Premier League Playback: Van Gaal’s time at United almost up

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VAN GAAL’S TIME ALMOST UP

Louis Van Gaal‘s time at Manchester United seems to be coming to an end.

[ MORE: LVG – “Fans right to boo”

The veteran Dutch coach was booed and jeered at half time and following United’s 1-0 defeat at home to Southampton on Saturday, as his side put in a turgid display which reinforced all of their major flaws.

Speaking after the game and after a verbal bashing from his own supporters, Van Gaal looked a beaten man as he finally admitted his fans were right to show their disdain.

“They are right to boo. I cannot deny that, I saw the match,” Van Gaal said. “For better or for worse we have to stick together.”

It’s hard to stick together when fans, players and even the manager do not know where this journey is going. Van Gaal, 64, is contracted to United until the end of the next season but it seems highly unlikely he’ll be in charge to see out his deal. He is a proud man who has endured tough times with Barcelona, Holland and even Bayern Munich before, yet this situation seems impossible to turn around with the widespread boos perhaps spelling the end for LVG.

But what option do they have in the meantime if he is fired or walks?

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Placing Ryan Giggs in temporary charge is papering over the cracks and the Welshman, who was a legendary player at Old Trafford, has no head-coaching experience despite sitting alongside David Moyes and Van Gaal as an assistant. He is not ready to take on this challenge but he may be the only option. As Kyle Martino said in the video above, maybe Giggs gets a chance until the summer to see if he can have an impact and if not then a high profile name can come in. But which high profile manager would take the job at this point with Pep Guardiola almost certain to end up at Man City? United’s directors must have Jose Mourinho’s number on speed-dial at this point.

Back to Van Gaal, the pressure building on him is immense. Following $375 million spent on new players in the last 18 months, an early UEFA Champions League exit at the group stage this season and now sitting five points off the top four with 15 games to go, United have only won two of their last 10 games. Yes, injuries have plagued them but the predictable, slow build-up play which has led to them scoring just 28 goals through 23 games so far this season is unacceptable and they have now failed to score in the first half of their last 11 matches at home. They have also registered their lowest points tally (37) after 23 games of a Premier League season. That’s worse than when Moyes was in charge and many more stats can be pulled out to portray just how bad this situation is.

[ REPORT: Mourinho sends letter to Man United

Van Gaal has admitted he cannot fulfill the expectation levels at Old Trafford and reports claim that executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has reached out to the players to ask if Van Gaal is the right man to carry on leading them. All of this is leading up to an inevitable conclusion. Van Gaal out.

He gave his team two days off on Sunday and Monday, presumably to clear their heads and refocus. While they tried to do that, LVG returned to Holland to celebrate his daughter’s birthday.

The likelihood — much to the dismay of a growing number of United’s fan — is that when he returns Van Gaal will be in charge for their FA Cup fourth round match away at second-tier Derby County. Lose that and surely it’s curtains for one of the most experienced managers in the game. Nothing he has previously experienced will have prepared him for facing this current predicament as fans of one of, if not the biggest, club’s in the world have turned against him and his players. The point of no return has almost arrived. The end game is near.

LIVERPOOL WIN THRILLER, BUT DID KLOPP SEE IT?

Madness. Utter madness.

Premier League Schedule – Week 23

Result Recap & Highlights
Arsenal 0-1 Chelsea Recap, watch here
C. Palace 1-3 Spurs Recap, watch here
Everton 1-2 Swansea Recap, watch here
Leicester 3-0 Stoke Recap, watch here
Man Utd 0-1 Saints Recap, watch here
Norwich 4-5 Liverpool Recap, watch here
S’land 1-1 B’mouth Recap, watch here
Watford 2-1 N’castle Recap, watch here
West Brom 0-0 Villa Recap, watch here
West Ham 2-2 Man City Recap, watch here

Liverpool’s 5-4 win at Norwich City on Saturday will go down as one of the all-time great games in Premier League history as nine of the 10 shots on target went in.

