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Zlatan Ibrahimovic says Manchester United must forget Sir Alex Ferguson because his former success is holding the club back.


Ferguson retired in 2013, having won 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two Champions League trophies during an unprecedented 26-year reign, and has since watched United struggle for consistency.


Under three separate managers - all of whom appeared keen to distance themselves from Ferguson's regime - United have failed to win a league title at five times of asking, finishing outside the top four three times.


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, however, has never shied away from mentioning "the gaffer" since taking caretaker charge in December, inviting his former manager to the training ground, and the dressing room on one occasion.


But former United striker Ibrahimovic feels this is the wrong approach, telling the Mirror: "Everything that happens is judged by the era of Ferguson.


"They are saying if Ferguson was here, this would not happen, Ferguson would not do it like that. Ferguson would do it like this. Everything was Ferguson.


"If it was me, I would say I don't have Ferguson anymore. And I come here and I want to make my own history, I want to make my own story.


"So I do not want to hear what happened before. I want to do it in the present. You come in with a new mentality.


"Ferguson has his place in history at this club but now the club continues. It has to find its own identity and it is difficult."

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Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes should expect a Ferrari resurgence in F1 2019's next races after pre-season predictions were turned on their head at the Australian GP.

Mercedes' one-two qualifying and race finish in Melbourne was an "incredible achievement", according to Hamilton, after a winter testing programme where their Italian rivals had looked ominously strong.

Asked if he was surprised to see Ferrari so far behind on the opening weekend, Hamilton replied: "Everyone is, probably. No one was expecting to have a gap like that when we came into the weekend.

"Honestly, what I was shown and led to believe from the analysis we were given, was that they were ahead. It obviously wasn't the case during this weekend and I'm not quite sure why their performance was how it was.

"I wouldn't say we particularly over-delivered, we did our normal job in the sense of our operations, and the team did an exceptional job throughout the weekend.

"I don't know what their problem was. I'm sure they'll come back strong in the next races so we've got to stay on our toes."

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In-form Romelu Lukaku will need a late fitness test ahead of Manchester United's FA Cup quarter-final against Wolves on Saturday due to a sore foot.

Lukaku has regained his position as the first-choice striker in recent weeks and has scored six goals in his last four games.

His double against Paris Saint-Germain helped United overturn a first-leg defeat to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.

Solskjaer said he was "hopeful" the striker would pass an injury assessment on Friday.

Phil Jones is available again for Solskjaer after missing four matches through illness, and Anthony Martial, Ander Herrera, and Jesse Lingard are all training again.

Ashley Young is suspended for the match, while Juan Mata, Antonio Valencia, and Matteo Darmian are also unavailable.

"Obviously we've got a decision to make as to who is match fit," said Solskjaer.

Alexis Sanchez is not expected to return to action until at least United's trip to Everton on April 24, but the forward will return from Barcelona this weekend after receiving treatment on his knee injury.

"He's not been on grass yet," said Solskjaer. "He's been seeing his people in Barcelona. He's still a few weeks away.

"If we get to Everton, Manchester City, Chelsea - that period - he probably will be available."

Sanchez has scored just five goals in 41 games since joining United from Arsenal.

Asked if the club will ever see Sanchez's best form, Solskjaer said: "I hope so.

"You can never be 100 per cent sure but Alexis is such a determined lad, he loves football, so I'm sure he's doing everything he can that when he comes back he's going to show his best side."


Source:

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Gus Poyet says he spoke to Gareth Bale at training on Thursday and the Welshman told him he is happy at Real Madrid.

Zinedine Zidane's return as Real Madrid manager raises questions over whether the former Tottenham forward will still be at Madrid beyond the summer. Bale reportedly endured a tense relationship with Zidane during the Frenchman's previous tenure.

Although reports suggest the 29-year-old could be on his way out of Madrid this summer, Poyet believes he is happy to remain with the Champions League holders after having a discussion with him at Real Madrid's training complex on Thursday.

"I saw a good, happy Gareth Bale, even if there have been some problems on the pitch," he told The Debate.

"In Spain, there's a lot of talk about how Zidane is going to have plenty of power in the summer to renew the squad.

"Yes, [I spoke to him]. I saw he was happy. I asked him 'how are you?' because of all this. He said he's so happy there.

"He has three kids. The weather was unbelievable. Playing for Real Madrid in that weather with his family in Madrid... I cannot see him leaving except if, of course, the manager tells him.

"We talk about golf that he likes a lot because everybody is talking more about that than his football, but he's doing well."

