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Premier League friendly roundup: West Ham, Crystal Palace win; Everton falls twice

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With two weeks to go before the start of the season, there were a number of Premier League teams in preseason friendly action Saturday morning, and almost all of them came out victorious.

Early in the morning, Manchester City topped Yokohama FM in Japan 3-1, with Kevin De Bruyne impressing for the defending Premier League champions.

[ MORE: Man City tops Yokohama FM 3-1 ]

West Ham United visited Craven Cottage and came away with a 1-0 win thanks to Manuel Lanzini‘s 18th minute goal. The defense for the most part kept Fulham in check and the Hammers were in control for the entire first half. The Whites only found one good opportunity with 12 minutes to go as Aboubakar Kamara came close, and Andriy Yarmolenko nearly scored at the death for West Ham.

Everton played a pair of matches, with the Opel Cup featuring two 60 minute games against Sevilla and Mainz. The Toffees dropped both games, falling to Sevilla 1-0 before dropping to Mainz 3-1. A penalty was the difference in the opening game against Sevilla, while Lewis Gibson scored in the losing effort against the German side. Robin Quaison did the damage for Mainz with a pair.

Aston Villa came out on top of Charlton Athletic 4-1 as Scottish international John McGinn scored twice. His second was an absolutely blistering solo effort that came when he stole the ball in the attacking third, skipped around a foul by a defender, rounded the keeper on the end line and scored from a tight angle.

Anwar El Ghazi and Andre Green were also on the scoresheet as Villa heads into its final week of preseason preparations, with one more friendly coming next weekend against RB Leipzig.

Leicester City got a winner from Youri Tielemans in the 84th minute as the Foxes topped Stoke City 2-1. The Belgian finished off a cutback from Ben Chilwell for the winner, which added to Marc Albrighton‘s strike on the hour mark. The two goals were required to wipe off Stoke’s 70th minute goal by Nick Powell. The game was marred by a horrible ankle injury to Ryan Shawcross which had the home fans spooked for quite some time at bet365 Stadium.

Bournemouth got goals from Jordan Ibe and Dominic Solanke as the Cherries topped Brentford 3-1. Ibe was especially bright, opening the scoring just before halftime and assisting the third from 20-year-old Sam Surridge. A pair for Bournemouth against Lyon and Lazio on back-to-back days in early August are the final tuneups before the season.

Burnley drew with Wigan 2-2, throwing away a two-goal lead they built in the opening 10 minutes thanks to goals from Jay Rodriguez and Dwight McNeil. The Clarets were pegged back by a James Tarkowski own-goal just before halftime and Joe Gelhardt’s equalizer past the hour mark. Burnley controlled much of the first half but they were forced to defend for significant stretches after the break.

Brighton clobbered Birmingham City 4-0 as Glenn Murray got on the scoresheet early and a Shane Duffy second-half pair finished things off. It was all seagulls, as Jurgen Locadia also found the back of the net and Martin Montoya struck the crossbar 15 minutes from time. Only the first 15 minutes of the second half saw Birmingham City truly threaten, and Brighton was able to weather the storm. New manager Graham Potter utilized a three-CB defense and it worked wonders in the opening 20 minutes, working a team goal finished off by Murray before Leandro Trossard stole a poor pass by the goalkeeper and fed Locadia for a turn-and-shoot.

Sheffield United also took a four-goal haul to victory, topping nearby Barnsley 4-1. Callum Robinson scored twice and Ben Osborn scored on his debut for the club as the Blades won for the fourth this this preseason. Ravel Morrison also made his club debut, seeing time in the final 15 minutes.

Watford secured a 1-0 victory over QPR as main man Etienne Capoue scored the game’s only goal in a repeat of the same opponent, scoreline, and goalscorer from the FA Cup 5th round last season. QPR had chances and moments throughout the game, but Capoue took charge past the half-hour mark in an otherwise drab first half.

Crystal Palace obliterated Bristol City 5-0 as everything was working for the Eagles in their preseason tuneup. Christian Benteke provided a thumping header while Andros Townsend and Jeffrey Schlupp were also on target in the match. Wilfried Zaha was not in the squad for Palace but they certainly didn’t miss him as Luka Milivojevic controlled the midfield powerfully and the attacking threat was constant.

