Mata eases pressure on Solskjaer as Manchester United thrash Newcastle 4-1 – Newstrends
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Mata eases pressure on Solskjaer as Manchester United thrash Newcastle 4-1

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Manchester United beat Newcastle 4-1, thanks to goals from Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Marcus Rashford on Saturday, but it was Juan Mata who made the difference for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.

Solskjaer, under pressure after United’s joint-worst defeat of the Premier League era, made five changes from the side thrashed by Spurs and most of the focus ahead of kick-off fell on the players left out. Paul Pogba was the most high-profile to lose his spot. There was no place in the side for Donny van de Beek or Alex Telles either.

But it was one of the players who came into the side who made the biggest impact on the game. Mata had not played a single minute of Manchester United’s first three Premier League fixtures this season. In fact, he had not made a single start in the competition since February.

On this evidence, however, the 32-year-old still has plenty to offer, according to a Sky Sport report.

Mata was not among the scorers at St James’ Park – those were Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Marcus Rashford – but United’s best attacking performance in months owed more to him than anyone else. The Spaniard was outstanding from start to finish.

Mata lined up on the right-hand side of United’s attack, the position occupied by Mason Greenwood against Spurs, but his interpretation of the role was very different. What he lacks in pace and power, he makes up for in vision and imagination.

Mata popped up everywhere, drifting into pockets of space wherever he saw them, creating space for Wan-Bissaka to bomb forward on the overlap, and linking up with Fernandes at every opportunity.

By the end, the pair had exchanged passes 31 times. Their combination play resulted in a goal after 19 minutes, only for VAR to rule it out for offside, and there were plenty more examples. Shortly after half-time, there was another mesmerising one-two to manufacture an opening for Fred.

Mata provided Fernandes with the service he has lacked for much of this season and the Portuguese was not the only one to benefit for his presence. Over the course of the 90 minutes, there were also superb passes for Wan-Bissaka and Rashford, one of which released the latter in the build-up to Fernandes’ goal.

Mata knitted everything together, his touch-map underlining his influence all over the pitch, and it was exactly what United needed.

Their biggest issue under Solskjaer has been an inability to break down opponents who sit deep and prevent them from playing on the break. It was for precisely that reason that the trip to St James’ Park looked like an awkward one. But with Mata orchestrating proceedings, it was not a problem.

Instead, Solskjaer’s side were slick in possession and created scoring chances with ease. Indeed, it was only thanks to Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow’s sharp reflexes that the game was not dead and buried long before the late flurry of goals that sealed the victory.

The statistics underlined their effectiveness. United’s total of 28 shots, including 14 on target, was the highest by any Premier League side in a single game so far this season. It was also more than United managed in any game in the whole of the last campaign.

Mata only registered one assist, the corner from which Maguire headed home United’s equaliser, but his influence was far greater than that and Solskjaer acknowledged as much in his post-match press conference, praising him for grasping his opportunity after his spell out of the side.

“He played fantastic,” said Solskjaer. “He’s such a professional and everyone in the team knows his quality. He’s been so patient waiting for his chance.

“I get a lot of questions, ‘Why doesn’t he play? Why doesn’t he play?’ But it’s because we have many good players, and it’s about taking your chances when you do. Juan has definitely done so.”

Mata walked off the pitch with a grin on his face when he made way for Nemanja Matic in the final few minutes of the game and Solskjaer looked similarly elated after the final whistle.

The manager’s credentials had been questioned during United’s poor start to the season and the scrutiny won’t end with this victory – especially with games against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, RB Leipzig and Arsenal to come in the weeks ahead.

But the pressure on his shoulders ahead of that testing run of fixtures is at least a little lighter than it was before kick-off at St James’ Park, and that’s largely thanks to his decision to turn to Mata.

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Chelsea set to give Osimhen seven-year contract

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Chelsea set to give Osimhen seven-year contract

Victor Osimhen is fully focused on joining Chelsea even though Mauricio Pochettino has left his role as manager, while the Blues are well ahead of Paris Saint-Germain and Saudi clubs in the race for the striker.

After months of speculation about his future, Pochettino left Stamford Bridge by mutual consent on Tuesday night. Pochettino feels he has left Chelsea in a good position to improve next season, while Blues chiefs want a new manager to come in and take the side to the next level.

While Pochettino could replace Erik ten Hag at Manchester United, Chelsea are eyeing up Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna – coincidentally a former Man Utd coach – to fill their vacant Stamford Bridge hot seat.

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Despite Pochettino’s departure, some of Chelsea’s transfer plans are unlikely to change.

First of all, club officials know they need to make a huge investment to strengthen the attack, and the main target remains Victor Osimhen.

The Nigerian striker – whose release clause is €130m (£111m) – will leave Napoli in the summer and he desires to play in the Premier League next year, wearing a Chelsea shirt.

Sources have confirmed to TEAMtalk that Osimhen has already given his informal approval for a possible move to the Blues. Only some aspects of his prospective seven-year contract with Chelsea need to be discussed. Chelsea are willing to pay the centre-forward slightly more than what he earns at Napoli.

Chelsea set to give Osimhen seven-year contract

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Barcelona sack Xavi with flick set to replace him

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Xavi Hernandez

Barcelona sack Xavi with flick set to replace him

Xavi will take charge of Barcelona for the final time on Sunday, when they host Sevilla in their last La Liga match of the season.

