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Van Persie secures Feyenoord return

Published in Football
Saturday, 20 January 2018 11:00

Robin van Persie has agreed a deal to re-join boyhood club Feyenoord, 14 years after leaving the Rotterdam club.
The former Arsenal and Manchester United striker will be unveiled as a Feyenoord player on Monday after Fenerbahce agreed to terminate his contract.

The Dutchman has been at the Turkish side since leaving Old Trafford in 2015, but will now return to Rotterdam to play for the side where started his career.
The Netherlands international spent eight seasons with Arsene Wenger’s side, winning the FA Cup, before joining Manchester United in 2012.
Van Persie, who is the Netherlands’ all-time leading goalscorer, will hope to help Feyenoord move up the table after a poor first half of the season. Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side are currently fifth in the Eredivisie, nine points off the Champions League places.

Van Persie secures Feyenoord return

Published in Football
Saturday, 20 January 2018 11:00

Robin van Persie has agreed a deal to re-join boyhood club Feyenoord, 14 years after leaving the Rotterdam club.
The former Arsenal and Manchester United striker will be unveiled as a Feyenoord player on Monday after Fenerbahce agreed to terminate his contract.

The Dutchman has been at the Turkish side since leaving Old Trafford in 2015, but will now return to Rotterdam to play for the side where started his career.
The Netherlands international spent eight seasons with Arsene Wenger’s side, winning the FA Cup, before joining Manchester United in 2012.
Van Persie, who is the Netherlands’ all-time leading goalscorer, will hope to help Feyenoord move up the table after a poor first half of the season. Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side are currently fifth in the Eredivisie, nine points off the Champions League places.

Jose Mourinho expects goalkeeper David De Gea to be offered a new long-term contract by Manchester United.

The most-recent deal De Gea signed in 2015, just days after a proposed £29million move to Real Madrid fell through, runs out next year, although United hold an option to extend that by a further 12 months.

Mourinho regards activating that clause as a foregone conclusion, but also anticipates United offering the 27-year-old fresh terms to ward off any renewed interest from Madrid and ensure he remains at Old Trafford into his 30s.

De Gea joined United in 2011 and has been arguably the club's most impressive player in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.
"The option, it's obvious that we're not going to let the option disappear," Mourinho said.

"A goalkeeper like he is and obviously a club that wants to be better and better and better, we are not going to let that year option go away.

"But obviously we are going to try (for a new deal).

"Mr (Ed) Woodward is not on holiday. He barely has holidays. Of course he's going to try to give him a contract that keeps him here for much longer than that option that of course we are going to execute.

"I just trust the board and the work they do. I don't negotiate players, I don't discuss numbers and contracts. I just say what is obvious. Anyone of you would say the same - David is to keep."
Mourinho may stand aside when it comes to contract negotiations, but he has once again been at the heart of another managerial spat at the start of 2018.

His row with Antonio Conte has seen both bosses trade insults, with Mourinho claiming on Friday he had now been left feeling "contempt".

Mourinho has also taken swipes at the likes of Arsene Wenger, Jurgen Klopp and Rafael Benitez in the past, but claims he garners no joy from doing so.

"I don't enjoy (them)," The United boss added.

"When I start (them) I take the responsibilities of that and I've started (them) many times.

"When I don't start it's quite funny for me to see other people on the other side acting like victims when they're not the victims. But, really, I don't enjoy. That's why for me (the row with Conte) is over."

Mourinho then pointedly made a reference to how he repaired his relationship with Claudio Ranieri.
When Ranieri was sacked by Leicester in 2017, Mourinho wore the initials 'CR' on his top at a press conference, a move Conte recently suggested made him look "fake".

"Sometimes it's my fault; sometimes it's other managers' fault," Mourinho added of his arguments.

"In my case, when I think it's my fault and I should behave in a different way, I'm the first one to apologise, like I did with Ranieri when I had the chance.

"That's when our relations went from bad to good and from good to very good because I was man enough to apologise."

Chelsea were dealt a double blow on Tuesday with manager Antonio Conte saying that midfielder Cesc Fabregas and defender Gary Cahill will miss Wednesday's FA Cup third round replay against Norwich City because of injury.

