Manchester United appoint Ralf Rangnick as interim boss

Leipzig’s head coach Ralf Rangnick arrives for the German Bundesliga match between RB Leipzig and SC Freiburg in Leipzig, Germany, April 27, 2019. (AP Photo)
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Updated 29 November 2021

Manchester United appoint Ralf Rangnick as interim boss

  • Rangnick will take over from first-team coach Michael Carrick, who has been in caretaker charge for two games since Solskjaer was dismissed just over a week ago
  • The former RB Leipzig boss said he was excited to be joining United and focused on turning around the fortunes of the club, who are floundering in eighth spot in the Premier League

LONDON: Manchester United announced on Monday they had appointed Ralf Rangnick as interim manager until the end of the season following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a disastrous run of results.
The 63-year-old will arrive at Old Trafford from Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow, where he was manager of sports and development, becoming just the sixth German manager to coach in the Premier League.
At the end of the season Rangnick, whose appointment is subject to work visa requirements, will take on a consultancy role at the 20-times English champions for a further two years.
He will take over from first-team coach Michael Carrick, who has been in caretaker charge for two games since Solskjaer was dismissed just over a week ago following a humiliating 4-1 defeat at lowly Watford.
“He was our number one candidate for interim manager, reflecting the invaluable leadership and technical skills he will bring from almost four decades of experience in management and coaching,” said United football director John Murtough.
The former RB Leipzig boss said he was excited to be joining United and focused on turning around the fortunes of the club, who are floundering in eighth spot in the Premier League, five points off the top four.
“The squad is full of talent and has a great balance of youth and experience,” he said. “All my efforts for the next six months will be on helping these players fulfil their potential, both individually and, most importantly, as a team.
“Beyond that, I look forward to supporting the club’s longer-term goals on a consultancy basis.”
Rangnick could take charge for the first time against Arsenal on Thursday if his work permit issues are sorted out quickly.
Carrick — who has overseen a Champions League win over Villarreal and a 1-1 draw on Sunday at Stamford Bridge, where he dropped Cristiano Ronaldo — will remain in caretaker charge until Rangnick’s work visa is finalized.
Former United captain Gary Neville tweeted: “Welcome to the Greatest Football Club in the World Ralf Rangnick.”
Club bosses ran out of patience with Solskjaer despite keeping faith with the Norwegian after humiliating home defeats to rivals Liverpool and Manchester City.
The former striker, who scored the winning goal for United in the 1999 Champions League final to complete a historic treble, was in charge at Old Trafford for nearly three years.
Under his leadership United finished in the Premier League top four in back-to-back seasons for the first time since Alex Ferguson retired as boss in 2013 but they have not won silverware since 2017.
The American-owned club can boast abundant riches in attack, with Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Greenwood and Anthony Martial all vying for starting spots.
But their leaky defense has already conceded 22 goals in 13 games, more than four times Chelsea’s total of five and they are well off the pace set this season by Chelsea, Liverpool and City.
Rangnick has managed a number of clubs in Germany including Stuttgart, Schalke, Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig and has also operated as director of football at RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel have both spoken highly of their compatriot, who won the German Cup with Schalke in 2011.
During the same season, he led Schalke to the semifinals of the Champions League, where they lost 6-1 on aggregate to United, who were then beaten by Barcelona in the final.
Rangnick is renowned for his emphasis on “gegenpressing,” a high-pressing style of football in which hard work and zonal pressing means the ball is won high in the opposition’s half in attacking areas.
Klopp said last week, before the appointment was confirmed, that the veteran manager’s appointment was “not good news for other teams” due to his impressive track record.


Qatar braces for 200,000 daily World Cup air passengers; Saudia to play part

Updated 26 May 2022

Qatar braces for 200,000 daily World Cup air passengers; Saudia to play part

  • Saudia chief executive Ibrahim Koshy said his airline would run at least 30 daily round trip flights from the cities of Riyadh and Jeddah, that could carry 10,000 fans
  • Qatar Airways will cut flights to destinations that are ‘irrelevant’ to the World Cup, so that it can increase flights to countries taking part

DOHA: Qatar will only let football fans with match tickets enter the Gulf state during the World Cup tournament, officials said Thursday as they announced that scores of shuttle flights would bring in thousands of fans each day from neighboring countries.

Facing growing pressure to cope with the four-week football tournament, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said the national airline would halt some routes to countries not involved in the 32-nation tournament during the tournament and reduce others.

Baker, who is also tourist minister, said Qatar’s Hamad International Airport and the older Doha International Airport would double capacity so that they can process more than 200,000 people a day.

