Mourinho hails “magnificent” Manchester United

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Jose Mourinho hailed the desire of his Manchester United as they ground out a 3-1 win away at Middlesbrough on Sunday to close the gap on the top four in the Premier League.

[ RECAP: United beat Boro 3-1 ]

Ahead of the game Mourinho wasn’t optimistic his team could get the job done after having four games in the past 11 days with UEFA Europa League, FA Cup and Premier League action.

However, his side dug deep as goals from Marouane Fellaini and Jesse Lingard set them on their way and despite Boro pulling one back late on to set up a tense finish, Antonio Valencia added another in stoppage time.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Speaking after the game, Mourinho was asked what he was most pleased about from United’s performance and he said although they dropped too deep late on he couldn’t fault the mentality of his men who were missing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba and Wayne Rooney through injury and suspension.

“The attitude, desire and our way of thinking,” Mourinho said. “We don’t have A, B, C, D, E, F and G but we have L, M, N, O, P.”

With United still in Europe and now moving up to fifth place, it has been a good week for Mourinho’s men.

“It is fantastic,” Mourinho said. “We managed in the same week to go to the quarterfinals of the Europa League which was an important target for us and at the same time we got these three points which keep us in the race for top four. We still have two doors open to play Champions League football next season.”

With a tough schedule now in the rear-view mirror, United have two weeks rest over the international break to get players back to fitness. Mourinho reflected on their efforts in the past two weeks and is more than content with how things have turned out.

“Obviously it was too much for us, Rostov away, Chelsea with 10 men, Rostov again and now Middlesbrough,” Mourinho said. “Injured players, tired players, suspended players, these guys today were magnificent.”

Transfer Rumor Wrap: Liverpool rejects Barca bid for Coutinho, Roma offer for Mahrez turned down

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Liverpool isn’t planning on cashing in on one of the Premier League’s stars this summer.

Jurgen Klopp and Co. gave Barcelona a resolute “no” after Barcelona submitted a transfer bid of more than $93 million for Philippe Coutinho. Coutinho signed a new five-year contract with the club in January.

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“The main thing I think about is how we can make the next step with the players we had last season,” Klopp told reporters in Hong Kong earlier this week. “The good news is that actually we didn’t lose – and we will not lose – a player we want to keep this summer. That’s the best news actually and then we’ll see who can bring into the squad.”

Coutinho signed for Liverpool in 2013 but had a breakout year in 2015-2016, earning the PFA Young Player of the Year. Last year Coutinho became an even more consistent goal-scorer and playmaker, scoring 13 goals with seven assists in 34 Premier League appearances.

Keeping Coutinho is of supreme importance for Liverpool, which is back in the UEFA Champions League for the first time since the 2014-2015 season.

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La Liga releases schedule: First El Clasico coming in December

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It’s Christmas in July for fans of La Liga Friday as the Spanish league published its schedule for the upcoming season.

Defending champions Real Madrid travel to Deportivo La Caruña on August 20, the opening match of the season while its rival Barcelona hosts Real Betis.

As it’s La Liga, the first date most fans searched for was the first El Clasico of the season, and the biennial battles between Real Madrid and Barcelona will take place on December 20 and May 6, with Real Madrid hosting the first match.

The first match comes just ahead of the Spanish winter break, while the second match comes at a busy period at the end of the season, where both teams will be hoping to still be competing in the UEFA Champions League.

Other interesting matches to keep an eye on in the first few weeks of the season include Real Madrid hosting Valencia in week two, the Barcelona derby between Barca and Espanyol in week three and Atletico Madrid taking on Sevilla in week six.

Here’s a look at this year’s La Liga schedule.

Conte: Costa “situation was very clear” in January

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At this point, there is no doubt Diego Costa‘s future lies away from London and Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte broke his silence on the Brazilian-born Spain international striker, saying he’s been ready to move on from Costa since January, when Costa and Conte had a disagreement following a big-money offer from Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian during the winter transfer window.

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“I don’t like to talk about players who are not here but the only thing I can tell you [is that] in January, the Costa situation was very clear, for the club for him and his agent,” Conte told reporters Friday. “For me the situation is closed.”

It’s an amazing turn of events after Costa scored 20 Premier League goals in Chelsea’s title-winning 2016-2017 season, including 14 goals through the end of December. But after falling out with Jose Mourinho a year earlier, the same issue happened again under Conte, with Costa proving much less effective down the stretch.

But Conte and Costa were able to put their differences aside on the field, photographed multiple times hugging after wins, as well as after winning the title.

Costa is reportedly now agitating for a move back to his former club Atletico Madrid, but the Spanish club’s transfer ban until the next window complicates matters. In a World Cup year, would Costa be willing to sit out half a season just to leave Chelsea?

If Costa’s time in the Premier League is up, he’ll go down as one of the league’s best pound-for-pound goalscorers. He scored 52 goals in 89 Premier League appearances, with seven more cup goals in his three-year spell at Chelsea.

And if he is gone, defenders across the Premier League will sure be happy to wave goodbye.

Sparta Prague signs France midfielder Rio Mavuba

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PRAGUE (AP) Sparta Prague says it has signed France midfielder Rio Mavuba to a three-year contract.

The 33-year-old Mavuba comes from French club Lille, which he joined in 2008. Before that, he played for Bordeaux and Spanish club Villarreal.

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Mavuba was on the France team at the 2014 World Cup.

He is the 10th player signed by Sparta after Italian coach Andrea Stramaccioni took charge in May.