Jose Mourinho's 'spin' doesn't hide the hard work ahead for Man United

May 25, 2017 07:16 AM PDT

The conversation gets heated between the FC guys when talking about whether or not this season can be considered a success by Man United standards. Rafa Benitez famously commented that "Football is a lie." I wouldn't go quite that far, but it's pretty obvious to me that so much of the game is "spin." Often, the very same event, viewed from different perspectives, can be read and defined in so many ways. Watching Jose Mourinho after Man United won the Europa League drove the point home. It felt as if he was an actor in someone else's play. I don't mean it in a negative way, either. He has little choice. We like very simple, black-and-white...

Juve, Madrid on top before Champions League final; Man United a new entry

May 25, 2017 06:58 AM PDT

Watch some of the best moments from Juve's raising of their 33rd Serie A trophy, as well as some locker room celebrations. Real Madrid celebrated winning their first La Liga title since 2012 with fans on an open top bus parade in the Spanish capital. The conversation gets heated between the FC guys when talking about whether or not this season can be considered a success by Man United standards. The top two each wrapped a league title last weekend, Next stop Cardiff, via Shaka Hislop's latest Power Rankings! 1. Juventus (no change) A 3-0 win against Crotone confirmed what, in truth, most of us have expected all season: Juventus are champions of Italy for the sixth straight game. With two parts of a treble complete, only Real Madrid stand between Max Allegri's men and footballing immortality. 2. Real Madrid (no change) With Barcelona poised to take advantage of any slip, Madrid...

Billy Heavner's life in limbo in Major League Soccer as a 'pool goalkeeper'

May 24, 2017 08:42 AM PDT

With roughly a third of the MLS season gone, Paul Mariner presents the top 10 goals of the campaign thus far. Billy Heavner is in goalkeeper limbo. The Landisville, Pennsylvania, native is officially an MLS player and has a contract with the league to prove it. Every week he trains with Sporting Kansas City and benefits from most of the professional accoutrements that entails. But Heavner isn't officially on Kansas City's roster. In fact, he is a man without a team at all -- that is until a general manager somewhere decides he has a goalkeeper emergency and needs cover. Maybe there has been a glut of...

Premier League alternative awards: Moyes, Zaza, Traore, others 'honoured'

May 24, 2017 05:26 AM PDT

The FC crew recall the defining moments that stuck out for them during the 2016-17 Premier League season. Adam Hurrey looks back with an irreverent eye at the season that was in England's top flight and hands out some tongue-in-cheek prizes. Most beleaguered manager: David Moyes Once again, the Premier League was littered with exhausted, discarded managers. Swansea managed to go through two beaten-looking men -- the dignified but doomed Francesco Guidolin and the confident Bob Bradley, who went down wasting his time defending the abbreviation "PK" -- before the earnest authority of Paul Clement guided...

Ajax's recipe for success: Ridiculously young players and a brilliant coach

May 23, 2017 01:00 AM PDT

Gab Marcotti describes the security measures for the Europa League and Champions League finals after Monday's terror attack. Ajax head coach Peter Bosz admits he is inspired by Johan Cruyff's philosophy ahead of the Europa League final. Despite losing to Lyon, Ajax and their fans were in the dancing spirit after sealing a spot in the Europa League final. I've never seen the Amsterdam Arena as happy as the other night when Ajax played Lyon. The stadium opened in 1996, exactly when Ajax's good days were ending. It's a low-atmosphere bowl in an out-of-town business park, a bad imitation of an outdated American model. But that night, an absurdly young Ajax team hammered Lyon 4-1 in the Europa League semifinal on the way to the final against Manchester United in Stockholm on May 24. The crowd could hardly believe it. Old fat guys like me were singing...

Harry Kane seals Prem's Golden Boot to top Player Power Rankings

May 22, 2017 10:41 AM PDT

The FC crew weigh in on how Harry Kane stacks up at the moment with the best strikers in the world. Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino believes Harry Kane is one of the best strikers in the world after winning back-to-back golden boots. Also receiving votes: Mohamed Salah (AS Roma), Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon), Keylor Navas (Real Madrid), Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez (Bayer Leverkusen), Nicolas de Preville (Lille). Let us know what you think of the countdown by commenting below or on Twitter using #ESPNFCrankings. Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.

Ronald Koeman: Europa League finalists set standard Everton aspire to reach

May 22, 2017 09:50 AM PDT

With disappointing league campaigns, the FC crew debate if Man United's UEL or Arsenal's FA Cup final is more crucial. Ronald Koeman has hailed Everton fans as the key to his sides superb home record at Goodison Park. A clear objective will be to bring in players who will have more productivity for next season when we're in the Europa League. I will be a keen observer of events in the Friends Arena in Stockholm on Wednesday when Ajax and Manchester United contest the final of the UEFA Europa League. As manager of Everton, I am very much looking forward to playing in the competition next season, with the team having realised our objective when we set out at the beginning of the campaign of qualifying for Europe. For us, this was the first step. The final between Ajax and Manchester United will provide a glimpse as to the next step...