Leading 3-1 with 55 minutes gone, Norwich imploded and trailed 4-3 heading into stoppage time. Then, Sebastien Bassong popped up to score and seemingly grab them a point. Not so fast.

An Adam Lallana strike five minutes into stoppage time sparked wild celebrations from the players and, most memorably, their manager Jurgen Klopp.

Jumping on each other on the sidelines, Christian Benteke‘s hand caught Klopp in the face and knocked the German coach’s famous glasses off his face.

Post-game, Klopp was asked where his glasses had gone. He then delivered a response only he could pull off.

“I usually have a second pair of glasses but I can’t find them because it’s hard to find glasses without glasses!”

Then on Monday, ahead of Liverpool’s League Cup semifinal second leg against Stoke City on Tuesday, Klopp was wearing is second pair of glasses and joked he “looked like a serial killer” wearing them.

Klopp is comical, and the defending on show from both teams teams on Saturday was comical. But the outcome was a truly memorable match which had a remarkable ending that could maybe ignite Liverpool’s injury-hit squad and help them kick on to challenge for a top four spot, just a week after they unjustly suffered a damaging home defeat to bitter rivals Manchester United.

INSPIRATIONAL ALLI

Dele Alli has been spitting straight flames for most of his opening six months as a Spurs player. The wondergoal in the video above sums up his meteoric rise.

The 19-year-old attacking midfielder scored a sensational goal at Crystal Palace on Saturday in Spurs’ 3-1 win which leaves them just five points off top spot.

After already making his Three Lions debut and scoring a stunner against France in their last friendly. Alli is the hope of a nation. He is England’s next great hope and has dealt with the huge step up from excelling at MK Dons in League One to ripping it up for Tottenham in the PL with incredible ease. In his first season in the top-flight Alli has delivered so much more than any expected and plenty of scouts of other PL clubs will now be scratching their heads as to why they didn’t take a chance on him sooner.

Now, expectation levels will continue to rise as Alli’s similarities to the likes of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have already been whispered about by fans and pundits in England. Alongside Harry Kane and Eric Dier, Alli is part of a strong English core at Spurs who could be the dark-horses for the title as everyone else continues to slip up.

PAYET PURRS, AGUERO RESCUES CITY

“We’ve got Payet, Dimitri Payet, I just don’t think you understand. He’s Super Slavs man, he’s better than Zidane. We’ve got Dimitri Payet.”

Fans of the Hammers have a new hero and that song was reverberating around the rafters of Upton Park before, during and after West Ham United’s 2-2 draw with Manchester City on Saturday. The famous old stadium — home to the Hammers for 104 years but this season is its last as the move to the glistening Olympic Stadium looms — was rocking on Saturday and I was present in the stands to watch a truly stunning individual display.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from West Ham vs. Man City

Payet, 28, was signed from Marseille for $15 million in the summer and looks an absolute bargain. His clever flicks and tricks bamboozled City’s midfield and defense, while Joe Hart produced a marvelous save to keep out his dipping free kick.

The fact that sixth-placed West Ham were disappointed with a draw at home to title-chasing Man City shows how far they’ve come under Slaven Bilic this season and if Payet can stay fit he will be the key to helping them crack the top six. Sergio Aguero twice equalized for City and without the Argentine they would have lost on the road once again. City have only won once away from the Etihad Stadium in the PL since September and they need to address that trend if they’re going to win the title. Without injured skipper Vincent Kompany they looked shaky at the back, once again, and Manuel Pellegrini must be desperate for him to return.

West Ham know all about missing their talisman through injury as Payet was out for six weeks from early November until early January. They only won one of their seven games in that stretch and the man from Reunion is majestic on the ball and glides over the ground, always seeming to have more time than the opponents running around in circles trying to mark him.

His manager, like every West Ham fan, is a massive fan of the French international playmaker who is lighting up the Hammers’ final season at the Boleyn Ground.

