The Warm-Up: Let's get the big men on the plane, Gareth
Plus: VAR gets another good showing, Mourinho points towards the bin, and poor old Michy Batshuayi...
TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES
Get them on the plane, Gareth!
There’s always been an argument that, while some in English football crave a national team who can ‘play football’, pass like Spain 2012 and satisfy our aesthetic and cerebral desires, instead England should just stick to what they’ve always been good at. Rapid, direct, attacking football with a big man up top who can scare the living heck out of any defender with a questionable temperament.
Peter Crouch, Stoke strikerGetty Images
Monday night was a dream for anyone who took the latter position, as West Ham drew with Stoke 1-1: not the most enticing game for a Monday evening, you might think, but both goals were scored by the big man off the bench, the Plan B introduced and unleashed on an unsuspecting pair of defences, who succeeded in turning the game this way and that.
Firstly Peter Crouch capitalised on Joe Hart shovelling a shot into his path by sharply tucking home what looked like a winner for Stoke, only for Andy Carroll to pop up with a delightful neat finish into the bottom corner and nab a point for West Ham.
So will this be the inspiration Gareth Southgate needs to pick his big men for the World Cup squad? Can he close his eyes and see, with England 1-0 down in their quarter-final against Portugal, him turning around, calling Carroll or Crouch off the bench to bravely save the national team in the only way they know how? Will he have the stones to go for this most English of back-up plans?
Well, probably not. But it’s fun to think about for a bit, eh?
VARce in the Bundesliga
VAR will solve all of football’s problems, right? The use of technology is inevitable so why don’t you Luddites just get with the times and accept that this is the way forward. Don’t stand in the way of inevitable progress!
And anyway, those anti-VAR types say it will suck the fun out of the game, but they will have been feeling prrrrreeeeeeeeettttttyyyyyy silly if they were watching Mainz v Freiberg in the Bundesliga on Monday night. Vvvvveeeeeeerrrrryyyyyy silly indeed.
The short version is this: the players were on their way off the pitch for half-time when the referee heard a voice in his ear, telling him that actually, a penalty should have been awarded to Mainz. So he dutifully marched the teams back out, Mainz took the penalty and scored it. Totally normal thing to happen in a football game. Absolutely standard. In no way a honking farce at all.
And when they eventually resumed their half-time break then emerged for the second-half, the game was delayed because fans started throwing toilet roll on to the pitch in protest at this game being played on a Monday night. All good fun.
Mainz won 2-0, in case you care.
Mourinho to bin underperformers after West Brom
‘Manager drops underperforming players after terrible result’ probably shouldn’t be a particularly shocking headline, but in some cases certainly can be surprising. So it is, then, that some of the players who so limply led Manchester United into the gloom of their defeat to West Brom will have to sing for their supper/earn their place in the starting line-up for the FA Cup semi-final at the weekend, when United face Bournemouth on Wednesday.
“Rotating is not the right word,” Jose Mourinho said. “If I play a player against Bournemouth and the player is phenomenal, he plays the semi-final.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho will make changes for the FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham (Nick Potts/PA)PA Sport
“So it is not rotating, because rotating looks like a player that plays against Bournemouth is to give a rest to somebody that is going to play against Spurs in the semi-final…
“What is the criteria for a manager to choose a team?” he said. “I only know one criteria, is the way they play. It is the only way I can select players.
“Or do you want me to go for the price they cost, or their salary, or their beautiful face? The only way is to go with performance.”
HEROES AND ZEROS
Hero: Michy Batshuayi
It’s sort of gone under the radar a little bit how good Michy Batshuayi has been for Borussia Dortmund, since joining on loan from Chelsea. Nine goals in 14 games is pretty good, but there will be no more this season: his campaign is done after he twanged his ankle ligaments at the weekend, and it might mean his World Cup is in doubt too. So consider this a small pep-up Michy: get fit soon, sir.
Zeros: Manchester United Under-23s
Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - March 13, 2018 General view before the matchReuters
The Manchester United senior team might not be pulling up too many trees at the moment, but they’re doing better than the Under-23s. Ricky Sbragia’s team were relegated from Division One of Premier League 2 on Monday, after Derby beat West Ham, leaving United five points adrift with one game remaining.
Really, for no tangible reason at all, here’s every goal Romario scored for Barcelona. Watch it. Drink it in.
"You must be Joaquín, they said, and he was: unique, no-one quite like him, a cheeky scamp with a glint in his eye, a grin on his face, an endless supply of gags, the uncontainable urge to tell them and, armed with a gaditano accent, the delivery to do them justice. Ask anyone in Spain for their favourite Joaquín moments and their face will light up much like his and they won’t want for one. Or two, or three, or four."
A smattering of interest for you this evening. Brighton v Spurs tickle you? A team probably safe from relegation against one who will probably finish fourth? How about Barcelona v Celta Vigo? Inter v Cagliari? Some League One stuff? Ach, it’s all football, innit.
Tomorrow’s Warm-Up will be brought to you by the unbeatable, the unmatched, the unparalleled, the indefatigable, the invincible Mr Alex Chick.