Manchester United and Erik ten Hag ‘disagree’ as we all mourn the sacking of blameless Brendan

Obviously there is no evidence that Erik ten Hag ‘disagrees’ about anything with Manchester United but there we go. Plus, Brendan Rodgers is blameless at Leicester.

Can we all agree to ‘disagree’?
Pretending something is happening is all part of the fun of the international break. But that should not include just merrily making up quotes to sell a LIVE blog that really should be retired for a week.

‘Arnold ‘disagrees’ with Ten Hag on transfer policy’ is quite the opener on the Manchester Evening News.

Those little commas in the air around the word ‘disagrees’ (there they are again) are what are commonly known as quote marks. That means somebody must have said or written the word ‘disagrees’.

Here is their update in full:

‘United are already planning for the next transfer window, but are reportedly split on their policy for it.

‘The Athletic say that Erik ten Hag wants to make more signings in January, but chief executive Richard Arnold wants to wait until summer.’

Obviously we then click on The Athletic. And then obviously nobody says or writes the word ‘disagrees’.

And the band played on at the MEN, who have our click and quite a few more based on them happily quoting nobody at all.

Can we all agree to ‘disagree’ again?
Actually, a little more investigation shows us exactly who the MEN were quoting with their claim that Ten Hag and his bosses have ‘disagreed’. Here’s Monday’s headline from the Mirror website:

‘Erik ten Hag and Man Utd’s three senior chiefs disagree over transfer plans’

And this, ladies and gentleman, is the circle of modern journalism. One website re-writes an Athletic story, uses a certain emotive word in the headline and then their sister website gets to stick that emotive word in quotes. At some level it’s genius; at another it’s despicable, but you say tom-a-to, I saw tomato and all that.

The Equalizer
Tea Mirror are not done with this story on Tuesday:

‘Erik ten Hag faces running into own Ed Woodward scenario at Manchester United’

Because that’s an entirely normal response to the news that Erik ten Hag may not be granted his wish to add to his squad in January after Manchester United overspent in the summer.

No news like old news
While we’re on the subject of pretending there is a flood of Manchester United transfer news, this is the top story on the Express website on Tuesday morning:

‘Man Utd received transfer response from Cody Gakpo but had to prioritize another star’

They then breathlessly reveal that ‘Manchester United struck a verbal agreement with the agents of PSV Eindhoven winger Cody Gakpo in the summer before pulling out of the deal to complete a move for Antony, according to reports’.

We know. Because The Athletic literally told us six days ago.

That’s one way to get through the international break.

For Fox sake
‘Why Leicester sacking Brendan Rodgers would deliver HUGE blow to Premier League ‘Big Six’ wannabes’ is a Sun headline that certainly caught Mediawatch’s eye. At surface level, it seems to be absolute bollocks as Leicester sacking Brendan Rodgers would really only be a HUGE blow to Brendan Rodgers.

Dave Kidd writes that ‘if, as seems likely, Saturday’s 6-2 thrashing at Tottenham turns out to be Rodgers’ final match in charge of the Foxes, this should sadden anyone wishing to see the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ seriously challenged’.

Well, we would like to see the Premier League’s Big Six seriously challenged and yet we would not be saddened by the sacking of a manager whose team is currently bottom of the Premier League. The two things seem entirely unrelated.

‘Because it will say much about the league’s glass ceiling, about the finite nature of realistic ambition, and it will also expose the limitations of English boasts about possessing the most competitive league on Earth.’

Or it could just say much about how Rodgers has entirely failed to organize this Leicester team throughout 2022, when they have conceded 48 goals in 27 games. For context, Crystal Palace have conceded 28. Sometimes the sacking of a failing manager is just about the sacking of a failing manager.

‘With back-to-back fifth-place finishes and an FA Cup triumph in 2021, Rodgers has been the most consistently successful manager of a non-elite club for a generation.’

Has he though? Most definitions put ‘a generation’ between 20 and 30 years so we will be kind and just look at this century. And that would be a century in which David Moyes led Everton to five top-six finishes. We would say he was the ‘the most consistently successful manager of a non-elite club for a generation’. But that doesn’t fit the narrative.

‘Of course, there was Leicester’s ridiculous title win under Claudio Ranieri in 2016 — an achievement which looks even crazier still in hindsight.

‘No other side from outside the ‘Big Six’ has even finished in the top four since Everton in 2005 – and that was before Manchester City got rich and there even was a ‘Big Six’.’

And when do you suppose this Big Six emerged? There was certainly no talk of a Big Six when Tottenham finished in the top four in 2009/10 for the first time in 20 years. There had been a Big Four and then City gate-crashed with money and Spurs crowbarred their way in with money, coaching and recruitment.

Indeed, you could argue that Harry Redknapp was ‘the most consistently successful manager of a non-elite club for a generation’. How does a Big Four become a Big Six without anyone challenging the elite?

Dave Kidd then goes to dismiss the idea that Leicester are poor this season partly because they have sold key players, writing that ‘the wider issue is that when a club bashes its head on that glass ceiling for any length of time, without achieving the major breakthrough of Champions League football, everyone starts getting frustrated, bored and restless’.

We’re not sure that being frustrated. bored and restless’ is why winning a corner against Leicester is like winning a penalty.

Or why they are fielding a goalkeeper who has been comfortably the worst in the division.

And we would certainly argue that having a transfer net spend of basically zero in two seasons is sub-optimal.

Kidd writes that ‘once you stop moving upwards, you inevitably start plunging downwards’ and cite West Ham and Wolves as examples, but you don’t have to ‘stop moving upwards’; Tottenham have proven that.

Brendan Rodgers was in charge of a Leicester side that won only one of their final five games of 2019/20 to drop out of the Champions League places.

Brendan Rodgers was then in charge of a Leicester side that won only one of their final five games of 2020/21 to drop out of the Champions League places.

Sometimes the problem is the manager. And more often the problem is a combination of the manager and a lack of investment. Blaming the ‘glass ceiling’ is a rotten excuse when the ceiling was broken barely more than a decade ago.

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