De Futebol

Flamengo and Botafogo will battle it out in the semifinals of the Copa do Brasil.

Globo Esportes:” O Flamengo vai decidir em casa o confronto de semifinal da Copa do Brasil diante do Botafogo. A CBF sorteou nesta segunda-feira os mandos de campo dos dois duelos – o outro será disputado entre Cruzeiro e Grêmio, com o time mineiro decidindo em casa.

A primeira partida entre Botafogo e Flamengo será no dia 16 de agosto, no estádio Nilton Santos, Engenhão. A volta, na Arena da Ilha, será no dia 23/08. O Grêmio abre o confronto com o Cruzeiro em Porto Alegre, e a volta será no Mineirão – os dois jogos marcados também para 16 e 23 de agosto.

As finais da Copa do Brasil serão em 7 e 27 de setembro.

De Futebol

Liverpool defeated TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 2-1 in the first leg of the Champions League play in match. The winner will advance to the Champions League group stage.

The Telegraph Sam Wallace wrote:” As a Liverpool prodigy from his early years, Trent Alexander-Arnold grew up at the club in the days that Steven Gerrard would rescue a European night with a swipe of his right boot, so when it came to doing it himself, the 18-year-old at least knew what a great goal should look like.

That he could do it himself, with Liverpool’s backs to the wall in the first leg of this Champions League qualifier, says a great deal about the quality of a teenager whom Gerrard himself has picked out for greatness. Alexander-Arnold will also know that the club do not always make things easy for themselves and although they left Germany with a victory, it could have been so much better were it not for substitute Mark Uth’s late goal.

Jurgen Klopp said later he would have taken a win before the game on any terms, “even 8-7”, especially against a Hoffenheim team that had not lost at home all last season. But it would also be fair to say that Liverpool were confronted with enough of their own weaknesses over the course of one first leg that they cannot take for granted their place among the Champions League group stages at Anfield next Wednesday.

This first leg belonged in part to Alexander-Arnold who scored a fine right-footed free-kick before the break, his first goal for the club and coming in the teeth of a fine Hoffenheim performance which had seen them dominate the first half. Over the course of the evening, Jamie Carragher tweeted a picture of him captaining Liverpool on a day when Alexander-Arnold was mascot alongside him, the baton passed from one local boy to another, although Carragher never got to take any free-kicks.

Yet Alexander-Arnold was also there with his hand in the air when Uth scored the goal, an appeal that Klopp had to concede was misguided and there were times when his defence, under some pressure, was chaotic. Klopp said that they permitted Hoffenheim to have much of the possession with the proviso that they would defend when it came into the dangerous areas.

When the substitute James Milner helped put Liverpool two goals ahead with a cross that was deflected in by Hoffenheim defender Havard Nordtveit it looked like this Champions League qualifier was over, a story of the home team’s profligacy and Liverpool’s capacity to take their chances, but it remains alive when the Germans come to Anfield next Wednesday.

This Hoffenheim team led by their 30-year-old coach Julian Nagelsmann are impressive and if they had taken half their chances then they would have departed for Merseyside next week leading this tie. Instead they missed a penalty, hit the post and generally squandered so much of the patient and intelligent build up play of a first half which they dominated in many aspects right up to Benjamin Hubner planting a header over the bar with seconds left.

Afterwards, Klopp and Nagelsmann were interviewed side-by-side in the studio of German broadcaster ZDF, and while they share the same agent there was a spikiness to the younger man’s response to his opposite number’s game plan. Asked about Klopp’s assertion that Liverpool let their opponents have the ball at times, Nagelsmann said, “Well he would say that, he has to defend his team, he won’t say ‘Hoffenheim played so well and we were s***’.”

As for Liverpool, Sadio Mane, their irrepressible attacking talent on the left wing was superb, winning the free-kicks that led to both goals. His first half marker Ermin Bicakcic was taken off well before the hour with a bad case of twisted blood and you were left wondering what Mane will do when he is fully fit.

