Torres urges Reds not to sack Benitez

(GSM) – It’s no news that Rafael Benitez and Fernando Torres support each other unconditionally. Once again, the Liverpool striker has offered his backing to the Spanish manager. The Reds have only won three of their last twelve matches and are already out of the Champions League.

“I think sacking the manager is not a solution,” said Torres to the BBC. He thinks the players are to blame more than Benitez. “We have to play much better. The players are the people that have to find a solution to the situation.” Liverpool are already 14 points behind league leaders Chelsea.

Last season both Torres and Benitez signed long-term contracts, keeping them at the club until 2014.

“It’s a difficult situation but every top team in the world goes sometimes through a bad situation like Liverpool now,” said Torres. “Like every top team in the world, Liverpool will get over the situation.” Individually, Torres enjoys a good season so far, netting 11 times in 13 Premier League matches.

“Obviously we need players,” the former Atletico Madrid forward added. “”If we can bring quality players it should be really positive for us.

“But I think the situation is really difficult because I think we don’t have money to bring in the best players.

“I have confidence in myself and my team. I know we are good enough. We were playing really well last season with the same team.”

Wed 23 December, 2009
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Man Cini the man for Man City?

Man for the job?

Man for the job?

Whilst the media and fans and, if you believe the press, the players are all more interested in the treatment of Mark Hughes at Manchester City, Roberto Mancini has taken the reins in a calm and unassuming way.

Scudetta

Little is really known about the forty-five year old Italian as a manager although three consecutive Scudetta titles with Inter does look good on paper.

Many people have said that those Italian titles were won by default, but they still had to be won. Having said that, I’m not sure that his record qualifies him to be called an experienced manager as City have referred to him.

Impressed

In his short time at Leicester City as a player when he made just four appearances he apparently impressed everyone with whom he came in contact. He is a charming man who is a deep football thinker and was always destined for management.

The task facing him at Manchester City is a tough one. He will have all the money in the world and he is inheriting a decent team who lie sixth in the Premier League and in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup. The reason that the job is a tough one is that he has to improve on what is there and he has to do so quickly.

Mancini is under no illusions as to what is expected from him,

“At this moment my target is the top four. Next season we want to win the Premier League. I hope to stay here for many years and win many trophies. City has great fans I hope we do a good job for them.”

The fact is, and Mancini is well aware of it, that if he doesn’t achieve a top four finish this season he probably won’t get a chance to go for the title next time around. The owners are ruthless and determined to get instant success. If Mancini can’t provide it they will, like Hughes before him, move him on and give someone else a try.

Mancini has said that he wants the enigma that is Robinho to be a major part of his plans at the club,

“Robinho is a fantastic player but for a big player like him, it is important to make the history of a club. I played at Sampdoria for 15 years. I wrote the history. It is important. Robinho can do that here.”

It never felt that Robinho was giving his full backing to Mark Hughes and a similar situation occurred when he was at Real Madrid. It remains to be seen whether Mancini can be any more successful in the man management of his mercurial star.

System

Mancini has also indicated that he is happy to work under the Italian system whereby he doesn’t have the sole say in which players come to the club. That will be interesting because I suspect there will be several new arrivals and probably some departures in January.

Mancini will have Brian Kidd as his assistant and whilst Kidd has failed as a manager, he has always excelled as a number two. He has been there and done it in England, particularly under Sir Alex Ferguson, and he will be invaluable to the new boss as he tries to find his way in English football.

Shadow

When Mancini took over at Inter the club had been in the shadow of their city rivals AC Milan for many years. He changed that and transformed Inter into Italy’s best side. There were outside influences on that situation as well of course, but he did achieve what he was asked to achieve.

A similar position exists in Manchester to that he found in Milan a few years ago. The owners at Manchester City see Mancini as the man to lift them out of the shadow of Manchester United.

Friends

I don’t know if he will be successful but I believe he might be and I am sure that he will make many friends in the English game whilst he attempts to do so.

Mark Hughes was treated badly but in football it is always a case of, ‘the king is dead, long live the king’. I wish Roberto Mancini well.

Wed 23 December, 2009
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Man United´s ´Busby Babe´ Scanlon dies aged 74

Former Manchester United player Albert Scanlon, one of the survivors of the Munich air disaster, has died aged 74, the club said on Wednesday.

