Manchester United sinks to new depths in 2-0 Champions League loss at Olympiakos

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Piling on to the festering misery of their 2013-14 campaign, Manchester United suffered their first ever loss to Olympiakos on Tuesday, a 2-0 defeat in UEFA Champions League that leaves its competition’s survival in serious doubt. With goals from Alejandro Domínguez and Joel Campbell, the Greek champions took a commanding lead in the teams’ Round of 16 match up, holding the Red Devils without an away goal ahead of the teams’ return leg three weeks from now in Manchester.

Olympiakos broke through in the 38th minute when Alejandro Domínguez’s deflection rolled inside David de Gea’s right post, leaving England’s champions down one at halftime. Ten minutes into the second period, however, the hosts were up two, with a long curler from Joel Campbell taking advantage of lax United defending to seal the club’s first win in five all-time meetings against the English titans.

United finished the match having controlled possession, a deliberate but passive style allowing them to keep 61 percent of the ball. At full-time, however, they registered only one official shot on target. Olympiakos, on the other hand, had put four shots on de Gea, their 12-7 edge in total shots speaking to the difference in the teams’ attacking intent.

Electing to pursue goals rather than control, Olympiakos won what’s sure to become a famous victory, the club having lost each of their four previous meetings with United. As a result, the team is 90 minutes away from the quarterfinals, with the now hovering specter of a road goal at Old Trafford leaving the Greek champions with one foot in the competition’s quarterfinals.

(MORE, Champions League: Borussia Dortmund punish slack Zenit Saint Petersburg in 4-2 win)

source: APFrom the opening kickoff, Manchester United settled into a passive posture, one that granted their hosts a monopoly on the first half’s chances. Dropping central midfielders Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley deep toward the defense when in possession, the Red Devils were more intent on controlling the game than generating actual scoring opportunities, something that left Olympiakos goalkeeper Roberto with little to do before the first intermission.

Seven minutes before halftime, one of those Olympiakos shots finally found twine, sending the underdogs into the dressing rooms with a 1-0 lead. Off a ball cleared out of the United area, midfielder Giannis Maniatis fired a speculative shot from well outside the penalty box toward a crowd of players near the spot. One of those players, Domínguez, opened his right foot onto a touch, pushing his deflection toward David de Gea’s right post. Wrong-footed and diving in vain, the United keeper could only watch as the game’s first goal rolled inside his right post.

Ten minutes into the second half, the underdogs doubled their lead, with a lax effort from United’s midfield allowing Campbell to beat de Gea from beyond the arc. After a Cleverley giveaway in the Red Devils’ half, Olympiakos forward Michael Olaitan laid a pass off for Campbell cutting in from the right flank. Taking one touch around Carrick, the Costa Rican international had plenty of time to curl his 24-yard shot around de Gea and inside the left post, giving the Greek champions a 2-0 lead.

United manager David Moyes quickly responded by bringing on Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa (at the expense of Antonio Valencia and Cleverley), but having ceded the night’s momentum to their hosts, United’s tendency of possession without potential persisted through the final whistle. As the Karaiskakis Stadium crowd started to realize the inevitability of their team’s accomplishment, their voice began to embolden their players. Only a Robin Van Persie chance from near the penalty spot in the 82nd minute carried the aura of a breakthrough, though when the team’s best finisher put his shot well over the bar, the Red Devils were relegated to their latest embarrassing result.

Thanks to competition’s format, Moyes has 90 minutes to engineer a comeback, one that’s not beyond the reach of a team with United’s talent. But after a first leg where the Red Devils played so far below their potential, an Olympiakos victory can no longer be seen as an upset. The upset will be if United go through.

Sanchez, Mkhitaryan transfer still up in the air

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The player-swap/trade/transfer between Arsenal and Manchester United still appears to be heading towards completion, but it was further delayed Friday.

Multiple reports in England state that while Alexis Sanchez seems set to move to Manchester United, Henrik Mkhitaryan has yet to agree to move the other way, as talks between the player’s agent and Arsenal continue. Mkhitaryan was seen training at Manchester United’s practice facility on Friday, and because the latest delay, both players would be unable to debut for their new teams this weekend after missing the Premier League registration deadline.

[MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Arsenal hosts Crystal Palace Manchester United travels to Burnley, both on Saturday at 10 a.m. (Watch Arsenal live on CNBC, Manchester United live on NBCSN, and both live on NBCSports.com)

The London Evening Standard reports that Mkhitaryan would command a $242,000-per-week salary but that as of Friday morning he had yet to undergo a medical for the transfer. Arsenal reportedly still wants a transfer fee included for Sanchez, while Manchester United would prefer to just swap the two players.

It’s also looking as if that won’t be Arsenal’s only business in the transfer market. While it seemed like a far-fetched rumor at first, the links between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal have only grown stronger in the past few days, and the Gabon international appears to be in the Gunners sights. It appears that Bordeaux’s young striker Malcolm is now off the table.

Vancouver adds versatile Juarez, formerly of Monterrey, Celtic

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Efrain Juarez is bringing his game to Major League Soccer.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 39-times capped Mexico veteran has inked a deal with the Vancouver Whitecaps, joining a strengthened unit which came within a point of winning the West last season.

Juarez, 29, was unveiled as a midfielder by the ‘Caps, though he’s primarily played right back in his club career. He’s played at Celtic, Real Zaragoza, Club America, Monterrey, and Pumas.

Last capped by El Tri in 2012, Juarez has played every position except goal, center attacking mid, and center forward in his career (picture a ‘U’ on the pitch).

“I’m so happy and excited for this new stage in my career,” Juarez said. “It’s an opportunity for me to keep growing in a new league and to be a part of an amazing club in Vancouver. From the moment they showed interest me, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps staff have made me feel very important. I promise to put all my effort into this club and do my best to help us achieve our goals.”

VIDEO: Asensio goal ends Real Madrid’s winless run

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Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.

[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]

The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.

More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.

Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.

Hopeful Newcastle buyer Staveley: Offer still on the table

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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24  ]

That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.

Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.

A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:

“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”

She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.