Pre Season Friendlies: Manchester United v Manchester City, Beijing

Manchester United v Manchester City, BeijingThe stage is all set for history to be created, as both the Manchester clubs face off against each other for the first time outside England, in a pre season friendly game at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in the capital Beijing, at 8 p.m. local time.

The game will also be special for both clubs as managers Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola face each other for the first time since the UEFA Super Cup at the start of the 2013-14 season, which Guardiola’s Bayern Munich won on penalties against a 10-man Chelsea, after requiring a last minute equalizer from Javi Martinez. “The best team clearly lost”, was what Mourinho had to say after the game. In 16 games head to head, Guardiola has won eight times, while Mourinho has only managed three wins.

With both the Manchester clubs looking to increase their fan following in the most populous country of the world, the game, although a friendly, is still an important one for both the sides. Manchester, which is renowned for its music and football all over the globe, is now beginning to find its feet in the Asian market, with an ever increasing fan base from South East Asian nations as well.

Questions had already been raised on whether the game should be played or not, owing to the massive rains that meant the final training session had to be switched, but the game will be played in the stadium originally built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Manchester United will look to have a better performance than what they presented against Borussia Dortmund last week, losing out 1-4, with new recruit Henrikh Mkhitaryan the only scorer for the team. The team will also miss the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Anthony Martial and Morgan Schneiderlin, as they are yet to return from vacation.

Manchester City will also hope to have an overseas winning record against arch rivals, although the game that matters shall be played in September, when the two teams face each other in the Premier League at Old Trafford.


Manchester Derby Abandoned in Beijing Due To Bad Weather

Manchester Derby Abandoned in Beijing Due To Bad WeatherFans will have to wait for another month and a half, as the highly anticipated clash between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola has been delayed after Monday’s International Champions Cup game between Manchester United and Manchester City was abandoned due to heavy rains in the Chinese capital.

United boss Jose Mourinho and new City manager Pep Guardiola, who have a bitter rivalry since their days as managers of Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, were all set to face off for the first time since the start of the 2013-14 season when the Manchester clubs met each other in a friendly fixture at Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium.

But heavy rain in Beijing has left the pitch totally unplayable, with Manchester United revealing on Twitter that “tournament organisers and participating clubs have decided to cancel” the encounter. A full statement has also been issued by the club on its official website.

Jose Mourinho’s last clash with Pep Guardiola was in the UEFA Super Cup in 2013, which Guardiola’s Bayern Munich won against Mourinho’s Chelsea on penalties.

This could have been the first Manchester Derby away from the shores of England in 140 years. The latest was in the Premier League last season at the Etihad, which Manchester United won 1-0.

But heavy rain in the Chinese capital has rendered the pitch unplayable, with United revealing on Twitter that “tournament organisers and participating clubs have decided to cancel” the encounter.



Pre Season Friendlies: Manchester United v Borussia Dortmund

Manchester United v Borussia DortmundIt will be an emotional second game for new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the Manchester United shirt as he faces off against his old team Borussia Dortmund as the club kick starts its pre season tour of China later today at 8 pm local time. The game will be played in Shanghai.

Borussia Dortmund have had a pretty busy transfer market, after losing three of their key players in the transfer window so far (Mats Hummels to Bayern Munich and Ilkay Gundogan to Manchester City), but having secured young prospects such as Emre Mor, Sebastian Rode and Ousmanne Dembele among others. Having recently given the captain’s armband to German international Marco Reus, the club looks forward to yet another season in the Bundesliga and the Champion’s League, and will be all guns blazing for the pre season tour as well.

Manchester United, on the other hand, will still be without the services of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as the Swede is still on holiday after the Euro 2016 campaign. Other players who played in the Euro 2016, like Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling, David de Gea and Paddy McNair are all eligible to play, and have travelled with the squad to China.