Scanlon, who was one of the ‘Busby Babes’ earning their nickname for being trained up through the youth system to playing for the first team under manager Matt Busby, made his debut for United in 1954 aged 19 and had reportedly been unwell for some time.

Eight of his teammates and three officials were killed when their plane crashed in a blizzard at Munich airport in 1958 following a European Cup match.

Scanlon suffered a broken leg and fractured skull in the crash, but recovered to play again in the 1958/59 season, scoring 16 goals to help United finish runners-up in the league.

Scanlon left Old Trafford in 1960 ending a six-year association with the club, that included 127 senior appearances and 35 goals, United said.

His departure was followed by spells at Newcastle, Mansfield and Lincoln.

“Manchester United is sad to report the death of former player Albert Scanlon,” the club said on its website.

“Everyone at Manchester United sends deepest condolences to Albert’s family and friends.”

Wed 23 December, 2009
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Genoa confirm duo interest

(GSM) – Serie A side Genoa have confirmed that they are interested in signing Bordeaux midfielder Fernando Menegazzo and VfL Wolfsburg defender Ricardo Costa.

Menegazzo’s agent claimed last week that negotiations were progressing well over of a possible deal for the Brazilian.

Nothing has been agreed between the two clubs as yet, although Genoa general director Fabrizio Preziosi believes a move could go ahead.

“Menegazzo is a player who interests us, we have been following him for some time,” Preziosi told calciomercato.com.

“We have the availability of the player to move to Genoa and we are considering whether to bid in the next weeks.”

Genoa are also monitoring the progress of Costa, who had been expected to leave Wolfsburg for Real Zaragoza over the summer before the deal collapsed.

“Ricardo Costa is a player we’re considering,” said Preziosi.

“We know there are other teams who are following him, like Valencia.”

Tue 22 December, 2009
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Bastos keen on Lyon stay

(GSM) -Michel Bastos is expected to remain with Olympique Lyon in the New Year despite attracting interest from Italy.

Lombardy based AC Milan are understood to be interested in the Brazilian winger following a bright start to his career at Stade Gerland.

However, his representative Duro Ivanisevic insists there is no chance of a January move as he only joined Lyon from Lille in July.

Bastos has no desire to start afresh at this stage of the season as he looks to secure a place in Dunga’s squad for the World Cup.

“I can confirm that Michel is followed by several top European clubs, also Italian,” Ivanisevic told calciomercato.it.

“However it is impossible that he leaves Lyon in January. He arrived last summer and he’s happy at Lyon.

“There is a Champions League to play and then he hopes to go to the World Cup with Brazil.

“This is no time to think about these things.”

Tue 22 December, 2009
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Sanchez: Rainstorm helped lead to sacking

(GSM) – Hugo Sanchez has claimed that a freak rainstorm during Almeria’s 4-1 home defeat by Athletic Bilbao helped seal his fate as he was relieved of his coaching duties from the Spanish strugglers.

The Mexican goalscoring legend was sacked as Almeria coach after Sunday’s 2-0 loss at Espanyol in La Liga.

“I had bad luck,” Sanchez told sports newspaper Marca.

“For example, it never rains here and the day of the Athletic match it was bucketing down.

“They put three past us from set-pieces and we lost badly.”

Former Mexico manager Sanchez may have a point as the average rainfall in the Andalucian city is only 184mm (seven inches).

The province of Almeria is so dry that it has served as the location for numerous spaghetti westerns.

The 51-year-old Sanchez – who scored over 500 goals in his illustrious career, including 164 for Real Madrid – had been in charge at Almeria since December 2008.

The club are currently 17th in La Liga, one point above the relegation zone.

Tue 22 December, 2009
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Wenger willing to wait on Van Persie

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said on Tuesday he’d all but given up on the idea of Dutch striker Robin van Persie playing for the English Premier League club again this season.

However, he stressed the player would regain full fitness and once more be a force at top-flight level.

The 26-year-old forward suffered a right ankle injury while on international duty in November.

The Gunners had hoped the striker might be out for six weeks but instead he needed surgery and now Wenger believes the best van Persie and Arsenal can hope for is a return towards the end of the current campaign.

