Armchair Reporter: Ince and Hoddle are Europa dopes
BACK when European football was all about Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I saved anything that needed doing, from a domestic point of view, for Thursday nights.
The routine went something like this: finish work at 10 or so, go home, make a cup of tea, get the ironing done, and catch up on recorded episodes of Corrie.
However, with my beloved Manchester United now being far below Champions League standard and not bright enough to miss out on Europe altogether, Thursdays are now the focal point of the week.
And, after walking home from the coalface the other night, I found myself on the sofa just in time for ITV’s Europa League highlights. Having watched the equivalent Champions League show the previous evening, it was very evident that ITV were treating the poor relation as just that.
Out went chief analyst Lee Dixon and head angry man Roy Keane and in came Glenn Hoddle and Paul Ince.
Hoddle has long been held up as some sort of football visionary, and he keeps getting TV work, yet I’ve never heard him say anything interesting, or indeed coherent.
However, the former England boss was made to look like Alfred Einstein alongside his one-time midfield ‘Guvnor’ Ince, who is as thick as two short, sideways passes.
Mark Pougatch was still on hosting duties having slept on the sofa from the night before and first up was United’s away clash with Feyenoord at De Kuip.
For long periods of the match it looked like United’s players had gone for a Kuip as Feyenoord took control.
This was a team that had 63-year-old Dirk Kuyt pulling the strings, former Liverpool disaster zone Brad Jones in nets, Aston Villa flop Karim El Ahmadi dictating matters in midfield, and Steven Berghuis, on loan from Watford’s reserves, creating plenty of chances.
Feyenoord coach Gio van Bronckhorst obviously sees something in the Vicarage Road reject that nobody else has, giving him a free role to do as he pleases and start attacks – building with a little Berghuis in the hole.
Inevitably, the Dutch sealed the victory with a late winner and it was back to the studio where Ince and Hoddle took it in turns to Nell Mangel (RIP) the English language.
Ince was first, and he had a particular beef with one of United’s midfielders in the build-up to Feyenoord’s goal.
“Hierra has to be the safety net,” he opined.
“That’s right, Herrera doesn’t get the balance right,” chipped in Hoddle, all chuffed that someone finds prounciation even more difficult than himself.
But Incey was sticking to his guns.
“Poor touch from Zlats (he wasn’t even attempting Ibrahimovic), then you’ve got Hierra, as a holding midfield player, leaving all that space vacant.”
Pougatch quickly moved the conversation on to the continued struggles of Paul Pogba, and Ince was keen to comment again.
“Pogba’s not a kid no more, but he’s still finding out what way Youzay (presumably Jose Mourinho) wants him to play.”
The entire United team seems to be struggling with that one, and Hoddle had noticed their tendency to start matches slowly.
“Play the second half in the first half,” was his novel solution, once more showing the astute tactical brain that guided England to the last 16 of the World Cup in 1998.
Pougatch, who seems a reasonably intelligent man, was completely bamboozled and the only course of action was to wrap things up.
“At least Mourinho will have the big guns back for Watford on Sunday (that went well),” he offered.
“That’s right,” said Ince. “But this United team should be going to Fahrenheit and winning.”
Indeed they should Paul, but they aren’t winning at all at the minute, which means I might soon get back into my Thursday night routine. After all, the ironing’s not going to do itself.