Fernandinho hit a deflected equaliser as Manchester City snatched a valuable draw in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against PSG.
City looked to be running into trouble at the Parc des Princes after casually allowing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to cancel out a Kevin De Bruyne strike and falling behind to an Adrien Rabiot tap-in. But after Ibrahimovic continued to atone for an early penalty miss by heading against the bar, Fernandinho took advantage of some poor PSG defending to net a vital second away goal.
It took just 12 seconds for the game’s first flashpoint as David Luiz pulled back Sergio Aguero to earn a booking that rules him out of the second leg. It was a bright start by City and Aguero also shot over before Jesus Navas whipped in a fine cross which David Silva headed wide.
But PSG also looked dangerous and Eliaquim Mangala, who said on the eve of the game he was not scared of the hosts’ formidable front line, was soon in the thick of the action.
The Frenchman had to cut out an early pass meant for Ibrahimovic and then survived a major penalty scare as Blaise Matuidi tumbled in the area after contact. Referee Milorad Mazic was unmoved on that occasion but it was different after 12 minutes as Luiz controlled the ball and then fell over a tackle from Bacary Sagna.
Ibrahimovic stepped up but Joe Hart fully justified his selection after being rushed back from a calf injury by saving to his right.
After riding that storm, City snatched the lead as Fernando seized on a stray pass by Luiz and released Fernandinho. De Bruyne timed his run into the box perfectly and finished expertly after being found by a well-weighted pass.
That put City into a position of strength but it proved fleeting as they conspired to undo a lot of their good work just three minutes later.
Fernando was too casual as he received a Hart pass on the edge of his own box and Ibrahimovic pounced on the Brazilian’s poor touch to equalise.
Matuidi passed up an opportunity to put PSG ahead before receiving a yellow card which will also see him miss the return game.
PSG began to turn up the heat and grabbed the lead on the hour as Rabiot followed up Hart’s save from an Edinson Cavani header to score at the far post – and moments later as Ibrahimovic rattled the bar with a header.
It looked like City might have a long final half hour to hold on – but they managed to level the tie by forcing a PSG error.
Sagna found space down the right and Serge Aurier and Thiago Silva got into a mess trying to clear his cross. Fernandinho took advantage as he fired home, via a big deflection.
That took the sting out of the hosts and City saw out the game to give themselves the edge heading into next Tuesday’s return.
During his glittering 26-year reign as Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson coached some of the biggest names in football.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Peter Schmeichel and Ryan Giggs are just a handful of stars who shone under the Scot.
But there is one player Ferguson has consistently singled out as his best ever signing and the man who would be the first name on the team-sheet in any dream team he were to compile – Denis Irwin.
The full-back could play either right or left, took free-kicks and penalties and, with 529 appearances for the Red Devils, is eighth on the club’s all-time appearance list. He won seven Premier League titles, three FA Cups and a Champions League during his 12 years.
He caught up with Sport360 after holding a Q&A session at the Movenpick Hotel’s West Beach Bistro & Sports Lounge in JBR this week.
Your old club has struggled this season. Do you think boss Louis van Gaal will be at United next season?
When Sir Alex left I always thought Jose Mourinho was a cert. I thought he was a shoo-in
because the job needed someone with big, broad shoulders who can handle it all. We’ve got Louis van Gaal. His record is unbelievable, but I bet he’s found it harder than he thought it was going to be.
His style’s completely different to what United are used to. It’s not the United of old, it’s changed.
I couldn’t tell you if he’s going to go but he’s under pressure. But, if like under David Moyes, we don’t finish in the top four, and he knows it’s a results industry, he knows he’ll be under pressure.
Mourinho’s waiting in the wings but fans worry as he’s not had a great track record with bringing on youngsters. Do you think he’s the right man for United?
There’s a lot of debate about that. The young lads have been great this year but they’ve been thrown into a situation where you wouldn’t really want that many young lads playing in the same side.
Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial will both be great players. Jesse Lingard has done really well and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson looks like a great prospect.
I watch a lot of the Under-21s and I can’t believe it’s taken this long for (Tim) Fosu-Mensah to break through, but I think he’ll be the best of the lot. For me, if Mourinho does come in, he will
appreciate what that’s all about. He’ll understand the United philosophy, of the youth system, the young players coming through.
He will have to understand that and if he does become the manager at some point he will make these players better players.
Ryan Giggs is Van Gaal’s No2, is he also a consideration?
All the ex-players would love Giggsy. Whether the time is right at the moment, I’m not sure. We’ve had a tough three years and I think it needs someone with a bit more experience. As you’ve seen with the Premiership this year, it’s cut-throat, and it would be a baptism of fire for him so I’m not sure now is the right time. Look at what’s happened to Gary Neville (at Valencia).
Ryan might need to be manager somewhere else before he becomes manager of Manchester United, but certainly in the years to come I hope it will be him.
What was your favourite away ground to play at?
