Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson lifts the English Premier League trophy at Old Trafford stadium in Manchester

Premier League TV schedule for NBC Sports Group released

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The day you’ve all been waiting for is here. Get excited.

On Monday afternoon NBC Sports released the TV schedule for coverage of the Premier League for the 2013-14 season.

Here are all the details for the opening three months of games, as England’s top league will be aired exclusively in the US by NBC Sports group.

Take a look through the detailed lists below to see when your team is playing and get the lowdown on all the big matchups coming to a TV screen near you.

Let the games begin.

Details

Unprecedented Coverage of All Premier League Matches

Debuts Saturday, August 17 at 7:00 AM ET

on NBC Sports Network

69 Live TV Game Windows through Dec. 1 Include

57 Matches on NBC Sports Network, 10 on NBC,

27 on Telemundo/mun2 & 61 on Premier League Extra Time

All 130 Matches in First 3 Months Available on

NBC Sports Live Extra

More Than 100 Distributors Nationwide to Carry Games

Via Premier League Extra Time Package and TV Everywhere

STAMFORD, Conn. – July 29, 2013 – Following the Premier League’s announcement of the first three months of the 2013-14 schedule on July 11, NBC Sports Group today released its television schedule for that time period featuring live coverage of all 130 matches, beginning Saturday, August 17 at 7:00 AM ET on NBC Sports Network with the Liverpool-Stoke matchup.

A total of 69 Premier League matches – at least five games each week in the season’s first three months – will be presented on NBC Sports Network, NBC and CNBC with all games preceded and followed by Premier League Live pre- and post-match shows from the NBC Sports Group International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn.

The 61 remaining Premier League matches will be made available on Premier League Extra Time, a bonus television package available to MVPDs at no extra cost for customers who receive NBC Sports Network.

In addition, 27 matches in the season’s first three months will be telecast in Spanish by Telemundo and mun2.

All Premier League games will be streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra, NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices and tablets. Games airing on NBC Sports Network will be live streamed via “TV Everywhere,” the media industry’s effort to make quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms.

Premier League Matches, First 3 Months, By Outlet

NBC Sports Network

57

NBC

10

CNBC

2

Telemundo/mun2

27

NBC Sports Live Extra

130

Premier League Extra Time

61

To date, AT&T U-verse®, Cablevision’s Optimum, Comcast’s Xfinity TV, DIRECTV, DISH, and Suddenlink have opted to carry the additional Premier League matches via the Premier League Extra Time package, and AT&T U-verse, Cablevision’s Optimum, Comcast’s Xfinity TV, Cox, DIRECTV, DISH, Suddenlink and Verizon FiOS will make all Premier League games available through TV Everywhere. Additionally, over 100 NCTC partners have either signed-on to the Premier League Extra Time package or have opted-in via TV Everywhere, including Blue Ridge Communications, Buckeye CableSystem, CenturyLink Prism, and RCN.

Following are schedule highlights for the first three months of the Premier League season:

Saturday, August 17, 7:45 AM ET on NBCSN

LIVERPOOL v STOKE

NBC Sports Group’s first-ever telecast of Premier League action features the Liverpool-Stoke matchup.

Saturday, August 17, 12:30 PM ET on NBC & mun 2

SWANSEA CITY v MANCHESTER UNITED

Manager David Moyes takes the reins of the Premier League’s most decorated team – returning champions Manchester United – from their legendary manager of over 26 years, Sir Alex Ferguson.   The Red Devils’ first test comes against a fiery Swansea side.

Sunday, August 18, 11:00 AM ET on NBCSN & mun2

CHELSEA v HULL CITY

Chelsea, last season’s third-place finishers, begin their campaign against newly promoted side, Hull City. Jose Mourinho, “the Special One,” is back as the Blues manager to the delight of the Chelsea faithful.  With an all-star international line-up, Chelsea will be looking for strong showing  against the Tigers, whose quest to avoid a trip back to the Championship begins against one of the Premier League’s perennial powers.

