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Soccer

Manchester United considering three options over Odion Ighalo’s future amid FIFA proposals

Manchester United are concerned about their ability to keep Odion Ighalo beyond May. The Shanghai Greenland Shenhua loanee is contracted at Old Trafford until the end of next month. He has impressed since sealing a shock switch on the final day of January’s transfer window.

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Manchester United are open to keeping Ighalo but are aware his loan contract is likely to cover the remainder of the 2019/20 Premier League campaign.

Professional football has been suspended since the beginning of March due to the coronavirus pandemic and is unlikely to resume until June.

As a result, Premier League action plus continental competitions are set to run deep into the summer causing issues over players’ contracts which are due to expire.

FIFA have laid out proposals for short-term renewals to cover the rest of this term.

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“It is now obvious that the current season will not end when people thought it would,” FIFA said in a statement.

“Therefore, it is proposed that contracts be extended until such time that the season does actually end.

“A similar principle applies to contracts due to begin when the new season starts, meaning the entry into force of such contracts is delayed until the next season actually does start.”

According to ESPN, Old Trafford officials are concerned that the proposals will be difficult to implement in practice because Shanghai Shenhua will want Ighalo back in time for the beginning of the Chinese Super League season, which has been delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

It is claimed the Premier League giants are considering three options over the former Watford striker’s future.

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They include trying to renegotiate Ighalo’s loan, attempting to sign the 30-year-old on a permanent basis or allowing him to return to China leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer short on options in attack.

While they are eager to keep the Nigeria international, United are aware that Shanghai Shenhua have the upper hand in negotiations.

Ighalo has admitted he would like to stay at the Theatre of Dreams.

“I am inspired by a lot of things at United,” said Ighalo. “I am really inspired and I am looking forward to spending more time with the team.

“Seeing the club from the outside you don’t know how big it is. But when you are inside you know how big the club is.

“I am inspired by the way the club is structured, I am inspired by the direction of the club.

“I am inspired by the development of the young players and how they are coming through from the grassroots to the first-team.”

Ighalo has scored four goals in eight appearances since arriving on loan. A permanent transfer would likely cost around £15million.

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Soccer

Ahmed Elmohamady exclusive: Break gives Aston Villa chance to reset

The postponement of football has given Aston Villa the chance to reset in their fight to avoid relegation from the Premier League, insists Ahmed Elmohamady.

Speaking to Sky Sports from his home during lockdown, the Villa wing-back discussed a range of subjects, including his home training, the best opponents he’s played against, and a look back at two of his most important contributions in a Villa shirt.

Elmohamady, who recently celebrated 10 years in England and is the longest-serving Arabic player in the Premier League, is seeing the positive side of the unprecedented break to football.

‘A fresh start for Villa’

Villa had lost five games on the trot before football was postponed, and sit two points from safety in the Premier League table, with a game in hand and 10 remaining. Elmohamady believes the break will do Villa good, particularly as last season’s Player of the Year John McGinn will have recovered from his ankle break…

“I do believe this break could give us a fresh start to play the final 10 games of the season, and give everyone a chance to reset.

“We went through a tough period before the season stopped, and this break would allow the likes of John McGinn, who is a key player for us, get back to full fitness and help us for the final 10 games.

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“I do believe we can come back fresh and that this break was needed for us, ready to fight for the remaining games.

“We do have a strong team spirit in the team. It’s something that has always been here and is created from the manager, staff and senior players downwards.”

‘The most I’ve seen my family!’

Elmohamady is glass half full despite the practical difficulties of lockdown, saying this is the most he has been able to see his family in recent years, while also keeping fit with the club’s training programme and his own routine…

“The club have given us a training programme, I’ve been running and training every day, working hard. It’s been good because I’ve been able to play with my kids and spend some time with the missus. I’ll be honest, this is the most time I’ve spent with my family kids in a long time, and it has been great!

