Sir Alex off the throne, how many ‘soccer knights’ exist?

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So, Sir Alex Ferguson, that has a lovely ring to it.

But many of you might be wondering, ‘how many knighthoods are handed out in soccer?’ The answer folks, is not a lot.

Sir Alex — who announced his retirement from Manchester United earlier today — was just the eighth soccer player or manager to be knighted, when he was awarded the title by Queen Elizabeth II for guiding United to an historic treble in 1999, and only 14 other key figures in the sport have joined him in receiving the highest possible honor from the British Empire.

So let’s take a look at the other legends who join Ferguson as knights in the soccer realm, and how the Scotsman compares.

Matt Busby

The man whose success Ferguson aimed to emulate, and eventually overtook. Busby created the ‘Busby Babes’ a talented crop of youngsters who drove United on to success before the tragic Munich Air disaster. Busby recovered from that and rebuilt the squad, as they won the European Cup in 1968, United’s only triumph until 1999. 

Bobby Charlton

Charlton is still an ambassador for United today, as England’s top goalscorer (49 goals) starred in Busby’s United team that dominated for decades. The man lives and breathes Manchester United, and he will welcome Fergie to the ambassador role with great pride. One of England’s greatest ever players.

Walter Winterbottom

England’s first, youngest and longest-serving manager, Winterbottom took the reigns in 1946 and left the role in 1962. He was behind many of England’s greatest wins in the early World Cups.

Bobby Robson

One of the greatest English managers, Robson led England to the World Cup semis in Italia ’90. He also led Ipswich to UEFA Cup and FA Cup glory and played for England and West Brom during his playing days. A true gentleman.

Alf Ramsey

England’s World Cup winning coach from the 1996 triumph over West Germany, Ramsey is the benchmark for any England manager to follow. A player with Tottenham and Southampton, Ramsey brought the Three Lions success on home soil. Nobody will ever forget the heroes of ’66 with Ramsey as their leader.

Dave Richards

Current chairman of the Premier League, Richards has been involved in the Football Association and Sheffield Wednesday. He has helped grow the EPL into the global powerhouse it is today, with his efforts solidifying England as the home of soccer.

Trevor Brooking

West Ham legend, Brooking’s wizardry on the wings made him a star in London’s east end and for England throughout his career. He has moved into several roles with the English FA n recent years, helping develop younger talent.

Geoff Hurst

The only player to ever score a hat trick in a World Cup final, Hurst was the national hero after England beat West Germany 4-2 in extra time to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy. Played for West Ham and Stoke before heading to the Seattle Sounders in ’76 late in his career.

John Charles Clegg 

Known as the ‘Gentle Giant’ Charles hailed from South Wales and made a name for himself playing in Italy for Juventus and Roma, as well as the great Leeds United. Many believe he was the greatest ever player Wales produced.

Tom Finney

Preston North End and England legend, Finney was one of the finest players of his generation. A statue of him is erected outside Preston’s Deepdale Stadium and Finney was known for his loyalty to the club and England in his playing days as a tricky winger. One of the true English greats.

Stanley Rous

He was the sixth President of FIFA, in charge from 1961-1974. Rous was also the secretary for the English FA and was an international referee. He officiated FA Cup finals and was a true football man.

Stanley Matthews

Stoke City and Blackpool hero, Matthews was one of England’s greatest every players. Black and white footage forever encapsulates his mercurial talents, as he racked up 697 appearances and played until he was 50-years-old. Remarkable. “The Wizard of the Dribble” and “The Magician” were just some of his nicknames.

Bert Millichip

Former West Brom player and chairman who was also chairman of the Football Association, Millichip was famous for his wit and humor and was a real character. Close friend of Bobby Robson.

Édson Arantes do Nascimento (Pelé)

Given an honorary knighthood in 1997, Pelé is described as many as the greatest player to ever play the game. When he was 17, he finished top scorer in the 1958 World Cup final in Sweden and won three World Cup’s with Brazil. Now an ambassador for the game, Pelé is one of the all-time greats.

