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Manchester United: Bruno Fernandes and Juan Sebastian Veron comparisons ignore one key difference



After watching Bruno Fernandes score one and have a hand in all three of Manchester United’s goals against Watford on Sunday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a surprising comparison between his new signing’s authoritative midfield display and those of two former team-mates: Paul Scholes and, more unusually, Juan Sebastian Veron.

It was the mention of Veron – specifically the claim that Fernandes has a similar “temperament” to the Argentinian – which raised eyebrows. Veron is still widely remembered as an expensive failure in Old Trafford’s popular imagination, regularly featuring on lists of both Sir Alex Ferguson’s worst signings and the Premier League’s least impressive foreign imports. This is not a totally fair assessment. 

It is often forgotten, for example, that Veron started well enough back in 2001 to win the top-flight’s Player of the Month award for September. His performance in a 4-1 win over Everton was so impressive, it led the suspended Nicky Butt to believe that his own United career was effectively over. And even once Veron began to struggle, he was inconsistent rather than downright poor. He still played a significant part in the title-winning 2002-03 campaign. 


But even his advocates struggle to rewrite his United spell as a success story. For a player often accused of being a peripheral figure, it is fitting that he was not present for the best-remembered moment of his Old Trafford career: Sir Alex Ferguson’s defence of him to a sceptical pack of patch reporters. “I’m no’ f*****g talking to you,” he barked, after one journalist suggested Veron was not worth his £28.1m price. “Veron’s a great f***ing player. Youse are all f***ing idiots.”

There was also the time during a Q&A session with Ferguson at the club’s AGM in 2002, in the early stages of the Rock of Gibraltar affair. One disgruntled supporter took the microphone and told Ferguson: “You need to go back to the stable, have a clear out and start with the biggest carthorse of them all, Juan Sebastian Veron.” Once again, Ferguson’s reply was framed around the word ‘idiot’.

Unsurprisingly, as goes Ferguson, so goes Solskjaer. He too believes that there was more to Veron than met the eye of outsiders. “I used to like playing with Seba because you’d make runs and get the ball, and if he does united n’t hit you, at least he’s looking for you,” he said on Sunday. Gary Neville would appear to agree. He made the same comparison between Fernandes and Veron earlier this month. 

There are similarities. Both, certainly, look to break lines with their passing through midfield. And United’s players appear to be just as taken by Fernandes’s abilities as Ferguson, Solskjaer and Neville were of Veron’s. But there is a significant difference between the two players too, one which may ultimately mean that Solskjaer’s big-money midfield signing from abroad is remembered more fondly than Ferguson’s.

Veron’s arrival was a message to United’s European rivals that, in what was meant to be the final season of Ferguson’s tenure, their priority would be victory on the continent. After falling at the first hurdle in the Champions League knock-out stages ever since 1999, the United manager felt he needed a more cerebral option in midfield, capable of giving United control in the middle of the park.

Yet once the initial hype and awe of Veron’s signing had subsided, there was a sense that Ferguson was gilding the lily. The exquisite balance of that four-man midfield – Giggs, Keane, Scholes, Beckham – was suddenly upset by a new signing more suited to a different system. Veron began to be viewed as a decorative player rather than a dominant one and was sacrificed as Ferguson flitted between a new-fangled, failing 4-5-1 and the tried and tested 4-4-2.

Why the history lesson? Well, because United’s situation in 2020 could barely be any more different. Veron was a useful addition but not an essential one. Solskjaer’s United, meanwhile, were desperate for someone with Fernandes’s ability to create in possession and drive the midfield. Paul Pogba’s absence for much of the campaign has exposed Solskjaer’s lack of players capable of carrying the ball up the pitch and a dearth of creativity and imagination.

Whether Fernandes can provide those qualities on a consistent basis remains to be seen. Veron started well too, after all, but the early signs are still positive. And at the very least, Fernandes has the advantage of walking into a team which is crying out for a player who can be a game’s protagonist. If Veron had walked into the same situation nearly 20 years ago, his talents may have been better appreciated.



