Sir Alex Ferguson chastises David Luiz – But what was the real reason United lost to Chelsea?

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Chelsea’s 1-0 victory over Manchester United was a rather drab affair until the final five minutes.

With the scored deadlocked at zero, Wayne Rooney possessed the ball on the edge of the Chelsea area when Ramires tackled him, prompting a Blues counter-attack. Rooney felt he had been fouled by the Brazilian but referee Howard Webb wasn’t interested.

Chelsea drove the length of the park, the ball eventually finding Juan Mata, who unleashed a shot that knicked off of Phil Jones’ leg before dinking off the post and into the goal.

Sir Alex Ferguson was not happy. After all, this was Old Trafford. And with the Premier League title already secured, Fergie, being Fergie, wanted even more. Specifically, he announced a few weeks ago that United’s goal was to break the record for points in the season.

Webb’s failure to whistle Ramirez’ alleged foul on Rooney turned Fergie a deeper hue of violet in the cheeks. But the referee’s decision to send off Rafael da Silva two minutes later prompted straight-up outrage from the Scottish gaffer.

The incident occurred near the corner flag. Luiz received the ball on the touch-line and da Silva immediately applied tight pressure. As Luiz shielded the ball his arms were raised and elbows appeared to fly freely, although they didn’t connect with da Silva’s head. The United defender stayed tight, nudging Luiz closer to the corner flag. Luiz then turned quickly and passed the ball away as da Silva swung his right leg, hacking down the Chelsea center-back. Luiz dropped to the floor, clutching his leg seemingly in pain before flashing a cheeky smile to the Chelsea faithful in the stand.

After the match Ferguson went berserk, claiming: “The ref has been bought by the fact Luiz is rolling about.”

The United manager continued: “He [Da Silva] retaliates but Luiz quite clearly elbows him twice, then rolls about like a diving swan and that convinces the referee. He was smiling. It’s bad. What kind of professional is that? He [Da Silva] was elbowed and he retaliated. That’s what always happens, the player who retaliates always gets the bigger penalty and it was clear that Luiz elbowed him twice.

“It was rash what he [Da Silva] did, he’s a young lad and should know better but retaliation never works. I wouldn’t say it was violent conduct. The referee hasn’t even seen it, I don’t think he could see it at all. But he has gone with the fact that Luiz has rolled about on the floor and I think that convinced him it was a red card.”

While it was predictable that Ferguson would focus at least some of his post-match comments on the da Silva sending, it had absolutely no bearing on the result of the game. United didn’t lose the match because da Silva, rightly or wrongly, was sent off.

United lost the match because Ferguson’s personnel decisions.

His first major decision was to play Anders Lindegaard over David de Gea. While Lindegaard is by no means a poor keeper, there’s a good chance that the gumby stretch of de Gea would have gotten to Mata’s goal-bound shot.

Ferguson also decided to play Anderson and Tom Cleverley in the midfield, leaving the likes of Shinji Kagawa and Wayne Rooney on the bench. Rooney would eventually sub on for Anderson in the 69th minute but when the time came to take off Cleverley, Ferguson made a defensive change, bringing on Alexander Buttner in the Englishman’s place.

It’s not that Ferguson’s decision to play Lindegaard, Anderson and Cleverley was poor, but it definitely came at odds with his aforementioned goal of trying to secure the points record, especially when he dolled out his best Starting XI against Arsenal last weekend.

So what changed over the course of the last week?

Did Ferguson suddenly decide that achieving the aforementioned points record no longer mattered?

Or did he just want to stick it to Arsenal?

They’re questions that were neither asked nor addressed at the post-match conference. But the fact is, United didn’t lose to Chelsea because David Luiz rolled about “like a dying swan.” United lost because Fergie didn’t put out his best side against a very dangerous and highly motivated competitor.

 

(Video of the Luiz/da Silva incident begins at the 1 min, 51 sec mark)

“This game belongs to the players” Wenger downplays Guardiola success

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Arsene Wenger has stressed that Pep Guardiola has not changed the game of soccer over the last decade or so, maintaining that the players are the ones who make a team truly great.

Asked if Guardiola has “raised the bar” of managing in his time at the top, Wenger said, “No, because you look at Barcelona and they are still the best team in Europe. You have to accept that the modern game has changed with the recruitment of the best players in a short number of clubs.”

[ MORE: EFL Cup final preview ]

“We, as managers, can maybe impart our philosophy but this game belongs to the players because the importance of the players has become bigger than ever before.”

In fact, Wenger showed a twinge of jealousy at all the attention Guardiola is getting with the team blowing out the rest of the Premier League this season, referencing trophies in the recent past Arsenal has hoisted. “We are maybe underdogs but we have to believe in our quality. The history, the fact we have done it before, shows why not do it again?”

“At the end of the day, you have to be cool,” Wenger said, “because Manchester City is dominating the league in the head of everybody and so maybe we are more underdogs than in the FA Cup semi-final [last season when Arsenal beat Man City].”

Deportivo wastes penalty kick, remains winless under Seedorf

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MADRID (AP) — Clarence Seedorf remained winless as Deportivo La Coruna coach after a 0-0 draw with Espanyol in the Spanish league on Friday.

