Mauricio Pochettino enacted the perfect plan on Wednesday. He rested Eric Dier, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min for a must-win game against Inter Milan and, well, won it.
Yet Neil Ashton is here for The Sun accusing the manager of ‘messing around with his team selections,’ saying ‘Poch meddled’ by ‘leaving out his weekend warriors’.
The chief football reporter adds that Tottenham ‘missed’ Eriksen, despite the fact that – again – he scored, and really might not have had he started.
Eriksen’s winner was apparently ‘reward’ for Pochettino’s decisions, which is absolutely. So what’s all that other stuff about?
Mediawatch is definitely not saying Ashton wrote the ‘meddled’ and ‘messing around’ lines before the goal. Not at all.
On a similar note, Robbie Savage spent much of his BT Sport commentary echoing those thoughts. For 79 minutes he questioned Pochettino for resting Son and Eriksen, then spent the final ten minutes pointing out how pleased Pochettino will be to have rested some key players. Lord only knows what happened in the 80th minute to change his mind.
But one point in particular stood out: Savage’s claim that: “You don’t see Messi missing games.”
Pesky fact: Barcelona rested Lionel Messi against Athletic Bilbao on September 29 so he could feature against Tottenham on October 3 this season.
Also weighing in on the team selection of a manager who won a crucial game partially through his team selection is Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail.
‘Either he’s a genius, or he’s starting the wrong teams.’
THERE CAN BE NO IN BETWEEN.
Let’s see: Tottenham beat a previously unbeaten Chelsea on Saturday, a difficult Inter Milan on Wednesday, and will have key players fresh to face Arsenal on Sunday.
It’s close, but we’re edging more towards the former.
Neil Custis in out in defence of Jose Mourinho for The Sun on Thursday. He writes:
‘Throughout the game you could also see Mourinho clapping and encouraging his players, even praising ball-boys for their speedy work.
‘Yes, he did slam a crate of water bottles into the turf after Marouane Fellaini’s last-gasp winner. But that was in relief.’
So why did you tell us he ‘lost his cool as he angrily hurled a crate of drinks into the Old Trafford turf’ on Wednesday?
— Sun Sport (@SunSport) November 27, 2018
He ‘blew his top again’ then; 24 hours later, it ‘was in relief’. Great stuff.
No way, Jose
Matthew Syed also has some thoughts on Mourinho. His are a little more drastic.
‘Football management is a stressful job and it seems, to me at least, that he may be close to losing his grip,’ he writes for The Times.
‘Today, the Manchester United manager seems as if he is spiralling out of control, the latest antics on the touchline part of a much longer and curious trajectory.’
He bemoaned his player missing a chance, then threw some drink bottles at the floor to celebrate a goal. Nothing to see here.
‘When United grasped victory in stoppage time through Marouane Fellaini, Mourinho didn’t celebrate in the euphoric way familiar from his run and skid on the touchline when at Porto, but by picking up a drinks carrier and hurling it and its contents to the ground. Some people channel their happiness through aggression but this seemed rather more unhinged.’
‘Unhinged’? He threw a few drinks bottles at the floor. He didn’t tear off his clothes, jump into the stands and bite a supporter’s head off.
‘If I were a friend of Mourinho right now, or indeed his line manager, I’d be seeking a chance to put my arm around his shoulder, to chat things through, perhaps to advise him to get away for a couple of days.’
Yeah, what Jose Mourinho needs is a heart-to-heart with Ed Woodward, and a holiday in the middle of the busiest time of the season. Great idea.
Sarri, not Sarri
Maurizio Sarri had a right old go at N’Golo Kante on Wednesday. The Sun‘s Andrew Dillon has picked his side.
‘N’Golo Kante is a World Cup winner, two-time Premier League champion and former football of the year both here and back home in France.
‘So it must be tough for him to swallow a public whipping from Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri – a man who worked for a bank before becoming a coach less than 20 years ago.’
What a bizarre, unnecessary jibe. Wait until he finds out that N’Golo Kante was playing in France’s third tier five years ago.
‘It was not the losing that counted, it was the not taking part. Sarri’s team imploded in a shocking show of loose-limbed lethargy, poor organisation and, worst of all, the ability to surrender to Chelsea’s bitter rivals.
‘Picking on nice-guy Kante, though, seems a strange choice of target.’
What Sarri actually said was that Kante is not as good technically as Jorginho or Cesc Fabregas, and that Kante “tried to be too attacking”, leaving Chelsea open to Tottenham’s forwards. Considering his average position during that defeat was ahead of the halfway line, perhaps he had a point about a player still learning a new role?
And what does how ‘nice’ a player is have to do with it? If Alvaro Morata was the kindest, most compassionate person in existence, would that make him immune to criticism?
The best part of all is that Dillon terms this ‘watershed moment’ a ‘broadside’ from player to manager. This from the same man who has just poked fun at said manager for working in a bank and having a coaching career spanning ‘less than 20 years’. The cheek.
One game, two takes
‘Liverpool again endured horrible travel sickness as they undone by a poor first half in Paris. But defeat by PSG – their third away from home in the Champions League this season – surprisingly does little to detnt their hopes of progressing to the knockout stages’ – David Maddock, Daily Mirror.
‘Neymar fired Liverpool to the brink of champions League elimination last night’ – Charlie Wyett, The Sun.
Big time Charlie
Writes Charlie Wyett in The Sun:
‘Having decided to wear an all-white European kit rather than their dark blue home strip, PSG were impressive from the start and Joe Gomez, preferred at right-back to Trent Alexander-Arnold, was given a tough night.
‘And it was no surprise they took an early lead. The only shock was that it was Spanish left-back Bernat, whose only other goal this term was in the 1-1 draw in Napoli.’
So a man who scored in his most recent Champions League appearance scored in this one too? Shocker.
Alisson, I know this world is killing you
‘Alisson: Despite conceding twice, this was one of his best displays for Liverpool. Some superb saves – 8’ – Daily Mail.
‘Alisson: I wouldn’t fault him for either of the goals, but a couple of times he wasn’t able to keep hold of the ball – 6’ – The Times.
‘Alisson: Good early save but wrong-footed for opening goal – 6’ – Daily Mirror.
What’s £100,000 between friends?
‘De Gea will then be offered a new £400,000-a-week, five-year deal – including bonuses – to convince him to commit his long-term future to United’ – Martin Blackburn, The Sun.
‘David de Gea is open to staying at Manchester United if the club offer him a five-year contract worth around £350,000 a week to match top earner Alexis Sanchez’ – Chris Wheeler, Daily Mail.
‘But Ed Woodward knows he will have to make the Spanish goalkeeper one of the highest paid players at Old Trafford in a deal that could be worth up to £300,000-a-week’ – James Robson, London Evening Standard.
‘JOHN CROSS EXCLUSIVE: Sanchez is now more set on Man United exit than ever after latest Mourinho snub’
And there we all were thinking Alexis Sanchez would decide to stay at Manchester United after being dropped for a Champions League game. Silly us.
Recommended reading of the day
Barney Ronay on Neymar.
Raphael Honigstein on Niko Kovac.
Jack Pitt-Brooke on PSG.