NEXT YEAR’S NEWS … TODAY!
The Fiver would like to offer its warmest congratulations to Manchester United, winners of the 2020-21 Premier League, if we’re reading the current mood in the room correctly. United are upwardly mobile, you see, unbeaten after signing a good player for the first time since Robin van Persie. There, it wasn’t that hard, was it. As a result, United are on quite the romp at the minute, having won three games in a row against relegation-threatened Norwich, relegation-threatened Brighton, and a Sheffield United side still, it would seem, under lockdown, in front of the telly, with can of Magnet open and Woodbine on. Oh Ole, how did we ever doubt you!
Tuesday’s comfortable 3-0 win over Brighton catapulted United to the top of the Premier League form table. Since landing Bruno Fernandes in January, they’ve been on the crest of the kind of wave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rode in early 2019. You remember, the one that landed him the manager’s gig on a permanent basis and was quickly followed by a run of eight defeats in 12 games later diagnosed as a severe case of postprandial hypoglycaemia. Still, they’re better than everyone else right now, whichever way a jaded miserablist like The Fiver, or anyone else waiting for Harry Maguire to have his next episode, will try to spin it.
There’s a fair chance that Ole’s Revolution Reboot will extend to a couple more matches, as next up are relegation-threatened Bournemouth and an Aston Villa side still under lockdown with tinnies and tabs. In fact, United’s next big test is a couple of weekends away, when they face Chelsea in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. That game, it was announced on this extremely quiet news day, will be telecast live on the BBC Television Service, so the entire nation will be able to ascertain for themselves whether or not United are BACK. Or indeed if Chelsea are BACK, now that we come to think about it. The big showdown will kick off at 6pm, the climax to a super Sunday for BBC Sport that begins in the morning with extended coverage of Andrew Marr pitching softballs to a government minister. Thank you, dear BBC! Both programmes already in the diary!
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Get drunk on MBMS this evening, starting at 6pm BST with Nick Ames on Arsenal 3-1 Norwich, Paul Doyle on Everton 1-2 Leicester, Rob Smyth on Bournemouth 3-2 Newcastle and Scott Murray rounding things off with West Ham 0-2 Chelsea at 8.15.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I’m expecting a player that is not playing to feel hurt and disappointed … my job is to get the maximum out of them and to try and help them and support them. And if they are willing, everybody is welcome” – Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta with the latest uttering in a series of about 3,756 on Mesut Özil’s current mood at Arsenal.
There’s a Football Weekly here, a Football Weekly there, Football Weeklys everywhere. Oh, and this Forgotten Stories of Football podcast on the sheer shambolic weirdness of Luton Town’s Manager Idol project is great.
“Nike’s new ball is apparently designed to eliminate ‘unpredictable movement’, thus following VAR, goal-line technology, and referees along the trend of everything that takes the fun out of the game” – Matthew Richman.
“I can’t believe John Cassidy is dissing the casey (Tuesday’s letters)! When I was young, if you owned a casey you were God! You got to be team captain, have first pick etc – it was validation for those that were otherwise picked last in playground rules. I still firmly believe that if my parents had stumped up for a casey, my life would have been much more successful. I would be reading the Tory press, lauding BoJo’s nickname and masterful economic management. My dips into reading anything from the Guardian would just be the self serving ablutions they should be while I pick out the extras on my weekend Ferrari. On such small things life turns” – Nick Livesey.
“Re: P Storch’s comments regarding one of Huddersfield Town’s shirts resembling a discarded Tesco carrier bag (Fiver letters passim), I am sad to report that this ‘honour’ must go to the appalling Bristol Rovers effort from the 96-97 season. At some stage, someone in the boardroom must have said ‘I know what’ll look good … ’” – Steve Slade.
“Re Danny Murphy (Tuesday’s letters): he’s probably right, they can’t lace his boots. Kevin De Bruyne’s almost certainly got those fancy velcro-fixed boots rather than anything as commonplace as laces” – Louise Wright (and many others).
Send your letters to [email protected] And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Nick Livesey.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
In another triumph for the owners’ and directors’ test Plucky Wigan have become the first professional club in England to fall into administration during the Covid-19 crisis just four weeks after being taken over by a Hong Kong-based consortium. Paul Cook’s side are 14th in the Championship, eight points above the relegation places, but face a 12-point penalty.
In brighter news for struggling clubs up north, a winding-up petition for Oldham was dismissed by a judge after they were told an outstanding debt had been settled.
Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema has clung on to her women’s footballer of the year gong, awarded by the Football Writers’ Association, after pipping Chelsea’s Beth England by a vote.
Andrea Radrizzani is more than happy to lean into his club’s reputation: “We have a history of being ‘dirty Leeds’ and we actually channel that. We want to play great football and we are doing that but we also need to fight every time we go on to the pitch.” It’s Nasty Leeds here, Andrea.
A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to honour Jack Leslie with a statue, the former Plymouth forward picked for England’s game against Ireland in 1925 only to be quietly dropped after FA officials apparently discovered he was black.
Bukayo Saka has put quill to parchment for a new long-term Arsenal contract, and offered insight into the decor at the club’s Hale End academy: “I just remember always seeing a picture of Jack Wilshere on the walls when I walked in every single day …”
Mohamed Salah his let slip his pick for player of the season: “Maybe I’ll choose Henderson …” and issued his own hands-off warning to anyone hoping to prise him away from Liverpool. “I love this place and I hope to stay for a long time,” he cooed.
Lionel Messi scored his 700th goal for club and country but still ended his Camp Nou night with a face on after two Saúl Ñíguez penalties pegged back Barça to a 2-2 draw that leaves Real Madrid a point clear at the top of La Liga.
And Tom Huddlestone and Derby have parted ways, after the 33-year-old’s contract stopped working. “It’s likely to be a new chapter for myself, which is exciting times as I still feel I have a lot to offer on and off the field,” said the midfielder, whose Wikipedia page still optimistically lists his four-cap England career as “2009–”.
STILL WANT MORE?
Big Website snapper Tom Jenkins gives us a photo essay on life in the amber zone, covering Premier League games under Covid-19 restrictions in empty grounds.
Kirsty MacColl, The Proclaimers and many many more feature in this week’s Knowledge on songs about specific matches.
Steven Pye travels back to November 1989, the Berlin wall falling and all hell breaking loose when Arsenal beat Norwich 4-3 at Highbury.
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