Premier League Playback: Can Manchester United afford to lose David de Gea?

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DE GEA HEADING FOR THE EXIT

“David De Gea, we want you to stay!”

That was the chant from the Manchester United fans at Old Trafford on Sunday before, during and after United’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal. The message was clear, as the reigning PL goalkeeper of the season has a big decision to make this summer.

[ RELATED: Three things we learned from Man United 1-1 Arsenal ]

His manager, Louis van Gaal, knows it too and said as much in his post-match press conference.

“I don’t think I can persuade him because he knows everything he has at Manchester United,” van Gaal said. “I don’t have to say something because he can feel it every day. You have seen the fans – unbelievable. When he is going, he is losing that. Here he has a lot of credits. He has to decide.”

De Gea, 24, has been at United for four season’s and this season he has been the star player for the Red Devils as they are back in the top four. However, Real Madrid are reportedly readying a bid for De Gea and the Spaniard may find it difficult to turn down a move back to his hometown.

[ RELATED: LVG knows he can’t force David de Gea to stay ]

With just a year left on his contract, he has been offered a new deal by United which is said to be a five-fold increase on his current wages. De Gea is adored by United’s fans and after a shaky start following his move to England as a gangly 21-year-old, the Spanish goalkeeper is now the best in the PL with several stunning displays this season reaffirming that.

However with Real looking for a long-term replacement for Iker Casillas and their current No. 2 Keylor Navas failing to impress, now would be the time to go big for De Gea as United will have to cash in on him this summer or risk losing him for nothing when his deal expires in 2016. The finances aside, can United afford to lose De Gea? This season alone he has won them 10-12 points which was the difference between them finishing inside the top four. It’s a big risk for the Red Devils if their star ‘keeper does leave and there’s no question that LVG’s plans to push on and challenge for the title next season will take a big blow if DDG departs.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

Late on against Arsenal De Gea hobbled off with an apparent hamstring injury and was replaced by ex-Barcelona ‘keeper Victor Valdes. When Valdes was brought to the club in January on a free transfer following a combination of his ACL tear and his deal ending at Barca last summer, plenty of eyebrows were raised. Valdes is also a Spanish international who played for the Catalan giants throughout their dominant period under Pep Guardiola and at the age of 33 he still has at least four or five seasons left in him. If De Gea does leave, getting a replacement for a free transfer is good business for United but the jury is still out as to whether Valdes is a top, top goalkeeper. Other names such as Asmir Begovic have been linked with a move to United this summer if De Gea goes but amid all that uncertainty one thing is clear: United will struggle immensely to replace him.

After being replaced by Valdes on Sunday, De Gea was serenaded by the fans as he walked off the pitch and down the tunnel at Old Trafford for perhaps the final time in a United jersey.

The Spaniard has a big decision to make, and van Gaal isn’t making it any easier on him with comments like this.

“I analyse his position and then I say he is Spanish, he is a Spanish international still behind Iker Casillas,” van Gaal said. “Now a Spanish club is coming, his girlfriend is Spanish, his father and mother come every week or every two weeks here, so it is difficult.”

De Gea’s departure isn’t quite imminent, but it’s getting there.

Premier League Schedule – Week 37

Result Recap & Highlights
Burnley 0-0 Stoke Recap and watch here
Liverpool 1-3 Palace Recap and watch here
Man United 1-1 Arsenal Recap and watch here
QPR 2-1 Newcastle Recap and watch here
Saints 6-1 Villa Recap and watch here
Sunderland 0-0 Leicester Recap and watch here
Swansea 2-4 Man City Recap and watch here
Tottenham 2-0 Hull Recap and watch here
West Ham 1-2 Everton Recap and watch here
West Brom 3-0 Chelsea Recap and watch here

RELEGATION HAUNTED HULL

And then there were three. Following the past weekends results, Leicester City and Aston Villa have survived relegation but one team from Sunderland, Newcastle United and Hull City will go down in the final week of the season.

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

Leicester’s “great escape” may be one of the greatest in history as Nigel Pearson’s side have won six and drawn one of their last eight games. Remarkable. On Saturday they drew 0-0 at Sunderland and the Black Cats need one point from their final two games of the season, Arsenal and Chelsea away, to secure safety. That will not be easy to do on their own but they will likely get help in their survival bid.

The favorites to go down are Hull City. The Tigers are in 18th spot on 34 points, while Newcastle sit on 36 and Sunderland on 37 points above them. Hull have Manchester United at home on Sunday in the final game of the season with Steve Bruce’s men knowing they have to win or they will be relegated after a two-year stay in the PL.

