As you will clearly remember, and there’s no need to go back and check, the Fiver yesterday unequivocally predicted serious trouble ahead for Manchester United. Yes sir. And so it came to pass, as José Mourinho’s absurdly ponderous side delivered a Big Cup performance which stank out the metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester so badly there’s been a run on Neutradol all across the historic county of Lancashire. It’s being said that cans of the original aerosol spray are swapping hands for upwards of £100, while the black market economy for other products in the world’s No 1 odour-neutralising range has spiralled out of control to the extent that if you want any meadow-fresh carpet deodorizer you might have to turn a few tricks. Meanwhile Mourinho has been drenched in so much spittle-flecked opprobrium that his critics make Jamie Carragher look like a man suffering from a serious case of xerostomia. Oh José! How could you!
To be honest, Mourinho has brought a lot of this fresh flak on himself, having only worked out that it was a good idea to try to score a goal against Sevilla at the point at which United required three of them in 12 minutes, rather than just one in 90. With plenty of moral credit in the bank after last season’s two-trophy haul, and his annual tactical evisceration of Liverpool still fresh in the memory, he might have got away with that minor error of judgment/gigantic act of craven tactical cowardice that betrays open contempt of a 62-year continental legacy. But following it up by shrugging in the insouciant style while pointing out that United have suffered similar Big Cup defeats before, and that he knows this “because I have sat in this chair as manager of Porto and of Real Madrid”, probably wasn’t the wisest political move. Unless it’s the deliberate opening salvo in a war of ambiguous motivation, like the one that served Chelsea so well a couple of years ago. But who’d want to go through something that unpleasant again, just for kicks, not long after signing a new contract?
Meanwhile on the continent – where PSG, Real Madrid, Milan and Inter are all rumoured to be on the lookout for a new manager – Mourinho’s former charges Chelsea take on Barcelona at Camp Nou in Big Cup. “It is not simple to sleep a lot, especially before these types of games,” says Antonio Conte, stifling a yawn. “I hope my players also have the same excitement.” Ten out of 10 for going through the motions, at least. And in fairness, Chelsea do have reason to be excited. They were the better team in the first leg – i.e. Willian was more impressive than Lionel Messi – and they did a number on Barça on their last visit to Catalonia, a 2-2 semi-final comeback which was the precursor to their becoming champions of Europe. Also Barça haven’t beaten Chelsea without the help of Tom Henning Øvrebø since 2006, and even then they needed Asier del Horno to give them a leg up. So it all augurs well for Conte and his men. Though if they do get knocked out – and you know how our predictions sometimes go – you’d think it certain that Conte will be sniffing around the job market come the summer. The Fiver wonders just how crowded that particular fair might be.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Jamie has taken full responsibility for what has happened and we will ensure he gets the help he needs to guarantee something like this never happens again” – Sky release a statement which poses the question: do they plan to give loogie-lobbing pundit Carragher a muzzle?
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“Has Ailsa from Home and Away ever managed a coastal club before? Is the team that plays at St Mary’s going to henceforth be known as Summer Bay FC? How long before we hear the next round of chants of “sack the (surf) board”? Will the phrase “he’s moved to Liverpool” be the euphemism of choice henceforth when anyone from the squad leaves to pursue a doomed pop/pantomime career?” – Harkarn Sumal.
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NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
West Ham have vowed to issue life bans to the pwoper nawty whoppers who invaded the D1ldoDome pitch or threw missiles during the 3-0 shellacking by Burnley.
Tottenham have apologised after a question asking whether “a woman’s place is in the home” found its way into a survey sent to fans in USA! USA!! USA!!! “The inclusion of this question in a club survey was wholly unacceptable and a regrettable oversight,” grovelled a club statement. Meanwhile Harry Kane’s ankle-knack will rule him out for four weeks.
Theresa May has said that no ministers or members of the royal family will go to the Ethics World Cup in Russia. Well, that’ll show ‘em.
Everton’s unholy mess of a squad will be a tad more balanced for the next six to eight weeks after Gylfi Sigurdsson was ruled out with knee-knack for that length of time.
Stereotypical Guardian readers’ favourite non-league team Dulwich Hamlet have received a boost in their fight to stay afloat after Southwark Council approved plans to buy the land on which the team’s Champion Hill stadium sits.
And the head of a Fifa committee set up to keep tabs on Greek football has warned that gun-toting PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis’s pitch invasion could lead to a global suspension. “The word Grexit is no more impossible. Greek football is going to the edge,” roared Herbert Huebel.
STILL WANT MORE?
Remember when Arsenal stories weren’t all about when Arsène Wenger is going to resign? Here’s a Rob Smyth Golden Goal on Marc Overmars’s 1998 strike against Manchester United.
“So much money, so poor” and “Manchester United is a walking monument to mean spiritedness” were just some of the nicer things the Spanish press said about José Mourinho’s side.
Meanwhile Daniel Harris piles in from the UK.
The hack who wrote this José Mourinho v Donald Trump: who said it? quiz only managed to score 8/10. See if you can do better.
Some people in Guardian Towers did not understand the headline on Ben Fisher’s piece on Accrington Stanley and have now been reported to HR.
Martin Laurence investigates which players should and should not get England call-ups.
And The Knowledge delves into which football clubs are named after political leaders and includes a picture of Spartacus who may or may not have been a political leader, it’s unclear.
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