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Revenge for Mourinho as Man Utd stun Chelsea

April 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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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.

Manchester United

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.

With Chelsea striker Diego Costa spending more time provoking his opponents than taking shots at goal, David de Gea was a virtual spectator between the posts for United.

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.

Zouma’s tackle on the burrowing Young sent the ball rolling into Herrera’s path and his drilled effort flicked off Zouma to fly past the grounded Begovic.

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.

Misfiring Manchester United get Ibrahimovic boost

April 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return from suspension may be just the lift that Manchester United need as they attempt to improve their Premier League home form against Everton on Tuesday.

Zlatan

The former Paris Saint-Germain striker, United’s leading scorer this season, has missed three domestic matches through suspension – in which time Jose Mourinho’s team have been knocked out of the FA Cup and lost ground in the race for a top-four finish.

Ibrahimovic was certainly missed on Saturday as United drew at home in the league for the eighth time this season, as they were held 0-0 by West Bromwich Albion.

Time after time, Mourinho’s men have dominated possession at Old Trafford against visiting teams, yet failed to make their superiority count.

So it was at the weekend, as United enjoying 75 per cent of the possession yet managed only three shots on target.

In United’s defence, they were without not only Ibrahimovic, but also Ander Herrera, who was suspended too, plus injury victims Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, yet it was still a hugely disappointing display.

Mourinho was particularly angry with his front four of Jesse Lingard, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, and may make changes beyond bringing back Ibrahimovic.

This is a busy period for United, who are scheduled to play nine matches during April.

If there is no sign of improvement in Premier League form against Everton or at Sunderland this coming Sunday, Mourinho has indicated that he will put his focus on winning the Europa League, and securing a Champions League place that way.

“After Sunderland, the Europa League comes, and then I don’t know,” he said.

“Then, it’s possible that you see me play in the Premier League with a team where I’m going to protect the players that I consider fundamental for the Europa League.

“But only, only if the results in the next matches put us in a situation where mathematically, it becomes almost impossible to do it.”

- Heavy criticism -

France midfielder Pogba should return against Everton, having been able to take part in a training session on the pitch after Saturday’s match.

He was left out of the squad against West Brom as a precaution because of the hamstring injury that kept him out of France’s matches against Luxembourg and Spain during the recent international break.

Herrera is also available after his ban, but Mata, Smalling and Jones will be longer-term absentees; the Spanish winger is expected to miss the remainder of the season following groin surgery last week.

Everton are seeking improvement themselves, having performed poorly in losing 3-1 at Liverpool in Saturday’s Merseyside derby.

Ross Barkley has come in for particularly heavy criticism in the media, having been very fortunate not to be sent off at Anfield for a dangerous challenge on Dejan Lovren when already on a booking.

Everton manager Ronald Koeman did say in public after the game that he was proud of his team’s performance.

But they have played much better than that over the last three months, losing just two of their last 13 league matches and looking comfortable in seventh place.

Koeman is short of defensive options, with Seamus Coleman recovering from a broken leg and Ramiro Funes Mori set to miss the final weeks of the season after suffering a knee injury while playing for Argentina.

A back three of Matthew Pennington, Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka did not work too well at Anfield, but Koeman may have to stick with that set-up.

“We won’t be taking too many positives from Saturday, but we’ve got a big game on Tuesday,” said Jagielka.

Mourinho laments United’s lack of cutting edge

March 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Jose Mourinho fears Manchester United’s bid to qualify for the Champions League will fail because of their inability to kill off inferior opponents at Old Trafford.

Rojo

United had most of the possession and chances against struggling Bournemouth on Saturday, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s penalty miss forced them to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Mourinho’s side have dropped home points against a number of sides below them in the table this season, with Stoke, Burnley and Hull all picking up draws when second best.

The United manager believes if his team had been more ruthless, they could even be challenging Chelsea for the title, but instead they are three points adrift of the top four.

“I don’t speak about the Manchester City match at home that we lost, because everybody knows what happens, the penalty (we should have had) and the red card (that should have been shown) to (goalkeeper Claudio) Bravo,” Mourinho said.

“But if you look at the points we lost at home, all the other matches we drew. If you accumulate those points, you are talking another 10 or 12.

“Then you are not just talking about top four, but top two or maybe even top one. There are matches to play, points to win and points to lose, but the reality is that we are losing too many points at home.”

The match was dominated by three flash-points just before half-time, first when Tyrone Mings escaped punishment for stamping on Ibrahimovic’s head, then when the United striker elbowed the Bournemouth defender in the face.

Referee Kevin Friend did not penalise either player, but did then send off Bournemouth captain Andrew Surman for a second bookable offence as he pushed over Ibrahimovic in the aftermath of the elbow incident.

Friend than also sent Bournemouth assistant manager Jason Tindall to the stand for making his protests too forcefully at half-time.

That all came after Josh King’s penalty had cancelled out Marcos Rojo’s first league goal for United, and before Ibrahimovic’s second-half spot-kick was saved by Artur Boruc.

Mourinho refused to criticise Friend or Mings, saying: “Zlatan is a big man, who has had too many years in football, like me. We are not the generation who goes to the media and complains.

“We are from that generation of street football and football for big guys. What happens, happens.”

Asked about the confrontation between Ibrahimovic and Mings, Mourinho said: “I don’t comment. I comment on the football, I comment on the game, I comment on the big decisions of the game.

“I think Kevin Friend was very good, the penalty against Phil Jones was a clear penalty, the penalty against Adam Smith was a clear penalty so the two big decisions of the game were good.

“The assistant referees were also good so for me good performance by the referee.”

Tindall took on post-match media duties because Eddie Howe was suffering with illness, although the Bournemouth manager was well enough to stand on the touchline during the game.

“Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to see any of the decisions back again,” Tindall said.

“The only thing I did see was the first yellow card for Surman, which I did think was very harsh.

“My players felt it was an elbow by Ibrahimovic. I am sure there was some kind of communication with the officials which ended up with Andrew being sent off.

“I got sent to the stands. I let my frustrations get the better of me at half-time but that was for the reason of Surman getting his first yellow card, which I thought was harsh.”

Ibrahimovic double downs Saints in Wembley thriller

February 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic sealed the first major silverware of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United reign and broke Southampton’s hearts as the Swedish star’s late goal clinched a dramatic 3-2 victory in Sunday’s League Cup final.

MAnchester United

Ibrahimovic was one of Mourinho’s marquee signings in the close-season and he repaid his manager’s faith with a typically dominant display on the big occasion at Wembley.

The 35-year-old opened the scoring with a blistering free-kick before Jesse Lingard doubled United’s lead.

Manolo Gabbiadini sparked a thrilling Southampton fightback, scoring just before half-time and again early in the second half.

But Ibrahimovic had the last word as his 87th minute header — his 26th goal of the campaign — ensured Mourinho joined United legend Alex Ferguson and Nottingham Forest great Brian Clough as the only managers to win the League Cup four times.