[ RELATED: Premier League schedule ]

Newcastle suffered another defeat at the weekend and they host West Ham United at St James’ Park on the final day. The Magpies haven’t won in 10 games, losing nine of those, and if they slip out of the PL with a combination of not beating the Hammers and Hull pulling off an unlikely win vs. Man United, there will be a venomous atmosphere at Newcastle towards owner Mike Ashley.

Here’s a final look at the standings as we enter the final week of the season:

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GERRARD’S EMOTIONAL FAREWELL FITTING

It was an emotional farewell for Steven Gerrard on Saturday as the Liverpool legend said goodbye to Anfield after a 17-year career with his hometown club.

[ RELATED: Gerrard gets fitting farewell at Anfield ]

Getting a guard of honor out onto the pitch and the entire stadium holding up banners, mosaics and applauding him throughout, Gerrard got the storybook ending to his storybook career. The local lad who led Liverpool for over a decade as their captain didn’t get a fairytale finish on the pitch as Crystal Palace played the role of part poopers perfectly in a 3-1 win. But nobody really cared about that. It was all about Gerrard.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Gerrard’s influence on Liverpool has been incredible over the years. His presence in midfield has seen him become the heart and soul of the team and his legacy will live on long after his final game for Liverpool at Stoke City this weekend finishes.

Personally, it was a pleasure to witness his sendoff and the incredible ovation he got before and after the game from his adoring fans.

A one club man. A Liverpool legend. A hero to those in his hometown and around the world. Gerrard’s Anfield career will be remembered for decades to come as he walked out of the hallowed stadium for the final time as a Liverpool player as his new adventure in MLS with the LA Galaxy awaits.

MANE’S INCREDIBLE 176 SECOND HAT TRICK

Sadio Mane. Take a bow. On Saturday Southampton hammered Aston Villa 6-1 to end their home schedule in style at St Mary’s. Mane scored three times in 2 minutes and 56 seconds to score the fastest Premier League hat trick in history.

Liverpool’s Robbie Fowler had the previous record of 4 minutes and 33 seconds back in 1994 but Mane’s pace and precise finishing shaved over 90 seconds off that record as a rampant Southampton ripped Villa’s shambolic defense apart. Going into the final weekend Saints can finish in fifth if they beat Manchester City and qualify out-right for the Europa League.

Mane was one of Ronald Koeman’s main signings in his first season in charge and the Dutchman expects even more from the Senegalese striker next season. A record points tally. A record high position in the PL and now a player who holds the record for the fastest hat trick in PL history. Safe to say, it has been a record-breaking season for Saints.

WENGER TALKS ZELALEM

On Sunday following Arsenal’s 1-1 draw at Manchester United, ProSoccerTalk got a chance to pick the brains of Arsenal’s boss Arsene Wenger about his young talent Gedion Zelalem.

[ RELATED: Wenger pleased Zelalem picked USMNT ]

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Wenger and Zelalem on the training ground.

Zelalem, 18, caused quite the stir last week as it was announced FIFA had rubber-stamped his switch from Germany to the USA for his international career. The Berlin-born midfielder moved to the Washington D.C. area at the age of 10 until he was 15, then Arsenal took him to England. We asked Wenger what he thought about Zelalem’s decision to switch his national allegiance.

“I leave the freedom to the players to play for the country where their heart is,” Wenger said. “There are more and more people who have been educated in two or three different countries. He is an interesting case because he has been educated until the age of 9-10 in Germany and then 10-15 in the States. That is maybe the age where you go out of the family and start to have friends. He felt he wanted to play for the States.”

[ RELATED: Caution over hype: U.S. handling Zelalem well ]

Wenger also touched on his plans for the future and how USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will be a “fantastic” role model for the talented midfielder.

“It is possible [a loan move] but I always test the players in preseason,” Wenger said. “After preseason I make an assessment on how close they are to the first team. If he is not close next year then yes, he needs to play somewhere.”

“Jurgen has all the knowledge that is needed at the top level. He has now started to have a good experience as a coach as well. It will be fantastic for him [Zelalem].”

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

Solskjaer warns “could have been one of those nights” for Manchester United

Manchester United Solskjaer
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was clearly relieved after his dominant but wasteful Manchester United finally beat goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson and Copenhagen in extra time of their Europa League quarterfinal in Cologne.

“I think it was just one of those nights,” he said after the win. “I think we deserved to win, that’s clear, but they made it very hard for us.”

Johnsson made 13 saves as United out-attempted the minusM-1000 underdogs from Denmark by a 26-9 margin. The Red Devils blocked several Copenhagen chances in tight, making the Danes’ total of zero shots on target a bit deceiving.

[ RECAP: Manchester United 1-0 Copenhagen ]

“Their keeper was unbelievable and we hit the post a few times,” Solskjaer said. “It could have been one of those nights that you end up with a shootout. We had to block, defend well and they made it hard for us.”

