Rooney explains Mourinho’s downfall, backs ‘clever’ Solskjaer

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Wayne Rooney believes that the communication — or, a lack thereof — between Jose Mourinho and his players was the biggest reason for the club’s struggles this season, and eventually Mourinho’s dismissal this week.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 18? ]

Rooney, who played under Mourinho in his final season at Old Trafford, revealed he has been in regular contact with a number of current first-team members. The contents of those conversations were, while quite juicy, all too predictable.

Anyone who’s ever watched a successful team interact and play together could see that the relationships between players and manager were anything but positive or productive. Speaking as a guest analyst on UK television (above video, with full version here), Rooney explained why that failure to communicate was ultimately the undoing of Mourinho as United manager — particularly when he would chop and change the lineup from game to game, which he so regularly did in the final weeks and months.

“The one surprise I had was that the communication with the players wasn’t as much as it could have been. When you leave a player out of a game, sometimes it gives them a bit of freedom of the mind when the manager says, ‘I’m leaving you out for this reason or that reason,’ but the players didn’t get that.

“I think that’s the most difficult thing for a player to work out, why you’re not playing.”

“The big thing with Jose was the communication with the players, and all the players weren’t happy with that.”

While Rooney doesn’t believe any players well and truly quit on Mourinho — as far as not giving 100 percent every time they took the field — he admitted it was hard to ignore the night-and-day difference in the overall mood and commitment of the players during Saturday’s 5-1 thrashing of Cardiff City, but that might just be down to the level of tactical freedom — or, again, lack thereof — afforded players within Mourinho’s rigid style of play.

“I don’t think the players have gone onto the pitch (under Mourinho) and said, ‘We’re not going to give our all this game.’ I know the was Jose plays. It’s keeping your full backs close to your center halves, and keep two midfielders in from of the back four.

“Then, all of a sudden, you’re attacking with two or three players. Today, we saw Man United attacking with seven or eight players at times — Ashley Young making runs beyond (Marcus) Rashford — which makes a big difference.”

As for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who’ll serve as interim manager until the end of the season, Rooney was full of praise for his former teammate and mentor. According to Rooney, the Norwegian is more than just a happy-go-lucky character brought in to make the players smile again.

“I think everyone looks at him from the outside (and think) he’s just a nice guy, he’s always smiling and he’s always happy, but to do what he’s done in football, he’s got a lot of desire and hunger which a lot of people don’t see.

“I always remember as a young kid — the advice Ole gave me, I try to pass on to young players, especially when you’re sat there on the bench, you’re not happy and you want to be on the pitch playing. He always told me to watch the game, watch the defenders, to visualize what movement you’re going to make to try to put yourself in a position to score goals or have an impact when you come on off the bench.

“He’s a clever person and he’s got the brains to be a manager. (Saturday’s game) was great to see, and that will relax him a little bit, because I know he will have felt a lot of pressure going into the game.”

Reyna, Busio headline U.S. U-17 squad for CONCACAF Championships

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Two of the top teen-aged talents the U.S. has ever produced will be wearing the red, white, and blue next month at the 2019 CONCACAF Under-17 Men’s Championship.

U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team head coach Raphael Wicky announced his 20-man squad for the upcoming tournament, set to take place at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. It’s a small irony, as this is the first year without the residency program that was housed on the IMG Academy property.

The U.S. squad is led by Sporting KC midfielder Gianluca Busio and the son of USMNT legend, Claudio Reyna, Giovanni, who is reportedly set to join Borussia Dortmund’s academy officially in the coming months. Also included in this squad is FC Dallas youngster Ricardo Pepi, who already has four goals in USL League One this season. Another forward, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez is coming into the camp in red-hot form, having scored a hat-trick and helped lead his Seattle Sounders to the GA Cup title.

Griffin Yow just made his full D.C. United debut, and Las, just 17, has already reportedly attracted attention from Europe.

Here’s a look at the U.S. roster.

