For Manchester United, a season that nobody expected

Posted by Andy Mitten

AllsportIn Moyes' debut season, Man United look set to finish in their lowest league position for more than 20 years.

Rio Ferdinand was sitting in the near-deserted part of a Yokohama, Japan, hotel reserved for Manchester United’s team. Security guards stopped Japanese fans who had slipped into lifts aiming to reach where they thought the players would be, while an 18-year-old called Adnan Januzaj wandered around in one of Ferdinand’s branded “5” caps, wondering why his mobile phone didn’t work. An explosive five-minute cameo in a first-team training session had earned the youngster promotion to the tour party. Continue Reading...

Liverpool dominate PFA award shortlist

Posted by John Brewin

Luis SuarezGettyImagesLuis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge have lifted Liverpool to the top of the league.

The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) shortlist of six players has been released. Here we look at the contenders for the award.

Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

Perhaps only his controversial on-field conduct prevented him winning this award last year. Twelve months on, his behaviour has been largely exemplary, while his playing performances have been incendiary and his rate of goal scoring unprecedentedly prolific. His haul of 29 goals in 29 league games speaks for itself and, in short, Liverpool would not be in the position they are now without the Uruguayan. Continue Reading...

Buoyant Hull ready for FA Cup final preview

Posted by John Brewin

Hull boss Steve Bruce celebrates promotion from the stands at the KC StadiumPA PhotosSteve Bruce celebrates promotion back to the Premier League.

Ever since Steve Bruce was Manchester United captain in the early 1990s, he has used a phrase for trips to Wembley. After Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Sheffield United, the Hull City manager will be “smelling the hot dogs” at least once more. Before that, Premier League safety is the target and a positive result in Sunday’s dress rehearsal with Arsenal can confirm it.

Bruce’s achievements in following last season’s promotion from the Championship have won the admiration of Gunners boss Arsene Wenger. Continue Reading...

Fight on show in the relegation scrap

Posted by James Dall

Premier League Spotlight previews the weekend's top-flight fixtures, highlighting the key points to keep an eye on as the action unfolds.

Felix Magath Fulham close up SPOTLIGHTPA PhotosTwo wins on the spin see Felix Magath's Fulham back in with a chance of survival.

Can Magath mastermind a Great Escape?

Back-to-back wins weren't in the script for a Fulham team that most had understandably filed in the pigeonhole marked "dead and buried." But Felix Magath -- the side's third manager of the season, remember -- has overseen a return of nine points from a possible 15 to resuscitate the Cottagers' survival hopes. Continue Reading...

Top Tenner: Bully boys

Posted by Nick Miller

Lionel Messi AssociatedLionel Messi will, as ever, represent the main danger for Real Madrid.

Luis Suarez and Liverpool play Norwich this weekend. Suarez has a remarkable scoring record against the Canaries with 11 goals in his last four games. Here are some other players who pile on the goals when facing a particular opponent.

10) Shola Ameobi v Sunderland

Shola Ameobi has been a 'promising' striker for quite some time now, always on the brink of the Newcastle first team but never first choice, despite now reaching the grand old age of 32. However, one game he has become a key man in is the Tyne-Wear derby, for there's something that seems to bring the best out of the Geordie/Nigerian in that particular fixture. Continue Reading...

Spurs still searching for recipe for success

Posted by Richard Jolly

Tim Sherwood reversed the actions of Andre Villas-Boas by bringing Emmanuel Adebayor back in from the cold.GettyImagesTim Sherwood reversed the actions of Andre Villas-Boas by bringing Emmanuel Adebayor back in from the cold.

The term academics use is "historic recurrence." The theory the rest of us are more familiar with is that history repeats itself. Sometimes, however, it has to. It feels as though every new possibility or different tactic has been explored.

It certainly does at Tottenham Hotspur. They have tried every method of securing a permanent status in the top four. This season has represented a microcosm of the last decade and a half in the way they have swung between opposing approaches: first Andre Villas-Boas and then Tim Sherwood, first a foreign coach then an Englishman. Continue Reading...