“It is very hard to play like he did today on a weekly basis but he’s played like that since the beginning of the season,” Bilic said. “He is a great player. To be fair we see that day in day out in training – we are so glad we have him. When he is on the pitch, it’s not that he is great and confident, but he makes all the other players better. The boys recognize that he is our key player and they are willing to do the dirty work. We missed him so much when he got injured.”

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

FOLLOW LIVE, Gold Cup: USMNT closes out group v. Panama

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It’s a fully-changed starting XI for the U.S. Men’s National Team as it closes out the group stage against Panama at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

Omar Gonzalez and Matt Miazga start together in the backline, Jozy Altidore returns to the starting lineup up top, and Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis feature on the wings alongside Altidore. Ten of the 11 players now ply their trade in MLS, including the Gonzalez, who recently moved to Toronto FC.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT takes on Panama in Kansas City]

Hit the link above to follow along for the next two hours, and check back on PST for a full recap and in-depth analysis after the final whistle.

Must-See Goal: Wayne Rooney v. Orlando City

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I’m going to go out on a limb and say it. Wayne Rooney just scored the most amazing goal in Audi Field’s young history.

In the 10th minute of D.C. United’s match against Orlando City SC on Wednesday evening, Rooney noticed Orlando’s Brian Rowe straying way off his line. And so, with an audacious but accurate attempt, Rooney let fly from 65 yards and SCORED. Just check this goal out below.

[FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT v. Panama]

Rooney took advantage of a crazy bounce and with his literal first touch, unleashed a thunderbolt that Rowe couldn’t catch up to. It automatically becomes one of the top contenders for the MLS Goal of the Year, and should make it on every top ten countdown this evening and tomorrow.

Benfica: Atletico Madrid make $143 million bid for Felix

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The legend of Joao Felix appears to have reached full market value potential.

The 19-year-old Portuguese striker is coming off a breakout year for Benfica, and now the Portuguese giants have received an impressive $143 million offer from Atletico Madrid for Felix. The club confirmed the offer in a statement on its website, stating it was analyzing the deal. Felix has a $136.5 million release clause in his contract, but it appears the additional $7 million is in processing costs.

[READ: Kroos wants to retire at Real Madrid]

Felix was outstanding at Benfica last year, scoring 15 goals with seven assists in 26 league games and three goals and one assist in five Europa League game. Felix has already made his international debut for Portugal.

If confirmed, Felix would become the fifth-most expensive transfer in world history, and the second-most expensive transfer for a teenager behind Kylian Mbappe.

AFCON: Nigeria 1st team through to round of 16 at African Cup, joined by host Egypt

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CAIRO (AP) Former champion Nigeria became the first team to reach the last 16 at the African Cup of Nations after defender Kenneth Omeruo‘s second-half goal delivered a 1-0 win over Guinea on Wednesday.

The Nigerians were unimpressive in the first half in Alexandria but lifted their game in the second. Alex Iwobi‘s rasping shot was pushed away by Guinea goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone and Ahmed Musa almost set up Odion Ighalo on a counterattack.

The former Chelsea defender Omeruo did what the forwards had not been able to do when he beat Kone with a glancing header at the near post off Moses Simon’s corner in the 73rd minute.

Nigeria, which won the title in 2013, has two wins from two games in Group B. It beat Burundi 1-0 in its first match and now needs a draw from its last fixture against Madagascar to finish top and stay in Alexandria for the last 16.

There was more good news for Nigeria when Samuel Kalu came on as a substitute near the end. The midfield player collapsed at a training session the day before the first game, suffering from dehydration, and was hospitalized.

Coach Gernot Rohr rested captain John Obi Mikel against Guinea.

Elsewhere, Egypt also confirmed a place in the knockout stages with a 2-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ahmad Elmohamady and Mohamed Salah each scored in the first half to lead the Pharoahs to victory, the hosts second-straight win in the competition.

In the other match of the day, Uganda tied Zimbabwe, 1-1.