Manchester United and some top, top politics | Soccer


GET INTERIM …

Astronomers have recently become fascinated with FRB 121102. That’s the name given to a mysterious burst of radio-wave activity in space. It follows a repeating pattern: silence for 67 days, then several rapid spurts of excitement before another bout of nothingness. One theory is that the radio waves indicate the presence of a dwarf galaxy three billion light years away; another is that they are simply reflecting the recent pattern of play from a more familiar celestial body, Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Fiver doesn’t know what to think. That’s OK, we have Tin. Anyway, it’s not up to us to figure out how long the 37-year-old’s bursts of activity can last these days and whether, following Saturday’s otherworldly hat-trick against the Harry Has-Been Team, he should be deployed from the start in Tuesday’s Big Cup showdown with Atlético Madrid. That’s a decision for Ralf Rangnick.

The Fiver doesn’t know what to think about Rangnick. That’s OK, we have Tin. What we can say for sure is that the German has already pulled off one brilliant feat at Old Trafford by negotiating a deal whereby if he does a good job as interim manager, he could become the full-time manager – and if he does a bad job as manager, he could become the full-time manager’s boss. That’s some top, top politics!

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In fairness to Rangnick, he has only lost three of 19 matches in charge and there have been no humiliations quite like the ones endured by his predecessors, such as the 4-1 slippering by Watford or the 6-1 whipping by Spurs. And the first leg of the tie with Atlético yielded one of United’s best results under him, a 1-1 draw that leaves the contest right in the balance. So maybe he really could oversee an unlikely triumph, even if the deal he wangled is one of the reasons why it wouldn’t be right to class him alongside Tony Barton or Roberto Di Matteo. Or maybe, given how well this side tends to cope when the pressure is on, that epochal humiliation is coming real soon.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!

Join Paul Doyle from 8pm GMT for hot Big Cup coverage of Manchester United 1-1 Atlético Madrid (agg 2-2 aet, 4-3 on pens), while Luke McLaughlin will be on hand for Ajax 2-1 Benfica (agg 4-3).

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“It is important for the competition that the match against Middlesbrough goes ahead, however it is with extreme reluctance that we are asking the FA board to direct that the game be played behind closed doors for matters of sporting integrity” – never underestimate football’s ability to misread a room after Chelsea call for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final on Teesside to be played without fans. Remarkable. Boro’s response? “Given the reasons for these sanctions, for Chelsea to seek to invoke sporting ‘integrity’ as reason for the game being played behind closed doors is ironic in the extreme.”

RECOMMENDED LOOKING

Here’s David Squires on … another festival of edification for English football.

Liberties, earlier.
Liberties, earlier. Illustration: David Squires/The Guardian

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Get your ears around the latest Football Weekly podcast.

FIVER LETTERS

“Re: Gordon Lee (yesterday’s Fiver letters). It was Duncan McKenzie who teased the Everton boss, not Malcolm Macdonald. Or so Duncan told me when I interviewed him for the NME in the late-70s, after he’d left Goodison for Blackeye Rovers. He was a funny lad, and evidently still amused by Mr Lee’s team talks” – Monty Smith (and others).

“Having not seen Mr Roy’s new eyewear, I dutifully clicked on the link to the Watford Observer article (yesterday’s Fiver) where my eye was immediately caught by the avatar of senior sport reporter Ryan Gray sporting an England football top. It immediately occurred to me that Big Website’s roster of top journalism talent should do the same to demonstrate their commitment to and undying love for their chosen sport. I look forward to the day when Fiver writers showcase their finely-honed physiques in tight-fitting, overpriced club merchandise” – Andrew Parker.

“I’m sure Mr Roy would appreciate the literary allusion of him being the second coming of WB Yeats (yesterday’s Fiver). From his poetry, it would appear that Yeats was a football fan, quite possibly an Evertonian: ‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world’” – Matt Emerson.

“Although I appreciated the photo of ‘the Budapest Baggio’ (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs), is there any way we can see a picture of the look on the face of a certain Jonathan Wilson, from elsewhere in your parish, when he hears that particular sobriquet?” – Christopher Smith.

“The people of Bury, so cruelly deprived of their football team, will not be denied the opportunity to call Callum Styles ‘the Bury Baggio’ rather than ‘the Budapest Baggio’. We already have Kieran ‘Bury Beckham’ Trippier. At this rate we’ll soon have a full XI of Bury-born namesakes. Maybe they could put on an exhibition game of some sort to save Gigg Lane” – Tom Dowler.

“I’ve been searching for wit among the Bono- and U2-related correspondence (yesterday’s Fiver letters), but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” – Martin Leaver.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Matt Emerson.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Finally, someone at Everton has picked up three points. Unfortunately, Dominic Calvert-Lewin has also been fined for driving his Lamborghini at 58mph in a 50 zone.

Manchester City’s goalless draw at Crystal Palace has thrown the Premier League title race wide open – though Pep Guardiola never considered it over. “With 14 points [Liverpool] had played two games less,” he said. “Fewer,” parped The Fiver.

A frustrated Riyad Mahrez at Selhurst.
A frustrated Riyad Mahrez at Selhurst. Photograph: MI News/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

Amazingly, some good news: Christian Eriksen is back in the Denmark squad for the first time since his cardiac arrest at Euro Not 2020. Godspeed.

The Glazer family are considering revamping Old Trafford – and may knock the whole thing down – although have yet to share how they plan on getting fans to pay for it.

While Diego Simeone is famously receptive to new ideas, he plans to keep faith with his old methods for Atlético’s Big Cup visit. “Everyone has their own opinion [about styles] and we all try to do the best we can for the club we’re at with the characteristics of the players we have,” he tooted.

And Bangkok FC player Aitsaret Noichaiboon has been sacked after retaliating to a petulant kick from North Bangkok University’s Supasan Ruangsuphanimit with a vicious elbow to the face.

STILL WANT MORE?

Richard Foster reports on Grenfell Athletic, a team set up in the tragic aftermath of the 2017 tower-block fire.

Best of luck to Grenfell Athletic.
Best of luck to Grenfell Athletic. Photograph: Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images

You wouldn’t always know it, but there’s more to football than dancing around with silver pots. Here’s Jonathan Liew on the problems of supporting a super club.

Just two months ago, Barcelona did everything but pack Ousmane Dembélé’s suitcase for him, but were grateful for his contribution to a 4-0 demolition of Osasuna. Sid Lowe reports.

And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!



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