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Three things learned from Chelsea’s win vs. Man United

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LONDON — Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 in a fiery clash on Monday at Stamford Bridge to reach the FA Cup semifinals for the first time since 2013.

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N'Golo Kante‘s second half strike was enough to see Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea past a stubborn United outfit who were tough to break down despite Ander Herrera being sent off for two yellow cards after just 35 minutes.

With Conte and Jose Mourinho clashing on the sidelines — plus Chelsea’s fans giving Mourinho plenty of less than friendly “banter” throughout — it was a lively encounter as United gave up their FA Cup crown and Chelsea kept their hopes of doing the double alive.

Here’s what we learned from the Bridge.


CONTE AND MOURINHO ARE NOT FRIENDS

It’s safe to say Conte and Mourinho will not have shared a glass of wine at Stamford Bridge on Monday after the game. They seemed to ignore each other at the final whistle too.

A feud is brewing and it has all the ingredients to be an explosive one. This is the perfect storm for a managerial battle for the ages.

In the first half they clashed on the sidelines with Conte charging towards Mourinho after he felt Marcos Alonso made the most of a challenge and was obviously still incensed that Herrera had been sent off moments earlier. The duo were separated by the fourth official and referee Michael Oliver had to intervene to calm things down.

These actions were left over from the words they had at the end of Chelsea’s 4-0 win in October, where Mourinho felt they need to say something to Conte after he was whipping up the crowd in the latter stages of that match with United down and out and Chelsea cruising. They were then fueled further by Mourinho insinuating that Chelsea were a counterattacking team in the build up to this match. Conte didn’t like that. He and Mourinho don’t like each other, even if after the game word got out they shook hands in the tunnel area.

[ MORE: Conte is becoming what Mourinho was ]

Mourinho didn’t have the playing career Conte had (he was a key member of several stunning Juventus teams, winning five Serie A titles, an Italian Cup and a UEFA Champions League to his name) and now Conte is challenging Mourinho’s dominance of the managerial game. Charging up and down the touchline, Conte roared his team onto a cup semifinal. Mourinho spent most of his time complaining to the officials.

Conte has taken over largely the same squad Mourinho had for the first half of last season which failed him so badly. He was fired in December 2015 and Conte eventually arrived in the summer to transform Chelsea’s fortunes as they lead the PL by 10 points.

Mourinho was a god like figure at Chelsea for so long but now he’s not. The fans reminded him throughout the game. Chants of “you’re not special anymore!” and “Judas!” came his way. He responded by holding up three fingers to show how many PL titles he led Chelsea to.

Conte now has that hero status as he punches the air and his name is sung by the entire stadium. He is well on the way to delivering his first Premier League title at Chelsea this season and could now add the FA Cup to his collection after ousting Mourinho in yet another embarrassing occasion for the man who used to run the show at Stamford Bridge. Not anymore.


CHELSEA MORE THAN COUNTERATTACK

Before the game, that talk about Chelsea being a counterattacking team seemed to hurt Conte.

In fact, I asked him about Eden Hazard — who was sublime once again with a phenomenal turn on Chris Smalling in the first half which then led to a run and shot which David De Gea saved superbly — last Monday following the win against West Ham and about how deadly the Belgian has been on the counter this season. He made a point of stating how important Hazard has been in-between the lines and his overall play.

Conte said “I never, ever, ever train for the counterattack. Never prepare for the counterattack. Never.”

Kante’s goal was not on the counter and came from a sustained period of pressure. Of course it helped Chelsea had a one-man advantage for over 55 minutes in the victory against United, but they also came up against a team which set up in a 5-3-2 formation at times in the first half and settled well.

Chelsea turned the screw with Hazard getting Herrera sent off for two cynical fouls, plus Willian, Kante and Diego Costa causing countless problems. Costa missed two glorious chances in the second half with a clear header from a corner and then when Willian pulled a cross back. They weren’t at their clinical best but it didn’t cost them.


RASHFORD READY

The major bright spot for United was Marcus Rashford.

He wasn’t meant to be fit for this game and with Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial out injured, plus Zlatan Ibrahimovic suspended, that was a major selection issue for Mourinho.

Rashford, still just 19, miraculously started and looked like a kid man on a mission as Paul Pogba struggled to impact he game. Rashford was United’s biggest threat all night long. He chased down David Luiz and Gary Cahill throughout and made life incredibly difficult for Chelsea. It looked like he was capable of running faster than his body could, almost bursting from the seams.

In the second half his big moment to equalize arrived.

A rare miscue from Luiz saw the United academy product pounce. He raced free with Cahill sent one way, then the next, before he smashed a low shot on goal which Thibaut Courtois saved superbly with his legs. In that instance, that was a snapshot of the raw pace and enthusiasm Rashford possesses.

