All of Manchester United’s players “have to fight” for their positions

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Yes, Manchester United have signed four top-class players so far this summer, but manager Louis van Gaal has told them not to expect an automatic starting spot.

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On top of that, he’s also not taking his own position for granted, as the Dutchman has now spent over $320 million in transfer fees alone over the past 12 months and knows the Red Devils have to challenge for trophies in just his second season in charge of the Premier League club.

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Van Gaal, 63, has signed Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin so far this summer but speaking in Seattle ahead of the first match of their preseason campaign against Club America on Friday, van Gaal is laying down the law.

“In top sport, no position is ever secure in top sport,” van Gaal said. “Even my position is not secure. The players have to fight. Michael Carrick knows it because I told him at the end of the season. Morgan Schneiderlin has to fight with Bastian Schweinsteiger, Michael Carrick and Daley Blind. These are the players who can play in the centre of midfield. Matteo Darmian has to fight with Antonio Valencia (at right-back). He knows that but Valencia knows that also.”

So, there you have it. Increased competition, and depth, will be hugely important this season as United compete in the UEFA Champions League as well as trying to not only cement their spot in the top four of the PL but challenge the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City for the title.

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United’s captain Wayne Rooney, speaking to MUTV during their preseason tour, is delighted to see the new guys arrive, and revealed he’s particularly excited to play alongside German national team captain Schweinsteiger.

“Bastian is a very experienced player who has won everything in the game and it’s great that he has chosen to join us and left a team like Bayern Munich to come here,” Rooney said “And Morgan as well – it’s great to see Bastian, him, Matteo and Memphis all come in and give the squad a boost. It’s exciting times and I’m sure over the next week or two it’ll be great for us to get some training sessions in and get to know each other’s games.

“Bastian speaks very good English so that’s a boost for the squad, too. He’s a fantastic player, he’s shown that over the years and it’s great that we’ve got him and I’m sure he’ll be a good player for us. We had the day we first flew out when we first met Bastian and Morgan and they’ve settled in as well as they can do in a couple of days. It’s great to have them with us.”

Many are expecting Schweinsteiger and Schnedierlin to form a central midfield partnership for United in a variation of a 4-2-3-1 formation, but as LVG said, don’t forget about Michael Carrick, Daley Blind, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera who all did good jobs at different stages of last season. Plus you have the likes of Angel di Maria, Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini, Depay and Adnan Januzaj battling for the attacking midfield positions.

We heard about van Gaal’s ruthless streak earlier as he told Victor Valdes he would be sold after refusing to play in a reserve game and he also told Robin van Persie he’s United career was over during a round of golf.

As always, it’s all business from van Gaal, but is he running the risk of upsetting some of the more senior players at Old Trafford? Let’s wait and see what kind of reaction his continuously abrasive nature has on his squad.

Goalkeeper goal seals knockout stage spot in UEFA Youth League

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Club Brugge goalkeeper Senne Lammens may just be 17 years old, but he just lived every goalkeeper’s dream: to score a dramatic equalizer in the dying seconds of a game to send the club through to a European competition’s knockout stage.

The young goalkeeper came forward on a corner in the 94th minute of a game against Real Madrid in the UEFA Youth League Wednesday morning in Belgium. With the visitors leading 2-1 and added time just about expired, Brugge needed to score an equalizer to secure passage to the knockout stage, lest they be left at the mercy of Galatasaray’s match against PSG.

Lammens delivered. The corner swung in to the top of the six-yard box and the youngster was on hand to head home a pinpoint effort inside the far post.

The header was quite literally the last act of the game, with stoppage time already creeping more than 60 seconds past the minimum three added minutes.

Lammens has shuttled back and forth between the youth squad and the senior squad this season serving occasionally as an emergency third goalkeeper behind Simon Mignolet and Ethan Horvath. Mostly, though, he’s been with the youth squad appearing in five of their six UEFA Youth League games, with three wins and a draw.

Report: Arsenal not interested in Ancelotti “profile”

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According to The Athletic reporter David Ornstein, Arsenal is not interested in a manager of Carlo Ancelotti’s “profile.”

The Italian was recently let go by Napoli after a disappointing first half of the season despite qualifying for the Champions League knockout stage.

