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Danny Ings and the plight of the ambitious young Englishman



Danny Ings last week became the latest young, English footballer to make the move to a top club after showing only the first glimpses of a potentially prodigious talent.

There can be no doubt that there was a long line of potential suitors waiting to sign the 22-year-old upon the expiration of his contract at recently relegated Burnley, yet he chose to stay in the North West and make the move to Anfield.

This speaks volumes of Ings’ ambition and self-confidence. What remains to be seen is whether those admirable qualities will be proven to be naïve.

In recent years we have seen numerous starlets follow a similar career path to the striker, and in many cases fans and pundits have been left tearing their hair out in exasperation.

Adam Johnson, Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair joined Manchester City, Wilfried Zaha and Nick Powell were snapped up by their Mancunian rivals United, and Chelsea have plundered smaller clubs for the likes of Steve Sidwell and Victor Moses – now playing for Nigeria but an England under-21 international at the time of his transfer.

Of these, some made up for the time wasted on glamorous benches by moving on successfully, others have struggled to regain the momentum they showed to earn those moves since finding pastures new, and a couple are yet to escape their affluent employers.

Arsenal is perhaps the only team to consistently invest in young British talent without throttling it, with the likes of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey all excelling at the Emirates.

Of course, the failure of other footballers to establish themselves at top clubs plays no part in deciding whether Ings himself will be a success at Anfield.

In fact, the England under-21 international’s captain next year, Jordan Henderson, provides a shining example of a player who has conquered hardship to excel on Merseyside, after making the move from Sunderland in 2011.

But what those players’ experiences should have been to Ings is a stark reminder that what may seem like a dream opportunity can easily turn into a nightmare which can hinder the most promising of careers.

Ings will obviously hope to blossom further in the 2008 European capital of culture, but what are his chances of securing regular first-team football?

Last season, he would surely have enhanced the struggling scousers’ attacking options, with their front four of Sturridge, Balotelli, Lambert and Borini mustering just eight goals between them.

Sturridge’s injury problems show no signs of abating next season, whilst big question marks hang over the future of the other three strikers who inhabited the Anfield dressing room last year.

However, should Sturridge regain fitness he will surely outrank his new colleague, and although transfer rumours are nothing but conjecture until signings are confirmed these days, the clever money would be placed on Liverpool investing in further attacking options before the new season begins.

Only Ings and Brendan Rodgers know what the Liverpool manager has promised his new acquisition, but Liverpool fans may hark back to the success gained in 2013/14 when Rodgers utilised a fluid front three of Sturridge, Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling to great effect, regularly destroying teams with their explosive pace on the way to an unexpected second placed finish.

However, Sterling is widely understood to be pushing for a move away from Merseyside, and irrespective of how good Ings may prove to be in the future, he is not a replacement for the mercurial Suarez.

A good indicator of the role lined up for the striker can be taken from the words of two of Liverpool’s most vocal former players.

Ex-captain and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher believes that “Ings will take the role of Borini in the squad and that will probably come in the Europa League and Capital One Cup to start with – then it will be up to him to show if he deserves to start more.”

Similarly, one of Ings’ attacking forbears at Anfield, John Aldridge, heralded the signing as a “no-brainer”, but added that Liverpool “need a really big marquee signing… a striker who guarantees 20 goals a season.”

Liverpool’s ex-players hold a special relationship with the club they once represented and although their opinions cannot be taken as gospel, they are often an accurate representation of the opinions of the club itself.

If Ings has been acquired as a bit-part, cup competitions squad player, it is hard to justify how this move could be seen as a positive for his burgeoning career.

Ambitious clubs such as Southampton, Swansea, West Ham and Newcastle (ambitious used very tentatively in the latter case) are all rumoured to be in the market for a goal-scorer this summer, with Ings’ compatriot Charlie Austin, also relegated last season with QPR, linked with all four.

Had Ings moved to a mid-table Premier League club and continued to excel then surely a move to a bigger club could have been on the horizon in two or three years.

As it is, Ings will be hoping to make his mark on one of the most demanding stages that English football has to offer.

Fans of English football will only hope that this young man’s self-belief has its foundations set in realism, and not in romantic naivety.

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I am a soon-to-be fully qualified sports journalist, who has written for a number of regional papers and online blogs. A fan of Paul Scholes, FC United of Manchester and big words. Follow me on Twitter: @AndyDonleySport


Burnley 0-1 Manchester United: Three talking points from Turf Moor

Rob Meech



Photo: Reuters

Anthony Martial scored the only goal of the game as Manchester United recorded their third consecutive victory by seeing off Burnley at Turf Moor. In a game devoid of end-to-end entertainment, the Frenchman struck in the 54th minute when his right-footed shot found the net via the underside of the crossbar.

Burnley tried in vain to force a leveller but could not find a way past David de Gea, as their winless run extended to seven Premier League matches. United, meanwhile, have maintained their grip on second spot but remain 12 points drift of runaway leaders Manchester City. Here are three talking points…

United pass another away-day test

Despite rumours of unrest at Old Trafford, United are now unbeaten in eight Premier League matches. While their hopes of reeling in Manchester City may be remote, Jose Mourinho’s men are red-hot favourites to finish as runners-up. That would be a huge improvement on last season – their first under Mourinho – where United finished sixth. It was only their success in the Europa League that guaranteed them a place in the Champions League.

The Red Devils are definitely progressing and the expected arrival of Alexis Sanchez would give them another dimension. In particular, their away form will please Mourinho. This was United’s fifth victory in their past six Premier League games on their travels, a run that is helping to keep the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool at bay.

Burnley is a notoriously tricky place to visit, but United withstood the physical threat of the hosts and just about had enough to claim all three points.

Burnley are feeling the effects

When looking at the table, Burnley’s position appears to be very comfortable. In eighth place and with 34 points to their name, the Clarets are all but guaranteed to be playing Premier League football again next season. That would have been manager Sean Dyche’s priority and he can feel satisfied with the job he has done.

Nonetheless, this is a difficult period for Burnley, who have not tasted victory since they beat Stoke City on December 12. Scoring goals has been their biggest problem, having drawn a blank in four of their seven-game winless  run. The Clarets are not renowned as being free-scoring – they have found the net only 19 times this season – and rely on a solid defensive foundation.

Perhaps the exertions of their promising start have taken their toll on a settled side. The challenge for Dyche, who had been linked with the Everton job during the height of Burnley’s success, is to ensure his players do not fall into the trap of thinking they have nothing to play for.

Martial is making rapid progress

The Frenchman began the campaign out of favour at United, but he has regained his place in the side thanks to a series of consistent performances. His output has been productive, too. His goal against Burnley was his third in a row, taking him to 11 for the season. Allied to his seven assists, Martial is beginning to fulfil his immense potential.

He cut a frustrated figure at being kept out of the starting XI by Marcus Rashford – there was even speculation he might be on his way out of Old Trafford. But Martial said all the right things publicly and is no longer in the ‘supersub’ category. Competition for places will only intensify if and when Sanchez’s switch from Arsenal is completed.

But the former Monaco starlet should not fear the Chilean’s arrival, but relish it. He has proved he can be a trustworthy player for United. Like Luke Shaw, he is another to have benefited from some stern words from Mourinho, who will soon have an embarrassment of attacking riches to call upon.

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Manchester United 2-2 Burnley: Three talking points from Old Trafford



Photo: Reuters

Jesse Lingard came off the bench to strike deep into injury-time as Manchester United came from two goals down to salvage a dramatic point against Burnley at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.

Going into the match with the chance to close the gap to Manchester City at the top of the table to ten points, the hosts got off to the worst possible start when Ashley Barnes poked home with just three minutes on the clock after a melee in the box.

And it went from bad to worse not long after when Steven Defour struck a superb free-kick out of the reach of David de Gea to leave the visitors dreaming of a first victory at Old Trafford since 1962.

Jose Mourinho rang the changes at half-time and it was Jesse Lingard who, just moments after missing a sitter from a yard out, hauled his side back into the match with a delicate back-heel finish.

United piled on the pressure as they went in search of an equaliser but they were met with typically determined defending by Burnley, until the ball dropped to Lingard in the second minute of time added on to fire home a shot into the corner and break Burnley hearts in the most dramatic of ways.

The result will do little to increase United’s title diminishing title hopes though, who now sit 12 points behind their rivals and have a game in hand against Newcastle United, whilst Burnley move to within a point of the top six.

United falter again as title drifts further away

For the second time in just a matter of days there was injury-time drama for Manchester United after substitute Jesse Lingard tucked home in the 92nd minute to salvage a late point for the hosts.

Whilst Boxing Day’s draw will leave a slightly better taste in the mouth than their one against Leicester City at the weekend as this time it was them who came from behind to claim a point right at the death, it does little to detract from the fact that the Premier League title is now all-but lost.

The gap between United and rivals Manchester City was reduced to 12 points on Tuesday but, considering City play a lowly Newcastle United later today, it’s likely to be up to a huge 15 points by Thursday morning.

Whilst Burnley were well-regimented and showed the defensive prowess that has become accustomed with Sean Dyche’s side this season, there was an all-too similar feeling of déjà vu from last season as the hosts failed to truly test Nick Pope despite amounting over 75% possession.

Jose Mourinho’s experiment with both Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic starting failed to produce any meaningful impact and, until Lingard’s intervention, they were staring an unlikely defeat in the face.

The Portuguese boss claimed post-match that there is ‘not enough’ funds being given to him to improve his squad – despite spending nearly £300million since taking over as manager – in comparison to Manchester City, but on the day there’s no debating they have the resources to beat a side like Burnley at home.

Surprise package Burnley continue to ruffle feathers

In a week that saw people tuck into turkey across the country for Christmas Day, Burnley continue to ruffle some feathers of their own after coming agonisingly close to claiming a first win against Manchester United at Old Trafford in 55 years.

After being convincingly beaten by Tottenham at home last time out, it was the perfect response from the Clarets in a match that proved they have the temperament to battle with the best teams in the league.