Saturday, August 24, 10:00 AM ET on TBD

STOKE CITY v CRYSTAL PALACE

Stoke, established in 1863, are the oldest club in the Premier League and in their first home match of the campaign, they host newly promoted London-side Crystal Palace.  Stoke were known for playing an aggressive, physical style of soccer but new manager Mark Hughes is looking to change that, and playing against colorful manager Ian Holloway’s Crystal Palace, that now boasts rising Spain star and exciting midfielder Jose Campana, will provide an early measuring stick for both the Stoke team in transition and Palace’s rising star.

Monday, August 26, 3:00 PM ET on NBCSN

MANCHESTER UNITED v CHELSEA

In just the second week of the campaign, last season’s first- and third-place finishers meet at the Premier League’s largest stadium, Manchester United’s Old Trafford.  Eight of the last nine Premier League titles have been won by either United or Chelsea and both clubs will be under tremendous scrutiny this season with new managers.

Sunday, September 1, 8:30 AM ET on NBSCN, Telemundo

LIVERPOOL v MANCHESTER UNITED

The two most decorated teams in English soccer history simply do not like each other.  At Liverpool’s historic Anfield, the Reds’ beloved captain and star Steven Gerrard, aka “Stevie G”, will look to help his side earn three points against United in the Premier League for the first time since March 2011.

Sunday, September 1, 11:00 AM ET on NBSCN & mun2

ARSENAL v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Arsenal host neighbors Tottenham at Emirates Stadium for the first edition of the season’s North London Derby and for a tough, early test at home for Arsenal.  The rivalry between the Gunners and Spurs dates to the early 1900s, and with Arsenal having finished directly above Tottenham in the table the last four seasons, Tottenham will be looking to make an early statement that their place in the standings belongs above Arsenal.

Saturday, September 14, 10:00 AM ET on TBD

HULL CITY v CARDIFF CITY

Hull and Cardiff, both promoted at the end of last season, meet early on in their Premier League campaigns, and as familiar foes, having faced each other the last three seasons in England’s second tier Championship, the Tigers and the Bluebirds will be eager to prove they belong in the league when the world is watching.

Sunday, September 22, 11:00 AM ET on NBCSN & Telemundo

MANCHESTER CITY v MANCHESTER UNITED

This season’s first installment of one of the league’s most riveting local rivalries, the Manchester Derby, kicks off at the Etihad on September 22.  The Manchester teams’ stadiums are just four miles apart, but their distaste for one another is huge.  City dramatically won the title on the final day of the season in 2012, leaving the Red Devils in second, while United were crowned champions in 2013 and City were runners-up.  The competitiveness and physical distance between these two sides always makes for an electric game, and this time both clubs will be playing under new managers.

Sunday, October 27, 9:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN & mun2

SUNDERLAND v NEWCASTLE UNITED

Sunderland’s Stadium of Light hosts the season’s first installment of the Tyne-Wear Derby, the name given to any match between Sunderland and Newcastle.  Just 12 miles separate the Magpies and the Black Cats, and last season, Newcastle edged out Sunderland to finish 16th, but both teams sat dangerously close to the relegation zone.  American forward Jozy Altidore, recently signed by Sunderland, will be a player to watch as he works to prove he’s a Premier League force.

Sunday, October 27, Noon ET on NBCSN & mun2

CHELSEA v MANCHESTER CITY

Last season’s second- and third-place finishers are sure to provide an exciting match — Chelsea finished just one win behind City last season.  By the end of October, the teams’ new managers and summer signings should be settled in to their roles, so this match should offer more of a glimpse as to these teams’ chances at the coveted trophy.

Sunday November 3, 11:00 AM ET on NBCSN & mun2

CARDIFF CITY v SWANSEA CITY

The South Wales Derby between Welsh sides Cardiff City and Swansea City is one of the most widely anticipated matches of the season.  With Cardiff’s promotion at the end of last season, the Bluebirds will be playing top-flight soccer for the first time in 51 years, and two Welsh teams will be playing in England’s top flight for the first time ever.

Saturday, November 9, 10:00 AM ET on Extra Time 1

LIVERPOOL v FULHAM

This match features two American owners as Liverpool and owners Fenway Sports Group host Fulham and owner Shahid Khan, who also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars.  While the Red Sox and Jaguars will have nothing to do with this match, the American influence in the Premier League will be on display as Liverpool, who need a successful season more than ever, face the Cottagers.

