Monday 7 July ~
Having already featured in the summer's most tedious transfer saga, Manchester United seem to be on the verge of losing another influential Portuguese figure at the club. Carlos Queiroz has been reported as answering questions about becoming the new manager of the Portugal national team with: "From my part, there is not much to say, it needs to be resolved between the federation and United.” So the bets are being taken already on Man Utd's number two.
For obvious reasons ex-players now employed as coaches at the club head the list of possible appointments. Mike Phelan, the current first team-coach, is the favourite to take over from Queiroz while also in the list is youth academy director Brian McClair. Much has been written Alex Ferguson's Govan roots and proclaimed socialism and on that score McClair would certainly seem suited to work as the Man Utd manager's assistant. In a Match questionnaire which asked "What scares you the most?", McClair answered: "A Thatcher government."
But what ever happens at Man Utd, the situation seems crystal clear when compared to the latest developments at Newcastle. While the club described rumours of Mike Ashley trying to sell the club for £420 million to private equity group InterMedia Partners as “absolute nonsense", the American company then immediately confirmed the link. Newcastle's supporters are once again getting twitchy and Ashley is big news, with the Times even managing to get him involved with a current media favourite, Wimbledon's female junior champion. However, the scarcity of news in the close season seems to be hitting the Times harder than many. Today Matthew Syed resorting to filling space with a particularly hagiographic profile of Richard Scudamore, apparently the man who has masterminded “one of the most enlightened, free-market success stories of modern times”.
While Ashley may be soon packing up his replica shirt, Newcastle's track record when it comes to owners suggests that the boardroom successor is likely to be equally entertaining for the casual observer. The latest rumour circulating around the club is a case in point: a construction company run by the Bin Laden family is said to be considering a £300m-plus deal to buy Newcastle and then carry out a lucrative redevelopment of St James' Park and the land around the ground. The “Wor on Terror” puns and photoshopped images of Osama Bin Laden in a Newcastle shirt have already started to appear. It might be politically dubious, but a Gallowgate End dressed in black-and-white striped keffiyehs and fake beards will at least be easier on the eye than beer bellies and NUFC tattoos.