Rumour Has It: Man United want Ibrahimovic return

By Sports Desk November 11, 2019

AC Milan, Bologna, Perth Glory, Inter and even Juventus have been linked to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Ibrahimovic's LA Galaxy contract is set to expire before the end of the year and the veteran striker is not short of suitors.

And a return to Old Trafford could be on the cards for the 38-year-old.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED TARGETING IBRAHIMOVIC

Manchester United are preparing to make a move for former striker Ibrahimovic, reports Mail Online.

Ibrahimovic left United for MLS outfit LA Galaxy in 2018 and he has flourished in the United States, where he has scored 53 goals across two seasons.

But with Ibrahimovic – who has been linked to AC Milan, Bologna and A-League side Perth Glory – coming off contract and United looking to bolster their attacking options following the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, a Manchester comeback has been mooted.

ROUND-UP

Inter are set to back Antonio Conte in the January transfer window. Following Conte's outburst over a lack of squad planning after Inter's Champions League defeat to Borussia Dortmund, Calciomercato says the Nerazzurri are ready to sign Parma duo Matteo Darmian and Dejan Kulusevski. Darmian only arrived from Manchester United at the start of the season, while teenage midfielder Kulusevski is on loan from Atalanta.

- Pressure is mounting on Unai Emery but Arsenal are not worried. According to the Mail, the Gunners will not be panicked into sacking head coach Emery – whose side have gone four league games without a win and sit sixth, eight points outside of the top four. Former Spain and Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has emerged as a possible replacement.

- Despite Southampton's poor form, the Premier League strugglers are still behind boss Ralph Hasenhuttl according to The Sun. The Saints are 19th and three points adrift of safety amid a seven-match winless streak in the league – highlighted by a record 9-0 humiliation against Leicester City.

Dries Mertens could be set to leave Napoli. Second on the club's all-time scoring list, Corriere dello Sport and Gazzetta dello Sport claim Mertens has agreed to join Inter as a free agent at the end of the season. The 32-year-old has called Naples home since arriving from PSV in 2013.

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  • Hit void! Man Utd, Tiger, Serena, the Detroit Lions and others who would like to wipe seasons from history Hit void! Man Utd, Tiger, Serena, the Detroit Lions and others who would like to wipe seasons from history

    Reports in the UK this week suggested there is growing support to void the current Premier League season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Additionally, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin admitted the 2019-20 campaign might have to be scrubbed from the records, after Euro 2020 was moved back 12 months.

    Although the likes of runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool would understandably despair at such a prospect, there are other clubs enjoying seasons to forget who might enjoy the escape clause.

    With that in mind, we took a look back at the teams and individuals who might like to expunge an ignominious season or period of time from history.

     

    MANCHESTER UNITED 2013-14

    The seven years since Alex Ferguson's retirement have not exactly gone swimmingly for United, but that ill-fated first season remains the real low point. 

    David Moyes lasted just 10 months as Ferguson's replacement as the reigning Premier League champions finished seventh in 2013-14, suffering truly humiliating defeats to top two Manchester City and Liverpool along the way. A wretched 2-0 loss at Moyes' former club Everton proved the final straw.

    At least they won the Community Shield in August 2013. 

    NOVAK DJOKOVIC 2017

    When Novak Djokovic defeated familiar foe Andy Murray to win the 2016 French Open, the modern-day legend was in possession of all of tennis' grand slams. The question was, who can stop this man? Well, the answer was actually himself.

    A round-three exit at Wimbledon followed a month later and, although he reached the US Open final that year, a barren 2017 followed. Djokovic did not go beyond the quarters at any slam that year and reached just one final at the Italian Open, which he lost. Djokovic rediscovered the winning habit in slams at Wimbledon in 2018, beginning a run of five triumphs in the past seven at tennis' big events.

    DETROIT LIONS – 2008

    The Lions secured an unwanted place in history when they became the first NFL team in the 16-game season era to go 0-16. They went 7-9 in 2007 and were then undefeated in preaseason, meaning few would have thought a historically bad campaign was on the cards.

    Detroit started three QBs over the course of the campaign - Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky and Daunte Culpepper - all of whom struggled with form and injuries despite the presence of star receiver Calvin Johnson, but worst of all was their woeful defense, which gave up 517 points.

    Team president and CEO Matt Millen was fired after four weeks, while head coach Rod Marinelli was shown the door at the end of the season and has not led a team since.

    TIGER WOODS - 2014-2017

    Tiger Woods' standing as one the greatest, if not the greatest, golfer of all time is in no doubt. By the end of 2013, Woods was standing again atop the world rankings after winning five times during the year, earning the prestigious PGA Tour Player of the Year award. 