There is an echo in this Hoffenheim team of what you imagine Klopp would like Liverpool to be, and in the first half there was no question that the home team were superior but they missed every chance that came their way.

That included an 11th minute penalty hit by the former Leicester City man Andrej Kramaric, a limp waist-high effort slightly to the left of Simon Mignolet that the goalkeeper pushed away easily. At that point of the game, Klopp’s team looked all at sea, unsure whether to press Hoffenheim’s possession game and unable to cope with the speed of their passing through the middle.

It told you all you needed to know about Liverpool’s shape – and Alberto Moreno’s positional play – that the left-back was closing down goalkeeper Oliver Baumann when he cleared the ball upfield for the move that led to the penalty. Hoffenheim came down the left side of Liverpool’s defence with Moreno absent and then a poor challenge from Dejan Lovren on Serge Gnabry, formerly of Arsenal, now on loan from Bayern Munich conceded the spot-kick.

Mohamad Salah went clean through on 15 minutes on the end of Roberto Firmino’s pass although the Egyptian never really got into his blistering stride and he was one step from being caught by Kevin Vogt, the Hoffenheim captain, before he launched an unconvincing shot wide.

Vogt was outstanding for his team, the playmaker in the middle of the back three and, as a former midfielder, extremely composed on the ball. He and Hubner directed the attacks left and then right and once they worked the ball into the middle the likes of Kerem Demirbay and Lukas Rupp were sharp enough to move it quickly under pressure.

Bicakcic, the Bosnian right-sided centre-half, brought down Mane after he twisted past three tackles on 34 minutes. Alexander-Arnold looked like the decoy for Emre Can until the 18-year-old stepped up himself and slotted a right foot shot into the far corner.

By the end of first half, Nagelsmann had his team locking Liverpool up in their own half with a full press that put the pressure on Klopp’s team’s passing. Yet the relentlessness of their approach had to yield at some point and by the midway point of the second half it slipped.

Klopp said he wanted to give Henderson a breather after a tough pre-season back from injury and Milner, his replacement, had a notable effect. His cross went in with the help of a major deflection off the chest of substitute Nordveit, the Norwegian formerly of West Ham. Mane won a free-kick that was taken quickly and went out from Firmino to Milner on the left. It was a cross to the back post but the contact with Nordveit took it past the goalkeeper Baumann.

Then came the late push from Hoffenheim and Uth’s well-taken strike while Alexander-Arnold appealed for offside, which was one moment of exuberant youthful optimism that Liverpool could have done without.”

De Futebol

Flamengo advanced to the next round of the Copa Sudamericana.

Globo Esportes:”  Nada como um Palestino em tempos de crise e necessidade de afirmação. A Ilha do Urubu recebeu um visitante sob medida, ainda que o Flamengo mereça seus créditos por ter feito o que lhe cabia diante de um adversário tão frágil: um gol atrás do outro, em especial no primeiro tempo. Talvez seja pouco para tirar conclusões, em especial numa fase de transição entre um treinador demitido e outro, o colombiano Reinaldo Rueda, em vias de ser contratado.

Ao menos, os 5 a 0 serviram para melhorar o astral e para colocar o Flamengo nas oitavas de final da Copa Sul-Americana após um 10 a 2 na soma dos jogos de ida e volta. Medirá forças com a Chapecoense.

Em dez minutos, o Flamengo já vencia por 2 a 0 e amenizava algumas de suas inquietações. Afinal, para isso parecia valer, de verdade, o jogo de ontem. Vizeu marcara o primeiro gol, após ter vivido uma manhã de domingo infeliz, com chances desperdiçadas diante do Vitória. O mesmo lance, aliás, ajudou a começar a reabilitar Willian Arão, autor do chute desviado pelo centroavante. No domingo, uma rebatida errada dele resultara no gol do Vitória.

