Mourinho: Wait to see if Man Utd can contend

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Jose Mourinho feels his team braved difficult circumstances to get a fine start to Manchester United’s 2018-19 Premier League season on Friday.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 2-1 Leicester City ]

Sticking with the narrative that his squad depth was not enough given the number of players who needed a post-World Cup vacation, Mourinho applauded his short-handed Red Devils.

While Harry Maguire started for Leicester and Jamie Vardy came off the bench, Mourinho opted against starting Romelu Lukaku and used a number of unusual starters including Luke Shaw, Matteo Darmian, Andreas Pereira, and Victor Lindelof.

Mourinho had plenty of praise for Pogba, who is not yet at full fitness following France’s World Cup win. From the BBC:

“The team played as a team,” Mourinho said. “In the second half I had Andreas Pereira and Fred with a yellow card, Paul was fantastic his contribution was amazing, but the fuel was disappearing. We were in trouble. Martial in the last 20 minutes could have given us the second goal but I couldn’t make that change. The players gave everything, they gave what they had. Everybody did that.”

And he again talked about United’s failure to spend on new players after adding Fred, Diogo Dalot, and backup goalkeeper Lee Grant earlier in the summer window.

“We played well in periods against a good team that invested more than us,” he said. “We must get used to teams who have players of the same quality that we have. Every team is a good team, forget the name, forget the history, forget the shirt.”

“It will be a difficult season for everybody, not just for us. I had my plans for many months and I find myself with the market closed in a situation I did not think I would be in. It’s the last time I speak about it. It’s over, the market is closed. .. We have to wait until the end of November to understand if we can fight for the title.”

He also praised Luke Shaw, who scored to seal the win and had been a target for Mourinho’s criticism last season.

“I am very pleased for Luke Shaw. He made one mistake in 90 minutes, he was very good defensively. He had a good pre-season.”

Pique: Copa-losing Barca still “really hurting” from UCL exit

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Barcelona was the favorite to win La Liga, the UEFA Champions League, and the Copa del Rey for the majority of the season, but only claimed one.

Liverpool’s amazing comeback to beat Barca in the second leg of the UCL semifinals met Saturday’s loss to Valencia in the Copa del Rey Final to give Barca a league title alone.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Even with that La Liga advantage being decisive — Barca carried the table by 11 points over Atletico Madrid and finished 19 ahead of Real Madrid — there’s a very dour mood and promised change for the Camp Nou set.

And Gerard Pique says it all traces back to the loss against Liverpool. From The Liverpool Echo:

“I believe that if we had gotten through at Liverpool, we would have won the treble. We would have come here [to the Copa del Rey final] with a different mood, and I’m convinced we would have won the Champions League final, but that is football. We are really, really hurting.”

There are hints of a massive clear-out at Barcelona, with Lionel Messi and Pique two of the only safe bets to stay. When will Barca get over it?

Brazilian team tangles in locker room futmesa (video)

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It was defense versus attack in the Brazil dressing room.

Neymar and Gabriel Jesus squared off with international teammates Filipe Luis and Ederson in a game of futmesa/table soccer this week.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

Neymar and Filipe Luis are used to be on different sides of the field from their time in La Liga, while Jesus and Ederson are teammates at Manchester City.

Brazil is hosting this summer’s Copa America and is the favorite to win its first tournament since 2007, when it claimed its fourth in five tries.

It’s really impressive stuff for us normal to subpar athletes, even if standard for those with such deft talent.

Quite a winner from Man City’s young striker.

Jovic could see himself in Premier League, Serie A

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Maybe Luka Jovic’s presumed move to Real Madrid won’t happen this summer.

Or at all.

[ MORE: Real, Chelsea debate Hazard fee ]

The Eintracht Frankfurt striker has been tipped for a move away from the Bundesliga after another strong campaign, and taking the center forward reins from Karim Benzema at Real Madrid.

Several outlets reported the deal as done, but Jovic isn’t speaking that way (or at least the Serbian is throwing us off the scent.

From Goal.com:

“In terms of the physique, the Bundesliga is very demanding, but after the games against Chelsea or Inter Milan, I personally had the feeling that I could feel even better [playing] in the Premier League or Serie A. … The way the teams play there suits me better.”

Jovic scored 27 times in 48 appearances for Frankfurt, adding seven assists at the tender age of 21. Ten of those came in the Europa League, and we’re not talking about flooding the nets of minnows; Jovic scored against Chelsea (twice), Marseille (three), Lazio (two), and Inter Milan (once).

Report: Chelsea, Real $38M apart on Hazard

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How much for Hazard?

Real Madrid are willing to pay $127 million, no small fee, to bring Eden Hazard from Chelsea, but that’s well off the Blues’ evaluation according to Sky Sports.

Chelsea sees Hazard’s price as $165 million. Belgian writer Kristof Terreur told Sky that Hazard wants his future sorted by June 4.

[ MORE: Bayern wins double ]

The Blues’ superstar is entering the final year of his contract, and could begin negotiating with other clubs in January and leave on a free transfer.

Hazard turns 29 in January. He recorded 19 goals and 16 assists in 51 matches this season, his best output in a Blues uniform.

The report says Chelsea feels no pressure to sell Hazard, but it would be a surprise if it dug in its heels too deeply considering the state of the Belgian’s contract.

Even for Chelsea, letting over $100 million walk out the door is wild, and for all Hazard’s won with Chelsea there’s also been consternation under several managers and a more than occasional habit of disappointing on the table.