The Comeback Kid

Let’s take a break from all of the “will he/won’t he” drama surrounding Frenkie de Jong, Antony, Cristiano Ronaldo and all of the others that will, inevitably, be linked to Manchester United prior to the closing of the transfer window.

Instead, let’s celebrate the signing of Christian Eriksen. One of the best creative midfielders in Premier League history, Eriksen is the second player to have 10 or more assists in four consecutive league seasons after United icon David Beckham.

Let’s celebrate the fact that he’s also a good goal scorer, hitting double digits in five out of six full seasons at Tottenham Hotspur. In 2018, he scored one of the fastest goals in league history against United, inspiring a famous 3-0 Spurs victory and one of then-manager Jose Mourinho’s most infamous post-match meltdowns (and that’s saying something). At least he won’t be scoring against us anymore.

And, of course, let’s celebrate the fact that he’s still alive.

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It’s Good To Be Bad

My latest feature examines sleazy, incompetent, and ethically-challenged lawyers in pop culture and how they are shaped by, and affect, public perception of the legal profession. This one was a lot of fun to write and report. I had a blast speaking to some of the creative minds behind Liar Liar, L.A. Law and Presumed Innocent.

Plus, we got some good timing, since the issue went to press the same month that Better Call Saul wrapped up its run on AMC. As such, it was a no-brainer to feature Saul Goodman on the cover and throughout the spread. With quotes like “If you’re committed enough, you can make any story work. I once convinced a woman I was Kevin Costner, and it worked, because I believed it!” and scenes like this one where he effortlessly explains money laundering in a way that could be used in law enforcement training videos, he really is the perfect cover-boy for a story about bad lawyers.

Unless you count this guy. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to fit my favorite bad lawyer into the story (it wasn’t for lack of trying, though). Maybe next time…

The Butcher of Manchester

The Axe.

The Snarling Dog.

Psycho.

Some nicknames just speak for themselves.

Take newly-signed Manchester United defender Lisandro Martinez. The versatile, no-nonsense Argentine defender earned the nickname “The Butcher of Amsterdam” for his brutally physical style of play while starring at Ajax for the past three seasons. He’s also comfortable in Erik ten Hag’s system, which explains why United was willing to pay a minimum of £55 million to relocate the Butcher from Amsterdam to Manchester.

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The Trophy Drought is Over!

Manchester United finally ended its long silverware drought, winning one of the most prestigious trophies in football while destroying the same Liverpool side that nearly won the quadruple last year and annihilated them by an aggregate score of 9-0.

[Checks notes]

Oh wait. It was a preseason match in Thailand against a Liverpool squad featuring many players who will likely spend the next season in the reserves or on loan with other teams. Treating the match as little more than a glorified training session, Jürgen Klopp rotated through 32 players and might have won the game if his players had been a little more match sharp.

Still, there was plenty for United to be happy about:

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Career Killers: “Twelve Months, Eleven Days” by Gary Barlow

You’d think that being the primary frontman of a boyband would be an excellent platform for solo superstardom. After all, it’s your voice on all those hit singles and your face getting the most screen-time in music videos. Indeed, Jackson Five frontman Michael Jackson and NSYNC co-lead singer Justin Timberlake were able to parlay their group dominance into individual success. If you consider Wham! to be a boy band (I’m not sure, to be honest), then George Michael is another example.

But others weren’t able to find much success outside of their groups. Ralph Tresvant sang lead on most of New Edition’s hit singles, but only managed two hits on his own. That was one better than either Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block or Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees managed outside of their popular groups. And, of course, we’ve covered NSYNC co-leader J.C. Chasez’s solo debut album, which flopped so badly it ended his bid for stardom before it really began.

Then there’s the curious case of Gary Barlow. The Take That frontman was a fantastic singer who sang lead on almost all of his band’s songs. And whereas most boybands relied on outside songwriters, Barlow wrote or co-wrote nine Top 10 UK hits, including five #1 singles, during the band’s initial run from 1991 to 1996. When he went solo in 1996, the British media immediately anointed him as the next George Michael. Success was not only expected, it was preordained.

As such, that only made what eventually happened all the more shocking. In 2000, barely four years after Take That’s breakup, Barlow suffered the ignominy of being dropped by his label, all but ending his solo career. Worse, he had to watch as bandmate-turned-nemesis Robbie Williams wrote songs attacking him and making fun of his misfortune en route to becoming one of the best-selling artists in the world.

Where did it all go wrong? It started with his second album, Twelve Months, Eleven Days.

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Career Killers: “Take My Breath Away,” by Berlin

With Top Gun: Maverick flying up to the top of the box office charts, I figured it was worth looking at the first movie — specifically, the iconic song that everyone associates with it (besides “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” and “Danger Zone” of course).

As we’ve established, sometimes blockbuster hits can tear a band apart. For instance, a smash album featuring several massive singles wasn’t enough to keep the The Police from succumbing to years of public and private in-fighting. The Verve imploded right after releasing its best and most popular album, 1997’s Urban Hymns. “Mr. Roboto” gave Styx one of its biggest hit singles, but the song (and resulting concept album) tore the band apart to the point that when members reunited years later (sans the guy who wrote the song and most of the album in question), they refused to play it in concert for years.

