Getty Images

Daley Blind: Manchester Derby in Houston not a friendly

Leave a comment

Daley Blind and Manchester United are enjoying the high life close to Tinseltown, but it’s all work and a little play for the Dutchman and his teammates at their Beverly Hills base for preseason.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

With the 2017-18 Premier League trophy on their mind and an eagerly anticipated return to the UEFA Champions League this season, that’s just the way they like it.

Keen to stress the importance of training sessions and matches in the Californian sun, Blind’s focus was clear as Man United prepare to face Manchester City on Thursday in Houston, Texas in what will be the first-ever Manchester Derby played on foreign soil.

Speaking exclusively to Pro Soccer Talk ahead of the historic match, the versatile Dutch international sees the International Champions Cup preseason friendly as a perfect way to put down a marker for the season.

“It will be a friendly, it will be preseason… but from the inside everyone feels like it is a derby and it will always be that way,” Blind said. “It is always special to play games like that. The derby always brings something extra and it will definitely be like that in Houston.”

[ MORE: Full 2017-18 PL preseason schedule

Having United and City lock horns in the Lone Star State, nearly 5,000 miles from Manchester, is quite something when you think about it, and Blind, 27, believes both teams are ready to soak in the occasion.

“It’s something different, that’s for sure. I think it’s great. No doubt there will be lots of people coming to watch the game and it will give a great experience to every player,” Blind said. “These are the games you want to play in with these teams. The derby always brings something extra, personally, and for everyone, so I think it will be a great game, experience and preparation for the season.”

Getty Images

These preseason tours are all about preparation, with Jose Mourinho playing down the two wins against LA Galaxy (5-2) on Saturday and Real Salt Lake (2-1) on Monday as little more than training exercises.

But with Man City, Real Madrid and Barcelona coming up in the next 10 days for United before they head back to Europe and prepare for the Premier League season with the UEFA Super Cup final against Real Madrid on Aug. 8, getting the hard work in now counts.

Even if grabbing a coffee and hanging out in LA is easier than any other place in the world for Blind and his superstars teammates to evaporate into normality. At least for a few hours a day.

“We are here to prepare ourselves for the season. The training sessions and games are coming first, but of course it is nice to bond with the team and when you have an hour off we can go for a coffee or something. It’s not a big deal in LA because there are so many famous people here,” Blind laughed. “You can go for a quiet coffee and you can do it all the time, but when the time is there and we are allowed, it is nice to go and do something like that with a few teammates. The preseason and training sessions, and matches, are obviously coming first and that’s the most important thing.”

The Ajax product praised the facilities at UCLA and said this preseason was “a bit easier” than last summer when Mourinho and his team were troubled with bad weather on their tour of China and their preseason friendly with Man City in Beijing had to be canceled due to heavy rain.

Like his manager, he was also complimentary of Major League Soccer.

“The stadiums are full. The atmosphere is nice. The pitches are good and where we train as well. If you see the American teams, I think they are growing each year and it helps to have the highlights on TV in Europe,” Blind explained. “It is difficult to compare it to Europe. I have to say soccer here… right? Well, soccer is growing. I think.”

Confidence around United’s prospects this season are also growing with Blind hailing Romelu Lukaku‘s $96.5 million arrival from Everton after the Belgian striker scored his first goal for the club against RSL on Monday.

“He is a great signing, a great player and a great person as well, now that I have met him for a while,” Blind said. “He works very hard, he is very eager to score goals and very eager to help his teammates and create chances, so I am very happy he scored his first goal and I think there are many more to come.”

Getty Images

With Lukaku off the mark and Mourinho failing to rule out a return to United for Zlatan Ibrahimovic as he continues to rehabilitate his injured knee at their training ground, Blind was asked if the thought of having Zlatan around again next season would give them a further lift.

“Yeah, of course. No doubt he would again be another big signing and last year he gave a big boost for the team,” Blind said. “He is still a great player and great person and he makes everything better.”

Blind’s own United career has continued to get better after he arrived in the summer of 2014 as one of the first signings of the Louis Van Gaal era. Many believed Blind may have found minutes hard to come by last season after LVG was replaced by Mourinho, but he played in 39 games in all competitions and appeared in the Europa League final win over his old club Ajax.

He is happy to stay at United for as long as possible and is willing to extend his current contract, which runs out in the summer of 2019.

“I have one more year left [on his contract] after this one and I am very happy at United. I play a lot of games and I am looking forward to the new season,” Blind said. “About my contract, I can’t really say anything. You have to ask the directors and the club, but of course, which player wouldn’t want to stay at United? I am very happy, that’s the only thing I can say.”

Getty Images

Blind’s flexibility was key for United last season as he played at left back and center back and even central midfield as Mourinho utilized his utility status to the max.

‘Where is Blind’s best position?’ is often a question which comes up in the stadium and pubs when United play, so, what does he think?

“I just want to play and where the manager needs me I do my utmost best and give everything I have. I think the people know that I have a little bit of a preference to play left center back,” Blind revealed. “If I play left back all season, I would be happy there too, but for me it is just important that I am close to the team. I want to play. I want to start. That’s the thing I work hard for and that’s what makes me happy. For me it’s simple I want to play and be on the pitch and want to do everything for that.”

He also revealed the experiment of playing in a 3-4-3 formation is going well in preseason and is something which could be needed as teams make it hard for United to break them down. Yet one thing, above all else, is on his mind: trophies, and plenty of them.

