What the papers say
Manchester United’s £60m playmaker showed enough creative spark in win over Chelsea to point towards brighter future
Back in my student days, when I was an editor on the campus newspaper, we ran a regular feature called “George W Bush’s Thought Of The Week”. It was an empty box with a blue border. We were 19 and, as it turned out, not as funny as we thought we were.
For much of the last decade you could make a similar joke about Manchester United’s midfield: an entity that seemed to be defined as much by its absence as by its presence. Through the Fletcher years, the Fellaini years, the Schneiderlin years and more latterly the McTominay years, United’s midfield has felt like a metaphysical puzzle: if it doesn’t do anything, can it actually be said to exist? Even the world-record capture of Paul Pogba seemed only to exacerbate the problem: a sort of footballing anti-matter that merely highlighted the paucity of his context.Continue reading...
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- Simon Burnton: United fan Ighalo ready to realise his dream
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51 min Bailly, who has had a very encouraging game on his return, steps in to win the ball and start another United attack. Eventually Shaw overruns the ball and is dispossessed by Pedro.
50 min “Does Martial deserve a bit more patience to develop into a really consistent centre forward?” says David Wall. “He’s still relatively young and although he has been at United a while now he seemed pretty much ostracised during the last year or so of Mourinho’s time there (in spirit if not in body, never getting a consistent run after Sanchez arrived). And now he’s being asked to play as a proper centre forward rather than a wide attacking player coming in from the left, where he played most of his games before this season. True, that’s where he says he wants to play, but it still takes a while to really develop in a new-ish position, as shown by the way Henry was far from the deadly striker he became when first arriving at Arsenal.”
That’s true, but Henry had pretty much cracked it after three or four months, and he was a couple of years younger. Martial has the ability and intelligence to improve as a centre-forward - tonight’s goal is an example of that - but I’m not sure he’ll ever have the attitude or temperament to be a great player. That said, United are not really in a position to sell players like Martial.
47 min Rudiger is booked for a cynical foul on Fernandes.
46 min Chelsea begin the second half. Christensen is being checked for concussion, which makes you wonder why he was allowed back on the field. I have no idea how these things work.
Chelsea have made a half-time substitution, with Kurt Zouma on for the injured Andreas Christensen.
The replays of the Maguire incident suggest he was exceedingly lucky to avoid a red card. At first I thought you could at least argue it was a reflex action, but the replays are pretty damning. He studded Batshuayi in the business area!
Peep peep! Manchester United lead through Anthony Martial’s classy header. It’s been a slightly odd game - full of enthusiasm and good intentions but without much quality in the final third. Martial’s goal was the only shot on target from either side. See you in 15 minutes for the second half.
45+4 min Batshuayi misses another chance, driving tamely wide of the far post after a good through pass from Pedro. It was a pretty tight angle, in his defence, but the shot was painfully lacking in conviction.
45+1 min That was the first shot on target in the match.
That’s another one for Martial’s YouTube compilation. Wan-Bissaka made the goal, twisting Willian one way and then the other before crossing to the near post. Martial got above Christensen, who had just come back on the field, and flicked an accomplished header into the far corner. Nobody ever doubted his class, and that was another demonstration.
Anthony Martial gives United the lead with a masterful finish.
44 min There’s a break in play while Christensen receives treatment for a bloody nose. He’ll be fine.
41 min There’s another example. Chelsea move the ball smoothly from right to left, only for the overlaaping Azpilicueta to hit his cross straight at Wan-Bissaka.
39 min This match has flattered to deceive. There have been lots of promising attacks from both teams, and precisely no shots on target. Abraham and Rashford are having good games.
37 min A half chance for Martial. He played a nice one-two with Fernandes on the left, moved into the area and drove a low, left-footed shot that went a few yards wide of the far post.
36 min It was just outside the area, so VAR can’t get involved. Replays suggest it was a clear foul.
35 min Willian is booked for diving. I thought he was fouled by Fernandes, right on the edge of - and possibly inside - the area. This will be checked.
33 min “To me, Martial is a YouTube great in the making,” says Vibanshu Bisht. “As in, 10 years down the line, his 10 min highlights clip would make great viewing, making United fans who never saw him play 90 minutes think he was the greatest. A bit like what Berbatov is now.”
