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.

Top Storylines for Premier League Week 6

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After a week of League Cup action domestically, the Premier League returns this weekend with a myriad of interesting matchups and storylines.

Let’s take a look at some of this week’s top story’s to follow:


Can Manchester City continue its torrid form?

Manchester City has finally found its groove under manager Pep Guardiola.

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The club has won five successive games, the last three coming on the road while scoring a combined 19 goals. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are a terrific 1-2 punch while David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been stars in midfield, with De Bruyne pulling the strings for Man City all season.

There’s every likelihood that Man City will continue its impressive run on Saturday. The club hosts floundering Crystal Palace, which is still adjusting to new manager Roy Hodgson.

(more…)

On This Day: The Battle of Old Trafford

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Fourteen years ago today, Arsenal headed north to Manchester for a famous matchup with Manchester United.

Taking the field at Old Trafford, Arsenal were unbeaten to start the season, having won its first four Premier League matches before drawing a week prior at home against Portsmouth. Manchester United meanwhile had four wins and one loss in that span.

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By way of Arsenal’s FA Cup title and Man United’s Premier League title the year before, the two teams met for the annual Community Shield a month earlier, and the game descended into a physical battle. Five yellow cards were shown, Arsenal substitute Francis Jeffers was shown a red card and defender Sol Campbell was later banned for kicking at an opponent, and Man United – backed by a young Tim Howard in goal – won 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied at 1-1 after extra time.

With numerous physical encounters over the years, the September 21 encounter was shaping up to be another monumental showdown, and in terms of physicality, it didn’t disappoint.

Each team were shown four yellow cards and there was a combined 31 fouls. The match took a turn when Patrick Vieira was shown a second yellow card and subsequent red card for kicking out at Man United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy after Van Nistelrooy had fouled Vieira going for a header. The decision set off a scrum in the middle of the field.

Despite being down to ten men, Arsenal held on until the final minutes, when Martin Keown was whistled for a foul in the box on Diego Forlan, giving Man United a penalty kick. But whether it was karma or lady luck, Van Nistelrooy’s penalty clanged off the crossbar and away to safety. Arsenal held on for a goalless draw, which helped boost the team’s belief in itself.

The Gunners went on to finish the 2013-2014 season undefeated, the only team to finish a Premier League season without a defeat. Man United wound up taking the FA Cup crown, settling for third place in the Premier League.

Watch some highlights from the match below.

Former Sunderland forward Scocco scores five goals for River Plate

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Veteran forward Ignacio “Nacho” Scocco is quickly endearing himself to the River Plate faithful.

Nearly three months since joining River, Scocco scored an incredible five goals in the second leg of his team’s Copa Libertadores quarterfinal matchup with Bolivian side Jorge Wilstermann. Scocco scored a first half hat-trick and added two more in the second half as River turned around a 3-0 deficit heading into the second leg.

Scocco had a mostly frustrating spell in 2014 ahead of the World Cup with Sunderland, joining the club as they staved off relegation by one point. Scocco failed to score for Sunderland in eight appearances, all off the bench.

However, since then, he returned to his native Argentina and starred for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys before moving this summer to River as a replacement for Sebastián Driussi, who completed a transfer to Zenit St. Petersburg.

Here’s a look at all of Scocco’s goals Thursday evening.

Tammy Abraham denies switching national teams

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Fans of the England National Team may still have a chance to see Tammy Abraham don the Three Lions crest one day.

Abraham refuted reports from earlier Thursday that he was in the process of switching his national team to Nigeria from England. The 19-year-old Swansea City forward on-loan from Chelsea has played as high as the England Under-21 Men’s National Team but because of his Nigerian father, he’s eligible for the African nation.

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Abraham confirmed that he had met with Nigeria Football Federation chief Amaju Pinnick after Swansea’s last game, but denied that he was looking to play for the Super Eagles.

“I have informed The FA that I remain available for selection for England,” Abraham said, via the BBC. “Contrary to reports in the media I would like to clarify that I have not agreed to switch my national team allegiance. I can confirm I met the President of the NFF after our last game against Tottenham at Wembley on Saturday given he is a friend of my father. However, any suggestion that I have made a decision to change my international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.”

Earlier in the day, reports emerged that Pinnick said the process was underway for Abraham to switch his international allegiance.

Abraham’s apparently decision to remain with the England set-up is good news for his club Swansea City, who will get to keep him closer to Wales on a regular basis, but Abraham may be missing a chance to play senior national team soccer at a young age.