Robbie Earle on Man United’s title hopes under Mourinho

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Robbie Earle believes Manchester United is slowing getting back to where they belong and Jose Mourinho will be given plenty of time to build a title-winning team.

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Speaking to Pro Soccer Talk at Old Trafford ahead of United’s big win against Chelsea last weekend, Earle reflects on his time playing against the Red Devils, plus what lies in store for the current team for the rest of this season and beyond under Mourinho.

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Here are Earle’s answers while we tucked into some lunch in the NBC Winnebago as the rain pounded down in Manchester.


Do you have fond memories of Old Trafford?

I’ve had good experiences where I’ve won and scored. I’ve had bad experiences where we’ve been hammered five one time and [Andy] Cole and [Dwight] Yorke were up front and absolutely on fire. They were pulling out overs and one twos and we were delirious. I was fortunate to know them both as obviously Yorkey was playing for Trinidad and Tobago and I was playing for Jamaica and Cole I got to know each other. I want to wish Cole well as unfortunately he’s having some issues and has had a kidney transplant recently, so I wish him a speedy recovery. One of the things we used to get against United, and I’m going back to the likes of Mark Hughes too, [Ryan] Giggs has been there but you think of Cole and Yorke, [Teddy] Sheringham, [Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer, [Ruud] van Nistelrooy, some great footballers which could win you games and be a difference maker. That’s what they had here and they’re all good players but the front four have been so good over time, just to win games and paper over the cracks defensively if you let one or two in.

Do they have those kind of players now?

No. And I would probably say it’s one of the things which is the big difference. They don’t have that, or those people. Zlatan has proved to be successful but I think the team has to play a certain way for Zlatan to get a goal and I’m not sure that’s conducive to the rest of the group. When Manchester United were at their best that front four was unbelievable, you had [Roy] Keane, Giggs, [Paul] Scholes who all had their special roles playing into that too. Recently Jose [Mourinho] has made a big deal about the lack of those goals a little too publicly for me and I always think with forwards you have to be careful. Many are cocky and arrogant but underneath there’s a little bit of an insecurity and if you hit that too hard you stifle some creativity, bravery, chance taking, which is what forward play is about. When I look at United in the final third right now and if they can be unpredictable, you kind of know what is coming and where it’s coming from. That helps other teams plug the gaps and is backed up by the 12 draws they’ve had this season.

Can Paul Pogba help provide that extra cutting-edge in the final third?

He can become that player in time. It will take a year or two for him to settle and become a great Manchester United player. No doubt he has got the potential. Looking at the past, David Beckham had good players around him when he came into the team. Ryan Giggs had good teams around him with McClair, Bruce and Schmeichel, good pros around him. Pogba needs those kind of players but the same sort players who are playing in this Manchester United team are struggling themselves, so they can’t really sort out Pogba because they’re thinking ‘I’ve got to keep my place in the team and look after myself.’ That would be something that’s the difference between United of the past and United now. People are still fighting for their own future at the football club and in some respects it feels a little bit like everybody for yourself at this point and that’s the way the dressing room is. You just have to get on with your job and make sure you are okay.

How much would not qualifying for the UEFA Champions League impact recruitment this summer and bringing in those top attacking players?

Hugely. It’s still Manchester United and still Jose Mourinho and there’s still an attraction but you’re talking about four or five teams now who can put in a different argument, maybe a better argument. They could say no only do you get the money and the stadium, there’s an argument now that if you’re a big player and both Man United and Spurs came in for you, and you’re getting similar money, there’s an argument that people may end up going to Spurs. You’re in London, playing for a great club, young manager, forward-thinking and Champions League football. That’s something new when it comes to United and we wouldn’t have experienced that for a long, long time.

If they do get the recruitment right, what can Mourinho achieve here?

He can win a title here. He knows how to win a title but he needs the right tools and the right people around him. Whether or not he will be given the time… I tend to think he’ll be given more time than people think. But he has the capabilities and understands what is required to win the title. I think he will get it right.

Agent: Barcelona offered more than Real for Vinicius Junior

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If Vinicius Junior can become half the player at Real Madrid that Neymar has lived up to be at Barcelona, Los Blancos will be pretty pleased.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Real closed the deal for the 16-year-old Brazilian this week, but there were several other lucrative offers on the table, according to the player’s agent, Frederico Pena.

[ MORE: Totti leaves future uncertain heading into final Roma match ]

That includes bitter Spanish rivals Barcelona.

The agent stated that the Blaugrana did in fact offer a higher deal to acquire the Brazilian, however, he felt it would have complicated matters further to seek a greater offer from Real.

“There is practically unanimous view of the deal as a success,” Pena said. “If anybody gets criticised it is Real Madrid, for the risk they have taken, but they are sure that it will work. There were other clubs interested, and one offered to pay more money … Barca’s remuneration package offer for the player was higher than Real Madrid.

“But as we had reached an agreement with Real, we did not want to make this last push for them to match it. That could have embittered the relationship. Many people think it is crazy what Madrid are doing, but they were not alone in this craziness. They were not the only ones willing to pay this much for Vinicius.”

Pena also clarified as to why Vinicius chose Real over Barcelona, citing the player’s excitement about the development of Los Blancos during recent seasons under manager Zinedine Zidane and prior.

“Because Vinicius liked Madrid’s project better. There is always the feeling that players choose based on financial reasons, but that is not true. I assure you of that. Real Madrid’s negotiating posture was better.”

