Royal Sporting Club Anderlecht have a storied European history, starting with their 10-0 spanking by a Tommy Taylor and Dennis Viollet inspired Manchester United in 1956, to the time they paid the referee £27,000 to cheat Nottingham Forest out of a place in the Euro Vase final of 1984. Those are stories, right? To be fair, along the way there have been good times too: they’ve bagged a couple of Cup Winners’ Cups, one at the expense of West Ham United, plus the 1983 Euro Vase. But it’s been a long while since they’ve been a force on the continent. There was brave defeat in the 1990 Cup Winners’ Cup final, and Tomasz Radzinski scored twice against United in the Big Cup groups of 2000, but otherwise pickings are slim. Pining for the glory days of Tomasz Radzinski. This is where they’re at.
United are, of course, on a quest to win Euro Vase and, in doing so, become only the second club in England, and the fifth overall after Juventus, Ajax, Bayern Munich and Chelsea, to land all of the big three European prizes. They should do it, if everyone’s being honest with themselves, as the only other teams left in the competition this year are Genk, Basingstoke Town, Basingstoke Town reserves, Basingstoke Town U11s, the darts team from the Dog & Duck, Giles and Maureen (a nice couple from Surrey who thought they were entering a bridge drive but filled out the wrong form) and Anderlecht. It’s a clear run, really.
Anderlecht are currently top of the ultra-competitive Belgian First Division, seven places clear of Genk and 16 ahead of relegation-threatened Giles and Maureen (another unfortunate administrative error, all they wanted was a nice relaxing game of bowls). Nevertheless, they won’t be particularly looking forward to this rubber. They’ve lost 20 of their 32 matches against English opposition, and both of their games against José Mourinho, when he was going through his Chelsea phase in 2005. And the last time they ran into Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the F Scott Fitzgerald short story scored four goals for Paris Saint-Germain.
Ibrahimovic will be on something of a high having last weekend scored his 28th cracker of the season against Sunderland, and today been named on the shortlist for the PFA player of the year alongside Eden Hazard, Alexis Sánchez, Romelu Lukaku, Harry Kane and PFA player of the year N’Golo Kanté. Anderlecht may be reduced to hoping that United suddenly get the fear upon remembering how their only other quarter-final appearance in Euro Vase saw them knocked out on penalty kicks by Videoton in 1985. Pining for the days of Tomasz Radzinski, and also Ron Atkinson. That it’s come to this for the famous Purple and Whites.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“There is a theory that the rise in nationalism led to Germany going on a more aggressive approach, Britain were dominant so had to defend themselves in the colonies and the seas, and that was how the naval arms race came about, because Britain were the main power. Nationalism had a big effect and then never really went away and led to Hitler as well” – Portsmouth’s Christian Burgess chats to Ben Fisher. Not your standard football interview.
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“Fiver Letters 12 April: ‘Football isn’t for fun; it’s a misery-based slog, an endurance test, bringing nothing but sadness.’ Has Mark Evans inadvertently captured the essence of The Fiver?” – Matt Chapman.
“In response to Mark Evans, I also support two teams in Premier League. Liverpool and whomever beats Manchester United” – Robert Vlad.
“In response to Sunderland fan Mark Evan’s bitter pill that is the lifelong support of a solitary team, I do not disagree (Fiver letters, Wednesday). I haven’t stopped supporting Blackeye Rovers. Every Saturday I check the footy app on my phone and grimace as I have that day’s optimism ripped from my chest, deflatedly whining ‘Aw, come on’. But, I live in a strange and foreign land (Newcastle) unable to watch the Rovers for almost ten years now. It was surely inevitable that I would glance occasionally at a local team, perhaps attend a match when a mate wasn’t using his ticket and because of where I live and work, learn the ways of their fans. Do I feel dirty cheering when Newcastle score? I do a bit. Will I ever wear a black and white replica top several sizes too small? I just don’t know. I’m the first admit it doesn’t feel quite right, I’m not 100% at peace with myself but it’s all I’ve got, I’ve got no place else to go. And besides, I won’t be made to feel guilty by a Mackem” – Marten Allen.
“I liked Mike Dunton’s ‘Lorna door’ suggestion yesterday; we could disguise the managerial exit even further and call it A Door For Lorna! Think how mellifluously Claudio Ranieri would say that in a sad voice!” – Justin Kavanagh.
“Several years ago here in NZ the country’s most senior policeman was Peter Doone. He must have passed through a door marked Doone every day …. until the last time! Out of interest, what are the origins of the term ‘do one’. Before becoming a Fiver reader I had never heard the term before – in any context. Just interested. A quick paragraph would be appreciated, not a four-page essay!” – David Parsons.
BITS AND BOBS
German prosecutors have said a man arrested after a bomb attack on a bus carrying Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday is a member of Islamic State but there is so far no evidence he was involved in the incident.
West Ham’s Michail Antonio is out for the season (which isn’t all that long now, really) with hamstring twang.
When US side Phoenix Rising were brainstorming ideas for their new club’s name, their well of creativity seems to have been rather dry. But, while they may have the most on-the-nose team name in world football, they do also now have Didier Drogba, who has joined the club as player-owner.
Everton have told Ross Barkley he has until May to sign a new contract or else.
Pep Guardiola is going to rotate Claudio Bravo and Willy Caballero like a pair of rotisserie chickens for the remainder of the season.
STILL WANT MORE?
If the past couple of years have taught us anything it’s that asking the general public to vote on something is a Really Great Idea from which Nothing Could Possibly Go Wrong. With that in mind VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! for your PFA player of the year.
Get your “Where the heck is Alli/Pogba/Coutinho/Alderweireld?” in here.
Football must learn from the sorry rush to play the Borussia Dortmund game, writes Proper Journalist David Conn. Jürgen Klopp was also none-too-impressed by the decision to play the game less than 24 hours later.
Dani Osvaldo didn’t do much at Southampton. Hang on, let’s rephrase that. Dani Osvaldo didn’t do much on the pitch at Southampton, but he did score a Golden Goal. Ben Fisher reminisces on what might have been.
Insert your own gag about educated left feet and then read this piece on the student side aiming at Europa League qualification.
Like a list of Caprice Bourret’s former partners, this week’s quiz features several surprise names and Tony Adams.
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