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Celebrated Abroad, Juan Guaidó Faces Critical Test in Venezuela


BOGOTÁ, Colombia — When the leader of Venezuela’s opposition landed in Caracas this week following a world tour meant to drum up support for regime change, his country’s authoritarian ruler handed him neither an arrest, which would have galvanized supporters, nor the chance for a hero’s welcome at the airport.

Instead, President Nicolás Maduro appeared to greet his rival, Juan Guaidó, with the same policy of slow strangulation that has drained the opposition of much of its momentum over the past year, cracking down on his movement enough to wear down its members, but without going so far as to spur the world to action.

Moments before Mr. Guaidó arrived, Mr. Maduro’s supporters attacked journalists who were there to cover his arrival, punching them and dragging at least one woman by the hair. Once Mr. Guaidó landed, government backers chased him out of the airport, cutting off any plans he had to make a speech, and then attacked his car with traffic cones and at least one metal pole.

And as Mr. Guaidó slipped through, authorities arrested his uncle, accusing him, without presenting evidence, of bringing explosives into the country.

Hours later, Mr. Guaidó stood with a few hundred supporters in a plaza in an opposition stronghold in eastern Caracas and declared victory.

“I defied the dictatorship and I entered the country,” he said. “Venezuela is going to be democratic and free.”

Mr. Guaidó also said he would be announcing the creation of a “Venezuela Fund,” a multilateral program meant to help the country recover from its long and devastating economic crisis.

[Update: The U.S. has imposed sanctions on the Russian oil company supporting Venezuela’s leader.]

But he offered no other plan to remove Mr. Maduro. That, along with his chaotic arrival and the growing frustration among his base caused by the glacial pace of change, spoke eloquently about the challenges Mr. Guaidó is facing at home.

On Tuesday, as Mr. Guaidó arrived in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, Mr. Maduro’s most powerful ally, Diosdado Cabello, mocked the size of the crowd that had come to receive him at the airport and belittled his movement.

Mr. Guaidó issued a direct challenge to Mr. Maduro a year ago, when he pointed to irregularities in Mr. Maduro’s re-election and claimed to be the country’s interim president, earning the support of millions of Venezuelans and dozens of foreign governments, including the United States.

Since then, despite the United State’s use of crippling sanctions to hurt the country’s economy and try to force the ouster of Mr. Maduro, Mr. Guaidó has not managed to seize power and call new presidential elections — his stated goals.

On Jan. 19, he left the country to shore up greater support abroad, defying a travel ban imposed by Mr. Maduro’s government. On his trip, he made headlines when he sat down with President Trump and was given a prominent place at the state of the union address. There, Mr. Trump championed the opposition leader’s efforts.

Mr. Guaidó also met with Angela Merkel of Germany and Emmanuel Macron of France, and was welcomed by thousands of Venezuelans and Venezuelan-Americans in Florida.

Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, signaled that substantive action could be on the way, including sanctions on Russia’s state-owned oil company, Rosneft.

Oil buoys the Venezuela economy, and Rosneft has been the country’s main shipper of crude.

Internationally, Mr. Guaidó looked strong.

But at home, nothing had changed, and Mr. Maduro remained firmly in control of the country, playing what appears to be a long game of attrition.

Mr. Guaidó is also barreling toward a crisis point that poses a critical threat to the opposition, and to his claim to being the country’s interim president.

The National Assembly, the legislature, is the last major political body in the country that the opposition claims to control. But 2020 is an election year for the assembly, and Mr. Maduro’s opponents are divided over whether to participate.

If the opposition does take part, they risk legitimizing a potentially rigged election. If they don’t, they risk handing control to Mr. Maduro.

Mr. Guaidó, so far, has not declared a position.

Phil Gunson, a Caracas-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, said no matter what the opposition decides, Mr. Maduro is likely to take over the assembly this year.

But if Mr. Guaidó does not make a decision — and soon — he risks irrelevancy.

“There can be no more beating around the bush,” Mr. Gunson said. “He has to be a leader.”



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Celebrated Abroad, Juan Guaidó Faces Critical Test in Venezuela


BOGOTÁ, Colombia — When the leader of Venezuela’s opposition landed in Caracas this week following a world tour meant to drum up support for regime change, his country’s authoritarian ruler handed him neither an arrest, which would have galvanized supporters, nor the chance for a hero’s welcome at the airport.

