Is Michael Laudrup engineering a move to Real Madrid?

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Last year, despite our respective affiliations, many Premier League fans started to fall in love with Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup. At least a little bit.

How could you not?

The Dane came to South Wales last June and within eight months –

  • Added a sprinkling of low-cost, high-value transfers (Michu (£2m), Jonathan De Guzman (loan), Chico Flores (£2m), Ki Sung-Yeung (£6m), Pablo Hernandez (£5.5m))
  • Sold want-away players who were getting too big for their britches for incredible value (Joe Allen (£15m), Scott Sinclair (£8m))
  • Was smashing teams by the first week of the season (5-0 over QPR in Matchweek 1 and 3-0 over West Ham in Matchweek 2), and
  • Was hoisting the League Cup (and claiming the first spot in the Europa League) by late February.

All that was accomplished, of course, by taking the entertaining style of play imposed by past managers (Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers) and make it straight up intoxicating. In footballing parlance, it was what we call a master-stroke.

But with the good comes the bad and for Swansea supporters, the ‘bad’ set in shortly after the 5-0 thrashing of Bradford City when rumors began to fly of the interest that high-profile clubs had in Laudrup. The rumors weren’t unexpected. Most everyone could see that the man who starred as a player for European giants Juventus, Lazio, Barcelona and Real Madrid, would someday be doing the same as a manager. It was only a matter of time.

To his credit, Laudrup pledged his short term desire to stay at Swansea with the caveat that, within a season or two, he would be moving to a bigger club. Fair play.

But the rumors kept coming. Speculation grew. And within the last two weeks, Laudrup has begun to voice his concern over the amount of money that Swansea owner, Huw Jenkins, is willing to pony up for transfers.

Things took a turn for the worse yesterday when Jenkins and the rest of the Swansea board cut ties with Laudrup’s agent, Bayram Tutumlu, who was allegedly trying to dictate the club’s transfer policy. Tutumlu said

[Swansea Chairman Huw Jenkins] wants to bring in players who do not have the quality for Michael Laudrup. . . . Huw Jenkins has paid me nothing, but I have spent a lot to try to bring players to Swansea.

In an attempt the quell the situation, Laudrup made the following statements

Bayram is my agent and that’s not going to change. If the club do not want to work with him or Bayram does not want to work with them, it’s their problem not mine. . . . The only thing I care about is to have the best players possible at Swansea who are within range of the economy of the club.

Again I must say that my intention is to stay – I have repeated it so many times in the last three months.

The only thing I am interested in is having the best players at Swansea within the budget that is possible. . . . That’s what I have been fighting for every day, last year when I arrived and this year as well. That will always be the most important thing for me wherever I end up in the future.

Ugly stuff, no doubt. But is it enough to end Laudrup’s tenure at the Liberty? Probably not, although Tutumlu seems completely hell-bent on making it happen.

There’s also the possibility, however, that this is all part of Laudrup’s exit plan to free himself for that aforementioned big-time managerial move. But to where?

I heard there may be a vacancy in Madrid.

But, if that doesn’t work, Paris could be quite nice as well.

LAFC erase 2-goal deficits to beat Montreal in 8-goal thriller

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The game in 100 words (or less): LAFC are, by definition, an expansion team; they are, to the eye, also very much an expansion team, in that they experience drastic mood swings from one game to the next and, on a number of occasions already this season, from one half to the next — or, as evidenced in Saturday’s 5-3 win over Montreal Impact, one 15-minute period to the next. 2-0 down after 16 minutes, Larent Ciman wanted the ground to open up and swallow him whole as his return to Montreal wasn’t going so swimmingly. The Belgian proceeded to score a stunning free kick eight minutes later. Montreal went down to 10 men and Evan Bush saved a penalty in the 33rd minute. Ignacio Piatti completed his hat trick on 43 minutes to restore the two-goal lead. LAFC score four second-half goals to run away with all three points, racking up 26 shots (18 of which were on target) in the process. Through two games this weekend, MLS has seen 14 goals scored.

[ MORE: Sporting KC increase West lead with 6-0 win over Vancouver ]

Three Four moments that mattered

24′ — Ciman’s free kick just about bursts through the back of the net — If not for the net, this ball continues to slowly rise until it cross the U.S.-Canada border and begins to orbit the planet in outer space.

43′ — Piatti smashes past Miller for 3-1 — Piatti takes his hat trick with aplomb, letting the ball bounce across his body before pulling it back across the face of goal and just inside the far post.

52′ — Feilhaber picks out the top corner for 3-2 — The comeback is on… again.

83′ — Vela bags the winner from the spot — Bush denied Marco Ureña from the spot in the first half, and so nearly did it again in the 83rd, but Carlos Vela’s effort crept over the line to make it 4-3.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | MLS Three Things ]

Man of the match: Ignacio Piatti

Goalscorers: Piatti (9′, 16′, 43′), Ciman (24′), Feilhaber (52′), Raitala (57′ – OG), Vela (83′ – PK), Blessing (89′)

Mourinho’s message to Man United’s much-maligned stars

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LONDON — All week the talk was about Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez not being good enough for Manchester United and that they may be left out of the starting lineup for the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley.

