Manchester United owners consider sale as Ronaldo exits

Manchester United owners consider sale as Ronaldo exits
The Glazers’ reign has been marked by declining on-field performance and repeated fan protests. (AFP/File)
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Updated 23 November 2022

Manchester United owners consider sale as Ronaldo exits

Manchester United owners consider sale as Ronaldo exits
  • That dramatic announcement was eclipsed just hours later by the news that the US-based Glazer family, who have owned United for 17 years, could be on their way out as well

MANCHESTER: Manchester United’s owners said Tuesday they were ready to sell the club after it was earlier confirmed star player Cristiano Ronaldo was leaving the Premier League giants.

Weeks of turbulence at Old Trafford appeared to have come to an end when the club announced Ronaldo was leaving with “immediate effect.”

That dramatic announcement was eclipsed just hours later by the news the US-based Glazer family, who have owned United for 17 years, could be on their way out as well.

“The board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company,” United said in a statement.

The Glazers’ reign has been marked by declining on-field performance and repeated fan protests.

United have not won the Premier League title since 2013 in Alex Ferguson’s final season as manager.

Five managers have come and gone at Old Trafford in the past nine years without coming close to matching Ferguson’s success.

Portugal forward Ronaldo set the stage for his exit last week with his outspoken television interview on TalkTV in which he said he felt “betrayed” by the club and had no respect for new manager Erik ten Hag.

Ronaldo also took aim at the Glazers, claiming they “don’t care about the club.”

In an earlier statement, United said: “Cristiano Ronaldo is to leave Manchester United by mutual agreement, with immediate effect.

“The club thanks him for his immense contribution across two spells at Old Trafford, scoring 145 goals in 346 appearances, and wishes him and his family well for the future.”

News of the Glazers inviting investment comes just weeks after Liverpool’s American owners the Fenway Sports Group indicated they were willing to sell.

Both United and Liverpool were involved in the failed European Super League (ESL) project that sought to create a US-style closed league format for Europe’s elite clubs without the need to qualify or promotion and relegation.

Amid a furious backlash to the ESL, a match between United and Liverpool was abandoned in May 2021 after supporters stormed the pitch at a time when fans were shut out of stadiums due to coronavirus restrictions.

Protests against the Glazers have continued to be common on matchdays at Old Trafford despite huge spending on player transfer fees and wages, including on Ronaldo’s homecoming.

In May, Chelsea were sold for £2.5 billion ($3 billion), a record for a football club, to another American consortium led by Todd Boehly, with a further investment of £1.75 billion promised on the playing squad and infrastructure.


Ronaldo scores first goal for Al-Nassr to salvage a late point against Al-Fateh

Ronaldo scores first goal for Al-Nassr to salvage a late point against Al-Fateh
Updated 13 min 53 sec ago

Ronaldo scores first goal for Al-Nassr to salvage a late point against Al-Fateh

Ronaldo scores first goal for Al-Nassr to salvage a late point against Al-Fateh
  • Stoppage time penalty secures a 2-2 draw that sends the Riyadh club back to the top of the Roshn Saudi League table
  • The five-time UEFA Champions League winner had a busy evening at the Prince Abdullah bin Jalawi Sports City Stadium and it ended on a high

