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Premier League hits and misses: Erik ten Hag endures losing start at Man Utd as Erling Haaland shows how he can transform Man City

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Nothing dashes optimism more than a dose of reality. Heading into the new Premier League season, with Erik ten Hag coming in along with some new faces, there was hope this could be the year Manchester United finally come good.

It did not take long for the rigours and demands of the Premier League to set in. Unsurprisingly, Man Utd’s problems from previous seasons had not magically disappeared.

While they generally began brightly, they rode their luck on two separate occasions when mistakes from Diogo Dalot and Fred almost allowed Leandro Trossard to score. Errors out of possession and a lack of organisation were at times hard to watch.

Man Utd were in disarray defensively. They seemed to be continuously shocked when Brighton players popped up nearby and were not in a position to stop them, epitomised as Pascal Gross scored twice towards the end of the first half.

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That’s not to say there were not some bright moments. Christian Eriksen shone on his debut and Bruno Fernandes continues to be the beacon of hope for Man Utd fans. Cristiano Ronaldo showed just why he is so important for his side too, despite all the summer dramatics. Whether Ten Hag likes it or not, Ronaldo is at the club and he must be utilised to help Man Utd out of their current predicament.

Although the Dutchman was keen to stress he will need time to implement his ideas, he also knows that is not something afforded to many in football. He has now seen first hand the kind of issues he is facing at Man Utd and, with a constant pen and pad in his hand during the first half, it’s time for him to find the solutions.

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As ever, all is not lost for Man Utd, but the Ten Hag renaissance is a long way from starting yet.

Erling Haaland’s two-goal performance against West Ham made it a straightforward afternoon for Manchester City at the London Stadium. It also provided a first clue of just how much the Norway striker could elevate this already brilliant side.

There was talk of patience and adaption time after last weekend’s Community Shield defeat to Liverpool, during which he only touched the ball 16 times and missed a gilt-edged scoring chance, but on the evidence of his Premier debut, neither of those things will be necessary.

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Haaland was outstanding, taking his two goals brilliantly and causing West Ham problems they could not solve. Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville described him as “unplayable”, while Roy Keane tipped him to score “30 or 40” goals.

“One week ago, he could not adapt in the Premier League,” said a smiling Guardiola in his press conference, referencing the reaction to Haaland’s display against Liverpool. “And now he is alongside Titi Henry, Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo.”

Guardiola was speaking ironically but his goals certainly put him in good company, making him only the second Manchester City player to score twice on his Premier League debut after Sergio Aguero. The early evidence suggests they now have a striker capable of taking on the mantle from the Argentine.

In addition to his two goals, Haaland ranked top for shots (five), shots on target (two) and touches in the opposition box (10). He even linked the play effectively too, completing 21 of his 23 passes at a success rate of 91 per cent.

It is fair to say Brighton have struggled over the years at Old Trafford – in fact, ahead of their season-opening clash at Manchester United on Sunday, the Seagulls had lost on 12 of their previous 14 visits there.

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However, Graham Potter’s side, who gave United a run for their money before losing 2-0 at the Theatre of Dreams back in February, were in no mood to roll over and hand Erik ten Hag a first win on his United bow.

The visitors could have scored straight from the kick-off in what should have served as a warning of what was to come to United as they played, according to Sky Sports commentator Jamie Carragher, like Ajax in the first half such was the free-flowing, slick, one-touch football that carved their hosts apart at times.

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Both of their goals were easy on the eye and typical of the football played under Potter since he arrived on the south coast in 2019, especially in a first period that saw United face an alarming 12 shots on goal.

While some may have mistakenly marked this down as the sort of fixture Ten Hag and United would enjoy to get the new man’s reign off to a winning start, they will now be rapidly revising that opinion.

It was a difficult pre-season for Leicester.

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Kasper Schmeichel left the club and a number of their top names have been linked with moves away from the King Power Stadium. On the other hand, Leicester are the only club in Europe’s top five leagues not to make a signing.

However, the issues were swept aside when Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall doubled their advantage seconds into the second half.

Leicester were bright and two of the players linked with moves away in James Maddison and Wesley Fofana were at the heart of it. Fofana’s crucial tackle on Bryan Mbeumo stopped a potential goalscoring opportunity for Brentford before Maddison’s inch-perfect corner set up Timothy Castagne’s header for Leicester’s opener.

Maddison has now been directly involved in 13 Premier League goals for Leicester in 2022 (seven goals, six assists). Only one Englishman has had a hand in more in this calendar year (Harry Kane – 21), showing Maddison’s importance to Leicester.

But, worryingly for Leicester, old problems resurfaced as they blew a two-goal lead at home for the first time since August 2003 versus Southampton.