Mourinho is the first United manager to win a top prize in his maiden season at Old Trafford, a feat not even Ferguson or Matt Busby achieved.

It was also the 54-year-old’s 19th major trophy of his glittering career.

With United trailing well behind Premier League leaders Chelsea, Mourinho needed this success to guarantee players, fans and the club’s hierarchy remain in his corner.

But the serial winner will hope the victory acts as a catalyst to claim bigger prizes in the near future, just as it did when the League Cup was the first silverware of his maiden spell with Chelsea.

“Ibrahimovic won the game for us because he was outstanding,” Mourinho said.

“Our opponents were better than us for long periods of the game and didn’t deserve to lose over 90 minutes.

“Ibrahimovic made the difference. He gave us a cup.”

In the absence of injured playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan and with Wayne Rooney again on the bench, the stage was set for Ibrahimovic to cement his status as United’s talisman and he wasted little time stamping his authority on his first showpiece occasion in England.

Demanding the ball right from the start, Ibrahimovic’s astute pass set up France midfielder Paul Pogba for a fierce long-range effort that stung the palms of Saints goalkeeper Fraser Forster.

Southampton responded with a dangerous raid that should have brought the opening goal in the 11th minute when Cedric Soares crossed low into the six yard box and Gabbiadini side-footed past David de Gea., only to see his celebrations curtailed by a dubious offside decision.

Emboldened by that lucky escape, United swept forward and in the 19th minute Oriol Romeu made a costly error when he try to halt another attack with a crude lunge on Ander Herrera.

Romeu was booked but there was worse punishment to come from the free-kick as Ibrahimovic stepped up to smash his dipping shot over the Southampton wall.

Despite their lead, United still looked alarmingly casual and De Gea was forced to save from James Ward-Prowse and Dusan Tadic.

But Southampton were even more negligent at the back and Mourinho’s men made them pay again in the 38th minute.

Marcos Rojo was given room to pick out Lingard inside the penalty area and the United forward couldn’t believe this luck as the statuesque Saints’ defence allowed him to guide a low finish past Forster.

Yet on the stroke of half-time Southampton were back in it as United were caught napping by Ward-Prowse’s cross and Gabbiadini applied the finishing touch with a cool close-range effort.

With the strangely diffident Pogba offering little protection to United’s defence, Southampton exposed United’s defensive flaws again to draw level in the 48th minute

When a corner was directed back into the United area, Pogba missed a header and Gabbiadini reacted quicker than Chris Smalling to whip his shot past De Gea for his fifth goal in just three appearances since a January move from Napoli.

Romeu almost won it when he headed against a post from Ward-Prowse’s corner.

But, despite a far from convincing display from United, it was Ibrahimovic who delivered the knockout blow with extra-time looming.

He started and finished a United counter, ghosting into the six-yard box to meet Herrera’s cross with a bullet header that added more lustre to both United and Mourinho’s trophy cabinets.

Ibrahimovic treble downs Saint-Etienne in Europa League

February 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic resumed his torment of Saint-Etienne with a hat-trick as Manchester United claimed a 3-0 victory in their Europa League last 32 first-leg encounter on Thursday.

Zlatan

Saint-Etienne were the Swede’s favoured prey during his time with Paris Saint-Germain and his treble took his tally against the French side to 17 goals in 14 games, and 23 for the season.

Victory gives Jose Mourinho’s side one foot in the last 16 ahead of Wednesday’s return leg, although things would have been very different had Nolan Roux not spurned a chance just before United’s second goal.

As it is, United are unlikely to miss Ander Herrera at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard after he received a booking for handball that will incur a one-game suspension.

The win meant United star Paul Pogba came out on top in his first competitive appearance against his elder brother, Florentin, and he came close to scoring with a header that hit the bar.

“We created good chances. It was important to get a good win at home. It was a good game but I think we can do better,” Ibrahimovic told BT Sport.

“We are winning but in a short time everything can change. It’s important to keep getting the wins we need. Everything can change but we’re happy at the moment.”

Prior to kick-off, Saint-Etienne’s fans lit up Old Trafford’s East Stand with a mass of red and green flares.

Smoke hung above the pitch at kick-off and there was a distinct fogginess to Eric Bailly’s first contribution, with his careless back-pass almost letting in Romain Hamouma.

But after Anthony Martial had warmed Stephane Ruffier’s palms from 25 yards, United went ahead in the 15th minute in doubly soft fashion.

Ibrahimovic was awarded a free-kick despite minimal apparent contact from Jordan Veretout and the Swede’s shot struck Vincent Pajot in the wall before rolling tamely past the grounded Ruffier.

United had two good chances to extend their lead, with Juan Mata seeing a volley saved by Ruffier from Pogba’s clever lofted pass.

Martial then tore through the visiting defence before dispatching a low shot that Ruffier blocked with his left foot.

- Perrin dazed -

Ibrahimovic instinctively scuffed the rebound goal-wards, but over the bar.

Saint-Etienne began to exploit pockets of space in United’s half as the first period wore on, however, and Hamouma in particular gave them some uncomfortable moments.

Mourinho sent on Jesse Lingard for Marouane Fellaini at the break in a bid to keep the play in Saint-Etienne’s half.

But while the early skirmishes all took place in and around the visitors’ box, they had more to do with flailing limbs than dashing football.

Martial was booked after catching Kevin Malcuit with his left forearm, which left the Saint-Etienne right-back spitting blood.

A clash of heads between Chris Smalling and Loic Perrin, the two captains, left both on the turf, but although Perrin in particular seemed dazed, both men stayed on.

Saint-Etienne were beginning to live dangerously, with Ruffier blocking from Martial and Antonio Valencia and Pogba shooting inches wide.

Pogba’s influence continued to grow and he came within inches of doubling United’s lead by slamming a header against the bar from Daley Blind’s free-kick.

Four minutes later Saint-Etienne squandered a huge chance to level as Ole Selnaes picked out fellow substitute Roux, only for the former Lille man to loft his shot onto the roof of the net.

It was a miss they quickly came to rue as United substitute Marcus Rashford darted to the byline on the left and centred for Ibrahimovic to tap in his second in the 75th minute.

The United number nine had the last say with two minutes left, steering a low penalty past Ruffier after he had been caught on the heel by Kevin Theophile-Catherine.

Jose Mourinho ‘convinced’ Zlatan Ibrahimovic will stay at Man Utd

February 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho expects Zlatan Ibrahimovic to remain at Old Trafford next season despite speculation linking the Swedish striker with one last big-money transfer, he said on Friday.

Zlatan

Ibrahimovic, 35, has been a revelation in his first season in England, scoring 20 goals, and is expected to trigger the option of extending his contract by a year.

Napoli and clubs in China and the United States have been linked with the former Paris Saint-Germain striker in recent days, but Mourinho is confident he will remain in United red next season.

“I’m totally convinced he is going to stay,” Mourinho told reporters at United’s training base west of Manchester.

