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

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.

Report: Guardiola close to adding $43m Benfica goalkeeper

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Year Two of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City could feature another big goalkeeper purchase.

Claudio Bravo hasn’t panned out in sky blue, and Joe Hart doesn’t look likely to be coming back. Wily Caballero is getting the lion’s share of the minutes right now, playing every minute aside from a trio of FA Cup matches since February.

[ MORE: Podolski scores screamer in German finale ]

$43 million is the fee noted by Abola when it comes to the latest target for Guardiola, a neck-tattooed Brazilian by the name of Ederson.

The Benfica backstop, 23, has 20 clean sheets in 32 appearances this season. He signed a new six-year deal in late January, but money may talk here.