Golds and Goals moments: Man United facing bleak future

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho during their 1-3 defeat by Liverpool in the English Premier League on 16 December, 2018 (PHOTO: Reuters/Carl Recine)
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho during their 1-3 defeat by Liverpool in the English Premier League on 16 December, 2018 (PHOTO: Reuters/Carl Recine)

So many sports happenings, so little time – but we are here to help. Yahoo News Singapore picks the top sporting moments of this past week, and tries to make sense of what had happened.

1. Liverpool, Man U heading in different directions

The statistic that caught the eye in Liverpool’s convincing 3-1 English Premier League win over Manchester United on Sunday (16 December) was this: Liverpool had a staggering 36 shots on goal, while Man United had six.

Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri (right) celebrates scoring their third goal against Manchester United with Roberto Firmino (centre) and Georginio Wijnaldum. (PHOTO: Reuters/Phil Noble)
Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri (right) celebrates scoring their third goal against Manchester United with Roberto Firmino (centre) and Georginio Wijnaldum. (PHOTO: Reuters/Phil Noble)

It is the surest sign of the different directions in which the two most illustrious, best supported EPL clubs are heading. Liverpool are in the ascendancy, with manager Jurgen Klopp shaping a cohesive, attack-minded yet resilient squad to challenge Manchester City for league honours.

Man United, however, looked far from being united. Their lack of cohesion was evident against Liverpool as they struggled to even string passes together, let alone create chances for lone striker Romelu Lukaku. And for a side managed by a defensive-minded boss such as Jose Mourinho, it is galling that they could not even stop conceding goals – 29 this season, already one more than what they let in for the entire of last season.

It is another sign of the times that, when Klopp decided to turn to his substitutes in the second half, it was for an extra attacking option in Xherdan Shaqiri. And the Swiss repaid his faith with two decisive goals to turn the match in Liverpool’s favour.

By contrast, when Mourinho decided to turn to his bench, the first player he brought in was defensive midfielder Marouane Fellaini. To park the bus, to close shop, whatever the Portuguese’s intention was, it surely was not to find a goal. And when his plan backfired as Shaqiri plundered two late goals, Fellaini could only conjured this laughable attempt that hit a steward near the corner flag:

No doubt, Man United fans are worried sick about their team’s regression. It is increasingly obvious that Mourinho is unable to lift his players to put in quality performances week in, week out. Sidelining the expensive Paul Pogba simply shows that the team he built is sputtering.

And with the United board unwilling to sack Mourinho – given the hefty compensation package United must pay him if he is given the boot – the days of the Red Devils chasing the EPL title seem a distant prospect for their frustrated fan base.

2. Tense moments but no surprises in UCL group stage

The Uefa Champions League (UCL) group stage matches were completed in the past week, and there were no major casualties as the top European clubs safely negotiated their respective groups.

Liverpool’s Alisson Becker denies Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik during their Champions League clash on 11 December, 2018. (PHOTO: AFP/Paul Ellis)
Liverpool’s Alisson Becker denies Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik during their Champions League clash on 11 December, 2018. (PHOTO: AFP/Paul Ellis)

The drama came from the English clubs. Liverpool needed a last-gasp, point-blank save from goalkeeper Alisson Becker to ensure a 1-0 victory over Napoli that allowed them to pip the Italian club on goals scored (the two clubs had the same points, as well as equal head-to-head clashes of 1-0 home wins).

Tottenham Hotspur also needed to match Inter Milan’s result to pip the Italians. The problem was, they were facing the might of Barcelona at Nou Camp. And when Barca took the lead early in the first half, it seemed there was no way back for Spurs. Meanwhile, Inter were holding bottom side PSV Eindhoven 1-1, doing just enough to overtake Tottenham, until Lucas Moura grabbed the all-important equaliser for Spurs in the 85th minute:

So, on to the round-of-16 draw on Monday, and it might throw up some exciting knockout-stage clashes as the group runners-up will be facing the group winners. Fancy Liverpool facing Real Madrid again? Or Man United taking on Barcelona? It may just happen.

3. Michael Jordan still as competitive as ever

Since retiring for a second time in 2003, Michael Jordan – widely regarded as the greatest ever basketball player – has kept a relatively low profile as the owner and chairman of NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

However, the former Chicago Bulls superstar got himself a bit of social media buzz last week, when he was seen slapping the back of the head of Hornets guard Malik Monk near the end of an NBA game:

Monk, who was on the bench, had ran onto the court to celebrate with his teammate Jeremy Lamb, who hit a last-gasp three-pointer as the Hornets ran out 108-107 winners against the Detroit Pistons.

However, since there was still 0.3 seconds left on the clock, Monk was adjudged to have stepped illegally out of his bench. Since it was his first technical offence of the game, the referee gave a mere warning instead of a technical foul, which would have given the Pistons a free-throw opportunity to tie the game.

Jordan, a famously competitive player throughout his career, was no doubt annoyed by Monk’s brainless act which could have cost his team a precious win. The 55-year-old behaved just like a father admonishing his son, thereby endearing himself to the social media. Nevertheless, the six-time NBA champion felt the need to explain himself to the Associated Press, saying, ““It was like a big brother and little brother tap. No negative intent. Only love.”

4. Singapore silat on the rise

Singapore’s silat scene had been on a lull in the past decade, with few athletes able to make their mark on the world stage. It was a far cry from the 1990s and 2000s, when the likes of Sheik Alau’ddin and Muhammad Imran were regularly winning international honours for the Republic.

(From left) Sheik Farhan, Nurul Suhaila Mohd Saiful and Sheik Ferdous showing off their gold medals on the final day of 18th World Pencak Silat Championship 2018. (PHOTO: Singapore Silat Federation)
(From left) Sheik Farhan, Nurul Suhaila Mohd Saiful and Sheik Ferdous showing off their gold medals on the final day of 18th World Pencak Silat Championship 2018. (PHOTO: Singapore Silat Federation)

However, judging from the past week’s World Pencak Silat Championships, held at the Singapore Sports Hub’s OCBC Arena, Singapore may have a new bunch of world-beating silat talents emerging, after they clinched seven golds in the elite biennial competition.

While Sheik Farhan Sheik Alau’ddin remains the brightest spark as he clinched his third straight world title, he was joined by maiden winners such as Nurul Suhaila Mohd Saiful, his brother Sheik Ferdous, and 17-year-old Muhammad Hazim Mohd Yusli.

Nurul Suhail and Sheik Ferdous had been trying unsuccessfully to break into the winning circle for the past two world championships, and their persistence has paid off with convincing victories in their respective divisions. Meanwhile, Muhammad Hazim’s surprise triumph augurs well for the next generation of young silat athletes eager to break into the global scene.

Muhammad Hazim Mohd Yusri celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men’s Class B (50-55kg) division at the World Pencak Silat Championships. (PHOTO: Singapore Silat Federation)
Muhammad Hazim Mohd Yusri celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men’s Class B (50-55kg) division at the World Pencak Silat Championships. (PHOTO: Singapore Silat Federation)

There is now optimism among the Singapore silat community that their best athletes are capable of winning more accolades and lifting the sport back to its heyday. Next year’s SEA Games will be another good test for these silat athletes, and all eyes will be on them performing well on the international stage again.

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