Alexis Sanchez breaks shirt sales records as Man United release financial figures

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Alexis Sanchez has made a quick impact off the field as well as on it at Old Trafford, with the January signing breaking Manchester United‘s shirt sales and social media records.

The Chilean had long been expected to join Premier League leaders Manchester City as his Arsenal contract ran down, only for Jose Mourinho to swoop in and snaffle the forward last month.

Sanchez joined in a deal that saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan go the other way, and last weekend he marked his Old Trafford debut with a man-of-the-match display and a goal as Huddersfield were beaten 2-0.

The 29-year-old has also made an impact away from the pitch, according to shirt sales and social media figures announced by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward on Thursday.

“Alexis Sanchez has set a new January signing record in terms of shirt sales – three times that previous record,” Woodward said in United’s second quarter 2018 earnings report conference call.

“Last month we further invested in the future of the club by extending Jose Mourinho’s contract and entering into an exchange agreement with Arsenal, swapping Mkhitaryan for Sanchez, strengthening Jose’s attacking options.

A fan wearing Alexis Sanchez' shirt.

A United fan wearing an Alexis Sanchez shirt.

“This trade generated some interesting social media stats.

“It was the biggest United post on Instagram with two millions likes and comments, the most shared United Facebook post ever, the most retweeted United post ever and #Alexis7 was the number one trending topic on Twitter worldwide.

“To put all that into context, the announcement posts generated 75 per cent more interaction than the sale of the world’s most expensive player last summer when Neymar moved from Barcelona to PSG.”

Woodward pointed to United’s “solid business model” as being behind them signing Sanchez and extending Mourinho’s deal, while it was confirmed that the club’s guidance figures are based on reaching the Champions League quarter-finals.

Returning to European football’s top table this season has seen wages rise, with the Red Devils forking out £69.6milion in the second quarter – a 9.4 per cent increase on the previous year.

That is part of the reason behind United’s accounts showing a £29m loss for the period, as is a deferred tax asset impacted by the corporate income tax rate in the United States dropping from 35 per cent to 21 per cent.

United insist it will not affect the club in terms of competitiveness or financial fair play.

An explanation in the club’s financial results read: “This necessitated a re-measurement of the existing US deferred tax position in the period to 31 December 2017.

Old Trafford 1

“As a result the current period tax expense includes a non-cash tax accounting write off of £48.8 million.

“Accordingly, this has resulted in a loss for the period and basic and diluted loss per share for the period.”

United continue to expect revenues for 2018 to be between £575million and £585million – the third successive year they will earn more than half a billion pounds.

Revenue for the second quarter, ending December 31, 2017, is up four per cent to £163.9m from the same period the year before.

United’s net debt is £328.6m – a decrease of £80.7m over the year – while the gross US dollar debt principal remains unchanged.

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Tottenham v Arsenal: Five classic North London Derbies as Harry Kane-led Spurs host the Gunners

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Tottenham host Arsenal on Saturday with crucial Premier League points and local bragging rights on the line – not to mention it will be the first North London Derby league match held at Wembley.

Here, we take a look at five classic derby encounters:

SPURS 2 ARSENAL 1 (Premier League, February 7, 2015)

For many, this was the day Harry Kane came of age. The England forward scored twice as Spurs fought back from a half-time deficit to win and move above Arsenal in the table.

Kane’s second, a towering header four minutes from time, proved a fitting end to a pulsating contest at White Hart Lane.

Kane of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates

Kane comes of age.

ARSENAL 4 SPURS 4 (Premier League, October 29, 2008)

Arsenal and Tottenham shared eight goals in a dramatic encounter at the Emirates Stadium. Former Gunner David Bentley crashed in a stunning early long-range effort to put Spurs ahead.

The Gunners, though, fired straight back to exploit Harry Redknapp’s men at the back as Mikael Silvestre, William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor all scored to seemingly put the hosts in control at 3-1. Darren Bent pulled one back before Robin van Persie looked to have settled the contest with a fourth Arsenal goal after 68 minutes.

However, with 89 minutes on the clock, Jermaine Jenas made it 4-3 to set up a grandstand finale – and there was just enough time left for Aaron Lennon to net a dramatic equaliser to earn Spurs a share of the spoils.

Robin Van Persie

Eight-goal thriller.

SPURS 2 ARSENAL 2 (Premier League, April 25, 2004)

Not content with going on to become the first team in over 120 years to complete a top-flight campaign unbeaten, Arsene Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’ sealed the 2003/04 Premier League title at White Hart Lane.

Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires struck in the first half to put the Gunners in charge.

Although David Pleat’s Spurs side produced a second-half fight back – secured with a last-minute penalty from Robbie Keane – it was not enough to stop their fierce rivals celebrating a famous title success in their own back yard.

Arsenal celebrate

Invincible: Arsenal players secure the title and an unbeaten season.

SPURS 3 ARSENAL 1 (FA Cup semi-final, April 14, 1991)

Played at Wembley, Spurs revelled in an iconic FA Cup semi-final victory over the Gunners, inspired by a stunning long-range free-kick from Paul Gascoigne.

Under George Graham, Arsenal were heading toward their second First Division title in three seasons, and had sights set on the double.

However, Gascoigne set Spurs on their way after only five minutes – letting fly with a sublime 35-yard free-kick which flew into the top right-hand corner past David Seaman.

Spurs eventually won 3-1, Gary Lineker scoring twice. Terry Venables’ men went on to lift the trophy back at Wembley in the FA Cup final against Nottingham Forest, which saw Gascoigne taken off on a stretcher with a serious knee injury.

Paul Gascoigne

Magician: Paul Gascoigne.

SPURS 0 ARSENAL 1 (First Division, May 3, 1971)

Bertie Mee’s side made the short journey to White Hart Lane on the final day of the season knowing victory, or a goalless draw, would see Arsenal win the championship ahead of Leeds – and claim the title for the first time since 1953.

Spurs’ goalkeeper Pat Jennings, later to become a Gunner himself, held the visitors at bay until two minutes from time when he was beaten as Ray Kennedy’s header went in off the underside of the crossbar.

Five days later at Wembley, Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-1 to secure the double.

3rd May 1971

Double delight.

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Chelsea star Eden Hazard says Premier League title defence was always going to be difficult

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Eden Hazard feels it was always going to prove difficult for Chelsea to mount a successful Premier League title defence on their return to Europe.

Blues boss Antonio Conte has found his position under scrutiny in the wake of successive defeats, with Monday’s humiliating 4-1 loss at Watford leaving them 19 points behind leaders Manchester City.

The players are set to return to training at Cobham on Friday after three days off as focus switches to Monday’s league visit of West Brom to Stamford Bridge.

Belgium schemer Hazard accepts it has been a testing season for the Blues, who nevertheless remain in the top four of the Premier League, are through to the FA Cup fifth round and will soon face Barcelona in their Champions League last-16 tie.

“I think the Premier League is difficult. It is hard to win every year,” Hazard told ESPN FC.

“Last year we didn’t have the Champions League. This year we have less time to be ready for the games. Every week there are three games.”

Antonio Conte,

Antonio Conte is a man under pressure after a few tough weeks at Stamford Bridge.

Despite Chelsea’s inconsistencies, Hazard believes the unpredictability of the English top flight – which has recently seen Bournemouth win 3-0 at Stamford Bridge and relegation battlers Swansea defeat both Arsenal and Liverpool – is what makes it such an attractive competition.

“That’s why we love football – if there is only one team that wins it would be boring. That’s why football is special,” the attacking midfielder added.

“You never know what’s going to happen, especially in England.”

Former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique and Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone have both been linked with Conte’s job.

It is understood that there was no board meeting on Tuesday, however, to discuss the manager’s future and the club’s position remains unchanged.

Chelsea are expected to hold a press conference on Friday to preview the West Brom game, and the Italian’s future is likely to again be brought up.

Reports in Spain suggest Enrique is the leading candidate should Chelsea look to make a change at the end of the season, although Conte still has 18 months of his contract to run.

Valverde 2

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has been surprised by criticism of Antonio Conte.

Current Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde, however, cannot see why Conte is facing such speculation, given his achievements after arriving at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2016.

“Chelsea’s head coach is the one who led them to last year’s Premier League title – one of many titles he has won throughout a great career,” Valverde said when the subject was raised at a Barcelona press conference ahead of the Copa del Rey tie at Valencia. “There is not too much to think about.”

The Blues, meanwhile, have confirmed details of a pre-season friendly in Australia against Perth Glory on July 23, shortly after the World Cup final.

Chairman Bruce Buck said on the club’s official website that Chelsea “will be taking a strong squad” for the match at Optus Stadium, with the new Premier League season set to kick off on August 11.

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