Ander Herrera

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Top European teams roll in domestic Cup action

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Manchester City advanced in the Carabao Cup despite losing to Manchester United, but otherwise most top teams across Europe advanced in domestic Cup action with little trouble.

Real Madrid hammered Real Zaragoza 4-0 in the Copa del Rey behind four different goalscorers. Raphael Varane opened the scoring just six minutes in, and it was elementary from that point on. Lucas Vazquez doubled the lead past the half-hour mark, while Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema tacked on goals inside the final 20 minutes. The Vinicius goal was the pick of the lot, poking home the finish with the outside of his foot. Zaragoza held its own in front of net, actually out-shooting Madrid 15-13, but only put three of its 15 efforts on target and struggled to cope with Madrid’s ruthlessness in front of net, and overall it was just too easy for the La Liga leaders who advanced to the quarterfinals of the competition.

In other Copa del Rey scores, defending champions Valencia needed penalties to pass by Segunda Division side Cultural Leonesa after a 0-0 draw. Santi Cazorla scored as Villareal topped Rayo Vallecano 2-0, with both Villareal goals coming inside the final 10 minutes of the match.

In France, both Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Marseille advanced by two-goal margins, also moving into the quarterfinals.

PSG started a second-choice eleven against third-tier Pau and worked a 2-0 victory behind goals from Pablo Sarabia and Leandro Paredes. Mauro Icardi led the lines for PSG supported by the likes of Julian Draxler and Eric Maxim Chupo-Moting, while Ander Herrera held down the midfield.

Marseille topped fellow Ligue 1 challengers Strasbourg 3-1 with Dimitri Payet on the scoresheet alongside Bouna Sarr and Boubacar Kamara. It was tight through the end until Kamara put the game away in the 95th minute. Payet’s goal came from the spot, while Sarr’s opener just past the half-hour mark featured a dizzying, sparkling run through the penalty area past three defenders before finishing with the left foot.

Inter had a tougher task, squeaking by Fiorentina 2-1 to reach the semifinals of the Coppa Italia. Antonio Candreva poached a goal in the 44th minute on a goalmouth scramble to put Inter in front, and while Fiorentina drew level on the hour mark off a corner, Nicolo Barella delivered a venomous blast seven minutes later to seal the win. The match featured the debut of Christian Eriksen off the bench, seeing time on the field alongside four other former Premier League players for Inter in starters Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, and Ashley Young plus substitute Victor Moses.

The one side that fell in disappointing fashion was French club Lille who slumped to a 2-1 defeat to fourth-tier side SAS Epinal. Former Chelsea striker Loic Remy scored just eight minutes into the match to put Lille in front early, but the minnows managed a pair of second-half goals from Jean-Phillipe Krasso to pull off the enormous upset.

The only top European league that did not feature any domestic Cup action this week was Germany, whose DFB-Pokal is still in the Round of 16. Those matches will take place next week with RB Leipzig taking on Eintracht Frankfurt while Bayern Munich hosts Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen meets Stuttgart, Schalke hosts Hertha BSC, and Borussia Dortmund visits Werder Bremen.

Reports: Man United nears Bruno Fernandes deal

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Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.


A transfer saga that has lasted nearly as long as the winter window itself finally appears to be nearing a conclusion.

Multiple reports in England, including James Ducker of The Telegraph and Simon Peach of Press Association, have revealed that Manchester United has finally agreed to a deal with Sporting CP for Bruno Fernandes.

Ducker’s report states that Manchester United has agreed to pay $61 million for Fernandes, with another $27 million of add-ons. The 25-year-old will sign a four-and-a-half year deal with an option for another year, taking him under club control through at least the summer of 2024.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Reports over the past few weeks had highlighted the struggle for the two clubs to come to an agreement regarding the transfer. There were recent rumors over the past 24 hours that Barcelona had gained an interest in Fernandes with Manchester United struggling to get a deal over the line, but those appear to be nothing but a push by the player to drive through a deal.

Fernandes will be a boost to the Manchester United midfield that lost Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera over the summer and have suffered injuries to Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay, both of whom have grown into vastly important players. The Portuguese international has made 28 appearances for Sporting CP this season across all competitions, scoring 15 goals including in league play.

The deal is still subject to a medical.

Judge rules players not guilty in match-fixing case in Spain

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MADRID — The 36 players on trial in Spain’s most high-profile match-fixing case were cleared of wrongdoing on Monday.

A Spanish judge issued the “not guilty” verdict, saying there was not enough evidence to convict the players and others on trial – including former Mexico coach Javier Aguirre.

More than 40 people were accused of match-fixing involving the Spanish league game between Levante and Zaragoza at the end of the 2010-11 season.

The judge convicted two former Zaragoza officials of fraud – then-president Agapito Iglesias and club director Javier Porquera. They were given a one-year, three-month prison sentence, although they were not likely to face jail time because sentences of less than two years for first-time offenders are often suspended in Spain.

Those accused were facing two years in prison and a six-year soccer ban.

