It’s hard to deny it was a funny old week of association football. Just as we were settling down to the second FA Cup semi-final of the weekend, UEFA announced they might ban the six English clubs nipping off to form a European Super League, criticising a ‘cynical project’ based on the ‘self-interests of the few’ for distracting everyone from their own cynical project based on the self-interests of themselves.
Naturally, the Premier League were fully backing UEFA’s stance as any kind of European Super League would, of course, hit them in the pocket and if there is one thing the Premier League does not like the sound of, it’s being hit in the pocket.
By the time you read this, though, there is every chance UEFA will have announced their own changes to the Champions League which is moving to something described as the “Swiss System” despite nobody really knowing what that means and the total lack of Swiss teams taking part in the proposed system because, hey, no TV company wants them on the box.
Back in what we’d like to pretend is some kind of reality, we had some Premier League action topping and tailing the last four in the oldest cup competition in the world – as if that actually means anything anymore.
Ahead of Friday night’s battle for the Europa Conference League, Glenn Hoddle put himself in the minority (not for the first time) by suggesting Jose Mourinho should stay at Tottenham Hotspur. I am guessing Hoddle hadn’t heard the rumours linking Maouroune Fellaini to Spurs before releasing that statement. Every man and his Dulux dog feels that Harry Kane has to leave if he actually wants to win something in life, with Robbie Fowler begging Liverpool to take him to Anfield. I’m amazed Tottenham’s new paint partner didn’t have anything to say about that after their social media admin got a little bit excited when let off the lead.
At Goodison Park, Kane showed why teams should be fighting for him and why teams shouldn’t touch him with the proverbial barge pole. Two clinical finishes saw him head towards another Golden Boot and two banjoed ankles saw him head for another scan – a leading English player injured heading into a major international tournament, you say? Not in my lifetime. Actually, five times in my lifetime and counting.
The draw helped neither Everton or Spurs in their quest to not finish 6th and Kane, naturally, will miss the EFL Cup Final next weekend.
If Spurs are reverting to being Spursy, then what are West Ham up to? A win at Newcastle would have seen the Hammers leap to third in the table. Given their recent propensity to make a 3-0 lead seem far from game-over, Tomas Soucek laid out his cunning plan for Champions League qualification – stop throwing away three-goal leads. Therefore, Moyes’ men chose the alternative route at St James’ Park – preferring to gift Steve Bruce’s lot a 2-0 lead before getting back to level and then screwing the plan up completely by conceding a late third.
Craig Dawson is always involved in something, we can all agree – whether he is scoring at either end or picking up a quick second yellow, he is an all-action player. Sadly for him, his dismissal came in the move that saw Newcastle take the lead (though he cannot be blamed for the hilarity that saw Issa Diop toe-poke home into the wrong net) and then moments later Lukas Fabianski chose the worst time to make his first mistake in what feels like a decade. The Hammers rallied but Newcastle won – a win that pretty much removes them from any left-overs of a relegation dinner.
I’m still waiting for the thank you note from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, in case you were wondering. There is zero coincidence that Mason Greenwood’s return to goalscoring form has coincided with me finally giving up on him in my Fantasy League draft team – and Greenwood netted a brace to see off Burnley at Old Trafford. Let’s just move on from Dean Henderson’s cap as well, reason enough to recall David de Gea to the number one shirt at United.
Fortunately for Solskjaer, there was no need for his son to come out and let the world know he does actually get fed. We saw more of Pogba in the press this week than we did on the pitch against Sean Dyche’s side and, weirdly, Jesse Lingard is now being linked to every big club in Europe with Inter, AC Milan and PSG seeming to jump ahead of West Ham in the race to sign the reborn midfielder.
Declan Rice has allegedly been asking United players what life is like at OT – we can only presume the answer hasn’t actually been, “well, Dec – there’s a bit too much red if we’re being honest”.
Sheffield United have finally been put to sleep and it won’t be long before Fulham join them, sadly. Scott Parker’s side are the only London team not to have won a derby this season, and it was cruel of Arsenal to tease them into thinking they might nick one. VAR was involved once more, firstly deciding Saka’s little toe was offside and then completely ignoring the fact that Rob Holding was offside in the six-yard box when Arteta’s side levelled. In the words of the late Brian Clough, if he’s not interfering, what the hell is he doing there?
Heading into the first FA Cup semi-final, the chat was around how disappointing Hakim Ziyech has been this season and how he is likely to be bombed out on the same train as Christian Pulisic, Tammy Abraham and Timo Werner. It must have been frustrating for those “in-the-knows” to see Werner lay on the winner for Ziyech against Man City then.
“There goes the quad” was the cry, and they were not referring to Kevin de Bruyne’s latest injury – City can no longer win all four. Pep was understandably a little narked at the questioning around him making eight changes from midweek – it’s not as if it’s the first time he has done it and it’s not exactly like they’re struggling this season because of his need to rotate the squad. That said, he might have wished he’d rotated Fernandinho early seeing how utterly owned he was by Mason Mount.
Is Raheem Sterling playing himself out of Gareth Southgate’s starting XI as fast as he is disappearing from Pep’s best eleven? Mind you, he wasn’t as bad as Ferran Torres – one of those rare bad signings by Guardiola.
Christian Pulisic was denied one of the FA Cup goals of all time by being marginally offside and Chelsea suddenly look like the side that could dampen City’s end-of-season trophy haul.
If Gary Lineker et al were unimpressed with that match, you can only imagine what they thought of Leicester versus Southampton the following day. Mind you, Lineker would have ended up moderately happy – Iheanacho continued his golden run of form that will stop Brendan wasting €25m on a striker this summer by netting the winner.
So, Man City can’t win all four. European football might be about to implode. Fans back at stadiums. And Steve Bruce will have a job next season after all. Football, eh?