ERIK THE RED
Being bystanders to this week’s Big Cup, Euro Vase and even the Tin Pot Brendan’s brave Leicester boys are trying to win, these are dark days for Manchester United. The Ole dream died last winter and Ralf Rangick is a lame-duck caretaker manager/consultant/assistant to the regional manager. The top four, the last possible positive to glean from yet another wasted year, looks a straight shootout between Arsenal and Tottenham, the latter managed by Antonio Conte, someone reportedly scratched from the United candidates’ list for being the type of troublemaker who made José Mourinho look like a form prefect of the Phil Neville variety.
The word among proper journalists is that Erik ten Hag is to be crowned the new boss of Big Red, a manager fitting the club’s preferred profile of being a young, progressive type with much to prove, nothing like the yesterday’s man appointments of José and Louis van Gaal. Ten Hag, the Ajax manager, is just 52 years old, and by the time he takes control in July, will be a whole 13 months younger than José when he took the job in 2016.
For his first managerial appointment as chief suit since succeeding Ed Woodward, Richard Arnold, a man who once set his sights on the club being as popular on social media disgraces as Vin Diesel, has taken on the advice of back office-bound Ralfie, chief football suit John Murtough and chief tracksuit Darren Fletcher with co-owner Joel Glazer having the final say as, frankly, he and his kin have on everything happening in M16. That’s the Glazer family who, when fans cut up rough last year about the Super League and the general absolute state of things, promised fans could buy shares in the club to have more of a say. According to Big Website, such a venture may not actually happen, since votes for share-owning fans aren’t worth the ballot paper they are written on.
Ten Hag has reportedly been selected ahead of World Cup-headed Luis Enrique, Sevilla head honacho Julen Lopetegui, and Mauricio Pochettino, the last of whom is now destined to be the United manager who never was. Even a late run from Tactics Tom, whose Chelsea team are blowing up in the style that once would have caused Roman Abramovich to speed dial Guus Hiddink, appears unlikely to delay King Erik’s coronation.
The Fiver keenly awaits a summer of war chests, Harry Kane bids, red-hot xG tactics wibble, cod philosophy and profiles of the Dutchman as a young man. A new dawn has broken, has it not? Probably not, you know.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
It’s Big Vase quarter-final time, baby! Join Tim de Lisle for live updates from West Ham 2-1 Lyon, and John Brewin for Braga 0-0 Rangers, both from 8pm (BST).
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I said to the players at half-time: ‘I’m not sure Everton know how to win a game’” – it’s a second QOTD of the week for the inestimable Sean Dyche, who has revealed the successful half-time pep talk he gave his Burnley players last night.
Get your ears around Football Weekly Extra! And while we’re at it – Max, Barry and the pod squad are going back out on tour. Tickets to live shows in June and July are available here so get buying.
MOVING THE GOALPOSTS
The Fiver has a new sister email, folks! It’s a weekly roundup of the wonderful world of women’s football called Moving the Goalposts. You don’t need to be told that it’s smarter and wittier than us, so sign up now! You can read the second instalment, by Júlia Belas Trindad, about a night that changed women’s football for ever, here.
“Handballs are against football rules is just the sort of insight I look for in Big Paper” – Noble Francis.
“I’m writing to say how disappointed I was with Real Madrid’s performance at Chelsea. They only scored three – even Brentford managed four” – Dave Hurst.
“Re: Arnaut Danjuma saying he is among the best wingers in the world [Wednesday’s Fiver]. If we assume that the best five leagues in the world include La Liga, and each league contains 20 teams with four wingers on the books – that gives us 400 wingers. Given around 265 million people play the sport globally, assuming 18% are wingers (two out of the 11 positions on the pitch) that puts Arnaut in the top 0.00083% of wingers worldwide. If I was that good at whatever it is I do, you could be sure I would be mentioning it in every interview I do” – Luke Justus.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’ the day is … Luke Justus, who wins a copy of Jon Spurling’s Get It On, a joyous retelling of how the 1970s rocked football. And it’s also available here.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
A supporter will be handed an indefinite ban by Brighton after being convicted of shouting homophobic abuse at a Premier League match. Luke Reece was heard directing abuse at Brighton fans by a member of club staff during their match against Arsenal last year. He was convicted on Tuesday of indecent chanting and will also serve a football banning order for three years.
In an open letter, Laura Ricketts has moved to reassure Chelsea fans over her family’s interest in buying the club. “I can assure all Chelsea fans that it has been my life’s work to fight against discrimination and bigotry,” Ricketts, a director at the Chicago Cubs, wrote. “Coming out as an LGBTQ+ woman has influenced my perspective.”
Top European clubs will be limited to spending no more than 70% of their revenue on their squads under new “sustainability regulations” designed to replace Financial Fair Play, which were passed by a gathering of Uefa suits in Switzerland on Thursday.
Fulham tyro Fabio Carvalho has sealed a £4.8m move to Liverpool after a last-minute January deal fell through, according to transfer doyen Fabrizio Romano.
Graham Potter has hit back at reporters over Brighton’s butter-soft attacking edge. “You guys speak about it a lot … [but] as I understand the game, it’s 90 minutes and it’s quite low scoring. “That’s the game of football – we’re not playing basketball,” Potter mused as assembled hacks scribbled notes furiously.
England head coach Sarina Wiegman has expressed sympathy with Steph Houghton after Leah Williamson replaced her as captain. “Of course [Steph] is disappointed because she has been captain for so long and has done a tremendous job,” Wiegman beamed. “I have lots of respect for her.”
In what may be an unwelcome development for Neymar, Brazil have targeted Pep Guardiola as the man to replace Tite in 2023, according to reports in Spain.
And in what-could-possibly-go-wrong news, League Two side Crawley Town have been taken over by cryptocurrency venture Wagmi United. “We’re going to shake up the status quo and try out some new ideas,” cheered an official statement.
STILL WANT MORE?
As we approach a Human Rights World Cup built on exploitation, football feels more compromised than ever, writes Max Rushden.
Jonathan Liew on the masterful displays of Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Real Madrid’s old guard in their Big Cup romp at Chelsea.
Is the Premier League’s manager of the month award cursed? Richard Foster investigates.
Are Taxpayers FC fans finally feeling at home at the stadium we all helped to build? Pete May suggests so.
PSV’s Noni Madueke gets his chat on with Ben Fisher about why leaving England was worth the punt.
And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!