Zinedine Zidane lamented a “f**** up” situation for Real Madrid after the reigning Spanish and European champions stumbled to a shock defeat to Villarreal.
Real fell 19 points behind leaders Barcelona and will be closer to the relegation than they are top spot should the Catalan giants beat Real Sociedad after Pablo Fornals’ classy 87th minute winner at the Bernabeu.
Los Blancos are down to fourth – Saturday’s visitors now just a point behind in fifth – and Zidane’s side have just one win in their past five games.
“It’s very difficult for the confidence,” said head coach Zidane, who guided Madrid to UEFA Super Cup, Supercopa de Espana and Club World Cup glory earlier in the season.
“We had chances to score but in the end… we couldn’t avoid the counter and… it’s just very f****** up for all the players.
“What we have to do is keep working, because there will come a time and we have to be there.
“Within all the negative things that are happening to us, we are going to look for something positive.”
Madrid have a quick turnaround with a midweek first leg Copa del Rey quarter-final tie against Leganes before returning to league action next weekend against Deportivo La Coruna.
“We have to get a win from somewhere,” the under-fire Frenchman added.
“We know the situation and every day it gets more complicated, so we are not even thinking about the League, just about the next match.”
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been offered no assurances over his long-term Manchester United future by Jose Mourinho.
The Armenian was one of Mourinho’s first signings in the summer of 2016 but inconsistency has blighted the playmaker since he joined from Borussia Dortmund for £26.3million.
Mkhitaryan started just one Premier League game in the first four months of last season owing to a thigh injury and his manager’s belief he needed time to adapt – and was taken off at half-time in the game he began.
He seemed to have turned the corner in December, though, and ended the campaign with 11 goals, including his improvised scorpion-kick strike against Sunderland and the second in United’s Europa League final win over Ajax.
The 29-year-old began this campaign with five assists in the first three top-flight fixtures but his form tailed off again and having been substituted at half-time against Derby in their most recent game – a move Mourinho later apologised for – his name has been littered in gossip columns regarding a potential exit this month.
“My approach to players is that every player has a price,” Mourinho said when asked directly about whether Mkhitaryan would stay.
“It doesn’t matter who he is. It doesn’t matter the level. It doesn’t matter the prestige, the status. I think every player has a price.
“And I am not the kind of blind manager…blind in the sense of, this player is untouchable, can never be sold. I think every player has a price.
“So when the transfer window is open, it’s also open for any club that is interested in our players. Then it’s up to us to make the decision: yes or no. It’s up to us to decide what we think is the right price.
“But Mkhitaryan played the last match in the FA Cup and probably will play the next one (against Stoke). He’s a little bit the same in relation to other players that are involved in this gossip of the transfer market.
“He is our player and a very good player. So Saturday (he is) training, then Sunday (he is) selected and Monday (he will) play.”
One rumour is that Mkhitaryan could be used as a potential makeweight in a deal for Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, a player Mourinho called “phenomenal” on Friday.
Even if the United boss makes a rare foray into the mid-season market, he does not believe any incomings will determine whether or not current Premier League leaders Manchester City can be overhauled.
City face Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday and victory for Pep Guardiola’s side would lift them 18 points clear of United.
“It’s a very important difference of points, I was there before,” Mourinho added.
“It gives a lot of tranquillity and takes away any kind of pressure from the guy that comes behind you.
“I think it’s a very comfortable advantage and they sit on that. I don’t think it’s about the transfer window for us or the other teams close to us – Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham.
“I don’t think it’s about transfers. It’s about continuing to win, getting the maximum possible points and seeing what happens.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
With the transfer window now open the rumour mill is in overdrive, so with that in mind, we take a look at the top stories doing the rounds in the media today.
LIVERPOOL JOIN SANCHEZ CHASE
Liverpool will battle Manchester City and Manchester United for the race to sign Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez, according to the Mirror.
The report says Jurgen Klopp’s side will happily meet the Gunners’ £35million valuation with United thought to be leading the chase for the Chilean.
Even with the Philippe Coutinho money bloating Liverpool’s wallet, it’s not within their current wage structure or transfer strategy to sign a 29-year-old who has reportedly been offered £285,000 per week by City and £300,000 a week by United.
Sanchez is thought to prefer a move to the Etihad Stadium to reunite with Pep Guardiola but the Premier League leaders are said to be put off by the mounting fees involved to sign the Chilean and United have no jumped the queue.
Throwing Liverpool into the mix seems like nothing but agent talk in an attempt to get the best deal for Sanchez who looks almost certain to leave this month.
HAMMERS WANT FELLAINI
West Ham are weighing up a move for Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini, reports the Star.
The Belgium international is out of contract at the conclusion of this season and has reportedly turned down £170,000 per week extension as he searches for more first-team opportunities.
David Moyes and Fellaini is just a match made in heaven. Moyes of course brought him to England when he signed for Everton a decade ago and he was also his first capture as United boss.
The 30-year-old has offers from Besiktas, Galatasaray and Chinese Super League clubs but a route to remain in the Premier League could be the most tempting.