That’s a really good comparison, certainly in terms of temperament and flattery to deceive. Unlike Berbatov, though, I can’t imagine Martial in Eyes Wide Shut.
31 min A corner is cleared to Bruno Fernandes, who rakes a shot well wide from 30 yards.
31 min Williams surges down the left and plays a dangerous low cross towards James that is kicked behind by Kovacic. There still hasn’t been a shot on target.
30 min “I do like Luke Shaw and I do feel that Mourinho broke him really as a player,” says Rachel Clifton. “But he does always look a touch like someone woke him up three minutes before kick-off.”
I’ve never understood the fuss about Shaw, really. He’s in terrible shape and I’ve never seen much evidence that he is anything more than a decent full-back.
28 min “If Chelsea do not win, Liverpool will have qualified for the Champions League even if City are reinstated,” writes my colleague Philip Cornwall. “It would be impossible for both Chelsea and Spurs to finish ahead of the leaders, given they meet on Saturday. Both would kick off needing to win all their final 12 games to match or overhaul Liverpool’s 76 points, if that game kicks off with Spurs on 40 and Chelsea on 41 or 42 - and only one of them can win that match.”
Yes, but what have they actually won?
26 min Batshuayi misses a sitter! It was beautifully set up: Pedro slid a penetrative pass down the inside-left channel to Mount, who looked up and picked out Batshuayi with a precise cutback pass. He made a mess of a simple chance, steering just wide from 12 yards with his left foot.
24 min “Evening Rob,” says Niall Mullen. “As a seasoned United watcher can you tell me is Martial really good or just alright? Everything about him screams elite attacking player but his record is unspectacular. He’s also 24 now so he should be approaching his peak years.”
He’s the kind of player you’d be scared to sell, because he could be a superstar, but I suspect he’ll always be a bit too easygoing to fulfil his potential. It’d be interesting to see what he’d be like under a great man-manager/motivator like Klopp.
23 min Chelsea miss a good opportunity when Willian’s cutback is just behind Batshuayi on the six-yard line. A better ball would have given him an open goal.
22 min Maguire survives a VAR check for a red card. He was pushed over by Batshuayi, and fell into the Chelsea dugout. As he did so he left his legs in the air and ended up gently studding Batshuayi in the thigh. It’s hard to be certain of intent, I suppose, but I’m pretty sure he knew what he was doing.
21 min A promising break from United ends when Martial whacks a shot that is blocked by Rudiger.
18 min Pedro pulls Wan-Bissaka over, gets away with it and hits a dangerous low cross that is cleared by Shaw.
16 min “Hi Rob,” says Stephen Carr. “Quite a lot of pointless running about isn’t there?”
Hang on, how did you get into the office?
13 min Mason Mount replaces Kante.
12 min Fernandes and Fred combine really nicely on the edge of the area before Fred’s drive is blocked by Rudiger.
11 min Kante walks off slowly - “not the most sorry sight if you’re a Manchester United fan,” says Gary Neville on Sky - and will be replaced as soon as Mason Mount is ready.
10 min Kante is receiving treatment, and it doesn’t look good. He’s not in any obvious pain but it looks like a muscle problem and I don’t think he’ll be able to continue.
8 min It’s been a breezy, attacking start to the game, with Chelsea in particular looking good. Willian runs at Williams just inside the area, makes some space with a stepover and drives a left-footed shot that goes a few yards wide of the far post.
7 min “Hi Rob,” says Matt Pearson. “Chelsea fan here. Given that both our goalkeepers teeter pretty evenly on the axis of unspectacular and gaffe-prone, do you think Frank has kept Kepa on the bench just because he knows what a nightmare it would be to try and sub him off? Or does this spell the beginning of the end for the £72 million sometime-shot-stopper?”
I don’t say this with any authority, as I’m not in any of Frank Lampard’s WhatsApp groups, but I suspect that at this stage it’s no more or less than a kick up the trousers. From afar, it feels like Chelsea have more pressing requirements than a new goalkeeper.
6 min A fine effort from Reece James flies just wide. He controlled a cross on the chest on the edge of the area, moved the ball onto his right foot and drove a low shot that took a slight touch off Brandon Williams and rolled just wide of the far post.
