Monday, 7 December 2015

Andy Murray: Davis Cup triumph is my most emotional victory

Andy Murray
Andy Murray said securing Britain's first Davis Cup win for 79 years was a more emotional experience than winning Grand Slam titles or Olympic gold.
The British number one beat Belgium's David Goffin in straight sets to give them an unassailable 3-1 lead in Ghent.
Murray, 28, won 11 of 12 points during Britain's first successful campaign since 1936.
"It's an amazing feeling. I imagine it will take a few days before it really sinks in," said the Scot.
"I've been pretty upset having lost matches before but I'd say that's probably the most emotional I've been after a win.
"It's incredible that we managed to win this competition. I didn't know that would ever be possible. It's great."
Route to Davis Cup glory
First roundBeat United States 3-2 at home (indoors)
Quarter-finalsBeat France 3-1 at home (grass)
Semi-finalsBeat Australia 3-2 at home (indoors)
FinalBeat Belgium 3-1 away from home (clay)
Murray was the dominant force for the fourth Davis Cup tie running as he became only the third man after John McEnroe and Mats Wilander to end a campaign with an 8-0 singles record.
He also matched American great Pete Sampras 20 years ago, the last man to win three live rubbers in a final.
"To have won all of the singles matches I played this year is great," Murray said. "I'm glad I was able to help the team. It doesn't happen too often. I'm proud of that."
Leon Smith, Murray's childhood coach, became Davis Cup captain five years ago with the team a play-off away from relegation to the event's lowest tier, and paid tribute to the efforts of his fellow Scot.
Great Britain's last Davis Cup winning team
Great Britain's last victorious Davis Cup team consisted of (left to right) Bunny Austin, Fred Perry, Raymond Tuckey and Pat Hughes. The Davis Cup has added two plinths since 1936
"He's just incredible," said Smith. "But he'll be the first to say that this is a team effort, and rightly so.
"What he's managed to do for this team is astonishing, to post that many wins in one year. He's put his whole body, his whole mind on the line every single time for the team.
"Really it's incredible. We're all grateful and proud of him. I know he'll say it's about the team, but we are really thankful for what he does."

Party like it is 1936

Davis Cup
Leon Smith and Andy Murray won the prestigious Orange Bowl junior event together when Murray was 12
A tight-knit British squad rushed to celebrate with their number one player after a magnificent lob clinched victory.
Kyle Edmund made his debut in the final, while James Ward has been an ever present in Smith's teams and provided a crucial win against the United States in round one, while Dom Inglot added world-class depth to a doubles roster boosted by Jamie Murray enjoying the best year of his career.

'An unbelievable experience'

Davis Cup winners
Jamie Murray posted the above picture on Instagram with the message "Davis Cup Winners 2015!!!"
Jamie Murray: "It's huge for me. By far the biggest achievement in my career. I mean, I've had an amazing season. This is an unbelievable way to cap it off."
James Ward: "Overall it's been a long journey. I was there in the first tie with Leon in Eastbourne and I've been pretty much present in every tie, which has been a great achievement for myself. But to be part of the team as well is an amazing feeling, something that is well-deserved for all of us."
Kyle Edmund: "It's been a really good experience for me, something that I'll learn from. I'm still obviously young. This type of experience on the world stage, it can't get any better. It can only be a positive for me."
Dom Inglot
Dom Inglot was the fifth member of the squad and was left out in favour of James Ward and Kyle Edmund

Victory can drive interest in tennis - LTA

Davis Cup
Great Britain last played Belgium in the Davis Cup in 2012 - losing in Europe/Africa Zone Group I
The Lawn Tennis Association, governing body of tennis in the UK, was criticised for failing to capitalise on Murray's Wimbledon victory in 2013 as participation levels remained an issue.
Murray has said that his job remains delivering success on court, and it is for others to take responsibility for spreading wider interest in the sport.
"These are very, very special and emotional moments that can drive interest in our sport," said LTA chief Michael Downey.
"We've probably got a couple of great weeks of coverage now, and that's going to drive participation. We're hoping this team wins [BBC Sports Personality] Team of the Year later in December, and our team gets to come back to a home tie in Birmingham in March.
"That's the time we want to see the activation hit a high level."

All change in 2016?

Captain Leon Smith lifts the Davis Cup
Captain Leon Smith has won 12 of 14 ties since taking over as Davis Cup captain in 2010
Murray has already said that he will be available for the first-round tie against Japan in March, one month after his wife Kim is due to give birth to their first child.
A victory would secure Britain's World Group status into 2017, and Murray has indicated that a second-round tie - potentially away to Serbia - would prove "very difficult" as it falls after Wimbledon but before the Olympic Games.
It is possible that Aljaz Bedene, the Slovenia-born world number 45, will be available for that tie as Downey is "cautiously optimistic" the 26-year-old will be deemed eligible to represent Great Britain in a tribunal next March.
The other questions surround the future of Smith, the 39-year-old who has guided Britain from the brink of the Davis Cup fourth tier to champions within five years.
More on Great Britain's triumph
Watch the moment Britain won the Davis Cup
Team can inspire a generation
Inspired by Britain's win? Find out how to get into tennis
Asked if the Scot would be staying on, Downey said: "I sure hope so." He added: "He's a very, very special young man, and I really believe Leon is the world's best Davis Cup captain, and has been for a while."
As for the man himself, Smith was keen to just enjoy a moment he admitted he could scarcely believe had come to pass.
"We'll just soak up the next couple of days as a team together, really enjoy it, then we'll see what happens after that," said Smith.
"But it's really not important. Just now what's important is what's been achieved. It's monumental."
Davis Cup
Andy Murray has won 27 of the 29 Davis Cup singles rubbers he has played in during his career

Davis Cup 2015: How GB captain Leon Smith masterminded victory

PHOTO: British tennis player Andy Murray poses with the 2013 Wimbledon trophy at the All England Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 8, 2013.
The first point of Leon Smith's reign as Davis Cup captain was scored by Jamie Baker in Eastbourne in July 2010. His opponent was Turkey's world number 866 Ergun Zorlu.
Great Britain won every match that week to avoid dropping into the competition's fourth division, but the top tier World Group - let alone the giant sterling silver cup which Dwight Davis lent his name to in 1900 - was a distant dream.
Smith was 34 when he took over the captaincy from John Lloyd. Greg Rusedski had appeared an obvious choice - with 30 wins from 20 Davis Cup ties and a Grand Slam final on his resume - but the Lawn Tennis Association preferred the Scotsman who had spent five years coaching Andy Murray as a junior.

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The news came as quite a surprise to Smith himself. He had been good enough to play junior tennis at national level, but would not be able to draw on personal playing experience to coax the best out of his Davis cup team.

"And for me that meanLeon Smith and Andy Murray
And for that mean doing a lot more preparation for each tie. That meant scouting the opponents to make sure that every detail was accounted for.
"We had to try and do something with the ranking deficits we were up against. You've got quite a lot of practice sessions in a week: you've got time on your hands with two sessions a day, every day, so rather than just hit balls we thought let's make sure we try and coach them.

