Martin Samuel: Now we get to see if talk from Manchester United suitors is hot air or cold reality

Over to you, Jim. Ratcliffe, O’Neill, there is always a Jim where Manchester United are concerned. Through the years there have been a whole lot of Jims who have claimed they can fix it for the club and now they have got their chance.

At last, the Glazers want to sell. Like their compatriots at Liverpool, the body blow that was the collapse of the Super League was too much and they are getting out.

A figure in excess of £5billion is quoted, maybe as much as £9bn, but there is a price and it will be revealed – no doubt privately – to any serious bidder. So come on down, you billionaires. Now, it gets real.

That has always been the problem with Manchester United. The club was easy to buy when the club had no intention of selling.

Certainly, it was easier to talk about buying. Anyone who fancied creating a headline could buy Manchester United, even Michael Knighton and now David Beckham.

It was like one of those charity auctions where the big prize is, say, the shirt Edwin van der Sar was wearing for John Terry’s missed penalty in the Champions League final.

‘Who’s going to start the bidding at a grand?’ asks the master of ceremonies and someone puts his hand up because that is still a lot of money and makes him look big and generous, but he knows it’s going to go for 10 times that, minimum, and there is no real chance of the bill dropping on his table.

And that’s Manchester United. Anyone can make a populist speech about letting the club go to a real fan – even real fans like Ratcliffe, who are Chelsea season ticket holders – or implore the Glazers to do the decent thing and sell it cheaply, safe in the knowledge that bluff was never going to be called.

O’Neill – now Baron O’Neill of Gatley – once talked up a consortium known as the Red Knights who were very vocal during the first green and gold protests. He predicted a United and Liverpool sale in 2021, too.

He is clearly an astute guy but will he try again, now the club is genuinely available? Maybe his consortium could return as the Baron Knights. Ratcliffe spoke about buying the club only last month. ‘Manchester United is owned by the Glazer family and they are the nicest people, proper gentlemen,’ he told a Financial Times event.

‘But they don’t want to sell it. If it had been for sale in the summer then, yes, we would have probably had a go following on from the Chelsea thing, but we can’t sit around hoping one day United will become available.’

Ah, the Chelsea thing. That is when the club was for sale for a protracted period and then, just when the bidding period had closed, Ratcliffe came in. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t get it.

Now we wait to see if his United talk also turns out to be hot air. It must be hard for the club’s suitors, always wanting the one they can have.

Messi needs to copy Bale’s sense of timing

Argentina’s match with Poland at Stadium 974 on Wednesday is shaping up like a cup final. Lose and it could be Lionel Messi’s farewell as an international player, his last chance of football’s biggest trophy gone.

It may sound preposterous but he needs to be more like Gareth Bale. This is not a comparison of the pair as footballers. Bale is a great player but we know where Messi sits in the pantheon. All but the very greatest are looking up at him.

Yet Bale has a special ingredient, a way of inserting himself into the narrative at vital moments, regardless of what went before.

He comes off the bench and scores arguably the greatest goal of a Champions League final, then his last-minute equaliser drags Los Angeles FC to a penalty shootout and the MLS title, after he barely featured for them all season.

And when Wales needed a way back against the United States, it was Bale again who won the penalty and scored it. His was a brilliant strike too, hard and curling away towards the corner, the work of a man with no fear of failure. He is going down as the greatest player in Wales’ history and he knows it.

So although everyone here wishes they could emulate the talent of Messi, it is Bale who Messi should look to for inspiration.

He didn’t play well in Wales’ first game. Rob Page, the manager, was asking if he wanted to come off after 70 minutes. But Bale stayed on and put his country in a position to qualify. Beat Iran and they are almost there.

There have been comparisons between this Argentina team and the one Diego Maradona propelled to World Cup victory in 1986. The difference is that Maradona was 25 when he did that and Messi now is 10 years older.

He cannot do what he did a decade ago. He has to find ways of dragging Argentina through without being the dynamic force of old. As incongruous as it may seem, Messi has to be more Bale.

Newton’s law of stoppage time

Newton’s third law – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, naturally, FIFA’s well-intentioned plan to cut time-wasting turns out to potentially have a debilitating effect on player health.

Extra periods approaching 10 minutes, or even more, have not been unusual at this World Cup and there are worries that this, particularly in the heat, could lead to muscle injuries and fatigue. Tired players tackle badly and injuries result.

