Mata buoyed by early form

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata is encouraged by manager Louis van Gaal’s impact at the club ahead of the upcoming Premier League season.

Van Gaal was officially unveiled to the media on July 17, following his commitments with the Netherlands at the World Cup in Brazil, and he has hit the ground running at United.

The Dutchman has introduced a new 3-5-2 formation – based on a three-man defence with two wing backs – and overseen three consecutive wins over the Los Angeles Galaxy, Roma and Inter in the United States.

While Van Gaal recently admitted United will struggle for the first three months as they attempt to adapt to a change of system, Mata said the early signs have been promising ahead of Saturday’s International Champions cup clash with Real Madrid in Michigan.

“The manager’s new system could be very good for us,” Mata told United’s official website.

“Obviously we need to train more and improve but I think it’s very difficult for opponents when we play like this. For me personally, playing behind two strikers is a great position to help me perform at my best level.

“The first thing the manager told us in pre-season training was that the first three months of this season would be hard, because we had to change our mindsets and understand what he was trying to do, and there was a new system as well.

Mata added: “It will take time to fully adapt but, in the meantime, we are doing our best.

“We’re enjoying training and the most important thing is that we are learning from him, because he is a very experienced coach.”

United open their Premier League campaign against Swansea City at Old Trafford on August 16.

Thu 31 July, 2014
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Bruce rues calamitous Huddlestone miss

A flabbergasted Steve Bruce struggled to comprehend how Tom Huddlestone failed to give Hull City victory on the club’s European debut.

The former Tottenham midfielder was afforded a glorious opportunity to put Hull the ahead against Trencin in Slovakia, but he fluffed his lines and saw his 60th-minute penalty saved before somehow smashing the rebound over the crossbar from close range.

It ensured the UEFA Europa League third-round qualifying tie ended goalless, with Hull still having it all to do in the return leg in England next Thursday.

“You’d have put the house on that Tom would score,” Hull manager Bruce said. “It was easier to score.

“We’ve all missed penalties, we’ve all missed big chances in front of goal, you don’t intend to do it.

“But we’ve missed our last three or four I think so we better start practising because we’re not very good at them.

“The one thing you’ve got to do is take your chances when they come your way.

“Unfortunately we haven’t taken them and we had one or two really great opportunities that would have made the second leg more comfortable.”

However, the Hull boss was able to take some positives out of the game and spoke of his pride at the effort shown by his players so soon after returning for pre-season.

“We needed a game like this,” he added. “I was always a bit worried we’d be undercooked a bit, it was always a big ask.

“We’ve only been back at work two and a half weeks.

“We knew it was going to be difficult whatever team you play, especially in the middle of pre-season. But overall we’ll be better for this game.”

Hull welcome Trencin to the KC Stadium next Thursday keen to use home advantage in their quest for a place in the play-off round of the competition.

Thu 31 July, 2014
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UEFA Europa League Review: Torino mark return with big win, Lyon victorious

Torino put one foot in the UEFA Europa League play-off round with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Brommapojkarna in Sweden.

Having waited 20 years for their return to European football, the Serie A side assumed total control of their third qualifying round tie with three away goals.

Marcelo Larrondo opened the scoring just before half-time with a well-taken penalty after Pontus Segerstrom was dismissed for upending Giuseppe Vives.

The Argentinian striker added a second eight minutes after the break and Barreto put them in total control in the 58th minute.

Brommapojkarna were handed a way back into the match when Vives was shown red for a foul on Serge Martinsson-Ngouali inside the penalty area, but Dardan Rexhepi missed the subsequent spot-kick to leave Torino in total control of the tie.

A Kehinde Fatai hat-trick saw Romanian side Astra beat Slovan Liberec 3-0, while Omonia Nicosia matched that scoreline at home to Metalurg in Cyprus.

Three-goal winning margins were popular on Thursday as Elsfborg and Lyon both recorded 4-1 victories of FH and Mlada Boleslav, while Rijeka and Krasnodar went one better as they beat Vikingur and Diosgyor 5-1.

PSV, winners of the competition in its former guise of the UEFA Cup in 1978, started their campaign with a solid 1-0 victory over St Polten thanks to Luuk de Jong, while two-time winners IKF Gothenburg lost by the same score to Primeira Liga side Rio Ave.

Dinamo Minsk, Young Boys, Mainz and Stjarnan all won their respective matches 1-0, while Shakhter Karagandy beat Hajduk Split 4-2 in Kazakhstan.

Late goals rescued 1-1 draws for Molde and Viktoria Plzen, but Dinamo Moscow and AIK will be disappointed to be held by Ironi Kiryat Shmona and Astana.

Real Sociedad and Split gave themselves a good cushion for their return matches next week with 2-0 triumphs, while Spartak Trnava and Zimbru conceded late goals against Grodig and St Johnstone as they won 2-1 away from home.

