Danny Ings double completes comeback in Aston Villa’s win at Brighton | Premier League

For all the “will he, won’t he?” surrounding England’s World Cup forwards, Danny Ings’s name was not even mentioned in passing. Rightly so; for most of his short-ish Aston Villa career, Ings has dipped well below the expectations attached to his £25m price tag.

His 34 goals in 67 top-flight appearances at Southampton led to the transfer; Holte End heroism and a push for tournament football would have been the plan. It has transpired quite differently. With the latter ambition surely gone, Villa must be his priority.

Afternoons such as this, when his double either side of half-time helped set up a come-from-behind victory, will help. But for an illness that saw Ollie Watkins miss out entirely, Ings would have begun on the bench. Instead, for the first time this season Villa’s travelling supporters celebrated victory on the road. They sang “Yippee-i-a” merrily as Unai Emery’s side shook off Alexis Mac Allister’s early opener to give the new manager wins in his first two league games.

Even with the success Brighton enjoyed under Graham Potter, there were frequently empty pockets of seats at the Amex. At times, particularly for much of last season, value for money was arguably poor. But it already feels as if Roberto De Zerbi brings with him a different brand, an organised chaos. They will score more, they will concede more, and he will orchestrate it energetically from within – and frequently from outside – his technical area.

So while defeat will hurt, Brighton should take heart in the fact that as the bugles sounded to mark Remembrance Sunday, there was not a seat to be had. A good thing too; they were ahead within a minute.

In Villa’s Carabao Cup defeat at Old Trafford on Thursday, much blame was laid, quite literally, at Robin Olsen’s feet. With Emiliano Martínez returning, playing out from the back was not expected to be problematic.

But while he and Douglas Luiz may squabble over the apportionment of blame, the fact is the latter did not expect to receive it short from Martínez on the edge of the area in the first place, and then was unaware that Mac Allister was breathing down his neck. He picked Douglas Luiz’s pocket (VAR took the view legally) and planted the ball past Martínez.

Having started like possessed men last week, Villa struggled for possession entirely early on. But Emi Buendía’s sumptuous through ball split Levi Colwill – making his full league debut – and Lewis Dunk. John McGinn reached it first; Dunk’s lunge was cumbersome; Ings lashed the penalty down the middle.

Brighton’s Lewis Dunk brings down John McGinn, resulting in a penalty being awarded to Aston Villa
Brighton’s Lewis Dunk brings down John McGinn, resulting in a penalty being awarded to Aston Villa. Photograph: Tony Obrien/Reuters

Despite levelling, there remained a nervousness to Villa’s back line. Further forward they looked more assured, but Emery’s play-from-the-back philosophy will take some settling into. Tyrone Mings was shaky, never more so than when spun 360 degrees by Solly March; a manhandling earned Mings a booking.

Brighton continued to dance forward, to switch play rapidly, to try out corner routines. But for all the aesthetic pleasure, goalmouth action was limited.

The scoreline reversal was completed soon after the break. Matty Cash raced to the byline and his cross was met by a diving Buendía, whose header crashed against a post. Danger averted? Well, no, Brighton failed to clear and, would you believe it, there was redemption of a type for Douglas Luiz. For this time it was Mac Allister dallying on the edge of the area and Douglas Luiz getting his boot in. Possession fell to Ings, who finished via Colwill’s back leg.

Brighton roared vociferously for a penalty of their own when, with 20 minutes left, Lucas Digne was slow to clear. March – a livewire throughout – appeared from nowhere and got a toe on the ball, and Digne’s sweeping left foot appeared to wipe him out. VAR looked but did not tell Chris Kavanagh to have another look; De Zerbi was, not for the first time in the afternoon, animated.

It became edgy. Brighton pushed; Villa sat ever deeper. Out came the dark arts, the visitors breaking play with a series of cynical fouls. Just before eight minutes of added time, Colwill, unmarked, headed Mac Allister’s whipped cross glaringly wide.

And then it was over. What fun it was. Oh, and on World Cup watch, no one got injured.

Premier League team news: predicted lineups for the weekend action | Manchester City

Bournemouth v Everton

Saturday 3pm Venue Vitality Stadium Last season n/a

Referee Craig Pawson This season G7 Y31 R0 4.43 cards/game

Odds H 19-10 A 7-4 D 9-4

Bournemouth v Everton


Subs from Dennis,Christie, Marcondes, Rothwell, Stacey, Lowe, Stanislas, Zemura, Dembélé, Pearson, Hill, Anthony

Doubtful Zemura (knock)

Injured Brooks (thigh, 26 Dec), Kelly (ankle, 26 Dec), Neto (thigh, 26 Dec)

Suspended Mepham (one match)

Discipline Y22 R0


Leading scorer Billing 4


Subs from Begovic, Jakupovic, Lonergan, Patterson, Mina, Keane, Holgate, Vinagre, Doucouré, Garner, Davies, Rondón, McNeil, Welch, Mills, John, Cannon

Doubtful Holgate (knee)

Injured Calvert-Lewin (hamstring/knee, 26 Dec), Godfrey (broken leg, 26 Dec), Townsend (knee, 26 Dec)

Suspended None

Discipline Y33 R0


Leading scorer Gordon 3

Liverpool v Southampton

Saturday 3pm Venue Anfield Last season Liverpool 4 Southampton 0

Referee Simon Hooper This season G9 Y26 R0 2.88 cards/game

Odds H 3-11 A 11-1 D 6-1

Liverpool v Southampton


Subs from Adrián, Kelleher, Davies, Ramsay, Matip, Tsimikas, Phillips, Milner, Jones, Elliott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bajcetic, Carvalho, Gomez

Doubtful Matip (calf), Milner (concussion)

Injured Keïta (thigh, 26 Dec), Díaz (knee, 26 Dec), Jota (calf, Jan), Arthur (thigh, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y12 R1


Leading scorers Firmino, Salah 6


Subs from Caballero, McCarthy, Caleta-Car, A Armstrong, Mara, Djenepo, Edozie, Diallo, Walcott

Doubtful xnamex (xreasonx), xnamex (xreasonx)

Injured Walker-Peters (thigh, 26 Dec), Livramento (knee, Jan), Larios (groin, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y22 R0


Leading scorer Adams 3

Nottingham Forest v Crystal Palace

Saturday 3pm Venue City Ground Last season n/a

Referee John Brooks This season G6 Y24 R0 4 cards/game

Odds H 11-5 A 16-11 D 2-1

Nottingham Forest v Crystal Palace

Nottingham Forest

Subs from Hennessey, Smith, Soh, Williams, Colback, Awoniyi, Surridge, Cafú, Kouyaté, Dennis, McKenna, Badé, Boly, Taylor

Doubtful Kouyaté (knock), McKenna (knock)

Injured Richards (calf, 26 Dec), Toffolo (thigh, 26 Dec), Biancone (knee, unknown), Niakhaté (thigh, unknown)

