Mauricio Pochettino will stay on as manager of Southampton Football Club

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SOUTHAMPTON — In a packed press room at St. Mary’s Stadium on Thursday afternoon, Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino announced he will remain in charge of the Premier League club.

The Argentine boss, 41, was rumored to be heading out the door alongside Executive Chairman Nicola Cortese who left on Wednesday, after he’d previously stated he would leave if the mastermind behind Southampton’s recent success walked out.

However as the national press descended on Southampton to hear Pochettino’s decision, the exciting young manager made a massive U-turn as he decided to stay on at St. Mary’s.

“I am staying as Southampton Football Club manager,” Pochettino said. “I have a professional responsibility to everyone.”

Disaster has been averted at Southampton, for now, as the South Coast club can at least count on its manager being around for the foreseeable future. Pochettino took the opportunity to thank Cortese for getting him involved in the project at Saints and revealed his shock about the Chairman’s departure.

“First of all I want to show my complete gratitude to Nicola Cortese from me and my staff for bringing us to the club,” Pochettino said. “It has surprised me quite a bit, and like everybody I knew nothing about his departure. What’s quite clear is that I have a very good relationship with Nicola Cortese, he agrees with my decision to stay. He only asked me for one thing, that’s to win on Saturday.”

Cortese left on Wednesday, after transforming Saints’ fortunes from League One basement boys in 2009 to excelling in the top ten of the Premier League. Owner Katharina Liebherr has now stepped in as non-Executive Chairwoman in Cortese’s absence and Southampton have begun their search for a Chief Executive Officer to replace Cortese.

Pochettino spoke briefly with owner Liebherr after she took over the everyday running of the club, but Pochettino revealed he has no idea whether she intends to sell the club.

“No, we just spoke briefly,” Pochettino said. “She wanted to see me and say hi and show me her full support. She transmitted her full trust and support to me and my staff and people working at this club.”

But what about Pochettino’s U-turn after stating last May he would leave Southampton if Cortese walked? As now he has decided to stay without the man who appointed him.

“The situation right now is completely different,” Pochettino said. “We are in the middle of our project at Southampton Football Club. Nicola knows of my decision to stay. It shows I am fully committed.”

(MORE: Nicola Cortese resigns as Southampton Chairman, manager Mauricio Pochettino could follow)

Cortese — an Italian banker who aided German billionaire Markus Liebherr with the acquisition of the club back in 2009 for $20 million when they were on the brink of extinction and bottom of English soccer’s third-tier — has walked away from the project which has seen him turn Saints into a top 10 PL club after they were down and out. The club is now worth an estimated $180 million after a dramatic rise.

ProSoccerTalk can reveal that Liebherr’s daughter Katharina, who assumed control of the club when her father died in 2010, will not move to England and will remain in Switzerland. She is currently in the United Kingdom heading up the search for a successor to Cortese, after yesterday revealing she was desperate for the Swiss-Italian maestro to stay.

“With great regret we have accepted the resignation of Mr Cortese,” Liebherr said. “He has done a wonderful job at the club and we very much wanted him to stay. A search has now begun for a successor. In the meantime, it is business as usual and we will ensure that the manager, the team and all the staff at the club have all the help and support they need.”

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Cortese’s departure has created a huge level of instability at Southampton.

Branded a controversial and brutal figure by many, Cortese, 45,  has led Southampton’s charge up the English soccer pyramid following the sudden death of Markus Liebherr. Following that setback, Cortese has ruthlessly transformed Southampton into one of English soccer’s great success stories of recent times after back-to-back promotions from League One saw them return to the top-flight in 2012-13 and establish themselves as a forward-thinking club this term.

After sacking Nigel Adkins and Alan Pardew ruthlessly in the past, Cortese always did what was right for the club, and his appointment of Pochettino obviously follows that trend. Pochettino celebrates a year in charge at Southampton this Saturday, January 18, and after making his name as a promising young coach at Espanyol in La Liga he’s turned Saints into a promising outfit which relies on a much-admired high-pressing style with a plethora of teenagers already present in the starting XI.

With Pochettino staying on board, rumors of a quick-fire sale and Southampton being stripped of all its assets are unfounded, for now. The Saints are currently enjoying their best spell in decades, with the team pushing for only their second top ten finish in PL history after their best-ever start to a top-flight season to begin the 2013-14 campaign.

But the futures of several first-team stars is apparently up in the air, 18-year-old Luke Shaw is attracting the interest of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, while England internationals Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana could all leave in the January transfer window.

For now, the storm has passed at St. Mary’s.

But with rumors swirling about the club being sold and the search for a new inspirational leader to take the exceptional progress Cortese made to the next level, turbulent times could still be ahead for the Saints.

Mourinho delighted to have “engine of the team” Pogba back

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One takeaway which has been made 100 percent clear — in case the first four games of the season weren’t enough — is this: Manchester United are, in every way imaginable, a different team when Paul Pogba is on the field.

[ RECAP: Pogba’s star (re)turn lifts United past Newcastle ]

Pogba returned to action on Saturday and paced Man United to a 4-1 thumping of Newcastle United. After the game, United manager Jose Mourinho wasted little time in pointing the finger as Pogba, acknowledging he’s the player that makes the Red Devils tick — quotes from the Express:

“Paul Pogba is different class. Paul and Nemanja Matic grew up together at the start of the season and are the engine of the team. It was in Paul’s hands, how many minutes to play until he began to feel fatigued. It was a great performance from him.

“I know that strikers depend on goals for confidence and happiness. I was really happy to see him score his goal.

“We go match to match — we can only play Manchester City twice in a season. In those games we will try to take points — outside of those fixtures we are not in control.”

