The Warm-Up: Manchester United trying to sign a striker, any striker
Jose Mourinho is getting desperate, Stoke are getting Quique Sanchez Flores, and Lionel Messi is getting even more ridiculous.
FRIDAY’S BIG HEADLINES
Jose’s great striker hunt
Panic stations at Manchester United? With one win in four in the Premier League and City’s lead widening to 15 points, it appears Jose Mourinho is ready to take a bit of a punt in the January transfer window. Reports on Friday claim he is feverishly grasping around the rest of the league for a striker, any striker, to alleviate the burden on Romelu Lukaku, who has only scored twice in the Premier League since the middle of November.
Zlatan ‘I am a lion, not a human’ Ibrahimovic has been playing like an greying, former alpha male who has just been sedated by a zookeeper after scaring the children by wandering round his enclosure with a wild look in his eyes. And with Mourinho seemingly unconvinced by either Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford in a central role, a recruitment drive is now in full effect.
The trouble is, Jose doesn’t appear to have a very clear job description.
The big waves yesterday were caused by the suggestion that United are ready to steal Alexis Sanchez from under the noses of City, a potential fee of £25m bringing them a very flexible forward who can play as a false nine or coming off the left.
The Telegraph takes things further this morning, reporting that United are also trying to pay £35m for Jamie Vardy, a much more conventional striker, who plays off the last shoulder and kills teams with his devastating pace on the counter. And for good measure, the paper also says Mourinho is considering a move for West Ham’s Javier Hernandez, formerly of United of course, who is essentially just a penalty box poacher.
Mourinho is infamous for his lack of attacking coaching and if this is his shortlist of January targets, it shows a similar lack of clarity in his thinking over recruitment. It’s like deciding your legs are cold and deciding between a pair of jeans, tracksuit bottoms and the bottom half of a yeti costume.
Head coach Quique Sanchez Flores of RCD EspanyolGetty Images
Stoke’s search for a manager to rescue them from the moribund state Mark Hughes left them in could be reaching an end. After a brief flirtation with the Ireland managerial team of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane - why, with all the riches available to them, would a Premier League team go for the duo who just had their bums handed to them by Denmark? - it appears former Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores is the number one target.
" Although Martin O’Neill remains under consideration for the post and has held talks with Stoke officials, Flores is seen as a longer-term solution to a managerial search that became more problematic from the moment Gary Rowett pledged his future to Derby County. It is understood that John Coates, Stoke’s vice-chairman, and Tony Scholes, the chief executive, travelled to Barcelona on Wednesday to meet Flores and outline their vision for the club."
Speaking after beating Levante in the Copa del Rey, Flores gave out decidedly mixed messages, as a copy of ‘Rory Delap’s Biggest Throw Ins!’ was seen to be protruding from his jacket pocket.
" I am very grateful to Espanyol. At some point I felt that we did not advance at the promised speed, but that is not because Espanyol have not wanted to, but because they have not been able to. They have given me the tools they have been able to, we are in happy times, to enjoy, to laugh in the dressing room – I think we are in the right dynamic."
But when did happiness and enjoyment ever decide anything in football?
Barca, and Messi, put on a show
Messi y Jordi Alba celebran el gol ante el CeltaGetty Images
It shouldn’t be news to anyone that Barcelona and Lionel Messi are capable of mind-bending acts of football greatness. But there were some who doubted whether new coach Ernesto Valverde would be the right man to help them scale the aesthetic heights to which they are accustomed.
Unbeaten in La Liga and with a nine-point lead, there are no questions about their competitiveness this season. But a 5-0 hammering of Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey last night showed once again they are as capable as ever of playing transcendent stuff.
Messi scored twice in two minutes to put Barca 2-0 up, but his finest moment came another 13 minutes later, as he furnished Jordi Alba with what must be the most nonchalant wonder assist The Warm-Up has ever seen.
IN OTHER NEWS
A nice prank from the NBA – but just think how many hours you’d have to spend with the dustbuster searching out every last shard of popcorn.
HEROES AND ZEROS
Hero: King Kazu
Has anyone ever loved football as much as Kazuyoshi Miura? The Japanese striker has just signed a new contract with Yokohama FC which will take him past his 51st birthday. His 51st! It will mean he outdoes Sir Stanley Matthews, who also reached the 50 mark.
If anything, his story is a great argument for retiring from international football - he’s managed to eke out nearly another two decades after calling it quits.
Zero: Jesse Lingard
Okay, he’s scoring loads of goals and looks like being a big player for Manchester United and England in 2018 – but Marcus Rashford speaks for all of us here…
IN THE CHANNELS
The Warm-Up can’t pretend to have ever been an expert on the Dakar Rally, but it has paid slightly more attention this year thanks to the inclusion, at least until Wednesday, of former Chelsea and Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas. Eurosport have the rights to the frankly terrifying event and we bagged an interview with AVB as his race ended with a trip to hospital for back pains. Still, probably more fun than trying to manage Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard's decline smoothly.
There’s a couple of great games tonight, if you aren’t in the mood for going out and talking to other people. BT are showing Bayer Leverkusen v Bayern Munich from 7:30pm while Sky have the Championship showdown between Sheffields United and Wednesday from 7:45pm.
Providing his training for the 2019 Dakar Rally doesn’t intervene, Adam Hurrey will be on Warm-Up duty on Monday.