Toure proves class

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

MADRID — Barcelona coach Luis Enrique be­lieves his side’s 23rd La Liga ti­tle can be the launch­ing pad for an­other pro­longed pe­riod of suc­cess and a po­ten­tial tre­ble this sea­son.

Lionel Messi scored the win­ner to hand the Cata­lans a fifth ti­tle in seven years with a 1-0 win at Atletico Madrid on Sun­day as Barca re­turned the favour af­ter Los Ro­ji­blan­cos sealed the ti­tle at the Camp Nou ex­actly a year ago.

Barca face Ath­letic Bil­bao on home soil in the Copa del Rey fi­nal on May 30 be­fore tak­ing on Ju­ven­tus in the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal a week later.

Luis Enrique was re­cruited along with seven new play­ers last sum­mer af­ter Barca’s first tro­phy­less cam­paign in six years and he lauded their re­sponse in what he de­scribed as a sea­son of “tran­si­tion”.

“I hope it can be a new era. We have to de­serve to win the other ti­tles. We have two fi­nals left and we need to show we are bet­ter than the op­po­nents,” he said.

“We started 10 months ago with many changes at the club and com­ing off a sea­son hav­ing not won any­thing.

“We knew it would be a sea­son of tran­si­tion and we tried to do our best. We have two ti­tles still to play for, but we al­ready have the one that re­wards con­sis­tency.”

A tre­ble would be just the sec­ond in Barca’s 115-year his­tory.

How­ever, many of the cur­rent squad were also part of the side that achieved the feat for the first time in the 2008/09 sea­son.

One of those was mid­fielder Ser­gio Bus­quets and he in­sisted that the marathon of a 38-game La Liga sea­son makes it the tough­est com­pe­ti­tion to win.

“Last year we weren’t at the level re­quired to be cham­pi­ons. This year we are on the right track, the first tro­phy is out of the way and now we have to cel­e­brate it be­cause it’s the hard­est com­pe­ti­tion to win as you have to play against all of the teams and be con­sis­tent. — AFP MANCH­ESTER — David De Gea waved good­bye to Old Traf­ford on Sun­day and Louis van Gaal could give no guar­an­tees that he would be back next sea­son.

De Gea hob­bled off in the 74th minute of Sun­day’s 1-1 draw against Ar­se­nal with a ham­string in­jury and there is a grow­ing feel­ing that he will not be seen in a Manch­ester United shirt again.

Van Gaal was asked re­peat­edly about De Gea’s fu­ture af­ter the game and, although he said the 24-year-old Spa­niard would “not leave us so eas­ily” he ap­peared braced for such an out­come.

When asked if De Gea was off to Real Madrid, there was no firm re­but­tal from Van Gaal, just a list of rea­sons why he could be tempted to re­turn to his home­land in­stead.

The United boss said: “You are ask­ing things I can­not an­swer be­cause I don’t know.

“I have also said a trans­fer is an in­di­vid­ual thing. It is a process. He has to de­cide be­cause we have given (him) a fan­tas­tic con­tract be­cause we want him to stay - fan­tas­tic sea­son, I think.

“But I an­a­lyse his po­si­tion and then I say he is Span­ish, he is a Span­ish in­ter­na­tional and now a Span­ish club is com­ing. His girl­friend is Span­ish.”

Madrid dropped first-choice Iker Casil­las for their penul­ti­mate game of the sea­son on Sun­day and his re­place­ment Key­lor Navas made a bad er­ror in an even­tual 4-1 win over Es­panyol.

The re­sult was not enough to pre­vent Barcelona clinch­ing the ti­tle with victory over Atletico Madrid and the re­build­ing for next sea­son be­gins now with De Gea, the for­mer Atletico Madrid man, top of Florentino Perez’s short­list.

United have al­ready started plan­ning for life with­out De Gea. Van Gaal drew up a short­list of po­ten­tial re­place­ments ear­lier this year, know­ing the Spa­niard’s con­tract ex­pired at the end of next sea­son.

The Dutch­man says United have of­fered their num­ber one “a lot of money” in a bid to per­suade him to sign and the fans did their best on Sun­day by singing “David de Gea, we want you to stay”.

But Van Gaal con­ceded: “I don’t think I can per­suade him be­cause he knows ev­ery­thing he has at Manch­ester United. I don’t have to say some­thing be­cause he can feel it ev­ery day. You have seen the fans, un­be­liev­able.