Poyet said there were no discussions at training about Eden Hazard, who has also been strongly linked to the club in recent months.

However, the former Sunderland and Brighton boss questions why Real did not sign the Chelsea forward last summer.

He added: "I thought the summer it was the perfect moment for him to go because of [Cristiano] Ronaldo leaving, Hazard coming in to fill that place.

"I don't know what happened or if they were looking at him with the manager Julen Lopetegui. But now with Zidane back they'll want to start again."

Source:

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Pep Guardiola, Manchester City manager has once again expressed his doubt on the Premier League champions’ readiness to win the Champions League for the first time despite being favorites for the competition.

City host Bundesliga strugglers Schalke on Tuesday with a 3-2 first-leg lead in their last 16 ties hoping to avoid the pitfalls that did for Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid in Champions League shocks last week.

Guardiola admitted even he was taken aback by Manchester United’s stunning 3-1 win in Paris and holders Madrid’s capitulation to a talented young Ajax team but refuted suggestions their elimination had cleared the way for City to finally conquer Europe.


“We are teenagers in this competition that’s my feeling. It does not excuse, of course, we want to win it,” said the Catalan coach on Monday.

“You have to dream and point as high as possible but at the same time you have to accept there are other teams thinking the same with a lot of quality and lot of talent.”

Guardiola was annoyed by City’s mistakes in conceding two penalties and having Nicolas Otamendi sent off 22 minutes from time in Gelsenkirchen three weeks ago despite turning around a 2-1 deficit with 10 men through late goals from Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling.

And he used that experience to warn his players against any complacency.

“In domestic competition, there is another game, in this competition, there is not another game. It is something unique, the focus is incredible and when you make something wrong they (the opponent) punish it,” he added.

“Schalke had two shots on target and scored two goals. We played 23 minutes 10 v 11 when we could avoid that second yellow card from Nico.

“We are lucky today we are here 3-2 up when we could be 3-1 or 4-1 down. That’s the reality in this competition. (There is) work to do, be calm and focused.”


Gundogan future is unclear 

Along with the suspended Otamendi, Fernandinho will again miss out through injury, but the Brazilian’s absence has not been felt as badly as first feared due to Ilkay Gundogan’s form.

The German has deputized ably in the holding midfield role but has so far refused to commit his future to City beyond his current contract, which expires in 2020.

“There is no decision yet otherwise I would have signed or rejected a contract. I would say we are still in talks,” said Gundogan.

“I’m 28 years old now so obviously my next contract will decide where I am for maybe the end of my career.

“Everyone feels different, (whether) to go for a new challenge or change something. I am always open-minded for challenges, it is not (an) obvious (decision).

“Everyone has to make their own decision and at the moment I try to play as good as possible.”

Guardiola, though, urged Gundogan to make his intentions clear.

“I would prefer him to stay but at the same time I want to feel he wants to stay too,” said Guardiola.

“If he doesn’t want to stay, he has to leave.”


AFP

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Rafael Nadal kicked off his run at the 2019 BNP Paribas Open with an impressive 6-1, 6-1, win over Jared Donaldson.

The No. 2 seed was one of the last players to get started at Indian Wells in California, while Donaldson earned a straight-sets win over Tatsuma Ito in the first round. Momentum wasn't a factor, however, as Nadal was able to earn an easy victory.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion, who owns three Indian Wells titles, needed just 72 minutes to get past world number 192 Donaldson, who returned to the tour in February after six months sidelined by a knee injury.

The Spanish star is playing his third tournament of a year that opened with a runner-up finish to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open.

Nadal had all of his shots working in this one, excelling in the first set with both his backhand and forehand.

He next faces Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, a 6-3, 6-1 winner over Spain’s Roberto Carbralles.


AFP

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AFP

Juventus’s Champions League hopes are hanging on Cristiano Ronaldo pulling off another sensational comeback as the Italians trail 2-0 to defensive specialists Atletico Madrid going into the last 16, second-leg tie in Turin on Tuesday.

“We didn’t expect to lose the first leg 2-0, but anything can happen, and we want to give great response in our home, in front of our fans,” Ronaldo told Juventus TV ahead of the game in the Allianz Stadium.


“These are the great nights, the fantastic ones: the Champions League nights,” he continued.


“The team is confident of playing a great game and I am too. To the fans, I say: think positive, let’s believe.


“Get ready to come back!”

The seven-time reigning Italian champions bought Ronaldo last summer from Real Madrid for 100 million euros ($117 million) to end their Champions League heartbreak going back 23 years.


