• Abdullah: ‘Bin Ladens were going to buy Kevin McCabe’s shares’• Manager Chris Wilder: ‘I’m 100% positive about the future’Eyebrows were raised at Bramall Lane when Sheffield United’s new owner, Prince Abdullah bin Musaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, said he w

Sheffield United’s Prince Abdullah defends Bin Ladens over club links

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  • 2019-09-20 03:15:08 5 months ago
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Eyebrows were raised at Bramall Lane when Sheffield United’s new owner, Prince Abdullah bin Musaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, said he would be happy for the Bin Laden family to invest in the club.

“I get offended when the Bin Laden family is given a bad name,” said Prince Abdullah. “Every family may have one bad person, one black sheep but they are very respectable.”

Although Bin Laden Construction is an internationally respected construction company and the influential Saudi family behind it disowned their extremist relative Osama Bin Laden in 1994, that resonant surname remains inextricably linked with the late al‑Qaida terrorist who ordered the 11 September attacks on New York’s Twin Towers in 2001.

Prince Abdullah, though, seemed frustrated by the name’s enduring association with Islamic extremism and revealed that the Bin Laden family had previously shown interest in buying shares in Sheffield United from the former co-owner Kevin McCabe.

“I have not done business with them in the past but I will be very happy to do business with them,” Prince Abdullah said. “The Bin Laden family’s not a disgraced name or something I should hide. They were going to buy Kevin McCabe’s shares. They did due diligence but decided not to buy. I don’t see it is as a big deal. When I see the Bin Laden family as a dirty name I get really offended.”

It was all part of a 45-minute introduction to the start of a new era at one of the world’s oldest football clubs as Prince Abdullah and his son-in-law Prince Musaad bin Khalid bin Musaad Al Saud flanked the team’s manager, Chris Wilder, in the Bramall Lane media room.

After winning an acrimonious high court battle to wrest full control from McCabe – previously the holder of a 50% stake – Prince Abdullah has installed the 26-year-old Prince Musaad as his new chairman. Moreover the new outright owner stressed that he had no intention of selling the club on to circling American investors and offered Wilder, who seemed unusually tentative, his absolute support.

“If it was about money, I would sell the club right now,” Prince Abdullah said. “My main focus is to bring in sponsors from Saudi right now.”

He acknowledged Wilder’s achievement in lifting United from League One to the Premier League in three seasons. “We are blessed to have him. The results and the way we play our beautiful football speaks for itself. I have good harmony with Chris.”

For his part, Wilder said he was “100% positive about the future” and had been in regular contact with Prince Abdullah during his partnership with McCabe. “There’s only been a couple of times I’ve expressed my frustrations towards Prince Abdullah and Kevin,” he said. “In the majority of times they’ve allowed me to get on with my job.”

Wilder appeared a little more diffident about the introduction of the new Belgian technical director, Jan Van Winckel. “Anything done to improve club, I’m open to,” he said. “But I’m a hands on manager; my style is I have the big decisions to make. I’m full of confidence it will work with Jan.”

Prince Abdullah – formerly general president of youth welfare in Riyadh, having accrued his wealth in paper production – had previously rarely been spotted at Bramall Lane but was adamant he watched every match on television, routinely muting the sound so as not to be upset by critical commentators. Prince Musaad, though, will now at the club on a near daily basis.

“We will work hard to make the fans proud,” said Prince Abdullah. “I hope in five years’ time everything will be much better and we will be with Chris Wilder, taking us to a bigger and better place.”

The owner maintained his was a “private investment” unrelated to his country’s current attempts to extend influence and present a modernised face to the world by increased involvement in major sporting events.

Under the terms of the high court ruling Prince Abdullah will have to buy Sheffield United’s property assets – a £40m portfolio including the stadium, adjacent hotel and training ground – by next July. Although he was vague on how he intended to fund such purchases he said finding the finance would “not be a problem”.

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Sheffield United’s Prince Abdullah defends Bin Ladens over club links

Result: Saka stars as Arsenal win first Europa League game in Frankfurt

Arsenal got their Europa League campaign off to a winning start with a 3-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany this evening, with Bukayo Saka involved in all three goals.

Joe Willock's deflected strike looped over a stranded Kevin Trapp in the first half before late goals from Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang handed the Gunners all three points in their first game of this season's competition.

