Trainer Mick Winters claimed back-to-back runnings of the Guinness Galway Hurdle as dual-purpose mare Missunited struck gold in the hands of Robbie Power. Press Association Power said: “The race worked out 100%. It’s not often things work out in a 20-runner handicap. I jumped off and I got a lovely position. When I gave her smack after the last she quickened up and put her head down. “Mick was very confident, very bullish, and said the ground wouldn’t be an issue. To win the race two years in a row with two different horses is unbelievable.” Winters said: “The mare is Flat-bred and the owner was anxious about letting her take her chance here. I’ve just been terribly lucky to have herself and Rebel Fitz. This one stays and I was confident enough when she hit the front. “It’s super to win it back to back. Last year I had to muck out the next morning but this year I’m prepared and I have a few on to work. “Jason Maguire was asked to ride but he couldn’t do the weight. Martin Ferris did a good job schooling her but the owners wanted someone that was there before. “I had this race mapped out for her for 12 months and now I’d love to see her coming up the hill in Cheltenham. The only mare that I’d be afraid of in the country is Annie Power. “The mare will now go for a Listed race in the Curragh over a mile and three-quarters in two weeks’ time.” The genial County Cork handler landed a gamble 12 months ago with stable star Rebel Fitz, successful over fences earlier on the card, and this year’s challenger was a leading contender at 7-1. Never too far off the pace, the six-year-old scooted clear from the home turn and safely negotiated the final flight to secure victory by three and three-quarter lengths. Flaxen Flare filled the runner-up spot ahead of Make Your Mark and Drive Time, who finished third and fourth respectively.
Press Association The 20-year-old Millwall frontman struck after 20 minutes and then again three minutes before the break in a remarkable first half at the Showgrounds in Sligo. Samir Carruthers had given Ireland a 17th-minute lead before O’Brien opened his account, and a third from Jack Grealish had the game all but won with just 25 minutes played. Aiden O’Brien claimed a double as Ireland Under-21s staged an early blitz to see off the Faroe Islands 5-2. But Gunnar Zachariasen pulled one back for the visitors within seconds, and the Faroes’ hopes of mounting a fightback improved significantly when defender Ragnar Nattestad was fouled by Republic skipper Shane Duff inside the box and referee Alexandr Aliyev pointed to the spot. Zachariasen duly obliged from 12 yards to make it 3-2 with eight minutes of the opening 45 still to play. However, Noel King’s men regained a measure of control within two minutes when Anthony Forde’s first goal for the Under-21s gave them breathing space once again, and O’Brien’s second sent them in at the break with their three-goal advantage re-established. The second half proved to be something of an anti-climax by comparison as both sides had chances, but respective keepers Sean McDermott and Teitur Gestson escaped without further mishap. Victory completed a double for the Irish over the Faroes and took their Group 6 points tally to seven from five games on a day when runaway leaders Germany needed a late equaliser in Montenegro to snatch a 1-1 draw as they surrendered their 100 per cent record.
Speaking to shareholders following the announcement of United’s second-quarter results, Woodward said the performance of David Moyes’ side in the Premier League so far this season has been “disappointing”. However, he said money would be made available to Moyes to strengthen his squad in the summer, with the likelihood that the club would spend far more than normal to rectify the situation. Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward insists the club should be challenging for major honours. Press Association And, whilst going an extended amount of time without competing at the highest level was not a thought he was considering, Woodward feels it would take some considerable time before United as a club saw a reduction in their huge worldwide following. “It has taken a long time to build our huge fan base,” said Woodward. “That will not go away for a long time. “Some of our competitors have not won league for a long time and they still sell a lot of shirts – one of them is just down the road.” Nevertheless, whilst United – who have £72million in the bank – are pledging to invest significant funds in the squad, some credence to Roy Keane’s accusation of a club “cutting corners” in the last few years is seen by the rise in the sum spent on facilitating the Glazers’ controversial takeover in 2005 to an eye-popping £686million. Fans question whether United would be in their present state – seventh in the Premier League and out of both domestic cup competitions – had a fraction of that sum been spent on players over the past nine years. It is hard to make a case against that, even if, as a stand-alone business, United continue to go from strength to strength. Commercial income alone stands at £42.3million up 18.8% for the quarter to December 31 and 30% for the year so far. Broadcasting revenue for the period was £46.9 million, an increase of 18.7%, due to a rise in revenue from the Premier League domestic and international rights agreements, and increases in share of the Champions League fixed pool distributions given United won the title last term. Staff costs were £51.6 million, an increase of 16.7%, primarily due to the impact of player acquisitions and renegotiated player contracts. As Mata’s