Alex Ferguson accompanied Manchester United to Gdansk for their Europa League final against Villarreal and there was an echo from his glorious era during the first half at Stadion Energa.

Flowing attacking football? Swashbuckling wing play?

Nope. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was on the touchline shouting and swearing at his players. Swearing a lot.

The spark for that particular outburst after the half hour was Aaron Wan-Bissaka sending a routine pass out of play, but the United manager was already smouldering after Gerard Moreno gave Villareal the lead in soft fashion.

As Victor Lindelof forlornly grappled with the Spain striker – who is now the joint-top scorer in Villarreal history alongside former United youngster Giuseppe Rossi – it was easy to bemoan the absence of Harry Maguire, easy to imagine the England centre-back authoritatively dealing with the situation.

It should be pointed out that Gerard's 30 goals and 10 assists in all competitions this season show plenty of opponents haven't dealt with him too effectively and, in any case, it was those performances from United's big names that need not be imagined that were the problem.

Everywhere Solskjaer looked and raged, there were big names not turning up.

Bruno Fernandes, their superstar midfielder and captain in Maguire's absence, endured an abject first 45 minutes where he was entirely unable to impose his will on the contest.

The Portugal international's 23 passes and 31 touches were the eighth-lowest returns in the United team, with only forwards Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani and goalkeeper David de Gea less involved in possession. How De Gea would have loved to keep his part in this long, slow death of a penalty shootout defeat so minimal.

Fernandes also won none of five duels contested, while Paul Pogba – purposefully probing with 31 passes in the Villareal half, including one delicious effort with the outside of his foot to release Greenwood down the right wing – was the only saving grace in a team almost entirely devoid of creativity.

Nevertheless, as bad as they were, there was not reason to worry unduly, understandable as Solskjaer's agitation was. This is just what his United do.

In 10 away games in the Premier League this season they conceded first, only to win nine and draw one of those contests Even on neutral territory, Villarreal must have known what was coming.

The pressure on Unai Emery's defence was more about volume than quality, but Fernandes was there to force the issue in the 55th minute as Luke Shaw's corner was partially cleared and his drive cannoned off a few legs and fell to the lurking Cavani.

When Shaw mishit a right-footed swipe at his forehead and Greenwood later got in the way of the veteran striker, it almost felt as if United were trying to test Cavani's masterful penalty box prowess.

What they wouldn't have given to have the Uruguay international on the of Fernandes' cross with 20 minutes remaining. Instead, Marcus Rashford produced a truly howling miss, one worryingly in keeping with the final months of a season where Solskjaer repeatedly sending him back to the well appears to have taken a toll.

Rashford wasn't the only player who did not need extra time. By the conclusion of a forgettable half hour, notable only for weary limbs and a flurry of late United substitutions after Emery reasserted some control with his more judicious deployment of fresh legs, everyone seemed happy enough to let penalties seal their fate.

For all the parallels this season with those old Fergie qualities – the comebacks, the late winners, the fast attacks – United were rudderless for far too much of this final, particularly as the shootout loomed.

They remain a team dependent on moments, moments they frequently produce, but lacking a foundation for when games end up in the mire.

Of course, poor old De Gea had moments. Eleven of them whistled past a prostrate body or outstretched gloves before a fateful 12th. The Spain goalkeeper's ordeal versus this admirable club from his homeland will linger long in the memory, but a team of United's resources should never have allowed events to spiral to that moment of torment.

For all the notable approximations of their glory years under a fan favourite, there remains much to be done for Solskjaer's United if they are to escape nights such as this where they look like little more than a straining Ferguson-era tribute act.

Inter star Romelu Lukaku said he owes Antonio Conte "a lot" after penning a heartfelt farewell message to the former Nerazzurri head coach.

Conte guided Inter to their first Serie A title since 2010 but the Italian boss remarkably departed less than a month on from the club's Scudetto triumph by mutual consent on Wednesday.

The 51-year-old, who had another year remaining on his contract after arriving from Chelsea in 2019, had been tipped to leave amid Inter's financial situation and a supposed dispute over salary cuts and player sales.

Lured to San Siro by Conte in 2019, Lukaku paid tribute to the outgoing boss.

Lukaku wrote via Instagram: "2014 we spoke for the first time and we have had a bond ever since. We had many moments to work together but only god knows why it never happened earlier.