James stars for Bayern Munich in Bundesliga win at Schalke (video)

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BERLIN (AP) James Rodriguez starred on his first Bundesliga start for Bayern Munich, scoring one goal and playing a role in the others for a 3-0 win at Schalke on Tuesday.’

James, who switched from Real Madrid in the offseason, earned a penalty and then scored in the first half, before brilliantly setting up Arturo Vidal to wrap up the win in the second.

[ WATCH: Alex Morgan smashes USWNT goal ]

While the Colombian midfielder made his first league start for Bayern, American teenager Weston McKennie did likewise for the home team. Despite the efforts of the 19-year-old Texan midfielder – who covered more ground than any other player in the first half – Schalke had no answer to James’ individual brilliance.

“We created the goals very well, so we deserved to win,” said Bayern’s reserve goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, playing in place of Germany No. 1 Manuel Neuer. Neuer has been ruled out until January with another hairline fracture of the metatarsal in his left foot.

The home side was first to have the ball in the net, but Amine Harit’s goal was ruled out as Bastian Oczipka was offside. Ulreich had done well with two saves beforehand.

Bayern got the penalty after referee Marco Fritz consulted his video assistant to see if Naldo had handled the ball when James cut it back. The Brazilian defender was going to ground but had his arms raised when the ball struck.

Protests by Schalke players had no effect and Robert Lewandowski duly converted from the spot.

[ MORE: NASL suing U.S. Soccer ]

It got worse for the home side four minutes later, when Bayern scored after a Schalke throw-in. Thomas Mueller, Lewandowski and Corentin Tolisso worked the ball to the unmarked James, who wrong-footed Ralf Faehrmann to score his first Bundesliga goal.

Mueller hit the post with a header from a cross by James after the break, before substitute Yevhen Konoplyanka went close at the other end.

Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco brought on Swiss forward Breel Embolo for McKennie with just over half an hour remaining.

Any hopes of an equalizer ended when James eluded two defenders and delivered a perfect ball for Vidal to strike with a volley to the top corner.

“Altogether there’s no denying that Bayern had a very good day. Then it’s hard for any team,” Schalke general manager Christian Heidel said.

WOLFSBURG FRUSTRATION, AUGSBURG ELATION

Fin Bartels’ second-half header earned Werder Bremen a 1-1 draw at Wolfsburg and denied Martin Schmidt a winning start as coach. Schmidt was appointed Monday when Wolfsburg fired Andries Jonker after the team had claimed just four points in its opening four games.

Michael Gregoritsch’s fourth-minute strike was enough for Augsburg to beat visiting Leipzig 1-0 for its third win from five games.

Two goals from Brazilian midfielder Raffael gave Borussia Moenchengladbach a 2-0 win at home over promoted Stuttgart.

USWNT rides brace from super sub Morgan to big win (video)

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Alex Morgan scored two goals, the second with gusto, as the United States women’s national team hammered New Zealand 5-0 at Nippert Stadium in a Tuesday night friendly.

After Cincinnati native Rose Lavelle made a 30-minute cameo in her return from injury, the USWNT poured forth with goals.

[ MORE: NASL suing U.S. Soccer ]

Coming off the bench, Morgan scored within a minute of her second half introduction.

And then, after an electric dribble from Mallory Pugh, Morgan rang an aesthetically-pleasing rocket off the proverbial woodwork to make it 5-0.

Klopp’s reliance on top CB pair nothing new, but a problem

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When Jurgen Klopp was hired at Borussia Dortmund in 2008, he did something right away that would set the stage for BVB’s run back into Bundesliga power.

Klopp brought defender Neven Subotic with him from Mainz, and took Mats Hummels on loan from Bayern Munich.

The 19-year-old Subotic played 38 times for BVB that season, and Hummels played well on way to a permanent transfer.

[ MORE: Klopp left fuming at defending ]

Largely, Klopp seemed to “set it and forget it” with his center backs from that point forward: No big summer buys, and neither Subotic nor Hummels was headed anywhere.

That didn’t change until 2013-14, when Klopp bought Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Werder Bremen, adding Matthias Ginter the next season.

Klopp left BVB after a disappointing 2014-15, taking the job at Liverpool in October 2015.

