As ever, the International break was completely worth it – no? Wasn’t it great to see our national teams play very, very important matches against other national teams? I mean, how else would we be expected to see the mighty San Marino, Albania and, er, Luxembourg otherwise? What, someone lost to Luxembourg?
This kind of pointless pause in the domestic game normally has us scrabbling around for things to comment on but, fortunately, the football world has been kind to us in the last seven days by filling the column inches with all kinds of rubbish just begging to be looked at.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to be given a new contract even if Manchester United fail to lift a trophy this season – and given that the only thing they can still win is the Europa League, there’s no pressure to win that now.
One club legend is moving on, though – Pele’s favourite defensive midfielder Nicky Butt has called it a day having achieved his coaching ambition of winding up Thomas Tuchel on the touchline. Butt doesn’t see eye-to-eye with John Murtough, the new appallingly titled football director at United – so has walked out. He probably won’t be out of work for too long as he is being lined up to join Roy Keane at Celtic when that car crash waiting to happen gets announced.
Paul Ince thinks Murtough needs to pull his finger out and start signing “heroes” – and to think I thought Ince might be a United manager in waiting when he started his career so well at Macclesfield. Which heroes is Incey imagining, I wonder?
One might be Raphael Varane, who is said to have decided on a move to Old Trafford in the summer. That won’t please Harry Maguire, unless Varane speaks English.
Another might be Erling Haaland who Solskjaer is constantly phoning (allegedly, allegedly) for ‘a chat’ and possibly, maybe suggesting Manchester is lovely in the winter. Have the rules changed? I am no expert, but I’d have thought that falls very much in the category of ‘tapping up, bigtime’.
Having seen Jesse Lingard be more productive than Brogba in recent weeks, United are thought to be lining up an olive branch for the England international in the hope he can forget how they ushered him out of the door and return to the club bringing that new-found form with him.
United, along with Manchester City, are being linked to Brazilian wonderkid Gabriel Veron who plays for Palmeiras in South America – United do, after all, have a great success rate with players called Veron.
King Klopp is plotting a summer spending spree – Liverpool are being linked to Dutch international Donyell Malan, Sheffield United’s Sander Berge, Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Patson Daka – Salzburg’s replacement for Haaland who is scoring goals for fun. Well spotted – no centre-backs on that shopping list.
Tommy and Tammy have fallen out at Chelsea. Abraham is likely to be sold this summer, regardless of whether Chelsea sign that Norweigan lad who everyone believes they are getting.
Christian Pulisic isn’t planning to stick around to see it happen – he wants to play in the Olympics this year and leave Stamford Bridge, so a busy late-summer for him then.
According to Jose Mourinho, Jose Mourinho is still one of the most ‘important’ managers in the game. He’s also a little-known super-sleuth and his current mission is to find out the identity of the club mole who has been telling people senior players do not like his training sessions.
Jermain Defoe reckons Harry Kane needs to leave Tottenham if he wants to win anything – presumably because he thinks Tottenham aren’t ever going to win anything.
Gareth Bale’s agent has been quick to dampen down any flames lit by his client claiming he was heading back to Madrid this summer by suggesting the comments were taken out of context – the context being, incidentally, a reporter asking Bale what his plans were at the end of the season and Bale replying that he was returning to Madrid.
Arsenal legends Ian Wright and Nigel Winterburn are disagreeing on what Arsenal should spend their fairy-tale transfer budget on this July. Wright thinks Arteta should persuade Martin Odegaard to quit Real Madrid on a permanent basis and take up residence in North London. Winterburn thinks Arteta should get Jack Grealish from Aston Villa. I think we can all agree Wright’s thinking is slightly less insane.
Chris Wilder wanted £4m to leave Sheffield United according to their owners – a million a win this season then. Mind you, it’s also a million for each shot on target Rhian Brewster has achieved since moving from Liverpool.
Leeds United are tightening up their cyber-security defence after the recent hacking scandal at Man United – surely their priority should be on their actual defence?
The aforementioned Paul Ince feels Gareth Southgate is handing England caps out like confetti – one of the players to benefit from Southgate’s generosity was Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins who has risen from playing non-league to scoring international goals against the mighty San Marino. Yeah, he probably found his stint at Weston-Super-Mare more taxing.
Albania’s plan to grow the grass under the feet of the England team on Sunday night nearly worked. Fortunately, Harry Kane scored his first England goal since 2019 and Mason Mount continued his quest to be the first name on the teamsheet for any manager who has ever managed him.
In not facing a single shot on target, Nick Pope became the first England goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in his first six matches – and if that fact is the most interesting thing to come out of this international break it tells you everything you need to know.