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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Cristiano Ronaldo having Atlético Madrid’s number and then some | Football


The omens are decidedly mixed for Manchester United before their Round of Arsenal tie against Atlético Madrid in Big Cup. On the one hand, they boast a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. Over a long period of time, the old boy has regularly heaped misery upon woe on to Diego Simeone’s fuming noggin. CR37 scored against Atléti for city neighbours Real to help his side win the 2014 final. He slotted the winning penalty against them in the 2016 final. He swatted them aside in the 2017 semis with a hat-trick, then scored another treble for Juventus in a stupidly dramatic comeback from 2-0 down at this stage in 2019. It’s fair to say he’s got their number … specifically 25, which is how many goals he’s scored in 35 meetings. Poor Diego. Po’ Diego’s a-cold.

On the other hand, Atlético can take succour from a little history of their own. On the only other occasion these two clubs have met, in the old Cup Winners’ Cup in 1991, they trounced United 4-1 on aggregate, prising Lord Ferg’s fingers off the trophy his side had lifted just six months earlier. Some legendary names were involved in that tie. Paulo Futre opened the scoring for Luis Aragones’ team as they romped to a 3-0 win in Madrid, while Bernd Schuster equalised in the return at Old Trafford. United’s solitary consolation that evening was scored by, who else, a young Cristiano Ronaldo. Subs please check.

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So if history and mathematics teach us anything, six equals half a dozen. However there’s one other, possibly more relevant, factor that may tip the scales decisively in United’s balance: Atléti are all over the shop at the minute. While Ralf Rangnick’s men are admittedly a mercurial work in progress at best, shambolic if we’re feeling less generous, they’re a Cityesque model of consistency compared to Simeone’s shower. World famous as the last word in resolute, no-nonsense, epic outhousery, Atléti have momentarily misplaced their staunch sanitary-chamber mojo, and having lost seven of their last 13, currently exude all the snarling potty-time menace of the Andrex puppy. A statement victory is United’s for the taking, as is the chance for Ronaldo to bump up those stats and consign Po’ Diego to ever more despair.


Join Sarah Rendell from 7.45pm (GMT) for MBM coverage of England Women 0-0 Germany Women, while Scott Murray will be on hand at 8pm for Atlético Madrid 1-2 Manchester United in Big Cup and Paul Doyle will be on Benfica 2-2 Ajax.


“I asked my mum for speed, but she couldn’t give it to me … there were 10,000 boys with more talent on the streets where I come from. But it’s the choices you make that make the difference” – Sébastien Haller gets his chat on with Bart Vlietstra about his disappointing time at West Ham and how he has overcome a lack of zippiness to become a Big Cup goal-guzzler with Ajax.

Séb in Lisbon for Ajax’s date with Benfica.
Séb in Lisbon for Ajax’s date with Benfica. Photograph: Patrícia de Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images


19 February: “We’re fully behind Keith [Millen] and once the new players fully settle and some of the [knacked] players are back, we think we’ll be putting a team out there that will do [us] proud” – Carlisle director of football David Holdsworth says the League Two strugglers have the manager’s back after a 3-0 home defeat by Swindon left them second bottom and potentially needing another Jimmy Glass moment to survive.

23 February: “Everyone would like to go on record with their thanks to Keith for his work and efforts since he joined us … and we wish him the very best as he moves on” – Carlisle mutually consent Millen and Holdsworth through the door marked Do One, with Paul Simpson coming in.


“I see The Fiver is getting really good at predicting Big Cup scores (yesterday’s Live on Big Website). Careful, or you’ll increase the readership” – Steve Anniss (and 1,056 others).

“Seems there is support for the STOP FOOTBALL campaign from Paul Cook, manager of Chesterfield. Interviewed after Tuesday night’s defeat at home to Wrexham, he commented on the league leaders who did not have a game: ‘Stockport have had a good night tonight without even kicking a ball … that’s what football’s about’” – Brian Ross.

“All this talk of Aarhus (yesterday’s Fiver letters) has reminded me of one of my favourite overseas players at Luton Town: Johnny Vilstrup. He joined for the start of the 1995 season with the most fabulous claim to fame: he had, we were assured, the hardest shot in Denmark. How this was determined was never established and he trundled around the pitch for a few weeks to little effect until Terry Westley was sacked. Although I do have one memory of a bazooka-like shot that left the crossbar oscillating. His replacement, Lennie Lawrence, promptly sent Johnny back to Denmark – to Aarhus, whom he helped win the Danish Cup the following year. Sadly, knee-knack ended his career soon after, but presumably that is always a risk when you have a leg like a cannon” – Neil Rose.

“I laughed at least three times while reading yesterday’s Fiver [are you OK? – Fiver Ed]. May I suggest that you stick to politics” – Darren Leathley.

Send your letters to [email protected] And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Neil Rose.


Treat your ears with the latest Football Weekly podcast.


Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko has had his say on the crisis brewing in his homeland as fears of a war with Russia grow. “My country belongs to Ukrainians and no one will ever be able to appropriate it,” he said.

Birmingham striker Troy Deeney has made an impassioned plea for the English school curriculum to be made more diverse. “The importance of education at an early age to inform identity and combat racist beliefs and stereotypes cannot be understated,” he wrote in an open letter to education secretary Nadhim Zahawi.

Fair play to Troy, down at Brixton Library earlier.
Fair play to Troy, down at Brixton Library earlier. Photograph: James Manning/PA

Are Liverpool going to “get a bit soft” when they face Leeds for a chance to go three points behind leaders Manchester City? “There is no chance,” yelped Jürgen Klopp. “I think Pep said we are the pain in the … lower back. That is a good description.”

Antonio Conte reckons the pain of recent defeats meant the pleasure he felt after Spurs’ win over Manchester City was off the scale. “It’s very simple,” he tooted. Come now Antonio, this is Spurs.

And dust off the No Jackett Required headlines as Leyton Orient are searching for a new manager, fresh off a fourth consecutive League Two home defeat without a goal.


Barney Ronay explains how Chelsea’s perky Big Cup display against Lille left Romelu Lukaku looking more peripheral than ever.

Po’ Rom’s also a-cold.
Po’ Rom’s also a-cold. Photograph: Javier García/Rex/Shutterstock

Sid Lowe on Atlético Madrid’s identity crisis.

Why punditry still fails goalkeepers. By Cameron Ponsonby.

This week’s Knowledge shines a light on players having medical-knack then going on to have successful careers.

And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!


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