‘He’s got veins of ice!’ – Returning De Bruyne thrilled for penalty hero Muric

Manchester City made it through to the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night after a dramatic clash with Leicester City that included a fair few points of note, culminating in a 3-1 penalty shoot-out headlined by the heroics of Arijanet Muric.

A debut start for Eric Garcia ushered in the pre-match discussion, but it wasn’t before long that Kevin De Bruyne was the topic of choice after a finely-struck opener courtesy of finding space to fire through some fancy footwork.

Marc Albrighton’s second-half stunner, the product a brave late rally from the Foxes, took the match to penalties, but it was Man City’s young Kosovan keeper who would ultimately receive the plaudits.

De Bruyne, who took in 71 minutes of action as he threatens rivals with his full return to the starting XI, and despite winning man of the match, heaped praise on the 20-year-old spot-kick saviour.

“It was an open game and in the end this guy helped us secure the semi-final,” the Belgian told Sky Sports.

“He made some great saves – he’s got veins of ice! 

“He did what he had to do, but in the end I think it’s just a beautiful moment for him.”

Muric, stood at 6 feet 6 inches tall and dwarfing the diminutive De Bruyne, was asked about his penalty-saving technique, particularly surrounding James Maddison’s tame effort.

Man City celebrate vs Leicester

“I was waiting for him,” the young keeper said. 

“I was just looking for the ball. I was waiting until they [Leicester] kicked it, so I was just reacting.  

“It’s a great feeling.” 

Attacking midfielder De Bruyne has been sidelined for some time and although City have coped well in the orchestrator’s absence, fans have been eager awaiting his return. 

“It’s difficult to start when you’re injured for five months,” De Bruyne laughed. “But it felt good, you know?  

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“I played 70 minutes, and to do that after being out for so long is a really good sign for me personally. 

“I feel a little bit stiff, but I’m happy to contribute again. And, obviously, we want to win titles – so we are in the semi-final, we know it’s two more games, and we can battle for another trophy again. 

“That’s our goal.”

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Man Utd accidentally confirm Solskjaer hired as interim manager

Manchester United have accidentally confirmed the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the club’s interim manager. 

After Jose Mourinho was sacked on Tuesday, the club’s former striker was widely speculated to be United’s choice to take over on a temporary basis. 

And, in a quickly-deleted post on the club’s website, United confirmed the Norwegian’s appointment as caretaker boss. 

“Solskjaer becomes our interim manager, 20 years after clinching the Treble with THAT goal at Camp Nou,” the caption read, referencing Solskjaer’s famous winner in the 1999 Champions League final. 

Solskjaer premature announcement

If that weren’t enough evidence that Solskjaer was set to take over at Old Trafford, Norway’s prime minister herself weighed in with a tweet that she also quickly deleted. 

Solberg tweet Solskjaer 2

Solskjaer became a club legend during his career, scoring 128 goals in 367 appearances for the United during 10 seasons at Old Trafford.

After his playing career ended, Solskjaer took his first steps into coaching when he became United’s striker coach, and later took charge of United’s reserve side. 

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The former Norway international returned to his home country for his first managerial role in 2011, when he was named head coach at Molde. 

Solskjaer won two titles at Molde before returning to the Premier League to take the helm of Cardiff City, a move that did not work out and saw him sacked in September 2014.  

More to follow…

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Mathew Leckie strikes for Hertha Berlin as Socceroos Asian Cup campaign approaches

Mathew Leckie scored his second Bundesliga goal of the season in Hertha Berlin’s 2-2 home draw with Augsburg on Wednesday morning (AEDT).

After Martin Hinteregger gave Augsburg an early lead, Leckie pulled one back for the German capital side on 28 minutes with a crisp finish following a cushioned pass from Davie Selke.

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Hertha then managed to take the lead three minutes later through Duda but couldn’t hold on for the victory as Koo Ja-Cheol earned a draw for Augsburg.

The result means Hertha sit in seventh place on the Bundesliga table, four points out of the Champions League qualification places.

Leckie’s return to form will be a welcome sight for Socceroos coach Graham Arnold as he prepares the national team for their defence of the Asian Cup next month.

The 27-year-old attacker is expected to play a vital role in an Australian team that is searching for goals since the retirement of talisman Tim Cahill.

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‘Why did you ruin the clean sheet?!’ – Van Dijk teases Alisson over Man United blunder

Virgil van Dijk has revealed how he jokingly berated Alisson Becker for costing him a clean sheet during Liverpool’s win over Manchester United.