But United was clearly the better team on the day, as expected. Juan Mata entered late in the game and was an influential sub in extra time.

He says the Red Devils were a bit beat up on a hot night in Germany.

“The team is quite tired physically,” Mata said. “At this stage of this season it is important to win games like today and we go through. We stay in Germany for quite some time and hopefully we can win.

“Both teams got a little tired and there were more spaces and more chances. They played some good football and credit to them. We could have scored more goals in extra time but we are through.”

United will meet either Sevilla or Wolves in a dynamite semifinal in one week.

Manchester United breaks through Copenhagen in extra time

Manchester United - Copenhagen
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Manchester United – Copenhagen: The Europa League’s biggest underdogs of the quarterfinals took the tournament favorites to extra time before succumbing 1-0 in Cologne.

Bruno Fernandes highlighted his Man of the Match performance by converting an Anthony Martial-won penalty in the 95th minute for Manchester United, the only way past Copenhagen’s terrific goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson.

But Fernandes gave United a scare, needing care for his hamstring at the final whistle.

[ MORE: Liverpool announces new left back ]

Johnsson made 13 saves, seven from inside the box, to keep Copenhagen within a sucker punch of eliminating the Red Devils over 90 minutes.

Manchester United heads to Dusseldorf for an Aug. 17 semifinal against the winner of Tuesday’s tilt between Wolves and Sevilla.


Three things we learned

1. Copenhagen plays prime tournament soccer: The heaviest underdogs in the quarterfinals, Copenhagen executed a traditional 4-4-2 in a less-traditional low block for much of the match. The low block wasn’t the surprise, but instead of two banks of five, the rows of four with two men hassling up front challenged United for time and helped spring a number of dangerous counters. The Danes opened up in extra time after going behind, but taking it to extra time was more than many expected out of them.

2. VAR denies the Red Devils: A rout would’ve been on if this match was staged a year ago without VAR, as the assistant referee twice allowed United goals to go to video. Harry Maguire was offside before assisting the first would-be Red Devils goal, while Mason Greenwood was off before ripping a rocket off the far post and into the goal.

3. Bruno is a beast: Fernandes was everywhere, cueing up his teammates for chances when he wasn’t smashing them off the frame in a bid to win it himself. The Portuguese playmaker registered three key passes, put three of his five shots on target, and won the majority of his duels on top of scoring the game’s lone goal (SofaScore). Now United must hope his late leg injury was just a product of 120 minutes and nothing major.

Man of the Match

Fernandes, and yes we had him here before he smashed his penalty home. Fernandes is now the Europa League’s leading scorer with seven goals between Sporting Lisbon and United.


Manchester United – Copenhagen recap

United has plenty of the ball in the first 10 minutes but Copenhagen provided legitimate danger that Eric Bailly managed in his own six.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka blocked a cross with his face and needed treatment, looking quite dazed before returning to the game.

Another Copenhagen chance was blocked in the six by Bailly (again), who proved a wise choice over Victor Lindelof.

VAR had a look at an early United goal and rightly chalked Harry Maguire offside in the build-up. And it took Mason Greenwood’s hammer off the far post off the board for offside early in stoppage time.

Copenhagen was in it at the break. Would United pay?

[ MORE: Lukaku leads Inter past Bayer Leverkusen ]

The early stages of the second half remained with the Red Devils, Copenhagen parking all its men behind the ball at times.

Rashford flubbed a chance to shoot or pass to Paul Pogba when Bruno Fernandes spotted him at the back post just after the hour mark.

Fernandes tried his luck from distance in the 63rd, ripping a shot off the far post.

Ex-Everton man Bryan Oviedo nearly put Copenhagen ahead in the 66th only to see Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Bailly clog his shooting lane after Rasmus Falk dazzled to get into the box.

Karl-Johan Johnsson made a flying save on Anthony Martial to force an 84th-minute corner that came to nothing for United.

Johnsson denied Martial again in-tight at the start of stoppage time, but the high was short-lived as the Frenchman was dropped in the box moments later.

Fernandes stepped to the spot and used a stuttering run-up before blasting his penalty home.

Martial nearly had it 2-0 after the restart when he dribbled through the Copenhagen 18 but took it himself instead of laying off to Juan Mata in what would’ve been a fairly straight-forward chance for the Spaniard.

Johnsson denied Fernandes at the end of the first 15 minutes of extra time, United unfortunate to not score on the ensuing corner when Mata’s shot was blocked to Lindelof, who fired off the outside of the post.

Lindelof made a fine intervention to block a close-range equalizer bid in the 116th.

