If I had the option of turning off commentary during games, I would use it every single time.
There are good commentators out there and I don’t wish to undermine their work, but when they’re paired with former pros whose only “colour” is incessant moaning, clichés and incorrect readings of the game itself, I have to question just how much value they’re adding to the product.
Last night, Steve McManaman found himself trending on Twitter for his dubious performance during the Sevilla/Manchester United game.
As someone who has followed Sevilla closely for six years now, it really got under my skin. Despite the home side having 25 shots, two of which were big chances that should have been converted, and barely having anything to do at the back, McManaman felt this was a controlled Manchester United performance and there was nothing to worry about.
It was baffling how he, along with Darren Fletcher, BT Sport’s premier commentator, seemed entirely unfazed by the turgid nature of United’s performance. United’s lack of attacking threat and the poor performances of the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku went unnoticed. If anything, the pair were more keen to lay into Sevilla for firstly lacking ideas going forward, then for being too slow, and finally for playacting and diving. Only one of those things was a legitimate complaint.
I have seen Sevilla play better than they did last night. They did lack a bit of intensity and, more importantly, quality in the final third. From that perspective, yes, United were more comfortable than they should have been.
Nonetheless, they are only the fifth best side in Spain currently. Their squad is worth several times less than United’s, and Vincenzo Montella is a coach with plenty still to prove. That they managed nearly 30 shots in the game is not a source of pride for this United team. This is not yet another Jose Mourinho masterclass – no masterclass relies on a goalkeeper to bail out their defence and the opposition striker to be wasteful in front of goal.
The general tone of Fletcher and McManaman’s commentary was that this was job done for United. That them progressing with a win at Old Trafford was a complete and utter certainty. That Sevilla had given them no reason to be concerned. The funny thing is, Sevilla and their supporters will be thinking the exact same way.
I’ve been here before with Sevilla when they’ve come up against Premier League opposition. There’s always a distinct lack of respect for a club with more European pedigree than Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham. The bias towards the English clubs is overwhelming at times. Last season, they tried to convince people that Leicester’s King Power Stadium would be unlike any ground Sevilla have ever visited before (Sevilla travel to Betis, Valencia, and Atletico Madrid every year, who each have far more hostile stadiums than Leicester). This year, they’re trying to handwave United’s performance as if it was all part of the plan.
If pundits and commentators don’t rate Sevilla, then fine. If they give good reasons why the English teams should feel confident, then I’d have no issues. But let’s be real: none of these guys have a clue about Sevilla, how they play, who their danger men are, what their weaknesses are, and so on. It’s the same with every other club who aren’t a part of the European elite.
When Montella swapped Luis Muriel for Sandro Ramirez and Ever Banega for Guido Pizarro at the end of the game, McManaman’s first reaction was to call him a typical Italian manager – risk-free and wanting to close up shop, rather than go for it. This was nearly 90 minutes after Fletcher had described Montella as unlike other Italian managers. Such was McManaman’s determination to rubbish Sevilla that he forgot or ignored information from his own partner.
There’s a much deeper discussion to be had about the state of punditry in the UK. This is but a sample of it.
Ultimately, I just want to mute my TV these days, only I can’t because that would rob me of the crowd noise and atmosphere. Hence, I would advocate an option to switch commentary off. I’ve a feeling it’d be total bliss.