Quem também busca sua afirmação no início da passagem pelo Flamengo é Geuvânio. Encontrou terreno favorável diante do Palestino. Surgiu na área para fazer o primeiro gol e deu belo passe para Éverton Ribeiro marcar o terceiro. Pouco antes do intervalo, Arão dera mais um passo em sua reconciliação com a torcida ao fazer o quarto gol.

Curioso é que o Flamengo, diante de uma Ilha do Urubu que recebeu, de longe, seu menor público, não precisou sequer ficar mais tempo com a bola do que o Palestino. Mesmo assim, o time chileno jamais assustou. Alex Muralha foi exigido apenas numa finalização de Gutierrez.

Uma certa ansiedade cerca também o desenvolvimento de Vinícius Júnior no Flamengo. Já vendido ao Real Madrid por €45 milhões, naturalmente tornou-se opção menos habitual no time principal, já que a chegada de reforços obstruiu seu caminho. Mesmo assim, vê-lo ter grandes momentos, à altura do valor da negociação por um jogador tão jovem, mobilizava a torcida.

E também neste aspecto o jogo com o Palestino foi uma ocasião perfeita. Num segundo tempo em que o Flamengo diminuíra o ritmo, Vinícius voltou a movimentar o campo. Recebeu um passe de Éverton Ribeiro, perdeu o ângulo de chute e achou Berrío. De cabeça, o colombiano encontrou o jovem rubro-negro, que chutou de primeira para abrir o placar. Caso confirme os prognósticos de que é um craque em formação, o gol será lembrado no futuro. E os pouco mais de 5 mil que foram à Ilha terão história para contar.

Contarão, também, sobre a noite em que até Márcio Araújo ficou imune a protestos.

De Futebol

The Guardians Jamie Jackson wrote this little diddy about the upcoming Man U season. “1) What does Romelu Lukaku’s arrival mean for Marcus Rashford?

For £75m (plus £15m add-ons) José Mourinho acquires a proven prolific Premier League goal scorer in the Belgian and throws the gauntlet down to Manchester United’s home-grown starlet: can the 19-year-old Marcus Rashford continue his upward trajectory despite Lukaku starting as the first choice No9? Rashford has played most of his 71 senior appearances as a wide forward yet his natural position is in central attack. There may be a clue here regarding how he can prosper. When coming through the Old Trafford youth ranks Rashford often operated as an impressive No10. Mourinho wants pace and power (Rashford can add muscle to a still developing frame) in the role, so during pre-season may take a look at him as the man to potentially play behind Lukaku.

2) How solid is the Mourinho-Woodward relationship?

For the time being Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, can relax after his smart manoeuvring allowed United to gazump Chelsea for Lukaku’s signature. Mourinho had been unhappy at the number of new arrivals since he offered an “over to you now, Ed” challenge after the Europa League final triumph. The central defender Victor Lindelof, a £31m purchase from Benfica, was confirmed in June and then all went quiet, which caused the manager serious disquiet. This had Mourinho starting last week in a quasi‑dudgeon and concerned that fans would wonder why proposed transfers for Real Madrid’s Álvaro Morata and Nemanja Matic were still not happening. Cue Woodward pulling his slick Lukaku move and so, for the moment at least, all is well between Woodward and Mourinho.

3) Who else will Mourinho hope to add while in the US?

A holding midfielder, a high-grade attacking forward and (possibly) a full‑back remain on Mourinho’s shopping list – in this order. Given how United outfoxed Chelsea for Lukaku, the west London club are resistant to allowing Matic to be sold to United and so strengthen Mourinho’s squad. Another school of thought is that Matic has never been the 54-year-old’s first choice, anyway. All of which means Mourinho has revived interest in Tottenham Hotspur’s Eric Dier. The manager fielded no regular No10 last term, switching between Wayne Rooney, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard. Beyond Rashford, he could look at Real’s James Rodríguez, who has previously been played down as a target but, as Lukaku and now Dier show, things change in football.

4) What constitutes a successful pre-season to tour?