arrival did not fall within the accounting period, the main signings over the 12 months concerned were Marouane Fellaini, who joined from Everton on deadline day for £27.5million, and Wilfried Zaha, the winger who was signed from Crystal Palace, immediately loaned back to the Eagles and has just joined Cardiff after failing to impress Moyes. Gross debt has been reduced by 2.7% to 356.6m. A reduction in profit by almost 50% has been put down to a £25million ‘swing’ in tax credits. “We once again achieved a record revenue quarter with strong contributions from our commercial and broadcasting businesses despite the current league position, which everyone from the team manager down has acknowledged is disappointing,” said Woodward. “We continue to see meaningful opportunities to grow our commercial business and the popularity of football on TV is leading to continued broadcasting revenue growth – all of which bodes well for the long-term stability and financial strength of our business. “We are also very pleased to have added a world-class player in Juan Mata to our squad, who has already made a positive impact.” “The long-term strategy is to build a competitive squad that can challenge for trophies,” said Woodward. “We have the ability to do that. We can buy players to compete at the top level, which is what we should be doing.” With that in mind, Woodward has warned that the usual summer recruitment policy, which he estimated to average out at around three players coming in each summer and three other going out, may rise significantly. “We are focused on strengthening the squad,” said Woodward. “We will sell some. We wouldn’t look to churn a huge number but equally, we are not afraid of moving in the market in a way we haven’t seen in previous years. “It has tended to be three sales and three purchases but it is possible we will do more than that.” Woodward said the club record £37.1million arrival of Juan Mata had already had a positive impact, with United’s official Twitter feed gaining an additional 280,000 followers in the week following his arrival from Chelsea last month. Significantly, Woodward said there was currently “no impact on the wider business from current on-pitch performance”.
City needed a 70th-minute strike from Yaya Toure to break the resistance of the spirited Potters at the Etihad Stadium and claim three valuable Barclays Premier League points. It was a hard-fought 1-0 victory but it would have been more convincing had Edin Dzeko not missed embarrassingly from two yards. It was the response required after failure to win on their last two Premier League outings, as well as the midweek Champions League loss to Barcelona. Pellegrini has spoken often of his desire to win in style but on this occasion he was simply happy with the points. He said: “The satisfaction is the same. We cannot expect to win by three or four goals every match. It is important to know how to win both ways.” Pellegrini said Jovetic, who came on just before the hour, was forced off with cramp, while Aguero, after five games out with hamstring trouble, will return to training next week. Stoke boss Mark Hughes felt his side acquitted themselves well but paid a heavy price for some errors. Hughes, formerly manager at Eastlands, said: “I was pleased with what we produced. “We had a game plan and whenever you have one, you have to execute it to the best of your ability and I thought we did that for most of the game. “We made a couple of errors that led to the goal and consecutive errors tend to lead to goals. Apart from that we were resolute. “We had a couple of efforts where we might have scored, most notably Charlie’s (Adam) effort where Joe Hart made an outstanding save.” Hughes was not happy with all of City’s tactics, feeling that some of the home players pushed the boundaries of legality. Vincent Kompany – a player Hughes signed for City – was one player Hughes commented about. He said: “I thought on a couple of occasions – call it professionalism or good play, or a bit of cynical play – we had good opportunities that were stopped because my players were being taken out. “The player that you mentioned and on three or four other occasions Stoke players were taken out quite cynically in my view. “It is part of the game and the ref, in fairness, booked the majority of them but maybe he should have looked to give another yellow card.” Manager Manuel Pellegrini admitted Manchester City won ugly against Stoke but backed his misfiring strikers to regain their touch. Press Association Just moments after Toure’s strike, the unmarked Bosnian was presented with an open goal but contrived to fluff his shot. With Alvaro Negredo still to regain top form after recent injury, Stevan Jovetic coming on as a substitute and then going off again, and Sergio Aguero out, City’s prolific forward line has temporarily seized up. Pellegrini said: “I think it is normal during the season that sometimes the strikers may lose (the chances) to score but I trust in all of them. I am sure they will recover their normal performance. “We didn’t create many chances because Stoke defended very well. “All the team were behind the ball and near the box, but we had the patience for the 90 minutes and finally we scored.” Pellegrini said he had not lost any faith in Dzeko – who has still scored 17 goals this season – after his remarkable miss. He said: “Every player can have a bad day. Maybe he had a bad day, maybe he was nervous after he failed that goal but I will continue trusting in him.” City’s victory was a welcome one in title terms, coming after rivals Chelsea had won earlier in the day.
