Shakhtar Donetsk coach reaches milestone as his team ties United

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The 1-1 draw between Shakhtar Donetsk and Manchester United on Wednesday in the Champions League may have compounded the pressure on David Moyes, but for the man on the other bench, it was another feather in the cap of a long, successful career.

Mircea Lucescu became Shakhtar’s longest-serving manager on Monday in his ninth full season with the club, surpassing Oleg Oshenkov, who won the club’s first two major titles. Under Oshenkov, Shakhtar took the USSR Cup in 1961 and 1962, but the 2012-13 Ukrainian Premier League champions only won six trophies between then and Lucescu’s first year.

Right from the start, the Romanian manager proved to be a winner. In all, he has won seven league titles, five Ukrainian Cups and Super Cups and the 2009 UEFA Cup. Now 68, Lucescu had several other opportunities last summer when his Shakhtar contract was close to expiring, but he did not hesitate to put pen to paper on an extension.

After doing so, he gave an interview to Romanian outlet Adevărul, in which he explained his longevity and a bit of his coaching philosophy (translated from Romanian):

Contracts mean absolutely nothing. I’m valuable as long as the my performance is satisfactory. When it’s not, we’ll shake hands, and I’ll look after my own business. …

I have no use for their [players’] legs — only their minds. I value intelligence in the first order, but I know not all of them can be smart, so I try to balance the cumulative effect between games and training. I talk to them about education, attitude, discipline. … And I’m talking about all kinds of education: professional, civil, health, attitude in training.

In the hot seat at Manchester United, Moyes was supposed to provide United with the same kind of longevity and success that Lucescu has found in Donetsk and that Sir Alex Ferguson found at Old Trafford before Moyes arrived. But Lucescu has what Moyes doesn’t, because he is still working through the transition period: an obvious identity to his team.

Lucescu has brought in scores of South Americans to provide the creative thrust, and he recruits Eastern Europeans to keep the defense tight. Shakhtar has 11 Brazilians on the roster, including Luiz Adriano and Croatian international Eduardo da Silva.

The manager’s formula of attack-at-all-costs soccer provided nearly a year where the club did not lose a competitive game, between Champions League losses on Nov. 23, 2011, and Nov. 7, 2012. Shakhtar lost just one game in each of the last two seasons, although it has already lost twice in 2013-14.

However, Lucescu and Shakhtar are off to an unbeaten start to the current Champions League campaign. After defeating Real Sociedad 2-0 in Spain and coming back to tie United at home on Wednesday, Donetsk sits on top of its group. Despite being one of the underrated teams in the competition, it has a chance to repeat its quarterfinal feat of 2011.

AT THE HALF: Manchester derby scoreless after 45 minutes

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After 45 minutes, the final Manchester derby of the 2016-17 Premier League season — the one that’ll go a long, long way toward deciding which of the city’s sides will finish in the top-four — is scoreless, but not without incident.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

The game’s best chances thus far fell Manchester City’s way, as Sergio Aguero missed a clear-cut chance after 10 minutes — Kevin De Bruyne whipped in the perfect ball to the back post, and Aguero put it wrong side of David De Gea‘s post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ander Herrera has, once again, be Manchester United’s danger man, combining well with Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Claudio Bravo made the one save he was forced into during the first half. One thing to keep an eye on during the final 45 minutes: Rashford picked up a knock very early on, and struggled to move around the field after that.

STREAM LIVE: The Manchester Derby

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The third Manchester Derby of the season is the first away from Old Trafford, as Manchester United visits Manchester City (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

There’s much on the line, as the sides sit just two points apart in the race for the Top Four. Man City would leapfrog third-place Liverpool with a win, while United could join the Reds on 66 points with a match-in-hand.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Sergio Aguero starts for Man City, with Gabriel Jesus on the bench.

On the other side, it’ll be a physical middle-third guarded by Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Marouane Fellaini. Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard start on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Navas, Clichy, Gabriel Jesus, A. Garcia

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan; Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Young, Lingard, Rooney.

Ex-Liverpool CEO shares biting story of Suarez transfer

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Ian Ayre’s got jokes.

The former Liverpool CEO lifted the lid on some transfer stories during a Merseyside lecture this week.

Of note, Ayre admitted that the club thought Dele Alli demanded too much given what he had produced when the Reds has the chance to sign him as a 16-year-old, and said that Liverpool could’ve landed Alexis Sanchez but the player wanted to live in London (“We couldn’t move the football club to London, unfortunately,” he quipped).

The best part relayed by Sky Sports had to do with Luis Suarez, and shows the relentless nature of the transfer market. Clearly Barcelona had interest in Suarez before the fiery striker bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, because, well…

“I remember the sporting director of Barcelona calling me during that game, immediately as Suarez bit the player, and he said to me ‘my friend, he’s bitten somebody, how can this be the price?’ I said ‘he’d already bitten somebody when you first bid!'”

We’re sure there’s a certain amount of storytelling in there, but undoubtedly some truth.

Given Barca paid a reported $84 million for the striker, the asking price couldn’t have started that much higher.

Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea tops Spurs, Top Four predictions

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Rog and Davo return to discuss Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Spurs, update their Top Four predictions (again), and dive into the depths of the relegation zone. Plus, the very important movement to change “Hudson Street” to “Ray Hudson Street.”

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