Generating the sort of publicity only badly-spent money can buy | Soccer


Arsenal haven’t been able to compete in their one-time eponymous round of Big Cup for a while now, but in their absence from top-flight European competition, PSG have done an admirable job in holding the fort at the last-16 stage. Getting regularly knocked out of the Round of PSG (né Arsenal) is one of the highest-profile gigs in football, generating the sort of publicity only badly-spent money can buy, so it’s not surprising that Manchester United fancied some time in the spotlight and a slice of the underperforming-dysfunctional-big-club pie. Move aside, Poch! Do one, Leo! If anyone can keep us entertained during extremely testing times, United know a few €50m-plus men who can!

Sadly, Harry, Paul and Bruno’s brave bid to get the round rebranded in United’s honour was doomed to failure from the get-go. PSG had already marked their territory with that dirty protest in Madrid last week, and while United’s dismal exit to Atlético made it two RoPSG(nA) ejections in four seasons, coming warmly on the heels of Sevilla in 2018, that seemingly competitive 0.500 failure-rate is effectively worthless. United currently look unlikely to qualify for Big Cup at all next season, and unless they pull their fingers out quick-smart, will be tooling around in that thing Spurs got themselves dragged into. Bang goes that 50% stat, while PSG will almost certainly be consolidating their status with a fifth RoPSG(nA) loss in seven for a best-in-class 0.714 return. Come at the kings, you better not miss.

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Thankfully someone at United is setting their sights a wee bit higher than PSG’s tacky last-16 nomenclature. Continually purchasing square pegs for round holes isn’t the only way a big club can find itself run aground like an oligarch’s yacht, as Chelsea are finding out right now, and suddenly the future of Thomas Tuchel has become a hot topic. Tuchel is contracted until 2024, but such is the uncertainty around Stamford Bridge, he’s been forced to pledge not to quit before the end of this season. That sort of talk is more than enough to pique United’s interest, and Tuchel now reportedly tops a shortlist that also features the usual suspects plus Spain coach Luis Enrique and Julen Lopetegui of Sevilla. Land any of those three, and you’d expect United to be seriously competing for Big Cup again in two or three years. Either that or they’ll go for Brendan Rodgers, whose record in Europe would at least guarantee another concerted bid for that RoPSG(nA) title, if nothing else.


Join Paul Doyle from 8pm GMT for hot Big Cup coverage of Lille 1-1 Chelsea (agg 1-3), while Simon Burnton will be on hand for Juventus 2-0 Villarreal (agg 3-1). Scott Murray will also be on deck for Arsenal 1-2 Liverpool in the Premier League at 8.15pm.


“Obviously, part of my job now in the modern football management scene is to know what’s going on around the world and I will have to do that” – Newcastle boss Eddie Howe says he is educating himself over the situation in Saudi Arabia. He could begin with reading this, this, this and this.

Eddie and his staff, earlier.
Eddie and his staff, earlier. Photograph: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United/Getty Images


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“Re: Andrew Parker looking forward ‘to the day when Fiver writers showcase their finely-honed physiques in tight-fitting, overpriced club merchandise’ (yesterday’s Fiver letters). No, just, please, no. Don’t ask them to write cheques their bodies can’t cash” – Sarah Rothwell.

“Well done to all at Fiver Towers for calling out Pep Guardiola’s incorrect use of ‘less’, in his fourth language, when applied to a numerically quantifiable unit (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs). Have any of you managed to get past ‘dos cervezas por favor’?” – Neil Bage.

“The well-evolved specimen that is Ajax thrummed impressively against Benfica in Big Cup, but eventually Darwin had the last word, ensuring the survival of only the fittest. As a Liverpool fan, I would love to see Benfica draw the Reds in the next round. It would be an epic clash of Darwinism versus the Origi of the species” – Peter Oh.

Send your letters to And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Sarah Rothwell.


Former Spurs captain Tony Marchi, a member of the club’s double-winning team in 1961, has died aged 89.

Tony Marchi (left), with Danny Blanchflower and George Robb in 1956, preparing for a children’s charity performance. RIP.
Tony Marchi (left), with Danny Blanchflower and George Robb in 1956, preparing for a children’s charity performance. RIP. Photograph: PA

Dagenham defender Yoan Zouma, who filmed his brother Kurt slapping and kicking his own cat, has been charged under the Animal Welfare Act.

The Chicago Cubs owners – the Ricketts family – are preparing to launch a bid for Chelsea after joining forces with billionaire hedge fund tycoon Ken Griffin.

Rochdale have been charged with alleged breaches of Football League regulations after an investigation into the acquisition of club shares by Morton House.

Mes que un club news: Barcelona have signed a shirt and stadium sponsorship deal with Spotify, which will presumably be worth €0.003 per match.

Fulham fans will need to make new arrangements for their promotion party after a 1-0 Championship defeat at West Brom. “It was not good enough. In the first half we were not here – it was just our shirts on the pitch,” sighed Marco Silva, sounding like he’d just seen a ghost.

Fulham’s Tim Ream after the game. At this point without shirts!
Fulham’s Tim Ream after the game. At this point without shirts! Photograph: Ryan Browne/Rex/Shutterstock

With Gillingham hurtling dangerously towards League Two, manager Neil Harris has decided to open the envelope that blames his predecessors. “We haven’t got the bodies and the recruitment at the club has been a shambles,” he fumed. “The conditioning of the players isn’t good enough.”

And Wales coach Robert Page insists Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey won’t be undercooked like Granny Fiver’s liver lasagna for the upcoming Human Rights World Cup play-off against Austria, despite a serious lack of game time at their clubs. “They’re fighting fit and raring to go,” roared Page. “They’ll have their individual programmes to make sure that, come [next] Thursday, they’re in peak condition.”


“When Rangnick arrived, my objective was to leave” – timely from Anthony Martial, out on loan from Manchester United at Sevilla, as he chats with Sid Lowe.

Timing. Photograph: Sevilla FC

Perhaps we need to stop thinking of United as profligate underachievers, reckons Jonathan Liew.

Harry Kane’s Big Cup aims are looming over Spurs’ summer once again, warns David Hytner.

Which footballer played the fewest games to earn a testimonial? The Knowledge knows.

And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!


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