“He came with the intention to stay two years, but in the minds of everyone the first year is going better than every expectation.

“He knows we are going to try again to improve next season and try to share with him in a fantastic way probably the last year of his career at the highest level, so I’m convinced that he’s staying.

“He’s adapted to the club, to the situation. I don’t see any problem with his family. I gave him the possibility of a day off to go to Sweden. He doesn’t want (it). So I’m totally convinced he is going to stay.”

The United manager also joked about executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward’s use of the word “churn” during a conference call with investors to discuss the club’s latest financial results on Thursday.

Woodward said he was expecting to see less “churn” — turnover of first-team players — in the close season and Mourinho was in complete agreement with the approach outlined by his superior.

“First of all, yesterday I had to ask a friend about ‘churn’ because I had no idea. It’s a new word for my vocabulary,” Mourinho smiled.

“You have to learn every time you can and I thank Ed for that word because I didn’t have an idea.

“He’s completely right. Of course we speak about it. Of course we speak about what next and we know that we have a squad that like every squad needs changes.

“But we know also that our squad has potential, our squad has good players, many of them in the best age.”

He added: “We prefer to bring two, three or four players, players that feel an idea, a football we try to play, that can improve our squad.

“We are not interested in signing six or seven or selling six or seven. We are not going to play this game.

“We are stable, so we think our market in the summer will be soft, will be natural. Some players to leave, some players to come, but in a very natural way, so I think the word Ed used was a good one.”

While rivals such as Manchester City are expected to make significant moves in the next transfer window, Mourinho says he intends to keep his squad largely as it is.

“You work with the players and you know the players better. You only know the players really when you work with them,” he said.

“Sometimes you get disappointed because you expect more and even in relation to this everything is balanced. I’m not negatively surprised with anyone.

“I didn’t have an incredible impact with some player, so everything is balanced and I think our summer will be quite small.”

United will be without centre-back Phil Jones for Saturday’s home game against Watford due to a foot injury.

But captain Wayne Rooney is back after missing last weekend’s 3-0 win at champions Leicester City due to illness and defender Marcos Rojo is also available despite picking up a knock in that game.

United are on the move, says Ibrahimovic

December 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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In-form Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes the club’s luck has finally turned ahead of their clash with West Bromwich Albion.

Zlatan

United manager Jose Mourinho recently lamented his side were playing much better than results and their position in the Premier League suggested.

The Red Devils head to the West Midlands on the back of two consecutive victories following a frustrating eight-match league sequence that featured six draws, one win and one defeat.

United have beaten Tottenham (1-0) and Crystal Palace (2-1) in the past week and are now in sixth place, although they are 13 points behind leaders Chelsea.

“We are working hard, we have confidence and we believe in what we are doing,” said Ibrahimovic, who scored the winner against Palace on Wednesday to take his tally to 14 goals in 24 appearances.

“At the moment, we work very hard for it and we will keep focused. We have always had the belief and we keep getting more confidence from recent games.

“We all put in the hard work. Sometimes you hit the top and don’t get the winner, like in the last couple of weeks.

“We have been disappointed in some games, so let’s keep going like this and get the three points (against West Brom) that we need to get closer to the top.

“Now we have closed the gap even more and we have to keep going like this,” added the 35-year-old Swedish veteran.

Ibrahimovic also reckons his understanding with France midfielder Paul Pogba has started to blossom on the pitch for United ahead of the trip to The Hawthorns.

“Paul and I talk a lot and we try to help each other,” said Ibrahimovic.

“I think he likes to play with me and I like to play with him too. But it is not only about us two, it is the whole team.”

Mourinho is again set to be without injured trio Henrikh Mkhitaryan (ankle), Chris Smalling(toe) and Luke Shaw (knock).

Right-back Antonio Valencia is available again having served a suspension but fellow defender Eric Bailly is set to miss after he was substituted against Crystal Palace with a knee problem.

West Brom will take on United as the in-form team outside the Premier League’s top six.

They have won four and drawn one of their last six games and climbed back to seventh in the table after a 3-1 win at home to Swansea on Wednesday, with Salomon Rondon scoring his first hat-trick in England.

And midfielder Chris Brunt, who provided two of the crosses for Rondon’s all-headed treble, claims the Baggies must seek to secure European football.

“You always have to push,” said Brunt when asked about European prospects.

“At the end of the day that’s the next step for us.

“We have been a mid-table Premier League team for five or six seasons now.

“Five or six teams flirt with relegation but progression for us would be to get away from that and push up the table.

“The likes of Southampton have done that over the last couple of seasons.

“There’s no reason why we couldn’t do that but it’s difficult to sustain that over the season for a club the size of ours.”

Improving Manchester United primed to punish struggling Stoke

October 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Manchester United appear to averted the crisis that was developing in the wake of a recent run of three successive defeats, but there is still plenty of room for improvement at Old Trafford.

United

Jose Mourinho questioned the personality of his players after they lost 3-1 at Watford two weekends ago and the Portuguese displayed some of the haunted look that characterised his fateful last few months at Chelsea.

However, three straight wins across three competitions since have gone some way to lightening the mood and last Saturday’s 4-1 Premier League win over champions Leicester was particularly emphatic, and means that United sit in the top six as they prepare to host winless Stoke on Sunday.

Thursday’s 1-0 Europa League group-stage win over Ukrainian minnows Zorya Luhansk was rather less impressive, but it did at least demonstrate that Mourinho’s ability to dig out scrappy victories appears to have returned following his troubles at Chelsea last season.

An ability to grind out positive results under pressure may be vital, given that United have testing league trips to Liverpool and Chelsea during October, as well as a Europa League meeting with Turkish club Fenerbahce.

“Every game is massive,” Mourinho said. “Watford was massive. We lost three points against Watford. No different to the three points we lost against Manchester City. So every game for me is important. You’re right, we have some big opponents in October. But that’s also a motivation.”

The biggest question Mourinho has faced since taking charge at Old Trafford in May is what to do about Wayne Rooney.

There is little doubt that the England captain’s powers are on the wane and his performances this season have been poor.

Mourinho has responded by using Rooney only as a substitute for the last two matches. The forward was given just seven minutes against Leicester, but had slightly longer on Thursday and did at least claim an inadvertent assist, with his mis-hit shot bouncing up forZlatan Ibrahimovic to head in.

Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford have taken the three attacking roles behind Ibrahimovic for the last two matches, and may well be selected again to face Stoke, although Anthony Martial is another contender.

Midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan is back in training after a thigh problem, although defender Luke Shaw will be assessed after missing Thursday’s match because of illness.

With a relatively stable squad to pick from, Mourinho’s concern is ensuring that Stoke do not catch his team by surprise.

He said: “I’m sure that in the end of May, they will be in the ‘Stoke area’ in the table. They will be there. The table is just a moment, just a period, and they will get over it for sure.”

Stoke are still looking for a first victory of the season while their captain, Ryan Shawcross, will come face to face with the man who wrecked his one chance in international football.