The simple answer is to get through it with zero injuries, integrate Lukaku and Lindelof, acquire one or more new addition, and have confidence-boosting football under the collective belt when the plane touches down at Manchester Airport on 27 July. Mourinho is also intent that his squad will be supremely fit, if the intense itinerary is any marker. After a near week-long training camp at Berkley’s UCLA, United kick-off a breathless five-game, 11-day schedule by playing Los Angeles Galaxy on 15 July at LA’s StubHub Center. Then, they face Real Salt Lake City at Salt Lake’s Rio Tinto Stadium (17 July), Manchester City at Houston’s NRG Stadium (20 July), Real Madrid at Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium (23 July) and Barcelona at Washington D.C.’s FedEx Field (26 July). United’s long limber up concludes with two more friendlies – against Valerenga (30 July, Oslo) and Sampdoria (2 August, Dublin) – before proceedings begin in earnest with a Uefa Super Cup showdown against Real Madrid in Skopje on 8 August.

5) After pre-season, what must Mourinho deliver in the 2017-18 campaign?

The Premier League title or go mightily close to doing so, is the only answer. The Portuguese’s squad boasts five of his own recruits – Lindelof, Lukaku, Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba and Eric Bailly – all of whom have (in theory) their best years to come. Zlatan Ibrahimovich was a sixth but he has now left. Yet into the hole left by the 27-goal man steps Lukaku, whose 85 Premier League strikes in the past five seasons is second only to Sergio Agüero’s 99. If Mourinho further strengthens with a central midfielder and a forward he will take his spend to more than £300m – it stands at £251m – and so he would be left with scant excuse for failure. It all starts in anger with West Ham United’s visit on 13 August for the Premier League opener.”

De Futebol

Leeds kicked off the Championship season with a 3-2 win over Bolton.

The Daily Mail:” Could this be the year? It is a question Leeds United supporters ask every August and the answer is usually no.

However, if opening days are any barometer then the fallen Yorkshire giants may well have a shot at regaining the Premier League status they lost at this stadium a distant 13 years ago.

New manager Thomas Christiansen orchestrated a Roses victory that should not have been by such a narrow margin, with the visitors impressive but somehow left hanging on, on a rainy afternoon full of bright promise for the suffering hordes.

A double from Kalvin Phillips along with a predator’s strike from Chris Wood, with Gary Madine responding, gave Leeds the handsome lead their clinical efforts deserved at the break before an Adam Le Fondre penalty made for a nervy ending.

Christiansen was impressed but admitted he felt the strain. ‘My heart rate went up!’ he said. ‘This was the game I expected – a tough game against a good opponent – and a result I have dreamt of.’

The visitors went ahead after just seven minutes when Phillips drilled home a Pablo Hernandez corner with the aid of a deflection.

It sparked away end chants aimed at Garry Monk, the manager who jettisoned Leeds for the riches of Middlesbrough in the summer and whose new side lost their first match under his stewardship on Saturday.

They were not wishing him well. Those chants got a second airing on half an hour. Following a spell of Bolton pressure, Kemar Roofe found space on the right, crossed to the far post for new boy Ezgjan Alioski who smartly nodded inside to Wood.

The prolific Kiwi, five yards out, made no mistake, heading in off the underside of the bar. Wood plundered 27 goals last season and has been linked with a host of top flight clubs. ‘It is very important (he stays),’ Christiansen said when asked about his striker’s future. ‘But you never know what will happen. I am confident he will stay.’

Phil Parkinson’s men responded when Josh Vela’s corner found Madine at the far post to halve the deficit – but with home fans still celebrating it was 3-1 as Phillips tapped his second into an empty net following smart work from Wood.

On 65 minutes, Bolton were handed a lifeline when substitute Conor Shaughnessy acquainted himself too closely with Madine from a corner, almost pulling his shirt over his head.

After referee Simon Hooper pointed to the spot Le Fondre stepped up to fire the penalty right down the middle. Three goals, however, ended up being enough for three points.