"You came at the right time and basically changed me as a player and made me even stronger mentally and more importantly we won together!

"Winning is and it's all that matters to you and I'm glad that I have had you as a coach.

"I will keep your principles for the rest of my career [physical preparation, mental and just the drive to win…] it was a pleasure to play for you!

"Thank you for all what you did. I owe you a lot…"

Former Italy boss Conte became only the second coach in Serie A history to win a Scudetto with both Inter and Juventus, joining Giovanni Trapattoni.

Conte earned his fourth Serie A title this season – only five other coaches in league history have managed at least four.

Inter gained more than 90 points in a single top-flight campaign for only the second time in their history (after 2006-07), while Conte became the first coach to achieve that tally with two different Serie A sides in the three-points-per-win era.

Lukaku scored 30 goals in all competitions this season and 24 in Serie A – only in 2016-17 for Everton did the Belgian score more (25) in a single campaign in one of Europe's top five leagues. 

David de Gea missed the only penalty of a marathon shootout as Villarreal won the Europa League with victory over Manchester United at Gdansk Stadium.

Gerard Moreno opened the scoring in the first half of a poor final in Poland on Wednesday to move level with Giuseppe Rossi as the Yellow Submarine's leading all-time goalscorer with 82 - 30 of which have come this season.

Edinson Cavani equalised early in the second half with his sixth goal in five Europa League games for United and the two sides remained level at 1-1 after extra time.

There had been an astonishing 21 successful spot-kicks until United goalkeeper De Gea's tame effort was kept out by his opposite number Geronimo Rulli, with Villarreal winning the shootout 11-10.

Villarreal go into the Champions League next season after winning their first major European trophy, with head coach Unai Emery having lifted this trophy an incredible four times.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on the other hand, remains without a trophy during his tenure after a flat performance from United.

Inter's not-so-well-kept secret is out in the open and Antonio Conte has left the club by mutual consent despite ending an 11-year wait for Serie A glory this term.

Conte became the first coach in the three-points-for-a-win era to secure the title with 90-plus points with two different teams, having also done so as Juventus head coach.

But Conte's long-term future has often been shrouded in doubt and he was tipped to leave after defeat in last term's Europa League final to Sevilla.

Though he stayed put and brought the title to the Nerazzurri, things really began to escalate when owner Steven Zhang reportedly told Conte Inter's wage bill would need to be slashed and around €100million raised in player sales.

Conte has already headed for the exit door but there are plenty of others who may follow. Here are five players who would certainly draw interest from elsewhere.

ROMELU LUKAKU

With Inter seemingly in need of quick funds, the most obvious saleable asset in their ranks is Romelu Lukaku, a player who has flourished under Conte. This season, the Belgium star scored 24 goals and supplied 11 assists in Serie A – making him the first player to have 20-plus goals and 10-plus assists in a single top-flight campaign in Italy since Opta began collecting this kind of data in 2004-05.

Lukaku has been heavily linked to a return to the Premier League, with both former club Chelsea or Manchester City (the forward having signed from the Citizens' rivals Manchester United). He has 64 goals and 17 assists across all competitions for Inter, and could feasibly raise the money his club are looking for in one hit.

LAUTARO MARTINEZ

It was not so long ago Lukaku's strike partner Lautaro Martinez was tipped to join Barcelona. That move failed to materialise and, with Barcelona's own financial problems well documented, it would seem unlikely such a deal would be revisited in the near future. That being said, the Argentina striker is another who would be sure to attract several suitors for his signature. With 49 goals and 14 assists since joining Inter in 2018, Martinez is among the Nerazzurri's most prized assets.

CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN

It was only six months ago that Christian Eriksen appeared certain to depart Inter after a disappointing stint since joining from Tottenham in January 2020. But the Denmark playmaker enjoyed a renaissance since the turn of the year and was influential in Inter's success. There were no assists last term, but Eriksen did manage four goals, as well as creating 39 chances – five of which are defined as 'big chances' by Opta.

A return to Spurs was previously mooted, while Borussia Dortmund were also said to be interested. There are seemingly others more likely to leave but Eriksen may come on to a few radars and would take a decent chunk out of the wage bill.

