Phil Jones lifts lid on competitiveness in Man Utd WhatsApp group chat

Manchester United's players have maintained their competitive streak by trying to beat each other's best times in fitness drills.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's squad have all been given individual training programmes to follow during the coronavirus lockdown.

Defender Phil Jones revealed players have been swapping their running and cycling times in a WhatsApp group to help each other stay sharp during the enforced break.

“We have a WhatsApp group and we’re doing our day-to-day routines on the bike, or going out for a run,” said Jones.

“We’ve all been posting our times in the group to keep everyone involved and engaged.

“That’s the only way to keep in contact at the moment – via technology. It keeps us together and keeps us talking.

“The Government has stated that we’re allowed one outside activity every day, so I try and get outside and go for a 5k run every day.

I’m just trying to keep fit every day and maintain my fitness. I also have a cycling machine at home so I can top my fitness up on the bike if needed.

“It’s a difficult time for everyone, but we’re taking precautions, and rightly so

“I miss football obviously, I miss the lads and being in and around the changing room, and doing what

"It’s all I’ve known for the last 15 or so years, so it’s difficult."

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Premier League explain why they are determined to finish 2019/20 season

The Premier League say that they are protecting English football's integrity by ensuring that the 2019/20 campaign is played to a finish amid the coronavirus chaos.

It was announced on Friday that, although there is now no official date that the English top-flight are aiming to resume on, they are determined to ensure that the current campaign comes to a sporting end.

There have been suggestions that the season could be curtailed as it stands, or even that results could be voided, but such outcomes are not being considered by the Premier League or many other top leagues from around the world, with UEFA also determined to finish the Champions League and Europa League campaigns.

There are still plenty of promotion, relegation and European qualification issues to resolve in 2019/20 across the English divisions, while Liverpool stand just two wins away from claiming their first top-flight league title in 30 years.

"It was acknowledged that the Premier League will not resume at the beginning of May – and that the 2019/20 season will only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so," said the Premier League in a statement on Friday.

"The restart date is under constant review with all stakeholders, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we work together through this very challenging time.


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Prem clubs face 30% wage cuts in virus crisis

Premier League clubs are in talks with the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) over a 30% player pay deferral scheme following a video conference on Friday which also sanctioned a £125 million grant to clubs in the EFL and National League and a £20m donation to the National Health Service (NHS) to support the battle against the coronavirus.

Britain’s health minister Matt Hancock said on Thursday that Premier League players need to take a pay cut and “play their part” amid the coronavirus crisis.

Provisional plans to resume competitive fixtures at the beginning of May have also been abandoned, with the Premier League confirming that football will only return “when it is safe and appropriate to do so.”

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With Premier League players beginning to come under intense public pressure to accept pay deferrals in the wake of Tottenham and Newcastle furloughing non-playing staff, at the same time as maintaining player wages at their usual level, the video conference involving the chief executives of all 20 clubs centred on the financial challenges facing the game since the football shutdown was implemented last month.

A Premier League statement read: “First and foremost, it was reaffirmed that the overriding priority is to aid the health and wellbeing of the nation and our communities, including players, coaches, managers, club staff and supporters.

“It was acknowledged that the Premier League will not resume at the beginning of May — and that the 2019-20 season will only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so.”

Beyond the commitment to discuss player salaries, the Premier League also agreed to help clubs in the lower reaches of the English pyramid system, including a decision to bring forward solidarity payments to the National League — England’s fifth tier — from August to this month.

The statement went on: “Discussions also took place regarding financial relief for clubs in the short term and while there is no single solution, measures are to be put in place to immediately deal with the impact of falling cash flow.

“Critically, the League unanimously voted to advance funds of £125m to the EFL and National League as it is aware of the severe difficulties clubs throughout the football pyramid are suffering at this time.”

A meeting has been scheduled for Saturday in which the Premier League, players and club representatives will discuss the proposed cuts to salaries. The Professional Footballers’ Association has also been invited to attend.

Efforts to help boost the fight against the coronavirus have also been agreed, with the Premier League pledging to donate £20m to the frontline services and those in challenging circumstances during the crisis.

Clubs across Europe have already taken measures with Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus among them.

On Monday, Barcelona announced an agreement had been reached for the players to take a 70% hit on their salaries as the club struggles to deal with the financial effects of the coronavirus crisis. The reduction will not only affect the men’s first team, but all of the club’s professional teams, including the basketball side, among others. Atletico Madrid followed suit on Thursday.

