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Robbie Earle on Man United’s priorities for rest of this season

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Following Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Celta Vigo in the Europa League, Robbie Earle spoke with ProSoccerTalk about United’s priorities for the remainder of the season and their upcoming match against Arsenal.

Q: Does Jose Mourinho go all-out for the Europa League now that Man United are that much closer to the final?

Robbie Earle: Yeah, everybody was looking at the lineups for the Europa League and which way Jose would go. I think having gotten to the semifinal and now being 1-0 up from the away leg, they are in poll position to finish the job off at Old Trafford next week and then look forward to the final. It’s possibly going to be against Ajax to give them a Champions League spot.

In many respects if you look at the gamble in terms of opponents still to play in the Premier League and the trickiness of that and then maybe two games max in the Europa League, you can understand why the gamble will probably be more skewed toward the Europa League.

Q: Is that the right move from Mourinho?

RE: Yeah, I think it’s a gamble, but a calculated one. Due to injuries and suspended players he hasn’t had available I think he was always looking to head that way. He’s a great one-off tactician manager. We’ve seen it in days like the Manchester derby, recently against Chelsea when he can plot his team to make sure they get a result. Cup football very much suits him and I just think he likes having his own destiny in his own hands, which he will feel more in the Europa League than he will in the Premier League.

That leads us into the weekend when they have a huge game against Arsenal and a manager Mourinho hasn’t particularly liked over the years so he isn’t going to want to make it easy for Arsenal and give them the points. I still think Manchester United will want to go win that game. They can put a little more pressure on Arsenal and pretty much end their top four hopes.

Q: Mourinho has said that he will rest players against Arsenal if he needs to. Do you think he will?

RE: I think it’s a little much to say rest, he may rotate. I think we have to be careful with Manchester United. We’re not talking about Bournemouth or Southampton or Burnley, you know teams that might struggle for depth. I mean we’re still talking about Manchester United and I know they have injuries but they spent 200-odd million dollars at the start of the season on players. So yes, you have your injuries and suspensions and things, but I don’t feel we should be going down the road too much of poor old Manchester United because Manchester United in the past have been successful winning the treble at one time when you’ve got to play cup finals, league games, European games and that’s what successful teams do. They keep on grinding out results and getting results to get to finals.

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I think we will see some rotations of players, but this is Manchester United. [Paul] Pogba was good today. [Marouane] Fellaini can’t play in the Premier League, but can play in Europa which is a bonus so some things will take care of themselves. [Anthony] Martial could come back in. Obviously [Marcus] Rashford scoring today, he’s 19-years-old, he’d play every day if he could. You’ve got [Juan] Mata coming back and Michael Carrick may have a role to play so there’s still plenty enough there for United to get a result at Arsenal and then turn their attention to next Thursday.

Q: Is it an admission of failure from Man United this season that Mourinho has openly said they are prioritizing the Europa League and thus putting the Premier League on the back-burner?

RE: If we look back to the start of the season Mourinho talked about, we’re Manchester United, we have to go for titles, so that was the initial aim. I think during the course of the season, despite them being on this unbeaten run in the Premier League, there have been too many draws, 14, many of those at home. It’s very unlike Manchester United, where they generally put teams to the sword and get their result.

So I think it’s almost been a sort of realism of the season that’s gone on. That this team, this squad is not yet good enough to challenge for the top spot. It’s all out to make the top four and obviously the Europa League has been the best opportunity as we come toward the end of the season. Mourinho’s very smart. He’s won the League Cup, if he wins the Europa League or grabs a top four spot then that would go down as a successful team, although not maybe the success United have had in the past.

The Europa League is everything because of the Champions League spot now. In fairness to him, he’s taken the competition pretty seriously from day one. Whereas some teams I always think work hard to get into Europe and then work just as hard to get out of it. I don’t think Mourinho is that guy. I think he likes to win silverware regardless. I think he recognizes the value of the Champions League spot and he probably deep down recognized after a certain point this season this team may not be good enough to be top four so he gave himself and the club a chance, and you have to say that’s good management.

Q: What is the result of the Arsenal v. Man United match?

RE: That’s a good one. It’s so difficult to call because Arsenal are in this position where they have this whole sort of negativity around the football club, that’s part what’s happening on the pitch, part what’s happening with the manager.

Manchester United are in a reasonably relaxed frame of mind. There is certainly less pressure on them and Mourinho’s already almost got his excuse if they lose, that you know they are focusing on Thursday and that’s the big thing.

[ MORE: Mourinho confirms intent to sit players ] 

I think because of the circumstances, the pressure of losing the North London derby last week, which means Spurs are going to finish above an Arsene Wenger team for the first time, because it’s so important to try and grab that top four spot, if I have to go one way I’m going to slightly tip it Arsenal’s way. Their need is greater and Manchester United have a ready-made excuse. I don’t feel Arsenal are necessarily in great form, but because of their need to get the points and because of United’s situation I tip them the slight favorites.