Midfielder Mikel Arteta believes winning the FA Cup would begin a whole new chapter in Arsenal’s history. The Gunners were knocked out of the Champions League despite a 1-1 draw away to Bayern Munich on Tuesday night, beaten in the European tie 3-1 on aggregate. However, all is not lost this season for Arsene Wenger’s side, who can put themselves back in the Barclays Premier League title race with victory at Tottenham on Sunday and also have an FA Cup semi-final date with Wigan to look forward to. Arsenal have not won a trophy since Patrick Vieira lifted the FA Cup in 2005. Arteta feels the current generation could go on to mark their own place in the club’s folklore if they are able to get past the Latics, who knocked Manchester City out in the quarter-finals, and then go on to beat either Hull or Sheffield United back at Wembley in May. “I think it would be a turning point for the club, because (for) such a long time we don’t win anything. It gives you a lift, gives you belief that you can start to go in the right direction and hopefully we can do it,” Arteta said. “We have a great chance, (but) there is still a month to go and some really tough games coming up. “That is why it is important to get some momentum for that moment and get there with the belief and in good form.” Arteta added: “We have two competitions that we are still in. We want to fight for the league, for sure, and we have a great chance in the FA Cup as well. “We need to make the most of it because I think we can do something good.” Despite the prospect of an imminent trip to Wembley, Arteta has called for focus on the testing run of Premier League games between now and April 12. “We have to recover, we have two massive games away from home. Tottenham and Chelsea,” the Spaniard said. “We will get the legs back (now), focus and take positives and try to get a good run.” Press Association
Press Association The Reds went top of the table with six matches to go after Sunday’s 4-0 win over Tottenham, when the famous old ground reverberated to a wall of noise generated by supporters who believe the club’s 24-year wait for a championship will soon be over. Liverpool have dropped just five points on home turf all season, winning 14 of 16 matches, and are on a run of eight successive league victories. “For us, our focus and composure and mentality is just to work hard, because there’s a process to dreaming. “You’ve got to get the work done, or else it doesn’t happen. “We just narrow our focus onto each game. It’s brilliant for the supporters to come to Anfield now to see their team win and see their team play dominating football.” Rodgers has continually stressed it is unprecedented for a side to leap from seventh, where Liverpool finished in May, to first in one season and insists they are currently ahead of where he expected them to be. He believes there is a way to go before they are at a level to consistently compete but thinks they are well on course to achieve that. “We’ve still got improvements to make,” he told LFCTV. “We’re looking to put something in place not just for now and this season but for the future. “The process started 18 months ago (when he was appointed successor to club icon Kenny Dalglish) and it’s continual.” Rivals Manchester City and Chelsea both have to visit this month and Rodgers hopes the Anfield factor will give them the necessary advantage. “It’s a swing in mentality,” he said. “When you have a home ground like Anfield, and you’ve got the army of supporters that we have, you’ve got to really own the field. “This is our pitch, our supporters, our ground, so our mentality is to own it. “We’ve got an aggressive mentality at home, to win, to score goals and equally to defend. “You put those things together, along with the supporters – who were immense (on Sunday), arguably the best atmosphere I’ve felt at Anfield – and it’s a really strong force that you have. “It’s great oxygen for us, as a team and management. “It’s great that the supporters have got that belief. That’s so important for them, it’s vital that they feel they can dream. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes their home fortress of Anfield may just give them the edge in the title race.
