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.”

AT THE HALF: Manchester derby scoreless after 45 minutes

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After 45 minutes, the final Manchester derby of the 2016-17 Premier League season — the one that’ll go a long, long way toward deciding which of the city’s sides will finish in the top-four — is scoreless, but not without incident.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

The game’s best chances thus far fell Manchester City’s way, as Sergio Aguero missed a clear-cut chance after 10 minutes — Kevin De Bruyne whipped in the perfect ball to the back post, and Aguero put it wrong side of David De Gea‘s post.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ander Herrera has, once again, be Manchester United’s danger man, combining well with Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but Claudio Bravo made the one save he was forced into during the first half. One thing to keep an eye on during the final 45 minutes: Rashford picked up a knock very early on, and struggled to move around the field after that.

STREAM LIVE: The Manchester Derby

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The third Manchester Derby of the season is the first away from Old Trafford, as Manchester United visits Manchester City (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.

There’s much on the line, as the sides sit just two points apart in the race for the Top Four. Man City would leapfrog third-place Liverpool with a win, while United could join the Reds on 66 points with a match-in-hand.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE, HERE

Sergio Aguero starts for Man City, with Gabriel Jesus on the bench.

On the other side, it’ll be a physical middle-third guarded by Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick, and Marouane Fellaini. Wayne Rooney and Jesse Lingard start on the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester City: Bravo, Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Sterling, De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Sagna, Fernando, Navas, Clichy, Gabriel Jesus, A. Garcia

Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Darmian; Herrera, Carrick, Fellaini, Mkhitaryan; Rashford, Martial. Subs: Romero, Shaw, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Young, Lingard, Rooney.

Ex-Liverpool CEO shares biting story of Suarez transfer

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Ian Ayre’s got jokes.

The former Liverpool CEO lifted the lid on some transfer stories during a Merseyside lecture this week.

Of note, Ayre admitted that the club thought Dele Alli demanded too much given what he had produced when the Reds has the chance to sign him as a 16-year-old, and said that Liverpool could’ve landed Alexis Sanchez but the player wanted to live in London (“We couldn’t move the football club to London, unfortunately,” he quipped).

The best part relayed by Sky Sports had to do with Luis Suarez, and shows the relentless nature of the transfer market. Clearly Barcelona had interest in Suarez before the fiery striker bit Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup, because, well…

“I remember the sporting director of Barcelona calling me during that game, immediately as Suarez bit the player, and he said to me ‘my friend, he’s bitten somebody, how can this be the price?’ I said ‘he’d already bitten somebody when you first bid!'”

We’re sure there’s a certain amount of storytelling in there, but undoubtedly some truth.

Given Barca paid a reported $84 million for the striker, the asking price couldn’t have started that much higher.

Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea tops Spurs, Top Four predictions

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Rog and Davo return to discuss Chelsea’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Spurs, update their Top Four predictions (again), and dive into the depths of the relegation zone. Plus, the very important movement to change “Hudson Street” to “Ray Hudson Street.”

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