TV View: Rio and Joe both diamond geezers but lack insight

There were times when the pre match banter sounded like a Guy Ritchie movie

Rio Ferdinand and Joe Cole, a couple of diamond geezers with more front than Brighton, living it large at Old Trafford as BT Sport pitch side analysts for Manchester United's opening PremierR League game against Leeds United. There were times when the pre match banter sounded like a Guy Ritchie movie with Jake Humphreys as narrator.

There was nothing particularly unpleasant about it even in the absence of meaningful insights; it is for the most part froth and devoid of substance. After all, what does it mean for a player to have “show reels coming out of his ear holes,” as Ferdinand suggested when waxing lyrical about Jadon Sancho. It’s not as if the pair don’t know the game intimately and it’s not all superficial cant but they need to lean less heavily on the generic.

There was a hint of big brother, little brother in the Ferdinand and Cole interaction, summed up when Cole gazed up and sighed that there ‘hadn’t been a centre half of Rio’s class at the club’ well since Rio, or Ri as he insisted on calling him. The deferential tone suggested that Cole really did regard Ferdinand as a Rí or king to translate from Irish.

The context for the compliment after Raphaël Varane was presented to the crowd ahead of kickoff and after taking a ‘selfie’ with the Stretford End from the centre circle, he trotted over to Ferdinand for a quick shoulder bump; game recognising game.


If the former United player had an ounce of journalistic instinct he would have asked Varane for a quick reaction, a point that Humphreys playfully made. Ferdinand though dismissed it with a ‘not the right time or place comment.’ Not sure that the match broadcast editor at BT Sport would have shared that opinion with a nice little exclusive on offer.

And to be honest that’s where most of the chat resides, on the outskirts of anything remotely interesting. Leeds Utd manager Marcelo Biesla offered more technical and tactical insight in 90 seconds, through a translator, than anything that emerged in the pre-game preamble. After all, would it change your life to learn that Sancho “is a proper street footballer,” according to Cole.

There was more than a hint of box-ticking in awaiting kickoff, subjects like the return of supporters and racism received an airing. It would have been far more interesting and informative if they had addressed some of the tweaks made to the Video Assistant Referees (VAR) process. This column isn’t the time or place for that discussion.


Leeds lost 6-2 the last time they rocked up to Old Trafford but no one expected a similar gulf on the scoreboard this time. Darren Fletcher, not the former Man Utd footballer and current technical director at the club, was behind the microphone in the company of former Leeds footballer, Lucy Ward and they set the scene nicely.

Commentators are generally fastidious and diligent in preparing for matches producing a huge volume of notes; the best know how to use that information judiciously. Those that truly excel inform and that includes being critical when required. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns.

One of the commentators at one point ventured: “(Ole Gunnar) Solskjaer will be happy with his team’s energy,” but the pictures were of Daniel James wasting possession for the umpteenth time. Sometimes it’s better to deal with the tangible rather than the abstract.

The home side led 1-0 at the interval, with the first of what would be a Bruno Fernandes’ hat-trick, before Leeds did the unthinkable and equalised, a beautiful strike from Luke Ayling that moved Ward to remark: “he scored a couple like that over the years but nothing like that one.”

Parity was short lived as the home side, driven by the imperious Paul Pogba, re-established control with a couple of quick goals en route to a 5-1 victory. When the French international is suitably focused he gives the team a different dimension in attack with his vision and range of passing. He managed three assists last season, in Saturday’s game alone, he contributed four.

When it came time to adjudicate on the manof the match, Ward opted for Fernandes, a perfectly reasonable and understandable choice. As she said: “he raises the floor of everyone else,” and he did to the penthouse with a hat-trick but for this column Pogba’s football eloquence provided the more persuasive argument.

The post match interviews with Fernandes and Mason Greenwood, conducted in close proximity to celebrating Man Utd supporters resembled a nightclub conversation, in trying to fill in the missing words in a sentence while picking up every third or fourth word; to be fair the only time the home side had to deal in blanks that afternoon.