Smith drafted Louis Cayer onto the coaching team, a man he describes as "much, much, much more" than a doubles specialist and someone with the experience of both coaching and captaining Canada's Davis Cup team.
And he also hit the road - shrugging off the nickname of 'permatan' - to spend as much time as possible with the players and their coaches: in a bid to discover the language they would best respond to on the practice court and in the chair, in the heat of competition.
Smith's other great attribute is his relationship with Andy Murray. Andy's mother Judy entrusted her son's formative years to Smith when he was just 21 years of age.
"He was very different back then," Andy Murray recalled before last year's quarter-final tie against Italy in Naples.
"He was a little bit bigger and had a little hoop earring. No, no it was a stud. And some blond highlights in there, and spiky hair."
Smith knew Murray would eventually return to the team, and after Colin Fleming, Jonny Marray, James Ward and Dan Evans had engineered the unlikeliest of comebacks to beat Russia in Coventry in April 2013, the moment arrived.
Murray rejoined the team, Croatia were beaten in Umag, and Britain returned to the World Group.
More on Great Britain's triumph
Watch the moment Britain won the Davis Cup
My most emotional win - Murray
Team can inspire a generation
Inspired by Britain's win? Find out how to get into tennis
Smith has a strong sense of loyalty to all 12 players he has selected since 2010, but the choice of personnel for each tie is made dispassionately. Form is the greatest influence, but when the options are limited, his gut feeling has rarely, if ever, let him down.
Dom Inglot was the unlucky man to drop out of the squad on the eve of the final in Belgium, but says the captain is a man you really want to play for.
"He keeps the team really relaxed, he doesn't seem to have any sort of ego and he can make fun of himself," said Inglot.
Britain's route to Davis Cup glory
First roundBeat United States 3-2 at home (indoors)
Quarter-finalsBeat France 3-1 at home (grass)
Semi-finalsBeat Australia 3-2 at home (indoors)
FinalBeat Belgium 3-1 away from home (clay)
"And you feel like every member of the team is equally important. As a player you want to play for someone like that - someone who really treasures your input no matter if it's on the bench or on the court."
A successful defence of the Davis Cup, which starts with a home tie against Japan in March, would be an even more remarkable achievement in a year where the Olympic Games will prevent Andy Murray, and many others, from playing in all of the ties. So what does the future hold for Smith?
He has so far deftly ducked questions about his future - and about becoming a Knight of the Realm. Coaching full-time on the ATP Tour would no doubt appeal, but that is a huge commitment to make as the father of three young children.
Leon Smith (right) and James Ward in 2010
Smith steered GB to a 5-0 win in their Europe/Africa Zone Group II relegation tie against Turkey in 2010
A role as Scotland's national coach is one he would covet, but other offers may come from further afield.
It would be deserved recognition for the meticulous planning and canny execution of a project which began on a hot weekend in Eastbourne some five and a half years ago.

Tennis; Johanna Konta says cut in funding could have checked progress

Jo Konta
British number one Johanna Konta says cuts to her Lawn Tennis Association funding put her career at risk.
She spoke out after Andy Murray said talking to the LTA about the future of British tennis was a waste of his time.
Konta has risen more than 100 places to 48th in the world rankings since the LTA reduced her funding last December.
"If anyone's livelihood, career or dreams are jeopardised, I don't think that is ever a healthy position to be in," she told BBC Sport.
Men's world number two Murray made his criticisms of the LTA after he inspired Great Britain to win the Davis Cup for the first time in 79 years with victory over Belgium last weekend.
Konta reached the last 16 of this year's US Open, but does not believe she was driven to that success by the cut in her funding.
She said: "The success that followed after that is because of the people I had around me.
"My coaches made a decision to stick by me and to continue our work and they sheltered me from a lot of the issues that were going on.
"I think if I hadn't had my support system, then nothing would have happened - none of the results would have come."
However, Sydney-born Konta said she was grateful for the support the LTA has offered since she became a British citizen in 2012, adding that she was encouraged by the appointment of interim performance director Peter Keen, who formerly worked for British Cycling and UK Sport.
"It's no secret that I've had my own challenges and my own ups and downs with them, but it's also not a secret that I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for their support throughout the years," she said.
"I'm very excited about Peter Keen coming on board. I think he is very, very good at what he does. He talks a lot of performance-minded sense."
Konta has been working with Esteban Carril and Jose-Manuel Garcia since August 2014, and is thankful for the faith they showed when it appeared it might no longer be financially viable to keep coaching her.
The 24-year-old switched her training base to Gijon in northern Spain earlier this year, but has been preparing for the new season at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton this week.
When Murray spoke out, he bemoaned the lack of players using the courts at the centre, which was opened at a cost of £40m in 2007.
"Recently I've seen a lot of young kids around," Konta said.
"But there are times when I think it is too quiet for such a magnificent facility, and it would be nice to see these courts filled with more players."

Ronnie O'Sullivan will not defend UK Snooker Championship title

Ronnie O'Sullivan
Ronnie O'Sullivan will not be defending his UK Snooker Championship title in York in November.
The deadline to enter the tournament, which begins on 24 November, was 28 October, but the 39-year-old five-time world champion has declined to enter.
He has not played in a competitive match since losing 13-9 to Stuart Bingham in the quarter-finals of the World Championship in April.
O'Sullivan beat Judd Trump 10-9 in last year's final to win his fifth UK title.
This month, O'Sullivan also announced he would not be defending his title at the Champion of Champions event in Coventry, which begins on 10 November.
The UK Championship is broadcast live by the BBC and is one of snooker's 'Triple Crown' events, along with the Masters and the World Championship.
O'Sullivan's withdrawal will disappoint many fans of the popular competition, which is staged at the Barbican Centre.
A spokesman from World Snooker, the sport's governing body, said they were still expecting "a great event" and that ticket sales were "extremely good".

UK Championship 2015: Complete results

Snooker balls and swan neck rest

Final (best of 19 frames)

Sunday, 6 December
Neil Robertson (Aus) 10-5 Liang Wenbo (Chn)
71-40, 69-16 (60), 0-110 (110), 106-6 (106), 59-62, 151-0 (147), 69-33 (69), 0-86 (86), 27-90 (82), 78-47 (78), 74-15, 1-78 (78), 70-35 (56), 59-55, 62-9

Previous results

Saturday, 5 December
Semi-finals (best of 11 frames)
Neil Robertson (Aus) 6-0 Mark Selby (Eng)
60-52 (52), 69-55 (68 Robertson, 55 Selby), 78-26 (53), 73-20, 60-53, 58-54
Liang Wenbo (Chn) 6-4 David Grace (Eng)
61-55, 9-85, 41-93 (52), 0-76, 110-12 (110), 6-75, 58-9, 75-8, 71-20 (50), 67-55

