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Updated: 1 hour 16 min ago

José Mourinho targets summer move for Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld

Mon, 05/21/2018 - 13:01
• Manchester United manager wants to revamp his defence
• Belgian open to move having failed to agree new Spurs deal

José Mourinho is targeting Toby Alderweireld as part of the Manchester United manager’s intended revamp of his defence this summer, with the Tottenham Hotspur centre-back open to a move to Old Trafford.

Alderweireld is out of contract in 2020 and discussions over fresh terms have reached a virtual impasse. The Belgian is conscious he can leave Tottenham next summer for €25m (£22m) due to a clause in his deal, though only if an option to extend until 2020 is activated.

Related: Alexis Sánchez admits he has struggled to adapt at Manchester United

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Alexis Sánchez admits he has struggled to adapt at Manchester United

Mon, 05/21/2018 - 11:42
• Chilean scored just three times since joining United in January
• ‘I’ve found it hard to adapt to the style of play’ says Sánchez

Alexis Sánchez has admitted he has struggled to adapt to José Mourinho’s style of play since joining Manchester United from Arsenal.

The Chilean failed to make an impact during United’s 1-0 FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday and, in general, has only intermittently shone for United since arriving at Old Trafford in January as part of the deal that saw Henrik Mkhitaryan move to north London. Sánchez has managed only three goals in 18 appearances and is often on the periphery during matches.

Related: José Mourinho targets summer move for Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld

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Nemanja Matic calls for Manchester United to recruit more experience

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 22:30
• Midfielder says United have improved but can be better
• ‘When you don’t win the next year is always more pressure’

Nemanja Matic believes Manchester United must make major signings this summer if they are to challenge for the Premier League and Champions League next season.

United’s 1-0 defeat by Chelsea in Saturday’s FA Cup final meant they ended the campaign without a trophy. United also finished as runners-up in the Premier League, a record 19 points behind Manchester City. While second is their highest placing since claiming the title five years ago, there was further disappointment in the Champions League, with United knocked out in the last-16 stage by Sevilla.

Related: Antonio Conte likely to leave after delivering parting gift to Chelsea

Related: Gary Cahill urges Chelsea to resolve situation over Antonio Conte’s future

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Thibaut Courtois stands tall to grant Antonio Conte a glorious swansong | David Hytner

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 08:00
Gutsy backs-to-the-wall show delivers a triumphant end to Italian’s stormy season – and perhaps his Chelsea tenure

Antonio Conte remained in a state of agitation. The Chelsea manager had seen Eden Hazard put his team in charge of the FA Cup final with a first-half penalty but he did not celebrate. Instead, he continued to chew the ear of the fourth official, Lee Mason. Conte wanted a red card to be shown to the Manchester United defender Phil Jones, for what he felt had been a last-man foul on Hazard.

It seemed to sum up what has been a slog of a season for Conte – even at the good moments, he could have gripes. It has had the feel of one long argument between him and the club and there was the unmistakable end-of-era impression for him at Wembley.

Related: Chelsea’s Eden Hazard spot-on to sink Manchester United and win FA Cup

Related: Antonio Conte: ‘I showed in a difficult season that I’m a serial winner’

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'I'm a serial winner,' says Antonio Conte after FA Cup triumph – video

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 00:03

Following their 1-0 win over Manchester United in the FA Cup final, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte defended himself against criticism of their poor performance in the Premier League by calling himself a "serial winner". Eden Hazard scored the only goal of the game, a tense affair which United manager José Mourinho said he believed his team had put their all into.

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Marcus Rashford’s toils show up José Mourinho as a man without a plan | Barney Ronay

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 21:49
Isolated outing for forward in the cup final was dismaying proof that skilful attackers are being left to regress at Old Trafford

On a sweaty, heavy, oddly gruelling Wembley day Manchester United’s sweaty, heavy, oddly gruelling season was finally euthanised to a close.

It has been a good season in some ways, with obvious progress made in the Premier League. But it passed here without the garnish of a trophy as Eden Hazard’s first-half penalty settled a largely forgettable FA Cup final in Chelsea’s favour.