Juventus players and coach Maurizio Sarri have reached an agreement over a wage reduction that will save the Italian champions €90 million in the 2019-2020 financial year, while Bayern Munich confirmed to ESPN their players will waive 20% of their salaries as Bundesliga clubs brace for the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis.

ESPN has been told that at present, and unless circumstances change, Real Madrid have no plans to take similar measures.

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Premier League season suspended indefinitely after coronavirus crisis meeting

Premier League chiefs have pledged to restart the season – but only when it is safe to do so.

It comes after the 20 Premier League clubs took part in a video conference call to try and plan a way forward as to when to start and how the season should be played out.

And clubs will now consult players about taking a 30 per cent wage deferral.

They are still fully committed to see out the season, especially with £750m worth of TV cash at stake because the clubs will have to pay back the broadcast money if they do not complete the games.

Premier League Statement

At a meeting of Premier League Shareholders today, clubs discussed in detail how to respond to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

First and foremost, it was reaffirmed that the overriding priority is to aid the health and wellbeing of the nation and our communities, including players, coaches, managers, club staff and supporters.

It was acknowledged that the Premier League will not resume at the beginning of May – and that the 2019/20 season will only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so. The restart date is under constant review with all stakeholders, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we work together through this very challenging time.

The Premier League is working closely with the whole of professional football in this country, as well as with the Government, public agencies and other relevant stakeholders to ensure the game achieves a collaborative solution.

With this, there is a combined objective for all remaining domestic league and cup matches to be played, enabling us to maintain the integrity of each competition. However, any return to play will only be with the full support of Government and when medical guidance allows.

The sporting and financial implications for Premier League clubs as well as for The FA, EFL and National League were considered at today’s meeting.

In the face of substantial and continuing losses for the 2019/20 season since the suspension of matches began, and to protect employment throughout the professional game, Premier League clubs unanimously agreed to consult their players regarding a combination of conditional reductions and deferrals amounting to 30 per cent of total annual remuneration.

This guidance will be kept under constant review as circumstances change. The League will be in regular contact with the PFA and the union will join a meeting which will be held tomorrow between the League, players and club representatives.

Discussions also took place regarding financial relief for clubs in the short term and while there is no single solution, measures are to be put in place to immediately deal with the impact of falling cash flow.

Critically, the League unanimously voted to advance funds of £125 million to the EFL and National League as it is aware of the severe difficulties clubs throughout the football pyramid are suffering at this time.

Further to that assistance, the League remains committed to supporting the National Health Service, its staff and helping people in communities, not least those who are most vulnerable. The League, clubs, players and managers express huge appreciation for the heroic efforts of NHS staff and all other key workers who are carrying out critical jobs in such difficult circumstances.

In consultation with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Premier League is immediately committing £20 million to support the NHS, communities, families and vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This includes a direct financial contribution to the NHS and funds to enable clubs to refocus their efforts and develop significant outreach programmes to help communities, including those most in need. This funding will enable both immediate and longer-term support during the crisis.

In response to COVID-19, Premier League clubs have been supporting tens of thousands of people in their communities each and every day through targeted activity including donations to foodbanks, telephone calls to the elderly, food parcels delivered to the vulnerable and a wide range of free resources to support wellbeing and education.

Many Premier League clubs are also working closely with their local NHS Trusts to provide valuable support through the provision of resources, volunteers and facilities. Now, more than ever, clubs are playing a vital role to support the wellbeing of those in their communities and alleviate pressure on critical health services.

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Tottenham fan group urge Daniel Levy to make personal donation amid wage cuts

A Tottenham supporters’ group have publicly asked Daniel Levy to dig his hand in his pocket and make a 'further personal contribution' after 550 non-playing staff members of the club were put on furlough.

The chairman and club have been roundly criticised after they announced that non-playing staff members would be placed on the government scheme.

It comes amid the news that the Premier League’s longest-serving chairman had earned £7milllion over the last year, as well as a tidy £3million bonus for helping Spurs move to their new stadium.

Now the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust said in a statement that they want Levy to make an added contribution.

The statement read: "We are aware that no football club can impose contract changes on its playing or coaching staff without agreement with the respective unions, the PFA and LMA.

"The comment that Tottenham has chosen to cut non-playing staff wages while choosing not to cut playing staff wages is inaccurate.

"But there is nothing to stop the club’s players making a voluntary contribution to ensure that the most vulnerable do not bear too great a burden.

