Home football The Fiver | Another miserable capitulation at the Theatre of Recurring Nightmares

The Fiver | Another miserable capitulation at the Theatre of Recurring Nightmares

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GUNNERS … GUNNAR … GONE?

It was a huge result for Arsenal at the weekend. The Gunners had infamously failed to win a Premier League match at any of their established big six rivals since the days of Herbert Chapman, it felt like, pretty much. So securing all three points at the home of Manchester United was a long overdue and most acceptable state of affairs. The epochal win catapulted Arsenal up to the 12-point mark, just four off the lead, and means they can continue to harbour semi-realistic hopes of a tilt at the title, just like close neighbours and pals Tottenham, who also won on Sunday and moved into second spot. The Fiver wonders which of them will have their hopes dashed first, and whether it’ll happen before or just after Christmas.

There’s to be no such rollercoaster ride of giddy anticipation and plunging disappointment for United, though. That’s because their Premier League horse looks to have already bolted, well true and proper, after yet another miserable capitulation at the Theatre of Recurring Nightmares. Was the slender 1-0 defeat to Arsenal worse than the shambolic 6-1 shellacking by Tottenham Hotspur? You’d think it shouldn’t be up for debate, but at least United strung together a couple of semi-coherent attacking moves against Spurs, to the extent of managing to do a goal. A sense of vaulting ambition remained amid the mayhem. On Sunday, by contrast, they took off Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood midway through a half-assed search for an equaliser. Oh well. Oh Ole!

United now haven’t won at home since beating relegation-bound Bournemouth, who had given up the ghost, five months and six matches ago, and even that one looked in the balance for a while. It’s their worst run at Old Trafford since the fag end of Frank O’Farrell’s reign, 48 years ago, though not quite so bad as the start to Herbert Bamlett’s signature campaign of 1930-31, when they lost their first five at home, and their first 12 straight. Oh Bertie! Oh O’Farrell!

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Bamlett somehow survived the season, even though United were destined for the drop; O’Farrell by contrast was given the boot midway through, allowing United to scramble to safety. Nobody’s seriously suggesting United will find themselves in another relegation scrap this time – mind you, nobody thought that in 1972 either – but history might just give the board pause for thought. Everton next Saturday suddenly looks very big indeed, with Solskjaer now just 4-1 to be the next Premier League manager to leave his post. Thank goodness for his chances of survival that the big match is at Goodison, because the walls of Old Trafford feel like they’re closing in.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Sir Bobby, you are my hero and I am devastated that you are having to go through this. I filmed alongside this man as a child and was in awe. I still am when I see you. This man, from day one, was everything I wanted to be. Kind, professional, caring, talented. Stay strong, we love you” – Marcus Rashford is just one name among many in football sending their love and support to Sir Bobby Charlton, who has been diagnosed with dementia.

Bobby Charlton



Stay strong Bobby. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

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Football Weekly is right here, right now (or it will be soon enough, honest).

FIVER LETTERS

“The great Howard Wilkinson (of which it is obligatory to follow up with ‘the last English manager to win the league’) always used to say that you shouldn’t bother to look at the league table until you’re 10 games in. As a Sheffield Wednesday fan, I’m currently taking his advice and after our loss against Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday I have just over 24 hours until our 10th game and have to look at this (scroll down)” – Noble Francis.

“Plenty of stories on Twitter following the sad news about Nobby Stiles … but this one from Chris Egan sort of sums him up pretty well I think: ‘I was training at WBA as a 15-year-old when Nobby was a coach. I accidentally studded him during a five-a-side and apologised. “Don’t you ever [eff]ing apologise on a football pitch again, son,” he growled as he limped away. I was scared and in awe at the same time.’ We won’t see his like again. RIP hero” – Allastair McGillivray.

“Re: Phillip Duffy’s comment (Friday’s Bits and Bobs) that two consortia going mano-a-mano (literal translation: hand-to-hand, as in combat) makes no sense. I can only image how perplexed he must be when trying to compare his team’s head-to-head record against different opponents” – Tom Murray-Rust (and 1,056 others).

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Allastair McGillivray.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Sergio Agüero’s hamstring-twang has healed up nicely and he may be back to face Liverpool on Sunday. “We are happy he’s back but we’ve been happy with Ferran [Torres] so we have an alternative,” tooted Pep Guardiola.

Jürgen Klopp wants us to stop talking about that Mo Salah penalty against West Ham. “What can I say? It was a foul,” he blabbed. “I spoke to Mo and asked him how he feels and he said he has three knocks and one was from the penalty situation.”

Two Pope’s O’Rangers players, Jordan Jones and George Edmundson, have been suspended and placed into 14-day self-isolation after “attending a private gathering with others outside of their household” and breaching the Covid-19 bubble.

David Alaba will be available on a freeman’s come next summer after Bayern Munich pulled out of contract talks. “This means there is no longer an offer,” roared club suit Herbert Hainer.

Big Mick McCarthy is the new boss of Apoel Nicosia. Terry Connor will once again be his faithful sidekick.

And José Mourinho celebrated Gareth Bale’s winner against Brighton in the best way he knows: by digging out enemies. “When I have five minutes I am going to Safari to look at Madrid’s websites to see what they say,” he sneered.

STILL WANT MORE?

The David Alaba rift has created ripple in relentless Bayern’s sea of tranquility, writes Andy Brassell.

Roberto De Zerbi studied Marcelo Bielsa at Lille so it’s little wonder his tactics were ace in Sassuolo’s victory at Napoli, reckons Nicky Bandini.

Here’s Sid Lowe on the latest drama at Valencia.

To continue with the Big Cup and Big Vase at a time like this feels like an exercise in futility and jaw-dropping complacency, rails Barry Glendenning.

The Premier League: 10 talking points thereof.

Premier League



Your red-hot composite image, right here. Composite: PA/Reuters

Floating football brain in a jar Jonathan Wilson stops short of saying that Ole’s army are in a relegation battle but says Manchester United’s manager is far too one-dimensional.

From three Ballon d’Or titles to retiring at 28 when his ankle left him barely able to walk, Marco van Basten takes Donald McRae through his fall from grace.

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





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