Nuno Espirito Santo

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‘Anything can happen’: Nuno, Solskjaer respond to Jimenez’s links with Man United

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Shortly after Wolves and Manchester United scoreless draw in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday, Nuno Espirito Santo and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer addressed the rumors involving Wanderers’ marquee striker Raul Jimenez and Manchester United.

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Just before the first whistle, reports surfaced linking the 28-year-old striker to the Red Devils, who recently missed out on landing their reported top target Erling Braut Haaland, who instead signed for Borussia Dortmund.

The transfer links were news to the Portuguese manager, who all but confirmed that Jimenez is for sale.

“It’s the first-time I heard it,” he said. “Ole didn’t mention anything about that. But the transfer window is open. When it is open, anything can happen. [But] we are delighted to have Raul.”

Jimenez took the field in the second half at Molineux Stadium against Manchester United but failed to widen his goal count which stands at 17 this season.

Last year, Jimenez was named Wolves’ Player of the Season after recording 17 goals and eight assists, aiding them to their first European competition in 40 years. This season, the Club America product has matched last year’s goal count and has nine assists to go with it, proving that he’s indispensable for the Premier League outfit.

Meanwhile, the Red Devils have yet to replace Romelu Lukaku – a forward with a similar profile to Jimenez’s – since his departure to Inter Milan on transfer deadline day in August. Solskjaer and company are looking to bolster their attack that currently features the likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.

Solskjaer, too, was asked about Jimenez’s probabilities of arriving at Old Trafford, but the Norwegian’s tone was equivocal, claiming that many great players are linked to his club.

“[He’s] another good player we’ve been linked with,” he said. “He came on and did well [but] I cannot comment on these situations.”

In July, Jimenez signed with Wolves from Benfica for a club-record $43 million.

Guardiola: ‘It is not realistic to think about the title race’

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It’s late December, and Manchester City are trailing top-of-the-table Liverpool by 14 points after Pep Guardiola side’s late collapse fueled Wolverhampton Wanderers’ 3-2 comeback on Friday.

[ MORE: Three things we learned: Wolves 3-2 Manchester City ]

This is far from what anyone associated with the defending champions expected by this time of year, but as the Spaniard boss says, it has been his team’s new reality for some time now – chasing Liverpool (Leicester City) for the top position in the league. To the BBC and Amazon Prime:

“It is big for a long time,” Guardiola said after his side’s second, league loss of December. “It is not realistic to think about the title race. I have been asked the question for a long time and it is the same answer.”

As expected, 10-man City were outmatched in virtually every match stat on Friday, losing possession by more than 20 percent. Raheem Sterling put the visitor’s up by two goals in the 50th minute, but a late surge from Wolves – fueled by Raul Jimenez, Adama Traore and Nuno Espirito Santo‘s substitutions – buckled the defending champions.

Guardiola recognizes that such crumble was due to having one less player on the field, but that his staff and his player’s can’t dwell too much on the loss or the fact that they’re 14 points behind the Reds.

“Eighty minutes 10 against 11 is so tough, so demanding. We could not defend the result. We have to think of the next game and about winning our games. It’s unrealistic to think about that [catching Liverpool]. In 48 hours we have another game.”

Similar to the initial tone of Guardiola, Bernardo Silva admitted that a once-in-a-lifetime comeback to win the title is going to be “very difficult” for the back-to-back champions to pull off.

“It is a really bad situation for us. A frustrating first half of the season. Nobody expected us to be this far away from Liverpool at this halfway point. We have to continue now. We know that winning the title is very complicated. I wouldn’t say impossible but very difficult.”

Just like Guardiola says that it’s unrealistic for City to dream about winning the title, it might be unrealistic to think that Liverpool aren’t going to win it all.

Late second-half surge powers Wolves past Man City

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Adama Traore, Raul Jimenez, and Matt Doherty scored second-half goals as Wolverhampton Wanderers edged Manchester City 3-2 at Molineux Stadium, sending Nuno Espirito Santo‘s Wolves to fifth on the table.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Despite going down 2-0 in the 50th minute, an inspired Wolves side managed to rally a comeback against a 10-man City with Traore and Jimenez each contributing a goal and assist.

With the win Wolves move on to 30 points, while City stay on 38 points – 14 points behind league leaders Liverpool.

Espirito Santo’s Wolves are only the second team to win both league bouts against Pep Guardiola‘s City – the first dates back to their 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium on Oct. 6.

