Guardiola delivers glimpse of Man City’s future

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LONDON — We got a glimpse of Manchester City’s future in their 4-0 win at West Ham United on Wednesday.

And it looked sparkling.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Post-game at the London Stadium Pep Guardiola could hardly contain his excitement when speaking about the form of young forwards Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus as they carved open West Ham’s defense time and time again with their pace and intense pressing which kept forcing turnovers.

“These three guys are the future for the club. All of them, their average age is just 20 years old. You cannot see in Europe at the big clubs, there are not strikers as young as Man City have. That is good for the future of the club,” Guardiola said. “We are delighted because Sane is already a part of the team. He arrived a little bit like ‘where am I?’ and now his performance in the last three or four months showed us his potential.”

Asked about 19-year-old forward Gabriel Jesus — the Brazilian international scored and grabbed an assist in an impressive first start in the Premier League — Guardiola believes this is only the beginning for the striker they signed for $34 million from Palmeiras.

“He helps us a lot in the first press. He is so intense, so aggressive in that moment,” Guardiola said. “In the long balls he is a fighter and he is able to keep going and fight against guys taller than him. Of course he is young. We can’t forget he is  just 19 years old. But he is a striker for Brazil, because in the first assist against Crystal Palace he gave it to Sterling, today it was to Kevin. He is a guy who when he arrives there he will attack the ball and he will score goals.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Alongside 22-year-old Raheem Sterling and 21-year-old Leroy Sane, Jesus led a devastating forward line which is set to terrorize defenses for years to come.

Even though they are 10 points off leaders Chelsea (Guardiola played down their title chances this season) in attack things are slotting together superbly, even if defensively there are still big issues to sort out. That was always going to be why Guardiola would get more time to overhaul this ageing City team despite poor results littering his first-ever campaign as a Premier League  manager.

His team has shown in big wins throughout this season that his philosophy is working, but they need to be more consistent. With this young forward line they looked fluid, in-sync and fired up.

Sergio Aguero’s shocked expression on the bench said it all after the third goal went in. He knows he has massive competition to keep his place in the team with Gabriel breathing down his neck and the Argentine international perhaps has the strongest competitor for a starting spot that he’s ever had since arriving at the Etihad Stadium.

With Kevin De Bruyne in an attacking midfield role, the fluid three of Jesus, Sane and Sterling interchanged and tore West Ham’s creaking defense apart with clever runs, inch-perfect passes and high-pressing. That’s the future of City under Guardiola as he finally has a first line of defense which can force opponents into mistakes and then punish them. He hasn’t always had that with Aguero and Co. up top.

Aguero isn’t the only member of City’s old guard to sense change in the air.

Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta joined Aguero on the bench, yet Guardiola poured cold water on suggestions that Aguero would have to spend more time on the bench in the coming weeks and emphasized his importance to the team. It isn’t quite time for the old guard to pass the baton but it’s getting there. This moment has been coming for City.

[ LISTEN: 2 Robbies on Man City v. West Ham ] 

Guardiola also emphasized impressed he was with the high-pressing of his young attacking talent, plus the shield Yaya Toure provided.

“Every time we win the ball we had three strikers so so quick, so Leroy, Gabriel and Raheem make runs in-behind and it was so so dangerous,” Guardiola said. “When people want make high-pressing we are able to eliminate the first step and create a chance. Yaya was again exceptional and helps us a lot for the future and the next games.”

Toure is rolling back the years in midfield but up front Gabriel has burst onto the scene with plenty of promise. Guardiola wasn’t 100 percent certain what he would be getting when the Brazilian teenager arrived in January fresh from winning the Brazilian title with Palmeiras.

It’s safe to say he’s happy with how things are developing.

“You never know. It is like a watermelon. You have to open it and see how it turns out,” Guardiola said of Jesus. “The perspective was good. That is why we pushed him. He is a young, young talent. He has a huge mentality. So aggressive, he wants to become a good player and when that happens that helps a lot. When he has dreams and something to do in the future in his own career, that helps a lot. Gabriel, in those terms, he wants to become something in world football and of course we are going to try to get it for us.”

On this showing, City’s young front three have the potential to push them to the very top of world football and become something Guardiola has dreamed of.

He’s getting there, with the youngsters leading the way.

Herrera: Ibrahimovic competitive drive insatiable in everything

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Ander Herrera is dishing the goods on his Manchester United teammates while on Spain duty this week, and was asked about Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Swede is a fierce competitor on and off the pitch, which Herrera jokes is an ever-present challenge to personal patience.

[ MORE: Deulofeu laments early Messi talk ]

It almost seems like there’s a bit of envy that Ibrahimovic can charge into public comments the way Herrera goes into tackles.

From Marca:

“[Ibrahimovic] is a genius, he’s very intense because he wants to win everything, even football-tennis,” Herrera said to Radio MARCA.

“He assumes this role of doing or saying what he likes in front of the media because he does not care, he can say that he’ll score 30 goals or is the best because he can afford to.”

There’s certainly something to stature when it comes to saying what you feel (though on the other hand, being egotistical is rarely controversial. It’s not like Ibrahimovic is often railing on controversial soccer or social issues).

We’re sure there are plenty of players across all sports, casual and professional, who don’t understand hyper-competitive teammates, but we love a guy who doesn’t turn it down when it comes to on-the-field activities. Hopefully Ibrahimovic is the Jaromir Jagr of soccer.

Gerard Deulofeu calls early Messi comparisons “detrimental”

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Players often like to brush off speculation or criticism in the moment by claiming they don’t read stories written about themselves, but we all know better.

Former Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu confirmed that sentiment by citing specific comparisons he remembers as a youth with Barcelona, citing stories that compared him to Lionel Messi. Now 23 years old, Deulofeu reflects on those early comparisons and wishes the media wasn’t so quick to jump to conclusions about his career.

“In the end, [the comparisons] were more detrimental than beneficial,” he told weekly magazine Forza Milan. “Normally I don’t read newspapers, but that headline I remember well. It created too much expectation among Barcelona fans. There’s only one Messi.”

With expectations high, Deulofeu made just six senior team appearances without a goal or assist before loan spells at Sevilla and Everton saw him out of the club permanently. His time at Goodison Park was up and down as well, with his ability to dazzle a crowd punctuated by long spells of invisibility, failing to earn himself a consistent starting role.

Deulofeu is now on loan from Everton at AC Milan, looking to revitalize his career. He has started every league game since arriving, and has picked up a goal and three assists in 11 matches. There is speculation he could end up in Milan on a permanent basis this summer, but he’s not focused on that right now.

“My future? It’ll be seen to,” Deulofeu said. “My sights are in the present, from experience I know it’s best to leave the past behind and focus on the present. We’ll see what happens in the future. For now, I just want to enjoy the good time that I‘m having at Milan.”

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)