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Mourinho slams “ridiculous” Man United defending

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LONDON — Jose Mourinho rued poor defensive mistakes from his Manchester United side on Wednesday as they lost 2-0 at Wembley to Tottenham Hotspur.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

The Red Devils fell behind just 11 seconds into the game as a long ball forward was flicked into Christian Eriksen by Dele Alli and the Danish playmaker delivered the opener.

United never recovered and Phil Jones shanked a clearance into his own goal Tottenham’s second goal and, in truth, the 2-0 scoreline was flattering for United as Spurs missed several glorious opportunities to extend their lead further.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Mourinho didn’t mince his words.

“It’s a performance that starts with a ridiculous goal,” Mourinho said. “That goal after a few seconds has a big influence in the game because Tottenham can play the way they like to play. In the end, we played against a very good team. Both goals were ridiculous goals, also the second was unlucky. The first goal is an accumulation of mistakes in spite of the fact that everything happened so fast. My players have watched the Tottenham kick-off many, many times. They know the way they do it and they also know [Harry] Kane normally starts in a position in front of the line to win some metres. We didn’t control it, lost the second ball on the ground and it was a really, really bad goal.”

Ys, United made poor defensive mistakes, but Mourinho must take his portion of the blame. When the team sheets were passed around at Wembley (which saw a record crowd for a Premier League game of 81,798) United’s attacking intent was clear. Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard all started but the Red Devils were unbalanced and Nemanja Matic overrun in midfield.

It’s unlikely Mourinho will go all-out attack against a top six rival away from home again anytime soon.

The defeat now drags United further into the top four battle as they’re just five points ahead of fifth-place Spurs with an almighty scrap for the Champions League spots set to take center stage in the final months of the season with Manchester City 15 points clear and the champions elect.

Another talking point from the game was Alexis Sanchez’s Premier League debut for United as he returned to north London but didn’t enjoy taking on his former bitter rivals Spurs.

The ex-Arsenal man failed to have a shot on goal and cut a frustrated figure as Tottenham gave him special treatment with tough tackles and tight marking, as well as Spurs fans booing his every touch.

Mourinho was happy enough with Sanchez’s output as he switched him from the left flank in the first half to a central attacking role in the second half.

“He worked hard, but again the transformation the game had, the game was not for him,” Mourinho said. “In the second half, I tried to give him a position where he could be closer to [Romelu] Lukaku but then he felt the need to drop too much to organise. But he gave everything, good effort and this is a good feeling for me to know that the player is available with that spirit.”

United’s manager also teed up the battle between his club and four others for the three remaining Champions League spots as Man City moved 15 points clear atop the Premier League table on Wednesday.

“Yes, the Premier League finishes for us at Old Trafford in the last match against Watford in May but we knew that the distance to the leader was already considerable, even before this match,” Mourinho said. “Now we have us, Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, Arsenal – we will be there fighting for the positions.”

Game on.

New York City FC adds Stuttgart mid with option to buy

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New York City FC might’ve found its dynamic box-to-box midfielder.

Ebenezer Ofori, 22, is bringing his relentless motor and eight Ghanaian caps to the Bronx from Stuttgart on a one year loan deal with an option to buy.

[ MORE: Mourinho on Pogba performance ]

Ofori joined Stuttgart from Swedish side AIK Solna in the January 2017 transfer window, and played a role in the club’s promotion to the Bundesliga. He was a signficant part of Solna’s three-round run in Europa League qualification.

But he found very little time on the pitch once Stuttgart rejoined Germany’s top flight, and is taking his talents to MLS.

Here’s NYCFC boss Patrick Vieira:

“I’m really excited to bring in Ebenezer – he’s a young player who is looking to improve, he is really dynamic and can cover ground. He’s really aggressive but he’s good with the ball too. I’m really pleased that we managed to bring him to the football club.

“He’s a competitor, he’s a guy who likes to win, he’s a strong character. He’s coming to this club to compete with the midfielders we have and, like I always say, that will bring the best out of all of the players we have at this football club.”

Ofori joins a midfield with Alexander Ring, Maxi Moralez, and Yangel Herrera. It’s a promising signing, and a name with the potential to take big steps on the club and international scene.

And moves like this are going to continue to happen for NYCFC, because players will feel the allure of being under the eye of Manchester City and the pull of becoming City property. It’s a different dynamic than Chelsea’s loanees in that young players can make their name and be a star in a gigantic world city while attempting to ingratiate themselves with one of the world’s biggest clubs.