Suspended Mangala (one match)

Discipline Y34 R0


Leading scorer Awoniyi 3

Crystal Palace

Subs from Butland, Johnstone, Whitworth, Milivojevic, Tomkins, Mateta, Clyne, Hughes, Édouard, Ebiowei, Ferguson, Balmer, Riedewald, Gordon, Wells-Morrison, Phillips, Goodman, Rodney

Doubtful Édouard (thigh)

Injured McArthur (groin, unknown), Richards (thigh, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y29 R0


Leading scorer Zaha 6

Tottenham v Leeds

Saturday 3pm Venue Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Last season Tottenham 2 Leeds 1

Referee Michael Salisbury This season G6 Y31 R0 5.16 cards/game

Odds H 11-17 A 43-10 D 17-5

Tottenham v Leeds


Subs from Forster, Austin, Doherty, Spence, Sánchez, Tanganga, Bissouma, Skipp, Sarr, Lucas Moura, Gil

Doubtful Lucas Moura (tendon)

Injured Romero (calf, 14 Nov), Sessegnon (knock, 14 Nov), Son (eye, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y25 R1


Leading scorer Kane 11


Subs from Klaesson, Robles, Ayling, Llorente, Firpo, Hjelde, Gelhardt, Greenwood, Harrison, Gyabi, Drameh

Doubtful Gelhardt (knock), Harrison (knock)

Injured Bamford (hip, 26 Dec), Forshaw (knee, 26 Dec), Gray (ankle, 26 Dec), Klich (knee, 26 Dec), Sinisterra (ankle, 26 Dec), Dallas (broken leg, Jan)

Suspended None

Discipline Y25 R1


Leading scorer Rodrigo 7

West Ham v Leicester

Saturday 3pm Venue London Stadium Last season West Ham 4 Leicester 1

Referee Jarred Gillett This season G6 Y24 R0 4 cards/game

Odds H Evs A 11-4 D 5-2

West Ham v Leicester

West Ham

Subs from Areola, Randolph, Johnson, Coufal, Fornals, Antonio, Lanzini, Downes, Ogbonna, Aguerd, Coventry, Ashby

Doubtful None

Injured Cornet (calf, unknown), Palmieri (knock, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y16 R0


Leading scorers Antonio, Benrahma, Bowen, Scamacca 2


Subs from Iversen, Smithies, Ward, Vardy, Albrighton, Iheanacho, Pérez, Amartey, Vestergaard, Mendy, Soumaré

Doubtful None

Injured Pereira (calf, Jan), Justin (achilles, May), Bertrand (knee, unknown), Soyuncu (hamstring, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y17 R0


Leading scorer Maddison 6

Newcastle v Chelsea

Saturday 5.30pm Sky Sports Premier League Venue St James’ Park Last season Newcastle 0 Chelsea 3

Referee Robert Jones This season G8 Y28 R1 3.63 cards/game

Odds H 7-5 A 2-1 D 28-11

Newcastle v Chelsea


Subs from Darlow, Gillespie, Karius, Lascelles, Targett, Manquillo, Lewis, Shelvey, Anderson, S Longstaff, Wood, Fraser, Murphy

Doubtful Darlow (ankle), Fraser (calf), Wilson (illness)

Injured Isak (thigh, 26 Dec), Ritchie (calf, 26 Dec), Krafth (knee, Aug), Dummett (calf, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y20 R0


Leading scorer Almirón 8


Subs from Bettinelli, Jorginho, Pulisic, Broja, Zakaria, Ziyech, Gallagher, Koulibaly, Soonsup-Bell, Hall

Doubtful Jorginho (ankle)

Injured Arrizabalaga (ankle, 26 Dec), Kanté (thigh, Feb), Chilwell (thigh, unknown), Chukwuemeka (thigh, unknown), Fofana (knee, unknown), James (knee, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y31 R2


Leading scorers Havertz, Sterling 3

Brighton v Aston Villa

Sunday 2pm Sky Sports Premier League Venue Amex Stadium Last season Brighton 0 Aston Villa 2

Referee Chris Kavanagh This season G4 Y16 R0 4 cards/game

Odds H 9-10 A 10-3 D 3-1

Brighton v Aston Villa


Subs from McGill, Steele, Lamptey, Colwill, Welbeck, Sarmiento, Enciso, Undav, Gilmour, Van Hecke, Veltman

Doubtful None

Injured Moder (knee, Feb)

Suspended None

Discipline Y17 R0


Leading scorer Trossard 7

Aston Villa

Subs from Olsen, Steer, McGinn, Sanson, Ings, Chambers, Augustinsson, Young, Nakamba, Bednarek, Guilbert, Archer, Kamara

Doubtful None

Injured Coutinho (thigh, unknown), Diego Carlos (calf, unknown)

Suspended None

Discipline Y30 R1


Leading scorers Bailey, Ings 3

Fulham v Manchester United

Sunday 4.30pm Sky Sports Premier League Venue Craven Cottage Last season n/a

Referee Paul Tierney This season G11 Y43 R2 4.09 cards/game

Odds H 3-1 A Evs D 3-1

Fulham v Manchester United


Subs from Rodak, Kurzawa, Adarabioyo, Duffy, Chalobah, James, Mbabu, Harris

Doubtful None

Injured Solomon (knee, Jan), Kebano (calf, unknown), Mitrovic (ankle, unknown)

Suspended Reed (one match), Tete (one match)

Discipline Y35 R1


Leading scorer Mitrovic 9

Manchester United

Subs from Dubravka, Heaton, Jones, Maguire, Ronaldo, Fred, Sancho, Pellistri, Van de Beek, Elanga, McTominay, Mengi, Shoretire, Garnacho

Doubtful Antony (match fitness), Ronaldo (illness), Sancho (illness)

Injured Varane (hamstring, 22 Nov), Tuanzebe (match fitness, unknown), Wan-Bissaka (match fitness, unknown), Williams (match fitness, unknown)

Suspended Dalot (one match)

Discipline Y36 R0


Leading scorer Rashford 4

Scott McTominay caps Manchester United’s 4-2 comeback win against Villa | Carabao Cup

This encounter was the very definition of a game of two halves: Manchester United and Aston Villa produced a borefest before the break and a classic cup thriller after it which featured six goals and ended with Bruno Fernandes’ and Scott McTominay’s strikes taking Erik ten Hag’s team through.

Robin Olsen was Villa’s culprit for the Fernandes goal that made it 3-2: his slipshod pass went straight to Alejandro Garnacho and when the Portuguese collected from the winger his effort deflected in off of Tyrone Mings. Then, in added time, McTominay slid home and, after Unai Emery’s men had twice taken the lead, Ten Hag can rightly hail the spirit shown by his team in refusing to be beaten and then going for the jugular.

