Juan Mata may be the forgotten man at Manchester United but he remains a footballer of immense ability.
Despite only making 15 appearances in all competitions this season, Mata is a popular figure at Old Trafford and reports have circulated that United wish to offer him a one-year contract extension.
And after this outrageously casual effort during the post-match warm down at Villa Park, who could blame them?
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Liverpool can move up to sixth with a win against Southampton this evening. Follow it live here…
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Nine of the original European Super League clubs – including the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ – have declared their commitment to UEFA and its competitions at continental and domestic level.
However, the three who have not renounced the Super League – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus – are set to face “appropriate action” under UEFA’s disciplinary process.
The 12 clubs announced themselves as founder members of the breakaway league on April 18, but within 72 hours it had fallen apart with the English clubs withdrawing after fan protests and Government pressure.
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The clubs will make a combined 15million euro (just over £13m) goodwill contribution to benefit children’s and grassroots football across Europe.
They will also have five percent of UEFA competition revenues withheld for one season. This money will be redistributed.
They face fines of 100m euros (almost £87m) each if they seek to join an unauthorised competition in the future, and a fine of half that if they breach any other terms of the declaration, UEFA said in a statement.
They will also rejoin the influential lobbying group the European Club Association.
A spokesperson for Manchester United confirmed the Glazer family would personally cover their club’s share of the goodwill money requested and the withheld funds.
It is expected that the amount the Glazers would be liable for is between five and 10 million euros.
It’s understood Liverpool’s owners, the Fenway Sports Group, will fund their contribution rather than the club itself.
The other teams to pledge their commitment to UEFA competitions are Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: “I said at the UEFA Congress two weeks ago that it takes a strong organisation to admit making a mistake especially in these days of trial by social media. These clubs have done just that.
“In accepting their commitments and willingness to repair the disruption they caused, UEFA wants to put this chapter behind it and move forward in a positive spirit.
“The measures announced are significant, but none of the financial penalties will be retained by UEFA. They will all be reinvested into youth and grassroots football in local communities across Europe, including the UK.
“These clubs recognised their mistakes quickly and have taken action to demonstrate their contrition and future commitment to European football. The same cannot be said for the clubs that remain involved in the so-called ‘Super League’ and UEFA will deal with those clubs subsequently.”
On those clubs – Real, Barca and Juve – the tone was strikingly different in UEFA’s statement.
“UEFA has reserved all rights to take whatever action it deems appropriate against those clubs that have so far refused to renounce the so-called ‘Super League’,” the statement concluded.
“The matter will promptly be referred to the competent UEFA disciplinary bodies.”
The Football Association said it was “delighted” the six English clubs had committed to UEFA’s competitions.
It added in a statement: “The FA has an ongoing inquiry into the involved of the six English clubs and we have formally requested all relevant information and evidence regarding their participation. Once we have the required information, we will consider what appropriate steps to take.”
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Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has claimed that “dark forces” are working against the club to stop them from becoming a “powerhouse” in football.
Ashley’s comments came just hours after it was revealed Newcastle have taken the Premier League to the Competition Appeal Tribunal over the collapse of the takeover of the club last year.
The Magpies have been subject to a tax investigation since 2017, when raids were carried out at St James’ Park during which financial records, laptops and phones were seized and managing director Lee Charnley taken in for questioning before being released without charge.
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However, the club have now said the probe, which related to “the tax treatment” of players and agents, has now ended with no formal charges having been brought.
A statement said: “HMRC has today given formal confirmation that it is discontinuing the four-year long criminal investigation into the tax treatment of agents/players payments involving Newcastle United Football Club (NUFC).”
Ashley, who is currently waging an arbitration battle over the Premier League’s failure to approve the proposed £300million-plus takeover by Amanda Staveley’s largely Saudi Arabian-funded consortium, made his feelings on the matter abundantly clear.
He said in a statement: “After four years of the club being subjected to this investigation, I am pleased that the criminal investigation has now been discontinued.
“It is now time for the dark forces that are preventing this football club from becoming the powerhouse that the fans deserve, to step aside.”
Earlier the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) says it received a claim for damages and/or an injunction from Ashley’s St James Holdings company on April 22, under section 47A of the Competition Act 1998.
The Saudi-backed consortium ended its bid to buy Newcastle in July last year having agreed to purchase the club in April.
