Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Britain badly needs an Abraham Lincoln who will think big and act big (Daily Telegraph)

MPs in both the Conservatives and Labour are yearning for a leader who will show courage and imagination, writes Mary Riddell.

2. A perilous journey to full recovery (Financial Times)

The key to success everywhere will be timing the exit from exceptional policies, writes Martin Wolf. 

3. Britain's narrow view of the EU is wrong (Times) (£)

Berlin shares David Cameron’s desire for reform in Brussels but not his vision for Europe, says German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

4. UK intervention in Mali treads a familiar – and doomed – path (Guardian)

Does Mali pose an "existential threat" to the UK? Hardly, says Simon Jenkins. Intervention will bring only more trouble.

5. Hillary Clinton leaves a hard job well done (Independent)

The Secretary of State leaves no signature achievement, but America is safer now than it was, says an Independent editorial. 

6. Murdoch links sympathy for Palestinians to anti-Semitism. The truth is more complex (Independent)

Wishing an end to Palestinian suffering is not synonymous with willing the annihilation of Israel, so why is this distinction so hard to make, asks Matthew Norman. 

7. We'll give parents the confidence they crave from early years education (Guardian)

Nurseries should give children the chance to learn, and women the choice to work if they want to, writes early years minister Elizabeth Truss.

8. Childcare plan: the kids are not all right (Guardian)

The biggest danger posed by the coalition's reforms is that they will create a new class divide at the earliest ages, says a Guardian editorial.

9. India casts around for more outrage (Financial Times)

Taking offence has become a newly powerful type of political power, writes James Crabtree.

10. A continent in chaos and why Hitler's evil is rising again (Daily Mail)

The fact that so many are willing to forget or ignore Hitler’s evil, means that Europe should approach its future with dread, says Simon Heffer.

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Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

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