Axel Tuanzebe

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Europa League preview: Man Utd, Wolves, Arsenal begin group stage

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The Europa League begins its group stage on Thursday, with the three Premier League combatants taking on clubs from Kazakhstan, Portugal and Germany.

Manchester United’s kids are gonna get some playing time when Astana visits Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Teenager Mason Greenwood and 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe will start, and Sergio Romero will be between the sticks.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

And the Manchester Evening News notes that Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes could also start at Old Trafford, meaning the veterans in the fray will be quite important.

Enter Fred, the forgotten $68 million man from Shaktar Donetsk. The 23 minutes he played last week versus Leicester City account for his lone time on the pitch this season.

Here’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:

“I’m sure we’ll see more and more of Fred. We spoke about it earlier, he’s had some great games in midfield with Scott against PSG and Arsenal, for example, and we’re just waiting for that to flourish.”

Fred had an odd record under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last season, barely in the squad when the team started hot but trusted against PSG and Barcelona in the Champions League.

Speaking of little-used midfielders, Arsenal boss Unai Emery is getting a little grief for leaving Mesut Ozil behind for the Gunners’ trip to Germany for a big match with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Ozil made his first start of the season in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Watford at the weekend, playing 71 minutes and departing with the club up 2-1.

So why not even bring him abroad? Rest.

“Because we are going to play another match on Sunday,” Emery said, via The London Evening Standard. “My decision is because he played and also I’m thinking tomorrow the focus and the first 11 and after that I decided who are the players who can be the best for tomorrow and also the players not and that is Sokratis and Mesut.”

Sokrastis Papastathopoulos is also out, having played a big role in the embarrassing performance at Watford.

There have been tough times for Wolves as well, who sit in the relegation zone after five matches of the Premier League season.

They’ve been quite good in Europa League, though, dispatching a pair of minnows before winning both legs against Serie A side Torino.

Why the inconsistency? It’s not fixture congestion, according to Ruben Neves:

“I don’t think fatigue has anything to do with it, Neves said, via The Birmingham Mail. “We’re all top players, we’re used to it, we’re used to playing a lot of games in quick succession. I don’t think the Europa League has (anything) to do with our position in the Premier League. Obviously, we haven’t had the start that we’ve wanted, but it’s been a beautiful journey into the Europa League. This is a historic moment for Wolves and we’re going to do our best in this competition.”

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men meet Braga at the Molineux, one of three tricky opponents in Besiktas and Slovan Bratislava.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Lazio
LASK v. Rosenborg
Getafe v. Trabzonspor
PSV Eindhoven v. Sporting Lisbon
Basel v. Krasnodar
APOEL Nicosia v. Dudelange
Copenhagen v. Lugano
Standard Liege v. Vitoria SC
Qarabag v. Sevilla
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Arsenal
Rennes v. Celtic
Dynamo Kiev v. Malmo

3 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Oleksandriya
Espanyol v. Ferencvaros
Rangers v. Feyenoord
Porto v. Young Boys
Slovan Bratislava v. Besiktas
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Wolfsberg
Partizan v. AZ Alkmaar
AS Roma v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Gent v. Saint-Etienne
Manchester United v. Astana
Wolves v. Braga
Ludogorets Razgrad v. CSKA Moscow

Report: Maguire to Manchester United complete for world-record fee

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According to a report by The Telegraph’s John Percy and Sam Wallace, Manchester United has finally completed a deal for Leicester City defender Harry Maguire, making him the most expensive defender in the world.

The deal is for a reported $103 million plus add-ons, surpassing the $91 million Liverpool paid for Virgil Van Dijk a year and a half ago. The BBC has corroborated the report, along with the Press Association, although both claim the Maguire deal is for $97 million, slightly undershooting The Telegraph’s financial figure. ESPN is also reporting a completed deal, although a number was not given.

Maguire was left out of the Leicester City squad for tonight’s pre-season match against Serie A side Atalanta due to the transfer speculation, and now there is likely just a medical for the 26-year-old to officially complete the transfer.

This transfer saga has taken twists and turns this summer, with multiple reports of agreed fees often followed by other reports that the two sides were “miles apart.” Still, it always seemed likely that Manchester United would find a way to make it happen, and the Red Devils will add to the crowded defensive ranks.

At Old Trafford, Maguire will compete with Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, and Axel Tuanzebe for time at center-back. Eric Bailly is also in the mix, although the Ivorian has struggled with injuries and is expected to miss the first few months after knee surgery.

