What is the biggest football news story at Friday lunchtime? Is it:
a) Reaction from Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola to the early morning pre-season game between Manchester United and Manchester City?
b) Liverpool rejecting a £72million bid from Barcelona for Philippe Coutinho?
c) Alvaro Morata or Javier Hernandez’s medicals at their prospective new clubs?
d) Alexis Sanchez visiting his native country on his summer holidays?
Props to both the Daily Mirror and The Sun for pretending it is d) and featuring it as their lead story on the front of their football pages.
Gotta let it learn
Mediawatch expresses sympathy towards those asked to ‘learn five things’ from meaningless pre-season friendlies. It can be a thankless task, and a balance has to be struck between stating the obvious and making grandiose claims based on what are essentially practice matches.
But when The Sun declare that Romelu Lukaku ‘could be better than Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Manchester United’ on the basis of a goal against Manchester City – for whom it was their first pre-season game – a line has to be drawn.
They add that United ‘looked to be sharper, fitter and fresher than Pep Guardiola’s men’. It’s almost as if City haven’t played since May and United have already had two pre-season friendlies.
Wheeling and dealing
Still, that is nothing on Chris Wheeler’s opening line in his match report for the Daily Mail:
‘One of the criticisms aimed at Romelu Lukaku is that he doesn’t score enough goals against the big clubs. Here, in Houston’s NRG Stadium, he went some way to dispelling that notion with a effort of stunning quality to set his new club on course for victory in the Manchester derby.’
That one goal against a Manchester City side in their first pre-season game, with Tosin Adarabioyo at centre-half and Fernandinho at left-back, has really confounded those (already silly) doubters.
To the Victor…
Elsewhere in the world of finding the need to jump to snap conclusions on the basis of pre-season games:
Lindelof hasn't done much so far in the US to suggest he is much of an upgrade on Jones or Smalling..
— Mark Ogden (@MarkOgden_) July 21, 2017
Lindelof is yet to play more than 45 minutes in any of United’s three games this summer, and is acclimatising to new players and a new manager.
Oh, and it’s pre-season.
Going in for the Kyl
You might have heard that Monaco are threatening to report four “important” European clubs to FIFA over alleged illegal approaches for Kylian Mbappe. You might have heard that, of those four clubs, three have been identified. You might have heard that one of said three clubs are Manchester City.
The news, as it so often does, reached Friday’s newspapers. Here is how they reported on it:
‘Manchester City face a potential FIFA investigation after being accused of tapping up Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe’ – Daily Mail, seven pages after the back page.
‘Monaco are threatening to report Manchester City to FIFA over an alleged illegal approach for the highly rated France forward Kylian Mbappe’ – The Times, eight pages after the back page.
So it’s not quite as serious as some might have first feare…oh, hold on.
‘Manchester City are facing the threat of a transfer ban over their pursuit of French sensation Kylian Mbappe’ – Daily Mirror, in a back-page story under the headline: ‘City in transfer ban threat over Mbappe’
‘Manchester City are sweating on a transfer ban after Monaco accused them of trying to tap up Kylian Mbappe’ – The Sun, in a back-page story under the headline: ‘BAN CITY’. What’s more, the tag line above the story reads: ‘TAP-UP PROBE SENSATION’
Funny what happens to a story when you are struggling for a back page.
Stanza by me
Jamie Jackson of The Guardian has a favourite word. See if you can spot it:
‘As the stanza wore on Guardiola’s men probed more though they were to end it behind due to Ederson’s mistakes’ – July 21, 2017.
‘As he did at the StubHub Center, Mourinho sent a new side out for the second stanza’ – July 18, 2017.
‘As in the opening period, no cutting edge was the tale of this second stanza’ – July 30, 2015.
‘In the opening stanza this worked fine as United headed to the break 3-0 up’ – July 24, 2014.
‘That was about it for the opening stanza, though Luke Shaw made one dashing run at the Earthquakes before the referee, Juan Guzman, blew for the break’ – July 22, 2015.
‘Van Gaal’s second stanza XI were no better than the first’ – July 22, 2015.
‘The big plus was the lead United held when the club’s second side of the night took their place for the second stanza’ – July 18, 2015.
‘ There was scant else to record in the first stanza apart from a sharp James McClean header that drew a fine save from Lee Grant’ – April 6, 2015.
‘This was Baines’s first ever miss from the spot in the Premier League. It was virtually the stanza’s closing action and as Old Trafford erupted and a grateful Shaw hugged De Gea, Friend blew and United floated into the dressing room on the back of a perfect psychological moment to end the period’ – October 5, 2014.
‘The Belgian continually picked up Rooney whenever the forward dropped deep to outmuscle and frustrate United’s totem. This drew a booking for him during the opening stanza’ – January 1, 2014.
‘In one opening-stanza moment the £27.5m man hinted at this when the break was on down the visitors’ right’ – September 22, 2013.
‘The showdown of the star strikers after the opening stanza ended with Rodgers deciding the Uruguayan required some help’ – January 13, 2013.
‘Rooney’s second of the stanza involved, inevitably, the Dutchman’ – October 20, 2012.
Giroud spurns a 3rd chance of this stanza…
— jamie jackson (@JamieJackson___) August 23, 2014
‘Half’ is fine, Jamie. ‘Half’ is fine.
The Dunn thing
A recommendation for Andy Dunn of the Daily Mirror: If you are going to use the second paragraph of your weekly column declare that Tottenham have had a ‘cracking’ transfer window ‘so far’, perhaps do not use the penultimate line to revise that claim that Spurs are having a ‘good window’.
Sign of The Times
Alvaro Morata’s move to Chelsea is expected to be confirmed on Friday. The Times have asked Sky Sports‘ Spanish football expert Gerry Armstrong what to expect from the striker.
The first question reads:
‘What will Chelsea get for their £70million?’
A certain amount of trophies, a certain amount of goals and probably a Ballon d’Or nomination, one would expect. What Chelsea will get for their initial £58m fee, as you reported it on Thursday and also state elsewhere in Friday’s edition, is a different matter.
The rest of the interview with Armstrong is interesting, with the La Liga analyst suggesting that Morata will prove a success at Stamford Bridge. But one particular point did seem a little strange:
‘He also has a fantastic attitude – much better than than of the temperamental Diego Costa.
‘Even so, if I were Antonio Conte, the Chelsea head coach, I would keep Costa for now and only let him leave to return to Atletico Madrid in January, when the Spanish club’s transfer ban is lifted.’
So Costa is ‘temperamental’ – and has certainly proven so in the aftermath of Conte’s decision to tell him he is no longer needed at Chelsea – but the club should keep a potentially disruptive individual until January?
Recommended reading of the day
Adam Bate on Javier Hernandez.
Jonathan Wilson on Alvaro Morata.
Stefan Reyners on Wayne Rooney.
With thanks to Matt Fagan-Curry. If you spot anything that belong on these pages, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with ‘Mediawatch’ in the subject field.