Friday, 4 December

Quarter-finals (best of 11 frames)
Liang Wenbo (Chn) 6-5 Marco Fu (HK)
106-19 (106), 132-5 (132), 138-0 (138), 49-65 (64), 9-58, 80-11, 87-32, 45-79 (79), 23-68, 0-72, 84-21
Neil Robertson (Aus) 6-5 John Higgins (Sco)
9-119 (119), 71-47, 106-0 (106), 130-0 (59, 71), 56-1 (56), 0-120 (69), 1-134 (134), 72-12, 0-134 (134), 22-73 (66), 73-1
David Grace (Eng) 6-5 Martin Gould (Eng)
49-63, 74-18 (74), 0-125 (125), 15-62, 8-127 (127), 8-115 (72), 62-53 (Grace 50), 78-45, 69-5, 72-19, 81-59
Matthew Selt (Eng) 1-6 Mark Selby (Eng)
60-73, 10-80 (63), 87-0 (83), 56-72, 5-92 (60), 8-67 (62), 0-73 (72)

Thursday, 3 December

Fourth round (best of 11 frames)
Martin Gould (Eng) 6-3 Joe Swail (NI)
Jamie Burnett (Sco) 4-6 John Higgins (Sco)
Liang Wenbo (Chn) 6-5 Tom Ford (Eng)
Neil Robertson (Aus) 6-1 Stephen Maguire (Sco)

Wednesday, 2 December

Fourth round (best of 11 frames)
Luca Brecel (Bel) 4-6 Matthew Selt (Eng)
Marco Fu (HK) 6-4 Shaun Murphy (Eng)
Dechawat Poomjaeng (Tha) 1-6 Mark Selby (Eng)
Peter Ebdon (Eng) 2-6 David Grace (Eng)

Tuesday, 1 December

Third round (best of 11 frames)
Martin Gould (Eng) 6-4 Mark Allen (NI)
Tom Ford (Eng) 6-1 Kyren Wilson (Eng)
Ben Woollaston (Eng) 2-6 Shaun Murphy (Eng)
Stephen Maguire (Sco) 6-4 Mark Davis (Eng)
Judd Trump (Eng) 4-6 Liang Wenbo (Chn)
David Gilbert (Eng) 3-5 Marco Fu (HK)
Neil Robertson (Aus) 6-2 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (Tha)
Dechawat Poomjaeng (Tha) 6-5 Mark Joyce (Eng)

Monday, 30 November

Third round (best of 11 frames)
Stuart Bingham (Eng) 3-6 Peter Ebdon (Eng)
Jamie Burnett (Sco) 6-3 Li Hang (Chn)
Allister Carter (Eng) 2-6 John Higgins (Sco)
Robbie Williams (Eng) 3-6 Matthew Selt (Eng)
David Grace (Eng) 6-4 JackLisowski (Eng)
Michael Holt (Eng) 1-6 Joe Swail (NI)
Robin Hull (Fin) 2-6 Luca Brecel (Bel)
Jamie Jones (Wal) 5-6 Mark Selby (Eng)

Sunday, 29 November

Second round (best of 11 frames)
Dominic Dale (Wal) 5-6 Peter Ebdon (Eng)
Fergal O'Brien (Ire) 5-6 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (Tha)
Anthony McGill (Sco) 4-6 Luca Brecel (Bel)
Barry Hawkins (Eng) 3-6 Robin Hull (Fin)
Neil Robertson (Aus) 6-2 Aditya Mehta (Ind)
Robert Milkins (Eng) 2-6 David Grace (Eng)
Xiao Guodong (Chn) 1-6 Jamie Jones (Wal)
Stephen Maguire (Sco) 6-0 Jamie Cope (Eng)
Matthew Selt (Eng) 6-4 Sean O'Sullivan (Eng)
Judd Trump (Eng) 6-3 Stuart Carrington (Eng)
Oliver Lines (Eng) 0-6 Mark Selby (Eng)
Michael Georgiou (Eng) 2-6 Mark Allen (NI)
Daniel Wells (Wal) 3-6 Allister Carter (Eng)
Mark Joyce (Eng) 6-2 Sydney Wilson (Eng)
Chris Wakelin (Eng) 2-6 Michael Holt (Eng)

Saturday 28 November

Second round (best off 11 frames)
Joe Swail (NI) 6-5 Adam Duffy (Eng)
Kyren Wilson (Eng) 6-2 Mike Dunn (Eng)
Gerard Greene (NI) 5-6 David Gilbert (Eng)
Russ Muir (Sco) 5-6 Ben Woollaston (Eng)
Zhou Yuelong (Chn) 1-6 Shaun Murphy (Eng)
Jamie Burnett (Sco) 6-3 Alan McManus (Sco)
Li Hang (Chn) 6-5 Ricky Walden (Eng)
Joe Perry (Eng) 3-6 Robbie Williams (Eng)
Stuart Bingham (Eng) 6-3 Anthony Hamilton (Eng)
Tian Pengfei (Chn) 2-6 John Higgins (Sco)
Mark Williams (Wal) 5-6 Tom Ford (Eng)
Yu De Lu (Chn) 0-6 Marco Fu (HK)
Graeme Dott (Sco) 5-6 Jack Lisowski (Eng)
Mark Davis (Eng) 6-3 Ken Doherty (Ire)
Gary Wilson (Eng) 4-6 Martin Gould (Eng)
Liang Wenbo (Chn) 6-2 Jimmy Robertson (Eng)

Thursday 26 November

First round (best of 11 frames)
Robert Milkins (Eng) 6-0 Vinnie Calabrese (Aus)
Rod Lawler (Eng) 4-6 Daniel Wells (Wal)
Graeme Dott (Sco) 6-2 Nigel Bond (Eng)
Robin Hull (Fin) 6-4 Zhang Anda (Chn)
Barry Hawkins (Eng) 6-5 Andy Hicks (Eng)
Robbie Williams (Eng) 6-3 Mitchell Mann (Eng)
Mark Allen (NI) 6-2 Zhao Xintong (Chn)
Dechawat Poomjaeng (Tha) 6-4 Chris Melling (Eng)
Stuart Bingham (Eng) 6-1 Jordan Brown (NI)
Anthony Hamilton (Eng) 6-4 Peter Lines (Eng)
David Gilbert (Eng) 6-1 Jason Weston (Eng)
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (Tha) 6-3 Darryl Hill (Eng)
Fergal O'Brien (Ire) 6-5 Thor Chuan Leong (Mas)
Kurt Maflin (Nor) 3-6 Sean O'Sullivan (Eng)
Mark Selby (Eng) 6-0 Joe O'Connor (Eng)
Mark Joyce (Eng) 6-4 Barry Pinches (Eng)
Fergal O'Brien (Ire) 6-5 Thor Chuan Leong (Mas)
Mark Joyce (Eng) 6-4 Barry Pinches (Eng)
Kyren Wilson (Eng) 6-3 Paul S Davison (Eng)
Dominic Dale (Wal) 6-0 Michael Wild (Eng)
Neil Robertson (Aus) 6-3 Alex Taubman (Wal)
Luca Brecel (Bel) 6-1 Hossein Vafaei Ayouri (Irn)
Stephen Maguire (Sco) 6-5 Jimmy White (Eng)
Xiao Guodong (Chn) 6-5 Noppon Saengkam (Tha)
Matthew Selt (Eng) 6-5 Zhang Yong (Chn)
Cao Yupeng (Chn) 2-6 Oliver Lines (Eng)

