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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho masterminded a brilliant and unexpected 2-0 home victory over former club Chelsea on Sunday to breathe new life into the Premier League title race.
Mourinho gambled by resting Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera’s goals gave United a win that leaves Chelsea just four points above Tottenham Hotspur with six games to play.
Victory at Old Trafford also lifted United to within four points of fourth-place Manchester City, on whom they have a game in hand, ahead of the derby at the Etihad Stadium on April 27.
It was a personal triumph for Mourinho, who saw his side thrashed 4-0 at Chelsea in October and was branded “Judas” by fans of his old club during last month’s FA Cup defeat at Stamford Bridge.
A wet, cold Manchester afternoon was the setting for United to end a run of 12 games without victory against Chelsea, stretching back to a 3-2 away win in October 2012.
Chelsea have now lost twice in four games, having gone down 2-1 at home to Crystal Palace earlier this month, which will give in-form Spurs fresh hope that the Blues may yet collapse as the finishing line nears.
The top two meet at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-finals next weekend in what now looks a significant test of Chelsea’s mettle.
United, meanwhile, will approach Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg at home to Anderlecht, which is poised at 1-1, on the back of their best display under Mourinho.
Chelsea were without goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois due to an ankle problem, while Marcos Alonso succumbed to a virus, bringing Asmir Begovic and Kurt Zouma into their usual first XI.
Mourinho set United up to stop Chelsea, with Herrera and Matteo Darmian tasked with the responsibility of tracking dangermen Eden Hazard and Pedro wherever they went.
But despite Herrera’s chief role as a stifler, he created United’s seventh-minute opener, albeit in contentious circumstances.
He seemed to block Nemanja Matic’s pass with his right hand, but referee Robert Madley played on, enabling Herrera to split the Chelsea defence with a sublime through ball for Rashford.
The 19-year-old raced in behind David Luiz before clipping a shot past Begovic for his ninth goal of the season.
Costa became embroiled in penalty-box tangles with United centre-backs Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo and was booked for a late challenge on Paul Pogba.
With the willing Jesse Lingard in support of Rashford, United looked far more lively going forward.
Ashley Young twice spurned presentable shooting opportunities from the edge of the box, while Rashford saw a cross headed onto the roof of the net by Gary Cahill.
Short of a 25-yard drive by Costa that flashed wide in stoppage time, the half-time whistle sounded without Chelsea having offered anything in attack.
Any hopes the visitors had of masterminding a turnaround vanished within four minutes of kick-off in the second half as Herrera doubled United’s lead.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte sent on Cesc Fabregas for Victor Moses, with Pedro moving to wing-back, but still the league leaders toiled, Pedro twice curling shots over De Gea’s bar.
At the other end Rashford remained a constant menace, teeing up Lingard to bend a shot over and twice going close himself, ruffling the side-netting and testing Begovic at his near post.
When he departed in the 82nd minute, with Ibrahimovic taking his place, he was accorded a richly deserved standing ovation.
Antonio Conte slammed Manchester United’s cynical attempts to intimidate Chelsea in his side’s bitter FA Cup quarter-final win, but Jose Mourinho hit back at his rival by insisting he remains the Blues’ best ever manager.
Chelsea boss Conte was furious with United’s aggressive approach after Ander Herrera was sent off for two fouls on Eden Hazard in Monday’s 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.
Marcos Rojo escaped a red card for a spiteful stamp on Hazard late in the second half at Stamford Bridge, but the United defender is likely to face a ban if the Football Association retrospectively look at the offence.
Conte was so wound up by the constant fouling he became embroiled in a touchline row with United boss Mourinho that ended with the rivals being separated by the fourth official.
Asked what he made of United’s tactics, Conte said: “My players want to play football, but for 25 minutes it was impossible.
“I think only that Eden got a lot of kicks. I don’t think I’m crazy.
“He started the match receiving kicks and he finished it receiving kicks.
“This is the truth and I don’t think one person can say this didn’t happen. It’s not football for me.
“It could be United’s tactic. Sometimes when you play against players with great talent you try to intimidate them.
“The referee must try to protect these type of players because they can go out with a bad injury.”
It was a chastening return to west London for former Chelsea boss Mourinho, who endured his old club’s fans calling him “Judas” and chanting “you’re not special anymore”.
Mourinho responded to the jibes by holding up three fingers to the crowd to remind them how many Premier League titles he won in his two spells with Chelsea.
And, determined to have the last word, Mourinho, sacked by the Blues last season, took the opportunity to remind Conte and Chelsea’s supporters that they have a long way to go to match his achievements at the Bridge.
“They can call me what they want. I’m a professional,” he said.
“I feel responsibilities on Chelsea’s bad Premier League last season, but when I left we were in the Champions League, winning the Champions League group.
“Now they don’t play in Europe. It’s not my fault.
“Until the moment they have a manager that wins four Premier Leagues, I am number one.
“If a manager wins four I become number two. Until then, Judas is number one.”
Although Conte and Mourinho didn’t shake hands at full-time, the Italian insisted he had done nothing wrong in their touchline clash.
“It was hard work for the fourth official but I controlled my emotion very well today,” Conte said.