Anfield. I used to love playing there. We used to get loads of stick, which is part and parcel of being a Manchester United player. It’s the same for Liverpool players coming to Manchester. You get stick on the bus, 60-year-old men abusing you.
I was there as a fan recently for the Europa League game between the two and although the result wasn’t what we wanted, the atmosphere was unbelievable.
Anfield is a great place to play. It’s the best place to play if you’re a United player. You’re getting absolute dog’s abuse but I didn’t mind it at all, I loved it. The further north you go the more passionate fans are about football.
When I joined United, Liverpool were the top team. They’d won 18 titles. They were the team to beat. They hate us and we hate them, it’s as simple as that. You know in the build-up that it’s a huge game. Man City’s become a big game but Liverpool has always been massive.
Who were your toughest opponents to play against?
John Barnes was a great player in the late 1980s and ‘90s. Wingers come in two categories. The first want to go down the outside and cross it in, or you have the really intelligent ones who are good dribblers, can pass and link up the play. Gheorghe Hagi was a great player, Hristo Stoichkov too, and Georgi Kinkladze. The clever ones take you into areas you don’t want to go.
Fergie was renowned for being strict but it’s well known he was less so with Eric Cantona. What was the Frenchman like?
He was quiet. He’s the one player who the manager would never give the hairdryer treatment to. The best asset he had was man-management. He’d always recognise if a player needed a clip round the ear or an arm around the shoulder.
We used to go to functions and we had to wear suits. Eric would have trainers on and his tie on and the manager would just shrug.
I remember training on the Friday before a match versus Liverpool. Brian McClair, who was actually one of the manager’s favourites, and Eric went into a tackle. There was a big thud and both of them were on the ground. The manager is watching and has a fit. He sprints over, stands all over McClair to get to Eric and ask if he was okay. Eric said ‘yeah’ and trundled away. McClair says ‘don’t worry gaffer, I’m fit for tomorrow as well’. Eric was special. He was the first player I knew who played in between the lines, our first proper No10. Eric was different because he was strong and physical, good in the air and with his feet. He was a great player for us, the final piece of the jigsaw.
The story about Ferguson turning up at a party at Lee Sharpe’s house is legendary. Was he protective of the youngsters?
What he didn’t like was young players going out. Sharpey was a boy and a great player but he liked going out more than Giggsy – but Giggs was far more clever.
A story people might not know is that they were out one day and Sharpey decided to buy a car, so the two of them bought identical cars, Subaru Sports. Next morning Sharpey comes into training first in his Subaru and you can hear it coming in. The manager has a fit, goes out and says to him ‘what the hell are you doing buying that?’. Sharpey’s delighted because he knows Giggs is coming in 10 minutes later, but Giggsy turned up in his battered old Fiesta. He knew exactly what would happen, and that tells you a lot about Sharpey and Giggsy.
The worst kept secret in football was finally revealed Monday as Chelsea announced the appointment of Antonio Conte as their new coach.
Having long been linked with Stamford Bridge, rumours only grew more intense after the former midfielder revealed his intention to step down from as boss of the Italian national team at the end of Euro 2016.
The 46-year-old has led the Azzurri for two years, taking on that role immediately after walking out on Juventus back in June 2014 after three glorious seasons. Winning the Serie A title in each of those campaigns, Conte’s side set a new points record for the Italian top flight (102) and marched undefeated through 2011/12.
Identifying what he will bring to Chelsea is difficult given his previous experience has come solely in his homeland, with a forgettable 14-game stint with Atalanta his only other top flight job besides his glory years with the Bianconeri.
Perhaps the obvious characteristic which would appeal is his relentless drive and ambition, with any player looking for a reassuring arm around their shoulder likely to be given short shrift.
“When Conte speaks, his words assault you,” Andrea Pirlo wrote in his recent autobiography. “They crash through the doors of your mind, often quite violently and settle deep within you. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve found myself saying: ‘Hell, Conte said something really spot-on again today’.”
Conte connects with his squad in a manner reminiscent of his predecessor Jose Mourinho, with numerous players crediting him with transforming their careers, but he is always fully focused on the final score.
Indeed, as Juventus chased that record points tally towards the end of the 2013/14 campaign, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon approached Conte to discuss bonus payments owed to the team.
Conte connects with his squad in a manner reminiscent of his predecessor Jose Mourinho
Despite his standing within the Italian game, the club captain was – according to a book written by Italian journalist Alessandro Alciato – met with an expletive-laden rant from the Coach.
After the swearing stopped, his final words were: “Gigi, you are the captain, you are a disappointment to me as well as all these idiots.”
When his players do finally take to the field, they do so with a meticulously-prepared tactical plan. Conte’s attention to detail draws further comparisons to Mourinho. His preference for the 3-5-2 formation in well-known, but in truth that only became the default framework at Juventus due to the presence of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini as well as the wealth of midfield talent at his disposal.