WEDNESDAY'S BIG STORIES

Manchester United have zero direction

Here is a timeline of Cristiano Ronaldo wanting to leave Manchester United:
Champions League
Erling Haaland is breaking football - The Warm-Up
9 HOURS AGO
23/06/22: Reports first emerge that Ronaldo wants out of Old Trafford.
02/07/22: Said reports are firmed up when Duncan Castles - revered for breaking Jorges Mendes-owned GestiFute-related news - reports in The Times that Ronaldo wants to play Champions League football next season.
07/07/22: News breaks that Ronaldo will miss Manchester United's tour of Thailand owing to a family issue.
22/07/22: Erik ten Hag announces that he "cannot wait" to integrate Ronaldo in the Manchester United squad.
26/07/22: Ronaldo flies back to tell Manchester United he does not intend to play in the Europa League.
28/07/22: Reports emerge that Jorge Mendes had made contact with Sporting Lisbon in an attempt to seal an emotional homecoming to the Champions League-competing team.
30/07/22: Ronaldo starts against Rayo Vallecano, plays just the first half - he leaves before the end of the match.
03/08/22: Erik ten Hag calls Ronaldo leaving before the end of Rayo Vallecano match as "unacceptable".
07/08/22: Ronaldo is a second-half substitute as Manchester United begin the season with a 2-1 loss against Brighton.
13/08/22: Ronaldo starts as Brentford put four past woeful Manchester United.
16/08/22: Manchester United - presumably - brief that Ronaldo has become a "negative presence at the club" who "hardly communicates with his team-mates in the canteen" and the club would consider allowing him to leave without lining up a replacement.
The above report prompted Ronaldo to reply to a fan account on social media.
“They know the truth when they interview [me] in a couple weeks,” the Portugal captain said.
“The media is telling lies. I have a notebook and in the last few months of the 100 news [stories] I made, only 5 were right. Imagine how it is. Stick with that tip.”
It is all a bit unsavoury. And unnecessary. And it could have been cleaner. In fact, a Big Club™ dictates the terms of a Transfer Saga™. As soon as it was clear Ronaldo wanted out - that would be 02/07/22, some 41 days ago - the club should have put the wheels in motion for a smooth face-saving exit.
The Noisy Neighbours™ Manchester City 20-odd minutes up the road have form here. When a player wants out - say Ferran Torres - they let them go, establishing the concept that No Player Is Bigger Than The Club™.
Here is Pep Guardiola on Torres wanting to leave:
“If you want to leave because you’re not happy here, you believe you’ll be happy in another place, you have to go. The career is short. One day, it’s over.”
Ultimately, cohesion at a football club is as integral as talent, and Big Clubs™ and Well-Run Clubs™ understand this. That Manchester United did not understand this makes them neither a Big Club™ nor a Well-Run Club™ anymore.
That we are two games into the season, and United are now willing to let Ronaldo go - such is his negative impact at the club - and risk not getting a replacement in just underlines how far United have fallen.
They are a mess. They have been since Sir Alex Ferguson left in 2013. This however may be the messiest they have been. They are a club without direction, limping from one mess to another.

Pep Guardiola is right - football is a short career and Dele Alli proves it

Dele Alli looks set to move to Besiktas. His fall has been swift.
The 26-year-old is an exceptionally gifted player. Yet, to try to categorise him is tricky. He is neither a conventional midfielder nor a conventional striker. He is somewhere in between.
He was at his best when he played 'off' Harry Kane at Tottenham. During the 2017-18 season, he scored 18 goals in 35 Premier League starts, or 22 goals in 50 games in all competitions.
When Tottenham moved away from a system that facilitated that, his form dipped. There will be other factors at play - like injuries - but he has never been the same player since Tottenham - and football in general - moved away from systems that suited his skillset.
A move to Everton failed to reignite his career, and so it looks as though his next step will see him move to the Vodafone Park with Besiktas. An uptick in performances must follow otherwise a career that at one point saw him learning Spanish in anticipation of a move to Real Madrid could fade into relative obscurity.
It is a reminder that a football career is relatively short, and at just 26, Dele is already fighting to sustain his.

Nice are putting some gang together

For the uninitiated, Nice are owned by Ineos. That is the same crowd that run the Ineos Grenadiers. They are the fourth largest energy company in the world and are putting - or attempting to - together an interesting collection of players on the French Riviera.
This summer alone, they have acquired Kasper Schmeichel and Aaron Ramsey as well as Marcin Bulka, Rares Ilie, Alexis Beka Beka and Mattia Viti. And are now looking to add cult figure Ben Brereton Diaz to their ranks.
They finished fifth last season, just three points off a Champions League berth.
They have aligned these moves in the transfer market with the return to the club of Lucien Favre, who led them into the champions League in 2017.

HAT-TIP

Manchester United are the new Arsenal, but the decline does not have to be terminal, writes James McNicholas at The Athletic.
The primary sensation for any Arsenal fans watching Manchester United’s 4-0 defeat at Brentford would have been one of schadenfreude. Supporters still carry the scars of the intense rivalry of the 1990s and early 2000s and there are few teams they enjoy seeing suffer more. But there will have been another feeling accompanying that delight: relief. Relief it is now United, rather than Arsenal, who are currently the butt of the Premier League’s jokes. Watching United at the Gtech Community Stadium, there would have been some familiar sights for Arsenal fans: overpaid yet under-performing players; a muddled squad-building strategy; a disgruntled fanbase; a goalkeeper incapable of playing the passing game the coach demands. Not so long ago, this was Arsenal.

RETRO CORNER

Lukas Isaac Paul Jutkiewicz continues to ply his trade in the EFL for Birmingham City. However, way back when, in 2010, he was playing for Motherwell in the SPL when he scored the below.
He is currently 33 and if he plays until he is 333, he'll never score a better goal than this. Not only was this a verifiable biff, it came in the 94th minute to level draw his at SIX goals apiece with Hibernian.

COMING UP

It is Champions League play-off time. Coming up tonight: Maccabi Haifa v Crvena zvezda and Dynamo Kyiv v Benfica.
Champions League
'Pay lots of attention' - Guardiola calls for players to focus ahead of Copenhagen tie
04/10/2022 AT 12:59
Premier League
The master and his apprentice are bossing the Premier League - The Warm-Up
03/10/2022 AT 05:46