MONDAY'S BIG STORIES
"We Decide When You Play"
Well then. If nothing else, we can safely say that this was the most interesting Manchester United vs. Liverpool has been for a long time. Not the Super Sunday the Premier League had in mind, perhaps, but a lot more energetic than the tepid nil-nil we'd have had in normal circumstances.
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Football without fans is nothing, so the saying goes. Fans without football: quite something.
Watching the protests unfold, three things occurred to the Warm-Up. The first was that the launch of the Super League, coming as it did after a year of fan-less football and just as coronavirus restrictions were beginning to lift, could not have been worse timed. Football fans haven't been able to gather together as fans for a while now, and this plan, as well as being terrible, landed on a lot of bored people like a match on petrol.
The second is that the Super League has shared United's ownership problems around. Fans of other clubs have always been able to appreciate that the Glazer's model of club ownership is exploitative and sub-optimal. But they've also been able to enjoy the fact that United, a money-printing and formerly title-winning machine, have recently been run in chaotic and slapstick fashion by a hierarchy most interested in sponsorship deals.
Now, however, Glazernomics is everybody's problem. It's not just Phil Jones getting another new contract; it's an existential threat to the whole of the pyramid. Whether we're going to see similar scenes at other clubs is debatable - United fans have a headstart on ownership contempt and organisation, after all - but it was interesting that not every pundit reflexively condemned the protests, and some were actively, cautiously supportive. Here's Roy Keane:
"I’s been building for a number of years … There’s been a build-up in tension, whether it be about ticketing, poor communication, things going on in the background. The leadership of the club has not been good enough. When they look at the owners, they feel it’s just about making money. The United fans have looked at the Glazers and thought enough is enough. They’re doing it because they love the club. Some people won’t agree with it, but sometimes you have to put a marker down for people to take notice."
He concluded, we think correctly: "These fans are deadly serious and this is just the start of it from United fans - I can guarantee you."
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Because this is what happens, right? The history of the Premier League is complicated and tangled but one thread is the slow removal of any power, real or imagined, from the fans. We know, from experience, that the Glazers don't care about any of the following: green-and-gold scarves, asking nicely, letters to MPs and local politicians, banners, flags, demonstrations, appeals to their better nature, the founding of a whole actual other football club… it's not just that this stuff hasn't worked, it's that it's honestly impossible to even imagine it working. But for the first time in a long time, on Sunday afternoon, owning Manchester United looked like a complicated and irritating business that might not be worth the fuss.
The third point, admittedly slightly less important in the grand scheme of things, is a point of method. It turns out that we're inclined to look very kindly on anybody that finds themselves inside a Premier League football ground and promptly nicks a corner flag. If that were us - it wasn't, officer, we have an alibi - we'd be getting some photos taken, ready to issue alongside important household statements.
Breaking news. Flag photo. A statement from the Warm-Up… it's fish fingers for tea.
FC Internazionale - Campione d'Italia
Inter fans celebrate their title win
Image credit: Getty Images
In happier news for former Super Leaguers, Inter are the champions of Italy! That probably didn't need an exclamation mark, it's been coming for a while. But then, we almost went an entire decade without a non-Juventus team winning the thing, so perhaps we're due a little excitement.
Titles are won at both ends of the pitch, and Inter can boast both the best defence in the league — just 29 goals conceded — and the best striker, in Romelu Lukaku. Freed from the miseries of Mourinho-ball and the irritating business of having to play with this back to goal, the Belgian has scored 27 goals, has dovetailed beautifully with Lautaro Martinez, and has looked once again like the player he is. Which is: one of the best in the world.
It's been a triumph of consistency, as much as anything: as such it seems appropriate that the win came off the pitch, as Atalanta could only draw with Sassuolo. Early-season leaders AC Milan have collapsed in the second half of the campaign, while Juventus have never managed to chain together more than three league wins.
Fun fact! Since Inter last lifted the title, in 2010, only three managers have won the league: Antonio Conte, Max Allegri, and Maurizio Sarri. And they all left Juventus after, respectively, underwhelming in Europe, wearing themselves out completely, and not having cool hair like Andrea Pirlo. One downside of being a superclub is that you do tend to go through coaches, and there aren't that many great ones around.
All of which does mean we're in line for a nice run-in. Juve, Milan, and Atalanta are all squished together on 69 points, with Napoli two behind and Lazio another three, though with a game in hand. Five teams into three Champions League places doesn't go, and Milan play Juventus on Sunday. Delightful.
The Best Team
Goal of the weekend came in the women's Champions League, a swazzy bar-clipping thunderbolt from Bayern's Sarah Zadrazil. A goal good enough to win any game…
… although it didn't win this one, because Chelsea - as you may have heard - are quite some team. A 4-1 win might look comfortable on paper, but that fourth goal came after ten minutes of seesawing drama and intense pressure. Goals win games, but goalline clearances from returning captains win games too, and in the 90th minute Magda Eriksson ended up inside her own net… but the ball, crucially, did not.
And when Chelsea win, we all win, because that means another Emma Hayes post-match interview. We don't know if you're allowed to nominate Emma Hayes' post-match interviews for any of the end of the season awards, but we'll be writing in just in case.
That last three minutes, watching the ball go back and forth in our box … My tummy, you thought it went in other games, that was the worst moment … Oh. I’m not gonna sit and give you crappy platitudes. I worked my whole life for today, and I’m so f*****g proud of those players."
To nobody's great surprise, Bayern Munich's next manager, Julien Nagelsmann, will be arriving directly from their nearest rivals. They're pinching a central defender from RB Leipzig as well. Here's the Guardian's Jonathan Wilson looking at the biggest and weirdest job in German football, where the title is the bare minimum.
The financial stratification of the game in the Bundesliga is as stark as anywhere and pre-pandemic there were banners – including from Bayern ultras – protesting at the distribution of resources. The German model has advantages but nobody should think that unreformed it is a panacea. If Nagelsmann sees out his five-year contract … he will be expected to have won five Bundesliga titles.
West Brom take on Wolves: relegation certainties against relegation form. Then Burnley and West Ham play off for the Claret & Blue Jug. And Sevilla need a win against Athletic Bilbao to stay in touch with the top three in Spain.
Also we'll have a new snooker World Champion today. You can watch both sessions live on Eurosport from 12:45pm and 6:45pm.
Breaking news. Flag photo. A statement from the Warm-Up… Ben Snowball will be here tomorrow.
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