Premier League - Paper Round: United's title challenge over

Mon, 07 Mar 08:53:00 2011

The back pages are dominated by Liverpool's stunning 3-1 win over Manchester United at Anfield, with most of the papers agreeing that the Reds have delivered a hammer blow to the Red Devils' title hopes.

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That's despite the fact that a quick glance at the Premier League table shows that United remain three points clear at the top.

"King Kenny reigns as he stops Fergie's record title bid in its tracks," declares the Daily Mirror, while the Daily Mail trumpets the news that "Manchester United appear to be cracking under the pressure".

Speaking of things cracking, Nani's leg also garners plenty of column inches. The Manchester United star picked up a horrific injury - those of a ghoulish disposition should turn to page 79 of the Daily Mail for the most sickening of the close-up pictures - that has left several questions open.

Will Nani ever walk again, as you'd wonder after reading the Sun's report? Should Jamie Carragher be executed for the offending challenge, as the Daily Star comes close to suggesting? And should red-card-shy referee Phil Dowd have gone to Specsavers, as Graham Poll implies in the Daily Mail?

While the tabloids chew over such issues, the broadsheets take a different line: The Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Independent all leading their reports of a thrilling and incident-packed match with the news that Manchester United refused to speak to the media after the game. Yep, that's right guys. That was the biggest story of the day. You run with that.

Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp is set to hold talks with the latest teen sensation to come out of Argentina, the Mirror reports.

Juan Jose Vea Murguia, an 18-year-old midfielder currently at River Plate, has also had contact with clubs in Italy and Spain - but would apparently prefer a move to the Premier League.

The Sun claims that Blackburn Rovers boss Steve Kean has been given one match to save his job - just six weeks after being handed a two-year contract and being told he was "unsackable" by Rovers owners Venky's.

The club's Indian owners apparently held "summit talks" with Kean after the loss to Fulham on Saturday. Martin Jol and Claudio Ranieri are tipped as replacements should the Scot be shown the door.

Aston Villa and England winger Ashley Young is being targeted by Bayern Munich, according to the Mirror.

The Bavarian giants apparently sent "their top spy" to watch the 25-year-old at the weekend, and were said to be impressed - despite seeing him miss a spot-kick. Young's contract runs out next year, and Villa are expected to cash in to the tune of around £12 million this summer if the player does not agree a new contract soon.

And finally, referee Mark Clattenburg is "on the brink of quitting", according to the Mail.

Apparently, the official had already considered hanging up his whistle and black shirt following the storm over Wayne Rooney's apparent elbow to the head of Wigan's James McCarthy last weekend.

And that scenario seems even more likely after Clattenburg once again came under fire this weekend, with his late penalty in the Fulham-Blackburn clash effectively deciding the match in favour of the Cottagers.

"Mark has not been happy for some time," a 'refereeing source' told the Mail. No, we're not sure what a 'refereeing source' might be either - but it added that it would be a major blow to the standards of officiating in the country if he does indeed quit.

"We're talking here about a referee who has bags of courage... Pierluigi Collina is known to rate him very highly. The game can't afford to lose someone of Mark's ability and standing."

As for that assessment, surely football in England has weathered worse storms than the resignation of a single match official. Let's blame Simon Cowell for such hubris: in a world where talent shows have become more about the judges than the acts, is it any surprise that referees consistently hit the headlines?


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