Wednesday 25 November

First round results (best of 11 frames)
Michael Holt (Eng) 6-4 Fraser Patrick (Sco)
Jimmy Robertson (Eng) 6-4 Lu Ning (Chn)
Mark Williams (Wal) 6-4 Hamza Akbar (Pkn)
Mike Dunn (Eng) 6-3 Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon (Tha)
Ricky Walden (Eng) 6-1 Itaro Santos (Brz)
Gerard Greene (NI) 6-0 Michael Leslie (Sco)
Ryan Day (Wal) 6-1 Duane Jones (Wal)
Zhou Yuelong (Chn) 6-3 Craig Steadman (Eng)
Shaun Murphy (Eng) 6-1 Ashley Hugill (Eng)
Peter Ebdon (Eng) 6-0 Lyu Chenwei (Chn)
Rory McLeod (Eng) 5-6 Jamie Cope (Eng)
Yu Delu (Chn) 6-2 Michael Wasley (Eng)
Allister Carter (Eng) 6-4 Alfie Burden (Eng)
Mark King (Eng) 5-6 Ross Muir (Sco)
Joe Perry (Eng) 6-1 James Wattana (Tha)
Jamie Burnett (Sco) 6-1 Sanderson Lam (Eng)
Judd Trump (Eng) 6-1 Hammad Miah (Eng)
Matthew Stevens (Wal) 5-6 Chris Wakelin (Eng)
Marco Fu (HK) 6-2 Hatem Yassen (Egy)
Aditya Mehta (Ind) 6-5 Sam Baird (Eng)
Ben Woollaston (Eng) 6-1 Steven Hallworth (Eng)
Li Hang (Chn ) 6-5 Lee Walker (Wal)
Alan McManus (Sco) 6-5 Eden Sharav (Sco)
Tian Pengfei (Chn) 6-1 Ian Burns (Eng)

Tuesday 24 November

First round results (best of 11 frames)
Mark Davis (Eng) 6-1 Rhys Clark (Sco)
Andrew Higginson (Eng) 1-6 David Grace (Eng)
John Higgins (Sco) 6-1 Leo Fernandez (Ire)
David Morris (Ire) 5-6 Michael Georgiou (Eng)
Martin Gould (Eng) 6-2 Allan Taylor (Eng)
Stuart Carrington (Eng) 6-4 Liam Highfield (Eng)
Jamie Jones (Wal) 6-4 Ian Glover (Eng)
Ken Doherty (Ire) 6-0 Tony Drago (Mlt)
Ding Junhui (Chn) 2-6 Adam Duffy (Eng)
Jack Lisowski (Eng) 6-4 Zak Surety (Eng)
Liang Wenbo (Chn) 6-1 Gareth Allen (Wal)
Gary Wilson (Eng) 6-3 Martin O'Donnell (Eng)
Anthony McGill (Sco) 6-3 James Cahill (Eng)
Joe Swail (Eng ) 6-0 Joel Walker (Eng)
Michael White (Wal) 5-6 Sydney Wilson (Eng)
Tom Ford (Eng) 6-1 Scott Donaldson (Sco)

Snooker; Neil Robertson makes 147 and wins title

Neil Robertson
Neil Robertson became the first player to make a maximum 147 break in a UK Championship final on his way to beating Liang Wenbo 10-5.
The Australian made the perfect break in the sixth frame of the match in York - the third 147 of his career.
The pair traded century breaks in the first session leaving Robertson with a 5-3 advantage at the interval.
The next four frames were shared to make it 7-5, but Robertson won three in a row to take the title.

'It was about digging in'

"As a kid, you always want to make a 147 on the BBC so it was a dream come true," Robertson, who claimed the 11th ranking title of his career and second UK triumph, told BBC Sport.
"In the end, it was about digging in and nicking frames."
The final featured two left-handers with contrasting personalities; the measured world number three Robertson and his eccentric Chinese opponent, who frequently played to the crowd and often slapped himself in the face.
Surprise finalist Liang, who moved into the top 16 by reaching the final, added: "There was pressure and I don't know why, I didn't concentrate. The pressure shots I didn't play very well."

The magnificent maximum

Having seen Thailand's Thepchaiya Un-Nooh miss the final black on a maximum effort earlier in the tournament, Robertson went one better.
He needed to disturb a cluster of three reds to keep the break going and then kept his cool to pot the pink with the rest, before punching the air as he sunk the final black
Out of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue.
Four-time UK champion Steve Davis described the break as "absolutely fantastic".
"It was a clinical break early on, he picked the balls off nicely," added Davis. "Doing it in a big final is a marvellous achievement."

How the match unfolded

Robertson took the first two frames but Liang soon settled in the match with a 110. The pair traded frames as the Aussie led 3-2, before compiling his brilliant 147 break.
The 2013 UK champion also took the next frame, but Liang hit back with a composed 86 to trail 5-3 after the first session.
The man from China reduced the deficit further with an 82 but Robertson responded with a break of 78 and also took the next to lead 7-4.
Liang showed his battling qualities to take the 12th frame, but it was all Robertson from then on.

Social media reaction

Five things Gary Neville learned from Valencia's dramatic draw with Barca

Five things Gary Neville learned from Valencia's dramatic draw with Barca
Los Che's new boss wasn't in charge yet against Luis Enrique's side, but he will have been impressed as his team battled back to snatch a point in the 85th minute
Gary Neville must have been happy with that. Valencia’s new coach doesn’t take charge of his new side until Sunday morning, but he was in the stands as los Che fought back from a goal down to snatch a point from league leaders Barcelona.

Luis Enrique's side were in the ascendency for large parts of the encounter and took the lead through Luis Suarez in the second half. However, there was plenty of spirit and fight to Valencia’s performance and they were rewarded when Santi Mina fired in an 85th minute equaliser.

Next up is a vital Champions League game against Lyon on Wednesday, by which time Neville will have taken his place on Mestalla's bench. In the meantime, though, Goal takes a look at what he will have learned from Saturday’s draw against Lionel Messi and his Barca colleagues...


When Mina’s late strike flew past Claudio Bravo, the whole city of Valencia must have erupted as Mestalla did. However, there have not been enough goals for the club to celebrate so far this season.

They have only scored 18 times in 14 league matches - a goalscoring rate which will not be enough if they want to push for a Champions League spot.

Only three players have struck more than once in La Liga - and one of them is injured defender Shkodran Mustafi. Paco Alcacer, who set up Mina with a wonderful display of strength against Barca, has six strikes but he can still add more.

Meanwhile the likes of Alvaro Negredo and Rodrigo Moreno - who both missed this game - will have to contribute as well.


Two players in particular may have impressed Neville on Saturday: Rodrigo De Paul and Danilo.

De Paul was making just his third start of the season and his first since August, but it didn’t tell. He had the confidence, the touch and the quality to get at Barcelona’s back-line.

Problems with recently-sacked coach Nuno Espirito Santo saw him left in the dark - Neville’s appointment looks like it will provide the 21-year-old Argentine forward with the lease of life he needs.