NICOLO BARELLA

One of the brightest prospects in Italian football, Nicolo Barella recently made the Serie A Team of the Season for the second straight campaign and Inter would certainly look to sell others before their brilliant midfield maestro. Chelsea have been linked with a big-money move for the Italy international, but he would likely command a huge fee and Inter are said to be reluctant to sacrifice Barella.

The 24-year-old had 10 assists, created 11 big chances, 62 chances in total and had a passing accuracy of 84.58 per cent across all competitions in 2020-21.

ACHRAF HAKIMI

Achraf Hakimi joining from Real Madrid in July 2020, after spending two seasons on loan with Borussia Dortmund, represented a real coup for Conte. Arsenal have been tentatively linked with the attacking full-back, while his talents will be sure to draw interest from Europe's big hitters, even if Inter look to cash in on players elsewhere first. In 45 games across all competitions, Hakimi had seven goals, nine assists and 46 chances created. Twelve of those were big chances.

Antonio Conte has departed Inter by mutual consent less than a month on from clinching the Serie A title, the club have confirmed.

The 51-year-old guided the Nerazzurri to their first Scudetto since 2010 in just his second season in charge.

Conte, who also led Inter to the Europa League final in his first season at the San Siro helm, had another year to run on his contract.

However, amid a supposed dispute between the coach and the club's owners over salary cuts and player sales, it was confirmed on Wednesday that Conte will leave his role.

A club statement read: "FC Internazionale Milano can confirm that an agreement has been reached with Antonio Conte for the termination of his contract by mutual consent. 

"The club would like to thank Antonio for the extraordinary work that he has done, culminating in Inter's 19th top-flight title. Antonio Conte will forever remain a part of our club's history."

Conte's future as Inter boss has been in doubt since the club's financial problems were laid bare by chairman Steven Zhang.

The Italian champions are reportedly looking to raise €100million through player sales during the close season, with Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez being linked with moves away.

Conte did not speak to the media during the closing weeks of the Serie A season, but assistant Cristian Stellini stated last week that the former Chelsea and Juventus boss needed a high-level project the club must match.

Inter lost just three league games in 2020-21 and finished with 91 points – 12 more than runners-up Milan – though they exited the Champions League at the group stage and were knocked out of the Coppa Italia by Juventus in the semi-finals.

Conte also won three league titles during his time in charge of Juventus and is the only Serie A manager to have gained 90-plus points with two different sides in the three-points-per win era.

He departs Inter having won 52, drawn 17 and lost seven of his 76 Serie A matches.

Antonio Conte has departed Inter by mutual consent less than a month on from clinching the Serie A title, the club have confirmed.

The 51-year-old guided the Nerazzurri to their first Scudetto since 2010 in just his second season in charge.

Conte, who also led Inter to the Europa League final in his first season at the San Siro helm, had another year to run on his contract.

However, amid a supposed dispute between the coach and the club's owners over salary cuts and player sales, it was confirmed on Wednesday that Conte will leave his role.

 

Toni Kroos has denied claims Zinedine Zidane has already announced to the Real Madrid squad that he is stepping down as head coach.

Reports earlier this month suggested the Frenchman informed his players of his decision to quit ahead of the 2-2 league draw with Sevilla on May 9.

However, Kroos – who assisted two goals in that game but missed Madrid's final three matches after being rested and then contracting coronavirus – has labelled those rumours a "blatant lie".

"It's been said everywhere, even in Germany, that he has already announced his departure to the team," Kroos said on his Einfach mal Luppen podcast. 

"It's a blatant lie. Zizou and I have a good relationship. Without a doubt he would have told me. 

"I can't confirm it and I don't know how this will end, but I can say it's always fun working with him."

Kroos was echoing the views of team-mate Karim Benzema, who said in an interview with L'Equipe earlier this week that Zidane will not be leaving the Santiago Bernabeu.

Zidane revealed after his side's final LaLiga game of the season, a 2-1 win against Villarreal on Sunday, that he will hold talks with the club this week.

The growing speculation over the 48-year-old's future comes on the back of Madrid's first trophyless campaign since 2009-10.

Los Blancos finished second in LaLiga, despite an 18-game unbeaten run to see out the campaign – their best-such run since Carlo Ancelotti's time in charge in 2013-14.

They also suffered a shock early Copa del Rey exit to Alcoyano, were eliminated from the Champions League by Chelsea at the semi-final stage and lost to Athletic Bilbao in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals.

