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Don’t criticise Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer for asking Erik ten Hag proper questions. They rose above TV football’s wasteland of vacuous chummery and prehistoric banter, writes OLIVER HOLT

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Let me tell you what happened after the FA Cup Final finished and the BBC moved into the post-match phase of its coverage late on Saturday afternoon. It’s not complicated.

Neither man fawned over Erik ten Hag after United’s shock victory over Manchester City. Neither man attempted to make him laugh with a lame joke because they were scared of angering him.

Neither man ducked the responsibility of confronting the issue everyone was talking about.

Neither of them took the easy way out of blaming ‘the media’ for the criticism that Ten Hag has received over recent months, a favourite of former athletes who have a habit of forgetting that they are now ‘the media’, too.

Lineker and Shearer are superb broadcasters and both of them did their job as interviewers. They were respectful and polite towards Ten Hag but they are not wide-eyed kids talking to their heroes.

Gary Lineker quizzed Erik ten Hag on his future in the immediate aftermath of Man United’s FA Cup triumph

Lineker and Shearer have defended themselves following criticism, insisting they did not overstep the mark

Lineker and Shearer have defended themselves following criticism, insisting they did not overstep the mark

The Dutchman's FA Cup victory means United have now won two trophies in two seasons under Ten Hag

The Dutchman’s FA Cup victory means United have now won two trophies in two seasons under Ten Hag

So they asked the questions they needed to ask, about why United, who finished eighth in the Premier League, had not played like this before. And whether Ten Hag knew if he would still be at the club next season.

They were entirely legitimate questions. They many not have been the questions Ten Hag wanted to answer but that is irrelevant.

It’s the BBC. It’s not a fan-channel. It’s not MUTV. It’s not Pravda. It’s not Sky Sports, whose reporters in the north east, for example, boast about being fans first. Lineker and Shearer asked the questions we should expect to be asked by a competent broadcast network.

And then, because television audiences in this country have been force-fed a diet of vacuous, flaccid, tame post-match interviews for too long, because they have grown used to that diet, Lineker and Shearer were roundly criticised for their conduct towards Ten Hag.

They were accused of being disrespectful, aggressive, rude, of not letting Ten Hag enjoy his moment. All those accusations should be laughed out of town.

For a start, if Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the United minority owner, had simply said Ten Hag’s job was safe and that he would be the manager next season, no one would have needed to ask Ten Hag the question. Ratcliffe has let him swing.

And if Ten Hag is within his rights to be irritated by ongoing questions about his job prospects at Old Trafford, maybe he should direct his ire at the people who are, inadvertently perhaps, encouraging speculation through their silence.

A previous regime at United sacked Louis van Gaal the day after he won the FA Cup for the club in 2016. It’s not much of a stretch to ask Ten Hag, who presided over a dismal league season, if he fears the same fate.

Part-owners INEOS - headed by Sir Jim Ratcliffe (left) are expected to make a decision on Ten Hag's future this week

Part-owners INEOS – headed by Sir Jim Ratcliffe (left) are expected to make a decision on Ten Hag’s future this week

Ten Hag's future is yet to be decided as United chiefs weigh up whether to terminate his contract early

Ten Hag’s future is yet to be decided as United chiefs weigh up whether to terminate his contract early

United's majority owner Avram Glazer (right) looked delighted as he shook hands with Ten Hag at Wembley

United’s majority owner Avram Glazer (right) looked delighted as he shook hands with Ten Hag at Wembley

So the criticism of Lineker and Shearer is pathetic. What is wrong with a robust question, anyway? Ten Hag’s a grown man in a high-profile job. If he can’t cope with a couple of gentle inquiries, he should be in another line of work.

They were supposed to wait, apparently, and let Ten Hag enjoy his moment. Television doesn’t work like that. News doesn’t work like that. And football doesn’t work like that. The question has to be asked when the man is in front of you or it will not be asked at all.

The absurd reaction to the interview hinted at a bigger picture: the arid landscape of the post-match, post-fight, post-race television interview has been allowed to become, over the past few years in this country, a wasteland of gurning ingratiation, vacuous chummery and self-congratulatory, prehistoric lad-banter.

