The Fiver has always loved post-coital awkwardness. OK, OK, The Fiver has always loved the idea of post-coital awkwardness. We never did get to experience an abhorgasm, but the idea fascinates us on both a primal and philosophical level. As such, we’ve taken great interest in Manchester City’s Big Cup campaign, which could yet end with a public display of post-coital awkwardness, not to mention an excruciating lack of eye contact, between City and Uefa in Istanbul on 30 May.
The relationship between the two has been strained since 2012, when Uefa decided that tardiness was a greater offence than racism. City fans regularly boo the Big Cup anthem, and their match against Real Madrid was punctuated by chants from the away fans of “Eff Uefa!” And they yet might! City’s impressive 2-1 victory was a statement of Big Cup-winning intent, not to mention an emphatic two fingers in the direction of anyone and everyone connected with Uefa. With all due respect to Lierse and Total Network Solutions, it was the first time City have ever won away to a European superpower in a knockout game. It was also the first time under Pep Guardiola that they have really looked like a team that might win Big Cup, and should do all sorts for their confidence, provided they don’t make a City of the second leg.
Madrid weren’t great, that much is true, but City were superior in all the relevant metrics of performance and even scored more goals than their opponent. Pep’s uber-funky tactics – Gabriel Jesus wide left, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva up front, BASICALLY FOUR-FOUR-BLOODY-TWO FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE – paid off, with City controlling most of the game and winning it late on. (There is an argument that Pep got lucky, and that City only won the game when he changed tactics and brought Raheem Sterling on, but The Fiver had a full tactical debrief with him on WhatsTok and he assures us that it was all part of the plan to use one of the best players in the world when the opposition defence was on its last legs.)
The tactics were not completely new – City played the same way to destroy Manchester United in the Milk Cup semi-final first leg at Old Trafford – but they took a lot of people by surprise. De Bruyne, the most watchable player in the world and no we’re not interested in discussing it but thanks for asking so politely, excelled in his unusual role. “I think in the four years we are here with Pep we had some surprises and even the players, they don’t really know until the game starts what we need to do,” he said, failing to convince anybody the formation hadn’t been practised to within an inch of its life. “This is a really good start for us.”
City’s rousing victory prompted their No 1 fan Liam Gallagher to issue a lyrical treatise of the match on Social Media Disgrace Twitter: “Kiss my blue ar$e UEFA c***s LGx.” If that’s not an invite to post-coital awkwardness, we don’t know what is.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Do I think in the next 10 years it will challenge the European leagues? It’s what we all hope for. It’s what we will strive to commit to … This should never be a league where players from Europe come to retire. That’s not where you want to be” – David Beckham, who moved to MLS from Europe to spend five of the final six years of his career, talks up Major League Soccerball on the eve of his Inter Miami FC’s first game.
“It’s quite astonishing that the Middlesbrough managerial dream team of Jonathan Woodgate and Robbie Keane have a win ratio of only 21% after the defeat at home to Nasty Leeds. And yet, even if they lose every one of their 11 remaining games this season, they still won’t have surpassed the high mark for managerial ineptitude that is John Carver’s 15% win ratio at Newcastle United” – Noble Francis.
“I’m sure that fans of Bolton – as well as myself – would disagree with Noble Francis’ assertion that something, even late and poor quality, is better than nothing (yesterday’s Fiver letters). Bolton were docked 12 points, so started the league on -12. Thus, at the start of the season, their ‘something’ of -12 was in fact much worse than the ‘nothing’ everyone else has. The fact Bolton are still bottom of the table helps illustrate that. Had they got those 12 points back, they’d rise to the heady heights of … erm … second bottom” – Paul Dixon.
“No article has made me laugh quite as much as Simon Burnton’s recap of Manchester City flouting financial rules in 1906 (yesterday’s Still Want More?). Not because of the wonderful synchronicity, but entirely down to the description from the sportswriter at the time of a certain Alex Leake, who was immortalised as ‘without doubt, the merriest footballer of the day’. I challenge The Fiver to confirm which modern footballer would genuinely earn that wonderful epithet without the merriest part being entirely reliant on Tin” – Colin Reed.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
The Asian Football Confederation will hold an emergency meeting next week to discuss contingency plans for holding World Cup and Olympic qualifiers amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
The top division of women’s football in Finland will change its name from Women’s League to National League (Kansallinen Liiga) in the latest move to implement “full equality” in running the country’s football.
Liverpool made a pre-tax profit of £42m and increased turnover to £533m in 2018-19 as their rise to Big Cup champions was reflected on the balance sheet … and without any dubious claims about trending for mockery reasons on assorted Social Media Disgraces.
Venezuelan coach Rafael Dudamel has been turfed out by Atlético Mineiro less than two months after he took charge, following their shock Brazilian Cup defeat by Afogados da Ingazeira.
And Blackpool have now been rebuffed in their bid to prise Richie Wellens from his role as manager of Swindon Town. Coincidentally for Wellens, he’s also now signed a new three-and-a-half-year contract.
STILL WANT MORE?
Floating brain in a jar Jonathan Wilson dons his tweed jacket, leather elbow pads and mortar board to theorise that Pep Guardiola reverted to the principles he devised in 2015 to beat a deeply ordinary Madrid.
Gabriel Jesus: relentless, tenacious, and now ahead of Agüero? Barney Ronay has a think.
There is something shifting at Real Madrid, some sense of vulnerability, reckons Sid Lowe.
Christian Pavón, Pity Martinez, Carlos Vela, Nashville SC and, yes, Inter Miami: our writers look ahead to, and make their predictions for, the new MLS season.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea have a lot of rebuilding work to do if they are to remain Frank Lampard’s Chelsea for the long term, warns Jacob Steinberg.
The Continental Cup final gives an unloved competition a fascinating climax, writes Eni Aluko.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!