Elsewhere in midfield, Danilo’s performance belied his age. Considering he was up against a Barca trio of Andres Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets, the 19-year-old really impressed.


It’s amazing what a lick of paint does. Delays on finishing their new stadium meant Valencia’s previously-dour Mestalla got treated to a dash of colour last season - now bright orange, it certainly feels more like a home.

On top of that, Mestalla has the support to match its vibrancy. Thousands of Valencia fans lined the streets to welcome the team bus before the match, with flares and chanting greeting Neville’s new players.

Inside they got behind their team - and got on Barca’s backs, especially Gerard Pique. With the fans on side, Mestalla is one of Europe’s toughest places to visit.

It will have been a nice reminder for Neville, given he said as much in his presentation on Thursday. “When I played here it was a horrible place to play football,” he remarked. “I have seen how intimidating it can be, I’ve experienced it myself and I want the fans to come back and to be as ferocious as they were against us all those years ago.”


The scoreline perhaps didn’t reflect the pattern of the game - not that Neville will be complaining.

Messi, Suarez and Neymar were in a charitable mood, with all three guilty of missing chances they would normally convert in the first half.

In the end Suarez’s goal - the 126th of an incredible calendar year from Barca’s front three - looked like it would settle the game, only for Mina to strike at the death.

But Neville, who will no doubt be impressed by the performance, won’t be fooled by the result. Valencia might have competed, but there was a clear void of quality to be seen.


A point against this Barcelona team is a huge confidence boost - something which Neville already mentioned has been lacking in the squad this season.

This is a Barca side who, in recent weeks, battered Real Madrid 4-0 at their own ground, scored six times against Roma and put four past Real Sociedad.

But even if they can’t compete with the Catalan juggernaut, Valencia should back themselves to move up the table having started the weekend in ninth place.

Liverpool defeat NOT a sign they can’t challenge for title

Jurgen Klopp: Greets Adam Lallana after Liverpool's defeat at Newcastle United
Liverpool were deservedly beaten by Newcastle United on Sunday, but it is still impossible to say whether Jurgen Klopp’s side are Premier League title contenders.
This result will be billed by some as one which should bring Liverpool back down to earth following talk of a Premier League challenge.
The reality, however, is that few associated with Liverpool, certainly not Jurgen Klopp, had been encouraging such talk. Just 11 games into the German’s reign, as impressive as some of their performances have been, it was always too early to start talking about the Reds as title contenders.
However, it’s no less knee-jerk to suggest that Liverpool’s 2-0 defeat at St James’ Park is evidence that they cannot win the title this season, especially on a weekend which saw Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham also fail to win.
There are question marks about all of the teams currently above Liverpool. Have Leicester City been seriously tested yet? Can Arsenal and Manchester City cope in the absence of key players? Will Manchester United score enough goals? Are Tottenham drawing too many games? Such is the nature of this season’s Premier League that it is hard to feel confident about any team’s chances at the top.
Liverpool’s second defeat under Klopp was a reminder that they too have deficiencies, but it would take a clairvoyant in this crazy season to predict the make-up of the top six.
Report: Wijnaldum earns Newcastle deserved win over Liverpool
Klopp: Better to lose a bad game than a good one
McClaren: Good luck comes with hard work for Newcastle
However, although it is difficult to draw any great conclusions from this weekend, Liverpool’s lack of energy in the North East was noticeable. They made six changes from the team that thrashed Southampton 6-1 in the Capital One Cup in midweek yet never managed to build any serious momentum and were actually outrun by a Newcastle side that had been accused in the build-up to the game of not trying hard enough this season.
Hard work beats talent, as the saying goes, but on a day that Liverpool’s efforts were matched, they lacked the quality to pick up any points. Frankly, in a game alarmingly short on quality, Newcastle were the better of two poor sides, but their win was nevertheless thoroughly deserved.
Furthermore, the fine late finish by Georginio Wijnaldum to confirm the three points was a reminder that there is enough quality within their squad to pull well clear of the relegation zone.
Why they have struggled so much is a question perhaps only answerable from within the dressing room, but this result should give them the confidence to produce the sort of performances they are capable of and have shown signs of at fleeting moments of this season.
Thankfully for Liverpool, Klopp, as philosophical as ever, is not a manager that will overreact to one bad performance. “A few days ago we were brilliant, today we were not good,” he succinctly summed up after the game.
Sometimes, in an era of over-analysis, knee-jerk reactions and constantly-altering predictions, the simplest explanation is also the right one.
Liverpool did not play well, but that does not mean they will not play well in their next game. Newcastle were not fantastic themselves, but they were better than they have been recently. If they show the same level of commitment in every game, they should be fine, but in football there are no guarantees.

The Great Debate: Martins or Ighalo to start for Nigeria?

Odion Ighalo Obafemi Martins HP Sportmasta ask which Super Eagles striker should lead the line for Sunday Oliseh’s side against Swaziland
Sportmasta ask which Super Eagles striker should lead the line for Sunday Oliseh’s side against Swaziland
Looking ahead to the bout against Swaziland, two of Goal’s finest debate whether Martins’ return should be marked with a starting berth, or whether Ighalo should lead the line once again.
Martins must start

You don’t ask a 31-year-old man to fly an astonishing 7678 miles across the Atlantic (to Abuja) only to leave him on the bench in a crucial World Cup qualifier away from home!
Now, if that’s not enough reason to give him the nod over Odion Ighalo (who, just in case you are wondering, flew a meagre 3118.96 miles to Lagos), then here is more.
It is expected that Sunday Oliseh’s men will play cautiously on Friday, owning to the hostility that could arise in faraway Lobambo, Swaziland. Any other approach would perhaps be considered an unnecessary risk.
The tact is simple (and wise): Sit back, soak in pressure and, with every opportunity, hit back with a blinding counter-attack that should see the ball end up at the back of the net, or at least test the goal-keeper.
To this regard, Ighalo’s strengths may not be ideal as the first option against the Sihlangu Semnikati of Swaziland, who will know the importance of making the most of home advantage before the return to Nigeria.
And that’s why the devastating pace and trickery of the Lagos-born goal-machine comes in handy. See his debut goal against Ireland in 2004.
His ability to leave defenders in his stride, as well as maximizing pockets of space to the greatest possible capacity makes him the ideal choice to lead the line for the Super Eagles.