The tiny state is desperately trying to find rooms for the 1.4 million predicted visitors and a top World Cup organizing committee official said only fans with tickets would be allowed in during the four weeks from November 21.

Fans will have to get a special pass, a Haya card, to enter the country and stadiums. They will need a match ticket to get the pass.

Saeed Al-Kuwari, director of the Haya digital platform for the organizers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, told AFP: “The only people who will enter the country during the tournament are holders of the Haya digital card.”

Qataris and legal residents will also be able to enter but authorities have yet to announce how business people will be processed.

Baker announced that Saudia, Kuwait Airways, flydubai and Oman Air will organize more than 160 daily flights from November 20 to bring supporters on one-day trips to see matches.

Officials estimate that more than 20,000 fans could come in each day on the shuttles.

Saudia chief executive Ibrahim Koshy said his airline would run at least 30 daily round trip flights from the cities of Riyadh and Jeddah, that could carry 10,000 fans.

Flydubai would operate at least 30 return flights, Kuwait Airways 10 and Oman Air 24, Baker said.

All flights would be reserved for fans with World Cup tickets who would go through a special booking that Baker promised would provide a “seamless” immigration and security processing as though they were entering on a domestic flight.

Baker said Qatar’s civil aviation authorities were increasing airspace capacity so that the three runways at Hamad airport could operate “continuously” during the World Cup.

He said Qatar Airways would cut flights to destinations that are “irrelevant” to the World Cup, so that it could increase flights to countries taking part.

Some 70 percent of Qatar Airways regular flights would see their times changed so that extra flights can be organized.

The airports would have to handle extra charter flights and airlines that have asked to establish regular lines because of the World Cup.

He said “state of the art immigration systems” would be introduced to speed up the arrival of international passengers.

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Bernie Ecclestone arrested in Brazil for illegally carrying a gun

Updated 26 May 2022

Bernie Ecclestone arrested in Brazil for illegally carrying a gun

  • Brazilian police found an undocumented LW Seecamp .32 gun in Ecclestone’s luggage during an X-ray screening
  • Ecclestone is married to Brazilian-born Fabiana Ecclestone, an FIA vice president and member of the World Motor Sport Council

SAO PAULO: Former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone was arrested in Brazil late on Wednesday for illegally carrying a gun while boarding a private plane to Switzerland, local police said on Thursday.
The Brazilian police found an undocumented LW Seecamp .32 gun in Ecclestone’s luggage during an X-ray screening, police said in a statement, adding that the 91-year-old was then arrested and taken to a facility at Viracopos airport in Campinas.
Ecclestone acknowledged owning the gun, but said he was unaware it was in his luggage at the time, police said. The Briton paid bail and was freed to travel to Switzerland.
Asked about Ecclestone’s arrest, the Sao Paulo state public security office confirmed in a statement to Reuters that a businessman was arrested for possession of a firearm at Campinas’ airport, but did not name him directly.
The office said the “small, silver colored pistol” was out of ammunition and that the arrestee had to pay 6,060 reais ($1,257.55) as bail. The handgun was seized, it added.
Ecclestone was not immediately available for comment on why he had a gun.
He is married to Brazilian-born Fabiana Ecclestone, an FIA vice president and member of the World Motor Sport Council.
Her mother Aparecida Schunck was kidnapped in Sao Paulo in 2016, with criminals demanding 120 million reais ($25.07 million) in ransom before she was freed nine days later in a police raid without any money being paid.
Such kidnappings have become less common in recent years, however.
Ecclestone also suffered a head injury in 2010 after being mugged in central London, his attackers making off with jewelry including a watch.
The Ecclestones attended several events in the South American country in May, including a local Stock Car race in the countryside near Sao Paulo and a meeting with triple world champion Nelson Piquet in Brasilia.
The Ecclestones own a coffee plantation near Sao Paulo, which they bought in 2012 and where they regularly spend time when not in Europe. Piquet drove for Brabham when it was owned by Ecclestone in the 1970s and 80s.
For decades Ecclestone was Mr. Formula One, the man who did the deals, turned the wheels and transformed the sport into today’s billion dollar business.
He was moved aside in 2017 when US-based Liberty Media took control of the commercial rights.


Carapaz keeps slim Giro lead, Buitrago scores breakthrough victory in tough 17th stage

Updated 26 May 2022

Carapaz keeps slim Giro lead, Buitrago scores breakthrough victory in tough 17th stage

  • Thursday’s 18th stage should see a sprint finish after a flat circuit around Treviso at the end of a 156-kilometer (97-mile) route from Borgo Valsugana, that includes two fourth-category climbs

LAVARONE, Italy: Race favorite Richard Carapaz maintained his slim overall lead of the Giro d’Italia after a tough 17th stage which was won by Santiago Buitrago for his first grand tour victory.