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Finding a solution to that, and keeping hold of their stars ahead of the transfer deadline will be high on the agenda for Rodgers in the coming weeks.

Thomas Frank earned his money at the King Power Stadium as he masterminded a second-half Brentford comeback thanks to his substitutions and tactical changes.

With his side trailing 2-0, Frank brought on Keane Lewis-Potter and Josh Dasilva in the 59th minute and switched to a 3-4-3.

Three minutes later Brentford scored through Ivan Toney and then substitute Dasilva fired in a late equaliser. Frank’s changes had paid off.

“We started in the 4-3-3 then changed to 3-5-2 and then I changed to 3-4-3 to have one more offensive player in the middle of the park,” he explained.

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“Yoane Wissa was an outside centre-back and then Keane in, so we just had more offensive players on the pitch and changed the structure a bit so we could hopefully put more pressure on Leicester, which happened.”

Wissa was then brought off in the 84th minute for Halil Dervisoglu and two minutes later the Turkey forward assisted Dasilva for the equaliser.

Dervisoglu was one of five substitutes made by Frank as he took full advantage of the new ruling, that many people believed would favour the bigger clubs.

But the Dane disproved that at Leicester as he used his full allocation expertly and ensured Brentford completed an impressive comeback.

Outfoxed, outmanoeuvred, outshone by the reigning Premier League champions. Perhaps that was to be expected. Except few people anticipated quite such an impact from Erling Haaland this early into the new campaign. What may be of small comfort to West Ham fans is the fact they will not be the Norway international’s only prey this season.

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  • How the teams lined up | Match stats

The atmosphere quickly faded from a game with so much promise, as a record-breaking crowd packed into the London Stadium. What they saw was a team in need of greater stability at the back, and more consistent threat in forward areas. Admittedly, that is difficult when you only have a 25 per cent share of possession.

It’s widely accepted David Moyes’ side are one potent striker short of a very good team. But tactically they had very few answers. City’s pressure was incessant, relentless even, and West Ham lacked a plan B. It was far too passive for a team whose weapons come alive on the break. In transition, they were slow and uninventive.

Moyes started none of the club’s five summer signings, although Gianluca Scamacca was a 57th-minute substitute – perhaps that will change in coming weeks. It’s clear that some fresh impetus is needed, albeit there will be much more opportunity to stamp authority on games when facing the league’s other 18 teams. Pep Guardiola’s side were simply too good on the day.

 

 

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Paris Games: Reps back Team Nigeria with N100m

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Paris Games: Reps back Team Nigeria with N100m

The House of Representatives on Wednesday announced the donation of N100 million to Nigeria’s 2024 Olympics and Paralympics contingent to the forthcoming Games billed for Paris, France.

The Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, who presided over the plenary in the absence of the Speaker, Tajudden Abbas, disclosed this when the House hosted the Minister of Sports Development, John Enoh, who was in the Green Chamber to unveil Team Nigeria’s Olympics and Paralympics kits.

 

Also read: Reps panel quizzes minister, alleges N1.5bn diversion

 

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Kalu disclosed that the N100m, which will come from the lawmakers’ earnings, was in honour of Ekene Adams, the lawmaker, who until his death on Tuesday, chaired the House Committee on Sports.

“The money is coming from our salaries,” Kalu, who spoke on behald of the Speaker, stated.

“In honour of our late colleague, Hon Ekene Abubakar Adams, and our commitment to supporting our Olympians, the House of Representatives and all its members will make a personal contribution towards the success of the Olympics and to support our Nigerian athletes. Your journey to Paris is not just a quest for medals but a mission to elevate the spirit of our nation. I call on all well-meaning Nigerians to emulate this gesture of the House and support our athletes.

“We are confident in your (athletes) abilities and are certain that the memories of this session will remain fresh in your minds, spurring you on to achieve record-breaking performances. Go to Paris with a clear mindset, dedication and determination to surpass our previous records. We believe in you and know you will make us proud.

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“As you embark on this significant journey, remember that you are ambassadors of Nigeria. Promote our national pride, values and ethos in all your endeavours at the Olympics. The House stands in solidarity with you, praying for your success and wishing you the very best,” Kalu added.

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Similarly, the Chairman, House Committee on Army, Balele Aminu, donated the sum of $2,000 to Team Nigeria.

Some of the Athletes, who spoke during the session, commended the lawmakers for their overwhelming support for the team and promised to make the country proud throughout the sporting event.

The Olympic Games hold from July 26 to August 11.

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De Laurentiis open to €100m, swap deal for Osimhen

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De Laurentiis open to €100m, swap deal for Osimhen

The protracted exit of Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen from Napoli may be over in the next 10 days as the Italian club hopes to complete the deal before the second phase of their pre-season training.

