Opposing worlds of the new Liverpool, Manchester United kits

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source:  Two silly seasons arrive each June: the European transfer window opens, and teams start rolling out their new kits – the obligatory updates that tempt fans to drop eighty bucks on a new token of their fandom. And just as there are fans that hit the search engines each day ready to consume any transfer rumor that’s published, there are apparel-philes who, even if they’re not buying most of these shirts, love to see the little innovations each manufacturer blends into their clients’ schemes.

But those innovations are double-edged swords, particularly if you’ve signed on to a new manufacturer that’s trying to make their mark on the landscape. When the sides of that sword are exemplified by rivals like Liverpool and Manchester United, the contrast becomes even more pronounced.

Over the last two days, the two English Premier League rivals have revealed new kits, Liverpool’s apparel manufacturer Warrior responsible for their 2013-14 away kits (as well as their other kits) while Nike and Manchester United have unveiled their upcoming seasons’ home shirts.

The Reds’ version has been much-maligned, mostly for the pattern across the kits’ midsection:

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Last summer, Liverpool’s contract with adidas ended, the German manufacturer electing not to pursue a renewal of the deal. The decision worked out great for Liverpool, who went on to sign a $38 million/year deal with Warrior Sports, a New Balance subsidiary. At the time, the contract was the most lucrative deal in Premier League history, worth $2 million more per season than Manchester United’s deal.

But with the move, Liverpool embraced a manufacturer that was relatively new to these heights of the soccer apparel game. With that came new ideas, some of which have been warmly received. The 2013-14 away kits, however, have been unveiled to negative feedback.

In fairness, Liverpool and Warrior don’t see the pattern as particularly revolutionary; rather, they see the twist as a “retro.” From the team’s website:

The new strip produced by Warrior represents modern retro and is inspired by the patterns and graphics featured on the club’s kits from the 1980s and 1990s.

Fair enough, but let’s contrast that with their rival’s kits, unveiled today by Manchester United and Nike:

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So the fog is a big much, but people are focusing on other things. With a black collar that’s designed to evoke the era of Eric Cantona, Nike’s incorporated a small, revered piece of recent history into United’s 2013-14 home kits. From the club’s site:

The kit features the return of the black collar, a popular and evocative symbol ever since Eric Cantona wore it upturned in the 1990s. This season’s tailored, button-down collar boasts three buttons at the front and one at the back, a modern twist that’s also intrinsically Mancunian.

source:  Though the kit’s been generally well-received, all’s not  nostalgia and regality. Once those collars are popped, you get an out-facing vertical stripped design with faint horizontal accents – one which is better hidden under the basic black. It’s a twist the ruins the idea of United playing tribute to Cantona, with the potential of eleven of popped-collared Red Devils running around with their plaid accents creating a sense of foreboding.

What kind of nightmare will we see at next year’s North West Derby at Old Trafford? You’ll have Liverpool’s flame-embossed catastrophes contrasted with United’s Ralph Lauren rejects.

Don’t take these words too seriously, though. They’re just kits, and for every person who uses “catastrophes” and “rejects” to describe the new looks, there are bound to be some who see the changes as creative and innovative. Ultimately, people will vote with their wallets.

But the changes still tell a tale of the state of the apparel wars, both in terms of products and clients. Warrior paid huge money to become Liverpool’s manufacturer  but when the Reds signed on, they implicitly accepted a compant that may not have had as much reverence for traditional soccer fashion, a design preference that could go either way.

With Nike, Manchester United has a player with an incentive to revere traditional approaches. So when they deviate from what’s expected, the changes are likely to be subtle, potentially hidden by a collar that should never be popped.

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.

Whitecaps defender Tim Parker being tracked by several teams from East

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Tim Parker’s next destination could very well be closer to his hometown, however, other MLS sides are in hot pursuit of the U.S. Men’s National Team defender.

[ MORE: CCL recap — FC Dallas falls, Club America struts its stuff ]

The Vancouver Whitecaps center back has been the subject of trade speculation recently, and Pro Soccer Talk has learned that Parker has turned down a new contract with the Cascadia side that would have kept the 24-year-old in Canada for at least three more seasons.

Multiple sources have told PST that the deal Parker rejected was worth over $1.4 million in totality. Metro New York’s Kristian Dyer was the first to report the story.

Parker was subject to make roughly $99,000 in 2017, according to the MLS Players Union, although he’s expected to receive a significant increase with any new deal that he signs. On an average basis, Parker would have made over $400,000 annually had he signed a new contract with the Whitecaps.

A New York-native, Parker has been looking to return to the East Coast after spending three seasons with the Whitecaps. The former Saint John’s University standout was selected in the first round by the Whitecaps in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, after spending all four years with the Red Storm on the collegiate level.

Sources can also confirm that D.C. United and the Montreal Impact have emerged as the leaders to obtain Parker’s services if a deal is struck with the defender, although a move to the New York Red Bulls hasn’t been ruled out.

The Red Bulls have shown interest in the young defender for some time — and would be the preferred destination for the player — given Parker’s New York roots. A combination of allocation money and a player would likely be needed from the Red Bulls if the Eastern Conference side proved to be serious about pursuing Parker.

D.C. has managed to acquire significant allocation money over recent years, particularly GAM, which would prove to be essential in signing Parker. Ben Olsen’s defense has been built around USMNT center back Steve Birnbaum — who arrived in 2014 — but an addition of Parker would surely benefit a D.C. back line that conceded 60 goals in 34 regular season matches a season ago.

Meanwhile, a move for the Impact would be logical given the fact that the Canadian side lost center back Laurent Ciman this offseason when the Belgian international was traded to expansion side Los Angeles FC.

Police officer dies after fan violence before Bilbao-Spartak Moscow

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BILBAO, Spain (AP) A Spanish riot police officer died of cardiac arrest after clashes involving Russian soccer fans before a Europa League match on Thursday between hosts Athletic Bilbao and Spartak Moscow, raising concerns less than four months before the World Cup in Russia.

Basque Country authorities in northern Spain said the officer died in hospital after the confrontations outside San Mames Stadium in the city of Bilbao, which will host matches in the 2020 European Championship.

Police also said a Russian man was injured but the extent of his injuries was not immediately disclosed. Five people were arrested – three Russian nationals and two Spaniards.

The identity of the dead officer was not immediately disclosed.

Spartak won the match 2-1 but Athletic advanced 4-3 on aggregate.

Earlier Thursday, German police arrested a Russian suspected of seriously injuring a British soccer fan during the European Championship in France two years ago.

The trouble in Spain erupted ahead of the round-of-32 match in the second-tiered European club competition.

Police were escorting some Spartak fans into the stadium but a stray group allegedly started igniting fireworks and throwing flares and objects toward Athletic supporters and police officers.

The fighting spread onto the streets near the stadium and police struggled to restore order. Many fans were seen trying to run away from the trouble as fireworks exploded all around.

There was concern ahead of the match because of the reported presence of `Ultra’ Russian fans in Bilbao, and a large police force was deployed to try to prevent fan trouble.

Six year ago a fan died in Bilbao in clashes after a match between Athletic and German club Schalke.