    It would take five years for Woods to win again as the American great endured a horrendous time with debilitating back injuries and loss of form. At one stage it looked as though he may have to retire and his world ranking had plummeted to a scarcely credible 1,199th in December 2017. But just a year ago Woods was back in major-winning form as, at the age of 43, he became Masters champion for a fifth time.

    BARCELONA 2002-03

    Years of drift since the 1999 LaLiga title came to a head in 2002-03, as Barcelona endured a miserable season that saw Louis van Gaal sacked as coach and led to the departure of president Joan Gaspart. 

    Barca ended up sixth in the league – their worst finish in 15 years – as the Real Madrid Galacticos ruled. They also exited the Copa del Rey in the first round and lost in the Champions League quarter-finals. 

    After that season, in came Joan Laporta as president, Frank Rijkaard as head coach, and a certain Brazilian called Ronaldinho. And things got a bit better. 

    ENGLAND – 2013-14 ASHES

    England made it three Ashes victories in a row with a 3-0 home triumph in 2013 – the first time they had enjoyed such a run of success against old enemies Australia since 1977-1981. However, a rejig of the international cricketing schedule meant a swift return Down Under. The Mitchell Johnson-inspired hosts exacted brutal vengeance on their way to a 5-0 whitewash as a great England team fell to pieces.

    Off-spinner Graeme Swann retired mid-series and Kevin Pietersen's tempestuous exit from the international stage was set in motion, while Andy Flower – the head coach he despised – stepped down. Of the XI that started the concluding 281-run loss in Sydney, Pietersen, Michael Carberry and debutants Scott Borthwick and Boyd Rankin would never play red ball cricket for England again.

    REAL MADRID 2008-09

    In Spanish football's great rivalry, Real Madrid or Barcelona doing well is only half the deal. Success is truly sweet if the other half of El Clasico's enduring grudge are having a tough time. Madrid won LaLiga in 2007-08, with Barca a distant fourth as the Rijkaard-Ronaldinho era disintegrated under the weight of its own excess.

    However, the tables flipped spectacularly next time around – Barca stormed to an unprecedented treble under rookie coach Pep Guardiola, Lionel Messi leaped from exceptional talent to generational superstar as Madrid were walloped 6-2 by their sworn foes at the Santiago Bernabeu and a dynasty was born.

    Madrid finished a distant second, were thrashed 5-0 on aggregate by Liverpool in the Champions League last-16 and coach Juande Ramos followed predecessor Bernd Schuster out of the exit door.

    PAULA RADCLIFFE – 2004 OLYMPICS

    After setting a new world record in London in 2003 and having won the 2004 race in New York, Radcliffe was favourite for marathon gold at the 2004 Olympics. 

    However, after struggling badly to continue, Radcliffe withdrew 23 miles in and was taken for a medical check-up. She later competed in the 10,000 metres but again retired.  In a tearful appearance on British TV, Radcliffe refused to blame the heat and humidity in Athens and admitted she was "desperately trying to find a reason for what happened". 

    A year later, she was back winning and breaking the world record at the London marathon - despite a brief toilet break by the side of the road - before taking gold at the World Championships in Helsinki.

    GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 2019-2020

    After a fifth straight NBA Finals appearance in 2019, things went rapidly downhill for the Golden State Warriors. All-Star duo Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins left in free agency, while 'Splash Brothers' Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have been out injured – the latter is yet to play this season. 

    The Warriors sit bottom of the Western Conference and have the worst overall record in the NBA at 15-50. An improved chance of getting the first pick in the 2020 draft is their only solace.

    MANNY PACQUIAO 2012

    After losing to Erik Morales in 2005, Manny Pacquiao went on sensational 15-fight winning streak that established him as an unprecedented seven-division world champion. The Morales loss was twice avenged via stoppage, with the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto similarly dispatched. A mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr awaited, only for the wheels to fall off in 2012.

    Timothy Bradley halted Pacquiao's streak when he was – somewhat farcically – awarded a split-decision verdict over the Filipino great. Juan Manuel Marquez knew all about scorecard controversy from his previous three meetings with Pacquiao and duly took them out of the equation, chillingly leaving his rival face down and motionless on the Las Vegas canvas that December. The Mayweather bout had to wait until 2015, but that is one of only two losses suffered since by Pacquiao, who reigns as WBA welterweight champion at 41.

    CHELSEA 2015-16

    Chelsea won the Premier League title in 2014-15 and 2016-17. What came in between was nothing short of a complete shambles. Jose Mourinho had returned for a second spell in charge and collected a third winners' medal in England's top flight but the Portuguese's famously abrasive tendencies then appeared to wear his players down at an alarming rate.

