Will Sir Alex Ferguson reach 50 trophies … this year?

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Around the quarters of Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, titles and trophies stack up the way magazines do around most of our homes.

He stands at 48 counting league or tournament titles won in Scotland and in those 27 fabulous and fabled years at Old Trafford. That includes 12 Premier League crowns and two in UEFA Champions League. Obviously, that puts Ferguson, 71, two titles away from the milepost 50th.

Ferguson has the 49th hooked and ready to reel in, and it’s a big fish. His Red Devils are running away with the Premier League crown, making good on their make-good mission, atonement for last year’s mini-collapse. In a bit of a un-United-like slippage they let an eight-point lead with six matches remaining slip implausibly away; the “noisy neighbors” from Manchester City sneaked in the rear door and swiped 2011-12 EPL hardware in the very last seconds.

The current 12-point lead with 12 matches remaining could certainly evaporate; stranger things have happened. But given United’s determination, Robin van Persie’s peerless scoring proficiency in England at the moment and second-place City’s less-than-indomitable look, anybody care to bet on history repeating?

So, let’s just think of that one as No. 49 for now.

United has two chances to claim No. 50, and either would be biggies. (As opposed to more obscure trophies or titles claimed in less exalted competitions like the European Super Cup or the FA Community Shield; hardware from those and others are included in the current count of 48.)

United remains alive in Champions League, with a slight edge as the gloriously high-profile series with Real Madrid – we really are talking weapons grade “high-profile” here – moves back to Old Trafford tied at a goal apiece.

The better chance for that milepost 50th: England’s FA Cup.

That’s the bigger picture significance of Monday’s 2-1 win over Reading in the tournament’s Round-of-16 match. Reading’s account was commendable, but Ferguson and United are now through to the quarterfinals, where the Red Devils will face Middlesbrough or Chelsea, depending on the outcome of their fifth-round contest.

Details of the quarterfinal draw are here. The quartet of contests look like this:

  • Oldham Athletic or Everton v Wigan Athletic
  • Millwall v Blackburn Rovers
  • Manchester City v Barnsley
  • Manchester United v Middlesbrough or Chelsea

Top Storylines for Premier League Week 6

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After a week of League Cup action domestically, the Premier League returns this weekend with a myriad of interesting matchups and storylines.

Let’s take a look at some of this week’s top story’s to follow:


Can Manchester City continue its torrid form?

Manchester City has finally found its groove under manager Pep Guardiola.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The club has won five successive games, the last three coming on the road while scoring a combined 19 goals. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are a terrific 1-2 punch while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been stars in midfield, with De Bruyne pulling the strings for Man City all season.

There’s every likelihood that Man City will continue its impressive run on Saturday. The club hosts floundering Crystal Palace, which is still adjusting to new manager Roy Hodgson.

(more…)

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

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Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.