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Had to be done #stayhome #staysafe

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Had to be done #stayhome #staysafe

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“I’m an international player, meaning in recent years I haven’t been able to spend much time at all with the family in the summer. In 2018 we had the World Cup in Russia, and in 2019 we had the Africa Cup of Nations, which took up a good eight weeks of my time.

“So it has been really nice to spend some quality time with the kids and the missus, relaxing and enjoying quality time I would have been able to do before.

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“We have needed the break and downtime, I think. I am being positive about the situation, and of course I am looking forward to returning to the games.

“Of course I miss the games and miss the ball, but I’ve been able to get out particularly with my son, constantly playing games, or board games with my kids to keep myself busy. I am looking forward to playing competitively again, but for the time being I am making the most of this.”

‘Crossing ability is repetition… plus a bit of Arabic!’

Two of Villa’s finest moments in recent years have been born from the right boot of Elmohamady. His wonderful assist for Anwar El Ghazi’s header set Villa on their way in the Play-Off final win over Derby last May, and a similar fine delivery for fellow Egyptian Trezeguet sent them to Wembley again with a last-gasp 2-1 win over Leicester in the Carabao Cup semi-final in January.

Elmohamady described how a language trick helped for Trezeguet’s winner, and says the key to his crossing ability is repetition…

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Job Done, Back to the big league 🤪

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Job Done, Back to the big league 🤪

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“It’s repetition, crossing the ball over and over again in training, I just take a load of balls and practise. It has been a strength for me and something I don’t rest on and want to keep doing.

“For the play-off final goal, I said to Anwar: ‘I’m going to be putting 10 or so crosses into the box, so be ready!’ and he was when it mattered. It was one of the best days in my career. Of course, I prefer to play in the Premier League.

“For Trez’s goal against Leicester, we talk in training about this cross, and when I take the ball on the right he says to me “far post” but in Arabic so nobody could understand. It worked!”

“Believe it or not I actually started out as a striker early on, and played there for the Egypt National Team U17s, and playing at the Olympics. I was then moved to right-back and had one of my best games there, so I’d played on the right ever since, either at right wing-back or right-back. It was by luck!

“Steve Bruce brought me to England and played me on the right wing, and I am able to play in both positions. I like to attack more than defending, and to play in attacking sides. Obviously as you get older you defend more, and I am happy doing that now.”

‘Hazard, Cole the best’

Elmohamady has been in England for 10 years, making nearly 400 appearances for Sunderland, Hull and Villa.

In that time, playing both as a winger and full-back, the 32-year-old has come up against world-class opposition, but who was the best?

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Soccer

The Nevilles quiz: How well do you know Gary, Phil and Tracey?

They’ve been around English sport for almost three decades, but our quiz will tell you how well you really know the Neville siblings…

Manchester United, Everton, Valencia and England Women – plus Sky Sports, of course – the Neville brothers have been a mainstay in the footballing world since the Class of ’92.

They joined sister Tracey, former head coach and player with England’s netball team, for a special Off Script which you can watch here – but first, give our quiz a go and see how much you know about one of English sport’s most famous families!

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Tennis

Andy Murray and wife Kim lay down the 100 volley challenge

Andy Murray and his wife Kim lay down the 100 volley challenge – will Roger Federer and his wife Mirka be next?

Murray has been active on social media with his latest tweet asking all players and fans to take up the 100 volley partner challenge.

He said: “A challenge to all tennis players and fans… The 100 volley challenge. There was no bickering during the filming of the video, although I think the last volley was aimed at my head… I can’t be the only one that wants to see Rog and Mirka hitting a few balls together..”

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Soccer

Premier League draw up prize money plan to help clubs as Liverpool set to pocket £20m

The Premier League could hand its 20 clubs prize money early in order to ease the cash flow crisis that the global coronavirus pandemic that has inflicted, according to new reports. There have been no matches since March 9 due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, which has officially infected over 1.5million people worldwide with the death toll nearing 100,000.

