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Jose Mourinho insists Manchester United are in ‘a good position’

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Jose Mourinho has issued another strong defence of his record at Manchester United in his programme notes ahead of Swansea’s visit to Old Trafford on Saturday.

Two weeks on from United’s demoralising authentic nfl jerseys Champions League exit to Sevilla, Mourinho insisted the club are “in transition” and that finishing second in the Premier League behind Manchester City this season would represent progress.

“It is clear for everyone to see that this club is in a moment of transition,” he wrote in United Review. “In the history of football all around the world, all of the biggest clubs have phases of continuous victories and phases of transition, and these cycles go on.

“Despite this, last season we managed to win two major trophies, including the only competition this club had never won — the Europa League — and we also returned to the Champions League.”

After winning the Carabao Cup and the Europa League this season, Mourinho could add a third trophy in two seasons if United win the FA Cup. They face Tottenham in the semifinals next month before a potential final against either Chelsea and Southampton in May.

Mourinho added: “This season, we are through to the semifinal of the FA Cup and our aim, of course, will be to try to win it. We are also aiming to qualify for the Champions League again, while moving forward from last season’s sixth-place finish to secure a second-place finish in the Premier League table.

“I think this club is in a good position. We are always looking to the future, and in the future, wholesale nfl jerseys of course, we want to be the top team in the Premier League. That is not realistic this season so, in the meantime, we must do all we can to secure second place.”

Big $5 million payday keeps Eli Manning, Giants bound together

This is the day that the marriage between Eli Manning and the New York Giants officially gets renewed. The two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback earns his $5 million roster bonus Sunday just for being on the 90-man roster.

The bonus was guaranteed as long as Manning was on the roster Sunday,nfl jerseys cheap authentic the fifth day of the new league year, a source familiar with his contract said. The Giants’ starting quarterback would’ve had to be cleared off the roster by 4 p.m. ET Saturday not to earn the bonus. That did not happen, and was not expected to.

The $5 million will be paid out to Manning on Wednesday, according to the terms of his current contract.92

The Giants and their new regime committed to Manning immediately after new coach Pat Shurmur was hired. Shurmur said the 37-year-old quarterback has several good “years” remaining.

The veteran is looking to have a bounce-back season under Shurmur, who is known for his work with quarterbacks and worked magic with Nick Foles, Sam Bradford and Case Keenum in recent years. Keenum threw 22 touchdown passes and seven interceptions in a career year with the Minnesota Vikings in 2017.

The Giants’ renewed commitment to Manning began with the hiring of general manager Dave Gettleman before the end of the season. nike nfl jerseys cheap Gettleman has a previous relationship with the quarterback, and was impressed by his performance in a late-season game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

That helped convince the Giants that Manning still had something left in his arm and body.

Manning should benefit from the Giants’ focus this offseason on the offensive line. They spent $62 million on left tackle Nate Solder to protect his blind side. The Giants also signed guard Patrick Omameh from the Jacksonville Jaguars and tendered center Brett Jones in an effort to solidify their line for the upcoming season.

The Cubs’ leadoff answer? Ian Happ is turning heads atop lineup

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One of the few downsides to all of the success the Chicago Cubs have had recently is that there aren’t many unknown quantities for fans to discover during spring training. But before you get to the middle of Chicago’s star-laden lineup, there exists a possible sleeper for the top spot of the order — and he has been hard to miss so far this spring.

Switch-hitting second-year man Ian Happ wasn’t drafted in the first round of the 2015 draft to hit leadoff or play center field, necessarily, but that’s exactly what he has been doing during an eye-opening stretch of Cactus League play. If spring training is any indication, the seeds are being planted for manager Joe Maddon to grow the former Cincinnati Bearcat from a part-time piece to the primary guy as the leadoff hitter in Chicago’s 2018 lineup.

“I’m more comfortable, no doubt,” Happ said early in camp. “I know what to expect.”

After Happ hit 24 home runs as a part-time player last year, his apprenticeship seems to be over. Maddon has him batting first most often this spring, and he has responded. Going into Friday’s Cactus League action, Happ is 9-for-21 with a .500 on-base percentage and four home runs, two coming left-handed and two coming right-handed, and two of the four have led off a game.

Spring stats are hardly telling, but the Cubs haven’t had that kind of dynamism at the top of the order since Dexter Fowler left after the 2016 World Series. Happ is soaking in everything he can about the spot in the order where the Cubs ranked 12th in the National League in batting average and 10th in on-base percentage last year.

