Jack Grealish was the best player on the pitch when Aston Villa drew 2-2 at Old Trafford last weekend. No-one else on either side could have scored that beautiful goal; very few players in the Premier League could have. Reports of his current buyout clause range from £30million to £70million. But just how much is Grealish worth?
As he picked the ball up on the left of the area, he already knew what he was going to do. His opponent Andreas Pereira had no idea. Earlier in the game – in a similar position – Grealish went to the byline and pulled the ball back with his left foot and on another occasion played a slide rule pass to his overlapping fullback.
A cunningly laid trap or fateful coincidence? What came before made little difference to the majesty of the goal Grealish was about to score, but was vital in creating the doubt that enabled him to do so.
Jack Grealish’s goal against Manchester United yesterday was a thing of beauty
Does he deserve to be in the next England squad? #EnglandAway #AVFC pic.twitter.com/6gExi4GFIE
— England Football Fans (@EnglidsAway) December 2, 2019
The Villa midfielder didn’t look at the ball until the final point of contact – the whipped shot into the postage stamp located at the corner of post and bar. Before then he took three almost imperceptible touches, focusing his gaze not on the ball but avidly on Pereira’s feet, knowing the Brazilian would make the first move. And at the merest hint of motion from the midfielder towards the byline, Grealish made his own move, cutting in on his right foot to score one of the memorable Old Trafford goals, in front of the Stretford End.
Jack the lad – revitalised and much improved – is back.
First impressions are hard to shake, particularly when they are entrenched through a series of tabloid news stories that support the initial suspicion. But don’t be fooled by the slicked back hair, fake tan and low-slung socks that remain: this is a very different Grealish to the one relegated from the Premier League in 2016.
He’s still the cocky, brash, well-preened Brummie icon. But now, instead of using his sculpted calves to strut the length of Broad Street, he’s using them to glide past defenders and put them on their arses, like a Chris Waddle of old or a George Best of older.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was predictably asked about rumours linking the 24-year-old with a move to United post-game and gave the stock manager response of not being able to “talk too much about other teams’ players”, while simultaneously eulogising over him. Pep Guardiola has described him as “exceptional”, while everyone else remains bemused by his exclusion from the latest England squads. Speculation linking him with a move away will roll on in line with the exponential improvement in the maturity and calibre of his performances.
Villa use him in a roaming role, starting from the left. It’s not his most effective position or the one he wants to be playing, but one that utilises his talents in the way that serves Dean Smith’s side best: a team that lacks creativity needs their most inventive asset as close to goal as possible. But despite the position he plays for Villa, his aesthetics and the perception they’ve created, he’s much less a show pony than a conductor.
He’s not quite a Jorginho or Fabinho, but still the player capable of controlling the speed and direction of the football his team plays. A Big Six side would likely use him as a number eight, a position from which he could use his dribbling expertise to build attacks from deep and not necessarily deliver the final ball, but more often the pass before that killer blow.
To Villa, the question of how much Grealish is worth and how much Premier League football is worth are one and the same. With him they sit 15th in the table, one point above the relegation zone. Without his three goals and four assists – which if anything belittles the worth of his all-round game – they would be level on points with Norwich in 19th.
Letting him go in January would be tantamount to football treason. He’s more Villa than Harry Kane is Spurs or Trent Alexander-Arnold is Liverpool. Grealish is the lifeblood of his football club, and he – along with the fans – will fear what would happen should he up sticks and follow the lure of Champions League football – where his talents belong.
Tottenham have come closest to luring Grealish away, with the man himself admitting his head had been turned in the summer of 2018 with an offer on the table from Spurs. But when the north London side were unwilling to increase their £25million offer to £32million, the deal fell through and Grealish remained at his boyhood club.
If Villa now offered Grealish to any club with the means to spend £32million on the Birmingham-born midfielder, he’d be gone before you could say “Peaky Blinders”. He’s a ready-made leader with extraordinary talent, now without the can he do it in the Premier League? caveat or previously lingering doubts over his commitment to his profession. This is a footballer capable of more, but understandably tied to the club and community that have given him so much. He won’t be there forever, Villans, so just enjoy him while you can.
Oh sorry, what’s he worth? F*** knows…a lot.
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Rafa Benitez completely transformed Liverpool during his six years in charge of the club in the 2000s – and we celebrate that wonderful period in the latest episode of The Broken Metatarsal.