And that has led to a clutch of financial repercussions for Premier League clubs, with four having put their non-playing staff on furlough, signing up to the UK government’s Job Retention Scheme for the taxpayer to cover 80 per cent of their wages.

In an open and honest statement, Burnley projected last week that they will lose around £50m due to the suspension of England’s top flight.

That’s despite having recorded pre-tax profits for three straight seasons, with a wage bill that is among the lowest in the division.

Other clubs could stand to lose far more from a lack of gate receipts, commercial income and broadcasting revenue.

And The Times say that an agreement has been reached between the 20 Premier League clubs to release some of the funds awarded for the positions in which teams finish in the league table early.

With the sums higher for those who finish towards the summit, league leaders Liverpool – two wins from the title before the season was suspended – stand to earn in excess of £20million, it is claimed.

Clubs towards the bottom end of the table, those more likely to suffer during this crisis, will only receive several million pounds however.

The money handed to clubs will also include some of that usually awarded as facility fees – essentially meaning the payments clubs are owed when they appear in a match which is broadcast live on TV by Sky Sports or BT Sport.

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The Times say the Premier League has already received all of its broadcast income from the domestic broadcasters and overseas rights holders, despite nine fixtures remaining of the campaign.

The league is at risk of facing massive refund demands of the £762m that has been paid for by broadcasters, with it having been projected by the Daily Mail that it would cost Liverpool around £55m – with their TV income dropping from £178m to £123m.

Premier League chiefs are keen to ensure clubs stay afloat after the drop in matchday income but are wary of prematurely offering out more cash in case the season cannot be concluded which would leave them owing the likes of Sky and BT huge sums.

Chief executive of the Premier League Richard Masters has warned it could lose at least £1bn if the pandemic is extended.

“We face a £1billion loss, at least, if we fail to complete season 2019-20, and further losses going forward if the seriousness of the pandemic deepens and extends into the future,” he said in a letter to MPs.

On the matter of clubs utilising the government’s scheme without players having taken a pay cut or deferral, Masters added: “The furlough scheme announced by Government is meant for the whole economy, including many enterprises which might be regarded as providing entertainment or otherwise dependent on elite talent.

“Not only is our industry facing losses now, but to be realistic, we must also base our plans on full recovery being some distance away.

“Ultimately, the very heavy losses that we face will have to be dealt with or else clubs or other enterprises who depend on football for income will go out of business.”

Tottenham, Newcastle, Bournemouth and Norwich have all consulted the scheme, while Liverpool planned to as well, before performing a dramatic u-turn two days later after facing a backlash from fans.

The Reds had posted a pre-tax profit of £42m in February as they increased their turnover to £533m, having also posted huge numbers 12 months previous.

Southampton meanwhile became the first club on Thursday to confirm their players had agreed a wage deferral.

In a club statement, the Saints said: “The board of directors, the first-team manager, his coaching staff and the first-team squad have agreed to defer part of their salaries for the months of April, May and June to help protect the future of the club, the staff that work within it and the community we serve.

“Furthermore, the club can confirm that it will not use the government’s Job Retention Scheme during April, May and June.

“Our owners, Mr. Gao and Katharina Liebherr, have put measures in place to ensure that all staff not deferring part of their salaries will continue to receive 100 per cent of their pay, paid in the normal way until 30th June.  

“Any decision on the future beyond this date will be made in advance of this, but only when more information is known.”

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Rugby

Lee Blackett named Wasps head coach on permanent basis

Wasps have appointed interim boss Lee Blackett as the club’s permanent head coach.

The 37-year-old stepped up from his position as attack and backs coach to replace the outgoing Dai Young on a temporary basis in February.

During his interim spell, Blackett won three of his four matches in charge to move within two points of fourth-placed Northampton before the coronavirus pandemic curtailed action, enough to earn a new contract on a full-time basis.

Blackett has reshaped his coaching staff, with Pete Atkinson joining as head of performance when his current contract with the Italian Rugby Union expires.