‘To start the first game away with a win, it’s a very important and we have to continue with this,’ Christiansen added. ‘It’s started in a good way. We played the football I wanted to play.’

In the Denmark-born Spaniard, who is the seventh new manager to start a Leeds season in a row, they appear to have a bright young boss and have sold more season tickets than any other campaign since they plunged out of the top flight.

While it is early in his reign, new owner Andrea Radrizzani appears to be the safe pair of hands they have long-craved at theirs-again Elland Road and the eight summer signings will excite – although one of those arrivals, German goalkeeper Felix Wieldwald, will need to improve on a poor start here.

In a bid to cut down queues with a big crowd expected Bolton had asked fans to print their tickets at home rather than pick them up from the office. For long periods those supporters may have wished they stayed there, but Parkinson’s team showed spirit and improved from a shaky opening.

The manager, who saw David Wheater injured and the influential Vela stretchered off and taken to hospital, was pleased with the Wanderers’ efforts. ‘I thought we showed character and gave everything,’ he said.

‘I was pleased with the response. In the second half we were great and I take a lot of confidence from that. The third goal was a body blow because at 2-1 I thought Leeds were creaking.’ Parkinson has been offered a new contract and revealed he will sign it shortly. ‘It’s agreed with the chairman so hopefully we’ll get that done this week,’ he added.

His cash-strapped employers remain under a transfer embargo and last season’s promotion, a fine achievement, will be bettered if they avoid the drop this time around. Despite defeat, they showed enough here to suggest there should be three teams worse than them.

De Futebol

Boo-Mengao dropped to fifth place with a 2-0 loss to Vitoria. The guys have 29 points. Flamengo has two straight losses.

Globo Esportes:” A formação era nova, com Geuvânio na vaga de Marcio Araújo e apenas Willian Arão de volante. Os erros, porém, foram os mesmos das últimas partidas: falta de precisão na hora de finalizar e vulnerabilidade defensiva – sem falar nas falhas individuais, que voltaram a surgir na figura do próprio Arão. A derrota por 2 a 0 para o Vitória, em plena Ilha do Urubu, no jogo das 11h deste domingo, pode fazer o Flamengo perder mais uma posição na tabela, caindo para o sexto lugar, dependendo do placar do duelo entre Cruzeiro e Botafogo. Com apenas uma vitória nos últimos sete jogos no Brasileirão, o técnico Zé Ricardo – chamado de burro durante boa parte da partida – encontra-se mais pressionado do que nunca à frente da equipe.

A escalação ofensiva até pareceu que poderia surtir efeito nos primeiros minutos do confronto. Primeiro, Fernando Miguel espalmou para escanteio após finalização de Felipe Vizeu, substituto de Guerrero, ainda lesionado. Pouco depois, Diego bateu falta no contrapé do goleiro e quase abriu o placar. Aos 23min, Vizeu voltou a assustar, mas chegou atrasado após bola centrada por Everton. Na sequência, o mesmo Vizeu, sozinho, bateu nas mãos do arqueiro do Vitória.

Gradativamente, enquanto o Flamengo diminuía o ritmo, os visitantes passaram a arriscar algumas subidas ao ataque. O castigo veio na reta final do primeiro tempo, com direito a lambança de Willian Arão. O volante cortou cruzamento nos pés de Yago, que abriu para o pé direito e soltou uma bomba no ângulo, sem chance para Diego Alves. Golaço!

Apesar da derrota, Zé Ricardo voltou do intervalo sem mexer no time. Aos 15min, atendendo aos pedidos da torcida, Berrío entrou na vaga de Geuvânio. Quatro minutos depois, Réver tocou em Tréllez por trás dentro da área e a arbitragem marcou pênalti duvidoso. Diego Alves, que já pegou cobranças de Messi e Cristiano Ronaldo quando atuava na Europa, foi deslocado com classe por Neilton, jogador de bem menos grife.

