ASSIST KING MANCHESTER, England (AP): It speaks volumes about Manchester United’s current plight that a 0-0 draw at home against a team languishing just above the Premier League’s relegation zone represents an encouraging sign of progress. That’s how far a mighty club has fallen, with the stalemate with Chelsea on Monday appearing to give some breathing space for under-pressure manager Louis van Gaal. Lose to manager-less and relegation-threatened Swansea at Old Trafford on Saturday, though, and United will put Van Gaal even closer to the brink. The record 20-time English champions are winless in their last eight games in all competitions, marking their worst run of form since 1990, and have collected only three points from their last six league games. Almost as worrying for United is that the team has scored only one goal in its last four home games. Van Gaal may say he enjoys the backing of the United board, and has backtracked on previous comments that he could quit as manager, but there might be no way back if Swansea leave Old Trafford with three points. Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil has 16 assists so far this season, and is only four off the Premier League record held by Thierry Henry. Ozil must like his chances of getting even closer on Saturday when his table-topping side hosts Newcastle at Emirates Stadium. Henry, one of Arsenal’s greatest players, set the record in the 2002-03 season and believes it will get broken by Ozil. “The guy is just amazing,” Henry said. “Finally we’re starting to see what type of player he can be. It’s his vision, he always puts the ball where you need it. He sees everything, and when you play with a player like that, anything can happen at any time.” Arsenal are ahead of Leicester on goal difference, with Man City three points back in third place. PLAYING FOR OUR FUTURE Put simply, 2016 has to start better than 2015 ended for the Dutchman. “If anything, we are all playing for our own futures as well,” United defender Chris Smalling said, with the team having fallen five places adrift of the Champions League places. On paper, Swansea looks the ideal opponents for United to get back to winning ways: No manager following Garry Monk’s firing on December 9, one place above the bottom three, only one away win – against last-place Aston Villa – this campaign. Yet the Welsh club has won its last three games against United, all 2-1, including a home-and-away league double last season. What Van Gaal must ensure is that United play the same way as against Chelsea, when his players were more positive, took more risks with their passing and looked to play more forward. United’s fans could see the team was trying and seemed to warm to Van Gaal and his players. But how long will the goodwill last? “Inside of the club, the players are willing to fight for every metre, the manager is willing to fight, the members of staff are willing to fight and the board is very confident in the staff and the manager,” Van Gaal said. Above sixth-place United, the top four is separated by just four points heading into the second half of the season. It is the most unpredictable of title races, with surely few predicting that Leicester and Tottenham would be in the Champions League positions at the turn of the year.
Huawei also believes Messi’s passion inspires millions worldwide to strive for excellence and connect with people and considers the partnership “the perfect fit” and comes under the theme ‘connecting greatness’. “Lionel Messi will help our brand to encourage people to focus, persevere and breakthrough; to connect with greatness, especially in Europe, Asia and Latin America, where Huawei puts great devotion,” said Kevin Ho, president, Handset Business, Huawei Consumer BG, at yesterday’s press conference. Ho stressed that Huawei will seek to be number one in mobile phone sales in more than 170 countries, including Jamaica and the Caribbean. “We both honour the path we walked to what we have achieved and with each new challenge, we renew our commitment to find the path to success,” he added, while reiterating that his organisation’s belief that sport is a great way in which people enrich their lives, and through football in particular, which it considers a strong avenue. In the last few years, Huawei has invested in several teams – such as America, Santa Fe, Sporting Cristal, Arsenal, Atletico de Madrid, and AC Milan. Their brand ambassadors include Robert Lewandowski and Alexis Sanchez, and now the biggest of them all, Lionel Messi. “You have to sacrifice and go all in; always looking forward to achieving greatness. The day you think there are no improvements to be made, you have to keep working for reaching other achievements,” Messi said yesterday. Tyrone Liu, CEO, consumer business group for Huawei Latin America, said: “We are happy to announce our collaboration with an extraordinary individual who inspires people all over the world to pursue their dreams, to face challenges to become better with each day, a man who shares a lot of the same values with the Huawei brand.” MESSI AN INSPIRATION BARCELONA, Spain: World-leading information communication technology and telecoms firm, Huawei, scored big with the signing of Lionel Messi the only football player in history to win the FIFA World Player of the Year/FIFA Ballon d’Or five times as their global ambassador yesterday. The announcement was made here in Barcelona, Spain, at the Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I Hotel. While some global media have been speculating that the deal struck with the super-star forward will cost Huawei around eight million euros annually, the Asian-based organisation’s officials chose not to reveal an exact figure. They indicated, however, that they want to secure a long-term partnership with the world’s top-rated footballer, who is considered by many to be the greatest of all time.
Bolt, Fraser-Pryce miss out on Laureus awardsBERLIN, Germany (CMC):Three-time winner, Usain Bolt, missed out on a fourth Laureus Sportsman-of-the-Year Award as Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic repeated as winner for a second straight year here yesterday.The 29-year-old Bolt was one of four athletes up for the award but lost out to Djokovic, who won three of the four grand slams last year on the ATP Tour last year, to clinch his third Laureus Award overall.Barcelona’s Argentinian striker Lionel Messi and British Formula One ace, Lewis Hamilton, also missed out.Jamaican Bolt is the reigning World champion in both the 100 and 200 metres, having once again dominated at the Beijing World Championships last August.He is preparing for the defence of his sprint titles at the Rio Summer Olympics.American Serena Williams, meanwhile, captured the Sportswoman-of-the-Year Award, defeating Jamaican sprint star Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and American footballer Carli Lloyd.WI snub PCB offerLAHORE, Pakistan (CMC):West Indies will play all their games against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates as scheduled after turning down an offer from the host board to contest the two Twenty20 Internationals here. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, Shaharyar Khan, said they had requested the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) play the two games here, but the Caribbean body had declined on the basis of security concerns.International cricket has not been played here since 2009 when terrorists attacked the Sri Lankan team bus en route to a game, killing seven policemen and injuring several players.”We wanted the Twenty20s to be played in Pakistan and made an effort, but the West Indies Cricket Board have refused saying they have security fears, so the full series will be played in (the) United Arab Emirates,” Khan was quoted as saying.The Windies are scheduled to play two Tests, five one-day internationals and the two T20s later this year in September and October.