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

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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Woman who masterminded self-kidnap, two others nabbed in Benin

A Benin, Edo State-based woman, Blessing Ogunu, who allegedly masterminded her own kidnap has been arrested by police operatives in the State.

The woman who is now cooling her feet with two other suspects in police custody, was arrested on 23 March, 2024.

The Command’s spokesman, SP Chidi Nwabuzor, in a statement on Monday in Benin, said the suspect was arrested with two other accomplices, Esther Anthony and Ukpebor Joel.

According to him, “The Anti-Kidnapping and Cyber Crime Unit received a complaint from one Samuel Prince Omomuzo, of No 102 Ihama Road, GRA, Benin City who reported that one Blessing Ogunu, a staff of Bliss Legacy Limited, Benin City was kidnapped in Benin and the kidnappers demanded for four million, eight hundred thousand naira (N4,800,000.00) ransom.

“The operatives, using technical intelligence, arrested the supposed victim of the kidnap, one Blessing Ogunu, Esther Anthony and Ukpebor Joel.

“During interrogation, the supposed Blessing Ogunu confessed that she masterminded her self-kidnap because her company refused to allocate land to a customer whom they have received money from.”

Nwanbuzor disclosed that the suspects would soon be charged to court.

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NAF airstrikes eliminate 30 terrorist kingpins, fighters in Borno

The Air component of the Operation Hadin Kai (OPHK), has executed a precision airstrike on the hideouts of ISWAP terrorists, killing over 30 of their fighters within Kolleram village along the shores of Lake Chad.

This is contained in a statement by AVM Edward Gabkwet, the Director, Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force (NAF), on Tuesday in Abuja.

Gabkwet said the airstrikes conducted on April 13, were a decisive blow against terrorism in the North-East.

He said the operation yielded significant success as the Battle Damage Assessment (BDA) post-strike conducted revealed the neutralisation of over 30 terrorists.

Gabkwet said that among those neutralised were some senior commanders of the insurgents including Ali Dawud, Bakura Fallujah, and Mallam Ari.

“Additionally, numerous vehicles, motorcycles, and logistical assets were destroyed, severely hampering the terrorists’ operational capabilities.

“Intelligence gathered after the air strike further indicated that the aerial bombardment effectively obliterated a key facility within the Kolleram enclave, which served as a hub for the terrorists’ food processing activities, including grinding machines.

“The success of these airstrikes underscores NAF’s commitment to eradicating terrorism and ensuring the safety and security of Nigerian citizens.

“By neutralising key terrorist figures and destroying their logistical infrastructure, the operation has significantly degraded the capabilities of the ISWAP group in the region.

“These airstrikes complement the ongoing efforts of ground forces in the Lake Chad flank and represent a crucial step forward in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria,” he said.

(NAN)

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Francis Okoye arrested in Anambra bound commercial bus with firearms, POS machine

A 22-year-old man, Francis Obinna Okoye, has been arrested by operatives of Edo State Police Command’s Monitoring Unit for alleged possession of firearm.
Also recovered from him was a blue-coloured pos machine.
Okoye who resides at No 26, Jatto Street, Okolo, Lagos State, was arrested on 7 April, 2024.
A statement by the Command’s spokesman, SP Chidi Nwabuzor, said the suspect was apprehended by the  operatives while on stop and search duty along Lagos-Benin expressway, by Ovia river axis.
He was intercepted in a commercial bus loaded with passengers from Lagos state heading to Anambra state.
The suspect allegedly confessed in his statement that one Emma whose surname is unknown, gave him the gun to threaten his uncle, Mr. Paul Okoye, who was alleged to have killed his father with chams.
However, when operatives of the Command took him to Lagos on Monday, 8 April, 2024, to arrest Mr. Paul Okoye, they found out that the suspect lied to the operatives.
“The suspect will soon be process to
court,” the Edo Police Command spokesperson said.
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