Come on down….Gareth.

Published: Monday, 25 March 2024

So football’s worst kept secret is out. Manchester United have decided Gareth Southgate is the man to replace Erik ten Hag.

I get it. I can see why. Southgate is a nice guy. He gets on with everyone. He’s been a dream for the FA - very much their type of man. Southgate says all the right things and does all the right things. Most importantly - he’s got both players and press alike onside. So why not? What’s not to like?

Southgate certainly knows how to treat a modern player. Don’t test him. Don’t argue with him. Don’t fall out with him. Give him what he wants and give everybody a game as often as possible - a policy dressed up as ‘experimenting’. That way everybody wins.

On the field I’d say Southgate has had limited success, which has been spun by the legacy media into describing him England’s most successful coach since Sir Alf Ramsey. They’ve certainly got an argument. But it’s not one that I share.

Southgate’s is a luxurious existence. He doesn’t have any of the day to day hassle that a club coach has. He doesn’t deal with the mundane issues that players take to work every day. He doesn’t have to buy and sell. He gets the best to choose from every time he picks a team. It’s others that put in the hard yards developing, nurturing and maturing players.

Ok. I know. Somebody has got to do it - and Southgate has done ok.

If he fits the ‘model’ that Sunny Jim and Dave Brailsford (I still can’t believe that Brailsford is anywhere near professional sport) have worked out then Southgate it will be.

He’s smart enough to realise that it will be the right time to leave the England job after the WC. If he wins it (I hope he does, but I’m not convinced) then there’s nowhere to go. If he doesn’t - that will he three major tournaments he’s failed in. Again - there will be nowhere to go. He can’t stay on and run the risk of failing in four.

The United job will only ever come up once. If he doesn’t take it - that’s it. Despite the recent denials - make no mistake, he wants it. He won’t ever be coming from the same place of strength as he is now.

If I’m a United fan am I excited by this prospect? No, I’m not. I’m as numb as I would be if Graham Potter turned up.

Look. I like Southgate. He’s given England fans pride back in their team. England now go into tournaments with a belief to match the inevitable hype. It’s different. But - manager of Manchester United? Not for me.

United should be looking along the top shelf. I know that reduces the number of candidates, but there isn’t much real quality about.

Deschamps? Yes. Zidane? Yes. I was laughed out of court at the back end of last year when I said they should go and get Alonso - agree a deal with his ‘people’ and guarantee him five years to get it right.

My critics said ‘No. what’s he done? It’s too soon’. Really? Well 3 months on it’s not too soon for Liverpool to have got him to agree to become their next manager. As I always say when I share news like this - these big deals can always go wrong. There’s a lot to go wrong when they’re blue riband, whether it’s a player or coach/manager involved, but my information is that Alonso has decided on Liverpool.

If I’m a Liverpool fan - that excites me. What United have got to do is better that appointment. Would Southgate turning up at OT do that?

According to The Sun today there’s more bad news for United. They report that UEFA have decided to stay with the ban on clubs under the same ownership playing against each other in Europe.

UEFA’s new regulations about multi-club ownership, mean that clubs like Nice and United can play in Europe if they’re in different competitions, but they can’t take part in the same competition. In short - if United qualify for the CL and Nice the Europa League - that’s ok. But it’s not if they both qualify for the Europa.

The Sun go onto say that United could miss out all together if Nice finish the season 5th - which is where they are now (after just one win in seven) and United finish 6th. Nice would take precedent as the club ranked highest in their domestic championship.

So United need Nice to finish in a CL place, or win the FA Cup themselves. Btw - I hear United fans talking about buying tickets for the final already. Be careful guys. Beating Coventry is not a given.

A quick word of warning for Rehanne Skinner, coach of West Ham’s women’s team. After another poor decision went against her side in the defeat to Chelsea at the weekend, Skinner called for the introduction of VAR into their game. Careful Rehanne. Trust me - you’re better off without it.

And I see that Villa have got themselves a new shirt sponsor for next season - the Greek betting brand Betano - as well as a new Adidas kit.

Shirt sponsorship is an area that Villa haven’t done well in over recent years. The association with BK8 caused a real storm, just as it had at Norwich. Now they’ve got Betano on board.

Of course, Villa aren’t alone in selling their shirt to a gambling company. At the last count I think nine PL clubs had.

Yet they’ve all agreed a voluntary ban on gambling sponsors for 2026/27. Why? Why bother? It’s a smoke and mirrors exercise isn’t it in order to avoid legislation. Clearly none of them really cares about the damage gambling does to peoples lives. As ever - money talks - to the tune of £40m/year in Villa’s case.