After more than two years in international wilderness, the Seattle Sounders forward needs no extra motivation to give 110% for the team. And at 31, knowing full well that his time in the international scene is coming to a closure, he is certainly wiser and calmer.
The hot-headedness associated with youngsters, who may put the team’s aspiration in jeopardy with a bizarre moment of madness, cannot be attributed to him; a crucial mental disposition required for such a delicate assignment.
Having been around the block for over a decade, his wealth of experience will be beneficial to the team on and off the pitch in this double-legged encounter.
Ahmed Musa may be the captain but Martins can provide a more compelling voice when the going gets tough.
His 18 goals in 40 appearances for Nigeria may not turn heads but his current form in Major League Soccer has been nothing short of impressive. Five goals and two assists in his last 10 games paints the picture perfectly.
In Martins, the Eagles have a lethal weapon of mass destruction, which can be used to devastating effect.
In truth, Harris Bulunga and his team wouldn’t know what hit them until after the final whistle.
They don’t call him ‘Obagoal’ for nothing!
Follow James Ezimoha on  
Forget Nostalgia, Ighalo must start

There has been very little continuity in the Super Eagles dugout since Obafemi Martins made his international debut in 2004, decimating Ireland with pace and daring. With successive managers electing to rip up the script and espouse a nebulous building agenda, the Seattle Sounders man is set for what is essentially another debut.
We can have no idea how he fits into the frame that coach Sunday Oliseh is designing, postulations aside. In backing an out-of-sorts Emmanuel Emenike for so long, we can deduce that the gaffer favours a hard, aggressive runner and grafter.

Player Ranking — Barclays Premier League

1Jamie Vardy15Leicester City14
2Romelu Lukaku14Everton10
3Riyad Mahrez14Leicester City10
4Odion Ighalo15Watford9
5Harry Kane15Tottenham Hotspur8
6Olivier Giroud15Arsenal8
7Georginio Wijnaldum15Newcastle United7
8Sergio Agüero10Manchester City7
9Ross Barkley14Everton6
10André Ayew15Swansea City6
If this sounds like Martins, then permit me to break it to you: your head is stuck in the mid-2000s. Like all living things, time has worn down the impressive ‘Weapon of Mass Destruction’; while he still possesses considerable locomotion, it comes only in spurts, a little here, a little there.
It would be the height of desperation to entrust the lead attacking role to Martins. Swaziland, by virtue of their modest standing, might not be the slipperiest of customers, but the Super Eagles need to get a goal away in order to make the home leg a less troublesome proposition. With seven Premier League goals this season, there is none more qualified than Watford’s Odion Ighalo.

Ighalo | Enjoying a remarkable goalscoring run
He has been content with cameo roles so far, and notched his first goal of the Oliseh regime with a deft glancing header against Cameroon. It is only natural that, having proven himself faithful in little, he be entrusted with much. It is the healthy approach for squad harmony, it is the prudent choice in a potentially tricky two-legged World Cup play-off.
Let’s leave off the nostalgia trip till the job at hand is completed. Even at the peak of his powers, Martins’ debut came in a friendly. Perhaps those games versus DR Congo and Cameroon were the right time to give him a run. Opportunity missed. It would be a mistake to remedy that with a starting berth on Friday.
Stephen Keshi, the very definition of cold practicality, found this out the hard way, recalling Martins in 2013 for a crucial World Cup qualifier in Port Harcourt against Kenya. Thankfully, his side salvaged a late point; so out of tune with the rest of the side was the 31-year-old that the team struggled to muster any meaningful attacking actions with him at the tip. Mind, this was in a round robin format, with relative room for error compared to a two-legged play-off.
Nigeria no longer have the luxury of being able to look down on certain nations.
As Tanzania showed in Oliseh’s first game, you need you A-game at all times, even on the African continent. Anything less, and you’re asking to become an unflattering statistic. The unpreparedness of the giants is the avenue within which nations, hitherto referred to as minnows, seek to play.
The safe option, in this case, is really the only logical one.

McClaren: Good luck comes with hard work for Newcastle

Steve McClaren: Praised Newcastle United's work rate against Liverpool
Steve McClaren felt hard work was the key to Newcastle United’s 2-0 Premier League win over Liverpool at St James’ Park on Sunday.
Georginio Wijnaldum had a shot deflected in off Martin Skrtel in the 69th minute before adding a second in stoppage time to earn the Magpies only their third league win of the season.
McClaren was delighted with the three points and felt they were well deserved following a tough period.
He told Sky Sports 1: “That’s what you have to do to win a game in the Premier League. You’ve got to work really hard and crawl back into the dressing room and that’s what they’ve done, every time we’ve won and got a result – that’s what they’ve done.
“Now we need to maintain that and they’ve just proved the harder you work, the luckier you get.
“We stayed in the game. At the start you could see a lack of confidence but we grew into the game and I thought we deserved to win.
“What we’ve been through in the last few weeks – they (the players) have to learn from that – to take the knocks and the hits and come back with performances like that.
“Even the supporters were growing into the game and we were gradually turning them around. Normally we don’t start second halves very well, but we started the second half really well and we were a big threat.”
Man-of-the-match Wijnaldum was pleased to follow up last weekend’s 5-1 thrashing at Crystal Palace with three points here.
He said: “We have had a few difficult weeks and we had to recover after last week because the performance was not so good. We trained hard together and tried to keep the confidence and it worked.
“It’s difficult to win games….but we gave everything in the end and then you can be proud because there’s no regrets – and that’s what we did here.
“We fought to win the game and we were lucky that we won. We worked hard, especially in the first half, we worked hard together .”

Ighalo: Watford will push up the EPL log

Having silenced Norwich on Saturday, the forward has disclosed that his side will continue their push northward on the English topflight table
Watford’s Odion Ighalo has said his side will now push upper on the English Premier League log after defeating Norwich City 2-0 on Saturday.
The Nigerian scored in injury time after being denied severally by goalkeeper Declan Rudd to double Troy Deeney’s opener from the penalty spot to hand his side a valuable win.
Ighalo who boasts of nine goals from 15 league matches this season though expressed his frustration not netting more than once, but claimed Quique Sanchez Flores's side are now looking up the table.
“We really deserved the win because we played really well from the first minute until the last," he told BBC Sport.
 "We are now going to push higher up the table but [Saturday] is gone.
"I was a bit frustrated because I had a chance to score two or three goals, but that is football. The important thing is the team performance.
“We are very happy with the three points and we want to keep going,” he concluded.

Newcastle United 2 Liverpool 0: Stats from St James’

Steve McClaren: Congratulates Georginio Wijnaldum after Newcastle United's win over Liverpool
Georginio Wijnaldum was the headline maker as Newcastle United claimed a 2-0 win over Liverpool at St James’ Park on Sunday.
Wijnaldum had a shot deflected in off Martin Skrtel in the 69th minute before adding a second in stoppage time as Newcastle claimed only their third Premier League win of the season and Liverpool lost for the only the second time in 12 games under Jurgen Klopp.
Report: Wijnaldum earns Newcastle deserved win over Liverpool
Analysis: Liverpool defeat NOT a sign they can’t challenge for title
Klopp: Better to lose a bad game than a good one
McClaren: Good luck comes with hard work for Newcastle

Opta stats

Newcastle have won four of their last six home Premier League matches against Liverpool (D1 L1), including the last two in a row.
The Magpies netted as many goals in this game versus Liverpool (2) as they had in their last five Premier League games combined.
This game saw the joint-fewest number of total shots on target in a Premier League game this season (2) – level with Man Utd v Man City and Liverpool v Swansea.
All seven of Georginio Wijnaldum’s Premier League goals for Newcastle have arrived at St. James’ Park.
Wijnaldum has now been involved in 56% of Newcastle’s PL goals this season (9/16), only Idion Ighalo (65%) has scored or assisted a higher share of his team’s goals.
Martin Skrtel now has seven Premier League own goals – only Richard Dunne (10) has more (Jamie Carragher also has 7).
Indeed, no player has scored more own goals for a single Premier League team than Skrtel (7, level with Carragher).
Fabricio Coloccini made his 200th Premier League appearance. Only one other Argentinean (Carlos Tevez – 202) has bettered this milestone in the competition.

