Mathieu Flamini over Marouane Fellaini – Arsenal’s stroke of genius

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Marouane Fellaini claimed today to have turned down Arsenal in favor of a move to Manchester United.

The Belgium international midfielder, who left Everton to join Manchester United in a £27.5 million deal on transfer deadline day, cited manager David Moyes as the decisive element in his decision making process.

“I knew United were interested in signing me – just as Arsenal were,” he admitted. “But it was United who snapped me up.

“David Moyes did everything to get me. I leapt at the chance to work with Moyes. I spent some fantastic times with him at Everton.”

Since moving to Old Trafford, however, those fantastic times have ended for both player and coach. Fellaini has struggled to adapt to life with the champions, admitting the switch to Manchester has been quite the culture shock. “I couldn’t believe it during my first week,” Fellaini said. “It’s a change, a big step. I’m training now, and starting to get used to it, but I couldn’t believe it at the start.”

After occupying the striker role for much of his time at Goodison Park, Fellaini has been deployed as a box-to-box midfielder alongside Michael Carrick at United. It’s a role that Fellaini has noted he prefers yet one that has left United fans worried that their investment may be all for not.

The consensus is that in the four Premier League matches he’s played since joining United, Fellaini has looked off the pace. Despite his physical stature he has failed to impose himself defensively while on the offensive end his passes have been off the mark and he’s lacked the bite in the box that made him a star at Everton.

While poor form has plagued Fellaini the harsh and quick criticism has undoubtedly been exacerbated by the fact that, as the only new recruit into United, the spotlight is entirely his own.

Whether Arsenal’s “interest” in Fellaini would have transpired into actually making a bid for the player is highly speculative. Notoriously tight-fisted in the transfer market, it’s unlikely the Gunners would have bid anywhere close to £27.5 million for the Belgian.

Although Arsene Wenger did splash the cash (a club record £42.5 million) to acquire Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid, there’s a big difference between shelling out for a player with high upside (Fellaini) and a player of world-class stature (Ozil).

Instead, Wenger filled Arsenal’s need for midfield grit by signing Mathieu Flamini on a free transfer from AC Milan. The move has proven to be a stroke of genius as Flamini’s bull-dog mentality and endless stamina has been a massive boon to the Arsenal midfield.

Although a concussion and groin injury have sidelined the Frenchman of late, many consider Flamini to be the signing of the summer transfer window and a major reason why this Arsenal side might just have what it takes to make a run at the Premier League title.

Ronaldo explains his new chin hair at World Cup

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
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Now that Cristiano Ronaldo has taken to sporting a reasonable hairstyle atop his head, people are talking about the foliage on his face.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

Ronaldo, 33, drew speculation when he stroked his chin following a goal in his hat trick performance against Spain in the World Cup opener. Some said he was demonstrating defiance against Lionel Messi posing with a goat (Greatest Of All Time) in a recent photograph.

Ronaldo scored again on Wednesday, and there was seemingly little doubt his goatee was a wink to the speculators. But what did it mean, CR7? From ESPN:

“This goatee? It’s a joke I had with [Ricardo] Quaresma. “We were in the sauna [before Friday’s match against Spain] and I started to shave and I left the goatee. I said if I score tomorrow, I would leave it for the rest of the tournament. And it gave me luck.

“I scored in that game, I scored in this one, so it stays.”

Personally, I like to imagine Ronaldo starting to get as wild with his facial hair as he did his head hair.

Perhaps a beatnik style, or something like Serj Tankian from System of a Down. Get nuts, C-Ron.

Report: Southampton could sell Tadic to Ajax for $20m

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Could Southampton be selling one of its most creative forces?

Dusan Tadic, 29, is in the middle of a World Cup run with dark horse Serbia, but the Saints star is also being talked about as a purchase item for Ajax.

[ MORE: Serbia tops Costa Rica ]

The celebrated Eredivisie has traditionally been a selling club for the Premier League, but could be a $20 million buy for Ajax.

The report says director of players Marc Overmars and financial director Jeroen Slop have flown to Southampton to work out a deal.

Tadic starred for Dutch sides Groningen and Twente between 2010-14 before moving to St. Mary’s for a reported $12 million.

He’s scored 24 goals with 35 assists in 162 appearances for Saints, 21 and 30 of which came in the Premier League.

Toronto locks down USMNT backstop Bono with extension

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Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono is going to stay Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono.

[ RECAP: Morocco 0-1 Portugal ]

The newly-capped USMNT backstop, 24, has been attracting interest from abroad since breaking past Clint Irwin to win the TFC job and guiding the club to multiple MLS Cup Finals.

Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has locked down his young goalkeeper to an undisclosed contract extension. From TorontoFC.com:

“Alex was a big part of our success last season. He set club records for wins and clean sheets and was a critical piece of our championship team,” said Toronto FC Sr. Vice-President, Soccer Operations & General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Since joining the club as a first round pick in 2015, Alex’s ability to make key saves in big moments has been critical to our success.”

The Syracuse-born product of Syracuse University has made 64 appearances for the Reds.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE