Ferguson retires as Manchester United’s manager, who’s next?

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It’s official, get ready to stop your watches, ‘Fergie time’ is almost over.

This morning Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed he will be stepping down as Manchester United manager at the end of this season, after 26 glorious years in charge.

Ferguson’s retirement plans surfaced yesterday, at a team golf day where rumors began to circle that a big announcement was imminent.

That turned out to be true as Fergie — who won 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles, two Champions Leagues and numerous other cups — is stepping down after his glittering managerial career saw he become the most successful manager in English and British soccer history.

It was also announced that Ferguson will move upstairs, acting as both a director and ambassador for the club. The Scotsman is due to undergo hip surgery this summer but is expected to begin his new role with the club in August.

With tributes pouring in from all over the globe, Ferguson’s retirement plans will no doubt be in the news for weeks and months to come. But the big question now; who will take over?

It is a daunting task, replacing the most successful manager at any English club, ever. But someone has got to do it. Let’s take a quick look at who could be the next man to lead Manchester United.

David Moyes (Bookmakers Odds: 4/9)

The odds-on favorite to get the job, everything has aligned for Moyes to take over at Old Trafford. The Scot has managed Everton superbly with limited resources and many believe his managerial style and personality are extremely similar to Ferguson’s. The fact that Moyes’ contract is up at the end of this season, and he hasn’t discussed a new deal with Everton, also points to United hiring the 50-year-old as their next manager.

Jose Mourinho (Bookmakers Odds: 9/2)

Many people believe Mourinho is heading back to Chelsea this summer, but he has grown closer to Sir Alex in recent years. Ferguson has spoken of his admiration for the Portuguese manager in the past, but would this decision sit well with the United fans? Probably not. And Mourinho’s style of management  varies quite a bit from Fergie’s. However, call me crazy… but I have a sneaky suspicion about this.

Jürgen Klopp (Bookmakers Odds: 16/1)

This one may be a bit of a stretch, but nevertheless it is hard to ignore Klopp’s wonderful achievements at Borussia Dortmund. The German manager has created an incredible team of young, attacking players who have taken European and German football by storm. Who says he wouldn’t be a success at United?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Bookmakers Odds: 50/1)

We all know Ferguson loves the Manchester United “family” he has created and Solskjaer is one of the many former United players that have gone on to managerial success. Currently managing Molde in his native land of Norway, Solskjaer was previously involved with coaching the youth and reserve teams at United. Ferguson obviously holds his opinion in high regard, but this job may have come too soon for the 40-year-old.

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

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As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.