THURSDAY'S BIG STORIES
Ole Status: At The Wheel
It is hard to imagine how yesterday could have gone any better for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. We're betting that he found a forgotten tenner in his trouser pocket in the morning, and that when he lay down to sleep, all the fireworks within a five-mile radius mysteriously fizzled out.
In between those points his team won a football game, very handily. His new formation worked nicely, giving United the edge in a tight first hour, and then his substitutions blew the game to pieces and sent everybody home with a smile on their faces. Except Julian Nagelsmann. He had to go and have his jacket mocked by an interviewer.
But Nagelsmann's tailor was denied the headlines by Marcus Rashford, who scored a 16-minute hat-trick here to go with the winner against PSG: what a tremendous human being he is. Anybody worried that his activist turn might have a negative effect on his day job, you can relax. Football — blessed football, all-important football — is safe from the hungry kids for the moment.
Rashford even found time to help one more human being in need, handing a penalty over to Anthony Martial late in the game. His canonisation can only be days away. And Donny van de Beek started and looked decent, and Harry Maguire kept a calm clean sheet, and Mason Greenwood scored with his first shot in the Champions League … Ole, if you get a second, send us over some lottery numbers.
As for Fizzy Pop Leipzig, Nagelsmann managed to find a positive or two —
We had a lot of ball-winning moments
— but the sight of his defence simply dissolving in the face of some quick running and clever passing will probably have concerned him. You're not supposed to give the other team wings, lads. That's not the plan.
'Marcus can focus well on and off the pitch' - OGS lauds Rashford hattrick
Alvar-Oh No, Oh No, Oh No Morata
There is something ineffably tragic about Álvaro Morata. He is precisely the right combination of really good at football — which is why he has this amazing career path and big pile of medals — and slightly but fundamentally sad-looking, which makes all the goals he does score seem far less important than the near misses and the not-quites.
So if you'd asked the Warm-Up to guess which footballer would score three goals against Barcelona, only for VAR to rule each one out for offside, we'd have said "Morata" immediately. Without having to think about it. Then we'd have made a kind of sighing noise. Poor lad.
Unfortunately for Juventus, Morata failing to score several times was more or less the high point of the game. They looked like a team missing Cristiano Ronaldo, out with Covid-19: that counts as bad luck. They also looked like a team missing defensive organisation, an attacking plan, and a midfield, which can't all be blamed on the coronavirus.
And they made Barcelona look pretty good. Whether Lionel Messi and company were flattered by their opposition remains to be seen, but bouncing back from defeat to Real Madrid with an away win at Juve should forestall any talk of a crisis. For, ooh, five minutes or so.
How fitting, too, that Barca's first game after Josep Bartomeu's resignation, and his parting shot of "btw we've signed up for the Super League okay byeeeeeee", should be one of those titanic clashes that a Super League will bring every week. And a fine advert, too: a reminder that sometimes, big teams aren't very good, and sometimes, the other big teams win easily.
Pretty Stodgy, Guys
Speaking of … well, let's take the positives: PSG won! Moise Kean, who scored two at the weekend against Dijon, scored two more, so that's encouraging. And the maroon away kits looked pretty smart.
But where Bayern have started this season like a runaway train, last season's other finalists have gone off like a hungover … train … that, er, is running slow because of a problem with the overhead wires, and also that hangover. Look, forget about the train thing.
Thomas Tuchel was already a manager embattled before this game, and while the result may have bought him another week or so, the performance was arguably worse than last week's defeat to Manchester United. Başakşehir were the more dangerous team for long spells, and Keylor Navas the busier goalkeeper.
Also Neymar's injured. That's Plans A through D in the bin.
As we've seen, RB Leipzig — PSG's opponents in their next two European games — can be handily beaten by a side with a functional plan and excellent players. PSG, however, are often just one of those things, and whether the fault for that is Tuchel's or the general ambient weirdness of superclubs and their supersquads, any blame will certainly be his.
It would be foolish to ever bet against Kylian Mbappé doing the necessary, but if you're an elite manager currently at a loose end, make sure your CV is up to date.
IN OTHER NEWS
Thank you to Walthamstow FC for this reminder that non-league football is the greatest form of football, and will never be defeated. Except by a lack of paint.
"I was starting to realise that every ball goes to my left … I pointed to the left. I know your game now. I know where you take the penalties and you are going to go to the left now. Luckily, [Anelka] took the bait." Happy birthday, Edwin van der Sar.
Here's Daniel Storey over on Football365, with the story of Andorra legend Ildefons Lima. Who? Why, only the man who was about to match Jari Litmanen's record of playing international football across four decades … until his own FA suspended him for troublemaking.
The feud has escalated. It became clear that Lima was omitted for criticising the health protocols of the FAF, who had failed to provide Covid-19 tests for national-team players ahead of training sessions
Once more we plunge into the warm waters of the Europa League. AC Milan vs Sparta Prague. Antwerp vs Spurs. Lille vs Celtic. Arsenal vs Dundalk. Once more we drown, happy.
To everybody's great surprise, Tom Adams will be sending out tomorrow's Warm-Up in a diamond formation. And he'll be wearing a striped jacket as he does so.