Instead, President Nicolás Maduro appeared to greet his rival, Juan Guaidó, with the same policy of slow strangulation that has drained the opposition of much of its momentum over the past year, cracking down on his movement enough to wear down its members, but without going so far as to spur the world to action.

Moments before Mr. Guaidó arrived, Mr. Maduro’s supporters attacked journalists who were there to cover his arrival, punching them and dragging at least one woman by the hair. Once Mr. Guaidó landed, government backers chased him out of the airport, cutting off any plans he had to make a speech, and then attacked his car with traffic cones and at least one metal pole.

And as Mr. Guaidó slipped through, authorities arrested his uncle, accusing him, without presenting evidence, of bringing explosives into the country.

Hours later, Mr. Guaidó stood with a few hundred supporters in a plaza in an opposition stronghold in eastern Caracas and declared victory.

“I defied the dictatorship and I entered the country,” he said. “Venezuela is going to be democratic and free.”

Mr. Guaidó also said he would be announcing the creation of a “Venezuela Fund,” a multilateral program meant to help the country recover from its long and devastating economic crisis.

But he offered no other plan to remove Mr. Maduro. That, along with his chaotic arrival and the growing frustration among his base caused by the glacial pace of change, spoke eloquently about the challenges Mr. Guaidó is facing at home.

On Tuesday, as Mr. Guaidó arrived in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, Mr. Maduro’s most powerful ally, Diosdado Cabello, mocked the size of the crowd that had come to receive him at the airport and belittled his movement.

Mr. Guaidó issued a direct challenge to Mr. Maduro a year ago, when he pointed to irregularities in Mr. Maduro’s re-election and claimed to be the country’s interim president, earning the support of millions of Venezuelans and dozens of foreign governments, including the United States.

Since then, despite the United State’s use of crippling sanctions to hurt the country’s economy and try to force the ouster of Mr. Maduro, Mr. Guaidó has not managed to seize power and call new presidential elections — his stated goals.

On Jan. 19, he left the country to shore up greater support abroad, defying a travel ban imposed by Mr. Maduro’s government. On his trip, he made headlines when he sat down with President Trump and was given a prominent place at the state of the union address. There, Mr. Trump championed the opposition leader’s efforts.

Mr. Guaidó also met with Angela Merkel of Germany and Emmanuel Macron of France, and was welcomed by thousands of Venezuelans and Venezuelan-Americans in Florida.

Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, signaled that substantive action could be on the way, including sanctions on Russia’s state-owned oil company, Rosneft.

Oil buoys the Venezuela economy, and Rosneft has been the country’s main shipper of crude.

Internationally, Mr. Guaidó looked strong.

But at home, nothing had changed, and Mr. Maduro remained firmly in control of the country, playing what appears to be a long game of attrition.

Mr. Guaidó is also barreling toward a crisis point that poses a critical threat to the opposition, and to his claim to being the country’s interim president.

The National Assembly, the legislature, is the last major political body in the country that the opposition claims to control. But 2020 is an election year for the assembly, and Mr. Maduro’s opponents are divided over whether to participate.

If the opposition does take part, they risk legitimizing a potentially rigged election. If they don’t, they risk handing control to Mr. Maduro.

Mr. Guaidó, so far, has not declared a position.

Phil Gunson, a Caracas-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, said no matter what the opposition decides, Mr. Maduro is likely to take over the assembly this year.

But if Mr. Guaidó does not make a decision — and soon — he risks irrelevancy.

“There can be no more beating around the bush,” Mr. Gunson said. “He has to be a leader.”



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Nationals’ Juan Soto Goes From Tiniest Stage to Biggest


HOUSTON — It was demolished a few months ago, the old stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter and Cal Ripken Jr. once trained in the early spring. It was crumbling when one final star added his name to the list of legends.

Legend is too strong a word to describe Juan Soto, the left fielder for the Washington Nationals, at least for now. Soto does not turn 21 until Friday, when his team will host the first World Series game in Washington since 1933. He helped lead the Nationals there with one of the best seasons ever for a player his age: 34 homers, 110 runs batted in and a .949 on-base plus slugging percentage.

