NEW YORK (AP) — One of the first book-length inside accounts of the coronavirus pandemic will be coming out in June. Lawrence Wright’s “The Plague Year,” which builds on a New Yorker story that ran earlier this month, will be published June 8. Wright tells The Associated Press that he interviewed more than 100 people for the story, including such government health officials as Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx. “The Plague Year” will document what he calls “the shocking failure” of the United States to contain the virus, which has killed more than 400,000 across the country.
European football is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, you get to play the finest club sides in the world; on the other, they might humiliate you. Yes, you’re generally safe from humiliation by your domestic rivals; yes, they’re generally safe from humiliation by you. And on those rare occasions you meet, if you win it’s even worse for them; but if you lose it’s even worse for you. Is the upside worth the downside? Why, it’s exactly like life!Liverpool and Manchester United have played 194 competitive fixtures and racked up combined 79 seasons in European football, contesting the same trophy on ten occasions. In that time, they have yet to be drawn together – until now. There will be pennants, and there will be team photos.The recent past has seen a couple of near things, first in the Champions League of 2002 when a semi-final actually seemed likely. Liverpool were” ten games from greatness” in their bid to win the double and United were going to Glasgow, but then Liverpool met Bayer Leverkusen and were surprisingly beaten, and then United met Bayer Leverkusen and were surprisingly beaten. In those days, you see, most people in the world weren’t world experts on German football, so Lucio meant some larrikin girl and Ballack was the Moabite king found in the book of Numbers.In any event, the prize for victory would have been a final against Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid, at the far too small Hampden Park. Both clubs were fairly well out of that one.The other potential encounter, in the final of 2008, would have been something else entirely: a game for a trophy, bookended by both sets of supporters and the Russian police charging around Moscow in the pissing rain. The human brain is capable of some ludicrous thoughts, but respect if yours can conceive more so than that.A last-16 UEFA Cup tie does not have quite that resonance, though the haughtiness with which English clubs treat the competition shames their sense of morality and practicality. But no-one at Liverpool or United is bitching about it now. The two teams have not played under lights at Anfield since 1999, and this is probably the first and last chance for the United squad to experience a “famous European night”. Luckily for them, the relevant suits have attempted to dilute the atmosphere on their behalf, snidely inferring that a difference can be made to it if all away fans … wear the same clothing! As such, a group whose regular attire spans the full spectrum of dark to light black has been given free white Chevrolet shirts, delivered by DHL, to be seen on television in a high-profile, historic fixture; oh, the humanity! Away end tickets remain competitively priced at £38.Quite what’ll happen in the two games is not at all easy to predict, and it’s much easier to make a case against each side than it is for it. Van Gaal has no idea of his best eleven, his substitutions generally make things worse, and his only consistent player, the only one on either side with any serious status in the game, is a goalkeeper. No team in the Premier League top seven has scored fewer goals or entertained less; Van Gaal could not be getting less from his squad and his squad could not be getting less from itself. Roughly, they are a joke.And Liverpool are even worse. Without the players to play how Jurgen Klopp would like them to, they lack craft, class and a defence. Of the teams in the top 10, only Chelsea, in 10th, have conceded as many times, and things might even get worse now that Lucas – Lucas – is injured.Both teams, though, have a fair few half-decent players, which is why both teams occasionally produce passages of half-decency, before predictably yet abruptly regressing to the mean. They are fragile, but pathetically, not beautifully so.Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp celebrates with Dejan Lovren at the end of the match – ReutersThe current upswing is with Liverpool. After losing the League Cup final to Manchester City, they beat them well a few days later before contriving a last-minuter at Crystal Palace; yes, that is really significant enough to constitute an upswing, itself significant. United, meanwhile, recently powered past a murderers’ row of Shrewsbury, Midtjylland and Arsenal. But then Van Gaal felt compelled to interfere with the team he had previously been compelled to pick, and as such, the cycle of subsidence was reset at West Brom.Van Gaal has, though, done fairly well in the “big games” – he’s just made a mess of the piddling games that take place every time people pay to watch his team. The Liverpool players will know that they’ve lost four out of four against him, but with home and philosophical advantage in their favour, it won’t matter at the start; they’ll fly at United as best they can, looking to control the tie from the off, while United do nothing, looking to “control” the tie from the off.The likelihood is that the tie will be one we might politely term a “slow-burner” – except this is football where there is no polite, so instead let’s expect a “disgusting shambles of inane ineptitude and arm-waving entitlement”, compelling in the worst possible way – which is the best thing about it. Enjoy!–Follow Joy Sports on Twitter: @JoySportsGH. 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