I’ve been a little distracted this week, what with the most significant event in my country’s post-war history taking place and its government descending into absolute chaos. Manchester United are unlikely to be chuffed by developments, not least because Brexit dumped the value of the pound, thus making those fiddly transfer things more expensive overnight. With being foreign now a toxic state on the streets of Little England, you have to wonder whether some players will think twice before moving to the UK now. For most I’m sure that the swag bags of cash will overcome any fears, but for players with a number of equivalent offers it would be naive to think that it was an irrelevance, particularly as their wages may become significantly less valuable over the extended period during which uncertainty rules the markets.
United have a distinct advantage in that they are one of a select band of clubs who are seen as a special, aspirational destination for players. One such example is Borussia Dortmund’s Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan, whose name I have finally learned to spell without the help of Google thanks to some tuition from the good people of United Twitter. It seems so easy now. But where were you all when Tomas Kuszczak was here huh? Anyway, Mkhitaryan seems to be jolly enamoured by United, to the degree that his agent Mino Raiola was fuzzing chairs around to make it happen. Once in our dog house over his role in the move of Paul Pogba to Juventus (Paul felt that Fergie disrespected him you know), Raiola now feels like our Robin Hood, stealing from big clubs and giving to poor old United out of the kindness of his own heart. Or something. Anyway, Italian sage Di Marzio says that this one is a goer for just over £30m and everyone’s favourite stubbled German journalist, Raphael Honigstein, revealed on Twitter that a representative of Dortmund is on his way to Manchester to seal the deal. He must be lonely. They could at least have sent two. Mkhitaryan is a really intelligent and exciting signing, a wonderfully dynamic and creative force who can play as a number 10 or in a wide right position. Given the dearth of options on the right hand side you’d have to imagine that Mourinho sees that as being his starting position, but then the squad aren’t overflowing with talented 10s either. Bad times. And good times. But not too good just yet as a) he’s not signed yet and b) the pain of the failure of Shinji Kagawa still burns in my heart.
Raiola appears to have also worked his magic on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the modest and unassuming Swedish centre forward. Di Marzio reports that he is due in Manchester next week to speak to Mourinho about his prospective role in the team and to possibly complete his move. Three signings by the first week in July would be a solid start to the summer by Mourinho and Edwar Woowar and makes me inclined to dismiss the MEN’s story this week that the manager is becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of transfer action, particularly with pre-season due to begin next week. There’s only one man I’d listen to in that regard and that’s Manchester United’s first signing of the summer, Duncan Castles. Without his confirmation the MEN can say it to the hand, sista, cos the face ain’t listenin’, innit.
That man Raiola also has a giant Dutch-Italian hand in Paul Pogba (remember him? Disrespected by Fergie), who looks likely to move from Juventus this summer if a club stumps up the reported €100m plus vast agent fees and salary. There appear to be only two players left in the game, United and Real. The latter seem to have the player’s heart, but quite possibly not pockets deep enough to buy him. United do, and we’re about to find out just how Glazernomics is weighted against Ed Woodward’s desire to sign megastarz. The player, apparently, still has some doubt about returning to the scene of the crime (where he was disrespected), but money tends to talk if successful super-clubs like Real are handily out of the picture. Which they aren’t, yet. If I found fifty pence in the street my money would be on Pogba staying at Juve for another year, but what do I know? I thought Kagawa was going to be good.
There’s been no incoming news from Manchester United’s former-research-scientist-turned-Mourinho-mouthpiece Duncan Castles this week, but he did pop up a few days ago to detail how his master has made Marcos Rojo available for transfer. Woof woof. Down Duncan. Given that my assessment of the Argentine on the final Red Voices podcast of last season was that my favourite moment of that season was the last second I had to witness him on a football pitch for Manchester United, you’ll be glad to know that I am deliriously overjoyed at this news. Let’s be honest, tattoos do not make up for an inability to defend, concentrate, pass, cross competently or make edible toast. Rojo is the perfect lesson in how buying a player on the back of a decent international tournament is not good business. United now look set to make a substantial loss on the player. Boo you LVG. Boo you.
One player who won’t be joining Manchester United is Breel Embolo, briefly flavour of the month after the links popped up in Germany. The Swiss may become a terrific footballer if he achieves the potential many believe him to have, but his showing in the Euros for his country was pretty abject. United need players ready to perform at a high level relatively quickly and Embolo is clearly an extremely rough diamond. Di Marzio suggested that the club approached his agent for information but, contrary to reports, didn’t make an offer. One wonders if this was always a contingency plan in case the Mkhitaryan deal became too difficult or expensive to pull off. Instead the FM wonderkid has moved to Schalke, who are very happy indeed. It’s a solid career move for him and I wish him all the best.
Away from transfers it was uplifting to see England ‘manager’ Roy Hodgson bring on young Marcus Rashford in his hour of need. Rashford slotted in on the left and immediately added pace and skill to an attack devoid of anything approaching basic competence or creativity. A master stroke from Hodgson, an alien from the planet Zog might think, reading this upon his arrival on Earth. But no, because Roy the high roller gave Rashford FIVE F*CKING MINUTES. Five. Which wasn’t enough, as England fell to their most humbling defeat since 1950. So insipid and toothless were their performances in this tournament that it’s hard not to think that LVG would have been proud of their efforts. As for Marcus, he’s too good for that shower. Come back to the loving embrace of Jose.
So that’s the week at United. I’m off to throw excrement-tipped darts at pictures of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage whilst trying to work out when the earliest opportunity is that I can leave the country. It won’t be before Mkhitaryan and Ibra have played for United, though. I need to see that first. In the meantime, Britain, try not to racially abuse any Armenian looking types likely to be hanging around the Lowry Hotel in the next week or so. Thanks!