“If you are very positive you would say (he’ll be back in) April,” Wenger told the club’s website. “If you’re a bit cautious you say May. It is virtually the rest of the season.

“Personally I thought ‘Let’s put it in my head that he will not play again this season and hope that I will have a good surprise’,” the Frenchman added.

However, Wenger is confident van Persie will bounce back from the injury and rediscover his top form next season.

“When you have such a big surgery there is one thing that is important first of all, and that is the option of the surgeon, will he be the player he was before? We had a clear answer. ‘Yes’,” Wenger said.

“The second thing that is very important in the first stage after surgery is has he an infection or not? He hasn’t.

“The third thing is patience. At the moment he cannot do anything, he is just sitting at home waiting until he can work again. The first two steps have been very successful.”

Van Persie’s injury has led to speculation that Wenger will move for another forward when the transfer window re-opens next month.

Arsenal are third in the Premier League table and through to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Wenger said he would have no concern in signing a player in January who was cup-tied for the Champions League, just as he did when bringing influential Russia forward Andrey Arshavin to north London at the same stage last season.

“Yes, I would,” Wenger said when asked. “We are going for the domestic title and the FA Cup as well and doing that allows you to rest a player for the Champions League or play another player in the Premier League.

“Of course I would prefer the player who can play in both competitions and so it would mean the player has the quality to play in the long-term for Arsenal Football Club.

“But we have an interested eye on the transfer window and if the right player turns up then we will do it.

“Sometimes you think that is a bargain you cannot turn down and don’t forget Arshavin got us into the Champions League last season.”

Tue 22 December, 2009
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Manchester City deny chief executive lied to fans

Manchester City insisted Tuesday they had not lied to their supporters over when they approached Roberto Mancini to become their new manager.

In a prepared statement at Monday’s news conference to present Mancini as the replacement for the sacked Mark Hughes City chief executive Garry Cook claimed the Italian had agreed to join the club on Friday, two days after a 3-0 defeat to Spurs.

Mancini appeared to contradict that statement, however, by revealing that he had first met with City chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak in London a fortnight ago.

British press reports Tuesday were overwhelmingly critical of the way in which City had gone about sacking Hughes and bringing in Mancini, while fans phoned up Eastlands to complain about the club’s conduct.

But in a statement issued Tuesday, City denied supporters had been misled.

“Yesterday, CEO Garry Cook and new manager Roberto Mancini together took to the stage to give journalists and, more importantly, our fans the complete picture of the events of the past few days and week,” the statement said.

“The outcome was characterised in a way which has suggested that the football club and Garry Cook has lied to its fans. Manchester City Football would like to point out that this is absolutely not the case.”

City’s Abu Dhabi-based owner Sheikh Mansour, has already spent some 200 million pounds on bringing new players to Eastlands.

No side has lost fewer games in the Premier League so far this season than City, who’ve been beaten just twice and lie sixth in the table, 11 points behind leaders Chelsea.

Hughes, who on Sunday said he had no idea he was about to be sacked, believed he was on course to achieve the “realistic target” of sixth place or in the region of 70 points set by the owners at the start of the season

But Cook said Monday: “The trajectory of recent results was below this requirement and the board felt that there was no evidence that the situation would fundamentally change.”

Mancini claimed he had met Khaldoon in London “only to speak in general on football.”

Cook, in an unscripted intervention, added: “Two weeks ago Roberto met Khaldoon Al-Mubarak in London and after the Spurs game he was contacted for further discussions of a more serious nature.

“The discussions in London were general, they were about football and they were about considering managerial options at that point.”

Meanwhile Nedum Onouoha added to City’s injury problems ahead of Mancini’s first game in charge, against Stoke on Boxing Day, when he was ruled out for up to four weeks on Tuesday with a calf muscle strain.

Fellow defender Joleon Lescott has recently undergone minor knee surgery and is also in line to miss Saturday’s league match.

Tue 22 December, 2009
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Dundee United chief denounces SFA over Levein

Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson hit out at the Scottish Football Association (SFA) on Tuesday for the way they had dealt with the club about Craig Levein becoming the new Scotland manager.

There had been widespread speculation United manager Levein would be appointed to the Scotland post on Tuesday.