Ibrahimovic scored four goals for Sweden against England in 2012 including three during Shawcross’s 15-minute appearance as a substitute.

That was the defender’s only international appearance to date and Stoke manager Mark Hughes has called on his skipper to prove a point at Old Trafford.

“He’s had to carry those moments for a very long time,” said Hughes.

“Clearly it’s affected people’s view of him as a potential international on a more regular basis.

“It’s an opportunity to maybe put to bed a few issues and ghosts from the past — let’s hope he has a good performance.

“There’s no reason why he shouldn’t, he’s getting back to form.

“But clearly Zlatan is an outstanding player who’s come to these shores late in his career but it doesn’t look like any of his talent has waned.

“Ryan’s a big personality and a big player. I think he’ll relish the opportunity. Why wouldn’t he?”

Man Utd thrash Leicester 4-1 without Rooney

September 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Manchester United dismantled Premier League champions Leicester in a ruthless 20-minute burst as Jose Mourinho’s decision to drop Wayne Rooney was rewarded with a 4-1 win at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Pogba

Leicester imploded defensively as United racked up four goals between the 22nd and 42nd minutes.

It was a stylish display from a United side who had entered the game under pressure after losing their last two league games, against Manchester City and Watford, with Chris Smalling opening the scoring after replacing Rooney as captain.

Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba, with his first United goal following his world record £89 million ($115 million, 102 million euros) arrival from Juventus, were also on target after England captain Rooney was dropped to the substitutes’ bench.

But it was a chastening afternoon for Leicester despite an improved second-half display and a brilliant consolation goal from half-time substitute Demarai Gray.

It was the second successive Premier League away game in which Leicester had shipped four goals after doing so at Liverpool two weeks ago.

Leicester held their own early on with Robert Huth lashing a shot just over but it was United who edged in front in the 22nd minute after some neat play wide on the left had forced a corner.

It was delivered by Daley Blind and Smalling escaped the United defence to power home a header from six yards.

Rashford should have doubled United’s lead moments later when Leicester squandered possession and Zlatan Ibrahimovic galloped forwards and squared for the teenager.

But Rashford’s first touch was heavy and his shot flew over.

Ibrahimovic then went close to a goal after collecting a fabulous pass by Pogba, but the Swede’s effort on the turn just cleared the bar.

Next it was Pogba’s turn to let fly with an outrageous effort from 30 yards that bent towards the top corner but was forced away by Leicester goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler.

United finally added a second goal as they turned on the style eight minutes before half-time.

Ander Herrera started the move with a fine ball to Mata before a clever pass by Pogba and a fine flick by Jesse Lingard allowed Mata to blast past Zieler.

And the third goal arrived just two minutes later as Leicester handed a chance to Rashford which the youngster snapped up.

The visitors were caught napping as Blind took a quick corner and Mata was free to square for an unmarked Rashford to finish from close range.

It was 4-0 before half-time as another corner by Blind was headed in by Pogba as he leapt above Christian Fuchs.

Leicester made a double change at half-time with key duo Vardy and Riyad Mahrez withdrawn ahead of the Champions League meeting with FC Porto on Tuesday.

And they almost had some joy when David De Gea dived at the feet of Islam Slimani but gifted possession back to the visitors with a poor throw.

Fuchs wasted the chance, however, with a poor cross.

And at the other end Mata tried to add his second goal with a firm shot that Zieler parried well.

It was one of the half-time substitutes who salvaged a modicum of respectability for Leicester with a goal of real quality on the hour-mark.

Gray collected a crossfield pass from Daniel Amartey and cut inside Lingard before lashing a brilliant shot past a helpless De Gea from 25 yards.

But United were soon back on the attack as Zieler made a smart save from Ibrahimovic.

Two more Leicester substitutes combined for what should have been a second goal but Andy King produced a tame shot from a Jeff Schlupp cross and De Gea saved easily.

Gray then went within a whisker of replicating his stunning goal with an almost identical effort which De Gea scrambled back to push over the bar.

Manchester braces as United and City collide

September 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Manchester becomes the centre of the football universe on Saturday when Jose Mourinho’s United tackle Pep Guardiola’s City in a feverishly anticipated local derby at Old Trafford.

Manchester

The resumption of hostilities between two of the most celebrated coaches in the game tops the bill, with mega-money signings Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, John Stones andClaudio Bravo providing an all-star supporting cast.

Both teams have won all three of their Premier League fixtures to date and while Mourinho believes it is too early to consider the game in any way decisive, he is well aware the points could be precious in the title race.

“There are many ways to win titles,” said Mourinho, who fought a bitter three-year running battle with then Barcelona-coach Guardiola during his time at Real Madrid.

“Man United last season had very good results against the top teams and finished fifth.

“So sometimes it is not between the title contenders that you win or lose the title. Sometimes you win it by winning matches and matches and matches in the marathon between August to May.

“But obviously when you play against a title contender, the winning team wins three points and stops the other.

“So it is better to do that, or when you get a draw you accept you didn’t lose points to a direct contender. But this is too early — we are in the first week of September.”

The Premier League trophy spent four consecutive years in Manchester between 2011 and 2014, United winning it in 2011 and 2013 and City in 2012 and 2014.

But the Manchester clubs could not match Chelsea’s pace in 2015 and fell off the title map altogether last season, prompting seismic managerial changes on both sides of Manchester.

Guardiola and Mourinho are two of the three best-paid managers in world football — along with Carlo Ancelotti, Guardiola’s successor at Bayern Munich — and they were quick to get to work.

Both have renovated their squads in pointed fashion — Mourinho adding charisma and physical power, Guardiola prioritising youth and ball-playing ability.

And both have hit the ground running.

United are now a more direct side than under Louis van Gaal, Mourinho’s predecessor, and Guardiola, typically, will expect his side to dominate possession.

“I want the ball, I want to attack as much as possible, I want to control the game and I want to concede few counter-attacks,” Guardiola said on Friday.

“I saw in the 10 days (of the international break) the four games and every game Manchester United played better than they did before. I think the same with us.

“They have a lot of talent up front. (Juan) Mata between the lines is so dangerous, the full-backs go so offensive and the quality of (Wayne) Rooney and Ibrahimovic.

“(Anthony) Martial is so, so fast and the set-pieces with tall guys is impossible to control. So they are a top team.”

Guardiola is expected to hand a debut to new Chilean goalkeeper Bravo following his arrival from Barcelona to supplant Joe Hart.

Close-season signings Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan are now fit and could also make their debuts, while right-back Bacary Sagna has declared himself available after a hamstring problem.

But captain Vincent Kompany is doubtful as he continues his recovery from thigh surgery, while striker Sergio Aguero begins a three-match game for elbowing West Ham United’s Winston Reid.

New recruits Ibrahimovic, Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly are all in contention for United.

It will be Pogba’s first major test since his world-record 89 million pounds ($118 million, 105 million euros) return from Juventus.

