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Try telling Villarreal that this is a rinky-dink tournament | Soccer

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Twenty-three years, one month and eight days since his greatest moment as a player, Ole Gunnar Solskjær hopes to celebrate his greatest moment as a manager. So Wednesday brings an opportunity that few people ever get in life. Frankly, The Fiver will be disappointed if Rob Lee blows this chance.

There is no shortage of ingenious ways to pull off one of football’s great avenging acts before a Big Vase final featuring Solskjær’s side and Villarreal. You could tamper with Manchester United’s tactics board so that Aaron Wan-Bissaka is the designated corner-taker or Bruno Fernandes has to stay upright. You could hack into the United satnav to send their team coach to the home of rock ghoul Glenn Danzig rather than a fashionably branded stadium in Gdansk. Or you could just sit back and let Victor Lindelöf and a half-knacked Harry Maguire or his replacement get on with it.

All of which suggests fun-lovers should not be put off by the fact that United and Villarreal’s four previous encounters have produced a grand total of zero goals. This one really could be worth watching. And it’s definitely worth winning. Try telling Villarreal, who’ve never played in a European final before, that this is a rinky-dink tournament. See how blasé United fans will be if Solskjær’s side Arsenal this up.

Even Lord Ferg has made the trip to Poland to show how important Big Vase has become to Manchester’s second-best team since they tumbled out of Big Cup. In the buildup, Villarreal’s manager has been reflecting on a chat he had with Ferg when times were different; the message may be more relevant now than ever. “In [a] meeting in Nyon, Switzerland, where the elite coaches meet, I once launched a defence of [Big Vase] because it was a competition that has brought happiness to many teams who couldn’t win [Big Cup],” recalled Unai Emery. “Basically, eight teams can win [Big Cup], although there’s an exception every so often. The rest of us compete happily in [Big Vase] and it makes our fans happy to compete for a title, share those moments, that enthusiasm.”


Join Rob Smyth at 5.30pm BST for all the buildup to, and then minute-by-minute coverage of, Villarreal 1-2 Manchester United.



“When I got to the bedroom door I felt the smell of burning. I saw that there was a lot of black smoke and I felt the heat. I went to the window and opened it. There is a ledge there and that allowed me to go out and lean against the frame with my knees and hold on to the window with my hands. Between the arrival of the firefighters and the moment when they started working it will have been about 30 minutes. [One firefighter] pushed me into the crane. [It] was not so close and they were holding out a rope, telling me to ‘pull it towards you.’ Before they came I was quiet, crouched so that the smoke would not reach me, but without having to jump” – Rentistas midfielder Francisco Duarte describes how he had to dangle from a window 11 stories up to escape a blaze while in hotel quarantine before the Copa Libertadores match at Racing Club Avellaneda.

Francisco Duarte, seen here in calmer times.
Francisco Duarte, seen here in calmer times. Photograph: Sebastião Moreira/Reuters


Tickets are available now for Football Weekly Live’s Euro Not 2020 preview special on 10 June. Get them while they’re hot.


“Great to read that Tottenham’s Kyle Walker has made England’s provisional Euros squad (yesterday’s Fiver). So much for all the speculation that he wanted to move to Manchester City in order to win trophies” – Christian Goldsmith (and 1,056 others).

“I know I should know better, but I was reading yesterday’s Fiver in the hope of some proper journalistic content (yes, I know …). I had hoped that your News, Bits and Bobs would be the place to find some coverage of Dundee’s magnificent performance in strolling to a play-off victory over Kilmarnock on Monday night. A quick glance saw the word ‘Dundee’, but only in reference to our poor, wee neighbours losing yet another manager. Poor show all round. In addition, surprised no one opted for Euro Trash as the name of the Europa Conference League” – Stuart McLagan.

“What better item highlights ‘an item of no use, that no one needs, recalling a place that no one wanted go to’? Why, it’s the Conference Fridge Magnet” – Michael Lloyd.

“How about a trophy in the shape of a broken pencil because the whole thing is pointless?” – Al Slinn.

“May I suggest Big Bin as that’s where all the leftovers end up?” – Nick Passingham.

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 … Stuart McLagan.


A judge has ruled there is no case to answer in the trial of two former South Yorkshire police officers and the force’s former solicitor, who had been charged with perverting the course of justice for amending police statements after the Hillsborough disaster. “The legal system in this country really has to change,” said Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son, James, was one of the 96 people who were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough. “It’s the cover-up of the cover-up of the cover-up.”

Manchester United fans have been targeted in an attack at a Gdansk bar before Wednesday’s final against Villarreal.

Malky Mackay has taken over as manager of Ross County amid supporter concerns about text messages he sent while at Cardiff that he admitted were “disrespectful of other cultures”.

Eberechi Eze was to have been part of England’s provisional squad for Euro Not 2020 before the Crystal Palace forward suffered his nasty achilles-knack.

Arsenal are in talks with Lyon about swapping WSL goal machine Vivianne Miedema for Nikita Parris.

Nikita Parris (left) and Vivianne Miedema: deal or no deal?
Nikita Parris (left) and Vivianne Miedema: deal or no deal? Composite: Getty Images

Liverpool are closing on a £35m move for Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konaté, with Jürgen Klopp deciding to parcel up Ozan Kabak and return him to Schalke when his loan deal ends.

And Ligue Urrrrrn champions Lille have been unable to persuade manager Christophe Galtier from waltzing out the door marked Faire Un. “We can only thank him for everything he has brought here,” sniffed chief suit Olivier Letang.


Ole Gunnar Solskjær is hoping to complete a moment of personal triumph in Big Vase final against Villarreal, writes Jamie Jackson.

Unai Emery, however, has a ruddy good plan to take down United, according to Sid Lowe.

Édouard Mendy is set to play in Big Cup final on Saturday, which is a world away from where he started. Jacob Steinberg looks back on his intriguing career.

Nick Ames tells Gareth Southgate not to burn out Union Jack Grealish. Will he listen?

Beware! The loanees are coming back. Ben McAleer on the players returning to their parent clubs intent on making an impact.

Oliver Skipp, Harvey Elliott and William Saliba have all been out on loan this season.
Oliver Skipp, Harvey Elliott and William Saliba have all been out on loan this season. Composite: AFP, Getty, Rex

Has anyone won the Golden Boot and been relegated? The Knowledge has the answer.

And think you’re clever? Take our big Premier League quiz of the season.

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


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