Wayne Rooney doubts Arsenal’s title bid, fuels fire ahead of clash with Gunners

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Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney appreciates the incredible start Arsenal have had to the Premier League campaign… but he wonders how long it will last.

Speaking to United’s website ahead of the monster clash with Arsenal on Sunday (watch live on NBCSN, 11am ET and online via NBC Sports Live Extra) at Old Trafford, the 27-year-old striker says it’s about what you do down the stretch that counts most.

Not the start.

“We’ll wait and see where they are in March,” Rooney said. “We’ve seen before that they’ve been in the top two until February or March and then faded away, so it’s down to them to try and stay there. They’re doing brilliantly at the minute and it’s up to us to catch them.”

Is there a little bit of devilment in Rooney’s words? You bet.

Mind games galore usually encapsulate this fixture, as the two famous clubs have gone head-to-head for the title in many seasons since Arsene Wenger took charge of Arsenal 17 seasons ago and during Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure in charge of the Red Devils it became a classic PL rivalry.

(MORE: Check out the latest Premier League Standings here)

In recent meetings the Red Devils hold the edge over their North London rivals, with the Gunners failing to win in the league at Old Trafford since 2006.

Rooney recalls that dominance and has fired up David Moyes United troops to chase down Arsenal at the top of the table.

“We’re obviously capable of beating Arsenal, we’ve done it many times in the past,” Rooney said. “They’re on a good run of form at the moment and are top of the league, so we know it’s going to be a difficult game. But we have to go into that game confident, believing we can edge closer to them and bring us back into the mix of being at the top of the league.”

Sunday’s game was already massive.

But with these words ringing in the ears of Arsenal’s players and Rooney in fine form of late, will his boots do the talking at Old Trafford? Or are his statements predicting the Gunners downfall and United’s resurgence just hot air?

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.