But long-serving midfielder Kroos, who has just completed his seventh season with Madrid, is confident his side will bounce back in the 2021-22 campaign.

"A season without a title is never good for Real Madrid," he said. "But not many people towards the start of the season would have expected us to reach a European semi-final.

"We also fought for the title until the last day. It wasn't a good season, but at least we were there competing.

"There are of course many questions about how Madrid will perform next season. But I am certain about one thing - Madrid will fight again, I can guarantee it.

"We will return next year and fight for everything. I have no doubt about that. The experience of being here for seven years tells me that."

On an individual level, Kroos enjoyed a positive 2020-21 campaign with three goals and 10 assists in 28 league games.

Only Marcos Llorente (11) and Iago Aspas (13), in nine and five games more respectively, managed a higher number of assists in the Spanish top flight this season.

The 2.84 chances created per game by Kroos, meanwhile, is the most of anyone to have played more than three times this season, with Alaves' Lucas Perez next on the list with 2.7.

Reflecting on Madrid's campaign, Kroos said: "We were not consistent enough this season. Everyone has problems, including us. Yet in my opinion we still showed character this season.

"We had a lot of injuries and the coronavirus problems were extreme for us, yet we didn't give up and gave everything to the end, though it couldn't be."

Ronald Koeman is to hold further talks with Barcelona over his future and could stay on at the club beyond the end of next season, according to his agent Rob Jansen.

Reports in Spain suggest Koeman, who was appointed last August and has another year to run on his deal, met with president Joan Laporta for 40 minutes on Tuesday.

The Dutchman has come under pressure on the back of an underwhelming first campaign at Barca, whom he also represented for six seasons during his playing career.

Barca beat Eibar 1-0 in their final LaLiga game of the season on Saturday to finish third, five points behind Real Madrid and seven adrift of champions Atletico Madrid.

The Catalans also exited the Champions League to Paris Saint-Germain at the last-16 stage, as well as losing to Athletic Bilbao in January's Supercopa de Espana.

However, Koeman's men did exact revenge by beating Athletic in last month's Copa del Rey final – a result that may have salvaged the former Netherlands coach's Camp Nou job.

Following discussions with Laporta – who succeeded Josep Maria Bartomeu as president in March – Koeman's camp believe he is set to stay on for at least another season, even as alternative reports claim he could yet be replaced.

"There was a positive atmosphere during the meeting and I personally left it with a good feeling. There was mutual respect," agent Jansen told De Telegraaf.

"The feeling is even that positive that Ronald might even stay longer [than 2021-22]. But we have not got this far yet, more conversations will follow."

What next for Koeman's Barcelona?

Speaking after the win at Ipurua last weekend, Koeman insisted his first season in charge of Barcelona could be considered a positive one.

"We have won many points in the league since the start of 2021 and won the cup in a brilliant way," he told reporters. "If you'd told me in August we'd win a trophy and be fighting for LaLiga with two or three games to go, I would sign for it. 

"Hopes were too high during the season – that's how I see it. That's why I think it's not a bad season, far from it. It is not the best possible season, but you can't ask for a double every year, or from a team that is still forming."

The 79 points collected by Koeman is the fewest of any Barcelona boss in their first 38 league games since Frank Rijkaard (72) in 2003-04.

It is the first season Barca have finished outside the top two since 2007-08 and the only time they have gone successive years without finishing top since between 2006 and 2008.

The Catalans were as reliant as ever on Lionel Messi, who scored 30 league goals – seven more than next-best Karim Benzema, the Real Madrid striker – to win an eighth Pichichi trophy 

However, doubts remain over the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's future with his contract due to expire next month.

As well as tying down Messi to a new contract, Barcelona are also expected to strengthen during the close season with the additions of free agents.

Georginio Wijnaldum is rumoured to be close to arriving from Liverpool, while Lyon forward Memphis Depay and Manchester City pair Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero have also been strongly linked.

What would new signings add?

Koeman complained about an ageing squad last week and the addition of 30-year-old Wijnaldum would not exactly help lower the average age.

The pair know each other well from their time together with the Netherlands, so Koeman will know exactly what he is getting in Wijnaldum, who has also become accustomed to winning major trophies with Liverpool.

