The opening weekend of the Premier League football season and early thoughts were slightly opposite. How many more months until this juggernaut reaches some sort of peak?
This, however, forgot in an unpardonable way that the Premier League is an assortment of deceptions, intrigues, scandals, slanders, gossip, disgrace, rivalries, backstabbings, flare-ups, walkouts, meltdowns, failed libel suits, upheavals, supervillains and superheroes. It’s a game of winners and losers every week and that’s not counting the results.
Starting a week earlier than last season after an 11-week break – not including summer tours – from competition as well as an unusually restful November as players caught up with the Winter World Cup in Qatar, and Sky Sports was already in a Manchester United mode monster.
“Hoping to rock Old Trafford, Erik ten Hag? or, ‘How long will the Eric ten Hag honeymoon last?’ the new United manager intervened. As it appeared, he is already leaning towards honeymoon Eric ten Hag as United fell 2-1 to Brighton on Sunday.
For his new role, the Dutchman received the Sky mini-doc treatment ahead of the game. Theo Vonk, one of the former coaches of Ten Hag in the Netherlands, described his then captain as a manager in the making while the players of FC Twente and the Go Ahead Eagles (he could not choose name) sketched a man who was “vocal and present, a leader” and a coach “who likes to be in control”.
With Liverpool visiting Manchester on August 22, that doesn’t leave them much time to heal from PTSD suffered last season. Manchester United in such a confused state is not very good for its supporters or its detractors.
“Changing the culture, which won’t be a silver bullet, you have to think that Manchester United can be competitive,” Roy Keane said before the start of the game with his splendid Ernest Shackleton beard, Ronaldo sat on the cheeky sideline after trying to get out of the barn during the summer.
“He works very hard to achieve the right levels of fitness,” Ronaldo’s Ten Hag said. “It will take time. He started pre-season last week. I want to see a team performance. That’s all.
Brighton had never beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford in 14 attempts. But no one said two goals to Pascal Gross. One goal on the half hour and another in the 39th minute and “the Ten Hag era is off to the worst possible start,” shouted commentator Jamie Carragher. “They [United] I don’t know where the players are and where they spawn.
At half-time and 2-0, Keane’s beard started to look like a cloud of thunder swirling under his nose with lightning flashing through him, his eyes moving left and right, and those too on fire .
“Man United looked very, very fragile. Same problems. By possession they seemed so open. Gaps everywhere, that’s not true,” Keane panted with a menacing tone. He looked like he wanted to put all his the United team in a headlock. “I would go back to the personalities of the team,” said one of the greatest the club has ever had. “It’s not when you have the ball, it’s is when you don’t have it.”
Ronaldo for Fred early in the second half. Two players, one name each, and Ronaldo wearing a Superman cape. In fairness, his time on the pitch coincided with United’s hottest period of play and their only goal, a messy bouncing ball in the OG box. They picked up where they left off. A few goals better than when Brighton beat them 4-0 in May and the restorative Dutch therapy clearly needs time to work.
Already bettors are thinking about the possible drama that awaits them. A new Dutch coach. A Portuguese superstar who wants to leave. A great club struggling to be average. The very first weekend.
If England never tires of its football, the Commonwealth Games showed that the BBC never tires of its England athletes. The women’s 400m final, which starts at 11 a.m. on Sunday, was a good example. The favorite to win was Oregon World Championship bronze medalist Barbados rider Sada Williams.
After a confident run where they slowly built up to start the turn and comfortably take the gold medal, England provided the second, third and fourth athletes. It was too much and in the post-race interview Williams was contacted by the BBC roving reporter.
Not just Williams, the Williams winner, but Jodie Williams, the third English. Beside her stood a smiling Victoria Ohuruogu, who had won the silver medal. “How does it make you feel like you’re up there with some of the best?” he was asked. Maybe they could have asked gold medalist Sada how it felt to be the best with her Championship record.
The Empire Games at their best and who really wants to hear from an athlete from Barbados. Irritating, that’s how it’s been all week. Commonwealth Games made to measure and to make the host country feel good about themselves and their dominions, with the astute support of the BBC all along the way.