4 min United are playing 3-4-1-2, as expected. Chelsea’s formation is 4-3-3, also as expected, but with Pedro on the left and Willian on the right.
3 min Bailly is robbed by Pedro, spraking the first Chelsea attack. Matic ends it with a decent interception.
2 min “You once mentioned my name almost 10 years ago, when I was reading an MBM in the British Library instead of writing an essay,” says Chris Ioannou. “I asked politely and you accommodated. See, Rob is one of the good ones... also, have you really been writing MBMs for that long?”
No, you’re confusing me with the other Rob Smyth. Such a shame what happened to him.
1 min Peep peep! Manchester United kick off from left to right. They are in red; Chelsea are in blue.
“Thanks for sharing the Harry Gregg obituary,” says Ryan Grubb. “One hell of a life lived there. I can only imagine how much everyone, everywhere rooted for that team in the FA Cup run in 58. Really puts our habits as modern supporters in perspective. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got some clouds to yell at.”
“Hi Rob,” says John Ryan. “What’s your prediction for tonight? Can see both sides scoring.”
I fancy Chelsea to win fairly convincingly, maybe 2-0, although both teams are so unpredictable that anything could happen. United have looked bereft in attack without Marcus Rashford, though Bruno Fernandes should improve that side of their play.
“As a Watford fan, I want to see Odion Ighalo do well (except against the Hornets on Sunday),” says Mac Millings. “And as a dreadful puns fan, I want to see him named in an all-time Cinema XI:
“If I simply say ‘Hi Rob’ to Rob Smyth, am I likely to get a mention?” asks Graham Moger. “We will see... and could indicate the extent of interest, or otherwise, in tonight’s game. Or simply how polite and accommodating Rob is?”
Oh, I’m one of the good guys. This has been established over a number of years, but it never hurts to gratuitously advertise my inherent magnificence.
“A win for United will get them closer to magic number of 40 points and eliminate any relegation fears,” says Mary Waltz. “How the mighty have fallen.”
They haven’t fallen that far, at least not yet.
“Man Utd drew away to Liverpool at Old Trafford?” sniffs Alec Smith.
They played like the away side that day. That’s not a criticism; they did it brilliantly.
Harry Gregg died yesterday at the age 0f 87. He was a hero in ways that shame our silly modern lives, and it’s telling that most tributes dwelt even more on his character than his enormous football ability.
Related: Harry Gregg obituary
There’s no recall in the Chelsea goal for Kepa Arrizabalaga, with Willy Caballero keeping his place. Tammy Abraham is injured so Michy Batshuayi starts up front.
Eric Bailly plays for the first time since Manchester United’s match against Chelsea at Old Trafford in April. Odion Ighalo is on the bench.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of Roy Keane v Jamie Carr… sorry, of Chelsea v Manchester United from Stamford Bridge. It’s a pretty big game, this, in the race for fourth/fifth/whichever place will ensure a share of next season’s Champions League coin.
Chelsea are fourth at the moment, a point ahead of Spurs in fifth and six ahead of United in ninth, but their home form has been dodgy for most of the season. Southampton are the only other Premier League team to have picked up more points away than at home, and Chelsea failed to beat 10-man Arsenal in their last game at Stamford Bridge. What started as a slight tactical problem is in danger of becoming a mental block. This would be a very good time to get over it: in the next nine days they host Manchester United, Spurs and Bayern Munich.Continue reading...
- Pogba’s agent takes to Twitter to criticise United manager
- ‘I hope he does not want to suggest Paul is his prisoner’
Paul Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola took to Twitter, minutes before Manchester United’s pivotal fixture with Chelsea on Monday to hit out at Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
The United manager, frustrated by exhaustive speculation around Pogba, had seemingly irked the agent by telling him that the midfielder belonged to his club, rather than the agent. But, moments before a crucial match in the race for the Champions League places, Raiola took to social media to have his say over the France international’s future.
Paul is not mine and for sure not Solskjaer’s property, Paul is Paul Pogba’s. pic.twitter.com/CvBHW8mj8UContinue reading...
