Mourinho’s text messages to Roman hint at Chelsea return, Man United to buy £17m Zaha & axe De Gea, Stoke trial Shea

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I think there’s a lack of belief here. We need to start realising just how good we are. We’ve got some very, very good players but some of them don’t believe they are good enough at times… I signed my new contract because I believe this team is getting better and we don’t want to be standing still. We’ve got a big game on Wednesday and, no disrespect to West Ham, it’s a fixture that we should win.” – Theo Walcott.

Runner-up: “If he’s [Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa] an ass, it’s not my fault, but I think his manager has a lot to do with it. Newcastle really isn’t a good choice. He’ll get himself moved on next year, but it doesn’t bother me. We’re not going to cry. His head was no longer at Montpellier, but it’s not a problem. He’s not irreplaceable. The important thing is that we get some money in.” – Montpellier president Louis Nicollin.

Mourinho Back At The Bridge?

Jose Mourinho text in line (David Woods, Star) Jose Mourinho has been paving the way for a sensational return to Chelsea by regularly texting and phoning Blues owner Roman Abramovich. The pair have repaired their relationship to such a degree that Abramovich has been using him as an unofficial consultant when it comes to footballing matters. The Real Madrid boss has also been messaging players from his time at Stamford Bridge, including John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Petr Cech. But the news that Abramovich has been seeking out Mourinho’s advice in texts and calls during the Blues’ troubled season is the strongest indication yet that the Portuguese coach will be back at Stamford Bridge this summer.

Mourinho’s Chelsea message for Roman (Tony Banks, Express) Jose Mourinho has sent text messages to Roman Abramovich to pave the way for a return to Chelsea. Mourinho, set to leave Real Madrid after huge fall-outs with the club hierarchy and key players, is favourite to return as manager in the summer after Pep Guardiola joined Bayern Munich. And Daily Express can reveal Mourinho has been in contact with owner Abramovich, senior Chelsea players and staff. A source close to Abramovich said: “Jose has been sending messages to people at the club. Not just to Roman, to everybody, dropping hints.”

Fergie’s Lino Bother

Explain yourself (Sun) Alex Ferguson has been ordered by the FA to explain his rant at linesman Simon Beck… Fergie, now sweating on a possible touchline ban and fine, has until 6pm on Thursday to reply and try to talk his way out of a disciplinary charge.

Fergie in hot water as FA ask United boss to explain criticism of linesman after draw at Spurs (Mail) The United boss has until 6pm on Thursday to respond, but now faces the prospect of a touchline ban and a fine if the FA decide to take further action. It is not certain they will. Earlier this month Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini escaped punishment when asked to explain a comment that referee Kevin Friend ‘ate too much’ before the Boxing Day defeat at Sunderland.

If you’re soft on cheats you can’t be hard on officials (James Lawton, Independent) The trouble is that if we draw a veil for a moment over Ferguson’s toxic habit of lumping together accusations of professional incompetence and terrible working bias, we are bound to agree that in at least one important sense both managers are right. Two of the season’s most vital games were indeed decisively influenced by official error. United should have had the penalty which would have insulated them against Tottenham’s last-minute equaliser, and might just have become vital in the outcome of the title race, and if for whatever reason Beck failed in his duty, referee Chris Foy was – as his former colleague Graham Poll points out – near enough to make his own decision.

St Mary’s: Where Was the Protest?

Saintly silence at Southampton over lamented departure of Nigel Adkins (Barney Ronay, Guardian) If a system were devised – you might call it the Benítez scale – to grade degrees of furiously mutinous, home-crowd managerial reception, Mauricio Pochettino’s first appearance on the touchline as Southampton manager would register as no more than a tremor. Monday night’s visit of Everton to St Mary’s came three days after the sacking of Nigel Adkins and there had been talk – albeit fanned by Twitter rumour and 24-hour rolling TV sports news – of a mass demonstration of disdain for the club’s board. They promised us handkerchiefs. There were no handkerchiefs. Or at best there were just a few, a minor bunting that seemed to chime with a mood of fond and wistful farewell as much as angry protest.

Rio For England

How long can Roy ignore Rio? (Ian Wright, Sun) Roy Hodgson faces another embarrassing situation if Rio Ferdinand keeps delivering colossal defensive displays for Manchester United… Our other defenders in his position are Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott, Phil Jagielka and Ryan Shawcross. Do not try and tell me Rio is not as good as them. To be honest, I find it laughable that Hodgson is not considering Rio. I think in this country, some people are far too keen to get rid of older players.

De Gea: Out Of United?