He signed with Washington when he was 16, in 2015, agreeing to a $1.5 million deal in a musty old batting cage at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, the former spring home of the Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. He had been playing in a showcase event at the park, and the Nationals — who had already seen Soto in the Dominican Republic, his home country — pulled him away for a private evaluation.

“It was really nasty in there,” said Johnny DiPuglia, the Nationals’ vice president for international operations. “It smelled like urine. We had to kick a guy out of there, gave him 10 bucks.”

As far as the Nationals knew, only one other team, the Chicago White Sox, was seriously pursuing Soto. But the explosions coming off his bat in the Nationals’ private workout alerted the Arizona Diamondbacks, who also liked Soto. DiPuglia saw one of their scouts peeking into the cage.

“They were trying to steal our evaluation,” DiPuglia said. “They followed us over there and they saw us in the cage, and when we were walking out, I told them it’s too late. They tried to trump our offer, but he honored his commitment.”

The Diamondbacks finished four games out of a wild-card spot this year, and if they’d had Soto, he might have made the difference. Instead, the Nationals won the wild-card game over the Milwaukee Brewers, with Soto lashing a two-out, bases-loaded, go-ahead single off Josh Hader in the eighth inning.

In the decisive game of the next round, at Dodger Stadium, Soto delivered again — also off an All-Star left-hander while trailing in the eighth. That time, Soto homered off Clayton Kershaw to tie the game, then scored on Howie Kendrick’s go-ahead grand slam in the 10th. Soto was just 3 for 16 in the National League Championship Series, but Washington swept St. Louis to earn a date with the Houston Astros in the World Series.

Soto made a dynamic World Series debut in the Nationals’ 5-4 victory in Game 1 on Tuesday, clubbing an opposite-field homer and lashing a two-run double to left to help build an early lead off Gerrit Cole. Soto ended up going 3 for 4, with a stolen base, and became the fourth-youngest player to hit a home run in the World Series after Miguel Cabrera, Andruw Jones and Mickey Mantle. He was also the third-youngest player to bat cleanup in a World Series, after Ty Cobb in 1907 and Cabrera in 2003.

“It’s a blessing from God, to be here in the big leagues and play baseball like I have,” Soto said on Monday at Minute Maid Park. “I never thought I’d be this talented of a player.”

The Nationals knew. DiPuglia was enchanted by Soto’s knowledge of the strike zone, his ability to recognize off-speed pitches and smash line drives off the barrel to all fields. His advanced skills at such a young age reminded DiPuglia of Cabrera and Rafael Devers, who also became high-impact players for playoff teams at 20 years old.

Mike Rizzo, the Nationals’ general manager, had promoted two other top prospects to the majors at age 19: Justin Upton (when Rizzo worked for the Diamondbacks in 2007) and then Bryce Harper with the Nationals in 2012. Both established themselves quickly.

“One thing that we don’t get caught up in here is your chronological age,” Rizzo said. “That does not determine your status with us. Players mature and develop at different rates, and we felt that Juan was capable of playing well in the big leagues. Offensively he was quite ready. Defensively he had to learn on the fly.”

Soto joined the Nationals in May 2018, after Kendrick tore his Achilles’ tendon while chasing a fly ball in left field during a doubleheader. Rizzo was so eager to promote Soto that he made the call before the games were over.

A month earlier, Soto had been playing for the team’s Class A affiliate in Woodbridge, Va. Yet at least one major leaguer knew he was ready. The same sound that had attracted DiPuglia also caught the attention of third baseman Anthony Rendon, who was recovering from a toe injury with the minor league team that April.

“I saw him barreling everything, and it was loud,” Rendon said. “Obviously we saw him in spring training, but it’s spring training, everyone’s 100 percent. Seeing him during the year when he’s grinding every day, especially through the rigors of a minor league season, it was special.”

Even so, a reporter asked Rendon, wasn’t it surprising how much Soto contributed? He homered in his first start last season and was the runner-up to Ronald Acuna Jr. for the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award. Rendon insisted he saw it coming.

“A lot of people will surprise you, so I don’t put anything past anybody,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I was surprised about the impact he has had, because those few days that I was down there, I don’t think he missed a barrel at all.”