Carapaz remained three seconds ahead of 2020 runner-up Jai Hindley — with just four days of racing remaining — after both crossed the line together at the end of the 168-kilometer (104-mile) route from Ponte di Legno to Lavarone, which packed in almost 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) of climbing.

Mikel Landa finished six seconds behind the duo but moved into third overall, 1 minute and five seconds behind Carapaz. He surpassed João Almeida who was dropped on the second of the two top-category climbs that came in the final 40 kilometers of the race.

“It’s been a really hard stage,” said Carapaz, who rides for the powerful Ineos Grenadiers team. “I think we’re happy, every day everything is being defined a bit more, everything is clearing up in the (general classification) and I’m happy to have the jersey for another day.”

Buitrago had been in tears after finishing second on Sunday’s 15th stage. There were more tears from the Colombian cyclist on Wednesday, but this time of joy after soloing to victory.

The 22-year-old recovered from a crash halfway through the day to get back to the breakaway and then launched his attack toward the top of the final climb, cresting it alone and speeding down the final eight kilometers.

Buitrago, who rides for Team Bahrain Victorious, finished 35 seconds ahead of Gijs Leemreize — who had been leading on the steep climb to Monterovere — and 2:28 ahead of Jan Hirt.

“I’m really emotional. It’s my first Giro,” Buitrago said. “I needed to have a cold head on the final climb … I felt like I had the legs and I wanted to try and I went for it. I knew I had to go over on my own to try and win the stage.”

Thursday’s 18th stage should see a sprint finish after a flat circuit around Treviso at the end of a 156-kilometer (97-mile) route from Borgo Valsugana, that includes two fourth-category climbs.

“Tomorrow will still be an important day,” Carapaz said. “We have to get through the remaining days, no day is easy and we’ve got a really difficult weekend coming up.”

The Giro ends on Sunday in Verona.


Alcaraz, Zverev pull off French Open escapes as Nadal, Djokovic cruise

Updated 26 May 2022

Alcaraz, Zverev pull off French Open escapes as Nadal, Djokovic cruise

  • The 19-year-old Alcaraz is attempting to become just the eighth teenager to capture a major men’s title, and backed as the man to break the stranglehold of Djokovic and Nadal

PARIS: Spanish teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz and third seed Alexander Zverev both saved a match point in five-set French Open thrillers, while 13-time winner Rafael Nadal and reigning champion Novak Djokovic eased into the third round Wednesday.

Alcaraz, widely tipped as a title contender, rallied from the brink to defeat compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-7 (7/9), 5-7, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 after four hours and 34 minutes.

“I feel tired,” said Alcaraz. “It was a great battle, a great match and we fought until the last point.”

The 19-year-old Alcaraz is attempting to become just the eighth teenager to capture a major men’s title, and backed as the man to break the stranglehold of Djokovic and Nadal.

But he was pushed to the limit by the seasoned Ramos-Vinolas, 15 years his elder and whose best performance at a Grand Slam came when he made the quarterfinals in Paris six years ago.

Alcaraz, the tour’s dominant player in 2022 with a season-leading four titles, fought off a match point to break Ramos-Vinolas as he served at 5-4 in the fourth set.

He then clawed his way back from 3-0 in the decider, producing an outrageous backhand pass to retrieve the break and more sensational baseline scrambling to move 5-4 in front before closing out victory with an ace.

Alcaraz goes on to face US 27th seed Sebastian Korda, the last man to defeat him at Monte Carlo in April in what was his only loss in 19 matches on clay this season.

Zverev, a 2021 semifinalist, dug himself out of a deep hole against Argentina’s Sebastian Baez to avoid his earliest loss at a major in three years.

Zverev overcame Baez 2-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 7-5 and will play Brandon Nakashima of the US for a place in the last 16.

“I’m happy still being in the tournament right now,” said Zverev, who was match point down on serve at 4-5 in the final set.

“I was planning my holiday in Monaco, where I was going to go and who I was going to with and that relaxed me, thinking about the beach.

“You just have to find a way.”

It was the third comeback from a two-set deficit in Zverev’s career. He trailed fellow German Oscar Otte 2-0 in the opening round at Roland Garros a year ago before his run to the last four.

Nadal breezed past French wildcard Corentin Moutet 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 for the 300th Grand Slam win of his career. Roger Federer (369) and Djokovic (325) are the only men to have more than the record 21-time major champion.

His French Open record now stands at a staggering 107 wins and just three losses since his 2005 title-winning debut.