Daí em diante, sem esboçar reação, o Flamengo ainda viu o Vitória acertar a trave nos últimos minutos. Das arquibancadas, veio o termômetro da insatisfação do torcedor. Além do “Fora Zé Ricardo”, sobrou para o presidente do clube, Eduardo Bandeira de Mello, e até para Diego, vaiado pela primeira vez vestindo a camisa rubro-negra – ainda que aplausos tenham silenciado o apupo em seguida.

– É muito difícil passar por isso. Não tem essa de idade, de experiência. Mas não tenho do que reclamar da torcida do Flamengo. Vou trabalhar para voltar a dar alegrias pra eles, até porque quem mais sente sou eu – disse o meia depois do jogo.

Diego também comentou o desempenho recente da equipe, assim como a situação de Zé Ricardo à frente do Rubro-Negro.

– Sem dúvida é um momento muito difícil, crítico. A equipe tem buscado, mas não tem sido eficiente na hora de fazer o gol e decidir a partida. É momento de refletir e trabalhar muito, para as coisas retomarem o caminho certo. A verdade é que nos gostaríamos de estar fazendo mais até pelo Zé. É um cara com caráter excelente. Nós perdemos todos. Ele tem feito a parte dele, e nós temos a nossa responsabilidade.

De Futebol

Santos defeated Flamengo 3-2. Boo-Mengao stays put in fifth place with 29 points.

Globo Esportes: “Foi com resquícios de crueldade que o Flamengo foi derrotado na noite desta quarta-feira, por 3 a 2, para o Santos, no Pacaembu. Controlando a bola em boa parte do jogo, o time chegou a estar vencendo até os 39 minutos, mas, com Rodinei expulso, não conseguiu segurar os donos da casa. Com mais um resultado negativo contra um rival direto na parte superior da tabela, o rubro-negro estacionou com 30 pontos, em quinto.

A escalação teve três mudanças. Os laterais Pará e Rodinei deram lugar a Rodinei e Renê. No meio, Arão jogou ao lado de Márcio Araújo, com Cuéllar na reserva. Uma semana depois perder para o Santos por 4 a 2, na Vila Belmiro, mas se classificar às semifinais da Copa do Brasil, o rubro-negro adotou uma postura diferente: propôs o jogo com Diego centralizando e Éverton Ribeiro se movimentando muito.

E o time rubro-negro deu sorte aos 15 minutos de jogo. O árbitro Eduardo Tomaz de Aquino errou ao dar impedimento em lance que David Braz sobrou com a bola na área. Renê dava condições ao zagueiro santista. O Flamengo finalmente assustou aos 23, quando Rodinei cruzou para Guerrero. O peruano não conseguiu escorar para o gol e pisou na bola. Três minutos depois, ele teve que sair de campo com dores. Em seu lugar entrou Felipe Vizeu.

Aos 37, Diego arriscou de longe e o quase sempre seguro Vanderlei espalmou para o lado. Na sobra, Vizeu bateu colocado e o goleiro só olhou. A bola bateu na trave direita e caprichosamente passou por trás dele antes de sair.

Aos 8 do segundo tempo, o Santos abriu o placar num lance em que teve sorte. Após Ricardo Oliveira chutar e a bola bater em Márcio Araújo, ela sobrou para Bruno Henrique, que driblou Rodinei e chutou para marcar.

Foi em um lance individual que o Flamengo empatou menos de três minutos depois. Após receber passe de Rodinei, Éverton Ribeiro marcou um golaço em chute de fora da área. Foi o terceiro gol do meia-atacante em dez jogos pelo clube.

O Flamengo quase virou aos 16 quando Éverton cruzou bem para Vizeu, livre, cabecear por cima do gol. Como um bom atacante, ele não desperdiçou a chance seguida. Aos 21, William Arão deu um passe com categoria e Vizeu só deu um toque para virar.