United’s mission was to avenge Sunday’s insipid 3-1 Premier League defeat at Villa. In this quest they had Anthony Martial as the attacking spearhead in only his second start of an injury-blighted campaign, and his early touch was sharp: twice the ball was bounced in to him and twice he feathered it off to a colleague.

There was smoothness, too, in a United corner routine that featured Fernandes laying the ball short to Marcus Rashford whose cross was flighted on to Harry Maguire’s head. The captain’s connection went backwards, though, and Tyrell Malacia stabbed his attempted cross out. The left-back was better when next receiving from Rashford, forcing United’s second corner, but this time Fernandes disappointed as his delivery was easily cleared.

Ollie Watkins lifts the ball over Martin Dubravka to give Aston Villa the lead at Manchester United.
Ollie Watkins lifts the ball over Martin Dubravka to give Aston Villa the lead at Manchester United. Photograph: Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Each manager made seven changes, with Martin Dubravka handed a debut by Ten Hag for the hosts while Ashley Young, a former United captain, was named by Emery, who was a picture of perpetual motion inside his technical area.

The Villa manager watched United control the ball and territory but lack imagination. The Spaniard’s team also grasped for ideas when in possession and suddenly they were being turned: Fernandes’s ball to Rashford was given to Malacia on the overlap and his cross was headed, via a deflection, by Diogo Dalot on to the roof of Robin Olsen’s net.

All of this cast the contest as a test of United’s ability to break their opponents down and Villa’s prowess at counterattacking quickly to expose Maguire and the rest of his backline. It was surprising, then, when Ludwig Augustinsson created Villa’s best moment while his team were camped inside United’s half. He won a corner on the left which Douglas Luiz appeared to be flighting straight in until Scott McTominay headed clear from under the bar.

A second corner followed and this time, when the delivery pinballed out of the area, Young unloaded a volley that was always missing. Villa were soon back deep inside their territory, gratefully watching Malacia hit the ball out, a Fernandes backheel amount to nothing and Rashford waste a 20-yard free-kick as an aimless first half lacking in quality came to a close.

Quick Guide

Carabao Cup fourth-round draw


Wolves v Gillingham
Southampton v Lincoln
Blackburn v Nottingham Forest
Newcastle v Bournemouth
Manchester City v Liverpool
Manchester United v Burnley
MK Dons v Leicester
Charlton v Brighton

Ties to be played week commencing 19 December

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The second half, surely, might be less humdrum: this was the hope and this was precisely what occurred as in a breathless 60 seconds Villa surged ahead before United pegged them back. First, United thought Boubacar Kamara handballed after he won the ball and fed Jacob Ramsey, who unlocked the home rearguard with a pass that sent Ollie Watkins rushing forward to dink the opener over Dubravka. After United complaints faded and they restarted the match Dalot instantly released Fernandes down the right and his perfectly weighted ball was steered home by Martial.

Suddenly – and thankfully – the tie was alive, the crowd’s vibrancy upping the Old Trafford volume as both sides went at each other at pace. Emery made changes, one of whom, Leon Bailey, was instrumental in Villa retaking the lead. Young padded forward and floated the ball towards the back post and the forward, 90 seconds after entering, headed at goal. Dalot attempted to clear but could only beat Dubravka.

Rashford spurned a gilded chance to register United’s second equaliser by blasting wide before making amends. The unfortunate Mings slipped and Rashford shrugged off Calum Chambers and rifled in. The Villa centre-back, who failed to make Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad, now suffered further pain as his leg unintentionally helped Fernandes’s strike beat the hapless Olsen.

In the 91st minute McTominay made no mistake to leave the home support jubilant.

Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action | Football

1) Saka should take heavy tackles as a compliment

Officially, Bukayo Saka is the 33rd most fouled player in the Premier League. Unofficially, Arsenal fans will tell you that their man is the victim of some sinister conspiracy between opposition left-backs and referees to get him hacked out of the game. So, a valid concern or the usual tribal tinfoil nonsense? It’s actually more complex than it looks. What sets Saka apart is his unique close dribbling style, the ball almost wedged between his feet as he runs. So when he buys the contact – because all wingers buy contact – the tackle often takes ball and man together, making it hard to see which impact came first. Simply put, referees need to do better here. But it also needs a recognition from Arsenal fans that Saka isn’t being deliberately victimised or singled out: he’s just really, unusually good. Jonathan Liew

2) Can Emery nurture Villa’s stars-in-waiting?

It feels a long time ago now but Unai Emery gave Arsenal debuts to Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe. It is a slice of history that would appear to bode well for Aston Villa, whose academy graduateJacob Ramsey completed the scoring in victory over Manchester United on Sunday. Ramsey replaced Ashley Young in Villa’s only change and he repaid Emery’s faith with a vibrant midfield display, smartly combining with Ollie Watkins, Emiliano Buendía and Leon Bailey, and the way the 21-year-old, who joined Villa aged six, has started under Emery suggests he will be in the thick of things. Emery referenced Villa’s academy at his unveiling last week and in the Spaniard the club believe they have one of the the best coaches in the world to nurture talent. Ben Fisher

3) Núñez looks ill-suited to wide role

It’s fair to say that Darwin Núñez is not the world’s most silky-smooth footballer, and indeed his doomed, ungainly scurries down the left provided Spurs fans with some rare levity in the first half. If the target man’s bungled dribbles raised the question of what he was doing out on the wing, then perhaps Mohamed Salah’s two goals – dispatched after stealing into central positions – provided the answer: an attack spearheaded by Roberto Firmino gives Liverpool’s best finisher licence to drift infield. Not that this will be much consolation to Núñez, who remains the jigsaw piece that doesn’t fit. The lineage of Liverpool players signed as thrilling goalscorers only to labour painfully out wide is a long one that stretches from Heskey to Aspas via Diouf, Cissé and Babel. If the Uruguayan is to avoid joining that list, his manager must find an effective way of playing him centrally. Whether such a solution exists, on current evidence, is far from certain. Alex Hess

Darwin Núñez in possession
Darwin Núñez played on the left against Tottenham. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

4) Howe’s first year has been a revelation

While it seems increasingly unlikely Ralph Hasenhüttl will make it as far as a fourth anniversary at Southampton, the man opposite him in the dugout at St Mary’s celebrates 12 months with Newcastle job this week. The turnaround in that time has been remarkable, from a relegation battle to genuine top-four contenders. Their win on the south coast was Eddie Howe’s 20th in 41 league matches – and 19 have come in the last 32 games. For all the inevitable talk of Saudi riches, Howe has also coached a set of individuals into a fine collective: 13 of his latest match-day squad predated his arrival. When one press member made a comparison with Leicester’s 2016 title winners, Howe smiled. “I remember that Leicester team very well. But I just think we are trying to be ourselves.” Sam Dalling

