Candidates you need to know as Manchester United looks for a manager

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So now that David Moyes has officially been canned, lasting about 1,450 games less than his predecessor at Manchester United, who’s the top pick to be given a couple weeks to restore the Red Devils to Champions League status?

Besides Ryan Giggs, the United legend who will guide the club on an interim basis, here are the names to know. Surely many will be familiar from the “Who will replace” Andre Villas-Boas, Tim Sherwood, Roberto di Matteo et. al circuses?

THE FAVORITES (In no particular order)

Louis van Gaal – So what if he’s yet to play or manage in England? Vocally “totally sick” of being Netherlands coach and moving on after World Cup, van Gaal is the bookies favorite to get the gig. The Dutchman has bounced around a bunch, from Ajax to Barcelona to the Netherlands and back to Barcelona before spending time at AZ Alkmaar and Bayern Munich… and the Netherlands again. He led a star-studded Ajax team to the Champions League title in 1995, has topped the league tables in Holland, Spain and Germany, and has a great reputation with United star Robin van Persie. ESPN reported today that United have already reached out to van Gaal.

Jurgen Klopp – The 46-year-old Dortmund boss has reportedly quashed the idea of going to Manchester United mere hours after the job became open. That doesn’t mean things can’t change, but the in-demand man is also being talked about as a potential boss at Barcelona and Tottenham.

Diego Simeone – Let’s face it: any manager whose club remains in the UEFA Champions League is worth considering as a high-profile, headline-grabbing replacement for Moyes (though naming anyone for the United gig would grab headlines). The 43-year-old Argentine is a fiery leader who would have a unique look behind the United bench, and would likely relish a job where his best players wouldn’t consistently be linked with larger clubs.

Roberto Martinez – Stop laughing. He’s one of the top managers in the game, and just showed the world how capable he is to take a group of players underperforming under one manager and lift them to another level. The Everton boss specifically has experience taking players Moyes couldn’t get to the Europe and propping them up a few places. Would Everton “let” him leave? Would he even want the poisoned chalice when he’s currently boasting the best win percentage in Toffees history?

Mauricio Pochettino – It would be an absolutely-inspired hire for the Red Devils; the Southampton boss has worked miracles at St. Mary’s and could bring Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and countless others with him. Heck, you could argue the Saints are currently a better club than Manchester United… and perhaps a better gig. Maybe this one’s a bit under the radar, but the man is a master tactician who would welcome a more “Europe-ready” gig.

THE OTHERS

Sir Alex Ferguson – Is there any doubt the Scot has the ego to jump back into the gig, snare loads of quality players he didn’t provide Moyes and then say, “Oh well, I guess I shouldn’t have left?” Of course not. In fact, he may have to be kept from doing it. Also, Sir Alex would be really offended to know he’s on a list titled “The Others.”

Clarence Seedorf – Extremely unlikely, but the Suriname-born legend has almost-immediately restored order to an AC Milan club hit with similar frustrations as Manchester United.

Roberto di Matteo – He’s familiar with England as a player and manager, and has achieved pretty unique turnarounds in short periods of time at Chelsea and West Brom. Plus everyone’s always asking about him, apparently!

Carlos Quieroz – Twice a United assistant, the 61-year-old Iran boss has also run the ships for Portugal and Real Madrid (and the Metrostars).

Laurent Blanc – Could he leave the high-profile PSG seat for increased volatility in the Premier League?

Carlo Ancelotti – He’s done the job at Chelsea and now at Real Madrid, and would be a fairly-safe bet to have success at Old Trafford.

Pep Guardiola – Would he really depart from Bayern Munich in the throes of forming an all-time giant?

Roy Keane – We kid, we kid.