Related: Chelsea’s Eden Hazard spot-on to sink Manchester United and win FA Cup

Related: Antonio Conte: ‘I showed in a difficult season that I’m a serial winner’

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Antonio Conte: ‘I showed in a difficult season that I’m a serial winner’

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 21:41
• Chelsea manager issues ‘back me or sack me’ message
• ‘If they want to continue to work with me, they know me‘

Antonio Conte warned Chelsea they would be losing a “serial winner” if they chose to sack him and said that, whatever the future might hold, he would always love the club.

Conte watched his team dig out a 1-0 win against Manchester United in the FA Cup final to finish a trying season on a high. The trophy followed his Premier League title success from last season – his first at Stamford Bridge.

Related: Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United: 2018 FA Cup final - as it happened

Related: Chelsea’s Eden Hazard spot-on to sink Manchester United and win FA Cup

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Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United: FA Cup final player ratings

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 20:22
Eden Hazard was Chelsea’s star of the show as Ander Herrera struggled to stifle him and Paul Pogba had a day to forget for Manchester United

Thibaut Courtois Preferred to Willy Caballero, he had little to do but made a brilliant left-hand save to deny Phil Jones in his first FA Cup match of the season. 7/10

Related: Chelsea’s Eden Hazard spot-on to sink Manchester United and win FA Cup

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Chelsea’s Eden Hazard spot-on to sink Manchester United and win FA Cup

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 19:14

If this turns out to be Antonio Conte’s final game as Chelsea manager – and who could really be surprised if they do part ways? – at least he has gone out on a high. For all the problems, the unending politics and the clear impression of a manager who knows his time is up, another trophy has been added to the collection. Last year, the Premier League, this season, the FA Cup; only at Chelsea, perhaps, could a manager with that return now be cut loose.

It is an eccentric twist bearing in mind Chelsea have just won the eighth FA Cup of their history, moving joint third with Tottenham Hotspur on the all-time list. But this can be an unorthodox club, and who can possibly say the boom-and-bust policy does not work when Chelsea, on Roman Abramovich’s watch, have accumulated so much silverware? This was the 15th trophy of the Abramovich era – and that is not even using the José Mourinho tactic of counting Community Shields.

Related: Chelsea win FA Cup after beating Manchester United 1-0 in final – live!

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Chelsea v Manchester United: 2018 FA Cup final – live!

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 18:34

6.34pm BST

61 min: Rudiger lashes a long pass down the left wing. Hazard scampers after it, races along the touchline, and then zips down the byline. It’s like a game of Amidar. He thrashes a shot-cum-cross straight at de Gea, who handles well.

6.32pm BST

59 min: United are dominating possession and territory. Chelsea are finding it very hard to get out of their final third. And this time United are asking serious questions. Matic has a shot which bobbles harmlessly wide ... but they’re racking up some chances now. On the touchline, Mourinho applauds his men.

6.30pm BST

57 min: Pogba shoots and wins a corner ... from which Chelsea break upfield. Hazard tears past Herrera, then cuts inside, past Valencia. He’s upended, and that’s Valencia in the book.

6.29pm BST

56 min: Herrera splits Chelsea’s back four with a slide-rule pass down the inside right that releases Valencia. The right back is clear in the area, but looks for a pullback instead of shooting. Rashford has a blast that’s parried by Courtois. Pogba tries again, but lifts a soft one into the keeper’s hands. This is miles better from United ... though Valencia might reflect that he really should have had a shot himself.

6.27pm BST

55 min: Chelsea are sitting deep and living dangerously. Lingard dribbles his way into the box and causes some bedlam. Chelsea half clear. Herrera slips a pass down the left and Young floats a chip over the bar from an ambitious angle.

6.25pm BST

53 min: Rashford curls a vicious free kick into the mixer. It might even have been a direct shot. Either way, Pogba rises but just misses his attempted header, six yards out. Courtois punches out bravely in the middle of a crowded box. United are on top here.

6.24pm BST

52 min: Young dribbles his way down the left and goes over the outstretched leg of Moses. That was a slightly cheeky one, he bought that very cheaply. It’s a free kick to the left of the Chelsea box, though, in a very dangerous position.

