Getty Images

Man United expect more arrivals; Pereira, Tuanzebe sign new deals

Leave a comment

Maybe Manchester United won’t splash a lot of cash this summer after all…

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer locked down two academy products to long-term contracts on Friday, as Andreas Pereira and Axel Tuanzebe committed their futures to the Old Trafford club, but he has also been talking about signing new players.

[ PHOTOS: Ranking new PL kits

And it seems like he isn’t that confident off adding more than one new player this summer…

Speaking to Man United’s website as the squad prepare to head to Australia and the Far East for preseason, Solskjaer said he is delighted to have signed Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James this summer and is hoping to make just a couple of new additions between now and the 2019-20 campaign kicking off.

“Well, it’s a long-term and it’s a short-term project. You cannot just think three years down the line, so we’ve got short-term goals as well, of course,” Solskjaer explained. “I think we’ve been quite calm and good in the market as we’ve got the right people, and we’re still working on a case or two. Of course, we’re always looking to improve the squad and, all over the summer, I’ve been in touch with Joel [Glazer] and Ed [Woodward] and all the recruitment people, and analysis people. I’ve got to say it’s been very good so far. I’ve got the backing and we’ve got the people we wanted, for now, and there will probably be some more business being done.”

With United linked with moves for Harry Maguire (United had a $87 million bid turned down by Leicester earlier this week) and Bruno Fernandes among others, those two deals could cost over $200 million to complete. Maguire in particular would be a huge coup with Manchester City also said to be interested in him, as United’s main aim in the transfer this summer is to get younger across the board and better defensively.

It seems like Solskjaer is keeping his cards close to his chest, and the amount of signings he makes will likely depend on which players he can shift on with no UEFA Champions League action to rely on.

As for the players signing new contracts, Pereira, 23, signed a new three-year deal, while Tuanzebe has agreed a three-year contract. There is an option year for both players to extend the deal, as both look like being a part of United’s squad this season.

Pereira featured 29 times for United last season and the Brazilian scored a screamer in a 3-2 win against Southampton, and with Ander Herrera leaving for PSG and Pogba potentially being sold, Pereira adds extra cover in central midfield and a little extra attacking flair.

Tuanzebe, 21, excelled on loan at Aston Villa last season at center back and it was thought he could return to PL new boys Villa for the upcoming campaign. That may still happen, but he will spend preseason with United and try to beat Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Victor Lindelof to one of the starting center back spots.

Pereira and Tuanzebe join Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata in signing new deals at United over the past week and with AWB their new first-choice right back and James set to compete for minutes right away, the squad is starting to look settled and needs to be large to deal with the Thursday-Sunday grind of the UEFA Europa League.

But there is still plenty to sort out.

Both Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku sound like they want to leave this summer and Solskjaer is likely to want that issue resolved as soon as possible so he can bring in replacements.

Solskjaer doesn’t sound certain about other big additions this summer, and that may be worrying for United’s fans who want a huge overhaul between now and Aug. 8 when the window shuts.

Rodgers excuses Maddison’s behavior after England departure

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Leicester City and England midfielder James Maddison made headlines for the wrong reasons after he was pictured last week watching the England match at the Czech Republic from a casino.

Despite the negative attention from Maddison’s decision to watch the game at that venue, he has the backing of his club manager, Brendan Rodgers.

“The kid went away with the international team and took ill while he was away,” Rodgers said, via the Guardian. “He wanted to stay and hopefully be ready for the second game. But the England medical staff – which I can understand, as he had flu and they didn’t want that to spread to his teammates – decided it’s best for him to leave the camp. So he leaves, gets some tablets with our guys at the club, then he feels better.

“He watched the game at home on his own on the Friday and then goes out at half-time – probably he’ll make better decisions in his life but he went to a casino on his own to sit and watch the second half by a poker table. The suggestions are he left England purposelessly and then goes to a casino but that’s totally not the case at all. But his eyes have been opened now to the wider world in terms of what he did. He knows in hindsight he’s made a mistake.”

Considering all that went on during England’s international break, from the poor performance in Prague to the horrible racism endured in Bulgaria, this is a bit of a silly scandal. To be honest, as long as Maddison is taking care of his body and himself, why does it matter if he was at a casino, or a pub, or anywhere?

However, there’s no denying that the optics look bad. Folks didn’t know that he arrived to England camp with the flu, or a flu-like illness at least, and the England medical staff are right to send him away to make sure no one else gets sick. He may have been feeling better by Friday and wanted to get out of the house. I think we’ve all been there after being sick for a few days.