So a noble idea comes with unexpected complications. Clever chap, Newton. Was he the one who played for Burnley?

Running riot has to be a good omen

The only team to score double figures at a World Cup finals did not make it out of the group stage. At the 1982 tournament, Hungary beat El Salvador 10-1 in Elche.

Laszlo Kiss scored the World Cup’s quickest hat-trick – just seven minutes – and the only one to ever be achieved by a substitute.

Hungary lost their next game 4-1 to Diego Maradona’s Argentina, then drew 1-1 with Belgium and went home. So, in that respect, beating Iran 6-2 might not foreshadow anything at all.

Yet the World Cup’s other highest scoring games – Hungary 9-0 South Korea (1954), Yugoslavia 9-0 Zaire (1974), Sweden 8-0 Cuba (1938), Uruguay 8-0 Bolivia (1950) and Germany 8-0 Saudi Arabia (2002) – suggest otherwise.

Those matches produced one winner, two finalists, a semi-finalist and a team who reached the last eight. So a trouncing to start is often an indicator of a strong tournament ahead. It doesn’t mean England win it, but nor is it insignificant.

Chelsea making a mistake to covet creaking Ronaldo

Graham Potter can only hope Todd Boehly backs him, the way the Glazers ultimately did Erik ten Hag. By sacking Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United’s owners showed the manager mattered.

It can be argued they should have done this earlier, maybe when he was recruited, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seemed as hot to trot as Sir Alex Ferguson and everyone else at the club.

Yet they did the right thing, eventually. After his criticism of the club, either Ronaldo’s position was untenable or Ten Hag’s was and they went with the man better for United in the long term.

Now it is up to Boehly to do likewise. When even Vincent Kompany, manager of tier two Burnley, is cracking jokes about taking on Ronaldo – ‘I need somebody who can run,’ he said – why do the rumours linking the player and Chelsea persist?

Maybe it is just coming from Ronaldo’s camp. The only way the United episode does not appear ruinous to his client’s career is if agent Jorge Mendes can somehow conjure a final chapter among the elite in the Champions League.

Maybe that is why the meeting with Bayern Munich leaked, too. Mendes needs a market if Ronaldo is not to appear yesterday’s man.

Yet having gambled, so far unsuccessfully, on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, why would Potter want another high-maintenance superstar past his prime? And what does it say if he makes that plain and Boehly over-rules?

It took United far too long to understand the danger of flawed marquee signings. Having seen what has gone wrong at Old Trafford, Boehly should not be repeating those mistakes.

Crusaders issue is not the same as rainbows

Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and – you’re nicked, sunshine.

What is it about rainbows that angers the local goon squads so? Welsh fans wearing rainbow bucket hats are the latest to attract their censure, but, in another PR coup for the World Cup, only women were confronted.

And although the rainbow flag has become the standard of gay pride, what harm does it do? It would be like cracking down on the inflatable unicorns in the pool at the England team hotel.

Halfwits dressed as Crusaders in a Muslim country, however? That is different. German fans wouldn’t be welcomed at Wembley in military uniform and in this part of the world to cosplay as an echo of a 196-year campaign to free the region from Islamic rule is equally appalling.

As the Crusades lasted from 1095 to 1291, the toll of dead or displaced ranges from one million to nine million, depending on your book. Either way, those who report a negative reaction to their garb should not be entertained.

There is a difference between legitimate protest, or simple acknowledgement, and a crass and wilful attempt to offend the hosts.

City’s next world beater?

Having already made the signing of the season in Erling Haaland, Manchester City have perhaps bettered it by recruiting Pep Guardiola for two more years.

Khaldoon Al Mubarak, the chairman, always maintained he would know when to negotiate. It transpires the World Cup hiatus found Guardiola receptive and the deal was done. Money helps, obviously, but it’s never just about that with City.

Men like Haaland and Guardiola can earn well at a lot of places. What matters is that City have a clearly defined and well-run project and are very adept at selling it. Jude Bellingham will be their next challenge.

You’ve got to hand it to the Germans

Germany lost. But the photograph of the players lined up with their hands over their mouths in protest at FIFA censorship will be one of the images of this blasted tournament, encapsulating its truth as much as any goal or celebration.

Whatever Germany’s fate here, it will be remembered.

We can’t write off Gerrard as a boss

Steven Gerrard’s talent as a manager and coach is under scrutiny after a disappointing spell at Aston Villa.

Yes, he did well at Rangers, runs the argument, but Scottish football is weak and anyone could succeed with one of the Glasgow giants.