If he can regain the clinical finishing he showed in his debut season in 2015-16 when he burst onto the scene, he has all of the other attributes to start for United whether or not Ibrahimovic is around next season.

Chelsea’s Conte wins pair of top managerial honors

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Antonio Conte took league and national honors from the League Managers Association on Monday night.

The Chelsea boss was named Premier League Manager of the Year and Manager of the Year after leading the Blues to the PL title and an FA Cup Final in his first year on the job.

Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton nabbed another Championship boss of the year award after leading the Gulls to the Premier League. He also won the honor with Newcastle United in 2010.

The League One winner is Chris Wilder of Sheffield United. Wilder won the honor with Northampton Town last season.

In League Two, Paul Cook of Portsmouth was named the winner.

Report: Southgate to leave Rooney out of England squad

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The Times is reporting that Gareth Southgate will not call Wayne Rooney up for England’s World Cup qualifier against Scotland and friendly versus France next month.

Rooney has played in about half of Manchester United’s matches this year, scoring eight goals and adding 10 assists in 38 appearances.

He’s England’s all-time leading goal scorer with 53 in 119 caps since his debut on Feb. 12, 2003.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

A knee injury kept him from England’s last two matches, and Rooney scored just twice in 2016 for England.

Rooney will likely need to leave Manchester United for any hope of rejuvenating his England career, but the absence doesn’t necessarily spell the end for him, as evidenced by Jermain Defoe‘s recent England revitalization.

“The Moment” of each Premier League team’s season

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Sometimes the moment that defines a Premier League team’s season is a turning point. Other times it’s a wonderful goal or a horrific mistake while others find that moment off the field.

Sometimes, that moment is easy to select  — See: City, Leicester — while others aren’t so simple.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 season reviews

Arsenal – They fooled us again, you know? Arsenal ran through the Premier League following an Opening Day loss to Liverpool, not seeing another ‘L’ until a Dec. 13 loss at Everton. That one could count as a moment, but we’ll choose the following match. Raheem Sterling finished a classy Kevin De Bruyne pass to give the Gunners’ two losses in a row, and Arsenal wouldn’t beat a PL contender until toppling injury-hit Manchester United on May 7.

Bournemouth – Eddie Howe‘s bunch were winless in seven and trending downward when it arrived at Old Trafford on March 5. Marcos Rojo put United ahead in the 22nd and ex-Red Devil forward Josh King leveled via penalty in the 40th. The Cherries seemed doomed when Andrew Surman was sent off in the 45th, but somehow held on to grab a point (A missed Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty didn’t help things). Bournemouth won its next two, then drew Liverpool and Southampton en route to a top half finish.

Burnley – The Clarets can thank Mike Dean for their signature moment, a 1-0 win via a handled Sam Vokes effort that moved Burnley into ninth place in the league. Ninth place for little old Burnley. Sean Dyche‘s club would stay up. Now where will it go?

Chelsea – The Blues led the Premier League after August, but had dropped to eighth by the end of September. By the start of November, Chelsea sat fourth in the table. Everton arrived at Stamford Bridge, and the Blues absolutely throttled the Merseyside club. Eden Hazard scored twice, the first moments before Marcos Alonso made it 3-0, and both Diego Costa and Pedro had also scored before the match was through. 5-0 spelled the fifth-straight win, and the Blues went on to win a historic 13-straight PL games.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Crystal Palace – This one’s pretty easy. With respect to Sam Allardyce‘s record of not being relegated as a manager, Palace opened the vaults to buy Patrick Van Aanholt and Luka Milivojevic, also scooping Mamadou Sakho on loan from Liverpool. The club was already talented in attack, so the January window was the “moment of the season” for Palace.

Everton – It was a season, or at least half-season, of “so close” for Ronald Koeman‘s men. It didn’t get much clearer than the match that followed the Toffees’ second loss in the Merseyside Derby. Everton looked set for a rebound and a win at Old Trafford when Ashley Williams’ handled Luke Shaw’s stoppage time shot to allow Zlatan Ibrahimovic a penalty kick that stole a point for the Red Devils.

Hull City – Unsure if this counts as “the season”, but Steve Bruce quitting the club three weeks before the season because of a lack of transfer ambition (amongst other things) spelled doom for the club far before Marco Silva nearly saved their season.

Leicester City – Firing Claudio Ranieri was a massive risk. The Foxes had posted the most remarkable season in world soccer less than a year before cutting ties with the Italian. While some — like me — would argue that transfer pick-up Wilfred Ndidi was the real reason for the turnaround, it also coincided with the managerial change.

