LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBUARY 08: Tom Ince of Crystal Palace looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion at Selhurst Park on Febuary 08, 2014 in London, England.

Tom Ince moves to Hull, with tribunal potentially deciding fee

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Since the English season ended in May, Tom Ince had been linked with a move to one of his father’s teams, with Inter Milan reportedly interested in bringing the 22-year-old midfielder to Italy. Today, however, Ince committed to staying in the Premier League, signing a two-year deal that will take him from Blackpool to FA Cup finalists Hull City.

Ince, who had been with the Tangerines for the last three seasons, spent the second half of the 2013-14 campaign on loan at Crystal Palace, where he made eight league appearances as the Eagles fought off relegation from the Premier League.

With his move to Hull, Ince will be joining the fifth club in his young professional career, having spent time with Liverpool and Notts County before joining Blackpool in the summer of 2011.

Now Ince secures a permanent move back into the top-flight, with the relationship Hull manager and former Manchester United star Steve Bruce had with Ince’s father Paul part of the process that put the midfielder in black and orange. From Sky Sports News, via the Press Association and The Guardian:

“I’ve known Steve Bruce on a personal and professional level for quite some years, being in a former team with my old man.

“I also know a lot of the players so it felt like home to me. I didn’t feel like a stranger walking into the dressing room, into the ground …

“To be given an opportunity to play again in the Premier League, it’s a fantastic opportunity for me and one that I’m relishing.”

Over two-and-a-half seasons with Blackpool, Ince scored 33 goals in 113 appearances while being named the Football League Young Player of the Year in 2013. During that time, Ince has also made 14 appearances for England’s U-21 national team, though he’s yet to earn a full senior cap.

With a opportunity to win regular time in the Premier League, Ince’s chances of breaking into Roy Hodgson’s team could improve. In fact, a 5-3-2 formation with Ince playing above Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone, behind Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic, doesn’t look half bad.  If Ince can build on his strong performances in the Championship, the signing could prove a good fit for both player and club.

How much Hull has to pay to make that happen, however, remains to be seen. Though Ince was out of contract with the Tangerines, his young age means the Tigers will still have to send money to Blackpool. In theory, this compensates Blackpool for investing in Ince’s development, even though in this case, a good deal of that development happened in the Liverpool academy.

Right now, the clubs remain at an impasse, meaning an independent tribunal may have to set the fee. When Daniel Sturridge went through a similar process while moving from Manchester City to Chelsea in 2010, an independent tribunal awarded the Citizens £6.5 million: £3.5 million in initial fees; another £3 million in appearance bonuses.

While Ince is unlikely to draw that type of evaluation, he’ll still be subjected to the same process. If Hull and Blackpool can’t come to an agreement on compensation, an independent panel will decide what the Seasiders get from their investment in Ince.

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.

Phil Neville praises Juan Mata’s play to Manchester United

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Juan Mata has appeared in 116 matches for Manchester United since moving to Old Trafford in 2014. In that time, Mata has scored 29 goals and recorded 18 assists.

Despite his performance for the team, some thought Mata would be moved when Jose Mourinho came to town, including former United player and assistant coach Phil Neville.

Neville told Sky Sports, “I actually thought he would be the first out of the door when Jose came, but he’s actually becoming one of the most important players.”

Neville praised Mata’s contributions and versatility for United. “He is never injured, he provides a lot of assists, he plays in two or three different positions, and he scores important goals.”

Manchester United has lacked an identity under Mourinho and recently faltered in the Premier League as the team is winless in its last three matches.

[ MORE: Mourinho gets FA charge ]

Could Mata be the answer to some of United’s problems?

The Spaniard is a classic No. 10 with the ability to dictate his team’s attack and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. Mata can also put the ball in the back of the net as evidenced by his winner against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

Mourinho has options in the center midfield with the likes of Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick in addition to Mata on the roster.

However, given the team’s Premier League struggles, it could be worth giving Mata a chance as the team’s No. 10.

David Moyes faces FA charges after being sent off during EFL Cup

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David Moyes and Sunderland have gotten off to one of the worst starts in Premier League history.

If they fail to earn a point against Arsenal this weekend, they will tie the 1995-96 Manchester City team for the worst start ever through 10 matches with two points.

It appears those frustrations carried over to the EFL Cup for Moyes. On Wednesday, the manager was forced to leave the dugout toward the end of Sunderland’s 1-0 loss to Southampton after he protested a no-call from referee Chris Kavanagh.

Moyes was charged by the FA for his protests, saying the manager “used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official”.

It’s just another thing to add to Moyes’ plate as he looks to keep Sunderland’s hopes of safety alive in the Premier League.