MANCHESTER, December 18 -- Manchester United have sacked manager Jose Mourinho with immediate affect.
The 55-year-old leaves Old Trafford by after failing to turn around a disastrous start to the season.
The final straw came after Man Utd's 3-1 defeat at Liverpool – but he has been pushed closer to edge with each passing week as his reign descended into crisis. A statement released by the club read:
"Manchester United announces that manager Jose Mourinho has left the club with immediate effect.
The club would like to thank Jose for his work during his time at Manchester United and to wish him success in the future."
NYON, December 17 -- The Champions League round of 16 draw, and the Europa League round of 32 draw, took place Monday in Nyon, Switzerland.
They set up the first round of the four month knockout stages, which will end the European club football season. The Europa League final will take place May 29 at the Baku Olympic Stadium in Azerbaijan, while the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium (home of Atletico Madrid) will host the Champions League final June 1. The introduction of VAR for both tournaments from the round of 16 on to the finals adds a new wrinkle, and should be interesting to watch.
Real Madrid has won the last three Champions League titles, and will start its knockout stage defense against Ajax. The four English sides in Champions League, three of which will open at home in the two-legged ties which will start either February 12-13 or 19-20, will have some tough match ups.
Liverpool will face Bayern Munich, Manchester United will take on Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint Germain, while Tottenham will see Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund. Manchester City, as the lone group winner from England, will start on the road. The Cityzens, the current favorite to win the tournament, will visit Schalke 04. There are two more English teams in the Europa League, and they are the two betting favorites to win the competition and earn an automatic berth into next season's Champions League (if it is not in the top four of the Premier League). Arsenal will visit Belarus to take on BATE Borisov, while Chelsea will head to Sweden to take on Malmo.
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAW RESULTS
(All first round legs played at home of group runners-up Feb. 12-13 or 19-20.)
AMSTERDAM, December 17 -- Ajax teenager Matthijs de Ligt, 19, claimed the Tuttosport award after receiving the most votes from an international panel.
Coveted Ajax captain and sensation Matthijs de Ligt has been crowned the 2018 Golden Boy as the most promising Under-21 player in Europe. Linked with LaLiga champions Barcelona and Premier League titleholders Manchester City among others, the 19-year-old centre-back claimed the Tuttosport award after receiving the most votes from an international panel.
De Ligt beat Roma winger Justin Kluivert, Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold, AC Milan forward Patrick Cutrone and Real Madrid teenager Vinicius Junior to the honour, won by Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe last year. Netherlands international De Ligt – under contract until 2021 – has been a revelation since making his debut for boyhood club Ajax in 2016, establishing himself in the heart of the Eredivisie club's defence.
A first international call-up following last year and De Ligt continues to attract interest from some of Europe's biggest clubs, with Barca reportedly at the front of the queue.
DOHA, December 16 -- The 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium will be the largest of the tournament, which will kick off on 21 November 2022.
Officials in Qatar revealed the design for Lusail Stadium, the venue at which the opening and final games of the 2022 FIFA World Cup will take place. The 80,000-capacity venue will be the largest stadium of the tournament, which will kick off on November 21, 2022, and be the first to take place in the Arab world. Located 15km north of central Doha, the stadium will form the centrepiece of Lusail City, the construction of which is about 90 percent completed, according to the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), the body tasked with getting Qatar ready to host the World Cup. Designed by British firm Foster + Partners, the venue's golden facade takes its inspiration from Arab architecture and the region's tradition of craftsmanship.
Construction of the stadium, which is being delivered by a joint venture of Qatari firm HBK Contracting Company and China Railway Construction Corporation, is well under way. With the substructure complete, concrete superstructure and infrastructure works are progressing in all seating zones, while internal works have commenced in the west stand. Construction of the stadium is set to be completed in 2020. The venue is the eighth stadium design unveiled by the SC. Khalifa International Stadium became the first tournament-ready venue in 2017, while two more stadiums will be completed early next year - Al Wakrah Stadium and Al Bayt Stadium - Al Khor City.