6.23pm BST

50 min: Hazard is down, having taken an accidental finger in the eye from Smalling in a midfield tussle. Or maybe it was a crack across the nose. Either way, he’ll be fine to continue. A splash of water on the face and a dap with a sponge will do the trick. Pleasingly old-fashioned treatment.

6.20pm BST

48 min: United have been first to pretty much everything since the break. Chelsea haven’t come out for the second half yet.

6.19pm BST

46 min: Pogba, dropping deep, spreads a lovely pass wide right for Rashford, who lays off to Sanchez, who slides the ball wide right for Valencia. The resulting attempt at a cross comes off Alonso then back off Valencia for a goal kick, but it looks like United are determined to play at a higher tempo. That was much better.

6.17pm BST

And we’re off again! Chelsea get the second half underway. No changes.

6.08pm BST

Half-time entertainment, courtesy of Norman ‘a song, a smile, a piano’ Long. As 78rpm platters go, Long’s 1928 release Why Is The Bacon So Tough? / Never Have A Bath With Your Wrist Watch On is hard to beat. But it’s cup final day, and Chelsea are playing, so here’s his 1933 classic On The Day That Chelsea Went And Won The Cup. The conceit doesn’t quite hold post 1970, admittedly, but let’s go with it. “The sun came out in Manchester and funny things like that ...”

6.04pm BST

Giroud nearly releases Hazard into the United box with a cute first-time cushioned pass. United flood up the other end, Pogba driving into the area from the left, Rashford miskicking at a chance from the penalty spot. Rudiger hacks clear, and the players trot off to the changing room for their half-time tactical de-brief. Those last 60 seconds of the half were the most exciting yet! Typical. Another 45 minutes like that, then, please!

6.01pm BST

45 min: ... United create their best chance of the game so far! The ball’s worked to Young, out on the left. He sends an inswinger to the far post. Jones rises highest, but can only head wide right from close range. A tight angle, to be fair.

6.00pm BST

44 min: Young drops a shoulder to circumvent Moses on the outside, but is cynically shoulder-barged to the floor. A free kick. It should have been a booking, but no. From the set piece, a corner. And from that ...

5.58pm BST

42 min: Matic, of all people, channels his inner Garrincha and nearly twinkle-toes his way through a small gap down the left. Chelsea shut that door quickly enough. United have done next to nothing in attack so far. On the touchline, Mourinho looks accordingly frustrated.

5.57pm BST

40 min: Fabregas hits the corner, from the left, long. De Gea rises and a telescopic arm extends to punch the ball away. Fine keeping with the likes of Giroud lurking with intent.

5.54pm BST

39 min: Hazard nips through a small gap between Pogba and Lingard, and is fouled by both of them at once. The resulting free kick is hoicked into the mixer, and Smalling is panicked enough to head straight out for a corner.

5.53pm BST

38 min: Pogba’s work earns United a corner on the left. Sanchez tries to curl a saucy one straight into the net, but Fabregas is guarding the near post and heads out for another corner. That second one goes straight down Courtois’ throat.

5.52pm BST

36 min: Fabregas batters one witlessly straight into the wall. This is not a classic. But there have been many worse finals over the years, and there’s still plenty of time to go.

5.51pm BST

35 min: Sanchez clips the heel of Bakayoko, who was threatening to break into the United box down the left. A free kick in a very dangerous position, just to the left of the D.

5.50pm BST

34 min: This is very bitty. Chelsea nudge the action up to the middle of the park, away from their goal, where both teams faff awhile.

5.48pm BST

32 min: A frustrated-looking Sanchez tries to blooter one in from 25 yards. It’s nowhere near the target.

5.47pm BST

31 min: United are dominating possession now. But it’s sterile domination at the moment. Chelsea’s back line is holding firm. There’s no way into the box.

5.45pm BST

29 min: United press Chelsea back a little. This has been their best spell of the match. Pogba drifts inside, but his shot flies harmlessly wide left. Courtois had it well covered anyway, despite the sun gleaming in his face.

