Sports

Mar 122016
 
Louis van Gaal took over at Old Trafford in May 2014

Louis van Gaal insists his style “is working” at Manchester United, with the club still competing on three fronts.

Sixth-placed United sit three points off a Champions League spot and host West Ham in the FA Cup on Sunday.

Liverpool then visit Old Trafford on Thursday, with United looking to overturn a 2-0 deficit in the Europa League last-16 second leg.

“I think it is working,” said Van Gaal, rejecting the accusation United had fallen short in his time at the helm.

“It is not giving the best results. It is not good enough when you think you have to be a champion, or win the Europa League or the FA Cup.

“There are many of my colleagues who are not in three competitions any more.”

United “have to believe”

The Dutchman suggested United should win a home FA Cup quarter-final against West Ham and has not ruled out the prospect of progressing in Europe.

“It is not impossible,” said the 64-year-old. “Against West Ham United, it is also possible. At Old Trafford, we normally win our games.

“We are still in three competitions, so we can fight for a lot.

“It is possible that we are going out (of the Europa League) and then it is a very difficult situation for everyone, but still we have the chance to win something and you have to believe in that.”

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Manchester United could not cope with Liverpool – Louis van Gaal

Van Gaal says injuries and forced rotation have caused United’s inconsistencies this season, but he remains confident under growing pressure.

“This (defeat to Liverpool) of course gives us much more pressure,” added Van Gaal, whose side fought back from a first-leg defeat to Danish champions FC Midtjylland in the last 32.

“We are in three competitions and after the defeat in Midtjylland you have sacked me already. Then we are standing up, and then we are in the next round – and it is possible also against Liverpool.

“We have to play that match for the second time and at home. Then we create that atmosphere and then maybe we score some goals. It shall be very difficult, I know that, but it is possible.”

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Reading 0-2 Crystal Palace

 Posted by at 5:49 AM
Mar 122016
 

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Highlights: Reading 0-2 Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace put their Premier League struggles on hold to earn a place in their first FA Cup semi-final in 21 years by beating Championship side Reading with two late goals.

Palace are without a league win in 2016 but will be at Wembley thanks to a Yohan Cabaye penalty and Fraizer Campbell’s stoppage-time strike.

Reading had frustrated the Eagles before Jake Cooper was sent off for pulling back Yannick Bolasie. Cabaye converted from the spot before Campbell added a second from close range.

Palace boss Alan Pardew – who won promotion with Reading in his first managerial job – saw the tie as a chance for the Eagles to shake off their woeful league form but despite dominating possession and chances they could not find a way past Ali Al-Habsi in the Reading goal before the late penalty.

Reading took Arsenal to extra time in last year’s semi-final but apart from an Ola John header which was well saved by Wayne Hennessey, they rarely threatened a repeat visit and were indebted to a string of fine saves from Al-Habsi.

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Fraizer Campbell scores to send Palace to Wembley

He kept out Mile Jedinak’s powerful header and two Cabaye free-kicks as the tie looked set for a replay, before the goalkeeper almost stopped the penalty awarded by referee Mike Dean for slight contact from Cooper as Bolasie chased a ball into the box.

Turning point for Pardew?

Pardew, 54, has strong FA Cup history with Palace, having scored the winner in the 1990 semi-final win against Liverpool.

And he will now hope to lead them to another final after seeing his side return to their counter-attacking best at times against stubborn opponents.

At the turn of the year Pardew may have been hoping for a place in the Champions League, with Palace four points off the top four in fifth, but they have picked up just two points since.

Cup wins against Stoke, Southampton and Tottenham have lightened the gloom though and Pardew will hope this latest win can inspire enough Premier League points to help end any lingering relegation fears.

The front three of Bolasie, Wilfried Zaha and Emmanuel Adebayor were a constant threat as Palace chalked up 23 efforts on goal, with Adebayor spurning a golden chance in the first half and Bolasie twice shooting wide.

Former Tottenham and Arsenal man Adebayor then laid on the late second with a fine ball to find substitute Campbell as Palace wrapped up a professional and well-earned win.

A week in the life of Palace penalty shouts

Last Sunday Pardew’s side were on the wrong end of a late penalty decision, with the manager subsequently accusing Liverpool striker Christian Benteke of diving at Selhurst Park.

“You’ve got to be 100% sure,” said Pardew at the weekend, before claiming “if it had been us, we would not have got [the decision]”.

Five nights on, Pardew was less keen to speak about a contentious late penalty as Reading’s 21-year-old defender Cooper was penalised for putting a hand across Bolasie inside the area.

“I haven’t seen the penalty again and I am not going to even give it an opinion,” he told BBC Sport.

“I have had enough trouble with penalties!”

What the managers said

Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew: “I thought it was going to go to a replay, if I’m honest. We’ve won, but we’ve got to win in the league.