Among the players on trial were Ander Herrera, now with Paris Saint-Germain; former Leicester midfielder Vicente Iborra; former Atletico Madrid captain Gabi Fernandez; River Plate midfielder Leonardo Ponzio; Serbian defender Ivan Obradovic; Lazio forward Felipe Caicedo; Itailan defender Maurizio Lanzaro; and Uruguay striker Cristhian Stuani.

Aguirre was Zaragoza’s coach at the time. He was among those who appeared in court to testify.

The investigation began after Spanish league president Javier Tebas denounced the alleged match-fixing, saying a former player told him a result had been fixed.

Prosecutors said there was evidence 965,000 euros (nearly $1 million) was paid to Zaragoza’s squad and later transferred to Levante’s players to lose the match in the final round of the season. Zaragoza won 2-1 to avoid relegation. Deportivo La Coruna was demoted as a result.

Former Zaragoza officials said the money was paid to motivate players, not fix the result of the game.

Prosecutors said players on both teams were aware of the match-fixing and there was evidence the money was transferred to Levante players after analyzing tax reports and banking transactions at the time.

The judge said in his ruling “there were was no evidence the money was given to Levante players to lose the match.”

A lower court had shelved the case but it was reopened last year after an appeal by prosecutors in Valencia, where Levante is based and where the match was played.

Zaragoza returned to the second division in 2014. Levante is currently in Spain’s top league.

Ander Herrera says football ‘not most important’ at Man United

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Former Manchester United fan favorite Ander Herrera has taken aim at his old club, looking to explain one of the reasons that led him away from Old Trafford this past summer.

Now with PSG, the Spaniard says he turned down a new contract at Manchester United because he felt more like a business asset than a football player.

“I was very happy at that incredible club,” the 30-year-old said to French publication So Foot. “I am very grateful to the supporters. Frankly, I was immensely happy there. However, at the club, there were times when I felt that football was not considered the most important thing.”

When the publication pressed him on what was the most important thing at Manchester United, he refused to answer, but as the interviewer asked, “business?” Herrera seemed to respond in the affirmative.

“That does not come out of my mouth,” Herrera responded to the suggestion. “I don’t know, but football was not the most important thing in Manchester. I do not want to compare, all I know is that here, I feel like I’m breathing football on all sides. And I like it.”

He doubled down on that concept when talking about his new club PSG, saying, “I cannot talk about what was happening in previous seasons as I was not here. However, since I have been here, what I see is that I am in a club that thinks only and exclusively about football.”

The comments seem to echo what Herrera said over the summer when leaving Manchester United, suggesting that he did not feel fully welcome in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s project ahead. “There were differences regarding the project and my importance within it,” Herrera told Marca after joining PSG.

At Manchester United, Herrera was well-liked by fans for not only his tenacious play on the field both progressing forward and tracking back, but also his constant media availability and ability to answer the hard questions, always taking a team-first attitude. Since moving to the French top flight, Herrera has started five Ligue 1 matches, overcoming a calf injury that sidelined him for the first month of the season.

Can Man United buy its way back to glory?

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By all accounts, Manchester United is having a woeful start to the Premier League season. However, the front office reportedly believes it can solve the crisis at the club with strategic purchases over the next two seasons.

According to a report in the Telegraph, Manchester United is looking to make eight signings spread through the next two summer transfer windows. The report claims they’ve already created a shortlist of targets and one may even be acquired in the upcoming winter transfer window in January. Players like Leicester City’s James Maddison and Ben Chillwell have been rumored to be on Man United’s radar in recent days, as it looks to improve its squad.

[READ: Maddison pulls out of England squad]

There’s no doubt that Man United’s team is in dire straights. From the days of Sir Alex Ferguson where the team had Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand and many others, the current squad absolutely pales in comparison.

This summer was supposed to be a massive one for the club after another season outside the top four. And yet, the only major signing was Harry Maguire. Ironically, one of the summer’s first signings for current manager – for how long, who knows? – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Daniel James, has been very good when fit.

While on defense Man United is decent, in the final third, the Red Devils are woeful. With Anthony Martial still out injured and the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez this summer, Marcus Rashford looks too under pressure to handle all the responsibility right now. Man United has only scored one goal from open play in the last five games, and it’s not looking like things will improve that much even when Paul Pogba and Martial return from injury.

So it raises the question: Can Man United buy its way out of trouble? The answer, is maybe.

Manchester City spent boatloads of money, and it did end up with a first Premier League-era title in 2012. Only Micah Richards was from the club’s youth system in the squad. The latest smart purchases from Man City has put the club on a path to long-term success.

And yet, it’s not like Man United hasn’t spent a ton of money over the last decade chasing success. Since Ferguson retired, millions were spent on signing so many players, some of whom turned out to be good, but none turned out to be great. There was Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini. Then Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, and Angel Di Maria. Then Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, and Anthony Martial. Soon after it was Pogba and Eric Bailley and don’t forget Henrik Mkhitaryan. How much did Victor Lindelof, Lukaku and Sanchez cost Man United?

I could go on even further, but the point is made. Man United has spent tons, and it seems like with no plan.

The only way this new plan works is if they buy smart and buy players who fit well in a system, not just the ones who are shining in other systems.