The fate of Giovanni van Bronckhorst, however, suggests this is not entirely true. Gerrard’s title with Rangers was the first the club had won since the league was rebranded as the Premiership and their only title since 2010-11.

Yet having come second by four points last season, Rangers are already nine points off Celtic after just 15 games of this campaign and set a record low for a team in the Champions League group stage. So whatever Gerrard’s shortcomings at Villa, it would be wrong to read too much into one failure. Every coach has them.

Herve Renard, conqueror of Argentina with Saudi Arabia, was sacked from his first managerial job with a professional side at Cambridge United.

There is not a coach in Qatar who has not had difficult times, from Gareth Southgate at Middlesbrough to Didier Deschamps at Monaco and later Marseille. Van Bronckhorst’s fate at Rangers shows there are no easy jobs. Gerrard deserves to be cut a little slack.

With the Premier League now in hiatus, it is thought possible some clubs will use the break to make a managerial change. Yet one of the strangest narratives has concerned a manager not getting a job rather than being fired from one.

Gary O’Neil now looks set to be appointed Bournemouth manager imminently. And if not, what is keeping them?

When he took over, Bournemouth had three points from four matches, albeit having played Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool, and were 17th. O’Neil has since taken 13 points from 11 games. They were briefly in the top half.

Last season, accruing points at O’Neil’s aggregate would have put Bournemouth clear of relegation by close on 10 points.

The club have new owners and appointing the caretaker is safe, not sexy. At Bournemouth’s end of the table, however, little beats common sense.

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  • 1 час, 4 минуты назад 01.12.2022Sport
    Reece James is criticised on Twitter for choosing Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of Lionel Messi

    Reece James has been criticised on Twitter for having ‘zero football knowledge’ after saying that Cristiano Ronaldo is better than Lionel Messi.

    However, James’ response to the Ronaldo or Messi question certainly didn’t go down well.

    One Twitter user wrote: ‘You have zero football knowledge’.

    Another joked that James’ response shows why Trent Alexander-Arnold is better than him. They wrote: ‘This is why Trent is better than you!’.

    Another added: ‘Overrated player supporting another overrated player. We understand’.

    James also answered other questions, including one on the toughest opponents that he has faced in his career so far.

    The 22-year-old chose three left wingers in Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior, AC Milan’s Rafael Leao and former Liverpool star Sadio Mane, now of Bayern Munich.

    James wrote: ‘3 hardest players I’ve ever played against are all left wingers! Vinicius Jr, Leao and Mane!’.

    James had hoped to be included in England’s World Cup squad, but a significant knee injury put paid to those plans.

    It is hoped that James will be available shortly after the resumption of club football at the end of this month.

  • 1 час, 4 минуты назад 01.12.2022Sport
    Tyson Fury claims he could return to being a car salesman after he retires from boxing

    Tyson Fury has suggested he could go back to selling cars when he finally decides to hang his gloves up for good.

    The WBC heavyweight champion is due to defend his belt against Derek Chisora on Saturday after deciding to continue his boxing career, having initially announced his intention to retire after beating Dillian Whyte in April.

    Looking ahead, Fury does not appear to have clear plan for his life after boxing, but feels he could look to sell cars like he did in his younger days.

    ‘Maybe I’ll go back to being a used car salesman and open myself a little pitch in Morecambe somewhere,’ Fury told The Sportsman when asked what the future holds for him.

    ‘Give myself a job so I can get up at 7am, go to the gym, come back and then go to work.’

    Fury has threatened to retire from boxing on a number of occasions, but has always come back to the sport.

    The Gypsy King is now 34, and most fighters would be nearing the end of their careers at this point.

    Yet Fury believes he is still in his ‘prime’ and has questioned whether he will ever be happy to retire from boxing having had a brief taste of putting his feet up earlier this year.

    ‘I don’t know if I can ever be ready for retirement and this is the problem,’ he said.

    ‘Right now, I’m in a very big dilemma with boxing because I’m in my prime. I’m worn out basically, however, I’m still undefeated and still going.

    ‘How long will this last? How long can I keep going for? And what happens when it’s not there any more?

    ‘The answer to that question is that I don’t know and that’s why I’m back. There were four months when I was actually retired and refused a lot of money to come back and stuff to do other fights and things.

    ‘It was four months later and I had my little bit of being at home with the family, taking the kids to school and all that, and I was like what do I do?

