A shared interest in shrill whistles, climbing rope and bench ball

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The mavens of the internet have long since dismissed Ole Gunnar Solskjær as a Norwegian PE teacher who knows less about the game than your average journalist – really, Manchester United ought to have appointed [redacted] as manager with [redacted] as coach and [redacted] as his director of football. But for some inexplicable reason they’ve stuck with the man who brought Molde their first league title in 100 years of history, then turned United from a hilarious shower into a club that is once again attractive to some of the world’s best players. It’s an absolute mystery!

Related: Manchester United confirm £42.7m deal with Real Madrid for Raphaël Varane

Somehow, though, Solskjær has persuaded Raphaël Varane to swap the Bernabéu for Old Trafford – The Fiver can only presume they nurture a shared interest in shrill whistles, climbing rope and bench ball. However, Varane and his four Big Cups, three La Ligas and one World Cup do not impress Jamie O’Hara and his one Celebrity Big Brother, which both he and Solskjær will doubtless be extremely distressed to learn. O’Hara is concerned that Varane is slow – sometimes the lines write themselves – and also struggled to grasp why he’d leave Real Madrid, who’ve just appointed the manager they fired for not being good in 2015, who was then fired by Napoli after little more than a year, and who, most recently, took Everton all the way from 15th to 10th at a rough cost of £67,383,000.

Of course, it may well be that, in order to be better than Victor Lindelöf, Varane requires Sergio Ramos alongside him dispensing violence. But it may also be that a player with pace, skill, vision and intelligence turns out to be quite good at football after all – even if a few training sessions alongside Fred, Daniel James and Eric Bailly will have him wishing he could still rely upon Ramos’ unique qualities.


“It’s a shame that we didn’t make it to the Olympic Village. Taking part in this tournament was really special. We would have liked to go as far as possible, but we can’t change things now” – Germany’s Anton Stach laments his team’s lack of progress to, erm, the athletes’ village after a 1-1 draw with Ivory Coast sent them tumbling out of Big Sports Day.

Tokyo’s Olympic Village: the big prize for men’s footballers.
Tokyo’s Olympic Village: the big prize for men’s footballers. Photograph: Hollandse Hoogte/Shutterstock


“I believed that Wayne Rooney had it in him to leave a mark on his club as a manager, but I didn’t expect him to literally leave one the ankle of one of his own players. I reckon he went the about things the wrong way in trying to tackle the club’s problems” – Peter Oh.

“Au contraire, Peter Clarke (yesterday’s letters): perhaps it’s the silver medal diving skills of Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish that have inspired Tom Daley and Matty Lee to greater heights” – Justin Kavanagh.

“But when POJT is choosing his interview attire (yesterday’s Fiver), will he also wear shinpads?” – Robin Hazlehurst.

“I implore you to keep us updated on the fortunes of Al-Duhail in the Qatari league this season in the hope – seeing as you passed this time – you will repeat your greatest moment of punnery, for those unfortunate enough to have missed it first time round, when you quipped ‘Alderweireld’s a stage’ ... deserves a second outing! I know, I shouldn’t praise” – Andy Morrison (and no others).

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 … Justin Kavanagh.


The amount of heading allowed by players in training across the adult game in English football is to be severely restricted this season, with a limit of 10 high-force headers per week for professionals.

New Real Madrid signing David Alaba has tested positive for Covid.

Wembley will host England Women’s World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland on 23 October, the first competitive fixture at the national stadium for the Lionesses since it reopened in 2007.

Arsenal Women have continued their squad revamp by snaffling Norway midfielder Frida Maanum from Linköping. Meanwhile, Manchester United have signed Scotland striker Martha Thomas.

Leicester City have announced plans to wedge 8,000 more seats into the King Power Stadium and increase capacity to 40,000.

And Lee Carsley has big boots to fill after being announced as Aidy Boothroyd’s successor in the England Under-21 job – and he’ll have Ashley Cole as his assistant.


Ellie Roebuck gets her chat on with Suzy Wrack about like as Team GB’s No 1 stopper.

John Duerden chews the fat with Scott Cooper, the Englishman fuelling a football revolution in the Philippines.

The Knowledge on footballers who have competed in other sports at the summer version of Big Sports Day.

Catch up with the latest moves in our women’s and men’s transfer interactives.

And sign up for a daily Big Sports Day email here. It’s not particularly funny but, hey, glass houses and all that.

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


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