Hungry for more silverware, Blind believes United can achieve anything they want next season. If they achieve what he hopes they can, it’s safe to say Mourinho will be taking United back to Beverly Hills and LA next summer. They could even be allowed a few more team coffee breaks…

“It was very exciting that we won three trophies last year, so we are very happy with that. The aim for this season is well is to win trophies and of course, we want to be first in the league,” Blind said. “We have to aim high because we have a big and strong squad. We will go for everything we want and we will play every game to win, and then we will see game by game.”

Wagner on Huddersfield Town’s 2-0 start: “This is unbelievable”

Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner is glowing with the knowledge that his newly-promoted side is 2-0 in the Premier League.

Sunday’s win over Newcastle United was closer than an opening weekend win at Crystal Palace, with Aaron Mooy’s 18-yard beauty a moment the record crowd at The John Smith’s Stadium will remember for a very long time.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Wagner, the one-time USMNT midfielder, pumped his fist for the home fans in a post-match salute, then waxed poetic about Mooy and the club.

From the BBC:

“It was top-class quality for the goal, Premier League quality and that is why Mooy is playing in this league. The atmosphere was incredible today, the support was Premier League quality. First Premier League game at home, a win and clean sheet.”

“We are Huddersfield Town, nobody should forget this. We got promoted at Wembley but we have started the season with two wins and six points. This is unbelievable. Everybody has invested so much and I am happy for them.”

The mark of a decent club is outperforming expectations and picking up wins regardless of luck. Town probably wasn’t three goals better than Palace, and it failed to outchance a lifeless Newcastle United team but remains unbeaten to start life in the Premier League.

And these six points could stand up as a difference in whether Town are fighting a relegation battle or planning for next season before this one’s through.

Borussia Dortmund boy wonder the next big thing?

DFB
Leave a comment

Remember the name: Youssoufa Moukoko.

The 12-year-old has scored eight goals in three games for Borussia Dortmund’s U-17 side to start the season and scored four goals against Viktoria Cologne in a 6-1 win on Saturday.

Originally from Cameroon, Moukoko joined Dortmund from St Pauli in 2016 and starred for BVB’s U-15 team last season, scoring 33 goals.

Take a look at the video below to see Moukoko in all his glory.

Maybe we have a new star youngster to talk about with Karamoko Dembele stealing the show for the past 12 months.

Huddersfield Town 1-0 Newcastle United: Mooy magic tops Magpies

Leave a comment
  • Town starts PL life 2-0
  • Newcastle 0-2
  • Mooy scores on lone attempt

In a game with very few chances, Aaron Mooy made his count as Huddersfield Town topped Newcastle United 1-0 at the John Smith’s Stadium on Sunday.

A match between two promoted sides looked very much like a second-tier affair aside from Mooy’s moment of brilliance just after halftime.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

A boisterous stadium greeted the teams, and Town’s support was at full throat only to see Newcastle get the first chance when Dwight Gayle played Ayoze Perez into the 18 and saw the Spaniard’s shot blocked.

Town’s Elias Kachunga cut Chancel Mbemba with a high challenge, but it failed to see a card unlike two similar sending offs in the league on Saturday.

A series of sloppy plays by Newcastle allowed Aaron Mooy to test Rob Elliot, but he didn’t get enough on his low attempt to best the diving keeper.

Town remained the better money for an opener, and Tom Ince laced a hard shot at Elliot off a Christian Atsu turnover well into Newcastle’s end.

Matt Richie nearly opened the scoring against the run of play in the 16th minute when he thumped a far post effort that Jonas Lossl pushed wide for a corner.

The Magpies settled into the match, though, and had the better of the play for the final 15-20 minutes of the first half.

A terrible giveaway from Mikel Merino allowed Town a prime chance to take the lead, but Chancel Mbemba made a terrific sliding tackle inside his 18 and the Magpies handled a pair of corners.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Town took the lead in the 50th minute through Mooy, who worked a perfect 1-2 with Kachunga to curl home inside the far post from the paint of the 18-yard box.

That spurred Rafa Benitez to insert new signing Joselu for Gayle.

Quality chances remained at a premium when Merino played a long diagonal ball into the box for Javier Manquillo, but Lossl collected the pass back into the fray.

Atsu and Joselu traded passes before Lossl tipped Joselu’s low shot out for a corner. Ciaran Clark headed the ensuing corner to Perez who, alone in front of goal, blazed over the bar.

Joselu flicked another header into Lossl’s arms in the 84th minute.

Stream Live: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A rivalry which has escalated in recent years rears its ferocious head when Tottenham hosts Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on Sunday (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

[ STREAM: Spurs vs. Chelsea ]

Spurs boast a steely midfield with Victor Wanyama, Mousa Dembele, and Eric Dier behind the skillful Christian Eriksen.

As for Chelsea, Alvaro Morata moves into the starting lineup following a strong substitute’s performance in last week’s loss to Burnley.

LINEUPS

Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Dier, Wanyama, Dembele, Eriksen, Dele, Kane. Subs: Vorm, Walker-Peters, Wimmer, Winks, Sissoko, Son, Janssen.

Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Alonso, Luiz, Rudiger, Kante, Bakayoko, Moses, Willian, Morata. Subs: Caballero, Musonda, Kenedy, Pedro, Batshuayi, Tomori, Scott.