While speaking about the opponents, Jose Mourinho said, “They [Dortmund] are a team that has played five matches and a team that has five matches in their legs. They started training a couple of weeks before us and they didn’t have so many players like we did in the Copa America and the Euros.

“So basically they only have two or three players out, they have the whole team working together for about a month and I repeat they have played five matches. So I expect to see two teams in different moments of their preparation, but it is good for us because it is more of a challenge.

“We are not here in pre-season playing for points so if you don’t win then you don’t win. You try to have conditioning in the team and to know the players better. For example I want to see the different formations and different players in different positions with different combinations.”

Mourinho also mentioned earlier that he intends to keep Juan Mata for the season, which is a relief for both the Spaniard as well as his considerable fanbase. Mata was sold by Mourinho from Chelsea for £37.1 million in the January 2014 transfer market.



Spain FA Appoint Julen Lopetegui As New Head Coach

Julen LopeteguiAfter a disappointing Euro campaign in France that saw La Roja exit the tournament in the round of 16 against 2012 runners up Italy, Spain FA had announced the resignation of Vicente del Bosque from the managerial post.

Yesterday, the Spanish FA announced the appointment of Julen Lopetegui as the manager of the national football team.

The ex-Porto manager was also linked with a job in England with Wolverhampton Wanderers looking to replace Kenny Jackett.

Lopetegui has previously managed the Spanish National team at U-19, U-20 and U-21 levels.

Lopetegui has been successful at the youth levels, having led the Spanish U-19 side to the European U-19 Championship in 2012, held at Estonia, and the U-21 side to the European Championship in 2013. The team included current Spanish internationals David de Gea, Isco, Thiago and Koke.

The 49-year-old played his career as Goalkeeper, and represented Real MadridLogroñésBarcelona and Rayo Vallecano. He was also part of the Spain squad for the 1994 World Cup.

Vicente del Bosque, who led Spain to three successive major trophies (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, Euro 2012), had previously announced that he would step down as manager irrespective of Spain’s performance at the 2016 Euros, after having managed the side for eight years.

Lopetegui’s first game in charge of the Spain side will be a friendly against Belgium on 1 September, before they begin the qualifying campaign for the World Cup 2018 against Liechtenstein. The other teams in Spain’s qualifying group are Albania, Israel, Italy and Macedonia.



Liliya Shobukhova Ordered To Return Her Earnings At The London Olympics

Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova has been ordered by the London Marathon to pay back a sum of £377,961.62 plus costs, after she exposed the corruption between senior figures at the IAAF and Russian athletics as she was banned for doping offences. The amount she has been asked to pay is the total prize and appearance money she won at the 2010 and 2011 London marathons.

Previously, Shobukova’s results since October 9, 2009 were negated in 2013 owing to discrepancies in her biological passport, including her marathon best she recorded at the Chicago marathon in 2011 (2 hours 18 minutes 20 seconds), as well as her performances in London in 2010 and 2011.

Liliya ShobukhovaAccording to the World Marathon Majors race series rules – races that include all of the big city marathons, including Tokyo, Boston, London, Chicago, New York, Berlin – any athlete found guilty of a doping offence is required to repay all prize and appearance money. In Shobukhova’s case, the London High Court has ruled that is substantial.

“It will be a long and difficult process but we will pursue it as we are determined that cheats should not benefit,” said Nick Bitel, chief executive of London Marathon Events Ltd. “Any money we get back will be redistributed to the athletes that Shobukhova cheated out of their rightful dues.”

Shobukova announced her retirement only recently, and was banned for life from taking part in the London Marathon and any of the other five that comprise the Abbott World Marathon Majors in 2013.



Russia Faces Ban From Rio Olympics After Doping Cover-Up Is Exposed

The Russian Olympic contingent is facing a ban from the Rio Olympics this summer after a report uncovered a state sponsored doping cover up, which involved Vladimir Putin’s right-hand man, the Russian Intelligence Services and other sporting officials.

Rio OlympicsThe results of this report, filed by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren, will be discussed by the IOC (International Olympics Committee) on Tuesday.