Shakhtyor can begin preparing for a play-off place after producing a stunning performance in Belgium to beat 10-man Zulte-Waregem 5-2, but Brondby were not so lucky as goals from Oscar Duarte, Nicolas Castillo and Victor Vazquez gave Club Brugge a 3-0 triumph.

Meanwhile, Evangelos Nastos struck Atromitos’ second goal of the game in Bosnia-Herzegovina as they beat Sarajevo 2-1

Hull City’s first foray into Europe ended in a goalless draw against Trencin, although things could have been much different had Tom Huddlestone not missed a second-half penalty.

The Premier League side battled out one of four goalless draws around Europe as Rosenborg, Esbjerg and Chikhura held Karabukspor, Ruch Chorzow and Neftci respectively.

Thu 31 July, 2014
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Southampton win again

Southampton made it five pre-season wins from five as a 3-1 triumph over Brighton and Hove Albion offered some relief from off-field issues.

Ronald Koeman’s tenure as manager has started promisingly on the pitch, but the exodus of talent from the playing staff has been a significant cause for concern among the St Mary’s Stadium faithful.

With Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana Dejan Lovren and Calum Chambers all having left the club, long-serving midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin is also looking for the exit door.

But Southampton, who handed a debut to Ryan Bertrand, put all that to one side on Thursday as goals from Dusan Tadic, Steven Davis and James Ward-Prowse capped a solid display against their Championship hosts.

Tadic is proof that the transfer activity has not all been in one direction, the Serbia international having arrived from Twente, and he opened the scoring after 19 minutes with a fine shot on the turn to net his first goal for the club.

The visitors’ advantage was doubled on the stroke of half-time as another new arrival, Graziano Pelle, saw his shot blocked and fall kindly for Davis to slot home.

Bertrand, on loan from Chelsea for the season, was withdrawn at the break after a quiet 45 minutes with his new side, and Ward-Prowse added the third in his absence.

The 19-year-old’s strike was the pick of the bunch as he smashed home from 25 yards in the 66th minute, while Kazenga LuaLua became the first player to breach Southampton’s defence in pre-season as he grabbed Brighton’s consolation late on.

Thu 31 July, 2014
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Jenkinson agrees West Ham loan

West Ham have announced the signing of Arsenal full-back Carl Jenkinson on a season-long loan.

Jenkinson has struggled to break into the first team at the Emirates Stadium since joining from Charlton Athletic in 2011, and will now hope to impress with his performances at Upton Park.

The chance for regular first-team football convinced the defender, who has one England cap, to make move the across London and become Sam Allardyce’s sixth close-season signing.

“I’m clearly seen as a big part of things here and hopefully I can prove my worth here because it is an important year for me,” the 22-year-old told the club’s official website.

“I was flattered to have a lot of options but, deep down, if I was being honest with myself West Ham was always the place I wanted to go to.

“It’s one of them where I wanted to do the right professional thing and consider all the options, but in the back of my mind it was always West Ham and I’m just so glad it’s all worked out how I wanted it to in the end.

“It’s a very exciting time to be a part of this club.

“There is an English group of lads here, which is always great for an English lad, and the players who have been brought in are top-drawer, so there is every reason to be optimistic about this season.

“That was a big reason I signed here.”

Jenkinson made 14 Premier League appearances last season as he spent the campaign as back-up to Bacary Sagna, who has also left the club for Manchester City.

Rather than look to Jenkinson to fill that gap, Arsene Wenger has added Newcastle United’s Mathieu Debuchy and Southampton’s Calum Chambers.

Thu 31 July, 2014
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Tottenham agree Dier move

​Tottenham have agreed terms with Sporting Lisbon for the transfer of defender Eric Dier, subject to the player passing a medical.

Dier has been a revelation for the Primeira Liga side after moving to Portugal at the age of 10 and joining their youth academy.

He made his first-team debut in August 2012 and featured in 13 league games last season as Sporting finished in second place to qualify for the UEFA Champions League.

However, Dier will not play in Europe’s elite club competition after he agreed a deal to return to the country of his birth with Tottenham.

The 20-year-old will provide competition for places at the heart of Mauricio Pochettino’s defence next season, fighting with the likes of Michael Dawson, Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen.

Dier has seven England Under-21 caps to his name after making his debut against Scotland in August 2013.

Thu 31 July, 2014
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Rincon seals Genoa move

Venezuela midfielder Tomas Rincon has joined Serie A side Genoa on a free transfer.

The 26-year-old had been training with the club after being released by Hamburg at the end of last season and did enough to convince coach Gian Piero Gasperini to offer him a contract.

“Genoa CFC can announce the signing of Tomas Rincon,” a statement on Genoa’s official website said.

“He has been playing for Hamburg SV in recent seasons, and after training this week has passed all subsequent medical tests.”