Aston Villa signs 16-year-old Barry from Barcelona youth squad

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On Thursday morning, Aston Villa announced the signing of 16-year-old Barcelona youth player Louie Barry, who will move straight into the academy squad at Villa Park.

Barry, an England youth international who moved from West Brom’s youth program to Barcelona last summer, has reportedly struggled to integrate in Spain and eventually opted to move back to his home country. According to the Barcelona release on Barry’s departure, Villa paid the Spanish club around $1.16 million for Barry’s signature, and reports suggest that could increase significantly with bumpers in the deal.

“It sends a powerful message about the ambition of this football club,” Academy manager Mark Harrison told VillaTV upon the initial club release of the news. “We’re delighted – Louie is a local person and his family are all Villa fans, as is Louie. He is still a very young man but as he’s developed, he’s always been one player that you always recognize as having outstanding attributes. He’s got a fantastic mentality, he’s desperate to do well for this football club.”

Barry’s departure from West Brom is still being resolved, with Barcelona still yet to pay the English club the standard $308,000 fee for international youth players that turn down professional contracts.

Aston Villa has dipped significantly into its academy products this season, with Indiana Vassilev, Cameron Archer and Jacob Ramsey all making first-team debuts at certain points. Vassilev, a USMNT youth international, has made two Premier League appearances at just 18 years old, coming off the bench for decent spells against Brighton and Watford this month. Archer played a substitute role in an EFL Cup game against Crewe Alexandria, while Ramsey played in an EFL Cup game against Brighton and saw action in the FA Cup loss to Fulham.

Chelsea winger Victor Moses moves to Inter on loan

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Thursday morning Inter Milan confirmed yet another acquisition from the Premier League, securing Victor Moses on loan from Chelsea with an option to buy.

Moses has been on loan at Turkish club Fenerbahce for the last calendar year, moving to the Super Lig last winter. The 29-year-old made 23 appearances for Fenerbahce across all competitions, scoring five goals and assisting two more. Fenerbahce finished last season in a disappointing eighth, meaning they did not qualify for European play this season. He has not played much this season, making just six league appearances thanks to a thigh injury.

Moses, who retired from international competition with Nigeria after the 2018 World Cup, had been a consistent presence in the Chelsea lineup under former Chelsea and current Inter boss Antonio Conte, reinventing himself as a wing-back opposite Marcos Alonso in Conte’s 3-CB system. However, he was dropped from the consistent starting lineup at the start of the 2018/19 season and was sent out on loan that winter.

The former Chelsea player becomes the fourth player either sold or loaned to Inter from a Premier League club this season, joining Manchester United trio Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, and Ashley Young, with the latter joining this winter as well. It is the first time Conte has dipped into the well of his former Chelsea players. They have also been heavily linked with Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen.

Conte has Inter challenging for the Scudetto this season, with the club sitting second in the Serie A table. However, draws with Atalanta and Lecce in the last two matches have seen them drop to four points back of leaders Juventus after challenging them for much of the season to date.

Chicharito tells father MLS move is “beginning of my retirement”

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Major League Soccer has been fighting the notion that it is a “retirement league” for the better part of the last decade. The business strategy of bringing on European stars in the twilight of their careers is sensible to garner interest in the league, and often those players have gone on to set records and become stars.

Still, many use the label as a derogatory mark, and that has resulted in a significant PR hurdle for the league on several occasions. It has cropped up again just days after Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez signed for the LA Galaxy at 31 years old.

Chicharito was confirmed to be a new LA Galaxy player on Tuesday, and he went on record to say that he was coming to the league to be competitive. “It [MLS] is a very attractive league that is growing, even if some do not want to accept it,” Hernandez told beIN Sports. “Some say I am playing here because I will retire or just have fun. They are completely wrong.”

Well, unfortunately for Chicharito, he is one of those people. On the vlog Naked Humans centered around Chicharito and those in his life, the Mexican striker was seen calling his father to tell him the news of signing with the Galaxy. On the call, which was released in Wednesday’s episode around the 26-minute mark, Chicharito seemed initially trepidatious to tell his father the news. “It’s almost certain I am going to LA,” he began. When his father began to be supportive by asking, “So?” Chicharito responded to explain his palpable sadness. “Everything is ok everything is perfect dad, it’s only that, well it’s like the beginning of my retirement, you know?”