“My thought process going in is,nfl jerseys cheap authentic it’s no different than anywhere else, I’m just going to get more at-bats,” Happ said. “It’s a different perspective knowing you’re going to get five at-bats as opposed to three to four.

“To be the best you can be that day, you want to be on base at least twice in five at-bats. Middle order or back order, you’re not really looking at it that way. At the top, if you get on once, you didn’t really do your job. Twice is a good day. More than that is great.”

In other words, it’s a mindset: Don’t change your swing or your style at the plate, but do change your mentality.

That’s what Happ has learned. And from whom did he learn it?

“You have to pick guys’ brains,” Happ said. “I keep getting back to Dexter. He was always trying to get on base twice. It doesn’t matter how you do it.”

The word you hear most from scouts who have seen Happ for half a season in the majors is “athlete.” Yes, he’s still raw — especially in the outfield — but it doesn’t take long to see his hand-eye coordination as well as his speed.

“The thing that stands out is his power,” one NL scout said. “It’s hard to see that coming from his frame. He needs work on his baserunning, but he looks fast.”

Happ is listed at 6 feet and 200 pounds, but those might be generous numbers. He packs a wallop, though. In the Cubs’ third spring game, he worked the count against Madison Bumgarner, then hit a 3-2 pitch out to right field.customized nfl jerseys cheap His two home runs hitting right-handed this spring are only three fewer than he hit from that side all last season, and a switch-hitting leadoff man with power at the top could make an already stacked Cubs lineup even more dangerous.

Happ isn’t slated to play every day, but it’s looking more and more as if he might bat first when he is in the lineup. A season-long debate revolved around what batting first did to Kyle Schwarber in 2017: Did it change a young hitter’s mindset too much? Schwarber has a keen eye and still struggled in the role, and Happ will have to eliminate some swing-and-miss from his game to succeed — his strikeout rate was 31 percent, and his strikeouts-to-walk ratio wasn’t pretty at 3.31 — but he’s just learning the league and himself.

One of Maddon’s concerns about players at the top of the order is the number they see on the scoreboard. An 0-for-5 day, as opposed to 0-for-3 or 0-for-4, can really hurt a batting average — and an ego. That’s why taking some walks at the top of the order is important, for the team and the player. It kind of limits the exposure to a failed day.

“I know it’s going to even out over the course of the season,nfl custom jerseys cheap but your goal as a leadoff hitter is to get on base as much as possible for the big boys behind you,” Happ said. “You don’t put pressure on yourself or overthink it, but you just know going in you’re going to get that extra at-bat. If you don’t come to terms with it early, it’s going to eat you up.”

Happ won’t be 24 until August, but he already understands what the leadoff process is all about — and what it’s not.

“I’m going to attack the baseball the same way,” he said. “I can’t change who I am as a hitter. I’m going to continue to be aggressive and take my walks when they come.”

A tiny oral history: The viral James Harden crossover

It began like so many Rockets possessions.

James Harden dribbled upcourt with Houston leading the LA Clippers 28-7 in what would ultimately be a 105-92 road victory for the Rockets. Harden began to drive to his left as Clippers defender Wesley Johnson tried to keep up. And then … rest in peace, Wesley Johnson’s ankles. Harden’s brutal crossover left Johnson on his rear end, and Harden stepped back, stared at Johnson on the ground and drilled a 3 that got the Rockets bench on its feet, left the Staples Center abuzz and rocked Twitter.

Here’s how one of the season’s most memorable — and meme-worthy — moments went down.20

CLIPPER DARRELL, LONGTIME CLIPPERS SUPERFAN AND SEASON-TICKET HOLDER WHO WAS IN THE STANDS FOR THE FEB. 28 GAME: Are you talking about the play where James Harden traveled and pushed off? Come on, man. I’m a big James Harden fan. But everybody saw that forearm that he threw out, and the three steps he took going backward before he hit the 3.

TREVOR ARIZA, ROCKETS SMALL FORWARD WHO RAN DOWN THE SIDELINES AFTER THE CROSSOVER: The fact that [Johnson] was on the ground, that was the part that got me out of my seat. We see James do that all the time, get separation and spacecustom nfl jerseys cheap, but not often do guys, like, touch the ground.

JAMES HARDEN, ROCKETS MVP CANDIDATE: It was probably my best move, just because of how much time I had. There’s other moves where you make a great move, and then you’ve got to either make a shot or do another move right after. But I had so much time in between.

PJ TUCKER, ROCKETS SMALL FORWARD: I don’t think it would have been as bad if Wes would have just got up real fast. But Wes just sat there and he smiled and kind of laughed.

CLINT CAPELA, ROCKETS CENTER: It happens a lot that players get crossed and somebody falls. But that second was special.

