Radamel Falcao

AS Monaco: How the Principality prevailed over the Parisians

It was a nasty Sunday night at Nice for Paris Saint Germain, as they probably lost their title, and they definitely lost their heads in the 3-1 defeat, with Thiago Motta and Angel Di Maria both shown straight red cards either side of Anastasios Donis’ killer third goal.

To demonstrate how much of a meltdown it was for Unai Emery’s side: it was the first time PSG had more than one player dismissed in a match since three were given their marching orders in a meeting with Evian, way back in 2013.

Nice, who have performed above all expectations this season and have already secured Champions League football next season, were just a sideshow however, in what will probably go down as the night Monaco became champions.

Leonardo Jardim’s side lead PSG by three points with four games of the Ligue 1 season to go, but Monaco have a game in hand over the holders for the last four seasons, who have just three matches left. It will be Monaco’s first league title since 2000.

It was a big night for Monaco, probably best demonstrated by the club Twitter account posting: “Belle victorie Nice” (nice victory, Nice) with the speak-no-evil monkey Emoji at full-time, swiftly followed by the league table.

The two-and-a-half thousand people that retweeted “Belle victorie” know that Monaco have more than one hand on the trophy, and so do Monaco themselves. But how have the Principality prevailed over the Parisians? By being the most exciting team in Europe, that’s how.

A 3-1 win over Toulouse at the weekend took Monaco up to 95 league goals for the season, more than anyone else in the continent but, despite their gung-ho nature being open, they have only conceded 29 in the league, which has their defence as the third best in Ligue 1, behind PSG and Nice. A goal difference of 66 is the highest by some distance.

The biggest contributor to Monaco’s goals is a rejuvenated Radamel Falcao, who has 18, and ‘El Tigre’ finally has his bite back after two disappointing loan spells in England, with Manchester United and Chelsea, that threatened to permanently end his reputation as being one of the best strikers on the planet.

Firing Falcao is not the man who the footballing world is talking about most though. No, that honour goes to the frighteningly-talented Kylian Mbappe, who has 13 goals in 13 starts in the league, and 23 goals in 37 games in all competitions, including five in eight in the Champions League, which Monaco are in the semi finals of for the first time since 2004, when they reached the final. Mbappe only turned 18 five days before last Christmas.

It is not unfair to say that Monaco are not the sort of club that draw admirers easily. A 2014 ‘WealthInsight’ and ‘Spears’ study found that just over 29% of its citizens is a millionaire, a higher percentage than any other city in the world. For some time the football club reflected that, with big-money fees paid for the likes of Falcao, James Rodriguez (now at Real Madrid) and Joao Moutinho.

Financial Fair Play has restricted them, however, and they now field a young side. Given that Monaco has an estimated population of just over 37,000 (2015 estimation) and their stadium, Stade Louis II, holds only 18,523, spending millions on players was unsustainable. They had to change.

Benjamin Mendy (22), Jemerson (24), Djibril Sidibe (24), Bernardo Silva (22), Fabinho (23), Tiemoue Bakayoko (22), Thomas Lemar (21) and Mbappe (18) are all starters, and that is not forgetting that Manchester United poached Anthony Martial (21) from them last summer. Their youth team got to the last 16 of the UEFA Youth League this season too, before they lost to Real Madrid.

The senior team, meanwhile are competing on all fronts – they are two games, against Juventus, away from their first Champions League final in over a decade, while they also got to the final of the French Cup, but PSG got the upper hand that time, winning 4-1.

There is something special happening in the Principality though and they could well be the next side to dominate Ligue 1, following Lyon winning it seven times on the trot from 2002 to 2008 and then PSG’s four titles in the last four seasons.

Equally as likely though, is Monaco falling away again, if Europe’s more elite clubs break this generation up over the course of this summer’s transfer window.

Should the latter happen, do not be surprised to see Les Monégasques make another comeback. All the foundations are there.

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Patience is a Virtue: Radamel Falcao Needs Time at Manchester United

Radamel Falcao has had a rocky start to life in Manchester, but given time, he will become the man that many expected him to be back in August.

Expectations were high on the Colombia striker when he arrived at Old Trafford on Transfer Deadline Day for ÂŁ6 million on a season-long loan deal and has only managed four goals in 16 league games.

United have not been their usual fluent best this season with the playing staff appearing nervous and trapped under a rigid system by manager Louis van Gaal – a coach famous for his abrasive nature but decorative trophy haul.

Falcao is no exception to this, with the aforementioned poor goal return. but there is enough reason behind that.

A serious knee injury was suffered on January 23 2014, which ruled him out of the rest of the season and the World Cup in the summer – his return was confirmed in mid July – six months out in total.

Goals soon came in pre-season, and at the beginning of Monaco’s Ligue 1 season (two in three matches, one of which a penalty), but they have dried up since his arrival in England.

Although he looked fit and firing in France, coming into one of, if not the, most physical league in the world cannot be easy for someone who has faced that long on the side lines.

The class of the Colombian has came in glimpses, his first for the Red Devils was a crucial winner in the 2-1 win over Everton, as well as goals in 1-1 draws against Aston Villa and Stoke City.

If he can finally lose the shackles of a serious injury, adjust to the Premier League, and break free of Van Gaal’s regimented tactics – we could see the rebirth of one of the finest goal scorers in the modern game.

 

West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Manchester United

A late Daley Blind strike rescued a point for Champions League chasing Manchester United at the Hawthorns as the Red Devils dropped to sixth in the table.

Blind’s effort, coming in the 87th minute, denied West Bromwich Albion a famous win over Louis Van Gaal’s side with a curling shot from the edge of the box after the Baggies’ back line failed to efficiently clear a cross from the right.