It continued: "And there is nothing to stop the club’s directors, including the chairman, making a further personal contribution on top of their 20 per cent wage cuts.

"(These are) points we have made directly to the club board and will continue to do so.

"We have made it clear that this is a course of action fans would overwhelmingly support."

The club's move has been slammed by a number of famous faces, including former Spurs striker Gary Lineker.

The Match of the Day presenter told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "The way Tottenham have handled it I don't think has been very good.

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Help The Hungry: How Crystal Palace’s foundation is helping vulnerable south Londoners during coronavirus

At 3pm this Saturday afternoon, Crystal Palace were supposed to be hosting Burnley at Selhurst Park. On a usual matchday, just outside the weary stadium, supporters can always pick out a bouncy castle. It might seem insignificant, even a little incongruous next to one of the Premier League’s less gentrified clubs, but it’s quickly become a heartbeat of the club’s charity work, and every other weekend volunteers set up stall to raise money.

For over 25 years, the Palace for Life Foundation has been a positive force that binds the community within a 10-mile radius of the club. Typically, 30 professional coaches dedicate time to teaching in schools as well as hosting various Thursday evening training sessions on local estates. Mentoring schemes provide regular one-to-one sessions for high-risk individuals identified by police or youth offending services, while targeted campaigns aid those with disabilities such as Down’s syndrome.

Their work has become integral to this corner of south London. But like every individual and organisation adjusting to the lockdown, coronavirus has forced the foundation to imagine new ways of maintaining a connection with those who require it most. “As a foundation, without question this is the toughest thing we’ll ever face,” says chief executive Mike Summers. “We know we’re not alone in that. It’s the same for every other charity under the sun. Coronavirus has taken away a whole raft of things we’d normally do.”

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“There are a lot of young people cooped up at home for hours on end, who may have difficult backgrounds, where there might be money worries or they might not know where their next meal is coming from. There might be tensions in the household which could reach a boiling point so we need to come up with new ideas to engage with them.”

One new initiative the foundation has developed over the past few weeks has been an online gaming programme, where mentors play Xbox or PS4 with individuals to “keep up a rapport, give them advice and check on their wellbeing”. Meanwhile, coaches are still working at seven schools in the area kept open for the children of key workers, organising socially distanced activities and helping to give the teachers some light relief.

For the club’s 1,500 season ticket holders aged 70 or over, a hoard of club staff and ex-professionals have spearheaded a telephone routine to regularly check on each person’s health, deliver food parcels and pick up prescriptions.

“Even once the lockdown is over, the aftereffects will be huge,” says Summers. “A lot of families will be struggling financially and there’ll be more pressures than ever on young people. We’re in a privileged position to be linked with the football club and, having the power of the club out there, with great coaches and role models, can really help to make a huge difference.

The players have been doing their part as well. Prior to the lockdown, Wilfried Zaha was a regular attendee of the foundation’s Kicks programme, which delivers free sports sessions almost every evening to keep teenagers out of trouble and off the street.

“Seeing friends who didn’t make it and some of their lives going down the wrong route, that pushed me to want to help as many people as I can really,” Zaha told The Independent late last year. “The reason why I help Palace for Life is because they’ve got things like Kicks. They’ll give you opportunities if you need work, they’ve got people to speak to, it helps people to feel like they’ve really got an opportunity in life.”

Zaha has already offered free use of 50 properties to the NHS. Several other players are also actively helping in the area and the squad recently made a significant collective donation to Age UK; a charity providing various methods of support for the elderly. There’s been smaller gestures too, such as privately arranging for vulnerable children to become matchday mascots when the season does eventually resume.

But one part of the foundation’s usual Saturday routine will go ahead as planned. The club’s ‘super draw’ – a raffle where supporters can win signed memorabilia and various other prizes – normally takes place at half time and helps to support the coaches who work for the club.

Instead this week it will take place ‘behind closed doors’ and all the money raised will go directly to the Norwood & Brixton Foodbank. “Because of this unique situation, the most urgent need is frontline services who have immediate needs to help their operations run,” says Summers. “We’re still in the early stages of this right now and, as a foundation, we feel an extraordinary amount of responsibility. It’s more important than ever now to be able to help and inspire people.”

To find out more about Palace for Life click here.

The Independent have also launched an appeal to help those going hungry because of the coronavirus crisis, teaming up with The Felix Project to deliver produce to community hubs in London boroughs.