    ‘I’m getting up in the morning, I’m getting up at half past six, going to bed at 9pm, going to the gym twice a day, but I don’t have a target to go to the gym for. I don’t know.’

  • 1 час, 4 минуты назад 01.12.2022Sport
    Paul Scholes urges Manchester United to sign Cody Gakpo or Christopher Nkunku

    Paul Scholes believes that Manchester United should look to sign Cody Gakpo or Christopher Nkunku to replace Cristiano Ronaldo.

    Ronaldo’s acrimonious departure could lead to United looking to bring in a replacement either in January or next summer.

    United legend Scholes feels that a new centre-forward is a priority as Marcus Rashford is most effective playing out wide.

    Speaking on MUTV’s The Debate, Scholes said: ‘I think there’s a couple of forwards they might look at.

    ‘The kid at RB Leipzig that’s been linked with Chelsea, Nkunku. Centre forward is obviously the big position that needs filling.

    ‘We have Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford who can both play there, but I think Marcus prefers being out wide and Antony’s injury record isn’t great.

    ‘January might be too soon [to replace Ronaldo], they’re probably looking at next summer now, but I do think there are players out there.’

    Scholes feels that the impact that Gakpo has made at the World Cup – who has scored three goals so far – makes him an ideal candidate for United and manager Erik ten Hag.

    Scholes said: ‘The lad at PSV – Gakpo – is doing really well for Netherlands at the World Cup and I think Ten Hag has been really interested in him before.

    ‘There’s players out there for sure. January can be a tough window to do business but I hope we can do something and bring in a new centre forward.’

    It is clear that United require more goals – they have only scored 20 times in the Premier League this season compared to Arsenal’s 33 and Manchester City’s 40.

    As Scholes alludes to, Nkunku, who currently plays for RB Leipzig has been heavily linked with a move to Chelsea, with Le10Sport reporting that ‘everything is complete’ with regards to a switch that could take place next summer.

    Gakpo, therefore, could be the best option for United to consider. The 23-year-old has scored nine goals in the Eredivisie this season and also has three in the Europa League. He often plays as a winger for PSV but is also capable of operating up front.

    Ronaldo, meanwhile, is considering an offer from Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr that could see him earn £344million across the next two and a half years.

    The Portugal star left United after heavily criticising the club during an interview with Piers Morgan.

  • 1 час, 4 минуты назад 01.12.2022Sport
    Wojciech Szczesny insists he KNEW where Lionel Messi was going to shoot before saving his penalty

    Wojciech Szczesny has revealed he knew which way Lionel Messi was going to go with his penalty by the way he approached the ball.

    Messi missed what had appeared to be a decisive spot-kick in the first half as Argentina chased the goal to ensure their safe path to the last-16.

    On a night of high drama in Group C, goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez ensured Argentina finished top of the group – with Poland advancing with them by virtue of a superior goal difference to Mexico.

    Speaking after the game, Szczesny admitted he ‘owed it’ to his team to save Messi’s effort from 12 yards having given away the penalty for a foul on the Paris Saint Germain star.

    ‘Now I can say that I knew where Messi would shoot, but at the time I wasn’t so sure. Leo looks at the keeper on some penalties and hits hard on others,’ he said.

    ‘I knew that if he was going to hit hard, it would be more to my left. I saw that he was not stopping, so I went, I sensed, I defended.

    ‘I’m happy because that penalty gave something in the end. Very big satisfaction. I owed it to the team.’

    The Juventus goalkeeper also said after the game that you need some ‘luck’ when facing Messi from 12 yards.

    On the penalty award, Szczesny, perhaps understandably, doubted the awarding of a spot-kick but said it gave him an opportunity to ‘show off’.

    ‘I immediately told the referee that I touched him (Messi) with my hand in the face, but I only hit him on the side of his face,’ the Pole said.

    ‘I told him there was contact but I don’t think there is a penalty. The referee decided otherwise and that’s fine – I could show off.’

    Speaking to Norwegian broadcaster TV 2 Sport post-match, the former Arsenal goalkeeper revealed the details of his and Messi’s bet before jokingly admitting he may now be ‘banned’ by FIFA for breaching betting rules.

    ‘No I didn’t [think the penalty would be given],’ said Szczesny.

    ‘We spoke before the penalty and I told him I can bet him €100 that he wasn’t going to give it.

    ‘So I’ve lost a bet against Messi. I don’t know if that’s allowed at the World Cup. I’m probably going to be banned for it. I don’t care right now.’

