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The Champions League knockout stage will be brilliant fun for everyone! Especially Moussa Sissoko!

The Champions League draws are in! Everyone is happy about it and no one will be disappointed.* (*Manchester United excepted).

Tottenham Hotspur v FC Internazionale - UEFA Champions League Group B Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Hello, and welcome back to Tactically Naive, SB Nation’s weekly column about soccer, fun, and fun soccer. Everybody likes all of those things, right? Right.

These are the best teams

Right then. It’s not 2019 quite yet, but the draw for the last 16 of the Champions League has happened — all the details here — and Tactically Naive is, to speak frankly, extremely hyped.

Group stages? Well, they’re fine. Except they’re not: They’re for cowards and they’re for television companies. Knockout football is the truth, the way, and the light. For success to mean anything, failure has to mean failure, right there in the moment. The salt of the tears brings out the sweetness of the Gazprom.

Doubtless you’ll have your own preferred tie. For TN’s part, we’re most excited about Tottenham’s double-header against Borussia Dortmund, and not just because white-and-blue against yellow-and-black brings back pleasant memories of Futuron vs. Blacktron.

No, this is a chance to delve yet further into the mystery of Moussa Sissoko. If you watched Spurs against Barcelona, you’ll have seen yet another installment of this most fascinating of mysteries. How does a single footballer contain such range? Such brilliance and incompetence, one after the other? Sometimes even at the same time!

Here, shanking a simple pass yards beyond its intended target; there, sticking out a casual leg to dispossess Lionel Messi. Here, drifting past two challenges; there, taking a foul throw. And he can baffle from anywhere on the pitch, too — he ended up at emergency right-back in the Camp Nou, and he was still getting involved.

Our current working theory is this: Moussa Sissoko is everybody’s dad. All at once. And he’s playing football with all of his children, which means that a lot of the time, he has to let them past him. Oh! You dribbled past me! Oh no! I lost the ball!

Still, he’s a quite competitive dad, so every now and then he gets frustrated and decides to just let rip. Off he goes, up the field, sliding past three challenges, bouncing a couple of feeble youngsters onto the ground. Have that. And that. And ... no, no, this isn’t really fair. It’s almost bullying.

Oh no! I’ve fallen over!

More investigation is needed, of course, but if we’re right, then there’s a great comfort at the heart of this all. Clearly, Papa Sissoko loves all his children equally. Because when he plays, everybody gets to have fun.

Manchester United, however, are not the best team

But you know that already. Everybody knows that. And yet, over the course of their eventual defeat to Liverpool, we were treated to a lesson in the terrible power of the human mind, and also the stickiness of the idea of “Manchester United,” as opposed to the reality.

Here, roughly, is how the game went down. For the first half hour or so, Liverpool, buoyed by their happy-Kloppy manager and their bouncing fans, kicked United into a tiny cringing ball. They scored one; they could have scored half a dozen. It was one-sided, and then it was embarrassing, and then it went beyond that into a kind of limbo space where nothing really seemed to matter any more. How can one shame that which does not exist?

Then United scored. They didn’t mean to, but the football gods weren’t really enjoying all that Alisson Becker: Bestest Best Ever chat. He palmed a straightforward cross into his own treacherous knee, which sent it bouncing out to Jesse Lingard, who returned it into the net.

And then things went a bit odd. Liverpool remained the better team, of course, because they are the better team. But a kind of nagging idea started to take hold across the pitch, and through the suddenly-quiet stands, and out into the nation. This is Manchester United. On the pitch, that used to mean great performances. But it also used to mean fortunate late goals and kind refereeing decisions. The rub of all the greens going. Or at least, for most of the rest of the league, it felt that way.

That’s what the imagination works with: not just how things are now, but how things felt then. Then it boils all of that up with a good dose of pessimism and — ta da! — suddenly the introduction of Marouane Fellaini ahead of Paul Pogba makes perfect and terrifying sense. Is the Belgian as good a player? No. Is he much more likely to end up accidentally backheeling the winning goal into Liverpool’s net via his own face? Oh yes.

You can see this strangeness at work throughout much of Jose Mourinho’s time at United, particularly in the bigger games. Deserved hiding after deserved hiding dodged because, well, Manchester United. It’s probably not a coincidence that United’s best result of the season so far, that smash and grab at Juventus, came thanks in part to Wojciech Szczęsny, lately of Arsenal, who spent far too much time in the Premier League to have escaped.

Yet this time it wasn’t to be, and United got what they deserved. Liverpool overcame their neuroses thanks to patience, hard work, and patent superiority. But also thanks to Xherdan Shaqiri, the right man for the right situation. He may not be the greatest player in the world, but he’s exactly the kind of man to walk up to an emperor and congratulate him on the bold decision to leave his trousers at home.

This is the best (young) player

Finally, a word for Ajax’s Matthijs “Afternoon” De Ligt, who became the first defender to win the Golden Boy award for Europe’s best player under 21.

There’s a reason defenders don’t often win awards like this, and that reason is: defenders are hollow, joyless monsters and agents of destruction, whose only mission on this earth is to consume the pleasure of others. However, in De Ligt’s case we’re willing to overlook the evil written into his bones because he plays for Ajax. And it’s been ages since Ajax were properly good.

More of this, please, in the four months we have before Barcelona spend a squillion euros to ruin everything again.

Non-league football of the week

... is this goalmouth scramble, courtesy of Dulwich Hamlet, defending in their lovely pink number.

The majesty of this passage of play will hopefully distract everybody from the fact that Dulwich — the greatest team in the world — didn’t actually play very well for the other 89 minutes and 30 seconds of the game, and eventually lost 2-0.