Manchester United must have produced one hell of a performance when Erik Ten Hag interviewed them for his own job last month.
No-one outside the inner circle knows what United said, but it looks like the crumbling giants have got the gig, in terms of them being allowed to be the next club the Dutchman manages.
Despite the fact Carlo Ancelotti (20 trophies with six of the biggest clubs on the planet) could be available at the end of this season, United have sold themselves to someone whose managed the Go Ahead Eagles (no, me neither), Bayern Munich reserves and Utrecht.
Ten Hag has gone on to win two league titles with Ajax, which is the equivalent of winning a raffle when one ticket has been sold. It's difficult to know who is taking the bigger risk here, United or Ten Hag, as we get set to see the blind lead the blind into the next error, sorry era, of confusion, chaos and carnage at a place some people still think is the biggest club on the planet. But what should be clear to see is that Ten Hag will be taking charge of a team now engulfed in the sort of culture which laughs in the face of the one United once had.
Losing should mean something, but the sight of United's stars walking off the pitch at Goodison Park last weekend following defeat to Everton gave the impression it meant nothing to some of them. This might be because a host of them won't be at United next season, so they couldn't care less if they win, lose or draw, let alone secure a place in the top four. But take a moment to compare the reaction of some of Ralf Rangnick's flops to a crushing loss at Everton, to the one Antonio Rudiger provided in the Bernabeu on Tuesday night?
Rudiger looked bereft as he slumped to the turf at the final whistle of Chelsea's epic clash with Real Madrid, which saw the Champions League holders go out 5-4 on aggregate, despite winning the quarter final, second leg 3-2. The German defender looked heartbroken and was so distraught he angrily rejected David Alaba's attempt to haul him to his feet. He did this himself, before pushing Alaba away and releasing a scream of frustration at the fact all his warrior-like efforts and commitment had come to nothing.
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Back at Goodison Park there was nothing of the sort from the likes of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof, just some limp handshakes with opponents, that glazed look we've become so accustomed to and heads bowed in shame and embarrassment. Or in Cristiano Ronaldo's case, a petulant act towards a supporter which resulted in him offering the victim some free tickets to a game at Old Trafford. Like one sage said on social media this week, hasn't the lad suffered enough already?
Let's not forget Rudiger could also be leaving his club this summer, because he hasn't agreed a new deal with Thomas Tuchel's men, but this doesn't stop him from both feeling and showing the pain of ultimate failure. That's because he cares and remains emotionally invested in Chelsea. Rudiger, who is 29 and approaching the peak of his powers, is also the sort of character Ten Hag will need if he is to make United a team supporters can be proud of again. Persuading him to join the shambles that is now United is another matter altogether, however.
Simeone got a taste of his own medicine
With the exception of Vladimir Putin and Boris Johnson, it seems Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone has become one of the baddest men on the planet. And for what reason – because he did what he felt he had to do to win a football match? Those left hiding behind the sofa then emerging at the final whistle to hammer Simeone and his side for ruining the 'beautiful game' and having the temerity to show the great Pep Guardiola no respect need to grow a pair.
Football used to be like this every week in the 1970s and 80s and it was compelling to watch, just like Atletico's clash with Manchester City in Madrid here in 2022 was. Football – and a lot of people involved in it – might have some of the biggest egos on the planet. But it's like every other sport when it comes to teams or individuals doing what it takes to try and win. Someone knew a game of end-to-end football would see his side destroyed by far superior opponents, so he turned to gamesmanship and the dark arts.
What he didn't anticipate was coming up against rivals who gave as good as they got, because Simeone was served a large dose of his own medicine. Don't be fooled into thinking Guardiola and his own stars are not capable of playing on the edge as well. And it's a good job they can, too, because if they weren't capable of some skullduggery of their own they wouldn't still be in the Champions League.
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