Rich, Mark and Pete are joined by comedian and Liverpool fan Adam Rowe on this week’s podcast as we remember Benitez’s arrival in 2004, the rivalry with Chelsea, that memorable night in Istanbul, and the team that went so close to winning the title in 2009, featuring the brilliance of Fernando Torres.
Neil Mellor also joins the boys on the phone with some brilliant stories, including how he nabbed an AC Milan runners-up medal after the first final against Milan.
And, as always on The Broken Metatarsal, the episode finishes with a game of Fact or Fiction in which Rich attempts to work out which of Mark, Pete and Adam’s unlikely stories about Benitez are, in fact, true.
If you love 2000s football as much as we do, you can find us on Audioboom and subscribe in all the usual places on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, CastBox, Deezer and RadioPublic.
Or you can just listen to the latest episode right here.
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Leicester will hope to pile the pressure on Marco Silva while keeping up the title chase on Everton’s Merseyside rivals with victory on Sunday.
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Moise Kean’s move to Everton has been labelled a mistake by the striker’s father.
The Italy Under-21 forward joined the Toffees from Juventus in a £27million move last summer but he is yet to score a goal for his new club having played just nine games.
The 19-year-old was omitted from last week’s win at Southampton after reportedly being late for a team meeting.
Speaking to Centro Suono Sport, Jean Kean revealed a hope for his son to return to Italy ‘as soon as possible’.
“Sending my son to England was a mistake, because he’s still too young,” he said. “He’s not feeling good at Everton, I didn’t like this transfer.
“I hope he can come back to Italy as soon as possible, I hope he goes to Rome, but the important thing is that he comes back here.”
Kean Sr also revealed his unhappiness at agent Mino Raiola’s influence on his son.
“I don’t have a relationship with Raiola, I have never met him, I don’t think he even wants to see me.
“He demanded my son’s power of attorney when he was 14 and together with my ex-wife he wanted to take him to England.
“At Everton, where he is playing now, he is not settling in well. I think he was supposed to wait a few more years before he had an experience abroad.
“If there is a possibility for him to come back to Italy, I hope he can do that, so as not to ruin him.”
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Crystal Palace and Leicester City go head-to-head as both clubs look to build on their impressive starts to the campaign. Follow it live…
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Former Huddersfield Town keeper Matt Glennon says Lee Clark ruined his career.
Clark took over at the Terriers in December 2008 and guided them to a ninth-placed finish in League One in his first season.
His second season saw them defeated in the play-off semi-final while the following year they were pipped in the final by Peterborough United.
During his time at the John Smith’s Stadium, Clark guided the club on a record-breaking 43-match unbeaten run in the league.
Never considered a shrinking violet, Clark said he took Huddersfield “from nothing to the Championship” despite being sacked three months before their play-off triumph in 2012.
He was dismissed by former chairman Dean Hoyle, who said at the time:
“This was a very difficult decision; one not taken lightly or in response to one result. Concerns have been raised in recent weeks.”
Matt Glennon joined Town from St Johnstone in 2006 and was a first-team regular until Clark took over, preferring youngster Alex Smithies between the sticks.
Glennon didn’t hold back when speaking about Clark on the Talkin Fitbaw podcast:
“He’s a tw*t!
“There’s only a couple of people I don’t speak to in football, he’s one of them.
“He basically ruined my career from then onwards. He didn’t let me go out on loan, he lied to me constantly.
“He’s a tw@t!”
“One of us was going to die and it wasn’t going to be me”@MattGlenn27 says former #HTAFC boss Lee Clark ruined his career
Listen to his cracking interview in fullhttps://t.co/Nf0HX7Iddc pic.twitter.com/CWyJgwEwZi
— Talkin Fitbaw (@talkin_fitbaw) October 24, 2019
“His training wasn’t bad to be fair, training was decent, that was more to do with Derek Fazackerley and Blacky (Steve Black) that was in there, excellent fitness coach, Fazackerley was a great coach.
“But Lee Clark no, I wouldn’t if he was on fire.
“I had to (leave) because one of us was going to die and it wasn’t going to be me.
“There was chances to go to decent clubs on loan which he didn’t tell me about which I found out from other people. Other managers were saying ‘we tried to sign you but he said you weren’t going anywhere but he’s not going to play you’.
