David Moyes hires staff from Everton on first day at Manchester United

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David Moyes began his first official day as manager of Manchester United by arriving at the club’s Carrington training ground at 8:00am and appointing Steve Round, Chris Woods and Jimmy Lumsden to his coaching staff.

Moyes arrived at the Chevrolet-sponsored training ground driving, not surprisingly, a Chevrolet, marking the beginning of a new era at United and putting a definitive end to the 26 year tenure of Sir Alex Ferguson.

The former Everton manager’s first bit of business on the day was confirming the appointments of his backroom staff, all of whom follow him from Goodison Park. Round replaces Mike Phelan as United’s assistant manager, Woods takes over as goalkeeping coach for Eric Steele, and Lumsden replaces Rene Meulensteen as first-team coach.

Speaking of the hirings, Moyes noted his work with the three and his delight at their decision to join him at United. “They bring great qualities in their respective fields and I know that, like me, they feel that this is a challenge to relish,” Moyes said. “I have great faith that together, we can build upon the success this club has enjoyed over many years.”

With the easy work put aside, Moyes now faces some legitimately difficult decisions, beginning with the Wayne Rooney conundrum.

Whether the 27 year old will stay at Old Trafford depends on his appetite for United and Moyes’ appetite to deal with a potential cancerous situation. Rooney is not known to be of primadonna ilk but he has shown a desire – most notably during the fall 2010 rumors that Rooney wanted to be transfered to Manchester City – to have his head patted.

How much head patting Moyes will do remains to be seen.

The so-called ‘crunch talks’ are slated to begin this week and with Robin van Persie’s domination as the outright striker and Shinji Kagawa, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck all available for deployment in and around Rooney’s space on the pitch, it could be time to send the Wazza on his way.

The decision to keep Rooney will have a significant effect on whether Moyes makes a marque signing in the summer transfer window. It is entirely possible that he keeps the player and brings in a whale, although the later increases exponentially if Rooney departs.

A significant summer capture could provide Moyes with career defining moment. The departure of Ferguson makes Cristiano Ronaldo’s potential revival at United drastically less likely although a younger, less narcissistic, winger by the name of Gareth Bale is by no means out of Moyes’ reach.

A more realistic signing could be that of Leighton Baines, who Moyes brought to prominency at Goodison Park after sniping him from Wigan in 2007. The projected £20 million ($30.5m) it would cost Moyes to bring Baines to Old Trafford, however, could prove too much for a club that already boasts the likes of Patrice Evra.

The United midfield is another issue that Moyes will need to attend to. Easily United’s weakest quality, the retirement of Paul Scholes, Anderson’s failure to develop and the long-standing illness of Darren Fletcher means that the most pressing need is for a midfielder to compliment Michael Carrick.

Thiago Alcantara would be add creativity and skill while a player like Marouane Fellaini could provide Carrick with a marauding counterpart who will score goals while releasing pressure for the English pass-master.

A final issue that Moyes will need to work on is maintaining (and building) the familial environment that Ferguson worked so tirelessly to create at United. It is that environment that defines United, separates them from City and puts fear into the heart of opponents when the match is on a knife’s edge and injury time rolls around.

“This game belongs to the players” Wenger downplays Guardiola success

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Arsene Wenger has stressed that Pep Guardiola has not changed the game of soccer over the last decade or so, maintaining that the players are the ones who make a team truly great.

Asked if Guardiola has “raised the bar” of managing in his time at the top, Wenger said, “No, because you look at Barcelona and they are still the best team in Europe. You have to accept that the modern game has changed with the recruitment of the best players in a short number of clubs.”

[ MORE: EFL Cup final preview ]

“We, as managers, can maybe impart our philosophy but this game belongs to the players because the importance of the players has become bigger than ever before.”

In fact, Wenger showed a twinge of jealousy at all the attention Guardiola is getting with the team blowing out the rest of the Premier League this season, referencing trophies in the recent past Arsenal has hoisted. “We are maybe underdogs but we have to believe in our quality. The history, the fact we have done it before, shows why not do it again?”

“At the end of the day, you have to be cool,” Wenger said, “because Manchester City is dominating the league in the head of everybody and so maybe we are more underdogs than in the FA Cup semi-final [last season when Arsenal beat Man City].”

Deportivo wastes penalty kick, remains winless under Seedorf

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MADRID (AP) — Clarence Seedorf remained winless as Deportivo La Coruna coach after a 0-0 draw with Espanyol in the Spanish league on Friday.

Deportivo squandered chances including a second-half penalty kick taken by Lucas Perez. Its winless streak reached 10 games in all competitions.

It was the third game in a row without a victory since Seedorf took over to try to avoid relegation. Deportivo was 18th in the 20-team standings, in the relegation zone.

In addition to the missed penalty, Deportivo twice hit the posts in front of a supportive crowd at Riazor Stadium. The players left the field applauded by the local fans despite the setback.