Sunday, November 10, 11:10 AM ET on NBCSN & Telemundo

MANCHESTER UNITED v ARSENAL

Last season’s leading scorer Dutch star Robin van Persie, aka “RVP,” welcomes his former club to Manchester United’s Old Trafford.  RVP managed a goal in both matches last season against the Gunners, and with the 2012-13 Premier League title in his back pocket as well, his news-grabbing move from the Emirates last season has paid off.  Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger will look for some magic from his scoring threats Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, and Santi Cazorla.

Saturday, November 23, 7:45 AM ET on NBCSN & mun2

EVERTON v LIVERPOOL

The Merseyside Derby, the longest running top-flight rivalry in England (played at the highest level of English competition since 1962-63), features the Blues of Everton against the Reds of Liverpool.  The two clubs know each other well; their stadiums sit less than a mile apart, and they are playing for the 221st time.  Though Liverpool are the historically better side, Everton finished 6th, one spot ahead of Stevie G’s lads last season.  With both clubs scratching at the door to the top-5 and European play, the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park holds much meaning for both sides.

Following is the NBCUniversal schedule for the first three months of the Premier League season:

(NOTE: TBD indicates that there will be one match in that time slot on NBCSN, in some cases one match on mun2, and remaining non-NBCSN games on Premier League Extra Time. Final channel assignments for those matches will be made in the coming weeks.)