Rincon joined Hamburg from Venezuelan side Deportivo Tachira in 2009 and made over 100 appearances for the Bundesliga outfit.

Thu 31 July, 2014
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Dunne announces international retirement

Republic of Ireland defender Richard Dunne has called time on his international career after earning 80 caps for his country.

Dunne, who won promotion to the Premier League with QPR last season, made his debut on the world stage in 2000 against Greece, with his final cap coming versus Kazakhstan in October last year.

Speaking about his decision to step down from Ireland duty, Dunne told QPR’s official website: “Retiring from international football has been an extremely difficult decision for me to make.

“I have represented Ireland since I was 15 years of age, and have thoroughly enjoyed all the highs and lows that have come with playing for my country.

“I will continue to support the team as they embark upon their new campaign under Martin O’Neill, and have every faith that they will qualify for France 2016.

“I’d like to thank everyone I worked alongside during my time with Ireland, from managers, to players, to backroom staff. I have so many great memories that will stay with me forever.”

Dunne, who counts Everton, Manchester City and Aston Villa among his former clubs, scored eight goals for Ireland.

Thu 31 July, 2014
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Romulo close to Juve switch

Juventus managing director Giuseppe Marotta has revealed that Verona midfielder Romulo is on the verge of joining the Italian champions.

The 27-year-old, who has one cap for Italy, is set to put pen to paper with the Turin giants on Friday at the latest after catching the eye in an impressive 2013-14 campaign.

Marotta revealed at a press conference on Thursday: “Romulo? Between today and tomorrow will be a Juventus player, his agent will be here tomorrow in Turin to close.”

Brazil-born Romulo’s representative, Alex Firminio, also confirmed that the former Fiorentina man is on his way to Juve.

“It is virtually a done deal with Juventus,” Alex Firminio told Calcio News. “We are delighted and want to thank everyone at Verona for believing in him.

“Tomorrow I will arrive in Italy and we will sign. I’ve spoken to Romulo and he is really happy to have been given an opportunity like this at Juve.”

Marotta added that Juve are monitoring Paris Saint-Germain’s teenage midfielder Adrien Rabiot, but is unsure if they will be able to lure him to Serie A.

“Rabiot? It (is) a very interesting player, but is owned by PSG. It is still a player who we know very well that our observers have seen repeatedly. For the moment we cannot help but watch.”

Thu 31 July, 2014
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Trencin 0 Hull City 0: Huddlestone pays penalty in Hull stalemate

Hull City were denied a victory in their first game in European as Tom Huddlestone missed a penalty in a goalless draw with Trencin.

The midfielder had two golden opportunities to mark Steve Bruce’s 100th game in charge of the Premier League club with a win on the hour-mark, but saw his penalty saved and somehow fired the rebound over the crossbar from point-blank range.

The introduction of debutants Robert Snodgrass and Tom Ince could not lift the visitors, who had to soak up plenty of pressure from their Slovakian hosts in the opening half of the first leg of the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round clash.

A lack of composure cost both sides in Zilina as chances went begging, leaving the tie wide open for next week’s return fixture at the KC Stadium.

Bruce will hope to use home advantage in that second leg to progress to the play-off round of this year’s competition, however Trencin will know an away goal could be crucial.

Early pressure from the hosts saw Bosnian forward Haris Hajradinovic have the first sight of goal in the 14th minute, but the 20-year-old’s effort was well blocked.

Having kept their hosts at bay, the Premier League side were unlucky not to break the deadlock 28 minutes in through Shane Long.

The Republic of Ireland international met a pinpoint cross from Liam Rosenior, who had found space on the left, only for his header to sail over the crossbar without worrying Milos Volesak.

Trencin resumed their control of the match soon after as Ramon saw his 32nd minute effort easily saved by Allan McGregor, and Hajradinovic’s late free-kick also failed to test the Scotland goalkeeper.

After dominating large parts of the first half, the hosts maintained control of the game and eight minutes after the break Patrik Misak had the best effort of the contest so far.

The midfielder sent a long-range free-kick dipping towards the bottom corner however, much to the relief of McGregor, the ball flashed just wide of goal, ruffling the side-netting on its way past.

Having survived that scare the visitors should have punished Trencin, as Peter Cogley conceded a penalty after bringing down the hard-working Long.

Huddlestone saw his spot kick saved by Volesak, though, and ballooned the rebound over the bar from close range with the goal gaping.

With the wind in their sails Hull pushed for an away goal, but were unable to find a way past Volesak.

Chances fell to substitutes Snodgrass and Ince within a minute of each other but the 30-year-old keeper was equal to everything Bruce’s men were throwing at him.

McGregor has been a mere spectator during the second half, but was alert to deal with a Tomas Malec effort as Trencin failed to capitalise on some late momentum.

Thu 31 July, 2014
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