Richard Blaze, currently working with the England Women’s team, also takes up the position as forwards coach, replacing Andy Titterrell who has left the club.

“The last few months have been fantastic, and I can’t thank the coaches, players, staff and supporters enough for the support they’ve given me,” said Blackett.

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Soccer

Timothy Fosu-Mensah: Manchester United trigger one-year contract extension

Manchester United have triggered the extra-year option on Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s contract, keeping him at Old Trafford for at least another 12 months.

The Dutch defender’s deal was due to run out at the end of the current season but United have moved to extend his contract.

Fosu-Mensah, 22, has not appeared in the first team since the final game of the 2016/17 campaign but his extension follows similar decisions taken by Manchester United in the cases of Eric Bailly and Nemanja Matic.

The defender’s spent time on loan at Crystal Palace and also Fulham where he sustained a serious knee injury that has kept him out of football for almost a year.

More to follow…

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Soccer

Man Utd chief Ed Woodward unlikely to sign two players because of Alexis Sanchez

Manchester United chief Ed Woodward has been linked with Antoine Griezmann and Gareth Bale repeatedly over the years. And, this summer, the Barcelona and Real Madrid players are set to become available. However, because of Alexis Sanchez, Woodward is unlikely to bring the La Liga stars to Old Trafford when the transfer window reopens.

Manchester United no longer sign proven and tested talent but, in January 2018, sensed an opportunity with Sanchez.

The Chile international had just months to run on his contract at Arsenal and had established himself as one of the Premier League’s best performers in the years previously, propelling the Gunners to two FA Cup trophies along the way.

United saw Sanchez as a player capable of winning them a first Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.

And that’s why Woodward decided to give him a massive salary, giving the 31-year-old blockbuster wages close to £400,000 a week.

However, things didn’t work out.

Prior to his loan move to Inter Milan in the summer Sanchez had found the net just five times – seeing his stock fall drastically along the way.

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And, these days, Woodward is a far more cautious man.

Sanchez has given United a problem. He’s not good enough to keep, with the Inter loanee scoring just once over at the San Siro.

And he’s too expensive to sell, too, with clubs deterred by the former Arsenal star’s massive pay packet at Old Trafford.

In recent times, United have been linked with both Bale and Griezmann amid their struggles at Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively.

But Woodward is unlikely to go for either player because of how disastrous the Sanchez transfer turned out to be.

Bale’s days at Real Madrid appear numbered.

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Zinedine Zidane actually wanted to sell the Wales international last summer but a shock move to the Chinese Super League collapsed at the last minute.

Now, Real will look for a buyer in order to raise funds for summer swoops potentially involving Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe.

But United are likely to swerve him, knowing full well that Bale’s best days are a thing of the past.

And they’re set to adopt a similar stance when it comes to Griezmann.

United thought the France international would move to Old Trafford in 2017, shortly after the club had won the Europa League under Mourinho.

But that didn’t happen and, just last summer, he finally left Atletico Madrid for Barcelona.

Griezmann has toiled at the Nou Camp, failing to replicate the same brilliant form he displayed at the Wanda Metropolitano.

And he’s been backed to join United, with Catalonian media suggesting the Red Devils are interested.

However, that’s again unlikely to be the case.

Like Bale he’s on a huge pay packet over at Barcelona and United, given how they had their fingers burned with Sanchez, won’t be coming to his rescue.

Instead, they’d prefer to invest their cash in players on a upwards career trajectory – rather than a downwards one.

And that’s why neither Bale or Griezmann are likely to end up at the Theatre of Dreams this summer.

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Soccer

Chelsea news LIVE: Fresh talks with striker who had verbal transfer agreement in January

Chelsea news LIVE updates: All the latest news and gossip from Stamford Bridge

Thursday, April 9

  • Frank Lampard’s Chelsea are ‘tracking’ Juventus star Aaron Ramsey
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Aaron Ramsey interest

Chelsea are ‘tracking’ Juventus star Aaron Ramsey.