“It’s normal for the manager to push his players. What happens outside the pitch is just a circus.”
Conte saluted Hazard for refusing to be intimidated by United’s bullying as N’Golo Kante’s superb second-half winner gave the Premier League leaders a Wembley semi-final showdown with London rivals Tottenham next month.
“For sure, he showed strong character. After the first 25 minutes, every player would have a fear of being kicked. It’s very dangerous to receive a kick from the back,” he said.
Inevitably, Mourinho refused to accept blame for his team’s approach and turned the focus on referee Michael Oliver’s decision to send off Herrera for what was one of the less vicious tackles on Hazard.
“Herrera’s second yellow card, compare that with (Marcus) Rashford going to attack the ball in a counter-attacking situation. He was fouled and the referee doesn’t give a booking,” Mourinho said.
“We all saw the game. We can all agree there was one match until Herrera saw the red card and another after that.
“I thought we were going to win because everything was under control, then with 10 men it was very difficult for us.”
Substitute Isco struck deep in stoppage time to earn Spain a 2-2 draw and deprive Gareth Southgate of victory in his final game as England interim manager on Tuesday.
Goals from Adam Lallana and Jamie Vardy had set England up for an impressive win, but Spain debutant Iago Aspas reduced the arrears in the 89th minute before Isco levelled with practically the last kick.
Southgate, who lost Lallana to injury in the first half, cursed his luck on the touchline, but having gone four games unbeaten since replacing Sam Allardyce, the job is still expected to be his full-time.
“The players over the period of the four matches couldn’t have given any more,” Southgate said.
“It feels like a defeat for the players, but I couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve done. It was a healthy, positive performance.”
While victory eluded England at the last, the vibrant nature of their performance at Wembley will help to erase lingering memories of their Euro 2016 humiliation by Iceland.
Isco’s 96th-minute strike extended Julen Lopetegui’s unbeaten record to six games since he succeeded Vicente del Bosque as Spain coach in the aftermath of their Euro 2016 exit at Italy’s hands.
“In the first half England were better than us. They started really sharply,” said Lopetegui.
“Things got even tougher in the second half, but that’s when we showed our character and never-say-die spirit.
“To pull a draw out of the fire with two goals at the end was great. It showed we never give up.”
Vardy won the penalty that yielded England’s opening goal in the ninth minute, but he was perhaps fortunate to still be on the pitch.
With less than five minutes on the clock, the Leicester City star followed through after clearing the ball downfield and caught Cesar Azpilicueta high on the Chelsea defender’s right shin.
After Jesse Lingard robbed Thiago Alcantara, Lallana curved a gorgeous pass into the box from the right and despite a loose first touch, Vardy succeeded in drawing a foul from goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
Reina went the right way from the penalty, to his left, but Lallana put enough height on the ball to register his third goal in three England outings.
The fates were to conspire against the Liverpool midfielder midway through the first half, however, as injury forced him off, with Theo Walcott coming on in his place.
Shy of a mishit Vitolo shot, Spain had failed to trouble England and Lopetegui changed tack on the half-hour, ditching his initial 3-5-1-1 system for a more conventional 4-1-4-1.
But the traffic remained one-way in the second half and after Walcott had seen a shot deflected into the side-netting, England made it 2-0 in the 48th minute.
Stand-in captain Jordan Henderson’s cross from the right was met with a brilliant diving header from Vardy, who had previously gone 14 games without scoring for club and country.
He celebrated by freezing stockstill in the manner of the ‘Mannequin Challenge’ social media fad, with Walcott and Sterling joining in.
Lopetegui awarded senior debuts to Ander Herrera and Aspas in the second half, yet still the hosts advanced, Reina saving one-handed from Walcott and Nacho clearing off the line from Lingard.
When Spain did threaten, England substitute goalkeeper Tom Heaton denied David Silva and substitute Alvaro Morara, with Aspas putting the rebound over the bar in the first instance.
West Ham United left-back Aaron Cresswell won his first England cap as a late substitute, but was upstaged by Celta Vigo forward Aspas and Real Madrid midfielder Isco, his fellow entrants.
Aspas halved the deficit, drifting in from the right and curling home, before Isco atoned for an earlier miss by chesting down Dani Carvajal’s pass and squeezing a shot between Heaton’s legs.
Wayne Rooney scored against former club Everton while further finishes from Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera helped Manchester United to a comfortable 3-0 victory at Goodison Park on Saturday.
United had won just one of their previous seven visits to the blue half of Merseyside but Louis van Gaal’s side were too strong for a home team who were well below par on an afternoon tinged with sadness.
The news broke earlier on Saturday that Howard Kendall, Everton’s most successful — and consequently popular — manager had passed away that morning of a heart attack.
Kendall had a hugely illustrious playing career at Goodison Park, winning the First Division title in 1970, before assuming the managerial mantle on three separate occasions.
He delivered the Football League title twice (1985, 1987), the FA Cup in 1984 and the European Cup Winners Cup in 1985 during a halcyon spell where Everton and near-neighbours Liverpool dominated the English football landscape.
Kendall’s passing added a sombre touch to an occasion that Everton would have otherwise felt hugely confident of winning.
