Robert Lewandowski to sign for Manchester United

EXCLUSIVE: Fergie lands Polish star Lewandowski from Dortmund

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UPDATED:

23:58 GMT, 30 November 2012

Striker Robert Lewandowski is heading to Manchester United.

The Poland star has indicated to friends he has set his sights on the move from Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season.

After rejecting overtures from United last summer, the German club have reluctantly accepted they are about to lose their leading marksman.

Manchester bound: Robert Lewandowski (right) is set to join Sir Alex Ferguson's side

Manchester bound: Robert Lewandowski (right) is set to join Sir Alex Ferguson's side

With his Dortmund deal running out at the end of next season, United hope the fee will be little more than the initial 12million they paid for his former team-mate Shinji Kagawa last summer.

Sir Alex Ferguson believes pairing 24-year-old Lewandowski with Robin van Persie — and Wayne Rooney operating just behind — would give him the most lethal attack in the Premier League.

The fifth musketeer Ferguson is adding another top weapon to his armoury

The fifth musketeer Ferguson is adding another top weapon to his armoury

As well as picking up Lewandowski, Ferguson has told Rooney he needs to get back towards the top of the scorers charts.

The Englishman has only three in 14 games for United, one of which was a penalty.

England v New Zealand preview with Ben Kay

England must not be conned by All Black rope-a-dope tactics

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UPDATED:

23:35 GMT, 30 November 2012

There are a lot of myths about the way the All Blacks play. People have this perception they’re an all-singing, all-dancing team who always have the ball and are always attacking, always expansive.

The truth is different. /11/30/article-2241211-16492714000005DC-110_634x422.jpg” width=”634″ height=”422″ alt=”Dan stays in the picture: The All Blacks most potent weapon, Dan Carter, checks out the news in Sportsmail, including pictures of his day out in London” class=”blkBorder” />

Dan stays in the picture: The All Blacks most potent weapon, Dan Carter, checks out the news in Sportsmail, including pictures of his day out in London

Steve Hansen’s side conceded the second-highest number of penalties and, when it came to time-in-possession stats, they were third of the four teams. The message is clear; it’s not about how much ball they have, it’s about what they do with it.

But there were several areas where the All Blacks were well ahead of the rest – passes completed, number of off-loads, defenders beaten, clean breaks, metres gained and tackle completion, highlighting their clinical work.

For a long time, New Zealand have been the finest counter-attacking side in the world. When they win a turnover, it’s as if they flick a mental switch. They all go up a gear, they raise their intensity levels. More often than not, they will score.

What the All Blacks do well is control and vary their pace. A lot of other nations play at the same high intensity, but they are one-paced, they lack that variety. New Zealand are able to operate and succeed with less possession. Their tackle-completion rates are really good, then when they get the ball, they immediately go up three gears.

Masters of the art: New Zealand are the best counter-attacking side in the world

Masters of the art: New Zealand are the best counter-attacking side in the world

Last weekend, Manu Tuilagi intercepted the ball and broke upfield against South Africa, but England were unable to take the scoring chance. In the same circumstances, the All Blacks would have flicked that switch and scored a try. The initial reaction is crucial. As soon as they see a turnover, the players all quickly get into position and flood through on the right support lines. In contrast, some of the England players might have seen Chris Ashton receive the ball from Tuilagi and subconsciously thought ‘he’s quick’ so they just watched him run.

New Zealand always ensure that as many players as possible work themselves into attacking positions. They would have had someone up in close support of a player in Ashton’s position, ready to take an off-load when he ran hard at the last defender.

Opta stats reveal that, of all the All Blacks tries since the World Cup, 44 per cent start when they regain possession in their own half. With England, that figure drops to about 20 per cent. New Zealand are always alert to potential try-scoring opportunities, even from deep.

It is like rope-a-dope – their ability to soak up pressure and pounce when chances come along. Their belief that they will always find a way to win borders on arrogance.

rugby.jpg

They will look at the opposition and
think, ‘Whatever you do, we will surpass you’, which is the mindset we
had with England in the run-up to the 2003 World Cup. The All Blacks
believe they are bullet proof.

Another advantage they have over England and other sides is an innate willingness to take risks. They have so many supreme physical specimens who can dominate collisions, but they also have the mind-set to play positively – always looking to offload.

In England, if you throw an offload that ‘wasn’t on’, it can lead to heavy criticism and that can make players go into their shells. Perhaps we have to change our national psyche when it comes to risk-taking.