Magnificent Manchester United goalkeeper hailed as a hero of the Munich air crash of 1958
The footballer Harry Gregg, who has died aged 87, was one of the finest and bravest goalkeepers of his era, and equally courageous away from the goalmouth. In particular he was a hero of the appalling Munich air crash of February 1958, when a plane carrying the Manchester United team back from Belgrade failed to clear the snowy runway after refuelling in Munich, killing 23 people and leaving many others with dreadful injuries.Continue reading...
Manchester United and Northern Ireland great, Harry Gregg, has died aged 87. The goalkeeper was a hero of the Munich air disaster, in which 23 people died and 16 survived.
Gregg returned twice to the burning aircraft, rescuing United colleagues Bobby Charlton and Dennis Viollet. In 1957, Gregg became the world’s most expensive keeper at £23,000 when signing with United and Sir Matt Busby. He made 247 appearances for United, including a 3-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday played just 13 days after the Munich tragedy
Nigeria striker has taken a long road to the summit as he prepares to make his Manchester United debut at Chelsea
After Odion Ighalo’s unexpected loan move at the end of January and his coronavirus-related quarantine, at Stamford Bridge on Monday he is expected to become the first Nigerian to play for Manchester United. As the unexpected solution to a famous club’s striker shortage, he will be the subject of wild attention and swift judgment, a situation a world away from the one he faced when he first moved to Europe in 2007 and became the latest in an only occasionally glorious line of compatriots attempting to forge a reputation at the Norwegian club Lyn.
The star graduate, Mikel John Obi, had joined Chelsea the previous year, and the speedy striker Chinedu Obasi had left for Hoffenheim just before Ighalo’s arrival, which followed unsuccessful trials at Sporting and Hertha Berlin, with the forward Ezekiel Bala and the midfielder Paul Obiefule already in the squad. Coaches at the club were used to evaluating young players as they took their first steps in European football, and the prevailing opinion of Ighalo was that he was likely to achieve only moderate success.Continue reading...
- Goalkeeper was a hero of the Munich air disaster
- Gregg returned to burning fuselage to rescue others
The former Manchester United and Northern Ireland goalkeeper Harry Gregg, a hero of the Munich air disaster, has died at the age of 87. His death was announced by the Harry Gregg Foundation on Monday morning.
Gregg was a survivor of the air disaster on 6 February 1958, in which 23 people died, and twice returned to the burning fuselage to drag teammates and strangers to safety. He rescued United colleagues Bobby Charlton and Dennis Viollet from BEA Flight 609, as well as a 20-month old baby and her badly injured, pregnant mother.Continue reading...
United manager unwilling to say if unsettled France international recovering from injury will play for the club again
Ole Gunnar Solskjær was unable to confirm Paul Pogba will play for Manchester United again when asked to state it unequivocally.
Pogba is still recovering from an ankle problem in what is proving an injury-blighted season that has limited him to eight appearances. He last featured as a half‑time replacement in the 4-1 win against Newcastle at Old Trafford on Boxing Day. That was six weeks ago despite Solskjær previously stating the France play-maker would miss around a month.Continue reading...
This meeting begins a 13-game run-in during which Chelsea and Manchester United each hope to claim a Champions League berth. For Frank Lampard’s side the carrot is knowing a win takes them nine points clear of their visitors who for the same reason will be desperate to avoid this and claim victory themselves to close to within three points to the hosts. Odion Ighalo will be in United’s squad and the on-loan striker may play at some point. Jamie Jackson
Monday 8pm Sky Sports Premier LeagueContinue reading...
- Forward’s contract due to expire in June
- Inter have offered €3m-a-year deal to 2025
Manchester United’s Tahith Chong is seriously considering an offer to join Internazionale this summer. The 20-year-old’s contract is due to expire in June and Inter are pushing hard to sign him.Continue reading...
- Player’s agent, Mino Raiola, hints at Juventus return
- Club hope strong showing at Euro 2020 will keep value high
Paul Pogba wants to leave Manchester United in the summer but his chances of securing a swift exit are likely to be hampered by the club setting an asking price of around €100m (£83m).
Juventus remain interested in re-signing the midfielder and Real Madrid also have him on their radar but both clubs consider such a fee too high for a player who has been largely underwhelming at United since he rejoined in 2016.Continue reading...
- Nigeria striker signed on loan from Shanghai
- United next in action at Chelsea on Monday
Odion Ighalo has not been working at Manchester United’s training base since joining the club owing to concerns over the coronavirus. United are understood to have taken extra precautions after it was decided the striker would not join the squad at a training camp in Spain.