The Independent is also asking food charities across Britain to contact [email protected] to tell us about your project and help build a directory of ways that our readers can help the hungry in their area – through money, volunteering and food donations.

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Man Utd were close to sealing Paulo Dybala transfer, claims agent

Manchester United were inches away from snapping up Paulo Dybala from Juventus last summer, according to Romelu Lukaku's agent.

The Juve star almost became a marquee signing for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last year – but in the end the Red Devils backed out of the deal, agent Federico Pastorello has said.

The deal came as Lukaku was deemed surplus to requirements at Old Trafford and was told he would be moved on during the last summer transfer window.

The Belgium international eventually went to Inter Milan last September for a fee of £73.7m, but this was before United enquired about a swap deal involving Dybala at Juventus, who was reportedly unsettled.

The appointment of Maurizio Sarri, the purchase of Cristiano Ronaldo and return of Gonzalo Higuain from his loan at Chelsea meant Dybala saw his place in the starting line-up under threat.

The 26-year-old, however, was hoping for an £8.7m-a-year deal with United, an increase of the £6.5m he was paid in Turin.

This caused the Red Devils to back out of the deal, while they were also concerned with how the possible purchase of Dybala could hinder the development of young prodigy Mason Greenwood.

When asked if United were close to buying the Serie A star, Pastorello told Tuttosport : “It’s true.”

He continued: “Romelu, however, had always hoped to go to Inter because he was impressed by the affection of the Inter fans.”

Dybala eventually opted to remain with Juventus, the side he's played for since making his £28m (plus £7m in add-ons) move from Palermo in 2015.


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What Man City think will happen with CAS Champions League appeal in coronavirus lockdown

Manchester City are hoping to have their appeal over the Champions League ban heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport over video link. City are hoping to overturn their two-year European ban for breaching FFP and launched an appeal in February.

And, according to the Athletic, City’s case could be heard via video conference with the prospect of a face-to-face hearing off the table during the coronavirus pandemic.

Football is currently on hold throughout Europe – apart from in Belarus – but City still hope to have an answer from CAS before the season is over.

Premier League chiefs are hoping football will return to finish the 2019/20 season and have earmarked April 30 as the earliest return date – although that could be put back today in another meeting.

Clubs are in limbo over their futures with the season suspended and the pandemic showing little sign of easing up despite the lockdown measures in most countries.

Titles, relegations, prize money for league placings and European qualification are among the issues facing clubs who are trying to plan for the future.

Also the potential for TV money to be withheld and how that would impact clubs’ finances for years to come.

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Some Premier League clubs have moved to enforce pay cuts on the non-playing side, while the PFA have rejected the option to enforce wage cuts on players for now.

But City are in a fairly unique position with their European ban in place for the next two years – despite UEFA moving to relax FFP rules for the coming years due to uncertainty in the game during the coronavirus crisis.

The prospect of having their ban successfully appealed, or shortened, appeared off the table due to the pandemic, but now they could have answer in the coming months.

City believe they have done no wrong and want to fight the charges – which included a £25m fine – and are pressing ahead with their appeal plans.

City CEO Ferran Soriano has been keeping staff at the club updated via video calls and City are open to the hearing being heard in the same format as they battle for what they perceive as justice.

However in March CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb admitted the prospect of video hearings was not the best way to conduct the trials.

“When we have a lot of witnesses or experts present who need to testify, it is hard to do anything on the video. The quality is not always there and the sound is not always clear,” Reeb told website insidethegames.biz.

“You see the face of the person testifying, you see if there is some hesitation, their body language, if the guy is sweating. Arbitrators prefer to be in person with the parties but we need to find some good solutions.

“If there are no witnesses or experts, we can just waive the hearing and the council presents the submissions and final arguments in writing.”

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Man Utd make contact with Matthijs de Ligt transfer alternative ahead of summer window

Manchester United have made contact with the representatives of Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti, reports say. The France international is seemingly an alternative to Matthijs de Ligt, who emerged as a target for the Red Devils earlier in the week. Juventus are unlikely to part ways with the Dutchman, despite his struggles in Serie A this season.

Manchester United believe they have a chance of signing De Ligt, despite Juventus only signing the Netherlands international a year ago.

The centre-back has struggled to settle in Turin ever since his summer arrival from Ajax, leading to talk of a move away.

But, amid United’s pursuit of De Ligt, Catalan newspaper Sport say they’ve touched base with the representatives of Barcelona defender Umtiti.