Ibrahimovic will relish coming up against Guardiola, having described him as a “spineless coward” after the pair clashed during the Swedish striker’s time at Barcelona.

Left-back Luke Shaw, right-back Antonio Valencia, midfielder Marouane Fellaini and playmaker Mkhitaryan have all been passed fit after injury scares on international duty.

Rashford strikes late to extend United’s perfect start

August 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Marcus Rashford extended Manchester United’s 100 percent start to the Premier League season with a dramatic strike two minutes into stoppage time to seal a 1-0 win at Hull City on Saturday.

Rashford

Teenage forward Rashford, left out of the starting line-up for each of United’s opening three matches, made his case for greater involvement as he came on as a substitute to convert Wayne Rooney’s low cross from close range.

Up to that point, it looked like being an evening of frustration for Jose Mourinho’s team, but they leave the KCOM Stadium in second place in the table behind leaders Chelsea only on goals scored.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic went close twice in the first half for United, while Rooney was denied by a brilliant first-half block from Hull captain Curtis Davies.

Hull, themselves looking to maintain a perfect league record, spent most of the match on the defensive but did have threatening moments of their own.

Robert Snodgrass’ free-kick flew just wide in the opening half, while Tom Huddlestone’s shot was deflected just wide off Eric Bailly inside the final 15 minutes.

Indeed, David Meyler lifted a shot over the bar from a promising position just seconds before Rashford struck, leaving the home side wondering what might have been.

Aside from the agonising manner of the defeat, a major concern for their caretaker manager Mike Phelan, though, will be an injury to Scotland international Snodgrass, who had to come off early in the second half.

Phelan, who is hoping to sign goalkeeper David Marshall from Cardiff City, is desperately short of senior players, despite the return of defender Harry Maguire from injury.

Hull’s stand-in manager is continuing to have to field players out of position, with midfielder Jake Livermore once again filling in as a centre-back, and winger Sam Clucas figuring in a holding midfield role.

The club’s lack of signings has been a sore point with supporters, who have called for owners Assem and Ehab Allam to leave the club.

Ehab, writing in the match programme, indicated that a deal has been agreed to sell the club, with a Chinese consortium led by commercial property investors Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li believed to be taking over, having been in negotiations for several weeks.

Despite chaos off the pitch, Hull’s players have shown remarkable strength in adversity on it, withstanding United’s pressure until the final seconds in torrential rain in east Yorkshire.

The visitors almost took the lead in the eighth minute, when Ibrahimovic glanced a header onto the roof of the net from Anthony Martial’s clever cross.

They found it difficult to create clear chances after that and Hull did cause problems at the other end.

Marouane Fellaini conceded a free-kick right on the edge of the penalty area which Snodgrass, a regular threat from set-pieces, curled just wide.

United should have gone in front eight minutes before the interval when Juan Mata raced past Andrew Robertson and crossed for Rooney six yards out, but the England captain’s effort was blocked by Davies, and the visitors’ appeals for handball went unheeded.

Ibrahimovic then backheeled into the side-netting just before half-time, and United’s search for a goal continued with little success for much of the second period.

Paul Pogba and substitute Henrikh Mkhitaryan both had long-range efforts that missed the target, and the match looked set for a draw until Rashford’s late intervention.

Rooney hails Man Utd momentum as Hull await

August 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney believes new manager Jose Mourinho’s methods are already bearing fruit ahead of his side’s Premier League trip to Hull City on Saturday.

Mourinho

United have won their two opening games, against Bournemouth and Southampton, and go into the weekend level on points with Manchester City, Chelsea and, unexpectedly, Hull at the head of the table.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored four goals in three games and with world-record returnee Paul Pogba impressing in the 2-0 win over Southampton, Rooney feels United have hit the ground running.

“We, as players, have to adapt to what the manager wants us to do in our preparations throughout the week and, on match-days, we try to take the game plan of the manager onto the pitch,” he told MUTV.

“It’s what we’ve tried to do and, fortunately, we’ve started the season well. We’ve prepared well this week so we’re hoping that continues.

“The signings we’ve made this season have been really good signings. They’ve settled in really quickly and you’ve seen the impact they’ve had on the pitch already.”

While City, United and Chelsea’s presence in the top four gives the lead places in the Premier League standings a familiar look, Hull’s strong start to the season has surprised everyone.

After Steve Bruce quit as manager and Hull were left with only 13 senior players, the East Yorkshire club were installed as the bookmakers’ favourites to go down.

But they defied the odds to stun champions Leicester City 2-1 on the season’s opening day and followed that up with a 2-0 success at Swansea City.

One of Bruce’s principle reasons for leaving was frustration over the club’s lack of transfer activity and caretaker coach Mike Phelan says there will be no new faces on show at the KCOM Stadium on Saturday.

“It’s the same old, same old,” said Phelan, who spent 20 years at United as a player, coach and assistant manager under Alex Ferguson.

“Nobody has yet come into the building. We haven’t signed any new players. We are in talks with two or three new players.

“We’ve set our stall out and are pursuing interests, but at the moment nothing has been delivered.”

The identity of the man between the posts for Manchester City will be a hot topic once again on Sunday when Pep Guardiola’s side welcome West Ham United to the Etihad Stadium.

Claudio Bravo has completed his move from Barcelona for a reported initial fee of 13.75 million pounds ($18.2 million, 16.1 million euros).

But with the Chile international having only just arrived, Guardiola is expected to restore Willy Caballero to his starting XI, which means Joe Hart will drop to the bench.

Hart was hailed by City’s fans during Wednesday’s 1-0 Champions League win over Steaua Bucharest, but with youngster Angus Gunn also pushing for a place, Guardiola cannot even guarantee him a spot on the bench.

“If all four stay here, the best solution is for everybody to be involved in our idea,” Guardiola said.

“They are going to be in rotation, part of that. So (if) Joe, Willy and Angus stay, then it won’t be the same one who is always on the bench.”

Chelsea will look to pursue their renaissance under former Juventus and Italy manager Antonio Conte when they entertain Burnley at Stamford Bridge.

Burnley stunned Liverpool 2-0 at Turf Moor last weekend, despite seeing less than 20 percent of the ball, only to then crash to a woeful League Cup exit at fourth-tier Accrington Stanley.

At White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur host Liverpool in a clash between two clubs hoping to gatecrash the Manchester duopoly at the top of the table.

“Both teams have consistency in the squad. There are of course new players, but not too many changes,” said Jurgen Klopp, whose tenure as Liverpool manager began with a 0-0 draw at Spurs last October.

“It will be exciting what will happen there.”

Arsenal, meanwhile, visit Watford.

Arsene Wenger’s men remain without a win after two games, but fans have been placated by moves for Germany defender Shkodran Mustafi and Spanish striker Lucas Perez.

Ibrahimovic fires Manchester United to Community Shield win

August 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced his arrival in English football with an 83rd-minute winner as Manchester United edged Leicester City 2-1 at Wembley on Sunday to win the Community Shield.