5.43pm BST

27 min: Sanchez pulls the free kick back for Herrera, who shanks his shot dismally. But it dribbles straight back to Sanchez, who is able to curl in a cross for Pogba. The big man’s header clanks off Rudiger and that’s a corner ... which is wasted. But that’s a little bit better from United, who have seen plenty of the ball but not so much of it in Chelsea’s final third.

5.42pm BST

26 min: Pogba is fouled just to the left of the Chelsea area. A chance for United to finally work Courtois.

5.41pm BST

24 min: Well that got the crowd going. Wembley had been a little quiet before Hazard tore United in two with that glorious take and dribble. Chelsea wanted Jones sent off, but he was going for the ball, and the new double-jeopardy law saved him.

5.38pm BST

Once Jones is booked for his unique contribution, Hazard steps up and strokes the ball into the bottom right. Has there been a cooler cup-final penalty since the days of Eric Cantona?

5.37pm BST

21 min: I knew that would do it. Fabregas, deep in his own half, strokes a glorious ball down the inside-right channel. Hazard, cutting in, stuns it with one touch, tearing down the field. He enters the box, and is brought crashing down by Jones, who tries to toe-poke the ball away but falls over, spins through 180 degrees, and ends up felling Hazard with his back.

5.35pm BST

20 min: This final hasn’t got going yet.

5.34pm BST

18 min: Sanchez goes on a determined dribble down the centre. For a second, it looks as though Chelsea’s defence will be prised open by his ball-glued-to-boot stylings, but the door shuts on the edge of the box. That was a fine run.

5.33pm BST

16 min: Up the other end, Sanchez claims a penalty after a brush with Moses, who was busy falling down behind him. He then goes down near Azpilicueta’s trailing leg, but there didn’t seem much contact either. To be fair to Sanchez, his appeals weren’t particularly vocal.

5.31pm BST

14 min: Bakayoko tries to turn Matic on the edge of the United box, then falls inside it. He wants a penalty, because Matic’s hand was lightly on his back. Older fans who remember the Sinclair-Kanchelskis decision in 1994 would have been hoping for a little karmic payback, but it’s not coming.

5.28pm BST

13 min: United have yet to find theirs, though. Young is seeing quite a bit of the ball out on the left, but his deep, looping cross here is easily snaffled by Courtois.

5.28pm BST

11 min: Moses, tight on the right touchline, hooks a lovely first-time pass down the channel for Giroud. United’s defence is split open ... but Giroud’s been flagged offside. Chelsea are slowly finding a little rhythm.

5.26pm BST

9 min: The resulting free kick is worked wide left to Young. His cross is headed clear by Cahill. The ball’s then misplaced in midfield by Jones, allowing Sanchez to skedaddle down the middle at pace. He drifts left and drops a shoulder to pass the half-recovering Jones, then fires for the bottom left. De Gea sticks a leg out to stop. A lovely run and a fine save.

5.24pm BST

8 min: Chelsea press a little, but go nowhere. United break back upfield through Sanchez and then Lingard, who is brought down by Kante. Young isn’t happy about it at all, but the referee awards a free kick and nothing else.

5.23pm BST

6 min: It’s been a nervous start by both teams. Nothing’s happening at all. Some light speculative sparring. Probably not the best time for Hubert O’Hearn to proselytise for the FA Cup, but here he goes anyway: “When I was growing up in Canada and the FA Cup Final was the only live football match the CBC broadcast, I always thought that this was the highest achievement a club could win. Years pass. Well, to paraphrase Oscar Levant upon hearing of the passing of George Gershwin, I have heard that the FA Cup is dead, but I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to. This is the true champiosnhip of all of England, not just a 20-team Division.”

5.20pm BST

4 min: Otherwise, it’s been a slow, studious start with players seemingly happy just to get their first touch of the ball. United are seeing a little bit more of it, though to no great effect yet.

5.17pm BST

2 min: Alonso dribbles down the left and is bundled over from behind by the ever-busy Herrera. A free kick, and a chance for Chelsea to load the box. Fabregas takes, but it’s an awful delivery, floating straight into the grateful arms of de Gea.

5.16pm BST

And we’re off! United get the party started. Young launches it long down the left. Courtois claims it. The keeper’s peering into fierce sun, without a cap. Good luck, then. “I’m going for a classic,” predicts Simon McMahon. “1-0 United. Or 1-0 Chelsea. But either way, done in the classic style.”

