DIVIDED THEY FALL
While The Fiver hasn’t seen them, we’re ready to guess that the fabled “fan sentiment graphs” Manchester United’s media flunkies are tasked with compiling didn’t make for particularly pleasant viewing on Monday morning. Before Christmas, the club’s senior media wonk Phil Lynch found himself the subject of some ridicule for appearing on one of those new-fangled “podcast” things to explain just how much behind-the-scenes work goes into the composition of yet another pointless, unnecessary and poorly received Harry Maguire apology on assorted Social Media Disgraces.
Almost 24 hours after Manchester United had their backsides spanked at Manchester City, Maguire has yet to pipe up on the state of affairs. Perhaps he and his teammates have risen up in rebellion against Lynch by changing their passwords, or the American has finally realised the utter futility of trying “to manage the social media [disgrace] narrative” of a club captain whose performance was so calamitous that City might have won by far less if he’d been shown the red card he deserved for a foul shortly after an hour. Which is not to pick on Maguire, even if it is like stealing the pennies from a dead man’s eyes these days. There was plenty of blame to go around for Manchester United’s defeat: questionable tactics by their interim manager, the excellence of their hosts and an air of second-half lethargy that even seemed to extend to the subs’ bench, unless Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford were specifically instructed not to make the rest of their teammates look worse by having anything resembling an impact when they came on.
While the official United line was that Cristiano Ronaldo had sat this one out in Portugal with hip-knack, pre-match rumours suggested the preening show-pony might have stormed off to Portugal in a hissy-fit upon discovering he would not be playing in a starting line-up that boasted no out-and-out strikers. “There seems to be more to the Ronaldo story when a manager comes out and talks about a hip flexor,” tooted Roy Keane. “I don’t get it. We talk about Ronaldo being a machine and very rarely getting injured but every now and again he comes out with that … a hip flexor? It doesn’t add up to me.”
If Ronaldo does have the hump, it seems he is not the only one. On Monday it emerged from the world’s leakiest dressing-room that Rashford is considering his future at United due to the lack of game-time he is getting under Ralf Rangnick. The Leader of the Opposition might not want to make too hasty a decision – with Rangnick, Ronaldo and possibly Edinson Cavani all likely to be out of the picture come summer, more opportunities should become available, even if United don’t have any games to play in Europe.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Joining the nunhood came via football. In 1992 I was preparing to play in a match and a priest said: ‘Come to mass, it will bring you a lot of fortune.’ I told him I don’t believe in God. The next day, a voice inside me told me to go to the mass, and when I met the sisters and did the sign of peace with one, something changed – I had never felt such joy before, not even when I scored a goal” – Sister Emilia Jitaru, 52, on coming together with congregations across Italy to form the world’s first national team for nuns.
Here’s the latest Football Weekly podcast.
“My inbox has recently started to shorten your daily missive too. This is all it said on Friday: ‘<a href=”https://www.theguardian.com/football/2022/mar/07/’ … what can it mean?” – Joe Larter (and others).
“Is it just me or are others fed up with the endless foul throws that are not pulled up by referees? A foul throw should result in a free-kick for the opposing side. And as for corner kicks with the ball outside the semi-circle, what’s that about? The ball should be inside that semi-circle. Failing, a yellow card and a goal kick. Sick of it” – Alan Collins (and no others).
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Former Leicester City and Manchester United manager Frank O’Farrell has died at the age of 94.
State authorities in Mexico have suspended five officials after a huge brawl among fans during the match between Queretaro and Atlas left 26 people injured, three critically. “What happened fills me with pain, with shame and a lot of rage,” said Mauricio Kuri, governor of Queretaro. “I have no words strong enough to condemn the violence, the abusiveness and the senselessness of what happened.”
Thomas Tuchel has criticised the Chelsea fans who interrupted a moment of applause for Ukraine by singing about Russian owner Roman Abramovich. “It’s not a moment to give other messages,” he said.
The Queen’s Celtic remain three points clear on top of the Scottish Premiership after a 3-1 win at Livingston. “We hunted in packs, we won the ball and we didn’t give them a moment’s rest,” roared Ange Postecoglou.
After storming back to see off Chelsea and win the Continental League Cup, Manchester City manager Gareth Taylor reckons some of the team’s critics went a bit far earlier this season. “The players are the most important thing,” he sighed. “They’ve shown that they’re fighting, they’ve been fighting the whole season, and sometimes things haven’t gone our way. Fortunately, more recently things have started to edge our way, which is nice.”
And Chelsea midfielder Melanie Leupolz will miss the remainder of this season after announcing that she’s pregnant. Congrats!
STILL WANT MORE?
Kat Craig on sexual abuse in football and what needs to be done right now.
Count them, here are 10 talking points from the weekend’s Premier League footy.
Jonathan Wilson dissects Manchester United’s woeful performance at the Etihad.
David Hytner on Dele Alli’s mojo, as the former Spurs midfielder prepares for a trip back to north London.
Barry Glendenning on Jesse Marsch trying to win over the locals in Leeds.
Napoli have lost their first league match of 2022 and suddenly are third, after Milan won 1-0 in Naples. Nicky Bandini has more and why Olivier Giroud is the “big brother” of the new Serie A leaders.
Hertha Berlin are in serious trouble at the bottom of the Bundesliga. Say that five times fast.
It’s your WSL and League Cup talking points, coming in piping hot, courtesy of Maryam Naz, Sarah Rendell and Suzy Wrack.
Turns out PSG are not very good when a certain French striker isn’t available.
Roberto Carlos: pub footballer. By Michael Butler.
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