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EPL: Man United’s title aspirations set for Anfield acid test | Football News

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LONDON: There have been a few false dawns but there is growing belief that Manchester United are on the cusp of reclaiming their place as the pre-eminent force in English football.
They are top of the Premier League table after New Year’s Day for the first time since Alex Ferguson’s glittering dynasty ended with his retirement in 2013, since when they watched first Manchester City and then Liverpool disappear into the distance.
It is one thing leading the pack in January, however, and Sunday’s trip to champions Liverpool will provide the acid test for a United revival that few saw coming earlier this season.
The clash promises to be a cracker, even if played in a silent stadium rather than the cauldron of noise which is normally the case for the biggest fixture in English football.
United, England’s most decorated club with 20 league titles, start the game three points clear of second-placed Liverpool after grinding out a 1-0 victory at Burnley on Tuesday.
Their position hardly seemed possible back in early November when time appeared to be running out for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with the club languishing in 15th spot in the table.
A few weeks later United crashed out of the Champions League after defeat by RB Leipzig and the vultures were circling again.
LONG-TERM PLAN
Solskjaer always insisted he had the support of the club’s hierarchy and was working to a “long term ” plan.
Fast forward a few weeks and United have won nine and drawn two of their last 11 Premier League games and even much-maligned record signing Paul Pogba is beginning to look the real deal in a side that Solskjaer has given back its identity.
Their former defender Gary Neville, in his role as a Sky Sports pundit, has been one of the fiercest critics of United in recent seasons, but believes something special might be brewing.
“Six to eight weeks ago you would never have thought that United would be anywhere near this position but now they find themselves with something building, a spirit growing,” he said.
“There’s a resilience that’s been built off some performances that haven’t been at times great away from home but they’ve won when they haven’t been at their best and you get confidence from that and now they’re starting to play better.”
United’s rise must come with the caveat that several other teams have been talked up as real title contenders this season — namely Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur — only to slump.
LIVERPOOL STUTTER
Being knocked off their perch by United will have hurt Liverpool who will be fired-up for Sunday’s 1630GMT showdown.
Juergen Klopp’s side have laboured of late, winning only four of their last 10 league matches and none of the last three.
In their last match they lost 1-0 at Southampton.
After romping to the title last season, Liverpool’s well-oiled machine has stuttered this term, hit by injuries to key players, especially defensive lynchpin Virgil van Dijk.
United will sense a golden opportunity to win at the home of their great rivals for the first time in five years.
While all eyes will be on Anfield, Manchester City’s steady rise after a sticky start has gathered pace and their 1-0 home win over Brighton & Hove Albion on Wednesday left them in third spot — only four points behind United with a game in hand.
They welcome Crystal Palace in Sunday’s late game looking for a fifth successive league win.
With Spurs faltering and Chelsea desperately out of form, fourth-placed Leicester City might be the most likely to stop the title race becoming a north-west affair.
They host seventh-placed Southampton on Saturday.


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Relatable Sports YouTube Fails

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In this video, a man fails to find his footing when he attempts to leap into the dreaded Double Dutch jump ropes.

I played every sport and activity in P.E., but I could not for the life of me solve the duel jump ropes. I thought there was some kind of witchcraft afoot and never successfully jumped in without kicking the ropes.


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Young Australian cricketers still in primary school compared to Indian counterparts: Greg Chappell | Cricket News

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MELBOURNE: Young Australian cricketers are still in “primary school” compared to their Indian counterparts, feels former India coach Greg Chappell and has urged his country’s cricket board to invest in talent to avoid becoming “also-rans” in no time.
An injury-hit India sans their star players notched up an incredible 2-1 win over Australia in the four-Test series and Chappell believes it is the robust domestic structure and efforts put in by BCCI which prepares its youngsters to take on the rigours of international cricket.

“Our young cricketers are weekend warriors compared to their Indian compatriots, who get challenging matchplay from the Under-16 age group onwards,” Chappell wrote in a column for ‘Sydney Morning Herald’.
“By the time an Indian player reaches the national XI, he has had an all-round apprenticeship that prepares him to walk into the Indian side with a reasonable chance of success.
“I am afraid, in comparison, Will Pucovski and Cameron Green are still in primary school in terms of experience.”
Pointing out the huge difference in the amount spent by the two boards, Chappell said Cricket Australia “cannot be making 1960s Holdens in this age of electric cars.”

Will Pucovski. (AFP Photo)
“The BCCI is investing millions of dollars in budding Indian cricketers. Cricket Australia, by comparison, spends $44m dollars on the Sheffield Shield. The comparative spending gap isn’t a gulf; it is the size of the Indian Ocean,” he wrote.
“If Cricket Australia doesn’t realise what it takes to be competitive in Test cricket and our entire cricket administration does not change its attitude on where to invest in talent, we will be also-rans in no time.”
Chappell said “the skill level of Indian youth teams would embarrass some of our first-class teams”.
“Their ability to deal with pressure has been cultivated in the cauldron of hard-fought matches. That level of intensity cannot be replicated in nets or against lesser opponents. The fact that India has 38 first-class teams should give you an idea of the depth of talent available,” he wrote.

“What one sees when watching Indian youth and A teams is the surprising degree of maturity and an intuitive understanding of all aspects of the game. It is as rare as it is stark. So much so that one can be forgiven for thinking a team of men is playing a group of schoolboys.”
Chappell said India’s “level of investment from grassroots up has left the rest of the cricket world in its wake” and “the havoc that COVID-19 has wreaked on cricket coffers around the world will only widen the gap between India and the have-nots.”
“For those of you who were surprised that India could deal with all that was thrown at them in this series, and could hold their nerve and win in such courageous fashion, I say: you better get used to it.
“Don’t worry about India becoming the best team – they are already capable of producing the best five teams in world cricket!”

Chappell also felt it was a mistake to play the same bowlers in all the four Tests.
“The biggest mistake was playing the same four bowlers in every Test. For pacemen, playing four Tests in five weeks is akin to running four marathons in as many weeks. There were signs in Sydney that Mitchell Starc, in particular, was jaded,” he wrote.
The former Australian batsman blamed the batsmen for the loss.
“I don’t blame Tim Paine and our bowlers for this defeat. The culpability lies fairly and squarely with the batsmen, who simply didn’t make enough runs on friendly wickets.”
Chappell said Australia will soon need to find replacements for David Warner and Steve Smith.

“Our days of domination are past, unless we start producing a group of batsmen who bat through 125 overs in the first innings. David Warner is struggling and Steve Smith won’t be around forever, so we need to find the champions who are going to replace them – and soon.”
He also backed Paine, who faced a lot of criticism for his wicket-keeping and captaincy.
“For those calling out for heads to roll, especially those seeking Tim Paine’s head on a pike, I say REALLY? Tim is one of only five players who can claim an automatic place in this Australian team. Sure, he didn’t have his best Test series behind the stumps, but he still averaged 40 with the bat,” he wrote.


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Andy Murray to miss Australian Open | Tennis News

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LONDON: Former world number one Andy Murray will not be taking part in next month’s Australian Open after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this month.
“Gutted to share that I won’t be flying out to Australia to compete at the Australian Open,” Murray was quoted as saying by British media on Friday.
“We’ve been in constant dialogue…to try and find a solution which would allow some form of workable quarantine, but we couldn’t make it work.”
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) tweeted that Murray had confirmed he would miss the first Grand Slam of the year.

The 33-year-old, a wildcard, said last Thursday that he had tested positive for the virus and was in self-isolation at his home near London.



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