But the deal was still being scrutinised under the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test 17 weeks later when the consortium withdrew its interest.
The claim says the Premier League “prevented, or hindered, the proposed takeover and knew that its actions would prevent and/or delay the proposed takeover”.
Ashley bought the Magpies for £134.4million in 2007, but has been trying to sell it for much of the time since.
As far as he was concerned last year, a deal which he believed could give the club the spending power he has been unable to provide had been done.
The Premier League declined to comment on the matter when contacted by the PA news agency.
The CAT is a specialist judicial body which hears and decides cases involving competition or economic regulatory issues.
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Departing Roma boss Paulo Fonseca has backed Jose Mourinho to do a ‘great job’ at Roma when he arrives next season.
On Tuesday, Mourinho was announced as the new head coach at the Stadio Olimpico, just weeks after his sacking by Spurs chairman Daniel Levy.
In the mean time, Fonseca will focus on Roma’s Serie A and Europa League campaign.
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Later this week they host Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United in the second leg of their Europa League semi-final tie.
The Red Devils have a 6-2 aggregate lead thanks to a brilliant display at Old Trafford.
Edinson Cavani and Paul Pogba starred as they took a huge step towards European glory.
When asked about Mourinho at the pre-match press conference, Fonseca said: “For me, professionalism is something I believe is very important.
“I am OK, I am focused on things here just like I was the very first day I got here.
“I am motivated. I want to do the best I can for Roma for as long as I am still here.
“Mourinho is a great coach, everyone knows that, and I am sure he will do a great job here.”
Speaking about the second leg clash, he added: “Clearly it is not easy to beat Manchester United by four goals – but I have seen a lot of things happen in football.
“Nothing is impossible. I believe that anything can happen.
“I’m expecting a tough game. Going up against Manchester United is always very difficult.
“They have a good first-leg advantage but we want to win the game. We want to fight until the very end.”
Roma will be Mourinho’s seventh job outside Portugal. He won trophies at every team before his spell with Spurs, including the Champions League at Inter in 2009/10.
Mourinho made Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son a deadly duo and helped Spurs to reach the Carabao Cup final before his sacking.
It was Spurs’ league form that became his downfall, as they slipped behind the likes of Chelsea and West Ham in the top-four race.
Ryan Mason has become interim head coach, with the north London side yet to find Mourinho’s long-term successor.
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Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has insisted that he would love N’Golo Kante to be able to add a Champions League to his trophy collection.
Kante has lifted the Premier League with Leicester and Chelsea, and the World Cup with France, but Europe’s top club crown has so far avoided him.
The 30-year-old will assume a pivotal role in Chelsea’s semi-final second leg with Real Madrid at Stamford Bridge, with the scores locked at 1-1 from the first encounter.
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Blues boss Tuchel tipped Kante to drive Chelsea on once again on Wednesday night, hailing the midfielder.
Asked if completing the set by winning the Champions League would elevate Kante’s career to new heights, Tuchel said: “Where to? Where to elevate?
“The guy is a top guy, and he is the guy you need to win trophies, obviously, that’s why we’re so, so happy he’s here.
“I was fighting for this player and dreaming about this player in any club I was coaching. And now he’s my player.
“He’s won every trophy except for the Champions League, hopefully he will do everything to get this trophy.
“For me he’s an example, and an unbelievable input for any team in the world. He’s key and he will be key tomorrow, and I hope in the best way possible.”
Kante’s tireless performances have had Tuchel purring ever since the German walked through the Stamford Bridge door.
The ex-Paris St Germain manager believes Kante’s workload represents that of two players, and that he has produced his finest form in the last few months.
Kante is as shy off the field as he is hard-working on it however, and that humility yields the greatest respect from team-mates and opponents alike.
Tuchel praised Kante for being the personification of letting his feet do his talking, with his homespun attitude belying his superstar abilities.
“He still needs to accept that I cuddle him, I do that a lot! I need it for myself, so he has to live with it!” joked Tuchel.
“He’s a nice guy, almost shy, he’s quiet, he likes his own quality time, he’s not loud. I see him smile a lot, and he will interact with anybody but on his own terms.
“He’s very shy but very polite, and I’m so happy that players like him exist. And to express yourself by pure performance, it’s a pleasure to watch.