The Canadian said he had come across strong evidence that the Russian sports ministry had hushed up more than a hundred positive drug tests among its athletes for the London Olympics in 2012, the World Athletics Championships in Moscow in 2013, and the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

The IOC has two options to dealing with Russia; to completely ban Russia from the Rio Olympics that commence in August, or to allow individual sporting federations to execute separate bans.

However, given the short span of time left, the second option seems unlikely to be chosen.

Last month, track and field stars from Russia were banned from the Rio Olympics by the International Association of Athletics Federations, allowing only those who had trained outside the Russian system to participate in the competition under a neutral flag.

Thomas Bach, President of the IOC, expressed shock at this attack “on the integrity of sports and on the Olympic Games”.

McLaren’s report primarily focused on Russian athletes from a wide range of summer and winter Olympic sports that had benefited from the state’s policy to make positive doping results disappear, especially after a poor showing at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

McLaren also confirmed precious allegations that urine samples with traces of steroids were swapped for clean ones in Sochi with the help of Russian intelligence and anti-doping officials.


“I Will Be The God Of Manchester”- Zlatan Ibrahimovic Responds To King Cantona’s Prince Claim

With not even a game played in the red shirt, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has already started to show his characteristic outspokenness since signing with Manchester United, after a friendly battle of words with United legend Eric Cantona.

Zlatan IbrahimovicCantona, who scored 82 goals during his four and a half year stay at Old Trafford, is considered to be one of the finest forwards to have played at the club, and arguably the best bargain buy by Sir Alex Ferguson, after he was signed mid season from Leeds United for a paltry sum of £1.2 million.

Earlier last week, Cantona in his usual mercurial self had said: “I have a personal message for Zlatan: You decided to go red. It is the best choice you ever made.

“When you walk into the Theatre of Dreams. When you can feel the ghosts of the legends that have been here before. When you score that first goal right in front of Stretford End. When you hear the crowd chanting your name.

“When your heart beats so strong that it bursts out of your chest. When you feel that you will love them as much as they will love you. You will know, my friend, that you finally made it home.

“Just one last thing, there can only be one King in Manchester. You can be the prince if you want to. And the No7 is yours if you are interested. That is my welcome gift to you… The King is gone! Long live the prince!”

The 34-year-old Swede, however, is the one person you would expect to have an answer even to King Cantona, and said as per reports in Swedish paper Aftonbladet, “I admire Cantona and I heard what he said. But I won’t be King of Manchester. I will be God of Manchester.”

Ibrahimovic, whose shock free transfer has a striking resemblance to Cantona’s, will not play in United’s tour of China. However, he is expected to make his Red Devils debut on the 30th this month against Galatasaray in Gothenburg, or against Everton next month at Old Trafford.


The Triumph of Money Over Football

The latest sensation in the transfer market was Italian forward Graziano Pelle making his move from Southampton to the Shandong Luneng in the Chinese Super League, in a deal that will see him earn a stunning £34 million over a duration of 30 months, a deal that will make him one of the top ten earners in the world of football. While no one questions his ability, surely there are a few eyebrows raised, considering what the striker is giving up, and what he is getting in return.

Agreed, there is as much likelihood of Southampton doing a Leicester City this season in the Premier League as there is of Great Britain getting back into the EU. Also, we cannot blame Pelle, who will turn 31 this week, for snapping up the opportunity to make as much money towards what is usually the twilight period of a footballer’s career. But for the sake of his retirement plan, Graziano is giving up on the chance to be a sensation on the field; he might end up scoring even a hundred for his new club, but will that really count?