Perez’s penalty attempt was saved by Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 65th minute. Lopez, who earlier this season stopped a penalty taken by Lionel Messi, dived to his right to stop Perez’s low shot.

The match marked the Deportivo debut of veteran Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari. He played alongside Seedorf at AC Milan, and was signed this week after a trial period.

Espanyol, 15th in the standings, hasn’t won in seven matches, since it ended Barcelona’s 29-match unbeaten streak in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Espanyol’s last league win was in January, seven rounds ago.

Barcelona defends its seven-point lead in the standings when it hosts Girona on Saturday. Second-place Atletico Madrid visits Sevilla on Sunday.

Conte says he believes in his selection regarding Willian

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Antonio Conte has lashed out at anyone questioning why Brazilian winger Willian hasn’t played regularly until recently, saying

“Do you think that I am stupid when I put Willy on the bench?” Conte fired back at reporters when he was asked about Willian’s earlier lack of playing time at his pre-match press conference ahead of Chelsea’s match on Sunday against Manchester United.

[ MORE: Heynckes squashes Lewandowski to Premier League rumors ]

“I have to try and make the best decision for the team, no? Maybe last season we won the title, or did I forget something?”

The 29-year-old has made 29 Premier League appearances, but only 13 starts. He started in the midweek Champions League match against Barcelona and not only scored Chelsea’s only goal but also proved their most incisive player, prompting questions about his selection.

“Now he is playing because he deserves to play, not because there is some regret from the past,” Conte said. “For what? If a player deserves to play, and shows me during the training session that he is on top of his form, and wants to work defensively, he plays. If not, [he will] stay on the bench, stay in the stands.”

Instead of saying he wishes Willian had played more earlier in the season, he praised himself for giving the Brazilian the start at the appropriate time.

“He is playing now and I am very happy with my choice. Willian deserved to start in the previous game, and played well. I did a fantastic choice, and I want to take credit for that.”

EFL Cup Final preview: Arsenal, Manchester City fight for different types of glory

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  • These two clubs have never met in a major Cup final
  • With a win, Arsene Wenger would become the 8th PL manager to win all 3 major English trophies
  • Sergio Agüero has scored in all of his last 4 appearances against Arsenal

For Manchester City, it’s the first step of a potentially record-setting season. For Arsenal, it’s the Gunners’ best chance at securing a trophy.

The two teams are fighting for very different levels of glory as the two meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET. Manchester City, despite losing to Wigan in the FA Cup just a week ago, would still be on track for a Double this season with a win against the Gunners. Meanwhile, Arsenal is outside the Premier League top four, and – as they have done each of the past two seasons in the FA Cup – could salvage an otherwise disappointing league season with a major Cup trophy.

Both teams will be struggling with selection in certain areas. Manchester City is likely missing Raheem Sterling, who could sit out due to an unspecified muscle injury according to Pep Guardiola in his pre-match press conference, while Fabian Delph is suspended after his sending off against Wigan in the FA Cup. That means either Danilo or 21-year-old Oleksandr Zinchencko would start at wing-back. Zinchenko is the likely candidate there, having appeared in four of City’s five EFL Cup games this season so far and playing almost every minute of those four matches. Gabriel Jesus, who missed more than two months with a knee injury, could be ready to make his early return. Claudio Bravo will continue to play in goal for the domestic Cup competitions.

Arsenal, meanwhile, is without new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan who is cup-tied to his previous club Manchester United, while Alexandre Lacazette is not yet recovered from his knee injury suffered in the North London derby, and Mesut Ozil could miss out with an illness. The Gunners are likely, however, to get Aaron Ramsey back in midfield after recovering from a groin injury, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can return to the lineup after his own cup tied absence in the Europa League midweek.

What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on playing Arsenal twice in a week: “We will be happy if we win, sad if we don’t but after the game we have another match against Arsenal. We are going to try and maintain our level, but finals are different, it is not what you have done in the past.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on playing Manchester City: “Manchester City have so many players that you think you have to stop that it is better to focus on the team plan than rather than on any individual. It’s true that I always used to use this competition with a youth team. For us it’s an opportunity. We’ll play with all the regular players.” 

Prediction

Arsenal has often come up big in hotly contested Cup matches, despite poor form in the surrounding competitions, so it would not be surprising to once again see Arsene Wenger hoist a trophy on Sunday to temporarily distract the fanbase and media from larger struggles. However, picking against this Manchester City team would be selection suicide, even after their disappointment against Wigan and considering the absence of under the radar star Raheem Sterling. Manchester City wins 3-1 with a pair of late goals to sink the Gunners, with a newly healthy Gabriel Jesus providing an influential injection off the bench in the final 20 minutes. Pep Guardiola raises another trophy at the site where he won the 2011 Champions League.