“What he is doing with this mentality, it’s the mentality of a real helper, who will always give anything to help everybody on the pitch out there.
“He is such a nice, humble and quiet guy, it’s a fantastic combination.”
Mateo Kovacic has failed to shake off his hamstring injury in time for Wednesday’s clash, but the ex-Real Madrid midfielder is Chelsea’s sole injury absentee.
Toni Rudiger will wear a mask to be able to play despite suffering a recent facial injury.
Chelsea’s new number 10 Christian Pulisic will face his Stamford Bridge predecessor again when Eden Hazard returns to west London on Wednesday.
Tuchel last week joked that USA forward Pulisic has brought extra attention on himself by taking on Hazard’s old Chelsea number.
But now Tuchel has explained how that decision only serves to show Pulisic’s bristling long-term ambition.
Tuchel said: “Absolutely it’s a good thing, this decision to take this number.
“It sets the tone and it shows the determination, and the dreams that Christian wants to fulfil, and his own demands on himself. This is a very good part of his decision.
“The downside of this decision is that people will always compare you with any number 10 in the world, and with the number 10s at a big club like Chelsea.
“So this is the downside and you have to live up to that. But right now he is in a good place and he has a huge impact on our team.
“So everything is good and we can be very happy tomorrow if he continues to make his mark.”
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Fabio Silva and Vitinha start for Wolves as they travel to West Brom in the Black Country derby. Follow it live here…
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Graeme Souness feels Man United fan anger is “slightly misdirected” at the Glazer family. Roy Keane and Micah Richards are more sympathetic.
Graeme Souness believes the Glazer family is “entitled to” retain ownership of Manchester United if they so wish.
The Glazer family has come under immense fan pressure to end their unpopular 16-year-old patronage of Manchester United, with their role in the conception of the collapsed European Super League proving to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Fans have staged protests outside the club’s Carrington training ground and Old Trafford in the weeks since, culminating in thousands congregating upon Old Trafford on Sunday and delaying the kick-off of the planned game against bitter rivals Liverpool.
Gary Neville responded to the protests by calling for the Glazers to sell the club, but Liverpool legend Souness does not expect anything to change.
Asked whether he thinks the protests will have an impact, Souness told Sky Sports: “No, I don’t think it will.
“The Glazers, since Fergie retired, have given successive managers over £1billion to spend. I think it’s £719m net spend over the eight years.
“I think it’s born out of Man United not being top dogs as much as what happened last week. I think that was another excuse to have a go at them.
“These are serious, serious business people. I don’t think this will impact on their thoughts one iota. I really don’t.”
Fellow pundit Micah Richards offered his backing to the supporters.
“It’s never nice, is it?” he said. “We’ve talked about it so many times now and you do feel for the fans because after the year they’ve had with Covid, to try and take away the crown jewels is never good. They’ve gone to breaking point.
“I think the lads have mentioned, it was peaceful. No-one really was causing too much trouble. And it hurts.
“The good thing about it is that the fans have still got a voice. A lot of people are saying, ‘Well, the fans haven’t got a voice anymore’. They have. We’re supposed to be kicking off in 20 minutes. It’s not happening.
“So as long as it’s done peacefully and properly, I support the fans in their protest.”
Souness did not back down.
“We live in a country where you can demonstrate,” he said, “you can vent your feelings. You’re allowed to do it. But I still don’t see it impacting on the Glazers one little bit.
“If you think they can bring pressure to bear on serious business people 3,000 miles away across the Atlantic, that that will drive them to accept a discounted offer for Man United, that will not happen.”
Roy Keane then pitched in.
“I think this is the start of it,” he said. “I think they won’t take too much notice…”
Souness then asked: “Well how can you take it forward?”
Richards offered his reply.
“Why do you have to rip the life and soul out of a club that’s got such history? If they want to make money you can go and make money elsewhere,” he said.
Souness continued: “They’re not ripping the life and soul out of Manchester United.
“They are paying themselves a dividend which is business people having… if they’re going to put money in, they’re going to have to put collateral in. You don’t just go to a bank and say, ‘I want to buy Man United, I need £500m or whatever it costs,’ without committing some sort of collateral. They risked something to buy Man United.
“Since then, they have given successive managers fortunes to spend. It was only when Fergie stopped that the success stopped and I think that irritates supporters. They have become the focus of their anger.