5.13pm BST

The teams are out! Both teams are able to wear their famous colours: Chelsea are in blue, United in red. The national anthem is belted out. The crowd roars. Pitchside flamethrowers blast away theatrically. The RAF fly past. We’ll be off in a minute!

5.08pm BST

And now the singing of the traditional cup-final hymn, Abide with Me. Each note sounds especially poignant this year, as tribute is paid to Ray Wilkins. The much-loved midfielder, who served both of these clubs with class, quality and distinction, passed away last month. Two huge banners picturing Wilkins flutter in the gentle summer breeze: dressed in Chelsea blue on one, lifting the cup for United on the other. That trophy will be presented today by his widow Jackie. Wilkins won the trophy three times as assistant manager of Chelsea, in 2000, 2009 and 2010, and as a player for United in 1983 when he did this:

5.03pm BST

Pre-match singalong. Nobody releases cup-final songs any more, which on balance is probably a good thing. Still, you can’t help feeling something’s been lost along the way. Here’s some beige period footage of Chelsea recording one back in the day (for the 1972 League Cup final, but let’s not start pulling at threads).

4.58pm BST

It’s a glorious day at Wembley. The vibes coming off the two managers: not so sunny. Both appeared a little downbeat, perhaps feeling the pressure ahead of a game that, if lost, will guarantee them opprobrium a-plenty. Both launched defences of their season’s work, though neither made their case with any great verve or passion. Life imitating art, hey. Mourinho also made sure everyone knew that Lukaku had declared himself not fit enough to start. Another agenda-setting masterclass. You have to love him.

4.46pm BST

Jose Mourinho speaks! “Lukaku has decided he is not ready to start, but is ready to give us some help. One thing is to start a match and play for 90 minutes, another is to be on the bench and play a few minutes. And that’s what he told us he was ready to do. We change Romelu with Marcus Rashford. Of course they are two different players but he will play in the same position with different qualities. It is not fair and not my philosophy as a manager to put the responsibility on one player, we have to defend and attack as a team, and Marcus is just one of them. It is better to win that lose, it is much more beautiful, but it is not fair to analyse my players and what they did during the season because of one result. They are one of the two best teams in the two most important domestic competitions in a very difficult country with lots of very good teams. So I think they did a positive season. Can we win? Let’s try everything.”

4.37pm BST

Antonio Conte speaks! “We have worked very hard to prepare for this game. The result of the last game was not positive, and the team have to play in a better way if they want to win this final. It is normal to send messages of positivity to the group, but the best way to do that is to work, and we prepare that way. Our starting XI is the same team we played against Liverpool two weeks ago. It is the best formation, the best XI for us today. I don’t think we have had a disappointing season, finishing fifth can happen in England. It is a great achievement to play two finals in a row in this important competition; now we have to change the result of last season.”

4.30pm BST

Chelsea make three changes to the team that didn’t turn up at Newcastle on the final day of the Premier League last Sunday. Andreas Christensen, Emerson and Ross Barkley make way for Antonio Rudiger, Marcos Alonso and Cesc Fabregas.

4.20pm BST

Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Rudiger, Moses, Fabregas, Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso, Hazard, Giroud.
Subs: Caballero, Barkley, Morata, Pedro, Zappacosta, Willian, Chalobah.

4.00pm BST

Chelsea are hoping to avoid becoming the first club to lose back-to-back finals since Newcastle United in the late 1990s. Antonio Conte will be desperate to avoid becoming the first manager to taste defeat in consecutive finals since Howard Kendall in the mid 80s. His side were in decent form for a while back there, with a five-game that took them to this final and within a sniff of fourth place in the League. But then came a home draw with Huddersfield and a miserable no-show at Newcastle. Conte has looked short of energy, his team listless. It’ll be a miserable end to the season if they can’t raise themselves one last time.

But United didn’t have a great deal of late-season momentum either. They finished their Premier League card with a defeat at Brighton, a goalless draw at West Ham, and a nondescript home win over Watford. Though to be fair, second place had long been in the bag. A trophy would throw different light on a season during which Mourinho has copped flak from his own punters for his style of play. It’ll be a miserable end to the season if they can’t raise themselves one last time.