Inter Milan rides early goals past Bayer Leverkusen

Inter Milan - Bayer Leverkusen
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While Manchester United and Copenhagen played chess across the country, Inter Milan and Bayer Leverkusen were staging double jumps all over a checkerboard in Dusseldorf.

Romelu Lukaku and Nicolo Barella scored twice in six first-half minutes before Kai Havertz answered in the 24th to account for all the goals in Inter’s 2-1 defeat of Bayer.

Lukaku has scored in nine-straight UEL matches, a new record.

[ MORE: Liverpool announces new left back ]

Inter now waits for an Aug. 16 semifinal in Cologne, where it will meet the winner of Tuesday’s match between Basel and Shakhtar Donetsk

Bayer now must settle for the Europa League again via its fifth-place finish in the Bundesliga.

The three goals in the nine minutes were highlighted by Lukaku doing his best “Harry Kane versus Leicester City” falling down finish.

Nicola Barella put Inter ahead after a quarter-hour when he made the most of a loose ball outside the 18.

A Manchester United connection saw Inter ahead by two when Ashley Young found Romelu Lukaku and the Belgian striker maintained his composure while being dragged to the ground, beating Lukas Hradecky with a low shot.

Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland’s interplay near the box ended with the transfer rumor mainstay slipping a shot home to bring Bayer back within one.

Lukaku had penalty decisions taken off the board by VAR in each half.

Who’s next for Manchester United if Sancho stays at Dortmund?

Chiesa to Manchester United
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The transfer rumor mill is usually buzzing this time of year, but it’s nearly a cacophony following Michael Zorc’s announcement that Jadon Sancho will be staying at Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool announces new left back ]

Reports say Manchester United is not quitting on the idea of Sancho at Old Trafford, but here are some other targets if the Red Devils have to look away from the English phenom.

Federico Chiesa, Fiorentina

Linked with United for some time including a Monday nod from Football-Italia, Chiesa’s approximately $80 million price tag is high but half of what Dortmund is asking for Sancho.

The versatile playmaker has often been linked with Juventus, though Fiorentina is loathe to do business with The Old Lady unless absolutely necessary after big sales of Roberto Baggio and Federico Bernardeschi to Juve in the past.

The 22-year-old already has 17 Italian caps and scored 10 goals with six assists for La Viola this season in Serie A play, career bests in both.

Douglas Costa, Juventus

This one could become even more feasible if Juve latched onto Chiesa.

Juve desperately needs to get younger and Costa doesn’t figure to fit into the plans of Andrea Pirlo, a month away from his 30th birthday.

Costa works better on the right side and would be a worker bee looking to set up Rashford and Martial or cut back for Bruno Fernandes. He boasts double-digit assist seasons in the Bundesliga (Bayern), Serie A (Juve), and Ukraine (Shakhtar Donetsk).

TURIN, ITALY – MAY 19: Douglas Costa (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)

Raul Jimenez, Wolves

This one still feels like a long shot of long shots given the players’ age and status at Wolves, but the El Tri star has been linked with United in the past.

Jimenez doesn’t solve the wing issue presented by Sancho staying at BVB, and you’d fancy the Red Devils to go after one of Wolves’ wingers before Jimenez.

But Solskjaer enjoys Marcus Rashford at left wing and could use Anthony Martial at right wing a bit more often than center forward. Throw in Mason Greenwood and the boss would have a lot of permutations to use around Bruno Fernandes in a front three or four.

Ivan Perisic, Inter Milan

Mentioned as part of a swap deal for Alexis Sanchez, that’s less on the cards after the Chilean accepted a Man United payoff to move to Inter for free.

The 31-year-old favors the left wing and Inter would be happy to offload him after Bayern declined its option to buy the loanee who managed seven goals and 10 assists in just over 1600 minutes.

That’s pretty good output for a part-time player who kept some tread on the tires.

Perisic to Manchester United
MOSCOW, RUSSIA – JULY 15: Ivan Perisic of Croatia (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

James Rodriguez, Real Madrid

If you’re sensing a thread amongst most of these players, it’s no surprise considering United has a wage scale to meet the needs of many wantaways.

Real desperately wants to get something for Colombian star James, who at 29 played less than 800 minutes for La Liga’s champions this season.

His two-year loan stint at Bayern also saw him as a part-time player, but like Perisic a productive one. James scored 15 times with 20 assists over two seasons with the Bavarians.

Kingsley Coman, Bayern Munich

This would cost a lot of dough.

The 24-year-old has been a part of nine-straight league winners between Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, and Bayern.

Okay that’s cheating a bit considering his Ligue 1 crowns came off a handful of appearances over two seasons at the Parc des Princes.

But the left and right winger might be on for a change of scenery with Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane set to dominate the preferential places at Bayern.