The Warm-Up: Silva bullets bring derby drama a step closer
Jack Lang brings news of sackings, suspensions and more spit-related spats...
TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES
Derby date for the diary
We’ve had verbal digs and simmering glares. Meltdowns and malice. Even the odd eye-gauge, because why not?
Now, long-time followers of the Pep Guardiola/Jose Mourinho psychodrama could be set for another little nugget of fun: the prospect of the Catalan sealing the Premier League title against his eternal rival. With loads of games in hand. In a Manchester derby. Yes, The Warm-Up also just shivered with anticipation.
Manchester City are now very much on course for a neighbourhood party against United, having re-extended their lead to 16 points by yawning their way past Stoke City last night. If they win at Everton, they can seal the deal against Mourinho and Co. on April 7.
On current form, you’d expect them to get the job done with plenty to spare, too. The Stoke game at times felt like a training match, with Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling both stepping up their recoveries from injury, and David Silva nonchalantly claiming a brace. Sergio Aguero’s absence was barely felt.
United’s win over Liverpool ensured they will avoid the ignominy of having to give a pre-match guard of honour, like they did at Stamford Bridge in 2007, but it could be every bit as galling a day. The Warm-Up just asks that the tensions that bubbled over in the tunnel at Old Trafford are allowed to bubble over in public areas this time. For the neutrals, you know?
Southampton’s bloodless loss to Newcastle at the weekend proved to be the last staging post for Mauricio Pellegrino. The Argentine received his marching orders last night after managing just one win in 17 in the Premier League – a run that has left Saints teetering above the relegation zone.
Pellegrino can have no complaints, having averaged just 0.93 points per game over 30 league matches, and you wonder whether the seasiders will regret not pulling the plug sooner; his replacement, after all, will have just eight games to turn things around.
The current favourites to take over, incidentally? Marco Silva and Mark Hughes, both of whom have enjoyed fantastic seaso… oh.
De Boer war
It’s reassuring to know that, for all his grumpiness these days, Mourinho is still able to dig out the keys to the zing factory when circumstances demand it. He just needs a bit of provocation, and Frank de Boer’s recent comments about Marcus Rashford (“It’s a pity that the manager is Mourinho”) certainly seemed to do the trick.
The Portuguese’s response yesterday was slow and savage. “I read something,” he said, “some quote from the worst manager in the history of the Premier League, Frank de Boer – seven matches, seven defeats, zero goals – saying it was not good for Rashford to have a coach like me.
“The most important thing for me is to win. If he was coached by Frank he would learn how to lose, because he lost every game.”
IN OTHER NEWS
The football internet continued to be flooded with saliva yesterday – and only some of it was Jamie Carragher’s. The rest came from the frothing mouths of the professionally outraged, desperately trying to squeeze every little click out of the situation.
A few sample headlines: “Billy Joe Saunders blasts Jamie Carragher for spit shame!” (Quick! Find out what Terry Flanagan makes of it all!) “Football fans take aim at Joey Barton as he hits out at Jamie Carragher for spitting at fan!” (A reaction to the reaction to a reaction to a reaction!) …actually, that’s enough. The Warm-Up’s head is starting to throb.
Anyway, at least there was some unwatchable television to go with the unreadable news stories. Here’s Carragher on Sky News, sitting through what felt like 90 variations on the question, “Yes, but do you think you deserve to keep your job?”
“There comes a time when your body tells you it is time to stop. That is where I am at,” said Michael Carrick yesterday, announcing his decision to retire at the end of the season.
His is a career that underlines the club-country chasm that still exists in English football: he was a key cog in a side that won five titles and the Champions League, earned praise from some of the continent’s best midfielders, yet only started one game at a major tournament for the Three Lions, with successive managers preferring to jam one more showy action man into the XI rather than select a man who might have allowed others to shine.
Carrick was never really a highlights player, but here are all of his goals for West Ham, right back at the start of his career:
IN THE CHANNELS
The Warm-Up lives for catty bickering on social media, and was delighted to see Geoff Shreeves get tempted into an wonderfully needless dig at Gary Lineker over Carra-gate last night.
“Seems @Carra23 can’t do it on a cold, damp Monday night at Stoke,” Lineker deadpanned in reference to Carragher’s Sky Sports suspension, before following up with a qualified statement of support for the former Liverpool man. Shreeves didn’t wait around for the second bit, however, and waded straight in with his opinion galoshes:
Superb stuff, especially the reference to Jake Humphrey, which surely edges us just that little bit closer to the Sharks-vs-Jets-style street battle between warring Sky and BT factions that we all really want to see.
"We have gone from basically cutting grass, to protecting the club’s investments. It’s almost an insurance role now. People talk about the Championship play-off final being the £100 million game. If the ball rolls across the six-yard area and there’s a bad bounce off the pitch so the striker misses, that can cost the club £100 million."
“I don’t feel good on the pitch,” says the Barcelona man. “I don’t enjoy it.”
So just how good a result is a 0-0 away draw in the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie? It’s time for Man United to find out, with Sevilla rocking up at Old Trafford this evening. There’s no Jesus Navas for the visitors – the undisputed Manchester City legend is injured – but Vincenzo Montella has plenty of players who can cause the Red Devils problems… and an early goal for the Spanish side would certainly put the cat among the pigeons.
In the evening’s other tie, Roma will be looking to overturn a deficit against Shakhtar Donetsk’s team of elderly English gentlemen – Fred, Bernard, Alan Patrick – at the Stadio Olimpico.