Championship Sunday focus: Manchester United

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Story so far…  Quite simply it has been an Annus horribilis for Manchester United, as the Red Devils endured their worst-ever Premier League season and the defending champions surrendered their crown with a whimper. David Moyes lasted less than 10 months as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor as the Scotsman just couldn’t handle the demands of leading an aging United side through transition. Making it to the UCL quarterfinals was a small positive in a season full of negatives. Who will be the next boss at Old Trafford?

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That remains the big question hanging over the club at the end of this campaign, as interim boss Ryan Giggs doesn’t seem to be the preferred candidate and big names likes Carlo Ancelotti and Louis van Gaal continued to be linked with the job. The rebuilding of an empire is underway at Old Trafford. This could take a while, especially after such a demoralizing season.

Who do they play and where can I watch it: United travel to play Southampton down at St. Mary’s Stadium, live on SyFy At 10 a.m. ET and you stream it online via NBC Sports Live Extra. In the past Southampton has been an unhappy hunting ground for the Red Devils after a series of devastating defeats in the 90s. Will they endure a miserable end to a truly shambolic season?

Form guide: United drew 1-1 at home with Southampton earlier this season as Saints bagged a last minute equalizer at Old Trafford. Giggs has won two of his three games in charge thus far and will be hoping his team can finish the season on a high.

March 29 – vs. Aston Villa, W 4-1
April 5 – at Newcastle, W 4-0
April 20 – at Everton, L 2-0
April 26 – vs. Norwich City, W 4-0
May 3 – vs. Sunderland, L 0-1
May 6 – vs. Hull City, W 3-1

What’s at stake: United can finish in sixth if they beat Southampton and no lower than seventh. If Giggs’ side beat Saints then they need Tottenham to lose at home to Aston Villa in order for the Red Devils to finish sixth and qualify for the Europa League.

When the final whistle blows: I think United will be in seventh, their lowest ever PL finish and the first time they’ve ever finished outside the top four. A monumental rebuild is underway at Old Trafford. Will Louis van Gaal, or somebody else, be the chief architect next season? Get ready for a summer of rumored transfers and huge upheaval, United fans.

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.