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I Never Lost Faith In De Gea – Solskjaer

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Bournemouth at Old Trafford in Manchester, northwest England, on July 4, 2020. Clive Brunskill / POOL / AFP

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he has never considered dropping David de Gea “for a one second” as the Spanish goalkeeper prepares to make his 400th appearance for Manchester United.

Signed as a wiry 20-year-old from Atletico Madrid in 2011, the ‘keeper overcame initial struggles to establish himself as one of the best shot-stoppers in the Old Trafford giants’ history.

De Gea was a fax machine error away from joining Real Madrid in 2015 but the goalkeeper is now committed to United until at least 2023 and will make his 400th outing for the club against Southampton on Monday.

The 29-year-old has won United’s player of the year award for four of the six seasons since Alex Ferguson retired but questions over his position continue, with Dean Henderson impressing on loan at Sheffield United.

Yet Solskjaer has retained belief in a goalkeeper he recently called the best in the world, even during a shaky spell last season.

Asked if he had considered dropping him or taking him out of the firing line, the United boss said: “It did not cross my mind for one second. Not at all.

“To be a Man United goalkeeper, you have to have a strong mentality. David has a strong mentality and he has been here for so long.

“He is now going to come up to 400 games and you don’t do that by being afraid of the limelight or being afraid of Old Trafford.”

De Gea usurped Peter Schmeichel’s tally of 398 United appearances in Thursday’s 3-0 win at Aston Villa, with Alex Stepney now the only goalkeeper to have played for the club more.

It will take a while to match his figure of 539 but Solskjaer is convinced the Spaniard has plenty of years in him yet.

“He has come out and said he wants to play many, many more, maybe 10 more years,” said the United boss.

Solskjaer said De Gea, who won the Premier League in 2013, was driven by a desire to win the top trophies with United, who have slipped from their position of dominance in English football since Ferguson left the club.

“I don’t think he’ll be happy until he wins the bigger trophies because staying at Man United in this time and not having won more, I think that’s something that he will feel is a black dot in his career.”

United host Southampton on Monday, with the chance to leapfrog Chelsea and Leicester into third place in the Premier League.

AFP

CAS Overturns Manchester City’s Champions League Ban

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 26, 2017 Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola (2nd L) celebrates with his players on the pitch after the Premier League football match against Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s stadium in Huddersfield, northern-England on November 26, 2017. Oli SCARFF / AFP

Manchester City are free to play Champions League football next season after the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Monday lifted a two-season ban from European competitions imposed by UEFA.

An initial fine of 30 million euros ($34 million, £27 million) was also reduced to 10 million euros on appeal.

City were accused of deliberately inflating the value of income from sponsors with links to the Abu Dhabi United Group, also owned by City owner Sheikh Mansour, to avoid falling foul of financial fair play (FFP) regulations between 2012 and 2016.

UEFA launched an investigation after German magazine Der Spiegel published a series of leaked emails in 2018.

However, CAS found that “most of the alleged breaches reported by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the CFCB (UEFA Club Financial Control Body) were either not established or time-barred”.

UEFA recognised in a statement that many of the allegations fell outside the five-year time limit in its own regulations.

“UEFA notes that the CAS panel found that there was insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold all of the CFCB’s conclusions in this specific case and that many of the alleged breaches were time-barred due to the five-year time period foreseen in the UEFA regulations,” European football’s governing body said in a statement.

 ‘Validation’

City welcomed the decision, which will have huge ramifications for the club’s finances and potentially the future of manager Pep Guardiola and star players such as Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.

The club made 93 million euros from UEFA prize money and TV rights alone from last season’s Champions League, with gate receipts and extra sponsorship revenue from Europe’s premier club competition added to that tally.

“Whilst Manchester City and its legal advisors are yet to review the full ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the club welcomes the implications of today’s ruling as a validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present,” City said in a statement.

“The club wishes to thank the panel members for their diligence and the due process that they administered.”

