Some supporters sound oh so confident on Louis Van Gaal's excellence. Plus thoughts on shirt sales, best signings, football sevens and a good deal more besides...
That might be the real problem here. There certainly isn't much to worry about when a 22-year-old has a wee puff of a cigarette on his jollies, so why the consternation?
It really drags the good name of football through the mud to see something like that happen. It was just another example of the kind of depths to which Jose Mourinho will sink to intimidate referees, showing just what a classless club Chelsea are and always have been. It's a disgrace, a real lack of respect, in a world increasingly obsessed with nice touches, and the spirit in which the game is played. Which is what made it quite so brilliant.
After a series of, and there's no other way of putting this, f*cking stupid decisions, Mike Dean had provoked Rui Faria one too many times. The final indignity came when Dean ambled up in secret, and disguised himself as a toilet, wearing a porcelain shield and with 'Armitage Shanks' tattoed on his forehead. He crouched in such a manner as to effect the shape and look of a lavatory, and positioned himself in Faria's house on Saturday morning.
Faria, after a small coffee and a tab, and halfway through a morning croissant, made his way upstairs to the comfort and quiet of his en suite bathroom. He squatted, he read Correio de Manha, and as he relieved himself, he thought about the guaranteed victory against Sunderland. He turned around to flush, but Dean had already made his exit through the trap-door he had installed months back. He was clutching his treasure as he bounded down the road, out of the cul de sac. He had achieved what he had aimed for, and Faria knew it. Faria had lost his sh*t.
Faria lost his sh*t not in the normal way we all do: scowling at people who bash us in the supermarket trolley on the ankles two seconds apart, asking 'are you gonna do that again?' This wasn't even the usual method for a physical fight on the football pitch, which is largely reduced to two shoves per person and, if anyone is really batey, one slightly feeble, semi-connecting punch, before everyone gets involved by dragging them away.
No, Faria went in such a way as to illustrate when cartoon characters end up with steam coming from their ears. As Dean ambled over to the sidelines, little bubbles collected at the bottom of the pan. As he got closer, and Faria started his chat, they started rising to the surface and popping. Once Dean chose to respond, Faria came onto the full rolling boil, gesticulating wildly, bouncing and trembling and thrashing around before being held back, eventually, by Jose Mourinho, who swung him back casually with an arm, and then the rest of the Chelsea backroom staff, one of who finally thought to take him off the hob.
And why was this? Well, two decisions, neither of which were exceptional incompetence, but both of which typify Dean's usual refereeing technique: he is a man that tends to run up to the right decision and the wrong decision, like a psychopathic child choosing puppies in Battersea Dogs home, before cruelly discarding the correct decision as he looks to create havoc. That one, please! With the blood on his face! I'll call him Deanosaurus Rex!
First, Ramires was about to give Chelsea the lead when Sebastian Larsson hurtled into his ribs, forcing him to head wide of goal. It was an obvious denial of a clear goalscoring opportunity, and Larsson should have been sent off. Chelsea should have had a penalty, too. But Dean. Mike Dean. Mr Mike Dean. Oh, it wasn't to him. He sauntered off with his brain absent, and with Rui Faria gently simmering, to see what else might happen.
What happened was that Ramires, last seen provoking Mourinho into being sent off with a last minute two-footed lunge against Aston Villa, jogged past Dean and in front of Larsson, before cheerfully slamming a forearm into Larsson's chops. It wasn't especially dangerous - it wasn't with full force and it wasn't with the point of an elbow - but it was clearly a red card for Ramires. But Dean. Mike Dean. Mr Mike Dean. Mr Mike "I'm the ref? Oh, that explains a lot." Dean. He just kept on jogging, letting play carry on. Again, it's quite funny, especially because at the start of the second half he appeared to mouth to Larsson that he hadn't seen anything. It was right in front of him. Right in front of him. It was in front of his eyes. Look at the diagram below:
Dean ----- Dean's Eyes -----> Larsson's face <---- Ramires' elbow.
It's complicated, granted.
So, after missing a penalty and at least one obvious red card, Dean redoubled his efforts for the second half. With the score at 1-1, Cesar Azpilicueta slipped in the corner, just by his box, and Jozy Altidore - the most popular player on Wearside - drove towards the byline. Azpilicueta, tracking back to rectify his mistake slid into block the tackle, and Altidore slipped too, plunging his left leg out onto the defender in an attempt to steady himself, but ending up on his bum nonetheless. After Fabio Borini - the most popular player on Merseyside - put Sunderland ahead with the penalty, it was Dean's time.
He opened Faria's front door, silently stepped up to the en suite bathroom in Faria's house as he heard the coffee machine rumble. He put on his porcelain costume, crouched, and sat there, waiting in anticipation. This was his time. This was his moment. He, once and for all, was really taking the p*ss.
Andi Thomas and Alexander Netherton