“I played two-and-a-half years, we just beat Brighton, I saved a penalty and we won 1-0…we beat Leeds at Elland Road, next thing I get dropped by the youth-team manager and then I’m watching football.
“Alex Smithies has gone on to have a very good career. He let 11 goals in in a couple of games in the reserves, not quite sure that tells you you’re getting a chance in the first team.
“I wasn’t given a chance in cup games, I couldn’t go out on loan or do anything and next thing I end up at Bradford which was an absolute waste of my time because I went in with Stuart McCall, he left after a week, I don’t know if its because I turned up.
“Then Peter Taylor, another man who doesn’t particularly like goalkeepers (came in) and that was pretty much the start of my downward spiral.
“We can all pinpoint times in our career where it started going wrong and for me that was it.”
Matt was speaking to Derek Clark – follow him on Twitter and download the Talkin Fitbaw Podcast
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Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has insisted the Liverpool game isn’t a big test but admitted he always looks forward to playing at Anfield.
Spurs head to Anfield for the first meeting between the sides since Liverpool beat Mauricio Pochettino’s side 2-0 in the Champions League final in June.
Liverpool go into the game three points clear at the top of the Premier League, while Spurs are 10th after a stuttering start to the campaign.
Pochettino is relishing the chance to face high-flying Liverpool and is looking forward to another showdown against Jurgen Klopp’s side.
“I don’t believe it’s a big test,” he said.
“Of course, it is going to be difficult. Liverpool are having a fantastic season, last season they were very close in the Premier League with Man City, they won the Champions League final against us and I think they’re doing a fantastic job.
“Jurgen Klopp is a fantastic guy, I admire him and we have a great relationship. It is great to meet him and play against a team like Liverpool that have unbelievable players.
“For me, it is a joy to go there and the motivation is there is there to play in a stadium like Anfield – it always is amazing.
“When you have the opportunity to play this kind of game, you are thankful because you never know if you are going to have the opportunity to play it again.”
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Gary Neville thinks Brendan Rodgers has the managerial ability to take over at Manchester City when Pep Guardiola’s time at the helm eventually comes to an end.
The Northern Irishman led his Leicester City side to an impressive 9-0 victory on the road at Southampton on Friday night, a win that moved them temporarily second in the Premier League table.
And that result has led Neville to talk about the former Liverpool boss as a potential successor to Guardiola.
“I think if you look at what he achieved at Liverpool and then Celtic and now what he is doing at Leicester, we always talk about international coaches having philosophies and values, but he improves teams and plays great football,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“He is quite innovative and he does seem to be a great coach, the players enjoy working with him, and I’m asking the question now, why wouldn’t he be seen as a coach of one of the big clubs?
“You look at Manchester City changing to Pep Guardiola and you probably won’t see Brendan Rodgers‘ name linked with that job because people at the club will be thinking, maybe, someone else.
“But why not? If you look at what he’s done in terms of the football he plays and the improvement he has on players on the pitch.”
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Permutations are fun, and a word almost exclusively saved for attempts to make sense of contrived qualification campaigns for major football championships.
It just so happens that one is coming towards its conclusion; you might have noticed. The field for Euro 2020 is taking shape and, with one week of games left, the scenarios are becoming rather more clear.
Every country now has either one or two games left to play in next month’s final international break. The top two teams from each of the ten groups will qualify automatically, with six of those 20 spots already taken. The remaining four places will then be decided by those darn Nations League-based play-offs. So let’s take a look who should start clearing their schedules for the continent’s ambitious 24-team party next year.
Who has already qualified?
Ukraine and Italy have booked their spots as guaranteed winners of Groups B and J respectively. Spain (Group F), Poland (G), Belgium and Russia (both I) will join them at Euro 2020, but whether they finish top or second in their groups is yet to be decided.
Who is likely to join them?
England, who need a point at home to Montenegro or away at Kosovo next month. They would even qualify if they lose at Wembley, provided Czech Republic’s game with Kosovo does not end in a draw.
Portugal will emerge from Group B, alongside winners Ukraine, with victories against Lithuania at home and Luxembourg away.
Netherlands and Germany both know that avoiding defeat in one of their two final games against Northern Ireland will be enough in Group C, as long as they win their other matches against Estonia and Belarus respectively.
Switzerland are third but in the best position of a complicated Group D. If they get at least four points against Georgia at home and Gibraltar away, they qualify.
Croatia must avoid defeat against Slovakia in their remaining game to make it out of Group E.