Napoli are prepared to part ways with the 25-year-old, who has a €130m release clause, which has been a clog in his transfer since the start of the summer window.

 

Also read: Osimhen prefers Arsenal, Chelsea to PSG move

 

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According to reports in Italy, PSG don’t want to spend more than €100m for Osimhen, just as Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis is open to discussing €100m plus a player swap with the French giants, being the only club to have submitted an offer for the striker.

PSG rejected a €200m offer for Osimhen and Georgia international Khvicha Kvaratskhelia a few days ago, but the Ligue 1 giants are ready to reignite the pursuit of the Nigerian.

According to Il Corriere dello Sport, the Partenopei hope to reach an agreement with the Ligue 1 side within the next ten days.

Gazzetta and Corriere dello Sport also report that PSG may offer €100m soon, but the proposal may include one of their players as well.

On Monday night, Sky Sport Italia also reported that PSG were willing to let Napoli choose between three of their footballers for a player-plus-cash swap deal.

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Corriere dello Sport insists that De Laurentiis expects to sell Osimhen for close to €130m, but is still open to discussing potential swap deals.

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It remains to be seen if Osimhen will fancy a return to France, as he is reportedly interested in joining a Premier League club. Napoli had also expected offers from English clubs, including Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea, but that has not happened.

The former Italian champions are prepared to sell Osimhen and replace him with Romelu Lukaku, so they hope to reach an agreement within the next ten days, before the second part of the pre-season at Castel Di Sangro.

Meanwhile, Osimhen had resumed pre-season training with Napoli, and new coach Antonio Conte was left impressed by his attitude despite not having him in his plans for next season.

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I’ll give my life to Madrid’s success, says Mbappe at unveiling

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I’ll give my life to Madrid’s success, says Mbappe at unveiling

French superstar, Kylian Mbappe, was officially unveiled as a Real Madrid player on Tuesday, telling 80,000 fans “my dream has come true.”

The striker, who had completed his medical earlier on Tuesday morning, signed a five-year contract and was handed a No. 9 shirt by club president, Florentino Perez.

 

Also read: Euro 2024 campaign a failure – Mbappe

 

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“Wow,” Mbappe said in Spanish to roars from a packed Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

“For years, I’ve dreamed of playing for Real Madrid and today, my dream has come true,” said the 25-year-old former Paris Saint-Germain player.

“I’m a happy boy. I’m going to give my life for this club,” said Mbappe.

Accompanied by his parents watching from the crowd and with a former French hero of the club, Zinedine Zidane, in attendance, Mbappe was emotional as the crowd chanted his name, and at one point kissed the jersey of the reigning Spanish and European champions.

Mbappe is “an exceptional player who comes to help us continue winning, a player who today fulfils the dream of his life,” said Perez. “Welcome to your home.”

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•⁠ ⁠Exciting offensive trio –

Although his new teammates began training on Monday, the forward, who captained France during their unsuccessful Euros campaign, will have a few more days off before kicking off his season in the Spanish capital.

The unveiling of Real’s latest Galactico allowed its fans to continue celebrating following Spain’s Euro 2024 triumph on Sunday.

The crowd was expected to be bigger than that 15 years ago when Cristiano Ronaldo was unveiled.

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The free tickets were snapped up rapidly with some fans reportedly trying to resell them to take advantage of the hype surrounding the arrival of arguably the world’s best striker.

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At Real, Mbappe will form part of an offensive trio alongside England midfielder Jude Bellingham and Brazil attacker Vinicius Junior under the watch of veteran Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti.

That prospect is already exciting fans of the club who won their 15th Champions League title in June.

Los Blancos begin the defence of their La Liga crown with a match against Real Mallorca on the weekend of August 17-18.

Mbappe’s debut might have to wait until the following week when Real Madrid face Real Valladolid who were recently promoted from the second division.

Number 9 Mbappe shirts went on sale last Thursday in Real’s club shops which are covered with his image.

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Mbappe arrives after a personally disappointing Euros campaign, where he was overshadowed by Spain’s new teenage sensation Lamine Yamal of Madrid’s rivals Barcelona and France lost to Spanish in the semi-finals.

That followed a difficult season with PSG following his decision not to renew his contract, with the striker — who was the Paris club’s all-time top scorer — admitting he felt “liberated, relieved” by his transfer to Real.

The club is hoping to offset the costs — a salary of at least 15 million euros ($16.3 million) per season and a signing bonus of more than 100 million euros — through sponsorship deals and ticket and merchandise sales.

Mbappe is hoping the move will finally see him win a Champions League and the Ballon d’Or, two of his lifelong objectives.

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