Mourinho hits out at critics; plays down Liverpool rivalry

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Ahead of their clash with bitter rivals Liverpool on Saturday (Watch live 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) Jose Mourinho has hit out at criticism of the way his Manchester United team play.

The concern for neutrals, and United fans, across the world is that Mourinho will again “park the bus” as a fluid, dangerous Liverpool side visit United with Jurgen Klopp‘s side ready to attack.

Speaking to reporters on Friday ahead of the game at Old Trafford, Mourinho had this to say when asked about criticism of his team.

“Some of the guys with an opinion, they could not resolve their own problems when they were managers. It looks like they have solutions for everything,” Mourinho said. “It is not like that. They are in a position when they can give opinions about everything. Sometimes I read, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I listen, sometimes I don’t.”

Even if he hasn’t been listening to the pundits, Mourinho insists he hasn’t been listening to the fans on the streets in Manchester ahead of this game.

Ahead of the clash against Liverpool, Mourinho was asked if he now understands the rivalry better given he has now been in charge at United for almost two seasons.

“In my mentality, every match is the same. I have never looked to AC Milan as the biggest rival, I never looked at Atletico Madrid as the enemy. I never looked to Spurs or to Arsenal as a big rival. I’ve never been very good on it,” Mourinho said. “To me it is just a big match. Two historical clubs not just in England but in the world. I still don’t look to some matches as special opponents. It is just a big match because we are speaking about two big clubs.”

So, no real nibbles from Mourinho there. Given the importance of this game in terms of United being just once place and two points ahead of third-place Liverpool, many believe the Portuguese coach will once again set up his team to defend

“We have three matches now, Liverpool, Sevilla and Brighton. If you ask me if I could choose one to be the most important one, I can’t choose. The fans wouldn’t be happy if I say that Liverpool is the biggest match of the season and then Sevilla or Brighton is not a big match.” Mourinho said. “The most important are Liverpool because it is the next… Of course I want to win, it is a big match and big opponent, the team that is behind us. A team already in the Champions League last eight. Of course we want to win. Every opponent is a rival to me.”

Mourinho said that “you don’t win 10 points” for beating Liverpool and said United’s fans wouldn’t be happy if he said the Liverpool game was bigger than the upcoming matches, but we all know this is the game supporters in the street want to win.

Yes, Sevilla at home in the Champions League next week is huge with a place in the last eight on the line after the 0-0 draw in the first leg, while Brighton at home next Saturday in the FA Cup quarterfinal is a huge opportunity to make the FA Cup semis at Wembley.

Still, it feels like Mourinho downplaying this rivalry, one of the biggest in world soccer, is setting things up for him to make a few lineups changes and revert to his defensive tactics against a top six rival in the PL. I hope I’m wrong but that’s my hunch.

If Mourinho and United deliver a big win against Liverpool, expect him to be celebrating on the sidelines with a big smile on his face. Even if this is just a normal game…

 

Report: Liverpool agrees to terms for Roma keeper Alisson

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Liverpool has been in search of a new first-choice goalkeeper for several months, and now it appears that Jurgen Klopp and his side have their man.

[ MORE: Schedule for PL giants on U.S. tours ]

The Reds reportedly have a deal in the place for Roma shot-stopper Alisson in excess of $84 million, which would make the 25-year-old the most expensive goalkeeper in football history.

Chelsea had also been viewed as a potential landing spot for the budding star in net, however, it seems likely that Liverpool has beaten their Premier League rivals for the player.

The previous transfer record for a keeper came 17 years ago when Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon completed a $69 million move from Parma to Juventus.

Alisson started in all five of Brazil’s World Cup matches this summer in Russia, including the team’s 2-1 defeat to Belgium that knocked the Selecao out of the competition in the quarterfinals.

He managed to keep three clean sheets in the tournament.

The move for Alisson will likely spell the end for Loris Karius at Anfield, after starting 33 matches in all competitions last season for the Reds, including the team’s UEFA Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid.

Iceland coach steps down after 7 years in charge

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REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) The coach that led Iceland to its first World Cup has stepped down.

The Icelandic Football Association says Heimir Hallgrimsson has decided to leave at his own request, ending seven years in the role.

[ MORE: Schedule for PL giants on U.S. tours ]

Hallgrimsson was the co-coach with Lars Lagerback of Sweden at the European Championship in 2016, when Iceland reached the quarterfinals after beating England.

After Lagerback left, Hallgrimsson assumed sole control of the national team, which became the least populous team to ever play at a World Cup. Iceland drew with Argentina in its opening group game but failed to advance to the knockout stage.

Hellgrimsson is a part-time dentist.

Report: Real Madrid close to Courtois, Hazard deals

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According to radio network RMC Sport in France, Real Madrid has an agreement with Chelsea for the transfer of Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

The report states that Courtois would cost Los Blancos $41 million, and the transfer is imminent. That would be significantly cheaper than Liverpool’s widely reported bid for Roma goalkeeper Alisson, who is supposedly costing the Reds $81 million, which would be a record for a goalkeeper.

This could likely be attributed to the player’s contracts, with Courtois’s set to run out at the end of the coming season, while Alisson’s contract at Roma is good through the summer of 2021.

Courtois has been at Chelsea since 2011 when he arrived from Belgian club Genk, but spent the first few years out on loan at Atletico Madrid in Spain. He won the Golden Glove at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the award for the top goalkeeper in the tournament.

Meanwhile, the same RMC Sport report states that Real Madrid is close to an agreement for Courtois’s Chelsea teammate and Belgian countryman Eden Hazard. The 27-year-old has spent six years at Stamford Bridge since his move from Lille, and has heavily been speculated to be Real Madrid’s preferred replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Both players are currently on holiday at different vacation destinations inSpain following the conclusion of the 2018 World Cup.

Cazorla returns to field for first time in almost 2 years

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Arsenal fan favorite Santi Cazorla saw his time with the Gunners come to an unceremonious end this summer. He had struggled for almost three full seasons with an ankle injury that continued to baffle doctors.

At one time, it got so bad that doctors told him he was lucky to walk again. Now, Cazorla is doing much more than walking.

The 33-year-old Spaniard, who is training with his old club Villarreal this summer after the expiry of his Arsenal contract, returned to the field for the first time in 636 days when he entered in the 67th minute of Villarreal’s friendly against Segunda B side Hercules.

Beaming with a massive smile, Cazorla received a hearty reception from the home Villarreal fans at the Mini Estadi on his enterance to the match. The match eventually ended in a 1-1 draw.

Cazorla posted on Twitter a week ago to say how happy he was to “feel like a footballer again” while training with Villarreal and said while there’s “much more work ahead” he has “more enthusiasm than ever.”

The Spaniard made 180 appearances for Arsenal across all competitions during his six-year stint in the Premier League, providing fluid creativity at the front of the Gunners’ attack, but the last three seasons were a nightmare. First a knee injury kept him out nearly the entire second half of the 2015/16 season, and then he ruptured his Achilles in October of 2016. It was not a standard recovery, eventually requiring a total of eight operations. A nasty infection required more surgery, forcing doctors to graft tendons from his left arm into his foot.

Gunners fans may not see him at The Emirates again, but they will be happy to know Cazorla has crossed a major hurdle in his attempt to return to the field competitively.