EPL

United teenager Garner pens long-term deal

By Sports Desk March 15, 2019

Teenage midfielder James Garner has signed a new contract to remain at Manchester United until the end of the 2021-22 season, with the option of a further year.

The 18-year-old made his senior debut for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side as a late substitute in the win over Crystal Palace last month.

Garner, who was an unused substitute in the Champions League last-16 victory over Paris Saint-Germain last week, has been with United since he was eight.

He has captained England Under-17s and is in the Under-18s squad for a tournament in Dubai later this month.

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    Next week's showpiece between two of London's Premier League clubs will be hosted in eastern Europe, with Arsenal midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan not travelling due to safety concerns given the politician tensions between his native Armenia and Azerbaijan.

    Many supporters are set to miss the trip too given the difficulties in travelling to Baku and the fact that each club has only been allocated 6,000 tickets at a stadium with a capacity of 68,700.

    Arsenal have publicly criticised UEFA's decision to stage the final in Azerbaijan and Wenger expressed sympathy for both sets of supporters and Mkhitaryan.

    "It's a little bit of a nightmare [for the fans]," Wenger told BBC Sport.

    "The teams have no problem. They live in ideal conditions - they have their private jet, nice business seats. But it's the fans.

    "[Mkhitaryan's situation] is something that should not happen in football.

    "I feel it's not normal that in 2019 - inside Europe, with very sophisticated democracies - that you cannot play for political reasons."

    Wenger has not taken another managerial job since leaving Arsenal at the end of the 2017-18 season, ending a 22-year stay with the club.

    The 69-year-old revealed he wants to return to football but is unsure if he will be a boss again, and he said Arsenal will "be forever my club".

    Wenger added: "I miss competition and I miss Arsenal because I left my heart in there.

    "I gave my life to this club for 22 years. Every minute of my life was dedicated to this club and I miss the values we developed inside the club.

    "I support Arsenal. It will be forever my club."

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    It started with that rarest of sights: a Juan Mata header.

    David Villa and David Silva combined down the left, the latter picked out a perfect cross - of course - and Mata supplied the finish, committing every bit of his five-foot-seven-inch frame to an awkward nodding of the ball beyond Oscar Ustari.

    This was four minutes into the 2008 Copa del Rey final against Getafe, a game Valencia went on to win 3-1. It remains their only trophy since 2004, when they claimed LaLiga, the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup and threatened to become one of Spain's dominant forces. It was the first title in the club careers of Mata and Silva, and the third for Villa, those three precociously talented forwards leading a mismatched unit of players who had either survived the heady days of four years earlier or were brought in to patch up holes in the squad by one of five different head coaches.

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    "Valencia used to be a very nervy club and they'd go through lots of coaches and sporting directors," Koeman recently told Marca. "A club that isn't calm and has so many changes isn't going to win much.

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    "In other circumstances, they could have got rid of the boss," said captain Dani Parejo in January. "There's a stability now and the club knows where it's going. Coaches aren't working with the idea that 'Maybe they'll get rid of me tomorrow' any more. And you can feel that."

    They did feel it. Eleven wins and three defeats from their final 19 league games propelled them back into the top four at just the right moment, vindicating faith in Marcelino. Off the pitch, the club celebrated its centenary, a strong commercial programme helping to engage fans who months previously had been furiously brandishing those infamous white hankies. Their operating budget is now said to be the fourth highest in the division, and a sale of the stadium land was agreed in April, meaning the half-built Nou Mestalla could, at long last, be completed in the coming seasons.

    "This weekend is an opportunity for Valencia to drive home the message – both in Spain and around the world – that, win or lose, Valencia CF is back and ready to compete with the best of the best," the club said on Friday in a review of their remarkable season. Like a Juan Mata headed goal, that's something that would have been hard to believe when that final got underway 11 years ago.

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    Barcelona are aiming for a record fifth successive Copa del Rey triumph on Saturday when they face Valencia, with the Catalans' recent dominance in the competition seeing them reach the final sixth times in a row.

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    2013-14: Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona

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    2014-15: Athletic Bilbao 1-3 Barcelona

    If 2013-14 was a failure, the following season was the complete opposite. Having already wrapped up the league title, Barca cruised to victory in the Copa, giving club great Xavi the ideal final Camp Nou outing. The magnificent Lionel Messi starred, opening the scoring with a marvellous solo effort, before Neymar rounded off a flowing move for 2-0. Their Argentinian talisman ended Athletic's chances towards the end, with Inaki Williams' goal a mere consolation. Barca then went on to complete a treble with a 3-1 win over Juventus in the Champions League final.

    2015-16: Barcelona 2-0 Sevilla (AET)

    Fresh from beating Liverpool in the Europa League final, Sevilla were eager to upset another European giant. Barca were not helped by Javier Mascherano's dismissal for hauling down Kevin Gameiro in the first half, but they ended up managing the rest of the regulation 90 minutes fairly well and the numbers were evened up late on when Ever Banega was sent off. Barca simply had too much for Sevilla in extra time, as Jordi Alba and then Neymar got the goals, while Daniel Carrico was shown the game's third red card.

    2016-17: Barcelona 3-1 Deportivo Alaves

    A first ever Copa final for Alaves promised little given who they were up against. A Theo Hernandez free-kick offered them a measure of hope just after Messi's 30th-minute opener, but Barca ultimately had things wrapped by half-time, with Neymar and Paco Alcacer putting the game beyond Mauricio Pellegrino's men. Having missed out on the league title, Copa success at least meant Barca did not end the campaign empty-handed, with Luis Enrique leaving his post shortly after.

    2017-18: Sevilla 0-5 Barcelona

    While Barca's Copa tussle with Sevilla in 2016 was a gripping encounter, last season's meeting showed an alarming gulf. Andres Iniesta starred in what proved to be his last final for the club, scoring the fourth goal, but victory was effectively secured by half-time given a Luis Suarez double and a solitary Messi effort had them 3-0 up at the interval. Philippe Coutinho's penalty finished things off, as Barca went on to seal a domestic double, while Sevilla sacked Montella a week later.

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