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Wayne Rooney agrees MLS move “in principle”

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It appears that Wayne Rooney is edging closer to a move to Major League Soccer this summer.

Rooney, 32, is said to have “agreed a deal in principle” to join D.C. United this July but the English striker is said to be waiting around at Goodison to see if Sam Allardyce remains in charge of the Toffees.

Various reports claim the transfer deal is worth close to $17 million for Rooney and he will have a contract with MLS until the end of the 2020 season.

A source confirmed to Pro Soccer Talk that Rooney’s move to MLS is a “done deal” and it would certainly be a rapid change of heart which sees the Manchester United and England legend leave his second stint at Everton for life in MLS after less than one year back on Merseyside at his boyhood club.

With the manager who hired him, Ronald Koeman, fired within a few months, Rooney’s return to Everton hasn’t been a happy one (despite 10 goals in 31 PL appearances this season) as he’s shown his frustration at being subbed off in recent weeks, especially at Allardyce after the derby draw with Liverpool last month.

Would Rooney’s move to MLS be a success?

There’s no doubting his pedigree as the all-time leading goalscorer for Man United and England has won everything he can in the game, but joining MLS is a different prospect and it really is 50/50.

Look at Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard. Kaka and Andrea Pirlo arriving in MLS over the past few years. All four struggled to adapt to the different challenges MLS throws your way, but the likes of Robbie Keane, David Villa and Thierry Henry have certainly faired better as big-name Designated Players.

Yet brining Rooney to MLS does somewhat clash with the new model of recruitment for most clubs as. 111 newcomers arrived in MLS in 2018 with those new players having an average age of 25 as the likes of Barco arriving at Atlanta reinforced a shift in signing younger players to the league.

Focusing back on Rooney, he has dropped deeper under Allardyce (and spent plenty of time on the bench) at Everton and has been playing in midfield for the last few months, so he could perhaps adopt a role as a true no.10 in D.C. United’s lineup if he does make the move Stateside.

With a little more time on the ball and a slower pace to the game, overall, Rooney should thrive, in theory, in MLS. But we all know it’s about much more than talent to do well in North America’s top-flight. A player who has spent his entire 17-year career in the Premier League will need to adapt quickly to turf pitches, plenty of long travel days, high temperatures and also try to reinvent his game.

The latter is something Rooney has been able to do over the years as he’s gone from an energetic teen to a polished goalscorer and now a deeper playmaker. His penchant for scoring spectacular goals will also hold him in good stead if he arrives in MLS.

With D.C. United moving into their long-awaited soccer specific stadium at Audi Field this July, having Rooney on board when the MLS transfer window opens in July would surely be perfect timing for them to make a splash.

Many will argue as to whether or not MLS needs Rooney as it tries to shed its tag as a place where stars go to retire and have a few more years of earning big bucks, but just look at the wider impact Zlatan Ibrahimovic has had since he arrived at the LA Galaxy.

Rooney hasn’t quite got Zlatan’s charisma off the pitch (understatement alert) but there’s no doubt he still has plenty to give on it, especially for a team struggling at the foot of the Eastern Conference early on in the 2018 season under Ben Olsen.

This move seems like a win-win for everyone.

Dropped points in Top Four race point to wild February

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Regardless of whether Wolves end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season on Thursday, there will be five teams within seven points of fourth place heading into Matchweek 25.

Chelsea has 40, a comfortable-enough six-point lead on Manchester United, Spurs, and Wolves (who meet Liverpool at 3 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Sheffield United has 33 points.

February, specifically the next three matchweeks, will see the teams inside that group learn a lot more about their fates, and give Chelsea and Sheffield United big opportunities to cement their places in the Top Four and Seven, respectively.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

In the case of the latter, it’s because the Blades are the only team in the bunch who don’t face a Top Four six-pointer; Chris Wilder‘s men will meet Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Brighton, while the others will be beating up each other.

Chelsea’s path is fraught, but a big opportunity. The Blues travel to Leicester City before hosting both Manchester United and Spurs. Nine points there would effectively Top Four-proof Frank Lampard‘s side.

By the way, how’s this for a hot take? If any of Chelsea, Man Utd, or Spurs find their center forward or playmaker help in the window, they’ll have a leg up on their Top Four rivals. And, really, is that extra few million pounds worth the spoils of the Champions League? Yup.

Bruno Fernandes is not (yet) with United, and the Red Devils face Wolves and Chelsea in their next two matches. Spurs have City and Chelsea. Tumult is probable!

A draw with Newcastle and loss at Watford dampened Wolves’ hopes of riding into fourth. Beginning with Thursday’s visit from Liverpool, however, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men face three of the Top Seven and then a visit from Norwich City. It’s not over.

And don’t entirely rule out Leicester City from dropping into the fray; The Foxes host Chelsea and Man City, and visit Wolves.

One more nod, however improbable: Arsenal sits 10 points back of fourth but meets Burnley, Newcastle, and Everton over those three match weeks. A perfect run could have the Gunners thinking big (Man City is after that, alas).

