Cape Times

Never say never, says Jones as he recalls that 2012 meltdown ...


LONDON: Manchester United defender Phil Jones remembers his team’s title meltdown six years ago and believes rivals Manchester City’s 12-point lead in the Premier League title race can still be overhauled.

United closed the gap on City with Monday’s 3-0 victory over Stoke after leaders Pep Guardiola’s City suffered their first loss of the league campaign against Liverpool at Anfield.

In Jones’ first campaign at Old Trafford, Alex Ferguson’s United were eight points ahead of City in April with six games to go, only to see the title end up across town on the final day when Sergio Aguero scored late against Queens Park Rangers.

“Football’s football, never say never,” Jones said.

“I remember in my first season (2011-12) we were eight points clear, absolutely cruising, (everyone thought there was) no way we’d let the lead slip, and we lost it on the final day.

“People can say what they want but we’ll continue to be positive and push forward. You never know. It happened in 2012 to us so why not?”

Jose Mourinho has faced criticism for United’s more conservati­ve approach against the top teams this season, including their 0-0 draw against Liverpool at Anfield in October.

Jones, however, is satisfied with the manager’s tactical plans and believes the results prove the club are on the right track.

“People will criticise, people will have their own comments, views, but we don’t care too much about that to be honest,” Jones added.

“We do what we do best, we set up the way the manager wants us to play and it works. We’re doing well, we need to keep going. It’s another big game on Saturday against Burnley.”

United visit Burnley, who secured a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford in the reverse fixture last month.

Real Madrid should resist Cristiano Ronaldo’s demands for a bumper new contract even if it leads to their all-time top scorer leaving the La Liga club, Real great Manolo Sanchis said yesterday.

According to various reports in the Spanish media Ronaldo is in the middle of a stand-off with Real president Florentino Perez, who is unwilling to offer the flounderin­g Portuguese striker a salary hike.

Ronaldo, 32, signed his last deal with Real in November 2016 until June 2021, but is reported to be demanding another new deal to bring his salary in line with Lionel Messi and Neymar, the top two earners in world soccer.

“Madrid don’t need to increase his (Ronaldo’s) salary,” Sanchis said.

“If Madrid collapse this season, he will be on his way out. (Alfredo) Di Stefano left Madrid so anyone can leave now without it causing a big drama.”

Former Spain defender Sanchis spent his entire career with Real Madrid, winning eight Liga titles and two Champions Leagues between 1983 and 2001.

Ronaldo collected a joint-record fifth Ballon d’Or award in December but has only scored four times in La Liga this season, a huge factor in the Spanish and European champions limp title defence.

Real have fallen a remarkable 19 points behind runaway league leaders Barcelona and are currently fourth in the standings, trailing secondplac­ed Atletico Madrid by 10 points and third-placed Valencia by eight, although they have played one game less. – Reuters

 ??  ?? CRISTIANO RONALDO: ‘No big drama’

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