How Jose Mourinho’s master plan dented Chelsea’s title bid

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MANCHESTER — Jose Mourinho not only lives for these kind of backs-to-the-walls situations. He usually delivers in them.

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He did it again on Sunday as his Manchester United side out-thought and outfought Chelsea, a team he often led to thrive in this type of situations over two spells in charge in west London.

With a UEFA Europa League quarterfinal sandwiched either side of the clash against Chelsea, Mourinho shocked many by having Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the bench. Such has been United’s wastefulness in front of goal in recent months, securing a place in the UEFA Champions League by winning Europe’s second-tier title has all of a sudden become more attainable than finishing in the top four of the Premier League. At least it did before United’s huge victory against Chelsea as they’re only four points behind fourth-placed Manchester City with a game in hand.

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Mourinho’s gameplan involved playing two up front with Jesse Lingard partnering the excellent Marcus Rashford who gave Chelsea a horrendous afternoon, plus he ordered a textbook man-marking job to shut down Eden Hazard.

His gameplan worked perfectly and Mourinho was a happy man for many reasons when talking about the victory which not only blew the title race wide-open but also reignited United’s top four hopes.

“The satisfaction is for different reasons. The first with Liverpool and Man City victories if we don’t win, goodbye Premier League. These three points were phenomenal,” Mourinho beamed. “The second is they are the leader. When you beat the leader it is obviously a very good feeling. For me, from my perspective as a manager that prepares the team and the gameplan I had the feeling before this match but now totally convinced, with 11 players at Stamford Bridge in the second game [1-0 FA Cup defeat in March] we would be playing against Tottenham at Wembley this weekend.”

In that FA Cup game Mourinho referenced, Herrera was sent off in the first half for two cynical fouls as he, and most of United’s players, got too close to Hazard.

Mourinho deployed Herrera on Hazard in a man-marking job on Sunday and it worked perfectly with the Spaniard also having an assist and a goal, even if the latter looked to have come courtesy of an interception with his hand.

Asked if other teams have simply accepted Chelsea were superior in recent months, Mourinho is happy with how his team stuck to the gameplan he devised and revealed exactly where he targeted the team who cast him aside last season after also doing so in 2007 with this three PL titles in west London not enough to save him.

“I don’t know what to say. We have different teams different players, maybe it is difficult for some managers to find Ander Herrera to do the job he did today. Maybe it is difficult for some to find Matteo Darmian to play the role he played,” Mourinho said. “I want to say I was convinced even before the cup that controlling the two players that play behind Diego, Hazard and sometimes Pedro or Willian, and controlling the full-backs because they go really deep with two wide men would create lots of problems and I repeat the same. They are phenomenal in counter-attack. When they tried to play counter attack we were always in control of these two link positions. We did that at Stamford Bridge when we played with 11. Today we control.”

United had total control throughout this encounter as Chelsea failed to have a shot on target and Mourinho’s old team started to show that cracks are appearing as Tottenham hunt them down in the Premier League title race.

Far from vintage for most of this season, it is easy to forgot Mourinho’s United are now 22 games unbeaten in the league.

That’s the best current unbeaten run in Europe’s top five leagues as their character is building, even if some pieces of the jigsaw are yet to slot perfectly into place.

“Normally you win the title if you are 22 matches unbeaten and we are struggling to finish top four,” Mourinho laughed. “Everybody knows why because we drew too many matches at home and we are paying the price. It is a great feeling to know it is difficult for us to lose a match. We fight until the end. We score last minute here against Everton and Liverpool and away at Stoke. We need a little more quality and different qualities in some positions to make the squad stronger but in terms of character and the human side I have one of the best groups ever.”

VIDEO: Las Vegas Lights introduce new mascot

Las Vegas Lights
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Las Vegas Lights FC is a team you will want to keep an eye on.

The newly-formed USL club are already getting crowds of close to 10,000 during their inaugural season, Freddy Adu on their roster, fiery Mexican coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola (“Chelis” to you and I) as their Technical Director, plus plenty of interesting initiatives off the pitch, LV Lights are having a lot of fun as the first pro soccer club in Las Vegas’ history.

