Manchester United not ready to give up title hopes

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Last season, Manchester United ran away with the Premier League title, taking 89 points and finishing 11 points in front of second-placed finishers Manchester City. After week 12, United never fell from first, and the title was decided on April 22, with a 3-0 victory over Aston Villa. That gave Manchester United four weeks to sit back, relax, and enjoy the view from the top of the title winners’ platform.

Fast-forward to this season. After 22 rounds, the Red Devils are in 7th, 14 points behind league leaders Arsenal and six points out of fourth, the Premier League’s last Champions League slot. They’ve just lost 3-1 to Chelsea, in a match in which United looked unlikely to threaten for the majority of the minutes. Injuries to Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney have left the squad rather toothless, while, with the exception of young Adnan Januzaj, the midfield is a mess.  Manchester United may still be in the Champions League, but they’ve been knocked out of the FA Cup by Swansea, and beaten 2-1 in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-finals by Sunderland.

David Moyes has certainly had to sail some rough waters in his first year at the helm. But the United manger isn’t prepared to give up. Instead, he’s still insisting his side have their eye on the Premier League trophy. Speaking after the Chelsea loss, Moyes said, “What we don’t do is throw the towel in until we can’t get there. The job is to finish first and we’ll try to do that.”

Perhaps hoping to placate nervous Manchester United fans, Moyes continued, saying, “This is a project. I know what I’m going to do and there will be changes as we go along the journey. It is a massive challenge. I hoped we’d be in a better position than we are, but we are not.”

While it’s nice that Moyes still retains a sense of optimism after what surely must’ve been a harrowing few months, it seems highly unlikely that Manchester United will mount a title challenge. Chelsea boss José Mourinho put things in perspective: “I am sure David won’t be upset with me if I tell the reality. It is a 14-point difference to Arsenal, then 13 to Manchester City and 12 to us. It needs three teams to almost have a collapse, so the title will be difficult for them.”

Schweinsteiger waiting on visa, training in Mallorca

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Bastian Schweinsteiger is waiting on a visa to make his trip to Chicago official.

It’s a formality, albeit a bit trickier now given the political climate in the United States. The former Manchester United midfielder is training at Real Mallorca ahead of the move.

The transfer was announced one week ago, and Schweinsteiger is anxious to get back on the pitch. Set for a 1-year, $4.5 million deal, the midfielder has not missed any Chicago matches yet.

[ MORE: Under-the-radar Premier League XI ]

The Fire is 1-1-1 to start the new season under Veljko Paunovic, and has three home matches next: Montreal (Saturday), Columbus (Apr. 8), and New England (Apr. 15)

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

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According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

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Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.