Probe finds racial discrimination by England women’s coach

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LONDON (AP) Former England women’s team coach Mark Sampson racially discriminated against two of his players, a fresh Football Association investigation has concluded after initially dismissing allegations of wrongdoing and prompting a damaging public row with striker Eni Aluko.

Sampson was cleared of discrimination by earlier FA investigations but was fired last month because of an unrelated case of inappropriate conduct toward players in a previous job.

[ MORE: Champions League at halfway mark ]

Only now has a barrister considered new evidence about Sampson’s conduct toward England internationals Aluko and Drew Spence, with the details being released ahead of a parliamentary hearing.

“I have concluded that on two separate occasions, MS (Sampson) has made ill-judged attempts at humor, which, as a matter of law, were discriminatory on grounds of race,” barrister Katharine Newton wrote in the report.

One racially discriminatory comment by Sampson in 2014 toward Aluko requested her family members from Nigeria didn’t come to a game because of Ebola.

“MS (Sampson) did treat EA (Aluko) less favorably than he would have treated a player who was not of African descent,” Newton wrote. “MS had therefore subjected EA to less favorable treatment because of her ethnicity.”

During a team meeting in 2015, Sampson also asked Spence if she had been to prison, and then suggested she had been arrested four times. Newton concluded that the comment was made “because of her ethnicity.”

[ MORE: Hamid leaving DC United ]

FA chief executive Martin Glenn apologized to Aluko and Spence before the hearing. But Aluko told legislators that Glenn’s earlier conduct toward her was “bordering on blackmail” after he threatened to withhold payments from an 80,000 pound ($105,000) financial settlement unless she published a statement saying the FA “was not institutionally racist.”

With Aluko sitting behind him, Glenn later told the hearing that the player had not been blackmailed.

Instead Glenn said that an August tweet by Aluko – “at least we now know the FA’s stance on derogatory racial remarks by an England manager. Ignore, deny, endorse” – was a “clear breach of the agreement.”

Aluko, who was part of the team that finished third at the 2015 World Cup, has not played for England since making her 102nd appearance in April 2016.

There was a more apologetic tone from Glenn in his written statement on Wednesday, saying that Sampson’s conduct was “not acceptable” and he “would like to sincerely apologize” to Aluko and Spence.

“Our ambition has always been to find the truth and take swift and appropriate action if needed,” Glenn said. “It was our decision to have the original, second and final investigation to ensure that due diligence was taken. It is regrettable that Eniola did not participate in the first external investigation as this would have enabled Katharine Newton to conduct and complete her investigation sooner.”

Report: Hamid leaving DC United to “push himself” elsewhere

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Bill Hamid is taking his talents elsewhere.

The 26-year-old has been with DC United since 2007, making an even 200 appearances across all competitions.

[ MORE: Champions League at halfway mark ]

Hamid is thrice capped by the United States and widely considering to be one of the best shot-stoppers in the league, but the Washington Post’s Steven Goff says Hamid wants to showcase himself on a new stage.

“I want to push myself and see how far I can go because I know I have the work ethic and the hunger to take myself very far in this game. I know I can make it to the next level.”

Hamid is likely to wind up in Europe, and Goff said Danish club Midtjylland is the favorite. He’s also been scouted by Eintracht Frankfurt.

With a new United States men’s national team coach set to be appointed and Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, and Nick Rimando all on the back end of their time with the USMNT, Hamid has to look at himself as competing with Ethan Horvath and any number of young prospects.

Horvath is 22 and starting for Club Brugge. If their season continues on its pace, he’ll have a Belgian title and a Norwegian title under his belt.

U-20 players Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha Berlin), Brady Scott (Koln), and Justin Vom Steeg (Fortuna Dusseldorf) are in German systems, while U-17 World Cup starters CJ dos Santos is at Benfica.

Age when making European debut and club
Tim Howard, 24, Manchester United
Brad Friedel, 23, Newcastle United
Brad Guzan, 23, Aston Villa
Kasey Keller, 23, Millwall
Tony Meola, 21, Brighton and Hove Albion
Ethan Horvath, 19, Molde

Surprises, disappointments halfway through Champions League group stage

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Clubs have met each of their group mates once, giving us an imperfect but workable sample size for the 2017-18 UEFA Champions League group stage.

Five groups have a side boasting a 3-0 record, while four clubs have yet to seize a single point.

[ CHAMPS LEAGUE: Tuesday | Weds. ]

Some of the strugglers, like 0-1-2 Maribor and 0-1-2 APOEL, are not surprises. And it’s no shock to see Manchester United at perfect 3-0 given its draw.

Others? Well, that’s not the case.

Status down 

While Manchester United is a perfect 3-0 in Group A, raise your hand if you figured Benfica would have just one goal and zero points through three matches. Benfica’s also played two of its three home ties, making the knockout rounds a dream.

Atletico Madrid has found the UEFA Champions League Final in two of the last four seasons, but finds itself with work to do moving forward. Atleti’s Wednesday draw at Qarabag leaves it three points behind Roma and five back of leaders Chelsea. Diego Simeone’s men still host Roma and Qarabag, so points are out there.