AL-HASA, Saudi Arabia: Finally, it happened. In an action-packed game, after having a goal disallowed, hitting the woodwork and missing a great chance, Cristiano Ronaldo finally scored for Al-Nassr with a stoppage time penalty that secured a 2-2 draw at Al-Fateh and sent them back to the top of the Roshn Saudi League.
It was the Portuguese international’s first competitive goal for the club since his move to Riyadh.
The five-time UEFA Champions League winner had a busy evening at the Prince Abdullah bin Jalawi Sports City Stadium and it ended on a high.
New signing Cristian Tello put Al-Fateh in front in style early in the game, but Anderson Talisca, who was sent off in the final minutes, equalized just before the break for goal number 13 of the season so far. In the second half, Algerian star Sofiane Bendebka volleyed home another scorcher to restore Al-Fateh’s lead, only for Ronaldo to dash home team hopes.
As an advertisement for Saudi Arabian football, it had everything: fantastic goals, near misses, a red card and drama that kept a big crowd entertained right until the final whistle. They also had the question of whether Ronaldo, playing his third competitive game in the country, would get on the scoresheet.
The former Real Madrid star looked like he meant business from the start as Al-Nassr dominated the opening period, but it was ex-Barcelona forward Tello who put Al-Fateh in front with a beauty after 12 minutes of his first appearance.
Al-Nassr’s new on-loan goalkeeper Agustin Rossi punched a cross outside the area, but there was Tello, who joined the club in January, to send a looping volley back over the Argentine shot-stopper and into the net.
Ronaldo thought he had levelled the scores after 24 minutes. Receiving the ball from Talisca with his back to goal, the Portuguese star flicked the ball up, turned beautifully and then sent a low shot in off the post. It was immediately, and rightly, flagged for offside by the assistant referee.
He missed an easier chance 10 minutes later. Talisca’s low shot from the left side of the area was brilliantly tipped on to the post by Jacob Rinne only to rebound to Ronaldo, standing unmarked just to the right of the penalty spot. The away fans in the stadium got ready to erupt only for the 37 year-old to blast the ball over.
Three minutes before the break, Talisca made it 1-1. The Brazilian, the league’s leading goalscorer, found some space to receive a low left-sided cross from Ghislain Konan to drill the ball past the Swedish shotstopper.
There was still time in the first half for Ronaldo to hit the bar. Abdulrahmeen Gahreeb slipped the ball to the captain in the area and while it was slightly behind him, fans again expected the net to ripple. Instead, the ex-Manchester United man found only the woodwork. The frustration that the five-time Ballon D’or winner felt was there for all to see.
It looked as if the nine-time champions would take the lead sooner or later in the second half, but Al-Fateh did so, once again against the run of play and once again, it was a spectacular strike and one made in North Africa. Bendebka volleyed home a deep left-sided cross from Morocco’s Marwane Saadane high into the net from the back post. Rossi had no chance.
Al-Nassr had plenty of possession but struggled to create clear chances, though, late on, a Talisca volley forced a great reaction save from Rinne as Ronaldo took issue with what he saw as time-wasting from the home team and received a booking in the last minute of normal time as tempers boiled over.
He got his chance for revenge seconds later as the referee pointed to the spot when Jaloliddin Mashiparov was brought down in the area. He stepped up to give Rinne no chance. There were still seven minutes of added time, but hopes of a late winner were dashed when Talisca saw red for a rash tackle on Petros.
On Thursday, Al-Shabab went top temporarily with a 2-1 win over Damac, thanks to early goals from Santi Mina and Carlos. Al-Taawoun won 1-0 at bottom club Al-Batin to stay well-placed in fifth, just four points off the top.
Al-Hilal in third are in FIFA Club World Cup action on Saturday as the Asian champions face African counterparts Wydad AC of Morocco. Al-Ittihad can go level on points with Al-Shabab with a win against Al-Tai on Sunday.
 


In-form Abraham Ancer cards 66 to take one-shot lead in PIF Saudi International

In-form Abraham Ancer cards 66 to take one-shot lead in PIF Saudi International
Updated 03 February 2023

In-form Abraham Ancer cards 66 to take one-shot lead in PIF Saudi International

In-form Abraham Ancer cards 66 to take one-shot lead in PIF Saudi International
  • American Cameron Young lurks just one shot behind at midway point as leaders benefit from calmer conditions
  • Thailand well represented on the leaderboard with Kaewkanjana in third and 15-year-old amateur Chantananuwat one shot further back

JEDDAH: Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and American Cameron Young took advantage of the calmer afternoon conditions on Friday to top the leaderboard in first and second place at the midway point of the PIF Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers.

