Liverpool perfect for Inter's underrated Mauro Icardi and Jose Mourinho needs Man United backing

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Mauro Icardi was the star of Sunday night’s pulsating derby, his hat-trick helping Internazionale – my former club – claim a late 3-2 win against neighbours AC Milan.

He is a top goal scorer with a good record. I would put him in the same bracket as Harry Kane and Robert Lewandowski. If you put Icardi in the Premier League, a team like Liverpool could do very well with him.

When he is in the penalty box, he is clinical. If money was no object and I was back as a sporting director after my previous role with Ligue 1’s Rennes, I would go for Icardi. I think he is underrated and he is playing for Inter, so the price tag shouldn’t be so high.

He is the captain, so he must have the respect of the dressing room – even after the controversial autobiography that was published last year. If he can survive that, he must have everyone’s respect.

When you try to sign a player, you want to find out as much information as possible as what they are like, psychologically, as a person. The entourage is important too, as they have a big influence. When I was at Rennes, we were offered Nicklas Bendtner and I said ‘no’ straight away as I know the guy.

It is important to have a good chemistry in the dressing room. I think Icardi is shining. Sunday was a demonstration of his talent. Not a lot of touches in the game; not being involved too much in the link-up play but three goals.

He isn’t a monster physicality, meaning he doesn’t use his physique to make the difference. He does that with his technique and intelligence. He is still young at 24 and if Inter want to win the Scudetto, they’ll need him to be fit all season.

MONTELLA’S WAITING GAME

Milan deserved a draw from the game and this is another difficult result for them and their coach, Vincenzo Montella. The content of the game wasn’t all bad for Milan, but they couldn’t control it until the last minute. The pressure is on and it is growing.

This season after all the investment, there is so much expectation. Champions League qualification is the minimum expected from Montella by the fans and owners. He must stay in contact with the top four, or they’ll make a change. They need to assess what has been done from pre-season until now.

A disheartened Vincenzo Montella after the defeat to Inter

A disheartened Vincenzo Montella after the defeat to Inter

You must know by October if the work is progressing in the right manner. If you believe you are going in the right direction, you continue. There was some sign of encouragement from the derby. Montella is still a young manager.

The results have not been so positive, but with this group of players I think he will get there. He just needs to earn the patience of the owners and fans

MOURINHO MUST FEEL THE LOVE

Jose Mourinho’s tactics have been a major talking point since Manchester United’s dull goalless draw at Liverpool on Saturday. I was not surprised to see Mourinho not trying to force a goal in the last 15 minutes. You play for the draw and it could have worked if Romelu Lukaku scored and made it a perfect afternoon.

I do not think it is fair from the press to be critical of that type of decision. Because he is in charge and it is his decision – he got the result he wanted. During my time at United, Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t receive this criticism.

But I think it is a shock of the culture. French, Italian and Portuguese coaches, especially, you have to understand that they will sometimes play for the draw. They will defend and then hope to score on the counter, and that was a good call for the game at Anfield, as Liverpool’s defence isn’t recognised as their strength – it was only their third clean sheet in the Premier League this season.

Talk about Mourinho’s future has also appeared in the last 48 hours because of an interview he gave with Telefoot in France, during which the name of Paris Saint-Germain appeared and a dance has started from the media.

The board is asked a question about the manager’s contract situation, but between Mourinho and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward things are pretty clear. Mourinho has dealt with other presidents across Europe. If he wants to extend his contract, he only needs to pick up the phone.

There is no rush from United’s perspective, all the lights are green at the moment. I don’t think he wants more money, he wants more backing. Right now, he just wants some peace of mind from the club.

Mikael made 361 appearances for Manchester United, winning five Premier League titles and the Champions League. He was also capped 40 times by France.

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A new page awaits to be written in the historied Man United-Benfica rivalry

Tom Williams 17/10/2017
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George Best scores against Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final

Manchester United’s Champions League encounter with Benfica on Wednesday represents a resumption of hostilities with foes who have provided a yardstick for their European standing for over half a century.

Benfica, famously, were the team United defeated at Wembley in 1968 to become the first English side to win the European Cup.

Two years previously, it was with a bravura performance at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz that a 19-year-old George Best catapulted himself to international renown.

But Benfica have also engineered some of United’s continental low moments, most notably in 2005, when the Lisbon giants condemned Alex Ferguson’s team to a humbling group-stage exit.

The teams first met in early 1966 when United were embarking upon their first European Cup campaign since Matt Busby’s ‘Busby Babes’ were decimated by the 1958 Munich air disaster.

Bobby Charlton with Coluna the 1968 European Cup final

Bobby Charlton with Coluna the 1968 European Cup final

After United won the first leg of their quarter-final 3-2 at Old Trafford, the teams faced off again in Lisbon and Benfica were torn apart, an early Best brace setting Busby’s side on their way to a thumping 5-1 win.

