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.

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”