England international Cahill was substituted in the first half of last Saturday's stalemate with Leicester City in the Premier League while Spaniard Fabregas was taken off in the second.

"Cahill (is injured), but his problem is not too serious. Cesc had a little problem in his hamstring and is not available," Conte told reporters.

Chelsea have recorded four goalless draws in their last seven fixtures across all competitions, dropping to fourth in the league and facing a must-win fixture against Norwich at home to progress to the FA Cup fourth round.

"This is a real problem for us. We are not conceding but the bad news is that we are not scoring," Conte said. "We have to improve in this aspect.

"If you compare to the past every single player has scored less than last season."
The Italian said that he would have to rotate his squad heavily ahead of the league trip to Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

"Tomorrow is another game in a busy period for us. I have to make many changes. We have to play against Brighton after two days," Conte added.

"This is the great risk to make rotation, a lot of rotation. If you want to face and try to go to the next round in every competition this is the only way we can do."

Meanwhile, media reports have linked Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez with a move to Chelsea this month but Conte is unsure of the transfer.

"I don't know but I don't think so," Conte replied when asked directly if Chelsea were trying to sign the Chile international.

"About the transfer market I prefer to talk to the club and give an opinion and I repeat I don't want to give my opinion on that."

Conte also said that newly-signed midfielder Ross Barkley is unavailable for Wednesday's match as the England international was not registered in time.

The 48-year-old refused to comment on striker Michy Batshuayi's future, who has been linked with a move away, saying the Belgian along with Welsh teenager Ethan Ampadu were likely to play against Norwich.

Childbirth complications forced Serena Williams to miss the Australian Open, her coach Patrick Mouratoglou has revealed to Eurosport.

Williams was pregnant with her first child when she lifted the trophy in Melbourne 12 months ago, before missing the remainder of the season.

The 36-year-old gave birth to a baby girl, Alexis Olympia, in September – but her plans to defend her title in Australia were derailed due to medical problems.

"We expected Serena to be here. She really wanted to be here,” Mouratoglou told Eurosport on a Facebook Live.

"Serena had some medical issues, she had a C-section – for a sportswoman that’s difficult because they cut your abdominal muscles and then she had a blood clot so she was still in hospital for a long time.

"I mean she had so many issues so she lost at least two months of her preparation so wasn’t ready for the Australian Open.”

Instead, Williams is targeting a return at Indian Wells in March, with her focus fixed on overtaking Margaret Court’s haul of 24 Grand Slam titles. The American is on 23.

"For someone like her, who has won 23 Grand Slams already, she wants to beat the record so it makes sense for her to try and do that,” Mouratoglou added.

"I think with her career she needs to come back and be ready and able to play her game. It doesn’t make sense for her to come back too early. If you’re not ready you can get injured. She will come back when she is ready.

"Serena is very happy, she was dreaming about having a family for quite a few years; she met her husband, got married last year, had her first baby –and she’s the happiest lady on the planet.

"Still though, she has that competitive spirit and she still feels she’s not done with tennis. Like a great champion, she will be very sad when the moment comes to stop. But it’s not now –which is good for us!"

Rafael Nadal continued his smooth progress at the Australian Open in Melbourne with a 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-4) victory over Leonardo Mayer on Rod Laver Arena.

The world number one and number one seed was thrilled with his progress in two hours and 38 minutes in Melbourne after producing a couple of spectacular winners in the tie-break to ensure the world number 52 from Argentina did not force the match to a fourth set.
"He is a very dangerous opponent, I produced a couple of great shots in the tie-break," said Nadal, who won his only Australian Open in 2009.

"I'm happy to be in the third round after so long without competition.

"It is a very special feeling playing on this court."
Nadal looks at the very peak of his powers after a knee problem forced him to withdraw from the World Tour finals last November, his last competitive action before his trip to the first Grand Slam of the season.

He improves his head-to-head record against Mayer to 5-0, but he was obviously wary of the threat his opponent provided having dropped the opening set to him in the last 32 before winning in four sets on his way to claiming the US Open last year.

Channelling his early years with a sleeveless shirt, the muscular Mallorcan threw Mayer around like a rag-doll, pounding him with a barrage of top-spin bombs.
A masterful performance was blighted only by a late wobble, when Nadal was broken serving for the match at 5-4 in the decider.

