Shinji-Kagawa02~1

Manchester United’s turn: Shinji Kagawa pursuit takes next step

1 Comment

There are going to be tons of transfer rumors this summer, but some make so much sense, they’re hard to ignore.

Take the developing tale of Shinji Kagawa. During this month’s German Cup final, Borussia Dortmund’s attacking midfielder was scouted in person by Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson. With the Red Devils’ midfield currently looking more like mid-table fodder than title-contending material, signing somebody who can actually stimulate the attack has got to be priority number one.

Enter Kagawa, thought to be United’s back up plan should they lose the race to Eden Hazard. Now that the Ligue 1 Player of the Year is headed to London, it’s time for Ferguson to act, not that he hadn’t before.

If reports are to be believed, Manchester United originally offered around $22 million for the Japan international. Dortmund shot that down. Now, the Red Devils have given BVB a bid in excess of $27 million, a bid the German champions seem ready to accept.

Personal terms are yet to be agreed, a potentially significant issue for the penny-pinching Red Devils. Their salary offer to Eden Hazard was reportedly the worst amongst the Belgian’s three English suitors. While Kagawa can’t command the compensation due Hazard, United may try to leverage the club’s reputation.

You know what makes up for less money? Playing for Manchester United! It’s all part of the package.

But don’t make the common error of confusing penny-pinching for being impoverished. A common meme holds that Manchester United have no money, which is really weird since I remember them recently buying all of Ashley Young, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and David de Gea. Oh, yeah – they were also in for Eden Hazard. Perhaps Fleet Street just wants Manchester United to spend more, but clearly, they’re not poor. They’re spending something. A lot of somethings.

It would be more accurate to say Manchester United don’t seem to be allocating their resources appropriately. Instead of buying Ashley Young (when they already had Nani and Antonio Valencia), they should have put that money toward Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder (to whom they were linked last year). Instead of signing both Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, they could have bought a midfielder that would have kept Paul Scholes in retirement.

The Red Devils seem to be learning their lessons, hence Kagawa. Capped 30 times for Japan, Kagawa has spent the last two seasons with the German champions, scoring 29 goals in 71 all-competition matches. He’s won two Bundesligas, one German Cup, and with Japan, he won the Asian Cup in 2011.

The only problem Kagawa’s had over the last two years has been staying on the field. In each of the league two seasons, he’s suffered a long-term leg injury. It’s led some to label Kagawa as injury-prone, a description which might be premature. Freak injuries are different than chronic ailments, and Kagawa’s problems are more readily thought of as aberrations – bad luck.

For United, Kagawa would be a perfect fit, particularly as Ferguson’s tactics have his team spending more time letting play come on to them. As we were reminded in Dortmund’s dismantling of Bayern Munich in the German Cup final, Kagawa’s excellent at springing a team into the counter. If his presence in red allows Wayne Rooney to shift from starting attacks to finishing them, he’ll be well worth the money.

Kagawa could also sign for less than half the wages of Hazard. If he does, United may have room for one more meaningful midfield acquisition.

MLS Preview: Conference leaders meet as Philly head west to Colorado

COMMERCE CITY, COLORADO - APRIL 02:  Dillon Powers #8 of Colorado Rapids controls the ball against the Toronto FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on April 2, 2016 in Commerce City, Colorado. The Rapids defeated Toronto FC 1-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The weekend is nearing, which means another full slate of ten matches across Major League Soccer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

With Sporting KC and D.C. United kicking things off on Friday night, Saturday is jam-packed with eight matches before the league’s youngest clubs NYCFC and Orlando wrap up the action on Sunday.

Colorado Rapids vs. Philadelphia Union — Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET

There’s not a misprint on the table, Colorado and Philadelphia are both at the top of their conferences. After sitting near the bottom of MLS for the past two seasons, Colorado has shocked everyone, currently leading the league in points (27) with the fewest goals conceded (9). On Saturday, the Rapids put their perfect 6-0 home record on the line when they host the Union, who currently lead the East by two points.

New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC — Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET

Coming off of a massive 7-0 win in the Hudson River Derby against NYCFC, the Red Bulls will look to continue trending upwards when they host Toronto FC. Two of the preseason favorites to top the Eastern Conference, both sides are currently tied on points, although the Red Bulls have a game in hand. For Toronto, Sebastian Giovinco will be keen to prove Antonio Conte wrong after being left out of the Italy squad for EURO 2016 after the Italian boss talked down upon MLS.