This proves it.

On Friday they unveiled their mascot “Cash the Soccer Rocket” and this was how they did it.

Bravo to the team behind-the-scenes in Sin City. Bravo.

Who are the quickest players in the Premier League?

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Just how quick are the fastest players in the Premier League?


Three of the top six highest speeds ever recorded have all been registered so far in the 2017-18 season.

Via stats released by the Premier League, Leroy Sane has clocked the fastest speed recorded by a PL player since the metric was first recorded in 2013-14.

Manchester City’s German winger reached a top speed of 35.48km/hr (22mph) this season, while Patrick Van Aanholt and Moussa Sissoko have also reached speeds this season which have seen them place in the top six since records began.

Below is a look at the top speeds for the season so far and the top speeds reached in the Premier League since 2013-14 campaign.

With Man City having both Sane and Kyle Walker in the top five this season, you can see the importance Pep Guardiola puts on speed despite all of the talk about City’s free-flowing possession. Crystal Palace also have two speedsters in the top 10 this season with both Wilfried Zaha and Patrick van Aanholt in the top six.

As for total sprints, Dele Alli leads the way (2,163 in 2017-18) with Christian Eriksen also in the top 10 and representatives from eight other clubs making up the top 10. Dele also has the record for the most sprints during a single season (2,621) which was recorded last season.

These stats are intriguing and for some reason I expected to see Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane way up the list in terms of the being the quickest, but they didn’t even make the top 10.

2017/18 Since 2013/14
Player Speed (km/hr) Player Speed (km/hr)
Leroy Sane 35.48 Leroy Sane 35.48
Patrick van Aanholt 35.42 Jamie Vardy 35.44
Moussa Sissoko 35.33 Kyle Walker 35.42
Antonio Rudiger 35.19 Patrick van Aanholt 35.42
Kyle Walker 35.16 Anthony Martial 35.40
Wilfried Zaha 35.14 Moussa Sissoko 35.33
Oliver Burke 35.13 Shane Long 35.31
Kiko Femenia 35.12 Carl Jenkinson 35.31
Laurent Koscielny 35.11 Modou Barrow 35.28
Jamie Vardy 35.09 Hugo Rodallega 35.27

Report: Man City, Man United join Neymar race

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Is Neymar heading to the Premier League?

Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo is reporting that both Manchester City and Manchester United have joined Real Madrid in the race to try and sign Neymar, with the report stating that Real remain the favorites to sign the striker if he leaves Paris Saint-Germain.

The Brazilian superstar, 26, only joined PSG in the summer of 2017 from Barcelona for a world-record fee of $274 million but rumblings continue that he is unhappy with life in France and wants to either move back to Spain or, as it now appears, the Premier League.

Per the report, Man City and Pep Guardiola are huge fans of Neymar and are keen to sign him in the summer of 2019 with the commercial gain for signing such a star obvious. Manchester United are also said to be very interested in bringing Neymar to PSG, if he’s available.

When you think about where Neymar would fit into any of the three aforementioned squads, it would certainly suggest that other big names would have to depart for him to arrive.

But if you’re bringing in Neymar and spending the big bucks to pry him away from PSG, he’s going to be your main man.

At Man City he would perhaps play centrally with Sergio Aguero moved on in the next 12 months or so, with Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling supporting him in attack. At Manchester United he could play off Romelu Lukaku alongside Alexis Sanchez as both Manchester clubs would give him a chance to be the key man in a powerful attacking trio. The same will happen at Real Madrid, but Cristiano Ronaldo sticking around could complicate matters, while the futures of Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema seem to lie elsewhere beyond this season.

Sure, it may not be the same as Neymar playing alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez during their treble-winning season at Barca in 2014-15 for Neymar but he would have the chance to replicate that kind of partnership at both City and United, while at Real he’d likely be the gem in a massive attacking rebuild.

The only flip side to Neymar’s obvious talents on the pitch is the circus that comes with him off it. At PSG it is believed he already has way too much power at the club and his many advisers, plus his sponsorship commitments, could create plenty of distractions.

