REFLECTIONS ON DEFLECTIONS
Liverpool versus Manchester United at Anfield. It’s a fixture that in the past has ended 7-1, 7-4, 4-4 and 1-4, though exactly how much importance should be attributed to matches played in 1895, 1908, 1953 and 1969 is very much a matter for you and you alone. The Fiver prefers to crunch more recent data, and the last five stagings of this particular super-hyped showdown have produced a grand total of six goals, and two of those were a pair of absurd deflections scored in a trippy seven-minute spell by Xherdan Shaqiri in 2018. Given the way United have just chased Liverpool down with a little help from two big nicks of their own against Wolves and Burnley, it would appear the gods of football are in the middle of some kind of spiritual audit.
But while the omni-benevolent forces of soccer are clearly balancing the ledger, it’s also true that teams make their own luck on terra firma. A haul of 29 points from the last 33 available suggest United, who spent the first couple of months of the season faffing around, are now properly good again. “They deserve the points they have, and we have ours,” observed a slightly downcast Jürgen Klopp on Friday afternoon, as he considered the royal balls his team made of the festive schedule, handing over the advantage in the title race to United and Manchester City, as well as giving hope to the likes of Leicester, Everton, Spurs, Southampton, Villa, and a team managed by Frank Lampard for goodness sake.
While a notable air of melancholy enveloped Klopp, who might be approaching his 200th match in charge of Liverpool with a little more trepidation than most of the previous 199, the mood in the United camp is sure to be buoyant with everything going their way right now. They could go six points clear of the champions with a statement victory, Bruno Fernandes has just been named player of the month for the 13th time this year, and earlier in the week Marcus Rashford’s boot once again made satisfying contact with Boris Johnson’s swingers. All signs point to United’s first victory at Anfield since 2016, when Wayne Rooney decided another of those one-goal thrillers this fixture specialises in. Whatever happened to him?
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“To be given the opportunity to follow the likes of Brian Clough, Jim Smith, [Frank Lampard’s Chelsea manager] Frank Lampard and Phillip Cocu [32% win rate] is such an honour. I will leave no stone unturned in achieving the potential I have witnessed over the last 12 months of this historic football club” – Wayne Rooney lays it on thick as he sacrifices his playing career to take the Wayne Rooney’s Derby County job.
“Yesterday’s Fiver incorporating political satire was surprisingly well written. What happened? Did you mistakenly sign up for dry January? Or maybe you are angling for a new gig? Death to Football (a Netflix mockumentary) perhaps?” – Neale Redington.
“You spent the first part of yesterday’s Fiver castigating our wonderful government for their mistakes. How could you? We all know the government doesn’t make mistakes, for it is made up of decent people who would be first in line to, er, admit every mistake they make” – Steve Burton.
“I’m sure there have been at least 1,057 bank accounts opened since yesterday’s Quote of the Day under the name Sporting (Insert name of your choice). So far mine still only has €0. Come on Lazio!” – Giordy Salvi (and no other bank account openers).
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Big Sam is not a fan of column inches that could be used to scrutinise the UK government’s handling of the Covid crisis being taken up by footballers who hug. “Why the government wants to intervene is an absolute nonsense with the mess they’re making of it at the moment,” he fumed.
Marcus Rashford has revealed that when José Mourinho chunters on about the number of penalties Manchester United get, the Spurs boss is actually indulging in self-praise.
Chelsea legend Danny Drinkwater is close to joining Turkish heavyweights Kasimpasa, while Milan want the option to have Fikayo Tomori for keeps if they borrow the Blues’ defender.
The 15 club-race to sign Arsenal’s soon-to-be-out-of-contract striker Folarin Balogun has narrowed to three – and the Gunners themselves might still offer the teenager a juicy contract to stay.
Bristol City Women have appointed Matt Beard as head coach until the end of the season as maternity cover for the expecting Tanya Oxtoby.
Pep Guardiola gets the chills when he sees Mr Roy at the Etihad. “In the last two seasons we weren’t able to beat them at home,” he trembled. “A team like Palace knows exactly what they have to do … they defend so well.”
And Newcastle boss Bernard Cribbins is not going to let the virtual boo-boys get to him. “I’ve made a career of never giving in so I won’t [now],” honked Cribbins, who has resigned seven times in his previous 10 jobs.
STILL WANT MORE?
Ben Fisher goes undercover to reveal the set-piece secrets of Ralph Hassenhutl’s Southampton success.
WSL player of the month Leah Galton gets her chat on with Louise Taylor before Manchester United’s showdown at Chelsea.
“Maybe my legs have one more year left in them! But I have started to realise how good it is to be a coach,” writes Fiver favourite Yaya Touré, who has been learning the ropes at QPR and Blackeye Rovers.
Just who is Kim Min-jae and is he coming to London? The Mill reveals all.
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