“A semi-final in the Cup brings an excitement to you, and we hope that rubs off on our league form.

“We’ve had to win at Southampton and Tottenham, Stoke at home and now at Reading, and yet we can’t get a win in the league.

“We’ve been pressure conscious of late, but that wasn’t there in the Cup. We have 10 games left now and we’re looking forward to them.”

Reading boss Brian McDermott: “The players are gutted in the dressing room, we want this every week.

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Only Coats and Horses…

“We went toe to toe with a very good Premier League side.

“Our priority is the league. We don’t want it to be a situation where we talk about the FA Cup and FA Cup runs.

“We want to be talking about winning league games. The last 18 months, we’ve not done that.”

Man of the match – Ali Al-Habsi (Reading)

Reading goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi made five saves to keep Crystal Palace out before Yohan Cabaye’s penalty – and he perhaps should have saved that too

What next?

Palace will learn their semi-final opponents on Monday, with the draw taking place during The One Show on BBC One at 19:00 GMT.

Then they are back in Premier League action against leaders Leicester on 19 March. Reading – 11 points away from the Championship play-offs, nine from the relegation zone – face Brighton on Tuesday.

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Mar 122016
 

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Alan Shearer on Newcastle, McClaren and Benitez

The appointment of Rafael Benitez is a “great coup” which gives Newcastle a chance of staying in the Premier League, says club legend Alan Shearer.

Benitez was unveiled as the club’s new manager on Friday, hours after Steve McClaren was sacked.

“I don’t think they would have stayed up if it had remained the same, but Benitez has given them a big opportunity,” Shearer said.

Newcastle are 19th, one point from safety, but have a game in hand.

Shearer, who is Newcastle’s record goalscorer and also managed the club in an ill-fated spell at the end of the 2008-09 season, said Benitez must be allowed to have full control over the team.

“It’s a great coup for Newcastle to get someone like Benitez, if – and it’s a big if – he can manage the football club the way he wants to manage,” Shearer said.

“What’s been clear is that every manager that Newcastle have appointed has come from a point of weakness, where they’ve not been able to set their own agenda.

“They’ve always had to work to a certain structure, whereas I think Rafa will be different – he’ll set what he wants, he can demand that he controls the transfers, and he can run the football club as he wants to run it.”

‘Fans will love him’

Benitez has previously managed Liverpool and Chelsea, winning the FA Cup and the Champions League with the former and the Europa League with the latter, and Shearer believes that record of success will endear him to Magpies fans.

“When you look at his success rate, almost wherever he’s been he’s delivered trophies,” Shearer said.

“[Newcastle fans] will love anyone who gives them success. He’s shown he can manage in tough situations.

“They’re crying out for something to grab hold of up here. They just want people to sweat blood for the black and white shirt.”

McClaren treatment was ‘disrespectful’

However, Shearer criticised the treatment of McClaren, whose sacking was widely reported in the media before it was confirmed on Friday.

“They did it all wrong,” Shearer said. “The way they’ve treated McClaren this week has been so disrespectful.

“If they’d decided to make that decision, which obviously they had, they should have done it last Saturday night after the game, or Sunday morning.

“It was so unprofessional and so hard for Steve to take, and he shouldn’t have been put through that.”

You can listen to the full interview with Alan Shearer on BBC Radio 5 live shortly after 19:00 GMT.

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Man Utd condemn Hillsborough chants

 Posted by at 10:09 PM
Mar 112016
 
Liverpool and Manchester United met for the first time in European competition

Manchester United have criticised the fans who sang chants about the Hillsborough disaster during Thursday’s Europa League defeat at Liverpool.

Offensive songs were heard during Liverpool’s 2-0 win at Anfield in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died as a result of a crush at Hillsborough in an FA Cup semi-final between the Reds and Nottingham Forest in 1989.

United said the chants “have no place in the game”.

“It has always been the position of Manchester United that chants of this nature, which refer to historical tragedies, do not reflect the values the club holds,” a spokesman said.

“We are in discussion with our fans’ groups to seek their support in preventing this type of behaviour in the future.”

Former Liverpool midfielder Ray Houghton told BBC Radio 5 live the chants were “dreadful”.

“It has to come out of our game,” he said. “There were people in the crowd who lost loved ones at Hillsborough and that’s really hard to take.

“It’s something we don’t want to hear. It’s happened in the past with Liverpool fans to Manchester United with what happened at Munich. It’s uncalled for.”

In February 1958, eight United players and three club officials lost their lives in a plane crash in Munich following a European Cup tie.

“When you lower yourself to that level [of those fans], it’s quite remarkable,” said Houghton.

“It should have been a night of celebration – they haven’t played each other in a European tie before. The fans should have been getting behind their own team. When you stoop as low as they did last night, for me, it’s dreadful.”