GOALKEEPERS (2): 1-Damian Las (Chicago Fire; Norridge, Ill.; 13/0), 12-Chituru Odunze (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/CAN; Calgary, Alta.; 4/0)
DEFENDERS (7): 4-Axel Alejandre (FC United; Chicago, Ill.; 14/0), 3-Adam Armour (North Carolina FC; Cary, N.C.; 11/0), 13-Mauricio Cuevas (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.; 2/0), 14-Tayvon Gray (New York City FC; Bronx, N.Y.; 10/0), 5-Kobe Hernandez (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.; 14/1), 2-Joseph Scally (New York City FC; Lake Grove, N.Y.; 14/1), 15-John Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; Chatham, N.J.; 3/0)
MIDFIELDERS (5): 7-Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City; Greensboro, N.C.; 7/2), 20-Gilbert Fuentes (San Jose Earthquakes; Tracy, Calif.; 13/0), 8-Bryang Kayo (D.C. United; Poolesville, Md.; 0/0), 6-Daniel Leyva (Seattle Sounders FC; Las Vegas, Nev.; 0/0), 16-Adam Saldana (LA Galaxy; Panorama City, Calif.; 17/1)
FORWARDS (6): 18-Jack de Vries (Philadelphia Union; Wayne, Pa.; 0/0), 17-Tyler Freeman (Sporting Kansas City; Shawnee, Kan.; 3/1), 19-Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez (Tacoma Defiance; Kent, Wash.; 14/5), 9-Ricardo Pepi (North Texas SC; McKinney, Texas; 6/1), 10-Giovanni Reyna (Unattached; Bedford, N.Y.; 8/1), 11-Griffin Yow (D.C. United; Clifton, Va.; 6/3)

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Man City preparing $79 million bid this summer; Bale to leave Real Madrid

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Pep Guardiola has identified the successor to Fernandinho, and he’s convinced Manchester City to break the bank to acquire him.

[READ: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Per a report in The Telegraph, Manchester City is preparing a transfer bid of nearly $79 million to sign Atletico Madrid central midfielder Rodrigo Hernandez Cascante, better known as Rodri. In his first season in Madrid, the 22-year-old has made 28 La Liga starts along with six in the UEFA Champions League, anchoring the second-place Atletico Madrid midfield.

In addition to his defensive duties, he’s also scored a pair of goals this season.

If true, Rodri’s transfer will break Man City’s previous record when it signed Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City for almost $78 million.

Fernandinho continues to be a world class holding midfielder, but coming up on 34-years old, he’s surely coming up on time when he won’t be able to cover as much ground as he used to. With Rodri in tow, Fernandinho can slowly take a reserve role in the team, or move to another club for one last big contract.

Here are some more transfer rumors from around Europe:

(more…)

USMNT’s Brooks scores equalizer for Wolfsburg

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John Brooks is enjoying a career year for Wolfsburg, and he just added another highlight to his strong season.

Brooks, running up in the attack in a rare foray forward, tapped home into an empty net to save Wolfsburg a point at home in its 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt. It was Brooks’ third goal of the season and second in the last two months.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The U.S. Men’s National Team centerback has played and started 29 times this season for Wolfsburg, the most games he’s ever played in a single season in Germany’s top tier. Brooks started alongside Aaron Long in the USMNT’s 1-0 win over Ecuador in Orlando in late March, and could play a key role for the USMNT this summer at the Gold Cup, unless coach Gregg Berhalter decides to let him rest this summer.

Season over: Hudson-Odoi suffers suspected Achilles tear

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One incident on Monday showed why some players are so desperate to change clubs when given the chance. They may never get it again.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Callum Hudson-Odoi said on his Instagram post Monday evening that he had suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon. If confirmed by the club, it’s usually a nine-month recovery process, with some players needing a full year to return to full fitness. Considering the timing of this, towards the end of the season, it means that Hudson-Odoi may miss an entire season of top-flight soccer, as well as possibly miss out on a chance to move to Bayern Munich this summer.

The injury is a huge blow to the 18-year-old, who had forced his way into the Chelsea side after strong performances in the UEFA Europa League, and now he’s making regular Premier League starts at the tender age of 18. Hudson-Odoi had started four-straight Premier League games including Monday, but now he faces a long layoff.

In Hudson-Odoi’s favor is his youth. While it can be a career-ending injury, hopefully Hudson-Odoi could retain his electric pace once he recovers and can return to the starting lineup for Chelsea.

But it’s a big disappointment to the young Englishman, who surely would have played for England youth national teams this summer and could have potentially made a big-money move abroad.