Sir Alex Ferguson’s influence

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The statistics of San Marino’s national football make for some grim reading…

They have zero points in the FIFA world rankings and are dead last.
They have won once in their history and lost an incredible 111.
They have scored only 16 goals although one of them was the fastest goal in World Cup history against England while conceding an eye watering 465.

These stats courtesy of Daniel Taylor in Serravalle for the Guardian however with San Marino no more than an afterthought for the English team, the pre-match niceties were always going to swerve into Rio Ferdinand territory.

In his piece, Taylor talks about the influence that Sir Alex Ferguson has on his players in terms of international play.

Ferguson has basically held the international game hostage since beginning his iron rule at Old Trafford and one would’ve thought that the respective home football associations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) would at some point put a stop to his manipulation. Instead the respective FA’s stand meekly aside.

Ryan Giggs, undoubtedly the best Welsh player since John Charles would’ve had a century of caps for his country under any other manager but Ferguson would keep him in Manchester with the sniffles.

In a 14 year career for Ireland, Roy Keane amassed only 67 caps often withdrawing from the squad at the last moment.

David Beckham who relished playing for England was shipped out of Old Trafford after Ferguson said that he was trying harder for his national team than club.

And now we have Ferdinand who reading between the lines has been told to choose your country or United.

When your employer calls the tune, you have no choice but to jump however it does appear that Ferguson has always been tougher on all nationalities bar Scottish players.

At the end of the day Ferdinand would make zero difference in the San Marino contest but Tuesday night versus Montenegro is completely different as his experience would be vital. If England should lose the defender will take the brunt of the criticism but in reality Ferguson would be the man to point the finger at.

VIDEO: Pedro scores stunning goal for Chelsea

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Not a bad way to start the Premier League weekend…

12 minutes into the first game of Matchweek 9, Chelsea’s Pedro curled home a stunning effort into the far corner and off the far post after a corner was played short to him.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A simply stunning goal from the Spaniard which you can watch in the video above.

Watch Live: Chelsea v. Watford in top five clash

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Chelsea host Watford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as fifth and fourth clash.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea are without a win in three games in all competitions and some pressure is starting to build on the Blues as they’ve fallen further behind the two Manchester clubs atop the PL table.

As for Watford, Marco Silva‘s men are in fourth place and aiming to keep up their impressive away form in the PL this season with three of their four wins coming on the road.

In team news Chelsea’s injuries are piling up with Victor Moses and N'Golo Kante missing but Alvaro Morata does start after recovering from his hamstring injury, while Watford start Troy Deeney up top after his impressive cameo against Arsenal last week.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Courtois; Rudiger, David Luiz, Cahill; Azpilicueta, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso; Pedro, Morata, Hazard. Subs: Caballero, Christensen, Ampadu, Zappacosta, Musonda, Willian, Batshuayi

Watford: Gomes; Mariappa, Kabasele, Britos; Femenia, Cleverley, Doucoure, Holebas; Pereyra, Deeney, Richarlison. Subs:

Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr named NWSL league MVP for 2017

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CHICAGO (AP) Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been named the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player for this season.

Kerr, a standout on the Australian national team, had a league-record 17 goals and became the league’s fifth Golden Boot winner to also be named MVP.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

She became the first NWSL player to score four goals in a game on Aug. 19 against the Seattle Reign. Kerr rallied Sky Blue from a 3-goal deficit to beat the Reign 5-4.

Kerr’s award was announced Friday. The league had earlier announced the season’s other award winners: North Carolina’s Abby Dahlkemper was named Defender of the Year, teammate Ashley Hatch was named Rookie of the Year, Portland’s Adrianna Franch was named Goalkeeper of the Year and the Thorns’ Mark Parsons was named Coach of the Year.

The Mendy Effect: Pep praises injured back

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Full back Benjamin Mendy cost Pep Guardiola and Manchester City $68 million, but perhaps he’ll be just as valuable as a very expensive sports psychologist.

The “Shark Team” member was amusing on social media even before his ACL injury sent him to the sidelines until at least April, but he’s become a must-follow Twitter fixture with his in-game messages (See some of his work below).

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

City faces Burnley at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s fairly clear his act has translated in private, too, as apparently Mendy is just as good in group messages (Let us in, Pep. We won’t tell anyone). From ManCity.com:

“Usually, players who are out for a long time with injury are sad. They sometimes train apart and feel isolated.

“Mendy decided to be present. He is communicating on social media, WhatsApp and he calls his teammates and messages me. He is going to be so important outside the pitch because people like him make the atmosphere much better.”

It’s not surprising for anyone who’s been following the former Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco man.

Keep in mind, these Tweets below are from the last few days alone!