Soto’s strike zone awareness has helped him post a .403 on-base percentage over the last two seasons. Only four other everyday players have had a better O.B.P. in that time: Mike Trout, Christian Yelich and Mookie Betts, all former Most Valuable Player Award winners, and Alex Bregman, who might win one this season.

Soto was mostly a right fielder in the minors, and has learned to play left through diligent pregame work with the Nationals coach Bob Henley. His eye at the plate was refined sooner, but that was not innate, either. Even as an amateur, DiPuglia said, Soto would ask sophisticated questions about pitchers — how to spot the telltale dot on a slider, how to adjust for different arm angles — and in the minors he developed a routine to reinforce his confidence.

When Soto takes a close pitch, he will sometimes shuffle forward in the box, staring at the pitcher with a shoulder-shimmy and an occasional grab of his crotch. Earlier this postseason, he explained the purpose of the ritual.

“I like to get in the minds of the pitchers because sometimes they get scared,” said Soto, who made a point of learning English and who conducts most interviews that way. “In the minor leagues, some pitchers get scared, they say, ‘Oh, wow,’ because they never see that before. I just try to get on their minds and all this stuff. I still do it here in the big leagues. A couple of the guys tell me, ‘Hey, you can keep doing it, but do it in the right situation.’”

To Soto, the opening game of the N.L.C.S. in St. Louis was the right situation. Miles Mikolas, the Cardinals’ starter, taunted Soto right back, grabbing his crotch and staring down Soto after retiring him on a groundout with the bases loaded.

After the game, Soto said that he did not mind Mikolas’s reaction and that he would laugh it off, but he later said he did not expect his routine to command such attention. He has toned down the act since then.

“Soto really is a humble kid, and he doesn’t do it with bad intentions,” the veteran outfielder Gerardo Parra said. “And it’s something about being a young player. Talk to him and he’s going to improve it. Each person starts differently, and it’s all how you interpret it in the moment.”

Soto has helped guide his team to the biggest moment of all, on a sparkling diamond far from the rancid batting cage where the journey began.

James Wagner contributed reporting.



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Roma’s Juan Jesus: ‘England’s players should walk off if they are racially abused in Bulgaria’



Juan Jesus, the AS Roma defender who was the victim of racist abuse last month, has thrown his support behind the England team after Gareth Southgate’s squad pledged to walk off the pitch in the event of bigoted chanting during the upcoming matches against the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

“I agree with the England players,” Jesus said. “It is the right thing to do. It would send out a strong signal. It is not right to be discriminated against for the colour of our skin. It’s 2019. It’s not tolerable, it’s not acceptable.”

Andrea Dell’ Aquila, a Roma fan, sent Jesus a direct message on Instagram, saying, “You belong in a zoo, damn monkey, ******.” The club reacted immediately by banning the abuser for life and calling on Italian authorities to clamp down on racist behaviour. Roma made their point on social media, tweeting the league’s official account with the message, “Are you really serious about tackling racism in Italian football @SerieA?”


Jesus endorsed the England players’ stance. “I have considered walking off myself,” he said. “If there were any racist chants from the stand I would not hesitate.”

Bulgaria is the potential flashpoint game for England. Southgate’s team will play in Sofia on Monday in a partially-closed stadium after Bulgarian supporters were found guilty by Uefa of racist behaviour during matches against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June. The closure of 5,000 seems to be little deterrent, however.

The eastern European nation has history in this area. The Bulgarian Football Union were fined £34,000 in 2011 after monkey chants were aimed at Ashley Young during England’s 3-0 win at the Vasil Levski Stadium.

Jesus called on football’s ruling bodies to follow Roma’s lead and clamp down hard on any transgressors. “Roma sent out a very strong signal by banning the fan that sent me the racial abuse,” he said. “They set an example for the Italian league. Hopefully the football authorities will build on that.”

Yesterday, the Italian football federation fined Atalanta £9,000 because their supporters singled out Dalbert, the Fiorentina defender, for racial abuse last month. The game was stopped for three minutes and a warning was broadcast in the stadium. The same disciplinary body fined Roma about £13,500 after one of their staff applauded sarcastically in a referee’s face.