Wijnaldum is not a clear upgrade in terms of providing additional creativity in midfield, though, his 21 chances created in the Premier League this term fewer than the tallies eight Barca players managed in LaLiga from a similar number of games.

He also failed to register a league assist in 2020-21, while finding the net only twice, which pales against what Frenkie de Jong (three goals, four assists), Pedri (three goals, three assists) and Sergio Busquets (no goals, five assists) produced.

From a defensive perspective, Wijnaldum's 198 ball recoveries were better than Pedri's 142 and Busquets' 182 but lagged some way behind the 215 from De Jong in LaLiga this season.

Depay and Aguero would provide different qualities in attack should they arrive, meanwhile, with the former coming off the back of another impressive Ligue 1 campaign for Lyon that saw him score 20 goals and assist a further 12.

To put that into perspective, only Messi (39) was directly involved in more league goals for Barcelona last season, with Antoine Griezmann (20) the sole other player to hit double figures.

Aguero may not have been used regularly for City in an injury and illness-plagued campaign, but his four goals in 12 games – two of those in the space of five minutes on the final day – gave him a return of one goal every 139.5 minutes.

That compares to a goal every 581 minutes in LaLiga this season for Barcelona's current back-up striker Martin Braithwaite, a goal every 296.5 minutes for Ousmane Dembele and one every 201.5 minutes for Griezmann.

Aguero's figures may be skewed by his limited outings this term, but he boasts a goal every 109.6 minutes in the English top flight since the start of 2018-19, a significant improvement on Barca's options aside from Messi.

Eric Bailly has warned Manchester United he will only remain at Old Trafford as long as he is a first-team regular, despite last month signing a contract extension.

The centre-back's new deal keeps him at United until 2024, when his previous contract had been set to expire at the end of next season.

But Bailly suggests that agreement will count for little if he remains on the fringes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team.

The ex-Villarreal defender, who hopes to face his former club in Wednesday's Europa League final, has featured in only 20 (33.3 per cent) of United's 60 games in all competitions so far this season, ranking 19th in the Red Devils squad.

And that mark is roughly par for Bailly's United career, having appeared in only 105 (35.7 per cent) and started just 92 (31.3 per cent) of the 294 matches the club have played since his 2016 signings.

Injuries have played their part, with knee and groin issues keeping the player out for extended periods over the past five years, but he has been an unused substitute 18 times this term alone.

This season's 1,590 minutes are Bailly's most since his debut campaign in England (3,230) but still trail Harry Maguire (4,653) and Victor Lindelof (3,908) by some distance.

"Competition is always good to improve," Bailly told The Times. "I just say that I want to stay in case I get the chance to play.

"I don't want to be a starter one game and a substitute for another five.

"If that happens, I will have to look for another solution. The new contract is fine but if I don't play I will be open to listen to other proposals."

Only 39 of Bailly's United outings have come since Solskjaer was appointed in December 2018, in which time the 20-time English champions have played 150 times.

But the defender, who has therefore featured in just 26.0 per cent of the manager's games, was encouraged by discussions prior to signing the contract extension.

"I spoke to him and he told me he wanted me to stay," Bailly added.

"The most important thing was not the renewal but the conversation we had: we sat down, we talked and he told me what he wanted from me and that he wanted me to continue."

Wellington Phoenix boosted their A-League Finals hopes by extending their unbeaten run to nine matches with an entertaining 2-1 win at Western Sydney Wanderers.

The Phoenix are now up to seventh in the table, two points outside the top six, after preying on the Wanderers' weaknesses at Bankwest Stadium.

Wellington targeted their hosts at set-piece situations throughout, with Dylan McGowan failing to effectively deal with Steven Taylor, ever a nuisance on the goalkeeper's toes.

Daniel Margush was impeded after 24 minutes as Graham Dorrans headed against his own crossbar from a corner and David Ball touched in the rebound.

The Wanderers were level just four minutes later, though, when Keanu Baccus' shot from the edge of the area escaped the clutches of Oliver Sail.

That goal was awarded despite the offside McGowan hopping out of the way of the attempt, but the home captain was soon obstructing team-mate Margush as Tomer Hemed powered in a close-range header.

That was the 10th headed goal Western Sydney have conceded this season, and coach Carl Robinson complained to FOX Sports at half-time: "I can't head the ball for them."