Ancer followed up his tournament low 63 on Thursday with a 4-under-par 66 to take a one-shot lead going into the weekend at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. It was another near-perfect round for the 31-year-old with five birdies and only his first blemish of the tournament coming on 17.

After the round, Ancer said: “I’m very pleased with the way I’ve been rolling it and hitting it off the tee. Also my iron play has been pretty dang good, so I’m happy with my game.

“Having that bogey on 17 from a very scorable spot kind of burns a little bit and dropping the first shot of the tournament, but extremely happy with my play and the way my body feels, the way my swing feels. Yeah, extremely happy.”

Young, sitting one shot behind at 10-under par, is enjoying his first appearance at Royal Greens with two bogey-free rounds of 65, “It’s been great. I think it’s been a lot of fun in the wind. We have to hit a bunch of shots, and I’ve played really nicely.”

Sadom Kaewkanjana and Ratchanon Chantananuwat showed why they are two of Asia’s most exciting young prospects when they climbed up the internationally loaded leaderboard.

Kaewkanjana, 24, shot a four-under-par 66, making the most of the morning’s calm conditions, in contrast to the blustery weather he played in on Thursday afternoon.

He said: “I’m happy. Yesterday afternoon was so windy, but I played solid. Today I’m happy to play in the morning in the second group. So, everything’s good. My tee shot, my iron, all good. I hope to do more tomorrow and the last days the same as the first two days."

Compatriot Chantananuwat, known as “TK,” showed maturity beyond his years after the first two rounds in the Asian Tour’s flagship event. The 15-year-old amateur sits in a tie for sixth place, alongside Lucas Herbert, with rounds of 67 and 66. It was a tale of two halves for the young star on Friday after going out on the front nine in an impressive six-under-par before battling the wind to return a one-over-par back-nine.

“I have to split it in two halves because I played phenomenal on the first seven, had five birdies. I was really happy with that. I actually played even better yesterday actually, I just couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities as well as I did today.

“The last 11 holes I’m actually very happy with, as well, because it was an all-out scramble, and to shoot 1-over in these conditions playing like that, I easily could have shot 4-over. I made so many clutch par putts and the birdie putt on the last. Overall, very happy with my round because I’ve improved in lots of aspects compared to two months ago.”

Marc Leishman shot the low round of the day with a 6-under-par 66 to sit two shots back alongside Kaewkanjana and Louis Oosthuizen, who closed the round in style with an eagle on the 18th.

Defending champion Harold Varner III from the US also made a strong move, carding a 66 to jump up into a tie for 11th, six shots behind the leader.

The midway cut was made with those on level-par making it through in the last spots. Lee Westwood, Joaquin Niemann, and Jazz Janewattananond are all notable names who made it through into the weekend on the mark and will look to climb the leaderboard on moving day.

 

 


Saudi Lacrosse Federation sets out strategy to spread game across Kingdom

Saudi Lacrosse Federation sets out strategy to spread game across Kingdom
Updated 03 February 2023

