What’s your number Scott McTominay?

It won’t be 39 next year.  Not after that Parc des Princes performance.

His PSG assignment? Take care of the boring stuff. The coffee orders. The midfield dish washing.

Partner with Fred in the center of midfield. Be his right sided wingman.

Jog east. Jog west. No ball watching.

Close PSG passing lanes to Mpappe and De Maria. Track Kehrer on corners.

Be a dart to cork on Veratti. Help Ashley Young double him up if he dawdles.

In possession, check to the ball between Di María in Mbappé. Turn and deliver the simple pass. You’re not Pirlo and you don’t have to be.

In transition, first time passes to Young or Dalot are required. Preferably, played into space, for them to run on to.

That’s the assignment. Humble midfield apprentice work.

But humble tasks completed with enthusiasm and excellence lift a team, and, individual reputations.

So what will your squad number be next year McTominay? The Spanish #4? The Argentine #5?

Because 39 no longer befits your stature.

For-Éver Banega

There is a point to this. Banega is also exactly what United do not have, an element beyond the strangulating Mourinho blueprint, trusted to purr about the pitch seeking the right place to deploy his velvet-pawed touch. Banega might not sprint or leap well at set pieces. But here he ran the game by stealth, an ambling brain in bright orange boots, funnelling possession into difficult areas and digging his fingernails into the back of United’s midfield.

on For-Éver Banega’s classic Old Trafford performance.

Eric made me do it

Episode #4

Journal,

Have you heard of marginalia? Sounds pretentious, but my made up definition is simple:

Writing notes in the margins of whichever book your reading.

It’s a note taking system practiced by some of history’s greatest minds. And a practice I resisted.

Ink up a book?

Soil the pages?

Question the author?

I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.

But then, back in 05’, I bought a book I couldn’t put down. A book that opened the tent flaps on European football. The book was:

 

Beckham_Bio
Beckham: Both Feet on the Ground: An Autobiography

 

In Beckham: Both Feet on the Ground, Becks shares a story of watching Eric Cantona train:

Eric_Cantona_1

 

Evernote wasn’t around. Pocket didn’t exist. But I needed to remember. Needed to be reminded that even Eric Cantona, Old Trafford myth, made time to sharpen his Katana.

I’m doing it.

I stole a highlighter from my mother’s desk drawer and lit up the page.

Ok. It wasn’t marginalia full blast, but it was a start. To this day, when I see Beckham spine out on my shelf, those highlighted pages come back to me.

I’ll always remember, Eric made me do it.

 

Cheers,

Jack

 

 

 

Bald Hero

Episode #3

Journal,

First French football hero? You guessed it. Fabien Barthez.

Goalkeeper was the first position I was attracted to. It’s natural when you grow up playing basketball and you can’t do five keepie-uppies.

Goalkeepers seemed so heroic, living knights of the round table. Diving hands first into danger to save the entire team. They even wore superhero costumes, kits unlike anyone else on the field. Draped in jerseys colored in Broccoli green, Sunflower yellow, even 80s pop star pink was an option.

Keepers though, were demi-gods. Peter Schmeichel, Ollie Kahn (did anyone call him Ollie to his face?), with their sculpted shoulders and grizzly bear paws were BC Olympians. Out of reach of us eighty-six-pound mortals.

Then there was Fabian Barthez.

He scraped in at six feet. And closer resembled a grocer, filling the bins with vine fresh tomatoes early Saturday morning, rather than a top-level goalkeeper.

But Barthez, with his Copa Mundials and number 16 shirt won the Champions League with Marseille. Lifted the World and European cup with France. He even won the league with Manchester United.

Zidane treasures him. When asked which player from the 98′ team he’d add to the current French side, he replied “Barthez”.

I don’t remember any spectacular saves Barthez made. I can’t recall a press conference where he charmed anyone. I’ve never saw him lift a trophy.

None of these things made Barthez my hero. He was my hero because I could see a little of myself in him.

I’m out,

Jack