Real is on the verge of winning its third UEFA Champions League trophy in the last four seasons as the club prepares to face Juventus in the upcoming final.

Zidane’s men also won La Liga during the 2016/17 campaign.

Pulisic pleased with U.S. Soccer’s improved landscape

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U.S. Soccer has come a long way over the years, and one of the nation’s most promising young players recognizes the progress the United States has made.

[ MORE: Man City acquire Monaco’s Silva after passing medical ]

Christian Pulisic, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, is one of several young talents that U.S. hopes to finally bring the American men a moment of glory on the biggest of stages — the World Cup.

The 18-year-old has done just about everything a player of his age could do. He’s played in one of the top leagues in the world, appeared in various UEFA Champions League matches and now he’s likely on pace to appear in the 2018 World Cup, assuming the USMNT advances out of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The U.S., who have reached the World Cup during seven straight cycles, have come a long way in a short period of time, and Pulisic is happy with the improving U.S. Soccer landscape.

“It’s been big flaw of ours in the soccer department that a lot of our best athletes go and play other sports,” Pulisic told The Guardian. “But I think young players have seen me, and others, go over to Europe and play in some of the best leagues — and MLS is improving so much too.

“There’s so much potential and I think it’s changing: we’ve had some bigger athletes in the past but I don’t think that defines us anymore.

“We’re going to keep moving forward, developing young players and we’re going to have a really good shot in the next few years.”

During this past Bundesliga season, Pulisic recorded three goals and added six assists for a club that has become well known for its high-powered offensive attack.

Report: Kyle Walker a top target for Manchester City

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Manchester City could be looking to bolster its backline further this summer, and the Citizens could turn to Tottenham for help.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on acquiring Monaco’s Silva ]

According to ESPN FC, Pep Guardiola‘s side is growing more and more enamored with Spurs defender Kyle Walker and believes City can acquire the experienced outside back prior to the 2017/18 Premier League season.

With City already losing Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna since the end of the PL season, Guardiola will have to address the club’s lack of depth at outside back.

Several other big clubs have been considered in the running for Walker’s services, including Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

The 26-year-old has been at White Hart Lane since joining Spurs in 2009 from Sheffield United and has made 222 appearances for the club in that span.

Alaves eyes upset of Barcelona in Copa del Rey final

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) The final of the Copa del Rey pits Barcelona’s star power against a tiny Basque Country club whose biggest weapons are its grit and gnawing hunger for a taste of glory.

[ MORE: Man City closing in on Monaco’s Silva ]

Win or lose, Alaves is savoring the cup final on Saturday as the perfect finish to its first season back in Spain’s topflight in an decade.

[ MORE: Three key battles ahead of Chelsea-Arsenal FA Cup final ]

But to have a chance of winning the first major trophy in its 96-year history, Alaves’ ragtag collection of journeymen has to be squeezed of every ounce of effort by coach Mauricio Pellegrino to upset the cup-holders led by Lionel Messi.

One statistic illustrates how daunting their task will be: Messi, all by himself, has scored exactly as many goals as the entire Alaves squad this season, with 53 across all competitions.

“We will need to play a very complete match to have a chance, but we are a team that always competes to the maximum,” said Pellegrino, who is completing a noteworthy first season with the club.

The final will be the last competitive match at Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon Stadium. An exhibition match the next day will be its farewell before demolition.

The final will also be the last match for departing Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, who could bow out with a third straight Copa del Rey.

Here are some reasons Alaves can believe in an upset for the ages:

DONE IT BEFORE

Alaves has already toppled Barcelona this season.

A shocking 2-1 victory at Camp Nou on Sept. 10 was Alaves’ first win since its return to the first division following 10 years in the second and third tiers.

That surprise victory set it on its way to overachieving all campaign. It reached the Copa del Rey final by defeating the more talented Celta Vigo in the semifinals, and finished the league in a meritorious ninth place.

The bad news is that Barcelona showed no mercy back in Vitoria, where Luis Suarez scored twice in a 6-0 rout.

NO SUAREZ

But Suarez won’t be available for Barcelona on Saturday, when he serves a one-game suspension after being sent off during the semifinals against Atletico Madrid.

Luis Enrique could start Paco Alcacer in his place up front alongside Messi and Neymar.

OLD AND YOUNG

Alaves is not devoid of talent.

The 19-year-old right back Theo Hernandez, who is playing on loan from Atletico, is drawing rave reviews and interest from European powerhouses, including Real Madrid.

Marcos Llorente, a 22-year-old Madrid reserve player also on loan, has impressed as a defensive midfielder.

Captain Manu Garcia, at 31, is the only player who has been with the team through its rise from the third tier in 2013.

“Our coaches are telling us that by working as a team just like we have all year, we have a chance to win,” Garcia said.

OH SO CLOSE

Alaves came ever so close to winning the 2001 UEFA Cup when it defied expectations in its first European campaign by reaching the final against Liverpool.

Jordi Cruyff, son of Dutch great Johann Cruyff, scored late to level the thriller at 4-4 and force extra time, only for Alaves to succumb on an own goal by Delfi Geli.

“I want our fans to enjoy the day,” Garcia said. “I remember (the final in) Dortmund from when I was young. I have many memories of that day and that’s why I ask our fans to be proud of Alaves, and that they make the Calderon into our stadium because that is what we will need it to be.”