The Netherlands’ adventure in Brazil has come to an end, with the Dutch triumphantly sealing third-place — a much higher World Cup finish than most predicted prior to the start of the tournament.
For Manchester United fans, Holland’s trip has been bittersweet. On one hand, they saw plenty to be excited about in their new manager. Louis van Gaal showed a willingness to adapt tactically, spoke frankly to the press and played a little mind game by bringing in Tim Krul just before the penalty shootout with Costa Rica. On the other hand, the Dutch foray deep into the tournament meant a delay in van Gaal arriving in Manchester.
Not that it’s seemed to hurt United’s dealings in the transfer market. They’ve already snapped up Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw, and are hoping to add Arturo Vidal, Ángel di María and Mats Hummels. Even with Arjen Robben announcing he won’t be following van Gaal to Manchester, the new manager does not seem concerned about bringing in new quality signings.
Instead, van Gaal is focused on the idea of the team, rather than the high-profile player. He wants his United squad to emulate his Dutch one, at least in terms of unity.
“I hope the group in Manchester will become like this one,” said van Gaal. “We have to sing from the same hymn sheet.”
In Euro 2012, Netherlands crashed out in the group stages, a crushing disappointment for a side that, two years earlier, had made it to the World Cup final. In much the same manner, Manchester United finished seventh in the Premier League last season, after winning the title in 2012-2013. Obviously van Gaal hopes he can have the same sort of success at Old Trafford:
“I hope at Manchester United I can do my best,” he said. “I will do my best. Whether that’s enough for the fans I will wait and see, but I genuinely hope that will be the case.”
In a week where defenders scored critical goals, it’s no surprise to see a 4-3-3 in the Premier League’s Team of the Week.
Robert Huth‘s brace while blanking Manchester City leads the way for the PL’s top XI from the weekend, while Southampton’s vaunted back line and keeper have two in mix.
[ MORE: Ailing Chelsea, Man Utd showcase obvious deficiencies ]
Liverpool and Arsenal both put offensive forces on the team, while big goals for safety hopefuls Newcastle United and Aston Villa found three players between the two in the XI.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Premier League Team of the Week — Round 25 [ ARCHIVE ]
Goalkeeper: Fraser Forster (Southampton)
Defenders: Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Maya Yoshida (Southampton), Robert Huth (Leicester City), Joleon Lescott (Aston Villa)
Midfielders: Aaron Lennon (Everton), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
Forwards: Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle United), Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa)
Score one for the Midlands.
In a season for lowlights, Aston Villa captain Gabriel Agbonlahor is celebrating a bit of hope for his beleaguered club after his classy finish gave the 29-year-old his first goal of the season.
[ REACTION: Agbonlahor says Villa now ready to produce great escape ]
It also inspired Villa to consider that eight points off the Premier League safety chase isn’t unrealistic if it can put together some more gritty performances like the 2-0 defeat of Norwich City on Saturday.
Premier League Players of the Week
Week 1: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Week 2: Romelu Lukaku, Everton
Week 3: Callum Wilson, Bournemouth
Week 4: Bafetimbi Gomis, Swansea City
Week 5: Steven Naismith, Everton
Week 6: Anthony Martial, Manchester United
Week 7: Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal
Week 8: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Week 9: Raheem Sterling, Manchester City
Week 10: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur
Week 11: Arouna Kone, Everton
Week 12: Jesse Lingard, Manchester United
Week 15: Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City
Week 16: Ayoze Perez, Newcastle United
Week 17: Odion Ighalo, Watford
Week 19: Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City
Week 20: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland
Week 21: Jermain Defoe, Sunderland
Week 22: Sergio Aguero, Manchester City
Week 23: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur
Week 24: Fraser Forster, Southampton
Week 25: Gabriel Agbonlahor, Aston Villa
Napoli fans showed their support for Kalidou Koulibaly on Sunday after the Senegalese center-back was the subject of racial abuse in a match against Lazio last week.
[ MORE: La Liga & Serie A roundup ]
The Lazio match was temporarily stopped in the second half as Lazio supporters hurled racial insults at Koulibaly.
At Napoli’s match against Carpi on Sunday, fans wore Koulibaly masks and painted signs in his honor to show their support for the 24-year-old defender.
A statement from Napoli’s supporters’ group read: “Everyone in Naples is offended by what happened to our young star. Because of this, we want to show our full support to Koulibaly.”
[ VIDEO: Van Gaal rips journalist who questions his Manchester United future ]
Lazio was fined more than $50,000 and will be forced to close certain sections of their stadium for the next two league matches because of the incident.
Benik Afobe and Harry Kane are Premier League foes, but as kids, they were teammates.
Now Afobe is at Bournemouth and Kane at Tottenham, though both strikers played together with the Arsenal U-9 team as children.
[ RECAP: Bournemouth 0-2 Arsenal ]
While Kane left Arsenal at 10 and eventually settled at crosstown rivals Tottenham, Afobe stayed under contract with the club until 2015 despite never making an appearance for the Gunners.
Afobe went on six loan spells before moving to Wolverhampton last season, then joining Bournemouth in January.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
With three goals in his first five Premier League matches for the Cherries, Afobe is no stranger to scoring, as he said he would combine with Harry Kane for 15 goals a game back in the day.
I’ve got pictures of us from Arsenal.
He was so small at the time, a bit of a late developer, but he’s always loved scoring. The scores used to be 17-15 and stuff – we just knew we’d score in every game.
But it’s weird because he used to play in goal sometimes, and wasn’t bad actually. You wouldn’t think it – remember that goal he let in for Tottenham a couple of years ago (against Asteras Tripolis in the Europa League) when he had to play in goal.
I think Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs’ supporters are happy Harry Kane chose to play striker over goalkeeper…
[ MORE: Deficiencies visible on both sides as Chelsea draw Manchester United ]
Kane has proven that he is an elite goalscorer in the Premier League, and Afobe is off to a fine start himself. With both players just 22-years-old, we’ll likely be seeing many more goals to come from the duo.