Alisson was responsible for United’s equaliser during the Reds’ 3-1 victory at Anfield on Sunday, fumbling Romelu Lukaku’s cross to the feet of Jesse Lingard.

It was a rare error by the Brazilian goalkeeper, who has made a positive impact since his £65million ($81m) summer move from Roma. Indeed, with Alisson as their No.1, Liverpool have conceded just seven goals from 17 Premier League games, keeping 10 clean sheets.

Van Dijk, though, laughed that it should be 11.

Asked what he said to Alisson after the blunder, the Dutch defender said: “Why did you ruin the clean sheet?!

“I said to him, ‘We have no clean sheet because of you!’ No, I made a joke out of it. He’s been fantastic for us. It happens, everyone makes mistakes. It’s how we react and he did brilliantly in the second half. He didn’t get nervous. I said to him, ‘Just keep going, keep your head up and we’ll be fine.’”

The win over United, who have responded by sacking manager Jose Mourinho, moved Liverpool back above Manchester City to the top of the Premier League table. The Reds also sit a remarkable 19 points above United down in sixth place.

“It was obviously very important to win,” Van Dijk said. “You could say it was just another game but it was a bit special because it was against them and it’s a long time since we beat them at home. Well deserved.”

He added: “We are in mid-December and the season is still so long. We are very happy we’re in the position that we’re in now but that can change in two or three weeks so we won’t get carried away and we’ll try to keep on doing what we’re doing. Obviously, we need to stay confident.”

Virgil van Dijk Liverpool

Next up for Jurgen Klopp’s side is a trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday. Victory at Molineux would guarantee the Reds top spot for Christmas for the first time since 2013.

“It’s another game we want to win,” said Van Dijk. “It’s going to be very tough there. They are in a great moment but so are we so we will have to prepare well and know their strengths and their weaknesses as well.”

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Liverpool should have vice-captain James Milner available for Friday’s game, after the midfielder sat out the win over United due to a minor muscle issue.

“I just had a bit of a sensation in my hamstring at the end of the Napoli game,” Milner told Liverpool’s official website. “And the manager made the decision [to miss Sunday’s game].

“It was the right thing not to risk me at the weekend, so hopefully I’ll be fine for the next game.”

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Berhalter: Pulisic ‘hungry but patient’ despite change in Dortmund playing time

New U.S. national team boss Gregg Berhalter says he’s not worried about Christian Pulisic’s situation at Borussia Dortmund as transfer rumours continue to swirl.

Pulisic has been linked with a number of Premier League clubs throughout the past several years with Chelsea now appearing to be the front-runner in the race for the winger. 

But as talk of a big-money move has gotten louder, playing time with Dortmund has become harder to come by for the 20-year-old.

Pulisic has been pushed by the likes of Jadon Sancho and, as a result, the American has started just five Bundesliga matches this season.

Berhalter, who is traveling Europe this week to meet with a number of his top players, isn’t concerned as he sees the competition as a healthy one for his star player.

“When you’re at that level and you’re playing for such a talented squad, things like this are normal,” Berhalter told reporters on Tuesday.

“He’s patient. He’s hungry, but patient. “

“Again, speaking to him and knowing his attitude, it’s a fantastic attitude based on ‘what can I improve to get on the field more?’. That’s the way he’s looking at it.”

Berhalter cited Pulisic as one of the bright spots of the USMNT’s final string of friendlies under Dave Sarachan; defeats to both Italy and England where the team was largely outclassed.

Christian Pulisic USA

The former Columbus Crew manager said Pulisic’s quality was on display against England in particular, even if the U.S. struggled to make the match much of a competition.

Pulisic is just one of several young USMNT stars competing at a high level currently with players like Weston McKennie, Haji Wright and Josh Sargent also plying their trade in Germany.

The likes of Cameron Carter-Vickers, Timothy Weah, DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks also remain key pieces currently making their way in Europe, with Tyler Adams and Zack Steffen are set to join them soon.

As a player that played both in Europe and in MLS, Berhalter understands the challenges facing players both abroad and at home, and says it will be key to strike a balance while finding the players that fit the team best, regardless of where they play.

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“What I like to say is that we’re always going to be a diverse group of players,” Berhalter said. “We’re going to have players playing in Mexico, players in MLS, in Europe.

“We want guys getting challenged at these levels that they’re at. For every player, its a different case.

“I love when I see our guys competing in the Champions League. It’s a big level, big games, and I think that helps us moving forward.”

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