Man United win in Shanghai but lose Bailly to injury

Manchester United's Anthony Martial scores during the match against Tottenham at Hongkou Football Stadium in Shanghai on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 25 July 2019

Man United win in Shanghai but lose Bailly to injury

  • Teenager Angel Gomes squeezes in winner 10 minutes from time

SHANGHAI: Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was left “hoping for the best” after defender Eric Bailly was stretchered off in a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday.

The 25-year-old Ivorian appeared to get his foot stuck in the turf at Hongkou Stadium in Shanghai and a concerned Solskjaer said the player had hurt his knee.

Solskjaer, who has been linked with a move for Leicester City central defender Harry Maguire even before losing Bailly, said: “It’s never nice when you get an injury.

“It’s not worth it when you lose one. He’s done his knee but we are not sure how bad it is.

“We need to get back to Manchester and do the scan.

“Let’s hope for the best.”

Bailly, who had only come on as a substitute for Chris Smalling at halftime, was replaced in the 56th minute.

It took the gloss off a satisfactory evening for United, who have now won all four pre-season friendlies.

Teenager Angel Gomes squeezed in the winner 10 minutes from time in what was an occasionally bad-tempered friendly against their Premier League top-four rivals.

French striker Anthony Martial put United ahead in the first half, before Spurs substitute Lucas Moura replied with a scrappy effort in the second.

After wholesale changes from both sides — Solskjaer swapped out all 11 starters at the break —  Spurs had looked the more dangerous, before the 18-year-old Londoner Gomes struck.

The Norwegian Solskjaer, under pressure to prove that he is the man to take United back into the Champions League, named a strong side that included wantaway midfielder Paul Pogba and new signings Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Counterpart Mauricio Pochettino fielded a more experimental team, but started the England international duo of Dele Alli and Harry Kane, along with new man Tanguy Ndombele.

United nearly took the lead on just four minutes when Martial fired across stand-in goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga, but his powerful effort struck the post.

Despite the fierce humidity there was an edge to the International Champions Cup game not always present in pre-season friendlies.

Attacking midfielder Alli, perhaps frustrated after missing a golden chance, was booked on 12 minutes after a second late challenge in front of a full house. He was booed off when subbed on an hour.

Martial, whose United career has threatened to peter out at times, made no mistake on 21 minutes when he rifled the ball under Gazzaniga from close range.

United were incensed when Moussa Sissoko left the sprightly winger James in a heap by the corner flag, suspecting a stamp by the Spurs midfielder.

Tottenham captain Kane angrily waded in and there was a scuffle, with Gazzaniga leaving his goal to join in and several United players also involved.

Andreas Pereira, a combative midfield presence for United, was next to be booked after he cut down Kane. Young Spurs defender Japhet Tanganga was yellow-carded too. United face Norwegian side Kristiansund in their next friendly, on Wednesday, while Spurs play Real Madrid.


Djokovic not worried about blisters ahead of US Open

Updated 25 August 2019

Djokovic not worried about blisters ahead of US Open

  • When the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain

NEW YORK: During a break in practice two days before opening his US Open title defense, Novak Djokovic pulled off his blue shoe and white sock so a trainer could look at his right foot.

Did it again a little while later.

And then, toward the end of Saturday’s training session in Louis Armstrong Stadium with 2014 runner-up Kei Nishikori, Djokovic stopped a sprint and pulled up short of a ball, raised his right leg off the ground entirely and hopped repeatedly on his left, wincing. Nothing to worry about, Djokovic said later at his pre-tournament news conference: Just blisters.

“A minor thing,” Djokovic called it. “Like anybody has ... Nothing major that is causing a concern for the event.”

When the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena, a 26-year-old from Spain whose career-best ranking was 72nd.

Carballes Baena has an overall career record of 43-50. That includes 2-7 at major tournaments, 1-1 at Flushing Meadows, where he made his debut a year ago and lost in the second round.

Djokovic, meanwhile, has won 33 of his past 34 Grand Slam matches en route to collecting four of the past five major titles. That allowed the 32-year-old Serb to raise his career haul to 16 trophies, putting him just two away from second-place Rafael Nadal’s total of 18, and Roger Federer’s 20, which is the record for men.

He’s not shy about trying to catch those guys.

“More or less everything is about Grand Slams, in terms of how I see tennis and how I approach it, because they matter the most,” Djokovic said. “So I will definitely try to play my best tennis — and aim to play my best tennis — at these events.”

And while many would attribute Djokovic's success to his ability to return serves, say, or his mental strength and propensity for coming up big in the biggest moments — such as saving two match points along the way to edging Federer in a fifth-set tiebreaker in the Wimbledon final last month — there's something else the man himself would point to as his most vital quality.

That's the way Djokovic can cover a court, which is why the state of that right foot is actually a rather big deal.

His movement, Djokovic said Saturday, is "the base of everything" and "the most important thing."

"It just allows you to be more in balance. And at the end of the day, that is what you're looking for as a tennis player," he explained. "How can you hit the ball, being in the right balance, so you can penetrate the ball with the right speed, accuracy and precision?"

Watch Djokovic during a match, and you'll see him change direction in a heartbeat, twist and turn, contort his limbs, slide — on clay, on grass, even on hard courts — always getting to the right spot at the right time.

He attributes his strength in that area to the flexibility of his ankles and is grateful he used to participate in another sport while growing up back home in Serbia.

"I credit my childhood spent on the skis. I used to spend a lot of time skiing," Djokovic said. "That had an effect as well, with kind of coordination and changing movement from one side to another. Even though they're different sports, in essence, you're using some major muscle groups and joints and stuff like this in most of the sports."

It is Djokovic's right elbow that gave him the most trouble a couple of seasons ago.

He missed the last half of 2017, including that year's US Open because that arm was bothering him, then wound up having surgery in February 2018. It took some time for Djokovic to get going after that. All's good these days, though.

"Novak had a couple years where he didn't seem like the same guy," ESPN's John McEnroe said. "Now he's back with a vengeance."

Only 1½ months have passed since Djokovic edged Federer in that classic title match at the All England Club.

Not a lot of time to savor the victory. Not a lot of time to rest a weary body.

"This sport can be a little bit 'cruel,'" Djokovic said, using fingers to indicate air quotes, "when it comes to, I guess, marveling or celebrating your own success. You don't have that much luxury of time to really reflect on everything because the season keeps going."