Construction of the stadium is set to be completed in 2020. The venue is the eighth stadium design unveiled by the SC. Khalifa International Stadium became the first tournament-ready venue in 2017, while two more stadiums will be completed early next year - Al Wakrah Stadium and Al Bayt Stadium - Al Khor City.
Beating bid rivals Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States, Qatar won the hosting rights in 2010, which put the Gulf state under increasing scrutiny over the treatment of migrant workers. To date, there have been three work-related fatalities and nine non-work related deaths of workers engaged in the construction of Qatar's World Cup stadiums, according to the tournament organisers. But the United Nations International Labour Organization dismissed all complaints lodged against Qatar following a new draft bill that introduced a minimum wage and legal protection for the foreign workforce, approved by the government last year. At least 26,000 people are directly involved in the construction of the proposed stadiums. Contractors involved in the World Cup projects have agreed to reimburse more than $14.4m to the thousands of workers who had paid recruitment fees before moving to Qatar.
ISTANBUL, December 14 -- After being dismissed in October, Phillip Cocu has reached an agreement with Fenerbahce over the termination of his contract.
Phillip Cocu said he "fell in love with Istanbul" in a farewell message to Fenerbahce supporters after the club announced a "mutual agreement" had been struck regarding his October dismissal for plunging the Turkish giants into a relegation battle.
Cocu was relieved of his duties as first-team coach at the end of October following a 3-1 home defeat by Ankaragucu, just four months after being hired. The former PSV coach won just three of his 15 competitive matches in charge, and things have barely improved since under his assistant Erwin Koeman, with Sunday's 3-0 defeat to Akhisarspor leaving Fener second from bottom in the Super Lig.
Despite being dismissed in October, the club and Cocu only recently came to an agreement over the termination of his contract, which was officially announced on Thursday.
AMSTERDAM, December 13 -- Nicolas Tagliafico scored a stoppage-time equalizer as Ajax salvaged a thrilling 3-3 draw against Bayern Munich that saw the German side top Champions League Group E.
In a game that featured four goals after the 82nd minute, two red cards and two penalties, substitute Kingsley Coman looked to have grabbed a winner for Bayern in the 90th before defender Tagliafico tapped in the equalizer five minutes into stoppage time. Robert Lewandowski scored twice for Bayern, including an equalizer for 2-2 in the 87th.
"It was a great match, I want to congratulate both teams for reaching the next round," Bayern coach Niko Kovac said. The two teams were already assured of progressing to the round of 16 before the match at Johan Cruyff Arena and Bayern needed only a draw to ensure top spot in the group, while Ajax needed to win. With group victory at stake, the two teams put on a memorable show. "This is why fans come to the stadium, why football is such a great sport on television," Ajax cocach Erik ten Hag said. "My team and Bayern provided a true spectacle."
Topping the group means Bayern will avoid other group winners, including Barcelona, Manchester City and Real Madrid in the next round. But Kovac said plenty of good teams finished second, including the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham. Lewandowski put five-time European champion Bayern ahead in the 13th minute and levelled with an 87th-minute penalty after Tadic had scored twice to put Ajax in front. Coman calmly fired the ball past Andre Onana in the 90th, before Tagliafico's equalizer.
"It's a terrible waste we weren't able to get the win," Ten Hag said. Lewandoski's brace took his tally in this season's Champions League to a competition-leading eight goals, two ahead of Lionel Messi. Tadic's goals took him to five in the competition this season. By the time Tadic put Ajax 2-1 in front in the 82nd minute, both teams had been reduced to 10 men after referee Clement Turpin showed Maximilian Woeber a straight red card for a foul on Leon Goretzka in the 67th minute and dismissed Thomas Mueller eight minutes later for a clumsy challenge on Tagliafico.
Both teams were unbeaten in the Champions League and had conceded only two goals going into their last match. Ajax held Bayern to a 1-1 draw when they met in October in Munich.
LONDON, December 6 -- Investigators have revealed the cause behind the helicopter crash which killed Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others six weeks ago.