In a similar vein, “Take My Breath Away” was a smash hit, topping the singles charts in the U.S., U.K., Netherlands, Ireland and Belgium and winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1986 (beating other iconic songs like “Somewhere Out There” and “Glory of Love“). And it led to the breakup of the band credited with recording it: Berlin.

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#Pogbye

In 2016, when Paul Pogba returned to Manchester United in a then-world record deal, they coined the hashtag “#Pogback”to mark the occasion. United, Pogba’s social media team and sponsor Adidas even worked together on a slick promo video featuring UK rapper Stormzy that was designed to get tons of views and likes.

It was a rollout fit for a king — and appropriate, given how important social media has become in the marketing world (to say nothing of how much elite athletes like Pogba have come to rely on it).

It also underscored just big a statement of intent this was from United. That summer, the team also brought in goal machine Zlatan Ibrahimovic, defensive stalwart Eric Bailly, exciting winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan and hired serial winner Jose Mourinho. Together, this quintet helped deliver the League Cup and the Europa League during their first year together. Surely, more trophies, to say nothing of the league title, would be coming, right?

It’s been five trophyless seasons since then, and on Wednesday, United cut ties with one of the last remaining members of that trio (Bailly is the only one left, and he could be leaving this summer, too). This time, they went the complete opposite route, releasing a written statement announcing Pogba’s impending departure that was devoid of any hashtags.

In other words, United #Pogbade him farewell without resorting to cheap social media tactics. Maybe an anti-climatic statement was appropriate, given how long his departure had been a fait accompli. Pogba had never really settled back in and he and his late agent, Mino Raiola, had constantly #Pogbatted their eyelashes at other teams, especially Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG and, most unforgivably, Man City. When Ole Gunnar Solskjær took over, Pogba seemed happy with his expanded role and even expressed interest in re-signing in 2020. However, the board chose not to engage at the time, and when they finally did offer him a new contract, he #Pogbalked. The club’s current situation made his departure a no-#Pogbrainer.

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Joining the 500 Club

Woohoo! Happy to report that Nixon in New York has hit 500 libraries (501, actually) throughout the world! (I took a screenshot for posterity). Some of the highlights:

  • All of three of my alma maters have the book in their libraries (in the interests of full disclosure, I requested it at two of the three schools).
  • I’m in seven out of eight Ivy League schools. (Come on, Dartmouth! What are you waiting for?)
  • I’m in two out of the three “Little Three” schools. (Thanks for nothing, Wesleyan!)
  • Other than the U.S, I’m in libraries in Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Curaçao, Cyprus, Ecuador, Germany, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Jamaica, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Oman, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
  • I’m in community colleges, theological/biblical seminaries, military academies, historical societies, public and private universities and law schools.

Anyway, it’s nice to see — especially since I was at 125 a couple of months ago. Here’s to the next 500!

Farewell Fletch

“Martin’s the songwriter, Alan [Wilder]’s the good musician, Dave’s the vocalist and I bum around,” Andy Fletcher on his role in the band, taken from the Depeche Mode concert film 101.

“Depeche Mode’s unique division of labor has been long established, with each of the three remaining members having a distinct role: Martin Gore writes the songs, Dave Gahan sings them and Andy Fletcher shows up for photo shoots and cashes the checks,” Gavin Edwards, wrote in Rolling Stone in 2005. 

That wasn’t entirely true.

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To Tell The Truth

Ralf Rangnick’s spell as interim manager was a failure.

His tenure in the Manchester United dugout finally came to an end on Sunday after yet another listless effort — this time, losing at Crystal Palace 1-0 in a stadium where they had never lost a Premier League match. A season that began with so much promise and genuine excitement, had turned into such a nightmare that most people just wanted it to end, consequences be damned. That United managed to back into a Europa League place thanks to West Ham losing summed things up pretty well.

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Winning Time

I was very honored to win the following awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE):

I was especially proud to see my section (Business of Law) win a National Bronze and Regional Silver award for Best Regular Print Department. I’m very grateful to my colleagues and reporters for helping make that happen.

Other Awards:

Plus, we won honorable mention for Magazine of the Year (11 or Fewer Issues). Woohoo!

Farewell To The Special Juan

Monday’s 3-0 victory over Brentford at Old Trafford was all about saying farewell. A farewell to this nightmare of a season. And, specifically, a farewell to outgoing players Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Edinson Cavani, and Phil Jones, each of whom received a warm ovation from the fans. They’ll be joined at the exit ramp by at least three players who didn’t play: Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, and most likely Eric Bailly.

It will be a long overdue housecleaning for United, which has lacked a coherent, consistent identity on the pitch and in the transfer market over the last eight years — a period that began when Mata helicoptered into Carrington looking like a cross between James Bond and a guy who sells bonds.

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