In one of those ludicrous articles where players’ putative contractual valuations are bandied about, Harry Kane was priced at €330m on Saturday. What’s he worth now, I wonder, after striking out last night? More to the point, what’s De Gea to be booked in at — half a billion?
The Spaniard, who’s also better with his feet than some of his clumpier defenders, was obviously man of the match last night, and he had some us reminiscing about the old Schmeichel days.
Do you remember some of those cracking away games against the best sides of the 90s? United would often end up under the cosh for lengthy spells but we would handle being besieged in a very Fergie United manner — confidently, bravely, and always with an eye for nicking a brilliant winner on the break.
More often than not, King Eric would then do the honours; last night it was Rashford, hitherto often more of a knave than a prince, applying a regal finish to a sublime set-up. But it stems from confidence built on the firmest foundations. Schmikes could be relied upon to stand tall in those kinds of games, and so can De Gea; it is why keeping him should be item one on any new boss’s agenda.
And is Pochettino still the most credible candidate for that role after last night? That implies an absurd leap to judgment, but the scoreline demands the question be asked, according to many fans. Their argument is as simple as it gets; if Ole keeps answering and overcoming the challenges put to him, at what point does Woodward simply have to surrender to the forces of natural justice?
The bond between Ole and the fans — especially those who travel — was already firm. You could see at full-time last night, when the boss went over to salute the Army, that it might be threatening to turn into something that’s all but unbreakable. “Give it Ole,” was the phrase I kept hearing last night. As the old song says, “please don’t take my Solskjaer away”.
And then should United overcome PSG next month... well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But there’s no denying that this sixshooting display out of the traps, beating Busby’s record, has got us wondering whether top four may now be an achievable aim, a mere month after everyone had written it off.
Much of what happens next surely depends on the key player and leader who had, to be frank, appeared to down tools under Mourinho. Pogba was very good in London, and won’t need any motivating for the looming Paris tie. Nevertheless, he remains the kind of player, and kind of personality, who needs constant pushing against the smaller fry and in the less glam matches, of which there are many to come, starting this weekend against Brighton.
He, like the rest of his fellow escaped prisoners from Camp José, had clearly made the extra effort this past month to show the world what they thought of Mourinho. But it still sticks in many a throat, this obvious proof that so many had simply not been giving of their best because they had decided they didn’t want to play for the manager.
In an ideal world, they would now be forced to hand back their wages to us for the past four months, because fans were being cheated. Danny Baker used to suggest that players be called up one by one to be paid in the centre circle — at full time, in front of the crowd. That would wheedle out the bottlers, idlers and spoofers, he reckoned, who wouldn’t have the gall to step up; it would certainly have saved Woodward millions this season.
Enough millions for him to buy out Pochettino’s contact, perhaps? Not if canny Danny Levy has his way. He blatantly set the price-tag range over the weekend by letting it be known that we couldn’t have Poch “even for 50m”. So; about 55m should do it, then.
At which point a little Red Devil on Ed’s shoulder should be muttering into his ear: “£55m compo and a huge
salary for a bloke who can’t even win trophies, mate? When you can have ‘babyfaced assassin’ Ole, who could never stop winning ‘em, for next to nowt?”
Might this be the bottom-line thinking that’d finally swing it for the beancounting Woodward? After so many expensive failures, perhaps he’s due a cheap success...”