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Inept, weak, no plan: humiliation for Manchester United and Solskjær

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Manchester United

For 90 minutes at Old Trafford the players of Liverpool and Manchester United produced something that resembled, in its colours and shapes, an elite-level football match. In practice it felt like something else: a kind of ritual humiliation, certainly, a real-time study in how to empty, safely, four-fifths of a football stadium.

Mainly it was just a gruesome spectacle, something seasick and rotten, a team in a state of high‑priced sporting decay caught pinned and wriggling under the lights.

This is a little unfair on Liverpool, who were majestic, an entirely coherent team led by the outstanding player in the world right now in Mohamed Salah. Salah’s game in numbers: seven shots, three goals, one assist, 96% passing accuracy, and barely a sweat broken. Salah has 15 goals and three assists in 12 games this season. It has been a near-perfect sequence. Is he the best, most decisive, most delightful player in the world right now? Is this even a serious question?

This was perhaps the oddest part of United’s collapse, a performance of such stunning ineptitude it seemed to be competing with Salah to become the story, like a drunken uncle at a wedding party roaring and grizzling just out of shot.

What are we supposed to make of this? How to analyse such a putrid display? The word from inside United has been consistent: Ole Gunnar Solskjær is under no pressure, is still seen as the man to take this dizzyingly expensive investment forward. And yet here we had a performance so poor it was tempting to ask if there has been a worse half of football by a Manchester United team that anyone can remember.

There were lows under David Moyes, some lost afternoons under José Mourinho and Louis van Gaal. But nothing quite so deathly, so free of structure, love, basic competence. Factor in that United can field four of the top five best‑paid players in the league and it seems fair to ask if there has been a worse performance since this club were relegated in the 1970s. What does it take to accept that this is simply becoming a humiliation for everyone involved, an endless trauma. We are moving into alien territory here.

Meanwhile the problems in this United team are obvious: a basic slackness, a lack of resistance, too many basking stars. And not just a poor plan, or a badly executed plan, but no plan at all, a team unbalanced by an aged celebrity centre-forward, poorly coached and complacent, with a manager in the job because of heritage power and brand-maintenance.

Mainly, it was just strange. In the first half Liverpool kept scoring the same goal. Four times the minimum of moment, energy, thrust just seemed to slice open the centre of this United team.

The sense of these two things happening simultaneously, brilliance and ineptitude, was captured best by the fifth goal just after half time, the moment that completed Salah’s hat-trick. What a lovely goal this was. What a horrible, shapeless, terrible goal this was.

First Fred simply ran past the ball. Paul Pogba was swished aside like a set of net curtains. Jordan Henderson, with time, space and an embossed invitation, played the perfect curled through pass for Salah to gambol on and finish like a man playing against his eight‑year‑old cousins in the park.

Liverpool had opened the scoring after three minutes, a goal that involved walking right through the centre of that soft, malleable, permeable substance known as Manchester United. How is it possible for a team to line up with a hard rump of four defensive players in the centre to also have nothing there, no human flesh? To be so completely unprepared, a team that has come to work having forgotten to put on its trousers? Space opened up. Salah played a perfect pass on to Naby Keïta. He finished nicely.

With 13 minutes gone it was 2-0. This time Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw got themselves into a horrible shemozzle, a half‑wheeled scrum. Again there was no presence in front, no shield. Keïta fed Trent Alexander‑Arnold who, in a stunning break with tradition, apparently undetected by the United tactical plan, was haring down the right wing.

What does it mean, how are you supposed to feel when James Milner is tobogganing gleefully in your six-yard box, not first but second in the queue to tap the ball away from home with 13 minutes gone? This is one of those events that just looks wrong, a raven-free tower, a polar bear on a melting ice floe. But then, you can get used to anything and seven minutes before half‑time it was three.

Salah provided the finish. Keïta again gave the final pass. In added time it was four, with another weirdly facile goal, Shaw pirouetting like a drunken ballerina as Diogo Jota fed Salah, who passed the ball into the bottom corner.

There were other moments, horrors piled upon horrors. Paul Pogba was sent off for a lunge through Keïta, adding a deeper note to an already nightmarish afternoon. Fred was … well, it would be cruel to detail the times he was left sprawling. That desperation at least showed that he was trying, that he cares. Fred is not good enough to fulfil his brief. This is obvious. It really isn’t his fault we have to keep on being presented with this fact.

By the end the away fans were bullying United’s manager, asking for a wave, roaring their approval at his continued steerage of the ship. We want six. Attack attack attack. It should have sounded like exit music. Is anyone actually listening?

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

The head of the United Nations warned Friday that the world faces “catastrophe” because of the growing shortage of food around the globe.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine has added to the disruptions caused by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce an “unprecedented global hunger crisis” already affecting hundreds of millions of people.

“There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022,” he said in a video message to officials from dozens of rich and developing countries gathered in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”

Guterres noted that harvests across Asia, Africa and the Americas will take a hit as farmers around the world struggle to cope with rising fertilizer and energy prices.

“This year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage,” he said. “No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe.”

Guterres said U.N. negotiators were working on a deal that would enable Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and let Russia bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions.

He also called for debt relief for poor countries to help keep their economies afloat and for the private sector to help stabilize global food markets.

