Manchester United’s turn: Shinji Kagawa pursuit takes next step

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There are going to be tons of transfer rumors this summer, but some make so much sense, they’re hard to ignore.

Take the developing tale of Shinji Kagawa. During this month’s German Cup final, Borussia Dortmund’s attacking midfielder was scouted in person by Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson. With the Red Devils’ midfield currently looking more like mid-table fodder than title-contending material, signing somebody who can actually stimulate the attack has got to be priority number one.

Enter Kagawa, thought to be United’s back up plan should they lose the race to Eden Hazard. Now that the Ligue 1 Player of the Year is headed to London, it’s time for Ferguson to act, not that he hadn’t before.

If reports are to be believed, Manchester United originally offered around $22 million for the Japan international. Dortmund shot that down. Now, the Red Devils have given BVB a bid in excess of $27 million, a bid the German champions seem ready to accept.

Personal terms are yet to be agreed, a potentially significant issue for the penny-pinching Red Devils. Their salary offer to Eden Hazard was reportedly the worst amongst the Belgian’s three English suitors. While Kagawa can’t command the compensation due Hazard, United may try to leverage the club’s reputation.

You know what makes up for less money? Playing for Manchester United! It’s all part of the package.

But don’t make the common error of confusing penny-pinching for being impoverished. A common meme holds that Manchester United have no money, which is really weird since I remember them recently buying all of Ashley Young, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and David de Gea. Oh, yeah – they were also in for Eden Hazard. Perhaps Fleet Street just wants Manchester United to spend more, but clearly, they’re not poor. They’re spending something. A lot of somethings.

It would be more accurate to say Manchester United don’t seem to be allocating their resources appropriately. Instead of buying Ashley Young (when they already had Nani and Antonio Valencia), they should have put that money toward Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder (to whom they were linked last year). Instead of signing both Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, they could have bought a midfielder that would have kept Paul Scholes in retirement.

The Red Devils seem to be learning their lessons, hence Kagawa. Capped 30 times for Japan, Kagawa has spent the last two seasons with the German champions, scoring 29 goals in 71 all-competition matches. He’s won two Bundesligas, one German Cup, and with Japan, he won the Asian Cup in 2011.

The only problem Kagawa’s had over the last two years has been staying on the field. In each of the league two seasons, he’s suffered a long-term leg injury. It’s led some to label Kagawa as injury-prone, a description which might be premature. Freak injuries are different than chronic ailments, and Kagawa’s problems are more readily thought of as aberrations – bad luck.

For United, Kagawa would be a perfect fit, particularly as Ferguson’s tactics have his team spending more time letting play come on to them. As we were reminded in Dortmund’s dismantling of Bayern Munich in the German Cup final, Kagawa’s excellent at springing a team into the counter. If his presence in red allows Wayne Rooney to shift from starting attacks to finishing them, he’ll be well worth the money.

Kagawa could also sign for less than half the wages of Hazard. If he does, United may have room for one more meaningful midfield acquisition.

The 2 Robbies: Talking Liverpool, Manchester, Spurs at Man Utd

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle wrap up a great weekend of Premier League action. Liverpool took all three points against Crystal Palace. The guys chat about the mood in the United dressing room (12:40) and the opposite feelings across Manchester as Man City thrashed Huddersfield (25:30). We wrap up looking ahead to the big one: Manchester United vs Tottenham next week (33:30).

[ RECAP: Palace 0-2 Liverpool ]

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Report: Woodward to appoint director of football at Manchester United

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Manchester United CEO Ed Woodward is readying a change to the hierarchy at Old Trafford as he attempts to steady the ship, and it’s not the removal of controversial manager Jose Mourinho.

The Manchester Evening News is reporting that Woodward will appoint a director of football at the club to help ease the burden after growing frustration from Mourinho and supporters following a summer with few transfer buys.

[ MORE: Klopp on beating Palace ]

Mourinho lamented the lack of additions in the summer after he gave a specific list of center back targets to Woodward and got exactly zero of them.