Mourinho: “Paul made a big effort”

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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho had fine words for Paul Pogba, but was tickled by the performance of 21-year-old Scott McTominay in the Red Devils scoreless draw with Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

[ RECAP: Sevilla 0-0 Man Utd ]

The visitors emerged unscathed, though without an away goal, and Mourinho raised eyebrows when he kept Pogba on the bench to start the match. The young McTominay started the match, and was paired with Pogba once Ander Herrera left the match with injury.

When a reporter asked Mourinho about McTominay after the match, the boss asked if he could give the reporter a hug before elaborating (via the BBC):

“In the press conference, the questions were about Paul [Pogba] but the question should be about the kid. He was fantastic. He did everything well. He put pressure on Ever Banega and stopped him playing, he’s their playmaker. I think Scott was brilliant.

“I think Paul made a big effort to try to give the team what I asked of him. Paul replaced Ander, he tried to bring to the game the same kind of qualities. He lost a couple of possessions but he also gave us stability because we had a good percentage of possession for the way we played.”

Mourinho was sure to include Nemanja Matic as a big part of the midfield trio.

The Pogba-Mourinho questions aren’t going to go away any time soon, though it should be noted — perhaps strongly — that the player was ill this weekend and United has to face Chelsea in Premier League play this weekend.

Still, he couldn’t help but mention how much he believes “Old Trafford has missed a big European night,” and how he’s looking forward to a potentially big win come March 13.

Nil-nil in Seville as De Gea stars

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  • English sides unbeaten vs. La Liga in UCL season (2-6)
  • Pogba subs into match for Herrera, 17′
  • De Gea with seven saves for United

David De Gea was the star as Manchester United escaped Sevilla with a scoreless draw in the first leg of the two sides’ UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Sevilla won a corner kick within 90 seconds, but the ball made its way through the 18 without finding a receiver.

Ander Herrera sprung Alexis Sanchez down the middle, but Jesus Navas cut across to catch the Chilean and thwart the United chance.

Navas then dragged a shot across goal and past a diving David De Gea but inches wide of the far post.

A Herrera injury — yes, another injury United supporters — meant Paul Pogba would join the fray after just 17 minutes with the key position in the 4-3-3.

Lukaku botched a terrific diagonal cross from Sanchez with a blast over the goal in the 25th minute.

The 38th minute saw Scott McTominay pump a ball right at Sergio Rico for the Sevilla backstop’s first save, and Angl Correa’s low shot was collected by De Gea for a third Red Devils save.

De Gea then made a leaping save on Steven N’Zonzi’s redirection of a bicycle kick just before halftime, and then slapped Luis Muriel’s header over the bar before the whistle.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

De Gea nabbed another save, his sixth in the contest, when Clement Lenglet got his head on an Ever Banega free kick in the 64th minute.

A Sanchez giveaway provided Sevilla the chance to counter, and Muriel couldn’t get the step back needed to power a header past De Gea.

United had a goal pulled back in the 83rd minute as the ball struck Lukaku’s arm in the build-up.

Fred’s vicious free kick leads Shakhtar over Roma

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Facundo Ferreyra and Fred scored second half goals to lead Shakhtar Donetsk past AS Roma 2-1 at the Donbass Arena in Wednesday’s first leg of the clubs’ UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

Cendig Under scored his fifth goal in four matches as AS Roma did manage an away goal before the March 13 second leg in Rome.

Fred has been linked with a summer move to Man City, and the banger of a free kick showed part of the reason the Brazilian is in demand.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Roma is bidding to make its first UEFA Champions League quarterfinal since 2007-08 when they went out at the hands of Manchester United, while Shakhtar last made the quarters only to be dismissed by Barcelona in 2010-11.

Ukrainian backstop Andriy Pyatov had an early save on Edin Dzeko off a cross from Aleksandar Kolarov, two minutes after Kolarov mailed a free kick over the bar.

Kolarov and Dzeko remained big parts of the story line, though Pyatov and the Shakhtar defense stood tall.

Dzeko would wind up assisting the opener, and it was the in form Under who’d bury his chance.

Not soon after the break, though, Yaroslav Rakitskiy cued up Ferreyra for the equalizer.

And Fred but the hosts ahead with this outstanding free kick, what they’d call a “bar down bingo” in hockey.