Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Is Chicharito the new Solskjaer?

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Former Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said recently it was his dream to take over as manager at Old Trafford one day and if he fulfills it in the foreseeable future, the 39-year old Norwegian could coach a lethal finisher that is almost a carbon copy of himself from his playing days.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez made an immediate impact after joining United in the summer of 2010, helping the club to their 19th league title with more than just a few vital goals.

On Saturday he produced a devastating performance which inspired yet another impressive United comeback this season, scoring a brace and engineering a third after coming off the bench at halftime in their 3-2 win at Aston Villa.

The 24-year old Mexican still has some way to go before he can stand shoulder to shoulder with United’s ultimate super-substitute Solskjaer, who bagged 126 goals in 366 appearances for the club from 1996—2007, none more important than the stoppage time winner in a memorable 2-1 win over Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final.

Van Persie in the hunt for medals, not money

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By Phil O’Connor

As the annual Arsenal transfer soap-opera gets underway, it’s worth wondering why such high-profile players leave one of England’s best clubs every year.

Should Robin van Persie sign for Manchester City, much will be made of their financial muscle, but they are not the only club in England with resources – indeed, Arsenal are one of the richest clubs in the world and could easily afford to offer competitive wages.

City v United is fitting climax to Premier League title race

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Three weeks ago it seemed the Manchester derby would be little more than a dead rubber after City’s 1-0 defeat at Arsenal left champions United eight points clear at the top, in a commanding position to clinch their 20th league title and their fifth in the last six seasons.

But a rollercoaster Premier League title race produced yet another twist after United’s 1-0 loss at lowly Wigan, followed by a rip-roaring 4-4 home draw with Everton in which they threw away a two-goal lead late in the game, let City back into the title race after they had squandered a seven-point lead over United with their own dip in form.

Two trophies may still prove too little for Liverpool

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By Phil O’Connor

Andy Carroll’s winner in the FA Cup semi-final against Everton might have put Liverpool on course for a second trophy, but even if they go on to win the competition it will still represent a poor return for the season.

In most major football nations, the national cup competition comes in a very distant second to the league in terms of importance, but for years England bucked that trend and the FA Cup retained huge prestige.

Could Pardew take Champions League spot and England job from Redknapp?

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By Phil O’Connor

Unheralded and unpopular when he took over at Newcastle United, Alan Pardew has led them into the upper reaches of the English Premier League, and within touching distance of a Champions League place.

The question is whether he can beat Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Redknapp to fourth spot and the last Premier League place in football’s top club competition – and make himself a contender for the England manager’s job at the same time.

English plight in Europe is no fluke

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Anyone who might have assumed the deteriorating form of English clubs in Europe since Manchester United won the 2008 Champions League resulted from a convergence of misfortunate circumstances such as tough draws or mounting injuries to key players has been emphatically refuted.

Come Thursday, the Premier League might be left without a single club to represent it in either the Champions League or the less fancied Europa League, where Manchester rivals City and United were not just beaten but also played off the park last week by rivals many of their fans will have considered second-class opposition.

Is Van Persie the Premier League’s best ever ‘volleyer’?

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By James Illingworth

Robin Van Persie’s stoppage-time winner at Anfield on Saturday was not the most spectacular goal of the Dutchman’s career but it could go some way to confirm his status as the best volleyer the Premier League has seen.

The Arsenal hit-man notched his 31st goal of the season when he latched onto Alex Song’s lofted through-ball to guide a side-footed volley past Jose Reina at the Liverpool stopper’s near post.

Who next for Chelsea hot seat?

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Arguably the hottest of hot seats in soccer is vacant yet again after Chelsea’s ruthless Russian owner Roman Abramovich removed Andre Villas-Boas on Sunday.

The callow Portuguese lasted just 256 days at Stamford Bridge before “the project”, as he usually referred to the task of revitalising the west London club’s ageing squad, was aborted.

Arsenal finally tackling their problems

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By Phil O’Connor

Perhaps stung by criticism from the likes of Patrick Viera and Emmanuel Petit, Arsenal’s stunning 5-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur was built not just on pretty passing but on solid tackling too.

Viera and Petit provided the steel in midfield for Wenger’s first great Arsenal side, and both have recently been critical of their slide towards mid-table mediocrity.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Why Chelsea should keep Andre Villas-Boas

Three Premier League defeats in four games and Champions League last 16 qualification compromised. The last few weeks have been very tough for Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas.

Previous managers Jose Mourinho, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Avram Grant and Carlo Ancelotti were dismissed seemingly for less by ruthless owner Roman Abramovich.

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