5) Gnonto changes the game for Leeds

Wilfried Gnonto. Remember the name because Jesse Marsch’s 19-year-old Italy forward is very good indeed. It is no exaggeration to say that Gnonto altered the entire topography of a game Bournemouth had been in control of after he came off the bench at half-time. No matter that Leeds swiftly fell 3-1 behind, Gnonto – along with his fellow substitute Sam Greenwood and Marsch’s inspired switch from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 – recalibrated the power balance. After goals by Greenwood and Liam Cooper levelled the score, Gnonto created Crysencio Summerville’s second winning goal in two games with a wonderful run and beautifully weighted through pass. “Wilfried’s a very intelligent young man,” said Marsch. “Wherever you play him you see his savviness and clarity of thought. He speaks multiple languages, understands tactics and has quality. He’s making a big case for more minutes.” Louise Taylor

6) Guardiola’s recipe for City success

Manchester City refused to accept anything less than a win despite João Cancelo’s first-half red card. Pep Guardiola was asked if his team take an elixir to feed their addiction to victory. “A magic potion like Asterix and Obelix?” he said. “No but I see Fulham, they do good things and I made warnings to the players, they trained incredibly well, I saw how focused they were, so I went to sleep confident.” Kevin De Bruyne was again in fine form, claiming the 95th-minute penalty that Erling Haaland dispatched. His manager’s contract expires in the summer and the Belgian seemed no more informed than anyone else about how the situation might play out. “After seven years maybe it is more calm for him. To be honest I don’t know [about his future], I don’t think you’ll get too much out of him. And that is fine.” Jamie Jackson

7) Lallana looks a natural leader for Brighton

Roberto De Zerbi says he needs clever footballers who fully understand his complex tactics and style. One player who is helping his teammates is Adam Lallana. The 34-year-old was briefly part of the coaching staff between Graham Potter’s exit to Chelsea and De Zerbi’s arrival, offering an indication of his future plans. “Lallana is a teacher on the pitch,” De Zerbi said after defeating Wolves 3-2. “I think he will become a very good coach. I hope not now because I want him on the pitch but he is very intelligent, very smart.” While working with the squad, his “enthusiasm, commitment and professionalism” impressed the chief executive, Paul Barber. On the pitch, he looks perfect operating behind Leandro Trossard and excels with the one-touch play in and around the area. He has a few years left in his legs but when the time comes to hang up the boots, he will have options. Will Unwin

In the second half came one of those moments common to these pre-World Cup times. Lucas Paquetá screamed out after a tackle from Jordan Ayew, rolling over several times. Was his Qatar dream dead? The Brazilian, his ankle checked over, continued and played out the 90 minutes. “If anybody was maybe going to create or craft us a goal late in the game it was probably going to be Lucas,” said David Moyes, putting the anguish down to cramp. The Hammers are yet to see the best of a player counted among Brazil manager Tite’s chosen ones, suggesting the problems of recruiting in this interrupted season. Paquetá did not look much interested in physical battles with Crystal Palace and is back in the team after a shoulder problem. Moyes, like so many other Premier League managers, is forced to rely on players whose focus is drifting – a suboptimal situation. John Brewin

Lucas Paqueta in action against Crystal Palace
Lucas Paqueta is yet to peak at West Ham. Photograph: Tom Dulat/Getty Images

9) Foxes find form at both ends of field

“How are you lot behind us?” asked one incredulous Evertonian of a Leicester City video analyst sat in the Goodison Park press box on Saturday night. It was a reasonable query on the final whistle, given the superiority of Brendan Rodgers’ team in every department over their error-strewn hosts, although Leicester are now above Everton on goal difference and heading in a different direction. Creatively, the contributions of James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, Youri Tielemans and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall eclipsed anything Everton had to offer. And their defence made Frank Lampard’s team appear impotent, particularly after Dominic Calvert-Lewin departed with another injury. Leicester conceded 22 goals in the first seven Premier League games of the season; they have conceded three in the last seven. “The summer was tough for us,” said Rodgers, who reserved special praise for his only outfield summer signing. “But I always said that with patience and hard work on the training field we could get back to our level. It’s great to see them playing with joy and quality and you can see the difference that Wout Faes is making.” Andy Hunter

10) The joy of a good goalmouth scramble

Amid the glitz and glamour of the Premier League – a division of otherworldly finesse and scarcely believable skill – there’s nothing like a horribly messy goalmouth scramble to remind us that we’re all human after all. Nottingham Forest’s 96th-minute equaliser against Brentford had a bit of everything: a desperate flap from David Raya, several seconds of human pinball, a helpless last touch from Mathias Jørgensen and, finally, a heroic clearance from Ben Mee – only for goalline technology to intervene and leave him with his head buried in the turf. Thomas Frank’s side have played some excellent football this season, but they have also been highly inconsistent. Without a victory in four, they are now on their longest winless run of the campaign and face an unenviable trip to Manchester City before the World Cup. They have not tasted victory away from home in the league all season; going on their wildly unpredictable form, they’ll probably win 3-0. Will Magee

Aston Villa’s Emery era off and running with victory over Manchester United | Premier League

If this was Aston Villa after three training sessions with Unai Emery, then supporters could be forgiven for departing with a giddy excitement about what the next few years might bring.

Emery has talked about his desire to win a trophy and restore Villa to European competition and this illuminating evisceration of Manchester United capped a sensational start to life for the Spaniard at Villa Park. Goals by the excellent Leon Bailey, Lucas Digne and Jacob Ramsey propelled Villa to victory over United, who succumbed to only their second league defeat since August.

By the end Villa fans in the Holte End were asking Emery to give them a wave and Cristiano Ronaldo, who wore the captain’s armband for United, was throwing his arm down in a haze of frustration. Ronaldo’s most memorable contribution was a second-half contretemps with Tyrone Mings, which led to the video assistant referee clearing the striker of violent conduct.

Emery’s early assessment upon taking charge was an underperforming squad short of confidence but the manner in which Villa shifted the ball hardly married with the idea of a team lacking belief. How Villa supporters enjoyed watching their team express themselves as they beat United here in the league for the first time since 1995.

It was an afternoon that brought great pleasure, from the purposeful running of Ollie Watkins and intricate passing in midfield to the sight of the goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez performing his own version of keepie-uppies, twice heading a bouncing ball on the edge of his own box midway through the first half. Then there was the fleet-footed Bailey.

Villa appeared liberated, nobody more so than Bailey, Ramsey and Watkins, who combined for their opener. Watkins did superbly in the buildup to keep Victor Lindelöf at arm’s length and after being forced infield he picked out Ramsey, who nudged the ball into Bailey.

From there Bailey’s first touch allowed him to motor past Lisandro Martínez and with his second he sent a diagonal left-foot shot across goal and into the corner. Emery high-fived his coaching staff and substitutes. Philippe Coutinho, signed by Steven Gerrard, was left out of the Villa squad altogether.

