday?
Surprise revelation of the day
‘England will make regular checks on Ademola Lookman following the promising winger’s £22.5million move to Germany’ – Sami Mokbel, Daily Mail.
It would be weird if England stopped monitoring a 21-year-old with 30 international youth caps after he joined a Champions League club for loads of money.
Obvious headline of the day
‘Manchester United players return home after pre-season tour’ – Manchester Evening News.
Be weird if they didn’t.
What you C is what you get
‘Jurgen Klopp has banned the C-word at Liverpool now their American tour is over’ – Chris McKenna, Daily Mirror.
Considering ‘Champions League’ is two words, only one of which begin with the letter C, Mediawatch has to ask what you’re referring to, Chris?
Recommended reading of the day
Jonathan Wilson on Gareth Bale.
Nick Miller on Tottenham.
Adam Bate on Liverpool’s fear over their forwards.