Now after beating Leicester City and losing at Brighton, United could be in a bad position early if they cannot manage a positive performance against visiting Tottenham on Aug. 27.

And MEN reports that Woodward is eager to get himself out of “the firing line.”

United have not held back when it comes to issuing press releases boasting about their many commercial partners, but there has been a quiet revamp of the club’s academy, scouting network and training ground facilities behind the scenes.

One of the final steps is bringing in a director of football – something many United fans have been crying out for following the club’s patchy transfer record with Woodward at the helm.

Woodward is not going to appoint anyone who would undermine his decisions, and the hire could speak volumes about Mourinho’s future, short or long.

Second week second-guessing Premier League table predictions

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The transfer window had just closed when ProSoccerTalk’s staff made their predictions for the 2018-19 season.

For the most part, the first two weeks of the Premier League season have cemented this writer’s faith in his projections.

[ RECAP: Palace 0-2 Liverpool ]

In four cases, however, being allowed some Monday mulligans would have me moving teams more than one spot in my predicted table.

Moving up

Spurs (Predicted 6th; New spot 3rd) –> The worries I have about Dele Alli returning to world-beating status have been quelled by Lucas Moura‘s newfound comfort in creating Premier League chances. Tottenham’s defenders the same. Next Monday’s trip to Manchester United will say a lot about both clubs. And hanging onto Toby Alderweireld instead of allowing him to steady Manchester United’s creaky back line was smart.

Watford (Predicted 18th; New spot 12th) — Don’t get us wrong, the Hornets have not done much yet. Beating a Europa League weary and shallow Burnley isn’t a great feat, though their home defeat of Brighton is a bit more impressive after the Gulls knocked off Man Utd. That said, Javi Gracia‘s men have a clear plan to get service to Troy Deeney and Andre Gray, and terrific playmakers in Roberto Pereyra and Abdoulaye Doucoure. They are better than relegation fodder, and should finish 7-10 points clear of the drop.

Moving down

Manchester United (Predicted 2nd; New spot 5th) –> United probably would’ve drawn Brighton on Sunday had they a few extra minutes on the clock, but there’s a chance Leicester would’ve done the same to them on Opening Day if afforded the same opportunity. Is Eric Bailly the proactive wall we saw versus the Foxes or, well, the reactive problem he was at Brighton?

I believed the start of the season and return to fitness for so many World Cup players would dispel the odious scent from Jose Mourinho’s offseason obnoxiousness. It hasn’t, and it’s going to cost the team the Top Four. That said, I’ll hedge a little and say United’s players may make a decent Champions League run if given a good group stage draw.

Wolves (Predicted 13th; New spot 17th) –> I thought Wolves had enough firepower to challenge for a top half spot, but Nuno Espirito Santo’s side looks incapable of keeping dangerous chances away from goalkeeper Rui Patricio, who can only do so much.

Klopp: Let’s not worry about sending statements to Man City

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Jurgen Klopp thought both his Liverpool and hosts Crystal Palace were feeling exhausted in the second half of the Reds’ 2-0 win at Selhurst Park, so he loudly threatened to murder his players.

Okay, okay, that’s not exactly true, but you be the judge: He got a goal out of it.

[ RECAP: Palace 0-2 Liverpool ]

“In these moments the fuel is really low and maybe the players need a bit of help from an angry manager, ‘Run or I will kill you,’ and they did that with a fantastic counter attack,” Klopp said.

Cool. That said, Klopp pointed tot his team’s commitment to fitness as a reason for their win.

“Second half both teams, you could see Crystal Palace maybe struggle a little bit more than we did but it was for us very intense as well,” he said. “We had these big chances, didn’t use them. They had their moments when Alisson had to make a few saves. The save on the free kick was outstanding. I know we have to play much better but for tonight I’m absolutely fine with that.”

Klopp bristled when asked about meeting Man City’s 6-1 defeat of Huddersfield Town with a fairly complete performance against Palace.

 “I am not interested in sending statement to Manchester City or anyone else. We want to win football games and that’s what we did tonight.”