Unai Emery shows his delight after Jacob Ramsey makes it 3-1
Unai Emery shows his delight after Jacob Ramsey makes it 3-1 to his new side. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Villa were rampant, United rattled. Luke Shaw’s crude challenge on Ramsey, just as the Villa academy graduate was programmed to hurtle towards the United box, earned the England defender a booking and Villa a free-kick 22 yards from goal. Emiliano Martínez, who again captained Villa, legged it into the United half to choreograph the set piece, yelling instructions to his teammates.

The one man he didn’t need to tell what to do was Digne, who sneaked a brilliant, bending left-foot shot inside David de Gea’s left post, brushing the goalkeeper’s fingertips before it nestled in the goal. With 16 minutes on the clock, Matty Cash played in Bailey down the right and the Jamaican cut the ball back for Emiliano Buendía, who powered a shot just wide.

Emery was hopping on the touchline as Villa went in search of a third. Erik ten Hag, meanwhile, stood sternly, arms folded. United roused a little before the break, with Martínez making two smart saves in quick succession, first to deny Alejandro Garnacho on his first Premier League start with his left hand and then Ronaldo with his right boot. But United were fortunate to strike before the interval when Shaw’s shot from the edge of the box, more in anger than anything, took a wicked deflection off the back of Ramsey, wrongfooting Martínez as it looped into the far corner.

Bailey started the second half as he did the first and cannoned a shot into De Gea’s midriff within the opening seconds. Villa were dangerous in attack and mean in defence, marshalled by Mings. A few minutes later De Gea was fishing the ball out of his net once more as Villa again overpowered the visitors. Buendía seized Lisandro Martinez’s headed clearance on halfway and freed Watkins down the left. Watkins, among Gareth Southgate’s striking options for the World Cup, then cut the ball back for an unmarked Ramsey, who swept the ball into the top corner.

‘I am more ready now’: Unai Emery prepared for Aston Villa challenge | Aston Villa

Unai Emery did not know it at the time but by watching Peaky Blinders when he arrived at Arsenal to help him learn English he was already taking steps to feel at home at Aston Villa four years later. Emery broke into a broad smile when reminded of that admission in an ornate lounge overlooking the pitch at Villa Park on Friday, in the city that is home to the crime drama. “I am ambitious as well and I prefer to use difficult series to improve,” he says. “I think I can understand better the Birmingham history with these movies.”

Emery was sacked by Arsenal after 18 months despite finishing fifth and with a 55% win rate. Emery insists the English top flight has not changed too much since he left in November 2019 but that he is better prepared for taking on the Premier League, after enjoying further success with Villarreal. “They are here the best coaches, they are here the best players, and I think the pace is amazing,” Emery says. “The football is going so quickly, changing a lot, and we have to be able as well [to adapt] so quickly … and I think now I am more ready than the first time.”

Emery started work at Villa’s training ground on Wednesday and his first game is at home to Manchester United on Sunday.

He has watched every Villa match this season to build a picture of what he needs to improve and has made plain that he feels the squad has been underperforming. Villa have won one of their past six matches and are three points off the bottom. “I watch only to have some information from them, from each player, but really I want to start now and the message is a new message: maybe the position is going to be different and I want to use each training session to improve, to test, to take information from them,” Emery says.

How does the challenge of steering Villa clear of the relegation zone compare with his previous tricks at Sevilla, Valencia and Villarreal? “This is more daring, if you like, but you accept a challenge based on the experiences you have,” he says. “It really appeals to me and it appeals me to test myself and to push myself as far as I can go.”

Unai Emery with Aston Villa’s squad in training
Unai Emery feels Aston Villa’s squad has been underperforming and is keen to improve them in training. Photograph: Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC/Getty Images

Villa moved quickly to appoint Emery on a four-and-a-half-year contract and believe they have attracted one of the world’s best coaches. Christian Purslow, the chief executive, repeatedly cited Emery’s track record and reputation as a serial winner – Emery has won the Europa League on four occasions (three with Sevilla and one with Villarreal) and led Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 title – but the club’s hierarchy were also enticed by the fact that he has managed outside the elite.

Emery’s decision to leave Villarreal was met with surprise in some quarters but he could not resist the lure of the Premier League and restoring Villa into Europe. Purslow suggested getting Emery was the club’s most significant signing since promotion in 2019. Villa have not lifted a trophy since winning the Intertoto Cup in 2001 but Emery insists adding to the silverware cabinet is part of the project. “My dream is to win a trophy with Aston Villa,” he says. “My second dream, my objective, will be to play in Europe.”

Villa and Emery recognise the value of the extended World Cup break to help hone his methods, to get “the engine” fully running, but he also recognises the need to hit the ground running. “Villa I think is something special: it is an amazing history, the supporters we have are amazing, the stadium is a special stadium,” he says.

“I played here 10 years ago with Valencia and I was really so impressed about how was the atmosphere was here, and it was a friendly match. My decision about Aston Villa is I think I can progress and achieve a level ahead thinking to be proud of the history they have and to try and do again something important.”

Emery, who has named the former Liverpool coach Pako Ayestarán as his assistant, celebrated his 51st birthday on Thursday but has put any celebrations on hold – until Sunday at least.

Villa’s marquee summer signing, Diego Carlos, is a long-term absentee with a ruptured achilles but Boubacar Kamara is edging closer to fitness after a knee ligament injury and could feature.

“My birthday will be on Sunday if we win,” he says. “If we win against Manchester United I am going to enjoy after this match. [On Thursday] I didn’t have time to answer a lot of messages.”

Callum Wilson’s double fires Newcastle to impressive rout of Aston Villa | Premier League

As auditions go it was extremely convincing and certainly must have given Gareth Southgate something to ponder on his drive home to North Yorkshire.

In scoring two goals, creating another and hitting the crossbar Callum Wilson not only made a compelling case for inclusion in England’s World Cup squad but reinforced Newcastle’s top-four credentials.

“Callum’s an outstanding striker,” said his manager, Eddie Howe. “And that was an outstanding performance. Callum was at the heart of a lot of what we did best.”

This ruthless dissection of Aston Villa – a deconstruction also witnessed by the Brazil coach, Tite, who must have been impressed with the uncapped Joelinton as well as Bruno Guimarães – earned Newcastle a fifth win in six Premier League games, leaving them fourth in the table.

Small wonder the home fans who unfurled a banner declaring “This City is Believing Again” before kick off are grateful to the incoming Aston Villa manager, Unai Emery, for turning down the St James’ Park posting last November and allowing Howe to prove how very good he is.

On this evidence Emery has much to get his teeth stuck into when he collects his work permit and clocks in at Villa Park on Tuesday, even if a team once again under the caretaker charge of Aaron Danks could have opened the scoring.

The moment when Dan Burn, a centre-half excelling at left-back, made a brilliant tackle to deny Emiliano Buendía a near-certain goal from close range will surely have caught Southgate’s eye during a stop-start and rain-soaked opening half, during which Villa used almost every time-wasting trick in the book.