On Saturday at Wembley they dragged their team back into the contest and past Tottenham Hotspur to reach the FA Cup final.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

After a shaky start, Pogba’s powerful tackle on Mousa Dembele was followed up by a perfect cross to Sanchez who expertly headed home in, using every last muscle in his neck, to make it 1-1 in the 24th minute. United never looked back.

Pogba and Sanchez grew stronger as the game wore on and the latter bullied Kieran Trippier for United’s winner as the tireless Chilean speedster ran down a lost cause and helped set up Ander Herrera to score the winner.

The duo have been heavily criticized since the turn of the year with Pogba hauled out of the team by Mourinho, then having to deal with issues such as rumors about his United future following Pep Guardiola‘s claim that Man City were offered the Frenchman in January. While Sanchez has scored just twice in the Premier League since his January move from Arsenal which made him the best paid player in the Premier League and was left out of United’s lineup for the win at Bournemouth on Wednesday.

Mourinho had a message for his much-maligned stars after they stole the show at Wembley: he wants consistency.

“I told Alexis the same thing I told Paul a few weeks ago, I cannot expect my players to be Man of the Match every match. I cannot expect them to score goals every match. I cannot expect them to be perfect every match,” Mourinho said. “What I expect is a certain level that you don’t go below that. That level is the level of the basic things in the game. If you do the basic things of the game and then in some matches your talent appears and you makes the difference. That is fine. I am not waiting for Alexis the next match to score again and to be the Man of the Match. I just want him to be stable and I think  in Alexis’ case next season gives him much better conditions to be a top player for us.”

Despite their gutsy and pivotal displays, both Pogba and Sanchez (the Man of the Match) still showed glimpses of their poor form with wasteful passes from Sanchez and slack defensive play, early on, from Pogba. Their confidence still remains brittle but at least they showed their talent when it mattered most.

But the main thing is that they dug deep to grind out the win and keep United’s hopes of a piece of silverware this season alive. That is what top players do and both delivered, even if Pogba’s United future remains uncertain beyond this season. This was a game where the duo showed Mourinho they could be trusted to dig deep and after they combined for United’s equalizer they grew in confidence and, most importantly, did the dirty work to help United reach the final.

Pogba and Sanchez aside, Mourinho was keen to ask why United have so many critics, even though they are on course to finish second in the Premier League this season and the fact that he has reached his third major final out of six tries since he arrived at the club in the summer of 2016.

“This season is successful if we finish second. If we do a better Premier League than Spurs, Liverpool Chelsea and Arsenal, if we do that I think it is successful,” Mourinho said. “To break the 80-point target to finish second against an untouchable winner is good. To make a lot more points than last season to win more matches, to score more goals, to concede less goals, to have much better results against the top teams I think is a successful teams.”

Dele Alli, Pochettino after FA Cup ouster: “We can’t keep doing this”

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
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This felt like a different year for Spurs, one which would include something shiny.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

Instead, Tottenham Hotspur will exit another season without hardware after blowing an early lead and fairly controlling first half with a 2-1 loss to Manchester United in the FA Cup semifinal on Saturday at Wembley Stadium.

This was at their home venue, even if they weren’t the home team. And it just fell apart.

Here’s Dele Alli, from the BBC:

“Everyone talks. We want to win trophies, we have the staff that want to win. We can’t keep doing this. We can’t throw it away. We have got to improve.”

His boss, Mauricio Pochettino, was more upbeat regarding his Spurs project but no less disappointed in the result. The North Londoners are only going to face more questions all offseason and into next.

“I think we need to understand where we have come from,” he said. “It’s easy to talk about winning trophies. To win a trophy when you face a side like Manchester United, Chelsea or Manchester City is not easy. But the most important thing is we are able to compete.”

Tottenham is on the up, and will continue to grow in resources but not renown until it puts something in its trophy case under Pochettino. It really did feel like this could be the year.

Man Utd races past Spurs to reach FA Cup Final

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  • Man Utd reaches 20th FA Cup Final
  • Alexis plays role in both Utd goals
  • Dele scores for Spurs

Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera scored as Manchester United came back to beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Wembley Stadium in Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal.

United will meet the winner of Sunday’s semifinal between Southampton and Chelsea at Wembley on May 19.

Dele Alli scored Spurs goal.

[ MORE: Full box score ]

Spurs went ahead through Dele, as Paul Pogba lost Christian Eriksen as the Dane raced onto a long ball. Eriksen crossed to the back post for Dele’s sliding finish.

Pogba made amends in his preferred third of the pitch, stealing the ball from a Mousa Dembele and lofting an inch-perfect cross for Alexis to nod home. The headed finish was anything but easy, hit across the goal while falling to the pitch.

Michel Vorm made a save on a deflected Pogba rip in the 44th minute, and Ander Herrera hit a chance high and wide off the ensuing corner.

And Eric Dier cranked a shot off the framework in stoppage time.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

The best chance of the early second half saw Harry Kane‘s deflected shot go out for a corner, set up by Dele.

Herrera put United ahead just after the hour mark, as Lingard dummied a mistouch from Romelu Lukaku.