FRIDAY’S BIG HEADLINES
Fans protest, football carries on
Decoy buses, tires being slashed, it was an eventful evening in Manchester even before the players took to the field with the pre-match scenes inspiring basically everyone to make the same joke about watching Line of Duty, not a Premier League match.
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The European Super League debacle has forced some very abnormal conversations in football, all of them welcome, and Manchester United fans trying to force their match against Liverpool to be called off for the second time in less than two weeks, previously a totally unthinkable scenario, felt instead like an appropriate response to the ESL and a legitimate tactic to try and continue the process of ejecting the Glazers from the club.
But by the end of the night, after a 4-2 win for Liverpool, football was looking a little bit more normal again, as we had two familiar tropes to rest on: a handshake controversy and a Roy Keane rant.
Handshakes in football are a politically charged thing. Arsene Wenger was constantly reprimanded by some of The Real Football Men like Mark Hughes and Sam Allardyce when disappearing down the tunnel without offering one. Usually controversy arises when players or managers from opposing sides refuse traditional pleasantries. But last night it was Sadio Mane conspicuously leaving Jurgen Klopp hanging having been left out of the starting XI.
“It’s disrespectful to the manager and most of all it’s disrespectful to the football club,” said Graeme Souness. Roy Keane concurred it was “out of order” but then offered up the insight that he “wouldn’t want the manager coming on and giving me high fives”. Which probably sounds fair enough.
Keane really settled into his stride when the question of Manchester United’s disappointing performance came into play.
"All of United's shortcomings have been shown up in the last couple of days," said Keane. "Look at the performance of the two midfielders. [Scott] McTominay is a good, honest player. And they've got Fred. As long as those two players are in midfield for Manchester United, they will not be winning any big trophies.
“United were all over the place, really poor performance from them, poor mentality. Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] looks a bit shell-shocked there. It’s been a tough few days. The performance tonight was nowhere near good enough. All United’s shortcomings have been shown up in the last couple of days.
“Tonight just not enough quality, giving such bad goals away but the other worry, Liverpool could have scored six or seven. We have praised United the last few months but this squad is so short of competing with Man City to win the title, all their shortcomings have been shown up the last few days. I think Man City are so far ahead of this United squad it is scary. Ole will think they need three or four big players to come in at least.”
So after an evening when the very fabric of the game was once again up for question, with fans fomenting insurrections against the Glazer model of ownership and trying to assert their newly rediscovered power in the corporatised space that is modern football to discover exactly how much leverage they do have, we ultimately finished up on ‘how many players X club needs to buy to be good at football’.
Normality returned. But just remember, normality in football is not a good thing. Changes do need to come to save this game we all love and they are changes which will only, can only, be driven by fans.
Haaand and Sancho steal the show
It seems inconceivable that the summer will pass without one or both of Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho leaving Borussia Dortmund. Mega-talents don’t stay at teams who struggle to qualify for the Champions League for long.
But we can at least appreciate the short window in which the careers of two of the best young players on the planet did dovetail so beautifully, with both scoring twice in a 4-1 victory over RB Leipzig last night to win the DFB Pokal for Dortmund.
It’s been a difficult season for Dortmund but they end it with a trophy, and with two games left in the Bundesliga they still could pull Champions League football out of the bag.
It’s not going to be enough to stop this wonderful bromance being broken up though.
Aguero agrees Barca deal, Messi surely to follow
News broke via our Spanish office last night that Sergio Aguero has agreed a two-year deal to join Barcelona on a free transfer, with only minor details left to arrange – a story subsequently corroborated to varying degrees by Guillem Balague and the transfer oracle himself, Fabrizio Romano.
On the face of it, signing Aguero looks a weird move for a Barca squad which is already creaking in places and needs an injection of youth. On the other hand, signing one of Lionel Messi’s best mates is probably a decent strategy to help keep hold of Lionel Messi.
IN OTHER NEWS
Some quick background: at the weekend, in Inter’s game against Roma, Lautaro Martinez came on after 35 minutes to replace the injured Alexis Sanchez. However, Antonio Conte was so unimpressed with his effort that he subbed him off again on 70 minutes, prompting an angry reaction from the striker. And prompting another angry reaction from Conte.
So at training yesterday, a boxing match was arranged between the two of them with Romelu Lukaku doing his best Michael Buffer impression.
We are just gutted the video stops when it does. Conte in two rounds, no doubt.
IN THE CHANNELS
Sir Alex Ferguson was never one to ladle on the charm for the press. His press conference rants at reporters are the stuff of legend and he rarely managed to hide his displeasure when faced with media engagements. Which just makes it all the weirder to see him doing the rounds this week.
Fergie has conduced a series of interviews with like the likes of Dan Roan for the BBC and Clare Balding for Channel 4, to promote the new Amazon Prime documentary, Never Give In, a profile of his life and recovery from the brain haemorrhage which nearly killed him. In the clip above, he relives the incident and pays tribute to the NHS for saving his life.
Newly-crowned champions and newly-safe Newcastle United face off tonight in the first Premier League match of the season which seems truly pointless and without any sporting intrigue to it whatsoever. So read a book or something.
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