UNITED THEY FALL
The last time Manchester United finished bottom of the Big Cup group was in December 2005, when they brilliantly managed to finish behind a Lille team that scored one goal in six games. Old Trafford was a sad place back then. One of the United Trinity of the 1960s had recently died, an absolute star had just left the club under a cloud made up entirely of his own nasal fumes (yes, yes, we know Cristiano Ronaldo left a year ago, let’s but no facts reveal get in the way of a half-@rsed historical comparison) and one manager under pressure looked as if he would gladly wipe out half the press kit with his bare hands. A club in crisis, just like today. Over the next three seasons, Manchester United won three Premier League titles, a Big Cup and a Club World Cup. This is all cyclical so let’s just relax and enjoy the darts over Christmas. Que sera, sera everyone!
(A long discussion ensues between Football Daily and a stick-wielding The Man, punctuated by yelps in the soprano range)
Let’s start again. Football Daily’s crack hack team is attempting to verify unconfirmed reports that Erik ten Hag has newfound sympathy for David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, José Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjær following Manchester United’s move Irish goodbye from the Big Cup at Old Trafford last night. The club once again seems unmanageable, even if there are extenuating circumstances. United might have qualified if Marcus Rashford hadn’t received the controversial red card in Copenhagen, then Rashford and Anthony Martial missed last night’s game through illness after standing in the cold for too long at St James’ Park. If they don’t recover, Ten Hag could be without 13 experienced players for Sunday’s public flogging at Anfield. But this is a) Manchester United and b) the year 2023. Nobody wants nuance, Grandpa.
Ten Hag said United’s performance was “very good” and they didn’t deserve to lose, which was news to neutrals. In his first season, Ten Hag was courageous, endearingly honest and mastered the unique pressure of being Manchester United coach with ease. That has changed in the last few months. Ten Hag said something similar about United’s performance after a tough game at Fulham last month, and he is sounding increasingly like an English politician rather than a Dutch football manager. When he starts talking about “delivering for the British people” we know he’s fed up. We know how this ends. In the medium term, the chance of Ten Hag turning things around is as big as the chance that social media’s biggest disgrace will admit they owe Solskjær an apology.
However, there are at least two sides to every story, even if we rarely hear them when it comes to the MUFC clickbait machine. Last night was less about Bayern Munich, the team that beat United with one hand in their pants, and more about the team that qualified for the round of 16. FC Copenhagen beat Galatasaray 1-0 to reach the round of 16 and then immediately announced free beer for everyone in the stadium. It was the most endearing gesture in the Big Cup since Bayer Leverkusen coach Klaus Toppmöller celebrated their semi-final victory over Manchester United in 2001/02 by announcing: “Now is the time for wine and cigarettes.” Copenhagen last reached the knockout stage in 2010/11. -o.-round of the Big Cup, also the last time United reached the final. Look, it’ll come back, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s all cyclical-aaaaagh!
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“About six months to a year ago I was playing a game and the Leeds away fans were right in front of me. I swear to you, I was amazed at how upset and angry they still are with me. This transfer was over 20 years ago” – Rio Ferdinand underestimates fans’ elephantine memory when there is an excuse for boos and b@ntz.
With a few references to Dion Dublin in yesterday’s Football Daily (full email edition) and mention of the loss of the dressing room, it felt like the latest work of art Bryan’s Gunn would be particularly relevant” – Jim Hearson.
This summer I was in San Sebastian. The locals proudly talk about two things; their food and their football club. Real Sociedad is a testament to what local talent and passion can achieve. The feeling of belonging is palpable. “The same vibe you get from your friendly, independent neighborhood grocer, compared to the TESCOs and ALDIs” – Krishna Moorthy (and no other Euro football correspondent).
Ahem, the first of another number of pedants here, but they actually weren’t acronyms or abbreviations (Football Daily letters passim). Those were initialisms” – James Yelland (and 1,056 others).
Send all letters to [email protected]. Today’s Letter of the Day winner is…Jim Hearson, who will receive a copy of Reign of the Lionessespublished by Pitch Publishing. Visit their excellent football bookshop here.