The Warm-Up: We prefer not to win first legs anyway
Here's Jack Lang on Manchester United's missed opportunity, Danny Drinkwater's golden prison and mad Martin O'Neill...
THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES
A swing and a miss
Wednesday morning. A Manchester United fan lies in bed, excitedly wondering how the evening’s big Champions League clash against Barcelona is going to pan out. Suddenly, without warning, a booming voice fills the room.
“GREETINGS, HUMAN. BE NOT SCARED. I AM THE DISEMBODIED GOD OF FUTURE FOOTBALL. I AM HERE TO PROVIDE ANSWERS.”
“JUST PLAY ALONG, FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE. HUMOUR ME, AND HUMOUR THE POOR SOUL WHO WILL LATER USE THIS ENCOUNTER AS A WAY TO WRITE ABOUT TONIGHT’S MATCH.”
“O…K. So how’s it going to go?”
“GOOD, HUMAN. FIRST, THE TEAM NEWS. MARCUS RASHFORD IS GOING TO BE FIT TO START. BARCELONA WILL BE WITHOUT OUSMANE DEMBELE AND SAMUEL UMTITI.”
“That’s great news.”
“UNDOUBTEDLY. NOW, THE BARCA PERFORMANCES. PHILIPPE COUTINHO WILL BE TERRIBLE. JORDI ALBA, IVAN RAKITIC, ARTHUR: THEY WON’T DO MUCH AT ALL. CLEMENT LENGLET WILL PLAY WITH ALL THE CONFIDENCE OF A MOUSE AT A CAT CONVENTION.”
“And what about… well, you know who?”
“Amazing. How about our boys?”
“DAVID DE GEA WILL BE GOOD. THE DEFENCE WILL JUST ABOUT HOLD FIRM. FRED WILL DICTATE THE TEMPO. DO NOT LAUGH, HUMAN. SCOTT MCTOMINAY WILL BE THE BEST MIDFIELDER ON THE PITCH. IT IS WRITTEN.”
“Wow, wow, wow. Buzzing for this now. Thank you, great one. Now, just one more question before you go: How many goals do we win by?”
Youth vs wisdom
With Real Madrid at home watching on television, the role of Unpopular Champions League Overdogs now belongs to Juventus, and from that perspective, they made an excellent start to their game against Ajax.
The Old Lady were beaten into submission by a young, vibrant team in the first half… and then, predictably, took the lead through, predictably, Cristiano Ronaldo. Luckily, Ajax weren’t done, responding through David Neres, meaning the second leg is going to be a cracker.
A cracker that Juventus win with grim inevitability, but still.
The Loveable Slacker of the Week award goes to Danny Drinkwater, with all evidence suggesting he stayed at Chelsea this summer (and in January) just to pick up that sweet top-six wage and… well, chill out a bit.
The midfielder has played 30 minutes of football across all competitions this term, and manager Maurizio Sarri admitted yesterday that he doesn’t know why Drinkwater is still at the club.
“I spoke with him in August when the market was open,” the Italian said. “I said to him to look for something different. I have a very good relationship with him because in my opinion he is a good boy, a good player but he is not suitable for me.
“He knows very well [why] he has never played: because in my opinion he is not suited to my system and my way of playing. I told him everything in August, he appreciated but decided to remain and so he knew very well the situation.”
The Warm-Up has said this before, but for the avoidance of doubt: if anyone – anyone at all – wants to pay us tens of thousands of pounds a week to do nothing, please get in touch.
IN OTHER NEWS
What’s bad? VAR.
What’s worse? Having to talk about VAR all the time.
What’s the absolute worst? This:
HEROES AND ZEROES
Hero: Jack Grealish
If you haven’t seen Aston Villa’s winning goal against Rotherham last night, then stop whatever you’re doing now (reading this, I guess) and find the highlights. Just like watching Brazil, only when Brazil were properly good.
Zero: Noah Hickey
The Warm-Up had never seen this miss before yesterday, but it’s now etched into our hive-brain and will 100% be flashing before our eyes every time we bear down on goal in five-a-side.
IN THE CHANNELS
You know what’s also important? Football, that’s what, and The Warm-Up was delighted to see this last night:
Watching Ashley Young run up the wing, run back, cross to nobody, foul someone, foul someone else, moan at the referee and cross to nobody again last night, it was hard not to be reminded of one of the greatest headlines in living memory:
Superb stuff, and The Warm-Up has dug out the actual quotes for your pleasure.
Take it away, maestro: “I think Ashley’s a world-class performer, I really do. I don’t use [those words] too often but he’s absolutely class. And he’s far from reached his peak. If you look at other top quality players who are 22 or 23 and who are absolutely brilliant… you look at people like Ronaldo and Messi and ask how they can improve. But they do, they just get better.
“I look at players; I see a lot of games in Europe, I watch a lot of football and you see a lot of players playing the game who are very functional. Some are decent, some are more than decent and some are very good. And then you have players who are absolutely exceptional and Ashley Young is absolutely exceptional.
“Could you name me two dozen players in the world who could have scored the second goal that he scored against Everton? I can’t. To have that poise was world-class.”
Starry-eyed stuff, although The Warm-Up will admit that the goal in question was quite nice:
Hey, it’s the moment the Europa League gets good! Ignore Slavia Prague 0-2 Chelsea (Loftus-Cheek 82, Pedro 85) and focus on Arsenal vs Napoli, aka the David Ospina Clasico. The Gunners can’t defend. Napoli have loads of good attackers. They also have David Ospina. Goals, surely.
I think Tom Adams is a world-class performer. I really do. I don't use those words too often but he's absolutely class. And good news: he's here with Friday's Warm-Up.