Man United

The former Paris Saint-Germain striker had a quiet game, but he out jumped Wes Morgan to head home Antonio Valencia’s cross and earn Jose Mourinho his first piece of silverware as United manager.

Leicester talisman Jamie Vardy had earlier punished an error by Marouane Fellaini to cancel out FA Cup match-winner Jesse Lingard’s first-half solo goal for United, who claimed a record-extending 21st Community Shield.

“It’s an important victory, but we have lots of work to do,” Mourinho told BT Sport.

“I would be not ambitious if I said it was a fantastic performance. It wasn’t. It’s always important to start with a trophy.”

Mourinho dedicated the win to his predecessor Louis van Gaal, who was sacked after leading United to the FA Cup.

United, who have confirmed they are close to re-signing former player Paul Pogba from Juventus, open their Premier League campaign at Bournemouth next Sunday.

“It feels good,” said Ibrahimovic after the traditional curtain-raiser to the English season.

“The first official game, we play for a trophy and we win. Something big is going on with our team.”

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri handed official debuts to close-season signings Ahmed Musa, Luis Hernandez and Nampalys Mendy.

While his side came up short, he was encouraged by the brightness of their display, three months on from their 5,000-1 Premier League triumph.

“I’m very pleased with our performance,” said Ranieri. “I watched the same team as last season. Only the result is against us.”

Leicester launch their league title defence at Hull City on Saturday.

Mourinho deployed his new-look strike partnership of Wayne Rooney and Ibrahimovic and both players made their presence felt in Leicester’s penalty area early on.

Rooney headed straight at Kasper Schmeichel from Luke Shaw’s cross and the Leicester goalkeeper was also obliged to field a hooked Fellaini shot after Ibrahimovic had leapt to win a high ball.

Leicester attacked the game with the intensity that characterised last season’s title triumph and procured several chances of their own.

Vardy drew last-ditch tackles from Daley Blind and impressive United new boy Eric Bailly with trademark darting runs, while Shinji Okazaki glanced a header against the bar from a Marc Albrighton corner.

With Ibrahimovic and Rooney both dropping deep, United lacked an attacking focal point, but in the 32nd minute Lingard took matters into his own hands.

After eluding the sliding Andy King, he drove towards goal, slipped the ball beneath Leicester captain Morgan’s sprawling challenge and confidently tucked a shot past Schmeichel.

It came at the same end as his spectacular extra-time winner against Crystal Palace in May’s FA Cup final.

Within minutes, United’s celebrating fans were singing: “Pogba’s coming home!”

Ranieri introduced Musa and Demarai Gray at half-time and the former played a big role in Leicester’s 52nd-minute equaliser with an enterprising run from deep.

But the goal owed almost everything to a mistake by Fellaini, whose under-hit back-pass enabled Vardy to nip in, round David de Gea, and score.

Following a glut of changes by both sides, Musa squandered a chance to give Leicester victory when he headed Robert Huth’s flick-on over the bar from point-blank range.

Within minutes Ibrahimovic had punished his wastefulness, soaring above Morgan to meet Valencia’s cross with a downward header that hit the left-hand post and bounced into the goal.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan made his official United debut as a stoppage-time substitute.

It was Mata who made way, having only entered the fray in the 63rd minute, and the Spaniard, frozen out by Mourinho during their time at Chelsea, exchanged angry words with the United manager as he came off.

Mourinho played down the incident and said he had taken Mata off to help his team defend against long balls.

Sad end for Ibrahimovic as Belgium advance

June 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s international career ended in a damp squib when Sweden lost 1-0 to Belgium in their final Euro 2016 Group E match on Wednesday and failed to reach the last 16.

Football Soccer - Sweden v Belgium - EURO 2016 - Group E - Stade de Nice, Nice, France - 22/6/16 - Belgium Radja Nainggolan celebrates with team mates after scoring a goal. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Radja Nainggolan’s fine shot after 84 minutes sent Belgium into the knockout stages and a game against Hungary as they finished second in the standings, level on six points with group winners Italy.

The Swedes ended bottom on one point and Ibrahimovic’s bold promise that he would never finish with a disappointment proved to be mistaken.

He tried in vain to inspire his team and had a second-half effort ruled out for offside but Belgium, without ever producing their most fluent football, had enough quality to deal with Sweden’s sporadic attacks and create opportunities of their own.

“Zlatan has done a lot of important things in his career and would have wanted to go further here,” Belgium captain and man-of-the-match Eden Hazard told reporters.

“It was a difficult match, complicated for our defenders. In the first half we had some possession and created chances. Nainggolan scored an important goal and from then on we had to manage the game.”

Sweden started brightly and Marcus Berg’s fierce snap shot was parried away by Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Belgium responded with a surging run by mid fielder Kevin de Bruyne that set up Romelu Lukaku for a shot just wide and a mazy dribble across the edge of the area by Hazard ended with a De Bruyne strike on goal.

Ibrahimovic sprung into life with a shot just past the post but it was a rare attacking foray by Sweden who were pushed back deep by the strong-running Belgian midfield.

De Bruyne whipped in two dangerous crosses from the left and from one of them Thomas Meunier flashed a header narrowly wide just before halftime.

Sweden enjoyed a good spell of possession after the interval and Ibrahimovic hooked the ball into the net from close range but the effort was ruled out for offside.

De Bruyne tested goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson with a fierce long-range strike and after Sweden cleared another dangerous cross the ball fell to mid fielder Nainggolan whose rasping 20-metre shot flew into the top corner of the net.

Ibrahimovic threw the ball away in frustration as the Belgian players celebrated and Sweden’s talismanic captain cut a forlorn figure after the final whistle as he slowly walked over to applaud his team’s yellow-clad fans.

“I’m very disappointed,” Sweden coach Erik Hamren said.

“We were talking before the game about the honour of representing Sweden and of being here but I couldn’t have asked for much more from my players. I’m proud of them, even though we lost.”

Irish seek to stop Zlatan in vital opener

June 12, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Republic of Ireland must somehow silence superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic when they open their Euro 2016 campaign against Sweden at the Stade de France on Monday.

Zlatan

In a Group E also containing Italy and much-fancied Belgium, a defeat for either side could be a decisive blow to their prospects of reaching the last 16.

At 34, Manchester United target Ibrahimovic is probably gracing a major international tournament for the last time after scoring 11 times during qualifying for Erik Hamren’s men.

“He’s a good player but you can’t single him out because they have others who can score goals, as they proved against Wales when there were three goal-scorers and he wasn’t one of them,” reasoned Ireland’s veteran goalkeeper Shay Given, who is back-up to first choice Darren Randolph.

“Still he’s a fantastic player, one of the best centre-forwards in the world, but we’ve got to keep him quiet and the rest of them quiet as well.”

Ibrahimovic is familiar with the Stade de France, where he made the last appearance of a prolific four-year spell with Paris Saint-Germain in the French Cup final against Marseille three weeks ago.