“I think it’s slightly misdirected. From what happened last week and trying to form the Super League, that certainly compounds their aggression and unhappiness towards them. But I would not be sticking the blame of Man United’s lack of success down to the Glazers.
“I come back to it: there was no complaints when they were winning everything and they were in charge. Well, some complaints. But in recent years, because they’ve dropped from being the number one team in the UK and English football, they’ve dropped below that and I think that irritates the supporters.”
Keane, Manchester United captain when the Glazers completed their takeover more than a decade and a half ago, said: “There’s always been rumblings, Graeme.
“There’s always been an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the Glazers and I think it’s just come to a head over the last few weeks. But it’s been there.
“The Glazers, they could sell United tomorrow and make fortunes. Obviously…”
“But if they don’t want it then they’re entitled to it,” Souness interjected. “It’s their football club.”
“Yeah, of course,” Keane replied. “But if United fans want them out then this is just the start of it.”
Richards continued his side of the argument.
“But surely when you buy into a club, Graeme, you’ve got to understand what their views are as well,” he said.
“I know it’s business, we all want to make money, of course we do. But when you’re buying a club like Man United, surely the fans have to be in that conversation as well, not just thinking about, ‘How can I line my pockets?’.
“The whole point is they don’t care about the fans. That’s the whole point,” Keane added, before Souness finished the discussion.
“They bought the club,” he said. “They weren’t ‘soccer’ people. This is an institution. This is one of the great footballing institutions in the world. They knew what they were buying. They knew no matter how well the team were doing out there, they would still have a fanbase arguably second to none in world football, so this was a wonderful chance to buy this football club and create investment. They’ve made a lot of money out of it. And why shouldn’t they if they risked something on day one?
“They’ve obviously made improvements: the stadium, the commercial department, the success they’ve had, which goes back through Fergie.
“In terms of what they think about the fans, I think they proved in trying to form a Super League it’s not a lot. What they’re saying is they’re taking the home-based fans for granted, the new market’s Asia. Let’s target there.”
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Kai Havertz and Billy Gilmour start for Chelsea in their London derby against Fulham. Follow it live here…
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Marcelo Bielsa says he is grateful for Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani’s comments after initial talks over the head coach’s extended deal.
Bielsa steadfastly refuses to discuss his future until the end of the season due to his preference for signing one-year contracts.
Radrizzani said last week in an interview with L’Equipe that he was hopeful the two parties would reach an agreement.
“Any reference to this subject, I prefer to make after the competition has finished,” said Bielsa, whose side bid to extend their six-game unbeaten Premier League run at Brighton on Saturday.
“I appreciate the words of the owner with regards to my continuity, but I agree with what he said about Leeds being prestigious above any others.
“Due to the solidness of this organisation, they have the facility to make correct decisions.”
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Bielsa is in his third year as head coach at Elland Road. Leeds lost in the Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-finals in his first season before he guided them back to the top flight for the first time in 16 years in his second.
He has transformed the club from a mid-table Championship outfit into top-10 Premier League challengers.
Radrizzani told L’Equipe there was “a common will to keep going” and that Bielsa was “satisfied with his relationship with the club’s management”.
“Once again, we are very happy with him and we hope to extend him,” Radrizzani said.
“But you also have to understand that Leeds United is bigger than Marcelo Bielsa.
“If one day, for whatever reason, we had to split up with Marcelo, that wouldn’t change our goal, which is one day to put Leeds back to where they were, so that they can once again play in the Champions (League).”
During Leeds’ six-game unbeaten run they have drawn against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United and beaten Manchester City.
They are currently ninth in the table and will be boosted at Brighton by the return to contention of club record signing Rodrigo.
The Spanish forward has made just one appearance since mid-March due to a muscle injury he initially sustained in the win at Leicester in January.
Leeds will still be without Raphinha though. The Brazilian winger limped out of his side’s shock win against City at the Etihad Stadium with a badly bruised thigh.
Brighton, who have yet to ensure their Premier League safety, won 1-0 at Elland Road in January and Bielsa believes they are in a false position in the table.
“Results sometimes coincide with the performances and other times they don’t,” Bielsa added. “Brighton is a team unfairly in the bottom part of the table.
“All the values you can analyse, they all position (Brighton) higher than (the position) they occupy.”
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