...what happened to the fourth Champions League place the last time an English team won the thing. Plus, who would want to pay £60 to watch the current England team?
A Sunderland fan in the mailbox is surprised by Jack Colback's call up to the England squad. Plus, thoughts on Welbeck and Liverpool's Champions League draw...
When Manchester United fans turned off the bedroom light on Monday night, the world made almost perfect sense. The club had reasserted their position as a global power by announcing an astonishing £750m kit deal with Adidas and, after the setback of last season, an air of optimism was returning under Louis van Gaal. The brief reign of David Moyes had faded into a bitter memory; there would be no more fist-pumping celebrations of presumed late winners at home to Fulham.
But then morning came. And with it arrived the news that United are apparently no longer interested in a player previously thought to be their leading target - Arturo Vidal. Suddenly the certainty of the club's direction under Van Gaal began to crumble, suddenly the signings of Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw lost some of their sparkle. Why wouldn't United want to complement their already impressive transfer business with the acquisition of a genuine star name?
The issues in United's midfield have been well-documented, but the decision to overlook Vidal, if true - after all, this is bulls**t season - would be more inexplicable than any of the singular occasions in which Sir Alex Ferguson showed negligence towards a problem position. Ferguson never found the answer before his retirement, but at least he had the excuse of keeping United at the top of the pile.
Now they need to plan for a return to the top four, and what better way to start by signing a combative midfielder who has won back-to-back-to-back Serie A titles with Juventus? In many ways this is a unique situation - a club outside the Champions League have been afforded the opportunity to sign a world-class player in his prime. There is no catch. Vidal has hinted that he is keen to move and, at £34m, he would surely prove excellent value.
So what is the problem? Depending on who you believe, Van Gaal has either decided he's no longer interested in the Chile international - without detailed explanation, as is his prerogative - or United have simply baulked at Juventus' asking price. If the latter is true, then it seems a strange time to start baulking.
A kid from Southampton with two years' top-flight experience for £30m? No problem. A midfielder deemed too expensive last season for no reduction in price a year later? Right this way. But a player who excelled at the World Cup, with Champions League experience, and who has played a pivotal role for one of the strongest teams in Europe over the past three years? That's where we draw the line.
United may have doubts over Vidal's knee injury, but his regular involvement for Juventus suggests there should be few worries over his ability to recover from bumps and strains. If that is Van Gaal's concern then it would seem strange for a manager not usually associated with caution, especially considering he is a self-confessed fan of the Chilean. "Chile have very dangerous players," Van Gaal said before the World Cup. "I always wanted to buy Vidal when he was at Bayer Leverkusen but he went to Juventus."
It would be a match made in heaven if the two finally linked up at Old Trafford. Both fearless competitors, Vidal would epitomise Van Gaal's will to win on the pitch. He is an anachronism - a genuine box-to-box midfielder in the era of the specialist. In Vidal, United would possess three players for the price of one, a throwback to the days of Roy Keane covering every blade of grass while others hold, shuttle or make play. The idea that he is over-priced at £34m is preposterous.
But that is apparently the status quo. A player who should rightly think himself too good for United until they return to the Champions League has reportedly been rejected. Beggars can be choosers.
It will be interesting to see how the supporters react should nothing more come of the club's initial interest. There was confusion at Van Gaal's decision to overlook Toni Kroos earlier in the summer, but fans were happy to show faith in the new manager and wait to see his plans unfold. Turning down Vidal would only compound those initial doubts. Van Gaal may feel he doesn't need to provide any answers, but this is one puzzle that he could live to regret.
Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.
No Champions League football, no top class signings (well, very few anyway). It's not...er...what do you call that branch of science associated with rockets?- jd.quench