Ander Herrera

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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.

Spanish league president says player revealed match-fixing

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MADRID (AP) Spanish league president Javier Tebas testified in a match-fixing trial on Thursday, saying it was a former player who told him a result had been fixed.

The case involves a top-tier game between Levante and Zaragoza at the end of the 2010-11 season. Prosecutors say there is evidence 965,000 euros (nearly $1 million) was paid to Levante’s players to lose the match in the final round of the season. Zaragoza won 2-1 to secure its spot in the first division, with Deportivo La Coruna being demoted.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule ]

Tebas did not reveal which player made the allegation but said he played for Zaragoza and didn’t want to be linked to the investigation out of fear of retaliation from other players. Tebas also said the unidentified player was a client of his law firm at the time.

Tebas, who became the league’s president in 2013, said he warned then-Levante president Quico Catalan, who later also testified and said he did not recall receiving a call from Tebas about the alleged match-fixing attempt.

Last week, lawyers for Zaragoza and some players unsuccessfully called for a mistrial claiming Tebas broke lawyer-client privilege when the league brought the allegation to authorities.

More than 40 people have been accused and have appeared before a judge in Valencia, including dozens of players and former Mexico coach Javier Aguirre, who managed Zaragoza at the time.

They could face two years in prison and a six-year ban from soccer if found guilty. They have all denied any wrongdoing.

Among the 36 players accused are 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.

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

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.

Even if found guilty, it’s unlikely that those being accused would face actual prison time because sentences of two years or less for first-time offenders are often suspended in Spain.

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

Ex-Mexico coach denies involvement in match-fixing in Spain

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MADRID (AP) — Former Mexico coach Javier Aguirre has denied taking money that was allegedly used to fix the result of a Spanish league game eight years ago.

Aguirre testified Thursday in the match-fixing trial involving a game between Levante and Zaragoza at the end of the 2010-11 season.

Aguirre, Zaragoza’s coach at the time, is one of more than 40 people who could face two years in prison and a six-year ban from soccer if found guilty.

Prosecutors said there is evidence that 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.

Aguirre and some of the players who have testified denied Zaragoza’s version that the money was paid as an incentive.

Aguirre said he received a deposit without his consent and returned the money to the club because it was not part of his contract.

Some of the players said they were asked as a favor to the club to withdraw the money deposited into their accounts and return it in cash, which they said they did. A few players said they kept the deposits because they believed the money was owed to them.

Among the 36 players accused are 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.

Herrera, Ponzio and Fernandez were among the players who testified on Thursday.

Former Levante player Xavi Torres was asked why he went more than two months without making any cash withdrawals following the match against Zaragoza. The midfielder said he didn’t need to make any withdrawals because he was on vacation, travelling to different countries and at his parents’ home.

Torres, who played the whole match against Zaragoza, denied the result was fixed.

“You can see during the match that we created several scoring opportunities and tried to win,” he said.

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

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.

Even if found guilty, it’s unlikely that those being accused would face actual prison time because sentences of two years or less for first-time offenders are often suspended in Spain.

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

2nd French game in 3 days halted after homophobic banners

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METZ, France (AP) — A second French league game in three days was interrupted due to banners deemed homophobic as Paris Saint-Germain beat Metz 2-0 Friday.

Referee Frank Schneider stopped the game briefly after the banners were unfurled in the first half. He then allowed play to resume some minutes later when they were removed.

[ MORE: Choupo-Moting to the rescue for PSG ]

The latest incident came after Wednesday game between Nice and Marseille – also in the top tier – was halted for several minutes after Nice fans unfurled two banners with homophobic messages.

Metz fans appeared to be responding to that incident by targeting the French league (LFP), showing a banner saying “I won’t be on TV because my words are not very gay.”

More banners referenced the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, which has links to PSG through owner Qatar Sports Investments.

The LFP is attempting to cut out homophobic chanting at games. Earlier this month, a referee stopped a second-division match between Nancy and Le Mans for about a minute after an initial appeal made over the speakers to stop homophobic chanting failed to have an effect.

Responding to a slew of injuries, PSG coach Thomas Tuchel handed debuts in Metz to 19-year-old goalkeeper Marcin Bulka and 17-year-old midfielder Adil Aouchiche, who became the club’s youngest player to start a league game.

Bulka started in place of Alphonse Areola, who is reportedly on the verge of completing a switch to Real Madrid in a swap-deal for Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

PSG’s injury worries deepened ahead of its Champions League opening game against Real Madrid on Sept. 18, with Angel Di Maria and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting both picking up knocks.

Choupo-Moting was coach Tuchel’s only recognized striker available after injuries to Edinson Cavani (hip) and Kylian Mbappe (hamstring) last weekend, while Brazil striker Neymar remained unavailable and wants to move away from the club.

Tuchel was also without the injured Julian Draxler, Thilo Kehrer, Ander Herrera and Abdou Diallo for the game at the Saint Symphorien stadium.

Di Maria opened the scoring with a penalty in the 11th minute after Juan Bernat was unceremoniously upended in the area.

The visitors had to wait till the end of the half before Choupo-Moting rose above the static Metz defense to head in Marco Verratti’s free kick in the 43rd.

Choupo-Moting had to go off toward the end. Di Maria needed treatment in injury time.