Liverpool – The Reds had a knack for playing like results were expected against lesser lights, and late conceded goals are easy to find when reviewing their season (See Swansea below). It happened against powerful Manchester United, but it also happened against Sunderland. Jermain Defoe scored the second goal of his brace in the 84th minute to cost the Black Cats two points… again.

Manchester City – Pep Guardiola led City to six-straight PL wins at the start of the season, but could only watch as Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs bettered him 2-0 at White Hart Lane to drop City to 6-1. It was one of just six losses on the season, five of which came away from the Etihad Stadium. That away form didn’t impress Guardiola, and it didn’t help City chase the title.

Manchester United – While their moment may still be coming in the form of Wednesday’s Europa League Final against Ajax, we’ll go with Jose Mourinho’s first tournament win with United: the EFL Cup Final. NBC analyst Robbie Earle often talks about good teams needing to find a way to win when they aren’t at their best, and United did it at Wembley. It could be a harbinger of what’s to come.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Middlesbrough – Boro went to West Brom on Aug. 28, unbeaten in a pair of PL matches. It remained unbeaten following the 0-0 draw, but the zero on its side of the scoreboard was extra significant for one reason: It was the first of a whopping 19 times that the Smoggies were kept off the scoreboard, including seven scoreless draws.

Southampton – Most of these moments are related to Premier League play, but the perfect summation of Saints’ up-and-down season may be the EFL Cup Final. Many believe Saints were the better side that day, only to fall short. The same can be said for their Europa League campaign. But results matter, and Saints didn’t make it back to Europe via either route.

Stoke City – Mark Hughes‘ bunch suffered through a slow start to the season, going winless in seven matches. And every time the Potters started to build a head of steam, it would find a hiccup like this 1-0 home loss to Bournemouth. But let’s not dwell on the negative, instead focusing on Stoke’s vibrant fan base, and Peter Crouch giving his jersey to a man in a Speedo.

Sunderland – The Black Cats managed to take multiple steps back for every step forward, so it’s fitting that we mark the 4-0 loss at home to Southampton on Feb. 11. It followed a 4-0 win against old manager Sam Allardyce and Crystal Palace and a scoreless draw against Spurs. Sunderland was battered by a pair Manolo Gabbiadini goals, and the loss started a run that saw the Black Cats manage points in a whopping three of its 14 remaining matches.

Swansea City – Swans could’ve crumbled after tossing aside a 2-0 lead to Liverpool at Anfield on Jan. 21, but Gylfi Sigurdsson‘s 74th minute goal started one of two winning runs that saved its Premier League status. Swans had never won in league play at Anfield, and Paul Clement had a result on which to hang his hat.

Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs lost just four Premier League matches this season, and responded to each with a PL win. Three of those were blowouts, and the fourth was a 2-1 May win over Manchester United. One of those bounce backs happened to be two weeks after a road loss to Liverpool and three days after Spurs were bounced from the Champions League by Genk, as Harry Kane scored one of his four season hat trick and Dele Alli also scored in a 4-0 demolition of Stoke City.

(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Watford – Every time the Hornets looked on the cusp of dipping into the relegation battle, Walter Mazzarri‘s men engineered an exit. The most gritty? Probably holding onto a 2-0 lead for a long spell with only 10 men to their credit in dispatching West Brom late in the season.

West Bromwich Albion – There’s a moment in every season which sees Tony Pulis‘ Baggies tease us with what they could do if they just allowed a little bit of open play to hamper their “Just Survive” mentality. This year it was a 3-1 win over Arsenal which begged West Brom supporters to imagine life in the Top Seven, only to let them down with another post-safety collapse. Woof.

West Ham United – The club offered fans the opportunity to bring in their old Dimitri Payet jerseys for a free replacement, but finding the player to fill his void wasn’t nearly that easy.

Hertha Berlin signs Australia forward Mathew Leckie

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BERLIN (AP) Hertha Berlin has signed Australia forward Mathew Leckie from relegated Ingolstadt for next season.

Hertha says the 26-year-old Leckie signed a contract on Monday, though it doesn’t give details of its length nor the transfer fee.

Kicker magazine reports that Hertha took advantage of a release clause in his contract at Ingolstadt and the club is paying around 3 million euros ($3.4 million) for his transfer.

[ MORE: Full 2016-17 PL season reviews

Hertha coach Pal Dardai says, “Leckie is a versatile player and has shown that he has the pace to bomb up and down the flanks, and that’ll benefit us a lot when it comes to attacking.”

Leckie has already played for Borussia Moenchengladbach, FSV Frankfurt, and Ingolstadt since switching from Adelaide United in 2011.

He has 39 appearances for Australia.