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Friday, February 23, 2024

Football Daily | Manchester United, football’s very own version of Squid Game

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RED LIGHT, RED LIGHT?For most of Sir Alex Ferguson’s time at Manchester United, one bit of wisdom was repeated throughout football. No, not “youse are all effing idiots”, but, “when you leave Old Trafford, the only way is down”. Gerard Piqué was the first to inadvertently challenge it when he took an unlikely shortcut from Manchester United reserves to probably the greatest club side of all time. Then, when Ferguson retired in 2013, the cliché was properly flipped on its head. In 2024, the only way is down when you enter Old Trafford – down into the Bermuda Triangle where careers are lost forever. From Morgan Schneiderlin to Mason Mount via Anthony Martial and Jadon Sancho, potentially world-class footballers have become victims of football’s version of Squid Game. Then again, given United’s transfer policy and wage structure, it should probably – yes, we really are going to go there – be called Quid Game.OK, the analogy doesn’t quite stand up because most of the players eventually escape. Indeed, the last confirmed sighting of Donny van de Beek was him running past Lou Macari’s Fish & Chip Shop, belting out Yazz & The Plastic Population. But in most cases, only the bodies emerge from the leaky hellhole formerly known as the Theatre of Dreams. The souls and the footballing ability remain in the bowels of Old Trafford. [Isn’t that more Twin Peaks than Squid Game? – Football Daily Ed.]Of all the players to disappear at Old Trafford, Sancho is among the saddest and most frustrating. At Borussia Dortmund he was both Fantasy Footballer and fantasy footballer, producing goals and assists in industrial quantities with a languid elegance. He has shown a few signs of his undeniable class at United, most notably when he sent half the Liverpool team to the wrong hotdog fire in the victory that kickstarted Erik ten Hag’s once promising reign. Sancho and Ten Hag haven’t spoken since their public he-said he-said after the Arsenal game in August, and now it looks like he is going to return to Dortmund on loan. In days gone by Sancho would have offended the football gods by contravening two bits of received wisdom – never go back, and the only way is down when you leave Old Trafford. Now it feels like the safer option.Whether Sancho returns to Old Trafford likely depends on whether Ten Hag gets a whiff of a freshly printed P45 in the next few months. Whoever is United’s manager in the summer will probably have less say in deciding the new contestants in the 2024-25 series of Quid Game. According to today’s rags, Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s team of project managers want to make Crystal Palace’s Michael Olise one of their first signings in the summer. Olise certainly fits the profile of a modern United signing: he was available for half the price last August. He’s also a beautiful footballer who ticks both F/fantasy boxes; he’s exactly what United need to replace Antony, Sancho and Mason Greenwood on the right wing. In fact, they need him more than he needs them. The temptation of Old Trafford is always there – no matter how many careers go south, any target knows the next group of players to win the league will become United legends. Besides, this time United are for real, because Sir Jim and Sir Dave are in charge and they know what they’re doing. This time it’s going to be different, right? Right?QUOTE OF THE DAY“I spoke to him and apologised on behalf of the club. He was understandably still angry and upset. No player deserves that abuse and we are truly sorry he suffered it. We will do all we can to identify the culprit and take the strongest action we can … It’s extraordinarily disappointing. We appeal to fans to stop and behave. This cannot go on” – Carlisle chief executive Nigel Clibbens condemns the fan who told Port Vale keeper Connor Ripley to “go and hang yourself” during the League One game at Brunton Park on New Year’s Day. Re: yesterday’s Football Daily. I’m a simple fella with simple needs and all this Villa fan asks for 2024: Frank Lampard’s Birmingham City” – Antony Train. Re: yesterday’s Quote of the Day. In one – and possibly only one – respect, I am ahead of Jürgen Klopp in business on the touchline. Just like him I’ve lost one or two kilos since getting married, meaning that my wedding ring is also at risk of being lost during a match. However, unlike him, I spotted this as a risk in advance so am careful to leave the ring at home whenever I’m coaching. That said, if we could get professional TV camera staff down to be on standby to recover the ring if lost, I’d be happy to start wearing it on match days in the Nottinghamshire U-18s Saturday League (Division 4)” – David Ede. Why is Klopp’s cameraman carrying a donkey’s head under his right arm as pictured in that Quote of the Day?” – Mick Beeby. Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … David Ede.RECOMMENDED LISTENINGThere’s another Football Weekly podcast fresh out of the box for you. This is an extract from our daily football email … Football Daily. To get the full version, just visit this page and follow the instructions.

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