Best’s second goal, in the 13th minute, was one of his finest in a United shirt as he gathered a knock-down and surged past two defenders before drilling a low shot into the bottom-left corner.

“A hurricane passed through the Luz that night and his name was George Best,” said Benfica winger Antonio Simoes.

The Portuguese press dubbed Best ‘The Fifth Beatle’ and after donning a sombrero hat on his return to England, he was described as ‘El Beatle’ by the British media.

“On nights like that, good players become great players and great players become gods,” Best later recalled.

“It was surreal stuff. I’ve seen other great teams play like that, but to be a part of such an experience was unreal.”

Two years later, beneath the Wembley floodlights, Best would prove to be Benfica’s tormentor again.

– Rooney, Ronaldo rise again –

With the score 1-1 in extra time, he ran onto Alex Stepney’s kick, rounded goalkeeper Jose Henrique and – having briefly contemplated getting down on his knees and heading the ball over the line — tucked United in front.

Further goals by Brian Kidd and Bobby Charlton – his second of the match – completed an emotional victory, 10 years on from the horrors of Munich.

Benfica would have to wait 37 years for a shot at revenge, but when it came, they took it, a 2-1 win in Lisbon in December 2005 dumping United out of the competition.

Ferguson dismissed speculation about his future at the club, vowing: “This club has always risen from difficult situations and we will again.”

United’s supporters harboured concerns about the callowness of a team in which Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were still finding their feet, but Ferguson was true to his word.

His side beat Benfica home and away in the group phase the next season en route to the semi-finals and in 2008 a side spearheaded by Rooney and Ronaldo recaptured the European Cup by beating Chelsea on penalties in Moscow.

It was Benfica who came out on top when the teams last met, progressing to the knockout rounds in 2011-12 after a pair of draws against United helped to consign Ferguson’s side to another group-phase departure.

United players look dejected after being dumped out by Benfica in 2012

United players look dejected after being dumped out by Benfica in 2012

Six years on, United appear to be on the up again under Jose Mourinho, who cut his managerial teeth in an ill-fated three-month stint at Benfica in 2000.

Whereas United, last season’s Europa League winners, have comfortably won their opening games, Benfica have lost both of theirs and were condemned to a record 5-0 defeat by Basel on their last outing.

For Mourinho, however, they remain his team’s principal adversaries in Group A.

“The defeat suffered in Switzerland didn’t change my opinion that Benfica are our main opponent in the group stage,” he told Portuguese newspaper Record earlier this month.

A new page waits to be written.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Adrien Rabiot puts Premier League clubs on alert while Liverpool and Arsenal battle for 'wonderkid'

David Cooper 17/10/2017
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PSG midfielder Adrien Rabiot

The transfer window may not open again until January 1 2018 but that hasn’t put an end to plenty of speculation throughout Europe.

Here, we take a look at three big stories dominating the headlines.

Will any of the following deals happen?

Let us know your thoughts.

Get in touch via Twitter and Facebook.

ADRIEN RABIOT

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Adrien Rabiot could be readying himself for a move away from the Ligue 1 giants amid concerns over the progress of his new deal.

According to L’Equipe, Rabiot is yet to begin discussions with his current deal expiring next year and it’s put the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham on alert.

RATING: 6/10

VERDICT

Sounds like Rabiot is trying to give PSG a bit of a kick up the backside to get the wheels in motion for a new deal but it’s not the first time his name has crept up over a potential exit.

He’s talked up challenging himself in the Premier League in recent weeks and is a known Liverpool fan which could stand them in good stead if they wanted to make a move.

DAVID BROOKS

Liverpool and Arsenal will lock horns for the signature of Sheffield United star David Brooks, reports the Mirror.

The 20-year-old is a £10million target of both Premier League clubs following a string of impressive performances for the Championship side.

RATING: 6/10

VERDICT

The term wonderkid gets bandied about far too often but Wales international Brooks has emerged as one of English football’s brightest young talents over the last 15 months.

Klopp is thought to be leading the chase but will face stern competition for the midfielder.

David Brooks (L) in action this season

David Brooks (L) in action this season

HARRY KANE

Tottenham value striker Harry Kane at north of £200million, reports the Times.

Real Madrid have been linked with a move in recent weeks but Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is adamant the England international is worth more than the price PSG paid to sign Neymar.

RATING: 7/10

VERDICT

It’s hard to disagree with this valuation. Kane is truly among the world’s best players now, whether it’s fashionable to agree with that or not, and if the likes of Madrid do come circling then it should take a massive fee to sign him.

Remains to be seen if any club would be prepared to stump up that type of fee, especially given Levy’s reputation as a tough negotiator.

Spurs star Harry Kane

Spurs star Harry Kane

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