Manchester United’s move for Ander Herrera descends into chaos (Updated)

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At one point, we characterized the Ander Herrera-to-Manchester United story as “stronger” than the Marouane Fellaini link. That point was two-and-a-half hours ago. Since, the potential move of the Athletic Bilbao midfielder to Old Trafford has descended into chaos, rumor, and ultimately for United, failure.

Here’s what’s generally been reported, after hours of speculation as to what exactly went wrong: Manchester United were all set to hit Herrera’s buyout (€36 million; $47.5 million), but Spanish taxes pushed that up to €42 million. Apparently, this is a detail that United only realized today, when they actually went to trigger the player’s release. Unable to negotiate a lower fee with Athletic (whose previous reticence to settle for anything below the buyout should have foreshadowed their recalcitrant attitude), United walked away from the deal.

The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor, on Twitter:

So let me break tone for a moment and try to get this straight: Arsenal is the team making huge, last-minute swoops for world-class talent? And Manchester United’s  the one getting tripped up by technicalities and a last-minute unwillingness to get a deal done? 2013, you’re blowing my mind.

Equally mind-blowing was some of the speculation flying around once the Herrera deal fell apart, little of which has been validated to this point (so proceed from here are your own risk). United’s representatives were said to be in Spain to pay the buyout only to leave the LFP’s offices having run into an administrative issue. Presumably, that was the tax. Later, speculation surfaced claiming the United representatives were not people from the club at all. Moments afterward, Spanish journalist Guillem Balague reported the deal was off. In a final round of fancy, some claimed the United officials were real, yet they were negotiating with fake Athletic representatives, possibly a telephone-esque distorting for another rumor.

UPDATE: According to Taylor, the final piece of speculation is likely (bizarrely) true:

“I think we’re going to hear a lot more about this in the coming days. The details are a bit sketchy but I’ve just had it confirmed from Old Trafford that the people who were in Spain, apparently negotiating on their behalf for Ander Herrera, were not sent there by the club and can accurately be described as ‘impostors’.”

World soccer, ladies and gentlemen.

Regardless, Ander Herrera is not joining Manchester United, and as of the end of the transfer window (roughly 20 minutes ago), neither had Everton’s Marouane Fellaini, though deals could still be in process at the FA’s office. Still, it’s looking more and more like fears harbored over the last two weeks by United fans — fears their club wouldn’t spend at all — may be realized. Unless you consider Guillermo Varela as “spending.”

VIDEO: Napoli fans celebrate Juventus win

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It is safe to say Napoli’s fans were pretty happy with the 1-0 win their team secured at Juventus on Sunday.

Kalidou Koulibaly powered home a header in stoppage as Napoli moved just one point behind Juventus, who sit top of the Serie A table, with four games to go. The title race is well and truly on in Italy.

The scenes across Naples after the game were incredible and when the players arrived back at the airport at around 3 a.m. local time they were greeted by thousands of adoring fans.

Take a look at the video below. Wow.


Preview: Everton v. Newcastle

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  • Everton have won seven of their last eight games v Newcastle
  • Newcastle have won four PL games in a row
  • Wayne Rooney has more goals (15) against Newcastle than any other PL team

Everton host Newcastle United on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Toffees and Magpies both setting pretty in midtable.

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The Toffees sit in ninth, with Newcastle in 10th and just one point behind Everton with a game in hand. Rafael Benitez has been lauded for taking his newly-promoted side into the top 10 with defensive solidity, while Sam Allardyce has been lambasted for a defensive style of play despite getting Everton out of a relegation fight following his appointment back in November.

In team news Everton have Mason Holgate and Gylfi Sigurdsson out injured, while Newcastle will be without Christian Atsu but Islam Slimani could make his first start.


What they’re saying 

Sam Allardyce on the job Rafael Benitez has done at Newcastle: “From a difficult period they have managed to recover and get in the Premier League and they have turned it around. They have put together a run of games and we’ll see a better Newcastle than we saw up there [when Everton won 1-0 in December]. Rafa has progressed very well. He has always expressed his disappointment with not enough funds – we can all say we don’t have enough funds. What he has managed with the funds he has, particularly in the January months, has been excellent.”

Rafael Benitez on his Newcastle future: “I want to win games and I want to win trophies and I want to have the tools to be capable of competing. At the same time. I like to improve players, coach players, follow a business plan, a realistic business plan in modern football. I have no problem with that because I did it in the past.”

Prediction
Two teams who are very similar in terms of their style of play should see a bit of a stalemate take place at Goodison. 1-1 draw, which is a much better result for Newcastle and will pile more pressure on Big Sam.

Paul Pogba: “Transfers are not in my head”

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Paul Pogba has been discussing his future at Manchester United beyond this season.

The Frenchman delivered a stunning assist in United’s 2-1 win against Tottenham in the FA Cup semifinal on Saturday, with the midfielder now named Man of the Match in each of his last two games after plenty of speculation about his future at United in recent months.

Jose Mourinho left Pogba out of his starting lineup on multiple occasions, while Pep Guardiola claims he was offered to buy Pogba in January and speculation about him joining Paris Saint-Germain, going back to Juventus or heading to Real Madrid continue.

Speaking to French outlet Canal Football Club, Pogba had the following to say about his own future.

“Right now, I am at Manchester United and I am honestly only thinking about the present. Transfers are not in my head. We are in the [FA] Cup final and the World Cup is around the corner,” Pogba said.

Pogba also addressed the rumors regarding his relationship with Mourinho with reports stating that the duo do not get along and United’s manager is fed up with the Frenchman’s attitude off the pitch.

“I don’t have a problem with him, and I don’t think he has a problem with me,” Pogba said. “He’s the coach and he has to make choices. I am a player and I accept them. I have to answer on the pitch.”

Benitez happy to stay at Newcastle if he “has the tools to compete”

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Rafa Benitez is approaching something vaguely resembling sainthood in the northeast of England — with the Newcastle United-supporting portion, at least — but his future remains in doubt as the end of the current Premier League season draws nearer and the next one approaches.

[ MORE: Salah beats De Bruyne to win PFA Player of the year award ]

Benitez and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley have endured an unhappy working relationship for much of Benitez’s 25 months at the club. The Spaniard was true to his word, though, when he stuck around another season after being relegated from the PL in 2016, then again after winning promotion on the Magpies’ first attempt, but he’ll be faced with the same dilemma again this summer, even after guiding Newcastle to a mid-table finish (they currently sit 10th with five games left to play).

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Chelsea join them ]

If he’s not given assurances that he’ll be handed the necessary funds to properly strengthen his squad during the upcoming summer transfer window, the 58-year-old could very well walk away and leave Ashley to play the part of all-too-familiar villain. Or, as Benitez put it this weekend, Ashley could fork over “the tools to be capable of competing” and make everyone, from the manager to the fans, happy — quotes form the Guardian:

“If they [Ashley’s representatives] want to talk to my people [about a new contract,] they can talk. The main thing is to be sure we share the same ambition.

“I want to win games and I want to win trophies and I want to have the tools to be capable of competing. At the same time, I like to improve players, coach players, follow a business plan, a realistic business plan in modern football. I have no problem with that because I did it in the past.

“We have to be sure to have all the tools to compete and achieve what we want to achieve because Newcastle is a massive football club and we want it to reach its potential.”

Of course, the perfect scenario for everyone involved would have been for any one of the numerous takeover bids to have gone through during the last two years, but as was most recently evidenced earlier this year, Ashley and the Toon can’t seem to quit each other just yet.