Date Time (ET) Home Away Network
Sat., Aug. 17 7:45 a.m. Liverpool Stoke NBCSN
10 a.m. Arsenal Aston Villa NBCSN
10 a.m. Norwich Everton Extra Time
10 a.m. Sunderland Fulham Extra Time
10 a.m. West Ham Cardiff Extra Time
10 a.m. West Brom Southampton Extra Time
12:30 p.m. Swansea Man United NBC, mun2
Sun., Aug. 18 8:30 a.m. Crystal Palace Tottenham NBCSN
11 a.m. Chelsea Hull NBCSN
Mon., Aug. 19 3 p.m. Man City Newcastle NBCSN
***
Wed., Aug. 21 2:30 p.m. Chelsea Aston Villa NBCSN
***
Sat., Aug. 24 7:45 a.m. Fulham Arsenal NBCSN, mun2
10 a.m. Southampton Sunderland NBCSN
10 a.m. Everton West Brom Extra Time
10 a.m. Newcastle West Ham Extra Time
10 a.m. Hull Norwich Extra Time
10 a.m. Stoke Crystal Palace Extra Time
12:30 p.m. Aston Villa Liverpool NBC
Sun., Aug. 25 11 a.m. Tottenham Swansea NBCSN
11 a.m. Cardiff Man City Extra Time
Mon., Aug 26 3 p.m. Man United Chelsea NBCSN
***
Sat., Aug. 31 7:45 a.m. Man City Hull NBCSN
10 a.m. Cardiff City Everton NBCSN
10 a.m. Newcastle Fulham Extra Time
10 a.m. West Ham Stoke Extra Time
10 a.m. Norwich Southampton Extra Time
12:30 p.m. Crystal Palace Sunderland NBC
Sun., Sept. 1 8:30 a.m. Liverpool Man United NBCSN, Telemundo
8:30 a.m. West Brom Swansea Extra Time
11 a.m. Arsenal Tottenham NBCSN, mun2
***
Sat., Sept. 14 7:45 a.m. Man United Crystal Palace NBCSN, mun2
10 a.m. Sunderland Arsenal NBCSN
10 a.m. Stoke Man City Extra Time
10 a.m. Tottenham Norwich Extra Time
10 a.m. Aston Villa Newcastle Extra Time
10 a.m. Fulham West Brom Extra Time
10 a.m. Hull Cardiff Extra Time
12:30 p.m. Everton Chelsea NBC, mun2
Sun., Sept. 15 11 a.m. Southampton West Ham NBCSN
Mon., Sept. 16 3 p.m. Swansea Liverpool NBCSN
***
Sat., Sept. 21 7:45 a.m. Norwich Aston Villa NBCSN
10 a.m. Liverpool Southampton NBCSN
10 a.m. West Ham Everton Extra Time
10 a.m. West Brom Sunderland Extra Time
10 a.m. Newcastle Hull Extra Time
12:30 p.m. Chelsea Fulham NBCSN, mun2
Sun., Sept. 22 8:30 a.m. Arsenal Stoke CNBC, mun2
8:30 a.m. Crystal Palace Swansea Extra Time
11 a.m. Man City Man United NBCSN, Telemundo
***  11 a.m. Cardiff City Tottenham Extra Time
Sat., Sept. 28 7:45 a.m. Tottenham Chelsea NBCSN, mun2
10 a.m. Aston Villa Man City NBCSN
10 a.m. Man United West Brom Extra Time
10 a.m. Fulham Cardiff Extra Time
10 a.m. Hull West Ham Extra Time
10 a.m. Southampton Crystal Palace Extra Time
12:30 p.m. Swansea Arsenal NBC
Sun., Sept. 29 8:30 a.m. Stoke Norwich NBCSN
11 a.m. Sunderland Liverpool NBCSN
Mon., Sept. 30 3 p.m. Everton Newcastle NBCSN
***
Sat., Oct. 5 7:45 a.m. Man City Everton NBCSN, mun2
10 a.m. Liverpool Crystal Palace NBCSN
10 a.m. Hull Aston Villa Extra Time
10 a.m. Cardiff Newcastle Extra Time
10 a.m. Fulham Stoke Extra Time
12:30 p.m. Sunderland Man United NBCSN, mun2
 Sun., Oct. 6 8:30 a.m. Norwich Chelsea NBCSN
8:30 am Southampton Swansea City Extra Time
11 a.m. West Brom Arsenal NBCSN
*** 11 a.m. Tottenham West Ham Extra Time
Sat., Oct. 19 7:45 a.m. Newcastle Liverpool NBCSN
10 a.m. Man United Southampton NBCSN
10 a.m. Arsenal Norwich Extra Time 1
10 a.m. Chelsea Cardiff Extra Time 2
10 a.m. Everton Hull Extra Time 3
10 a.m. Stoke City West Brom Extra Time 4
10 a.m. Swansea Sunderland Extra Time 5
12:30 p.m. West Ham Man City NBC
Sun., Oct. 20 11 a.m. Aston Villa Tottenham NBCSN, mun2
Mon., Oct. 21 3 p.m. Crystal Palace Fulham NBCSN
***
Sat., Oct. 26 7:45 a.m. Crystal Palace Arsenal NBCSN
10 a.m. Man United Stoke NBCSN
10 a.m. Liverpool West Brom Extra Time 1
10 a.m. Aston Villa Everton Extra Time 2
10 a.m. Norwich Cardiff Extra Time 3
12:30 p.m. Southampton Fulham NBCSN
  Sun., Oct. 27 9:30 a.m. Sunderland Newcastle NBCSN
Noon Chelsea Man City NBCSN, mun2
Noon Tottenham Hull Extra Time 1
Noon Swansea West Ham Extra Time 2
***
Sat., Nov. 2 8:45 a.m. Newcastle Chelsea NBCSN
11 a.m. Fulham Man United NBCSN
11 a.m. Man City Norwich Extra Time 1
11 a.m. Hull Sunderland Extra Time 4
11 a.m. West Ham Aston Villa Extra Time 3
11 a.m. Stoke Southampton Extra Time 2
11 a.m. West Brom Crystal Palace Extra Time 5
1:30 Arsenal Liverpool NBC, mun2
Sun., Nov. 3 8:30 a.m. Everton Tottenham CNBC
11 a.m. Cardiff Swansea NBCSN
***
Sat., Nov. 9 10 a.m. Chelsea West Brom NBCSN
10 a.m. Liverpool Fulham Extra Time 1
10 a.m. Southampton Hull Extra Time 2
10 a.m. Crystal Palace Everton Extra Time 3
10 a.m. Aston Villa Cardiff City Extra Time 4
10 a.m. Chelsea West Brom TBD
12:30 p.m. Norwich West Ham NBC
Sun., Nov. 10 7 a.m. Tottenham Newcastle NBCSN
9:05 a.m. Sunderland Man City NBCSN
11:10 a.m. Man United Arsenal NBCSN, Telemundo
11:10 a.m. Swansea City Stoke City Extra Time 1
***
Sat., Nov. 23 7:45 a.m. Everton Liverpool NBCSN, mun2
10 a.m. Arsenal Southampton NBCSN
10 a.m. Fulham Swansea Extra Time 2
10 a.m. Stoke Sunderland Extra Time 3
10 a.m. Newcastle Norwich Extra Time 1
10 a.m. Hull Crystal Palace Extra Time 4
12:30 West Ham Chelsea NBC, mun2
Sun., Nov. 24 8:30 a.m. Man City Tottenham NBCSN
11 a.m. Cardiff Man United NBCSN, mun2
Mon., Nov. 25 3 p.m. West Brom Aston Villa NBCSN
***
Sat., Nov. 30 7:45 a.m. Tottenham Man United NBCSN, Telemundo
10 a.m. Man City Swansea TBD
10 a.m. Cardiff Arsenal TBD
10 a.m. Everton Stoke TBD
10 a.m. Aston Villa Sunderland TBD
10 a.m. West Ham Fulham TBD
10 a.m. Norwich Crystal Palace TBD
12:30 p.m. Newcastle West Brom NBC
Sun., Dec. 1 8:30 a.m. Hull Liverpool NBCSN
11 a.m. Chelsea Southampton NBCSN