The BBC’s coverage of the Olympic Games often sets the gold standard in this hyperventilating medium where being friends with an athlete appears to be valued above all else, sycophancy is a pre-requisite and looking the other way when bad things happen – particularly if it happens to British competitors – is non-negotiable.

United endured a miserable second season in the Premier League under Ten Hag as they finished eighth

United endured a miserable second season in the Premier League under Ten Hag as they finished eighth

United's FA Cup victory - their 13th in the competition - might have given Ten Hag a lifeline

United’s FA Cup victory – their 13th in the competition – might have given Ten Hag a lifeline

Ten Hag¿s a grown man in a high-profile job. If he can¿t cope with a couple of gentle inquiries, he should be in another line of work

Ten Hag’s a grown man in a high-profile job. If he can’t cope with a couple of gentle inquiries, he should be in another line of work

Every viewer is different. We all value different qualities in our interviewers. For those of us who value insight over jocularity and prefer our analysts to analyse rather than throw themselves into the arms of a former teammate as they leave the pitch or the track, sober, serious, intelligent interviewers like Gabriel Clarke are increasingly hard to locate in the genre.

It is a failed state peopled increasingly by those so dazzled by the light of the game, which they recognise instinctively as the light that once shone from them, that they are incapable of any meaningful interaction with interviewees beyond the non-negotiable imperative of establishing that they, too, once were warriors.

So, the exceptions to the rule, when they come, are even more welcome. There are many of these exceptions, by the way. 

Too many to mention here but it was a particular treat to listen to the radio show hosted by Jim White and Simon Jordan on TalkSport last week and hear their conversation with the boxing promoter, Frank Warren.

If Ten Hag is within his rights to be irritated by ongoing questions, maybe he should direct his ire at the people who are, inadvertently perhaps, encouraging speculation through their silence

If Ten Hag is within his rights to be irritated by ongoing questions, maybe he should direct his ire at the people who are, inadvertently perhaps, encouraging speculation through their silence

For 20 minutes or so, they engaged in an argument about Tyson Fury, one of Warren’s fighters, who had lost an epic world heavyweight title battle with Oleksandr Usyk a few days earlier. Some might call it a row. Both sides stood their ground in an articulate, passionate exchange of views. It was utterly compelling.

Nobody won or lost. Neither Warren, nor Jordan gave ground. Both stuck to their arguments and maintained their loyalties and their opinions. Again, it was the kind of conversation that happens far too rarely.

Jack Stephens showed his true leadership values against Leeds 

I went to the Leeds United-Southampton Championship play-off final on Sunday. It was a brilliant atmosphere but it wasn’t the best game. Southampton deserved to win. 

They had one chance and they took it. But the thing that made the biggest impression on me all afternoon happened after the final whistle. 

As the Southampton players sprinted away towards their fans, I looked over at the other end of the stadium where the Leeds players had collapsed to the turf in despair. 

Saints captain Jack Stephens consoled Leeds players immediately after Southampton's victory in the Championship play-off final

Saints captain Jack Stephens consoled Leeds players immediately after Southampton’s victory in the Championship play-off final

Stephens (left) showed his true leadership qualities as Southampton were promoted at Wembley

Stephens (left) showed his true leadership qualities as Southampton were promoted at Wembley

Jack Stephens, the Southampton captain, had not run to celebrate with his club’s supporters and his teammates. Instead, he made his way from one Leeds player to another, consoling them, hugging them, lifting them from the floor. In the melee, Stephens’ leadership shone through.

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Chelsea’s appalling track record 

Good luck to Enzo Maresca, or whoever it is who takes hold of the poisoned chalice that is the Chelsea job these days. 

Chelsea have moved a step closer to appointing Leicester's Enzo Maresca as their new boss

Chelsea have moved a step closer to appointing Leicester’s Enzo Maresca as their new boss

Given that the manager at the club is now expected to be, in many ways, a subservient part of the hierarchy, it will be interesting to know if the first to pay the price for the next failure at Stamford Bridge will be the manager or the sporting directors, Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart, who seem to be higher up the food chain. 

Their record so far has been appalling but there is only so long, surely, that they will be able to wield power without taking responsibility.

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