Van Gaal admits Manchester United need “better players” but why are they struggling to sign them?

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“I thought that before this match. When we were playing in the United States I saw the same. I know in what positions we need better players but I won’t discuss [how many].”

Those were the harsh words of Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal after the shocking 2-1 loss to Swansea City at Old Trafford to start Manchester United’s Premier League season.

With plenty of hype and promise surrounding van Gaal’s “new era” to bring the Red Devils back to European prominence, instead he picked up right where David Moyes left off.

The Dutchman knows it and we know it – Manchester United is a club usually bursting at the seams with talent, skill, and class, but at the moment the squad lacks the ability to compete at the highest level.

Van Gaal talks of adding players, but with just two weeks left in the transfer window, the club has added just two players – left-back Luke Shaw, who is injured for a month, and attacking midfielder Ander Herrera. And they’ve reportedly missed out on countless others.

The new manager has installed a brand new system featuring three center-backs, but with both starters last year Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand departing Old Trafford on account of age this summer, van Gaal has failed to add to his CB arsenal.  This left Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, and 20-year-old debutant Tyler Blackett starting against Swansea.

That flat out won’t cut it.

It’s true Ferdinand and Vidic were not longer capable of lifting United to its usual heights, and their departures were warranted. But with no one to replace them, the current crop is no better. United is reportedly tracking and working on a deal for Roma star Mehdi Benatia – which would be a fantastic capture – but they have gobs of competition for his signature, and may miss out.

The stark truth remains – nobody is flocking to Old Trafford like they used to.

There’s plenty of time for United to sign players before the end of the transfer window, that is true. But with so many names floated around in the media before moving elsewhere, the window has more of a feeling of missed targets than it does patient selectivity.

The biggest miss in van Gaal’s defender quest seems to be Thomas Vermaelen, who is a quality central defender who was unlucky to find himself behind the brilliant pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny at Arsenal. Instead of bringing the wealth of Premier League experience to Old Trafford, van Gaal instead watched Vermaelen sign for Barcelona as the Catalans continue a rebuild of their own.

Rumors of a move for Juventus box-to-box midfielder Arturo Vidal have simmered all summer, but again the club has plenty of reported competition and thus far United have failed to convince the player he even wants to leave. Years ago, that wouldn’t even be a question.

They even failed to land Dutch central defender Stefan de Vrij, as the 22-year-old signed for Lazio over Manchester United, turning down his own national team manager in the process.

All this has left Louis van Gaal brooding over the blueprints master plan, wondering where he can turn for players who are better than the club currently has. It’s no secret they need an overhaul, and the summer has come and gone without any such tilling of the land. It remains to be seen whom van Gaal can persuade to help United back to its former glory.

It would help if players would stop turning them down.

Barcelona GM: “We’re close to signing Coutinho, Dembele”

Philippe Coutinho
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Barcelona did not post a magical comeback versus Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup second leg, instead losing 5-1 on aggregate after Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at the Bernabeu.

[ MORE: Barcelona falls to Real… again ]

But perhaps the celebrated La Liga club has worked some wizardry in the transfer market, with not one but two big targets “close” to the Camp Nou.

Barca general manager Josep “Pep” Segura was on television after the match, and noted Spanish football expert Sid Lowe relays his words: Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele are coming to Barca, “but until it’s closed I can’t say anything.”

Well, you just said something about it, so what gives.

Now before anyone freaks out at Anfield or Westfalenstadion, this is a man speaking after a relatively embarrassing performance for one of the biggest clubs in the world. Segura could simply be treading water for new manager Ernesto Valverde after his club was simply worked over in 120 minutes versus its El Clasico rivals.

VIDEO: Asensio, Real Madrid outclass out-of-sorts Barca; PSG trolls?

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This one wasn’t even close, and is going to instantly have many Barcelona fans wondering if the loss of Neymar is going to be too much for Ernesto Valverde to handle.

Real Madrid rode a stunning Marco Asensio strike to a 2-0 first half lead at the Bernabeu on Wednesday en route to a 5-1 aggregate win over Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup.

It’s Real’s 10th Spanish Super Cup, and first since 2012.

[ MORE: Bacca to Villarreal ]

Karim Benzema also scored in the opening frame, which saw Barca looking out of sorts and rudderless.

As in the first leg in Barcelona, the Blaugranas had their moments but failed to show sharpness and class against the reigning La Liga and UEFA Champions League winners.

Lionel Messi hit the crossbar, Luis Suarez headed off the post. The second half wasn’t producing a magic comeback.

Both teams kick off their La Liga seasons on Sunday, with Barca hosting Real Betis and Real off to Deportivo de la Coruna.

Meanwhile, it seems like PSG spent the afternoon trolling Barca, first posting a shot of ex-Blaugranas stars Dani Alves and Neymar training, and then an incredulous Neymar accompanied by a laughing emoji.

Carlos Bacca joins Villarreal, Boateng leaves Las Palmas

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MADRID (AP) Colombia striker Carlos Bacca joined Spanish club Villarreal on loan from AC Milan on Wednesday.

Villarreal said the one-season loan agreement includes the option to buy the player at the end of the season.

Bacca returns to a Spanish league where the 30-year-old forward flourished in two seasons at Sevilla before joining Milan in 2015.

[ MORE: UCL Wednesday wrap ]

Bacca has made 39 appearances for Colombia, scoring 13 goals. According to Villarreal, he has scored 165 career goals in 336 matches. He scored 14 goals for Milan last season.

Elsewhere in Spain, Las Palmas announced that Kevin-Prince Boateng was leaving the club after both sides agreed to end his contract two days before its season opener.

Las Palmas said that Boateng was leaving due to “personal reasons of an irreversible nature.” The club thanked the former AC Milan standout for his “professionalism” that he displayed during his single season on the Canary Islands.

Las Palmas opens the Spanish league season on Friday at Valencia.

Man City has $23 million Evans bid shot down by WBA

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Could Jonny Evans be the latest player to cross Manchester’s red and blue divide, albeit with a stop in between?

Reports Wednesday say West Bromwich Albion has rejected a $23 million Manchester City bid for the Northern Irish center back.

[ MORE: UCL Wednesday wrap ]

$23 million? That’s like 40 percent of a Kyle Walker!

Evans, 29, is the Baggies captain and a key piece of the club’s aims to continue its long stay in the Premier League.

He joined Manchester United’s academy at age 16 and stayed at Old Trafford through 2015, taking loan opportunities at Royal Antwerp and Sunderland on the way.

At United, Evans won three Premier League titles and two League Cups, and also has a Championship win from one of his two stints at Sunderland.

The 61-times capped Belfast native would give City a key component for Premier League play along with a center back corps of Nicolas Otamendi, Vincent Kompany, and John Stones. Eliaquim Mangala completes their veteran depth, and is certainly City’s weakest position.

Would West Brom sell at any reasonable price? The Baggies are not deep at center back, either — not too many clubs are — and will be in a boatload of trouble without Evans. And given the transfer market, finding a proper replacement at under $30 million is going to be difficult (Reread that sentence. What a summer).

It’s another argument for the transfer window closing before the start of the season.