He would have been dismayed to see the Phoenix win three corners within three minutes of the restart, but the Wanderers dug in.

They responded, too, with a 19-shot second-half onslaught, only for Sail and his back line to just about hold out and protect a precious away win.

This season's Manchester City side could be remembered as "one of the best teams ever" if they deliver Champions League success in style against Chelsea on Saturday.

City great Francis Lee told Stats Perform he believes Pep Guardiola's men could "hit the jackpot" in Porto.

The club Lee represented between 1967 and 1974 – winning four major honours, including the 1970 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup – have never taken home Europe's top prize.

Indeed, this is City's first Champions League final, becoming the ninth English team to reach this stage.

The gap of 51 years to that Cup Winners' Cup triumph is the biggest ever between European deciders, longer than Sporting CP's barren 41 years between the 1964 Cup Winners' Cup and 2005 UEFA Cup finals.

But victory against domestic rivals Chelsea would complete a City treble following success in the Premier League and EFL Cup.

Lee was asked by Stats Perform how that might compare to rivals Manchester United's three trophies in 1999.

"Well, you can't say that one team is better than any other team," he said. "You can only say in the way they win the game, the style they play the game, and the contribution to all the players in the team.

"And if it's a scrappy 1-0, 2-1 win...

"It just depends. It depends on the day, with the fluidity of the City team. If they hit the jackpot, you could be talking about one of the best teams ever."

Guardiola has lost more games against Chelsea (seven) than any other opponent in his coaching career, including the past two in a row.

Yet the Blues have not won three straight matches against City since a run of eight victories between 2005 and 2009, and Lee is not concerned by their recent meetings.

"It's going to be difficult but I think it'll be a different result," he said.

"I think that we played Chelsea before [these two games] and have always done pretty well against them.

"It's been the last two games, and there was nothing in it anyway; it was here and there.

"And if you have a City squad, a full squad, bubbling and ready to go, they're going to be very, very difficult to beat."

Former Tottenham favourite Jurgen Klinsmann has sympathy for Harry Kane as he attempts to plot a move away from the club.

Widespread reports claim Kane is looking for a way out of Spurs after an underwhelming 2020-21 campaign for the team. Tottenham – who sacked Jose Mourinho late in the season – finished seventh in the Premier League, only enough for Europa Conference League qualification, and lost the EFL Cup final.

This was despite Kane scoring 23 goals and providing 14 assists, making him only the second player in the Premier League era to lead the division in both categories (also Andy Cole in 1993-94).

Indeed, only Klinsmann, in 1994-95, had previously provided 20 goals and 10 assists for Spurs in a single season in the competition.

Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea have all been suggested as possible destinations for the three-time Golden Boot winner, and Klinsmann, while keen for Kane to stay, understands his motivations.

The German compared the situation to his own departure in 1995, when he left seventh-placed Tottenham for Bayern Munich and scored 31 goals in 65 Bundesliga games across two seasons.

"I feel sympathy for both sides, especially Harry, who has been the flag of the club for so many years," Klinsmann told Sky Sports. "He's done so much for them.

"The market is out there for him. Teams would grab him right away and they'd probably put down a lot of money.

"I personally hope he stays at Spurs but I also can understand him. I was in that situation in 1995. I badly wanted silverware and it worked out that way. I went to Bayern Munch and won the UEFA Cup and German championship.

"If Harry leaves then you have a problem because maybe Son [Heung-min] says: 'Hang on, I might move on as well then.'

"The most important path now is to sit down with Harry, discuss the situation and lay out how he can continue his career with Spurs, how the roster will look for next season to make the squad even stronger.

"The quality is there. It needs a bit of fixing up but the key figure in all this is definitely Harry Kane. You've got to do everything possible to keep him."

Klinsmann, who later returned to White Hart Lane and ended his Premier League career with 29 goals – one every 169 minutes – in 56 games, went into coaching following his retirement.

He has led Germany, Bayern, the United States and Hertha Berlin but is now available as Tottenham look for their next manager.

"Definitely you'd entertain it, no doubt," Klinsmann said when asked if he would consider a call from Spurs. "[Daniel Levy] has my number, he can call me anytime. Spurs is something that you'd always consider.

"I'm always in touch and doing stuff with Spurs is always something special. I had the best time of my life there during my two spells.

