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Mourinho prioritizes Europa League, may rest players v. Arsenal

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Jose Mourinho doesn’t care what anybody else thinks. We all know that. He does whatever he can to bring success to his teams.

[ MORE: United’s injury boost ]

That’s why Manchester United’s manager will potentially field a weakened side at Arsenal on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as he continues to prioritize the UEFA Europa League over the Premier League.

[ PREVIEW: Celta vs. Man United ]

Speaking ahead of United’s Europa League semifinal first leg at Celta Vigo on Thursday, Mourinho revealed his plan to manage his banged up squad as the games continue to come thick and fast.

“Thinking about us, as a team, it would be a good achievement [to win the Europa League] with so many problems we’ve had, and it would allows us to be back in the Champions League next season, we have to try and that’s what we going to do,” Mourinho said. “The Europa League for us now becomes more important. Of course, it depends on the result, depends on the way we analyse the situation after the match. But if we have to rest players next weekend, we’re going to do that.”

With Paul Pogba, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Juan Mata all back fit for the Celta Vigo game, Mourinho may well go all-out to finish that two-legged encounter in the first leg as the Red Devils are the heavy favorites against the midtable La Liga side.

In his quest to guide United back to the UEFA Champions League in his debut season at Old Trafford, should he really be prioritizing winning the Europa League over finishing in the top four?

It is a big risk for Mourinho.

After all, despite all of their injury issues and many draws (14, the highest in the Premier League) they are 25 games unbeaten in the PL and with four games to go they’re just one point off the top four. With games against Arsenal, Tottenham, Southampton and Crystal Palaces still to come and their rivals for a top four place, Liverpool and Man City, having easier schedules to end the season, it’s easy to see why Mourinho would priortitze the Europa League.

His team need to get through two games against Celta Vigo and then against Ajax (most likely, they lead Lyon 4-1 after the first leg of their semifinal yesterday in Amsterdam) in Stockholm on May 24 to lift the Europa League and gain a place in the Champions League.

The fact that the Europa League final is three days after the PL season finishes is the main issue here. Is Mourinho really willing to put everything on the line in a one-off game against Ajax? It’s an intriguing, and difficult, situation for him to manage.

That’s why they pay him the big bucks and that’s why he called himself “The Special One” manager years ago.

If United end the season with an EFL Cup, Europa League title and a place in the Champions League next season, Mourinho would deem it an incredibly successful campaign.

Photo: Flamengo supporter tattoos club jersey on body

MAURÍCIO DOS ANJOS VIA VICE
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A supporter in Brazil has taken fandom to a whole new level with a piece of body art that shows his devotion to the club.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks ]

Maurício dos Anjos, a passionate Flamengo fan, has been a life-long supporter of the Rio de Janeiro-based club, and has the tattoo to prove it.

While it may look like body paint, Dos Anjos has a tattoo on the upper-half of his body depicting the Flamengo jersey, and it’s pretty awesome.

“People ask me if I don’t find it strange that I’m always wearing a Flamengo shirt. And I just don’t,” dos Anjos told VICE. “To me, it’s normal. But it doesn’t seem like anyone I talk to about it actually dislikes my tattoo.”

In total, Dos Anjos says the body work took over 90 hours and 30 sessions to complete the tattoo.

Has the perception of MLS really changed?

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When David Beckham arrived in Los Angeles back in 2007 his presence changed the complexion of Major League Soccer for all the right reasons, and the perception of the growing league changed.

[ MORE: Go behind the scenes at NYCFC’s new training facility ]

Over the years, MLS has strived to move into the upper-echelon of the global game, in an attempt to compete with the likes of the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, but naysayers still indicate to this day that the United States’ top flight lacks the quality of the aforementioned.

Phrases like “retirement league” and “uninspired” have been used to describe MLS in the past, particularly when it comes to the league’s willingness to spend boatloads of cash on notable players well past their prime.

Examples such as Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard and Rafael Marquez have at times dampened the perception of MLS due to the lack of quality on the pitch from those players, along with several others that had previously boasted extensive resumes.

Now, we’re at a time where MLS has picked up its scouting, with clubs focused more on younger, more skilled talents from South America and Europe.

That has led to major signings over the past several years, such as Ezequiel Barco, Miguel Almiron, Diego Rossi and Jesus Medina, to name a few.

Has that changed the overall complexion of MLS though?

On Thursday, Kevin De Bruyne‘s agent, Patrick de Koster, suggested in an interview that the Belgium international would likely “finish” his career in MLS.

“For now, he’s very happy at this club,” De Koster said. “We always look what the best solution for the player, both financially and football wise. Kevin’s future? I can see him finish at Los Angeles.”

This comes on the heels of a 36-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining the LA Galaxy in a move that has sent shockwaves across the league and the world because of the Swede’s great presence on a global scale.

It’s not to say that players like Ibrahimovic, or previous signings like David Villa and Didier Drogba cannot help the overall growth of MLS, because they certainly bring an awareness to the matches and draw attention to their respective clubs.

However, the long-term viability of MLS has been and will continue to be sustained on youth players succeeding in the league, as well as being able to draw promising young talents into the top flight of the U.S.

Report: USMNT likely to face Brazil, Mexico in September friendlies

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The U.S. Men’s National Team won’t have a busy schedule throughout the summer, but Dave Sarachan and his side will get a tiny taste of the World Cup in September.

[ MORE: Chivas’ Almeyda exhales after CCL title win ]

ESPN FC is reporting that the USMNT will likely face Brazil and Mexico — both of whom will travel to Russia in June — later this year, as the U.S. Soccer Federation is in the process of finalizing both friendlies.

The matches are set to be played during the September international window, which runs from Sept. 3 through Sept. 11.

Both fixtures will reportedly be played in the United States, although venues haven’t been determined yet.

The U.S. has already begun booking a slate of difficult matches to round out 2018, with England and Italy already confirmed opponents for the Yanks in November.

The Yanks are 1-17-0 all-time against Brazil in all competitions, while the U.S. hasn’t faced Mexico since its 1-1 draw at the Estadio Azteca in June 2017 during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

Men in Blazers: Jurgen Klopp talks loss of Coutinho and more

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Roger Bennett talks with manager Jurgen Klopp about revolutionizing Liverpool, his Greatest Show on Turf-esque offense, the loss of Philippe Coutinho and how he keeps football in perspective.

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