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Is Top Four or Europa the better UCL route for Man Utd?

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Manchester United has two routes to the UEFA Champions League: Premier League Top Four and Europa League.

Doing both is not unreasonable, but suppose for a moment Jose Mourinho has to prioritize one over the other.

United is on the edge of fourth place and on a 22-match unbeaten Premier League run, momentum seems to favor the Red Devils in a Top Four push. The club is also a win or scoreless draw away from the Europa semis, essentially 360 minutes from a title which would earn a place in the UCL.

Should United advance Thursday, it would meet one of six teams in the UEL semis: Genk, Schalke, Besiktas, Celta Vigo, Ajax or Lyon (The last three hold first leg edges). And should they move on, this would be their schedule en route to the UEL final in Solna.

There’s concern in the center of their back line thanks to long-term injuries to Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, but United has plenty of depth in attack save for Juan Mata‘s absence. Manager Jose Mourinho has experience massaging a squad this deep into a congested season.

Looking at the schedule, there’s an argument to be made for focusing on the UEL. The Red Devils have a tough fixture list in the PL, and match up well with every UEL team except perhaps Schalke. Given the resting of Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Sunday against Chelsea, perhaps their eye is on the title.

As far as the Premier League, the Red Devils have two matches-in-hand to make up a six-point gap on Liverpool — which plays almost no one the rest of the way — and one match on Man City plus the Derby in a bid to make up four points. But the Red Devils would have to make their run amongst those serious combatants, with Spurs and Arsenal also on the docket.

Thursday – vs. Anderlecht (1-1 after one leg)
April 23 – at Burnley
April 27 – at Manchester City
April 30 – vs. Swansea City
May 4 – UEL semi
May 7 – at Arsenal
May 11 – UEL semi
May 14 – at Tottenham Hotspur
May 17 – at Southampton
May 21 – vs. Crystal Palace
May 24 – UEL final in Sweden

AC Milan completes signing of forward Kalinic

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MILAN (AP) Big-spending AC Milan has signed another player, completing the transfer of Croatia forward Nikola Kalinic from Fiorentina.

In a brief statement on Tuesday, Milan said it signed Kalinic “on a loan deal with obligation to buy.”

Kalinic has signed a four-year contract through to June 30, 2021.

Milan has been in negotiations with Fiorentina for the 29-year-old Kalinic for a while, and he missed training last week as he attempted to push through the move.

Milan, which was bought by a Chinese-led consortium in April, has spent more than 200 million euros ($234 million) in the offseason, signing Leonardo Bonucci, Andre Silva, Ricardo Rodriguez, Franck Kessie, Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu, Lucas Biglia and Mateo Musacchio.

Alan Shearer has a message for Wayne Rooney

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Alan Shearer finally has a friend.

On Monday Wayne Rooney scored in Everton’s 1-1 draw at Manchester City (see in the video above) and he became just the second-player in history to reach 200 goals in the Premier League.

Rooney, 31, still has some way to go to catch Shearer’s all-time record of 260 goals in the PL but the former Manchester United striker has a few more years left in the tank to try and get as close as he can.

Take a look at the video below as Shearer (or, Mary Poppins to Newcastle fans) delivers a message to Rooney.

What’s next for Julian Green, and what’s gone wrong?

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Julian Green will have a new team again soon, in all likelihood.

A Stuttgart publication says Green is on the transfer market this month, just eight months after moving from Bayern Munich to the then-2.Bundesliga side for less than $500,000.

Now 22, Green is three and a half years removed from Jurgen Klinsmann’s long campaign to get him into a USMNT shirt. It’s been a little less time since he scored in extra time against Belgium in the World Cup, but also less than a year since he scored goals in consecutive USMNT matches. That shouldn’t be overlooked.

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Green scored one goal in 10 appearances for Stuttgart, who was promoted to the Bundesliga at the end of last season. He fell out of favor there, but was far from poor. Green completed 87 percent of his passes and averaged 1.3 dribbles per game (only four teammates had more, though 10 matches is a smaller sample size).

Before that, he spent parts of three seasons with Bayern Munich and made just four appearances, taking a loan to Hamburg in 2014-15 that saw him banished to Hamburg II after just five appearances.

What gives? Whether attitude or skill, Green has a lot of work to do to get back to a level where he’s a reasonable USMNT call-up (Green has a respectable three goals in eight call-ups, netting against Cuba and New Zealand in Oct. 2016). Still, it’s far from over for Green at 22.

There are legit questions here, as the list of not high-profile players Bayern Munich has used in its senior team at a young age and blossomed elsewhere isn’t necessarily impressive (at least relatively speaking). Nils Petersen, Thomas Kraft, and Sandro Wagner are exceptions to the rule. Better put: Bayern has a really good idea what it’s doing when it lets young players walk, and it begs discussion on the best path for Green.

It seems likely he could get a move to another 2.Bundesliga club, and there’s an outside shot he could get a look in the top flight. It would be interesting to know where the interest lies abroad. Would it be hard to acquire a work permit for France or Spain (England seems a hard sell)? Could a move to a free-flowing Eredivisie club work?

Obviously Major League Soccer clubs would welcome his talent and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t be a useful piece in the United States’ top tier, even if on a short-term move as he looks to regain confidence. Would Green see it as below him?

Arsenal’s Wilshere sent-off after brawling in U-23 match vs. Man City

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Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere isn’t standing around waiting for his next team, he’s fighting.

Period.

Wilshere got into with several members of Manchester City’s U-23 side in a match on Monday, with the English midfielder taking exception to a hockey-style hip check from City’s Matthew Smith.

[ MORE: Man City 1-1 Everton | 3 things ]

Shoving the 17-year-old Smith, Wilshere saw the City man take a tumble and stay prone. Still riled up, Wilshere tangled with City’s Tyreke Wilson.

Wilshere and Wilson were sent off.

Given his injury history, we’re not surprised Wilshere took exception to a hard and needless foul in a U-23 match.

The Arsenal man has been linked with moves to Newcastle, West Ham, AC Milan, and Sampdoria, but Arsene Wenger wants to keep Wilshere at the Emirates Stadium.