SO MUCH TO ANSWER FOR
What a coup it’s been for English football, and for the metropolitan borough of Manchester, to play host to Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho, two of the most famous managers in the world! There they’ve sat, all season, underachieving with a face on, while the Premier League title race has passed them by. And so the second Manchester derby of the 2016-17 league campaign isn’t quite the crucial showdown we’d all hoped for. Though it is sort of important, kind of. Who will get the upper hand in the chase for a precious berth in Big Cup next season, securing fourth spot, and maybe even third? Coo! That’s £175m and £150m well spent! And so much joy, verve and entertainment along the way. Well done, everyone.
It’s arguable that Pep has more to lose than José tonight. Mourinho has, after all, hoisted a couple of bits of tin in the air this season, a domestic cup like his predecessor Louis van Gaal and the Community Shield like David Moyes before that. Good, good. His side are also hot favourites to win Euro Vase, the big name in a small field also featuring Basingstoke Town, the reformed Bananarama, and Giles and Maureen from Surrey who thought they were entering a bridge tournament but filled out the wrong form. That’s a decent return by the standard of most clubs, especially as everyone’s conveniently forgetting pre-season expectations of freewheeling football, the title and concomitant stress-free qualification for Big Cup. But it’s easy to pick holes. Pep, by contrast, has nix. Po’ Pep’s a-cold!
Po’ Pep is guaranteed to end his first year at the Etihad empty handed, shivering, the first time he’ll have nothing to show for a season’s efforts in his entire nine-year management career. “Sometimes it has to happen and it happened this year,” he shrugs, kidding on he doesn’t care. “If I extend my career long, I’m sure there will be many years in the future it happens.” Music to City’s ears, no doubt, and it suddenly seems a long time ago when Guardiola’s side went to Old Trafford in September and gave United a footballing lesson, thrashing them by 9,274 passes to 17, domination which was eventually parlayed into a tight 2-1 win. With local bragging rights at stake tonight – Cor! That’s worth £325m of anyone’s money! - Pep’s paymasters will be desperately hoping for some more of that trademark Guardiola magic.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE TONIGHT
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Tickets selling fast for our final game in the EFL – book now to avoid disappointment on the day!” – relegated Leyton Orient, ladies and gents.
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“So West Ham are suspected of having an outstanding tax bill? Why didn’t they simply Payet?” – R Reisman.
“Re: Big Sam’s boasts about out-thinking another foreign manager (yesterday’s Fiver). I get what you’re saying, of course, but isn’t Big Sam’s whole point that one needn’t think at all? That Arsène is over there prattling on about Jacques Lacan and creating space when all you need is some huff and puff, studs up, and one into the mixer? Unless Sam is thinking that by not thinking he is thinking more deeply, which makes him more of a footballing Heidegger than any of us could have guessed?” – Thad Brown.
“Of course it’s not Hatfield (letters passim). The norf/sarf divide is obviously to be found at Watford Gap Services, which curiously enough is in Northamptonshire, some 55 miles north of Harry the Hornet’s Hertfordshire home. Anyway, it’s a key point on the north/south isogloss (look it up on Wikipedia, that’s where I found it) which locates three signature differences of northern and southern spoken English, namely the foot-strut split, the bad-lad split, and the Bath vowel. Seems definitive to me” – Steve Allen.
“Nice to see Sam Fox (yesterday’s letters) migrating to a more football friendly newspaper, and promotion from Page 3 to the Fiver’s letter creche” – Andrew Tate.
“Given that yesterday’s prizeless-winning correspondent Sam Fox did not suffix their name with ‘(not that one)’, can we assume that it was, in fact, That One? Inquiring minds etc” – Mo Holkar.
“Could I just take this opportunity to congratulate Sam Fox on winning ‘letter of the day’ yesterday. I assume Weird Uncle Fiver was on the judging panel” – Tom Gorman.
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BITS AND BOBS
Unsavoury world football news, part I: China’s Guangzhou Evergrande have invoked the wrath of the AFC (and, presumably, labrador fans everywhere) after supporters unfurled a banner saying “Annihilate British Dogs”during their Asian Champions League match against Hong Kong’s Eastern.
Unsavoury world football news, part II: Barcelona have said they will report Málaga’s president, Abdullah al-Thani, for calling the club “the scum of Catalonia” on popular social networking website The Twitter. “FC Barcelona expresses its rejection of and indignation towards the contents of a tweet published by the president of Malaga CF, Abdullah Al-Thani,” seethed Barça in a statement.
Unsavoury world football news, part III: Palmeiras coach Eduardo Baptista accused Penarol of deliberately preventing his players from leaving the field after the Brazilian side’s 3-2 Copa Libertadores win over their Uruguayan hosts was followed by things getting pwoper nawty. “It’s lamentable,” sighed Baptista after the mass brawl. “Premeditated the way it was it could have been much worse. When we tried to leave the field the tunnel was closed and security guards stopped us from leaving. Our own security got us off the field and stopped something worse happening.”
Mauricio Pochettino reckons his Spurs players are mentally nails these days and it’ll help them push Chelsea to the finish line without an explosion of fists, boots and cartoon dust like last year.
And Sean Dyche reckons Joey Barton’s potentially career-knacking 18-month ban for breaking betting rules is “a bit harsh”. “Eighteen months seems a long time to me in light of other things I’ve seen in the sport,” sniffed Dyche. “Eric Cantona was given a nine-month ban for a kung-fu kick.”
STILL WANT MORE?
‘You’re embarrassing yourself.’ If the Fiver had a penny … Still, at least it’s Alexis Sanchez getting the treatment here and he’s far from the first
A keeper scoring from his own area? And an Ousmane Dembélé wondergoal? Jimmy Glass!? It can only be this week’s Classic YouTube.
City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United.City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United. City. United.
Come for the quiz on players and managers in suits. Stay for the plethora of sartorial magnificence.
Arsenal and Tottenham square up on Sunday. For Mauricio Pochettino, it’ll bring back memories of another demolition derby, writes David Hytner.
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