Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: Manchester United boss on managing in a lockdown

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says elements of his job remain unaffected by the current lockdown as he stays in touch with his players remotely.

With the Premier League not returning until May at the earliest, the United boss is able to use his free time to maintain contact with his squad and spend time with his family.

But the 47-year-old says it is largely business as usual as training sessions are replaced by detailed individual player plans, and face-to-face communication by group messages and phone calls.

“For the actual job, I keep in touch and communicate with the staff and the players,” Solskjaer told United’s official website.

“Of course, I’m used to seeing them every day for hours and hours, so it’s different.

“I just keep in touch with them on WhatsApp groups and messages, and we plan for whenever we get back and what kind of sessions for when we do start.

“That’s the good thing now with technology and we’re lucky in that sense. We can keep in touch and see each other.

“We can send messages and get a reply quickly, and we can do the old-fashioned phone call sometimes and speak just on the phone. So we keep in touch regularly.”

The day-to-day demands of the job for a Premier League manager often place constraints on the amount of time bosses are able to spend at home with loved ones.

And Solskjaer admits it’s been nice to spend time outside in the garden and says his squad should still be able to take part in drills – especially his strikers who had helped United register an 11-match unbeaten run in all competitions before the suspension of the season.

He said: “The players have got individual programmes and they’ve got their own diets, of course, and this period could be used to work on something special, something specific for them and their roles and tasks.

“I’ve been in the garden, with the kids, working on finishing and the strikers should be working on finishing or their movement.

“Most of the players have got good facilities and decent gardens so, hopefully, their wives and girlfriends will be able to put some passes and crosses in.”

Solskjaer’s also taken to being the teacher as part of his children’s home-schooling programme, like millions of parents across the country.

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Ben Foster leads Watford teammates through indoor spin session

Ben Foster leads Watford team-mates through gruelling indoor spin session as Nigel Pearson’s squad bid to stay sharp during coronavirus lockdown

  • Watford players have had to stay at home due to government guidelines
  • Foster set up a virtual spin class and his team-mates came along for the ride
  • Troy Deeney, Andre Gray and Craig Cathcart took part in 30-minute session
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Mad-cap Ben Foster swapped his Watford goalkeeper’s kit for a full lyrca cycling outfit in club colours to take his team-mates through a virtual spin class as the Premier League stars seek to keep fit during the coronavirus lockdown. 

Premier League fixtures have been postponed until at least April 30 due to coronavirus, which has claimed almost 1,800 lives in the UK.

Players have had to stay at home due to government guidelines and as a result they are unable to take part in regular training sessions. 

Ben Foster swapped his Watford goalkeeper’s kit for a full lyrca cycling outfit in club colours 

Foster set up a virtual spin class to stay fit and his team-mates came along for the ride 

Foster set up a virtual spin class to stay fit and his team-mates came along for the ride on Tuesday. 

Foster was joined by the likes of Troy Deeney, Andre Gray and Craig Cathcart during the 30-minute spin class. 

During the coronavirus suspension,  the Premier League side have offered the use of their Vicarage Road stadium to help the NHS in their fight against coronavirus.

Watford striker was among the players to take part Troy Deeney in the 30-minute session

The ground is next to Watford General Hospital and chairman Scott Duxbury said the club would do ‘whatever it takes’ to support the health service.

The ground had been due to host events such as induction courses and meetings.

 

 

 

 

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Deflategate science fair project haunts Bucs fan

  • Covered the Buccaneers since 2009
  • Joined ESPN in 2016

TAMPA, Fla. — Ace Davis was warned by his mother that his fourth-grade science fair project last year would come back to haunt him and his father, Chris.

It has.

The science fair project — one in which Ace raised the question, “Is Tom Brady a Cheater?” based on findings from Deflategate — garnered national attention for the 11-year-old Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan who lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

“I kept telling my son, ‘This is gonna come back to haunt you one day,'” Jennie Davis said with a laugh. “And here ya go. It didn’t take very long. It’s completely karma.”

Ace started the project as a way to get back at his cousins Mason and Maddox, who are devout New England Patriots fans. However, he’s now in a bit of a pickle since Brady signed with the Buccaneers.

So Ace wants to set the record straight on some things.

“I don’t think that Tom Brady was all in it,” Ace said of the Deflategate controversy, which involved the deflation of footballs during the 2014 AFC Championship game that resulted in Brady being suspended for four games and the Patriots being fined $1 million and forfeiting two draft picks in 2016.

“But Bill Belichick, I think he made up the plan, and then Tom Brady went through with it,” said Ace, who became a Bucs fan because his father Chris grew up in Orlando. “I think it was more on Bill Belichick than Tom Brady. But Tom Brady, he has a bigger name.”