In mitigation the 10 minutes of added time were largely accrued after a head injury suffered by Villa’s goalkeeper, Emiliano Martínez, when he collided with his teammate Tyrone Mings.

After prolonged treatment Villa’s captain was cleared to continue only to be helped off, walking very slowly and looking distinctly groggy, after collecting a cross and collapsing to the ground unchallenged 12 minutes later. Surely Martínez should have been taken off immediately after the initial incident? So much for the game’s supposed concussion protocols.

“Emi’s fine, he’s walking and talking but we’re going to need to take care of him,” said Danks. “He took a blow to the head but our very professional medical staff assessed him and initially said he was OK but then something obviously changed.”

Robin Olsen, Martínez’s replacement, was subsequently powerless to stop Wilson’s supremely assured penalty after Ashley Young handled a shot from the gloriously renascent Miguel Almirón.

Miguel Almirón curls home Newcastle’s fourth goal against Aston Villa
Miguel Almirón curls home Newcastle’s fourth goal against Aston Villa to continue his excellent run of form. Photograph: Peter Powell/EPA

It was Wilson’s fifth goal in nine games this season and seemed a particularly timely one for a striker who used a recent television interview to drop Southgate a heavy hint that he should be on England’s flight to Doha next month.

By way of emphasising the point Wilson deposited the ball in the back of the net for a second time, shooting from a tight angle after rounding Olsen, but he was frustrated by a late, albeit correct, offside flag. No matter: Wilson was playing intelligently, holding the ball up adroitly, linking play and stretching Villa’s backline. Does Harry Kane really have a better understudy?

He doubled Newcastle’s advantage early in the second period, heading beyond Olsen in the wake of a cross from Kieran Trippier after a clever short-corner routine culminating with Almirón’s audacious back-heel flick. “The game just ran away from us,” Danks said.

Olsen prevented Wilson from completing a hat-trick after a Newcastle counterattack but the rebound fell to Joelinton, who delighted in sliding the third goal home.

Almirón then added his sixth goal in six games, taking a couple of touches before curling home a wonderful left-footed shot.

“I’m running out of words to describe Miggy’s goals,” said Howe. “They’re all so good.”

The same could be said of his players on a day when the Gallowgate End sang “We’re going to win the league” and a smiling Southgate stayed until the very end.

The surprising history of successful caretaker managers in football | Football

Not many people beyond the staff at Aston Villa would have heard of Aaron Danks before he took over from Steven Gerrard last week. Following a dismal 3-0 defeat to Fulham, Danks was put in charge and had just two days to prepare for a meeting with another west London side. Villa’s 4-0 victory over Brentford was one of the most striking examples of a new-manager bounce in recent times.

Danks could barely contain his delight in his post-match press conference. “It’s been a really exciting experience,” he said. “I’m absolutely shattered and exhausted now because it’s been three really tough days.” His managerial reign was over the following day as Unai Emery was appointed as permanent manager at Villa Park. Danks can walk away with his head held high, with an impressive albeit brief record.

Maybe Danks drew inspiration from another Villa caretaker who took over the club back in 1982 when Ron Saunders jumped ship to local rivals Birmingham City. As Saunders had guided Villa to the First Division title the season before his departure was a seismic shock for the club. Villa’s chief scout, Tony Barton, was jettisoned into the managerial hot seat. Like Danks, Barton inherited a team that had just suffered a heavy defeat, 4-1 to Manchester United.

As Barton began his stint as boss, the champions were languishing in 15th place, nearer the relegation places than challenging for Europe. Barton led them on a decent run that included taking them to the semi-final of the European Cup. Once they had reached their first ever semi-final in a European competition, Barton was rewarded with a permanent contract and Villa progressed to the final, where they beat Bayern Munich 1-0 courtesy of a Peter Withe goal.

Aston Villa manager Tony Barton holds the European Cup, with captain Dennis Mortimer (left) and goalscorer Peter Withe in May 1982.
Aston Villa manager Tony Barton holds the European Cup, with captain Dennis Mortimer (left) and goalscorer Peter Withe in May 1982. Photograph: PA

Another caretaker manager who achieved European glory was Roberto di Matteo after he was placed in interim charge at Chelsea when André Villas-Boas was sacked in March 2012. Chelsea were a long way off the pace in the Premier League, but Di Matteo did achieve a remarkable cup double, beating Liverpool in the FA Cup final and winning the club’s first European Cup by overcoming Bayern Munich in the final on penalties. Di Matteo was duly given a two-year contract but lasted until November, when he was dismissed after a defeat to Juventus in the Champions League.

Danks’ short spell at Villa meant that, for a few days at least, there were three caretakers in charge of Premier League clubs. Gary O’Neil had the unenviable task of picking up a Bournemouth team who had just suffered the ignominy of a record-equalling Premier League defeat after losing 9-0 at Anfield in late August. Prior to their two narrow losses to Southampton and West Ham recently, Bournemouth had been on an unbeaten run of six matches, with two wins and four draws that catapulted the club into the top half of the table.

Steve Davis has not had quite the same positive impact at Wolves since stepping into Bruno Lage’s shoes. But after several managers, including Julen Lopetegui and Michael Beale, turned down the opportunity to take over, Davis and his assistant James Collins were given a vote of confidence by Wolves chairman Jeff Shi. “We have complete faith in their ability and leadership to continue their roles into the World Cup break and new year,” said the chairman.

Rúben Neves scores from the penalty spot in Wolves’ 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest.
Rúben Neves scores from the penalty spot in Wolves’ 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest. Photograph: Sam Bagnall/AMA/Getty

Mário Zagallo is undoubtedly the most successful caretaker manager in football history. In March 1970, the Brazilian football confederation decided to replace their manager, João Saldanha, only a few months before the World Cup was due to start in Mexico. Saldanha had led Brazil through qualifying with ease – they won all six matches while scoring 23 and conceding just two – so this was less to do with football and more to do with politics and a personality clash.

Saldanha had become a journalist after his playing days and he was not afraid of making enemies with his former colleagues. At one point, he sought to settle an argument with a former journalistic colleague with a loaded gun. The Brazilian confederation has assumed that appointing a journalist would make other writers less critical of the team but that only worked up to a point.

Saldanha’s communist beliefs did not go down well with the right-wing military dictator Emílio Garrastazu Médici, who wanted to use football to stoke up national pride. The manager also fell out with his assistant – who said he was impossible to work with – and dared to exclude Pelé from his team on the spurious claim that the player’s eyesight was deteriorating.

Zagallo, who as a player had won the World Cup in 1958 and 1962 alongside Pelé, was not first choice to replace Saldanha but he ended up getting the job. Zagallo had been the manager of club side Botafogo since 1966 and, although he helped the national side as a coach now and again, he had little experience of international football.

