Man United must get creative, City still title favorites, Hammers struggling – View from the booth, with Arlo White

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When watching soccer on TV, have you ever sat there and wondered what the man behind the microphone really thinks?

Maybe this will go someway to helping with that.

In the latest edition of “View from the Booth” we chat with NBC Sports’ lead soccer announcer Arlo White about Manchester United vs. Swansea, David Moyes’ struggles and what he should do in the transfer window. Plus we speak about Newcastle pulling off a shock against Man City at St. James’ Park and what on earth is going on at West Ham United.

(VIEW FROM THE BOOTH ARCHIVE)

You can hear Arlo calling live games this weekend on NBC Sports Network and NBC, and watch every single game available live online via NBC Sports Live Extra,

So, let’s get to it.

Manchester United have lost three games in a row as their season of struggle continues. How significant is their game vs. Swansea for United?

It’s hugely significant, they’ve not lost four in a row since 1961. Back then Sir Matt Busby’s side were on a 10-game winless run which actually left the club in 21st place in December as they continued to rebuild after the Munich Air Disaster in 1958. The last time United had as few as 34 points from 20 games that actually went on to win the inaugural Premier League title by 10 points. But in 1992-93 it was a 42-game season and their rivals were no where near as well equipped as they are today. For me, it’s forget the title, forget trophies. Period (although one would be nice). It is operation fourth place for Manchester United and qualification for the Champions League. They start the weekend five points behind Liverpool with 18 games to go.

source: Getty Images
More misery for Moyes and Manchester United. Arlo thinks this transfer window is massive for the Red Devils.

I’m not sure if the hierarchy at United expected the torrent of titles and trophies to continued to pour into Old Trafford after the immediate absence of Sir Alex Ferguson. But missing out on the Champions League is another matter entirely. It would be a financial hammer-blow, finishing fifth would compound the issue as it would bring a potentially debilitating campaign in the Europa League next season just as they’re rebuilding and trying to reclaim a top four spot. It is well documented that United have lost three on the spin to start 2014, but David Moyes has been nominated for Manager of the Month for December. Their 1-0 win over Norwich on December 28 wasn’t convincing but it was United’s fourth win in December, they need the spirit of the old Manchester United at Old Trafford to rip into Swansea. They also need the memory of a recent winning streak to grab a vital win in front of their own fans because it ‘s a huge and potentially season-defining task that awaits them the week after at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea.

WATCH MAN UNITED vs. SWANSEA LIVE ONLINE VIA NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA, 12:30pm ET ON SATURDAY

Lee Dixon and I cannot wait to get to Old Trafford, we were their together to see Everton defeat United and I was with Graeme Le Saux for the Tottenham defeat. Manchester United’s fans are being very fair and are heeding Sir Alex’s request to give the new man a chance and give him their full support. But they are growing a little more disgruntled. You can hear the first signs of boo’s at the final whistle as the away fans celebrate in the far corner. This is an absolutely vital afternoon for Manchester United, we can’t wait to sample the atmosphere at Old Trafford.

Plenty are expecting David Moyes to be handed a considerable war chest in the January transfer window. Which positions need strengthening the most?

United need to think outside the box here, in a way that perhaps they’ve never had to do in the last two decades. Champions League qualification is an absolute must for them so they need to get creative. Short-term loans, or maybe sign a player that’s ineligible for the Champions League this season but may help them enormously in the Premier League to help them get back into a top four spot. Their needs overall are plenty, long-term they need new full backs, they need at least one center back and they need to restock in the wide midfield areas, plus they need a central attacking midfielder.

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Only Rooney and RVP are worthy of a starting spot at United these days. Maybe De Gea too.

It’s only Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie who they desperately need to hold onto, who you can say are two definites in a staring XI in the future, with the possible exception of David De Gea who through it all is playing very well indeed.

In the short-term they need some dynamism in central midfield, some energy, aggression and some flair. Whether they’ll find that in January is another matter. But as I say they need to think outside the box, reappraise their approach and get some talent in whether they have to pay more for it at a premium in January and those players are ineligible for the Champions League. They’ve got to improve in the Premier League.

