MONDAY'S BIG STORIES

The Sweet Taste Of Carabao

In the blue corner: the best team in the country, 10 points clear at the top of the league, Champions League semi-finalists, winners of the last three League Cups. In the white corner: a knacked Harry Kane, a club having a very weird season, and a manager in post for a week.
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Also, and much more importantly: fans! There were fans at a football match again! Eight thousand of them!
The result, a City win, wasn't a surprise. The manner of it was a pity, though: English football's biggest crowd since the shutdown might have expected more than attack against defence. But Spurs could only manage just a single shot on target, and just two in 90 minutes. We're guessing the xG came out somewhere between "very small" and "rounding error".
Which isn't to say Tottenham were terrible: they defended stoutly, and just as well. But it quickly became clear that Zack Steffen's biggest concern was a penalty shootout. Could things have been different if Aymeric Laporte had been booked, as he deserved to be, for an early one of those fouls that Pep Guardiola insists his teams don't make? Yes. He probably wouldn't have made the second foul, for a start.
In any case, the bigger What If is, surely, the Mourinho question. On the surface it seems odd to look at a game in which team created almost nothing and think "Hmm. But could José Mourinho have done a better job here?" But we're all asking it anyway. The Warm-Up agrees with Daniel Levy that Ryan Mason is the man for a happy dressing room and a quiet life. But if you need something cunning and maybe even evil to get through a cup final, well... we've almost talked ourselves into believing here. This lingering, vestigial Specialness is powerful stuff. See your pharmacist if symptoms persist.
So: Spurs' wait for a trophy goes on, the jokes about Spurs' place in the Super League go on, and the speculation about Harry Kane's future kicks into a higher gear. What shape he'll be in for the summer, and what colour shirt he'll be wearing afterwards. It is a shame that the League Cup, a proud competition with a delightfully peculiar trophy, may end up playing a bit part in a transfer saga. But hey, that's modern football.
And that's also the consequence of City establishing what can only be described as a League Cup dynasty. That's six in eight for City and four in a row for Guardiola, who clearly likes to get into the champagne early. This also means that Phil Foden, who is still only 20 years old and was once again brilliant, now has four League Cups to his name. That puts him level with Spurs and Nottingham Forest, aged 138 and 156 respectively. Honestly, ridiculous behaviour.
But if the game itself wasn't all that memorable, and the result far from shocking, the return of the fans made this one of the games of the season. There's a long way to go before Spurs can disappoint in front of full stadiums again, but this is, we can hope, the beginning of the end of a very weird time. Football without fans is nothing, as the saying goes; so, for the first time in months, English football is something again.

What Boris Knew

The Super League fallout rumbles on, and nobody is safe. Even Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who having taken the opportunity to present himself as Prime Friend to the Ordinary Football Fan, may now be implicated. You recall, of course, that last week he came out swinging against the idea.
It is your game – and you can rest assured that I’m going to do everything I can to give this ludicrous plan a straight red.
Incidentally, if the Warm-Up was ever made Prime Minister, our first law would be a broad, sweeping act forbidding any politician from using footballing analogies. At all. In any context. Ever. Sensible policies for a happier Britain.
Well, it now appears that Ed Woodward was in 10 Downing Street the week before. While there, he may or may not have met the Prime Minister, may or may not have mentioned the Super League to him, and may or may not have left with the impression that the government were rather in favour of the idea.
The story is that Woodward — who may or may not have been in favour of the idea, may or may not have been aware of it, and may or may not be leaving Manchester United at some point in the future — went to No. 10 for a chat about Covid, fans, and matters arising. That wasn't with Johnson, but he may or may not have bumped into him in the corridors of power, and in the course of exchanging words — "Hello, Prime Minister", "Hello, executive vice-chairman" — somebody may have said something about a Super League. Or may not.
Either way, the Super League may — or may not — have taken "positive noises" from the government into account when launching their miserable plan. Confused? Well, look, how would you run a country then?
There is a broader political context to this particular argument, but you'll need somebody better qualified than the Warm-Up to explain that. But it seems clear now that the Super League wasn't just a bad idea, but a powerfully cursed one, and nobody that touched the thing, even in passing, has come out looking good. One to watch, this one.

Logging Off

In an unusual move for the Monday Warm-Up, we're going to talk about next weekend. A broad alliance of football groups — the FA, the professional men's and women's leagues, the players' and managers' unions, Kick It Out, Women in Football, the Football Supporters’ Association, and even the referees at the PGMOL — will be removing themselves from social media from Friday to Monday.
The boycott comes in response to "the ongoing and sustained discriminatory abuse received online by players and many others connected to football", and honestly, we're a little surprised it hasn't come sooner. The problem certainly seems to have increased over the last season, particularly following high-profile games, and the response from the various tech companies behind the platforms has been sluggish where it hasn't been non-existent.
Boycott action from football in isolation will, of course, not eradicate the scourge of online discriminatory abuse, but it will demonstrate that the game is willing to take voluntary and proactive steps in this continued fight.
You'd imagine — or at least, you'd hope — that the absence of a number of multimillion-follower accounts, and all the associated engagement that goes along with them, will make something of an impression. Certainly, the internet will be a quieter place. And we have to wonder how many footballers will make it through four days of silence, then come out the other end thinking "You know, I might just keep this thing off".

IN OTHER NEWS

In fairness to Rangers, how were they supposed to notice the six-foot-plus piratically bearded man dressed in fluorescent green? St Johnstone went on to win the penalty shootout, obviously, keeping their dreams of cup hegemony alive.

RETRO CORNER

Never mind, Spurs fans. Remember that time you did actually win the weird three-handled cup? If you look carefully, you can see the distant ancestor of today's ultra-fashionable stop-penalty in Dimitar Berbatov's run-up.

HAT TIP

When he's not captaining Burnley to 4-0 wins over Wolves, Ben Mee moonlights as a Guardian columnist. Here is explaining how the Premier League's armband wearers responded to the prospect of a Super League.
From the moment we got on the bus after losing at Old Trafford on Sunday, it is all the Burnley squad have talked about. There was a lot of anger within the team because we could not comprehend how these people could do this to our game. You know things are serious when Jordan Henderson sends a message to the Premier League captains’ WhatsApp group.

COMING UP

Leicester against Crystal Palace: the hosts have the chance to put a little clear water between themselves and the rest of the scrap for fourth place; the visitors can push themselves above that magical 40-point mark.
Up from the back to cause havoc in the penalty area, dressed all in bright green, tomorrow's Warm-Up comes from Ben Snowball.
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