As for another returning superstar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, we shouldn’t gloss over the fact that he returned from a torn ACL in just seven months. The original period for recovery was pegged at nine months.

“I am pleased for the three three points, the quality of our performance after Newcastle’s goal, that mentality to react without panic and in a positive way, and obviously the return of injured players is always nice, especially in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s case. His was such a dramatic injury. To see him back is a great emotion”

The gap between United and City is currently eight points, but 26 games remain. There is time, but Mourinho’s men can afford to drop very few points the rest of the way.

Man United 4-1 Newcastle: Pogba’s star (re)turn

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  • Red Devils fall behind early
  • Pogba’s return: goal, assist
  • Gayle’s goal, Yedlin’s assist
  • Martial, Smalling flip the score before HT

It was like Paul Pogba hadn’t been away for even one day of the last 10 weeks, as the French superstar returned from a hamstring injury and inspire Manchester United’s 4-1 victory over Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Zlatan Ibrahimovic also returned from the torn ACL he suffered in April, making his first appearance in seven months — two months ahead of schedule — as a 77th-minute substitute.

Saturday’s rout wasn’t always straightforward and easy for Man United, as the final score might deceive.

Newcastle struck first in an action-packed, goal-filled first half. U.S. national team right back DeAndre Yedlin tallied his first assist of the PL season, as he sped to the end line and cut a low cross toward the penalty spot, finding the late-arriving Dwight Gayle for a gentle finish

The lead lasted 23 minutes, until Pogba marked his return to action with a delightful assist for Anthony Martial‘s equalizer. Pogba danced past Isaac Hayden, raced toward the end line and floated a delicate ball to the back post, where his compatriot headed home.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Right on the stroke of halftime, United went 2-1 up after Chris Smalling headed home Ashley Young‘s lofted cross to the back post. Smalling remained forward after a short corner Young acres of space to pick his head up and hit the right ball.

United required only nine minutes to double their lead, and it was Pogba, once again proving his worth to the side, who got the goal. Romelu Lukaku floated a cross to Marcus Rashford at the back post, and Rashford’s cushioned header dropped the ball into no-man’s land. Pogba reacted quickest. 3-1. Pogba’s back, and so is United’s swagger.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Seconds after Pogba was subbed — without incident — Lukaku pounced on Florian Lejeune‘s botched clearance inside his own penalty area and slammed a left-footed shot past Robert Elliot.

As exciting as the performance and result were, it was only enough to keep United on pace — eight points back — with Premier League leaders Manchester City, who also won on Saturday.

Jurgen Klopp hails “perfect day” for Liverpool

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Jurgen Klopp has had far from an ideal week but his Liverpool side ruthlessly dispatched Southampton at Anfield to end it on a high note.

[ MORE: Liverpool batter Saints ]

Klopp was sent to hospital earlier this week when he felt unwell but the German coach was given a big boost as Mohamed Salah scored twice in the first half, which included a stunning opener, and Philippe Coutinho finished Saints off in the second half as the Reds eased to victory and stayed in touch with the chasing pack behind runaway leaders Manchester City.

Speaking to the BBC after the game, Klopp was happy with what he saw from his side after he was fit enough to be on the bench on Saturday.

“Difficult game, Southampton are a really good football side. It was an open game, we had more chances before we scored. We need to be patient in a lively way,” Klopp said. “The first goal, wow, I have nothing to do with the goal and the second was a fantastic pass and Mo Salah makes great runs. We could have scored more often but it was a perfect day for us.”

Klopp, 50, sees his side just three points off second place after 12 games of the Premier League season, while his side remain firm favorites to qualify for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.

So far, so good.

Yes, Man City will take some catching (and a collapse of their own) but Liverpool’s aim should be to secure a second-straight top four finish and go from there.

With Sadio Mane, Salah, Coutinho and Roberto Firmino in the form they showed on Saturday, plus a fifth clean sheet in six PL games this season at Anfield, the defensive woes Klopp’s team have faced away from home this season aren’t troubling them at home.

Next up is Chelsea at home for Liverpool, which will be a supreme test of their newfound defensive solidity at home. Their results against title contenders this season have been up and down with a draw against Manchester United, hammerings at Tottenham and Man City and a thrashing of Arsenal at home.

Liverpool’s clash against top four rivals Chelsea is followed by five winnable games before they travel to Arsenal on Dec. 22.

Between now and then we will see if Liverpool’s season will amount to more than just a top four challenge. Saturday’s shellacking of a lackluster Southampton may have been “perfect” but a much tougher test awaits next week against a rejuvenated Chelsea side who have Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard purring in attack

Can Liverpool’s oft-fragile defense cope? We are about to find out.

Burnley’s Barnes: “Can we finish the season now?”

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Ashley Barnes broke his season duck in classy fashion, scoring and adding an assist as Burnley stayed in the thick of the race for Europe with a 2-0 win over Swansea City at Turf Moor on Saturday.

[ RECAP: Burnley 2-0 Swans ]

The win shouldn’t be a surprise, as Burnley is humming in style. The Clarets entered the day with a win at Chelsea and draws at Liverpool and Spurs, so why would a visit from Swansea lead to anything than three points.

It’s dream world, really.

From the BBC:

“We’re on a fantastic run. We’re working hard every day and today we were different class.

“Can we finish the season now? No, I’m kidding. there’s still a long way to go and we need to pick up as many points as possible.”

Every win makes more and more believers of the Burnley Football Club. Perhaps more important to the Clarets, each win makes it less likely that Sean Dyche will leave the club for a better gig (Everton), at least right now.