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 ]

source:
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

Report: USMNT keeper Steffen to be Man City No. 2 next season

Zack Steffen Man City
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United States men’s national team starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen will not be loaned by Manchester City next season, according to ESPN.

Steffen, 25, is set to back up Ederson for Pep Guardiola’s side next season after a year on loan to Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga.

Steffen needed the loan because he had not yet qualified for a work permit in the United Kingdom. Instead, he starred in plenty of games for promoted Fortuna before suffering a nagging knee injury. Fortuna was relegated to 2.Bundesliga on the final day of the season.

[ MORE: Man City sets a very Pep record ]

There were rumors earlier this year that Claudio Bravo might head for New York City FC in MLS in order to make way for Steffen.

The 17-times capped USMNT bolted for Freiburg in Germany after making his name at the University of Maryland. He returned to the U.S. and became a star with savvy penalty-stopping ability with now-USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter and the Columbus Crew.

Guardiola has usually given his No. 2 plenty of time to shines in cup matches, and City expects to compete for every trophy it can. If the club’s European ban is upheld, however, there will far fewer matches on the schedule for the serial Champions League qualifier.

Sheffield United – Chelsea preview: How to watch, start time, stream, prediction

Sheffield United - Chelsea preview
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Sheffield United – Chelsea preview: Frank Lampard’s Chelsea begins life defending third place on the Premier League table when it visits Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday (Watch Live at 12:30 pm ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues’ 60 points are one more than Leicester City and two clear of old rivals Manchester United.

Also of interest to Chelsea and USMNT fans: The Blues have posted a 20-minute video of every Christian Pulisic touch since Project Restart began earlier this Summer.

Sheffield United beat Wolves at midweek to pull within a point of sixth-place. If Blades stumble, there are three teams within a win of pushing them back beneath the Europa League places.

STREAM SHEFFIELD UNITED – CHELSEA LIVE


Team news

Billy Gilmour is a doubt for Chelsea while Mateo Kovacic is back in training and could be available to Frank Lampard. N’Golo Kante remains out and Jorginho may get a Starting XI recall on Saturday.

John Fleck, Luke Freeman, and John Lundstram are out for Sheffield United while David McGoldrick is a question mark.

What they’re saying

Blades boss Wilder to our own JPW after a 1-0 win over Wolves: “We like to think we’ve brought something in terms of our attitude and our performances to get the results that we’ve got. We had a stretched squad and really had to dig in to get a result. I don’t think you get the result and the performance tonight if you haven’t got something with the ball and I think we did have something with the ball and out of it everybody did a job and tried to stop a very, very talented side from gaining momentum and dominating us. Second half, especially, we looked and it felt like we were really desperate to go and get a winner. Regardless of how late its come, we’ve been rewarded for that attitude.”

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard on Christian Pulisic earning Eden Hazard comparisons: “Having played with Eden, he had special talent straight away and draws players towards him to open up space to others. Christian is more direct. He has the ability to break a line and run forward which is a great trait in the modern game. Why I shy away from it the other night is because Eden has been here and done it over a period of time to an incredible level. Christian has it in his hands to make a real impact over time. It’s great to see him [doing well] but there’s a lot of development to come. Christian is taking responsibility to change games.”

Odds and ends (Full matchweek odds here)

The Blades are +575 underdogs according to DraftKings, with Chelsea -167.

A two-goal game for Tammy Abraham was only enough for a Chelsea point at Stamford Bridge when the sides met in a 2-2 draw earlier this season.

Prediction

Chelsea’s had one more days’ rest than the Blades and that seems plenty given the congestion this time of year. Give the Blues a 2-1 win.

How to watch Sheffield United – Chelsea

Kickoff: 12:30 pm ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBC
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Man United’s fear factor, title hopes return

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Manchester United have regained their fear factor since ‘Project Restart’ arrived.

The Red Devils beat Aston Villa 3-0 to become the first team in Premier League history to win four consecutive games by a margin of three of more goals.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Manchester United is an attacking juggernaut once again with Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford firing on all cylinders.

They are 17 games unbeaten in all competitions and this run means they are two points off third place and one point off fourth-place Leicester (who they play on the final day) as their quest for the Champions League looks likely to be successful.

Speaking after the game, Paul Pogba told Sky Sports that challenging for the Premier League has to be the standard Manchester United sets for itself.

