If you were a young soccer fan who grew up thousands of miles from England, if you had little connection to the place but foggy memories of visiting London as a child, then chances were you supported either Arsenal or Manchester United. There was no home team to which you could pledge your allegiance, and no point in arbitrarily wrapping yourself in the colors of a middling team like Sheffield Wednesday or Middlesbrough. In the mid-1990s, when the Premier League was on its way to becoming the enormous money-making machine it is today, Manchester City was virtually unknown internationally and the face of Chelsea was a zippy Italian named Gianfranco Zola. So it was either Arsenal or Manchester United, maybe Liverpool, and they had distinct identities emanating from their respective players and managers. Man United, led by Alex Ferguson, a red-nosed Scotsman who gave his players the hair dryer treatment during half time, was a mixture of velvet and steel, while Arsenal, led by the Frenchman Arsene Wenger, his brow permanently furrowed into deep trenches, played beautiful flowing soccer, but rarely bested its arch-nemesis. Arsenal, still led by Wenger, bears some resemblance to the Wenger teams of old, and finds unique ways to break its fans’ hearts every season. Man United, led by Louis van Gaal, is a shadow of its former self, entirely unrecognizable except for the apparition of a grizzled Ryan Giggs on the manager’s bench. With players who shuffle in and out like the most ridiculously overpaid itinerant laborers in the world, is there any relationship between this team and what a non-Mancunian fan would know as “Manchester United”?
This is all to say that Coutinho just blew past some defender whose name I don’t even know and chipped David de Gea to put Liverpool up 3-1 on aggregate in the EUROPA LEAGUE, which is everything you need to know.