Quando a vitória parecia encaminhada, Rodinei recebeu seu segundo cartão amarelo e foi expulso aos 28. Com um a mais, o Santos foi com tudo ao ataque. A pressão deu resultado aos 39, em um lindo chute de fora da área de Alison. Aos 41, Réver, impedido, teve um gol anulado. Na jogada seguinte, aos 43, Ricardo Oliveira marcou de cabeça o da virada.

De Futebol

Pele told the Daily Mail that for Brasil to win the World Cup they must have a team not just one player. “Brazil legend Pele has warned the current crop of stars that they cannot just rely on Neymar and Gabriel Jesus if they are to emulate him in become a World Cup winner.

Brazil are on the verge of qualifying for next summer’s showpiece in Russia – with the five-time World Cup winners sitting eight points clear at the top of South American qualifying.

Barcelona forward Neymar is very much the superstar of the team and all hopes will rest on his shoulders if the Selecao are to add a sixth star above their badge.

Neymar can expect help from Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus too, but Pele insists it will require a team effort for his compatriots to reign supreme.

Asked if the presence of Neymar could make the difference, the three-time World Cup winner said: ‘Listen, this is very difficult to say because today people mention one or two good players, but who won the game and [the] World Cup is the team.

‘Individually it is difficult to say people [did it]. Sometimes one team have a better one [player]. For example, Barcelona have Lionel Messi, one player, but they have a lot of good players.

‘To win the World Cup, or to win the game it has to be a nice team not just one player.

‘…Of course, always we [Brazil] expect to win [the World Cup]. I think Brazil has good new players and the team has more experience because most of the players that play for the national team play outside [of Brazil]. This is important.

‘What we need now is to get a nice team and let them play. I think it will be an excellent World Cup and I wish Brazil make the final.’

De Futebol

Man U defeated Sampdora 2-1. The Daily Mail:” As all eyes centred on Nemanja Matic’s Manchester United debut, it was another former Chelsea man who claimed the glory for Jose Mourinho in Dublin.

On an evening in which the United manager saw new £40m midfielder Matic complete his first half of football for the club, Juan Mata popped up late on to ensure Mourinho ended pre-season with a victory.

It was a night that started peculiarly for United when one Dublin local pulled a prank and pretended to clamp the team bus into its parking space outside a city centre hotel.

That, however, was as dramatic as things would get on a pleasing evening for Mourinho as Matic earned his first minutes of pre-season after spending the past few weeks training alone at Chelsea’s training ground.

It is quite the compliment to Chelsea manager Antonio Conte that two of his competitors, Mourinho and Arsene Wenger, seem set to embark on the new season by imitating the formula that spearheaded Chelsea’s title charge last season.

In Mourinho’s case, he has even pinched one of the midfield heavyweights that greased the well-oiled Chelsea machine.

The Serbian Matic slotted in seamlessly to a 3-4-2-1 system that mirrored the role he played under Conte last season and we can expect to see United deploy this formation in their more challenging fixtures this season.

Real Madrid in the Super Cup next week will offer a more clearer barometer of United’s comfort in this system and the flaws revealed against Italy’s eleventh best team last season in Sampdoria will require some ironing out.

The back three of Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind in particular, did not always look particularly assured, with the latter of the trio especially suspect.

It was Blind’s complacent streak that very nearly led to United conceding the first goal of this game. As it transpired, the Dutchman’s suspect backpass was instead the starting pistol for a chain of events that led to United taking the lead.

In a most peculiar passage of play, United had appeared for all the world as though they were set to concede.

As David De Gea shimmied to the left side of his penalty area to offer Blind the option of a pass back, the Dutch defender lost sight of his goalkeeper’s bearing.

In doing so, he applied too much force to his pass and further embarrassment was only spared as a heroic lunge by De Gea kept the ball out of United’s own goal.

Yet in his desperation, the Spaniard used his hands and an indirect free-kick from point-blank range followed. A melee of United bodies stemmed the flow and in the blink of an eye, a sea of United shirts blitzed upfield.