But the Spaniard found an extra gear in the breaker, wrapping up the match with a monster serve to the corner that Mayer battled to get a racket to.

Nadal's bid for a 17th Grand Slam title continues against Bosnian 28th seed Damir Dzumhur on Friday.

F1 warned it can't risk 'destructive' talks

Published in Formula 1
Tuesday, 16 January 2018 11:44

McLaren executive director Zak Brown has warned talks surrounding the future of Formula 1 beyond 2020 must not become "destructive".

Each team has an individual bilateral contract with Formula One Management tying it to the championship and these expire at the end of 2020.

Ferrari's includes the right to veto regulations as well as a stipulation it will receive a long standing payment and a constructors' championship bonus each year from FOM revenues.

Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren and Williams also receive additional payments.

Talks regarding what form the next agreements will take are ongoing, with Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne have made clear his team will pull out if the championship's future rules are not in the direction he agrees with.
"My big concern now is the negotiations for the new contract will be tough, some teams will be tougher than others and I think we know who," Brown told Autosport.

"I hope, but I'm not confident, that they can negotiate behind the scenes and not too much through the public, which I don't think's going to be the case because they already are, and hurt any forward momentum that we've now created by giving concern.

"Any time people think a strike is going to come in a sport, they start [thinking] 'well why don't you guys go figure that out and then we'll look at joining'.

"So I just hope that they are not too destructive in the negotiation process.

"Ultimately, I think it will all get done so it will be nothing more than negotiation but we saw last time where it got to in '09 with the breakaway [proposal].

"I don't think there's any chance of a breakaway but those stories will get out there at some point and they can be destructive, especially when they are not anything other than a negotiation tactic."

When asked if Ferrari's threat should be taken seriously or if F1 should risk Ferrari or another team leaving, Brown said: "No one wants that, but they [F1] have got to do what's right for the sport and I think that is what they are going to do.
"Any time you are in a negotiation you need to be prepared to walk away.

"They are trying to do the right thing by everyone, but with the rebalancing of the sport on and off track, those that have had the unfair advantage are going to see it as they are losing something and they are not going to want to lose something so I sympathise with that.

"But the sport's losing because of it and therefore they ultimately lose because we are all in this boat and if the boat sinks, it doesn't matter if you are in first class or economy, the boat's sinking.

"So they are going to have to find a balance of what they think is an acceptable compromise and they are all tough negotiators.

"Liberty is going to make a decision for what they think is best for the sport, be fair and balance.

"We all recognise that Ferrari has been the largest contributor to the sport and that has to be recognised but it shouldn't be recognised in a way that hurts the sport."

Roger Federer charges into second round

Published in Tennis
Tuesday, 16 January 2018 08:27

Roger Federer kicked off his season with a commanding victory over Aljaz Bedene in the Australian Open first round.

While not quite as impressive as title rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the Swiss maestro still coasted to a 6-3 6-4 6-3 victory.
Bedene, competing under the Slovenian flag again after switching allegiance back from Great Britain, put up a brave fight but could not make an impact on the Federer serve.Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff awaits Federer in the second round.

Premier League, Old Trafford – Manchester United 3 (Valencia 9, Martial 38, Lukaku 72) Stoke City 0
Manchester United eased clear of Liverpool and Chelsea to slot in just the 12 points behind Manchester City, while Stoke showed Paul Lambert that he has plenty to work with.

Stoke did very well in the first half, restricting United’s space and creating a couple of decent chances for Stephen Ireland. But then on nine minutes, the brilliant Paul Pogba opened up the pitch with a pass for Antonio Valencia who, mystifyingly, came inside Josh Tymon and absolutely pasted a left-footed curler into the far top corner.
And Pogba was instrumental in United’s second goal too. Valencia dispossessed Tymon and found Lukaku, who found Pogba; and his square pass for Anthony Martial was at the perfect pace for him to curl in a trademark and fantastic finish from outside the box.

Stoke struggled to replicate the same goal threat in the second half, and United’s goal was coming for sometime before it arrived. And that was in the 72nd minute, a break started by Pogba seeing the ball move through Jesse Lingard and Martial before Romelu Lukaku, who had a good game, used skill then power to control a cross, hold off two men, and punish home a finish.