The Berlin meeting’s host, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said Moscow’s claim that Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were to blame for food shortages was “completely untenable.”

Russia exported as much wheat in May and June this year as in the same months of 2021, Baerbock said.

She echoed Guterres’ comments that several factors underlie the growing hunger crisis around the world.

“But it was Russia’s war of attack against Ukraine that turned a wave into a tsunami,” Baerbock said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Russia has no excuse for holding back vital goods from world markets.

“The sanctions that we’ve imposed on Russia collectively and with many other countries exempt food, exempt food products, exempt fertilizers, exempt insurers, exempt shippers,” he said.

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

Local and federal highways in the North-west have become vulnerable as bandits continue to ambush and abduct travellers.

The gunmen who abducted 29 people returning to Zamfara State from Sokoto State where they had gone to attend the wedding of colleagues have released them after the payment of an unspecified ransom.

The victims, who were mostly dealers of mobile phones and phone accessories at Bebeji Communication Market (Bebeji Plaza) in Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State were abducted in Sokoto 13 days ago.

Secretary of the GSM Dealers Association in the state, Ashiru Zurmi, confirmed the release of the victims but didn’t give details.

One of the victims reportedly died in captivity.

Though the amount paid as ransom to secure the release of the hostages has not been revealed, Abdullahi Lawal, whose brother was among those abducted, said their relatives were asked to make donations. He said his family raised N33,000 while the phone sellers’ association “provided the remaining money.”

“Every family was told to gather N400,000 while the members of the plaza and their colleagues in the state provided the remaining money. Some family members were able to raise the money in full, but we couldn’t. I took the money to the plaza and I was told that they were still negotiating with the bandits” he said.

He said he didn’t know how much was given to the bandits “but I’m happy that my brother is okay,” he said.

From N5m to N700,000

A phone accessories seller, Sharhabilu Muhammad, told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone that the officials of the phone dealers association negotiated with the bandits to reduce the ransom they originally demanded to release the captives.

“You know that the initial money they said was N5m for each of the captives but our officials kept negotiating with them (bandits) until they reduced the money to N700k,” he said.

When asked about the person who reportedly died in captivity, Mr Muhammed said his identity has not been revealed.

“We don’t know because even the bandits didn’t tell but we’ll surely find out when they (captives) arrive at Gusau tonight,” he added.

The police command spokesman, Mohammed Shehu, didn’t respond to calls and SMS sent to him on the development.

Backstory

PREMIUM TIMES reported that the wedding guests were abducted when bandits opened fire on the two buses they were travelling in a few kilometres after Bimasa in the Dogon Awo junction, Sokoto State.

They were returning from Tambuwal town in Sokoto State where they had attended the wedding of a colleague, Jamil Umar.

The captives were travelling on a Toyota Coaster bus belonging to the Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC and another bus owned by Gusau Local Government.

The bandits had demanded a ransom of N145 million to release the 29 hostages.

Bandits have been terrorising North-west states and a part of North-central Nigeria, killing and displacing hundreds of people and rustling domestic animals.

Travelling on federal and local highways is becoming dangerous as bandits block roads, abduct and kill motorists.

Major federal highways including Abuja-Kaduna, Gusau-Sokoto-Birnin Kebbi, and Birnin Gwari-Kaduna have become travellers’ nightmares with attacks and abduction or killing of travellers becoming a daily occurrence.

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

A motion seeking the intervention of the House of Representatives in the conflict between the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, and Justices of the Supreme Court, over issues bordering on welfare and working conditions suffered a setback on Thursday.

While the House called for a general review of salaries and allowances of all political office holders and public servants, the members were divided over which committees should handle the task.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok Luke, had moved a motion to seek the intervention of the chamber in the crisis rocking the apex court and better welfare package for judicial officers across the courts.

Luke, who moved the motion titled, ‘Need to Address the Deteriorating Working Conditions of Judicial Officers,’ prayed the House to urge the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to upwardly review the remuneration of judicial officers in line with present economic realities.

The lawmaker prayed the House to urge the Federal Government to increase the budgetary allocation of the judiciary for the upcoming fiscal year and provide special intervention funds for the development of the arm

He further prayed the House to mandate the Committee on Judiciary to ensure compliance and report back within six weeks for further legislative action.

While the lawmakers were making amendments to the prayers, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, called for an upward review of the welfare package of all public office holders.

Wase, who stated that he appreciated the memo from the Justices to the CJN, noted that only the RMAFC had the responsibility to review remuneration of government officials.

The Deputy Speaker made reference to a part of the motion that read, ‘The remuneration of judicial officers was last reviewed in 2008 by the RMAFC when the official exchange rate was N117.74 to $1, whereas the naira has considerably depreciated.’

Wase partly said, “I think this particular element does not affect just judicial officers, maybe because they cried out now. I don’t think it is right that we have to wait every time until people write letters of complaints and there is protest before we begin to do the right thing.”

Rephrasing Wase’s proposed amendment, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said: “The DSP’s amendment is that we should not isolate the Judiciary and all those enumerated constitutional bodies and public office holders. They should be reviewed; a comprehensive review based on all the things that Hon Luke said – the exchange rates and this and that.”

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