He didn’t do much in January, but agreed to terms with Schalke center back Joel Matip in February and landed Ragnar Klavan from Augsburg in the summer. The Reds already had bought Dejan Lovren from Southampton in the Summer of 2014, and Klopp seemed set.

[ MORE: League Cup Weds. wrap ]

Lovren improved a lot with Matip next to him, and Klavan made just 15 appearances for the Reds last season. The Reds went hard at Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk, but failed to get him for any number of reasons. Still, Klopp figured his quartet, including young Joe Gomez in a pinch, would be just fine this season.

And maybe they will be, but there are daunting signs for the Reds in the first couple months of the season. Klopp has used Matip in eight matches, tied for the most on the team with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. He’s used Lovren six times, and Klavan four.

Liverpool’s record by CB pair (admittedly a tiny sample size):

Matip-Lovren: 3W-2D
Matip-Klavan: 1W-1D-1L
Gomez-Klavan: 1L (today)

The center backs, sans Matip and Lovren, especially hurt the Reds in the 2-0 loss to Leicester on Tuesday. All three moments of Leicester threat in this highlight package find either Klavan or Gomez cooked or out-of-place.

Look, a lot of teams are going to be hurt when using their second-choice CB pair, and many won’t be bothered by Liverpool’s exit from the League Cup. Furthermore, it’s not like anyone has been mistaking Lovren and Matip for Puyol and Pique.

But look at every English team in Europe, including the ones with far fewer defensive frailties heading into this summer than Liverpool.

Chelsea bought Antonio Rudiger.

Everton added Michael Keane.

Manchester United bought Victor Lindelof.

Spurs bought Davinson Sánchez and Juan Foyth.

Arsenal didn’t buy anyone besides Alexandre Lacazette, while Man City bought full backs and has received plenty of criticism for failing to add to its center back corps of Vincent Kompany, John Stones, and Eliaquim Mangala.

Liverpool? They sold Mamadou Sakho.

It’s problematic, yes, and it can’t be fixed until January. The question is whether Klopp sees a need to spend in the winter window. As illustrated above, he loves to ride his horses, even if Lovren and Matip aren’t quite Hummels and Subotic.

Think of what’s ailed Liverpool in recent seasons: Are some of those flops against lesser Premier League teams changed with more rest for their top pair or a better option for the mix?

League Cup Weds. preview: Top teams mind the underdogs

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The giant killers aim their arrows at Premier League foes on Wednesday in the final five matches of the League Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: League Cup Tues. wrap ]


Arsenal vs. Doncaster Rovers

March 29, 1902 — Doncaster beat Arsenal 1-0. In the century-plus since, Arsenal has won five and drawn once with Doncaster.

Pretty safe to say the in-form Gunners’ and their back-ups will run through the Rovers, though as the old cliche goes, “That’s why they play the games.”

Chelsea vs. Nottingham Forest

For a long time, this was a Premier League fixture each season. Now Chelsea welcomes the Championship’s Forest for the third time since 1999.

Everton vs. Sunderland

The Toffees could badly use a nice win after its Europa League beatdown in Italy and a series of tough results against Premier League giants.

Enter Bryan Oviedo, Darron Gibson, Aiden McGeady, Jack Rodwell, and James Vaughn in a Sunderland squad with plenty of experience playing at Goodison Park (The Black Cats have two further players, Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway, on loan from Everton). USMNT youngster Lynden Gooch could get a starting run versus PL opposition.

Manchester United vs. Burton Albion

The visitors surprised United by forcing an FA Cup replay in 2006, and the Red Devils repaid them with a 5-0 lashing. Burton was in the Conference then, and have risen dramatically in the last few seasons and surprised by surviving a Championship campaign in 2016-17. This one won’t be close, but it’ll be better than 5-0 for Nigel Clough’s Brewers.

West Bromwich Albion vs. Manchester City

Tony Pulis has been able to stymy a lot of teams, but Man City isn’t one of them. West Brom boasts 11-straight wins over the Baggies, the last of which have been by multiple goals. West Brom’s last draw vs. City was Boxing Day 2011. Its last win? Sept. 22, 2010 in the League Cup. Can the Hawthorns be the venue for a surprise?