Matchday 25
Leicester City v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Manchester United v. Wolves
Spurs v. Man City

Matchday 25
Sheffield United v. Bournemouth
Wolves v. Leicester City
Chelsea v. Manchester United
Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

Matchday 27
Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v. Man City
Wolves v. Norwich City
Sheffield United v. Brighton
Manchester United v. Watford

Spurs play Wolves the next week, too!

Mourinho doesn’t have attacking options, but he does have ‘family’

Mourinho on Spurs win
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In this “whole new Jose Mourinho” world, the key word is family.

Mourinho said it six times in his post-match presser after Tottenham Hotspur scrapped to a 2-1 defeat of Norwich City on Wednesday in London.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Spurs had an early lead disappear when Ryan Sessegnon gave away a penalty to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki converted it for a 70th-minute deadlock.

Heung-Min Son scored nine minutes later. It was a win that is good for the whole family.

From Football.London:

“It was fantastic what happened after the 1-1, which happens in a difficult moment for us where I look to the bench and I don’t have attacking players to change the game the team is a little bit fatigued, especially Lucas, Son and of course Lamela. I took him off because he was in trouble and he is a player who is coming from very important and long injury, so very difficult.

“How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character and desire.”

Mourinho also praised Giovani Lo Celso‘s work on the wing for attack-short Spurs as “a good experience for the family,” and Paulo Gazzaniga‘s support for returned goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as “a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo.”

I mean, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies.

Clearly, Mourinho is stressing unity and there’s a bit of bunker mentality involved, as the manager mentioned some dicey calls not going their way against Watford, Liverpool, and now Norwich.

Solskjaer: Manchester United ‘looked mentally tired’ versus Burnley

Solskjaer reacts to Manchester United loss
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OIe Gunnar Solskjaer doesn’t have the answers to what ails Manchester United without Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba, and he can’t even fake it.

The United boss could only hang his side’s 2-0 loss to Burnley on sharpness, as the Red Devils out-attempted the visitors by a 24-5 margin.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

United also had 72 percent of the ball, but Burnley’s whole philosophy is cool with you having the ball if you don’t have the lead.

The Red Devils never looked quite ready to grab that, either, from the moment an early Aaron Wan-Bissaka cross sailed through the six absent receiver. From the BBC:

“The boys looked mentally tired towards the end, we didn’t find that creativity,” Solskjaer said. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. When you are at Man United you are privileged because you are playing for the best club in the world.

“Sometimes you go through periods like that and it is a test I am sure they are going to come through.”

It’s all formulaic from the Norwegian manager. “The we’re United and it’s a special place” struck all the right chords when he first took the reins at Old Trafford, but the club hasn’t bought much quality since then and it’s ringing hollow as the depth fails to bail them out.

Spoiler alert: He did.

You can accept that Solskjaer is going nowhere and also accept that the whole thing is not going to improve any time soon. United should absolutely be in the Top Four given the failings of Chelsea, but cannot stop tripping over its own feet.

Man Utd shocked by advantageous Burnley

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Manchester United never showed up at Old Trafford, and Burnley reaped all the benefits.

Chris Wood and Jay Rodriguez scored as the Clarets stunned the Red Devils 2-0 on Wednesday.

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United fails to take advantage of Chelsea’s draw with Arsenal, and sits six points back of the Top Four.

Burnley climbs seven points clear of the drop zone, level with five teams on 30 points.


Three things we learned

1. Wood shines up top: It was a 10th goal to go with his first assist of the season for the New Zealand international, who used a half-yard of space from Harry Maguire to put Burnley in front. Burnley’s philosophy is to find their forwards at all cost, and when Wood is delivering that ethos looks genius.

2. United’s absent wings cost it dear (and jeer): Juan Mata and Anthony Martial were lively, but both Daniel James and Andreas Pereira did little to inspire hope of a goal for the home side. The Red Devils were the focus of crowd derision on the day, as they again wasted a chance to improve their Top Four credentials. Most teams will suffer without their top two attackers, but this is Manchester United. Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford missing or not, Wednesday was iugly stuff.

3. Jay Rodriguez’s new nickname is “Bangers Only”: Joking aside, it’s difficult to remember Rodriguez goals that don’t get you out of your seat. His insurance goal absolutely buried United, and gives him seven across all competitions. It also gives Sean Dyche plenty of competition in training, with Ashley Barnes on the periphery.

Man of the Match: Wood


United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka cut a promising 15th minute cross through the 18, but no teammate could get a foot to it.

Fred continued his lively play when he hit a low drive to Nick Pope in the 23rd, good endeavor without the required sharpness.

Daniel James forced Pope into a leaping save in the 32nd, and Martial couldn’t get his feet right when Nemanja Matic rolled him to the doorstep in the 34th.

Burnley took the lead out of absolute nothing, Wood taking advantage of Harry Maguire when Ben Mee flicked a long free kick to the Kiwi.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Rodriguez went bar down with a beauty in the 57th minute to make it 2-0, and real trouble arrived at Old Trafford.