99 PROBLEMS. BUT …
Football Daily isn’t in the finest fettle. We were up half the night, reluctantly drinking cans of Good Times with our inconsolable cousin, Cricket Occasionally. On the plus side, at least we’re not Erik ten Hag. The poor bloke has been putting out fires ever since arriving at Old Trafford, but they keep coming. One of these days he’s going to become the first bald person in human history to go even balder due to stress. Ten Hag has two new problems. First there’s Alejandro Garnacho, who got the wrong end of the stick when somebody told him to follow Edinson Cavani’s example. Then there’s a potential Sunday roasting when Manchester City and Erling Haaland visit for the derby.
There is a positive of sorts for United. They were in even worse shape when Liverpool arrived in August 2022, with most people speculating whether it would be five or six, but a defiant victory changed the course of the season. Still, a more relevant comparison feels like the dog days of Ole Gunnar Solskjær, when City came to Old Trafford and humiliated United by not thrashing them. Ten Hag isn’t on the brink like Solskjær was then, but the optimism of last season has evaporated almost as fast as the England cricket team’s aura. It feels like the only trophy United are fighting for is the Premier League Crisis Baton, handed out after each matchday to the team most likely to hold the back page for all the wrong reasons.
City were briefly in contention for it after defeats to Wolves and Arsenal, but Haaland has since ended a truly despicable goal drought of three games, and unlike United their knack list has eased. That said, United may have Casemiro back this weekend. Ten Hag said he is in “a race against the clock”, an unfortunate turn of phrase given the Brazilian’s leaden-footed performances so far this season.
The recent head-to-head is surprisingly close, with five wins for City and four for United in the last 10 games. Yet in that time City have handed out two drubbings, three if you count that humiliating 2-0 in 2021. “It’s OK – it’s a good rivalry,” yawned Pep Guardiola. “No big issues have happened – I am eight seasons here as manager and there have been no big issues,” he continued, inexplicably forgetting the time Marouane Fellaini felled Sergio Agüero with a comically matter-of-fact headbutt. “We have won games and lost games, but nothing bad has happened.” All things being equal, City will win this one. But that’s not really how football works. And if United dredge another defiant victory from the bowels of Old Trafford, they’ll be just three points behind City in the table. Truly, football is a funny old game.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It was just a bad business model. They were paying for 20 lads to live out in Spain, play and sponsor them. Realistically you are not going to get a lad going from the Glenn Hoddle Academy to sign for Manchester United for £50m to keep it afloat. Players were going into teams for free and they were hoping to profit further down the line, because you sign your image rights to them in the hope you end up getting a big move. By the time a lot of lads got moves, like me and Jord, it had already gone, so they missed the opportunity” – Sam Clucas, with fellow former academy member and current Rotherham teammate Jordan Hugill, talks to Will Unwin about his time in Andalucía.
FOOTBALL DAILY LETTERS
As massive Chester-based Atleti fans (won’t bore you), me and the lad always take in their UK Big Cup appearances, despite my catching Covid at Anfield in 2020. Anyway, to Celtic Park on Wednesday. I just loved their refusal to pander to Spanish sensibilities at the tea bar, offering a straight choice of macaroni pies, Scotch pies and Tennent’s lager. Buena salud!” – Rob Ford.
Re: David Datro Fofana being suspended for one week, rather than one game, for failing to accept his coach’s decision (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs, full email edition). Are we sure his club isn’t actually called Rugby Union Berlin?” – Ed Taylor.
Maybe some of your readers would be entertained to know what a joke Serbian football has become. Nineteen matches played in European competition so far this season, with one win, two draws and 16 (sixteen!) defeats. And to make things even more tragicomical, Cukaricki’s manager, after his team had been beaten 6-0 by Fiorentina in Tin Pot, said: ‘We were very good until they scored the first goal.’ Fiorentina scored that goal in the sixth minute” – Bogdan Kotarlic.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Bogdan Kotarlic.
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