Kondogbia sticks out a leg to intercept a pass and shifts the ball forward quickly to Rodrigo. He and Batshuayi cross in a scissors move but the pass into his partner’s feet is wayward and United mop up.
Out come the teams
“The crest on the chest is more important than the name on the back,” Jose Mourinho writes in his programme notes.
Hmm … sounds like a post-match drink is in the offing for Paul Scholes:
“The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!”
How do Valencia play?
Tight, defensive structure, very compact in midfield, using the full-backs to get up the line rather than Coquelin and Guedes. Kondogbia sits, Parejo pulls the strings.
The teams in black and white
Manchester United De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Shaw; Matic, Fellaini, Pogba; Rashford, Lukaku, Sanchez.
Substitutes Romero, Darmian, Lindelof, McTominay, Fred, Mata, Martial.
Valencia: Neto; Piccini, Garay, Gabriel, Gaya; Parejo, Coquelin, Kondogbia, Guedes; Rodrigo, Batshuayi.
Substitutes Domenech, Vezo, Diakhaby, Wass, Soler, Cheryshev, Gameiro.
Referee Slavko Vincic (Slovenia).
Paul Scholes on Mourinho
“I’m surprised that he survived Saturday. In terms of attitude and performance it was just nowhere near. He’s coming out in press conferences, he’s constantly having a go at players, he’s having a go at people above him because he’s not getting what he wants and I think his mouth is probably out of control and I think he’s embarrassing the club.”
I thought they said he couldn’t tackle. That’s a precision reducer in anyone’s book.
And one ex-Manchester United hero in the stands
Two ex-Gunners in the Valencia XI
“I’m surprised that he survived after Saturday”
“I think he’s embarrassing the club.”
Paul Scholes is pulling no punches tonight 💥 pic.twitter.com/0vmOYhDqCk
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 2, 2018
When the answer is neither
For much of the past 10 days since Manchester United’s draw with Wolves, the way developments at the club have been covered emphasises the polarisation between Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba. But simplifying the absolute state of Manchester United over the past five years to a plain question of ‘Which side are you on?’ is both moronic and deceitful. It is disingenuous because it suggests that either option offers a solution to the club’s tribulations.
A sulking manager who has become irrevocably cautious, who has made several dreadful recruitment choices, who routinely chucks his players under a bus, who has always enjoyed confounding the desires of those naive fools who value elan and whom he brazenly mischaracterises as preferring style over substance when what they really want is both?
Or an intermittently world-class, World Cup-winning midfielder who can barely string two coherent and dedicated hours together in a red shirt and hasn’t the sincerity, seriousness of purpose or testicular fortitude to make a position his own, take responsibility, seize a game, rouse his team-mates and tell his conniving agent to pipe down.
Any sensible Manchester United fan should wish for a ‘plague o’ both their houses’. The only plausible answer to which side are you on has to be ‘neither’. And make it plain that the way both are behaving demonstrates that neither are really on Manchester United’s side either.
So how will Mourinho’s gripe about not being able to buy a third hand-picked £30m-plus centre-half manifest itself in tonight’s match against Valencia? Ander Herrera in a back-three as he was against Tottenham? Scott McTominay as he was against West Ham? Too tame, surely. How about Fred in there, or Pereira or Romero? Or is he going to stop fannying about and work with what he’s got. Show us he can still motivate and coach, that being innovative and subtle tactically has never been his thing. The king of coaching efficiency should swallow his grouse and return to first principles.
As for Pogba, the way he’s playing and the way he’s acting, Barcelona would be off their chumps to buy him in January. He has Serie A winners’ medals and the big one so he may see someone telling him to buckle down for the next few months as an insult. He owes it to his talent and the United public to find some form and show that leadership means more than being a droll dressing room pied piper.
Valencia, who finished fourth last year to qualify for the Champions League for the first time for two years after a couple of seasons finishing 12th, are back in 14th in La Liga after seven games but their season has not been as dire as it seems. They’ve won only once but also lost only once though they were deservedly beaten by 10-man Juve in week one after conceding two penalties – the first from a wild foul by the captain and playmaker, Dani Parejo, the second after a daft push from Jeison Murillo, Ronaldo’s agitator. Parejo went on to miss a penalty of his own to compound his Mestalla misery.
They haven’t scored enough goals this season, only five in the league, but in the bright Spain forward Rodrigo, Chelsea’s on-loan Michy Batshuayi and the veteran French pocket battleship Kevin Gameiro and the pacy, string Santi Mina they have plenty of firepower to test United’s shonky defence. Gary Neville, a great friend and business partner of Valencia’s owner Peter Lim and, indeed Che manager for four months in spite of his monolingual impediment and lack of experience, claimed in the week that United lost their soul and betrayed their history when they sacked David Moyes. Taking 27 exceptional years as standard rather than an outlier helps no one. The game moves so fast and clubs evolve so quickly that it’s fair to say that Gary Neville’s idea of Manchester United no longer exists and hasn’t since the Glazers bought it and used the clubs own revenues to fund the purchase.
Tonight is unlikely either to be a tipping point or a renaissance in the low, down and dirty of Old Trafford politics but should be fascinating to discover nonetheless, particularly given United’s unusual difficulties in selling tickets. A match worth watching would be welcome, too.