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Can Manchester United sustain Premier League title push? | Football News

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LONDON: Manchester United are top of the Premier League table with nearly half the season gone but are they title contenders or mere pretenders?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men beat Burnley 1-0 at Turf Moor on Tuesday courtesy of a Paul Pogba goal to move three points clear of champions Liverpool after 17 games.
It was the first time United had ended the day top of the table so far into the season since their last title-winning campaign in 2012/13 under Alex Ferguson.
AFP Sport looks at whether United can win their first top-flight title for eight years as they prepare to travel to Anfield on Sunday.
Manchester United’s success in the transfer market has been more miss than hit since Ferguson guided them to a 20th top-flight title.
But a glance at the substitutes’ bench at Turf Moor shows Solskjaer has quietly put together a powerful squad that gives him enviable options.
The Norwegian started with Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Bruno Fernandes in midfield, with in-form Scott McTominay, Fred and Donny van de Beek on the bench.
Edinson Cavani was back as the focal point in attack after a three-match ban, with academy graduate Mason Greenwood used as a late substitute.
In central defence, Eric Bailly is impressing alongside Harry Maguire, offering United real pace at the back.
But it is not just the personnel that catch the eye there is a palpable sense of togetherness at the club, shown by the players’ wild celebrations when they recently beat Aston Villa 2-1.
Solskjaer who won six Premier League titles as a player at Old Trafford has not had an easy ride in charge.
Whenever the club have hit a rocky patch the pressure has been ramped up, with suggestions he does not have the experience or nous to go toe to toe with Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.
An impressive 29 points from a possible 33 show the strength of their revival after a poor start to the campaign but Solskjaer is not getting carried away.
“We’re almost halfway through the season so it’s a little bit of an indication of where you’re at,” said the 1999 treble hero.
“But no one will remember the league table on the 12th of January.”
Despite their fine run of form, bookmakers still have United as third favourites for the Premier League title, behind Manchester City and Liverpool.
Klopp’s men have failed to hit the heights of last season but are still firmly in the title picture despite a defensive injury crisis this term.
United will travel to the home of their fierce rivals with a spring in their step a far cry from last year, when defeat at Anfield left them 30 points behind the Merseyside outfit.
Solskjaer, whose side are unbeaten in domestic away fixtures since losing to Liverpool in January 2020, said United were looking forward to the challenge.
“We just want to go there, knowing we’re playing the best team in the country by a mile over the last year and a half,” he said. “They are champions by right and it will be a great test of where we are.”
For their part, City have quietly put together an impressive run to move to within striking distance of the top of the table.
They are seven points behind United but have two games in hand and are favourites to win their third title in four seasons.
Former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, who played alongside Solskjaer at Old Trafford, is not sure his old side are “quite there yet” but believes they are not far away.
“If we could add players like (forward Erling) Haaland from Dortmund or (defender Dayot) Upamecano from Leipzig I would say then we would be championship challengers,” he told the BBC.
It is up to his ex-teammate to prove him wrong.


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‘The boy has become a man on this tour’: Sehwag lauds Siraj | Cricket News

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BRISBANE (Australia): From losing his father days after reaching Australia with the national team to becoming a household name, life has come full circle for India pacer Mohammed Siraj. And applauding his heroics, former India opener Virender Sehwag said that Siraj has really grown as a cricketer in the ongoing Test series against Australia.
Siraj’s hard work paid off on the fourth day of the ongoing fourth Test against Australia here at the Gabba as he went on to register his maiden five-wicket haul. The Indian pacer has played three Test matches on this tour of Australia, and has returned 13 wickets.

“The boy has become a man on this tour. Siraj, Leader of the attack in his first Test series and he has led from the front. The way newcomers have performed for India on this tour will be etched in memories for a long long time. Will be fitting if they retain the trophy,” tweeted Sehwag.

Before the series against Australia started, Siraj had lost his father, but the pacer decided to stay back in Australia to fulfill his father’s dream of seeing him play Test cricket. Former West Indies pacer Ian Bishop also tweeted to congratulate the Indian quick bowler on his maiden fifer.
“It’s no consolation or small consolation. But given Mohammed Siraj lost his dad while in Australia and chose to stay on tour, you have to feel very pleased for him that he has ended the series with his first 5 wicket haul in test cricket,” Bishop tweeted.

After the close of play on day four of the Gabba Test, Siraj revealed that it has been very tough for him, but a phone call from his mother gave the pacer much-needed confidence to go out and express himself.

“I am thankful that I was able to pick five wickets as it was a very tough situation for me after my dad passed away. But after talking to my mom at home, I gained some confidence. The call with my mom made me mentally strong. My focus was to fulfill my dad’s wish,” said Siraj while replying to a query from ANI.

In the final session, with rain playing spoilsport, the Indian openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill could face just 1.5 overs before the umpires decided to call for early stumps. India need 324 runs on the final day with 10 wickets in the bag at Australia’s fortress The Gabba.