“I think it was a good match against a very difficult player with lots of talent,” said Nadal, whose build-up to the tournament was hampered by a foot injury.

“The last couple of months haven’t been easy. The victories help a lot.”

Djokovic made comfortable work of Slovakia’s Alex Molcan, the world No. 1 winning 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) against a player trained by his long-time former coach Marian Vajda, the man who inspired most of his 20 Grand Slam titles.

“So far so good. I’m pleased with the way I’m feeling on the court,” Djokovic said after reaching the last 32 at Roland Garros for the 17th straight year.

“It was never going to be an easy match, but I thought I performed very well. Everything is going in the right direction. I’m looking forward to the next challenge.”

The top seed will continue his bid for a third Roland Garros crown against Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene in the last 32.

However, Maria Sakkari became the fifth women’s top-10 seed to exit after going down 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4) to Czech world No. 81 Karolina Muchova.

Sakkari, the fourth seed from Greece, was a point away from reaching the final at Roland Garros last year.

Her defeat left the women’s draw without four of its top six seeds as she followed defending champion Barbora Krejcikova, Anett Kontaveit and Ons Jabeur through the exit door.

Muchova will next play 27th seed Amanda Anisimova, who made the last four in Paris three years ago.

“It’s very special, she’s an amazing player. It was a big fight, a little bit of a test and challenge for me and I’m happy I took it the way I did,” said Muchova.

Former Grand Slam champions Angelique Kerber and Victoria Azarenka also advanced to the third round.


Salah staying at Liverpool ‘for sure’ next season

Updated 25 May 2022

Salah staying at Liverpool ‘for sure’ next season

  • Mohamed Salah: ‘I don’t want to talk about the contract; I’m staying next season for sure, let’s see after that’
  • Sadio Mane: ‘This question (about my future) I will answer after Champions League’

LIVERPOOL: Mohamed Salah has confirmed he will see out his contract at Liverpool next season, but the Egypt forward remains non-committal on his future at Anfield beyond 2023.
Salah’s contract expires at the end of next season and talks over a new deal have dragged on for months without a resolution.
Ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final against Real Madrid, Salah said his full focus is on winning the biggest prize in European football for the second time.
“I don’t want to talk about the contract. I’m staying next season for sure, let’s see after that,” said Salah at Liverpool’s pre-match media day on Wednesday.
“In my mind I don’t focus about the contract. I don’t want to be selfish, it’s about the team. It’s a really important week for us, I want to see Hendo (Jordan Henderson) having the trophy again in his hands.”
However, Real’s failure to land France forward Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain has sparked speculation they could now enter the race for Salah.
The 29-year-old picked up his third Premier League Golden Boot in five seasons on Sunday as he shared the award with Tottenham’s Son Heung-min on 23 goals.
Salah’s fellow forward Sadio Mane also refused to commit his long-term future to Liverpool.
The Senegal international is out of contract in 2023 and has been linked with a move to Bayern Munich.
“This question (about my future) I will answer after the Champions League,” Mane told Sky Sports.
“If I’m staying or not, I’m going to answer after Champions League.”
In the aftermath of Real’s stunning comeback against Manchester City in the Champions League semifinals, which set up a repeat of the 2018 final between Liverpool and the Spanish giants, Salah said he had a “score to settle.”
Salah was forced off early in Real’s 3-1 win in Kyiv due to a dislocated shoulder after being hauled to the ground by Sergio Ramos.
He will not come up against the rugged Spanish center-back on Saturday as Ramos left Madrid to join Paris Saint-Germain last year.
Salah had scored 44 goals in his debut season at Liverpool heading into the final four years ago.
The injury also left him hobbled for the 2018 World Cup as Egypt crashed out at the group stages.
“It was the worst moment in my career,” he added. “I had a good season and playing the Champions League final I had to come off after 30 minutes.
“After the game I knew the result because I was in the hospital, I thought we cannot lose this way. I never felt that feeling before in football.
“It was the first Champions League final for most of us. We were very disappointed. We managed to win it the year after so it was kind of revenge.”
Reds captain Jordan Henderson claimed there was no need for revenge to fuel Liverpool in Paris as they aim to round off a remarkable season on a high.
Liverpool have already lifted the League Cup and FA Cup, but their attempt to land an unprecedented quadruple ended on Sunday as Manchester City pipped them to the Premier League by one point.
“I can understand from Mo’s point of view it was a very emotional time for him to come off injured,” said Henderson.
“It was tough for him and for all of us. But you don’t need any more motivation than playing a Champions League final against Madrid.
“They are a world class side, world class players all over the pitch. We need to be at 100 percent, but we are ready.”