Ace also admitted that some of his disdain for Brady had to do with video games.

“He’s really bad in Madden,” Ace whispered, “and that’s like my No. 1 game.

“I’m used to having a quarterback that throws far, like Jameis [Winston], and Tom Brady, he’s more consistent, but he doesn’t really throw that deep.”

The science project started as a suggestion from Chris. It garnered so much national attention that Ace wound up missing school the entire week of the Super Bowl last year because of media interviews, which also resulted in some online hatred from Patriots fans.

“It was just to make Ace interested in science and to do something he would actually enjoy,” Jennie Davis said. “I think it’s funny. But I do believe both my husband and my son are kind of excited. Now they’re just trying to work on their apology.”

Ace said he’s willing to give Brady a shot. He’s excited to have the six-time Super Bowl champion on his team, and he would even like to meet him.

“I’ll give him a shot all right. And if he starts winning games? Woooooo! I’m gonna be bragggginnnnng,” Ace said. “People at school, they’re all like, ‘Your team sucks’ and all that stuff. Ima come back at ’em, ‘Now what team sucks?’ Well, they don’t really make fun of me. It’s just kind of like a joke.

“But I’m pretty sure my cousins are gonna make fun of me about it.”

Ace’s aunt married into a Patriots family from Boston, and he thinks his cousins are jealous.

“What quarterback do you guys have now?”

They’re already thinking of a family reunion in Foxborough when the Bucs and Patriots play at Gillette Stadium in 2021, just as they did when the Patriots traveled to Tampa in 2017.

“I may or may not have seen him dancing in the hallway when it became official,” Chris Davis said of his son.

“I think he’ll do great,” Ace said of Brady. “The weapons around him are … woooooooo! Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Scotty Miller, O.J. Howard…[Rob] Gronkowski and O.J. Howard — they’re kind of like the same guy. They’re both big, they’re both strong.”

Brady’s signing is bittersweet for Davis, who is a fan on Winston and still has his poster on his bedroom wall. Ace and his family got to meet Winston when the Bucs played the Indianapolis Colts this year on his birthday; Winston even promised him one day that he would win the MVP.

“Wherever [Winston] goes, he is just gonna light it up,” Ace said. “I think that LASIK surgery on his eyes — I think that’s gonna help him a lot. Wherever he goes, he’s just gonna set the place on fire. … He still hasn’t gotten an MVP, but I’m pretty sure he might do it whenever he gets signed.”

As for this year’s science project, it was mom who came up with the idea. But that didn’t mean that dad didn’t try.

“My idea was to measure quarterback performance with age,” Chris Davis said. “It wasn’t just going to be picking on Brady, but he was going to be at the top of the depth chart. It was gonna be Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and just compare their stats by ages and ‘does performance decline as the years go by?’ And the wife nipped that in the bud.”

Jennie Davis said they went very basic.

“We ended up checking to see what things float in different liquid,” she said. “I didn’t want to have a circus again. We went with a very, very basic science project. And I’m hoping he’s grown out of them so we don’t have to do them anymore.”

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Scotland boss Steve Clarke agrees pay cut with half of Scottish FA staff furloughed

Scotland manager Steve Clarke and Scottish Football Association chief executive Ian Maxwell have taken a 10 per cent cut in salary as the coronavirus crisis continues to take its toll.

All other national team coaches have also agreed a 10 per cent reduction with immediate effect.

Fifty per cent of the SFA has been placed on furlough leave amid the pandemic – a scheme in which an employee does not work but gets 80 per cent of their salary paid for the next two months by the government.

The governing body is dealing with £5m to £6m in lost revenue due to the postponed European Championship qualifying semi-final play-off against Israel at Hampden Park and the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals.

Scottish FA president Rod Petrie said: “I am grateful to our people for their efforts in adapting to these challenging and unprecedented times.”

Petrie, who along with vice president, Mike Mulraney, has agreed to a 20 per cent to his directors’ remuneration and deferred all future remuneration until the resumption of ‘business as usual’.

He added: “The impact of the virus on Scottish football is significant and from the Scottish FA’s perspective alone, this has already resulted in the postponement of a sell-out match against Israel in the UEFA Nations League Play-Off and the Scottish Cup semi-finals and final at Hampden Park.

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Coronavirus: ECB announce £61m support package to help English cricket through pandemic

The England and Wales Cricket Board have announced a £61million interim support package to help English cricket withstand the financial impact of Covid-19. 

