Manchester United will ‘grimace’ as they leapfrog Brighton while the Sterling narrative begins

The biggest story in football is that Manchester United are low in ‘football’s global power rankings’ while Chelsea plummet and it’s likely Raheem Sterling’s fault…

 

Global Soccer Power Rankings List Update
There’s bad news for the Premier League’s biggest clubs and it’s THE biggest news in football, according to the bods at the Mirror website. Bigger than England’s women’s team reaching the European Championship semi-finals obviously. That’s a no-brainer. Brace yourselves. Here we go:

‘Liverpool and Chelsea slip down top clubs in the world list with Man Utd outside top 20’

You’re already wondering what this ‘top clubs in the world list’ might be, aren’t you? We have heard of FIFA rankings for countries, but for clubs? This is new. Let’s read on…

‘Liverpool and Chelsea have both dropped in football’s global power rankings – while Manchester United embarrassingly languish outside of the top 20.’

That is embarrassing. We imagine that the Manchester United players will barely be able to lift their heads this morning.

‘The Premier League trio lay below leaders Manchester City, who boast top spot after another sensational season which saw them win their fourth English title in five years. Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich sit in second place, having claimed the German crown for a 10th successive campaign.’

That seems fair. Though we are already wondering about ‘global power rankings’ that seemingly don’t much rate Real Madrid, who won La Liga and the Champions League last season. That and their vast wealth makes them globally powerful, surely?

‘The rankings in question are created by football statistics website FiveThirtyEight, where after every match, 640 teams around the world are compared by the Soccer Power Index. Each club received a rating between 1 and 100 which is based on two factors: a team’s rating at the end of the previous season and their market value as calculated by Transfermarkt.’

Oh. Who declared the Soccer Power Index to be ‘football’s global power rankings’? Well, the short answer is the Mirror website, who are always desperate to crowbar Liverpool and Manchester United into the same headline, which can prove tricky in a summer when Liverpool are refusing to get involved in transfer shenanigans.

‘The standings aren’t good news for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who’ve slipped to third on 90.5, while Thomas Tuchel and co have seen Chelsea plummet to sixth place thanks to their score of 85.7. The Blues are behind Paris Saint-Germain, now led by Christoph Galtier after Maurcio Pochettino’s sacking, and Champions League winners Real Madrid. They’ve bumped up to fourth and fifth respectively.’

Now we’ve seen the rankings, and Chelsea have ‘plummeted’ from fourth to sixth. Is that really a ‘fall or drop straight down at high speed’?

‘City’s score of 92.3 makes them top dogs, having made marquee signings in the form of Erling Haaland and Kalvin Phillips this summer to add to Pep Guardiola’s star-studded squad. Bayern, who recently waved goodbye to star striker Robert Lewandowski but have offset his departure with the arrivals of Sadio Mane and Matthijs de Ligt, boast a score of 91.8.

‘Making up the top 10 are Ajax, Barcelona, Inter Milan and another English side in Tottenham Hotspur, who’re hoping to make the Antonio Conte era in north London a special one. It demonstrates the Premier League’s prowess on the global stage, with no other division boasting as many teams in the top 10. However, Arsenal and United will grimace at the rankings, particularly the latter.’

They really will ‘grimace’. They will ‘grimace’ their little faces off at the ‘news’ that an American algorithm has decided that they are currently lower in the Soccer Power Index than Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg. It really is a devastating blow.

Though there is hope. Because Manchester United have actually moved up ten places in the last week alone, easing past Real Sociedad, Benfica, Aston Villa, Brighton, Feyenoord, Atalanta, Crystal Palace and others.

And we should absolutely not question the accuracy of these global power rankings after a week in which Leicester City rose 11 places after making no signings and beating Hull City 4-0 in a pre-season friendly.

 

The cost of Sterling
And so it begins.

Raheem Sterling made his first appearance for Chelsea in a pre-season friendly and already the pressure is on and the coverage is negative.

Pesky fact: It wasn’t Sterling’s first start; he came on at half-time.

What is also pertinent is that Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel did no such ‘fuming’ about Raheem Sterling on (not) his first start. In fact, he was very complimentary about his new signing, saying: “I saw four accelerations in the second half and they all came from Raheem. This is what he delivers and there is no need for major doubts or huge criticism, but it is never important what the manager has in his head before pre-season, it’s the reality that counts.”

The Times actually include that in their piece and that really does seem important.

But shush because…

‘Sterling was part of a front three which had looked likely to be Tuchel’s preferred attack come the opening Premier League game of the season, away to Everton on August 6, but could now be wiped from the chalkboard.’

Yes, it will definitely be ‘wiped from the chalkboard’ after 45 minutes of a pre-season game. That is in no way absurd.

Over at the Evening Standard, we are told in the headline that ‘Disjointed Chelsea display highlights size of task for Raheem Sterling and Thomas Tuchel’.

Nizaar Kinsella literally writes that ‘Sterling had a shot saved after good combination play with Havertz but it was more his ability to press and release pressure that was useful to Chelsea’ and yet the headline suggests that Sterling has a massive task on his hands.

We could quote several websites giving Sterling their highest match rating from a difficult game, but not a lot of clicks are available for those considered opinions.

Also, is anybody surprised that a Chelsea team changed in its entirety at half-time might look a little ‘disjointed’? Oddly, we don’t expect Sterling, Mason Mount and Kai Havertz to start in the Premier League ahead of a midfield of Conor Gallagher and Ethan Ampadu.

We have a sneaky feeling that’s the combination that might be ‘wiped from the chalkboard’.

 

You know I’m undroppable…you don’t have to tell me
Undroppable players are like buses; you wait weeks for an undroppable player and then two come along at once for Erik Ten Hag.

In the absence of any more new signings and their dream shirt numbers that they may or may not be able to claim, the Manchester Evening News have embraced their other favourite trope: The undroppable. There is some way to travel before we reach the peak undroppable levels of September 2020, but two in two days is excellent work.

First came this on July 19: ‘Erik ten Hag might have already discovered his first Manchester United undroppable’.

And then this followed just 24 hours later: ‘Erik ten Hag has found a surprise new Manchester United undroppable after Crystal Palace win’.

At this rate, he will have a full XI by the end of next week. Though not all will be as ‘surprising’ as the right-back who started nine of Manchester United’s last 10 Premier League games of last season.

 

Spot the difference
Over on the never-knowingly-undersold Mirror website

‘Cristiano Ronaldo’s son spotted in shirt that may drop hint over dad’s transfer plans’

Or alternatively, Cristiano Ronaldo’s son spotted in shirt of biggest club in world football, based in the city where he was born and for whom his father won several domestic and European titles.

 

The Masterplan
There is a general media desperation for Manchester United to be title challengers again. It’s understandable; they are the biggest English club in the world.

But they are not getting carried away on The Sun website:

‘LET’S be clear from the start, we are only three matches into pre-season.

‘It’s far too early to draw any conclusions about Manchester United’s chances to perform towards the top of the Premier League in the upcoming campaign.’

Sensible indeed. So what’s the headline?

‘Three signs Erik ten Hag’s masterplan is already working at Man Utd and why he’s clearly an upgrade on Ralf Rangnick’

FFS.

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