3 things we learned

1. Nuno Espirito Santo’s second-half substitutions were spot on: Both of Wolves’ last two goals came after the Portuguese manager restructured the left side of the field. Between the the 73rd and 79th minute, Diogo Jota and Jonny Castro left the field for Ruben Vinagre and Pedro Neto. Shortly after the changes were made, the home side’s attack was oozing with confidence, dominating possession and arriving at City’s goal from all angles. Eventually, Jimenez, Traore, and Doherty were able to find space within the new-look attack and contribute to game’s final score.

2. Manchester City’s December has been substandard: December has been an unusually poor month for Manchester City. Following the defeat, Guardiola’s side has now dropped six points – the other three against Manchester United. With Liverpool up 14 points, this is a stab on City’s chances of a three peat. 

3. Jimenez-Traore duo is paying dividends and more: Each attacker scored and assisted once on Friday against City. In there 2-0 victory over the defending champions in October, both were just as influential. With the January transfer window around the corner, the objective will probably be maintaining both players and building around them.

Man of the Match: Adama Traore –  With a goal and an assist, Traore was the heartbeat of Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday night.


The first half was filled with plenty of drama, with Ederson being issued a red card and Raheem Sterling converting from the spot on his second attempt after an encroachment call from VAR.

Even though City were playing with 10 men, the visitor’s started the second half with poise and confidence, controlling the match’s possession and tempo.

In the 50th minute, Sterling’s delicate chip over Rui Patricio – his second goal of the match – all but sealed three points for the defending champions.

What should havre been a low-blow for Wolves turned out to be additional motivation to go for the unlikely win.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In the 54th minute, Traore’s low-driven, sizzling shot unearthed the “there is a chance” attitude that one could sense in every Wolves player and supporter inside the stadium.

With the clock counting down the final 10 minutes of regular time and the hosts knocking on City’s doors, Jimenez converted his 21st goal of the season, finishing Traore’s recovery and hustle inside the opponent’s box.

Matt Doherty sealed the comeback for Wolves, finishing his solo run with a close-range strike inside the box.

Santo slams ‘absurd’ Premier League holiday fixture schedule

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Every year, it seems that there’s another Premier League coach distressed by the lack of recovery time during the holiday fixture list, with Great Britain’s insistence on playing matches at a time when the rest of mainland Europe takes a break.

This year, that coach is Wolverhampton Wanderers boss Nuno Espirito Santo.

[READ: American investment group unlikely to complete purchase of Newcastle]

Speaking ahead of his side’s match against defending champion Manchester City, Santo decried the way the fixtures were set up, which he feels – and he may have a point – puts Wolves at a disadvantage.

“All the teams have strong cases [to complain to the Premier League], but of all the schedule, we are the team that has less hours in this period – 45 hours between two games and 112 hours between the three games until New Year’s Day,” Santo said. “It’s going to be very tough, I think all of the managers are concerned and rightly so. I’m particularly concerned because I’ve been saying this; the schedule doesn’t make sense, it’s absurd. For all the teams.

“Of course, there are teams that have three days [between matches], but I don’t know what the particular reason why it’s us as Wolves who have less hours, but it’s a concern for all the managers and for all the players. We have to survive. We have to survive. Let’s see what happens. We will train tomorrow, then we prepare to play Man City, and we’ll see. Let’s try and survive.”

Matches over the festive period appears to be one of the last mainstays that connects English soccer’s present to its past, with global television audiences having dictated plenty of other changes, both to match days, match times, and uniforms. But while the rest of the major soccer powers take a rest during this time, England goes even more full throttle, packing in three matches between Boxing Day and New Years Day for some teams.

However, you can see why it’s a nightmare for coaches in England. Wolves, for example, faces Man City on Friday afternoon (U.S. time), Liverpool on Sunday morning, and then Watford on New Years Day. Especially for a team like Wolves which doesn’t necessarily have the depth that the big clubs have, it may mean Santo will have to sacrifice a match or two to make sure they pick up all three points when needed, as well as avoid injuries.

With coaches in the past hoping for a winter break, the Premier League has come up with a compromise: Every team will get a weekend off in February. That comes as a small consolation to coaches who may lose a player to a muscle strain now and have them out until February, but if teams can at least make it in one piece to February, they’ll get a little bit of time to rest, recover, and gear up for a final run before the season ends.