Maguire would become the third signing of the summer for Manchester United, following Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Bailly injury announcement overshadows Man Utd win

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Manchester United defeated Norwegian side Kristiansund in Oslo on Tuesday, but the winning performance came with a dose of bad news.

Eric Bailly, injured last week against Tottenham Hotspur, is set to miss 4-5 weeks after surgery.

[ USWNT: Ellis stepping down ]

Juan Mata won and converted a stoppage time penalty for United, who provided Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a winning match in his home country.

Solskjaer split his starters and subs evenly in the victory.

But it’s difficult not to question United’s center back depth as Bailly suffers another spell on the sidelines. United has been heavily linked with a world record bid for Harry Maguire, but so far has almost the same CB corps as last season: Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof, Axel Tuanzebe, and the ailing Bailly (Timothy Fosu-Mensah is back from his Fulham loan).

Romelu Lukaku left out of Man United squad

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Romelu Lukaku has yet to feature for Manchester United in preseason and speculating regarding his future at Old Trafford will continue to swirl.

The Belgian star was left out of United’s 26-man squad for their trip to Norway to play Kristiansund on Tuesday, and there was no reason given for his absence on the club website.

Lukaku, 26, has been linked with moves to Italian giants Juventus and Inter Milan throughout the summer and it appears the end-game is near.

Reports suggest that Juve will offer Paulo Dybala for Lukaku, while Inter have been negotiating with United for some time but the Red Devils are said to want over $90 million for their Belgian striker and Antonio Conte‘s side are yet to offer anywhere near that.

An extra caveat to all of this is that Lukaku traveled with United to Australia and China for their lengthy preseason tour but didn’t play a single second due to a minor injury.

He could often be seen training on his own or working out on an excercise bike in the gym, as his future remains up in the air.

Do United need him?

Given his penchant as a proven goalscorer, you always need those around. But given the fact that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants young, speedy strikers and he has a lot of them, Lukaku’s skillset makes him surplus to requirements right off the bat.

We saw him chucked out wide at times during the second half of last season and although he caused problems in that role, he never looked comfortable. Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and youngsters Dan James and Mason Greenwood looked more natural fits for United’s new high-octane playing style.

Lukaku has talked about his love for Serie A on multiple occasions and it appears his time in the Premier League is about to come to an end.

When we look back on his United career, 42 goals in 96 appearances isn’t a bad record at all. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.

His hold-up play didn’t improve much, neither did his record against the top six clubs, and the lack of service he received — especially in the opening months of Jose Mourinho’s final season in charge — saw him frustrated so when chances did arrive he snatched at them.

Along with Paul Pogba, Lukaku always seemed to be under pressure at United and it seems close to the mark to say both have been too inconsistent over the past few seasons.

Here is United’s squad in full for the trop to Norway

David De Gea, Lee Grant, Joel Pereira, Sergio Romero; Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Axel Tuanzebe, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Ashley Young; Fred, Angel Gomes, Daniel James, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira, Paul Pogba; Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford.

Rashford, James, Pogba star as Manchester United hammers Leeds in Perth

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Manchester United topped Leeds 4-0 in a comprehensive victory in Perth that saw Marcus Rashford and new signing Daniel James run rampant down the flanks.

Rashford scored in the 27th minute with a beautiful move down the left that threw two Leeds defenders into each other, while James struck the post just before halftime on an overlap down the right in his Red Devils debut.

Also on the scoresheet was 17-year-old Mason Greenwood who received a hard, low cross from fellow debutant Aaron Wan-Bissaka and beat two Leeds defenders in a footrace to the ball on the doorstep for a sliding finish. The move was started by Paul Pogba who found the new Manchester United defender down the right with a wonderful through-ball, leading to the delivery into the box. Greenwood has had quite the last 12 months, scoring for the Manchester United U-17, U-18, U-23, and now senior side all in that span.

After the break, Phil Jones found the back of the net by powering home a corner with his head, while Anthony Martial finished off the scoreline with a penalty after Tahith Chong was fouled in the area by Liam Cooper. Chong impressed throughout the second half, linking well with fellow Manchester United youth product Angel Gomes.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer found playing time for just about every first-teamer, completely changing the side at halftime. Nemanja Matic was one of the halftime introductions, but was curiously withdrawn with 12 minutes to go, unclear if due to injury. The only Red Devil in the squad to not see the field was 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe.