All Manchester United had to do to win their UEFA Champions League group and avoid a potentially tricky Round of 16 clash with one of Europe’s stronger teams was to beat a struggling Valencia last night.
Did they balls.
Incredibly, Juventus lost to Young Boys; a result nobody saw coming, especially Mourinho given his selection for their match in Spain. Their first shot game with about 15 minutes to go and nobody should be fooled by the fact that Juan Mata could have grabbed another late, dramatic point for United in the dying moments.
Did Mourinho wish to share the blame with his troops?
Did he balls.
He learned ‘nothing’ from the whole affair and claimed that finishing second was still a ‘success, never a failure’. Understandably, maybe, Mou is right to have expected more from the group of players ‘always at the door’ wanting to know why they don’t play every week. This, this is the reason. Once again, United looked like a team who could play after the game seemed lost.
Things are, as ever far happier down the road at City where they came back from a goal down (again) to Hoffenheim and won 2-1, thanks to a brace from that Leroy Sane. It’s hard not to draw comparisons once again between the malaise at United and the relative serenity at City and, in particular, to use Sane as an example. A player who clearly has a few extra needs if you are to get the best out of him, imagine how he’d be doing at Old Trafford right now if he was unlucky enough to be employed by them.
I guess, on the flip side, imagine how Anthony Martial or Paul Pogba might be thriving if they were wearing Pep’s colours. Maybe, just maybe, Pep could make Phil Jones that centre back I thought he was going to become after Sir Alex called him ‘the next Duncan Edwards’.
Harry Kane is getting almost as carried away as the Tottenham fans who are sitting there, patiently waiting for the DVD of their latest ‘greatest night’. Harry and fans, a scrappy 1-1 with a depleted Barcelona do not European contenders maketh. Especially given the fact you needed a PSV defender to bail you at with a last-ditch tackle.
More likely than Spurs winning the Champions League is Real Madrid admitting giving Solari the job full-time was just a prank and they are really going after the Poch in the summer. Manchester United would do well to make that paper-talk interest a little more concrete as well.
Arsenal have a slight injury crisis in their defensive ranks and that means an opportunity for Laurent Koscielny to get back on the pitch against Qarabag tonight. The Frenchman has not played for Unai Emery yet and wouldn’t it be a little bit telling if Arsenal’s unbeaten run came to an end upon Koscielny’s return? After all, he is meant to have been Arsenal’s world-class defender let down by the buffoons he has been partnered with over the years. We shall see, shall we?
Graeme Souness has once again showed why no football club in the world is prepared to let him loose with a transfer budget saying that there is only one player in world football he would take ahead of Mo Salah at Liverpool. The name on his lips is Eden Hazard. The whole conversation is utterly pointless as I am quietly confident that a certain Argentine who wears the number 10 for Barcelona might be considered an ample replacement for Salah by most people etc etc. Equally, Hazard and Salah are two totally different players. Gah, Souness. You were such a fine player, why didn’t you leave it there?
As ever, we shall end with some transfer news.
It says here Marcus Rashford is a target for AC Milan. Marcus, why leave one struggling former great for another, eh? I’m not even sure if it is worth discussing the players United are being linked to as there are going to be quite a few in the coming weeks. Instead, I shall split them into ones I have heard of and ones I have not. Mathjis de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong of Ajax; heard of them, as have every single club in the world. Pablo, who plays for Bordeaux; I have not.
I said yesterday that the chances of Rafa Benitez being given the cash to buy Atlanta United’s Miguel Almiron were slim to none. I might well have been wrong as chat came out of Paraguay last night that a deal has, in fact, been agreed. Well, I guess there is a difference between a deal being agreed and Mike Ashley actually handing the cash over.
Crystal Palace have been scanning the list of strikers not really getting enough game time and ignoring the potential reasons why that is the case, like they are getting on a bit now, and decided that Bournemouth’s Jermain Defoe could be the man to get the goals to keep them in the Premier League.
And Spurs want Real Madrid’s Marcos Asensio. Spurs, I would do everything you possibly can to avoid conversations with Florentino Perez for the time being.