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Emotional Lopetegui at Real introduction: Spain firing ‘saddest day’

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It’d be fair to assume Real Madrid president Florentino Perez would sympathize with anyone changing managers in a fit of emotion, but the 71-year-old is enraged on behalf of his new coach Julen Lopetegui.

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Madrid introduced Lopetegui on Thursday. The Spanish coach is taking the reins from resigned boss Zinedine Zidane one day after the Spanish national team fired Lopetegui for taking the Real job without informing them.

Yes, the same Spanish team who enters this month’s World Cup as one of the favorites.

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Perez lambasted the Spanish federation, which claimed both Lopetegui and his new club “betrayed” the country, citing Chelsea and Manchester United hiring Antonio Conte and Louis Van Gaal on the eve of major tournaments for their national teams.

And Lopetegui claimed his players reacted well to his telling them he’d leave the national team set-up after the World Cup.

At one point, Lopetegui became emotional in discussing the last 24-48 hours.

From Real Madrid’s web site:

“I believe I’m ready for this adventure and to take the wonderful squad of players we have under my wing. Real Madrid aspires to win everything and I feel part of the family at this club. Yesterday was the saddest day of my life since the death of my mother, but today is the happiest.”

We get it, Julen, and there’s no reason for him to feel shamed. We supposed he could’ve told Real to wait until after the World Cup to speak, but then could miss out on a dream job.

The 51-year-old coached Real Madrid B from 2008-09 before moving onto Spain’s youth set-up, then Porto, then Spain’s senior team.

Man Utd, Liverpool expected to square off in the United States

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Liverpool and Manchester United will bring their rivalry Stateside again, according to the BBC.

Michigan Stadium could play host to the Reds and Red Devils this summer as part of the International Champions Cup. Nicknamed “The Big House,” it’s the second-biggest stadium in the world.

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The ICC announces its field next week, and previous reports say Man City will also face Liverpool.

United and Liverpool met in Miami as part of the 2014 ICC, when Louis Van Gaal‘s Red Devils won the match-up and eventually the tournament. Liverpool finished second.

Barcelona won last summer’s ICC, Paris Saint-Germain has won twice, and Real Madrid enjoyed the first title in 2013.

Three things learned: Man United v. Liverpool

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MANCHESTER — Manchester United beat Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday, as Jose Mourinho secured just his second win in nine outings against Jurgen Klopp.

The Red Devils strengthened their grip on second-place in the Premier League thanks to two first half goals from Marcus Rashford and despite Eric Bailly‘s own goal and an improved displays in the second half, Liverpool fell.

Here’s what we learned from a gripping game as each team dominated a half.


RASHFORD TAKES HIS CHANCE

The local lad stepped up big time to deliver two goals in the first half and grab his chance with both hands.

Rashford probably wouldn’t have started had Paul Pogba not pulled out through injury on Friday, with Mourinho forced into a reshuffled with Rashford on the left, Mata on the right and Alexis Sanchez playing centrally behind Lukaku with just Scott McTominay and Nemanaja Matic in central midfield in a 4-4-2 formation.

We all know Rashford has bags of pace and undoubted talent, but you feared for his development after the arrival of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez this season. We shouldn’t have worried.

Rashford now has eight goals in the Premier League this season and 12 in all competitions, that’s the best return of his career to date. Not bad for a youngster pushed out to the left flank for most of this season when he does most of his best work as a central striker.

It was almost two years ago today that he burst onto the scene and scored twice against Arsenal in a 3-2 home win after being given his chance by Louis Van Gaal. And the stat above shows that Rashford can always be counted on for the big occasion.

Since then, Rashford has scored 31 goals in 111 appearances for the Red Devils and he is finally showing that there could be life for him on the left ahead of Sanchez, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and others.


LUKAKU, SANCHEZ PARTNERSHIP WAY FORWARD

Yes, Pogba’s injury may have forced Mourinho into a change of lineup and personnel, but one thing is clear from Saturday: play Sanchez and Lukaku together up to from here on out.

Before the game all of the talk was about how United could slot Sanchez into their starting lineup and Mourinho admitted they haven’t seen the best of their highest-paid player since his arrival from Arsenal in January. Don’t get me wrong, Sanchez still has a long way to go. He gave the ball away in the second half on multiple occasions when all he needed to do was relieve some pressure on his defense, with the Chilean still looking rusty in possession just as he did on Monday at Crystal Palace when he had more giveaways than any other player on the pitch.

As for Lukaku, well, he is back in midseason form. The Belgian flicked on twice to set up Rashford’s goal and a more direct approach is suiting Lukaku.