Ancelotti has won a Premier League title, three Champions League titles, and a Scudetto during his career but apparently a manager with his resume does not interest the Gunners, who may be looking for a more youthful boss with a longer-term strategy and potentially stronger club or domestic ties.

At 60 years old, Ancelotti has been fired from posts at Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and now Napoli over the last four years. Over those four seasons, he has just one league title, the 2016/17 Bundesliga crown he won with Bayern in runaway fashion, and has exceeded expectations in very limited capacities, instead seeing things turn sour at each job relatively quickly. This season at Napoli, the club sits seventh in the Serie A table, mired in a horrible seven-match winless run that has seen them tumble further from the Champions League places.

Ornstein’s report also touched on the timeline of a potential hire, with the club apparently still deciding on whether to see out the season with interim manager Freddie Ljungberg or make a mid-season appointment. He states that the club “want situation settled asap” but also prefer “right man over quick decision.” He does not identify who the number one target is, but suggests that if that person is available at this point in time, they will make the hire mid-season, otherwise there will be a waiting game.

Jorge Sampaoli resigns as Santos boss

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Brazilian club Santos confirmed Tuesday evening that manager Jorge Sampaoli has resigned as boss.

Sampaoli, who won the 2015 Copa America in charge of Chile but could not recreate that success with the Argentinian national team, signed on with Santos a year ago and guided them to a second-place finish in the Brazilian top flight, 16 points behind runaway champions Flamengo. His contract had another year, expiring in the winter of 2020, but with reports of offers from multiple clubs, he has stepped down.

The most widely reported destination is fellow Brazilian club Palmeiras, whom many believe Sampaoli has already entered talks with. He has also been linked with Argentinian club Racing, and his name has cropped up on occasion with the Arsenal vacancy, although that seems like a longshot. It was said in late October that Sampaoli had an offer from an unnamed La Liga club, but those rumors have cooled.

His reason for leaving Santos after just one successful season in charge is unconfirmed, but rumors are circulating that Sampaoli had incredibly ambitious transfer plans for the offseason, and when club president Jose Carlos Peres could not guarantee his support, the relationship became strained.

The 2019 season was mostly successful for Sampaoli at Santos, finishing second in the league table, but the secondary competitions were somewhat disappointing. They received a tough first-round draw in the Copa Sudamericana, falling to River Plate on away goals. They were also ousted from the Copa do Brasil in the Round of 16, falling 2-1 to an Atletico Minero side that finished 13th in the league table.

Tierney out months as Arsenal injuries pile up

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According to multiple reports, including Mark Mann-Bryans of PA Sport and Charles Watts of Goal.com, Arsenal full-back Kieran Tierney could be out up to three months after dislocating his shoulder in the 3-1 win over West Ham on Monday.

Tierney was withdrawn in the 29th minute after an awkward fall, using the bottom of his shirt as a makeshift sling. The club is still deciding on whether he will require surgery, according to Mann-Bryans, and that decision will ultimately determine the length of time he will miss. Still, even without surgery, it could leave him sidelined for a month or more.

The 22-year-old has struggled with injuries since joining the Gunners this past summer, missing the first seven games of the year with a hip injury. He has seen action in just five Premier League games thus far, and again could be sidelined for a significant spell. He could also end up missing Scotland’s critical playoff match against Israel in late March depending on his recovery timeline and fitness level.

Tierney’s injury is not the only one Arsenal is currently sweating. Granit Xhaka will miss the Europa League group stage finale against Standard Liege with a concussion, while Hector Bellerin is struggling with a hamstring problem. “Hector had a feeling in his hamstring during the warm-up [before West Ham] and we took the decision,” said interim manager Freddie Ljungberg after the win over the Hammers. “Not going to force anyone to play if they don’t feel 100%.”

Dani Ceballos is still sidelined with a hamstring injury suffered against Vitoria in October Europa League play and won’t return to training until later this month, while Rob Holding is a question mark this week after missing the West Ham game thanks to a bruised knee.

Arsenal, currently sitting ninth in the Premier League table and is scheduled to host Manchester City this coming Sunday following the trip to Belgium. They have upcoming games against Everton, Bournemouth, Chelsea, and Manchester United through the festive period.