We can all get a little creative with statistics – an encouraging run of ‘one defeat in six’ can easily become a desperate ‘one win in seven’ with one late goal, but the Daily Mirror’s Darren Lewis really did not need to over-egg the ‘Manchester United’s record at Chelsea’ hoodoo pudding on Wednesday night.
‘Rashford’s effort eased the pressure on under-fire Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, ending United’s run of just one win from their previous 11 trips to Stamford Bridge in all competitions.’
Pesky fact: Manchester United won at Chelsea in February in the FA Cup.
You cannot ‘end a run of just one win in their previous 11 trips’ if that one win literally came on their last trip.
But Darren Lewis was not for shifting from his narrative. Even the more considered web version of his piece for the Mirror was peddling the story of Manchester United as rank underdogs.
‘First Liverpool, now this.
‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is getting quite good at upsetting the odds.’
Ah yes, it’s at this point that we remember that Lewis is a Liverpool fan. It obviously still stings.
‘Two-goal Marcus Rashford conjured up his inner Cristiano Ronaldo to leave Chelsea in pieces and Manchester United in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals – just as the Reds’ mini-revival looked set to be exposed as yet another false dawn.
‘Let’s not kid ourselves, after establishing themselves for two decades as the team you simply could not ever write off, United of late have been the side you could no longer trust.
‘After wins in September over Leicester and Astana, for example, they were winless in five ahead of their unexpected draw at Liverpool.’
Or they had lost just two in 11 prior to this trip to Chelsea. Either or. Both are true. But one is more relevant. Clue: It’s not the one Lewis chose.
‘With just one win from their previous eleven trips to Stamford Bridge in all competitions, you had to be either brave or a die-hard fan to back them here with Frank Lampard’s side on a run of seven straight wins.’
Or, alternatively, with four unbeaten clashes against Chelsea in all competitions, backing Manchester United at odds against – particularly after you saw the team sheets – would have been an excellent bet.
Phoning it in
Meanwhile, Lewis’ Daily Mirror colleague Neil McLeman watched Manchester United beat Chelsea 2-1 and wrote an opinion piece about Kurt Zouma, who ‘is leading Chelsea from the back’. With a 6/10 performance. In a game that Chelsea lost. Go figure.
‘Manchester United fans were in hysterics at seeing ‘Phil Fred’ appear on their side’s team-sheet to face Chelsea on Wednesday night.
‘Sky Sports had United midfielder, Fred down as ‘Phil Fred’ when they showed the line-up before the Carabao Cup last-16 game’ – MailOnline.
‘Man Utd fans in hysterics as ‘Phil Fred’ appears on team-sheet for Chelsea clash… and hope he is better than namesake’ – The Sun.
What a fine Mes
Obviously, the big news of Thursday morning is that Mesut Ozil played a football match and he was pretty good.
But obviously, playing a football match and being pretty good is not in itself ‘news’. The real ‘news’ is that…
‘Arsenal star Mesut Ozil sends Unai Emery big message with Carabao Cup goal celebration’
First things first, Mesut Ozil did not score a goal, so the Express website are previously talking about the celebration of somebody else’s goal. Which is pretty odd in itself, but carry on…
‘Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil sent Unai Emery a stern message with his celebration after assisting Ainsley Maitland-Niles against Liverpool.
‘The playmaker produced a superb heel flick to keep the ball in play, for Maitland-Niles to slam home.
‘Ozil obviously enjoyed the goal, as he was seen celebrating in front of the Gunners fans.’
‘But, immediately after the ball hit the net, Ozil was spotted leaning on the advertising boards, crossing his arms.’
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was both a ‘big’ and a ‘stern’ message. To a man over a hundred yards away. While looking in the opposite direction.
For f***’s sake.
‘Arsenal boss Unai Emery explains why Mesut Ozil was hauled off against Liverpool’ – Daily Star website.
Question: Can you get ‘hauled off’ in a planned substitution?
Answer: For SEO purposes, yes you can.
Oh Dani balls…
The man whose spot-kick eventually decided the shoot-out at Anfield was Dani Ceballos, a 23-year-old midfielder with absolutely no history of taking penalties. It could have been anyone. Except if you work for Liverpool propaganda machine Liverpool.com, who interpret everything that happens at Anfield as yet more evidence of the amazing wonderfulness of this great football club. And aren’t you just sodding brilliant for choosing them?
‘Liverpool can kill opponents in so many ways, and traumatised Arsenal star just realised it’
He hit a half-decent penalty that was saved.
‘Whether it’s sorcery-like skill or a never-say-die attitude, Liverpool are hard to beat’
‘Dani Ceballos had only just reattached his head when he stepped up to the penalty spot at Anfield last night, stared down Caoimhin Kelleher and then fired his kick into the young Irishman’s gloves. He was never going to do anything other.’
Oh do f*** off. It was a penalty.
‘The last time the Arsenal midfielder played against Liverpool in August, Ceballos went viral. With the Reds seeking a second goal against the Gunners, Roberto Firmino sprinkled some starudst on his boots and scooped the ball over the Spaniard’s head, leaving him rooted in the turf, before firing a volley towards goal. It was an instantaneous GIF online, and an immediate breath-grasper inside the stadium, as supporters considered the purloining of Ceballos’ dignity from the Brazilian.
‘In this EFL Cup fourth round clash, Ceballos had the benefit of control this time. The frenzy had come the 90 minutes previous, with 10 goals – including Divock Origi’s scissor kick in stoppage time – shared between the two sides. Now, Ceballos had the chance of redemption, the third spot-kick for his side with the scores level at 2-2. Firmino can hurt you no more. He stepped up, telegraphed his effort to the goalkeeper’s right, Kelleher read it and saved. He was never going to do anything other.’
‘It would be a stretch to say Firmino’s moment of magic was preying on Ceballos’ mind as he missed the (ultimately decisive) penalty, but the Arsenal man has now experienced two visits to Anfield, and returned to North London with his confidence knocked and reputation bruised.’
‘This is what Liverpool do to teams now. It is also what they do to players. They hurt them, kill them, scar them.’
Which makes you wonder why they allowed four other Arsenal players to score their penalties. Or why they didn’t seem to hurt, kill or scar Manchester United’s players last week. Or Napoli’s players last month.
Liverpool really are a very, very good side. But did Ceballos miss a penalty because ‘this is what Liverpool do to teams now’? Did he balls.
Talking of propaganda…
‘Anfield thriller shows Liverpool, Arsenal are on different paths’ – Melissa Reddy, ESPN.
Reminder: They were separated by one penalty.
‘ARSENAL star Gabriel Martinelli is the top-scoring teenager in Europe’s Big Five leagues this season after scoring twice last night’ – The Sun.
Pesky fact: He was the top-scoring teenager in Europe’s Big Five leagues this season before scoring twice last night.
Recommended reading of the day
Amy Lawrence on Mesut Ozil (£)
Nick Miller on Karlan Grant
Recommended listening of the day
The latest episode of The Broken Metatarsal, featuring Dominic Matteo and comedian Micky P Kerr as we remember Leeds United’s run to the Champions League semi-finals.