Brazen temptation of the football gods

By Scott Murray
All aboard for Big Cup!
All aboard for Big Cup! Photograph: Matthew Peters/Manchester United/Getty Images


Yesterday, The Fiver opined that “Everton’s men have made a habit in recent years of talking things up too quickly with the green shoots barely out of the soil, only for things to go belly-up quicksmart”. A few hours later, Rafa Benítez’s side scored three goals in seven minutes, going joint top of the Premier League table on points, one step closer to their ultimate goal of taking some of the edge off the question: “Have any Everton managers ever won Big Cup?” One way or another, keep an eye on how things pan out at Goodison, is all we’re saying.

The competition the Ev have their beady eye on begins again in earnest on Tuesday evening, as Chelsea beat Zenit St Petersburg 2-0 and Manchester United beat Young Boys 2-0. We’d love to say it promises to be an exciting group stage, but you know how these things go, three of the moneyed English clubs will make it through while the other will eventually get to the final of Big Vase before losing to a team managed by Unai Emery. It’s like living inside a long echo-drenched yawn for three-and-a-half months. Domination’s not all it’s cracked up to be, though ambitious Evertonians such as Richarlison may note that, as a lifestyle, it sure beats being thrown around by Josh Brownhill and James Tarkowski like an old sock.

To be fair and balanced, as per The Fiver’s Reithian remit, the group stage has thrown up a couple of big-name showdowns. On Wednesday night there’s three-time winners Internazionale versus 13-time champs Real Madrid, for example, which won’t feature knacked superstar Gareth Bale, and six-time winners Liverpool against seven-time victors Milan, which won’t feature knacked superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic. And yes we are deliberately underselling those games for the sake of narrative consistency, though not by all that much. Should any of these games turn out to be seven-goal thrillers, you can thank us for this brazen temptation of the football gods. Excitement, please!


Join Niall McVeigh from 5.45pm BST for hot MBM coverage of Young Boys 0-2 Manchester United, while Paul Doyle will be on hand for Chelsea 2-0 Zenit at 8pm and Scott Murray will be clockwatching the other 8pm kick-offs, including Barcelona 1-4 Bayern Munich.


“I provided a soundtrack for [Lionel] Messi’s presentation video. I found out, like you, that it was used as intro music for the players’ entrance when it’s not appropriate. I didn’t want to harm the club by speaking out on this subject, but I can’t accept this situation as a supporter and you know the love I have for our colours” – the game has truly gone as PSG fan DJ Snake criticises the club for using his Intro Mixed instead of Phil Collins’s Who Said I Would, which had apparently been played before home games for the past 29 years.

DJ Snake, turning things down for what earlier.
DJ Snake, turning things down for what earlier. Photograph: Pierre Suu/Getty Images


“I can’t think why José Mourinho’s 1,000 game was so important that ‘I had a tremendous fear that I would live for ever with the memory of a defeat on the day of my 1,000th game on the bench’. It’s almost as though such a thing has happened to someone he really dislikes and it’s a good way to slight him once again. Oh …” – Noble Francis.

“Let’s hope meatless Forest Green Rovers don’t get to hear about that hapless Heerenveen defender who broke his jaw eating a carrot (yesterday’s Quote of the Day), otherwise their pies are going to be even less vegi-tastic. And are we sure it was a carrot? Has anyone checked to see if he is still able to point the finger of blame with either hand?” – Steve Malone.

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


Pelé’s daughter says the Brazil legend is to leave intensive care within days after undergoing surgery to remove a tumour from his colon.

Verona have given manager Eusebio Di Francesco the boot after three defeats from their first three Serie A games.

Eusebio Di Francesco during his brief spell at Verona.
Eusebio Di Francesco during his brief spell at Verona. Photograph: Daniele Mascolo/Reuters

Cagliari have given manager Leonardo Semplici the boot after two defeats and a draw from their first three Serie A games.

Uefa boffins reckon that reverting to the long-ball game and being “scared to lose” were factors in England’s Not Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy. Really earning their euros there. “Aerial bombardment did little to perturb Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, the warriors who had jointly practised defensive arts in over 200 international matches,” they parped.

Pep Guardiola reckons losing last season’s Big Cup final will fuel Manchester City this time around. “The players have feelings and soul and you know it hurts when you cannot achieve,” he tooted. “For them now it’s a new, new challenge to try. These guys win three Premier Leagues in the last four years, and every year we have the feeling that we can do better … It’s a [driver].”

Leicester’s Youri Tielemans is in talks over a new contract, which means he’s been on TV to say he’s keeping his options open. “There are talks going on – I’m not saying I’m going to sign, I’m not saying I’m not going to sign,” he teased. “We will see.”

And after a dismal start at Inter Miami, things are finally looking up for Big Phil Neville after six wins from their last 10 MLS games. “We’re showing all of the qualities that people probably from outside the club didn’t think this team had,” he cheered.


Here’s David Squires on Cristiano Ronaldo’s second Manchester United debut.

Strong top.
Strong top. Illustration: David Squires/The Guardian


Jon Davey on the art of working out who to support when you’re a neutral.

Young Boys boss David Wagner gets his chat on with Jonathan Liew about good times at Huddersfield, tough times at Schalke and why he chose the Swiss club.

Chelsea are beginning their title defence with freedom and focus, writes David Hytner.

Suzanne Wrack picks over Manchester City Women’s troubled start to their season.

As fans returned to the Bernabéu, Vinicius Jr chose the moment to demonstrate how far he’s come in Real Madrid’s 5-2 win over Celta, reports Sid Lowe.

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


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