England captain Chris Robshaw has been slated for his decision to go for goal with a late penalty last weekend, but he made the right call. Stats show that from 40 attacking line-outs within 10 metres of the opposition line since the start of 2010, England have scored just four times.

Under pressure: Robshaw will come in for intense scrutiny on Saturday

Under pressure: Robshaw will come in for intense scrutiny on Saturday

If time is almost up, the defending side can keep infringing, knowing that the attacking team need more than a penalty to win the game. They basically have a licence to cheat.

My hope is that Robshaw can block out all the criticism the next time that he faces a similar scenario, but my fear is that all the stick he’s had will affect him.

On this occasion, there are no areas where England have a clear advantage. Rugby is a strange game, so all hope is not lost, but I think the All Blacks will win, say 29-13.

headtohead.jpg

LA Galaxy Frank Lampard move in doubt as club target Kaka

EXCLUSIVE: Lampard move to LA Galaxy on the rocks as US glamour club target Kaka

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UPDATED:

23:03 GMT, 30 November 2012

Frank Lampard’s hopes of following David Beckham to the MLS could be dashed after it emerged LA Galaxy want to sign the Brazilian Kaka from Real Madrid.

Beckham plays his final game for Galaxy tomorrow when his team take on Houston in the MLS Cup Final here in Los Angeles.

The Galaxy have been exploring ways of bringing Chelsea midfielder Lampard to the club to fill the slot vacated by Beckham and revealed today that they have had talks with the 35-year-old, who is out of contract at Stamford Bridge at the end of the season.

Limbo: Lampard has fallen out of favour at Chelsea this season

Limbo: Lampard has fallen out of favour at Chelsea this season

But today the man who persuaded Beckham to come to the States at the young age of 31 six years ago suggested that his preference was Kaka largely because he would give the club a profile among the Hispanic community in Los Angeles.

American dream: Kaka wants to play in the United States

American dream: Kaka wants to play in the United States

Tim Leiweke – the President of AEG, the company that owns the Galaxy, – told the Sports Illustrated website: 'I’m very proud of the fact we have a lot of people that are interested in the Galaxy.

'I’m a huge Frank Lampard fan, and I personally have great respect for him.

'Ive gotten to spend some time with him, and he’s an unbelievably good guy. But is he the right fit for our team now for what we need

'Coach Bruce Arena and I happen to be on the same page about where we need to go next.

'This next person has to be able to not only fit what Bruce needs on the pitch, but more importantly, we’re an ever-changing demographic in this marketplace, and we have to pay attention to that.

'It’s critical that we do the one thing we have never been able to do yet with the Galaxy, although we’ve tried. There is a Hispanic Latino population base we have to go conquer, and we haven’t.

'We’re well aware of Kak’s interest in MLS, and we in turn have made it very clear to him that he’s aware of our interest in him.

'We have a great relationship with Real Madrid, and just as we worked through a player with them six years ago [Beckham], I’m absolutely convinced we could find the right deal this time, too.'

AFC Wimbledon v MK Dons – an inflammable cup tie

Danger! AFC Wimbledon's trip to MK Dons is an inflammable cup tie and could ignite a crazy atmosphere

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UPDATED:

22:47 GMT, 30 November 2012

There is a buzzword going around AFC Wimbledon’s training ground in south-west London and everyone is saying it.

'It’s important that I don’t inflame this,' says Neal Ardley, the man who played more than 300 games for Wimbledon FC and now manages their spiritual successor.

He goes on to promise he will never take a job at Milton Keynes Dons, regardless of the money offered.

Careful: AFC Wimbledon manager Neil Ardley is one of many who don't want to 'inflame' the situation

Careful: AFC Wimbledon manager Neil Ardley is one of many who don't want to 'inflame' the situation

'I don’t want to inflame passions beyond where they already are for Sunday,' adds Erik Samuelson, the AFC chief executive who has been at the club since the day in 2002 when they were formed.

He says he will not shake the hand of Pete Winkelman, the chairman of 'sordid' MK Dons.

'I’ve been told I shouldn’t inflame anything,' explains the club’s commercial director, Ivor Heller, one of AFC’s founder members.

He describes MK Dons as both a ‘boil that needs lancing’ and ‘rotten, rotten, rotten’, and insists he will not spend any money if he can help it at stadiummk.

And there is talk of the secret banner he is preparing to unveil.

‘We have to tone things down in the build-up,’ added Heller. ‘Obviously, I’d like to say what we really think, but I mustn’t inflame things.’

