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After Champions League exit, what now for Manchester United?

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As the final whistle blew at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday, Manchester United’s fans must now prepare for life without the UEFA Champions League for quiet some time.

That’s the reality.

David Moyes’ men put up a brave fight against Bayern Munich, but bowed out of Europe’s elite club competition at the quarterfinal stage after losing 4-2 on aggregate to the reigning champions. More than likely, United’s 17-straight years in the UCL will come to an end next season.

(MORE: Bayern Munich ease into UCL semis, as Man United crash out)

Now that United are out of Europe, their chances of qualifying for the UCL next season are slim to none as they’re currently seven points off the Premier League’s top four with five games to go. When asked about the possibility of that next season, this is what Moyes had to say.

“Well, we’ve not got Champions League football. That’s the way it looks,” Moyes said with a resigned look on his face. “I believe that it’s not far away, it will hopefully only be one year. With the way we are going to rebuild and our focus know is to get a team that will make sure we are back in this competition because it is a great competition, we’ve really enjoyed it and there’s no shame in going out in the quarterfinals to Bayern Munich tonight. The players have played really well, it shows the quality we’ve got. So we we regroup and build towards being back in the competition again.”

But what about the future?

With United’s rebuild in the post-Ferguson era experiencing serious growing pains, Moyes must now struggle through the transfer market without having the luxury item of Champions League soccer to dangle in front of prospective new signings. The 50-year-old Scotsman doesn’t see that as an issue. But what about the board and the owners who are now considerably out of pocket with UCL cash out the window?

source: AP
Patrice Evra looks on, as Bayern’s players celebrate beating scoring another against Man United.

“The club is looking to spend the right money on the right player if they become available. It has nothing to do with Champions League football,” Moyes said. “Any players that we’ve quietly discussed with are more than happy to join Manchester United. They are all keen to come, because it is a short thing, not a long thing [being without UCL soccer], that are all very keen to join such a great club.”

(LATEST UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE NEWS, RIGHT HERE)

United’s fans must know curb their lofty ambitions, as their side will now face an uphill struggle to qualify for the UCL in the foreseeable future. Moyes actually praised his players after the defeat to Bayern. Yes, he is going to publicly stick up for his squad, but even if he’s lambasting his side for what he called ‘schoolboy errors’ in letting Bayern back into the game so quickly after United had taken the lead, his attitude doesn’t evoke what a United manager is all about. Being positive about crashing out of the Champions League isn’t something fans will take to.

So often Sir Alex Ferguson was ruthless in widespread changes he made at various spells of his 26-year tenure in charge of Man United. Moyes needs to do that now, as even one of his most experienced players acknowleged they just aren’t good enough.

“It’s obviously not good enough, we’ve said that over the last few weeks. It is not good enough because this club should be in the Champions League,” midfielder Michael Carrick said. “It was going to be tough tonight, but the reason we aren’t going to be in the Champions League next season is not because of tonight. It is our league form throughout the season, we take responsibility for that. It has been over a long period of time now that we have had too many bad results, and ultimately we will pay for it.”

Carrick went onto say that his side will be back rubbing shoulders with Europe’s elite in no time. But how are United going to do that?

source: Getty Images
If David Moyes is given the chance to redeem himself, a daunting rebuild awaits at Old Trafford.

They must rebuild ruthlessly and efficiently, as the $100 million plus that the UCL brings into the clubs coffers has now vanished for next season. The need for Moyes to get creative with his signings and deliver success in the top four is crucial, if he’s even given that luxury. Rumors continue to swirl that the Scot will be ‘one and done’ in terms of years in charge at Old Trafford, as the man Sir Alex Ferguson handpicked as his successor has failed miserably in his first season in charge.

Let’s not beat around the bush.

Did we know it would be difficult to replicate Fergie’s success with an aging team? Yes. But did anybody honestly see United finishing outside the top four, which they will likely do, this campaign? No.

If Moyes is given the opportunity to redeem himself next season, which in all honesty he should, after signing a reported five-year deal to take charge of the Red Devils, he must bring in two new central defenders, a left back, one more top striker and a true holding central midfielder. Veteran defenders Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic will all move on, and better replacements than Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are needed at the back. In attack, a foil to Wayne Rooney is what Moyes needs, as Robin van Persie’s injury-hit season has exposed his age and Danny Welbeck isn’t top, top class. In midfield the big-money signing of Marouane Fellaini always seemed like a risky one, and overall the Belgian has had a poor season. United need to invest in a midfield warrior in the engine room. Adding those five players, which is neither going to be easy or cheap, will help Moyes get this legendary club back to where it belongs.

Notice I said help, because the real job here is for Moyes to rally around and inspire his current crop of underachieving superstar’s that will remain at Old Trafford past this season. Psychologically, the tribulations of this season will have a huge impact on the confidence and belief amongst the United squad.

All is not lost, but as we saw against Bayern, and so often in the Premier League this season, United’s glory days are well and truly over. That famous ‘glory, glory Man United’ song could have a hollow ring to it for quiet some time, as a monumental rebuild is well and truly underway.

Loss to Sevilla quickly puts Real Madrid’s Zidane on the defensive

SEVILLE, SPAIN - JANUARY 15:  Head Coach of Real Madrid CF Zinedine Zidane looks on prior to  the match against Real Madrid CF during the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on January 15, 2017 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images
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MADRID (AP) Real Madrid’s first loss after a 40-game unbeaten streak was enough to put coach Zinedine Zidane on the defensive.

Two days after Madrid’s unbeaten record was halted by a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla in the Spanish league, Zidane was forced to defend some of his players against criticism from fans and local media.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

Most comments were aimed at goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who failed to stop Sevilla’s injury-time winner on Sunday. Navas got to Stevan Jovetic‘s long-range shot but was unable to keep the ball from going in.