Austria need just a point at home to North Macedonia to qualify behind Poland from Group G.
The top spots in Group H will go to Turkey if they avoid defeat at home to Iceland – and even if they lose that game then beat Andorra – and France if they beat Moldova.
Finland will join Italy at the finals – their first-ever – with a win at home to Liechtenstein, or if Bosnia fail to beat Italy.
What about the other automatic spots?
Czech Republic qualify from Group A if they beat third-placed Kosovo next month. Kosovo must win that game, then draw at home to England in their last match, to take their place.
Serbia are relying on the unlikely event of Portugal failing to beat either Lithuania or Luxembourg. But if the reigning champions do falter, winning their games against Luxembourg and Ukraine would be enough for Serbia to emerge from Group B.
Northern Ireland will likely have to beat both Netherlands and Germany, with either of those teams dropping points in their other games. If they do beat both but Netherlands and Germany pick up expected wins against Estonia and Belarus respectively, Group C’s top three will all finish on 18 points. Head-to-head goal difference would then be used, which could still rule Northern Ireland – who have previously lost to both Germany and Netherlands by two goals each – out.
Sweden face the Faroe Islands in their last qualifier, so a draw against Romania would put them through, provided they then predictably beat one of Group F’s whipping boys. Romania take second spot by beating Sweden – a game they would have to win 1-0 or by two goals to be clear on head to head if they draw their final match in Spain. Winning both games takes them through. Norway are relying on a number of results, including the Faroe Islands beating Sweden, to have any hope.
North Macedonia must beat second-placed Austria, then win against Israel at home while Austria lose to Latvia, who have lost all eight of their games in Group G so far. Even if Austria draw against Latvia, North Macedonia would have to overcome the 4-1 defeat they suffered to Austria in June to go above them on a head-to-head basis. Slovenia are also relying on some mental results, such as winning away at Poland and Austria losing both their games.
Iceland face Turkey (a) and Moldova (h) and must win both games to stand a chance in Group H. Even then, either Turkey would have to draw or lose to Andorra, or France get no more than one point against Moldova and Albania, for Iceland to make it and knock England out in the last-16 again.
Both Bosnia and Herzegovina have to beat Italy and Liechtenstein, with Finland also picking up no more than one point against Liechtenstein and Greece, to join Italy from Group J.
What the f*** is happening in Group D?
Mick McCarthy, that’s what.
Ireland are top of Group D on head to head, level on points with Denmark on 12, with both one clear of Switzerland. Their only remaining qualifier is against Denmark next month, and they will qualify if they win that game and Switzerland do not draw either of their last two at home to Georgia and away at Gibraltar.
If Switzerland do draw one of those matches and win the other, Ireland beat Denmark and the Danes beat Gibraltar in their other game, all three countries will end on 15 points with matching head-to-head records after each beating one of the others once. In that event, Ireland would have to beat Denmark by two goals to join Switzerland, who would be guaranteed qualification.
Switzerland will probably make it due to their kinder games. Denmark are through with at least a draw against Gibraltar, followed by a point in Dublin. Ireland are very likely to qualify with a win over Denmark. Simple.
And Group E?!
Bloody Ireland and Wales, getting everyone confused.
Group E at least has one obvious leader. Croatia qualify if they at draw at home to Slovakia. But that leaves three countries fighting over one final place.
Slovakia are third but could be in the best position. They finish second by beating Croatia (h) and Azerbaijan (a) in their last two games. If they do not win against Croatia, a victory against Azerbaijan would still be enough if Wales and Hungary draw.
Wales have to win both of their final two games – away at Azerbaijan and at home to Hungary – to advance. They would then need Slovakia to fail to win at least one of their matches, and would qualify on the head-to-head rule if they finish level on points, courtesy of beating them 1-0 in March.
Hungary are second and will stay there if they win in Cardiff and Slovakia don’t beat both Croatia and Azerbaijan.
What about those dastardly play-offs?
Here is where that whack-off safety net just comes in and swallows the entire f***ing thing hole. It would take a substantial and presumably hilarious collapse for a repeat of, say, Netherlands failing to qualify for Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018, or Italy missing last year’s tournament in Russia, with these play-offs essentially designed as a second chance for them.