Since Sheikh Mansour’s takeover 12 years ago, City’s fortunes have been transformed from perennially living in the shadow of local rivals Manchester United to winning four Premier League titles in the past eight years among 11 major trophies.

More silverware could come before the end of the season as Guardiola’s side face Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday before restarting their Champions League campaign in August, holding a 2-1 lead over Real Madrid from the first leg of their last-16 tie.

On Saturday, they secured qualification for the Champions League for a 10th consecutive season with a 5-0 win at Brighton.

“We deserve to be there because we won it on the pitch,” said Guardiola ahead of Monday’s ruling.

City’s victory in court will raise fresh questions over how effectively UEFA can police FFP.

Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain also won an appeal to CAS against UEFA’s decision to reopen a probe into alleged FFP breaches last year.

FFP, which limits clubs to not losing more than 30 million euros over a three-year period, with exceptions for some costs such as youth development and women’s teams, has helped drive down debt levels in European football.

“Over the last few years, Financial Fair Play has played a significant role in protecting clubs and helping them become financially sustainable and UEFA and ECA (European Clubs Association) remain committed to its principles,” UEFA’s statement added.

The ruling also has ramifications for the end to the Premier League season.

With just six points separating third from seventh, many sides were hoping for City’s ban to be upheld, which would have meant fifth place was good enough to qualify for the Champions League.

Instead, Chelsea, Leicester, Manchester United, Wolves and Sheffield United are now vying for two places in the top four.

AFP

Tottenham Beat Arsenal To Leave Gunners Europe Dreams Hanging In Balance

Arsenal’s French striker Alexandre Lacazette (C) reacts to their defeat on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on July 12, 2020. Tim Goode / POOL / AFP

Tottenham on Sunday defeated North London rivals, Arsenal 2-1, leaving the Gunners hopes of securing a place in Europe hanging. 

Toby Alderweireld’s towering header nine minutes from time gave Tottenham’s season the tonic in the first north London derby at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday.

Victory moves Spurs two points above their local rivals into eighth and keeps their chances of Europa League football next season alive, even if a return to the Champions League looks beyond them.

READ ALSO: Griezmann May Miss Season Finale Due To Thigh Injury

The loss was the first in six games for Arsenal, who drop to ninth, as old defensive frailties came back to haunt Mikel Arteta’s men after an impressive spell.

Draws for both sides in midweek realistically ended any chance of Champions League football next season, even if Manchester City’s appeal against a two-season ban from European competitions fails on Monday to pave the way for fifth place to qualify.

However, there was still the pride of north London to play for and plenty for both sides to prove ahead of a tight turnaround before next season.

Tottenham failed to even muster a shot on target in a dire 0-0 draw at relegation-threatened Bournemouth on Thursday that raised more questions over their direction under Jose Mourinho.

There was more urgency from Spurs from the off as Lucas Moura tested Emiliano Martinez inside the first minute.

Harry Kane had scored 10 goals in 11 previous derby appearances against Arsenal, but the England captain had a frustrating day in front of goal as he missed the first of a series of chances when he attempted to lob Martinez who anticipated and made another impressive stop.

Arsenal’s impressive form in recent weeks put them in position to finish above Tottenham in the table for the first time in four years and they began to impose themselves on the game with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang uncharacteristically wasteful from Hector Bellerin’s cut-back.

The Gunners did go in front moments later in spectacular fashion as Alexandre Lacazette picked up a loose ball 25 yards from goal and blasted into the top corner for just his second league goal away from home this season.

Arsenal quickly undid that good work as Sead Kolasinac’s wayward pass allowed Son Heung-min to outsprint David Luiz before coolly chipping the ball over the onrushing Martinez.

Both sides came close to scoring again before half-time as the action mirrored a pulsating 2-2 draw at the Emirates earlier in the season, even if there was not the atmosphere synonomous with a derby.

Tottenham left-back Ben Davies crashed a long-range effort off the bar before Nicolas Pepe curled an effort inches wide at the other end.