Martinez, 40, began his managerial career at Swansea and came to Everton’s attention during a successful four-year stint at Wigan, which was capped by last year’s stunning FA Cup victory. He initially moved to Everton on a four-year contract and immediately promised to bring Champions League football to the club, a target he narrowly missed out on in his first season. His efforts, however, did secure European competition for the first time since 2010 via the Europa League. Martinez’s new deal commits him to Everton until 2019, on presumably improved terms, and ends immediate speculation linking him with a move elsewhere. Martinez said: “I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to make a further commitment to Everton. “I loved my first season at the club. I could not be more proud of the way Everton performed throughout the entire season and the memories we were able to make together. “I am really excited about next season. I knew from the moment I arrived at Everton that this was a special place and I’d like to thank everyone associated with the club, the board, all the staff, the players and our brilliant supporters for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to build on the traditions and success of this great club.” Toffees chairman Bill Kenwright was reluctant to lose Moyes to Manchester United last year but believes he has found a superb replacement. Press Association Everton manager Roberto Martinez has signed a new five-year contract, the club have announced. Kenwright said: “In many commentators’ eyes, Roberto Martinez is the best young manager in Europe. We agree. “He took on an unfamiliar challenge for most managers – to take something really good and make it even better. “He has succeeded. In his debut season he broke our Premier League record points haul, got us back into Europe and developed some of the most exciting young footballers in the game. “He conducts himself off the pitch in the same way. He undertakes his business with great style, confidence, positivity and class. He is an Everton man. “There is no magical ingredient to what we do at Everton. We’re a football club and we recognise the fundamental importance of our manager. “And, when we find our man, we empower him. We support and provide him with everything at our disposal. We commit to our managers, and we’re immensely pleased that Roberto has committed to us. We want the best because only the best will do. “Unswervingly, we trust Roberto Martinez to take our club forward.” The Spaniard, who took over from David Moyes at Goodison Park last summer, has been rewarded for an impressive first season in charge. Under Martinez, Everton finished fifth in the Barclays Premier League with their record points tally in the competition.
Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner has promised not to let his intended sale of the club affect manager Paul Lambert’s pre-season preparations. Lerner announced in May that he was looking for a buyer for the club after eight years in control at Villa Park. However, with a sale not yet agreed and players starting to return to training, the American has issued a statement saying that his priority will now switch to footballing matters. Lerner feels it is important that speculation over the future ownership of the club does not overshadow the build-up to the new campaign. Lerner said: “This statement is intended to provide clarity regarding the status of the sale announcement I made in early May. “Over the last eight weeks we conducted a targeted process during which we explored the sale of the club. “In advance of this process however, I committed to our manager to become completely focused on the upcoming season should there be no agreement to sell by the time players and coaches return to training. “Given that no agreement has, as of yet, been reached, I feel that it is time now to turn my full attention back to Villa matters at hand. “While the sale process has been productive and remains ongoing, my priority at this point in the summer, heading into the upcoming season, is that the Villa organisation’s sole focus be football – undistracted by any sales process. “Reverting to common practice, I do not intend to comment further on a potential sale or related rumours unless and until I have reached a definitive agreement to sell, at which time I will be prompt and clear.” Villa became caught up in a battle to avoid relegation from the Barclays Premier League last season and Lambert voiced his frustration at a lack of recent investment in the squad. Since securing their top-flight status, Villa have signed former England international Joe Cole and Switzerland international Philippe Senderos, as well as appointing Roy Keane as assistant manager. Press Association
Press Association Rojo is equally comfortable at centre-back as he is at left-back and played all 120 minutes of July’s World Cup final as Argentina lost to Germany after extra-time in Rio de Janeiro. The 24-year-old began his career in his homeland with Estudiantes de la Plata and spent a single season with Spartak Moscow before moving to Sporting in 2012. He also has 28 caps for his country and cannot wait to play his part in Louis van Gaal’s new era at United. “It is such an honour to say that I now play for Manchester United,” he said. “The Premier League is the most exciting league in the world and to have the chance to play in it for the world’s biggest club is a dream for me. “I am young and am very keen to continue to learn the game, so playing for such an experienced technical coach as Louis van Gaal is a fantastic opportunity for me. “I have joined United to work hard with my team-mates to win trophies and I know that the manager shares that ambition.” Rojo