[ MLS: Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Montreal Impact vs. Los Angeles Galaxy — Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET

Didier Drogba has scored in each of his last three starts, a streak he will look to keep alive against the Los Angeles Galaxy this weekend. While Drogba will be looking to score, Montreal must make sure their defense is in top form as the Galaxy have scored a league-high 25 goals through 11 matches.

Elsewhere around MLS

Sporting KC vs. D.C. United — Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Houston Dynamo — Saturday, 6:00 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew SC vs. Real Salt Lake — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution vs. Seattle Sounders — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers — Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas — Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET
New York City FC vs. Orlando City SC — Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET

Cantona claims ethnicity played role in Benzema, Ben Arfa France snubs

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 14:  Former Footballer Eric Cantona of France speaks during a press conference at the Shanghai Grand Theatre prior to the  Laureus World Sports Awards  on April 14, 2015 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images for Laureus)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Eric Cantona has made the headlines again, this time making some bold claims against France national team manager Didier Deschamps.

Cantona, a former Manchester United legend and French international, questioned whether Deschamps excluded Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa from the team due to their North African origins.

[ MORE: Skrtel set to leave Liverpool ]

Speaking to The Guardian, Cantona calls Benzema and Ben Arfa two of France’s best footballers, both of whom will not be playing for the national team this summer.

Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player. But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know.

So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. Especially after [French Prime Minister Manuel Valls] said he should not play for France. And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.

One thing is for sure – Benzema and Ben Arfa are two of the best players in France and will not play the European Championship. And for sure, Benzema and Ben Arfa, their origins are north African. So, the debate is open.

Cantona’s view doesn’t hold much merit as Deschamps did not even have the option of selecting Benzema, the country’s active leading goalscorer. The Real Madrid striker is suspended by the federation, embroiled in a blackmail sex-tape scandal involving French teammate Mathieu Valbuena, who was also left off the EURO roster.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine the Champions League final ]

France is an extremely diverse nation with a large North African population, Benzema of Algerian descent and Ben Arfa’s father a former Tunisian international. Both players were born in France and have received prior call-ups under Deschamps, with Cantona’s quite ridiculous comments likely to cause a stir before the EURO.

FA Cup will no longer have quarterfinal replays

HALIFAX, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  The FA Cup is seen prior to the FA Cup First Round match between FC Halifax and Bradford City  on November 9, 2014 in Halifax, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Starting in 2017, the FA Cup will no longer have replays in the quarterfinal round.

The decision was made in an effort to combat the congested English fixture list, which has been a topic of debate for years now.

[ MORE: Lukaku wants out at Everton ]

This season, Manchester United defeated West Ham in a quarterfinal replay before going on to win the competition.

In a statement released by the FA, these changes aim to add drama to the matches while eliminating an extra matchday needed for replays.

The revamped competition will see eight clubs battle it out over one weekend with each tie to be played to a finish on the day, adding to the drama and impact the competition has enjoyed in recent years.

Other new initiatives will be explored to ensure The FA Cup retains its status and appeal. These plans also form part of The FA’s commitment to help ease English football’s congested fixture schedule.

There will still be replays in the earlier rounds of the tournament, which allows lower level clubs the opportunity to earn a nice financial boost should they force a second match at a Premier League ground.

The Premier League is the only top league in Europe that does not take a winter break, a schedule that has been criticized by multiple managers, including Jurgen Klopp.

Judge hears arguments on US women’s team strike rights

HARRISON, NJ - MAY 30:  The United States team poses for a team picture before the match against the South Korea during an international friendly match at Red Bull Arena on May 30, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHICAGO — A federal judge in Chicago has heard arguments whether the world champion U.S. women’s soccer team has the right to strike for improved conditions and wages before this year’s Olympics.

Lawyers for the U.S. Soccer Federation told Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman at a Thursday hearing that a no-strike clause is implied in a still-valid 2013 memorandum with players.

[ MORE: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

But a lawyer for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association balked at that claim. Jeffrey Kessler said the federation had “screwed up” by not securing a no-strike clause in writing and can’t argue three years later that such a provision is implied.

The union wants the option to strike before the Olympics start in August, but hasn’t said it will. Many players have voiced concern over gender equity in soccer.