It’s the international break! Hooray!
While Manchester United don’t take to the field until two Saturday’s time, this isn’t a moment for complacency. Many of United’s players have joined up with their countries, while others, along with their manager, have stayed home. Which might be even more dangerous. Here is what tBB is hoping for from this international break.
That Henrikh Mkhitaryan finds some form
We’re off to a mixed start here. Armenia played Belarus on Thursday night and Mkhitaryan, captaining the side, had a penalty saved. Then he had the rebound saved. Luckily for everybody concerned, a teammate was able to put away the rebound of the rebound, and so save Mkhitaryan’s blushes. That’s technically an assist, right?
Anyway, things picked up later on. Mkhitaryan scored Armenia’s second with a lovely nutmegged finish after some delicate interplay. He then had a corner headed home, and Armenia went on to win 4-1. So he should, on balance, be in a good mood. Long may it continue.
That nobody gets injured
United have thirteen players off on their travels, and we’re not exaggerating when we say that we’re worried sick about every single one of them. All those tackles flying around. All those sharp studs. And aeroplanes are terrible places for picking up some awful bug or other. It’s the recycled air. Horribly unhygienic.
Anyway, take care out there, kids. For we don’t think we’re exaggerating when we say that if any one of Victor Lindelof, Matteo Darmian, Ashley Young, Marcus Rashford, Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic, Anthony Martial, Daley Blind, David de Gea, or Sergio Romero gets a knock, that’s the title race over.
Oh! That reminds us ...
That Paul Pogba is very, very careful
On with the bubble-wrap trousers, Paul. We’re taking no risks here.
That Anthony Martial enjoys himself
A return to the France squad might seem like a perfectly good thing, but France are weird. Didier Deschamps has perhaps the most exciting group of players in the world under his charge, yet his teams are often weird and worrying things, much less than the sum of their parts. So let’s hope that (a) Martial plays, and (b) France play well. It’s not like he needs to spend any more time staring glumly at a team that aren’t having any fun.
That Jose Mourinho doesn’t do whatever the hell he did last time
It will be a sensation familiar to anybody who’s worked in an office over Christmas time. Suddenly, half the workforce has vanished and the place feels weird and empty. Your voice and your footsteps echo, the lights keep turning themselves off, and in the absence of the usual rituals — “cup of tea, anybody?” — a strange quietness takes hold of the place. It becomes hard to focus on the task in hand. The temptation to do something silly is almost overwhelming. Ultimately, very little constructive work gets done.
In such circumstances, it shouldn’t be any surprise that during the last international break, Jose Mourinho apparently went a little bit odd. Two long weeks without much company, just the kids and the stuff, to stew over the prospect of Liverpool. Two whole weeks, in which he managed to convince himself that his free-scoring side really needed a good dose of chloroform. Two whole weeks, in which he managed to completely muck up the next month and a half.
So, this is a plea. To Rui Faria, to Ander Herrera, to anybody else left out of their country’s thoughts: keep Mourinho busy. Poker nights, sightseeing trips, some early Christmas shopping ... the details don’t matter. Just keep him active, keep him moving. Otherwise he’ll end up standing on a training pitch in the rain, gazing into nothingness, thinking: “what if ... what if I didn’t play Martial or Rashford. Yes ...”
That everybody gets a bit of peace and quiet
It’s a tiring business, following United. Everything is always as important as it possibly can be. A dodgy performance is a nascent crisis; a moment’s unhappiness is a existential howl; a mere daydream about Paris Saint-Germain is ... well, it’s not really what you should be daydreaming about, Jose, is it? At least not out loud.
So here’s the chance for some football to happen that, from a United point of view, doesn’t really matter all that much. A chance for United news to take the back seat for a moment. A chance for us all to calm down, catch our breath, and take a moment to think about something else. Unless your nation has got a playoff. Then you’re doomed. Sorry about that.