What gems await on the 12th day of Christmas?

The column whose nuclear button is much bigger than Donald Trump’s

What gems await on the 12th day of Christmas?

The first circuit of Christmas has been negotiated safely.

The crumbs of the remains of the turkey and ham are long gone. Indiana Jones chose wisely whereas Alison Doody chose poorly. The Back to the Future franchise was so ubiquitous that one afternoon Marty McFly was driving into a cave to hide from the Indians while at exactly the same moment on another channelTayto and Ossie, having ventured Into the West on their trusty steed, were in a cinema watching Marty McFly driving into a cave to hide from the Indians. Meta, huh?

The first circuit of Christmas has been negotiated and the field has been winnowed. Normal, everyday, hard-working folk of the type beloved of Leo Varadkar are back on the chain gang. It is left to a brave few of us to grit our teeth and set out on the second circuit.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

Pep Guardiola’s unhappiness with the crammed festive programme.

One would almost feel for him if he didn’t have as large and expensive a squad as he has. What must it be like for, say, Brighton, where Chris Hughton is – for the moment anyway – continuing to chisel out the points that by season’s end should stack up to ensure the club’s safety?

For any sentient league, so many games in so short a timeframe would be unconscionable.

But sentience and common sense departed the Premier League the day the movies got big. In any case match upon match, goalmouth thrill upon goalmouth thrill, controversial penalty decision upon controversial penalty decision, constitute its raison d’être. Overkill is the Premier League’s middle name, its tagline, its unique selling point. It will continue that way because it has to.

Anyway, while a winter break sounds all well and good in theory, and brace yourself for further calls this summer following England’s World Cup exit, you just know the big clubs would abuse it. With El Clasico kicking off at 1pm in Madrid recently in order to pander to the masses at 8pm in Shanghai, 7pm in Jakarta and 5.30pm in New Delhi, be sure that Manchester United would not be behind the door during a free January fortnight in travelling to Asia to play a high-profile friendly at the behest of their official bubble bath/potato peeler/nail polish removal partner.

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

Sympathy for the Red Devils.

And badly needed it was too following the Bristol City fiasco and the draws with Leicester City and Burnley.

But the noises off are becoming louder and more tedious. Bristol City were “lucky”, Manchester City are spending centre-forward money on full-backs, Paul Scholes is jealous of Paul Pogba. Etc etc. Master of deflection that he is, there’s little doubt that, come May, Mourinho will succeed in selling finishing second to the richest club on the planet as some kind of exalted moral triumph. But how would he go about selling finishing third or fourth? Or even – gulp – fifth?

As he’s not going to do with United what he did at each of his previous clubs and win the title in his second season, let’s pose the question. Despite his post-Trumpian accusations on Thursday of “garbage news”, does Mourinho start next season at Old Trafford?

If so, does he end it at Old Trafford?

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

A Shane Long goal.

Signing off on Match of the Day on Tuesday night, that nice Gabby Logan had a pop at Shane Long following his famine-ending effort against Crystal Palace. In a way it was unfair. Long was a late developer who didn’t go to England until he was 18. But he’s done very well for himself, comparatively speaking, on the pitch and done extremely well for himself off it. He’ll never even have to hurl junior B for Gortnahoe again. Shane Long is doing just fine.

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

A cracker at the Emirates.

Now it’s clear why there’s no winter break. As for Arsene Wenger, one can only tip one’s hat. On Sunday he declared that Mike Dean “hadn’t seen” the incident for West Brom’s penalty. Three days later he himself “hadn’t seen” the incident where Jack Wilshere did or didn’t dive. Admirably perverse consistency in a mad world. How we’ll miss him when he’s gone.

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

The inverse of the Peter Principle.

If managers rise to the level of their incompetence it stands to reason that, returned to the stratum at which they operated prior to their over-promotion, they ought to fare reasonably well on the basis that old habits die hard. Look, most obviously, at Roy Hodgson.

Look too at David Moyes. While it didn’t happen for him at Sunderland it’s now apparent that said more about Sunderland – currently propping up the Championship – than about him. West Ham’s draw at Wembley demonstrated that where there’s a comfort blanket defence there’s a way.

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

Sadly this page went to press before the day was done.

Still, if you wake to find that Coutinho was seen at John Lennon International Airport or Stoke City have found someone better than Mark Hughes, there you go.

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