Patrick Vieira sacked as Nice coach after run of defeats

Nice's dismissed coach Patrick Vieira. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 05 December 2020

Patrick Vieira sacked as Nice coach after run of defeats

Patrick Vieira sacked as Nice coach after run of defeats
  • Vieira was a star in the French team that won the 1998 World Cup
  • His assistant, Romanian Adrien Ursea, will take over as coach

MARSEILLE, France:  Patrick Vieira has been sacked as coach of Nice and replaced by his assistant following a run of five consecutive defeats, the French Ligue 1 club announced on Friday.

The final straw for the former Arsenal player and France 1998 World Cup winner was Thursday’s 3-2 defeat at home to Bayer Leverkusen, which confirmed their elimination from the Europa League.

Adrien Ursea will take over from Vieira. The 53-year-old Romanian, who has spent much of his playing and coaching career in Switzerland, had been an assistant to previous Nice coach Lucien Favre and returned last year to work under Vieira.

“In a meeting after last night’s match, the Nice board informed Patrick Vieira of its decision to put an end to their collaboration,” the club said in a statement.

“Patrick Vieira put all his heart and professionalism into his service for OGC Nice over the last two and a half years.”

Appointed in 2018, Vieira had been under growing pressure after last week’s shock home defeat by struggling Dijon left the ambitious Cote d’Azur club in the bottom half of Ligue 1.

Now 44, Vieira had not worked in France since leaving Cannes for AC Milan in 1995 but joined Nice in June 2018 after two and a half years in charge of MLS side New York City FC.

Before that he had been coaching the development squad at Manchester City, where he ended his playing career in 2011.

Vieira took Nice to seventh in Ligue 1 in his first season and then fifth place and European qualification in the last campaign, which was curtailed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

BACKGROUND

  • Vieira had been under growing pressure after last week’s shock home defeat by struggling Dijon left the ambitious Cote d’Azur club in the bottom half of Ligue 1.
  • Before that he had been coaching the development squad at Manchester City, where he ended his playing career in 2011.

Nice had been hoping to build on that and challenge toward the top of the table this season following considerable investment from the club’s owners Ineos.

The group chaired by Monaco-based British petrochemicals billionaire Jim Ratcliffe took over Nice last year, adding the club to a portfolio of sporting ventures which included Swiss side Lausanne-Sport but also cycling’s Team Ineos, formerly Team Sky.

Ineos, which has also invested in the Mercedes Formula One team and an America’s Cup sailing team, wants Nice to become regulars in European competition, a status that currently appears under threat, even if they are only six points off the top five in Ligue 1 and have a game in hand.

After Thursday’s defeat, which was their fourth in five Europa League group matches, Vieira admitted he was “weakened as any coach who has lost five consecutive games is.”

“We are as disappointed as the supporters,” he said.

Born in Senegal, Vieira was capped 107 times by France between 1997 and 2009.

He came off the bench in their win over Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final and then played a central role in France’s victory at Euro 2000.

Vieira also played in the team that reached the World Cup final in 2006, while at club level he enjoyed enormous success in nine years under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, winning three Premier League titles.

 


Manchester United face acid test of title credentials at Liverpool

Manchester United face acid test of title credentials at Liverpool
Updated 17 January 2021

Manchester United face acid test of title credentials at Liverpool

Manchester United face acid test of title credentials at Liverpool
  • Jurgen Klopp’s men could drop to fifth place on Sunday if results go against them

LONDON: Liverpool and Manchester United face off on Sunday as the Premier League’s top two teams for the first time since 1997 — with the rivalry between England’s most successful clubs rekindled by a fascinating title race.

United top the table after the New Year for the first time since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 thanks to an 11-match unbeaten run to take them past Jurgen Klopp’s men.

Liverpool have surrendered top spot after three league games without a win and could drop to fifth place on Sunday if results go against them.

The last time United and Liverpool locked horns in a title race was 12 years ago.

Back then United were hardened winners under Ferguson, who saw off Rafael Benitez’s challengers to win a third consecutive league title.

Now it is United who Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admits are the “hunters” chasing the champions.

Ferguson, who arrived at Old Trafford in 1986 with United firmly in Liverpool’s shadow, once famously said his goal was to knock them “off their perch” and he went on to win 13 league titles.

But United have been displaced as top dogs even in their own city by Manchester City.

And fans have been forced to watch Klopp spearhead another era of glory at Anfield, winning the Champions League in 2019 before ending the club’s 30-year wait for a league title last season — putting them just one behind United’s record tally of 20.

But, in a strange and at times soulless season in empty stadiums, the relentless consistency shown by Liverpool in recent
years has dropped off.

Hampered by a series of injuries, most notably to talismanic center-back Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool have already dropped more points in 17 games than they have in either of the past two seasons.

That has allowed United to overtake them despite a slow start to their own campaign.

Solskjaer’s men won just two of their opening six games, suffering a humiliating 6-1 reverse at the hands of Tottenham at Old Trafford.

But, on the road, United’s form has been remarkably consistent. Come Sunday, it will be almost a year to the day since they last lost an away game in domestic competition — on their last visit
to Anfield.

Since then Bruno Fernandes’ arrival has helped transform United’s fortunes. On Friday, the Portugal playmaker won his fourth Premier League player-of-the-month award in 2020 by picking up the prize for December.

“Unfortunately a good signing for United,” said Klopp.

“He is a very influential player for United obviously, involved in a lot of things.

“I know people talk mostly about the goal involvements, which is very important stuff, but he is a link-up in a lot of other situations as well.”

Without the silverware on his CV to rival Klopp or City boss Pep Guardiola, Solskjaer’s credentials for one of the biggest jobs in football are questioned every time he has a couple of bad results.

But the Norwegian has guided United into a position his more storied predecessors, Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal, could not manage.

“The last few years, there have been two teams running away with it already by the end of October,” said Solskjaer.

“Now, at least, we’re in it at half-way. We’re a much better side now than a year ago.”

Questions remain over whether United’s revival is for real or another false dawn, of which there have been several in the post-Ferguson era.

Liverpool’s three-decade drought without a league title stands as a warning of how far even giants can fall.

One of Klopp’s first iconic phrases when taking charge in 2015 was his ambition to change the fatalism around the club’s mentality from “doubter to believer.”

Should United become the first visiting side to win at Anfield in the league for nearly four years, it is they who will have the new-found confidence that a 21st league title in 2021 is possible.