Hernandez went on to clarify a bit later, but not by much. When father protested, saying “no it isn’t!” But Chicharito went on to explain a bit further, saying, “No dad, try to understand me…what I mean is that we are saying goodbye to a career that we put a lot of effort into, and we worked, and I know you guys also feel it and we’re going to look at the bright side and it’s going to be amazing. But whether we like it or not, we are retiring from the European dream.”

There is raw emotion and feeling behind Chicharito’s conversation with his father, a man who clearly yearns for his parent’s approval. That makes his words even more genuine, and they do not seem like the words of a player who is excited to enter into a new chapter of his career, but instead sound like those of a downtrodden striker riding off into the sunset resigned to his fate. It’s possible some of this was lost in translation, but overall Chicharito seems to be consoling himself and talking himself into the decision more than actually hoping to reassure his father on the phone.

Hernandez signed for the Galaxy on Tuesday from Spanish club Sevilla, joining as the highest paid player in Major League Soccer. He will go head-to-head with fellow Mexican striker Carlos Vela of LAFC in the cross-town rivalry, hoping to challenge Vela’s single-season MLS goalscoring record set last season.

Report: Man United board continues support of Solskjaer

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The ugly 2-0 loss to Burnley on Wednesday deepened Manchester United’s woes this season and yet again exposed the significant holes in the Red Devils’ squad.

[ RECAP: Man United 2-0 loss to Burnley ]

Despite the negativity surrounding the defeat, however, it appears that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s managerial job is safe for now at Manchester United. According to a report by Sky Sports, the Manchester United board continues to hold support for Solskjaer as they look desperately for consistency at the position. The report states that the club is “not even considering” a managerial change at this point, and that both the players and board “remain fully behind Solskjaer.”

Another report, however, by Miguel Delaney of The Independent, claims that some players have begun to doubt the boss despite his likable personal status in the locker room.

The Red Devils have struggled mightily to recapture the glory days of Sir Alex Ferguson since his retirement, and while the team yearns to back a manager through a rebuild like Liverpool has with Jurgen Klopp, the retooling at Manchester United has been far bumpier. The club hired Solskjaer first in December of 2018 as interim manager in the wake of Jose Mourinho’s departure, but then permanently after smashing initial success.

[ MORE: Solskjaer says Man United “mentally tired” in Burnley loss ]

Since his permanent signing, however, the club has won just 11 of its 32 Premier League matches dating back to late last season. The attacking threat has been promising at times but overall inconsistent, while the defense proves consistently porous at the worst possible times. Shockingly, they have won consecutive league matches just twice during that stretch, both coming recently with wins over Spurs and Manchester City in early December before a pair over Newcastle and Burnley through the festive period.

Many fans have heaped blame not on Solskjaer but instead at the feet of Ed Woodward, club chief executive who has ushered Manchester United into a financial golden age but has also flopped hard as head of recruitment. The club has reportedly attempted to bring aboard a Director of Football to assist in player recruitment and lift the weight off the shoulders of Woodward who does not have a sporting background, but so far has yet to pull the trigger, leaving the business executive aboard as the so far unsuccessful head of personnel.

As results continue to spiral downward, however, more pressure has reached Solskjaer’s doorstep, with the club investing significant financial might this summer to bring on the likes of Harry Maguire, Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka plus the continued development of youngsters Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, and Scott McTominay to mixed results. Rashford and McTominay have blossomed this season into some of the best in the league, but Lingard has seen his growth stunted while Andreas Pereira and Anthony Martial also look to have hit a developmental wall.

Injuries have also taken a toll, with midfielder Paul Pogba a significant missing piece for much of the season due to a foot problem and both McTominay and Rashford have been hit by knee and back injuries respectively.

All told, Solskjaer has had little to work with in terms of available talent, and it’s not like he is underperforming given the quality of the squad. However, despite official blame yet to be publicly placed at the feet of Woodward or his bosses, it appears that the board is yet to make Solskjaer a scapegoat for the club’s league struggles. Manchester United sits fifth in the Premier League table, six points back of Chelsea for the final Champions League spot and a massive 30 points behind leaders Liverpool. They have qualified for the Champions League just twice in the last five seasons, and both those times failed to reach past the Round of 16. For a once powerful club, the rot runs deep at the moment, and while Solskjaer is safe for now, he will be wise to remain cognizant of the dangers over his shoulder.