Having left Paris, a move to Old Trafford appears to be on the cards and speculation surrounding his future has partly overshadowed Sweden’s build-up to the tournament.

Coach Erik Hamren confirmed on Friday that Ibrahimovic would not be allowed to leave the squad’s base in Pornichet, on France’s Atlantic coast, to finalise his next move.

“It would not be ok for Zlatan to fly to Manchester,” Hamren said as he insisted that the rest of his squad are not affected by the constant talk about Ibrahimovic.

“The players of the national team are accustomed to all the rumours surrounding Zlatan too. They are familiar with it. There is absolutely nothing that has affected us negatively in the group.”

Veteran goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson, who came off in last weekend’s 3-0 friendly win at home to Wales, is expected to be fit for Sweden.

For Ireland the only nagging doubt is a key one, as influential Stoke City forward Jon Walters has been struggling to fully shake off an achilles problem.

In contrast, LA Galaxy striker Robbie Keane (calf) and Everton midfielder James McCarthy (groin and hamstring) should be fine having overcome their injury struggles.

Ireland’s last friendly ahead of the tournament saw them lose 2-1 at home to Belarus while Sweden have lost just once in 10 outings but O’Neill did not accept that Ibrahimovic and co are the favourites.

“I don’t think that you can judge the favouritism by the the build-up matches, I don’t think that at all,” O’Neill said at Ireland’s base in Versailles, near Paris.

“What you have to do is judge them on records, and Sweden’s record in competitions is excellent.

“Qualification they just seem to get through because they know how to do it, and they’ve got a number of very, very fine players, obviously including Ibrahimovic.

“We’ve got some very fine players ourselves so we are ready for the game.”

Sweden miss rested Ibrahimovic in 0-0 draw with Slovenia

May 31, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Sweden missed the influence of captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was resting a sore calf muscle, as they struggled to create chances in a dull 0-0 draw with Slovenia in their penultimate Euro 2016 warm-up in Malmo on Monday.

Montenegro's Stefan Savic fights for the ball with Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic during the UEFA Euro 2016 Group G qualifying soccer match between Sweden and Montenegro at Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden June 14, 2015. REUTERS/JESSICA GOW/TT NEWS AGENCY

With their record scorer on the bench and many other players yet to join the squad, Sweden coach Erik Hamren fielded an experimental lineup bearing little resemblance to the one that will kick off their campaign against Ireland on June 13.

Hamren gave Celta Vigo striker John Guidetti a chance to stake a claim for a starting spot alongside Ibrahimovic and the 24-year-old put in an energetic performance, almost breaking the deadlock with a curling second-half shot that flew just over.

Sebastian Larsson also took a free kick from a dangerous position for the Swedes, but he too could not keep the ball down and it flew harmlessly over the bar.

With midfielder Kim Kallstrom resting a tight groin and Albin Ekdal still recovering from a back injury, Sweden lacked a player with the passing ability to unlock Slovenia’s defence.

The visitors threatened several times on the break but goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson, having been made captain in Ibrahimovic’s absence, was in no mood to spoil the occasion by conceding a goal.

With lots of empty seats at the Swedbank Stadium, the biggest cheers on the night were reserved for hometown favourite Ibrahimovic, whose every appearance on the big screens was met with rapturous applause.

Sweden take on fellow Euro 2016 finalists Wales in their final pre-tournament friendly in Stockholm on Sunday before heading to France, where they will face Italy and Belgium as well as Ireland in Group E.

Zlatan leads PSG thrashing of Caen

April 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paris Saint Germain ripped Ligue 1 rivals Caen to pieces in a 6-0 thrashing at the Parc des Princes on Saturday, sending the champions 30 points clear at the top.

PSG

The result follows PSG’s disappointing 3-2 aggregate Champions League quarter-final defeat to Manchester City, and backs up some theories to why they failed to make the semis again.

On the day Paris won this season’s Ligue 1 title it was with a 9-0 victory over bottom club Troyes, and there have been other five goal romps even as PSG rotate their squad amid theories their continental failure stems from a lack of competition to the Qatari bankrolled supers quad.

Ibrahimovic scored twice, both emphatic finishes, taking his tally to 32 league goals this season to equal his previous best, while Argentine playmaker Angel di Maria, so ineffective against City, netted with a sumptuous lob.

Other goals came from the returning Blaise Matuidi, banned for the City game, a typically marauding Edinson Cavani run and shot made it five and defender Maxwell turned home a Cavani cross for 6-0.

Coach Laurent Blanc conceded that the rout “doesn’t cancel out” the massive disappointment felt by PSG of their Champions League exit.

“This win doesn’t cancel out anything, it doesn’t allow us to progress to the Champions League semi-finals,” he said.

“But this win enabled us to regain our smile, for as you can imagine it’s been four days now that we haven’t done a lot of smiling.”

Blanc had made a string of changes, but Caen, who went into the game ninth in Ligue 1, were simply blown off the park.

If the stands featured uncomfortable gaps and some early whistling may have embarrassed the home side, they must now turn their attentions to the French Cup semi-final with Lorient on Tuesday and the League Cup final against resurgent Lille next Saturday at the Stade de France.

Lorient tuned up for their date with PSG with a 1-1 draw at home to Toulouse, while Lille won 4-2 at relegation-threatened Gazelec Ajaccio, with Sofiane Boufal bagging a hat-trick.

Saint-Etienne boosted their hopes of a Europa League place next season with a 1-0 win at Bastia to move them into fifth, level on points with Nice.

Elsewhere, Angers beat Bordeaux 3-1, and already relegated Troyes saw off Reims 2-1 for only their third win of the campaign.

On Friday Alexandre Lacazette grabbed a late equaliser as 10-man Lyon salvaged a 1-1 draw in the chase for second place in Ligue 1 in a match stopped to clear up a snowstorm of ripped up newspapers.

Nice took an 18th-minute lead after Valere Germain beat a Lyon offside trap, while Lacazette prodded home in the 82nd minute after Mathieu Valbuena had hit the bar as the sides struggle to claim Ligue 1’s second automatic Champions League berth.

The result means Lyon remain second with 56 points after 34 games, while Monaco are third on 55 ahead of their trip to Marseille Sunday, with Nice and Saint-Etienne one point further back.

Ibrahimovic confirms Premier League interest

March 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Sweden captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic hinted on Sunday at a move to the Premier League and promised big things to come in his career.

Swedish national soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic smiles during a press conference at Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, on March 27, 2016, ahead of Tuesday's friendly soccer match against Czech Republic. REUTERS/CLAUDIO BRESCIANI /TT NEWS AGENCY

Speaking to reporters after a training session at the Friends Arena, where Sweden face the Czech Republic in a friendly on Tuesday, the 34-year-old was open about his future after Paris St Germain.

“I’ve had four fantastic years with them,” he said, adding that there were no ongoing talks with the French champions about an extension to a contract that expires at the end of the season.