United were concerned about border restrictions after the Nigeria international, who signed on loan from Shanghai Shenhua on deadline day, arrived from China. The club feared Ighalo might not have been allowed back into the UK had he travelled to Spain owing to a tightening of regulations regarding people who had been in China within the previous 14 days.Continue reading...
• Linked with Manchester United while at Spurs
Mauricio Pochettino, who was sacked by Tottenham in November, would relish another opportunity to manage in the Premier League.
Pochettino, who took over at White Hart Lane in May 2014 after leaving Southampton, guided the club to the Champions League final last season.Continue reading...
- Trial area proposed, with club saying it would enhance safety
- Odion Ighalo in squad for Chelsea game despite missing training
Manchester United have made a proposal to install rail seating for up to 1,500 supporters at Old Trafford. They argue it would enhance fan safety in a part of the stadium where supporters persistently stand.
The club conducted a feasibility study following changes to the Sports Ground Stadium Authority Green Guide.Continue reading...
• Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish has been linked with move
Manchester United’s vice-chairman Ed Woodward has backed Ole Gunnar Solskjær to attract “high-quality acquisitions” in the summer and transform the club’s fortunes.
Woodward, who has become a target of hatred from a section of disgruntled United supporters who regularly sing about his death, recently had his home attacked as tensions continued to rise.Continue reading...
• Striker is in Manchester after move from Shanghai Shenhua
Odion Ighalo will not attend Manchester United’s training camp in Spain this weekend, because the club fear travel restrictions relating to the coronavirus outbreak will prevent him returning to England.
The 30-year-old striker touched down in Manchester last weekend, following his unexpected deadline-day loan switch from Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua. The coronavirus has claimed 722 lives in China, and restrictions could be placed on travellers who have been in the country within the past two weeks.Continue reading...
• Attack marked an escalation of tensions with fans
Manchester United believe the Sun newspaper had “advance notice” of the attack on the house of Ed Woodward and have filed a complaint to Ipso, the media watchdog.
The incident occurred on 28 January, when a group wearing balaclavas launched flares at the Cheshire home of the club’s executive vice-chairman. Graffiti was sprayed on the front gates and intercom unit, with the house sign beside it defaced with red spray paint. One video was then posted on social media with the caption: “Ed Woodward’s gonna die.”Continue reading...
The meticulousness with which even the lowliest football clubs prepare for matches these days makes Northampton’s meeting the day before their FA Cup fifth-round game against Manchester United 50 years ago seem endearingly quaint. Convening in the County Ground boardroom for sherry, the fourth division side’s players were on a promise of a £15-a-man bonus if they could beat their top-flight opponents. Hopeful of an upset, they settled down to be briefed by the club’s scouting department, an elderly local gentleman who had gone to watch United’s most recent match.
With players of the calibre of Paddy Crerand, Bobby Charlton and Brian Kidd prognosis was bleak, he told them, but if they could “nobble” Charlton they might have a chance. Sadly, Northampton’s reconnaissance man failed to mention that a 23-year-old by the name of George Best would probably be lining up against them, as the Ballon d’Or and European Cup winner had been serving a month-long ban when the scouting mission was carried out. It would prove, with the benefit of hindsight, quite the oversight.Continue reading...
- League-wide ban for any fan banned by a club
- Policy for ‘discriminatory, abusive or violent acts’
Anyone banned for violent or abusive behaviour by a Premier League club will also be banned from every other ground in the division, the league announced on Thursday.
The punishment was agreed unanimously at a meeting of Premier League clubs in central London. The measure applies to racist abuse, hooliganism and other antisocial behaviour and is believed to have been drawn up in response to protests that took place outside the home of the Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward last month.Continue reading...
Gareth Southgate has two games left before he picks his squad. Should he give Grealish, Greenwood or Foden a chance?
The next six weeks are crucial for players on the periphery of the England squad. Gareth Southgate has just two more matches left before he picks his final 23 for Euro 2020. The manager is unlikely to bring in a lot of new faces for the friendlies against Italy and Denmark next month, but here are 10 players who are worth considering even though they have never featured in England squads before.Continue reading...