Juan Jesus was racially abused over social media (Rex Features)

Jesus is disappointed with Atalanta’s meagre punishment for the chanting. “It’s too little a fine for such awful behaviour,” the 28-year-old said. “It’s inconceivable and ironic that Atalanta fans are booing a black player when they’ve got black players in their team. They are discriminating against their own players.”

In the aftermath of the incident involving Jesus, the player’s abuser attempted to claim that he was the victim and his privacy had been compromised. La Repubblica newspaper published an interview with Dell’ Aquila where he suggested opinions like his were commonplace and warned that his public shaming could incite violence. He asked, “What if I go home now and find 10 black boys waiting for me? Did Juan Jesus think of that?” The question went unchallenged by the reporter.

Jesus is appalled. “The article gave a voice to someone who does not deserve to speak out on the subject,” the player said. “He did not deserve to have space in the newspaper.”

England’s players have vowed to walk off the pitch if racial abuse is not dealt with correctly by officials (Getty)

Contrary to Dell’ Aquila’s assertion, Jesus said public reactions have been overwhelmingly positive. “I received lots of nice messages from fans and want to thank them,” he said. “I have been in the country for seven years now and it’s nice to see that racists are in the minority.”

During his time in Italy awareness of racism has grown, Jesus said, as have attempts to eradicate bigotry. He also praised the actions of Premier League clubs. “A growing number of people are realising about this phenomena,” he said. “But more needs to be done.

“Chelsea set a good example when they banned the fan that booed Raheem Sterling. Things need to be changed and we need to look at gender and religious discrimination, too. There’s no place for discrimination in football.”



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Juan Soto Was the Right Man in the Right Spot


“I know they always go to the playoffs, they always lose, something like that,” Soto said. “But now we’re here, we try to fight, and we’re going to see how far we’re going to get.”

Soto, now in his second season, helped the Nationals storm back from a 19-31 start by hitting 34 homers with 110 runs batted in, a .401 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage. Only two other players have reached all those numbers at age 20 — Mel Ott for the Giants in 1929 and Alex Rodriguez for Seattle in 1996 — and they did not end those years in the postseason.

“He’s 20 years old, man,” said Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki, who turns 36 this week. “I was in college at 20 years old. This guy’s hitting 30 and 100 in the big leagues at 20 years old, playing in the postseason. He’s a joke.”

The Nationals have thrived by developing high-impact stars like Soto, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman, and all played pivotal roles in the eighth.

Strasburg kept the deficit at 3-1 with his third shutout inning, capping his first relief appearance since 2007, when he was a freshman at San Diego State. With two outs and one on, Zimmerman — the first player the Nationals drafted after moving from Montreal in 2005 — punched a broken-bat pinch-hit single to center. Rendon, who only led the majors in R.B.I. this season, then walked to load the bases.

Soto cleared them with help from Grisham, who said he charged too quickly on the hit, which “took a funny hop” on him and rolled away, taking Milwaukee’s season with it.

“It’s not how you want your first playoff game to go,” Grisham said. “We expected to win. There’s all kinds of thoughts and emotions that run through your head. It just kind of stings right now.”



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Juan Manuel Correa to be transferred to British hospital to continue recovery from horrific F2 crash



Juan Manuel Correa, the Formula Two driver involved in last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix accident that killed Anthoine Hubert, will be transferred to a British hospital on Wednesday to continue his recovery from the injuries he sustained in the horrific accident.

The 20-year-old was trying to avoid a spinning car on the second lap of the F2 feature race last Saturday when he collided with Hubert’s car at around 160mph, resulting in a catastrophic impact that left the latter with fatal injuries.

The FIA is investigating the cause of Hubert’s death, while Correa was immediately airlifted to CHU Liege Hospital where he underwent a four-hour surgery on fractures to both legs and a spinal injury.


The American was confirmed to be in a stable condition in intensive care following the surgery, and his management team confirmed on Tuesday night that he will be transferred to the UK to continue his treatment before returning to the United States.

“Juan Manuel Correa will be transferred today (to) a specialised ICU located in the United Kingdom,” a statement issued by his media team said on Tuesday.

“He will continue his recovery process in the care of a specialist team of physicians.”

