TUESDAY'S BIG STORIES

VAR can get in the bin

“Is it offside?” “Doesn’t look like it.” “Handball?” “Nope.” “I swear I saw one of the Villa lads give De Gea a dirty look. Shall we go with that?” “Erm…” “Oh wait, Cavani fell over. Bingo.”
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The Warm-Up was granted exclusive access to the VAR control room for the FA Cup clash between Manchester United and Aston Villa – and as you can see from the above, it’s a disgrace. But fictional conversations aside, we really are at a loss about the purpose of VAR. When it was introduced, we were promised it would stick to the two commandments: clear and obvious. So when Edinson Cavani jogged into Jacob Ramsey and theatrically hit the floor, moments before Danny Ings bundled home an equaliser the Uruguayan would not have prevented on two legs, we couldn’t see how it could be disallowed. But it was.
The official reasoning, at least from the one person who still understands what’s going on, Dale Johnson of ESPN fame, is that Ramsey was offside when Cavani ran into him. In our book, it’s not a foul at all. But if it takes three minutes and 36 seconds to reach the decision, as VAR did, then it definitely doesn’t meet either of the above commandments.
While we’re in rant mode, there’s another problem. You can’t just handpick which games you use VAR for during the FA Cup. If it’s not wired up in Aggborough Stadium, home of giantkillers Kidderminster, then you shouldn’t be able to turn it on at Old Trafford. Until all non-Premier League clubs are eliminated, no VAR for anyone. Simple.
Despite our moans, this was a rip-roaring cup tie. A throwback. Not just in the traditional sense, where both teams were trying to one-up the other with Goals and Gaffs era defending, but also with the actual fixture. We swear United v Villa was the TV third round of choice for our entire childhood.
Jacob Ramsey was sensational in the Villa midfield, as was Emi Buendia, while Marcus Rashford appeared to forget that you are allowed to score open goals. We can also officially induct David De Gea into the rare group of goalkeepers who were brilliant, terrible, then brilliant again – usually once a goalie makes a few clangers, it's game over for their career. Just ask Joe Hart.
And then there’s Scott McTominay, or McSauce to close friends and The Warm-Up. We will always be rooting for the McTominay-Fred double act, so when the two combined for the opening, and ultimately winning, goal, we were made up for the lads. Were United completely overrun in midfield? Yes, but that’s a narrative buster so we’ll move swiftly on…

Naughty Liverpool?

Don’t you just hate it when your two best players disappear on international duty and then an imaginary Covid outbreak sweeps through your camp? That was the predicament Liverpool found themselves in last week, forcing the postponement of the Carabao Cup showdown Part I with Arsenal. Awkwardly, it later emerged that only ONE PLAYER had Covid – Trent Alexander-Arnold – after a string of false positives.
Now the Athletic bring news that the EFL are “under pressure” from other clubs to investigate why the game was called off. We’re huge fans of conspiracy theories – not those ones, Mr Djokovic – but at this stage the details are a little murky. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will still miss the second leg, which Liverpool have now lost home advantage for. So on the surface, the decision only benefited Arsenal.
But let’s stir the pot slightly. Arsenal were in the midst of that glorious three-week spell, which typically arrives for them every four seasons, where they actually looked like a functioning football team. After five wins on the spin and a valiant defeat to Manchester City, who would want to face them? By delaying the game, Liverpool gave Mikel Arteta’s side time to do the inevitable: humiliate themselves against Nottingham Forest and pour the momentum away. This story could get juicier.

IN OTHER NEWS

Sure, Tottenham have failed to make a proper signing under Antonio Conte and looked woefully inadequate against third-tier Morecambe for 74 minutes, but at least Spider-Man and MJ are fans of the club, right?
Not that transfer oracle Fabrizio Romano is happy about it after Zendaya stole his catchphrase.

IN THE CHANNELS

Drape Johnny Depp in an Italian flag, the Pirates of Venice are in town. Rather than have the traditional punch-up outside the stadium, Venezia and AC Milan supporters reportedly had a naval war. And with the obvious caveat that you shouldn’t try this at home, kids, this is rather spectacular:
Someone start a petition for a naval battle on the River Thames before Fulham and Chelsea’s next meeting.

RETRO CORNER

Fifteen years ago the owner of the world’s tastiest right foot announced he was packing in life at Real Madrid for a move to MLS. We can’t recommend this video enough – not just for the footage but also for the biggest synth backing anthem.

COMING UP

AFCON is the only dish on the menu after Leicester City decided they didn’t fancy a midweek trip to Everton. Algeria face Sierra Leone in Group E (13:00 GMT), while Nigeria meet Egypt (16:00) and Equatorial Guinea take on Ivory Coast (19:00).
Actually, Marcus Foley is the other dish on the menu, fortunately for you Warm-Up fans. He's here tomorrow.
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