“The relationship I have with them is only positive. They have done everything they could for me and my family.”

Available on a free transfer and linked to Manchester United, Ibrahimovic said there had been interest from Premier League clubs.

“Yes, there is an interest, I can confirm that. We have to see where it leads. When the moment comes, when all the cards are on the table, that’s when I have to go through what I want, and then we’ll see who wants it more,” he said.

“It’s like a marriage. Two parties have to want it, not one or the other. Each side needs to want it as much as the other.”

Having already secured the French title, PSG face Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. After the club season finishes. the striker’s attention will turn to leading Sweden at the Euro 2016 finals in France.

“A lot of big things will happen this summer. Have a little patience and you will have things to write about. The future looks very good,” said Ibrahimovic.

The Swede had been linked to a move to Major League Soccer earlier in the season but his scintillating form has opened up other possibilities, including the possibility of playing for Sweden at the Rio Olympics in August as an over-age player.

He has scored 35 goals in 40 games for PSG so far this season, and scored three of Sweden’s four goals in a 4-2 aggregate win over nordic neighbours Denmark that saw his side secure their spot at Euro 2016.

“If I’d had a bad season I wouldn’t have had the options I have today,” he said. “Now it’s the opposite and I have a lot of options. It’s looking good; the Euros, after the Euros. Then we have the Olympics too.”

Ibrahimovic’s PSG future uncertain after title triumph

March 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Paris St Germain’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored his 100th Ligue 1 goal as they thrashed Troyes 9-0 on Sunday to win a fourth straight French league title but his future at the Parc des Princes remains uncertain.

Zlatan

“As things stand, I won’t be at PSG next season,” the forward told beIN Sports after scoring four times against the league’s bottom side. “I still have a month and a half here.

“If they put a statue of me in place of the Eiffel Tour, of course I’ll stay,” he added.

His contract runs out after this season and, while his influence at the club he joined in 2012 is as great as ever, his future is up in the air.

PSG’s hierarchy and his team mates want Ibrahimovic to stay with club president Nasser al-Khelaifi leaving the door open for the Swede to remain at the Parc des Princes beyond this season.

“Paris is magic, Ibra is magic,” he told Canal Plus. “He’s a great player and I know that all the clubs want him.

“We want him to stay, we want to talk to him.”

PSG’s Brazil defender David Luiz told Le Parisien: “I’d be happy if he stayed. He’s not old yet!”

Ibrahimovic completed a perfect week by scoring a nine-minute hat-trick before adding PSG’s ninth goal against Troyes, having also netted when Laurent Blanc’s side eliminated Chelsea in the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday.

The 34-year-old Sweden striker’s second goal on Sunday took his tally to 100 in 115 Ligue 1 matches.

“We’ve been winning everything for almost four years,” Ibrahimovic told Canal Plus. “I don’t know how long it will go on for, but I’m making the most of it.”

Ibrahimovic has scored 27 goals in 24 Ligue 1 games this season, 13 clear of team mate Edinson Cavani.

PSG’s triumph was the 13th league crown of Ibrahimovic’s storied career, with the striker having won Ligue 1 four times, La Liga once with Barcelona, Serie A on six occasions with three clubs and the Eredivisie with Ajax Amsterdam twice.

“This title has a special taste,” he said. “I am very happy to play with all of these fantastic players.”

No European hangover for rampant Ibra and PSG

February 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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There was no Champions League hangover for Paris Saint-Germain as they continued their relentless march towards another Ligue 1 title by outclassing Reims 4-1 on Saturday, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring twice.

Zlatan

The Swede got the opener in Tuesday’s 2-1 Champions League last 16, first-leg win against Chelsea and he scored once in each half here to take his tally for the season to 23 league goals and 30 in all competitions.

Ibrahimovic is playing some of the best football of his career at the moment and the 34-year-old also set up the opener for Gregory van der Wiel and assisted Edinson Cavani’s goal as Paris maintained their unbeaten domestic record this season.

Prince Oniangue had equalised for Reims in the first half but PSG were too strong and remain a huge 24 points clear at the top of the table from second-placed Monaco, who beat bottom club Troyes 3-1.

Laurent Blanc’s side extended their Ligue 1 record unbeaten run to 36 matches and the only black mark on their day was the first-half substitution of Angel Di Maria, although that was merely a precautionary measure.

“We are satisfied with the win of course, but also with the way the team played four days after a Champions League match,” said Blanc.

“We know it is difficult to play before, but it is also difficult after because a lot of energy went into the Chelsea game.

“Ibrahimovic is in dazzling form and I hope that continues because we have more important games to play before the end of the season.”

With Serge Aurier still absent after being suspended by the club for insulting Blanc and several team-mates in a video posted on social media, Van der Wiel started at right-back for PSG and it was the Dutchman who opened the scoring in the 12th minute.

Van der Wiel started the move and found Ibrahimovic before running onto the Swede’s superb return ball to fire past Johann Carrasso, who was making his debut in goal for the visitors.

However, Reims drew level in the 34th minute when Kevin Trapp got nowhere near a Nicolas de Preville free-kick delivery and Congolese midfielder Oniangue gleefully headed in.

Di Maria was then replaced by Lucas, apparently with a minor hamstring complaint, before Paris went back in front two minutes before the interval.

Ibrahimovic initially tried to exchange passes with Lucas only for Franck Signorino to block, but the ball came back to the former Barcelona striker and he tucked home.

There was still time for the hosts to make it 3-1 in stoppage time at the end of the first period, with Layvin Kurzawa and Ibrahimovic combining to set up Cavani.

The Uruguayan had been brought into the starting line-up after coming off the bench to get the winner against Chelsea and his first-time finish past Carrasso was his 16th goal altogether this season.

Blanc replaced the tired Marco Verratti with Blaise Matuidi at the start of a second half which was a quieter affair, although PSG got their fourth goal on 68 minutes.

Matuidi worked the ball out to Van der Wiel on the right and his cross was converted by Ibrahimovic at the back post, although he was clearly in an offside position when the ball came in.

Argentine striker Guido Carrillo, an expensive signing last summer from Estudiantes, had scored just two league goals for Monaco before the meeting with Troyes at the Stade Louis II.

But he doubled his tally in the first half in the principality with a brace of headers and highly-rated 17-year-old substitute Kylian Mbappe made sure of the points after Babacar Gueye pulled one back for Troyes.

Monaco have lost just one of their last 14 league games and are eight points clear of third-placed Nice, who drew 0-0 at Bordeaux on Friday.

Nice could be leapfrogged by Saint-Etienne if they win at Marseille on Sunday and by Lyon, who go to Lille.

Elsewhere, Martin Braithwaite’s stoppage-time equaliser earned Toulouse a 1-1 draw with relegation rivals Gazelec Ajaccio, while Montpellier won 3-2 at Angers and a 93rd-minute Raphael Guerreiro free-kick saw Lorient beat Guingamp 4-3.

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