TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES
Fare thee well, United servants
“It’s turning into a legend’s charity game,” quipped Gary Neville, who probably had his boot bag stashed under the commentary box in case he was subbed on as well.
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His hint of exasperation came after the standing ovation for Juan Mata, the 34-year-old up-and-comer who was making his first Premier League start of the season and quite evidently his last for United too.
The outgoing Spaniard was joined by the also-departing Nemanja Matic – who already made a goodbye speech that irked Roy Keane last week – in the starting XI. And for good measure, Edinson Cavani and Phil Jones came on as well.
This truly was a farewell tour at Old Trafford, and while the reality is that almost every other player at United right now is either going to leave or could, the fact that such matters were taking precedent in the 36th Premier League match of a season just shows you where United are.
Along with that, there was focus on a walkout to protest the Glazers’ ownership, but that 73rd-minute plan was somewhat scuppered by Raphael Varane’s goal a minute before and Mata’s substitution a minute after.
Very few actually left, the chaps waving the banner reminding fans to walk out seemingly stayed, and the anti-Glazer chants were not exactly stadium wide. Grr, that’ll show ‘em.
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And so, come the full-time whistle the attention switched to this much talked about lap after what was their final Old Trafford game of the campaign. After “a lot of hugging and kissing”, according to Keane, it was all rather amiable as these figures of the post-Fergie era finally acknowledged their contracts aren’t being renewed and thanked the fans who had watched their mediocrity, for the majority, for a good number of seasons.
It is all essential, though, and a clear-out that has been talked about for years appears to be taking shape. It’s just a shame they gave up on fighting for fourth so long ago, as with no Champions League carrot dangling, the names that come in could be of a lower calibre than they’d like.
Fifth final this century?
They've been the best side in England just the one season these last three decades, but nevertheless Liverpool's European consistency has been nothing short of remarkable.
Champions in '05, with a nowhere-near-better-than-AC Milan squad beating AC Milan, champions again in 2019, with final appearances in 2007 and 2018 to boot, Liverpool are on the verge of a fifth final this century - a fine return given their domestic exploits.
The job isn't done yet, though, and Jurgen Klopp is wary of just that when taking their two-goal lead to Villarreal.
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"At this moment, a Champions League semi-final is the most important game you can play,” he said. “Whatever happened in the last few weeks or will happen in the next few weeks is not important, for this moment is clear.
"You never know if you will reach a semi-final again or if we will ever have the chance again to go to the final, you never know. We have an exceptional team here and nothing is for granted. You need luck in moments and all these sorts of things, so you better treat it carefully and be ready, and we will be ready."
Simply the best
He really is a genius with the ball, isn’t he? No, not Ronnie O’Sullivan, but Aleksandar Mitrovic, who scored his 43rd (FORTY-THIRD, because that figure warrants caps) Championship goal of the season as Fulham confirmed their status as champions.
It really is an unbelievable haul in what is one of the most relentless and draining campaigns going. A 46-match calendar produces more games than you can keep up with, and somehow Mitrovic has scored in as many league games as he has played.
The focus will inevitably turn to whether Fulham can stay up after yet another promotion, but don’t go telling that pointless bloke they’re destined for the drop.
IN THE CHANNELS
Funny, from Riyad Mahrez(‘s social media team). He (they) want that blue tick back…
We’re entering a memorable month for #onthisday observers out there, and today we’ll cast your mind back to this day in 1998, when Arsenal wrapped up their first ever Premier League title.
“Would you believe it!”
One of the iconic Premier League goals from Tony Adams…
A big night for Liverpool then, who are looking to complete the job in Spain. There’s also a crunch Championship clash too as second hosts third when Bournemouth take on Nottingham Forest.
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