MORE: How the Manchester United job has become a poisoned chalice:
MORE: Jurgen Klopp rules himself out of Manchester United gig
MORE: Is Ryan Giggs ready to take over permanently as Manchester United boss?
VIDEO: Where David Moyes went wrong at Manchester United
MORE: Premier League Playback – Why Moyes should go

Report: Liverpool to escape punishment over Van Dijk pursuit

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The Times states that Liverpool will not be punished further for pursuing Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk.

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Earlier this month the Reds issued a public apology to Southampton and stated they had ended their interest in the 25-year-old Dutch defender following allegations that Van Dijk was flown to Blackpool (just north of Liverpool) to meet with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and their manager messaged VVD “regularly” as they chased the Dutch international.

Southampton, as you would expect, were far from happy about this so-called “tapping up” from Liverpool and reported the Reds to the Premier League by making an official complaint.

Liverpool’s apology was then followed by a preliminary investigation, but reports state that there will be no further action taken against Liverpool by the PL with “insufficient evidence” to support the claims surrounding the alleged “tapping up” of Van Dijk and unless new evidence arrives then the case will be closed.

Regardless, this whole episode has been incredibly embarrassing for Liverpool, especially when you take into account their current ban from signing academy players when a similar case cropped up over chasing a youngster in Stoke City’s academy.

Klopp has not only lost the chance to sign Van Dijk (at least, that’s the way it seems for now) but Liverpool have also lost some respect for the way they supposedly went about this business. American owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) went to great lengths to apologize for this situation and are keen to stress they always conduct their business in a respect manner.

Now, we would all be a little naive to believe that this type of thing doesn’t happen a lot in soccer. A player (usually through his agent) will perhaps gently let another team know he’s interested in a move to them, and the ball gets rolling from there. Of course, the two clubs are supposed to agree a fee for the player first and then said player can meet with his potential new club to square away the details.

Southampton are said to still be furious about the approach from Liverpool to Van Dijk, so much so that if they were to sell their star player and captain this summer (they maintain he’s not for sale) they’d rather take less money from another club (Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal are all said to be interested) than let him leave for Anfield for over $70 million.

After Liverpool plucked Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne and Sadio Mane from Saints in the past few years, it’s easy to understand why the South Coast club are now standing firm and saying enough is enough.

Vidal rips Ronaldo ahead of Confederations Cup semifinal

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Chile hopes to make a statement on Wednesday when it faces EURO 2016 champions Portugal and Ballon d’Or champion Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 2015 and 2016 Copa America champions can lay claim to another inter-confederation title with two more wins in the 2017 Confederations Cup, beginning with the semifinal in Kazan.

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Chile finished behind Germany in Group B but didn’t lose a match and only allowed two goals. That’ll be tested by Portugal and its seven goals in three matches.

Two of those goals came from Ronaldo, but don’t tell that to Arturo Vidal. Chile’s hard-edged midfielder doesn’t like him much.

From Goal.com:

“Cristiano is a smart ass,” he told reporters. “For me he does not exist.

“I have already told my Bayern Munich team-mate Joshua Kimmich that we will meet again in the final.”

Germany will have to take care of Mexico to make that happen, though we have a feeling a certain smart ass will have a thing or two to say before it’s all said and done.

Vidal has spoken loudly of his desire to get Chilean teammate Alexis Sanchez, a former Barcelona man, at his club Bayern Munich. If Ronaldo is on the market, this isn’t a great recruiting tool. Ah, jokes.

Trio of Crew players in Ghana roster to face USMNT, Mexico

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Ghana’s team to face the United States men’s national team on Saturday in East Hartford will look somewhat familiar to fans of Major League Soccer.

Columbus Crew players Harrison Afful, Mohammed Abu and Jonathan Mensah join David Accam of the Chicago Fire, and Gershon Koffie of the New England Revolution on a unit with Kwadwo Poku of the NASL’s Kwadwo Poku.

John Boye, Asamoah Gyan, and Mensah are the only three players from the loss to the USMNT in the 2014 World Cup.