joins Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw as Van Gaal’s third high-profile signing since taking over earlier in the summer and the Dutchman believes he will be a useful addition as the former Bayern Munich boss implements a new 3-5-2 formation at Old Trafford this term. “Marcos is a very gifted defender,” he said. “He has played at the highest level in world football and can play either as a central defender or left-back. The Argentina international will cost United £15.98million and moves to Old Trafford on a five-year deal. “Manchester United is delighted to announce the signing of defender Marcos Rojo from Sporting Lisbon for a fee of 20million euros, with Nani joining the Portuguese club on a season-long loan,” read a statement from United. “Marcos joins on a five-year contract.” Manchester United have completed the signing of defender Marcos Rojo from Sporting Lisbon with winger Nani heading in the opposite direction on a season-long loan. “He has ability, physical strength and a willingness to learn that means he has a very bright future ahead of him. “He had a very strong World Cup and has been playing in Europe for a couple of years now. He is a very good addition to the team.” United lost centre-backs Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic alongside left-back Patrice Evra this summer and Rojo will add to a defensive unit which was largely criticised following the defeat to Swansea at the weekend. The move for Rojo had been complicated by a row between Sporting and a third-party ownership group, while the player upset his employers by initially refusing to train in a bid to push through the deal, although he later apologised and returned to work. The 27-year-old Nani, who moved to Manchester seven years ago, previously spent four years as a Sporting player after leaving Real Massama in 2003. He has made 228 appearances in all competitions for United, scoring 40 goals, but has rarely been a regular starter during his time in the Barclays Premier League. Meanwhile, United have dismissed reports linking them to unsuccessful bids for Thomas Muller and Marco Reus. The club insist rumours of failed moves for the German pair are untrue, with a United spokesman telling Press Association Sport: “It is not true that we made offers for Muller or Reus at any stage.” Marouane Fellaini looked set to be making a move out of the north west but that may now have been scuppered with the Belgian sustaining an injury in training. United have not commented on the extent of the injury, but pictures in The Sun showed the 26-year-old on crutches with his left foot in a protective cast. Fellaini had been expected to tie up a loan move to Serie A club Napoli before the end of the transfer window and that move is clearly now in doubt.
Roberto Martinez thinks timing is not in Everton’s favour ahead of Monday’s Premier League clash with QPR. Rangers have won two of their last three games, beating fellow strugglers Leicester and Burnley to climb out of the relegation zone. QPR’s leading scorer Charlie Austin is suspended following his dismissal against Burnley but Martinez has been impressed by Harry Redknapp’s side. Among the disappointing results have been draws with Hull last time out and Swansea, and defeat by Crystal Palace. It has been a frustrating start to the season for a team that have ambitions of challenging for the top four, but Martinez is confident a better run of form is round the corner. He said: “We enjoy playing at home because it’s your environment and you can affect things a lot easier. “Every game is difficult. I know it’s a cliche but it’s true. In every other league you can count two or three games a season that maybe you can cruise through. That doesn’t happen in the Premier League. “We need to be a team that are capable of getting points away from home as well as at home but it’s true that at the moment, points wise, we’re not reflecting what we want and we’re catching up a little bit. “That means that we need to get a big run of good results and that starts with a strong, confident performance at home. “We’re getting very close to the half-way point of the season, the squad is strong, we’ve had a lot of good experiences, the competition for places is huge and I do feel we’re ready to set really high standards in the league that I believe are going to give us the points that our performances would deserve.” The Everton manager said: “QPR had a little bit of a difficult start because obviously when you get new players you’re trying to find the right combinations. “I think Harry Redknapp now has found the right formula and they are in the best moment of their season. They’ve been unfortunate in a couple of games, I think they should have had more points than what they’ve got. “I know they’ve got Charlie Austin missing for this game but I think this group are in a good moment and we respect them hugely. “I’ve always admired Harry Redknapp as a manager with his experience and his management skills and know-how.” What should play in Everton’s favour is that the game is at Goodison Park, and QPR have yet to pick up a single point on their travels. Martinez is wary of reading too much into that, though, saying: “The results that they’ve had have been well deserved. Even away from home, I thought the Southampton performance they were very unfortunate not to get a reward from that. “You don’t look back when you face a team. All you’re looking at is how well you can perform and obviously we’re looking at a very important period for us in the league to try to get as many points as we can.” Goodison has hardly been a fortress for Everton so far, with the Toffees winning only two of their seven home games in the league. Press Association