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.

Key issues ahead of Premier League restart

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The 2019-20 Premier League season will restart on June 17, the league confirmed Thursday, but there are still plenty of issues to sort out ahead of the resumption.

‘Project Restart’ still has a little way to go, but we now have a date.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

The Premier League held in-depth meetings with all 20 clubs and, among other matters, June 17 emerged as the date games will return. Due to the coronavirus pandemic the Premier League season was suspended on March 13 with 92 games remaining.

As per the agreement, the two games in hand, Man City v. Arsenal and Aston Villa v. Sheffield United, will be played on June 17 so all teams are on 29 games played when then the rest of the games resume on June 19-21.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters confirmed the restart date of June 17, as long as everything goes as planned with a return to contact training and COVID-19 tests among Premier League staff and players.

There is still plenty to sort out though, so here’s a look at the key questions and issues which remain between now and the Premier League restart on June 17.


Will teams play games at home stadiums?

Some reports state that Liverpool will play home games at a neutral venue due to concerns from police about fans congregating outside Anfield considering their impending title victory. Other high-profile games such as Tottenham against Arsenal may not be played at home stadiums either as reports state that neutral stadiums such as Wembley may be used to host some of the higher profile matches. Simply put, the only thing we know about stadiums is that they will be empty for all of the remaining 92 games of the season.


What happens if there is a second wave of COVID-19 in the UK or within Premier League clubs?

The key part of Richard Masters’ statement was the first few sentences: “Today we have provisionally agreed to resume the Premier League on Wednesday 17 June. But this date cannot be confirmed until we have met all the safety requirements needed, as the health and welfare of all participants and supporters is our priority.” The Premier League have to first and foremost make sure there is no rise in the number of COVID-19 positive tests among its players and staff.

Staff and players are all tested twice per week and 60 tests will be available to each club. So far, out of 2,752 tests from three batches, there have been 12 positive COVID-19 tests. If those numbers stay that way, or fall, the Premier League will be in good shape to return, as planned, on June 17. If they rise, the date will have to be pushed back. There can be no room for complacency from clubs and players over safety protocols during the next three weeks and beyond. That said, the situation in the UK has been the worst in Europe in terms of the death toll and if a second spike arrives in England, the plan for the Premier League restart would be put in jeopardy.


If the season is delayed further and the games cannot be finished, then what?

It has been reported, but not confirmed, that clubs agreed that an unweighted points-per-game model will be used to decide the final table if the season is curtailed. That means that the average number of points teams have won during their games played so far will be calculated in accordance with their remaining games to play. The Premier League have admitted they will have to come to a curtailment plan just in case the situation worsens in the UK or within their clubs.


Using five substitutes per game?

This is something the Premier League can do as the IFAB rules allow it and have been modified during the pandemic. Clubs will be able to use five substitutes per game, up from three, but subs can only be used in specified windows such as half time so the flow of the game isn’t disrupted. This has worked well in the Bundesliga and it is expected it will also work well in the Premier League, especially with so many games being played in a six-week period.


What about players out of contract?

This is something the Premier League clubs have already agreed on. With most player contracts running until June 30, we now know that the 2019-20 season will run beyond that date. Up until June 23, clubs and players can agree to extend the contracts until the end of the 2019-20 season as a short-term measure. However, players and club do not have to do this so some players may be out of contract and free to move on from July 1.

Spadafora: Coppa Italia, Serie A can return June 13

Serie A return
Photo by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images
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Italian football can return June 13 with the second legs of the Coppa Italia semifinals and perhaps the final, followed by Serie A the next weekend.

Italian sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora made the announcement Thursday, bringing calcio back to a country that’s been ravaged by the coronavirus.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In addition to stringent testing protocols and quarantine for club members who test positive, Serie A has plans in place for another wave of the coronavirus should it rear its ugly head. From Football-Italia.com:

“The FIGC also assured me that the Plan B (play-offs and play-outs) and Plan C (using the existing table) can be adopted in case of suspension. It is not up to me as Minister to decide, as that will be done by the FIGC. In the light of all those events, we can today say that the season can resume from June 20.”

Spadafora said he was hopeful the entire Coppa Italia could be completed before June 20, which would be a heavy burden on two of the following semifinalists: AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, and Napoli.

The winners could face three matches inside of eight or nine days.

Napoli leads Inter after one leg in Milan, while Milan and Juve drew 1-1 at the San Siro.

Juve had its four Coppa run broken by Lazio last season. The Old Lady leads Lazio by one point in the race for a ninth-consecutive scudetto.

MLS announces return voluntary small group training

MLS return
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Major League Soccer’s long road to returning from the coronavirus pause has hit another mile marker with the return of voluntary outdoor small group training.

The full team training moratorium remains in place through at least June 1.

MLS made the announcement Thursday and there are several stipulations given the size of our country and the variables in how it’s governed at the state and local level.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The voluntary sessions will be held “in compliance with detailed health and safety protocols that were created in consultation with medical and infectious disease experts.”

Perhaps most notably:

The sessions must not conflict with local public health official or government policies and provide the ability for players to step up their training while maintaining physical distancing protocols.

The league has been under a mandatory training moratorium since the league suspended its season on March 12.

MLS is also making sure to cover every base imaginable, healthwise and legal, by making public and transparent its demands of its clubs.

It’s been a busy break for MLS, which has canceled three major events but also taken hold of the boys youth soccer landscape.

Premier League schedule, how to watch

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The 2019-20 Premier League season will restart on June 17, the league confirmed on Thursday, and here is how you can watch every single game live on TV and online in the USA.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

‘Project Restart’ is all systems go.

The Premier League held in-depth meetings with all 20 clubs and, among other matters, June 17 emerged as the date games will return. Due to the coronavirus pandemic the Premier League season was suspended on March 13 with 92 games remaining.

[ MORE: Reaction to return ]

As per the agreement, the two games in hand, Man City v. Arsenal and Aston Villa v. Sheffield United, will be played on June 17 so all teams are on 29 games played when then the rest of the games resume on June 19-21.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

It is believed that the clubs want the Premier League season to be finished by August 1, so clubs can then focus on the FA Cup and European action in the Europa League and Champions League, while the 2020-21 season can then resume in early September.

Below is how the new weekend and midweek schedule for the Premier League games in June and July will look, with specific games.

Click on the link above to watch every single Premier League game live in the USA across our platforms here at NBC Sports.

Weekend match schedule
Friday: 3 p.m. ET
Saturday: 7:30 a.m., ET, 10 a.m. ET, 12:30 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. ET
Sunday: 7 a.m. ET, 9 a.m. ET, 11:30 a.m. ET, 2 p.m. ET
Monday: 3 p.m. ET

Midweek match schedule
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 1 p.m. ET and 3 p.m. ET