    For a significant part of the evening, Poland looked to be advancing to the knockout stage for the first time since 1986 by virtue of having received fewer yellow cards than Mexico – who they drew 0-0 with in their opening game.

    Admitting after the game that Poland are not of the same ‘calibre’ as Argentina, Szczesny said that ‘for the first time I am happy to lose’.

    ‘It was hard because we played against a team not of our calibre,’ he said.

    ‘He can hold the ball for 90 minutes and not let us smell it. It’s fun to play against such teams, once in 100 you will win. Today I failed, but I think for the first time I am happy to lose.’

    Poland face France on Sunday bidding to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.

  • 1 час, 4 минуты назад 01.12.2022Sport
    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has ‘re-watched all 168 games as Man Utd manager’ since leaving

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has reportedly re-watched all 168 matches from his time as Manchester United manager in the year since he left the club.

    Solskjaer was sacked by United last November after just under three years in charge, following a disappointing start to the 2021-22 season.

    His final game saw the Red Devils lose 4-1 against Watford, a defeat that left the team in eighth place in the Premier League after losing five of their opening 12 top-flight matches.

    United were also thrashed 5-0 by Liverpool and comfortably swept aside by local rivals Manchester City in the final weeks of Solskjaer’s reign, games that you may expect the Norwegian to want to forget in a hurry.

    However, The Athletic have revealed that he has gone back and watched those two matches plus the other 166 that he was on the touchline for.

    During his reign at Old Trafford, Solskjaer guided United to a second-placed finish in 2020-21, but they went out of the Champions League after the group stages that year after suffering a humbling 2-1 defeat against Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir.

    The team recovered to make the final of the Europa League, but lost to Villarreal on penalties.

    Despite narrowly missing out on a European trophy, things had looked promising for United at the end of their 2020-21 campaign, and that summer they added Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane to their squad.

    It seemed that they could be genuine title contenders after those signings, but their results fell away alarmingly, and this ultimately cost Solskjaer his job.

    He was unable to pick up any silverware, unlike his predecessor Jose Mourinho, and could not bring back the glory days that the club enjoyed under Sir Alex Ferguson, but it is understood that Solskjaer is ‘satisfied’ with his time as United boss. Incidentally, those are the only two post-war United managers with a higher win rate than Solskjaer, other than current manager Erik Ten Hag who only arrived in the summer.

    Solskjaer feels he was building something ‘special’ with the squad, and was happy with the team spirit that had developed, even though he departed with them outside of the European places.

    The squad continued to struggle after his exit, eventually finishing down in sixth, 35 points adrift of title-winners City.

    In the 12 months that have passed since he left United, Solskjaer has remained a keen observer of European football, while also taking up new hobbies away from the sport.

    The 49-year-old has learned how to sail back in his homeland of Norway, but also has a home in Cheshire, allowing him to watch games in England regularly.

    He still has a burning desire to get back into management, and now feels ready to return to the dugout.

    Job offers have not been in short supply in recent months, with Solskjaer having already had opportunities to end his time away from the game.

    The chance to move into television work has also been presented to Solskjaer, but he has turned this down, waiting for the right moment to resume his managerial career.

    Having watched games from across Europe over the past year, it appears that Solskjaer is keeping his options open, and is not set on taking up a coaching role in England.

    As well as managing United, Solskjaer also had a brief spell at Cardiff in 2014, but was unable to save them from relegation to the Championship.

    His other roles have come in Norway, but perhaps a different country could provide him with his next opportunity as he looks to bounce back from his disappointing end at United to prove that he still has plenty left to offer.

  • 1 час, 4 минуты назад 01.12.2022Sport
    Lionel Messi antics in Argentina win over Poland were WRONG – Chris Sutton

    Lionel Messi’s actions have been questioned after the Argentina star rolled around feigning injury to win a penalty against Poland in their crucial World Cup clash on Wednesday night.

    Also in today’s WORLD CUP CONFIDENTIAL:


    Daily Mail writers Ian Ladyman, Matt Barlow and Rob Draper, as well as Sportsmail columnist Chris Sutton, were speaking as part of Sportsmail and MailPlus’s daily videocast ‘World Cup Confidential’.

    It appears on MailOnline every morning of the tournament and can be found on our YouTube channel.

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Sport Martin Samuel: Now we get to see if talk from Manchester United suitors is hot air or cold reality