With many of the continent’s best footballers currently in France at the Euros and with Jose Mourinho quietly beavering away at whatever a manager needs to beaver away at at this time of year it’s all been rather quiet at United. In the last week the most notable thing that’s happened is Bordeaux winger and reported Jose target Adam Ounas following United and Anthony Martial on Twitter. That threw social media into a frenzy of excitement about a player most have never seen play. Welcome to the digital age.
Possibly the most noteworthy story of the week is something that didn’t happen. Eight days ago, in his Sunday Times propaganda slot, Duncan Castles wrote that United and Mourinho were waiting with baited breath for David De Gea’s contract clause allowing him to move to Real Madrid for a set fee to expire. The manager, we were told, had been in regular contact with a player who would have jumped at the chance to move had Louis Van Gaal retained his job. It looked like something of a puff piece, because the move would surely have happened before the Euros if the player was minded to leave. Hey presto, after the clause expired Castles trumpeted De Gea staying as a victory for his beloved Mourinho. It’s like when you’re a kid and you’ve no one to play football with so you go in the garden and pass the ball pretending to be one player, then run in to score from your own pass as another. Robson with the through ball, HUGHES. That’s Castles.
We’ve also learned this week that Dortmund’s Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan (and yes, I did copy and paste that) does appear to want to move to United. His agent, the cuddly Fergie favourite Mino Raiola, claims that his client is desperate for the move but that Dortmund are refusing to sell a player who has only a year let on his contract. Who do they think they are? Chancers. Having already sold Hummels and Gundogan this summer the German club appear to be keen regain a little dignity having endured another summer of having their pants pulled down by bigger, richer clubs.
Mourinho seems to be at least looking at other options, including the highly rated young Swiss Breel Embolo. I’d like to be able to provide you with a comprehensive scouting guide for the player but I’ve seen him play as much as most of you have, performing badly for Switzerland in the last few days. Whether that deal goes through will probably depends on the Mkhitaryan deal, although it may be the case that Mourinho sees the Armenian at number 10 and Embolo on the right.
The Manchester Evening News’ bundle of overflowing joy Samuel Luckhurst wrote this week that Mourinho allowed Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic to join Juventus unopposed because of the strength of his desire to sign France’s Paul Pogba. Given the way that Pogba left United and the fact that Real want the player, this a ballsy call if true. I certainly wouldn’t be putting my house on Ed Woodward to pull off the extremely unlikely. Jose has some stones, particularly as the player’s agent (yes, it’s Raiola again) told Marca today that:
“We are in the initial phase of negotiations. Pogba admires Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane and that will be very important.”
Speak of important calls, it has also been reported this week that Mourinho has decided not to offer Ryan Giggs a position in his new backroom team, ostensibly because he allegedly doesn’t trust the United legend. Given that Giggs appeared to distance himself from Moyes and Van Gaal during their troubled reigns, covets the top job himself and betrayed his wife and brother I doubt I’d be keen to trust him either. Go Jose. For Giggs it’s surely best that he moves on anyway. If he wants to manage United one day he needs to go away and get experience in the job and demonstrate that he has what it takes to coach at the highest level. If he does well the United gig will find him one day. Incidentally, over the weekends the bookies took a number of large bets on Giggs becoming the new Nottingham Forest manager. It would be as a good a place to start as any.
Finally it’s back to Mino Raiola, the Dutch-Italian super-agent and representative of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who when asked about the Swede moving to United said:
“Moving to Manchester United would be a beautiful thing. It’s a great team with a great coach. I’ve made my decision but it has not yet taken.”
Quite what decision Raiola had to make is beyond me, but this clearly looks like it’s going to happen, for better or for worse and fairly soon, as Sweden and Zlatan have had a rotten Euros so far.