The Wales international, 29, arrived in Turin from Arsenal on a free transfer in July 2019 and has managed four goals and one assist in 24 appearances in all competitions.

Despite a reasonably bright start to life under Maurizio Sarri, It’s thought Ramsey, who earns a staggering £400,000-a-week in Italy, could well return to the Premier League.

Transfermarketweb claim Chelsea are tracking the attacking midfielder, while Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal are also potential destinations.

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Philippe Coutinho latest

Chelsea are interested in signing Barcelona flop Philippe Coutinho.

According to Spanish publication Sport, Chelsea have already opened talks with Barcelona about signing the 27-year-old playmaker.

However, despite Frank Lampard’s side being interested, it appears the Blues want to explore the option of taking Coutinho on a season-long loan – rather than commit to a permanent deal.

The Catalan giants would like any loan move to include an obligation to buy the player at the end of the spell for just over £57million.

The report claims, Manchester United, Tottenham and Everton are also all in the race. Leicester had also shown some interest but the high loan fees appear to have scuppered their interest.

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Olivier Giroud talks

Chelsea have opened contract talks with Olivier Giroud.

The France striker, 33, was close to leaving Stamford Bridge in January but Frank Lampard’s side were unable to find a suitable replacement.

Inter Milan were the closest side to securing his signature and even had a verbal agreement in place to bring Giroud to the San Siro.

Goal report that the Blues are in negotiations with Giroud’s representatives but are only expected to offer a one-year deal due to their policy for over-30 players.

Willian snub

Barcelona are NOT interested in signing Chelsea star Willian.

That’s according to Sport, who claim the Brazilian was offered to Barcelona but the Spanish champions rejected the opportunity to bring him to the Nou Camp.

Willian, 31, is widely expected to leave Chelsea when his contract expires in June. Talks have taken place to extend his stay but the two parties can’t agree on terms.

Sport say Premier League rivals Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain are now his most likely destination.

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Soccer

Man Utd star Aaron Wan-Bissaka risks wrath of fans with Sadio Mane comment

Manchester United star Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been one of the standout players of the season but the defender risked the wrath of Red Devils’ fans after his comments about Liverpool star Sadio Mane.

Wan-Bissaka recently admitted that one of his treasured possessions is Sadio Mane’s shirt.

The 22-year-old only arrived at Old Trafford from Crystal Palace last season in a deal worth £50m but insisted he had always wanted to collect Mane’s shirt.

Wan-Bissaka was asked which player he most liked to swap jerseys with and he responded by revealing that he already has the Liverpool forward’s shirt.

“Mane – I got his from last season,” Wan-Bissaka said.

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However, this is not the only comment that could cause tension between United fans and the defender.

Wan-Bissaka also insisted he is desperate for Premier League football to return after football was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Even though it would likely see Liverpool, who are 25 points clear at the top of the table, claim their first Premier League title.

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“I want the season to continue – I am missing it already,” he said.

“For the teams that have done so well this year, I am sure they want to finish where they left off.”

United are currently fifth in the table and are three points off fourth-placed Chelsea.

And while United’s current position could be enough to secure them Champions League football next season, if Manchester City’s appeal over their two-season European club football ban is upheld, many at the club would still like play to resume so they can attempt at securing at least fourth place.

Meanwhile, Chelsea defender Reece James believes players will need a mini pre-season to get fit after having been in isolation for such a long time.

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“If it does continue then we will need to get back up to the fitness level we were at, as we haven’t played for so long we need to be at the level where we can play week in, week-out again,” he explained.

“I think if it doesn’t re-commence, it will be tough on the teams that have been flying and hold good records.”

The Premier League has confirmed that it will not resume at the beginning of May and stated that “the 2019/20 season will only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so”.

* James and Wan-Bissaka were speaking on behalf of #FootballUnited, a charity initiative set up by professional footballers to help key-workers and their families through the National Emergencies Trust.

www.justgiving.com/fundraising/football-united-official

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