1.30pm BST

Welcome to our coverage of the 2018 FA Cup final. It’ll be the 137th staging of English football’s showpiece match, the third time it’s been contested between Chelsea and Manchester United, and the first to make use of the popular Video Assistant Referee feature. Throw in Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho on the touchline, and this could be a whole world of fun.

The clubs first met in the final in 1994. Sir Alex Ferguson’s first great United side had swanned their way to the Premiership, and were favourites to beat Chelsea, who had finished Glenn Hoddle’s first season in charge as player-manager in 14th position. Favourites, though not hot favourites, because Chelsea had beaten United home and away in the League, Gavin Peacock scoring the only goal on each occasion.

13: Arsenal
12: Manchester United
8: Tottenham Hotspur
7: Aston Villa, Liverpool, Chelsea
6: Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United
5: Wanderers, West Bromwich Albion, Everton, Manchester City

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Ander Herrera: My future is the FA Cup final. I want to be here next season

Fri, 05/18/2018 - 22:30
Manchester United midfielder has struggled for an automatic place in the first team but he scored the winner in the semi-final and is keen to continue in that vein

Ander Herrera has a self-possession that allows rare honesty when he is asked how Manchester City’s runaway title win and Liverpool potentially being European champions heightens Manchester United’s need to win the FA Cup final against Chelsea.

Sitting upstairs in the academy building at the club’s Carrington base, the midfielder is an articulate speaker on a range of subjects. United finished second to City but, unless Chelsea are defeated at Wembley on Saturday, José Mourinho’s side will end the season without a trophy. The nightmare scenario is City’s 19-point Premier League success being followed by Liverpool claiming a sixth European Cup next Saturday by defeating Real Madrid.

Related: Ander Herrera pays up contract and signs for Manchester United

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Antonio Conte: Chelsea’s born winner who lost his mojo | Dominic Fifield

Fri, 05/18/2018 - 22:29
A year ago he was hailed as a genius for turning Chelsea from a shambles into champions, and yet today’s FA Cup final is expected to be his last game. What went so wrong, so quickly?

Antonio Conte, clean‑shaven on the eve of the FA Cup final, digested the question, took a deep breath and then conjured a fresh analogy for an increasingly weary theme. “Last season was a wonderful season because we reached an important success,” the Chelsea head coach said, his mind retreating exactly 12 months to the raucous celebrations with the Premier League trophy on the pitch at Stamford Bridge. “But then you have to understand the way you won. If your car is going at 300km per hour, or if you are winning while going at normal velocity and aren’t risking burning out your engine.”

The Italian’s audience was picking apart that metaphor when, for those still in the dark, he followed up with a dash of clarity. “When you win, you must understand which is the best way to improve. Last season we won and we divided [praise for] this big win with the players and the club. This season we finished fifth. We must divide the responsibility between the club, the manager and the players in the same way. If you are intelligent, you understand what is wrong and what is right. And you to try and improve.”

Related: Forget artist v mechanic: Mourinho and Conte’s midfield duel holds key | Jonathan Wilson

Related: Antonio Conte may be latest to find how little FA Cup glory means now

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Mourinho will wait until ‘last moment’ to decide if Lukaku is fit for FA Cup final

Fri, 05/18/2018 - 14:12
• Romelu Lukaku to get last-minute fitness check, says Mourinho
• Mourinho promises ‘entertaining’ final against Chelsea

José Mourinho has said Romelu Lukaku will undergo a last-minute fitness test on an ankle injury before deciding whether Manchester United’s leading scorer will face Chelsea in Saturday’s FA Cup final.

“[Anthony] Martial is fit and Lukaku we will have to wait till the last moment,” Mourinho said. “I don’t want to lie to you, to say he doesn’t play then he plays, or vice versa. With Lukaku we have to wait.”

