One man’s love for Europe’s second most prestigious knockout competition
|In today’s Fiver: the north-south letters debate rumbles on, schoolmasterly exhortations and an imminent third-tier omnishambles|
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“He looks really healthy but he can’t play football” – Jürgen Klopp gets a bit careless with his phrasing on Jordan Henderson.
Livin’ the dream
A lot has changed since the summer of 2013. David Moyes is no longer regarded as one of the great visionaries of English football, Manchester United have accidentally knocked themselves off their perch after failing to notice that Ed Woodward had tied their shoelaces together and José Mourinho has unlocked a previously unseen passion for all things Euro Vase. Of course, that wasn’t always the case. There was a time when Mourinho regarded it with the contempt he usually reserves for Luke Shaw, Arsène Wenger or the concept of entertainment. He began his second spell at Chelsea, after all, by leaving a foot in on his Euro Vase-winning predecessor and close acquaintance, Rafa Benítez, by revealing that the competition was so far below his standards that he’d rather win an all-expenses paid camping trip to Slough with the Fiver than experience any kind of success in it.
But Mourinho has changed his tune of late. Whereas Frasier Crane, despite his best intentions, was unable to find anything positive to say about that bull painting given to him by his dad, Mourinho has furrowed his brow, stroked his chin, had a long, hard look at Euro Vase and learned to appreciate its many hidden depths, in the same way the Fiver manages to look on the bright side and appreciate the inner beauty of the Ginsters steak slice it lovingly puts in the microwave every evening.
Suddenly nothing is more important, which is why Mourinho was sporting a giant “JOSÉ AND EURO VASE FOR LIFE” foam hand as he spoke to the press before the second leg of United’s quarter-final against Anderlecht this evening. What could be better than reaching the final in Stockholm on 24 May, after all? “It will be the perfect end to the season,” Mourinho said. “Trying to finish the season playing a European final. It will be the perfect finale for Manchester United.”
And United are in with a fine chance of going all the way. They’ve just given champions-elect Chelsea a damn good thrashing, they’re in a promising position after drawing 1-1 at Anderlecht last week and they boast a 100% home record in Europe this season, having already seen off the might of FC Zorya, Feyernoord, Fenerbahce, Nice, FC Rostov and a Fiver Select XI. Get past these formidable Belgian opponents and European glory will be within touching distance for United.
Sure, it could be pointed out that an alternative perfect finale for one of the richest clubs in the world would be challenging for the Premier League title, reaching the latter stages of Big Cup or even just finishing in the top four. But you’d have to be a cynic to suggest that the only reason Mourinho’s interested is because his team have made such a pig’s ear of trying to qualify for Big Cup on the domestic front that he’s the hot favourite to win the Theresa May Award for Most Egregious U-Turn Of The Year. No, this is purely about one man’s pure, undying love for Europe’s second most prestigious knockout competition – no more, no less. How could you even begin to doubt him?