Manchester projection, and Chelsea repeats | Paul Doyle
ROUND 872 (AND COUNTING)
The Fiver doesn't know much about navigation, other than several crucial ways of deleting viewing history. But we do know that Mercator projection is considered obsolete and offensive, what with it being the 16th-century technique for representing the globe on a map in such a way as to make Africa and South America much smaller than in reality and Europe much more important. Those maps aren't used much beyond Daily Mail offices any more but a footballing corollary has emerged this season and become irritatingly prominent: Manchester projection, the technique for representing the entire 872-round Europa League knockout process as a preliminary for an all-Manchester final.
This is despite the fact that in European competition this season Manchester United have looked about as comfortable as a tipped cow in an abattoir, especially at Old Trafford, where they have won just one of four European ties this season. This will not have escaped the notice of the manager of tonight's visitors, as Athletic Bilbao's Marcelo Bielsa has such a maniacal devotion to detail that he probably knows the precise number of passes that his players need to intercept before Wayne Rooney clatters someone in frustration.
"I've not met Bielsa but I admire his work," swooned Euro Vase tyro Lord Ferg. "He's overseen the emergence of a very good, determined, organised Bilbao side with great belief. We'll have to be strong at the back; if you offered me a 1-0 [win] I'd take it," added Ferg, making a declaration that, if it came from Roberto Mancini, would probably be taken as an attempt to solicit a bribe. Mancini, you see, has yet again found himself the subject of hysterical allegations of wrongdoing after he had the temerity to suggest that the Premier League top scorer Robin Van Persie is a very good player whom every club wishes they had.
"I think all the good teams are interested in Van Persie," ventured Mancini before dialling 999 to report a case of the bleeding obvious. "He is a fantastic striker but I think he will remain with Arsenal." That has been denounced by some people as an attempt to unsettle the Dutchman, which suggests that some people think Mancini is stupid enough to attempt to unsettle a player in public when he could easily dispatch an envoy to do it much more discreetly – and effectively – in private. So let's not talk about that any more. "I came here five years ago with Inter in Big Cup and we lost," declared Mancini on a completely unrelated matter right on cue. "So I know how tough this match [against Sporting Lisbon in the Euro Vase tonight, in case you were wondering] is going to be."
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"Evra was clever at Old Trafford. Luis didn't shake his hand because Evra's hand was down there. What else is Luis supposed to do? Would you go to shake someone's hand if their hand is way down there by their side? Course not … Evra probably stayed up all night thinking about how to do that" - Glen Johnson heralds another momentous day for the Liverpool PR department.
SOMEONE AT STAMFORD BRIDGE NEEDS A NEW SCRIPTWRITER DEPT
"[Big Phil Scolari's] a great man. Unfortunately we weren't playing well and it falls on his head. Maybe they should look at some of us because we did underachieve."
"It's sad for André because, unfortunately, it falls on his head when I think the players will hold their hands up and say clearly we've not been good enough and we have all made mistakes together."
England's Brave and Loyal John Terry dusts off his Luis Felipe Scolari sacking statement, changes a few words, and gives it another whirl for Andre Villas-Boas.
And while we're at it, here's what the Chelsea press office said about the dimissal of Scolari .. .
"The Chelsea board would like to place on record our gratitude for his time as manager ... we all feel a sense of sadness that our relationship has ended so soon. Unfortunately, the results and performances of the team appeared to be deteriorating at a key time in the season."
... and the dimissal of AVB.
"The board would like to record our gratitude for his work and express our disappointment that the relationship has ended so early. Unfortunately the results and performances of the team have not been good enough and were showing no signs of improving at a key time in the season."
BITS AND BOBS
When George Best whizzed up the wing, trailing a stench of stale booze in his wake, he was called a hero. When Wolves captain Roger Johnson turns up to training allegedly stinking of the stuff, he gets done for breaching club discipline. It's a funny old world.
In other drunken-dribbler news: Jermaine Pennant has denied claims he faced the wrath of manager Tony Pulis for gargling Purple Tin until 5am on the day Stoke faced Everton last December. "I'm all over £skysports saying I've been fined when it's not true the gaffa is going mad," tweeted Pennant. "So to all the stoke fans and for the record there is no problem with me and TP I have not been fined and we haven't fallen out at all".
Meanwhile TP has backed sulky teenager Andre Villas-Boas to bounce back after his work experience at Chelsea. "I found him to be a nice chap. I'm sure he will get back into the game and that it will have been a great experience for him," he patronised.
Bournemouth chairman Eddie Mitchell has been fined £1,500 for effing and jeffing on BBC Radio 5 Live's 606 programme.
Peter Lovenkrands could miss the rest of Newcastle's season with knack. "[He] has really hurt his thigh," soothed manager Alan Pardew. In other news, Ryan Taylor has signed a new deal at the club. "I'm over the moon," he said, before Pardew was forced to coax him back down with a stick.
Robbie Fowler has turned down the chance to top up his coffers to the tune of £90-a-week after rejecting Blackpool's generous contract offer.
And Gary Speed's son Edward has been called up to the Wales Under-16 squad alongside Craig Bellamy's song Ellis.
STILL WANT MORE?
What, no David Wetherall? Join the chorus of disapproval on our poll: is Lionel Messi the greatest player of all time?
Is Athletic Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa as loco as they say? No, he's madder says Sid Lowe.
Sachin Nakrani heard that six Kopites were running from Hillsborough to Anfield in order to raise awareness of the disaster's 23rd anniversary, so he wrote this blog about it.
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