The Fiver

Jacob Steinberg on 20 August 2019


Everyone agrees that Paul Pogba is selfish. The evidence is damning. For Manchester United supporters, the memory of Pogba selfishly scoring the opening goal in their side’s Big Vase final victory remains one that makes them feel sick to the stomach. They cannot stand the guy – just look at him with his haircuts and his dancing and the way he makes Graeme Souness go all red in the face – and the feeling is much the same in France, where they still haven’t forgiven Pogba for selfishly helping their country become world champions in 2018. Let’s face it, all he thinks about is himself. He selfishly chose not to go on strike when he didn’t get a move to Real Madrid this summer, knuckling down in training instead and helping Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side thump Chelsea last weekend, and he was at it again at Molineux on Monday night, selfishly winning a late penalty when United were drawing 1-1 with Wolves and stepping up to take it at a ground where his side lost twice last season.

At which point: problem. See, Marcus Rashford had scored from the spot against Chelsea and the striker didn’t seem overly pleased as he chucked the ball to Pogba, who made matters worse by rapping a fairly decent effort slightly too close to the excellent Wolves goalkeeper, Rui Patricio, meaning the Frenchman has missed four penalties for United in the last 12 months. That led to Pogba receiving racist abuse on social media atrocities – for the crime of making a mistake at work, no less – while back in the Sky studio, senior prefect Gary Neville, recently seen accusing youth teammate John O’Kane of cowering “at the thought of giving his all for the club”, was absolutely steaming.

Initially Neville fingered Pogba for blame and revealed he thought to himself: “Typical you, you’re selfish.” Yeah! Get him, Gaz! But then, just as those of a gammon persuasion up and down the country started rubbing their knees in anticipation of a ferocious takedown of Pogba’s outrageous habit of paying someone to cut his hair, Neville simmered down. Further facts had emerged, showing that Rashford had taken the ball off Pogba before the penalty against Chelsea. Oh! Er! Retreat! Now, can anyone work out why that successful, young black man keeps thinking life might be better if he left England and moved to Madrid? You have until the next United psychodrama to come up with the answer.


“I’ve lost total faith in whoever runs these social media [disgrace] departments, so I just wonder whether now as a football community, in terms of really sending a powerful message, is: come off social media [disgraces]. Six months – let’s come off social media [disgraces]. Let’s see the effect that it has on these social media [disgrace] companies, whether they’re really going to do something about it” – Phil Neville calls for the football community to take a stand.


David Squires on … handball!

Bert Millichimp!
Bert Millichimp! Illustration: David Squires/The Guardian


“Does anyone else deliberately scroll past the name of that day’s author of The Fiver and start reading the first article so they can guess who wrote it when they reach the end? Just me then? I’m not doing too well but it does make reading The Fiver a little more interesting” – Dan Webb.

“Absolutely no mention in yesterday’s Fiver of a match (Chelsea v Leicester City) that will be hard to beat for entertainment, from a neutral’s point of view this season, and officiated by a first-time referee at that. Do you even like football?” – Dave Wilbur.

Send your letters to And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Dan Webb. Alas, we didn’t have more prize copies to give away as originally stated in yesterday’s Fiver. Apologies.


Beth England, Aoife Mannion, Sandy MacIver and Anna Patten have earned their first England call-ups for the friendlies against Belgium and Norway. “After a strong performance at the World Cup, but one which ultimately didn’t quite bring the success we had hoped for, it’s important that we now regroup and refocus on our next targets,” cheered Phil Neville.

Aoife Mannion, left, is in the England squad.
Aoife Mannion, left, is in the England squad. Photograph: Streeter Lecka/International Champions Cup/Getty Images

The Football League: the absolute state of (pt XCIV). Doncaster are miffed that they only learned via social media disgraces that Tuesday’s League One match at crisis-hit Bolton had been called off. “Bolton have postponed this game without the agreement of Rovers or the EFL,” sniffed Donny chief suit Gavin Baldwin, before adding: “We have a lot of sympathy for Bolton’s plight … we will work with the EFL to understand this situation.” Good luck with that.

Exeter City forward Jonathan Forte has been forced to retire due to injury. “He has literally got no cartilage left and it is bone on bone and it is wearing away,” said manager Matt Taylor. “It is a brutal injury.”

In transfer news, Davide Zappacosta has fled Chelsea for Roma on loan. In transfer gossip, Neymar might be going back to Barcelona (again) and Christian Eriksen wants to live in Spain.

And now that he’s retired, Arjen Robben is looking forward to coaching his youngest son Kai’s team in their upcoming season. “You already know what’s on the training schedule: cut in from the right and shoot with your left,” he honked.


Here’s the latest Football Weekly podcast. And there’s a live show heading to Manchester. Details here.


Nosa Omoigui breaks down this year’s Puskás Award contenders.

Stuart James points out that Wolves are once again showing encouraging signs, but another gruelling trip to Europe awaits.

Limbs! Photograph: Andrew Yates/Reuters

Paul Wilson on that Manchester United penalty business.

Boys against men! Gavin Willacy on how the Dutch youth system works.

La Liga is back, baby! So is Sid Lowe, who this week focuses on Mallorca and how their rise back to the top has been underpinned by players who have come up with them from the third tier.

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


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