Pelle hit his prime late in his career; his season tally had reached double figures only once during his time in Italy. However, since joining Dutch side Feyenoord in 2012, he has scored a more than decent 85 goals in 147 appearances in the Eredivisie and subsequently for Southampton in the Premier League. Since making his international debut at the age of 29, Pelle has scored 7 times in 17 games. He was also a key forward for Italy in the Euros, scoring late goals against Spain and Belgium and helping his side to the quarter finals. Even though he missed his shot in the penalty shootout against Germany, Pelle had a decent tournament. However, unlike most other players like Hal Robson-Kanu or any of the Icelandic squad, Pelle has taken a definite step down in his career, for the prospect of a good salary.

Then again, wouldn’t any of us do the same? Then why should we be judging a footballer for thinking about his future?

The question shall always remain, if Italy manage to win a major trophy during Pelle’s career; what if he wasn’t picked in the side just because he played in the Chinese League? Would things have been better and more prestigious if he was playing for Southampton, for a much lesser amount?

Food for thought.


Zlatan Ibrahimovic Set To Miss China Tour, Might Feature Against Galatasaray in Gothenburg

Zlatan IbrahimovicManchester United fans will have to wait a little while longer before they can see the mercurial Zlatan Ibrahimovic don the red jersey, as newly appointed manager José Mourinho has left him out of the squad travelling to China on Tuesday for the pre season friendly matches.

José Mourinho is considering handing the Swede his friendly debut on 30 July against Turkish outfit Galatasaray in front of his home crowd at Gothenburg, or on the 3rd of August against Everton in Wayne Rooney’s testimonial game.

The 34 year old signed for Manchester United on 2 July on a free transfer after letting his contract with Paris Saint Germain run out. Ibrahimovic also announced his retirement from international football after Sweden’s group stage exit from the Euros. He is currently on vacation in America.

José Mourinho also made it clear in his press conference that he wants to fully rest all the players who featured in the Euro 2016 before the start of the season. While England international Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling and Marcus Rashford are likely to be named in the squad travelling to China, they are most likely not to feature.

United play Borussia Dortmund in Beijing on 23rd July, and face local city rivals Manchester City led by Pep Guardiola on the 26th in Shanghai. They then travel to Gothenburg to play against Galatasaray on the 30th, before returning to Old Trafford for the testimonial against Everton.

United’s other two signings, Eric Bertrand Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are likely to feature in the China tour after training for the first time with their new teammates on Wednesday. Mkhitaryan’s Dortmund teammate Ilkay Gundogan, now with the blue side of Manchester, has already had words of praise for the Armenian captain, stating “he can have a big impact for Manchester United if he is used correctly”.




Wimbledon 2016 Gentlemen’s Final: An Emotional Murray Clinches Title For The Second Time

A bright and sunny Sunday afternoon with pleasant wafts of the English breeze in West London saw Scotsman Andy Murray seal his second Wimbledon title, his third Grand Slam against Canadian Milos Raonic in straight sets. Murray won a tough game 6-4, 7-6, 7-6 against Raonic in a game that lasted two hours and forty-seven minutes.

Murray, who laid his hands on the much coveted trophy for the second time in four years, was quite emotional after the victory, and sat sobbing uncontrollably at his end for a while before composing himself for the presentation ceremony.

“I’ve had some great moments here and some tough losses and I’m proud to have my hands on the trophy again. I played really good stuff today. Milos has had a great few weeks on the grass. He’s one of the harder workers out there. And a huge thank-you to everyone who came out to support me. The prime minister’s here as well. Playing in a Wimbledon final is tough but I wouldn’t want to be prime minister. It’s an impossible job”, he said courtside after the game.

Murray, who had become the first Brit in 77 years to win the championship when he won it in 2013, did it again yesterday, much to the delight of the home fans. Interestingly, all of his seven matches this season were played at Centre Court, which perhaps gave him a home advantage, like the English team of 1966 that played every single game at the Wembley and went on to win the World Cup.

“It’s a difficult challenge. Andy’s playing great and he deserves to win here for a second time. I’m going to do everything I can to be back for another chance. It’s been a phenomenal two weeks. I keep plugging away. There’s nothing I want more than to be back here.”