Former Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova dies after losing cancer fight

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Champion: Vilanova lifted the La Liga title during his spell at the Barca helm.

Former Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova died on Friday at the age of 45 after a prolonged battle against cancer, the club confirmed.

Vilanova was diagnosed with cancer of the salivary gland more than two years ago and was forced to step down as Barcelona boss last July due to ongoing health problems.

"FC Barcelona is sad to inform that Francesc 'Tito' Vilanova Bayo has passed away today at the age of 45," Barcelona said in a statement. 

"The death of our former coach came about this afternoon after he could not overcome the illness he had been fighting since 2011.

"The club wishes to express its deep condolences to his family, with whom we share this painful moment along with the club members, fans and the whole world of football and sport."

Barcelona also announced that a space will be opened at their Camp Nou stadium for those willing to pay their respects over the next few days.

Vilanova first had a tumour removed from his throat in November 2011 whilst still working as an assistant to Pep Guardiola at the Spanish giants, but returned to coaching duties in March the following year.

He then went on to succeed Guardiola as head coach of the Catalans after the latter decided to step down at the end of the 2011/12 season.

However, after an amazing start to his first senior managerial role on the field as Barcelona made the best ever start to a Spanish league campaign, the club was rocked by the news in December 2012 that the cancer had reappeared.

Vilanova had surgery on a salivary gland and then spent two months in New York receiving chemotherapy treatment before returning to the touchline for Barca's Champions League quarter-final tie against Paris Saint-Germain in March.

Having amassed a commanding lead in the first-half of the 2012/2013 season, Barca comfortably went on to to seal their 22nd Spanish league title in May.

But a draining season on and off the pitch seemed to have taken its toll on the squad when they were hammered 7-0 on aggregate by Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals.

Despite that defeat Vilanova continually stressed that he wanted to continue as Barca boss for the upcoming season.

"I feel fine. I have the energy and the desire to continue at the head of the team next season," he said.

But unfortunately his health once again failed him and he agreed to step aside to concentrate on his battle with cancer on July 19, 2013.

Like many of the world's best coaches, Vilanova made it to the top despite not having a distinguished playing career himself.

He started off in Barcelona's ranks as a youth player where he first met Guardiola, but moved on after failing to break into the first team and only very briefly featured in the top flight with Celta Vigo between 1992 and 1995.

After working as a coach and technical director respectively at Catalan sides FC Palafrugell and Terrassa though, Vilanova was called upon by his old friend Guardiola to form part of the coaching staff at Barcelona B after Guardiola had been appointed as manager in 2007.

After a season working with the club's youngsters, Vilanova followed Guardiola as he graduated to first-team boss the next season and was a key part of the side that won 14 trophies over a remarkably successful four-year period.

"I am not looking to compare myself to anyone; I simply want to do my job," said Vilanova when he was officially presented as the new Barca coach in July 2012.

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VIDEO: Giggs’ first press conference as Man Utd manager

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Main man: Giggs' incredible United career has spanned more than 25 years.

Ryan Giggs described his appointment as Manchester United's temporary manager as probably the proudest moment of an illustrious career spent at Old Trafford.

Giggs will take charge of United's remaining four games of the season as the club begin their search for a permanent successor to manager David Moyes, whose dismissal was confirmed on Tuesday.

The 40-year-old will lead the team for first time against relegation-threatened Norwich City at Old Trafford on Saturday, adding another chapter to his remarkable United story, which has seen him become English football's most decorated player in almost 1,000 appearances for the club.

"It's a club I have supported all my life and I've been associated with for 25 years and it's a proud moment for me and one I will enjoy," said Giggs as he addressed his first media conference as a manager.

"I've enjoyed the week and I'm proud more than anything. It's probably the proudest moment of my career and one I'm going to enjoy for the remaining two-and-a-half weeks of the season and bring back some smiles on to the faces of the fans.

"I can't wait for Saturday to come and 5.30pm against Norwich. I know the stadium will be bouncing. The players have been really good in training this week and they are all excited as well.

"Everyone is looking sharp and I just want them to enjoy themselves and give the fans something to smile about in the remaining four games. It's been a frustrating season and I want to end it on a high."

Giggs was previously operating in a player-coach role and although it's not thought he was given much of a brief under Moyes, Giggs expressed his gratitude to the former Everton manager for elevating him to the coaching staff.

"I'd like to thank David for giving me my first chance in coaching," he added. "It was something I'll always remember when he rang me in the summer and asked me to come on board."

Under Moyes, United suffered a dismal season, going from champions in Alex Ferguson's final season in charge to near also-rans in seventh place in the Premier League table.