Correa, the grandson of former Ecuadorian president Rodrigo Borja, drives for the Sauber Junior Team and has had his parents at his bedside since the accident at Spa-Francorchamps. He remained conscious during and after the crash, and is aware of Hubert’s death that has left him “completely overwhelmed with sadness”.



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Manchester United news: Juan Mata bemoans lack of killer instinct after draw with Southampton



Juan Mata is frustrated that Manchester United keep falling short due to a lack of killer instinct.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men started the season with a thumping 4-0 win against Chelsea, but things have gone awry in front of goal since then. United blew the chance to win at Wolves and that 1-1 draw was followed by a chastening 2-1 home loss to Crystal Palace last weekend.

Saturday’s trip to Southampton was another winless match for the Reds, who saw Daniel James’ brilliant opener cancelled out by Jannik Vestergaard. Even Kevin Danso’s second-half dismissal for the hosts could not inspire United, who have five points from their opening four matches following that 1-1 draw.


“Two points dropped,” attacking midfielder Mata said. “We were expecting Southampton (to have) some chances and play some good football for some moments. I think we have to come to these kind of games and win and come back to Manchester with three points or the feeling is frustration and two points dropped again.

“When you score the first goal and you have the ball and you seem that you are having the tempo of the game, you need to kill (it off) and score the second goal and then the game is more or less done.”

Those comments echoed Solskjaer’s sentiments and Mata knows they need to up their game.

“We started the season really well against Chelsea at home, winning 4-0, great second half, I would say and after that, at Wolves we felt we dropped two points,” the Spaniard said. “We lost against Crystal Palace at home which we shouldn’t accept and it shouldn’t happen again, and today another two points dropped.

“We need to find this consistency and try to win and add three points after three points and that’s our main objective. I think we are deserving more in almost every game but deserving is not enough: you have to get it.”

United are yet to hit their straps but at least they know exciting talent James is able to handle top-flight football. A low-key summer arrival from Swansea, the 21-year-old proved to be a thorn in Saints’ side and scored a stunning strike that took his Premier League tally to three goals – as many as Alexis Sanchez could manage for United.

“(It was a) very good goal, a fantastic finish,” Mata told MUTV. “He’s a very hard-working player. He gave us a lot on the wing and even in the second half when everyone was a bit tired, he was still sprinting and giving very dangerous crosses.

“(I’m) very happy for him and hopefully he can do it many more times. Football is easier right, if you are that quick? He takes advantage of that. He goes one against one and it’s very difficult for a defender to take the ball off him. We need to use him even more.”

Saints rode their luck at times but defended well on the whole, with Vestergaard impressing at the back and scoring an impressive leveller.

“We’re very happy with a point,” the centre-back said. “I think we deserved it already against Liverpool, when we didn’t get it, but today we were rewarded for the hard work we put in. It was our game plan to go out there and shake them a little bit – make them uneasy – because when they get comfortable, they’re obviously very good and have world-class players.”

PA



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Manchester United transfer news: Nicolas Pepe update, Harry Maguire breakthrough and Juan Mata’s plea



Manchester United are making progress in their talks with Lille over a potential deal for Nicolas Pepe, according to reports.

The Times claims that United last week advanced a long-standing interest in the forward, who has been valued at £70m by his club. 

Funds are expected to be freed up by the sale of Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan.


As for Paul Pogba – another player touted to leave this summer – Juan Mata has expressed his desire for the Frenchman to stay put.

“We all know Paul and he is a fantastic midfielder, and a very good guy, very positive, and a good influence for everyone,” Spanish midfielder Mata recently told Sky Sports.

“As a team mate and a friend I would like him to stay and be happy because he is a very good player for us.

“We know we have to do better than last season. This club has won more trophies than any other club in England. We want to win big trophies again.”

Meanwhile, United feel a breakthrough has been made in their pursuit of Leicester City’s Harry Maguire, and sources say the signing is now “imminent”.

The 2016 champions had been holding out for a deal worth £80m in total, and United are understood to have come up with acceptable terms, with around £10m wrapped up in conditional clauses.

Maguire last week told Leicester he wanted to leave, and the club agreed they would not stand in his way, so long as their requirements were met.