HARDEN: I was just trying to figure out what he was doing. I didn’t know. I was looking at him, and he was looking at me. I was thinking, What are you doing? I was going to shoot it, but I was waiting to figure out what was going on. I was confused. And then, obviously, I shot it.

CAPELA: We were shocked that [Harden] waited, but the shot has to go in to be worth anything. And when the ball went up, I was like, “If this goes in, it’s something special.” And it went in. We were like, “Oh my gaawwdd. Bam!”customized nfl jerseys cheap

WESLEY JOHNSON, CLIPPERS SMALL FORWARD:custom nfl jerseys I was just thinking, “Next play.” People oohed and aahed, but it’s just on to the next play.

CLIPPER DARRELL: People were saying they lost respect for Wes because he ran back down the court laughing. But it was funny, because you get pushed and don’t get the foul call, and it’s like, come on, ref. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

JOHNSON: Stuff like that happens. Somebody gets dunked on, somebody falls down, it’s going to go viral. Social media is undefeated right now.

TARIK BLACK, ROCKETS CENTER: I’ve got to stay out of this one. Wes is my boy. He took care of me when I was a rookie [with the Lakers]. It was a great move, a great move. But yeah, I can’t.

MIKE D’ANTONI, ROCKETS COACH: James does things that are ridiculous. He does incredible things. He’s a very gifted player offensively, obviously. … The game was over [after the Harden crossover]. James put it away.

CLIPPER DARRELL: James, I love you, man. But you’re not welcome at Staples anymore. Leave my Clippers alone.

Raiders cut Sean Smith; CB to be sentenced to prison for assault

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ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Oakland Raiders released Sean Smith amid news that the cornerback will plead guilty to a felony assault charge Tuesday and be sentenced to one year in prison.

The Raiders also released starting right tackle Marshall Newhouse on Monday.

Smith’s legal issues stem from an incident with his sister’s boyfriend last summer in Pasadena, California. Smith has agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge of assault with great bodily injury and will be sentenced to one year in prison and three years of probation, the attorney for the alleged victim confirmed to The Associated Press.

Smith,nfl jersey for cheap 30, was accused of assaulting his sister’s then-boyfriend, Christopher Woods, on July 4. Two witnesses testified during a preliminary hearing in December that Smith stomped Woods’ head as he lay bleeding and unconscious.

Attorney Jonathan Dennis said Woods “felt the sentence, obviously, was not as strict as it should have been, but he’s pleased he’s admitting guilt.”

The Raiders’ move to release Smith saves the team $8.5 million on their salary cap. Entering Monday, Oakland had more than $16.5 million in salary-cap space, per ESPN Stats & Information. Smith was due base salaries of $8.25 million in 2018 and $8.75 million in 2019.

After signing a four-year,best nfl jerseys $38 million free-agent contract with the Raiders in 2016, Smith struggled immediately, getting benched at New Orleans in the season opener. Last season, he lost his starting job to TJ Carrie before becoming one of the Raiders’ better defenders in the last month of the season.

After John Pagano replaced Ken Norton Jr. as defensive playcaller, Smith was used more to his strengths. Entering the season finale, Smith was ranked eighth in the NFL in passer rating allowed (36.3) among cornerbacks with at least 110 coverage snaps in Weeks 12-16, per Pro Football Focus. This after being ranked 109th in passer rating allowed in Weeks 1-11.

“Nothing has changed on my end,” Smith told ESPN the last week of the season. “I guess I’m just on the field more.”

Smith’s two interceptions against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 17 led the Raiders, who had only five picks on the year. He said he was only on the field in certain packages early in the season and could not get into the flow of a game as a result.

Smith, who played in 29 games (23 starts) in two seasons with the Raiders, had four interceptions for Oakland and is the second high-priced veteran cornerback released by the Raiders this offseason, joining David Amerson, who was released last month. Amerson later signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Oakland is relying on last season’s first-round pick, Gareon Conley, to fill the void at cornerback as he returns from a shin injury that limited him to two games. Carrie is a free agent.

A veteran of nine seasons,nfl jerseys cheap authentic Smith has also played for the Miami Dolphins and Chiefs and has 14 career interceptions, 102 passes defensed and 424 tackles.

Newhouse, 29, started 14 games at right tackle for Oakland in 2017 after signing a two-year contract with the team last offseason.

“There’s a lot of change going on over there,” he told ESPN’s Josina Anderson. “Outside of [GM] Reggie [McKenzie], no one else familiar with me there. I’m a good pro and teammate. I have a lot of flexibility to live wherever in the country. I’m still young and healthy.”