A story in the Sun newspaper four days after the Hillsborough disaster criticised Liverpool fans’ behaviour at the time. The newspaper is still heavily boycotted in Merseyside as a result.

“There were chants during the first half – ‘the Sun was right’, referring to the Hillsborough tragedy,” said BBC Sport’s Juliette Ferrington, who was at Anfield.

“It wasn’t continuous but it was clearly audible, maybe four or five times. It kind of got drowned out. The noise at the game was deafening.

“It happened again just after the full-time whistle – it was drowned out by: ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘we won it five times’ (a reference to Liverpool’s five European Cup triumphs). There was lots of saddened head-shaking in the press-box.”

Former United striker Dion Dublin told BBC Radio Manchester the songs were “disgusting”.

“It leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” he said. “It’s not in good taste, and the people that were actually singing it should feel embarrassed.”

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McClaren sacked as Newcastle boss

 Posted by at 7:09 PM
Mar 112016
 

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How Steve McClaren’s Newcastle reign went wrong

Newcastle United have sacked head coach Steve McClaren.

The former England boss won just six of 28 Premier League games in charge of the Magpies, who are just one place off the foot of the table.

McClaren and his team were booed off following Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Bournemouth at St James’ Park – their third successive league defeat.

Former Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Inter Milan boss Rafael Benitez has been tipped to take over.

McClaren’s future has been a source of almost constant speculation since the defeat to the Cherries.

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker tweeted: “Newcastle have finally put Steve McClaren out of his misery.

“The running of that great football club is beyond shambolic.”

Ian Dennis, BBC Radio 5 live’s senior football reporter, said Benitez had been identified as a replacement for McClaren at a board meeting on Monday.

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Steve McClaren sacked by Newcastle United

“Rafa in the driving seat to replace McClaren,” tweeted former Magpies striker Michael Owen. “Whoever takes over, I still expect Newcastle to stay up.”

McClaren, 54, signed a three-year contract with the Magpies in June after the club avoided relegation on the final day of last season.

Newcastle’s next game is at leaders Leicester City on Monday.

Club statement

“After the defeat to Bournemouth on Saturday, the club has spent some time considering its position and has today concluded that Steve McClaren’s employment with the club will end with immediate effect.

“We acknowledge that reaching this decision has taken a number of days and that this has caused uncertainty for everyone involved, in particular for Steve and the players, for which we apologise.

“However, we felt that this time was necessary to ensure the right decisions were reached with the best interests of the club at heart.

“Managing director Lee Charnley added: ‘I would like to thank Steve personally for his services to Newcastle United.

“‘He is a man of integrity and class and he has conducted himself with great dignity during this difficult time.

“‘Steve worked tirelessly to try and bring success to Newcastle United.

“‘He has the utmost respect of all the players, staff and management and he leaves with our very best wishes and sincere thanks.

“‘We feel that a change is now needed in order to give the club the best possible chance of securing its Premier League future. A further announcement on a successor to Steve will be made in due course.'”

Reaction

Former Newcastle defender Steve Howey agreed with Lineker that the club’s handling of McClaren’s sacking had been “pretty shambolic”.

He added: “That seems to sum Newcastle up at the moment.

“Everyone thought after the defeat by Bournemouth there would be discussions straight after the game with the board – which Steve is on – and a decision could be made before the new week started.

“It dragged on and, to be fair to Steve, he’s shown superb professionalism. He’s carried on knowing all along that he was going to be leaving.”

Analysis

BBC Sport’s chief football writer Phil McNulty:

Steve McClaren was an uninspired, seemingly safe, appointment by Newcastle United after they escaped relegation from the Premier League on the final day of last season.

Dismissed by Derby County after they failed to reach the Championship play-off despite strong financial backing, McClaren arrived as damaged goods.

He was fortunate to get the job and it proved comprehensively beyond his capabilities, despite an £80m expenditure since the summer, resulting in just six wins and a place in the relegation zone.

But how much influence McClaren had over transfer policy? Chief scout Graham Carr appears to wield the power, but McClaren has taken responsibility.

This unwieldy system must be scrapped and the manager must be allowed to manage, otherwise Newcastle will never escape the shadow hanging permanently over this giant of a club.

Newcastle’s recent form

McClaren spent about £80m on players during his time at St James’ Park, including £30m on midfielders Jonjo Shelvey, Andros Townsend and Henri Saivet in January.

However, the signings have failed to help improve the club’s form and they have won just one of their past six league games, conceding 14 goals in defeats by Watford, Everton, Chelsea, Stoke and Bournemouth.

As well as Newcastle, Derby and England, McClaren has managed Middlesbrough, Dutch side FC Twente and Wolfsburg in Germany.

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