The Fiver | Manchester United, Fred the Red and that slender five-goal advantage

The Fiver | Manchester United, Fred the Red and that slender five-goal advantage


In these troubling times, nothing compares to the healing power of a Big Vase dead rubber. Tonight, Manchester United will drink in the LASK-chance saloon, where the booze is free and it’s impossible to get barred. United won 5-0 at LASK in the first leg, back in those innocent times when Boris Johnson was still licking trolley handles to demonstrate there was nothing to worry about. Given how little is at stake, the second leg could make the Craggy Island All-Priests five-a-side Over-75s Indoor Challenge Football Match seem fast-paced by comparison.

But there is, as unlikely as it sounds, more to Big Vase than Manchester United. Some would go so far as to claim there are 15 other teams in the Round of 16. You’ve probably forgotten half of them, never mind the state of play in the various ties, so be thankful that your friendly neighbourhood Fiver knows how to use Google. With the help thereof, we’ve put together this friendly Big Vase Refresher!

• There will be four Round of 16 games tonight and four tomorrow.• Two of them, Inter v Getafe and Sevilla v Roma, are one-legged ties to be played in Germany, because the first legs were postponed before lockdown.• The rest of the Round of 16 ties will be completed over two legs as normal.• The eight teams that go through will head to/stay in Germany for the first ever Big Vase World Cup, which starts next Monday and runs for 12 days.• We’re ready for our nap now.

United are fairly strong favourites to win the tournament, according to the wrinkled slip we just found in our pocket, with Internazionale and Bayer Leverkusen next on the list. But before United can think of lifting the trophy, they need to cling on to that slender five-goal advantage. “We know that it will be a difficult game,” said Ole Gunnar Solskjær, thus becoming the first manager in football history to manage to insult even The Fiver’s intelligence. “It wasn’t a 5-0 game in the first leg. We scored three goals in the last 10 minutes, so of course we know that we have to perform.”

Solskjær is right that LASK aren’t a bad side, and it wouldn’t be a seismic one if they beat an under-strength United in the second leg. But United are in such a strong position that they could pick the worst 10 players in their history, put Fred the Red in goal, and still qualify. United may yet meet Wolves in the semi-final, though a lot of water has to pass through Big Vase for that to happen. United would have to beat the Turkish champions Istanbul Basaksehir (probably) or FC Copenhagen in the quarter-finals, while Wolves need to overcome Olympiakos (it’s 1-1 from the away leg; don’t pretend you remember) and then either Sevilla or Roma in the quarters.

Big Vase is back!


Join Rob Smyth at 8pm BST for nail-biting minute-by-minute coverage of Manchester United 5-0 LASK (agg 10-0) in Big Vase.


“There are players that you know haven’t slept [before training], but you need them. The coach walks past and sees the guy lying there, but he turns his head the other way. That’s what [Roberto] Mancini knew how to do. He knew when to turn his head. The players think: ‘Fine. Leave him. On Sunday he’ll score, we’ll win the game, we’ll win a cup or the league.’ It happens at all big clubs. The coach needs to be intelligent” – Ze Maria gets his chat on with Joshua Law about his globetrotting career and how a good manager always knows which players are good enough to still be match-winners even when they’ve been on the Purple Tin at a trendy nightspot.

Ze Maria


The latest Forgotten Stories of Football podcast is here on the subject of the France football captain who murdered for Hitler.

Forgotten Stories of Football

The France football captain who murdered for Hitler

Sorry your browser does not support audio – but you can download here and listen




“As a Nasty Leeds fan of many years, some idle Googling following the Championship play-off final brought me here. May I humbly present Mr Pontus Jansson in all his pomp: ‘My ambition is to play in the Premier League but I didn’t want to sit and wait for the right club in the Premier League to make an offer later in the summer and let this chance [to join Brentford] pass me by. I felt early on that Brentford was right for me’. The phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’ springs to mind” – Allastair McGillivray.

Pontus Jansson

“Barry Hearn did think out loud about renaming Leyton Orient as London Orient. I think it would have been pronounced Lunden (correctly in other words)” – John De la Cruz.

“With the likely departures of both Eberechi Eze and Bright Osayi-Samuel this summer, QPR are set to lose two thirds of their really very good Bright Eze Chair attacking trio, to be left with just a small Chair. Are any other clubs expecting such damage to their home furnishings department?” –Michael Hann.

Send your letters to [email protected]. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Allastair McGillivray.


England legend Scott E. Parker is back in the Premier League. “This team has been around myself now for the best part of 15 months,” he reflexive-pronoun abused, “and they have improved and improved and improved.” Somewhere in Leicester, Brendan Rodgers nods sagely.

Famously classy Arsenal have announced that they’ll be laying off 55 workers – if only their owner was a billionaire, able to wear a small loss at a time of great financial and emotional stress without blaming fans for job losses that have nothing to do with them.

Spurs have agreed a £15m fee with Southampton for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg while Ferran Torres has completed his £24m move to financial fair play’s Manchester City. Meanwhile, the Rumour Mill is chewing up and spitting out other nuggets such as talk that Norwich’s Jamal Lewis and Real Betis’s Aïssa Mandi are heading for Liverpool.

England striker Jodie Taylor has joined Lyon from OL Reign, who are now owned by the Women’s Big Cup champions. “I couldn’t refuse the opportunity to join one of the best clubs in the world,” she cheered. And you can digest all the latest moves in our women’s transfer interactive.

Pablo Machín has been appointed manager of Deportivo Alaves. Last December, he was sacked by Espanyol with the team bottom of the league and was meant to join Chinese Super League side Qingdao Huanghai in July. But corona put paid to that, so here he is.

And Harrogate will groundshare with Doncaster until October while the newly promoted club rip up their 4G pitch and replace it with old-school grass as they bask in their new Football League status. “We’re not just about Betty’s tea shop anymore,” roared chief suit Garry Plant.


Jonathan Liew on the triumph of Fulham’s pragmatism over Brentford’s idealism in the Championship play-off final. Some money was at stake, apparently.

Your west London yo-yo team, there.

Five subs, virtual silence, hearing the players shouting and drinks breaks – Paul MacInnes on how the restart has offered a glimpse of the future.

Jadon Sancho will be a prized signing indeed but Ole needs defenders, so says Jamie Jackson.

And this week’s Knowledge has the lowdown on players who have had their shirts retired despite few appearances, long unbeaten runs and Ken Dodd at the Glasgow Empire.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!