The stimulus, made up of £40m available immediately to the professional structure and just over £20m for the recreational game, was announced on Tuesday by ECB chief executive Tom Harrison who also revealed he will be taking a pay cut as English cricket looks to made ends meet as a collective. The ECB are also exploring the possibility of furloughing their employees, taking advantage of the scheme that will see them paid 80% of their salary – up to £2,500 a month – by the government

It is expected others like Harrison, who earns £719,175 a year as per the 2018-19 ECB accounts, will also take a cut. But Harrison stated categorically that the governing body “are not seeking pay cuts from England players”. That, of course, could change as the summer rolls on. 

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“It is no exaggeration to say that this is the biggest challenge the ECB have faced in their history,” Harrison warned. “The extensive cancellations from Olympics to the Euros to Grand Prixs – the impact on the sports evironment is massive.  We won’t know the full impact for a few months.”

With the start of the professional season delayed until at least 28 May and the recreation game on hold for the foreseeable future, some of the 18 counties and every level down to grassroots level have been fearing the worst. So far Glamorgan and Yorkshire have put their non-playing staff on furlough. The ECB hope this emergency funding package will help the came keep in business for the time-being. 

Around £40m will be made available immediately, with just over £20m coming in interest free loans and grants to recreational clubs. 

That larger, immediate injection is made up of a few component parts to the first class counties and county cricket boards: the early release of three months (May, June and July); distribution of two years worth of facilities maintenance cash which carry no restrictions as to how it is spent, along with a further £5.5m available for counties not eligible for 2020-21. There will also be a suspension of international staging fees for fourth months and waving of those frees in 2020 if the match is not played as scheduled due to coronavirus. 

Recreation clubs will have access to the extra £20m through a cricket club support loan scheme and grants through the “Return to Cricket” scheme. There will also be a 12-month holiday on loan repayments for these recreational clubs. 

The ECB are looking at a variety of situations playing out, with Harrison reiterating the importance of international cricket, the Twenty20 Blast (involving all 18 counties) and The Hundred, the ECB’s new eight-team competition which was due to be rolled out this summer. But the main focus, for now, is on the scenario of no cricket being played at all. And worse. 

“In our modelling one is no cricket at all – if we come back from that point then things only get easier,” he said “There are others that are worse than no cricket at all.  

“As many sports are finding out this highlights where your issues are as a sport and clearly and we are sport with a high cost base and this is something we have to address.  Ultimately, all of those lessons have to be learnt in future issues, whether it is is climate change or something similar to this.  Preparing yourselves for something like this is incredibly difficult it is a once in a generation scenario.” 

In terms of the three competitions prioritised, the ECB are flexible in their thinking. Discussions between themselves and the boards of West Indies, Pakistan, Australia and Ireland who were due to tour this summer have been encouraging and they are considering the possibility of having Tests and limited overs matches running concurrently with specialist squads for both in order to fulfil commitments to broadcasters, venues, broadcasters and, potentially, the fans. 

Whatever cricket that gets played is more than likely to take place behind closed doors with little sign the government’s advice on big crowds will over the next few months. As such, the ECB’s chief operating officer David Mahoney is in constant dialogue with the government, with approval from the department for digital, culture, media and sport needed for any cricket played. 

Together with ECB director of special projects Steve Elworthy, a picture of what exactly “behind closed doors” looks like for players and staff needed on match day, from travel to delivery, is being built. 

“Do we need to charter flights, hotels – what do we need to make a sterile environment?” stated Harrison as he cycled through the variables. “We are doing that for domestic cricket but it is more complicated for internationals because there players coming from overseas and what quarantine restrictions might be.” 

Everything, as is the way right now, is subject to change. And indeed this £61million package could just be the first of many. As Harrison admits, “we don’t think this will be the end of it”. 

“We have to acknowledge the bigger picture it is a deeply challenging time. – this is just the start of addressing this massive challenge. We have to work together – every area of the game will be impacted in the event most or all of cricket season is lost.

“Above all to make sure cricket can forward stronger from this.”

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Messi names FOUR English stars in his list of the top 15 youngsters

Lionel Messi names FOUR English players in his list of 15 young stars to watch with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Mason Mount joining the likes of Kylian Mbappe

  • Four English players were named on Lionel Messi’s list of the best youngsters
  • The Barcelona forward put together a list of the world’s best 15 wonderkids 
  • Messi included Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jadon Sancho in his selections
  • There were also places for Chelsea’s Mason Mount and Man City’s Phil Foden
  • Christian Pulisic was the only other Premier League player on Messi’s list

Lionel Messi has named four English stars in his list of football’s best 15 wonderkids.

The Barcelona forward, who rose through the club’s famous La Masia academy, put together some players who he believes to be the most talented prospects in the world.