"In the football world, things happen so fast. I never thought I'd coach Germany or the United States, so you have to have an open mind. You have to always think about new challenges, so why not Spurs?"

Dirk Nowitzki was a "lucky charm" for the Dallas Mavericks as he watched their Game 2 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, according to head coach Rick Carlisle.

Nowitzki, a 14-time All-Star, spent his entire NBA career in Dallas, winning a championship under Carlisle in 2011 when he was Finals MVP.

But the 2007 MVP retired in 2019 and so was restricted to the role of spectator as the Mavs looked to build on a Game 1 first-round playoff win on Tuesday.

His presence was enough to inspire his former team, too, with the German pictured with current Mavs superstar Luka Doncic following the game.

Doncic led the way with 39 points in an impressive 127-121 win, improving his postseason average to 32.0 points per game. That is the highest mark of any Dallas player regardless of games played, with the top spot previously belonging to Nowitzki as he scored 25.3 points across 145 playoff appearances.

There is a long way to go before Doncic can think about repeating Nowitzki's Finals run – a Miami Heat series in which he averaged 26.0 points – but the support of the team's greatest ever player is a boost.

"I saw him and [wife] Jessica in the hotel yesterday," said Carlisle, Mavs coach since 2008.

"It gives you a profound lift when you're in between the first two games of the playoffs and you see that playoff warrior who we've been through so many battles with.

"He said that he was going to be coming to the game, which was great news.

"And I certainly believe that him being there tonight was a lucky charm for us. It never hurts, never hurts."

Although Doncic was the obvious star once again, there was also a big performance from Tim Hardaway Jr, who contributed 28 points and made six attempts from beyond the arc. Both were career playoff highs.

Hardaway said: "[It was] 2-0 when Dirk gets in the building, I'll tell you that.

"Yeah, Dirk, we saw 'Dirky' earlier in the day, we knew he was there and we were happy we were able to pull out a victory.

"It's still a long series and the job is not done at all. It's just creeping into what we can become and we've just got to keep on focusing in and locking in."

Paul George insists the Los Angeles Clippers are not concerned despite falling 2-0 behind to the Dallas Mavericks in their first-round series.

The Clippers have had home advantage so far but now head to Dallas with a significant deficit.

Tuesday's Game 2 saw the Mavs run out 127-121 winners, again led by Luka Doncic.

The Slovenian had a 31-point triple-double on Saturday and added another 39 points this time, maintaining a remarkably high standard in the postseason.

Doncic's eight career playoff games have all come against the Clippers – this year and last – and he has tallied 32.0 points per game on average.

His total of 256 points is the sixth-most for any player across their first eight playoff games from 1963-64 onwards, trailing only Anthony Davis, Bob McAdoo, LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who scored a league-high 287 in 1970.

The Clippers appear to have no answer for the 22-year-old, as George himself acknowledged.

But the seven-time All-Star, who has averaged 20.3 points across the same eight games against the Mavs, says his team are not worried.

Although the Clippers are now on a five-game losing run in the postseason dating back to last year's series against the Denver Nuggets, George said of their "level of concern": "I mean, there is none.

"It's a competition. We've got to rise to the occasion. The fact of the matter is if we don't, we're done for.

"But it's no level of concern. We've just got to play our game. We've got to play through this. We've got to incorporate our defense.

"Luka's going to get his touches. We've just got to do a better job defensively of just quieting everybody else."

The Clippers lost their final two games of the regular season to the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the bottom two teams in the Western Conference.

They therefore finished on the same record as Denver and slipped into the fourth seed, seemingly to ensure they would avoid the Los Angeles Lakers, the defending champions who they now cannot meet until the West Finals.

However, playing into a series with Dallas, who they defeated last year, only served to motivate the Mavs.

Doncic said: "I didn't know they were doing that. Somebody told me that in the first game.

"But if you want to win the championship, at the end of the day, you've got to win against everybody. So, I don't think that makes a big statement. You just go out there and play."

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said: "This time of year you shouldn't need extra motivation. NBA playoff basketball is a self-explanatory adjective.

"It is raw passion. It's all about the team. It's all about one thing. And that is a group of guys getting together and making a stand on every possession.

"If you can't get excited for that, you know, you should be in some other line of work, because they're not pulling people off the street to do these jobs."