Newhouse has appeared in 100 games (70 starts) in his career with the Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants and Raiders.

Westbrook’s 19th triple-double of the season leads Thunder past Spurs

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook loves to tell people he plays every game the same way, even sometimes going as far to make people tell him in return, but he has a tell when he’s really got it cranked up an extra notch.

With the San Antonio Spurs in Oklahoma City for a significant game for a variety of reasons, Westbrook’s focus and effort — on the defensive end — was all anyone needed to see that this one mattered a little bit more. Westbrook dug in, guarding on the ball like a bulldog and hitting a number of help rotations, even blowing up a couple of would-be layups for LaMarcus Aldridge at the rim. The tone was set, and despite some bumps along the way, the Oklahoma City Thunder put away an extremely important 104-94 win over the Spurs and jumped back up to the No. 5 seed in the West.

“That’s the key every night, defend at a high level,” Westbrook said. “I feel like we put ourselves in great position to win games when we defend like that.”

It was something Spurs coach Gregg Popovich marveled at before the game, in talking about what his young point guard Dejounte Murray could learn from a matchup with Westbrook, how the reigning MVP doesn’t relax at any point. He’s full-go from tipoff, testing the limits of his own abilities while hoping to raise the level of his teammates’ to a higher place, as well. And as former teammate Kendrick Perkins would often say, Westbrook was on one Saturday night.

Westbrook has that ability to dominate and overwhelm a game without necessarily stuffing the box score — which he also is quite obviously very good at — and that was the case against the Spurs. He finished with his 19th triple-double of the season — 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists — and the 98th of his career but ran the game in a way only a few players in the league can. His fingerprints were all over everything as the Thunder handled the Spurs with Paul George scoring just 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting, Carmelo Anthony finishing with only two points on 1-of-8 and the second-highest scorer being Jerami Grant with 15.

The energy was there, the effort right along with it, and the intentions were good, but the Thunder didn’t take advantage of some excellent first-half defense and quality execution to build any kind of first-half lead. There were multiple opportunities to open up and extend a big lead, but the largest it stretched in the first half was 14. The Spurs were able to trim it down before a quick burst before the break from the Thunder,difference in nike nfl jerseys punctuated by a corner 3 from Corey Brewer right before the buzzer.

Those missed chances came back on OKC early in the third as Steven Adams picked up his fourth foul, colliding midair with Dejounte Murray and then coming down hard and rolling his left ankle. Adams exited the game and did not return. The Spurs took advantage of Adams’ absence, going to Aldridge on the block. Aldridge had three points on 1-of-8 shooting in the first half but scored eight on 4-of-7 in the third without Adams.

It was a strange night offensively for the Thunder, with Brewer leading them in scoring at halftime, while Anthony didn’t score until midway through the third quarter (his only points of the game). They missed a lot of great looks, both at the rim and from 3, leaving the door propped open for a Spurs comeback. San Antonio flirted with it at times, trimming the lead down to four in the third, then again down to seven in the fourth, but with the help of some pop from Nick Collison, the Thunder put the Spurs away.

What the Thunder have been searching for over the past month is a defensive consistency to support all the work they’ve done in figuring out their offensive issues. And while the sample size is small, the two games since inserting Brewer have looked different. There’s a rhythm and comfort to the way they’re playing, with a palpable chemistry restored to at least sort of mimic what they had with Andre Roberson.where to buy nfl jerseys in store

But most of all, it has been Westbrook, who — when at the levels at which he has played the past two games — can cure almost any issue on his own. Westbrook has adjusted, taking only one 3-pointer in those games — not a coincidence — and focusing on rim attacks and rhythm midrange jumpers. Westbrook is often his own worst offensive enemy, unable to resist the siren song of the 3, but when he channels his abilities to other areas, he and the Thunder are at optimal levels.

The Thunder are working to restore belief that they are capable in the West while also trying to actually cement their place in the postseason. George said at shootaround that the Thunder are resisting the urge to scoreboard-watch and root for other teams to lose.wholesale nfl jersey outlet They’re trying to look only at themselves.

Anthony said post-All-Star break was “showtime,” but the results have been … well, not that. They’re 5-3, but the three losses are in the understandable category: at the Warriors, at Portland and vs. Houston. Their wins have been against teams they should beat, which is what made Saturday’s matchup bigger, outside of the playoff implications.

The Thunder needed to prove, to themselves more than anybody, that they’re tracking in the right direction again. And if anything is going to put them on that path, and keep them there, it’s Westbrook.

