Roberto Mancini's cool reaction will only have made the defeat smart all the more. "Is this a great day for Manchester City?" he was asked. "It will be a great day when we win the Barclays Premier League," he said, having offered Sir Alex Ferguson his hand looking as fearful as the rest of us as to what the Manchester United manager might do with it after a 1-6 drubbing. "Now, we've only won one game." Which is true enough, but this was the kind of game, the kind of result, the kind of performance that encourages grand conclusions in the heat of the moment: David Silva is the finest player in the country; the title is already City's to lose; Rio Ferdinand is finished.
Besides Wayne Rooney's renascent petulance, the central narrative in England's Euro 2012 qualification campaign has been the rejuvenation of Fabio Capello's squad; piecemeal, certainly, but we are witnessing a changing of the guard of sorts. Particularly in defense, where a number of players -- Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill, Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Micah Richards and Kyle Walker -- look more or less viable alternatives to the incumbents and where Phil Jones has already shown himself comfortably capable of replacing his perpetually injured Manchester United teammate Rio Ferdinand -- so much so that Ferdinand's future at international level has been called in to question. Yet speaking to the Tottenham defender Ledley King a short while before England's 2-2 draw with Montenegro, international football seems an anomalous topic of conversation, a diversion too far on a tight schedule. Which is odd when you consider that he is two years younger than Ferdinand, and arguably the finest
Harry Redknapp's jibe this week -- pouring scorn on Chelsea's £22 million ($35M) offer for Luka Modric, he noted that "there are people being sold for £20 million who are not fit to lace Luka's boots" -- wasn't exactly thinly veiled. In the preceding week 19-year-old Blackburn defender Phil Jones had been signed by Manchester United for £16.5 million ($26.6M) plus add-ons, with 21-year-old Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson heading to Liverpool for the same figure.
WEMBLEY, ENGLAND -- Surely now the doubters have been won over: this Barcelona is one of the greatest teams there has ever been. In Pep Guardiola's three seasons in charge Barca has twice won the Champions League, and it was denied a hat trick that would have placed it statistically alongside the Ajax and Bayern Munich sides of the seventies only by the combined might of Jose Mourinho and an Icelandic volcano.
MANCHESTER, England -- Paddy Crerand grew up near Alex Ferguson in one of Glasgow's poorest working-class districts. The former Celtic and Manchester United midfielder even remembers playing against the United manager in his youth. "He was a dirty so-and-so," Crerand, 72, laughs over a tea with SI.com in Old Trafford's Red Zone. "Looking after yourself," as the 1968 European Cup winner calls it, was a key component of British football in the 20th century. "Where we come from, you never show your opponent that you're hurting."
Fabio Capello's record as a club manager is superb. The England national team, for around four decades, has seemed unmanageable. The derision with which Capello has been treated feels absurd; if there is a problem in the relationship, past record suggests it almost certainly lies on the side of England rather than Capello. And yet, as embarrassing and puerile as much of the criticism he has received has been, for all that he is -- like every manager before him -- being treated as a scapegoat for the squad's problems, it is becoming increasingly difficult not to raise doubts.
Three English teams clinched the semifinals of the European Champions League this week, representing the Premier League's finest hour since ... well, since last season, when three English teams achieved the same feat. As they did the season before that. Indeed, only a much-fancied Barcelona side can prevent a second all-England final. With Team Limey all cock-a-hoop with jingoistic cockiness, we look back at those quarterfinal second legs, starting with the thriller at Stamford Bridge.
In case you hadn't noticed, this week was a "FIFA date," which is when players leave their clubs, meet up with their national teams and face other nations. Sometimes, when qualification for World Cups is at stake, these can be thrilling dates. Most times, it's about as fulfilling as receiving one of those Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes winner's notifications in the mail.
Gather round the fire and nestle close, dear readers, for here in the great hall of Castle Limey, amidst faded portraits and moth-eaten antlers, wise Team Limey has salutary holiday messages for you to contemplate. And some banter, too.