“I’ve been coaxing Paul Pogba out of his house very slowly. He’s still traumatised.”
Arsene Wenger’s first words upon being appointed Man United’s interim manager following the sacking of Jose Mourinho spoke of the unrest at Old Trafford.
“He’s not cut his hair for weeks, just in case it sparked Jose off on another mad rant,” Wenger continued.
“Anthony Martial has been hiding out in his bathroom. Luke Shaw had barricaded himself in his garage. They hadn’t even heard the news until we tracked them down. It’s all just a bit of a mess.”
On 21 December 2018, Wenger walked into an Old Trafford still haunted by the ghost of The Sacked One.
Wenger, who spent 22 years managing Arsenal, had agreed to take the role until the end of the season.
The ‘specialist in failure’ was tasked with cleaning up Mourinho’s mess, both literally and figuratively.
Wenger’s first act was to settle up Mourinho’s bill at The Lowry Hotel following a thorough trashing.
With walls cleaned and toilets fixed, Wenger could focus on football.
His first step was to play everyone in their actual positions. Centre-backs as centre-backs, strikers as strikers and Marouane Fellaini with the Under-23s.
This initially proved tricky, as Marcus Rashford spontaneously broke out into a nosebleed every time he crossed the half-way line, but gradually the United players settled down.
Even Romelu Lukaku’s first touch improved. It turned out a 25-year-old striker with 107 Premier League could play a bit, given some gentle encouragement.
The only player Wenger struggled with was Nemanja Matic, as it transpired the Frenchman had never encountered a defensive midfielder before.
It didn’t help that Matic refused to acknowledge Jose’s sacking, to the point that he still addressed Wenger as Mourinho. The Serbian was swiftly ruled out for the season with Stockholm syndrome.
Results under Wenger picked up, although United were already too far gone to reach the top four.
Highlights included a 1-0 Champions League round of 16 first-leg win over PSG, in which Phil Jones and Chris Smalling pocketed Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani.
Lowlights included a 3-0 Champions League round of 16 second-leg loss over PSG, in which Jones injured Smalling in the warm up before scoring two own goals.
United finished the season in fifth place, with Wenger stepping aside as promised.
Real Madrid beat United to the signing of Mauricio Pochettino, which takes us up to the present day.
Zinedine Zidane is on his fifth phone number as he continues to dodge Ed Woodward, leaving Big Sam Allardyce as the 5-1 favourite.
Football’s a funny old game.
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