It’s not yet clear how the Erik ten Hag era will go farcically wrong | Soccer


Pity poor Fiver, who had several bons mots regarding Thursday’s relegation-infused battle between Burnley and Southampton ready to go – proper zingers they were, too – when white smoke suddenly started parping out of the chimneystack at Old Trafford. The Theatre of Dreams isn’t in the best nick at the moment, so there were initial worries that the 1967 Baby Belling that heats up all the matchday pies had finally given up the ghost, but upon closer examination it proved to be even more epochal news than that. Turns out the papal conclave had finally gotten round to making an informed decision for the first time since 1986, and so it was announced the new manager of Manchester United would be Erik ten Hag, to the surprise of absolutely nobody and the resigned disappointment of Mauricio Pochettino. Oh Mauricio! You’ll always have Paris.

With multiple Dutch titles and Ajax’s first appearance in the Big Cup semis for 22 years on Ten Hag’s impressive CV, it’s not yet clear how this will go farcically wrong. Presumably his first act when he rocks up in the summer will be to bundle Cristiano Ronaldo, who can’t press to specifications, and David de Gea, unable to distribute in the style required, out of the door. But then he’d be getting rid of the club’s current leading scorer and a keeper who’s single-handedly kept the rest of the rabble clear of relegation for the past decade. It’s a poser all right, one of several facing the new man as he surveys the wreckage left by, in incremental order of blame, David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, José Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Ralf Rangnick and Lord Ferg. Oh Alex! Was a portion of Rock of Gibraltar’s front tail worth all this?

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Ten Hag will also have to source a No 9 and a game-changing central midfielder, build a powerbase that insulates him from United’s multi-voiced corporate structure, and find a way of getting rid of Anthony Martial that doesn’t involve a hessian sack and some bricks. It’s one hell of a to-do list, but if anyone can turn around this grounded behemoth, the hottest up-and-coming managerial prospect in the world at [Fiver squints, adjusts pince-nez] 52 years old is surely the man. “Time to fasten the belts and enjoy the ride!” tooted club legend Rio Ferdinand on Social Media Disgrace Twitter, echoing the kind of excitement that every United fan will have felt, up to but not including the point at which they remembered Rio saying pretty much the same thing when Ole took over.


Join Scott Murray from 7.45pm BST for hot MBM coverage of Burnley 1-2 Southampton in the Premier League.


“Yasir very much enjoyed sharing the moment with the players” – Eddie Howe reveals chairman Yasir al-Rumayyan joined Newcastle’s celebrations after that £90m rebuild continued to bear fruit with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, lifting them to 11th in the Premier League.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, Newcastle’s chairman, gets his Michael Knighton on before the game.
Yasir al-Rumayyan, Newcastle’s chairman, gets his Michael Knighton on before the game. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images


A New Formation: how Black British footballers shaped the modern game. Tickets are now available for the live event, featuring Jonathan Liew, Andrew Cole and Hope Powell.


Get your ears around the latest Football Weekly Extra. And while we’re at it, Max, Barry and the pod squad are going back out on tour. Tickets to live shows in June and July are available here, so get buying.


The Fiver has a new sister email, folks! You don’t need to be told that it’s smarter and wittier than us – so sign up. The latest edition has been sent whistling into inboxes but you can get a taste here.


“Re: yesterday’s Fiver. As a Fulham supporter of almost 70 years, it is difficult to express the pain I feel at the prospect of next year’s Premier League football. Rather than go through the inevitable, might it be possible as an alternative to request relegation to League One and set up an even more glorious year of Mitrovic goals?” – Hanford Woods.

“The Fiver is clearly an email of little faith and less memory. Fulham’s trajectory post-promotion will clearly be that of 2001, rather than 2018 or 2020. In 2001 our first signing was Edwin van der Sar, a statement of intent borne out by the fact that when we were relegated we were the sixth longest surviving top team. So watch out the big 4/5/6 etc, the beast has awoken” – Richard Hirst.

A beast, earlier.
A beast, earlier. Photograph: Rob Newell/CameraSport/Getty Images

“Back in November I preempted the (admittedly) inevitable by writing to you asking whether Fulham and Norwich would ever meet in the league again. The letter wasn’t published (admittedly, it wasn’t great) but it was interesting to see that the subject was addressed in yesterday’s Fiver. Is there a prizeless prize for previously unused letters?” – Andrew Want.

“I am not surprised at Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir’s negative reaction to the idea of Euro 2022 matches being staged at the City Academy Stadium (yesterday’s News, Bits and Bobs). There’s clearly a risk that it will be oh, so quiet” – Dan Croft.

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 … Dan Croft.


Fifa has confirmed its ethics committee has launched an investigation into the actions of disgraced former Canada youth national team coach Bob Birarda and allegations of sexual harassment against former Vancouver Whitecaps women’s team coach Hubert Busby Jr.

Brazilian club Internacional have condemned “cowardly threats” sent to midfielder Edenilson after he received a video of an armed man warning him to up his game.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus face a fresh theoretical threat of being banned from Big Cup over their €uropean $uper £eague plotting, after an injunction blocking Uefa from taking action against the clubs was overturned.

Barça president Joan Laporta there.
Barça president Joan Laporta there. Photograph: Quique García/EPA

In other Uefa news, it has endorsed a fans’ petition called ‘Win it on the Pitch’, which calls on the European Union to protect the principles of sporting merit. Which is good of it, given that next month it will also likely award places in a new-look Big Cup to teams based on historic performance.

Serena Williams and Lewis Hamilton fancy a bit of Sir Martin Broughton’s bid to buy Chelsea, one of three offers left on the table.

And Sergio Agüero, Didier Drogba, Vincent Kompany, Peter Schmeichel, Marco Boogers Paul Scholes and Ian Wright have been inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame.


Jamie Jackson says #mufc must improve in a number of areas, including passing, creating chances and defending.

Our expectations of fans seem to be so low – has it always been like this, muses Max Rushden.

Tommy T is blaming the Stamford Bridge pitch for Chelsea’s bother. That’s probably not great, sighs Jacob Steinberg. And Jonathan Liew looks at Romelu Lukaku.

Oh Chelsea.
Oh Chelsea. Photograph: Dave Shopland/Rex/Shutterstock

Manchester United’s Alessia Russo gets her chat on with Suzy Wrack, who also has thoughts about some of those Euro 2022 venues.

Things aren’t quite as nice at Nice as they should be, reports Adam White.

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

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