Champions League fate is in Arsenal's hands - Ramsey

Champions League fate is in Arsenal's hands - Ramsey The Gunners must beat Olympiacos by two clear goals or score at least three times to have a chance of qualification and the Welshman is hopeful of gaining a result

Aaron Ramsey insists that Arsenal's Champions League fate is in their own hands as they prepare to face Olympiacos in their final group game.

The Gunners are three points adrift of the second-placed Greek side and must win by either two clear goals or score at least three times on Wednesday to give themselves a chance of finishing in the top two in Group F.

Ramsey, whose side lost their opening two fixtures in the group, believes that his side will create opportunities and has urged his team-mates to turn in the performance required of them.

"We will always create opportunities – just hopefully we can stop Olympiacos, keep a clean sheet and grab a couple of goals ourselves," he told reporters.

GOAL READ MORE  | Cazorla could miss four months

"It was never going to be easy after the start we had in Europe but we have done well to come back into the position that we find ourselves in and it is in our hands – we know what we have to do."

Ramsey was on target in Arsenal's 3-1 Premier League win against Sunderland on Saturday and he hopes that they can take confidence from their victory over Sam Allardyce's side.

The Wales midfielder added: "We have been here a few times before. It is really difficult, we have come up short a lot of the times in Europe. But we know what we have to do and we believe we have enough quality to create the opportunities and score.

How Van Gaal is slowly DESTROYING Man Utd's attacking traditions

The club may be near the top of the table, but their limp attack risks harpooning their title hopes - but is it an issue of personnel and finishing, or overly negative tactics?
How Van Gaal is slowly DESTROYING Man Utd's attacking traditions“Attack, attack, attack,” pleaded the Manchester United fans as their team, not for the first time, slumbered towards another bore draw at the weekend. The club are just three points off the top of the table yet rarely has there been such a lack of enthusiasm around Old Trafford.

Resentment is growing towards Louis van Gaal, a manager who spent much of his early reign fighting fires but now cannot seem to summon even a single spark.

United’s plight is embodied in the lethargic form of their out-of-sorts skipper; once a barnstorming, bulldozing powerhouse, Wayne Rooney now trudges around the pitch, trading misplaced passes with miserable touches and rarely offering any threat on goal. Yet Van Gaal seems relatively happy with his captain – he’s only missed 30 minutes of the 12 matches he has been fit and available for. In fact, Van Gaal seems relatively happy about everything, despite the chants and criticism.

And perhaps he has reason to be. In a Premier League campaign that has been peppered with pitfalls, only United have remained consistent. Rarely ruffled, there has been a seismic shift in mentality from the team left over by David Moyes; Van Gaal’s side can dictate possession in every match they play, exuding a calm confidence as they suffocate opponents and impose their metronomic passing philosophy.

They are solid, too, and boast the best defensive record in the Premier League. They’ve kept a clean sheet in 60 per cent of matches, and conceded just 10 goals in 15 games. That is a level of frugalness that Jose Mourinho would be proud of… or even Sir Alex Ferguson himself. It was the Scot, after all, who once said: “attack wins you games, defence wins you titles”.

But that mantra has started to feel a little dated – five of the last six title winners have had the division’s most prolific attack – and there is a fear that United’s frontline is so blunted under Van Gaal that they cannot convert their solidity into victories. Gary Neville could be right when he says the club are two world-class attackers away from walking the title, but right now they are totally bereft of such firepower and there are legitimate concerns that Van Gaal would stifle them were they signed anyway.

Take Neymar, sounded out by United over the summer and still a target as he stalls over a new Barcelona contract: only team-mate Lionel Messi has completed more dribbles per game in Europe’s top five leagues this season. Only one United player ranks in the top 200 of that list (Anthony Martial), with Neymar having attempted just one fewer dribble (125) than the entire United squad have completed combined (126). Would Van Gaal really tolerate his catalogue of tricks and flicks?

Every flair player United have possessed has had that side of their game diluted under the Dutchman. Angel Di Maria was deemed too wasteful (last season, only David de Gea had worse pass success than the Argentine in the United squad) yet no player created more chances or laid on more assists. Meanwhile, even Martial’s early verve has diminished; he completed 4.4 dribbles per game in his first five starts for the club, but just two per game since – a 54% drop off.

Van Gaal’s entire style is built on an inherent negativity with the ball, and there is little room for entertainers in a team where depriving the opposition of the ball seems to be more important than doing something positive with it yourself.

The fear is that, should United try to take more risks, their defensive foundation would crumble at the same time; that their solidity is built not on good, organised defending, but on simply not letting the other team have the ball. All the while, the teams around them are subverting the adage that attack is the best form of defence, with the Jurgen Klopps and Mauricio Pochettinos of this world preaching that defence – namely the high press – is the best form of attack.

GOAL READ MORE  | Van Gaal: Man Utd won't win Champions League

While many of Europe’s best teams play this high-octane style, United are plodding along at their own sombre pace. They have racked up five goalless draws in their last nine games, four on home turf – for comparison, in Ferguson’s last 116 games in charge they did not record a single goalless draw. For many fans the West Ham game felt like yet more of the same, dull football. But Van Gaal disagreed.

“I don't understand that they are shouting 'attack, attack' because we are the attacking team and not West Ham,” he explained afterwards. “That is not only today but in every game it's like that because we are always more dominating than our opponents.”

Van Gaal might look to the post-match stats to prove his point: United had 62% possession and took more shots (21) against the Hammers than in any other game this season. But, more importantly, only one was on target. The Dutchman then blamed his side’s finishing and the absence of luck, but such a sustained period of misfortune points at a fundamental problem in the nature of the chances being created. Too many are from range; too many are from crosses; too many are born from slow build-up; too many have almost no chance of going in.

Van Gaal’s philosophy is such that it is hard to ever catch the opposition unaware, they always have time to organise the defensive line as the ball is shuffled sideways between red shirts (or backwards, as 3149 passes have been). The football is slow, there is rarely an injection of pace or a killer ball attempted – largely because that is when you are most likely to concede possession to the opposition.

No team needs more passes (156) per shot on goal than United, while only six have failed to create a single ‘big’ chance in more matches (and all of those, bar Watford, are in the bottom half of the table). The side have fewer goals after 15 games of the season than they did under Moyes, while you have to go back to Ferguson’s last match in charge to find their last five-goal haul. Since then, 12 different teams (including Hull City and Newcastle) have scored at least five times in a match on 32 different occasions.

United do not know how to attack under Van Gaal – or at least, if they do, their instincts are being curtailed by their manager – and you suspect the upper echelons of Old Trafford know it too, given the links with Pep Guardiola. In an age of marketability, it is almost as important to be entertaining as it is to be successful – and, at present, United are neither.