With Arteta audibly orchestrating his troops from the sidelines, Arsenal controlled long spells of the second half, but failed to make their pressure count.

Aubameyang smashed the visitors’ best chance off the crossbar before he was denied again by Hugo Lloris flying low to his left to turn the ball behind for a corner.

Spurs were always a threat on the counter-attack. Martinez had to be quick off his line to deny Son a tap in for his second after Kane outmuscled Shkodran Mustafi.

Kane was then denied once more by the Argentine goalkeeper from a narrow angle, but from the resulting Son corner, Alderweireld leapt highest to head into the far corner.

AFP

Tottenham Defeat Leaves Arsenal’s Europe Dreams Hanging In Balance

Arsenal’s French striker Alexandre Lacazette (C) reacts to their defeat on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on July 12, 2020. Tim Goode / POOL / AFP

Tottenham on Sunday defeated North London rivals, Arsenal 2-1, leaving the Gunners hopes of securing a place in Europe hanging. 

Toby Alderweireld’s towering header nine minutes from time gave Tottenham’s season the tonic in the first north London derby at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday.

Victory moves Spurs two points above their local rivals into eighth and keeps their chances of Europa League football next season alive, even if a return to the Champions League looks beyond them.

READ ALSO: Griezmann May Miss Season Finale Due To Thigh Injury

The loss was the first in six games for Arsenal, who drop to ninth, as old defensive frailties came back to haunt Mikel Arteta’s men after an impressive spell.

Draws for both sides in midweek realistically ended any chance of Champions League football next season, even if Manchester City’s appeal against a two-season ban from European competitions fails on Monday to pave the way for fifth place to qualify.

However, there was still the pride of north London to play for and plenty for both sides to prove ahead of a tight turnaround before next season.

Tottenham failed to even muster a shot on target in a dire 0-0 draw at relegation-threatened Bournemouth on Thursday that raised more questions over their direction under Jose Mourinho.

There was more urgency from Spurs from the off as Lucas Moura tested Emiliano Martinez inside the first minute.

Harry Kane had scored 10 goals in 11 previous derby appearances against Arsenal, but the England captain had a frustrating day in front of goal as he missed the first of a series of chances when he attempted to lob Martinez who anticipated and made another impressive stop.

Arsenal’s impressive form in recent weeks put them in position to finish above Tottenham in the table for the first time in four years and they began to impose themselves on the game with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang uncharacteristically wasteful from Hector Bellerin’s cut-back.

The Gunners did go in front moments later in spectacular fashion as Alexandre Lacazette picked up a loose ball 25 yards from goal and blasted into the top corner for just his second league goal away from home this season.

Arsenal quickly undid that good work as Sead Kolasinac’s wayward pass allowed Son Heung-min to outsprint David Luiz before coolly chipping the ball over the onrushing Martinez.

Both sides came close to scoring again before half-time as the action mirrored a pulsating 2-2 draw at the Emirates earlier in the season, even if there was not the atmosphere synonomous with a derby.

Tottenham left-back Ben Davies crashed a long-range effort off the bar before Nicolas Pepe curled an effort inches wide at the other end.

With Arteta audibly orchestrating his troops from the sidelines, Arsenal controlled long spells of the second half, but failed to make their pressure count.

Aubameyang smashed the visitors’ best chance off the crossbar before he was denied again by Hugo Lloris flying low to his left to turn the ball behind for a corner.

Spurs were always a threat on the counter-attack. Martinez had to be quick off his line to deny Son a tap in for his second after Kane outmuscled Shkodran Mustafi.

Kane was then denied once more by the Argentine goalkeeper from a narrow angle, but from the resulting Son corner, Alderweireld leapt highest to head into the far corner.

AFP

‘You Reminded The World That Good Things Still Come From Nigeria, Buhari Hails Usman

President Muhammadu has described Kamaru Usman’s Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) successful welterweight title defense as a sign that good things and great people can still come out from Nigeria. 

Usman had on Sunday defeated Jorge Masvidal in Abu Dhabi to retain the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight world title, scoring a unanimous points decision 50-45, 50-45 and 49-46 on the three judges’ cards.