Barca need to raise funds this summer.

They’re still after Neymar, despite the controversial manner of the Brazilian’s move to PSG in the summer of 2017.

And Barcelona also want to sign Lautaro Martinez, who has been in sensational form for Inter Milan.

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They’re open to letting Umtiti go in order to raise funds in order to go after the Ligue 1 and Serie A stars.

And United are interested in taking him off their hands amid Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s search for a new centre-back.

De Ligt is their preferred option having initially wanted to sign the 20-year-old during last summer’s transfer window.

But it appears they’re laying the groundwork to go for Umtiti should the Dutchman be beyond their reach come the end of the season.

United are yet to launch a formal bid for Umtiti.

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But he was previously on their radar during Jose Mourinho’s time at Old Trafford, only to be elusive at the time.

Meanwhile, regarding De Ligt, ESPN FC pundit Alejandro Moreno has had his say on a possible swap deal involving Paul Pogba.

He said: “Well that’s assuming that you actually have a player in mind and player in place that is going to take that position in the middle of midfield for Manchester United because, well, De Ligt yeah would solve a problem in the backline alongside [Harry] Maguire but then you still have a Pogba-sized hole in that middle of midfield.

“You have Bruno Fernandes who has done a wonderful job but you also have to then address that situation.

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“If there’s no Pogba, if there’s no box-to-box midfielder, who is that guy going to be?

“So if you have that player in mind and you have a plan in place in order to acquire that player, then so be it.

“But until then, you have to resolve what the Pogba issue means to you long term.

“So if you just want to get rid of the guy, yeah sure get value in return in Matthijs de Ligt.

“But you also have to address what you’re doing in the middle of midfield.”

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League Two team of the 2019/20 season so far

With WhoScored.com this season launching full statistical coverage of EFL League One and Two, player performance ratings across all of England’s top four divisions are now available.

We asked their data analysts to run through their League Two team of the season so far using their unique statistical ratings and the reasons behind each player’s inclusion…

Goalkeeper: Alex Palmer (Plymouth) – 6.96 rating

Palmer has kept more clean sheets (14) than any other League Two goalkeeper this term and is the only goalkeeper to have provided an assist this season. His 110 saves are the fourth most in the division.

  • League Two table

Right-back: Perry Ng (Crewe Alexandra) – 7.17 rating

The first of two Crewe Alexandra players to make the side, Ng has proven to be one of the most effective attacking full-backs in the league, scoring two and assisting six this season, the latter return the joint-best of all defenders. Ng’s 70 successful dribbles is the second most in League Two this term.

Centre-back: Charlie Goode (Northampton) – 7.46 rating

Northampton centre-back Goode is the second-best rated player in League Two this season. The 24-year-old has also won more WhoScored.com Man of the Match awards (nine) than any other player. He has blocked more shots (43) than any other League Two player.

Centre-back: Rory McArdle (Scunthorpe) – 7.21 rating

McArdle has three goals and two assists to his name, and has been dominant in the air this season with his 7.7 aerial duels won per game, the fourth most in League Two.

Left-back: Harry Pickering (Crewe Alexandra) – 7.22 rating

Like Ng, Pickering has maximised his attacking output having scored three and assisted four in League Two this season. The young full-back ranks top for key passes (89) of all defenders, and third overall in League Two.

Right midfield: Nicky Adams (Northampton) – 7.15 rating

Only two players have registered more assists than Adams (12) this term, who ranks second for goalscoring chances created (91). The 33-year-old has also created more clear-cut goalscoring opportunities (16) than any other player.

Central midfield: Jake Hessenthaler (Grimsby) – 7.04 rating

Hessenthaler has been a creative force from deep for Grimsby having averaged 2.1 key passes per game, while off the ball; Hessenthaler has shone with 2.8 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game.

Central midfield: Ebou Adams (Forest Green) – 7.19 rating

Adams has four goals and four assists to his name from midfield, those coming from respective returns of 1.4 shots and 0.8 key passes per game, while he has routinely exhibited statistically calculated WhoScored.com strengths of ‘tackling’ and ‘ball interception’ as 2.6 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game notes.

Left midfield: Ibou Touray (Salford City) – 7.11 rating

Salford City’s only representative in this team is winger Ibou Touray. The Gambian wideman has four goals and five assists to his name in League Two, carrying a solid attacking threat down the left flank, as highlighted in his 48 accurate crosses, excluding corners.

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