The entire odour-eliminating-spritz sector of the Spanish economy

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Three weeks ago, Manchester United travelled to Seville for the first leg of their Round of North London tie in Big Cup, and their performance stank out the autonomous community of Andalusia so badly there was a run on Febreze all across southern Spain the very next day. It’s said bottles were swapping hands for upwards of €100, sometimes even more for the classic Original as opposed to ersatz scents such as Meadows & Rain or Hawaiian Aloha. The entire odour-eliminating-spritz sector of the Spanish economy came dangerously close to overheating, a bit like Weimar Germany only with top notes of fresh-cut pine. Meanwhile, United came back to Blighty and were drenched in so much spittle-flecked opprobrium that their critics made Jamie Carragher look like a man suffering from a serious case of Sjögren syndrome. Oh United! How could you!

But three weeks is a long time in football, and perceptions change. United have since posted comeback victories over Chelsea and Crystal Palace, and José Mourinho has also done his annual comprehensive tactical number on Liverpool. Suddenly, with confidence restored, and the attack refreshed and revitalised like the seat covers, curtains and other decorative fabrics at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, that goalless draw in the first leg looks like a very handy thing to have in their back pocket before Tuesday night’s return fixture. Especially as United have won all but three of their 20 games at Old Trafford this season. It’s almost as though the Big Cup, Serie A, La Liga, Big Vase and Premier League winner knew what he was doing all along. Oh Mou! How could we ever have doubted you!

The United boss will also be buoyed by the fact Sevilla have only reached the quarter-finals of Big Cup once in their entire history, all the way back in 1958, and even then they lost the away leg en route, 2-0 at Aarhus Gymnastikforening. They’ve since lost all three of their Round of North London & Autonomous Community of Andalusia ties, the most recent being their risible capitulation to Leicester City at this stage last year. In addition, they’ve never won a match in England; have already been spanked 5-1 on the road in Europe this season, at Spartak Moscow; and have been defeated by Mourinho seven times in nine meetings. It’s all smelling of roses for the Reds, then, with the possible exception of the normally dependable Eric Bailly’s strange personal record against Sevilla: played five, lost four, sent off once. It’s almost enough to make one wish Phil Jones wasn’t currently suffering from knack and was available for selection. Almost.


Join Scott Murray from 7.45pm GMT for hot MBM coverage of Manchester United 2-1 Sevilla (agg: 2-1), while Simon Burnton will be on deck for Roma 2-0 Shakhtar Donetsk (agg: 3-2).


“My body is finished. Everyone says I should enjoy the last year, to play as much as possible and take everything in. I would rather sit on the bench or – even better – in the stands, and then, for the first time in my life, aged more than 30, I will feel free. Some days you realise that everything is a burden, both physically and mentally, but you have to deliver without a doubt, even if you are injured. In the moments before a game starts, my stomach turns around as if I had to vomit. Then I have to choke so violently until my eyes water” – Per Mertesacker, soon to be Arsenal’s academy manager, gives his wide-eyed future charges a glimpse of the fun times that lie ahead.


David Squires on the shambles at West Ham. It’s very good.

Your man, etc.
Your man, etc. Illustration: David Squires for the Guardian


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Packed heat, earlier.
Packed heat, earlier. Photograph: INTIME/Reuters

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