Dear reader, we never liked the UEFA Nations League anyway, did we? And we’ve definitely never been on board with this whole VAR fad that seems to be stopping England winning major international titles.
With about five minutes to go against the Netherlands, it looked like Jesse Lingard had successfully glossed over the fact that England had been hopelessly outclassed for the previous 85. But, those pesky officials in a room somewhere in Moscow or something had other ideas, unfairly applying the laws of the game absolutely correctly and calling time on the charade that made it look like England might be one of the two best international sides on the continent.
And of course, that gave John Stones the perfect excuse to have the kind of on-field career meltdown that really is going to be difficult to recover from no matter how nice Gareth Southgate is in post-match press conferences.
England did not lose to the Dutch because they tried to play out from the back. They lost to the Dutch because (a) they forgot to mark the guy who scored the exact same goal for Ajax against Spurs in the Champions League semi-final, (b) because John Stones seems to think he has a divine right to an extra ten seconds on the ball and (c) decided to play the kind of pass to Ross Barkley that was only going to make the Chelsea man a sub-scapegoat for the whole mess.
Of course, your average English fan was quick to write-off Holland’s Matthijs de Ligt as a ‘fraud’ after he conceded a penalty to Marcus Rashford following his own mistake and then got megged by Jadon Sancho – but being blunt, it is England who suffered a little bit from frauditis in this end-of-season lead balloon.
Southgate’s team selection did not smack of someone who was that bothered whether England progressed to Sunday’s final or not. I mean, had it been a World Cup qualifier where we needed three points to progress to the actual World Cup do you think he’d have left the Liverpool and Tottenham players on the bench? No, probably not. Heading into this match claiming that the Nations League was ‘very important’ to them and then picking Fabian Delph alongside Declan Rice in the middle of the park don’t feel like moves that are on the same dancefloor.
Not that England’s alleged first team did much better in Sunday’s pointless third/fourth play-off match against Switzerland. I’ll level with you, I didn’t watch it. I was busy watching a proper football tournament in France. But I hear that VAR once again denied us a victory that we barely deserved and put the England fans that had chosen to hang around in Portugal (not causing trouble, honest guv, it’s the local police) the punishment they may or may not have deserved by subjecting them to another half-an-hour of that glorified training session. Still, at least England were able to win a second penalty shootout in a row. I wouldn’t put it past Southgate to have played for the 0-0 just to practice that scenario.
With Maurizio Sarri almost certain to be officially unveiled as the new Juventus manager before you get around to reading this, Southgate was quick to rule himself out of the running for the Chelsea job and hoped his assistant, Steve Holland, was also sensible enough to realise that he has just that little bit more job security if he stays put with the national team.
Frank Lampard is believed to be not going back to the Bridge because they had the temerity to suggest he needed to interview for the job – after all, if beating Leeds United in Derby’s very own play-off final wasn’t proof enough that Frank is the real deal, what is?
According to some very random reports, Jose Mourinho is being lined up to replace Rafa Benitez at Newcastle United. It makes perfect sense. I mean, Jose and Mike Ashley are a match made in heaven really, until you get down to the fact that Jose might just expect a bit of a transfer budget to waste.
Mourinho being linked to Celtic and Newcastle in the same summer; how the mighty have fallen, right? The clubs I mean, not Jose.
Having snaffled a young Welsh winger called Daniel James, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has moved on to the next name on his list of young British players to be tasked with bringing the tradition of Manchester United back to Old Trafford next season. Apparently, Crystal Palace were not that impressed by United’s opening gambit of £40m for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and would prefer them to go away and least double it.
De Ligt has also been linked to United for weeks but having almost put money before his career once by even thinking about a move to Manchester he is prepared to make the world fully aware of his priorities by ending up at Paris Saint-Germain next season.
Harry Maguire and James Maddison might soften the blow for Ole by agreeing to be lambs to the eventual slaughter in another doomed bid to stop the rot at United. The pair will probably cost about £100m from Leicester City and Solskjaer wouldn’t mind if they chucked in Ben Chilwell too.
Eden Hazard has got his wish and will be sharing a taxi with Sarri to the airport. He’s catching a flight to Madrid and will be unveiled as a Real Madrid player on Thursday following Madrid’s oh-so-coincidental-that-it-happened-to-be-half-time-in-the-Spain game announcement that the deal had been done. The press release also coincided with the opening game in the Women’s World Cup meaning that Madrid had ambushed consecutive FIFA tournaments with their own ego. Sadly, if they’d just been able to be a little less rubbish between the two tournaments then life might be a bit nicer at Real.