During the week Lukaku described himself as a sergeant for Mourinho on the pitch. He did his part admirably on Saturday with his powerful display in the first half. He and Sanchez scared Liverpool’s defense and allowed Mata to find space for what should have been an easy third goal had he headed home instead of gone for the spectacular bicycle kick.

This duo will cause plenty of defenses problems and there’s an inclination that playing just off Lukaku will get the best out of Sanchez.


LIVERPOOL’S FAMILIAR PROBLEMS ARISE

They almost fought back for a point, but it was a case of familiar problems arising for Liverpool. They’ve only lost two of their last 21 games in the Premier League and are still in the hunt for the top four, but this defeat means they’ve fallen five points behind rivals Man United who sit comfortably in second place.

A sluggish start was their downfall as Jurgen Klopp’s men lost the first ball to Lukaku and failed to stop Rashford twice latching on to score. They also couldn’t work out how to mark Sanchez and Mata was drifting in from the right.

On multiple occasions in the first half United breezed through Liverpool’s defense and when Dejan Lovren and Virgil Van Dijk finally figured out how to stop United, they were already 2-0 down.

Liverpool’s clash showed in the second half as they dominated the majority of the 45 minutes with Eric Bailly’s own goal setting up a tense finish for the home fans at Old Trafford.

The Reds will now regroup and they know they have the easiest schedule out of the teams in and around the top four. Still, a defeat at your rivals in this manner will sting.

Van Gaal: Man United more interested in money than titles

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Louis Van Gaal still has some hard feelings from his time at Old Trafford.

In an interview with SportBild, the Dutchman who managed Manchester United from 2014-2016 said that the Red Devils are more interested in the commercial side of the game than trophies, compared to his time at Bayern Munich.

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“Manchester United, which I last coached, is a commercial club,” Van Gaal said. “Quite different than Bayern. The bosses are (Karl-Heinz) Rummenigge and (Uli) Hoeneß, former players who know what they are talking about. For them football is the most important thing, not the money as in the meantime at United.”

It’s a bit of a low blow, but it’s fair to say that Man United hasn’t truly challenged for the Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, though the club did win the UEFA Europa League as well as a League Cup and FA Cup in the last four years.

At the same time, Man United’s revenues have gone through the roof. The club is considered by Deloitte to be the richest soccer team in the world, with revenues in excess of around $824 million last year. And although it didn’t make many signings last summer, the club spent lavishly to sign Nemanja Matic, Victor Lindelof and Romelu Lukaku, with plenty of money to sign Alexis Sanchez in January.

Ronald Koeman named new Netherlands boss

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It didn’t take Ronald Koeman too long to land another job.

The former Everton and Southampton manager was named the new head coach of the Dutch national team on Tuesday, with Koeman signing a contract through the end of the 2022 World Cup.

Holland have failed to reach the last two major tournaments (EURO 2016 and the 2018 World Cup) and have had three managers in charge since 2014 when Louis Van Gaal led them to a third-place finish at the World Cup in Brazil, then left to manage Manchester United.

Guus Hiddink, Danny Blind and Dick Advocaat all failed to reignite a national team which finished excelled at both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. Now it is Koeman’s turn to usher through a new era of young, talented Dutch players.

His first game in charge of the Netherlands will be a friendly against England in Amsterdam on March 23.

Koeman is joined by Nico-Jan Hoogma who will become the sporting director in a statement released by the Dutch Football Association (KNVB) on Tuesday.

The KNVB has reached agreement with Ronald Koeman (54) about the appointment as national coach of the Dutch national team. Koeman has just signed a contract that connects him to Orange with immediate effect up to and including the World Cup 2022.

Nico-Jan Hoogma has also entered into a contract with the football association. Thanks to the cooperation of Heracles Almelo, where 49-year-old Hoogma has been working as general manager since 1 January 2007, he will be working as a director of top football in Zeist on 1 March. His contact runs until 1 July 2022.

A legend of the Dutch national team, Koeman always dreamed of being their manager as well as managing Barcelona in the future. It is likely he will have to at least lead the Netherlands to the latter stages of the 2022 World Cup for this to be deemed a success and keep his dreams of managing Barcelona alive.

His 18-month spell at Everton ended in October 2017 with the Toffees battling against relegation after he had led them to seventh place in the Premier League in the 2016-17 season. In the two seasons prior to that he led Southampton to 7th and 6th place finishes respectively, which were their highest-ever finishes in the PL.

A former player for Groningen, Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord in his homeland, plus Barcelona abroad where he scored the winning goal in the 1991 European Cup final, Koeman scored 14 goals in 78 appearances for the Dutch national team and helped them win their only major title to date, the 1988 European Championships.

Koeman has also managed Vitesse Arnhem, Ajax, Benfice, PSV, Valencia, AZ Alkmaar and Feyenoord with varying degrees of success.