Zidane guides Real to La Liga glory, Allegri's Juve win again, Terry's sendoff

May 22, 2017 08:41 AM PDT

The ESPN FC crew hail Zinedine Zidane for his part in bringing Real Madrid back to the summit in La Liga. There was no last day miracle, no "Tenerifazo" like a quarter-century ago when Real Madrid contrived to blow the title 90 minutes from the finish line. What you got instead was an early lead to settle the nerves, some great goalkeeping from Keylor Navas, and Karim Benzema putting the title out of reach by giving Real Madrid their 2-0 lead in the second half. The victory away to Malaga sealed the club's 33rd league title, although only the club's second since 2008. Whether this reflects shifting...

Chelsea are worthy champions after a top-heavy Premier League season

May 21, 2017 01:31 PM PDT

Janusz Michallik and Alexis Nunes take a long look at how the Premier League top 6 shaped out this season. With the Premier League season behind us, take a look at the latest predictions of how the top 4 will shape up next season. Any team that clocks up a record 30 Premier League wins and 93 points deserves to be champions, so nobody can argue about Chelsea wearing the crown. It was a remarkable turnaround after their mysterious no-show resulted in a 10th-place finish last season. Indeed, a club-by-club comparison between this campaign and 2015-16 offers some revealing insights on how all 20 clubs performed. Chelsea were the biggest climbers and Leicester the biggest fallers, while two of the three promoted clubs went straight...

Plane banners and 8 other things we hated about the Premier League season

May 20, 2017 01:21 AM PDT

The Exploading Heads gain exclusive access to the Plane Banners 'R' Us call centre. There's been plenty of talking points from an eventful season but we didn't like everything we saw... Plane banners Ok, we understand that fans get frustrated by their managers. We understand that they want to showcase that frustration for others to see. But what we don't get is why they choose to spend almost £1,000 on a pointlessly tiny banner flying behind a plane for all of 10 seconds. And, as if that wasn't bad enough, now we have no idea who is actually behind the "protest." Is a group...

Races for Premier League's individual accolades coming down to final day

May 20, 2017 01:12 AM PDT

Harry Kane took control of the Premier League Golden Boot race after bagging four goals against Leicester City. Tottenham's Harry Kane was all smiles following his four-goal performance against Leicester City. Alexis Nunes and Steve Nicol go toe-to-toe in predicting fixtures from the final match day of the Premier League season. With Real Madrid linked with David De Gea and Thibaut Courtois, Shaka Hislop rates the top 5 goalkeepers in the world. The final day of this season's Premier League doesn't look set to be particularly exciting -- the title and relegation races have been settled, while Liverpool and Manchester City have easy matches to seal Champions League football ahead of Arsenal. Indeed, perhaps the only minor interest comes from the battle for individual records -- some of them are highly vaunted awards, others simply trivia. But here's the standings in six separate categories ahead of the weekend action: Goals After...

Liverpool and Arsenal in Champions League scrap on Prem final day

May 19, 2017 01:00 AM PDT

Alexis Nunes and Steve Nicol predict the results ahead of the final day of the Premier League campaign. Alexis Nunes and Steve Nicol predict the results ahead of the final day of the Premier League campaign. The race for the Champions League is the big story on the final day of the Premier League season, so who will make it: Liverpool or Arsenal? There's even a chance the fight for a top four place could, incredibly, come down to a playoff. Liverpool clinch a Champions League place if they beat Middlesbrough, but fail to do so and that lets in Arsenal. Meanwhile, Manchester City are almost there, although they still may have to get something at Watford just to make sure. How will the final day...

Premier League final day can be saved by Middlesbrough at Liverpool

May 19, 2017 12:13 AM PDT

Layla Anna-Lee thinks this is the year that Arsene Wenger will finally finish outside of the top four. Is she wrong? The FC crew have grown tired of Jose Mourinho's antics after the United manager's latest fixture-related complaints. W2W4 previews the weekend's Premier League fixtures and highlights five key storylines. Will Liverpool hold their nerve and secure a top-four finish?  This final day of the 2016-17 Premier League season needs an early Middlesbrough goal at Liverpool. If it's the other way around, we might as well start looking to next campaign. With the title Chelsea's and the three relegated clubs already confirmed, all that remains to realistically play for is fourth place. Try not to get too excited. Liverpool...