United might have scored more, but Mame Biram Diouf, on as sub for Stoke, missed a sitter in the closing stages; it didn’t matter. United have now won three in a row after a dodgy period, while Stoke have more than enough to stay up; the question is whether Paul Lambert is the man to extract it from them.

TALKING POINT
Have United found some attacking cohesion? United's front players interchanged more than usual tonight, with Romelu Lukaku spending plenty of time on the right wing. This made them much harder to defend against, especially with Paul Pogba breaking from midfield; if they can add Alexis Sanchez to the mix they will be a hard night for anyone.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Paul Pogba (Manchester United) Allowed to roam, he was unplayable, spraying long passes off either foot, prompting with short passes, and using his amazing touch, vision and power to generally bully Stoke.

KEY STATS
Romelu Lukaku has contributed directly to 13 goals this season, scoring 10 and assisting three.
Paul Pogba has contributed directly to 14 goals in his last 14 league games, making 10 and scoring four.
PLAYER RATINGS
Manchester United: De Gea 7, Valencia 7, Jones 7, Smalling 6, Shaw 6, Matic 6, Pogba 8, Lingard 6, Mata 6, Lukaku 8, Martial 7. Subs: Fellaini 6, Rashford 6, McTominay 6.

Stoke City: Butland 7, Bauer 7, Zouma 5, Martins Indi 6, Tymon 5, Allen 5, Fletcher 5, Shaqiri 7, Ireland 5, Choupo-Moting 5, Crouch 5. Subs: Wimmer 5, Sobhi 6, Diouf 5.

KEY MOMENTS
9’ - WHAT A GOAL! Manchester United 1-0 Stoke City (Valencia) NOW I HAVE SEEN IT ALL! ANTONIO VALENCIA SCORES A HOWTIZER WITH HIS LEFT FOOT! United actually work the ball really well, Pogba picking up possession on the left, handing off Ireland as he makes his way infield before spreading beautifully with the outside of his foot. Valencia then came inside Tymon, presumably assuming his goal to be safe, only for the unelash of a curling, rising, screeching brute to be uncorked, flying past Butland.

24’ - Ireland nicks the ball off Pogba, sneaking up from behind, so when he gets the ball back, Pogba boots him in front of the ref. Free-kick Stoke, 35 yards out, and Shaqiri takes it too quickly. Stoke, though, keep United pinned, and when Bauer crosses, De Gea finds himself pinned by Crouch on the far post and can only fumble into the middle. It looks for all the world like Choupo-Moting will score, but Jones flings himself into a terrific block to concede a corner. It's wasted.

38’ - WHAT A GOAL! Manchester United 2-0 Stoke City (Martial) Tymon overruns the ball and is robbed by Valencia, close to halfway He then finds Lukaku down the line, and he holds up really well before laying back for Pogba, who rolls the ball under his studs before squaring across the edge of the box at the perfect pace for Martial to rrrrrrasp a signature sidefooter past Butland. What a finish that was!

46+1’ - On the stroke of half-time, Shaqiri, in the middle and just outside the box, beautifully controls a pass from Bauer, killing it. pulling it down and setting it at his feet. He then sends Jones for a bag of chips, feinting one way and turning the other to open a route to goal ... but he doesn't get the power or elevation that would have beaten De Gea, who saves very well indeed. .

72’ - GOAL! Manchester United 3-0 Stoke City (Lukaku) Pogba does excellently to nick possession, setting Lingard off with a gentle touch. He carries the ball deep into the Stoke half before spreading left to Martial, who pings one at Lukaku, which is killed very well, allowing him to hold off Wimmer like a rag doll before spanking a low shot past Butland at the near post. He's earned that, he's played well tonight and done plenty of good work outside the box.

86’ - Oh wow! Shakqiri clips a ball into the middle, which Diouf controls really well on his chest, escaping Smalling. As it drops, he lashes a shot that De Gea foots back to him, and somehow, with Ireland in the middle waiting for a pass and the keeper on the floor, he drags a miserable effort into the near post side-netting. 

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