Manchester United's Kagawa celebrates his goal against Fulham during their English Premier League soccer match in Manchester

As Alex Ferguson says goodbye, Manchester United’s cupboard remains stocked

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If one of the main virtues of Alex Ferguson is his ability to reinvent his squads, the final act of the legendary manager’s career may play out after her leaves Manchester United. Having stocked every level of his team with new, young talent, Ferguson will leaves his replacement, David Moyes, free to hunt big game in his first transfer dealings. Just as the depth Ferguson’s acquired allowed him to pursue Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa without any desperate needs, Moyes will be free to concentrate on adding (say) Marouane Fellaini and Robert Lewandowski to an already stocked team.

As Manchester United and the Premier League say goodbye to Ferguson Sunday at the Hawthorns, it’s worth considering what Moyes will have on the shelf when he takes over on July 1.

GOALKEEPERS

Incumbent: David de Gea (22)
Near future: De Gea.

A 22-year-old PFA Team of the Year-level goalkeeper? The only things Moyes has to worry about are contract extensions.

DEFENDERS

Incumbents: Rafael (22), Rio Ferdinand (34), Nemanja Vidic (31), Patrice Evra (32), Phil Jones (21), Chris Smalling (23), Jonny Evans (25)
Near future: Rafael, Vidic, Jones, Smalling, Evans

There’s no obvious left back among the first teamers (perhaps Alex Buttner, 24), but there’s enough to build on. Finding an adequate left back shouldn’t be difficult, even if replacing the ever-present Patrice Evra will represent a small changing of the guard a couple of years from now. Regardless, Ferguson has left the defense well-stocked, with a strong group of established players rendering fringe prospects irrelevant.

MIDFIELDERS

Incumbents: Central: Michael Carrick (31), Tom Cleverley (23), Anderson (25); Wide: Antonio Valencia (27), Ashley Young (27), Nani (26); Other/Misc.: Shinji Kagawa (24)
Near future: Central: Cleverley, Anderson, Nick Powell (19); Wide: Valencia, Young, Nani; Other/Misc.: Kagawa.

This group is both less promising than the defenders but also less likely to turn over in the near future. Michael Carrick is the only regular whose age is a concern, and with his style of play, he may be the same player at 34 that he is at 31. Any transfers out will be offset by depth and Kagawa’s versatility, leaving future concerns the same was the present: United (seem to) need another world-class talent in the middle. While that has been a persistent problem in Ferguson’s recent teams (though possibly, a weakness of others’ evaluations), he still leaves the team as set as ever for the future.

FORWARDS

Incumbents: Robin van Persie (29), Wayne Rooney (27), Javier Hernandez (24), Danny Welbeck (22)
Near Future: van Persie, Hernandez, Welbeck, Wilfried Zaha (20), Angelo Henriquez (19)

If you lump the still young Kagawa (pictured, above) into this mix, and the group looks strong, even if you account for a potential Rooney departure. With van Persie set to turn 30 next year, you can see why Manchester United might be interested in acquiring a Lewandowski-level player. But even if Moyes doesn’t snag another sniper, Ferguson has left him with a number of options up top.

So as he departs, it appears Ferguson has finished performing another reload. Whether it’s successful will depend on how Moyes utilizes the talent (Ferguson has done a great job in recent years covering up his midfield deficiencies).

While handing over the keys to his successor, Ferguson has left the cupboards stocked. On Sunday against West Brom, with the Manchester United’s competitive season over, we should see some of the Red Devil depth on display.

Mourinho: Mkhitaryan “disappeared” during games, got dropped

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It would appear that Henrikh Mkhitaryan has become the new Luke Shaw, who not so long ago became the new Juan Mata, who had become the new Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Pepe, who all previously become the new Kaka and Mesut Ozil — players previously perceived to be undroppable, only to fall out of favor and be dropped from Mourinho’s side.

[ MORE: Carrick back in training after operation to fix irregular heartbeat ]

Similarly to many of the aforementioned stars of Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid sides of the not-so-distant past, Mourinho recently singled out Mkhitaryan for not working hard enough for the team and failing to meet expectations with his performances.

Mkhitaryan last featured in Man United’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea on Nov. 5, prior to the most recent international break. He played just 62 minutes, to follow an UEFA Champions League appearance of just 45 minutes against Benfica. Mkhitaryan was then absent from the substitute’s bench for a victory over Newcastle United and a defeat to Basel.

[ MORE: Pochettino sees Sanchez as one of world’s best defenders already ]

In Mourinho’s mind, Mkhitaryan hasn’t merited a place in the team — quotes from the Guardian:

“I was not happy with his last performances. I’m not speaking about one or two, I’m speaking about three, four or five. He started the season very well and after that, step by step, he was disappearing. His performance levels in terms of goalscoring and assists, pressing, recovering the ball high up the pitch, bringing the team with him as a no. 10, were decreasing.

