Manchester United v Crystal Palace - Premier League

Moyes defends Young after controversial dive

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Manchester United don’t face Arsenal until Sunday afternoon, but that doesn’t mean either side can escape the headlines. For the Red Devils, the chatter is about Ashley Young and his brilliant dive against Real Sociedad in Champions League action on Tuesday. Young earned a penalty by going to ground, but Robin van Persie only managed to hit the post, ultimately leaving the score at 0-0. Despite United nicking the woodwork rather than a win, controversy remains.

Young’s made headlines before due to his willingness to hit the turf, and often his reputation precedes him, prompting referees to wave off his theatrics. Last April, after a particularly dramatic fall against former club Aston Villa, Sir Alex Ferguson had a little chat with the winger. However, the former United boss tempered his criticisms when speaking to the press, pointing to La Liga and stating Young’s performances were nothing like those of players at Real Madrid.

David Moyes, too, spoke to Young about his reputation. Two months ago, Young earned himself a caution when he went to ground after a collision with Crystal Palace midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi. Replays showed that, although Dikgacoi stuck out his leg, it was Young that initiated contact. After the match, Moyes clearly stated, “I don’t want my players diving.”

But this time, the Manchester United manager is backing his player, stating that Young is being judged on his reputation rather than the actual event. Moyes stated that incident itself should be judged, not Young’s propensity to go to ground, and that for him, it was a penalty. He also pointed out that referee Nicola Rizzoli was a mere two yards away when Markel Bergara tugged at Young’s shirt, bringing him down inside the area.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.