Related: Forget artist v mechanic: Mourinho and Conte’s midfield duel holds key | Jonathan Wilson

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Forget artist v mechanic: Mourinho and Conte’s midfield duel holds key | Jonathan Wilson

Fri, 05/18/2018 - 09:59
José Mourinho’s dig at Antonio Conte has diverted attention from the FA Cup final’s pivotal confrontation in which Chelsea’s midfield could be overrun by Manchester United

“I’m not,” José Mourinho said after Manchester United’s home win over Liverpool in March, “the kind of mechanic coach that says player A pass to player B, player B pass to player C and player C to player D. I’m much more a supporter of preparing the players to decide well and feel the game.”

As so often with Mourinho, there was perhaps a coded jibe; this may have been (it’s very hard to know for sure with a man whose every utterance is subjected to intense scrutiny) another sortie in his protracted war of words with Antonio Conte. For the Italian is a manager who has his side practise “automations”, as Eden Hazard calls them. Conte does see the value in practising set moves, to be deployed during games when the disposition of players on the pitch is right.

Related: Antonio Conte may be latest to find how little FA Cup glory means now

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Antonio Conte may be latest to find how little FA Cup glory means now

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 12:03

A Cup triumph used to really matter but Roberto Mancini and Louis van Gaal were sacked regardless and Chelsea’s manager seems set to go whatever happens at Wembley

“I didn’t bring the magic, it’s always been here,” Bob Stokoe said modestly after second division Sunderland had toppled mighty Leeds United in the 1973 FA Cup final. “I just came back to find it.”

Everyone knows what Stokoe said because the words are inscribed on the plinth of his statue outside the Stadium of Light. That’s how big a deal winning the FA Cup used to be. When Stokoe died in 2004 there was never any doubt about the image that would be used to commemorate the club’s greatest post-war success. Opinion is divided over how accurately the sculptor captured the manager and the moment, but the worst-dressed man at Wembley leaping off the bench at the final whistle to race to his goalkeeper Jimmy Montgomery was already part of FA Cup final lore.

Related: Gianluigi Buffon to leave Juventus but is considering 'interesting proposals'

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Arsenal were close to signing Ronaldo and tried to sign Messi, says Wenger

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 12:00

• Arsène Wenger reflects on how he tried to sign both in 2003
• ‘Ronaldo was very close. Messi didn’t work because of agents’

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi could have played together at Arsenal had things worked out differently.

Arsène Wenger, who took charge of the final game of his 22-year reign on Sunday, has revealed how he tried to sign both in 2003. Instead Ronaldo went to Manchester United before joining Real Madrid, and Wenger was unable to prise Messi from Barcelona.

Related: David Squires on … Arsène Wenger and the North Bank Redemption

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Football transfer rumours: Elseid Hysaj a target for Manchester United?

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 08:41

Today’s whispers are beach-body ready

Despite doing everything to show that he is a man for the big occasion in helping his team reach a third successive Champions League final, Real Madrid are continuing their seemingly never-ending search for Keylor Navas’s replacement by switching their sights to Thibaut Courtois.

Related: Mauricio Pochettino wants quick decisions on Tottenham departures

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Categories: What the papers say

Premier League 2017-18 review: young player of the season

Mon, 05/14/2018 - 11:10

Man City, Liverpool and Spurs all gave youth a chance to telling effect but there were plenty more young pretenders

Welcome to theguardian.com review of the 2017-18 Premier League season. We have nominated some contenders for this category but this is just to get the discussion going: offer your suggestions below the line …

Related: Premier League 2017-18 review: goal of the season

Related: Premier League 2017-18 review: player of the season

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Categories: What the papers say

Michael Carrick provides one last assist in Manchester United’s win over Watford

Sun, 05/13/2018 - 17:10

Michael Carrick’s 464th and final Manchester United game – barring an unlikely appearance in the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday – featured a vintage moment via a superb pass that created Marcus Rashford’s first-half winner.

The midfielder had walked out to a guard of honour and on 80 minutes strode off the turf for the last time to a standing ovation. Carrick will join José Mourinho’s coaching staff, the Portuguese indicating he will one day be his new No 2, following Rui Faria’s departure in the summer.

Related: Manuel Lanzini double gives West Ham victory over lacklustre Everton

Related: Liverpool clinch fourth after Mohamed Salah kickstarts romp against Brighton

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Categories: What the papers say