“When he goes he is los­ing that. Here he has a lot of cred­its. He has to de­cide.”

De Gea was fan­tas­tic again on Sun­day, sav­ing from Aaron Ram­sey and his own team­mate Phil Jones. The only time he was beaten was when Theo Wal­cott’s shot took an un­for­tu­nate de­flec­tion off Tyler Black­ett.

Radamel Fal­cao waved to all four cor­ners of Old Traf­ford when he was sub­sti­tuted an hour into his lat­est sub-par per­for­mance.

Van Gaal in­sisted no de­ci­sions had been made about the 29-year-old, who has scored just four goals in 29 ap­pear­ances since join­ing on a sea­son-long loan from Monaco.

Van Gaal said: “You know how the sit­u­a­tion is of Fal­cao. At the end of the sea­son we will de­cide.”

Mean­while, af­ter the em­bar­rass­ment of fin­ish­ing sev­enth last sea­son un­der David Moyes, Van Gaal has stead­ied the United ship and a place in the Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fy­ing round is an ac­cept­able prize.

“I am sat­is­fied we have set our goal and reached that,” the Dutch­man told Sky Sports.

“From what I have seen of the fans they are pleased.

“We have not yet qual­i­fied for Cham­pi­ons League. It is al­ways stress­ful as you can meet op­po­nent who is half­way through a sea­son al­ready.”

United dom­i­nated the first half against Ar­se­nal at Old Traf­ford and led through An­der Her­rera’s far-post vol­ley, but sub­sti­tute Tyler Black­ett de­flected in Theo Wal­cott’s strike eight min­utes from time to earn Ar­se­nal a point.

“You can say we are un­lucky be­cause it is the third de­flected goal in a row and falls in our net,” Van Gaal said.

“But I have said it is not un­lucky to the play­ers. You have to force luck by fin­ish­ing games. You see Ar­se­nal want to come back so you have to stick to­gether and be com­pact.

“I have said Ar­se­nal have maybe the best team but Chelsea can fin­ish the game which Ar­se­nal can­not do and we can’t ei­ther. That is im­por­tant.”

Van Gaal will be there again next sea­son to con­tinue his re-build­ing pro­gramme.

“As the manager I want more,” he said. “Next year we shall fight for more.” — AFP

City this sum­mer and, even af­ter a sea­son where he has not been at his best, the mid­fielder un­der­lined just how dif­fi­cult it will be to re­place his pres­ence.

Mil­ner is out of con­tract and is about to con­firm a free trans­fer to Liver­pool, even though Pel­le­grini be­lieves the Eti­had is the best place for the 29-year-old.

The City manager said: “James can play 10 po­si­tions and al­ways do well. It is a de­ci­sion James must take at the end of the sea­son as to what is best for his fu­ture.

“He is an im­por­tant player for our team be­cause he is an in­tel­li­gent player, who can play in sev­eral po­si­tions and al­ways gives 100 per­cent.

“I can think that be­ing at Manch­ester City is best for him, but it is im­por­tant what he thinks. I want to keep him.”

Mean­while, Bony said Swansea City’s pitch felt like his “gar­den” af­ter scor­ing on his re­turn to the Lib­erty Sta­dium on Sun­day.

It was the first time the Ivo­rian has re­turned to the Welsh club since his £28 mil­lion move to Pel­le­grini’s side in Jan­uary.

Bony has not been so pro­lific for his new club, with Sun­day’s goal only his sec­ond since mov­ing to Manch­ester.

The 26-year-old says he will re­dis­cover his scor­ing touch next sea­son.

“There’s more to come from me. I went to Africa Cup of Na­tions in Jan­uary and came back tired,” Bony said.

“I have to fin­ish the sea­son well. We have one game left, I want to win and score. The im­por­tant thing is to pre­pare my­self well for next sea­son.

Last fix­tures May 24: Stoke v Liver­pool, Ar­se­nal v West Brom, Manch­ester City v Southamp­ton, Ever­ton v Tot­ten­ham, Le­ices­ter v Queens Park Rangers, Crys­tal Palace v Swansea City, New­cas­tle United v West Ham United, Chelsea v Sun­der­land, Hull City v Manch­ester United, As­ton Villa v Burn­ley. — AFP

Manch­ester United goal­keeper David De Gea.

YAYA Toure in­spires Manch­ester City to au­to­matic Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

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