The atmosphere at St. James’ Park is often intimidating for visiting sides, how big a test is this for Manchester City against Newcastle?

It’s very big. Manchester United have a better away record than Manchester City. City have won all ten games at home, they have 30 points out of 30, but away they’ve won four out of 10 and have conceded 17 goals so they’ve accumulated 14 points out of 30. They’ve also scored double the amount of goals at home than they have on the road, the discrepancy between home form and away form for them is still too big although their away record has picked up in the last few games.

WATCH NEWCASTLE VS. MAN CITY LIVE ONLINE VIA NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA, 9:05am ET ON SUNDAY

source: AP
Newcastle are a tough nut to crack at home. Can a rampaging Man City side win at St. James’ Park?

Newcastle, as you say are a tough nut to crack at home. I can’t wait to get to St. James’ Park this weekend, we’ve been there once this season. 52,000 fans were there for the West Brom game and it’s a wonderful place to watch football. It’s a true football city with the history you breathe football in the air and you breathe Newcastle United when you walk up the road towards St. James’ Park on the hill. They’ve beaten Chelsea at home this season so far Newcastle, they have top four intentions themselves. They’ve just started to slide into midtable, so it’s a vital game for them. I’m fascinated and so impressed of the emergence of Alvaro Negredo as a striker in the absence of Sergio Aguero. He has got incredible power and has scored eight goals in the league, 18 in total.

I think it’s too soon for Aguero to come back but that’s one of the big decisions Manuel Pellegrini has to make. He often makes different decisions away than he would at home, will he start two up top with Negredo and Dzeko? Or will he go one up top and five in midfield? I think their approach to the game, you will be able to see it through the starting XI Pellegrini selects vs. Newcastle.

Are Man City still your favorites to win the title?

Marginally. This is the season of seasons, in terms of it being wide open. We’re still no closer to a definitive answer and that’s just the way we like it halfway through the season. City are clearly the most explosive, devastating team in the Premier League. When they’re at home their hard work and togetherness shines through, they buzz around in central midfield and work tirelessly to get the ball back. You watch Kolarov at left back and particularly Zabaleta on the right flank and those two tirelessly bomb up and down the flanks to help in attack and defense as well. Fernandinho and Toure at home are unstoppable, they give Manchester City a fantastic platform. If it went on just their home form there would be only one team in it. But it’s this nagging doubt of their away form which prevents me from saying that they’re the outright favorites.

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City’s supreme offense is still taking time for gel away from the Etihad. But recent signs are good for Pellegrini’s men.

Arsenal have recovered nicely from a little wobble before Christmas, they deserve to be where they are. And we will see what they do in the transfer window in January, it’s a big transfer window for Arsene Wenger. He went against his own policies by going out and spending a lot of money on Mesut Ozil in the summer, perhaps he might do the same seeing that Arsenal are in the box seat going into the second half of the season. But Chelsea are impressing me in a different way. It’s possible that in a season of high-scoring football, wide-open games and attack minded approaches that a team that can grind out results and be consistent in that way might just accumulate enough points that when the music stops at the end of the season, they could be the ones on the throne as Champions. So don’t rule Chelsea out at this stage, and I think out of the top four Liverpool are the outsiders but we will see what happens when they get their main stars back as well.

Finally, what else are you looking forward to?

The trials and tribulations of West Ham United under Sam Allardyce is making a big story in the Premier League. He made so many changes in the FA Cup tie versus Nottingham Forest, as Premier League survival was the priority and the semifinal first leg of the League Cup at Man City, and they got walloped 5-0 by Forest. They are injury ravaged and they then go and get absolutely torn apart by Man City, and they’ve now conceded 11 goals without scoring in their last two games. The Hammers now face a very difficult game away at Cardiff City under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer. They’re going to be rejuvenated I’m sure in the absence of Malky Mackay, they played very well in the game we did on NBC against Sunderland where perhaps they were unfortunate to concede a last minute equalizer. But West Ham have got to turn in a performance, they’ve got horrendous injury problems at the back and one or two of their players are going missing.