    Beginning with the 2-2 draw against Swansea City that ignited Mourinho's sapping spat with club doctor Eva Carneiro, Chelsea won only one of their opening five Premier League fixtures. That form was far from a blip and they were 16th when Mourinho was sacked in the wake of a 2-1 December loss to would-be champions Leicester City. Caretaker boss Guus Hiddink restored a modicum of respectability with a 10th-place finish before Antonio Conte arrived and the Stamford Bridge faithful were soon wondering if it had all just been a bad dream.

    SERENA WILLIAMS 2006

    Williams started the year by losing her Australian Open crown with a third-round exit to Daniele Hantuchova, before injuries forced her to miss tournaments in Tokyo and Dubai. Come April, she had dropped out of the WTA top 100 for the first time since November 1997, and it came as little surprise that she competed at neither the French Open nor Wimbledon. 

    After a fourth-round exit at the US Open, Williams ended a title-less year 95th in the world. It meant she returned to the Australian Open in January 2007 as an unseeded player. She won it. 

  • Mourinho's ideal XIs: Which is better? Mourinho's ideal XIs: Which is better?

    Whatever your thoughts on modern-day Jose Mourinho, you cannot deny his legacy in football. For one thing, he wouldn't let you.

    Eight league titles across four different countries, domestic cups with Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid and Manchester United, one Europa League, two Champions Leagues, the 2009-10 treble... Mourinho has a trophy cabinet that would be the envy of most coaches in the game.

    His teams have, of course, boasted their fair share of star names who have helped him on his way to greatness - even if he didn't get on with them all. In fact, last weekend, Marca published a series of ideal XIs from football figures across the world, including one selected by Mourinho himself from his best club sides.

    It's a pretty formidable line-up, but we at Stats Perform think we might have one to match. Each one contains a notable Opta fact for each player.

    See which team you think is best...

    MOURINHO'S BEST XI (according to the man himself):

    Petr Cech
    In Mourinho's first season in charge at Chelsea, Cech kept 24 clean sheets in the Premier League (2004-05), a record in the competition.

    Javier Zanetti
    Zanetti was the only outfield player to play every minute of Inter's 2009-10 Champions League-winning campaign under Mourinho.

    John Terry
    Chelsea's former captain has made more Premier League appearances under Mourinho (187) than any other player, scoring 15 goals.

    Ricardo Carvalho
    The centre-back played under Mourinho for three different sides (Porto, Chelsea and Real Madrid) – indeed, no player has made more Champions League appearances under the Portuguese than Carvalho (54).

    William Gallas
    Only John Terry (15) has netted more Premier League goals among defenders under Mourinho than Gallas (seven – level with Branislav Ivanovic).

    Claude Makelele
    In Chelsea's title-winning campaign of 2004-05, Makelele made 140 interceptions from the heart of Chelsea's midfield. Only Patrick Viera (156) made more among outfield players that season.

    Frank Lampard
    Lampard scored more Premier League goals under Mourinho (49) than any other player. In 2004-05 Lampard became the first Premier League midfielder to reach double figures for both goals (13) and assists (18) since Matt Le Tissier in 1994-95, whilst only Thierry Henry (39) registered more goal involvements than the Englishman (31).

    Eden Hazard
    During Mourinho's second tenure in charge at Chelsea, Hazard scored in more Premier League games than any other player for the club (24 – 28 goals).

    Mesut Ozil
    Ozil provided more assists (47) and created more chances (314) than any other player under Mourinho in LaLiga.

    Cristiano Ronaldo
    Ronaldo scored 153 LaLiga goals under Mourinho, 83 more than any other player for Madrid during this period. He also scored 12 Champions League goals in 2012-13: at that stage, only Lionel Messi (14 goals in 2011-12) had scored more goals in a single Champions League campaign.

    Didier Drogba
    Drogba won the Premier League Golden Boot in 2006-07 under Mourinho (20 goals), despite Chelsea finishing second that season behind Manchester United.

    AN ALTERNATIVE BEST MOURINHO XI (according to Stats Perform):

    Iker Casillas
    Only Victor Valdes (42) kept more clean sheets among LaLiga goalkeepers than Casillas (35) while Mourinho was in charge at Real Madrid.

    Cesar Azpilicueta
    Azpilicueta was Chelsea's Players' Player of the Year in Mourinho's first season back at the Blues in 2013-14.

    Sergio Ramos
    In Mourinho's three seasons at Real Madrid, only Guilherme Siqueira scored more LaLiga goals among defenders than Ramos (10).

    Marco Materazzi
    The treble-winning defender's only Champions League goal came in the 2008-09 season under Mourinho, against Anorthosis Famagusta in the group stages.