How Sevilla hope to destroy the Madrid-Barca duopoly in Spain

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 15: Samir Nasri  (2ndR) of Sevilla FC celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates during the La Liga match between CD Leganes and Sevilla FC at Estadio Municipal de Butarque on October 15, 2016 in Leganes, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
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MADRID (AP) Sevilla’s ambitious hopes of becoming a La Liga contender are beginning to materialize.

With an inspired team not afraid of confronting the powerhouses, Sevilla has shown it’s ready to take the next step and seriously challenge Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

One game before the halfway mark in the Spanish league, the squad revitalized by coach Jorge Sampaoli is only a point behind leader Madrid, a team it defeated in impressive fashion on Sunday.

The come-from-behind 2-1 win came thanks to another gritty performance by Sampaoli’s team, which has mixed high-intensity defense and a fast-paced attack to impose its style against opponents, no matter how strong they are.

“A victory in a game like this allows us to remain optimistic and believe that this team can continue this run if we maintain this same determination,” Sampaoli said. “Time will tell if we can succeed.”

Sevilla’s win halted Madrid’s 40-game unbeaten streak in all competitions. Sevilla had already come close to a victory midweek in the Copa del Rey, but it conceded two late goals in a 3-3 draw that led to its elimination. It lost the first leg the week before in Madrid 3-0.

“We had three difficult matches against Real Madrid and we were superior in two of them,” Sampaoli said. “We were able to beat a team that was unbeaten.”

[ MORE: PHOTO — Juventus unveil new logo, identity rebrand ]

Sevilla this season also defeated Atletico 1-0, drew at fifth-place Villarreal 0-0, and routed sixth-place Real Sociedad 4-0. It lost 2-1 to Barcelona in an encouraging display.

It has won six of its last seven league games, including four in a row. In front of its diehard fans at Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium, Sevilla has won eight of its nine games.

It lost the European Super Cup title to Madrid in extra time last year, and this season advanced to the knockout stages of the Champions League, where it will face Leicester City in the Round of 16.

Sevilla has thrived in the lower-tiered Europa League, winning three straight titles, but its last Spanish league trophy was in 1946. The last time it finished second was in 1957.

It hasn’t had this much success in the league since 2007, when a squad that included Dani Alves and Frederic Kanoute fought for the title and eventually finished third behind Barcelona and champion Real Madrid. Sevilla led the competition after 18 matches that season, but with 37 points, two less than it has now.

