Manchester United appoint Ryan Giggs as player-coach

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Manchester United have appointed Ryan Giggs as player-coach with immediate effect.

The 39 year old winger, who penned a one-year extension to his playing contract in March, becomes the newest addition to David Moyes’ coaching staff.

“It’s a great privilege to be appointed a player-coach,” he said. “I hope I will be able to bring my experience to bear, having been both a player and part of the Manchester United family for so long.

“It’s no secret that I have been taking my qualifications and I see this as the first step in my future career. I’m really looking forward to working alongside David and the team.”

Moyes appeared equally pleased with the hiring. “I’m delighted that Ryan has accepted the chance to become player coach. His success and ability to adapt his game over a number of years gives him an unrivalled perspective on the modern game. His career is an example to any aspiring young player and I’m sure that both he and the players will benefit from his new role.”

United’s hiring of Giggs should come as no surprise.

After his appointment in May, Moyes dismissed Sir Alex Ferguson’s staff in favor of bringing in Everton counter-parts Steve Round, Chris Woods and Jimmy Lumsden, triggering worry in Manchester over the lack of United experience in Moyes’ backroom team. But by hiring Giggs, those fears will abate as the club legend is about as United as one can be, having made well over 900 appearances since his debut in 1991.

Having spent years taking his coaching badges, Giggs is poised to attain his UEFA Pro Licence next summer and many foresee him as the eventual successor to Moyes’ reign, however long that may last. They are dots that are impossible not to see connecting, although exactly when that link-up comes together, only time will tell.

While the hiring is a shrewd move, one has to wonder whether the trigger was pulled by Moyes or Ferguson. More likely than not, it was the later, installing yet another piece to ensure that his legacy outlasts his managerial tenure. Giggs joins Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, who have already been named to the United coaching staff, with Phil Neville expected to be named first-team coach within the next day or so.

The situation could result in too many cooks in Moyes’ kitchen and the worry is that if the squad runs into performance issues early in the season, a fractured backroom could result. Fortunately when it comes to matters of diplomacy, Moyes is a master politician and having the congenial Giggs by his side should prove a welcome aid.

Khedira laughs off Swedish reporter’s offer of tickets home

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira brushed off a gesture from a Swedish reporter, trading a bit of banter ahead of Germany’s big World Cup match against Sweden on Saturday.

Germany fell 1-0 to Mexico in its opener while Sweden beat South Korea, leading a playful Swede to hand Khedira boarding passes for a flight home to Germany.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Khedira’s reply? He joked that Sweden won’t be a problem and he’ll use the tickets after the World Cup Final.

From Goal.com:

“After this bad start, we know that it’s super difficult, but we know that we are a strong team. We analysed the game, we saw Sweden play and we are sure that we are winning this game.

“I think we’ll need them [plane tickets] on the 16th of July.”

Report: Newcastle’s Clark knocked out on Spanish dance floor

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A wild story out of Spain says an Englishman knocked Newcastle United defender Ciaran Clark unconscious at a night club.

[ MORE: Sampaoli defends Messi ]

Clark was on vacation in Spain, where he was spending time at Crystal’s Bar in Punta Ballena, Magaluf very early Sunday morning.

Clark and a man “in his 30s” got into an argument that saw the Irish defender knocked out, according to the BBC.

Clark was left unconscious and taken to hospital after an argument between him and the suspect broke out on the dance floor.

The 28-year-old suffered cuts and bruises to his face.

Clark, 28, scored twice in 20 Premier League appearances this season, his second at St. James’ Park.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 9 — Iceland’s next step, Brazilian bounce back?

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Brazil is one of the favorites of the 2018 World Cup, while Iceland is the smallest nation to qualify for the world’s biggest tournament.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

On Friday, both enter their second match days feeling quite different after 1-1 draws.

They won’t face each other, of course, but the contrast is striking nevertheless.

Brazil opens the day’s action when it squares off with Costa Rica, who fell to Serbia in the opener. For Serbia, a dark horse of the tournament, it will be a meeting with Switzerland.

Then there’s Iceland’s bid to climb into the Group D driver’s seat by knocking off Nigeria. A win from Iceland would make Lionel Messi and Argentina’s task of qualifying for the knockout rounds extremely unlikely.

Below is Friday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group D
Nigeria vs. Iceland: Volgograd, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group E
Brazil vs. Costa Rica: Saint Petersburg, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Serbia vs. Switzerland: Kaliningrad, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Sampaoli defends Messi, blasts Argentina

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Jorge Sampaoli is lambasting his team after a 3-0 loss put Argentina on the edge of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup’s knockout rounds.

“The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Lionel Messi’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said. “The team doesn’t gel as well as it should.”

[ MORE: Modric urges humility ]

Sampaoli said his players could not find a way to get the ball to Messi, and that the introduction of Boca Juniors youngster Cristian Pavón was aimed at opening up the field a little bit.

And Sampaoli is not shying away from the long-discussed comparison between Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo. From the BBC:

“Cristiano is a great player and he has achieved a lot with club and country. Right now it is hard to compare these two players because of the ability in the Argentinian squad clouds the judgment. Leo is in a difficult position because the squad doesn’t gel with him. As coach I have to accept that. I don’t feel shame but I definitely feel pain. It has been a long time since I have gone through this experience as a coach and obviously it is more painful when I’m wearing the colours of my country.

“We have no alternative but to give it our all in the final match. We have not performed at the level the country expects. We were ambitious ahead of the game but now it is harder for us as a group. We did think this would be the match we can take off as a team, but it wasn’t in the end. I think this is an excellent squad but we didn’t gel or come together. We need to take advantage of the next match, when the pressure will be on, and hope to progress.”

Now, of course Sampaoli is going to defend Messi, but Argentina’s team is not chopped liver. The side certainly isn’t as deep or solid as Croatia, but 1-1 with Iceland preceded this one.

That said, Argentina’s performance once Croatia essentially decided to surround Messi was unacceptable. If favored Nigeria doesn’t handle its business against Iceland, the World Cup finalists won’t have a prayer of going back.