PL Sunday preview: Man United, Tottenham in action; Arsenal host Man City

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures promise to have it all as an in-form Manchester United host a new-era Everton; Wolves look to continue a historic unbeaten run against Jose Mourinho and company; and Arsenal take on Manchester City, who are in dire need of three points.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Wolves vs. Tottenham  — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Just how much do Portuguese managers Jose Mourinho and Nuno Espirito Santo care about Sunday’s clash between their teams?

So much that both managers elected to omit key players during European midweek duty in order to have full-power lineups for a match that has serious implications on their chances of qualifying for European competition next year.

Wolves will have a fresh Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore, while Harry Kane will reappear for Spurs after being absent midweek against Bayern Munich. But the 26-year-old striker will not have any additional breaks ahead of a busy festive period, according to Mourinho.

For now, it’s tough to say who has the upper hand from resting key players. That said, Wolves had more players sidelined, and while two-thirds of the attack (Jimenez and Traore) watched Wolves pulverize Besiktas from the stands, Diogo Jota bagged a hat-trick.

With a club-record 12-match unbeaten run in Premier League play, there are no doubts that things are going well for Espirito Santo and company. They are the team to beat.

“[He] is getting some praise for the work he is doing,” Mourinho said ahead of the match. “In my opinion, not enough. He deserves more than what he is getting. Fantastic work.”

“He is a much better manager than a player. I’m not saying he was a bad player, but he’s a much better manager. Wolves are one of the best teams from a tactical point of view.”

If Spurs want to stand a chance, they’ll have to correct their defensive deficiencies. There’s a 99-percent chance Mourinho knows that already, though.

INJURIES: Wolves — OUT: Boly (leg), Gibbs-White (back)| Tottenham — OUT: Lamela (hamstring), Ndombele (groin), Vorm (calf), Lloris (elbow), Davies (ankle)

Manchester United vs. Everton — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

All of the parallels between Manchester United and Everton are conjoining at the Theater of Dreams on Sunday.

Around this time a year ago, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed caretaker of Manchester United. A former standout Red Devil, the task to take the helm of the club was not only a tall one given the popularity of Manchester United, but one that was emotionally taxing given his past with the team.

A year later, Duncan Ferguson – a striker who also made a name for himself in the ’90s – has the keys to the club that considers him a legend.

When the first whistle goes off, the subplots will evaporate, however.

Manchester United will go for their third consecutive league win since January, while Everton – still probably feeling the side effects of Marcelo Silva’s sacking – look for a second consecutive win in their new era. It’s not probable that it will be the case, but “Big Dunc” will go for it.

“It is going to be difficult for us but it’s one we will be up for,” he said. “United are on the up at the moment and they are a very good team. It will be a big ask but I am sure we can give a good account of ourselves.”

“I’d be on the roof if we get a win there,” he added. “But we can do it and that’s what we’ll try to do.”

INJURIES: Manchester United — OUT: Bailly (knee), Fosu-Mensah (knee), Pogba (ankle) | Everton — OUT: Walcott (calf), Schneiderlin (calf), Gbamin (thigh), Gomes (ankle)

Arsenal vs. Manchester City — 9:00 a.m ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Just how tough is the main job at Arsenal? If we strictly zero in on Freddie Ljungberg‘s latest request, it becomes apparent that managing the Gunners at this point in time comes with unique challenges and limitations that not every manager-in-the-making can bare.

The 42-year-old Arsenal legend, who is currently serving as Arsenal’s interim manager, is calling for the club’s board to swiftly come to a resolution in their search for a full-time manager, according to The Guardian.

In three league matches at the helm of Arsenal, Ljungberg has earned four points – losing only to Brighton 2-1 at the Emirates. That said, the former winger has yet to face a side that sits higher than his team on the table.

That will change with Manchester City visiting on Sunday.

Looking to bounce back from their Manchester Derby defeat, Pep Guardiola reveled that he’s studied his opponent’s new look, although when going against the North London team, it’s all about not letting them feel comfortable.

“I have not watched the previous games with Unai,” he says “I watched the games they played with Ljungberg to try to figure out what they’ll try to do.”

“But normally Arsenal have a typical style of play. If you let them play, they have the quality to play. Arsenal away is always a big test for any team.”

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Ceballos (thigh), Xhaka (concussion), Holding (knee), Tierney (shoulder) | Manchester City — OUT: Agüero (thigh), Stones (thigh), Laporte (knee), Sané (knee)