According to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, a mechanism linking the pilot's pedals with the tail rotor blades became disconnected, leading to the accident.
"The evidence gathered to date shows that the loss of control of the helicopter resulted from the tail rotor actuator control shaft becoming disconnected from the actuator lever mechanism," declared the special report.
PARIS, December 4 -- Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg said the introduction of a women's Ballon d'Or was a "big step forward" for the game, playing down suggestions her historic victory was overshadowed after being asked to perform a 'twerk' live on stage.
The Lyon star -- whose prolific form in front of goal helped the French club secure a third successive Champions League victory -- edged out Danish forward Pernille Harder to claim the inaugural prize at a ceremony in Paris on Monday. But the 23-year-old was asked if she would perform a sexually provocative dance by French host DJ, Martin Solveig, and appeared embarrassed as she rejected the request.
Hegerberg later said: "He came to see me after and apologised. The Ballon d'Or is the most important thing." "I am touched and very proud, for women's football, for myself, for the club. I share this with Olympique Lyonnais, my teammates, the staff," she beamed after joining men's winner Luka Modric and men's best young player Kylian Mbappe on the stage with her trophy. "It's historic, it's incredible, a great day for women's football and a big step forward."
Hegerberg, one of seven players from the all-conquering Lyon side to feature among the 15 nominees, dismissed suggestions that the night was marred by the "twerk" request. "I didn't feel it was like that at all to be honest and I am sad if people thought about the situation like that."
Hegerberg was Lyon's top scorer with 15 goals -- with one coming in the Champions League final in Kiev in May, as Lyon came from behind to beat VfL Wolfsburg 4-1 after extra time and retain the trophy. Harder had put the Germans in front in that game. Lyon also won the French title for the 12th season in succession, with Hegerberg top-scoring with 31 goals, and she continues to bang in the goals for her team who are top of the table again this season. Her goal-scoring exploits have led to comparisons with five-time Ballon d'Or winners Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and she felt that had made the difference for her compared to her Lyon colleagues.
"I think the fact I scored 54 goals last season and 53 goals this year -- it's a lot of goals in one year," she said.
PARIS, December 4 -- Luka Modric saw off competition from France’s World Cup stars as the Real Madrid and Croatia midfielder won the Ballon d’Or on Monday to end a 10-year stranglehold on the award by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Modric, 33, was announced as the winner of the prestigious prize in a glitzy ceremony held in Paris at the Grand Palais, just off the Champs Elysees.
Ronaldo was a distant second, with France and Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann completing the podium.
Paris Saint-Germain’s teenage forward Kylian Mbappe — who won the Kopa Trophy for the best young player — came fourth, leaving Messi to settle for fifth position. Another Frenchman, Modric’s Madrid teammate Raphael Varane, was seventh, just behind Liverpool’s Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah.
"As a kid we all have dreams. My dream was to play for a big club and win important trophies," Modric said. "The Ballon d’Or was more than just a dream for me and it is really an honour and a privilege to hold this trophy."
Modric — the oldest winner since Fabio Cannavaro, also 33, in 2006 – was crowned after an outstanding year in which he starred in the Real side that retained the Champions League before heroically helping drag his country to the final of the World Cup for the first time in their history. Croatia lost 4-2 to France in Moscow in the final in July.
MÜNCHEN, December 3 -- The 34-year-old has been with Bayern Munich since 2009 but confirmed to reporters on Sunday that he will leave next summer after a decade with the club.
He said, “I can say that this is my last year (at Bayern) and it is good like that. I have taken the decision, personally, that this will be my last year. “I think it is the right moment after 10 years. The club moves on and I may move on. It is the end of a very good and long period.”
A return to the Eredivisie with Groningen or PSV has been rumoured but speaking to NOS, Robben is unsure about coming home, “I can only lose. If you play well, it is normal and if it goes less, I can not do it anymore. I would have to adjust to that. “
Robben has made 198 Bundesliga appearances for Bayern, scoring 98 times. He has seven Bundesliga titles and a Champions League trophy.
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