Jan Kruger/Getty Images

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

Leave a comment

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.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

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.

Mascherano out 6 weeks, will miss Argentina vs. Brazil

Alex Caparros/Getty Image
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says defender Javier Mascherano will be out of action for six weeks to recover from a right knee injury.

[ MORE: Luis Enrique leaves Barca with feeling of accomplishment ]

Barcelona’s season is over, but the injury will rule out Mascherano from Argentina’s friendly against Brazil on June 9.

Mascherano injured his leg early in Saturday’s final of the Copa del Rey, when Barcelona beat Alaves 3-1 to defend its title for a third straight season.

He also cut his head during the collision with an Alaves player that produced the leg injury. He returned on crutches to join the team celebration.

Argentina doesn’t play its next World Cup qualifier until it plays Uruguay on Aug. 28.

Courtois aiming at new Chelsea contract after strong season

Clive Mason/Getty Images
Leave a comment

There’s a wide range of players that were integral in Chelsea’s Premier League-winning season in 2016/17, but one of the most underrated was arguably goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

[ MORE: PL clubs may miss on Celtic’s Dembele and more transfer news ]

The Blues shot-stopper started all but two PL matches this past campaign, and now the Belgian international is seeking an extension with the London club.

“Contract talks haven’t opened but I am happy at Chelsea,” Courtois told Sky Sports after Chelsea’s loss to Arsenal at Wembley.

“I hope they reward me with a good contract, then there will be no doubt I will sign it.”

The 25-year-old keeper has been in at Stamford Bridge since arriving from Genk in 2011, but Courtois spent three seasons in Spain on a loan spell.

Courtois likened this PL campaign to his time on loan at Atletico Madrid, stating that while his side’s achievements in the league were everything Chelsea could have hoped for that there was still more the Blues could have done.

“It’s not a good feeling now,” Courtois told Chelsea’s official website. “I had the same thing in Spain when I won the league and then lost the Champions League.

“We wanted to end on a high, now we feel sad. Winning is everything so this is hard to face but we have to try to forget it.”

Francesco Totti on bench for final Roma match

Paolo Bruno/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sunday marks Francesco Totti’s final match with Roma after a stellar 24-year career, but the striker won’t be starting at the Stadio Olimpico.

[ MORE: Reus could miss at least six months after suffering knee damage ]

The 40-year-old was named to the bench for his club’s 2016/17 Serie A finale against Cagliari, with Roma needing a victory to capture second position in Italy’s top flight.

Napoli currently sits just one point behind the Giallorossi and hold a slight two-goal edge in goal differential, which could be a decisive factor in which side finishes second.

It would be quite odd for Roma to not give Totti playing time in his final outing, after a career that featured over 300 goals across all competitions for his hometown club.

Transfer rumor roundup: PL clubs losing ground for Dembele and more

Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With all the major leagues across Europe either closing or already have finished it’s the season of transfer rumors once again.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Arsenal’s FA Cup win vs. Chelsea ]

Here are several of the juiciest pieces from Sunday:

Three London sides could potentially miss out on Celtic star Moussa Dembele as AC Milan has emerged as a favorite to sign the top-rated Frenchman. Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham have all expressed great interest in the promising attacker, who scored 17 goals this season for the Scottish champions.

After struggling at times this season to keep goals out, Liverpool could turn to France as a potential outlet to fix the cracks in their back line. AS Monaco’s Benjamin Mendy already has significant PL interest from Manchester United and Manchester City, but Jurgen Klopp‘s side could also put up a fight.

West Ham is looking to bolster its attack this summer, and with Pep Guardiola likely making significant changes at the Etihad Stadium, Kelechi Iheanacho could be on his way to the Hammers ahead of the 2017/18 PL season.

Manchester City higher ups are keen on having Guardiola bring back goalkeeper Joe Hart from Torino this summer. Hart spent last season on loan with the Italian club after Guardiola sent him away from England early in his managing tenure at the club.