Terry and Rooney prepare for farewells as Wenger ponders biggest exit of all

May 19, 2017 12:11 AM PDT

The ESPN FC crew discuss what's next for Premier League legends John Terry and Wayne Rooney. The ESPN FC crew discuss what's next for Premier League legends John Terry and Wayne Rooney. The ESPN FC crew discuss what's next for Premier League legends John Terry and Wayne Rooney. The ESPN FC crew discuss what's next for Premier League legends John Terry and Wayne Rooney. The ESPN FC crew discuss what's next for Premier League legends John Terry and Wayne Rooney. The ESPN FC crew discuss what's next for Premier League legends John Terry and Wayne Rooney. The ESPN FC crew discuss what's next for Premier League legends John Terry and Wayne Rooney. The ESPN FC crew discuss what's next for Premier League legends John Terry and Wayne Rooney. For many in football, the 2016-17 season has simply been the start of their Premier League story. That's the case for Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, who could become only the third manager in history to win the double in his first season in England's top flight, after Kenny Dalglish in 1986 and Carlo Ancelotti in 2010. Young goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, 23, had a good first full year too. He made the most of his extended run in the Sunderland team and was named in the shortlist for the PFA Young Player...

Champions League finalists Juventus and Real Madrid stay first and second

May 18, 2017 08:46 AM PDT

The FC panel debate the form of the two UCL finalists, citing Juventus as the team more solidified from back to front. It's that time of the season when trophies are handed out and the biggest teams celebrate. And not just because they feature in Shaka Hislop's Power Rankings! 1. Juventus (no change) In terms of Juve's treble mission, Part 1 is complete -- a 2-0 Coppa Italia final win vs. Lazio saw to that -- and Part 2 should be finalised on Sunday, when a draw vs. Crotone will be enough to clinch Serie A. After that, the focus will turn to the Champions League final. 2. Real Madrid (no change) Talking...

Philipp Lahm: Germany and Bayern defender the best of his generation

May 18, 2017 12:30 AM PDT

ESPN FC's Steve Nicol says Philipp Lahm is one of the best ever, but fears he's calling it quits too soon. MUNICH -- Philipp Lahm is the best defender of his generation, and his retirement at the age of 33 will leave a massive void, not just at Bayern Munich -- a club he led with intelligence and always by example -- but also within the game. Lahm's unswerving brilliance helped him to eight Bundesliga titles (sharing the record with Mehmet Scholl, Oliver Kahn and Bastian Schweinsteiger), six DFB Pokals, the 2013 Champions League and then the World Cup a year later. World-class in at least four positions...

Antonio Conte reveals a calmer, cooler side in guiding Chelsea to the title

May 17, 2017 12:37 AM PDT

Former Chelsea midfielder Craig Burley praises the work of Antonio Conte in taking the club to the Premier League title. Chelsea boss Antonio Conte says switching his defensive formation was the catalyst for their title triumph. Hiring a new manager isn't entirely dissimilar to making a commitment to a significant other. You know it might not last forever. You know you might not be the one who gets to decide when it ends. Most of all, while you hope that the bad will be far outweighed by the good, you know that there will be a whole load of cons. There always are. It was no different for Chelsea when they made Antonio Conte their top target over the holiday period between December 2015 and January 2016. They thought he...

Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal chase final UCL places, with playoff possible

May 16, 2017 02:20 PM PDT

With their UCL hopes out of their hands, the FC panel debate Arsenal's odds of reaching a top-four spot at season's end. Manchester City kept their top-four fate in their own hands as they moved into third place with a 3-1 win over West Brom. Should Liverpool fail to beat Middlesbrough and Arsenal win against Everton on Sunday, the Gunners can sneak into the top four at the very end of the season. Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal will enter the final day of the Premier League season fighting for two spots in next year's Champions League. Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur are already guaranteed of taking their places in the group stage draw, but there are still two places up for grabs. Third place enters directly into the group stage, fourth place must go through the Champions League playoff round. Fifth place settles for the Europa League. Goal difference and goals scored will, as usual,...

Hannes Wolf, the coach who taught Christian Pulisic, is tipped for big things

May 16, 2017 12:47 AM PDT

Herculez Gomez doesn't buy the idea that Christian Pulisic is the future of world football. Hannes Wolf is making real strides at Stuttgart, who are set for a return to the Bundesliga. More than one thing links Christian Pulisic and Jurgen Klopp. There's Borussia Dortmund, obviously, as well as the relentless pace that has become the default setting of modern football, rather than the exception. But there's also Hannes Wolf, the man who mentored the former, was mentored by the latter and is now making his name as one of the brightest young managers in Germany. Earlier this year Pulisic's father Mark, was asked about who was key in the young winger's early days at Dortmund: "Most...

Feyenoord's title win sums up the quiet brilliance of tireless, peerless Dirk Kuyt

May 15, 2017 01:01 PM PDT

Fresh off their first league title since 1999, Feyenoord players decided to celebrate their new silverware with a bath. Kuyt and Feyenoord captured the league title on Sunday and captured our hearts in the process. On Sunday, Feyenoord ended their 18-year title drought with a 3-1 win over Heracles Almelo. They won via an emphatic close-range finish from a narrow angle, a neatly flicked header and a converted penalty. And all three goals to clinch a first Eredivisie title since 1999 came from one man: Dirk Kuyt. In a year of European football that has seen a lot of business as usual, with Bayern running roughshod in Germany and Chelsea surging back to the top of the Premier League after a lost season, Feyenoord's...

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