“That was enough [to drop him] because the others worked to have a chance. Everybody works to have a chance. It’s as simple as that.”

“I don’t know if Mkhitaryan will start but, for sure, he will be back in the group. For him to be back to the group, it means that somebody is going to leave the group.”

Davinson delights Pochettino, who predicts “massive” strides

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It’s still very early days for Davinson Sanchez as a Tottenham Hotspur player, but the early returns are extremely positive as the Colombian center back has featured in 14 of the club’s 17 games in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League this season.

[ MORE: Spurs beat Dortmund again to win group with Real Madrid ]

What’s more encouraging than Sanchez’s initial performances? The 21-year-old’s “massive” room for improvement and the expectation he’ll one day soon be one of the world’s best defenders, according to manager Mauricio Pochettino.

After signing for Spurs in August, Sanchez went straight into Pochettino’s starting lineup, slotted in between stalwarts Toby Aldeweireld and Jan Vertonghen, who together last season led the defense with the PL’s best record (26 goals conceded in 38 games), as part of a back-three. Sanchez has taken to Tottenham like a duck to water, in Pochettino’s estimation — quotes from ESPN FC:

“You saw against against Dortmund how many times he was with [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang one-versus-one. How many central defenders can play one-versus-one and escape and go, be tight and press? If you run, I run because I am so confident when running. I think not many center backs in the world can do this.

“Or against Swansea against Tammy Abraham: how many times he was one vs. one and the ball was behind him, he was on the halfway line and running was not a problem? And against Cristiano Ronaldo, too?”

“We expect more from him, but I am so happy with him. He is doing well, very well. He’s only 21 years old, but he shows more maturity [than that], and he’s so aggressive when he’s marking, his concentration [is good] and then with the ball he’s good, but I think he can improve.

“There is massive scope to improve potentially, it’s massive for him. In only a few months, he’s showing he’s doing a fantastic job for us. [He can improve in] every single aspect, tactic, physical condition, technique.

“We need with him one and a half months or two months preseason every day, and then I’m sure he’s going to show a different level. I think he’s one of the best today, but has potential to improve a lot more.

“Because he’s so clever, and he’s very humble, and he’s very open to learn, he’s a player when you tell something his reaction is to be open, and be critical with himself, and that is a massive skill from a player, when he’s so open to improve, and then the conditions he has are amazing to be one of the best center halves in the world.”

To state the completely obvious, Pochettino was wise to utilize Aldeweireld and Vertonghen as training wheels for Sanchez, if you will, upon his arrival. His athleticism and pace make him 1) the ideal complement to a pair of players who read the game so well; and, 2) perfectly positioned to operate as the last-man, emergency defender on the rare occasion either Belgian is breached.

[ MORE: Liverpool host Chelsea in massive top-four clash ]

For the first time all season, Sanchez started out wide in Alderweireld’s absence (hamstring) against Arsenal last weekend, and for the first time since his arrival, he appeared a flawed — which is to say, human — defender. To his credit, Sanchez gave a quality account of himself on the whole, and finished the game much stronger than he’d started.

No one was more aware of this than Pochettino, though, as he slid Eric Dier into Aldeweireld’s spot for Tuesday’s Champions League triumph over Borusia Dortmund, again deploying Sanchez in the middle. With Aldeweireld expected to miss a couple more weeks at minimum, the Tottenham teamsheet should routinely read Vertonghen-Sanchez-Dier from left to right until he returns.

Lille appoint four interim managers to replace Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) A four-man coaching team will take provisional charge of French soccer club Lille in the wake of Marcelo Bielsa’s dismissal.

Lille says Fernando Da Cruz, Joao Sacramento, Benoit Delaval and Franck Mantaux will be in charge of the team until further notice.

Lille announced earlier this week that Bielsa had been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club” following a 3-0 loss at Amiens.

The northern side is in 19th place and next travels Saturday to Montpellier, which has the best defense in the league.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but failed to make the club competitive. After finishing a disappointing 11th last season, Lille hired the coach – affectionately known as El Loco Bielsa (Crazy Bielsa) – with the aim of returning to the Champions League.

Irregular heartbeat the cause of Carrick’s recent absence

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Manchester United captain Michael Carrick hasn’t played for his club since Sept. 20, a confounding period of more than two months now, and the reason for the 36-year-old midfielder’s absence has finally come to light: an irregular heartbeat.

[ MORE: Mourinho slams critics (again), gives injury updates ]

The condition, which Carrick announced himself on Friday, was first detected after Man United’s League Cup victory over Burton Albion. He has since undergone a cardiac ablation, a procedure to scar or destroy tissue in your heart that’s allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause an abnormal heart rhythm, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Carrick was named the new United captain this summer following the departure of Wayne Rooney. As told in the above statement, he is working toward full fitness and once again being available for selection in Jose Mourinho’s side.

Hooray for modern technology and medicine, which allow otherwise baffling medical conditions to be diagnosed, treated and recovered from in a matter of weeks or months.