West Brom twice took the lead, firstly when Stephane Sessegnon blasted home with a strike that flew into the top corner giving David De Gea no chance in the Manchester United goal just eight minutes into the match.

Marouane Fellaini pulled United level three minutes after the half time break, smashing an unstoppable shot past stand in Goalkeeper Boaz Myhill.

Saido Berahino regained West Brom’s lead with 24 minutes left on the clock after substitute Fellaini’s equaliser, Chris Brunt’s intelligent through ball picked out this season’s top English scorer in the Premier League so far and he calmly slotted the ball past De Gea after losing his marker Phil Jones.

Robin Van Persie came closest without scoring for the visitors when his rasping volley hit the inside of the post, bouncing out to deny the Dutchman a place on the score sheet.

The hosts only fashioned eight shots on goal (two on target) during the 90 minutes compared to United’s 22 (seven on target) but will be proud of their display, especially given their 2-1 defeat at Anfield before the international break.

West Bromwich Albion: Myhill, Wisdom, Dawson, Lescott, Pocognoli, Gardner, Morrison, Sessegnon (Mulumbu ’86), Dorrans, Brunt, Berahino

Subs not used: Daniels, Gamboa, McAuley, Blanco, Ideye, Anichebe

Man United:  De Gea, Rafael, Rojo, Jones, Shaw, Blind, Herrera (Fellaini ’45), Di Maria (Young ’76), Mata (Falcao ’72), Van Persie, Januzaj

Subs not used: Lindegaard, Smalling, Fletcher, Carrick

Manchester United 2-1 Everton

Manchester United overcame Everton 2-1 at Old Trafford to secure back to back home league wins for the first time since November 2013.

Louis Van Gaal’s marquee summer signings won the game for his side with Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao scoring either side of Steven Naismith’s header.

Di Maria opened the scoring with 27 minutes played, sweeping in from just inside the area, assisted by Juan Mata after Phil Jagielka could not efficiently clear a cross from the right.

Naismith lost his marker Rafael to head home Everton’s equalizer from Leighton Baines’ cross 11 minutes into the second half but Falcao’s first goal for Manchester United seven minutes later proved to be the winner.

The Colombian was on his toes to pounce on Di Maria’s low shot and beat Tim Howard who had little chance of keeping it out.

Angel of the North: Di Maria celebrates his goal.

Angel of the North: Di Maria celebrates his goal.

It could have been an entirely different story however as Baines had a penalty saved in first half stoppage time.

Tony Hibbert was brought down in the box by Luke Shaw but David De Gea saved the spot-kick which was too near the centre of the goal.

United were worthy of their win however, putting Everton on the back foot from the off. Howard having to deny a Falcao header just four minutes in.

They started the second half with the same velocity, Di Maria’s miscued shot was almost turned in by Falcao from close range but there was too much speed on it.

Everton did fashion chances of their own however. Jagielka had a header cleared off the line by Falcao from a corner before a late flurry of chances.

Substitute Leon Osman forced a superb save by De Gea in the closing stages before fellow second half sub Bryan Oviedo’s effort from the edge of box was somehow tipped over the bar by the Spaniard.

Manchester United: De Gea, Rafael, McNair, Rojo, Shaw (Blackett ’71), Blind, Valencia (Fellaini ’78), Di Maria, Mata, Falcao (Wilson ’73), Van Persie

Subs not used:  Lindegaard, Thorpe, Fletcher, Januzaj

Everton: Howard, Hibbert (Browning ’77), Jagielka, Stones, Baines, Barry, Besic, Pienaar (Oviedo ’64), McGeady (Osman ’77), Naismith, Lukaku

Subs not used: Joel, Gibson, Eto’o, Alcaraz

Man of the match: Angel Di Maria

Manchester United 4-0 Queens Park Rangers

A rejuvenated Manchester United strolled past Queens Park Rangers, winning 4-0, as they intend to make Old Trafford a fortress again.

The rout started 24 minutes in when Angel Di Maria’s flighted free-kick went all the way in with Robert Green left clutching at thin air as Di Maria’s attempted cross flew past him.

Fellow summer signing Ander Herrera doubled the hosts’ advantage on 36 minutes when he swept in from the edge of the box from Wayne Rooney’s pass as a result of a rampaging run by Di Maria.

It was three just before the break when goalscorer of the second Herrera turned provider, assisting Rooney who took a touch before lashing the ball past Green from just inside the area, beating the former England goalkeeper at his near post.

Off the mark: Ander Herrera scores his first goal for his new club

Off the mark: Ander Herrera scores his first goal for his new club

Today was a day in which everything went right for Louis Van Gaal’s side, none more evident than when a totally unmarked Juan Mata turned in a wayward shot by Di Maria for 4-0 with 58 minutes on the clock.

QPR chances were few and far between but deadline day signing Niko Kranjcar came close three minutes after half time but his shot as saved by the boot of David De Gea.

Eduardo Vargas too came close, he shot wide late on after seizing on a poor back pass by Marcos Rojo.

Marquee signing Radamel Falcao came on for his Manchester United debut in the 67th minute, replacing Mata.

The Colombian had a chance to extend United’s lead ever further but he could not convert Daley Blind’s rebounded effort.

Manchester United: De Gea, Evans, Rojo, Rafael (Valencia ’67), Blackett, Di Maria (Januzaj ’82), Herrera, Blind, Rooney, Mata (Falcao ’67), Van Persie

Subs not used: Lindegaard, Shaw, Fletcher, Pereira

Queens Park Rangers: Green, Isla, Caulker, Ferdinand, Hill (Traore ’45) Kranjcar, Sandro (Henry ’74), Fer, Phillips, Austin (Vargas ’59), Hoilett

Subs not used: McCarthy, Onouha, Zamora, Taarabt

Man of the match: Angel Di Maria