The play-offs will be contested by 16 teams across the four Nations League ‘paths’: from the best teams in Path A to the less illustrious in Path D. They are drawn from the Leagues A through D in last year’s Nations League. There will be two one-legged semi-finals in each section, followed by a final to decide who reaches Euro 2020. So each of the four ‘paths’ will produce one of the final tournament qualifiers.
This is where the glorious spectacle that was the UEFA Nations League matters again. The winners of those 16 groups assured themselves of at least a play-off place in the event that they finished outside the top two in their Euro 2020 qualification groups. For example, England would be guaranteed a play-off place if they failed to secure automatic qualification in Group A.
As is likely with England, many of the teams that guaranteed themselves a play-off place will not need it as they will qualify automatically. Their place therefore passes down the line to the next best-ranked Nations League team, and so on until each position is filled.
As it stands, the following teams will contest the play-offs. Their Nations League rank is in brackets:
Switzerland (4), Iceland (12), Bosnia and Herzegovina (13), Wales (19), Slovakia (21), Northern Ireland (24), Scotland (25), Norway (26), Serbia (27), Bulgaria (29), Israel (30), Romania (32), Georgia (40), North Macedonia (41), Kosovo (42), Belarus (43).
Three teams are confirmed to be in the play-offs already in Scotland (Path C as both a host nation and a Nations League group winner), Georgia (Path D) and Belarus, whose seeding is to be decided, based on who else qualifies. Everything else could change over the course of the next two games.
Is football coming home?
Only if Jonjo Shelvey gets called up again.
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Jose Mourinho was hammered for much of what he said and how he went about managing Manchester United. Maybe he was right more often than we all thought…
Finishing second was an incredible achievement
“I keep saying and thinking and feeling that the second last season was one of my biggest achievements in the game.”
How we all laughed when serial winner Mourinho declared that leading United to a runners-up finish was up there with the two Champions League titles and four domestic leagues he has conquered. At the time, it reeked of self-preservation.
But Mourinho knew. And he doubled down on that view after he was sacked. “If I tell you, for example, that I consider one of the best jobs of my career was to finish second with Man United in the Premier League, you will say, ‘this guy is crazy,’” Mourinho said a month after being shown the door. “‘He won 25 titles and he is saying that a second position was one of his best achievements?’”
“I keep saying this because people don’t know what is going on behind the scenes.”
In the context of United’s current fortunes, maybe Mourinho deserves a stand to be named after him at Old Trafford after coming 19 points behind Man City, but comfortably ahead of Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea. His squad was very similar to the one currently disgracing themselves, with Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez (the Chilean joined halfway through the season) the only major exits, while Solskjaer has the luxury of the centre-back that Mourinho pleaded for.
Mourinho knew Pogba can’t be trusted
Paul Pogba may have been United’s most technically gifted player of the last three seasons, but Mourinho was right. The midfielder is a ‘virus’ in the dressing room.
“You don’t respect players and supporters. And you kill the mentality of the good honest people around you,” Mourinho is reported to have told Pogba after a draw at Southampton last year. “You are like a person with a flu, with a virus in a closed room – you pass that virus to the others.”
By that time, the problems at United had split supporters and pundits into two separate factions: Jose vs Pogba. Shortly after, it was Pogba who claimed victory, and his sudden-but-fleeting upturn in form upon Mourinho’s sacking gave ammunition to those who believed the manager was the problem.
But Pogba hasn’t changed. Yet again he went out of his way to engineer a move out of Old Trafford this summer and his form this season – when fit – has been as hopelessly inconsistent as we came to expect from the Frenchman under Mourinho.
Pogba can’t claim that Mourinho didn’t try. The manager tried a raft of formations and midfield personnel in an effort to get the best out of the record signing, and even after Pogba told United he wanted to leave having returned to work with a World Cup winner’s medal fluffing his ego, Mourinho offered an olive branch in the form of the United vice-captaincy. Pogba (metaphorically we hope) wiped his arse with the armband.
But United don’t learn. The hierarchy at Old Trafford are reportedly ready to offer Pogba a pay-rise in a vain attempt to persuade him that his future lies with the Red Devils. But Pogba wants out and he could not have made it clearer, with his words or his form.
Marcus Rashford isn’t a natural centre-forward
When Mourinho signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku in each of his first two summers in charge at Old Trafford, the worry for many was what their arrival meant for Rashford’s prospects. Their concerns were misplaced.
Rashford ended up making more appearances under Mourinho than any other Manchester United player and played the fourth-highest number of minutes. The problem for some was that Rashford spent most of his time on the pitch shunted out wide.