Is that a risk worth taking? Real, City and United would think yes as Neymar delivered 28 goals in 30 games in his debut season at PSG before having his season ended through injury as he now prepares to be fully fit for the 2018 World Cup this summer.

Real still appear to be the frontrunners to sign Neymar in 2019 and they hold the ace in this deal with Ronaldo perhaps ready to move on for the final years of his career. If PSG could get Ronaldo and serious cash from Real for Neymar, they have to do that deal, right?

‘Welcome to Zlatan’: Ibrahimovic makes play for LA’s heart

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Zlatan Ibrahimovic has really always belonged in Hollywood.

The powerful 6-foot-5 Swedish forward has loomed above soccer for nearly two decades, captivating the world with his sublime physical talent and uniquely outrageous personality. He has scored hundreds of majestic goals, won dozens of trophies and scuffled with a few teammates on his journey from Malmo to Milan to Manchester.

When Ibrahimovic officially landed with the LA Galaxy on Friday, he announced his arrival in a new nation with classic, theatrical, Zlatan-esque style.

“Los Angeles, welcome to Zlatan,” read the caption on a social media video featuring Ibrahimovic and a lion.

“Dear Los Angeles, You’re welcome,” said the back page of the Los Angeles Times sports section, with Ibrahimovic’s signature at the bottom of the mostly blank sheet.

Ibrahimovic has been labeled as both a beloved hero and an arrogant villain during his career of high-scoring exploits, but most everyone would agree he is the very definition of a star. The ponytailed 36-year-old could capture the attention of the world’s entertainment capital in a way that even David Beckham couldn’t manage.

“After 20 years in Europe, playing for the best clubs in the world with the best players in the world, I decided it’s time to move to a different continent,” Ibrahimovic said in an interview distributed by Major League Soccer. “Move over to the U.S., try the MLS. For me, there was no question about it. Galaxy was the team, and I chose them. They didn’t need to choose me. I chose them, and I come to do exactly what I’ve been doing the last 23 years: Winning.”

He’ll start next week, when the Galaxy formally welcome him to Los Angeles just three games into their 2018 MLS season. If he feels comfortable immediately, he could even debut in a derby against their new archrival Los Angeles FC on March 31.

The Galaxy are coming off a last-place MLS finish after winning a paltry eight league games last season, but Ibrahimovic doesn’t expect the five-time league champions’ woes to linger with him leading the line.

“I want to accomplish as much as possible,” Ibrahimovic said. “Wherever I went, I won, so I’m coming with this objective. I come to win. I want to win. I think it’s in my DNA that I’m winning trophies. It’s not luck.”

Ibrahimovic hasn’t played since Dec. 26 for Manchester United, which released him from his enormous contract for the move. Yet he returned swiftly after injuring a ligament in his right knee last April, and he said he has been “training very hard” for months.

“I need to play,” Ibrahimovic said. “I’m like a little child that you give candy for the first time, and he’s looking for candy all the time, so that is what I need. I need to play, and I want to play, so I’m hungry to play, because it has gone too long now that I haven’t felt involved in the game.”

Ibrahimovic also showed his motivation in the financial aspects of his move. He isn’t one of the Galaxy’s three designated players, instead taking a two-year deal paid with targeted allocation money – $3 million total, according to numerous reports – to fit into the Galaxy’s payroll structure.

Instead of banking a much fatter check from a European club, Zlatan appears determined to show his abilities in person to millions of new fans on a continent where soccer support has grown steadily for a generation.

Ibrahimovic’s move also should energize the Galaxy, who will mix him into coach Sigi Schmid’s intriguing collection of international talent. While French winger Romain Alessandrini and Mexican forward Giovani Dos Santos might not provide the same level of service as Paul Pogba, the Galaxy starters are among the best players in MLS, and Ibrahimovic must learn how to connect with them.

Ibrahimovic also confirmed he hasn’t ruled out a return to the Swedish national team for the World Cup this summer despite retiring from the international game in 2016, saying that “the door will always be open.”

“But I think the main focus now is Galaxy,” Ibrahimovic said. “I settle in. Get to know my new teammates. Get to know the club. Get to know the city. When I feel comfortable there, you take the next step.”