49ers still talking to Carlos Hyde, but running back options remain open

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — With the NFL’s free-agent negotiating window opening in less than a week, the San Francisco 49ers have stayed in contact with representatives for running back Carlos Hyde, according to general manager John Lynch.

Speaking at last week’s NFL combine, Lynch reiterated his previous stance that the Niners would be happy to welcome Hyde back for a fifth season and beyond. He also indicated he would have further meetings with Hyde’s agents in Indianapolis.

“We’ve had discussions with Carlos all the way through the season,” Lynch said. “We haven’t been able to come to an agreement, but those discussions are ongoing. This is a great opportunity. … We have an opportunity and we will talk to all of [our free agents] right down to the wire. I wouldn’t say anything is imminent there.”

This close to the start of free agency, it would be unusual for a team and a player to strike an agreement that has nothing to do with a one-year franchise or transition tag, neither of which is considered an option the Niners would pursue with Hyde. In the absence of a deal, all signs point to Hyde hitting the market and the 49ers exploring a talented class of running backs, which Lynch considers the deepest position in the upcoming NFL draft, as well as some intriguing possibilities in free agency.

In fact, the Niners did their due diligence on the top running back prospects at the scouting combine, hosting nearly all of them in 15-minute formal interviews. Lynch acknowledged discussions with Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, USC’s Ronald Jones and Oregon’s Royce Freeman, but said others also were brought in. LSU’s Derrius Guice, San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny and Georgia’s Sony Michel and Nick Chubb are other highly regarded prospects.

The 49ers hold the No. 9 overall pick, and only Barkley figures to be of that caliber, but after his electrifying combine performance, it’s all but certain Barkley will be long gone before the Niners are on the clock.

“The whole dynamic of that position,where to find cheap nfl jerseys in many people’s minds, losing value, but I think much like a quarterback, when there’s a great one, it’s tough to deal with,” Lynch said. “I know that from playing defense. So I think is that changing? I don’t know. I think everyone has their own perspective. But that is a position where you can affect a game in a great way.”

Even if Barkley did somehow land in San Francisco’s draft range, the question would become whether a Kyle Shanahan-coached team would invest such a precious pick in a running back? Shanahan and his father have built a reputation for finding mid- to late-round picks or undrafted free agents and turning them into productive backs, if not stars.

Given what Lynch said about the position plus Barkley’s performance at the combine and on the field, it would be hard to resist pairing him with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to give the Niners a dynamic duo in the backfield.

Still, with so many talented backs, the Niners could theoretically wait and find someone capable of becoming a top-level talent. Just last year, New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara and Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt were taken in the third round and went on to become the league’s most dynamic rookie backs and among the best in the league regardless of age.

Despite his track record, Shanahan said he’s not married to a philosophy of waiting on running backs.

“Everyone says you can get running backs later in the draft, which you can,” Shanahan said. “You can also get them early in the draft. I think if [Pittsburgh’s] Le’Veon Bell came out this year, I’m sure he’d be a top-five pick. I think he went in the second round.authentic nfl cheap jerseys I think [Arizona’s] David Johnson would be the same.

“People always want to find those top running backs. People have found a lot of running backs later in rounds, like what Kareem Hunt did this year. You always go back to Terrell Davis and those people. You don’t have to get them in the first round, more like you do a tackle or an elite pass-rusher. But still, if there’s a running back there that you think is going to be like some of those guys I mentioned, then that guy is worth the first pick in the draft just like anybody else would be.”

As for Hyde, he was healthy and productive last season but didn’t look like an ideal match for the Niners’ outside zone concepts and struggled in the passing game. That could open the door for San Francisco to look at free-agent options such as Dion Lewis, Jerick McKinnon and Isaiah Crowell.authentic nfl jersey wholesale

As it stands, the 49ers have four backs returning to the roster: Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Joe Williams and Jeremy McNichols. Of that group, only undrafted rookie Breida contributed, with 465 rushing yards on 4.4 yards per carry. Shanahan and the Niners remain hopeful that Williams can be the next mid-round pick to develop into a starting caliber back, but there’s not enough evidence to blindly believe that will happen.

“I really hope Joe can be like that,” Shanahan said. “I hope Breida can be like that. I hope Raheem Mostert can be like that. I think we’ve got a lot of guys with some talent on our roster that not many people know about. It’s not the talent that always brings it apart. A lot of these guys have talent and that’s why you find them. But it’s how they respond to the NFL and the pressures of it and running back is a different deal in the league. Those guys hit hard, and you’ve got to do it week in and week out and not just one game, and 16 games is tough to get through.”

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