LESS THAN UNITED
On any other day, news that Paul Pogba is apparently dissatisfied with life at Manchester United, has no intention of signing a new contract with the club and would like to leave as soon as possible would be greeted by whoops of delight, high fives and offers of lifts to the airport from Ole Gunnar Solskjær, assorted teammates, numerous members of the club hierarchy and tens of thousands of season-ticket holders. However, emerging as it did on the eve of a crunch Big Cup group match in Germany from which Ole and his brave boys need to take a point or go out, Manchester United have taken an understandably dim view of Mina Raiola’s interview with Tuttosport in which Pogba’s Mr 20% said his client wants a move.
“Paul at Manchester United is unhappy,” sniffed Raiola. “He would no longer able to express himself as he would like and is expected of him. He has to change teams, he has to change the air. He has a contract that will expire in a year and a half, but I believe the best solution for the parties is to sell in the next market.” Raiola’s comments were timed to cause maximum disruption, coming to light at around the time Pogba and his colleagues would have been sitting down to dinner in their team hotel before Tuesday’s match against RB Leipzig. If nothing else, they will have at least prompted some interesting dinner chat.
The presumption now is that Pogba will not feature, not that he was likely to anyway considering United need a result and he’s about as reliable as the imminent tsunami of spurious transfer tittle-tattle that will link him with moves to Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain or a return to Juventus. “Get rid,” huffed Jamie Carragher on Sky Sports, upon being asked what United should do with their recalcitrant midfielder, who has pointedly not used any of his social media disgrace platforms to deny the claims. “I’ve been saying this for 12 months. Oh my god, he is the most overrated player I’ve ever seen in my life.”
While United would almost certainly love to “get rid” of a player who happily trousers but rarely earns the £300,000 a week he gets from the club, finding anyone to take him off their hands for anywhere near the £89m they paid for him four years ago could prove tricky. The few clubs that can afford him may prefer to keep their powder dry for such time as the contract of a similarly expensive and disgruntled, but much better and more reliable big-name target runs out at Barcelona next summer. For now, United have more important things to worry about, but can take heart from the 5-0 gubbing they dished out to their opponents in October. Pogba played for 81 minutes of that particular game and even set up a goal, but after his boorish mouthpiece’s latest headline-grabbing antics, it will be a surprise if this unhappy camper gets to muddy his spats on the grass of the Red Bull Arena for even a single second.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I should have played more. Honestly, I don’t understand why I have not. I have done well every time the coach has called on me. I don’t know what else I can do. I cannot be satisfied and I’m not. I’ve never accepted the idea of not playing and I’m not going to now. It’s a very delicate situation and I don’t like it” – Miralem Pjanic is the latest happy punter at Camp Koe. Oh Ronald!
David Squires on … the booing of footballers taking a knee. It’s particularly good.
“Arsenal supporters, it has been two years of further regression. Maybe the club’s problem wasn’t Arsène Wenger?” – JJ Zucal.
“John Burridge is not the only petrolhead who has been psychologically scarred by the presence of uninvited waste products in their headwear (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs). Jeremy Clarkson apparently endured a similar experience which could help explain the genesis of the beloved epithet ‘Dirty’ Leeds” – Allastair McGillivray.
“So, according to Neil Warnock, Stoke like to give visiting players stinky changing rooms (yesterday’s last line), An interesting move, but it may backfire. Years ago, the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks made a point of upgrading the visitors’ facilities. Posh towels, spacious lockers, toilets that flushed – the whole package. Why? Because it helped the club to recruit players when they became free agents. Perhaps Stoke’s management believes they are an attractive enough proposition without such gimmickry” – Mike Wilner.
“Ed Taylor (yesterday’s Fiver letters) has brought up a wider philosophical question that may be answered when one-goal Joelinton squares up against a Baggies defence that has shipped 23 goals in 11 matches: what happens when a stoppable force meets a moveable object?” – Matt Richman.
“Re: Capone and Fabinho being Untouchables (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs). I’m sure you’ll get the hallowed number of replies on this, but it was the team of agents hunting down Scarface that were untouchable, not Capone” – Matt Atkinson (and 1,056 others).
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
In a boost for free agent $exually Repressed Morris Dancing Fiver’s hopes of making the Euros, Gareth Southgate reckons a hectic Premier League schedule will lead to knacked England players next summer. “It’s very difficult to have a successful national team and the strongest league,” he sighed, fresh off a series of international friendlies.
Newcastle might be able to play out a drab draw with West Brom now their training ground is open again after a Covid outbreak.
Leeds defender Robin Koch will face a spell on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on the knee-knack sustained against Chelsea.
Like George Benson and Whitney Houston before him, Jürgen Klopp believes the children are our future. “You still need the right kids, the right players,” he crooned, praising the youngsters who have stepped up during Liverpool’s knack-crisis. “Without them we would have been lost. Thank God it worked out.”
STILL WANT MORE?
Our annual countdown of the top 100 female footballers in the world begins with Nos 71-100.
Booing those who take a knee is an act of violent disrespect, writes Barney Ronay.
Jonathan Liew on the increasingly beleaguered art of crossing.
Leipzig’s Dani Olmo and Juan Mata of Manchester United get their chat on together on Zoom.
Liverpool’s relentlessness is ominously back, warns floating footballing brain in a jar Jonathan Wilson.
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