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Wayne Rooney dazzles for Manchester United, is this the end of the saga?

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MANCHESTER — In the far right corner of the Old Trafford pitch in the 75th minute of the game, Wayne Rooney tracked back Chelsea’s Ramires like a man possessed.

As the Brazilian midfielder got to the byline Rooney appeared from nowhere, hunting his pray down before pouncing to make an inch-perfect sliding tackle to win the ball back.

Most of the 75,032 fans in the stadium rose to their feet as one, giving off the biggest roar of the night and chanted “Rooney, Rooney” as the 27-year-old Englishman surged forward and played the ball upfield.

The prodigal son had returned.

Rooney started his first game for the Red Devils, a largely uneventful 0-0 draw with Chelsea, since the end of the 2012-13 campaign and was easily the best player on the pitch.

Both managers agreed.

“I was very pleased with his performance,” Manchester United manager David Moyes said. “And I was very pleased with the reaction he got from the crowd. I expected it. He worked back, he tackled, he chased when we needed it.”

(MORE: Jury still out on David Moyes at Manchester United)

While Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho shared the love, as he shrugged off the chase for Rooney’s signature before the transfer window slams shut next Monday.

“I think the most important thing is that he [Rooney] played very well,” Mourinho said. “He was a real professional. He played for the club that pays him, tried to win, tried to score. He was fantastic.”

So, with both managers singing Rooney’s praises and both sets of supporters chanting his name during the game — Chelsea’s fans jokingly sang “Oh Wayne Rooney, we’ll see you next week” — Rooney is a man in demand.

Following a performance like that you can see why. On the biggest stage of all against a resolute Chelsea defense, with all the rumors swirling around, that took true guts and true class. There were some rusty moments, as there’s bound to be following his injury-hit summer. In the 16th minute Rooney was set free down the right but his cross hit the first man. He looked to the heavens briefly, then shrugged it off.

The Rooney of old was back. In the 77th minute the Liverpudlian came closer than anyone to breaking the deadlock, as he took one touch before rifling a 25 yards shot towards the Chelsea goal. Only a sprawling right handed save from Petr Cech denied Rooney yet another storybook finish to another complex plot he’s constructed.

(MORE: Jose Mourinho praises Chelsea’s “kids” after defensive masterclass)

Yes, many would argue the situation Rooney has created for himself shouldn’t win him many fans. Demanding a move from one of the world’s biggest clubs rubs most people the wrong way. But he plays well when it counts. First and foremost, no matter what his state of mind is and where he wants to play, Rooney sparkles on the pitch in front of over 75,000 adoring fans and with billions watching around the world on television. The England international put in a perfect professional display, just to remind Chelsea what they’re missing if they can’t grab him.

But come next week, who will he be strutting his stuff for in the 2013-14 Premier League season? Mourinho wants the tale to be over. “We are going to close another player. If he’s not coming we are going to close another player.” The 50-year-old Portuguese manager is sick of waiting for Rooney, with Samuel Eto’o on standbye, Rooney has “24-48 hours” in José’s owns words.

And Mourinho had the final say on Rooney.

“The person that starts the story has to finish the story.” The balls in your court, Wayne.

Is this transfer saga finally over?

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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Designing the perfect UEFA Champions League Round of 16

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 06:  Lionel Messi of Barcelona chips the ball over goalkeeper Manuel Neuer of Bayern Muenchen to score his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final, first leg match between FC Barcelona and FC Bayern Muenchen at Camp Nou on May 6, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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With 16 teams settled into their spots for Monday’s UEFA Champions League draw, what would be the most tantalizing octet of matches for February’s Round of 16.

We’ll include a full list of seeded and unseeded teams at the bottom so you can pair ’em up however you like, but let’s start with our best ideas.

Remember: Teams can neither be drawn against teams from their own domestic leagues, or against the other advancing team from their group stage quartets.

[ MORE: USMNT GK off to Belgium? ]

Let’s begin with the reigning champions. Real Madrid is unseeded, and cannot draw Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, and Borussia Dortmund. Our vote would be Juventus and a reprisal of the 2015 final in Berlin.

Real boss Zinedine Zidane would not be pleased.

Staying in Spain, seeded Barcelona only knows it will avoid Manchester City, Real Madrid, and Sevilla. We’re interested in attractive soccer, so how about a bombastic battle with Bayern Munich.

Manchester City is the lone Premier League team in the unseeded pool, and cannot face Arsenal, Leicester City, or Barcelona. We’re thinking Sky Blue vs. Sky Blue, and a match-up with Napoli.

Leicester City completes the Premier League trio. Given our above draw and group mates Porto, that leaves Benfica, Bayer Leverkusen, Sevilla, and PSG as potential rivals. We’ll chose Bayer Leverkusen as the match-up likely gives the Foxes their best chance to hit the snooze button and keep dreaming.

The biggest name left is Paris Saint-Germain (with apologies to BVB). Unai Emery’s bunch would be left with Atletico Madrid as the lone option, and another tete-a-tete between the ex-Sevilla boss and Diego Simeone works for us.

Now Arsenal… who do you draw with the hopes of a quarterfinal berth in ages? The remaining options are Benfica, Sevilla, and Porto. We’ll give Benfica a trip to the Emirates, leaving Porto to face Monaco, and Sevilla on the road to Borussia Dortmund.

Our final draw:
Arsenal vs. Benfica
Monaco vs. Porto
Borussia Dortmund vs. Sevilla
Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich
Atletico Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Napoli vs. Manchester City
Leicester City vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Juventus vs. Real Madrid


Seeded
Arsenal
Atletico Madrid
Barcelona
Napoli
Monaco
Leicester City
Juventus
Borussia Dortmund

Unseeded
Paris Saint-Germain
Bayern Munich
Manchester City
Benfica
Bayer Leverkusen
Porto
Sevilla
Real Madrid

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