MONDAY’S BIG STORIES
Manchester United are rubbish again
We learned this week that Manchester United’s officials are frustrated at the “cloud of negativity” being created around the club on social media. And now, after they’ve made their delayed entrance to the Premier League season, we can understand why. That’s the team’s job.
In fairness to United, you really don’t want to run into a Roy Hodgson team — hard working, tightly organised, incredibly annoying — when you haven’t had much of a preseason. But even allowing for the cold deathgrip of Croydon Roy, United were bobbins. Slow and fussy in attack, feeble and disorganised at the back. Victor Lindelöf’s handball may have looked harsh, but morally it was entirely just.
It took new signing Donny van de Beek, who came on in the second half, just 13 minutes to score his first goal. And it took him less than half an hour to work out what’s going on with his new club:
We trained good, so my feeling was really positive. But, yeah, today we played too slowly. We went too long with the ball and I think against an opponent like Crystal Palace you need to speed up the game to create something. That was not good enough.
It’s just a shame player-managers seem to have gone out of fashion. Meanwhile United’s actual manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, took refuge in the classics, lamenting the fact that his side just couldn’t find “the Midas touch”. Of course, while King Midas was pleased at first, he quickly realised his gift amounted to a terrible curse: when everything you touch is reduced to gold, nothing you touch can live. Something for Ed Woodward to think about there.
Tottenham are good again
Fair play to Gareth Bale. Tottenham’s new no. 9 hasn’t even turned up to training yet, and he’s already turned Tottenham’s frown upside down. Four goals for Heung-min Son. Four assists for Harry Kane, along with the fifth goal too.
Spurs won’t be able to count on opponents showing Southampton’s generosity every week: that defensive line was so high that Raoul Duke might have had a quiet word, just to check everything was okay. But at least Spurs now know that the plan works: Kane drifting; Son (and soon Bale) running beyond.
And no Dele Alli. Not anywhere in the squad. The Warm-Up remains convinced that Alli is, on the whole, a brilliant, brilliantly flexible player, and if Spurs are looking to move him on then somebody’s going to get a bargain. But there must always be a scapegoat, sent out into the wilderness to absolve any Mourinho side of the sins it is about to commit.
Meanwhile, Mourinho wants to bring in Jesse Lingard, apparently. Say what you like about Mourinho, but his restless commitment to being 100% Mourinho, every minute of every day, is something we can all take inspiration from.
Chelsea are [more data needed]
For 44 minutes, Chelsea-Liverpool was pretty good, in a properly Big Six way. Tight. Edgy. In the balance. Maybe a teensy little bit dull, but not so bad that we couldn’t file it under tactically intriguing. And then Andreas Christensen decided to see if Sadio Mané would give him a piggy-back — he wouldn’t, the big meanie — and it all unfolded predictably from there.
A pity, that, and not just for Chelsea. Early-season games are all about finding things out, and thanks to the red we didn’t actually learn anything new. “Liverpool are pretty good”? Knew that. “Chelsea have a giant yawning void where their goalkeeper and central defence should be”? Aye, got that too. The defending champions were even able to give Thiago a gentle debut, and with Chelsea down to ten he could stroke the ball around as he pleased. He even got away with conceding a penalty.
Over on the blue side of things, the red card meant we only got to see 45 minutes of Kai Havertz, while Timo Werner, well marshalled by Fabinho in the first half, had little to play with in the second. We learned that he is pretty damn quick, with the ball and without. We can safely assume this won’t be the last penalty he wins.
And if this is goodbye for now to Kepa Arrizabalaga, with Édouard Mendy reportedly on the way, then at least he went out the way he came in: the wrong man, in the wrong place, at one of the wrongest prices ever paid. None of that’s his fault, of course, even though he’s the one that has to go out and get laughed at week after week. Presumably he’ll be glad of the break.
IN OTHER NEWS
Alpaca on the pitch. Alpaca on the pitch.
It’s been 17 years since Ruud van Nistelrooy had himself a … let’s say mixed day against Arsenal. Top marks for selling the Vieira toe-poke. Penalty: not so good. But very kind of Martin Keown to offer some notes after the final whistle, in a spirit of friendly camaraderie.
Over on the Guardian, Jonathan Wilson peers into the depth’s of Pep Guardiola’s fears and finds Adama Traoré staring back out.
There he is, surging through the City defence twice at the Etihad last season. There he is again, at Molineux, hammering a shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area. And there he is again, bumping Benjamin Mendy off the ball before crossing for Raúl Jiménez. City do not like balls played in behind them. They do not relish players who run directly at them. And, in the popular imagination at least, they don’t like it up ’em. Traoré is everything City hate.
We’ve got Wolves vs. Manchester City and Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United in the Premier League. We’ve got AC Milan kicking off their Serie A campaign against Bologna. And we’ve got [checks notes] [double-checks notes] Hashtag United vs. Soham Town Rangers in the First Qualifying Round of the FA Cup.
And Hashtag Marcus Foley will be here tomorrow with your Hashtag Warm-Up