It was arguably a classic snatch and grab performance from the visitors, taking their two chances from set-pieces with their only two shots on target of the game, but their fast start enabled them to soak up pressure inside their own half and get ten men behind the ball.

Whilst a point will come with mixed emotions due to the manner in which they were pegged back during injury-time, it maintained their mightily impressive run on the road against the top six sides.

This season Dyche’s side have already beaten Chelsea and drawn with Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester United, picking up more points (six) than any other team in the Premier League so far.

Not many would have expected Burnley to be able to continue their fine start but, with over half of the campaign done and dusted, there’s a real possibility that they could achieve something miraculous this season, and the likes of Arsenal will now be nervously looking over their shoulders.

Lingard to the rescue as substitute continues purple patch

Whilst Manchester United may be in the midst of what some would call a ‘slump’ having won just two of their past five Premier League matches, one positive to come from their run is Jesse Lingard.

The 25-year-old has quietly gone about his business this season under the radar, slowly becoming one of the first names on Jose Mourinho’s team sheet and ousting the likes of Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford.

And after being a squad player for the best part of the last few seasons at Old Trafford, every now and then popping up with a vital goal – such as the FA Cup final winner in 2016 – he has suddenly taken his game to the next level as a result of playing in a more free, central role behind the strikers.

Deployed behind Romelu Lukaku his pace can turn defence into attack in an instance for United as shown against Watford and Arsenal, and it was his impact from the bench that earnt his side a point.

Some may question why he didn’t start considering his prolific recent form but he made up for lost time once introduced at half-time, producing a sublime back-heel flick into the far corner to reduce the home side’s arrears before being in the right place in the 92nd minute to fire a half-volley home.

It could have been an even better afternoon for the England international too had he not been denied from a yard out by Nick Pope but, on the day, his manager will be thankful for his exploits.

For a man that has rarely been spoken about as a future first-team player he’s certainly giving people something to think about, and his brace – the first to be made by a United substitute since 2015 – now means that he’s been involved in more goals this season (six goals, four assists) than the likes of Eden Hazard, Dele Alli and Alexis Sanchez, and that’s not bad company to keep.

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Three talking points as impressive Burnley downed Bournemouth

Rob Meech



Burnley climbed to sixth in the Premier League thanks to a thoroughly deserved 2-1 victory away to Bournemouth. Goals from Chris Wood and Robbie Brady either side of half-time put the Clarets on course for all three points. And although Joshua King halved the arrears 10 minutes from time, the Cherries could not force an equaliser as they slipped to their first defeat since October.

With their seventh win of the campaign, the Lancashire outfit have moved above Tottenham Hotspur in the table, while Bournemouth dropped to 15th after an off-colour performance. Here are three talking points to emerge from a bitterly cold evening at the Vitality Stadium.

Sean Dyche triumphs in battle of the English managers

This game was billed as a contest between two of the brightest young managers in England – and there was a clear victor. Burnley dominated the 90 minutes and perfectly executed Sean Dyche’s game-plan. They never let Bournemouth get a foothold on proceedings and capitalised on the break.

The Clarets are often described as a long-ball side and dull, but the football they produced was far superior to that of Bournemouth, who are renowned as an attractive team to watch. Meanwhile, Dyche’s opposite number Eddie Howe – celebrating his 40th birthday – was left scratching his head after his side’s insipid display.

The Cherries headed into this clash three games unbeaten, but the worrying signs that appeared during the goalless draw with Swansea at the weekend were magnified here. There was precious little creativity and too much sideways passing. Tellingly, the midfield two of Harry Arter and Andrew Surman were completely outnumbered and outplayed.

Burnley’s remarkable transformation on their travels

Much was written about Burnley’s poor away form last season, which was in stark contrast to their results at Turf Moor. But from the moment they shocked Premier League champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the season, the Clarets have looked perfectly at ease on their travels.

This victory over Bournemouth followed wins against Everton and Southampton, as well as draws with Liverpool and Spurs. Burnley’s only away defeat came at table-topping Manchester City. These 14 points are double what they earned in the entirety of last season. It is a remarkable turnaround and testament to the work Dyche has done with his well-drilled squad.

Each player knows his own role inside out. In truth, they never looked in any trouble against Bournemouth once Wood had opened the scoring. On this evidence, it is no surprise to see Burnley riding high in the table – they are there on merit and will continue to succeed if taken lightly.

Goals are in short supply for timid Bournemouth

In their first two seasons in the Premier League, Bournemouth entertained audiences with goals aplenty at both ends of the pitch. The dramatic 4-3 victory over Liverpool and 3-3 draw against Everton spring to mind. This season though, excitement has been replaced with pragmatism.

The Cherries have become harder to beat, but the trade off has been that, despite the arrival of a striker of Jermain Defoe’s pedigree, they have found goals tougher to come by. Bournemouth have scored 12 times in 14 matches so far, with a third of those coming in the 4-0 thumping of Huddersfield Town earlier this month.

The challenge facing Howe is to get the best of both worlds. In a division as competitive and unforgiving as the Premier League, that is no easy task. But the consensus is, currently, the Cherries have compromised too much on the brand of football which has made them so watchable.

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