MK Dons v AFC Wimbledon. FA Cup second round. The two sides meet on Sunday for the first time and it promises to be fiery.

Toned down: Ivor Heller says he can't say what he wants to

Toned down: Ivor Heller says he can't say what he wants to

Jack Midson is currently playing for his 14th club, but this one, he says, is ‘special’. When he joined in June 2011, one month after a fifth promotion in nine seasons launched AFC into League Two, he was told to sit down with the other new arrivals and listen to a history lesson.

‘It’s no secret that it is a sticky subject,’ said Midson. ‘This club is unique and we all know it from the start.’

Samuelson elaborates: ‘We do it every pre-season. It’s about making sure they understand where we came from, why we came from there, certain standards of behaviour expected and, if we are ever drawn against Milton Keynes, making sure they speak to us about what to say before talking to the press. We started planning a long time ago for playing them.’

The bare facts of what happened are well known. In September 2003, Winkelman, with the permission of the FA, relocated debt-ridden Wimbledon FC to Milton Keynes.

/11/30/article-2241196-16460E80000005DC-143_634x403.jpg” width=”634″ height=”403″ alt=”No man's land: This little FA Cup replica lies in Morden Library, rather than with either of the clubs” class=”blkBorder” />

No man's land: This little FA Cup replica lies in Morden Library, rather than with either of the clubs

SO, WHY IS IT IN THE LIBRARY

Click here to find out

AFC — ‘A Fans’ Club’ — started in the Combined Counties Premier League, the ninth tier of English football, and picked most of their first ever team from the 230 people who turned up for trials at Wimbledon Common on June 29, 2002.

What has followed has been one of the most heart-warming stories in sport, as the phoenix club, of which 75 per cent is owned by fans, stormed through the divisions with big crowds, reaching the Football League in 2011. Their progress is eerily similar to Wimbledon’s in the Seventies and Eighties.

‘This is a remarkable club,’ said Ardley. ‘We got a train home from Morecambe on Saturday and there were a load of Millwall fans.

‘I had a season there so we got talking. The brilliant part is when you hear Millwall fans saying what a brilliant club they think this is. You’d think they’d hate anyone local to them. We feel like there are a lot of people who want us to do well.’

Wimbledon FC, meanwhile, were renamed as Milton Keynes Dons in 2004. Some call them ‘Franchise FC’, others are less flattering. Samuelson reckons ‘only a handful, maybe 20’ of the Wimbledon FC fans who initially followed their team up the M1 continue to do so.

‘Over the years there has been a visible trickle of people who started there and came back,’ he said.

Snub: Chief executive Erik Samuelson and Co will not use using the MK Dons hospitality

Snub: Chief executive Erik Samuelson and Co will not use using the MK Dons hospitality

Winkelman has laid out his defence this week, claiming the club would have gone bust without his input and, somewhat provocatively, asking why AFC supporters didn’t buy the club when it was in administration.

In return, some AFC fans are expected to attend in radiation suits, claiming MK Dons are contaminated. Others say they won’t buy anything beyond a ticket as they don’t wish to hand over their money; many are boycotting the game altogether.

Ardley, who went to AFC’s first home game against Chipstead in the Combined Counties League in 2002, talks of how members of his coaching staff try to rile him by ‘saying I played 300-odd game for Milton Keynes’.

MK Dons manager Karl Robinson says his staff were told by AFC they couldn’t come to Kings-meadow on scouting missions.

Samuelson, for his part, will join the rest of the board by sitting among the fans and snubbing MK Dons’ hospitality. ‘Over the last nine years a lot of fans of other clubs have not gone to watch Milton Keynes because of what they feel was a wrong. So for us to say, “We’ll pop in, shake hands and have a prawn sandwich” would be a bit disrespectful to them.’

For all the hurt they struggle to conceal, the stated desire to ‘not inflame things’ is genuine.

Protest: Some AFC Wimbledon fans will wear radiation suits like this because MK Dons are 'contaminated'

Protest: Some AFC Wimbledon fans will wear radiation suits like this because MK Dons are 'contaminated'

‘We have reminded the fans how important it is we continue to represent ourselves in the best possible way, how easy it is to lose a reputation,’ said Samuelson. ‘We want to demonstrate to the world we are responsible and will be mature and dignified about this game.’

At some point on Sunday, a game will break out. MK Dons are piping hot favourites, having played some superb football this season under a promising young manager in Robinson. They are third in League One and have not lost in eight games.

