Arsenal are said to be looking at Fulham’s Dimitar Berbatov to add extra attacking options to their forward line in January. The 32-year-old Bulgarian striker has done it a big clubs in the past as he starred for Bayer Leverkusen and Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League. However Berba currently finds himself in the thick of a relegation scrap with the Cottagers and with his contract set to expire in six months anyway, it’s believed Fulham would let him leave for around $3 million in January. A proven goalscorer on the cheap… would this be a good idea for the Gunners?
Xabi Alonso is set for a return to the Premier League with his former Real Madrid boss keen to bring him to Chelsea. Looking for a key holding player, Jose Mourinho wants to raid former club Real to grab Spanish international Alonso who has stalled on a new contract at the Santiago Bernabeu. The Spanish midfielder, 32, would be a great fit to balance the huge number of attacking midfielder the ‘Special One’ currently has on the books at Stamford Bridge and is a free agent in the summer. However he could join Chelsea sooner than that if Real allow him to leave for a nominal fee in January. Chelsea re said to have offered the former Liverpool star a two-year deal with an option of a third year.
According to reports Stoke want to bolster their defense by bringing in former Chelsea utility man Michael Mancienne from Bundesliga side Hamburg. The 25-year-old has played for Hamburg the last two and a half season but has been getting mixed reviews and could be available on loan in January. The former England Under-21 international can operate as a central defender or a holding midfielder and would proved Mark Hughes’s Potters with cover in those areas.
Manchester United winger Nani has been approached by Italian giants Juventus, as the Portuguese star continues to fall down the pecking order at Old Trafford. Antonio Valencia and Adnan Januzaj are well ahead of Nani but the winger only signed a new five-year deal over the summer. The 27-year-old has failed to play for the Red Devils since December 7 and David Moyes may look to offload the talented yet temperamental attacker to fuel a January spending spree in the transfer market. The emergence of teenage sensation Januzaj has made Nani almost surplus to requirements at Untied. Watch this space.
Finally, staying with United and their young striker Nick Powell could be set for yet another loan move as the former Crewe Alexandra star continues to impress at Championship club Wigan. The 19-year-old has scored eight times in 23 appearances for the Latics this term and Moyes apparently wants to see how Powell performs in the Premier League. Both Swansea City and former United captain Steve Bruce at Hull, want to take Powell on loan for the rest of the season to see how he fares. This young man is in demand.
The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.
[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]
Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.
[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]
In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).
Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule
D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET
Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.
He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.
According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.
[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]
“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”
During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.
It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.
Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.
Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.
Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”
Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”
Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.
[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]
Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?
The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.
Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.
However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.
David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.
If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.
It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.
Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.
It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.