Van Gaal likely has six months to prove he can be a fire-starter as well as a firefighter, but with every swashbuckling counter-attack Liverpool score from, and every step closer Manchester City get to Guardiola, his lack of fun and flair becomes not just more evident, but more infuriating too, and he risks undoing the tremendous work he has done in rebuilding a wounded giant. As Harvey Dent once said: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Van Gaal, Mourinho and Monk future updates

Louis van Gaal: Set to be offered Manchester United extension
Louis van Gaal looks set to be offered a Manchester United contract extension, but Jose Mourinho’s future at Chelsea remains uncertain.


Despite a disappointing draw against West Ham at the weekend, Manchester United are willing to extend the contract of Louis van Gaal as manager, according to the Independent.
‘The club consider the way Van Gaal has steadied the ship and taken the club back into the top four and Champions League as far more significant than the current style of football,’ the article reads.
Van Gaal’s current deal runs until the end of next season, but United apparently want clarification from the Dutchman within the next five months about his future plans, wary that the search for a new manager will take time. They do not want to go into the 2016-17 campaign without a clear idea of his intentions, it is said.
The Guardian, meanwhile, says United’s ‘admiration’ for Van Gaal means they will make no play for Pep Guardiola should the Spaniard depart Bayern Munich and become available in the summer.
The Daily Telegraph confirms that United will sit down with Van Gaal in the New Year to determine his intentions but adds that the 64-year-old is expected to confirm his plan to retire in 18 months, forcing the Red Devils to begin their search for a successor.
The Daily Mail and Daily Express back up the theory that senior figures at United are happy with the progress being made, but The Sun says Guardiola is their number one target to replace Van Gaal when he does leave.
The tabloid also claims that Guardiola will definitely leave Bayern in the summer and is so keen on taking the job at Old Trafford that he could be willing to take a 12-month break from football to wait for the chance.


While the newspapers are in agreement over Van Gaal’s position at United, there are conflicting views on what the future holds for Jose Mourinho after another defeat for Chelsea at the weekend.
The Guardian says Mourinho retains the support of the Chelsea hierarchy, while The Times claims the 52-year-old has been told he must guide the club into the knockout stages of the Champions League this week to safeguard his position. The Blues need a point against Porto to make sure of their progression.
The Daily Mirror, however, claims Chelsea chiefs fear Mourinho is incapable of halting the team’s slump in form and may sack the Portuguese even if the club makes the last 16.
The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, says that Roman Abramovich held talks on Sunday with his closest aides at Chelsea, Marina Granovskaia and Michael Emenalo, on how best to salvage the club’s season. ‘It is understood that all three parties agreed they should do whatever it takes to turn things around – including dispensing with the most successful manager in Chelsea’s history if necessary’, the newspaper says.
What appears more likely, though, is that Chelsea will first attempt to solve their problems in the January transfer window.
‘In terms of attacking players, technical director Michael Emenalo has been assessing Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, West Brom’s Saido Berahino and Shakhtar Donetsk forward Alex Teixeira,’ the Telegraph says. ‘But Mourinho may prefer to bid for a more recognised star such as Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain, while he knows free agent Emmanuel Adebayor well from their spell together at Real Madrid.’


Garry Monk is on the brink of losing his job at Swansea City, with Rangers manager Mark Warbuton in the frame. A move to rehire Brendan Rodgers has also not been ruled out (The Independent)
David Moyes has held talks with Swansea City over a quick return to management (Daily Mirror)
Wallace heads the list of loanees being recalled by Chelsea (Daily Mirror)
Ex-Blackburn manager Gary Bowyer is keen to replace Steve Clarke at Reading (Daily Mirror)
Craig Bellamy is being lined up by Sky to step into Gary Neville’s boots as a football pundit (Daily Mail)
Liverpool are looking at Lorient and Portugal defender Raphael Guerreiro (Mercato 365)
Liverpool are interested in AC Milan goalkeeper Diego Lopez (Fichajes)

Wijnaldum earns Newcastle deserved win over Liverpool

Georginio Wijnaldum: Celebrates Newcastle United's winner against Liverpool
Georginio Wijnaldum earned Steve McClaren some welcome relief as Newcastle United beat Liverpool 2-0 in the Premier League at St James’ Park.
Reports in the run-up to the game suggested that McClaren had just two matches to save his job, while talk of a rift among his backroom staff had done little to ease the tension on Tyneside.
However, players pilloried for their abject capitulations against Leicester City and Crystal Palace produced a performance of real character and got their reward when Reds defender Martin Skrtel deflected Wijnaldum’s 69th-minute shot over Simon Mignolet.
Wijnaldum then added a second four minutes into stoppage time to hand McClaren’s men a priceless 2-0 win in front of a crowd of 51,273.
Liverpool, for whom the defeat was just a second in 12 attempts under new manager Jurgen Klopp, were not at their clinical best with Christian Benteke and substitute Daniel Sturridge both guilty of bad misses, but the Magpies were good value for the points on a day when they restored a measure of pride.
Fans who had turned up fearing the worst having seen the Reds put six past Southampton in the Capital One Cup in midweek were pleasantly surprised as a previously hapless defence proved resilient and a midfield which had created little started to fire, if sporadically.
The visitors were fluent in their passing and forced three corners inside the opening 70 seconds, but they had to wait 21 minutes to create a meaningful opportunity when Dejan Lovren headed down Alberto Moreno’s corner and Benteke stabbed the ball over from close range.
But as the half wore on, the Magpies started to make an impression with Wijnaldum and Moussa Sissoko prominent, and Papiss Cisse might have fired them ahead eight minutes later when, after skipper Fabricio Coloccini had dispossessed Benteke on the edge of the Newcastle penalty area, Wijnaldum slid the striker in.
However, as he tried to cut inside defender Martin Skrtel, Lovren arrived and the pair managed to snuff out the chance.
Chancel Mbemba headed over from Cisse’s flick-on on the stroke of half-time and the dangerous Jordon Ibe blasted inches too high seconds later to suggest there might be more to come after the break.
Wijnaldum saw a 55th-minute shot deflected wide after good work by Sissoko and Jack Colback, but the visitors responded in kind with Ibe running at the home defence at will.
Klopp then trew Adam Lallana and Sturridge into the mix when he replaced Benteke and Firmino with 28 minutes remaining.
But it was Newcastle who took the lead when Wijnaldum’s persistence allowed him to send in a right-foot shot from a tight angle, and in his efforts to block it, the sliding Skrtel could only help the ball over Mignolet.
Georginio Wijnaldum Martin Skrtel
Sturridge fired wastefully wide after being played in down the right with 15 minutes remaining, but Alberto Moreno scored what should have been an equaliser in the 79th minute, with his superb volley incorrectly ruled out for offside. It was a rare moment of quality, however, on a disappointing afternoon for Klopp’s men.
Lovren headed weakly at Rob Elliot as time ran down, but victory for the hosts was assured deep into stoppage time when Wijnaldum deftly chipped Sissoko’s pass over the advancing Mignolet to raise the roof at St James’ Park