Antonio Valencia led the pack down the right flank, carrying the ball fifty yards before Andreas Pereira switched the play with a clipped ball to Matteo Darmian. The Italian does not always appear entirely comfortable with the ball at his feet but here he chested it down before shuffling it across goal where Henrikh Miktaryan turned the ball in.

United coasted along with sufficient assurance for 60 minutes and Mourinho then altered the formation for the final half hour to a more conventional 4-2-3-1 system when he replaced Blind with Martial.

United almost immediately extended their lead when two more substitutes combined, as Ander Herrera stroked home Marouane Fellaini’s knockdown – but the linesman’s flag curtailed the Basque midfielder’s celebrations.

For United, it was a rare sight of goal in a rather ponderous performance in which their most talented players rarely demonstrated their gifts.

Certainly, Mourinho will be irked by the manner in which United rather allowed the match to drift along without too much urgency and in doing so, they invited their limited Italian opponents to grow in confidence.

Sampdoria equalised just past the hour mark when a rampage down the left was only partially cleared by Smalling, teeing up the Belgian Dennis Praet to glide onto the scene and stroke the ball in from just outside the penalty area. Smalling then doubled down on his error by shifting his body to block the strike, only to then withdraw at the final split-second to leave his goalkeeper deceived.

Yet with the clock ticking down and the Italians increasingly disjointed by a flurry of substitutions, Martial carried the ball into the penalty area and teed up Mata to seal the win.

De Futebol

Flamengo and Corinthians tied one all. Boo-Mengao drops to fifth place with 29 points.

Globo Esportes wrote:” A expectativa de grande jogo se confirmou na Arena do Corinthians. O empate por 1 a 1 – gols de Jô e Réver – alterou pouco a situação das equipes no Brasileiro. Invicto há 32 jogos, o Corinthians manteve os 12 pontos de diferença contra um concorrente direto ao título e agora tem 41 no topo. O Rubro-Negro tem 29 pontos e está na quinta colocação na tabela.

Primeiro tempo

O duelo do Corinthians sólido, que não dá espaços e é letal contra o Flamengo de talentos individuais, irregular e com problemas de marcação era um convite para o Rubro-Negro. E o Flamengo de Zé Ricardo aceitou a dança do líder de Fábio Carille.

Com facilidade, os paulistas marcaram duas vezes no primeiro tempo. Mas só um valeu. Sem ser incomodado, na frente da área, Rodriguinho achou Maycon, que cruzou para Jô. O erro grosseiro do bandeira Pablo Almeida da Costa poderia abalar o time da casa, mas afetou o Flamengo depois de bons minutos iniciais.

Aos 21 minutos – dez depois do gol anulado -, Balbuena se antecipou a Guerrero e ligou o contra-ataque para Jô. O atacante foi acompanhado de perto por Pará e de longe por Réver. A conclusão, rasteira no canto, bateu o estreante Diego Alves.

Segundo tempo

Com William Arão no lugar de Cuéllar, o Flamengo tentou o ataque desde o início do segundo tempo. Diego encontrou Guerrero na área, mas o peruano não alcançou a bola. O Fla rondava a área do Corinthians e teve a melhor chance na cabeçada de Juan, em grande defesa de Cássio. O veterano levou a melhor em outro escanteio e tocou para Réver fazer um bonito gol de voleio aos 26 minutos. Em seguida, Diego perdeu gol na frente de Cássio em boa jogada do Flamengo – a esta altura já com Berrío no time.

Com três mexidas, o Corinthians parecia até satisfeito com o resultado, que o mantém na liderança folgada. Os paulistas tentavam o contra-ataque, mas o Flamengo marcava melhor na segunda etapa. A virada rubro-negra por pouco não saiu. Em cruzamento de Berrío, Pedro Henrique tentou afastar e quase marcou contra. Para sorte corintiana, a bola bateu no travessão e saiu. No fim, Diego Alves, que levou gol defensável de Jô, desta vez salvou o chute forte do centroavante corintiano em lance semelhante.