Deportivo squandered chances including a second-half penalty kick taken by Lucas Perez. Its winless streak reached 10 games in all competitions.

It was the third game in a row without a victory since Seedorf took over to try to avoid relegation. Deportivo was 18th in the 20-team standings, in the relegation zone.

In addition to the missed penalty, Deportivo twice hit the posts in front of a supportive crowd at Riazor Stadium. The players left the field applauded by the local fans despite the setback.

Perez’s penalty attempt was saved by Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 65th minute. Lopez, who earlier this season stopped a penalty taken by Lionel Messi, dived to his right to stop Perez’s low shot.

The match marked the Deportivo debut of veteran Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari. He played alongside Seedorf at AC Milan, and was signed this week after a trial period.

Espanyol, 15th in the standings, hasn’t won in seven matches, since it ended Barcelona’s 29-match unbeaten streak in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Espanyol’s last league win was in January, seven rounds ago.

Barcelona defends its seven-point lead in the standings when it hosts Girona on Saturday. Second-place Atletico Madrid visits Sevilla on Sunday.

Conte says he believes in his selection regarding Willian

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Antonio Conte has lashed out at anyone questioning why Brazilian winger Willian hasn’t played regularly until recently, saying

“Do you think that I am stupid when I put Willy on the bench?” Conte fired back at reporters when he was asked about Willian’s earlier lack of playing time at his pre-match press conference ahead of Chelsea’s match on Sunday against Manchester United.

[ MORE: Heynckes squashes Lewandowski to Premier League rumors ]

“I have to try and make the best decision for the team, no? Maybe last season we won the title, or did I forget something?”

The 29-year-old has made 29 Premier League appearances, but only 13 starts. He started in the midweek Champions League match against Barcelona and not only scored Chelsea’s only goal but also proved their most incisive player, prompting questions about his selection.

“Now he is playing because he deserves to play, not because there is some regret from the past,” Conte said. “For what? If a player deserves to play, and shows me during the training session that he is on top of his form, and wants to work defensively, he plays. If not, [he will] stay on the bench, stay in the stands.”

Instead of saying he wishes Willian had played more earlier in the season, he praised himself for giving the Brazilian the start at the appropriate time.

“He is playing now and I am very happy with my choice. Willian deserved to start in the previous game, and played well. I did a fantastic choice, and I want to take credit for that.”

EFL Cup Final preview: Arsenal, Manchester City fight for different types of glory

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  • These two clubs have never met in a major Cup final
  • With a win, Arsene Wenger would become the 8th PL manager to win all 3 major English trophies
  • Sergio Agüero has scored in all of his last 4 appearances against Arsenal

For Manchester City, it’s the first step of a potentially record-setting season. For Arsenal, it’s the Gunners’ best chance at securing a trophy.

The two teams are fighting for very different levels of glory as the two meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET. Manchester City, despite losing to Wigan in the FA Cup just a week ago, would still be on track for a Double this season with a win against the Gunners. Meanwhile, Arsenal is outside the Premier League top four, and – as they have done each of the past two seasons in the FA Cup – could salvage an otherwise disappointing league season with a major Cup trophy.

Both teams will be struggling with selection in certain areas. Manchester City is likely missing Raheem Sterling, who could sit out due to an unspecified muscle injury according to Pep Guardiola in his pre-match press conference, while Fabian Delph is suspended after his sending off against Wigan in the FA Cup. That means either Danilo or 21-year-old Oleksandr Zinchencko would start at wing-back. Zinchenko is the likely candidate there, having appeared in four of City’s five EFL Cup games this season so far and playing almost every minute of those four matches. Gabriel Jesus, who missed more than two months with a knee injury, could be ready to make his early return. Claudio Bravo will continue to play in goal for the domestic Cup competitions.

Arsenal, meanwhile, is without new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan who is cup-tied to his previous club Manchester United, while Alexandre Lacazette is not yet recovered from his knee injury suffered in the North London derby, and Mesut Ozil could miss out with an illness. The Gunners are likely, however, to get Aaron Ramsey back in midfield after recovering from a groin injury, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can return to the lineup after his own cup tied absence in the Europa League midweek.

What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on playing Arsenal twice in a week: “We will be happy if we win, sad if we don’t but after the game we have another match against Arsenal. We are going to try and maintain our level, but finals are different, it is not what you have done in the past.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on playing Manchester City: “Manchester City have so many players that you think you have to stop that it is better to focus on the team plan than rather than on any individual. It’s true that I always used to use this competition with a youth team. For us it’s an opportunity. We’ll play with all the regular players.” 

Prediction

Arsenal has often come up big in hotly contested Cup matches, despite poor form in the surrounding competitions, so it would not be surprising to once again see Arsene Wenger hoist a trophy on Sunday to temporarily distract the fanbase and media from larger struggles. However, picking against this Manchester City team would be selection suicide, even after their disappointment against Wigan and considering the absence of under the radar star Raheem Sterling. Manchester City wins 3-1 with a pair of late goals to sink the Gunners, with a newly healthy Gabriel Jesus providing an influential injection off the bench in the final 20 minutes. Pep Guardiola raises another trophy at the site where he won the 2011 Champions League.