Sevilla, the Copa del Rey winner in 2007 and 2010, also finished third in the league in 2009.

While Atletico Madrid made its way to the top thanks to the stout defense of coach Diego Simeone, Sampaoli’s Sevilla has been balancing a competitive defense with an effective offense led by players such as Samir Nasri, Victor “Vitolo” Machin, Wissam Ben Yedder, and Luciano Vietto.

[ MORE: PL Playback — One from six; who are the title favorites now? ]

It’s the first time since the winning campaign of 1956-57 that Sevilla has scored 38 goals in its first 18 league matches. Only Barcelona (47) and Madrid (46) have scored more this season.

“This team likes to play, it likes to attack,” said Stevan Jovetic, who scored the injury-time winner against Madrid on Sunday. “There is still a long way to go and we will be fighting against some top teams, but we will keep doing our thing and see where we can end up.”

Sampaoli, the Argentine coach who arrived with high expectations this season, has made a mark by successfully rotating players. Despite not having the same budget as Madrid or Barcelona, he has been able to make the most out of the squad put together by renowned sports director Ramon “Monchi” Rodriguez.

But despite the recent success and all the hype surrounding Sevilla, president Jose Castro is trying to keep the club grounded.

“We are excited, we are one point behind Madrid, and one ahead of Barcelona,” Castro said. “We will try to win it all, but the goal is to secure a spot in the Champions (League). The Spanish league is for other teams with a bigger budget.”

Sevilla’s next game is at last-place Osasuna on Sunday.

Courtois: Chelsea can still win title without Costa

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26:  Thibaut Courtois of Chelsea celebrates his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on November 26, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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A week from now, Diego Costa may still be a Chelsea player; he may also very well be off to the Chinese Super League by then.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The beauty insanity of the transfer market — and a volatile figure like Costa, in particular — is that no one knows which path he’ll take. After being made to train on his own on Monday, the best anyone can tell you is, “It’s 50-50.”

There aren’t many sides in the world that could stand to lose the league’s top goal-scorer (14 goals in 19 appearances this season; Chelsea have played 21 games) and still win the league title, but Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois believes that the current Blues squad is one that could hold onto its seven-point lead with 17 games remaining — quotes from FourFourTwo:

“Of course we have enough quality to replace Diego. Diego is important for us, but if he’s not there for one game, we know we can handle it as well.

“Was this a message to our rivals? Yes, just to see Chelsea won 3-0 and that loss at Spurs didn’t affect us and we can play without Diego if need be. I think everybody hoped for us to drop points and we didn’t so that was very good.”

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Eden Hazard has chipped in with nine goals of his own this season — his performances have been bordering on brilliance at points — while Pedro and Willian each have five league goals to their name. 19 goals from three secondary-type scorers is what champions are made of, until you consider the only other true striker currently in the squad, 23-year-old Premier League newcomer Michy Batshuayi, has 1) made just 13 PL appearances (all as a substitute); 2) scored just once, all the way back in August.

Louis van Gone: Ex-Man United, Barca boss LvG retires from coaching

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 21:  Louis van Gaal Manager of Manchester United celebrates after winning The Emirates FA Cup Final match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Wembley Stadium on May 21, 2016 in London, England. Man Utd won 2-1 after extra time.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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It wasn’t supposed to end like this for Louis Van Gaal.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

In his mind, he probably imagine himself manager Manchester United for the duration of his three-year contract before riding off into the sunset after restoring the Red Devils as Premier League champions four months from now. At the very least, he’d agree to stay on one more season to complete a bit of unfinished business after narrowly missing out on the title in his third season in charge at Old Trafford.

Instead, he was fired last May, two days after lifting the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium, and has been out of a job ever since. Van Gaal’s unemployment will now continue for the rest of his days, as the 65-year-old announced on Monday that he has retired from coaching after 26 years at Ajax, Barcelona (twice), AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands (twice), Bayern Munich and Manchester United — quote from the BBC:

“I thought maybe I would stop, then I thought it would be a sabbatical, but now I do not think I will return to coaching.”

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

After the stress put upon his shoulders while at Man United, the last eight months must have felt like heaven to Van Gaal. Why on earth would anyone ever go back?

