A square peg who has filled a dizzying array of Manchester United holes

Barry Glendenning
Photograph: Maurizio Maule/EPA


After the best part of a decade at Manchester United, it’s arrivederci to Ashley Young, who has departed for pastures new. Specifically, the verdant grass rectangle at San Siro, where he will line up for Internazionale. Young leaves Old Trafford with winners’ medals from the Premier League, Big Vase, FA Cup and Milk Cup a jingle-jangling in his pockets, a tidy haul considering he was signed towards the tail-end of the Lord Ferg era. Small wonder, then, that misty-eyed tribute has been paid on social media disgraces, with assorted United fans fondly recalling that time he slipped comically during a warm-up, that time he forgot how to take a throw-in against Tottenham and that time a bird flying high over Old Trafford did its business into his mouth.

A square peg who has uncomplainingly filled a dizzying array of round, rectangular, triangular and dodecahedral holes in the Manchester United team in recent years, Young was – until his departure for Italy – third on the list of current Premier League assist-providers behind David Silva and James Milner. However, despite his sterling contribution to the United cause throughout the turbulent times following Ferg’s departure, certain ingrates among the club’s fanbase prefer, on the back of unfounded rumours, to think of him as a traitor who has walked out on his club mid-season. Never mind that his sale for £1.5m frees up space in the car park, dressing-room and on the wage bill for a considerably younger midfielder who is expected to join from Sporting over the weekend.

Related: Manchester United make Harry Maguire new full-time captain

“He’s 35 in the summer and if he gets a two-year contract somewhere, I think it’s up to him to take that,” cheered Ole Gunnar Solskjær, after wrestling the club captain’s armband off Young’s bicep and strapping it around Harry Maguire’s upper arm. “We weren’t ready to offer that. He’s been a good servant for the club. He’s been captain and he’s won trophies, leagues, cups … but we’ve got players coming through.” Or in.

For his part, Young has always denied that a bird did its business in his open mouth and once told Big Paper that what seems like indisputable televisual evidence was the work of some fiendishly clever special effects artist with far too much time on their hands. “I can, 100%, absolutely confirm it was not bird poo,” he protested, convincing nobody. “But I’d love to know who put that video out and how they did it.” High up in the San Siro rafters, the pigeons sit and they watch and they wait.


“I was left hopping mad. The rabbits had left two big burrows in the goalmouth and the gift of some droppings, as well as causing about £250 of damage to the net, which was new this season. Luckily, I have been watching a programme about Cornish fishermen mending their nets, and thought: ‘I can do that’” – Cambridge United groundsman Ian Darler explains how preparations for Saturday’s League Two game with Stevenage were interrupted by some unwanted pitch invaders.


Here’s the latest edition of Football Weekly Extra.


“Re: yesterday’s Fiver. I was a hopeless footballer. However, during a school PE session, our bunch of generally useless layabouts (the singular exception was the later Fulham/Wales player Dave Roberts) was tasked with displaying our somewhat limited skills at lumping a pretty solid bladder around. Limited (or non-existent) skill was, however, in my case partly compensated by being taller than most. So it was that – as a corner was belted into our defensive area – I rose like a leaping (if rather leggy) salmon, closed my eyes and connected so perfectly with the leather projectile that it soared to the halfway line. I spent a second or two gazing in astonishment at the unexpected result, shocked that the impact had clearly been so well timed that it was completely painless, only to be called back to my senses by an unsympathetic teacher shouting loudly at me to hare off in pursuit of my masterful clearance. I obediently headed off in the general direction of the ball, but was inevitably too late when I finally arrived out of breath. I never did achieve another header of anything approaching that quality and, suitably discouraged, I probably saved myself from subsequent serious brain damage, which would presumably have been made much worse by the weighty objects we had to play with in the 1960s. To paraphrase Monty Python, today’s kids have got it easy: not that I disagree with the current concern about heading” – Chris Weaver.

“Peter Shilton might not have forgiven Maradona for the Hand of God (Fiver passim), but this restaurant on Camden High Street thinks the rest of us have” – Dan Ashley.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Chris Weaver. But prizes are back for next week!


Tottenham MP David Lammy has floated the idea of introducing retina and fingerprint technology at stadiums to help prevent the racist abuse of players. “The FA needs to get serious about punishments and enforcements,” he said. “We also need to reduce anonymity so it’s easier to keep offenders out of stadiums.”

Crystal Palace goalkeeper Lucy Gillett says she was subjected to sexist abuse from some absolute tools at Coventry United. “It was an unpleasant experience. If it was a racist comment it wouldn’t be tolerated,” she said.

Derby County have been charged by the EFL for a breach of spending rules and now face a possible points deduction.

Humility Man™ will make Christian Eriksen to do the footballing equivalent of making a loud exit from a party before making an awkward return because you forgot your keys. “For a few matches people are saying he is playing his last game [for Spurs]. Eriksen plays [against Watford] tomorrow,” he roared.

Eddie Howe has rubbished suggestions he has been asked to see himself out of the door marked Do One at struggling Bournemouth. “No, there’s no truth in that,” he tooted. “It’s a difficult moment, a negative moment, we’ve got to find ways to improve.”

Arsenal would like to pluck Layvin Kurzawa from the fringes of PSG’s squad and plug him into their knack-ravaged defence.

And Firewall FC centre-back Andy Butler will have to up his multi-tasking game after being named as the manager of Doncaster Rovers Belles. “I think it’s a great asset for us to have a professional footballer and coach coming in to take over in a managerial capacity,” cheered chief suit Russ Green.


Ten things to look out for in the Premier League this weekend. Go on, get stuck in.

The goalkeepers’ union: why do they always stick up for each other? Will Magee investigates.

“In five years’ time I’d like to be captain of Man City and have won the Premier League and [Big Cup].” Tosin Adarabioyo, who is on loan at Blackeye Rovers from City, gets his chat on with Jamie Jackson and reveals some Zlatanesque levels of confidence that The Fiver wishes it could ingest.

Tosin in a trendy Manchester spot. Photograph: Gary Calton/The Guardian

Watford’s £30m man Ismaïla Sarr aims to follow the path of his Senegal “big brother” Sadio Mané, writes Ed Aarons.

And could futsal be the answer to preventing kids from heading the ball at too young an age, asks Jamie Fahey.

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