2012 MLS Cup - Houston Dynamo v Los Angeles Galaxy

Landon Donovan meets with reporters for first time in months

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Landon Donovan’s first meeting with reporters in months is over, and the U.S. national team’s all-time leading scorer had lots of interesting things to say.

Donovan answered questions after Thursday’s Galaxy practice at the Home Depot Center in his first get-together with members of the press since December; he went on sabbatical and more or less disappeared from public view after the MLS Cup post-game news conference four months ago. (Donovan did have some public comments relayed recently through the magic of citizen journalism last month.)

Donovan is saying all the right things, not just about the Galaxy but also about the U.S. national team. (It’s almost surreal, isn’t it, to think that the program’s all-time leading scorer and noted Mexican team killer was just one of us, just another Joe watching from the States as USMNT did proper battle in Mexico City?)

Donovan spoke with candor, respect and humility about his place with the Galaxy and the U.S. national team, and of his personal relationships with the respective managers, Bruce Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann. For instance, in discussing his conversations with Arena:

Understandably, no coach wants to lose one of their players for three months, or a few months of the season. At first, Bruce wasn’t ecstatic about it, but I’ve known Bruce a long time and I think he understood pretty clearly how passionate I was about needing this break and now I think everyone can agree that it was absolutely needed and the right thing to do.

Donovan talked about the need to work his way back into both teams, with absolutely no sense of entitlement, certainly the correct attitude considering that both teams have gone through periods of transition or (in the U.S. case) pretty rough times during the period of his absence.

Donovan still wants to get back on the field in early April. Looking at the Galaxy schedule, would it surprise anyone to see Donovan make an appearance off the bench during the team’s April 3 home leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series against Monterrey? (Depending on what the match looks like over last 20 or so minutes, naturally.)

Meanwhile, teammates certainly seem happy to have their wise, quick attacker back on the field. Galaxy left back Todd Dunivant, a good friend of Donovan’s in addition to his longtime teammates, says Donovan may even make an impact quicker than people think.

Bundesliga: Leipzig join Gladbach, Bayern in 2nd-place battle

Jan Woitas/dpa via AP
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BERLIN (AP) Germany forward Timo Werner again scored twice to help Leipzig consolidate fourth place in the Bundesliga with a 4-1 home win over Mainz on Sunday.

Yussuf Poulsen also scored two goals as Leipzig maintained its unbeaten record at home this season and tightened its grip on the last qualification place for the Champions League.

Leipzig stayed two points ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt and two behind Borussia Moenchengladbach and Bayern Munich. Borussia Dortmund leads Bayern and Gladbach by nine points after 15 rounds.

If Werner scores in the league, fans have got used to expecting another goal – with his 10 goals coming in five games.

The former Stuttgart striker sealed Leipzig’s win in the 74th and claimed his second goal in the 88th off an assist from Poulsen, who grabbed two goals in five minutes in the first half.

Karim Onisiwo pulled one back before the break for Mainz, which remained 10th.

Mourinho hits out at “injury prone” Man United; praises Liverpool

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LIVERPOOL — Jose Mourinho insisted he was happy with the effort of his players in their 3-1 defeat at bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday, but it didn’t take Manchester United’s manager long to start having a dig at his players “physicality”.

Once again.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Mourinho spoke to reporters after the humiliating defeat at Anfield, as the scoreline didn’t tell the story of just how dominant Liverpool were.

United lost Chris Smalling in the warm up and played an injured Eric Bailly, struggling Victor Lindelof and Ashley Young as the likes of Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia were missing amid a string of injuries.

When asked about the style of his team Portuguese coach once again referred to “mad dogs” he had in his previous teams, and once again suggested this United squad do not possess the grit and ability to play through injury that he needs.

“First of all we have lots of problems related with physicality,” Mourinho said. “We have lots of players that I could consider injury prone. Some of our players are always injured. It is not just with me, it is before me. If you look to the stats with Mr. Van Gaal and David [Moyes], in that period we have players that are permanently injured. When you are permanently injured physicality is very hard to get.”

He then went on to describe the qualities his team has, and seemed to go around in circles before lauding Liverpool’s physical, high intensity players.

“Then you have qualities which a player either does or he doesn’t have. You cannot improve, make them have, I give you an example: Robertson, Mane, Salah, Wijnaldum, Keita, Fabinho. They are physical players, on top of that they are good players technically, I also have lots of good players, technically, but we don’t have many players with that intensity, with that physicality,” Mourinho said. “So when the game has high levels of intensity it is difficult for us. First 20 minutes was difficult for us. Then when we had the ball, the tension and intensity went down it was easier for us to be in the game and to bring the game into our side, to play the way we can. Those are our qualities.”

