Ignore the Van de Beek mystery … things are looking up for United

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AND NOW YOU’RE GUNNAR BELIEVE US

You can imagine The Fiver’s reaction on Saturday when a blurry man in The Quaff and Barf said there was some important breaking news from Old Trafford. “Garçon, another refill!” we bellowed immediately. And that’s the last thing we remember.

Upon waking on Monday afternoon The Fiver got to wondering what the news could have been: was it that Old Trafford itself had finally broken, the decrepit stadium at last declared irreparable after years of neglect? No, that wasn’t it. Was it that Montgomery Glazer had announced plans to enter United into a prestigious mid-season tournament featuring top YouTube influencers? Nope, not yet. Was it that Ole Gunnar Solskjær had just figured out the substitutions he should have made in last season’s Big Vase final? Don’t be ridiculous, being Darth Vadered by Unai Emery is not something one recovers from so fast. Just ask Mikel Arteta.

Related: Ole Gunnar Solskjær signs new Manchester United contract until 2024

But wait, there’s something that some people keep choosing to overlook: Solskjær is no Arteta. Sure, the former supersub got a plum job before he was ready but he was still better prepared than Arteta was and he has made a much better fist of things than that Spaniard has, even if Arteta has actually nabbed a trophy for Arsenal whereas the number of cups Solskjær has brought to United can be counted on the fingers of one gland.

Solskjær has generally learned quickly, his man-management has been mostly terrific and United have definitely made progress under him. Ignoring the Donny van de Beek mystery, their recruitment has been pretty much on the money, and even the £73m United paid on Friday for Jadon Sancho seems like a worthwhile investment. And United’s summer spree isn’t over, as they are edging closer to a deal for Raphaël Varane and possibly others. All in all, then, The Fiver was not shocked to find out today that Saturday’s big news was that United have gone and awarded Solskjær a new contract, running until 2024.

“Ole and his staff have worked tirelessly putting the foundations in place for long-term success on the pitch,” gabbled Ed Woodward, whose scheduled departure at the end of this year may be another sign that things are looking up for United. “The results of that have become increasingly visible over the past two seasons and we are all looking forward to seeing this exciting team develop further in the years ahead,” continued Woodward. “What is especially pleasing is the way this progress has been achieved with a blend of young, homegrown talent and top-class recruits, playing attacking football in the best traditions of Manchester United. We are more confident than ever that, under Ole’s leadership, we are heading in the right direction.” It would be churlish of The Fiver to finish by pointing out that a matter of hours after that declaration of intent, United lost 4-2 in a pre-season friendly against QPR.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I want to be as respectful to the manager and everyone at Aston Villa as I can and, having given my future serious consideration over the summer, I genuinely don’t feel it is fair to move into a new season without being certain of seeing that through” – yup, if there’s one thing for which POJT is adored, it’s being respectful.

Looking for a football management job near you: Plain Old John Terry.
Looking for a football management job near you: Plain Old John Terry. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/AFP/Getty Images

FIVER LETTERS

“I read Jeremy Loome’s letter and immediately thought of all the other (Australian) A League regulars reading his letter and quite literally thinking we would gladly take every single one of those names mentioned and any other arrogant, old and washed up Euro Stars the league can spare. The weathers fantastic, we’re relatively free of Covid and spectators for that fact and the media don’t really care so they can go about being utterly useless in relative peace” – Flavio L’Abbate.

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 … Flavio L’Abbate.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Joey Barton, the manager of Bristol Rovers, has been charged with assault by beating, after a woman suffered a head injury at a residential address in London.

Fernando Torres has been appointed Atlético Madrid’s youth team coach. “I’m proud and happy to be returning home,” he whooped. “It’s an exciting challenge I’ve got in front of me and we’ll give everything we can to continue to serve our club.” Meanwhile, Fábio Futre, son of Paulo, is the new under-11s coach.

And Tottenham have played a game of swapsies with Sevilla, who have taken Érik Lamela off their hands and sent 20-year-old winger Bryan Gil winger whistling into Spurs Lodge on a five-year deal.

More good news for the Manchester United, this time for their women’s side: centre back Aoife Mannion has joined from Man City. Ooof!

STILL WANT MORE

Team GB have made a fine start to their quest for big Sports Day gold. Suzanne Wrack has the latest.

Leah Williamson, of Team GB and Arsenal, sat down with Suzanne to chat about catching all the feels at Tokyo 2020.

Patrick Vieira is already putting his stamp on Crystal Palace, revitalising his squad with a variety of youthful acquisitions. Ed Aarons has the latest on events in not quite London.

Georginio Wijnaldum gets his chat on with David Hytner, shedding particular light on the abuse he’s suffered on social media disgraces.

Not just a director of football, but a managing director of football: Fabrizio Romano gives us the skinny on Spurs’ Fabio Paratici.

John Duerden looks at the Queen’s Celtic’s new signing, Kyogo Furuhashi, and explains why the Hoops will not suddenly have access to the “massive untapped Asian market”.

Catch up with the latest moves in our women’s and men’s transfer interactives.

And sign up for a daily Big Sports Day email here. It’s not particularly funny but, hey, glass houses and all that.

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

CROSS OR SHOT? YOU DECIDE

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