Dominik Kohr was sent off in the 79th minute for a second yellow card after he caught the lively Saka's heels, as Arsenal surged to the top of Group F.

Arsenal's Joe Willock celebrates scoring their first goal with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and team mates as Eintracht Frankfurt's Dominik Kohr looks dejected on September 19, 2019© Reuters

The first half was an open affair, with Saka - one of a number of youngsters starting the game - playing Lucas Torreira into the box inside the first five minutes, but the Uruguayan blazed over the bar when he should have scored.

Filip Kostic was among Frankfurt's most dangerous outlets, getting beyond makeshift right-back Calum Chambers and right-sided centre-back Shkodran Mustafi with ease on more than one occasion.

Bas Dost also came close to punishing a hesitant Gunners defence, lashing wide of the top-left corner from inside the box and heading past the post as he caused problems with his height and physicality.

However, Arsenal had the better chances, with Willock firing wide and Smith Rowe denied when one-on-one, before the former finally broke the deadlock.

Arsenal's Joe Willock scores their first goal past Eintracht Frankfurt's Kevin Trapp on September 19, 2019© Reuters

Saka played the central midfielder in down the left and he charged into the box before cutting inside and seeing his shot deflected over Trapp and in off the crossbar.

Granit Xhaka also rattled the bar early in the second half when his cross from a free-kick on the right sailed over everyone and pinged back off the woodwork.

Danny da Costa let Arsenal off the hook as he smashed his shot over the top, with the hosts' profligacy in front of goal costing them dearly, although Emiliano Martinez, making his first appearance of the season for the Gunners, proved himself a calming, reliable presence in goal throughout the night.

Frankfurt midfielder Kohr picked up a second booking in the 79th minute for a tired challenge on Saka, who had drifted past him, and the hosts collapsed after going down to 10 men.

Dominik Kohr is shown a red card by referee Davide Massa on September 19, 2019© Reuters

Aubameyang produced a glaring miss in the 83rd minute as the onslaught began, somehow diverting Chambers' low cross wide at the back post with the goal gaping, but it would not matter.

Two minutes later, Martinez set Saka on his way to score the Gunners' second goal of the night, curled beautifully into the corner from outside the box after a pass from substitute Nicolas Pepe.

In the 87th minute, Saka grabbed his second assist of the night, setting Aubameyang up to finish low into the corner as Frankfurt pushed high up the field in desperation and left themselves exposed.

The result ends Arsenal's woeful record in Germany, having lost their previous four European away games against German opponents.

Unai Emery will now shift his focus to Arsenal's Premier League game on Sunday as they host newly-promoted Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium.

EINTRACHT FRANKFURT (3-4-1-2): Trapp; Abraham, Hasebe, Hinteregger; Da Costa (Chandler 74'), Kohr, Sow, Kostic; Kamada; Dost (Paciencia 66'), Silva

ARSENAL (4-3-3): Martinez; Chambers, Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac (Maitland-Niles 80'); Torreira, Xhaka, Willock (Ceballos 72'); Smith Rowe (Pepe 60'), Aubameyang, Saka

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Paul Scholes: 'Manchester United not replacing Romelu Lukaku is a mistake'

Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes has admitted that he is concerned about the club's failure to secure a replacement for Romelu Lukaku during the summer transfer window.

The Red Devils allowed both Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to join Inter Milan in an attempt to trim their squad, but Daniel James was their only attacking signing with bids for the likes of Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic failing to materialise.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has subsequently been left with Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and youngster Mason Greenwood as his three central striking options, and Scholes believes that they may be caught short in that area of the field.

"That's the one thing that disappoints me. He [Solskjaer] obviously knew they were going to sell Lukaku at some point, but not to have a centre-forward lined up seems like a mistake to me," Scholes told talkSPORT.

"Whether they did, whether it dragged on too long from the club's point of view, I don't know. They're going into a season without a centre-forward when it's a club that is known for its attacking style and had probably four centre-forwards in its heyday.

"So to go in there with Rashford and Martial, who you're not quite sure if they're left wingers or centre-forwards, we don't know. But I'm sure it'll get sorted."

United have scored in every match so far this season, but have only managed one apiece in their four outings since thrashing Chelsea 4-0 on the opening day.

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