But Thompson said the SFA had treated United “shabbily” and he had heard nothing from the governing body, whom he accused of acting “disgracefully”.

Levein met with SFA chiefs on Monday and followed that up with a meeting with Thompson on Tuesday where he indicated he wanted to take the Scotland job.

It appeared the only potential stumbling block was the issue of a compensation payment from the SFA to United for Levein’s services.

But what had seemed a standard part of negotiations is now threatening to derail Scotland’s move for Levein.

“We have not received any offer of compensation by fax, email, letter or anything else,” Thompson told BBC Scotland on Tuesday.

“We are a member club and deserve to be treated with a bit more respect in this matter.”

He added: “We have been treated shabbily.”

Earlier, an upbeat Levein indicated talks were going well.

“I had a meeting last (Monday) night with some members of the SFA,” he told BBC Scotland.

“It went reasonably well,” added the former Hearts boss, long the front-runner to succeed the sacked George Burley.

“It was about an hour long. It’s impossible to get everything sorted in an hour, so those talks are ongoing without me.

“Everything should be resolved later on today or tomorrow morning one way or the other.

“I can tell you that I was pleased with the way the discussions went and that’s important.

“It’s important for me to learn just what the job entailed and what I learned from the members of the SFA was fairly encouraging.

“If I do leave Dundee United then I’m quite happy to give you my feelings from the heart about what’s happened at this football club, but at this minute in time I’m still the manager, so there’s no point in it.”

Levein, 45, has been the favourite to succeed Burley since Rangers manager Walter Smith ruled himself out of a return to the Scotland job.

Burley was dismissed last month after a 3-0 friendly defeat by Wales which followed Scotland’s failure to reach the play-offs for a place in next year’s World Cup finals in South Africa.

Levein, a former Scotland international whose playing career was ended prematurely by injury, made his reputation as a manager with a successful 2000-04 spell in charge of Hearts.

A brief, unhappy stint as manager of English Championship side Leicester followed and Levein returned to management in Scotland with Raith Rovers before taking over at Dundee United in October 2006.

He guided the Tangerines to fifth place in the Scottish Premier League (SPL) last season.

They currently sit fourth in the table, despite being deprived, through injury, of last season’s top scorer Francisco Sandaza and captain Lee Wilkie.

The SFA has indicated that it wants to have the new manager in place before the draw for the qualifying tournament for Euro 2012 is made on February 7.

Tue 22 December, 2009
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Sunderland´s Turner banned for four games

Sunderland defender Michael Turner will now serve a four-game ban for his sending-off against Manchester City after the Football Association (FA) added an extra match to the usual suspension.

Turner was sent-off by referee Andre Marriner during the closing stages of Sunderland’s 4-3 Premier League loss away to City at Eastlands on Saturday after catching Gareth Barry with an elbow.

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce branded the decision a joke and announced the club would appeal.

The Black Cats argued the standard three-game ban is excessive but an independent FA regulatory commission landed Turner with a four-game ban on Tuesday, effectively for wasting their time, as they said the appeal had no chance of success.

The commission’s statement said: “Turner claimed the standard punishment is clearly excessive, but this was rejected by the commission and the defender will now receive a four-match ban – increased by one game as the commission felt the claim had no prospect of success – starting with immediate effect.”

Bruce, speaking immediately after the match, was far from convinced Sunderland would get much joy given he’d complained about Marriner’s display during a recent match against West Ham where Black Cats striker Kenwyne Jones was sent-off.

“Because I have complained about him, I get that decision,” said Bruce.

“I hope he can have a look at it and he can see it was a shuddering challenge between two of the most honest professionals you are going to get.

“Michael Turner got higher. That is the only reason he has caught Gareth Barry.

“You have got to raise your elbows when you are jumping for a ball,” Bruce, a former Manchester United central defender, added.

“I might as well tell my centre-half not to head it next week because he might be sent-off.

“I hope the referee looks at it again. I doubt it though.”

Bruce could be in trouble with the FA for his comments about Marriner.

The governing body said on Tuesday they had written to Bruce “seeking his observations following media comments made immediately after the match at the City of Manchester Stadium”.

Bruce has until December 31 to respond.

Meanwhile Turner’s ban will start with Sunderland’s league game at home to Everton on Saturday.

Tue 22 December, 2009
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