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West Ham are beleaguered and languishing towards the bottom. One more big defeat could spell the end for Big Sam.

Andy Carroll can’t get into that team quick enough just to give them a boost. There will be a lot of pressure on him to score goals immediately in a side that’s struggling. But another heavy defeat at Cardiff, I know the owners at West Ham have backed Sam Allardyce to the hilt, but the fans are starting to turn. They are a little bit embarrassed with what’s going on and they’re fearful for the future.

They’ve seen the short-term short in the arm that a managerial change can provide for them, so a hefty defeat for West Ham at the weekend and things could get extremely interesting.

With no World Cup for USMNT, Altidore shifts focus

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For Jozy Altidore, this was supposed to be the time when the United States was preparing for this summer’s World Cup. That changed early in October when the Americans got bounced from the tournament.

[ MORE: Kamara to La Liga? ]

The stunning failure shifted Altidore’s focus.

He spent the beginning of 2018 in Grand Cayman, where his foundation is bringing soccer to kids in a region hit by hurricanes last fall. Soon, he’ll start the new season with defending MLS Cup champion Toronto FC.

As for this summer? Altidore will watch a few of the matches in Russia on television. The 28-year-old forward isn’t stewing in the loss, he’s looking with hope to the future.

“Of course I’ll obviously be disappointed not to be there, but at the end of the day, man, we’re blessed to do what we do,” he said.

Apart from the national team loss, Altidore is coming off one of the better years of his career. He scored 18 goals with the Reds and another four with the U.S. national team. Toronto FC won the Supporters’ Shield for the best regular-season record before sweeping through the playoffs and defeating Seattle 2-0 for the league title. Altidore scored in the final and earned MLS Cup MVP honors.

The victory was a bit of revenge for a loss to the Sounders for the MLS Cup the previous season, but Altidore said Toronto’s motivation was part of a season-long journey he took with his teammates and coach Greg Vanney.

“I think more than anything we understood how close we were and how it hurt that we had come up short that season,” he said. “The focus for us was to do what we did that last year and if we got to the last game, obviously make sure we got the W and make the most of our chances.”

Altidore celebrates his goal against the Seattle Sounders during the MLS Cup Final (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP)

Toronto teammate and fellow national team player, Michael Bradley, echoed the sentiment after the title match.

“When push comes to shove, you want to step into the biggest moments with people that you would do anything for, that you love, that you believe in, that you trust, that you know have your back,” Bradley said.

But it wasn’t all smooth. Altidore got into a confrontation with New York Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan in a tunnel at BMO Field during the conference semifinals. Altidore and Kljestan were handed red cards in the aftermath.

Altidore sat out Toronto’s next game, while Kljestan was suspended an additional game and won’t be able to play the first two games of the upcoming season. Kljestan, who was also fined, was traded in the offseason from the Red Bulls to Orlando.

Altidore and Bradley were also jeered – sometimes with profane and personal attacks – by opposing fans over the U.S. team’s qualifying performance.

“Look, all that stuff I think would have been magnified had we not achieved our objective,” Altidore said. “But we did, and we did it in such a convincing manner.”

Following the 2-1 U.S. loss in Couva, Trinidad, that cost the national team a spot in the World Cup, coach Bruce Arena stepped down and U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said he would not run for another term.

Interim U.S. coach Dave Sarachan called 30 players into January training camp in advance of an exhibition game against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Jan. 28 in Carson, California. Altidore and many of the team’s veterans were not invited.

The camp roster includes 15 players who have never played in a match for the senior national team. The most experienced was LA Galaxy midfielder Gyasi Zardes, who is 26. Twenty-one of the players are 24 and younger.

