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

Saint-Maximin absence to ask more of struggling Almiron, Joelinton

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Newcastle United lightning bolt Allan Saint-Maximin is going to miss a month with a hamstring injury suffered late in the Magpies’ 2-1 defeat of Southampton at St. James’ Park.

The ebullient Saint-Maximin played deep into the match despite a minor injury, and was on of the main reasons Newcastle won. He helped set up the winning goal, but left the stadium on crutches.

That left Steve Bruce questioning his decision to keep “ASM” in the match.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Now the electric Frenchman is set to miss fixtures against Burnley, Crystal Palace, Manchester United, Everton, Leicester City, and an FA Cup third round match versus either Boston United or Rochdale.

Saint-Maximin’s absence will hurt Newcastle all-around, but especially when its counter-attack tries to take down bigger sides. His 4.5 dribbles per match makes him one of just three players in the Premier League with more than 3.1 (Adama Traore and Wilfried Zaha).

Ultimately, though, this could provide struggling Joelinton more looks at performing on the wing opposite of Miguel Almiron. The Brazilian will have to work center forward at times as Andy Carroll certainly can’t go every game, and Dwight Gayle, Christian Atsu, and Yoshinori Muto could also be asked to play prominent roles.

And, of course, this will demand much more from industrious but sloppy Miguel Almiron, whose expected goal total is 2.5 (he has zero).

Sessegnon beats Neuer to score first Spurs, Champions League goal

Photo by Peter Kneffel/picture alliance via Getty Images)Photo by Peter Kneffel/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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Ryan Sessegnon has his first Spurs goal, which also happens to be his first UEFA Champions League goal, and he’ll love telling the tale of it.

The 19-year-old Englishman ripped a rocket past Manuel Neuer of all people, collecting a deflection to equalize early in Tottenham’s match against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Sessegnon entered the day with an assist in 30 minutes spread across three appearances for Spurs, and needed just 20 more minutes to find a goal.

He made a big money move from Fulham this summer, having made a remarkable 120 senior appearances. Almost all of those came before he turned 19, and he’s scored 25 times with 18 assists.

Kingsley Coman has Bayern’s goal as the teams remain locked at 1 after Bayern hung 7 on Spurs in England earlier in the group stage.

 

Jesus hat-trick downs Dinamo Zagreb, Atalanta qualifies for knockouts

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Manchester City looked sluggish again, but Gabriel Jesus made sure it didn’t matter.

The Brazilian cropped up at a critical juncture for Pep Guardiola, sending Manchester City through into the knockout stage on a winning note as his hat-trick sealed a 4-1 come-from-behind victory that knocked Dinamo Zagreb from European competition altogether.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

The first half was especially lackluster for the English visitors to Stadion Maksimir in Zagreb, with lots of possession but little to show for it. The hosts went in front early on, punishing Man City on the counter on a fabulous volleyed finish from former Barcelona youth product Dani Olmo.

That was the best goal of the day, but Man City picked itself up and pulled back level before the break, with Jesus grabbing his first via a header as Dinamo Zagreb shut off, screaming for Man City to put the ball out with a Zagreb player down. The visitors rightly did not, and Dinamo was punished by the equalizer.

After halftime, Man City was much better, hammering the left flank to take a commanding lead. The second came on excellent work by Jesus in the box to shake a defender and finish with his right, while the third flew in minutes later on a pinpoint Benjamin Mendy cross that Jesus met with a flying karate kick. Pep Guardiola had one eye on the festive fixtures, withdrawing Jesus soon after the hour mark, replaced by Oleksandr Zinchenko who curiously took Jesus’s place at the striker position.

Phil Foden was the best Manchester City player throughout, and finished off the scoreline with seven minutes to go. An excellent buildup down the right saw Bernardo Silva sprung through, and he cut back to Foden at the top of the six-yard box who slid to meet the ball with pace and poke home the cherry on top.

Elsewhere, Atalanta topped Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0 in the Ukraine on goals by Timothy Castagne, Mario Pasalic, and Robin Gosens, meaning the Italians secured the second spot in Group A, qualifying for the knockout stage. The Ukranians were left dead in the water after right-back Dodo was sent off 13 minutes from time, leading to the second goal to seal things up. Atalanta’s advancement marks a stunning comeback given the Italian side failed to secure points in any of their first three group stage matches.

That left Shakhtar in third, dropping to the Europa League, while Dinamo Zagreb was left at the bottom of the group, on the outside looking in.

Charlotte MLS club files trademarks for eight potential names

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It is being heavily reported that Charlotte is the next city to earn a club in the rapidly expanding Major League Soccer landscape, and Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper has taken the next step towards that possibility.

The new club needs a name, and they appear to be nearing a selection. Tepper filed for eight different name trademarks, according to multiple reports, including The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue who confirmed the filings were made under Tepper’s Panthers address.

Here is the list of names he filed copyright requests for:

“Charlotte FC” would be a bare-bones and generic name that follows in the footsteps of recent MLS expansion clubs such as Orlando City SC, NYCFC or LAFC. Others are a little more colorful, including “Carolina Gliders FC” or “Charlotte Monarchs FC,” while a few others like “Charlotte Town FC” or “Charlotte Athletic FC” clearly call forth thoughts of smaller English clubs.

Rodrigue speculated that the relative lack of “Carolina” encompassing names is potentially due to the possibility of an expansion bid from Raleigh down the road, and a Carolina team would potentially provide an unnecessary roadblock to that future prospect. There is a clear lack of region-encompassing names in Major League Soccer, with “New England Revolution” the only example, and there’s no real reason to break that mold with another potential bid city down the road.

Which name is your favorite? What would you have gone with if you could name the club?