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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 23 January, 2020

Why Solskjaer's approach shows players are humans, not sets of data, and more of the week's best sportswriting

Plus, a tribute to soon-to-be-retired British tennis star, Andy Murray.

Man United are unbeaten since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho as manager.
Man United are unbeaten since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho as manager.
Image: Rui Vieira

1. “Everything I did in life, until now, was just for tennis. Nothing else mattered. That’s why it became too much, maybe. That’s why I suffered,” Simona Halep says intently on a midwinter afternoon in Bucharest. We sit in a corner of a restaurant where the clinking of cutlery provides a refined backdrop to the raw immediacy of a rare interview with the world No 1.”

Simona Halep gives an insightful interview to The Guardian’s Donald McRae.

2. No active player has thrown more touchdown passes than Drew Brees. He throws them when his teams are good—he led the NFL in touchdowns during New Orleans’s 2009 Super Bowl season—and he throws them when his teams are bad, like when he led the league in 2012 on a 7-9 Saints team. He has already broken the record for career passing yards and will almost certainly break Peyton Manning’s touchdown record next year. (He’s 19 behind Manning’s 539; Tom Brady, at 517 touchdowns, might also break Manning’s mark.) Brees has thrown touchdowns to 66 different players—17 more than Manning and five more than Brett Favre. He has 32 touchdown passes this season while leading New Orleans to the no. 1 seed in the NFC. The Saints host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in the divisional round, and are the favorite to win the Super Bowl. On his list of career touchdown targets, you’ll find stars like Marques Colston (72 TDs), Jimmy Graham (51 TDs), and current teammate Michael Thomas (23). There are also lesser-known players on that list, to whom Brees has thrown just a single touchdown pass. It’s in that group that Brees’s brilliance reveals itself.

The Ringer’s Kevin Clark introduces us to the Members of Drew Brees’s Very Exclusive Touchdown Club.

3. The volley is superb: low, hard and right in the backhand corner. You couldn’t have placed it any more awkwardly with your two hands. And so Andy Murray doubles back in retreat. Without so much as a glance, he lashes a backhand down the line, past his startled opponent, onto the line for a clean winner. “Oh, yes,” Andrew Castle purrs on the BBC commentary. Centre Court whoops and gasps. The year is 2017, the skies over Wimbledon are blue, and the top seed Andy Murray is about to go a set and a break up against Sam Querrey in the Wimbledon quarter-final. It’s also the beginning of the end.

The Independent’s Jonathan Liew pays tribute to the soon-to-be-retired Andy Murray.

4. Nobody realistically doubts that Manchester United’s game against Tottenham on Sunday represents a new level of challenge for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but equally it would take a particularly cussed soul – or Nemanja Matic – not to acknowledge the change of mood he has already enacted.

Writing for The Guardian, Jonathan Wilson looks at the influence Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had since becoming Manchester United manager.

5. When the Baltimore Ravens selected Lamar Jackson in the draft last spring, Ozzie Newsome was surprised by the response he received from former players and current players. They all wanted to reach out to Jackson.

Newsome recalls being at a function with Cam Newton, the quarterback for the Carolina Panthers.

“The first thing he did was say, ‘Here’s my number, give it to Lamar and tell Lamar to give me a call.’ ”

With millennials in general, and pro athletes in particular, portrayed as totally about self, this sort of reaching out is heartening, especially from a veteran black quarterback to a rookie.

The Undefeated’s William C Rhoden looks at ‘The Thriving Fraternity of Black Quarterbacks’.

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