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May 9, 2011

Blue is the colour

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.

Now, where's that effing perch?

Sunday's game at Old Trafford showcased perfectly what £70 million buys you these days; a Premier League title for Manchester United. Hilariously, Fernando Torres, the £50 million liability, wasn't trusted to start, but David Luiz did, and handed United the lead inside 40 seconds. After a quick spat on the touchline, Sideshow Bob was hauled off at half-time to prevent further embarrassment. I could just picture him walking round the dressing room, inadvertently treading on a selection of inappropriately positioned rakes.

As title deciders go, this was in the wet lettuce category, Chelsea effectively dead and buried within 23 minutes. Much of that probably had to do with Fergie's team talk, which no doubt included more than a slice of chat about perches, a mention or two about Liverpool, the number 19 and one or two 'f' words to ram the point home. Carlo's clearly proved as inspiring as a damp nappy, and surely now he'll be forced to walk the long plank off Roman's luxury yacht in a matter of weeks.

United's victory also heaped more misery on the FA, who are suffering a miserable year, even by their impossibly low standards. They have somehow managed to schedule the start of the FA Cup final, with Manchester City battling for their first trophy since 1976, approximately 15 minutes after United have wrapped up the title at Blackburn. After the QPR debacle and the Rooney swearing fiasco, the old goats who run the English game have demonstrated perfectly why nobody in the world takes them seriously anymore. Well done chaps, jolly good show.

Djourou know what you're doing?

Given Arsenal's inhumane, cruel treatment of their browbeaten supporters over these last few desperate and depressing months I think it is time I joined forces with Amnesty International to lobby the Premier League to allow the Gooners to skip their last two fixtures of the season under the Human Rights Act.

The debacle at Stoke was the final insult to their long suffering fans. Given how recent displays (Manchester United aside) have prompted accessions from Arsene Wenger about the need to splash the cash, many more performances like the one at the Britannia and he'll be lucky to cling on to his job, no matter how many Gary Cahills he promises to buy.

Stoke lapped up everything on offer, like Johan Djourou's special two-goals-for-the-price-of-one deal, where he promised not to mark Kenwyne Jones from set pieces and lay a goal on for Jonathan Walters just when it seemed like Arsenal might salvage a point from the game. Even Jermaine Pennant had a blinder, and looked a more complete player than Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner, Andrei Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky put together. "One-nil to the rugby team," crowed the home support, who also booed Aaron Ramsey, for having the temerity to break his leg horribly on his last visit to the Potteries.

Mind you, Arsenal exerted so little energy during the match that at least they will be fresh for next week's FA Cup final against Manchester City. Sorry, what? It's Stoke who are going to Wembley? Well, my word, you really couldn't tell on Sunday.

Gomes, by Jerry Seinfeld

If ever there was a 90-second chapter to illustrate why Tottenham won't be tasting the heady delights of Champions League football again for a while, it arrived at the palace for part-time prevaricators, White Hart Lane, in their struggle with the 'dirtiest dogs in the zone' Blackpool.

It was an instalment of calamity that might as well have been scripted by Jerry Seinfeld given how amusing it was, once again cast Heurelho Gomes in the leading role. After saving one penalty, brilliantly, Gomes was so intoxicated on adrenaline and the buzz of the crowd that he conceded another one straight away just to prolong the feeling. Sadly, Charlie Adam made no mistake second time round, despite the protestations of DJ, and 'Arry was left to ponder whether he'd be better off employing Kramer in goal - at least he has a canny knack of getting there in the nick of time.

Manchester City's defeat at Everton had offered Spurs a tantalising look at the dazzling junk in the Champions League trunk, but their third successive home draw meant it slammed firmly shut. Added to that was a nasty looking injury to delicate flower Gareth Bale after Charlie Adam's vicious stamp on the Welshman's ankle. But, of course, and altogether now: "He's not that type of player."

Not Keane on open goals

Should West Ham fail to beat the drop by two points, Robbie Keane may well be the proud owner of the new '£90 million-man' moniker after his horror miss let Blackburn off the hook deep in London's edgy (dodgy) East End. With three minutes left, a cross rolled into his path a mere four yards from goal but Keane inexplicably failed to make any contact with the ball - that little thing he is reputed to be paid £90,000-a-week to kick. Perhaps the minimum wage would be a more befitting reward for his pathetic effort.

Avram Grant stood aghast, desperately trying to summon up a facial expression that looks more aghast than his default aghast one, which is more aghast than most. After the usual bluster of belief that the Hammers can still beat the drop (Wigan away, Sunderland home) he then wibbled about Keane wanting to score, desperately wanting to score, but not being able to. It was heart wrenching stuff.

Meanwhile, Steve 'clutching at straws' Kean insisted Blackburn, with one win since January, were "one of the form teams in the bottom half of the table" which is tantamount to saying "we're the least smelly fish in a big barrel of rotting fish."

Going the extra Emile

The 'microcosm of rage' award is won hands down by Emile Heskey this week, as the rest of the known footballing universe turned to their chum during Match of the Day and whispered: "I never knew he had it in him." Headbutting the referee is an odd reaction after having been headbutted, but such was the visceral force of Emile's tetchiness, Mike Jones probably feared he'd be going home in a West Midlands ambulance at one point.

The source of Emile's ire was a challenge from the hapless Gary Caldwell - an appropriate marker for such a powder puff striker - who barged into him during an aerial challenge. After a few seconds lying prostrate, presuming a shrill peep of the ref's whistle would be followed by a free-kick and a ticking off for his opponent, Heskey was shaken awake like a tranquilised animal that has just had spark plugs inserted into their rectum.

Heskey continued his verbal assault on Jones in the tunnel at half-time, before being substituted and sent home by Gary McAllister. Let's just hope no-one cut him up on the motorway during his drive home. It was as much life as Villa showed all afternoon and as much life as Heskey has shown at any point during his 15-year career. Perhaps had he demonstrated such want or desire at any stage in an England shirt, his reputation would be stationed somewhere above the 'national embarrassment' notch.

Don't forget, you can help The Fifth Official's bid to attract more followers on Twitter than Leon Knight at www.twitter.com/fifthofficial

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