The 44-year-old, who had been contracted until 2025, was informed of the club’s decision during a meeting with club president Joan Laporta and sporting director Deco on Friday – exactly one month since it was announced that he would remain at the club.

Former Spain midfielder Xavi said in January that he was going leave the Camp Nou, but he was persuaded to stay by Laporta in April.

But recent comments from Xavi, in which he opened up about the club’s financial struggles, are said to have angered Laporta.

Barcelona said they would like to “thank Xavi for his work as a coach” since taking charge in 2021.

“It is never easy to leave the club of your life, but I am very proud after two and a half years at the head of a dressing room that has been like a second family,” said Xavi in an open letter issued on social media.

“From Sunday I will be just one more Barca fan, in the stands.

“Because before being a player or a coach I am a Barcelona fan and I only want the best for the club in my life, which will always have me at its disposal.”

The Catalan club said a “new structure” will be confirmed in the coming days, with Flick set to take charge.

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The 59-year-old has been out of work since he was sacked by Germany in September 2023.

Flick, who replaced Joachim Low as national boss in 2021, became the first Germany manager to be sacked since the role was created in 1926, winning just 12 of his 25 matches in charge.

Flick’s stint with Germany came after he guided Bayern Munich to a treble in 2020, winning the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League.

Barcelona forward Robert Lewandowski, 35, played under Flick at the Allianz Arena for two seasons.

After guiding Barcelona to the La Liga title in 2022-23, Xavi’s side put up a disappointing defence to their crown this term.

The Catalans are 12 points behind rivals Real Madrid, with one game remaining in the season.

Barcelona were knocked out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage by Paris St-Germain.

Xavi spent 17 years with Barcelona as a player, having emerged from the club’s La Masia academy.

After four years’ playing for Qatari side Al-Sadd, Xavi retired in 2019 to take over the side as manager.

He remained in Qatar for a further two seasons, before replacing Ronald Koeman in November 2021 as Barcelona boss.

Xavi helped the club to the La Liga title and Spanish Cup during his first full season in charge, earning the side a return to the Champions League.

Sevilla boss Quique Sanchez Flores has criticised Barcelona’s treatment of Xavi.

“I shouldn’t say this, but how badly Barcelona treats its legends. What a bad streak,” Flores told reporters on Friday afternoon.

“With Koeman, with Messi, with Xavi now – how bad. I wish clubs treated their legends well. That would be fantastic. Xavi is a legend of the club.”

Flores added he had “doubts the criticism about him [Xavi] is correct”.

Barcelona will finish the season second in LaLiga behind champions Real Madrid and Xavi will remain in charge for the game at Sevilla.

During his 141 games as Barcelona boss, Xavi won 89 matches – giving him a 63% win ratio.

Barcelona sack Xavi with flick set to replace him

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Lookman scores stunning hat-trick in Atalanta vs Leverkusen Europa League final

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Ademola Lookman

Lookman scores stunning hat-trick in Atalanta vs Leverkusen Europa League final

Ademola Lookman was the star of the night as his hat-trick ended Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten run and secured Atalanta’s first European Cup title.

Lookman’s three goals marked the first hat-trick in a European final in 49 years, delivering Atalanta their first-ever continental trophy.

The club from Bergamo, often overshadowed by AC and Inter Milan, has enjoyed a resurgence under Gian Piero Gasperini. This victory adds silverware to their impressive record, which includes four Champions League appearances in recent years.

Leverkusen, known for their late comebacks during their undefeated Bundesliga campaign, couldn’t recover from a slow start this time. Atalanta’s aggressive play was rewarded early when Davide Zappacosta set up Lookman, who exploited Exequiel Palacios’ lapse to score from the back post after just 12 minutes.

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Lookman, whose career has seen him move from the lower ranks of the Premier League to finding stability in Bergamo, cemented his hero status with his performance. His second goal, a brilliant nutmeg of Granit Xhaka followed by a powerful shot into the far corner, showcased his skill.

Despite Leverkusen’s efforts, including near-misses by Alex Grimaldo and Jeremie Frimpong, they couldn’t break through Atalanta’s defense. Gianluca Scamacca’s fortunate escape with only a yellow card for a rough tackle on Florian Wirtz also highlighted Leverkusen’s missed opportunities.

Coach Xabi Alonso, having quickly risen as a top coaching prospect and choosing to stay with Leverkusen despite interest from Liverpool and Bayern Munich, made tactical changes at halftime, including bringing on Victor Boniface. However, the early damage proved insurmountable.

Atalanta, content to absorb pressure and counter-attack, sealed the win with another stunning goal from Lookman. Skipping past Edmond Tapsoba, he blasted into the top corner with his left foot, clinching the victory.

This triumph is particularly sweet for Atalanta, who had previously lost all three finals under Gasperini, including a recent Coppa Italia defeat to Juventus. Their passionate fans, clad in blue and black, celebrated their historic win in Dublin.

Atalanta’s victory also marks the first time an Italian side has won the competition since Parma lifted the UEFA Cup in 1999, ending a long wait and underscoring the club’s remarkable journey to European glory.

Lookman scores stunning hat-trick in Atalanta vs Leverkusen Europa League final

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