Van Gaal’s side entered this match on the back of a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal prior to the international break which had halted their progress this term.
They had also lost their three previous visits to this ground, all without scoring.
However, Everton had little to show for their efforts and United punished them with former prodigy Rooney twisting the knife in the second half.
Neither of these sides have really hit top gear so far this season — despite their impressive Premier League placings — and this match had a quiet opening.
Everton’s Romelu Lukaku was the only man who looked like scoring as he caused problems for Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in United’s defence while the visitors seemed extremely reluctant to test home goalkeeper Tim Howard.
Genuinely exciting moments remained non-existent until Schneiderlin ended the tedium and opened the scoring after 18 minutes.
Following a corner, Steve Naismith’s clearance only fell to Marcos Rojo, whose shot deflected off Smalling and into the path of the unmarked Schneiderlin, who calmly passed the ball past Howard from 12 yards.
Until that point, Everton had enjoyed more possession but had done nothing with it and just as they started to try and work their way back into the contest, United scored a second — a goal that proved to be a real killer blow.
Slack Everton defending was to blame as Seamus Coleman clattered into Anthony Martial, which gave Rojo the space down the left wing he needed to whip in a cross that Herrera clinically converted as Everton’s defensive line stood and watched.
After the break, Everton responded to their deficit impressively and showed more heart but they had precious little end product.
De Gea did well to block a Lukaku shot and then a Ross Barkley free-kick in quick succession, before Rooney settled the occasion with a fine finish after 62 minutes.
He ran clean through on goal and thrashed an effort past Howard to silence Goodison Park and confirm United’s clear superiority in a contest they had never totally dominated but then they had never had the need to.
It was Rooney’s first goal at Goodison Park since April 2007 and he did not celebrate out of respect for his former club.
However, the huge smile on his face underlined his pleasure at getting United back to winning ways and this hard-fought victory will be an ideal warm-up for United’s testing Champions League contest with CSKA on Wednesday evening in Moscow.
(Reuters) – Manchester United midfielders Ander Herrera and Adnan Januzaj have returned to training ahead of the Premier League trip to Stoke City, manager Louis van Gaal said on Tuesday.
United have climbed to third in the table after winning seven of their last nine games going into the match against Stoke on Thursday.
“Herrera has trained today for the first time with us and Januzaj has also trained two training sessions with us,” Van Gaal told a news conference.
“They don’t have match rhythm. Januzaj was ill and you have to recover from your illness, not from your tiredness. Maybe it’s worse to recover from illness.”
Defenders Rafael, Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw have returned to the squad after recovering from injuries but Daley Blind, Marouane Fellaini and Marcos Rojo are still sidelined.
“It’s a problem for me to come through this two weeks around Christmas and New Year, all these matches,” Van Gaal said. “That is difficult now.”
The Dutchman sent out an unchanged team for the 0-0 draw at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, the first time United have named the same starting line-up in 85 league matches going back to November, 2012.
That was surprising since they had played Newcastle United less than 48 hours earlier and Van Gaal has been a fierce critic of English soccer’s heavy Christmas fixture schedule.
(AFP) – Manchester United have signed Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera on a four-year contract, subject to the receipt of an international transfer certificate, the English Premier League giants announced Thursday.
United said the move had neared completion after the 24-year-old Herrera triggered the buy-out clause in his Bilbao contract on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old, who joined Bilbao from Real Zaragoza in 2011, has been capped by Spain at Under-20, Under-21 and Under-23 level.
“Signing for Manchester United is a dream come true,” Herrera told United’s website.
“I have played at Old Trafford for Athletic Club in the UEFA Europa League and it was one of the highlights of my career so far. I have joined United to do all I can to help the team reach the club’s objectives.
“Having arrived on Tuesday, I’m excited to now be living in Manchester and I can’t wait for my first game in United’s famous red shirt.”
He added: I will never forget my time with Athletic Club and I’d like to thank the fans and staff for all their support and, above all, wish all my fantastic former team-mates all the best for the future.”
United assistant manager Ryan Giggs forecast a bright future at Old Trafford for Herrera.
“Ander is a fantastic young player, with great energy and creativity. We believe him to be one of the brightest young prospects in Spain and I am certain he will be a big hit with the United fans.
“I’m delighted he has made the decision to come to Manchester and play his part in the club’s future. I’m looking forward to seeing him in action on our summer tour to America.”
United had previously attempted to sign Herrera in August last year only to fail in bizarre circumstances on transfer deadline day.
Reports emerged of three people, believed to be representing United, managing to enter the Spanish league’s headquarters for talks about the proposed move and then leaving an hour later, seemingly unable to complete the paperwork required to seal the deal.
It subsequently emerged that United, who dealt directly with Bilbao, knew nothing of the trio’s existence.
Negotiations between the clubs then collapsed but, with United having sacked former manager David Moyes and replaced him with Louis van Gaal, Herrera is now on the brink of becoming the Dutchman’s first Old Trafford signing, subject to international clearance.
United, who were the reigning Premier League champions, finished a disappointing seventh in the table last season and so missed out on qualification for both the European Champions League and the second-tier Europa League.