Saturday, August 6, 2022

From the excitement over Ten Hag’s tweaks to Nunez’s mistakes, the pre-season hysteria has spiraled out of control

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Friendlies, once thought of as meaningless, have suddenly acquired tremendous importance now that football is a 24-7-365 phenomenon

Manchester United held an open training session on Thursday morning. With invited journalists, passages of the game were posted on social media with varying degrees of frenzy from high to unspeakably high. We saw a drill going by. A player controls a ball. We learned a few things (that will soon be forgotten).

Last Tuesday, Manchester United defeated Liverpool 4-0 in a friendly at Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium. Things this was taken as evidence of: Darwin Nunez is a bad finish, Anthony Martial is back, Erik ten Hag has already made a big difference, Zidane Iqbal can get regular minutes for United this season. Things that wasn’t proof of: a meaningless friendly to build fitness.

All of this has a certain value. Clubs used to tour overseas to spread the gospel of the game; Now they travel to flex their financial muscles. 5,000 people were in Perth to watch Ten Hag’s team train and it’s really great. In Baltimore, Charlotte, Bangkok and Melbourne, Premier League team fans will often see their heroes up close for the first, and perhaps only, time in their lives. That is to be appreciated, never dismissed.

Some of this can be insightful even beyond driving loyalty and merchandising revenue. Perhaps Everton really are in a mess after losing 4-0 to Minnesota United, despite finishing 16th and trading Richarlison for James Tarkowski, which hardly took a sweaty experiment in the US to discover. What if this really is Anthony Martial’s redemption season? If it doesn’t matter, we’ll wait until he adds to his one league goal first in the last 18 months.

There’s a mania that surrounds preseason now because football is a 24-7-365 phenomenon. If you were to invent something now that you knew was going to be as culturally and socially dominant – more so than any other organized activity on the planet – you simply wouldn’t be creating a vacuum for a quarter of the year. The reason the top-grossing soap operas don’t have breaks is because they can count on a loyal core audience tuning in every week. You would get rid of earnings for nothing.

This is why the transfer culture has become so lucrative. It’s not about the signing craze, not really; You only have to see how quickly social media users took to berating journalists within 24 hours of the last signing to see that. What they’re addicted to is the soap opera itself. If anything, it peaks in the absence of live games. You need the next hit.

This becomes cyclical, as is often the case. The Premier League – and its ‘Big Six’ in particular – drives such a large volume of web traffic that the online media industry is forced to extend the season beyond its sporting confines. The interest creates the business case for covering the pre-season in more detail than ever before; The increase in detailed reporting is generating greater interest.

They’re guaranteed to be more interested in Manchester United beating Liverpool in a friendly than Brentford beating Wolves in the Premier League. This is the super club draw.

Reporting on modern football isn’t made for the summer break. It’s so all-encompassing, holds people so tight, swings their mood in such extreme ways that removing it takes the addict away from the high.

You can’t exaggerate everything to the point of anger and then tell the congregation to watch Wimbledon and try cricket and meet us here in three months and expect them to line up in an orderly manner.

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