‘They are exceptional,’ said Ardley. ‘The football they’ve been playing is the kind of football I’ve been trying to get played since I worked at academy level.’

Ardley is expecting a decent turnout from former Dons. ‘Stewart Castledine and Gareth Ainsworth will be there — maybe a few others, too,’ he said. He hopes on-loan Neil Sullivan will be cleared by Doncaster to play in goal.

His own prospects are not so great. AFC are one place above the League Two relegation zone and most at the club agree that next weekend’s ‘six-pointer’ against Barnet is the big one.

But there is no denying the magnitude of this match. It’s football’s youngest but most legitimate rivalry — and the result will not end the issue.

‘For me, it ends when they drop the Dons from their name,’ said Heller. Samuelson added: ‘There are two views on their continuing to use the name Dons. One is that it is an insult, the other that it is a reminder of their sordid origins.’

The touch paper has been lit.

Alex McLeish linked with Wolves job

McLeish could complete unlikely trio of Midlands jobs as pressure mounts on Stale at Wolves

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UPDATED:

22:46 GMT, 30 November 2012

Alex McLeish has emerged as a surprise contender for the Wolves manager’s job if Stale Solbakken fails to reverse the club’s fortunes.

The former Scotland, Birmingham and Aston Villa manager was at last week’s home game with Nottingham Forest.

McLeish, who has been out of work since being sacked by Villa in May, was spotted in the directors’ box as he took in the game. He retains a base in Warwickshire. He guided Birmingham to promotion from the Championship in 2008.

Closing in: Alex McLeish is in line for the Wolves job if Stale Solbakken gets the chop

Closing in: Alex McLeish is in line for the Wolves job if Stale Solbakken gets the chop

After failing to win any of Wolves’ last nine matches, Solbakken is under pressure. Although Wolves’ owner Steve Morgan has refused to ditch his bold plan after appointing the first continental coach in the club’s history, defeats against Bristol City and near neighbours Birmingham next week could see the supporters turn.

Vandals have already targeted Solbakken’s car — tipping paint over his black BMW.

However, unless there is an upturn in fortunes soon some unwanted modifications to his car will be the least of his worries.

Nedbank Challenge: Paul Lawrie grabs halfway lead at Sun City

Lawrie grabs halfway lead at Sun City but Kaymer and Westwood lurk

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UPDATED:

19:32 GMT, 30 November 2012

Scotland's Paul Lawrie is the one-shot leader at the halfway stage of the Nedbank Challenge, with his three-under-par 69 giving him the edge at Sun City.

The Ryder Cup winner takes the slenderest of advantages into the third day, with Martin Kaymer a shot behind.

Four players then trail on one under; Bill Haas, Francesco Molinari, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, with two-time defending champion Lee Westwood on level par.

Great Scot: Paul Lawrie shot a second round 69 in testing cconditions in the Nedbank Golf Challenge

Great Scot: Paul Lawrie shot a second round 69 in testing cconditions in the Nedbank Golf Challenge

Great Scot: Paul Lawrie shot a second round 69 in testing cconditions in the Nedbank Golf Challenge

Behind him is Peter Hanson (one over), before a real gap to the rest, with Carl Pettersson three over, Nicolas Colsaerts and Garth Mulroy four over and finally, Justin Rose, a further four shots back.

It was a horror day for the Englishman, a seven-over 79 not amongst his finest rounds, but Lawrie will at least sleep easy tonight after his 69.

Nedbank Challenge

Round one – Colsaerts puts Ryder Cup pals in the shade to lead

He could have signed for an even better score too, with a bogey on the 15th-hole par four stopping him from registering the outright best round of the day.

Kaymer also carded a 69 consisting of five birdies and two bogeys, while Westwood, looking for a third successive win at the event, was left to rue a bogey and a double-bogey six at the par-four 16th as he ended one over for the day.

He had little on compatriot Rose, though, whose score was heavily undermined by a triple bogey on the par-four third. Lawrie's controlled round was all the more impressive considering the wind which ripped around the course.

In the chase: Lee Westwood (above) and Martin Kaymer (below) in action at the Gary Player Country Club

In chase: Lee Westwood (above) and Martin Kaymer (below) in action at the Gary Player Country Club

In the chase: Lee Westwood (above) and Martin Kaymer (below) in action at the Gary Player Country Club

Save for a couple of close shaves with the putter, he could have done even better.