After the win at Villa, ProSoccerTalk asked Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for his reaction to those comments.

“I’m sure Man United will mount a challenge and get back to winning the league. When that is going to happen, that is up to every single person here and how quickly we can make this process go. We are definitely improving as a team, developing but we have to remember we’ve come a long way in one season. Let’s just take Paul’s words into the dressing room and expect and demand more from each other every single day,” Solskjaer said.

This team is brimming with confidence and hunger, as they’ve scored 100 goals in all competitions this season and have playmakers and forwards who are creating 10 or 15 chances every game and have a largely sturdy defense.

When Manchester United turn up to play an opponent, there is now an inevitability they will win. Solskjaer knows all about that fear factor from his playing days, but does he feel other teams now fear them again?

“I don’t know about how teams feel when they want to play us but we scored three today and talking about goal difference, the defenders have done their job. We created chances and could have scored three, four or five more. Of course, you are happy with the way we create chances but we need to be more clinical though,” Solskjaer told ProSoccerTalk.

“Coming into half time 2-0 up, I don’t think our performance warranted a 2-0 lead but I thought second half we played really well. Of course we had the game where we wanted. They had to press and leave gaps and space but it is not easy, there is game after game  after game. We have to keep doing the right things on the pitch and off the pitch.”

Manchester United could easily finish this season by winning eight of their final nine games and it is these results against teams they ‘should’ be beating that will make the difference. Yes, they have a long way to go to reach the levels of Liverpool and Manchester City but they are on that path and making progress.

Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired the fear factor around Man United disappeared. Almost overnight teams felt like they could beat them, and did, under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

There have been shock defeats under Solskjaer too, but this feels different now. This feels different to brief winning spells and FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League trophies won under LVG and Mourinho.

This Man United side is relentless and Solskjaer not only wants to keep winning, but keep scoring goals too.

“We could have scored many, many more goals and we keep keeping clean sheets. We go into every game wanting to win. If you win 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0, it doesn’t matter, you get the points. Hopefully the goal difference won’t be the deciding factor in the end because we should have had 10 more goals the last few games,” Solskjaer said.

With Leicester City to come on the final day of the season in what could be the pivotal clash in deciding whether or not the qualify for the Champions League, the hunger and belief is evident among the Manchester United squad based on Pogba’s reaction.

“We are really pleased with ourselves but know we have to carry on. We talked before the game, we talked in training that we have to carry on. That’s what Manchester [United] is it is a big club. We want to keep the level up, always, and the performance today and the past few weeks, they are very good and they are the standards of Manchester United,” Pogba said. “We didn’t win the Premier League and that is the goal. We didn’t win anything this year. We have to keep working and there is a lot to do. A lot.”

Pogba: Manchester United hoping to win FA Cup, Europa League

Aston Villa - Manchester United recap
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Paul Pogba and Manchester United are cruising through matches and sending a message to the Premier League.

The Red Devils won by three-or-more goals for the fourth-straight match, something that hasn’t been done in the history of the PL, and moved within a point of fourth place thanks to a 3-0 demolition of Aston Villa at Villa Park on Thursday.

[ RECAP: Aston Villa 0-3 Man Utd ]

Injured for most of the year, Pogba scored his first goal of the season in the win. He’s been looking tremendous in the midfield since returning from the coronavirus pause, and has even triggered hope that he’ll sign a new long-term deal with United.

Pogba was asked how he’s feeling about his time at Old Trafford and where it may run:

“Right now I’ve been injured for a very long time,” Pogba said. “I focused on myself to get back and help the team as much as I can. This year I have two goals, to go for the Europa League and the FA Cup so we focus on that.”

United faces Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinal and has one foot, well, most of its body in the Europa League quarterfinals.

The Frenchman says it’s good that the Red Devils are playing as well as they have been, but he’s not getting carried away with accolades.

ASTON VILLA – MANCHESTER UNITED FULL MATCH REPLAY

“We didn’t win the Premier League,” he said. “That’s the goal. We didn’t win anything this year so obviously we have to keep working. There’s a lot to do.”

Pogba thinks United can achieve all of their season goals regardless of what the top four chasers do, but cautioned that the Red Devils cannot ignore their poor start to Thursday’s win.

“We are our own enemy. We have to play not like we did the first 15 minutes but how we finished the game.”