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4th Test: Siraj, Shardul bowl with fire, take 9 wickets between them to keep India in the hunt

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<p>From not going to attend his father’s funeral and then being subjected to racial abuse in Sydney to becoming the only Indian bowler to register a five-wicket haul in this series, Mohammed Siraj has made sure that he is taken very seriously as a Test bowler now. (AP Photo)</p>



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Sindhu and Saina look for better show after listless display in first event of Asia leg | Badminton News

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BANGKOK: Indian shuttlers, including Olympic hopefuls PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, will hope to give a better account of themselves at Toyota Thailand Open Super 1000 tournament, starting here on Tuesday, after a lacklustre show last week.
The Indian players seemed to struggle with their fitness as none of them could cross the second round at the Yonex Thailand Open, the first event of the Asia leg here.
Barring Kidambi Srikanth, it was the first tournament for the whole Indian contingent in nearly 10 months.
If Olympic silver medallist Sindhu struggled to keep pace with her first-round opponent Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt, London Games bronze winner Saina simply ran out of steam against Thailand’s Busanan Ongbamrungphan in the second round.
Among others, world no 13 B Sai Praneeth looked a mismatch against Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen, while former world no 1 Srikanth and 2014 Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap were either forced to withdraw or retire after suffering calf muscle pulls.
World champion Sindhu, a medal contender at Tokyo Games, has been training at London for last two months and she will be itching to go deep in the draw when she opens against world no 12 Busanan, who had outlasted Saina last week.
Saina, who recently recovered from COVID-19 and had to go through the ordeal of a false positive test last week, will however have an imposing task as she faces fourth seed and home favourite Ratchanok Intanon in the opening round.
Saina, who is currently world no 20, has a 11-5 head-to-head record against Inthanon, a former world champion but the Indian will have to play out of her skin against the Thai star, who had reached the quarterfinals last week.
In the men’s singles, Praneeth will need to find his rhythm when he takes on Daren Liew of Malaysia, while world no 14 Srikanth, who had withdrawn from the second round match after complaining of a calf muscle pull, faces Thailand’s Sitthikom Thammasin, an opponent he has beaten twice in the past.
Kashyap, who had retired in the decider against Jason Anthony Ho-Shue of Canada last week, will face Denmark’s world no 17 Rasmus Gemke.
HS Prannoy will look to put behind last week’s first-round loss when he takes on the formidable Indonesian Jonatan Christie, who is seeded sixth.
The Verma brothers will also have their task cut out as Sourabh is pitted against fifth seed Indonesian Anthony Sinisuka Ginting in the first round, while Sameer crosses swords with the speedy Malaysian Lee Zii Jia, seeded eighth.
The only silver lining from last week was the performance of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who looked impressive during their win over the South Korean combination of Lee Yong Dae and Kim Gi Jung in the opening round.
The duo will open against fellow Indians Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy, while Satwik and Ashwini Ponnapa, who had defeated sixth-seeded Indonesians Hafiz Faizal and Gloria Emmanuelle Widjaja in a thrilling match just days ago, will take on Danish paring of Niclas Nohr and Amalie Magelund.
Ashwini and N Sikki Reddy will meet the German pairing of Linda Efler and Isabel Herttrich in their opener.


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Test captaincy is Smith’s chance for redemption: Healy | Cricket News

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BRISBANE: Legendary wicketkeeper Ian Healy wants to see former Australia captain Steve Smith return to the top job in Tests and seek “redemption”, saying he has paid a “heavy price for not doing much” during the ball-tampering scandal.
Smith and vice-captain David Warner had resigned in the aftermath of the scandal during the Cape Town Test against South Africa in March 2018 and since then Tim Paine has been at the helm of the Test team.
Aaron Finch has handled the limited-overs leadership.
“In 12 to 18 months from now, I want him to do it, only if he wants to, because it’s a chance for redemption,” Healy told ‘SEN Radio’.
“I want him to lead strongly, become that statesman of the game and put those doubters and haters to bed. I like redemption – he paid a heavy price for not doing much,” he added.
With Paine, at 36, reaching the fag end of his career, a fresh captaincy discussion has started.
“Everyone around the world thinks he scratched the ball. All he was, was a bit of a lazy captain and let things run in his team that he wasn’t aware of,” Healy opined.
Pace ace Pat Cummins has been touted as Australia’s next Test captain following his recent appointment as the sole vice-captain after previously sharing the role with Travis Head.
Healy feels the speedster should be handed the reigns in the white-ball formats to gain experience before potentially leading the Australian Test side.
“I think we should try Pat Cummins in short form games. Give him a taste and get his feedback on how he might cope, that would be a good way to start.”
The last time a speedster captained Australia was Ray Lindwall in a Test against India in 1956.


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