The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has shared the stage with some of the best footballers of this generation, so he is well-placed to make such an assessment.

Barcelona star Lionel Messi has revealed who he thinks are the best 15 youngsters in the world

And the 32-year-old clearly feels that England have a bright future as he mentioned four players while speaking to O Globo Sports.

Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, perhaps unsurprisingly, was one of England’s young stars to make the cut.

The 21-year-old’s meteoric rise to prominence has seen him earn huge plaudits over the last two seasons with Jurgen Klopp previously saying he was the best right-back in the world.

Trent Alexander-Arnold was one of four English players to make it on Messi’s list

Jadon Sancho, who is having an unbelievable season in Germany, was another player named

MESSI’S TOP 15 YOUNGSTERS

Kylian Mbappe (PSG)

Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid)

Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)

Mason Mount (Chelsea)

Phil Foden (Manchester City)

Luka Jovic (Real Madrid)

Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen)

Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)

Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)

Eder Militao (Real Madrid)

Houssem Aouar (Lyon)

Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich)

Alexander-Arnold has established himself as the creative force in Liverpool’s team and Messi reserved particular praise for his ability going forward.

Jadon Sancho was another no-brainer for Messi. The Borussia Dortmund man is widely considered one of the best young attacking players in the world and is enjoying another fruitful season in Germany.

The England international has scored 17 goals and laid on a further 19 assists for Dortmund in all competitions and will be a hot commodity this summer with several of Europe’s powerhouses chasing his signature.

Messi is known as one of the best ever with the ball at his feet but said that he has been impressed by Sancho’s dribbling skills – that’s some praise.

The other two English players to make it on Messi’s list were Phil Foden and Mason Mount.

Mount only broke into Chelsea’s first-team this season following his loan spell at Derby while Foden has been reduced to limited opportunities at Manchester City this term.


There were also places for Manchester City’s Phil Foden (L) and Chelsea’s Mason Mount (R) 

Messi nonetheless still feels the pair have big futures ahead of them.

Mount’s Chelsea team-mate Christian Pulisic was the only other Premier League player to grab a spot on Messi’s list.

There were also spaces for Messi’s Barcelona team-mates Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie de Jong while Luka Jovic was also on there despite his torrid first season with Real Madrid.

Kylian Mbappe, Benjamin Pavard, Joao Felix, Joshua Kimmich, Houssem Aouar, Eder Militao and Kai Havertz completed Messi’s selections. 




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Coronavirus: National League seasons suspended indefinitely in wake of pandemic

The National League has announced the indefinite suspension of its three divisions due to the coronavirus crisis.

Having controversially played on the day after the Premier League and EFL announced their games were off due to Covid-19, the competition belatedly called a halt to all matches on March 16.

Discussions as to how best finish the season have continued and the National League has now confirmed its three campaigns are subject to an undetermined postponement.

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A statement read: “The National League Board met earlier today and has reviewed its prior decision to suspend the competition until at least 3rd April 2020.

“In consideration of the very serious and unprecedented national public health emergency caused by the coronavirus, the Board has taken the decision to suspend the National League, National League North and National League South competitions indefinitely.

“The National League is currently obtaining specialist legal advice, is consulting regularly with The Football Association and other stakeholders, and is committed to involving its member clubs in a pending decision on how best to conclude the 2019-20 season.”

 

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Man Utd believe they can sign Juventus’ Matthijs de Ligt with one star key to transfer

Manchester United believe they stand a chance of signing Juventus star Matthijs de Ligt as part of a swap deal for Paul Pogba, reports say. Pogba wants to leave Old Trafford and recently fuelled talk of a move back to Serie A by donning Juve’s colours – something that angered many supporters online.

Pogba’s actions were innocuous enough, with the United star insisting he wore them to show support to Blaise Matuidi, who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

But talk of the France international returning to Juventus continues to gather momentum with the summer transfer window creeping closer.

And, now, the Daily Star say United believe they can sign De Ligt in a swap deal involving Pogba.

The Red Devils were linked with the Juventus star back in the summer having seen the centre-back flourish at Ajax, helping them reach the Champions League semi-finals.

United thought about going for De Ligt but, in the end, saw the defender jump ship to Juve instead.

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Now, however, they believe they stand a chance of bringing the 20-year-old to the Premier League.

De Ligt shares the same agent as Pogba in Mino Raiola and United chiefs think the former Ajax skipper can be persuaded into moving to Old Trafford.

But whether that happens is something only time will tell.

Ideally, United would like to sell Pogba for close to the £89million they paid for him in the summer transfer window of 2016.

But they’d consider a player-plus-cash deal – and De Ligt is the one the club have seemingly settled on.

