Manchester United's Van Persie celebrates

Robin van Persie scores six minutes into his return, has Manchester United up on Cardiff

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With all the focus on Juan Mata over the last week, the potential return of Robin Van Persie became a footnote in the buildup to today’s match against Cardiff City. When Manchester United’s lineup was announced, however, the Dutch international was the last name in the XI, the Red Devils’ number nine set to make his first appearance since Dec. 10.

It didn’t take him long to make an impact. On a play that began with a switch from new teammate Juan Mata, Van Persie scored his eighth goal of the Premier League season, putting Manchester United up 1-0 on Cardiff at Old Trafford.

Mata began the movement by swinging the ball to the left flank, where Patrice Evra took on his man before laying off to Ashley Young. The winger’s bullet cross found Antonio Valencia just short of the six-yard box, with the Ecuadorian’s ensuing header pushed off the bar.

The rebound came to Van Persie, whose initial header was fired back at Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall. But on a save that came right back to him, Van Persie put a second header just under the bar, giving United a 1-0 lead.

Cardiff came into the game in 20th place and will be disappointed with their hosts’ early goal. United, however, are already reaping the benefits of their two stars. For Mata, those virtues come in an Old Trafford debut, while Van Persie is making his long-awaited return.

Klopp to the Kop: Multiple reports say deal agreed at Liverpool

TURIN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 24:  Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp shouts to his players during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match between Juventus and Borussia Dortmund at Juventus Arena on February 24, 2015 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp is on his way to Liverpool to sign a contract naming him the next coach of the Reds.

The celebrated manager, 48, has been on “hiatus” from football since leaving Borussia Dortmund last season.

[ MORE: Messi to stand trial in Spain ]

Reports starting emerging earlier today that an agreement was imminent, and now the BBC is among those reporting that Klopp will be rolled out Friday morning.

From the BBC:

No contract has yet been signed but that is viewed as a formality when Klopp arrives in Liverpool later on Thursday. He will be officially unveiled by Liverpool on Friday morning at 10:00 BST.

There’s not much to say besides this: Klopp’s addition to the Premier League will give more color and brilliance to the country’s footballing scene. Only a certain class of manager can be instantly expected to find a better system for an inherited group of players.

This could and should be a game changer on Merseyside.

Appeal rejected! Lionel Messi will face court trial in Spain

VIGO, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 23:  Lionel Messi looks dejected after the La Liga match between Celta Vigo and FC Barcelona at Estadio Balaidos on September 23, 2015 in Vigo, Spain.  (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Alex Caparros/Getty Images
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It was a mere 48 hours ago that Lionel Messi looked close to in the clear when it came to tax evasion charges.

Now the question is whether a Spanish court will lock away the greatest active footballer, as a judge rejected the prosecutors’ (!!!) request to drop the charges.

[ WATCH: Hilarious spoof pegs Messi, Ronaldo as “Friends” ]

Messi and his father have already made a $5.5 million corrective payment, but there’s principle in play here. And the judge wants to know how Messi can claim he had no idea what was being done with his money.

From the BBC:

Lawyers acting on behalf of the tax authorities demanded 22-month jail sentences for both defendants.

“There are rational signs that the criminality was committed by both accused parties,” wrote the judge in a court filing, according to the AFP news agency.

Can you imagine one of the world’s richer men ending up in a Spanish prison? It’s very difficult to consider. In some ways it’s more plausible that he would buy his own island and start the “Messi Isle Premiership”.

Still, we won’t laugh off the idea, especially with FIFA apparently going down. Messi in prison. That’s something. Sepp in Switzerland. Lionel in Spain.