Manchester United’s spending spree makes them Premier League title contenders

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Bastian Schweinsteiger. Morgan Schneiderlin. Memphis Depay. Matteo Darmian.

source: Getty Images
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Those four players have all joined Manchester United so far this summer and with their signings come legitimate expectations that the Red Devils can once again challenge for the Premier League title in the upcoming 2015-16 season.

Louis van Gaal has done his business early this summer, compared to last season where he relied on a late barrage on deadline day. All four new guys were on the plane to the United States of America on Monday ahead of the Red Devils’ preseason tour of the U.S. which kicks off this weekend in Seattle before shifting to California and Chicago.

[ MORE: Schweinsteiger signs | Schneiderlin arrives ]

Does this latest splurge on transfers mean United are now contenders to win the Premier League?

Let’s break it down.

How big are these signings?

Potentially massive. United’s central midfield has got a huge overhaul with Schweinsteiger’s vast experience and Schneiderlin’s energy set to complement each other perfectly. The Red Devils have also added Depay, a potentially prophetic attacking talent who has plenty of confidence in himself and if he hits the ground running, could become a key component. Italian international Darmian fills a desperate need with Rafael struggling at right back and his versatility gives LVG cover. Overall these four signings not only add depth but should all be starters when the season opener against Tottenham Hotspur (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) rolls around on Aug. 8.

[ MORE: Wenger praises United’s transfer deals ]

Manchester United Unveil New Signing Morgan Schneiderlin
United’s signing of four top-class players this summer has increased their chances of success in 2015-16.

What more do United need to turn into genuine title contenders?

Even though they have spent over $115 million on four players so far, they still need more investment. Another commanding central defender is key if success is to arrive in the PL and the UEFA Champions League. Valencia’s Nicolas Otamendi has been mentioned in dispatches but his transfer fee of over $50 million is putting United off.

Sergio Ramos is a long-term target and if any deal is reached with Real Madrid, it is likely to see David de Gea head in the opposite direction. More on that shortly. So, adding to the need for a center back is a center forward. Van Gaal will likely deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation so he may be fine with having Wayne Rooney, young James Wilson and potentially Depay in a central role, but rumors suggest Gonzalo Higuain could be a target to fill the spots left by the outgoing Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao. Higuain’s arrival would cost United another $100 million though. With Luke Shaw, Angel di Maria, Juan Mata, Chris Smalling, Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini all finding their feet towards the end of last season, they will also add to the feel-good factor among United’s fans as they believe challenging Chelsea and Manchester City for the title is a legitimate target. Even though Chelsea continue to add thrifty additions like Falcao and Asmir Begovic, while City have spent big on Raheem Sterling.

Will there be outgoings?

So, the outgoings. De Gea is the main man who could leave this summer. Even though the Spanish international goalkeeper has flown to the USA for United’s preseason tour, he only has one-year left on his current contract and Real Madrid are said to be interested after letting Iker Casillas leave. Watch this space. De Gea’s back-up Victor Valdes has been left off the squad for the U.S. tour and could be heading to Turkey, so if De Gea does go then Untied will have a serious problem in goal. Di Maria could be another big name departure, with Paris Saint-Germain boss Laurent Blanc admitting his interest in the Argentine winger. United are stacked with wide players (Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Adnan Januzaj, Depay, Andreas Perreria and Jesse Lingard) so they could let Di Maria go if they get a good bid from PSG. That way they could reinvest in a forward or a center back.

source:
Memphis Depay Welcome Press Conference at Manchester United

Pressure is on for LVG, but what would be a good season?

After spending $115 million so far during this transfer window and over $210 million last summer, van Gaal will be under a lot of pressure to improve on United’s fourth-place finish in the PL last season. Of course, they will have to juggle their league responsibility with extra games in Europe but with a stacked squad full of young talent trying to impress LVG and the experience of Schweinsteiger and Rooney gelling things together, a top-two finish isn’t out of the question. If the Glazer family, United’s American owners, give Chief Executive Ed Woodward more money to spend this summer then he and LVG will be under pressure to advance to the knockout stages of the UCL and at least finish inside the top two of the PL.

If they finish third, that’s fine, especially with Man City and Chelsea continuing to strengthen and Arsenal improving year-on-year. However, another struggle to finish fourth and failure in Europe would heap insurmountable pressure on van Gaal’s sturdy Dutch shoulders. With big money signings comes big responsibility but the fact they will all get the chance to gel into United’s team together during a full preseason in the U.S. will be hugely beneficial.