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Other Juventus players have been linked with United.

Aaron Ramsey is reportedly admired by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, despite also struggling to shine in Italy since his summer arrival.

And the likes of Douglas Costa and Adrien Rabiot have also been linked – but United’s stance on the duo is currently unknown.

While United are interested in De Ligt, the player himself recently insisted he was happy with life in Italy.

“For sure, I am happy with the way my first six months have passed,” he said in January.

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“I’m convinced that I will get better and better, game after game.”

De Ligt also admitted that he understood criticism of his own pwrrofrmances.

“It’s normal, it’s all normal,” he told Tuttosport.

“If I had been in their shoes, I would also be angry at such mistakes. But as a player these are problems that shouldn’t interest me.

“I just have to think about working to improve myself, understand if I’m making progress or not.”

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Rob Gronkowski explains how NFL prepared him for WWE switch and WrestleMania role

Rob Gronkowski revealed that the NFL prepared him for his switch to WWE by teaching him about the importance of practice and team work. Gronkowski was named the special guest host of WrestleMania 36 after agreeing to link up with Vince McMahon’s promotion following his retirement from American football.

Playing football in the NFL and being around the best of the best has definitely prepared me for WrestleMania

Rob Gronkowski

Gronk enjoyed a successful nine-year career in the NFL with the New England Patriots as he won three Super Bowl titles and established himself as one of the best tight ends in the history of the sport.

While working with legends such as Tomy Brady under the instructions of famous coach Bill Belichick, the 30-year-old learned the importance of training and team work.

According to Metro, the New Yorker insists that those traits have perfectly prepared him for his WWE crossover and is confident that they will help him succeed in his role as host of WrestleMania.

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Gronkowski said: “Playing football in the NFL and being around the best of the best has definitely prepared me for WrestleMania.

“You can’t just walk out on the field and expect to be ready to compete… You have to practice, work out and know your plays. It’s the same thing for WrestleMania…

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“I can’t expect to go out there and jump off the top rope or cut a promo… Everything is about practice and that’s what I’ve taken from my time in the NFL.

“If you want to be great in any industry, you have to do the work and prepare. In the time I have been with WWE, I can see the superstars are the same way and they want it just as bad.

“They [Super Bowl and WrestleMania] are both the biggest stage in their respective industries. One of the main similarities is they are both a team game.

“In order to win the Super Bowl you have to be a team. In order to have a successful WrestleMania, everyone has to work like a team from the beginning to the end.

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“It’s super important to me and an honour to be part of any WrestleMania. The fact that it’s the first ever two-night special makes it that much cooler.

“To come here during these tough times when people around the world need entertainment more than ever, and to have the opportunity to provide that to them is pretty awesome.”

WrestleMania was taped on Wednesday and Thursday at the Performance Center in Orlando, Florida behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic and will air this weekend as a two-part episode.

That won’t be the first WrestleMania Gronk takes part at as he also made a surprise appearance at WrestleMania 33 where he helped his friend Mojo Rawley win the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal.

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China delays restart of basketball, other events

  • ESPN.com NBA writer since 2010
  • Covered Cleveland Cavs for seven years
  • Author of two books

In a setback to the resumption of professional sports, the Chinese government issued an order Tuesday delaying the restart of the Chinese Basketball Association and other group sporting events, according to documents obtained by ESPN.

The CBA’s attempts to return to action after being shut down since January because of the coronavirus is being seen as a test case for American sports leagues, especially the NBA in the future.

The General Administration of Sport, the body that issued the order, gave no timetable on when it plans to lift the new restriction. The CBA had been making plans to split its 20 teams and send them to two cities and have them play each other in empty arenas within a month, a plan the NBA might consider down the line.

CBA teams have been informing players that they still intend to return to play and hope to have more clarity in a few weeks, sources told ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

While the spread of the disease has slowed dramatically in China and some aspects of life are headed toward normalcy, sports officials are concerned about asymptomatic carriers, sources said.

The Chinese government announced this week that it soon plans to release official numbers on people who have been found to be asymptomatic, a category that has previously not been broken out in public statistics.

The government also specifically also shut down the possibility of marathons and encouraged citizens to work out by themselves and in groups connected through the internet.

The CBA planned to house teams in quarantined hotels with multiple temperature checks per day to try to avoid the risk of exposure and spread of the virus. More than a dozen American players, including Jeremy Lin and Lance Stephenson, returned to China within the past two weeks to start a 14-day quarantine with the expectation the season could begin soon.

The teams had begun holding practices as they waited for their foreign teammates to be cleared to join them. It wasn’t immediately clear if these would be allowed to continue.

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