Saudi Lacrosse Federation sets out strategy to spread game across Kingdom

Saudi Lacrosse Federation sets out strategy to spread game across Kingdom
  • Overseen by Jessie Cox, head of coaching and development, the federation has opened its first club in Riyadh
  • Now the seeds of growth of what some consider a niche sport have been sown in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: It’s a measure of the rapid development of sport in Saudi Arabia that lacrosse is starting to gain popularity among some in the capital Riyadh.
The sport may be the oldest organized sport in North America, with a version played as early as the 12th century by the natives of the land before being adopted later by European settlers, but in this part of the world it was practically unheard of until recently.
Now the seeds of growth of what some consider a niche sport have been sown in the Kingdom.
The Saudi Lacrosse Federation launched their first club in Riyadh at the end of 2022, with Executive Director Mohammad Abdullah Al-Jabri explaining a strategy that began almost three years ago.
“Our purpose from this club is to raise awareness of this sport and its growth and fulfil the skills of the athletes,” he said at the game’s new home of Saudi Lacrosse Club in Riyadh. “Actually, we started this plan on Jan. 1, 2020; it was a school program that was divided into four stages.”
“The first stage was about raising awareness, the second stage was about the applied skills of Lacrosse, the third was about the fulfillment of the skills of the athletes by providing them with coaches and courses,” said Al-Jabri. “Now we are at the final stage, which is school programs where we bring all of the best athletes, boys and girls, to the club to give them more training of lacrosse to fulfil their potential.”
It might be early days, but several youngsters have already caught the bug.
“I was in my neighborhood’s club, and then I met coaches Rawan and Hind they informed me that it was an American sport and it’s the first time (it’s being played) here in Saudi,” said Nagham Airame.
“I loved the sport because it was something new, and it’s a good sport.”
For her and other aspiring lacrosse players, the focus now is on maintaining a consistent level of training in what until recently was a foreign activity.
“My goal is to reach the highest level, it needs someone who’s focused and willing to practice a lot,” Airame said. “It was hard in the beginning but what helped me is practicing more and more, and it becomes easier over time.”
Leading the way for the youngsters is Jessie Cox, head of coaching and development at the federation.
“Even though it’s a brand new game in Saudi Arabia, lacrosse has been played for thousands of years,” he said. “It originally started from the Native Americans in the upper northeast of the US and Canada.”
Cox is happy to be part of a project that is promoting the game in the Kingdom.
“I think it’s really cool because most of the people here are seeing lacrosse for the first time,” the American coach said. “It’s something they’ve never seen before. The first question we get is, what is that? — so it’s a lot of fun for us to go out and spread this sport around Saudi Arabia and introduce it to new people.”
“So far I’ve seen great players,” Cox added. “I was at the Saudi Games and there are great athletes down there; hopefully we could get some of those guys and girls playing here too.”
Establishing lacrosse in the Kingdom has also give some expatriates the opportunity to play a sport they enjoyed at a young age.
“I started playing when I was in school at the age of 11, and then after university I moved to a new town and joined a club to find new friends,” said Emma, a lacrosse player. “In the UK, the clubs are for both men and women, who play in separate games, so it’s a great social sport.”
“I think it’s amazing showing that kind of diversity in sports and activities that Saudis now are racing, so it’s fun to see Americans and UK experts being able to bring this sports to Saudi; it’s incredible.”


Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli signs contract extension

Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli signs contract extension
Updated 03 February 2023

Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli signs contract extension

Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli signs contract extension
  • The 21-year-old Brazil international has scored seven goals this season to boost Arsenal's title bid

LONDON: Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli has signed a “long-term” contract extension, the Premier League leaders said Friday.
The 21-year-old Brazil international has scored seven goals this season to boost Arsenal’s title bid in his fourth season in north London.
The club did not specify the length of the deal but manager Mikel Arteta called it “a new long-term contract.”
“Gabi is still very young, so we know there’s still much more to come from him and it’s great that we’ll be on this journey together,” Arteta said in the club’s announcement.
Martinelli was not quoted in the announcement.
The forward has started all 19 league games this season. He has made 111 appearances in his Arsenal career since signing from Sao Paulo club Ituano in July 2019.


Wydad carrying FIFA Club World Cup hopes of nation basking in football’s spotlight

Wydad carrying FIFA Club World Cup hopes of nation basking in football’s spotlight
Updated 03 February 2023

Wydad carrying FIFA Club World Cup hopes of nation basking in football’s spotlight

Wydad carrying FIFA Club World Cup hopes of nation basking in football’s spotlight
  • Morocco’s hosting of the intercontinental competition comes less than two months after country’s sensational performances at 2022 World Cup in Qatar

Al-Hilal, the most successful team in Asian history with four continental championships, are approaching the FIFA Club World Cup in high spirits.

The first match, however, is going to be even tougher than usual.

Wydad AC are not only African champions, but are playing in their home nation of Morocco, a country currently flying high in international football. Also high are hopes that passionate local fans can help the Casablanca club overcome the “Real Madrid of Asia” and go as far in this tournament, or even further, than in other recent global competitions. 