He did not hesitate to bring his former teammate Pelé back into the fold and also changed from Saldanha’s 4-2-4 formation, opting for a more fluid 4-5-1 that allowed the players a bit more freedom. Tostão, Gerson and Jairzinho revelled in the new shape and that 1970 Brazil team are widely regarded as the best World Cup side ever. Their imperious 4-1 triumph over Italy in the final is still viewed as the ultimate victory on an international stage. The success culminated in the fourth goal, which rubber-stamped a performance of grace and technique as Carlos Alberto finished an arrowed shot into the far corner.

Carlos Alberto scores Brazil’s fourth goal in their win over Italy in the 1970 World Cup final.
Carlos Alberto scores Brazil’s fourth goal in their win over Italy in the 1970 World Cup final. Photograph: Imago Sportfotodienst/PA

Brazil’s third title in four tournaments secured them the Jules Rimet trophy for good and, having become the first man to win the World Cup as both player and manager, Zagallo was made the permanent manager. With Danks already gone after one match at the helm, it remains to be seen how long Davis or O’Neil will last. They are unlikely to achieve as much as their illustrious predecessors, but sometimes a foot in the door is all a new boss needs.

Richard’s book World Cup Nuggets is out now.
Richard’s book World Cup Nuggets is out now.

Unai Emery is an elite manager with something to put right at Aston Villa | Unai Emery

“I left home at 24 – Hondarribia, San Sebastián, Real Sociedad – and opened myself up to the world of football: carrying my suitcase, facing many difficult moments, leaving my comfort zone,” Unai Emery said. It was Tuesday morning and he was trying to explain why he was packing up again. Lorca, Almería, Valencia, Moscow, Seville, Paris, London, Vila-real and now Birmingham. The call from Aston Villa came last Friday, he said. He told Villarreal, arranging a meeting for Monday. Before leaving, he wanted to take the last of his 129 games there – a victory dedicated to José Manuel Llaneza, who died three days earlier.

Emery described Llaneza, the vice-president, as one part of the “triangle” that made Villarreal what they are. At his goodbye press conference, he sat on the left of the other two: owner and president, Fernando Roig, and his son and chief executive, Fernando Roig Jr. From almost nothing, over 25 years, Llaneza and the Roig family had built Villarreal into one of Spain’s most successful clubs, a regular presence in Europe. But they hadn’t won anything until Emery came, which was exactly why Emery came, about as close to a guarantee as you can get. With him, history was made.

The 2021 Europa League title – their first, his fourth – is why he leaves with a job unfinished but also with his work there done.

Emery walking out was a “surprise”, Roig Sr admitted, and not one he welcomed. The president made a point of describing Emery’s departure as a “unilateral” decision, Villa paying the €6m (£5.25m) release clause. Unlike when Newcastle came last season, Emery stood firm, dared to defy them. Roig described the situation Villarreal had been left in as “screwed”, referring repeatedly to being caught “wrong-footed”; at one point he stopped himself saying something stronger. “Thanks to him but he has left us … well, I won’t use the word I was going to use, because all the media will use it,” he said. “And because what really matters now is to thank him for the time he was here.”

If there was admonishment there was affection too, recognition. There was a paternal pat on Emery’s arm, a knowing smile. “When it comes to results, he passed with honours,” Roig rightly said. A Europa League followed by a Champions League semi-final, the second in the club’s history, is an extraordinary achievement – although it is true that inheriting a team in fifth and completing two seventh-placed finishes was a disappointing return that Emery had set as a target to improve on this season. He departs with Villarreal seventh.

Villarreal are in Europe this season and should be back next year. At Villa there are different targets. Survival, for a start. At the end of last season when Villarreal took the Conference League place, Emery admitted his relief, saying it would feel strange, wrong, not to compete on the continent after so many years. That is what he steps into now, starting next Tuesday. On the face of it, it is a step down but he will believe that only in the short term and he had felt his time by Spain’s east coast was coming to a close at the end of the season anyway. Villa are a huge club, with a rich history, a massive fanbase, something to build. Equally, it is legitimate to wonder whether other options might not have opened.

Unai Emery (right) and the Villarreal president, Fernando Roig, embrace during his farewell press conference.
Unai Emery (right) and the Villarreal president, Fernando Roig, embrace during his farewell press conference. Photograph: Domenech Castello/EPA

“We were happy to get a coach with his cachet, a curriculum like his,” Roig Jr had said when Emery joined Villarreal, and those are words Villa would surely echo. They will feel they have secured a genuinely elite manager, demanding and driven, an enthusiast. An achiever, too.

Asked directly why he was heading to 15th-placed Aston Villa, Emery declined to answer. Today was about Villarreal, he said. He did though say, a little later: “Every league, every club, every context is different; it’s not better or worse, it’s different. I leave a project still alive in Europe and there I will have a different one. When you take on a project you have to have a wider perspective.”

Emery talked about the emotional ties at Villarreal and at one point his voice cracked. But he said decisions have to be taken “cold”, that managers have to be “mentally calculated” and opportunities have to be taken. He called Villa a “very good challenge, professionally”. The money matters, of course: it would be naive to overlook a three- or four-fold salary increase. There is something simple at play too: it’s the Premier League, and that pulls.

Asked why he had not taken the Newcastle job this time last year, Emery said they were “different moments, different opportunities, different contexts. Weighing it all up last year I decided ‘no’; this time I decided ‘yes’.”

The biggest difference, though, was a simple one: back then he thought he was going but had not expected resistance and had not been prepared to fight to leave; he was not going to push back when Roig effectively closed the doors. On Tuesday he made reference to “respecting the contracts we sign”, the payment of his release clause clarifying everything.

And so he moves on, a coach who can’t sit still. And for all the talk of being cold, calculated, there is a hint of the emotional here. Of pride, certainly.

“This profession is inside me,” Emery said. His father was a goalkeeper. His grandfather was too, conceding the first goal scored in La Liga. And although Unai was, in his own words, “a humble player”, he was always likely to be a coach, a journey he embarked upon aged 32, at tiny Lorca. From there he took Almería up for only the second time, and so it began. “I did it because I liked it; I felt the same then as a I do now,” he says, driven by a feel for achievement and the experience. For status and legacy too.

The Arsenal manager, Unai Emery, gestures during the pre-season friendly match against Lazio in 2018.
Unai Emery was the head coach of Arsenal from May 2018 to November 2019. Photograph: Fabian Bimmer/Reuters

At Villarreal, where he says he was “able to be the best me”, that is secure, although the departure hurts, maybe diminishes it slightly. In England there is unfinished business, a feeling of injustice and mistreatment. He has succeeded almost everywhere – although in Moscow he lasted two months – but in the Premier League there is something to put right. The desire to return has been there almost from the day he left Arsenal.