United’s costly resurgence is in full flow but fans expecting instant success may have to curb their enthusiasm until the strength of their opponents in the upcoming season becomes a lot clearer. That said, these additions vastly enhance their chances of success for next season and beyond.

Watch Live: Arsenal v. Brighton, Sheffield Utd v. Newcastle

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Matchweek 15 of the 2019-20 Premier League season wraps up on Thursday, with two more midweek clashes featuring two mid-table sides, and two more from much nearer to the relegation zone, in action.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ] 

First up, PL new boys (and 9th-place side) Sheffield United will host 14th-place Newcastle United, who sit just two points outside the relegation zone ahead of kickoff. 45 minutes later, 10th-place Arsenal will host 16th-place Brighton & Hove Albion in Freddie Ljungberg’s first home game as Arsenal interim manager.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

The schedule for Thursday’s two games is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


2:30 p.m. ET: Sheffield United v. Newcastle United [STREAM]
3:15 p.m. ET: Arsenal v. Brighton & Hove Albion [STREAM]

Marco Silva fired by Everton

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Marco Silva has been fired as manager of Everton, making him the fourth Premier League manager to lose his job in the last 16 days.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

Silva reported for a regular day’s work at Everton’s training ground on Thursday, a day after suffering a 5-2 defeat to local rivals Liverpool, all while a conference call was expected to take place involving the relevant figures: owner Farhad Moshiri, chairman Bill Kenright, chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale and director of football Marcel Brands.

15 games into the 2019-20 PL season, the Toffees currently sit 18th in the league table with less than a point per game — relegation territory — on the back of three straight losses and just four wins all season. Silva’s only victory since mid-October came against fellow bottom-four side Southampton nearly a month ago.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

It’s not just the number of losses for Everton (now up to nine) on the season thus far, but many of the sides to which they’ve lost (newly promoted Aston Villa, 12th-place Bournemouth, newly promoted Sheffield United, 11th-place Burnley, 16th-place Brighton & Hove Albion and 19th-place Norwich, to name a few) that forced them further and further down the table and made relegation a semi-serious threat, at least for the time being.

Atleti escapes major punishment for fans’ Griezmann threats

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MADRID (AP) Atletico Madrid escaped major punishment Wednesday after its fans made threatening chants against former player Antoine Griezmann during last weekend’s La Liga match against Barcelona.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

The Spanish league had denounced the club after some fans chanted “Die Griezmann” in Sunday’s match, won by Barcelona at Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid.

The Spanish soccer federation said it would fine Atletico $333 because the game was disrupted, but it did not cite the chants against Griezmann. The fine was prompted mainly because fans threw objects — including an umbrella — onto the field.

The Spanish league had denounced the club to the federation’s anti-violence committee, saying about 2,000 fans from Atletico’s “ultras” section made the chants for about 20 seconds before the start of the second half, and again later in the game.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

Griezmann left Atletico for Barcelona at the end of last season in a transfer worth more than $132 million.

The France forward was jeered nearly every time he touched the ball at the Metropolitano on Sunday. It was his first match at Atletico’s stadium since leaving the club.

Klopp to take first team to Club World Cup, leave youth for EFL Cup

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Jurgen Klopp has chosen his strongest possible Liverpool squad to take to the Club World Cup later this month, leaving a reserve- and youth-laden team behind to compete in the EFL Cup during the same period.

[ MORE: Lampard: Pulisic can reach “top level of world football” ]

Liverpool will head to Doha, Qatar, for the Club World Cup, where they’ll play their semifinal fixture against one of Monterrey (Mexico), Al-Saad (Qatar) or Hienghene Sport (New Caledonia) on Dec. 18. The day prior, on Dec. 17, the Reds will also play away to Aston Villa in the quarterfinals of the League Cup. With the club’s star-studded first team in Qatar, progression to the semifinals of the League Cup will be down to a team full of teenage prospects.

Only defender Joel Matip and midfielder Fabinho, both of whom are currently injured and unavailable, were left out of the Club World Cup squad.

[ MORE: Ole gushes over “the best performance Rashford has had under me” ]

Players suffering from illness or injury prior to Liverpool’s first Club World Cup game can be replaced in the squad up to 24 hours before kickoff.

Liverpool’s Club World Cup squad

Goalkeepers: Alisson, Adrian, Andy Lonergan

Defenders: Virgil Van Dijk, Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez, Andrew Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold

Midfielders: Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, Naby Keita, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Neco Williams

Forwards: Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Xherdan Shaqiri, Rhian Brewster, Divock Origi