Stoke City look to Mark Hughes as new manager?

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With rumors linking Rafael Benitez and plenty of others with the vacant manager’s job at Stoke City, Mark Hughes has today emerged as one of the frontrunners for the position.

Stoke City’s directors are said to think Hughes is a “good fit” for the club and they’ve contacted him about the position, after Tony Pulis left on Wednesday. 

While Benitez is said to be very close to taking over at Napoli, according to the Serie A teams president Aurelio De Laurentiis.

So with Rafa out of the picture, would Hughes really be a “good fit” for Stoke City?

I have my doubts. Yes he is hugely respected in the game after his glittering career with Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Chelsea to name but a few.

But after failing to led Manchester City to any silverware during his time in charge and millions spent, Hughes’ managerial career has taken a downward spiral.

He had one brief season at Fulham — remember that? — in 2010-11 when they finished eighth and qualified for a Europa League spot through the Fair Play route. However he left just 11 months into the job, stating “as a young, ambitious manager I wish to move on to further my experiences.”

So no disrespect to Stoke City, are the Potters a step up from the Cottagers?

Hughes then took over at Queens Park Rangers in 2012, keeping them in the Premier League on the final day of the season. But a woeful start to the 2012-13 campaign saw Hughes sacked and he’s been out of a job since. Seemingly he is waiting for the right offer to come along.

(More: Another EPL manager goes as Tony Pulis leaves Stoke City)

He is still a promising manager, and a delightful person on a one-to-one basis. But when he has to be, he can be stubborn, ruthless and extremely difficult to work with. But aren’t all good managers like that?

Hughes brought the Welsh national team to the brink of qualification for the 2004 European Championships in Portugal and then worked wonders at Blackburn Rovers in his first job in club football. They finished in the top six on a small budget and reached the last 32 of the UEFA Cup and multiple FA Cup semifinals.

However big-name signings at Manchester City let him down, badly. And Hughes’ figure on the sideline at the Etihad Stadium was often a forlorn one towards the end.

(More: How Pulis’ removal at Stoke may affect Cameron, Shea and Edu)

What can he change at Stoke? Well, not much. But if they want to continue with their hard-nosed approach and physical style of play, Hughes is your man.

Perhaps Stoke City’s director’s don’t want to steer too far away from the style they have in place at the moment. That would mean a huge overhaul of their squad, which just isn’t economical.

Hughes deserves a second, third or even fourth chance, if you call his time at Fulham a failure, at being an EPL manager.

But I would suspect this is his last chance saloon. Are Stoke City right to take a gamble on Hughes?

Matic: Man Utd needs more experience in its squad

AP Photo/Tim Ireland
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Nemanja Matic would like to see a bit more veteran bravery in his Manchester United side.

The title-winning 29-year-old midfielder finished second in the Premier League this season, his first with the Red Devils after a strong run with Chelsea.

[ MORE: Man Utd youngster gets USMNT call-up ]

The Blues beat United in Saturday’s FA Cup Final, and Matic says the answer to winning hardware isn’t in talent as much as it is wisdom.

From the BBC:

“The only team who is better than us this year is Man City,” said Matic. “Obviously, they play amazing football. But we are second and we are in the Champions League next year, which is the most important thing. I think we need some players with some experience to bring some more qualities to our team.”

United loses one veteran cog in Michael Carrick, and both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney have skipped town in the last year.

Who could fit the bill in terms of old hats in current United positions of weakness? Well, a full offseason for Alexis Sanchez will help, and perhaps the rumors of Toby Alderweireld make the most sense of any we’ve seen in recent weeks.

MLS Things: Shuttleworth, Quintero somehow get Loons a point vs. SKC

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Entering the day, no one was arguing that hosts Minnesota United were a better side than Sporting KC.

The Loons were 11 points and 19 goals worth of differential behind Western Conference-leading KC.

[ MORE: Other MLS Things — The Archive ]

They still are, despite a 1-1 Sunday match which carried a fitting disparity on the pitch but nothing to separate the two on the scoreboard.

Khiry gets his just desserts

Oregon State product Khiry Shelton has been wonderful for Sporting KC this season, but the striker just hasn’t found the back of the goal.

That finally changed Sunday, when his downbound header got the better of Bobby Shuttleworth — more on him later — and allowed him a richly-deserved first SKC goal which could well break down the dam.

The eighth minute saw Shelton score his goal on one of just six Loons shot attempts.

Shuttleworth back in business

It’s not always sexy to go to the veteran backstop, but it looks like Adrian Heath should’ve called Bobby Shuttleworth’s name a long time ago.

Entering the day, Shuttleworth had the second-best WhoScored.com rating of any goalkeeper to appear in more than five matches (Evan Bush).

While certainly part of that has to do with the defensive actions foisted upon him, Shuttleworth was the main reason SKC’s 24-6 advantage in attempts failed to turn into anything other than a point.

Darwin

Darwin Quintero has had more good matches than bad ones since joining the Loons, and added his third goal in seven matches with this rebound finish on Sunday.

Quintero had two goals and four assists in 17 Liga MX matches, but has been perfectly revitalized by the Minnesota air.

VIDEO: Coutinho scores brilliant curler; Iniesta walks off

AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
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It’s often funny to read the A. in front of Andres Iniesta’s surname on his match jersey, as if there’s any other.

On Sunday, the 34-year-old midfielder walked off the field for the last time (video at bottom) as a Barcelona player, handing the captain’s arm band to Lionel Messi and beginning a new era for both the club and player.

[ MORE: Bayern salutes Heynckes (again) ]

Barcelona beat Real Sociedad 1-0 on Sunday in the final La Liga match of the season.

While the match will be remembered as Iniesta’s last with Blaugranas, Philippe Coutinho gave a glimpse of the future with his eighth goal of the season and sixth in his last five games.

Barca finishes a 1-loss season with 99 goals and a 14-point lead over La Liga runners-up Atletico Madrid.

Bayern Munich fans pay tribute to Jupp Heynckes, again

AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich fans turned up in their thousands to bid farewell to Jupp Heynckes for a second time on Sunday.

The veteran coach is going back into retirement after leading Bayern to another league title. The side was five points adrift when he returned in October, but rebounded to wrap up the title with five rounds to spare.

[ MORE: Pellegrini to WHU inches closer ]

It might have been more for Heynckes, but Eintracht Frankfurt stunned the side to win the German Cup final on Saturday and Real Madrid emerged triumphant from the sides’ Champions League semifinal.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge paid tribute to the 73-year-old Heynckes for bringing “old values” such as “humanity and empathy” back to the side.

“The little downside for us is that we would have liked to give our Jupp, our coach, the nearly perfect finish, but it didn’t quite work out,” Rummenigge said of the shock defeat to Frankfurt.

Heynckes led Bayern to the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup titles in his previous stint in 2013, before he retired for the first time.

Bayern’s players were clearly still disappointed over Saturday’s cup defeat as they celebrated the league win on the Munich town hall balcony.

“It feels really bad, how the season ended,” said Thomas Mueller, who added that the team would try to “put a brave face on it.”