The 34-year-old’s stunning overhead kick for Real in the quarter-finals in Turin last April had dumped Juventus out of the tournament once again.


Expectations are high that he can reproduce his improbable hat-trick which lifted Real Madrid past Wolfsburg in April 2016 with the Spaniards 2-0 down to the Germans after the first leg.


Juventus have come from behind in the elite European competition eight times — including in the 1996 quarter-finals against Real Madrid on their way to winning the title.


They also lifted the European trophy in 1985, but have finished runners-up five times since their last success, including twice in the past four years.


 Years of disappointments 

“CR7 is here for that,” wrote Italian sports daily Corriere Dello Sport, of “a game Cristiano cannot get wrong.”


“He wasn’t signed to win the Scudetto or to boost merchandising, Juve is waiting to end years of disappointments.”


Ronaldo won five Champions League titles with Manchester United and Real Madrid and has scored a record 121 goals of which 57 have proved decisive.


The top scorer in the Champions League for the last six seasons, he has however scored just once in this year’s competition, delivering performance far below expectations in Madrid.


Since the Madrid game, he has not scored in the league and has been overtaken as the top Serie A scorer by Sampdoria’s Fabio Quagliarella, who has 20 goals to Ronaldo’s 19.


The problem for Juventus is they need to score at least twice against a team that specializes in defense.


Diego Simeone’s Atletico — second in La Liga — have not conceded a goal for five games.


“Everyone knows that they are a strong team, they defend very well, they don’t take a lot of risks and they play on the counter-attack, but we are ready, and we will do everything we can to beat them,” said Ronaldo, who has scored 22 goals against Atletico.


“The fine details will make the difference, and we want to win and qualify for the quarter-finals.”


 High Stakes 

Former-Wolfsburg manager Dieter Hecking believes Ronaldo can make a difference.

“Ronaldo is capable of everything, he can also score three goals again as he did against my Wolfsburg. Of course, he can,” Hecking told Gazzetta Dello Sport.


“Atletico has the best defense in Europe and an excellent attack: without Ronaldo, who can invent goals in any way, it would be impossible.


“If I said that Ronaldo is not the strongest player I have ever met, I would lie.


“I remember that night I told the team that we should not be afraid neither of him nor the Bernabeu, but at 17 minutes we were already 2-0 with a double by CR7, it was monstrous.”


Allegri’s future at the club he has won 10 trophies with since 2014 will likely hinge on this game. The Juventus coach knows the stakes are high.


“I think expectations have been raised far too much and it has become an obsession,” said the 51-year-old.


“Since I arrived, the Champions League has always been an objective, but if people say that it’s a failure if Juventus go out, that is not right.”

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Neymar will travel to Qatar to undergo a “complete assessment” six weeks into his recovery from a fractured right foot, Paris Saint-Germain said on Thursday.

Brazil forward watched on forlornly from the stands at the Parc des Princes as PSG crashed out of the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday to Manchester United on away goals following a 3-1 defeat.


“Neymar Jr will travel to Aspetar (sports clinic) in Qatar for the next 3 days as scheduled in the initial recovery plan,” the club wrote on its Twitter account.

“He will undertake a complete assessment after six weeks of his injury. He will be accompanied by a medical team from PSG.”


The 27-year-old damaged the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in a French Cup win over Strasbourg on January 23 and was ruled out for 10 weeks.

PSG was hoping he would be healed enough to get back on the pitch in time for a potential Champions League quarter-final in April, but the French side suffered a humiliating exit as United sensationally overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit.


AFP

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Manchester United performed a footballing miracle against Paris Saint Germain last night. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was without 9 first-team players for the game due to injuries and also missed Paul Pogba through suspension. But that didn't dent his side's belief of doing the unthinkable. The Red Devils made history by becoming the first side to progress having lost by 2 or more goals at home in the first leg of a knockout match in the Champions League.


Ole Gunnar Solksjaer's men have gifted a goal by PSG in the 2nd minute of the game when Thilo Kehrer misplaced a back pass and Lukaku punished him for that, putting the ball into the net after taking it past Gigi Buffon. PSG then came back into the game and forced Manchester United into defending for their lives. But they couldn't sustain the pressure for much longer and Kylian Mbappe's low cross to the far post was finished by Bernat.


However, another mistake at PSG's defense helped United to restore their lead when Buffon spilled a shot by Marcus Rashford and Lukaku was the first to get to it, finishing the ball past the former Juventus captain with aplomb.