And even though Giggs, 13 times a Premier League winner and twice a Champions League winner with United, won't be considered for the role permanently, he is determined to restore some of United's lost lustre in the closing weeks of the campaign.

"It's been a frustrating season for everyone. We win together and lose together and in these remaining four games, I want to bring the positivity back," said Giggs, who still considers himself a player and joked that he had used his temporary position of power to award himself a new five-year contract.

"We have three home games at Old Trafford, where the home form hasn't been great, and I want to see goals, tackles, players taking players on and getting the crowd up. I want the passion that should come with being a Manchester United player.

"It's going to be my philosophy and obviously the Manchester United philosophy as I've been here for all my career. I want players to play with passion, speed, tempo and be brave with imagination, all the things that are expected of a Manchester United player: to work hard but, most of all, enjoy it.

"As a player I know if I'm enjoying the game I can express myself a lot more and that's what I'll be doing with the team tomorrow."

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Sport360° view: Popularity never bothered Moyes until now

Andy Lewis 24/04/2014
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Logical conclusion: Moyes had to go after losing the United dressing room.

Football clubs can be unforgiving, occasionally vicious environments, and the stories coming out of Manchester United about the brazen mockery of David Moyes are not as shocking as they may seem.

To a varying degree that culture exists at all clubs, where inside the artificial bubble of the training ground you’ll find plastic bonhomie, remorseless backstabbing, even bullying, and it’s all governed by something akin to the rules of the playground.

At Everton, a foreboding Moyes ruled the club’s Finch Farm complex to the point where young players or non-footballing staff were wary of crossing his path in the corridor.

An intense figure with little time for pleasantries, Moyes entrenched himself at the top, above the vagaries of popularity.

Yet it seems within weeks of his arrival at United, that fearsome veneer had been daubed in clown paint. And make no mistake, it’s the single biggest reason he failed so catastrophically in what was his dream job.

It took him two and a half seasons and Champions League qualification for his authority to become absolute at Everton.

He arrived there aged 38 to manage Paul Gascoigne, David Ginola and Duncan Ferguson – big names, big egos and the sort of characters who didn’t take kindly to being asked to do a few extra laps by old carrot-top from Preston.

At Goodison Park last week his United players delivered an impotent performance that screamed: “Sack him now.”

Back in 2003/04 his Everton side stayed up by the skin of their teeth, then waved a white flag and lost 5-1 at Manchester City on the final day of the season in what could also have been interpreted as a vote of no confidence in the manager.

At the time the Merseyside outfit were troubled, so Moyes was given time to make changes and construct his team. He duly obliged, and finishing fourth the following season with a miniscule budget and a painfully-limited squad remains one of the great managerial feats of the Premier League era.

At United he was never going to get that sort of time, and the thinly veiled contempt of his senior professionals hastened his humiliating demise.

Watching United this year has been excruciating and Moyes’ tactics have rightly been slaughtered. After all, you can only judge what you see on the field.

But while he is clearly no Rinus Michels, the most potent gameplan ever conceived is hardly going to work when your players don’t want to know.

Moyes became a laughing stock and it was seemingly the big hitters among his squad cueing up the punchlines.

It’s not entirely dissimilar to the player-led coup which ousted Andre Villas-Boas from Chelsea in 2012, only perhaps with a little more camouflage.

Like Villas-Boas, Moyes found that his face didn’t fit, and life’s tough in the playground when that’s the case.

It was revealing in a statement released through the LMA on Wednesday that he thanked a lot of people, but not the players.

Five flops who let the side down

It’s pretty clear Man United’s players have underperformed this season, but who let sacked boss David Moyes down the most? Here are five culprits who should hang their heads in shame.

1. Rio Ferdinand
United fans will tell you what a great season Ferdinand had last year. This term he has barely featured, and when he has done, he looked a liability. His biggest impact came when he publicly criticised Moyes and with his cryptic sniping on Twitter.

2. Marouane Fellaini
Moyes’ old ally from Everton has been an unmitigated disaster. The Belgian was brilliant for him at Goodison Park but seems to have forgotten how to play football quicker than you can say £27.5million.

3. Shinji Kagawa
Not trusted by Moyes, most fans would have you believe the Japan star has been wasted by the Scot. The truth is that the poster boy for the anti-Moyes brigade has never performed for United. Five goals and six assists in 56 games.

4. Ashley Young
For those of you with long memories, you may recall a winger at Aston Villa who oozed class – apart from the diving of course. Young looks like a Championship player these days.

5. Tom Cleverley
It’s pretty clear this is a young man with absolutely zero confidence and his game has gotten progressively worse. Based on this season it is mind-blowing to fathom how he ever graduated to international football.

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