To flick through the morning’s sports pages at the moment is to voluntarily enter the headspace of one of the most intriguing species in all of football: the irrationally excitable Manchester United fan. Or, to use the scientific name, Ed Woodward.
Obviously, this is the summer transfer window, aka silly season. A certain amount of wild speculation and conjecture is par for the course. But honestly, you’d think the Red Devils had a monopoly on this stuff. They’re being linked to pretty much everyone.
Case in point: in the top few stories on the Daily Mirror website, there are four relating to deals that may or may not happen.
Matthijs de Ligt is ‘close to transfer’, owing to the fact he’s represented by Mino Raiola. Why would Europe’s best young defender move to a club not in the Champions League? Answers on a postcard.
United are also ‘warned’ about moving for Gareth Bale, which yields this burning insight from Rene Meulensteen: “Is Gareth Bale still at his best? We all know he’s had his fair share of injuries, so it’s always a risk.”
We are also told Jan Oblak is ‘ready to quit’ (their quotation marks) Atletico Madrid to replace David De Gea, who is going… somewhere. And that United are preparing another bid – £50million is the fee quoted – for Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Woodward, you imagine, is loving all this. Clicks, likes and airtime: these are the primary currencies in the attention economy, and United are sweeping up. Possible transfers are so much better than actual transfers, after all. Cough cough Alexis Sanchez cough.
But back in the real world, how much is all this helping United’s cause? Not one jot. Just wait for Man City or Liverpool to actually sign someone, with minimal warning, and compare the modus operandi. The seagulls are following the trawler because they can smell the tang of desperation on the wind.
Siri, please give me a classic Mick McCarthy response to an underwhelming victory.
“We’ve won, so don’t expect me to be too miserable about it.”
That’ll do nicely, and while the Republic of Ireland’s 2-0 success against Gibraltar won’t live long in the memory, they are sitting pretty at the top of their qualifying group with 10 points from four games. “That’s job done,” added football’s leading Sam Eagle impersonator.
Elsewhere, Spain maintained their 100% record in Group F by beating Sweden, the Czech Republic pulled alongside England on six points (albeit having played a game more) and Kosovo picked up a memorable win in Bulgaria.
In the Women’s World Cup, Canada beat Cameroon, and Argentina held Japan to pick up their first ever point in the competition. Bravo.
Gareth goes in
If you were judging by today’s back pages, you’d think Gareth Southgate had properly read the riot act to his England players after their UEFA Nations League disappointment last week.
“RAISE THE BAR OR YOU’RE OUT,” screams The Daily Star, while The Daily Mirror goes for “I WANT LIONS NOT LAMBS”. Goodness! The Warm-Up has visions of the Pizza Hut Kid tearing off his waistcoat, setting it on fire and howling obscenities into the flames, as Jesse Lingard tries to choke back tears.
Well, erm… not so much. “We’ve got to demand more and we’ve got to find another edge,” said Southgate, entirely reasonably. “If people can’t cope with it then they’re not going to be able to cope with it under pressure.
"I’ve got to make sure that I’m constantly raising the bar with this group and we don’t allow any kind of sloppiness to creep in.”
IN OTHER NEWS
We’ve just done our annual check of our patented State-of-MLS-Goalkeeping-O-Meter and can confirm the dial is still very much jammed at ‘Needs Work’.
HEROES AND ZEROES
Schalke signing Everton back-up right-back Jonjoe Kenny: a bit weird, if we’re honest. But this announcement video will take some beating this summer.
Zero: this guy
Two of the great World Cup moments took place on 11 June. The first, in 1978, was Archie Gemmill’s glorious solo goal against the Netherlands.
This clip, which is clearly from some horrendous 90s talking-heads list show, also includes someone hilariously comparing Gemmill to Rudolf Nureyev and ‘dancing’ to the goal on an empty pitch. Superbly deranged.
The other is less glorious but every bit as memorable. Yes, it’s Gary Lineker having a poo on the pitch during England vs Republic of Ireland in 1990, then rubbing his bottom on the grass like he was a dog. Woof!
England and unfit centre-forwards: it is a familiar tale from Keegan to Shearer to Owen. Kane seems to have fast-forwarded himself into this role ahead of time. Blink a few times and it’s not too hard to imagine him playing ponderously in midfield, taking the penalties and corners. Spare us, Gareth. Spare us the horror.
Do you like peckish sea mammals? Then you’ll love, love, love Hungary-Wales, which is one of 13 Euro qualifiers taking place today. Also on the slate: Belarus vs Northern Ireland, Germany vs Estonia, Andorra vs France, Italy vs Bosnia-Herzegovina and Belgium vs Scotland. All of those kick off at 7.45pm.