Serie A play has been gorgeous for Napoli, who has failed to bring that momentum to Group F. It’s worth noting that a missed penalty by red-hot Dries Mertens could’ve earned the Neapolitans a point at Man City on Tuesday, but as it stands Napoli is three points back of Shakhtar and could be six back before the Ukrainians visit on Nov. 21.

It turns out you can’t sell everyone and expect the youth to come through shining. Monaco is at the bottom of a very winnable group, having lost at home to Porto and Besiktas. Still just three points behind RB Leipzig, they’ll need to win at Monaco and/or Besiktas to have any hope of the knockout rounds.

Borussia Dortmund got a rough deal from officials when it visited Wembley Stadium, but losses to Spurs and Real Madrid can happen in a group stage. Tuesday’s draw at APOEL Nicosia, however, is close to a backbreaker.

(Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images).

Status up

Spurs draw at Real Madrid may have been aided by a huge performance from Hugo Lloris, but goalkeepers — as you know — are actual components of a team. This is in fact a group of death, but the North Londoners are holding a scythe. If Mauricio Pochettino can lead a home win over Real Madrid at a raucous Wembley on All Saints Day, well, look out!

Cenk Tosun has gone from sleepy transfer target to the tip of many gossipers’ tongues, as Besiktas is a perfect 3-0 including wins at Monaco and Porto. Anderson Talisca and… wait for it… Ryan Babel (!!) have also starred for the Turkish powers who will almost certainly see the knockout rounds.

[ MORE: JPW sits down with Ederson ]

Pep Guardiola‘s done this Champions League dance, you know, and Manchester City has weathered all storms. That includes conceded two penalties — one was saved by Ederson — as a down performance versus Napoli still ended with a home win. If City can win at the Stadio San Paolo on Nov. 1, Pep can sleepwalk into the final two matches (though that’s not his style).

Roma has a classy draw at Chelsea and has gathered five points including four away from home. Mimic that mark and i Lupi will be a challenge in the knockout rounds.

Neymar was best pals with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez last season at Barcelona, but having a less-than-perfect relationship with Edinson Cavani hasn’t hurt a thing in Paris. Paris Saint-Germain is for real, scoring 12 times and yet to concede in wins over Bayern Munich, Celtic, and Anderlecht.

Grey area

Liverpool leads its group and advancing is really the only goal, but there’s something off-putting about the home draw against Sevilla. The 1-1 draw at Spartak Moscow looks better now that the Russians hammered Sevilla 5-1, but a return visit from Maribor next should help the Reds buttress their stock.

Be careful how finely you analyze a club as accomplished as two-time reigning champs Real Madrid, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s men don’t look so hot. Still well-positioned to move on, keep a close eye on how they look at Wembley in a few weeks.

Holding pattern

Chelsea‘s 3-3 draw versus Roma today was its first real stumble of the UCL, but there shouldn’t be too many alarm bells considering their injury problems and Roma’s desperation. Consider their status even, especially given their clever win at Atletico Madrid.

Jose Mourinho is doing a fine job with Manchester United, but it’s really hard to praise the club too much for doing what’s expected in a glorified Europa League group. Clearly Sir Alex Ferguson was involved in the icing some of the draw balls again…

UCL wrap: Barcelona, PSG roll; Dzeko scores stunner (video)

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There were a few more zeroes on the board in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League action, but that doesn’t mean the day failed to entertain by any stretch of the imagination.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Chelsea and Roma staged a slugfest at Stamford Bridge, while PSG and Barcelona saw its stars shining, and Jose Mourinho orchestrated another away defensive masterclass for Manchester United.

Chelsea 3-3 RomaRECAP

There’s a lot to say about this one. Chelsea goes up 2-0 through solid goals from David Luiz and Eden Hazard, but finds itself down and needs another Hazard goal to rescue a point.

But this goal, one of two from Edin Dzeko, is why we watch this wonderful sport. Aleksandar Kolarov also scored and had an assist as ex-Man City men came to play at Stamford Bridge.

Benfica 0-1 Manchester UnitedRECAP

The perfect road match, more or less, though United scored its lone goal thanks to goalkeeper error. Marcus Rashford took the free kick that was carried across the goal line, and United completed more than 500 passes to double Benfica’s output at the Estadio da Luz.

Barcelona 3-1 Olympiacos

It’s not much of a surprise to see Barca triumph at home over Greek opposition. An own goal joined Lucas Digne and this historic Lionel Messi marker to build a 3-0 lead at the Camp Nou.

Anderlecht 0-4 Paris Saint-Germain

In case you think PSG cannot make a run this year, consider its list of goal scorers on Wednesday: Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria, Neymar, and Edinson Cavani.

Elsewhere
Qarabag 0-0 Atletico Madrid
Juventus 2-1 Sporting Lisbon
CSKA Moscow 0-2 Basel
Bayern Munich 3-0 Celtic