Around 50 of the academy graduate’s 125 appearances under Mourinho came as a centre-forward, with 32 of those coming from the start. According to Transfermarkt, he averaged a goal every 219 minutes while leading the line. Hardly prolific numbers.
Mourinho recognised that Rashford’s qualities were more suited to a wide forward, a player who can lead breaks rather than one who can receive the ball with his back to goal. But Rashford still saw himself as a No.9. The ex-manager explained his thinking last month.
“I am not going to say he cannot ever be a number nine, he can be a dangerous number nine especially if the opposition is not pragmatic, is not close and is giving spaces to attack. He can be dangerous in transitions,” Mourinho told Sky Sports. “But when Manchester United is a team that normally plays against teams who go to Old Trafford, close the door, bring the bus, bring the double bus, he is not a striker to play with his back to the goal.
“He is not the target man, he doesn’t score as many goals as a striker should do. So I think from the side you will get him to numbers of 10-12 goals per season.”
It seems Mourinho was right. Solskjaer immediately placed his faith in Rashford as his leading centre-forward – to Lukaku’s cost – but after an initial burst, the England attacker’s productivity has waned, as has his involvement in matches. Harry Maguire had more touches in the Newcastle box than Rashford – or any other United team-mate – on Sunday. Rashford looks so far off the pace as a leading striker that many people are assuming he is carrying an injury, despite Solskjaer’s insistence that he is 100 per cent fit.
The penny also appeared to have dropped with Solskjaer, who started the season with Martial as his starting centre-forward, with Rashford wide. But with Martial sidelined, Solskjaer has little option to persist with Rashford through the middle.
He knew Andreas Pereira wasn’t good enough
Mourinho had Pereira pegged as a continental Cleverley as soon as he got a decent look at the once-capped Brazil midfielder.
The 23-year-old spent the first two years of Mourinho’s United reign in Spain, initially with Granada before he defied the manager to go to Valencia for a season in 2017 – a decision which ‘disappointed’ Mourinho: “His decision can be considered a young player who wants to play every weekend but also a young player that is not ready to fight for something difficult.”
Mourinho made his peace with Pereira’s choice and the manager offered the midfielder a chance to impress during United’s pre-season tour in 2018 while their World Cup players were still on holiday. In the United States, Pereira played as a No.6 where he eventually made his first Premier League start on the opening weekend. By the end of the following weekend, he was done in Mourinho’s mind. Pereira was hooked at half-time during a defeat which rang alarm bells at Old Trafford.
His next start came almost four months later when Mourinho rested key players for a Champions League group game at Valencia with qualification already assured. Back at the stadium he spent the previous season, Pereira was wretched. He was dropped again from Mourinho’s squad for the fateful trip to Liverpool, as he had been for the previous eight Premier League matches.
Solskjaer came in and having failed to convince Louis van Gaal or Mourinho, he was given a third opportunity. The current boss certainly appears to fancy the Belgium-born Brazilian more than the previous two managers – God only knows why. Pereira is a player without a position; he looks out of his depth wherever he is played. Fred may be the current poster boy for United’s slide but Pereira is equally as inept, as Mourinho quickly learned once he had the chance to see for himself.
He saw something in McTominay
When Mourinho brought Scott McTominay into his side and played him on an increasingly regular basis, even some within the club – his former academy team-mates among them – are understood to have been utterly baffled by what the manager saw in the gangly midfielder.
Not only did Mourinho play McTominay, he held the Scotland youngster up as an example to the rest of his high-profile, underperforming squad. Mourinho invented an award for McTominay at the end of the 2017-18 season, when United somehow finished second, so that he could be brought up on stage and paraded in front of the MUTV cameras as the template for his team-mates.
When Mourinho went, so too it was presumed would McTominay chances of regular involvement. Indeed, in his attempt to paint himself as the anti-Jose, Solskjaer used McTominay for a single minute in his first eight Premier League matches in charge.
But the midfielder has shown the kind of attitude and ‘special character’ that Mourinho saw in him to establish himself as one of the first names on Solskjaer’s team-sheet. Unfortunately for McTominay, any praise he receives is so often prefixed with “he’s no Keane/Robson/Scholes/Edwards” but he cannot be held accountable for the decline in standards at Old Trafford, especially while he is one of the few players trying to uphold them.
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