Have Utd found a new leader?

Published: Monday, 18 December 2023

Come on Mikel. You sat in the stands last weekend and in the same week somehow got away with your rant at Newcastle. Don’t get me wrong - I’m glad you did. I have always defended a managers’ right to express his thoughts after a game. But stop it. Stop behaving like a fool in your technical area - and stop taking us all for fools. It’s not clever. It’s not necessary. And you can control it. You deserved your latest booking. Let’s make it the last one eh?

The fool at Anfield was Michael Oliver. What was that all about - booking Dalot twice inside 10 seconds? Why? Ok - the first one was justified, although Dalot’s frustration was understandable because the throw-in should’ve been Utd’s after that race into the corner at the Anfield Road end.

Andy summed up best what happened after the first card. He said on beinSPORTS that it was Oliver that showed the petulance. He was correct. Oliver couldn’t wait to get his cards out again. It was poor refereeing. Oliver could’ve managed the situation so much better. A quiet word as he passed Dalot would’ve done the job.

The game was poor. Liverpool weren’t at it, but I’m with van Dijk. Only one team tried to win the game and they would’ve done so had they been a bit sharper and a bit more clinical. Utd put on a show that Crystal Palace would’ve been proud of. How far have they fallen when leaving Anfield with a goalless draw is defended by ten Hag apologists as a triumph?

The only positive I could see for Utd was Scott McTominay’s performance. He’s not one for putting in a shift defensively. I’ve heard him described as ‘economical’ in that respect. He’s a 10 really, which is how Scotland use him. United should as well now. Play him in that role and give him the armband permanently. He spoke so well after the game. He IS a leader - everything that the moody, petulant Fernandes isn’t.

It’s strange how quickly things change in football. If West Ham had come up with £30m on deadline day - and they hadn’t done other business - McTominay would be a Hammer now.

What 10-point deduction? It’s as if it never happened. Everton were fantastic at Burnley. I said last week - Sean Dyche really has got something going at Goodison. I’ve got a sneaky feeling they might very well win the LC you know. If they get past Fulham this week - you watch. They’ll take some beating, whoever they play in the semi-finals.

It’s a crucial week for Newcastle in that respect. Eddie Howe really needs to win the competition. As we all know, Newcastle fans are desperate for a trophy. If I were Howe I’d throw everything at it now - starting at Chelsea. There’s no reason not to. In fact, it’s his best way of convincing his guv’nors that he is the man to take the Toon to the next level.

He did a wonderful job landing a CL place last season, but it all went horribly flat didn’t it? It turned out that there was a world of difference between the romance of it all - and the reality. Newcastle simply weren’t good enough.

There are some big decisions to be made now at St. James’. Can Howe take them on again? Can he convince top players to join the Saudi revolution? It will take more than just money to do that. Or will Newcastle have to find themselves a ‘super-coach’ in order to push on? If that’s a decision they’re considering - who might that be? Don’t rule out Jose Mourinho. And if it happens, remember where you read it first.

A couple of tv stories back home got my attention this week. So QoS has come to the end of its impressive run. I’m not surprised. It was time. In its day it was a fantastic product - we shouldn’t forget David Vine was the first host, but it was David Coleman and Sue Barker who made sure that it will always have a special place in our hearts.

But the show was of its time. It had run out of steam and the decision to let it pass peacefully is the right one.

It’s what happened to Grandstand, which was buried when Sky’s Soccer Saturday got into its stride. Things change. Institutions come and go - just like any of us.

And Ian Wright has called time on his MotD career - again. I say again because everyone seems to have forgotten that the first walked away a decade or so back.

We all love Wrighty. He’s lived as he played, scratching, biting and fighting for every break he got. He was great to watch on a football pitch - a real entertainer as well as a lethal goalscorer A legend at Arsenal. And he was never afraid to call it as he saw it when he stopped playing.

But let me explain ‘again’. It was back in 2012/13ish when he first walked away from MotD complaining that no-one on the show took him seriously- that by the time Alan Hansen had finished with his analysis he had nowhere to go - nor anything to add. He got frustrated because he thought the hosts viewed him simply as the joker. He wanted to be more than that. He wanted to be taken seriously.

How do I know? Because he told me and Andy when we got him to Qatar shortly after he’d pulled the plug first time round. Eventually he was great company for the few days that he was with us, but he was on the floor when he arrived. We spent hours putting him back together and convincing him that he had something to offer tv. Mind you - he didn’t like it when we trapped him in the hotel ice room. 😂. I’ve never heard a man make so much noise as Wrighty did trying to break out.

I’m glad he gave it another go - and he owes ITV for giving him that chance. He also deserves the many kind words that have been said about him following the announcement of his latest decision.

I’m also glad that Andy and I may have played a small part in putting him back together, which is why I was particularly disappointed when Wrighty too quickly and rudely dismissed my colleague Aaron Summers’ polite request for an interview when he was in Qatar for the WC a year ago. Maybe there’s still time Wrighty? Anyway - enjoy whatever comes next.