PSG attacked aggressively in the second half but the resilient Manchester United defense did not let them get past them. Kylian Mbappe had the best opportunity to kill the game at the 80th-minute mark when he came 1-on-1 with David De Gea but lost his footing at the final moment.


The most controversial decision came in the 90th minute when a penalty was given in Manchester United's favor after Diogo Dalot's shot hit Kimpembe's hand. After consulting the VAR, the penalty was given which seemed a bit harsh on PSG as the ball hit the back side of Kimpembe and there was no deliberate attempt to block the ball.


Marcus Rashford blasted the penalty past Buffon to complete one of the greatest comebacks of the Champions League history. 


Here are 3 things we learned from the game:

#1. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is definitely getting the Manchester United Job.

#2. Romelu Lukaku is more than just a flat-track bully under Solksjaer: 

#3. Mason Greenwood finally gets his debut

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- Santiago Solari has said that he'll not give up coaching Real Madrid but the decision will probably not be his to make.


Zinedine Zidane earned the right to decide himself and chose to leave last summer.

“It would have been difficult for me to win again next year,” Zidane had said in May.

“There have been good times but also difficult times. I do not forget that. I want to end with Real Madrid when everything is going well.”

Ten months on, Zidane’s exit speech feels like a warning.


Madrid’s season is up in smoke after seven days in which they were eliminated from the Copa del Rey, deemed irrelevant in La Liga and humiliated in the Champions League.


“I did not come to the club in such a difficult time to give up,” said Solari, after a 4-1 defeat to Ajax on Wednesday sent his side out in the last 16.

In the league and cup, they were proven to be clearly worse than Barcelona, their greatest rivals, and in Europe, inferior to Ajax, the club that is supposed to supply the elite not outplay them in their own back yard.


Three defeats, all of them in their own stadium, the last in the competition Madrid had begun to feel was their own after three consecutive triumphs and four in five years.


“Here lies a team that made history,” read the front page of Marca on Wednesday. “End of an era,” said Diario Sport. “The disaster is huge,” wrote Mundo Deportivo.


Solari had overseen a period of progress since taking over from Julen Lopetegui in November but the decline has been quick and familiar. Early improvement gave way to a lack of goals, which slowly sapped belief. Mediocre opponents took advantage and better ones ran riot.


‘Bigger problems to fix’

The club’s president Florentino Perez must now decide if Solari is worth keeping until the summer, although it is hard to see what would be gained by sacking him when there is nothing left to be gained from the season.


A new coach, with the same squad, would only surrender the feeling of freshness while for Perez, there might also be merit in waiting until June when more candidates could become available.


Yet he must be aware now of what Zidane was indicating, the sense that there are bigger problems to fix than the coach.


A Marca poll on Tuesday night asked fans who they thought was to blame, with 79 per cent answering either ‘everyone’ or ‘the board’ and only 7 per cent picking ‘Solari and Lopetegui’.


After years of under-investment, Madrid’s spine is creaking. Luka Modric is 33, Sergio Ramos 32, Toni Kroos 29 and Karim Benzema 31. Age is one thing but motivation is another. Success is hard to replicate.


Cristiano Ronaldo sought a new challenge with Juventus but was not replaced, either by a single star or two or three impact players that could collectively help bridge the gap. Mariano Diaz, signed last minute from Lyon, was not even on the bench on Wednesday.


Instead of marquee arrivals, the last of whom was James Rodriguez in 2014, Perez has shifted focus towards youth, with the likes of Vinicius Junior, Alvaro Odriozola, Sergio Reguilon, Dani Ceballos and Marcos Llorente all showing varying degrees of promise. Vinicius has been a revelation.


The problem is not that those players have failed to deliver but that perhaps they need a blend of experience to help bring them through. A summer spending spree might be tempting but could also undo all the good work done with a talented group.


If Solari cannot make a convincing enough case – and it is difficult to see how he can – in the 12 league games left, the choice of his successor will be revealing as to whether Perez’s faith in youth remains intact.


Madrid faces a trip to Real Valladolid on Sunday and all that is left is to overtake Atletico Madrid, who are five points ahead and reduce a 12-point gap on Barcelona, who are closing in on a seventh league title in 10 seasons. For all Madrid’s success in Europe, that domestic drought speaks volumes.


“We have a young team with room for improvement,” Dani Carvajal said. “It is clear the season is over but we will keep working in the league because that’s what we have to do, we have to be professional. That’s just how it is.”


AFP

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