AFCON: DR Congo go top of Group C with win; Ivory Coast, Togo draw

Congo's Lomalisa Mutambala, right, with Morocco's Faycal Fajr, left, during their African Cup of Nations Group C soccer match between Congo and Morocco at the Stade de Oyem in Oyem, Gabon, Monday Jan. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
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A roundup of all of Monday’s action in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations…

Ivory Coast 0-0 Togo

OYEM, Gabon (AP) Ivory Coast’s Europe-based stars stumbled in the heat of northern Gabon in their African Cup of Nations opener, with the defending champion held by Togo to 0-0 on Monday in another twist to start the tournament.

Ivory Coast’s title-winning coach fared worse as Congo beat Herve Renard’s Morocco 1-0 in the day’s second game.

Congo, a team that was on strike and refusing to train two days ago, finished with nine men on the field and on top of Group D.

Ivory Coast created few clear chances against Togo, with Wilfried Zaha‘s blocked shot in the second half after a clever run probably its best. Zaha was substituted two minutes later and, although Ivory Coast pressed hard in stages, it never broke open Togo’s well-drilled defense in the first game in Group C in the northern jungle town of Oyem.

Togo was competitive in the first half and had two good openings with around 10 minutes to go, when Kodjo Laba missed with a header from in front of goal and Mathieu Dossevi’s deflected shot dropped onto the roof of the net.

Four of the first six games at the African Cup have been draws, with Ivory Coast’s fellow title challenger, Algeria, held to 2-2 by Zimbabwe, a team that hasn’t qualified for the African Cup in over a decade. Also, host Gabon couldn’t beat outsider and tournament debutant Guinea-Bissau in the opening game.

“After Algeria-Zimbabwe and Gabon-Guinea-Bissau, we were very careful,” Ivory Coast coach Michel Dussuyer said. “But we still have two (group) matches so we are still confident.”

Togo even started better, and Dossevi was clear on goal in the 29th minute only for Ivorian goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo to smother the chance.

Zaha was at the heart of Ivory Coast’s two best attacks, first in the first half when he sped down the right wing and sent across a dangerous low cross that was scrambled away. Then, in the 68th minute, he tricked his marker with a clever turn, cut inside, and hit a low shot that was headed to goal before two Togo defenders managed to get in the way.

Senegal and Congo are the only teams to win at the tournament.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

DR Congo 1-0 Morocco

Junior Kabananga got the winner for Congo in the 55th minute after a mistake from Morocco `keeper Monir el-Kajoui. Congo’s Lomalisa Mutambala was sent off for a wild tackle in the 81st and played the last six minutes of normal time plus six minutes of injury time with nine men when captain Gabriel Zakuani went off injured with all their substitutes used up.

Still, victory was a major mood-changer for Congo, whose players refused to train on Friday and Saturday, claiming they hadn’t been paid tournament bonuses. They also posted a video on social media during their strike, where they complained about their treatment.

On Monday, Morocco was the one frustrated: Midfielder M’Bark Boussoufa hit the crossbar in the second minute. Goalkeeper El-Kajoui tried to block a cross with his feet and managed only to divert the ball to Kabananga to score the winning goal. Then, substitutes Youssef En Nesyri and Youssef el-Arabi missed late chances.

Although Ivory Coast and later Renard failed their first tests at the tournament, the Stade d’Oyem held up despite a desperate race to be ready in time, which saw workers scrambling around the venue finishing all sorts of jobs on the day of the game. Television viewers won’t have seen the construction debris that surrounds the outside of the stadium, which juts out of dense jungle canopy around 15 kilometers outside of Oyem.

Even organizers couldn’t do anything about the heat during the opening match, though, with Togo coach Claude le Roy’s shirt covered in dark sweat patches after urging his team on to a promising draw against the defending champion Ivorians.

“It was very hot. We were sweating so much,” Le Roy said. “We did what it takes. We are satisfied with the draw.”

Tuesday’s AFCON schedule

Ghana vs. Uganda — 11 a.m. ET
Mali vs. Egypt — 2 p.m. ET