TUESDAY'S BIG STORIES
Some of the best footballers have built their reputations on selfless work. Giving the ball to others more gifted. Letting the flashy player take the penalty. Headbutting an opponent to remove themselves from the game.
Ronaldo charged by FA over phone incident with fan
Darwin Nunez knew what he was doing. And we don’t mean simply crunching Joachim Andersen's face about 40cm away from referee Paul Tierney. No, he knew Liverpool needed a spark – and he was happy to oblige.
After he plodded away to sit alone in the dressing room, trying to find a dodgy stream to watch the rest of the game, Liverpool came to life with 10 men. Trent Alexander-Arnold in a free role, no longer burdened by pretending to defend. The fans remembering they can scream and shout. And Luis Diaz. Ohhh Luis. Skinning half a team on your own, shaping to shoot 50 times before pinging a howitzer home? Yes please.
Ultimately, it was a point that was as likely to be 0 as 3. Liverpool appeared burdened by the knowledge a heavy win would lift Manchester United off the bottom of the Premier League, looking toothless in front of goal despite a rousing start. So when Crystal Palace answered a question we have long pondered – “Could I keep a clean sheet alongside Virgil van Dijk in the Premier League?” – with a resounding no, we started to worry for them. This was especially bad news for Nat Phillips, who was the centrepiece to Palace’s brutally simple strategy: kick it towards him and see what happens. Quite a lot, it turned out.
When Nunez signed for £85 million, he probably didn’t expect his first major impact to be getting sent off on his home debut to inspire the team to a point against winless Palace. Still, if you’re going to get sent off, you might as well really go for it. And we can’t deny that it was the perfect trap from Andersen – finishing with a cinematic fall his almost-namesake Wes would be proud of.
Two points from two games is not a disaster, but also not particularly ideal given everyone else half-decent will hoover up all six from Palace at home and Fulham away. Then again, if Monday night is anything to go by, maybe Nunez’s looming suspension is precisely what Liverpool need to kick-start their season.
Neville's naughty list savages Man Utd
Any time Gary Neville is mentioned in The Warm-Up, the words "did not hold back" are usually close behind.
On last night's MNF, he dismantled Manchester United's recruitment in the post-Sir Alex era. Using the universally-loved traffic light system (green for good, amber for average, red for get out of my club immediately) he teamed up with frenemy Jamie Carragher to write off almost every signing. And for the neutral, it's glorious.
Just two players were deemed good enough by the Sky Sports duo, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic sneaking in alongside Bruno Fernandes. There's a surprise inclusion of Harry Maguire in the amber list, where Cristiano Ronaldo also lurks, while Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane are already in the graveyard along with Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and, of course, Paul Pogba.
Here's their naughty and nice list at Old Trafford for 2013 and beyond:
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic
- Bruno Fernandes
- Ander Herrera
- Luke Shaw
- Nemanja Matic
- Harry Maguire
- Edinson Cavani
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Marouane Fellaini
- Juan Mata
- Marcos Rojo
- Angel di Maria
- Daley Blind
- Memphis Depay
- Bastian Schweinsteiger
- Matteo Darmian
- Morgan Schneiderlin
- Anthony Martial
- Eric Bailly
- Henrikh Mkhitaryan
- Paul Pogba
- Victor Lindelof
- Romelu Lukaku
- Alexis Sanchez
- Diogo Dalot
- Daniel James
- Aaron Wan-Bissaka
- Donny van de Beek
- Alex Telles
- Amad Diallo
- Jadon Sancho
- Raphael Varane
"One of the problems Manchester United have had for 10 years is that they’ve flip-flopped between managers and strategies. That’s been a massive issue," began Neville as his heart broke on live TV.
"We did a little exercise where we looked at major signings at the club over the last 10 years, removing players like third goalkeepers. We removed some of the younger players, but £1.25 billion has been spent.
"We think there are only two signings, at this moment in time, that have been good value and have performed at a level. Bruno Fernandes has gone off the boil a bit but, because of the numbers he’s hit over two seasons, you have to say he worked – and Ibrahimovic has worked.
"Herrera, Shaw, Matic, Mata… Ronaldo would have been a green but because of what’s happened over the last month, with him wanting to leave and the confusion, the stories that have happened, that has to make him an amber. It might be because of their performance, value, price tag or just their behaviour.
"I know that there’s a big call for blaming the players and we’ve blamed the players a lot. I was excited about a lot of those signings, even last year with Sancho, Varane and Ronaldo – great signings. When Di Maria came, we thought, 'this will be a signing'.
"But it’s become a graveyard for football players, this football club. Players are now even considering whether they want to come to the club. You can’t get players in."
Neville is still convinced the owners are to blame. But from the outside looking in, can you blame the Glazers for not wanting to spend much more? There's only so many times you can drop £80 million on Harry Maguire and not want to do it again. Once was enough.
HAT TIP I
...then again, in the interest of balance, here's a brilliant Twitter thread from the Swiss Ramble on why United fans might have cause to hate their owners.
HAT TIP II
Yet since returning from United’s tour, which saw good performances and a strong unity develop among the travelling group, Ronaldo’s reintegration into the squad has proven challenging. The Athletic has been told of days when he eats lunch alone in the canteen at Carrington, and he has been seen flapping his arms about in training and attempting to argue against the high-pressing approach favoured by the new manager.
We can't help but hear the lyrics to REM reading this. "That's me in the corner, that's me in the spotlight, eating my roast pigeon." (Look, it's early and rhymes of religion are hard to come by, so go easy please.) Anyway, head over to The Athletic (£) for the full story on Cristiano Ronaldo's meals for one.
IN THE CHANNELS I
Let's be honest, we're still not over that handshake. Here's Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte auditioning for Strictly to rock and roll classic Tutti Frutti. Sound on.
IN THE CHANNELS II
Social media is a harsh place, so we weren't particular surprised to see a round of 'what's your favourite David De Gea error?' But we were surprised to hear Martin Tyler calling one clanger against Sunderland as though the goalkeeper had bagged a last-minute winner.
We were just about to declare this Sleepy Tuesday until we spied Rangers v PSV Eindhoven in Champions League qualifying. We won’t watch it, of course, but might seek out the goals on Twitter if it sounds fun.
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