However, George added of the Mavs: "That's the team that's the most dangerous, the team [where] I'm pretty sure everyone expected to us win this.

"They were the underdogs, and when you're a lower seed, you really don't have high expectations, so they're playing free, they're playing with confidence.

"I think we were giving them a little too much confidence, so that's on us to shut that down.

"But they're playing with it. They're playing their game. They're playing with confidence. They're making shots.

"The supporting cast for Luka is being aggressive and they're doing their job."

The Tampa Bay Rays' 11-game winning streak ended as they went down 2-1 to the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday in the MLB.

With veteran Rich Hill on the mound, the Rays were exceptional in the outfield in the early innings with Austin Meadows and Kevin Kiermaier pulling off spectacular catches from Andrew Benintendi.

Hill, at the cherry ripe age of 41, tossed down 13 strikeouts across seven innings for the Rays.

But the Royals got their go-ahead run in the sixth inning when Cam Gallagher touched down from Salvador Perez's hit.

Shohei Ohtani hit his 15th homerun of the season, a 117 mph rocket, as the Los Angeles Angels won 11-5 over the Texas Rangers, while the San Diego Padres made it 10 wins from their past 11 with a 7-1 victory at the Milwaukee Brewers.

 

Guerrero moves to 16, DeGrom returns

Vladimir Guerrero moved into the outright lead for most homeruns this season in the Toronto Blue Jays' 6-2 win over the New York Yankees.

Guerrero hit his 16th homer of the 2021 MLB season in the third inning, as Yankees pitcher Corey Kluber started for the first time since last week's no-hitter.

Kluber only sent down 58 pitches across three innings, allowing his first hit in 39 batters, before being hastily replaced by Michael King, with fears of a shoulder injury.

The result ended the Blue Jays' six-game losing streak too.

Jacob deGrom returned for his first game since April 28 with ride side tightness and pitched five innings with nine strikeouts as the New York Mets won 3-1 over the Colorado Rockies.

It was not a perfect return for deGrom, allowing only his third homerun of the season, when Ryan McMahon homered in the second inning. It was the first he has allowed in the strike zone too.

Right-hander Edwin Diaz stepped up to finish the job for the Mets with three strikeouts, sending down a 100 mph pitch on the corner to end the game.

Max Scherzer was on song for the Washington Nationals but it was not enough for victory as the Cincinnati Reds triumphed 2-1 with Kyle Farmer and Eugenio Suarez homeruns.

Scherzer pitched seven innings and had nine strikeouts, including eight out of the strike zone.

 

Jack's rough high school reunion

Harvard-Westlake pals Jack Flaherty and Lucas Giolito reunited in the Chicago White Sox's 8-3 win over the St Louis Cardinals. Flaherty had started with an 8-0 record in his first eight appearances for the Cardinals but that came to an end in a hard day, including a wild pitch to Yermin Mercedes which allowed Nick Madrigal to score. Jose Abreu also returned to form with a homer off Flaherty.

 

Greinke vs Kershaw in Houston

Star pitchers Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw faced off with the latter getting the upper hand as the Los Angeles Dodgers won 9-2 at the Houston Astros. Kershaw sent down 81 pitches with 57 strikes and six Ks. He only gave up one run and did not walk anybody.

 

Tuesday's results

Chicago Cubs 4-3 Pittsburgh Pirates
Philadelphia Phillies 2-0 Miami Marlins
Cincinnati Reds 2-1 Washington Nationals
Toronto Blue Jays 6-2 New York Yankees
Atlanta Braves 3-1 Boston Red Sox
Kansas City Royals 2-1 Tampa Bay Rays
New York Mets 3-1 Colorado Rockies
Cleveland Indians 4-1 Detroit Tigers
San Diego Padres 7-1 Milwaukee Brewers
Minnesota Twins 7-4 Baltimore Orioles
Chicago White Sox 8-3 St Louis Cardinals
Los Angeles Dodgers 9-2 Houston Astros  
Los Angeles Angels 11-5 Texas Rangers
San Francisco Giants 8-0 Arizona Diamondbacks
Seattle Mariners 4-3 Oakland Athletics

 

Padres at Brewers

Fernando Tatis Jr and the San Diego Padres  continue their enthralling series away to the Milwaukee Brewers.

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