Three things: Barcelona vs. Real Madrid

Posted by Miguel Delaney

Gareth Bale celebrates after netting the winning goal for Real Madrid.GettyImagesGareth Bale celebrates after netting the winning goal for Real Madrid.

Three observations from Real Madrid's 2-1 Copa del Rey win over Barcelona at the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia.

1. Bale displays the Real difference

Real Madrid completed the first triumphant step of a potential treble. Barcelona sank into even deeper trouble. That one high-profile summer signing in Gareth Bale scored the scintillating winner, and the other in Neymar missed an eminently presentable chance for an equaliser, further displayed the different directions of the sides. Continue Reading...

Wilfried Zaha wanders from the path to greatness

Posted by Rory Smith

Wilfried Zaha found himself completely out of favour at Man United under David Moyes.GettyImagesWilfried Zaha found himself completely out of favour at Man United under David Moyes.

There was a song they used to sing about Wilfried Zaha. This time last year, not a game went by without Crystal Palace fans offering a chorus of it at some point. It greeted every shimmy, every feint, every dropped shoulder, every body-swerve, every virtuoso sleight of foot. "He's just too good for you," it went. Nobody sings it any more.

Zaha was on the bench for Cardiff City on Saturday. He has been on the bench a lot recently. He has started a game just once since being removed at half-time as Hull City dismantled Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side on Feb. Continue Reading...

Grit must guide the Gunners

Posted by John Brewin

Arsene Wenger GettyImagesArsene Wenger faces a familiar situation at Arsenal.

Age before beauty. On Tuesday night, Arsene Wenger opted for a squad that was the oldest -- by average age -- he had selected in 1,000-plus Arsenal matches. If Arsenal are to get over the line in both Champions League qualification and the FA Cup, they will do so via the force of experience. Two goals from a player with over 100 international caps, in Germany’s Lukas Podolski, and the crucial effort from 27-year-old striker Olivier Giroud did the job against West Ham. On Saturday in the FA Cup semifinal with Wigan, it was Per Mertesacker, a 29-year-old with 96 German caps to his name, who saved the day with a late equaliser before the pressure on penalties told on the Latics. Continue Reading...

The 'Iranian Messi' who wants to hug Arsene Wenger

Posted by Michael Yokhin

Sardar AzmounGettyImagesSardar Azmoun (C) has been tipped for a bright future.

If Arsenal do indeed intend to sign Sardar Azmoun, as widely reported recently, they should expect some very unorthodox demands from his parents. The 19-year-old striker is strangely dubbed the "Iranian Messi" by some, but his role model is Neymar. He strives to emulate the Brazilian -- and not in the sense you would expect. Azmoun’s goal is different; he aspires to become a father at a young age, just like the Selecao star.

“I noticed that all the big stars got married early, so I am planning to marry in the near future,” he said in a recent interview in Iran. Continue Reading...

With FFP progress imminent, what does it all mean?

Posted by Gabriele Marcotti

Jean Catuffe/Getty ImagesWill PSG be alright under UEFA's imminent FFP announcements?

Financial fair play is here. At least the next step. UEFA's Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) got together in Nyon, Switzerland, this week and soon -- possibly in the next few days but definitely before the end of the month -- those clubs who are in breach will be notified.

When I wrote about this back in September 2012, I used a Q & A format and it seemed to be pretty well received. So, given the amount of confusion out there, here's a follow-up.

Q: OK, so we've been hearing about this for a long time. Continue Reading...

Hope springs for Zenit and Andre Villas-Boas

Posted by Eliot Rothwell

Andre Villas-BoasGettyImagesAndre Villas-Boas is smiling again after a fine start to life back in management.

A winter of discontent has given way to a spring of hope for Zenit St. Petersburg and their new manager.

"People insult my integrity, my human values, my professionalism," Andre Villas-Boas lamented as a string of bad results and burned bridges brought his Tottenham tenure to a close. Four months later, though, AVB has taken Zenit back to the summit of Russian football, becoming the club's first manager to win each of his four opening games.

The 4-1 demolition of FK Krasnodar this past weekend, with title rivals Lokomotiv Moscow dropping points to Anzhi Makhachkala, saw Zenit rise to the top of the Russian Premier League for the first time since the start of the winter break. Continue Reading...