    Marcelo
    The Brazilian completed more dribbles in LaLiga than any other defender during Mourinho's stint as Real Madrid boss (154).

    Esteban Cambiasso
    Only captain Javier Zanetti (75) and keeper Julio Cesar (74) played more league games for Inter under Mourinho than Cambiasso (65).

    Paul Pogba
    No United player was involved in more Premier League goals than Pogba while Mourinho was in charge at Old Trafford (31 – 14 goals, 17 assists).

    Deco
    Deco was involved in more goals than any other Porto player in their successful 2003-04 Champions League campaign (seven – two goals, five assists), also creating more chances than any other player at the club (38).

    Wesley Sneijder
    Sneijder was involved in more goals than any other Inter player during their successful 2009-10 Champions League campaign (nine – three goals, six assists), also creating more chances than any other player at the club (33). After leading Inter to the treble and Netherlands to the World Cup final in 2010, he somehow failed to make the Ballon d'Or top three.

    Samuel Eto'o
    Only Eden Hazard (14) scored more Premier League goals for Chelsea than Eto'o in Mourinho's first season back at Chelsea in 2013-14, with the Cameroon striker netting a hat-trick against reigning champions Manchester United.

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic
    Ibrahimovic was top scorer in Serie A in Mourinho's first season with Inter, scoring 25 goals.

  • Coronavirus: Tottenham cut pay of 550 non-playing staff by 20 per cent Coronavirus: Tottenham cut pay of 550 non-playing staff by 20 per cent

    Tottenham have cut the pay of their 550 non-playing staff for April and May by 20 per cent because of the coronavirus pandemic, chairman Daniel Levy announced on Tuesday.

    Spurs became the second Premier League team after Newcastle United to make use of the United Kingdom government's furlough scheme, which allows employees to claim 80 per cent of their wages up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

    Levy hoped players would follow suit, though Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) chief executive Gordon Taylor this week said he planned to block a blanket reduction on their salaries.

    "The club's operations have effectively ceased, some of our fans will have lost their jobs and most will be worried about their future," Levy said in a letter published on Spurs' website.

    "Our sponsors will be concerned about their businesses and our media partners have no certainty when we may play games again or whether we will be allowed to play in front of our fans. In the meantime, the club has an annual cost base running into hundreds of millions of pounds.

    "We have seen some of the biggest clubs in the world such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus take steps to reduce their costs. Yesterday [Monday], having already taken steps to reduce costs, we ourselves made the difficult decision – in order to protect jobs – to reduce the remuneration of all 550 non-playing directors and employees for April and May by 20 per cent utilising, where appropriate, the government's furlough scheme. We shall continue to review this position.

    "We hope the current discussions between the Premier League, PFA and LMA [League Managers Association] will result in players and coaches doing their bit for the football eco system.

    "I have no doubt we will get through this crisis but life will take some time to get back to normal. I hope we will never take for granted so many basic things such as getting off the train at Seven Sisters, walking along Tottenham High Road, entering our stadium with our family and friends, and buying a beer and pie ahead of watching Spurs play at home.

    "Many families will have lost loved ones, many businesses will have been destroyed, millions of jobs lost and many clubs whether big or small may struggle to exist. It is incumbent on me as chairman to ensure we do everything we can to protect our employees, our fans, our partners, our club for future generations – and equally important – our wider community where we have such an immense sense of responsibility.

    "I wish everyone good health, a speedy return to normal life and watching Spurs at home in front of our fans. Stay safe."

    Star striker Harry Kane at the weekend refused to rule out the possibility of leaving Tottenham if the team does not show signs of matching his ambition to win trophies.

    The England captain has consequently been linked with a move to Premier League rivals Manchester City and Manchester United, as well as Real Madrid.

    Levy believes people discussing such stories need to "wake up" to the enormity of the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on clubs.

    He said: "As recently as 18 March I said: 'We shall all need to work together to ensure the impact of this crisis does not undermine the future stability of the club.'

    "The decision by governments around the world to effectively close down economies with unheard of peacetime impacts on civil liberties in order to minimise the terrible effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the right one to protect human lives.

    "The crushing devastation on industries in many countries, the inter-dependence of international trade and travel in every aspect of our daily life is only now beginning to be felt. Every person on this planet will be affected and in my lifetime I cannot think of something so impactful.

    "When I read or hear stories about player transfers this summer like nothing has happened, people need to wake up to the enormity of what is happening around us. With over 786,000 infected, nearly 38,000 deaths and large segments of the world in lockdown we need to realise that football cannot operate in a bubble.

    "We may be the eighth largest club in the world by revenue according to the Deloitte survey but all that historical data is totally irrelevant as this virus has no boundaries."

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