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Mourinho reveals reason for Shaw’s absence; Zlatan on his future

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Luke Shaw‘s career at Manchester United has stalled this season.

[ MORE: Conte v Mourinho brewing ]

Shaw, 21, joined the Red Devils as a teenager in the summer of 2014 from Southampton and at that time the left back became the most-expensive teenager in the world after moving for over $37 million.

However, after impressing at Old Trafford his fitness was called into question by Louis Van Gaal and then he suffered a horrendous leg break in the UEFA Champions League at PSV Eindhoven which cost him the entire 2015-16 campaign.

Since Mourinho arrived at United, Shaw has not been first choice at left back with Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian and others used in that position.

“The only thing I can say is that Luke is working well,” Mourinho said. “I don’t have any problem and he’s working well. He’s fighting hard, there is no problem with him. He has to work and wait.”

Mourinho also revealed that Darmian has been on the bench ahead of Shaw recently as he only wants one defender among his substitutes and with Darmian able to play in both full back slots, he is included ahead of Shaw. With Mourinho’s comments about Shaw’s fitness in November following a win at Swansea City, plus appearing to criticize his display in the 3-1 defeat at Watford in September, the England international has been on the outside looking in.

Yet, with a congested fixture schedule coming up — United play against St. Etienne in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32 first leg on Thursday, Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup on Sunday, then the return leg at St. Etienne on Feb. 22 and the EFL Cup final against Southampton at Wembley on Feb. 26 — Shaw could get plenty of minutes under his belt.

He needs them to regain his form, match fitness and kick on his extremely promising career as the best marauding left back in Europe 21 and under. He has the talent. He just has to stay fit and impress Mourinho. That’s the tough part.


Staying with United, the future of their top scorer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, appears to still be up in the air.

Ibrahimovic, 35, has scored 20 goals in 34 games in all competitions for United this season, but his contract expires at the end of this season.

The Swedish striker has revealed he has met the terms of triggering a new one-year deal to his current contract and Mourinho has confirmed multiple times that United plan to keep the veteran forward at Old Trafford for another season.

Speaking to the media, Zlatan joked when asked if he’d met the extension clause in terms of goals and appearances.

“Something like that. I have to score 100 goals,” Ibrahimovic said. “The option is already fulfilled. But there’s nothing done yet. From my side. We’ll wait and see. Let’s see what happens.”

So, Ibrahimovic seems a little coy but he certainly seems to have enough in the tank for another season at United. He’s already proved all of his critics wrong who said he couldn’t cut it in the PL after spending his entire career away from England’s top-flight before this season.

But after proving his quality, should he walk at the end of this season after winning a trophy or three (Europa League, EFL Cup and FA Cup still up for grabs) plus finishing in the top four, or better, of the Premier League?

UEFA: Wales in trouble; Spain dominates; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear at the top midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.

Dele Alli to miss next three European matches, UCL or UEL

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Tottenham Hotspur is primed to qualify for a second-straight UEFA Champions League campaign this year, and will have to start that sophomore run without Dele Alli.

The 20-year-old playmaker has banned for his next three matches. If Spurs finish fourth, that would mean both qualifying matches and an additional match.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ]

If they finish higher, Dele will miss the first three group stage matches.

Dele was shown red for a tackle on Brecht Dejaegere in Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Gent in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, as Tottenham left the tournament.

Men in Blazers podcast: Man City-Liverpool review, USMNT preview

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Rog and Davo recap the Top Four battle between Manchester City and Liverpool, ask (again) whether it’s time for Arsene to go, and break down two of the most important USMNT games in modern history.

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