Not content with lauding Liverpool’s intensity and having a pop at the lack of physicality of United’s squad, Mourinho then went on a trip down memory lane, rattling off how great his teams at Porto, Real Madrid and Inter Milan were in different playing systems.

“You look to say some times that it is the managers choice. You can compare my Porto team with Liverpool. The qualities of the players are there,” Mourinho said. “It was my best team in defensive transition. We lose the ball, we bite like mad dogs and recover the ball after two seconds. In Real Madrid I had my best team in direct counter attack because I had young Di Maria, young Ronaldo, young Higuain and young Benzema. We killed everybody in offensive transition. In Inter I had my best team in a defensive low block, Materazzi, Samuel, Lucio, Cordoba in a low block you can be there five hours and you don’t concede a goal. Players make teams play in a certain way.”

Right now, whatever players Mourinho has at his disposal aren’t getting it done as they’re 11 points off the top four and have now lost away at Man City and Liverpool, as well as Brighton and West Ham.

“I believe we are going to make many more points in the second part of the season than we did in the first part,” Mourinho said. “I know we lost some of the other matches, but we played away at Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City, probably the three best teams apart from Tottenham. We played with them away.”

The excuses keep on rolling out of Mourinho’s mouth and with United’s banged up squad, and with star players being left on the bench such as Paul Pogba, the Red Devils look like they have no clear plan and are destined to finish outside of the top four.

One word can sum up United’s season so far under Mourinho: regression.

It is tough to see how he is going to turn this tide around and last beyond the end of the 2018-19 campaign.

“How the boys fought!” – Klopp glows after Liverpool win

AP Photo/Rui Vieira
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Jurgen Klopp is “over the moon” with his Liverpool men after a Xherdan Shaqiri double led the Reds to a dominant 3-1 win over Manchester United on Sunday at Anfield.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

“How the boys fought,” Klopp said. “The mix up of big fight and really playing football against an unbelievably strong team. United didn’t want to play defensively but we didn’t let them out.”

Klopp gave himself a little love for bringing Shaqiri into the fray at 1-1, as the ex-Stoke City midfielder had two deflected shots find the back of the goal.

[ MORE: Mourinho reacts ]

Entering at the 70th minute, Shaqiri scored in the 73rd and 80th. Klopp calls that timing “not too bad.”

But it wasn’t just about the Swiss scorer. From the BBC:

“The way the boys played tonight was outstanding. We saw the line up of United and their quality – how organized they were and they fight from the back. The plan was to be brave and chip the ball behind the lines. The first goal was how, if you could have drawn, it would have been the goal. It’s so deserved. Top, top first class team.”

Coupled with taking down Napoli in the UEFA Champions League, Liverpool now has a pair of marquee wins after a stretch in which they struggled against the big names. Now nearing their best again, the Reds are ready for the festive fixtures.

Mourinho: Liverpool should be stronger than Man Utd, and they were

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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It wasn’t even close, and Jose Mourinho makes it sound like Manchester United’s 3-1 loss to Liverpool was simply down to a gulf in class.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 3-1 Man Utd ]

Maybe that’s true, but if so it means United has spent a disproportionate amount of money on a second-class group of players.

Here’s Mourinho on NBCSN following a loss to his rivals in which United was out-attempted 36-6.

“Well, they are the stronger team. They should have the strongest team but it’s hard to concede two goals in a moment and it’s even harder the way the goals happened.

“Our difficult period in the game was the first 20 minutes where we couldn’t cope with their fantastic intensity, speed, and pressing. After that we were quite calm in the game. It was controlled. We can say of course they attacked much more than us, but that was exactly the moment where the game was going into a dynamic where they were really frustrated with their center backs coming with the ball, shooting from 30 meters to the stands.”

Mourinho said the best United will finish this year is fourth, but guarantees they won’t drop out of the Top Six.

He went as far as to say that Liverpool was fortunate to get their second and third goals thanks to deflections, which was partially accurate but, again, 36 shots to six.

Thirty more shots.

Three-zero.

In spite of that, Mourinho defended his players when asked if they’ve quit on him. From the BBC:

“Are you calling the players dishonest? I believe they are honest. You believe they are dishonest. Players give maximum every day, every minute. If the players don’t do the maximum then you call them dishonest.”

And Paul Pogba sat the bench all 90 minutes. A higher-up at United, preferably Ed Woodward, needs to come out and make one of two statements to the media. Either he’s cutting ties with Mourinho, or they are simply waiting out the string to swap out key parts in the hopes of a Champions League and FA Cup run.

Otherwise, it looks like a lost manager trying to guide a rudderless ship from one squall into another.