The most important lesson for Maddison is to learn that his actions, out of context, can be misunderstood. In terms of soccer, after Ross Barkley’s performance for England, Maddison will have to prove in his club form that he should still have a place in the England team for the near future. There’s only two more international dates left before the 2020 Euros, so time is running out for Maddison to make an impact to Southgate.

 

Tierney, Lacazette available for Arsenal

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsenal are edging closer to finally having a full-strength squad.

Ahead of Monday’s prime-time matchup with Sheffield United, Arsenal manager Unai Emery confirmed that Kieran Tierney was in line to make his Premier League debut, while Alexandre Lacazette was back in full training and should be in the gameday squad.

“Today is Lacazette’s first training back with us,” Emery said in a press conference on Thursday. “He finished it well and he’s feeling well with his injuries. Tomorrow we will be training again and he will be with us. We will decide.

“The most important thing is that first he is training, then secondly it’s whether he can be with us and it depends how he can feel in the next days training with us, whether his ankle is not giving him any more problems.”

This is a huge boost to Arsenal, which has had to rely on some youngsters and have made some lineup changes to accommodate not having Lacazette on the field. Tierney meanwhile could step into a position where there’s already a decent starter, Sead Kolasinac.

Lacazette’s return also couldn’t have come at a better time. In Premier League action, Arsenal’s high-powered offense has been stymied, scoring just two goals in the last two league games. Meanwhile, against weaker defenses in the UEFA Europa League and the Carabao Cup, Arsenal has bagged a total of 12 goals.

The veteran Frenchman has scored two goals in three appearances so far this season, including a big goal just before halftime in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham. However, he suffered a long-term ankle injury in that match that has kept him on the sidelines for more than a month.

“[Tierney is] ready to play,” Emery later said. Now we have two options in that left-back role with Sead Kolasinac and him. We’re going to play a lot of matches after Monday. We will need every player. It depends how he comes into the first training with us, Sead, after his international matches. We now have two players in that position and we can use one on Monday, it depends how they are, one or the other.”

Tierney, the 22-year-old Scottish left back, has made two appearances for the Arsenal first team since recovering from a double hernia operation over the summer. Signed from Celtic for around $32 million, Tierney adds a skill that Kolasinac has struggled with – expert crosser of the ball into the box, where the likes of Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can score when given a decent chance.

USWNT star Rapinoe, boxer Shields win sportswomen of year

Getty Images
1 Comment

Soccer star Megan Rapinoe and boxer Claressa Shields have been honored as Sportswomen of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation.

They won in the team and individual categories, the awards coming at the foundation’s 40th annual Salute to Women in Sports.

Rapinoe led the U.S. to victory at the World Cup in France and earned the FIFA Player of the Year award. Shields is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and middleweight champion.

Sheila Johnson, part-owner of the Washington Wizards, Capitals and recent WNBA champion Mystics, won the Billie Jean King Leadership Award. Marta Vieira da Silva, star of the Brazilian national soccer team, won the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award.

Rapinoe thanked her teammates Wednesday night and lauded Marta, a six-time FIFA Player of the Year, calling the Brazilian the greatest of all time and an “absolute hero in our sport.”

John Burke, president of the Trek Bicycle company, received the inaugural Champion for Equality Award.

MNUFC’s Opara wins MLS Defender of the Year

Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the second time in three seasons, Ike Opara has been named MLS Defender of the Year, this time as the foundational piece of Minnesota United’s much-improved defense.

[ Report: Sacramento finally gets MLS expansion franchise ]

Opara becomes just the fourth player to win multiple Defender of the Year awards, joining Carlos Bocanegra (2002, 2003), Robin Fraser (1999, 2004) and Chad Marshall, the only three-time winner (2008, 2009, 2014) in MLS history. Opara won the award going away, nearly doubling the percentage of votes received by second-place Walker Zimmerman.

Defender of the Year Player % Club % Media % Final %
Ike Opara  25.75% 27.27% 44.88% 32.64%
Walker Zimmerman 20.40% 17.17% 12.20% 16.59%
Miles Robinson 19.40% 13.13% 15.75% 16.09%
Maxime Chanot 1.67% 16.16% 4.33% 7.39%
Eddie Segura 4.35% 9.09% 5.91% 6.45%
Aaron Long 2.34% 5.05% 1.97% 3.12%

[ MORE: Berhalter slams USMNT after Canada defeat — what now? ]

This time last year, the 30-year-old was a member of one of the league’s stingiest defensive units as a member of Sporting Kansas City. Following a contract dispute with Sporting, Opara was traded to Minnesota in exchange for $900,000 of targeted allocation money, plus an additional $100,000 after Minnesota qualified for the playoffs for the first time since joining MLS.