Manchester City really have gone rogue in this season’s Big Cup. First they spoiled thousands of virtual schadenfreude parties across the country by getting through the Round of Manchester City. And now it looks like they are going to get through the Round of Manchester United as well! Their neighbours may be stuck at the semi-final stage, more of which later, but City’s 2-1 win in Paris makes them strong favourites to reach their first ever Big Cup final … ever!
It was a great night for Josep Guardiola, as the Uefa graphics team insist on calling him. His team recovered from a nervous first half to produce a superb performance; then, after the game, he appeared to win a bet with his coaching staff, who insisted he couldn’t repeatedly shoehorn the word “shy” into his post-match interviews. “We conceded a goal and in general we were shy,” honked Guardiola of City’s first-half performance, though he could reasonably have used another word that begins with the letters S and H. “We could not express ourselves. Everyone played safe and did not have the personality to go through and play. That is why we were so shy.” Guardiola was keen to point out that the tie is not over and that, if City are twice shy, they could be once bitten in the return leg. “It is simple: if we play shy and not who we are, PSG have the quality to win 2-0. [We have to] understand how to handle this and be ourselves, don’t be shy,” he concluded, symbolically draping a luxuriant Kajagoogoo wig atop his bald pate.
Chelsea’s excellent draw in Madrid means there is still a chance of all four English clubs making the final, like they did in 2019. For that to happen, Manchester United and Arsenal need to get through the Round of Manchester United in Big Vase. Both play their first legs later on Thursday. Arsenal’s match at Villarreal, managed by their beloved ex-manager Unai Emery, brings back memories of the 2006 Big Cup semi-final between the sides. One moment stands out: Jens Lehmann’s penalty save from Juan Román Riquelme, which involved some of the niftiest multi-camera direction ever seen in elite sport.
United play their first leg at home to Roma, who are upset at Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s behaviour. The Fiver understands that Solskjær turned up to his pre-match press conference wearing a Lazio shirt, and spent the next half an hour demonstratively French-kissing the badge while offering nuggets such as “Totti? Notti more like! I mean look at the state of his big-game record”. At least we assume that’s what happened, as it would be proportionate with the level of outrage among some Roma fans. United have lost all four semis under Solskjær. If they lose a fifth, they get to keep the entire concept of the semi-final.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!
Join Rob Smyth from 8pm BST for hot Big Vase MBM coverage of Manchester United 2-1 Roma, while Barry Glendenning will be on hand for Villarreal 1-1 Arsenal.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I don’t even know what my players were doing. I don’t know whether it was intentional or not or whether they want to destroy my career … it’s up to them. To let me down in such a manner, I leave everything to God” – Accra Great Olympics coach Annor Walker launches an internal investigation following their 4-1 defeat at Cape Coast Mysterious Ebusua Dwarfs in the Ghanaian Premier League.
Here’s the latest Football Weekly Extra podcast, on Big Cup and fan power.
“Re: tales of referee misadventures (Fiver letters passim). I was reffing a senior boys game and almost from the kick-off an obnoxious, weedy, weaselly fellow started loudly voicing his opinion of my judgement, almost constantly. He was standing next to the coach, so the next time I was in the area I had a quick ‘can you keep your fellows in check, please?’ to the coach, who just shrugged. As I stood in the centre circle during half-time, the weasel came up to me and said: ‘I’m not part of the team, I’m a member of the public and I can say what I want and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ To which I replied, out of anyone else’s hearing” ‘How about when the game is over, I’ll take my ref’s shirt off (becoming a member of the public) and come and have a full and frank, fist-based discussion’. I didn’t hear a peep from him in the rest of the game and although I’m sure I wouldn’t have followed through, it did the job. Just writing it down feels as good as it did then” – Allan Clark.
“As someone whose day job is as an international election observer, I’m very glad that democracy is now contributing to your Stop Football campaign” – Alex Folkes.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Alex Folkes.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Big Website in the UK is to join the boycott of social media disgraces this weekend as part of a campaign against racism and discrimination online.
East Fife are facing potential SPFL punishment for failing to fulfil Tuesday’s League One fixture at Clyde, after one of the hosts’ players tested positive for Covid-19.
Spurs are sniffing around Ajax’s Erik Ten Hag.
Danny Ings could be a doubt for Euro Not 2020, with hamstring-twang threatening to rule him out for the rest of Southampton’s season.
Jesse Marsch, the former New York Red Bulls coach, will leave Red Bull Salzburg and take over at RB Leipzig next season. “Jesse knows the club, the city, but most of all the philosophy of the team and the playing style,” fizzed Leipzig suit Oliver Mintzlaff.
Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa has apologised for not conducting his media interviews in English. “One of my big deficits in English football is not to be able to communicate in the language that everybody speaks,” he tooted through an interpreter.
And Nigel Pearson is back in the full-time game, agreeing a three-year deal as Bristol City boss.
STILL WANT MORE?
Wednesday night was no Big Cup Parisienne walkover for Manchester City, writes Barney Ronay, but Pep Guardiola found the way.
Jonathan Wilson embraces hip, young, gunslinging culture when he declares PSG have the personality of Violet Elizabeth Bott.
Get yer Big Vase team news, tactics and form guides here.
Not many people talk about Gerard Moreno, Villarreal’s star man and Spain’s most in-form player. But Sid Lowe does and gets his chat on with the man himself.
Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta are not just Arsenal managers past and present, they are on good terms too, as Nick Ames finds.
A timely reminder of this Emery interview from Sid.
And Ed Aarons hears from Shaygan Banisaeid, who is working with Fulham’s foundation after learning English in Iran by watching Match of the Day. There you go, Marcelo.
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