Club members feel that the 26-year-old English international will complement the developing Victor Lindelof at the heart of a new-look defence, that will form the foundation of a fast and hard-pressing team.

United have dropped their long-term interest in Gareth Bale, according to The Times.

The club has reportedly attempted to sign Bale on two separate occasions but, despite Zinedine Zidane’s recent announcement that the Welshman will leave “soon”, it seems Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is now considering other options.

Lastly, David De Gea has made his case to become United’s captain next season and is on the verge of signing a new contract.

The first-choice goalkeeper is said to have agreed a new five-year deal at Old Trafford, with the option of an additional 12 months, and wants to be the leader in the dressing room for Solskjaer’s new-look side.

De Gea, regarded by many as the best goalkeeper in the world, has agreed a new £375,00-a-week deal, which will be finalised and signed when the club return from their pre-season tour.

“It’s amazing so, of course, I’ll be really, really happy to captain,” he said. “It’s my ninth season and I feel like one of the most experienced players.

“I need to show that on the pitch and try to help the young guys know what Manchester United means and that’s important.”



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Manchester United transfer news: Juan Mata urges Paul Pogba to stay despite interest from Europe



Juan Mata hopes fantastic and influential midfielder Paul Pogba will remain at Manchester United and help turn the city red again.

Three years after returning to Old Trafford in what was a world-record £89million deal, the 26-year-old has publicly admitted he is open to “a new challenge somewhere else”.

Those comments sent tongues wagging, as did agent Mino Raiola speaking about his client’s desire to leave amid interest from the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus.


But Pogba has knuckled down during United’s pre-season tour and was in good spirits at an adidas event held in Singapore’s Marina Bay on Sunday.

The World Cup winner clearly enjoyed himself and told the crowd that any aspiring footballers looking to reach the top should take a leaf out of Mata’s book – and the admiration is clearly mutual for a player the Spaniard would love to stay.

“We all know Paul and he’s a fantastic midfielder and he’s a very good guy, very positive, good influence for everyone,” Mata said.

“I think he’s happy, he brings everyone together.

“But I cannot speak for other people. I cannot speak for myself, for my present and my future in the club.

“And obviously as a team-mate, and as a friend also, I would like him to stay and to be happy because he is a very good player for us, but I cannot say much else.”

Juan Mata wants Paul Pogba to stay at the club (Getty)

Pogba is not the only United player whose future is under scrutiny, but there is no doubt about where Mata’s future lies.

The 31-year-old was out of contract at the end of the 2018-19 season and talks over an extension had long been at an impasse, but a deal was struck to extend his stay with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side until at least 2021.

“There were some options to go to a different club, but I said it before the feeling of being a Manchester United player is so unique,” Mata said.

“I am very happy to stay here. I am dreaming about winning big trophies at this club.

“I cannot wait to win a big trophy and celebrate with all the fans because they deserve it.

“I am very happy to extend my time in Manchester. I am very happy in the city, so it is all great and I am proud to be a player of this club.”

Upon renewing his contract, Mata said he wanted to turn the area back red after Manchester City’s recent dominance.

Reminded of that comment, he said: “Hopefully. We want that.

“This club has won more trophies than any other club in England. We want to win big trophies again.

“That is what the history of this club deserves. That is what the fans deserve.

“We know we have to improve. We know we have to do a better season than last season.

“But again, I extended my contract and I am very proud and happy to be here because I think we have very good people in the dressing room, good people with the manager.

“We want to improve. We want to win. We are working towards that objective.”

There does appear to be a growing belief within United that they can get back to challenging for trophies in the coming years.

David De Gea appears poised to sign a new, long-term deal, which would be a welcome shot in the arm on a personal and collective level for Mata, who has already seen one compatriot depart this summer after Ander Herrera left for Paris St Germain.

“Obviously David is the best or one of the best goalkeepers in the world for sure,” Mata added.

“He is one of my best friends, so I want him to stay.

“On a professional level, it will be great for us if he stays because he will give us many points over the next seasons. I am very happy if he stays.

“Obviously Ander is a good friend also, I am sad to see him leave but as a friend I wish him the best and I hope he is happy in Paris now.”

PA



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