Altidore, who has 41 goals in 110 appearances with the national team, understands that developing young talent is important heading into the next World Cup quadrennial. “We have to do a better job of identifying new talent, for sure,” he said, suggesting that missing out on the past two Olympics – where under-23 teams compete – has hurt development efforts.

For now, Altidore is pouring his energy into charitable endeavors.

Altidore, whose parents are from Haiti, launched his foundation in 2011 following the devastating earthquake that hit the country the year before. The foundation built a well to provide water to a town of more than 400 in Haiti, along with other rebuilding efforts. In 2016, he paid to bring the Copa America matches to television in the country.

The latest effort in the Cayman Islands focuses on getting youth involved in soccer.

“I think the whole region, the Caribbean has a lot of talent and has a lot of kids who want to become players. And I think it helps to see and identify with players who have played in different leagues from around the world,” he said. “If I’m able to be one of those guys that can start that whole thing, it’s a great opportunity and honor for me.”

Report: Ola Kamara wanted by mid-table La Liga outfit

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Columbus Crew star Ola Kamara is ready to leave the side, but he may not be moving inside of Major League Soccer.

[ MORE: FA Cup replay roundup ]

Metro.Us reporter Kristian Dyer says the Norwegian star is subject to a bid from a mid-table La Liga club. He’d been linked with a trade to Colorado as well.

Kamara, 28, came to MLS from Austria Wien and has since scored 34 goals in two seasons, a year after bagging 21 goals on loan for Molde in Norway.

Seventh place and 15th are separated by just four points in Spain’s top flight. Leganes and Espanyol are having the hardest time scoring goals, in terms of mildly educated speculation.

Transfer rumor roundup: Fred to Man City; Aubameyang wanted

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Could this January transfer window rival last season’s in terms of activity?

[ MORE: FA Cup replay roundup ]

Last season saw Crystal Palace save its season and Hull City nearly do the same, Morgan Schneiderlin head to Everton, Leicester find a decent N'Golo Kante replacement, and much, much more.

This season has been less active, though Ross Barkley has headed to Chelsea while former club Everton nabbed Cenk Tosun and Liverpool added Virgil Van Dijk.

The BBC has news involving Napoli which could affect two Premier League clubs. The Neapolitans apparently want Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who wants to be an every week starter, to be a prime part of their push to end Juventus’ Serie A stranglehold.

That would unseat Pepe Reina, who’s been long linked with a reunion with former boss Pepe Reina at Newcastle United. Napoli currently has Luigi Sepe as a No. 2 to Reina, though UEFA Europa League fixtures mean it’s no guarantee Mignolet’s arrival would allow Reina to leave town.

Sky Sports says Manchester City would like to see Fred as a long-term replacement for Fernandinho. Fred went 90 minutes for Shakhtar Donetsk in a pair of UEFA Champions League contests against City, including the 2-1 home win over the Premier League leaders’ B-squad on Dec. 6. The 24-year-old has two goals and two assists in league play, and could cost more than $25 million.

Don Balon proffers news that could unsettle Arsenal fans, as Real Madrid is apparently entering the bidding for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Florentino Perez would like an upgrade to Karim Benzema for his struggling La Liga super powers, and goodness knows Real will tempt Borussia Dortmund’s bank account.

One liners:

— The BBC also says Besiktas want Islam Slimani to join the club from Leicester City.

— Ola Kamara’s move from Columbus to another MLS team may be hijacked by La Liga.

Mourinho reportedly close to Man Utd contract extension

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Jose Mourinho is scheduling an extended stay at Manchester United.

[ MORE: Donovan unveiled by Leon ]

The 54-year-old has a contract through the end of next season, the dreaded third at a club for Mourinho, but reports say United is keen to keep him around through 2021.

Mourinho has not tasted a fourth season with a club despite winning league titles at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid.

The 2019-20 season at Old Trafford would be Mourinho’s fourth. According to the BBC:

Talks have progressed well and it is now just a matter of time before Mourinho commits to remain at Old Trafford beyond the expiry of his present deal in 2019.

Somehow, this feels it should be deemed another loss for Antonio Conte.