Is Sir Alex about to cut losses on flaky De Gea and send goalkeeper back to Spain? (Chris Wheeler, Mail) Following De Gea’s latest blunder it is understood that United will explore the possibility of sending him back to Spain in the summer after accepting that he is unlikely to ever settle on or off the pitch in England. There have been concerns for some time that the 22-year-old is homesick. His pop star girlfriend Edurne has stayed in Madrid throughout the player’s time in Manchester and language problems have hindered attempts to bond with many of his teammates. Since becoming the most expensive goalkeeper in the history of British football at £17.8million, De Gea has also struggled with the challenge of succeeding Edwin van der Sar at Old Trafford and the more physical demands of the Premier League.

United eye De Gea replacement (Telegraph)

Manchester United are actively searching for an experienced goalkeeper to replace David de Gea at the end of the season.

So Near, So Zaha

Fergie talking £17m for Zaha (Express) Manchester United United have upped their bid for Wilfried Zaha to £17million in an attempt to beat Arsenal in the chase for the Crystal Palace winger… United are prepared to loan Zaha, 20, back to Championship club Palace for the rest of the season.

Manchester United confident of signing Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha (Guardian) Sir Alex Ferguson is confident of signing Wilfried Zaha for £12m from Crystal Palace by the end of the week, with the aim of loaning the winger back to the Championship club for the remainder of the season.

Murray Axed From MOTD

BBC Col gets boot (Sun) Sports presenter Colin Murray is to get the chop from Match of the Day 2. It is believed his axing follows complaints from TV colleagues about his criticism of players. The Northern Irishman, 35, will be replaced at the end of the season by rising BBC star Mark Chapman. A Beeb spokesman said: “Colin will continue to play a key role in BBC output.”

Murray axed as BBC substitutes MOTD2 presenter with Chapman (Mail) Colin Murray is to be dropped as the Match of the Day 2 presenter next season. Murray, who has anchored the Sunday highlights show for two years since Adrian Chiles moved to ITV, is to be replaced by rising BBC star Mark Chapman… A spokesman said: ‘We’d like to thank Colin for his great contribution to Match of the Day 2 and look forward to him continuing on the show until the end of the current football season. He will continue to play a key role in BBC output.’

QPR: Racism Storm

QPR in racism row as youth coach is suspended and Fernandes launches inquiry (Neil Ashton, Mail) Queens Park Rangers have suspended highly rated youth-team coach Mark Langton amid allegations of racism… It is understood that the allegations surfaced after Langton released a number of youth-team players just after Christmas… Owner Tony Fernandes has told the club’s human resources department to carry out a thorough inquiry into the alleged incident and has pledged his full support. Langton is stunned by the claims and intends to fight to save his reputation.


Transfer Lies

Stoke look to offload Jones and replace him in with American Shea (Mail) Stoke City manager Tony Pulis has confirmed the club have taken American international Brek Shea on a week-long trial ahead of a potential £2.5m transfer from FC Dallas. The 22-year-old has recently been out with a long-term foot injury. Stoke are anticipating an improved bid from Swansea for Kenwyne Jones with Michael Laudrup keen to wrap up the signing before the weekend.

Arsenal make £4m bid for Florian Thauvin (Express) Arsenal have declared their intent to strengthen their midfield, by submitting a £4m bid for Florian Thauvin… Thauvin has been in fine form for Bastia this season, and has three goals to his name from 17 appearances.

Benched Carra hints at Kop exit (Sun) Jamie Carragher could quit Liverpool if he does not play more often.

Balo’s San zero (Sun) Mario Balotelli’s hopes of a return ticket to Italy were in jeopardy last night as his agent claimed there is a ‘zero per cent’ chance of him joining AC Milan.

He’ll Rein at Barca (Sun) Pepe Reina’s father has insisted the Liverpool keeper would be “more than delighted” to go back to Barcelona.

Redknapp eyes reunion with cast-off Kranjcar to bolster midfield options (Mail) QPR manager Harry Redknapp is showing interest in Dynamo Kiev’s Niko Kranjcar as he scrambles for midfield cover before the January window closes. The Loftus Road club are competing with Rubin Kazan for Rennes midfielder Yann M’Vila and have put in an offer to rival Newcastle for Toulouse midfielder Moussa Sissoko.

Fulham ready to table bid for Blackpool’s ex-Barca midfielder Sylvestre (Mail) Fulham are considering a move for Blackpool midfielder Ludovic Sylvestre.

West Ham lead the race to poach Ghana defender Inkoom (Mail) West Ham are among clubs showing interest in Ghana defender Samuel Inkoom. The 23-year-old from Dnipro can play at centre-back and right-back.