Reports: Chelsea and Manchester United finalize a deal, as Juan Mata transfer to Old Trafford apparently complete

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Several reports out of England say Chelsea and Manchester United finalized the Juan Mata transfer late Wednesday evening, moving the out-of-favor midfielder north from London up to Old Trafford for a reported $61 million.

Manchester United continue to officially deny having made an offer, but various reports have noted that the Spanish midfielder has already said his goodbyes to Chelsea teammates in West London, and already has a medical evaluation arranged for Thursday with the current Premier League champs.

BBC reports say Mata’s deal at Old Trafford will be for four and a half years.

A few things to know about the big move (easily the biggest among Premier League teams thus far in the soon-to-close January transfer window):

  • Assuming all goes well with the medical, Mata could debut for his new club in less than a week during United’s must-win match against relegation threatened Cardiff City. That contest is Tuesday at Old Trafford.
  • As Joe Prince-Wright noted earlier today while keeping tabs on the fast-moving deal between the Premier League big boys, Chelsea did quite well for itself in the profit-department. Chelsea paid $38 million to Valencia two years ago. So in addition to clearing more than $20 million on the deal, they got two highly productive years from the Spanish midfielder. So that’ll certainly buy a few more practice balls or a few new flat screens for the players’ lounge.
  • Speaking of Spain, a main impetus behind the move from Mata’s side was getting back on the La Furia Roja radar. With so many juicy options, Spain manager Vicente del Bosque might have had a hard time selecting a player for World Cup duty who was not getting regular games. For whatever reason, Mata had fallen from grace around Stamford Bridge; he had started just 14 games this year for Jose Mourinho.
  • This is finally a “W” for Manchester United in the transfer sweepstakes, a much needed one after apparent, high profile swings and misses on Cesc Fabregas, Gareth Bale and Leighton Baines, to name three.
  • This gives Moyes’ team, struggling for traction and in danger of failing to even finish Top Four, an experienced, creative midfielder. The playmaking duties have generally fallen this year on Wayne Rooney (not his best role), Shinji Kagawa (not quite there) and Adnan Januzaj (talented, but too young for the job).

(MORE: Initial reactions to Mata’s move into Old Trafford)

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.