“He’s having a really good season,” Zidane said on Tuesday. “You can always ask for more, but if up until now we had gone 40 games without losing, it’s for a reason, and he has been there all the way.”

There have been calls for Zidane to give reserve goalkeeper Kiko Casilla a chance, but the coach said there was “no need to go over this again.”

Zidane also dismissed talk about signing a new goalkeeper.

“These are rumors,” he said. “We are focused on what we are doing this year. Whatever happens next I’m not interested and it’s not the time to talk about it. The three goalkeepers we have are important, they’re doing well and I’m very happy with them. I don’t want to change anything we’re doing.”

[ MORE: How Sevilla hope to break up the Madrid-Barca duopoly ]

Zidane defended forward Karim Benzema, who lost possession near midfield in a mistake that led to host Sevilla’s winner on Sunday.

“Everyone can say and write what they want,” Zidane said. “On a field, playing 90 minutes, you can’t do everything right. There is talk of lack of concentration, but we only had five bad minutes and that happens in football.”

Benzema also missed a chance to score from close range in the game, but a few days earlier it was the French striker who netted in stoppage time in a Copa del Rey match against Sevilla to help Madrid set the Spanish unbeaten record.

Zidane downplayed the end of Madrid’s unbeaten streak. The club hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat at Wolfsburg in the Champions League in April.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

“These things happen,” he said. “Nothing is going to change in what I’m going to do. Those who are not Real Madrid fans will want us to lose, but we must be ready and think that what we’re doing is fine. We lost a game, something that happens, and now we have to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Madrid hosts Celta Vigo on Wednesday in a first-leg match in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

Celta has won all four matches this year.

“I am not surprised by Celta’s record because they’re a very good team, they fight and play very good football,” Zidane said. “It’ll be another complicated match for us.”

FA fines Man City’s Sagna over “10 against 12” Instagram message

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Scott Arfield of Burnley (L) tackles Bacary Sagna of Manchester City (R) during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Burnley at Etihad Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
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LONDON (AP) The English Football Association has fined Manchester City defender Bacary Sagna 40,000 pounds (around $50,000) for an Instagram post about a referee.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Sagna posted a photo with the caption “10 against 12.. but still fighting and winning as a team” on the social network site following City’s 2-1 win against Burnley on Jan. 2.

Sagna later amended the post to read “still fighting and winning as a team” after a match that saw referee Lee Mason send off midfielder Fernandinho.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

The FA also warned Sagna about his future conduct.

Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over in-limbo Matip

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: Joel Matip of Liverpool and Andre Ayew of West Ham United compete for the ball during the Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on December 11, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images
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Few footballing sagas will ever reach heights of absurdity comparable to that of the Joel Matip/Liverpool versus Cameroon/FIFA battle currently raging, as the Reds defender finds himself “ineligible” to play for his club due to an international call-up 18 months after announcing his international retirement.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright summed up the situation quite well, in full, right here. An excerpt:

Matip, 25, was called up by the Cameroon national team for the 2017 African Cup of Nations which is currently taking place in Gabon. However, the former Schalke defender has previously stated that he did not want to play for them and he had retired from international duty.

Cameroon called him into their initial 35-man squad for the competition anyway but did not include him in their final 23-man squad once it became clear Matip, along with six other players, had no interest in playing for them at AFCON.

FIFA has confirmed that Liverpool has been in touch regarding Matip’s status and it now appears that he will not be able to play in any other competition while Cameroon is still in AFCON action under Article 5 of FIFA’s rules.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Fast forward a few days, and Jurgen Klopp and Co. have no further clarity regarding the situation. It’s so unclear, in fact, that Klopp said on Tuesday he may select the 25-year-old during one of two remaining games this week, and hope for the best — quotes from the Guardian:

“As you can imagine, we are in a lot of talks. We’ve done transfers quicker than this. It’s already long term but now it’s getting really tense on our side. We’ve tried everything but at the end I have to make the decision. Of course I have to ask [Liverpool’s lawyers] but the decision is for me to make. I could put him in the lineup. I don’t think the referee is going to say: ‘Stop, stop, you cannot go on the pitch.’ But I will do it when it’s OK from our point of view. Of course I need advice — I’m not a lawyer.”

“Most of the time in life you know if you do this, then you get this. But it’s not 100 percent clear what happens [if Matip plays]. We try everything to win football games. If this can happen — out of the tournament or whatever — then we have to decide about the risk. He’s ready to play for us and that makes it difficult.”

What an utter disaster of a situation Cameroon have intentionally created here.

VIDEO: Jeison Murillo’s incredible bicycle from a corner kick

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 17:  (R-L) Jeison Murillo of FC Internazionale celebrates his first goal with Geoffrey Kondogbia during the TIM Cup match between FC Internazionale and Bologna FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 17, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Look away now, Andy Carroll. Take a bow, Jeison Murillo.

[ VIDEOS: All in a week’s work — Messi free kick no. 1 | Messi free kick no. 2 ]

Just three days after Carroll scored the bicycle-kick goal of the year (so we thought), here comes Murillo, Inter Milan’s 24-year-old Colombian striker, to steal his thunder (below video). The fact he did it directly from a corner kick, with the ball traveling roughly 40 yards before flinging his body into the air and striking the ball so cleanly, (somehow) trumps Carroll’s accomplishment from Saturday.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings — Tight at the top… and bottom ]

Sensational goals come in twos now, apparently, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Olivier Giroud scored stunning scorpion-kick goals (WATCH HERE and HERE) just days apart earlier in the season.