WEDNESDAY'S BIG STORIES
DO SOMETHING IMPRESSIVE, OLE
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is still standing as Manchester United boss following their condemnation to the Europa League in Germany on Tuesday evening and he showed himself to be tactically naive when it truly mattered.
Playing a back three against a false nine in the shape of Dani Olmo seemed a bizarre decision and it was further evidence of Solskjaer’s confused tactics that has seen United fall at a crucial juncture in their campaign.
He made double half-time substitutions against Southampton and West Ham before doing so again in Leipzig. He was rightly criticised for allowing Fred to remain on the pitch in their humbling 3-1 defeat to PSG on December 2 which effectively put them in the perilous position of needing to qualify with one game left.
Of course, United beat the Saints and Hammers but the overriding theme from the last four games is a lack of direction under the Norwegian, who claimed United were “unlucky” to lose to Leipzig. He will struggle to have persuaded anyone with that school of thought having deservedly been 3-0 down with 21 minutes left on the clock.
Time has flown and it is hard to believe Solskjaer has been in the United job for almost two years now. It’s been a rollercoaster involving more downs than ups. Despite smatterings of the United of old, having a manager who is reactive, not proactive, in charge of one of the most supported clubs in the world is unlikely to end well. Dealing with a poor summer transfer window, the distraction of an unhappy Paul Pogba and an upcoming Manchester derby all paints a rather bleak picture for the 47-year-old.
Having said all that, a United vs Rangers Europa League final would be fun for the neutral and Solskjaer will probably still be there to paint us vivid comparisons to that great night in Munich 22 years ago.
Solskjaer hits back at Pogba's agent Raiola after defeat
RACISM CONTINUES TO DOMINATE
The fact a game in elite European football was abandoned because of accusations of racism is desperately sad. But the abandonment itself, with both sets of players walking off the pitch following an alleged comment from a fourth official, was a necessary step.
The Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir ended abruptly after both teams walked off the pitch following an alleged racist slur by Romanian fourth official Sebastian Coltescu towards Pierre Webo, Basaksehir's assistant coach.
Discrimination is simply not going away and this latest high-profile scandal does absolutely nothing but further damage the image of the game. Walking off does help, though.
On a slightly more positive note over in Bermondsey, Millwall fans, who were heavily criticised for booing their players who took the knee on Saturday, applauded as their team and visitors Queens Park Rangers stood by an anti-racist banner before their clash on Tuesday, with the west Londoners' players taking the knee to celebrate their equaliser. It feels a smidgeon of progress may have been made there.
RONALDO 'OUTGOATS' MESSI
The social media sphere was filled with goat emojis and #GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) references on Wednesday evening. Who would have thought an entire career could be boiled down to one simple phrase?
Well, in the world of sport that is exactly what happens and the reason for it yesterday was the return of Cristiano Ronaldo to the Nou Camp for the first time since he was a Real Madrid player. He outshone his GOAT rival Lionel Messi in spectacular fashion as he helped Juventus to a statement win over the struggling La Liga giants.
“Siiiii” echoed around the empty stadium as Ronaldo converted two penalties for Juventus and, although there are constant rumours the two do not like each other, the Portuguese star made a point of clearing the imaginary air post-match.
"I have always had a very cordial relationship with him," he told Movistar.
"I shared 12, 13 or 14 years of award ceremonies with him. I never saw him as a rival. He always tries to do what is best for his team and me too. I always got along very well with him.
But we know that in football, for the press, for the show, a rivalry is sought, but I have always gotten along well with him.
Delightful stuff, but with Barcelona collectively floundering, the argument of “who is the greater GOAT” has once again been inconclusive.
It is a question that will just be endlessly debated instead and we are all for it - unless you actually agree with a Piers Morgan opinion...
IN OTHER NEWS
Paul Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola, who has been in the press a lot lately, has won an award for being ‘the best agent’ by Tuttosport over in Italy.
How have we got to a stage where football agents are getting awards for excellence? No one quite knows, but this is the position we find ourselves in. We look forward to seeing his individual honours list on Wikipedia in the not-so-distant future.
On this day back in 1999, Tottenham legend Ledley King, now part of “Jose Mourinho’s mafia” at Spurs if you agree with Gary Neville’s description of the club’s backroom staff, scored his first ever Premier League goal.
His bobbled strike inside 10 seconds in a 3-3 draw with Bradford was the fastest goal in Premier League history before Shane Long smashed it against Watford in April last year.
It’s not one to fill you with joy but there is an excellent piece on the BBC Sport website exploring Robinho’s rape case and Brazil’s gender violence problem that seems to be ignored in the nation’s game and wider society.
The most shocking case in recent years is that of former Flamengo goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who served less than a third of a 22-year sentence for ordering the murder of a former lover. Eliza Samudio was strangled and her body chopped up and fed to dogs, but Bruno continues to earn a living playing football for Rio Branco in the northern state of Acre.
It is yet another big night of Champions League action with Liverpool, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid all playing. Keep up to date with all of the games on the Eurosport website and/or app. Alternatively, the Scottish Open snooker is live on Eurosport this evening if the football fatigue is setting in.
Andi Thomas will be back with you tomorrow to tell you all about an under-pressure Frenchman who holds a managerial role in Madrid.