THERE GOES THE OLD BOSS, NOT QUITE THE SAME AS THE NEW BOSS
We're less than two months into the season, but already all of the following teams have been officially designated at some point or other as being in CRISIS: Arsenal, Sunderland, Heart of Midlothian, Coventry City, Millwall, Greenock Morton, Celtic, England, the England side Mr Roy talks about that he sees in his head, Liverpool, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Leyton Orient, who having dropped two of the last three points available to them, a pathetic failure rate of nearly 67%, are unravelling at a rate of knots.
But it's the travails of Manchester United that have grabbed the lion's share of attention. For a club who set the bar of achievement at the very top, successes have been hard to come by during this campaign. To be fair, they put four goals past Swansea City. They put another four past Bayer Leverkusen. And David Moyes has been taking the discipline of middle-distance staring to new levels of brilliance: during the recent Manchester derby, he become the first man never stationed in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan to break through the thousand-yard barrier, a mark the punch-drunk United boss beat by three yards, two feet and five inches in a display hailed as a masterclass in cognitive dissonance. But that's it.
Of course, if United win at Shakhtar Donetsk in Big Cup tonight, they'll be officially designated as being ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY along with the likes of Arsenal, Sunderland, Heart of Midlothian, Coventry City, Millwall, Greenock Morton, Celtic, England, the England side Mr Roy talks about that he sees in his head, Liverpool, Manchester City and Real Madrid (We're still waiting for one-draw-in-a-row Orient to pull their indolent fingers out.) The return of Robin van Persie may help in that regard. But just in case things go n!pples up again and United's worst start to a season in nearly a quarter of a century continues apace, Davie's predecessor Lord Ferg has given an interview to the US broadcaster PBS – think the BBC only without the craven attitude to whoever's in government – seemingly designed to pour oil on troubled waters.
"David will be fine, he's a good manager," began the ringing endorsement on the world's smallest bell. "United are in good hands." Addressing directly the children on message boards wondering whether it might be time for Lord Ferg to return on his white charger, Moyes having been given a fair crack of the whip after a whopping 94 days in the job, the old man made it quite clear that the only way for United is forward, as he's got bigger fish to fry. "I'm not interested in managing again or getting myself worked up about Manchester United's results. You would be throwing your money down the drain if you put any money on me coming back as manager. There is no way back for me now, I've got a new life."
But while Lord Ferg is planning a busy retirement which will include taking in "the Kentucky Derby, the Masters, the Melbourne Cup and vineyards in Tuscany and France", presumably in that order to ensure everything gets done, he can't quite let the mind games go. For he also took time in the PBS interview to rattle the cage at Chelsea, who he claims approached him when Roman Abramovich took over at Stamford Bridge. "I said, no chance. I always come back to this point: why would you leave?" So that was poor old José Mourinho second on Chelsea's wishlist back in the day, as well as United's this summer. The sort of whopping blow to the ego that could seriously disturb a man's equilibrium and affect his ability to function in everyday life. Here, shall we add Chelsea to that list of crisis clubs?
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"We have been followed very closely by Fifa and the IOC. They are very strict in their demands and their technical conditions for hosting the games and we are meeting all the requirements that have been presented to us" – Brazil's deputy sports minister Luis Fernandes defends their safety record for building 2014 World Cup stadiums, 1 June 2013.
"Countless infractions have been committed in various stages of the building project … [there is] a serious risk of workers being buried, run over and of collision, falling from heights and being hit by construction material, among other serious risks" – Judge Lorena Colnago suspends work on the Curitiba stadium, 2 October 2013.
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• Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you've nothing better to do you can also tweet the Fiver. Today's winner of our letter o' the day prize is Colin Young, who gets a copy of the newly-updated paperback edition of I Am The Secret Footballer.
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BITS AND BOBS
After news that Brendan Rodgers has drafted in former Spice Boys Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and sort-of Spice Boy Rob Jones to coach Liverpool's youth squads, expect the youngsters to turn out in white suits, bare their backsides to Leicester fans and get punched by Neil Ruddock.
Bargain buy Gareth Bale, who has so far cost Real Madrid £473,889 for every one of the 180 minutes he has been fit to play since his record-breaking move, has been ruled out of the Big Cup tie against Copenhagen with thigh knack.
Arsenal youngster Jack Jebb has been banned for four matches for using "abusive and/or insulting words … including a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race" during an Under-18 match against Norwich.
In other Arsenal news, a man was hospitalised on Tuesday night after the Piebury Corner – yes, really – restaurant was mobbed by up to 50 Napoli fans who were reportedly shouting, swinging belts and throwing tables and chairs.
And Stoke have banned players from talking about their former manager Tony Pulis after comments from Kenwyne Jones allegedly sparked a dressing-room rift. "It is not fair on Tony to be rubbished," parped owner Peter Coates, who must have watched less of the Pulis era than the Fiver did.
STILL WANT MORE?
Mesut Özil/Ozil/Eurrzil is not so much the special one as the spatial one, reckons tactics titan Michael Cox. Meanwhile, have your say on whether the Arsenal man can hold a torch to Dennis Bergkamp or not.
David Moyes has been told not to let the cameras catch him with his head in his hands. All this and more in Paul Wilson's blog on the embattled Manchester United manager.
The only effing involved in discussing the Celtic keeper is in spelling his name, writes Ewan Murray of Fraser Forster's fabulous form.
Manuel Pellegrini is likely to cope better than Roberto Mancini against Bayern Munich in at least one department: he won't have to ask Carlos Tevez to warm up tonight. Which is not quite what Jamie Jackson has written, but whatever.
And this week in nerd nirvana the Knowledge: the least capped record cap holder, perfect penalty runs and bettering Hendon FC.
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