'I played nicely, I struggled a bit with the driver so I hit a lot of three-woods off the tees. I hit my three-wood pretty far, but I also hit a lot of good shots with my irons. The greens are a little slower and I left a few putts out there,' he said.

'The wind was swirling, and it was quite difficult. It was chopping and changing – a little bit like Augusta. It is difficult to get the distance right this week, but so far we only got a couple wrong so we've done okay.'

In such a compact field, though, he knows he has little time to relax.

'The leaderboard is pretty damn packed, and pretty close together,' he added. 'There is still a lot of golf to play and a lot of time for guys to come back who struggled in the first two days. So far, so good for me, but there is still a long way to go.'

David Beckham is not joining Spurs – Andre Villas-Boas

Sorry Jermain, Beckham's not joining Spurs! AVB delivers blow to Defoe's hopes of playing with England great

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UPDATED:

19:48 GMT, 30 November 2012

Andre Villas-Boas this evening shattered Jermain Defoe's hopes of playing alongside David Beckham at Tottenham.

Defoe claimed earlier today that Beckham, who plays his final game for the Los Angeles Galaxy this weekend, would be welcomed to Spurs with open arms.

Tottenham tried to sign Beckham on loan two seasons ago during the MLS off-season but the deal fell through, although the former England captain did train with the north London club for six weeks.

Leaving LA: David Beckham (right) is set for his final Galaxy game

Leaving LA: David Beckham (right) is set for his final Galaxy game

Villas-Boas reckons that – even at 37 – Beckham is a top player, but insists he will not be offering him a contract.

'He is such a wonderful player,' the Tottenham manager said. 'The rhythm of the Premier League is intense but he has so much experience of it.

'He brings so much to English football. That's why everyone is anxious to see which move he is going to take.

'It would be good to have him back in Europe, but not here, no. I don't think so.'

Having won six Barclays Premier Leagues and one Champions League at Old Trafford, Beckham has previously stated he has no desire to play for another English top-flight club other than Manchester United.

However, that did not stop Defoe from earlier declaring the former Real Madrid should come to Tottenham.

Go get him: Jermain Defoe said Beckham would be a welcome addition at Spurs

Go get him: Jermain Defoe said Beckham would be a welcome addition at Spurs

The Spurs striker told Absolute Radio's Rock 'N' Roll Football: 'He can come to Spurs if he wants – we'll have him here.

'He's a fantastic player and I think a credit to the game.

'If you talk about someone that's done everything in a game and to still want to play and still have another challenge and still want to achieve something, when you've achieved so much, I think that's a special person.

'He's someone that I look up to, a legend in the game.'

Defoe is on the brink of surpassing Beckham's goal tally for England, with both on 17.

'Sorry Becks but I think I'll do it,' he said. 'One more goal. It would be nice, not because of overtaking people, but it's always nice to score goals for your country.

'It's something that I've always wanted to do and then, when you do it, it's the best thing in the world.'

Tom Cruise switches helicopters at The Oval

It's just not cricket! Tom Cruise arrives in London via helicopter… and parks it at The Oval

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UPDATED:

19:08 GMT, 30 November 2012

The Oval is used to playing host to the stars.

Kevin Pietersen and Sachin Tendulkar are just two of a plethora of world renowned cricketers to have graced the hallowed turf of one of the world's most famous grounds in recent years.

Cover drive: Tom Cruise (above left) arrives at The Oval early on Friday morning

Cover drive: Tom Cruise (above left) arrives at The Oval early on Friday morning

Cover drive: Tom Cruise (above left) arrives at The Oval early on Friday morning

But a Hollywood actor parking a helicopter on the outfield Surely not.

Well, that is exactly what happened on Friday morning when A-lister Tom Cruise landed his chopper near the long on boundary before trotting off to the deep extra cover rope to climb into a Chinook and disappear off into the south London sky.

It's just not cricket: Cruise switches into an RAF Chinook

It's just not cricket: Cruise switches into an RAF Chinook

The usual setting: The Oval is used to hosting more serene events

The usual setting: The Oval is used to hosting more serene events

Cruise is currently in Britain filming his latest movie 'All You Need is Kill', and it is thought that the switching of helicopters at The Oval has something to do with the making of it – or at least we hope so.

Club members would have certainly been aghast had they witnessed Cruise's arrival, but the outfield should have plenty of time to recover before the next county season commences in April.

Up and away: Cruise departs after a quick changeover

Up and away: Cruise departs after a quick changeover

Up and away: Cruise departs after a quick changeover