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.

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.

League Cup semi: Man City take 2-1 lead into 2nd leg vs. Bristol

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Manchester City can move one step closer on Tuesday to claiming their first of four potential trophies this season, when Pep Guardiola‘s men take on Bristol City in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday ]

After coming back to beat the Robins in the first leg at home, Man City must now go on the road and take care of business to reach the Feb. 25 final at Wembley Stadium. As he has done so many times — and so famously — in the sky blue of City, Sergio Aguero grabbed the late winner (91st minute — WATCH HERE) 14 days ago.

For a few not-so-insignificant periods of the game, Bristol were very much the aggressors and appeared more likely to make the score 2-0 than for City to get back to 1-1. Bobby Reid converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after her was brought down under John Stones‘ wild, sliding tackle. Kevin De Bruyne leveled things up 10 minutes into the second half, setting the stage for Aguero’s late heroics.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

Since the first leg on Jan. 9, City have failed in their bid to finish the PL season with an unbeaten record before bouncing back to beat Newcastle United on the weekend, courtesy of a hat trick from Aguero — Guardiola quotes, from Sport24:

“I said many times it was going to happen, we can lose, so (it is) important the reaction we have. Still we have 42 points to play (for). It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like Saturday and like Liverpool. It is important to show the team is still there but I don’t have the feeling we give up.

“We want to go through to the final in the (League) Cup and the FA Cup, so (we have) a lot of games but I think the people have the desire to keep going, to keep going, to keep going.”

[ MORE: One dream January signing for each top-six side ]

Bristol, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times: it’s been nearly a month (Boxing Day, to be specific — five losses, one draw) since Lee Johnson’s side last won a game in any competition, and they’ve fallen from second to fifth in the Championship table — Johnson quotes, from the Guardian:

“We don’t want to be brave losers, we want to compete to win. It’s up to the players to be focused and tactically aware, and who knows what will happen if we can show the same quality as we have shown in the previous rounds?

“We have to make sure we’re really bold. If you’re going to deliver a corner, do it like you mean it. I’d rather fail bold than fail timid. We know we have to score. I hope Pep picks his absolute best team and we can give them a right go. I’m not sure you could go and play an under-23 side against us at the moment and I think he’ll know that.”

The winner of Arsenal versus Chelsea (0-0 after the first leg) awaits in the final.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.