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Like the U.S., this is a less than full-strength squad. Missing are a number of Black Stars standouts, with Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Afriyie Acquah, Daniel Amartey, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Christian Atsu, Jeff Schlupp, and Baba Rahman not with the team.

Saturday’s match is the last USMNT outing before the Gold Cup begins on July 8 in Nashville against Panama.

Goalkeepers: Addo Joseph (Aduana Stars), Richard Ofori (Wa All Stars)

Defenders: Lumor Agbenyenu (Munich 1860), Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew),  Nicholas Opoku (Berekum Chelsea), Jerry Akaminko (Eskiserhispor),  John Boye (Sivasspor), Rashid Sumalia (Al Gharafa), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew), Samuel Sarfo (Liberty)

Midfielders: Mohammed Abu (Columbus Crew, Isaac Sackey (Alanyaspor), Ofori Ebenezer (Stuttgart), Kwadwo Poku (FC Miami), Winful Kwaku Cobbinah (Hearts of Oak), Frank Acheampong (Anderlecht), Thomas Agyepong (NAC Breda), Gershon Koffie (New England Revolution)

Strikers: Asamoah Gyan (Al Alhi), Raphael Dwamena (FC Zurich), Majeed Abdul Waris (Lorient FC), David Accam (Chicago Fire)

Timo Werner abused in Germany but key to World Cup defense

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) The abuse has followed Timo Werner for months, gathering pace as rapidly as the striker has amassed goals.

No German player was more prolific in the Bundesliga last season. No player was as ostracized.

But Werner is now a full-blown Germany international, scoring his first goals at the Confederations Cup on Sunday, and he could hold the key to the World Cup defense next year.

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That could require Germany supporters to forgive a player they jeered at during his first competitive game for Joachim Loew’s team earlier this month.

“Kobe Bryant has also been booed everywhere and he always been the best,” Werner reflected ahead of Germany’s Confederations Cup semifinal against Mexico on Thursday, seeing a kindred spirit in the basketball great. “I do not want to say that I am the best like him, but (the abuse) is a bit of an incentive.”

If playing for the ascendant but deeply unpopular Leipzig wasn’t bad enough, a dive in December by Werner provided a focal point for the animosity – jealousy, perhaps – toward the Red Bull-funded team.

The insults have even been hurled far from Germany, far from soccer stadiums. The dive won a penalty against Schalke, and provided Werner with one of the 21 goals that helped to propel Leipzig into second place and a Champions League debut next season.

“There was a dive, he made a mistake and he admitted it,” Loew said, “but he is very, very young player.”

And a potentially very important one for Loew at the World Cup in Russia next year. Germany’s striking options are being assessed at the eight-team Confederations Cup as Loew still seeks a long-term successor to Miroslav Klose as target man for the world champions.

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Werner opened his account for Germany on his fourth appearance, scoring twice in a 3-1 victory over Cameroon on Sunday in Sochi.

“Werner put in a lot of legwork,” Loew said. “He showed how dangerous he is and that he’s got a great nose for goal. Both of his efforts were very well taken.”

Werner’s rivals for a place in the squad next year include fellow squad newcomers Lars Stindl and Sandro Wagner. They are both close to 30, while the 21-year-old Werner has youth, strength and speed on his side. Even Wagner said he has “never seen such a good striker at that age.”

That’s a result of Werner fusing his pace with intelligence on the ball, mastering dribbling at high speed first with Stuttgart and then at Leipzig.

“There’s no recipe for it,” Werner said. “The quickest players just know how to do it automatically. I like to knock the ball three or four meters ahead of me when I’m on the counter or have space in front of me, that way I can increase the distance between a defender and myself.”

Such proficiency should help Werner win over fans beyond Leipzig. Time, he hopes, will heal the fractures, and there’s certainly support from his new international teammates.

“I wish him well because of the issues he has had to endure,” captain Julian Draxler told Germany’s ARD television.

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

More AP Confederations Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/ConfederationsCup