WEDNESDAY’S BIG STORIES

Why do you want Ole to fail?

The Emirates FA Cup
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You’ve got to feel for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. When Sir Alex is your yardstick for success, it doesn’t matter what you do. Last-minute winner? ‘But you played trash.’ Second in the Premier League? ‘Should be top with that squad.’

Here’s the problem. Any Manchester United fan born after 1980 – roughly half of their fanbase, and most of those who routinely whinge on social media – only knew life under Ferguson before his departure in 2013. Trophy parades and memorable comebacks quickly became the norm during 26 golden years.

But we no longer live in a duopoly state, where the Premier League was shared first between United and Arsenal, then between United and Chelsea. There are more teams on the map, meaning it takes more to win major honours in this new world.

David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have all been dismissed as charlatans, with expectations separated from reality. It’s a label that many have been quick to shoot at Solskjaer too, a 'PE teacher' who is out of his depth at Old Trafford. It's ridiculous. Sure, his football is occasionally frustrating and there have been some hopeless moments, but that’s the deal you make when you become a football supporter. It’s just most United fans don’t realise that pain and pleasure are part of the same package.

United are in with a shout of actually winning the Premier League if they maintain this surge in form. Is that not enough?

Marcus Rashford celebrates

Image credit: Eurosport

It's happening again...

Just like Game of Thrones, where the squabbles over Kings Landing distract from the true menace beyond the Wall, we’re getting caught up in a Premier League title race when there may soon be no Premier League to get excited about. The coronavirus is sweeping through the nation again and it looks set to strike down our beloved football – at least for a fortnight.

That’s the proposal reportedly floated by Premier League execs, with Tottenham’s match with Fulham on Wednesday the latest to fall under the spotlight. We could have lost Burnley v Sheffield United last night, had the Blades not already accepted their fate as a Championship club and played on despite "a number of positive coronavirus tests".

But if we’ve learnt anything from 2020, it’s that half-measures rarely solve anything. So how will a two-week break actually help? Unless, of course, your team is stranded in the relegation zone and yet to fully embrace your new ideas. Here’s Big Sam, 12 days after taking the West Brom job:

When I hear this variant of the virus transmits 70 per cent quicker, we can only do the right thing, which would be to have a circuit breaker. I’m 66 and the last thing I need to do is catch COVID-19. Probably players will overcome it but it’s more difficult for someone like me so I’m very concerned for myself and football in general.

Arsenal

It’s really hard to get excited by Arsenal right now. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looks like a competition winner. Mikel Arteta remains convinced of his own genius for passing off random words as intellectual thoughts. But for a 19-year-old, they would be in a relegation battle right now.

Still, a win is a win. And they’ve got two on the spin. They just about deserved the 1-0 triumph over Brighton and will rightly have woken up today dreaming of the impossible: a top-half finish.

Alexandre Lacazette celebrates

Image credit: Getty Images

IN OTHER NEWS

And the award for worst own goal in 2020 goes to…Romaine Sawyers. An absolute peach.

IN THE CHANNELS

Can they do it on a cold, windy, foggy night etc.

RETRO CORNER

On this very day, 25 years ago, Paul Gascoigne exposed a referee riddled with insecurity.

COMING UP

Tottenham v Fulham is postponed minutes before the 18:00 kick-off, then Newcastle United attempt to invoke the circuit-breaker during their match with Liverpool (20:00) after conceding inside 60 seconds.

You can't postpone Andi Thomas. He's here tomorrow, no matter what.

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