While congratulating him for the win which he described as “emphatic,” Buhari in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, hailed the 35-year-old for making Nigerians proud.

According to the statement, “As the first African-born and Nigerian UFC Champion, President Buhari commends the courageous fighter for finishing strong inside the octagon, proudly flying the green and white colours in distant lands, and reminding the world that good things and great people still come out of Nigeria.”

The Nigerian leader said even as the COVID-19 pandemic has brought sadness to families across the world, Usman’s title defence has brought smiles and joy to Nigerians.

“While the global COVID-19 pandemic may have brought gloom to many families and nations, the President is delighted and gratified that our welterweight champion has lifted our spirits with another professional performance proving that things will surely get better at the fullness of time when we remain committed to our vision,” the statement read.

“The President wishes Usman the very best and more victories in his career and prays that like fine wine, he improves with age.”

 Taking Him On

“Gamebred (Masvidal) is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now and I had to take him,” said Usman after the fight.

“I know a lot of noise was made about him preparing on short notice but all these guys are preparing for one guy and that’s me.

Man City ‘Deserve’ Champions League Return, Says Guardiola

File photo: Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola reacts during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on December 7, 2019. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City deserve their place in the Champions League next season as the club wait to find out whether their two-season ban against playing in European competitions will be overturned.

City were handed the two-season saction by UEFA in February over alleged breaches of financial fair play rules, but appealed that decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport which will deliver its verdict on Monday.

On the field, City ensured they will finish in the Premier League’s top four with Raheem Sterling scoring a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Brighton on Saturday.

“Today we achieved one incredible challenge, which is qualification for the Champions League mathematically,” said Guardiola.

“We deserve to be there because we won it on the pitch. Hopefully on Monday UEFA can allow us to play like this team and these players deserve to.”

For the fourth time in their last six league games, City scored four or more goals in another performance that belied the 21-point gap between them and champions Liverpool.

However, they could still end the season with a treble of trophies as they face Arsenal in the semi-finals of the FA Cup next weekend before recommencing their Champions League campaign in August.

“I have the feeling all the team is ready to play good for what we have ahead of us,” added Guardiola.

“The levels we’ve had since the restart, even the games we lost, have been really good.”

Too often City have been found wanting for failing to take their chances and punished for defensive lapses at the other end.

However, there was never any chance of Brighton adding to their nine league defeats this season once Sterling curled home his 25th goal of the season with unerring accuracy into the far corner.

“I think the problem we’ve had this season is we’ve created a lot of chances and not taken them whereas last season and the season before we’d finish them and bury games early on,” said Sterling.

“This season we haven’t had that slight bit of luck.”

Gabriel Jesus could have the responsibility of leading the line when City’s bid to win the Champions League for the first time gets back underway with Sergio Aguero facing a race against time to be fit after knee surgery.

The Brazilian has not always been the most prolific finisher, but showed striker’s instincts to tap Rodrigo’s flick-on for a corner to make it 2-0 just before half-time with his 20th goal of the season.

Sterling notched his second of the night in unusual fashion by crashing home a header from Mahrez’s teasing cross.

Brighton did themselves no favours for the fourth as Mat Ryan spiled a Bernardo Silva shot he should have held and Jesus teed up the Portuguese midfielder to roll into an unguarded net at the second attempt..

Sterling was left on as Kevin De Bruyne and Jesus made way to give him the chance of securing a hat-trick and he did so with a hint of fortune as the ball ricocheted off his head after he had fallen to the floor inside the area and Dan Burn failed to clear the ball off the line.

Brighton are still not mathematically safe as they remain eight points above the relegation zone, but Graham Potter’s men should already have enough points on the board as third-bottom Bournemouth face the daunting task of being City’s next opponents on Wednesday.

“We were well beaten by the better team,” admitted Potter.

“They beat Liverpool 4-0 at the Etihad so better teams than us will find it difficult.”

AFP