Look at this line from May 2020: “Football is pure emotion. This sentiment in football brings people together, and in England that is very defined, entrenched. In England that identification with your team brings the game alive. It’s deeper there, like a church. I was born in San Sebastián and my team is Real Sociedad. That feeling is in my heart and that’s what you find in England. It’s marvellous, the loveliest thing there is. I’m watching football, learning. And if there’s a good project in England, if someone wants me and is prepared to get behind me, I’m available.”

On Friday the call came from Villa. The timing wasn’t right, but Emery had been waiting long enough, prepared to get back on the road. “I was formed inside football,” he said. “When the opportunities come you have to consider them, and I considered this one I had to take.”

Welcome back Unai Emery, the Rishi Sunak of the Premier League | Football


Unai Emery’s stint at Arsenal wasn’t studded with glorious success. So much so that, were you to ask fans in England for the first thing that springs to mind upon mention of the four-time Euro Vase-winning Spaniard, a fair few would head straight for the way he delivers a particular latter-day greeting. It’s a bit off, really. Partly because poking fun at an amiable gent for the way they mispronounce one syllable from thousands of words in live television interviews conducted in a foreign language is staggeringly poor form. But mainly because his presiding over that 4-1 Euro Vase final defeat to Chelsea says a lot less about Emery, and a damn sight more about the epic show Arsenal regularly make of themselves on the continent.

The Fiver therefore wishes Emery the best of luck in his new job at Aston Villa. Rather like November’s PM of the Month, Rishi Sunak, Emery has come into post at exactly the right time, in so much as base competence gave both of their stratospherically unpopular predecessors the swerve, so there’s not exactly a high bar left to clear. But unlike Sunak, Emery has a little bit of wriggle room, taking charge of an organisation that still has a few quid left with which to speculate. He might use what’s left to pop back to the Yellow Submarines for defender Pau Torres and winger Arnaut Danjuma, targeted investment that would surely signal happier days for Villa while giving his old pals, beloved minnows Villarreal, a much-needed cash boost. The wheels start turning again, everyone benefits, and John Maynard Keynes would be so, so proud.

Meanwhile in Number 10, Rishi gets on with making his own difficult decisions. Hot tears trickle down on to the Downing Street ledger as he curses Truss for firing the entire country into the heart of the sun, thus forcing him to rub two brass bawbees together for the first time in his life. Say what you like about Christian Purslow, but his heart was in the right place and at least he didn’t empty the Jack Grealish coffers in pursuit of some crank ideology. And no, sending for Steven Gerrard and then hoping Philippe Coutinho rediscovers his 2014-16 form doesn’t count.

David Squires with a painful and poignant reminder why no self-respecting football fan would ever chant about Hillsborough.

A funeral takes place in the background with the Sun’s infamous ‘The Truth’ headline in the foreground.
JFT97. Illustration: David Squires/The Guardian


Join Scott Murray for live Big Cup updates from Salzburg 1-2 Chelsea (5.45pm BST) before Luke McLaughlin’s Big Cup clockwatch covers the 8pm games including Dortmund 2-2 Manchester City, Celtic 0-0 Shakhtar and more besides.


“I messaged Roger [Federer] when I landed in Basel and said: ‘I just touched down in the city of one of the world’s greatest ever athletes: Granit Xhaka’” – tennis legend and Arsenal fan Andy Murray hits Big Fed with some prime banter.


“F*** the Tories!” – Wrexham striker Paul Mullin’s left boot, briefly.

Paul Mullin’s boots.
Oof! Photograph: Paul Mullin/Instagram

Women’s Football Weekly is here! Join Faye Carruthers, Suzanne Wrack and guests to talk about the World Cup 2023 draw plus Manchester United and Arsenal’s perfect starts to the WSL season.


“I appreciate Neil Baynham’s calculation of Ms. Truss’s 1,056-ish hours in office. (yesterday’s letters). But, in all candour, I think the last term we could apply to her is pedant” – Mike Wilner.

“One thing that annoys me almost as much as VAR is the expression ‘clear and obvious error’. It would be difficult to think of a clearer and more obvious example of tautology” – Peter Rogers.

“So, the Aston Villa hierarchy turn out to be big fans of Unai. An Emery Board? You can file that one” – Antony Train.

“Michael Carrick is the latest manager to be in surprisingly high spirits about heading to Middlesbrough, with many of his predecessors leaving somewhat downbeat a short while later. Maybe they were all keen to see the Tees Newport Bridge, an impressive feat of engineering. Boro should start including a chance to operate the bridge as a performance-related incentive; the right manager could celebrate promotion by raising the bridge” – Ed Taylor.

Michael Carrick: also keen to check out the Stockton Hollywood Bowl.
Michael Carrick: also keen to check out the Stockton Hollywood Bowl. Photograph: Andrew Varley/Shutterstock

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’ the day is … Ed Taylor, who wins a copy of Inside Qatar by John McManus. We have more to give away this week, so get scribbling.


Football at all levels is experiencing a rise in instances of discrimination, the Kick It Out chair Tony Burnett told a DCMS committee on Tuesday, citing a recent UK football policing report. “That increase is across the board – it’s racism, LGBTQ+ discrimination, misogyny,” Burnett added.

Human Rights World Cup latest: the activist Peter Tatchell was stopped by police after protesting against Qatar’s criminalisation of LGBTQ+ people in Doha.

With said HRWC coming up, Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek hasn’t given up hope of being On The Plane to Qatar. Bad news for Wales, though – Rhys Norrington-Davies is set to miss the tournament with hamstring knack.

Cristian Romero (calf) and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (thigh) face late knack-tests before Antonio Conte decides if they will feature in Wednesday’s Big Cup meeting with Sporting. Dejan Kulusevski (hamstring) and Richarlison (calf) are definitely out.

The Ajax manager, Alfred Schreuder, has played down Liverpool’s patchy form before the two sides’ Big Cup meeting. “I think they are still a very good team, a top team,” Schreuder mused. “Of course they lost to Nottingham Forest, but could also have won 4-1 or 5-1,” he added, somewhat generously.

There are rum doings afoot at Chelsea where, not content with having rustled Graham Potter, the club hierarchy also want to nab Brighton’s head of recruitment, Paul Winstanley.

That’s nothing compared to the shenanigans which went on during West Ham’s 2-0 win against Bournemouth, however, with Gary O’Neil bemoaning another predictable VAR controversy.

And the Sheriff Tiraspol manager, Stjepan Tomas, has bundled himself through the door marked Do One, days before a Big Vase trip to Old Trafford, after his team lost 1-0 to Petrocub at the weekend. “It seems that the players were thinking about the match in Manchester, there was no concentration. This is my mistake,” Tomas trilled.


“A vision of a future in which his boot is stamping on a Kevin De Bruyne cross, for ever.” It’s Jonathan Liew on English football’s Erling Haaland era.

Wolves don’t score that many, but it’s OK because they don’t let many in … except now they do. Which, as Ben McAleer points out, is a big problem.

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