Last July, Morocco hosted the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and took it by storm on and off the pitch. No Arab team had ever progressed past the group stage before, but they swept to the final on the back of genuine excitement and delight from the North African nation.

There were full stadiums as the Atlas Lionesses topped their group, beat Botswana in the quarterfinals and then squeezed past Nigeria, winners of 11 of the 13 past tournaments, 5-4 in a semifinal penalty shootout. With such narrow margins in that game, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the fans inside the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium made the difference.

There were messages from King Mohammed VI and other prominent figures, and while South Africa were a little too strong in the final, the host nation and the fans did themselves proud. There will obviously not be as many who make the long trip to New Zealand and Australia in the summer as Morocco become the first Arab representative at the Women’s World Cup, but it will be well-watched at home.

If it goes anywhere near as well as the men’s World Cup then it will be quite a show. Heading into the 2022 tournament, many expected a repeat of 2018 when Morocco were in a tough group, performed well and then went home early. 

Not quite. It started with a goalless draw against 2018 finalists Croatia. Deserved wins over Belgium, ranked second in the world, and then Canada gave the Atlas Lions top spot in their group. Then came a famous second-round victory over 2010 winners Spain. That was followed by an even more famous win over Portugal. It ended with a 2-0 defeat in the semifinal to France and they pushed the defending champions all the way.

While the likes of Sofyan Amrabat, Yassine Bounou and Achraf Hakimi made many headlines, so did the fans. Tens of thousands crammed into stadiums in Qatar and generated incredible atmospheres that could be felt around the world. Many felt they were the best fans at the tournament and it is certainly true that the games against European giants Spain, Portugal and France felt like home games for Morocco.

That is something that Wydad coach Mehdi Nafti hopes can be replicated in the coming week or so, even if the opener against Al-Hilal is not in Casablanca, but Rabat.

“We will not be worse than other teams even if we know that we are not favorites, but we know that we will play at home in front of our fans and this is great for us and a great motivation, and we would like to continue the situation that followed the World Cup with the Moroccan national team,” the 44-year-old said. 

“I know for sure that the rest of the teams will respect us, and this is a great challenge for us. It is very important that we have experienced stars in the team, and with our hearts and our fans we can move mountains.”

Nafti, a former Tunisian international, has been in the job at Wydad for just a month.He succeeded Hussein Ammouta, who was fired in November after a 3-0 defeat to FUS Rabat. Ammouta replaced Walid Regragui, the man who led Wydad to the African title in May with a win over Egyptian giants Al-Ahly (who are also at the Club World Cup and face Seattle Sounders for the right to take on Real Madrid).

The 47-year-old Regragui then left in August to take over the Moroccan national team and led them to World Cup success. 

It is not a surprise then that Nafti has been in contact with Regragui, a former teammate.

“I knew that I would coach the African champions who won the local league last season, and the coach who was here is a friend of mine, so all these things made me accept the task, not only that we will play at the Club World Cup.”

“I still have contact with Regragui,” Nafti added. “We played together in France with Toulouse and in Racing Santander as well. He helped me a lot, especially in the early days, to adapt and learn about Wydad quickly.”

It seems to have worked. Domestic form is good, and Wydad have won four and drawn two of the last six leagues and sit second in the league.

With three members of the World Cup squad — Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti, Yahya Jabrane and Yahia Attiyat Allah — and star midfielder Aymane Hassouni in good form, and new Cameroon striker Didier Lamkel added to the team, there is hope.

Regragui believes that if Al-Hilal can be defeated then Wydad can go far.

“I expect a balanced game because Al- Hilal are the Real Madrid of Asia, and have exceptional players and supporters, but playing at home is an advantage for Wydad,” Regragui said.

“Wydad have talented players. Aymane Hassouni is a great player and deserves to shine. The team has also been strengthened by new recruits capable of making a difference. The game against Hilal is a tough game. If Wydad manage to win, they can easily reach the final. Everything is possible.”