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

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

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The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

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The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

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On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.