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Transfer rumor roundup: De Ligt to Man United; Mitrovic to Everton

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The Premier League transfer window is officially open again and that means one thing: transfer reports are going to start kicking up a few notches.

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Here’s a look at some of the latest gossip from around the PL…


Manchester United have been linked with a move for Ajax captain and center back Matthijs de Ligt, even though it had been previously reported United weren’t keen on signing the young center back several years ago.

A report in the Daily Telegraph states that United are chasing the Dutch international and that de Ligt is “open to a move to United” as he fancies being the main man in their huge rebuild this summer.

De Ligt, still just 19 years old, starred for Ajax during their incredible run to the UEFA Champions League semifinal but it seems like their entire squad will now be broken up over the summer with Frenkie de Jong already going to Barcelona and Hakim Ziyech also set to move on. His leadership skills are immense and he scored some massive goals from set pieces throughout Ajax’s run in Europe, as he also led them to the Dutch title.

With Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly around at United, the fact they are chasing one of the best center back products in the game suggests one or more of those players will be moved on this summer. Defensive solidity has not been a United hallmark for quite some time and if they were to sign de Ligt it would be a massive coup. Barcelona are the favorites to sign de Ligt, but this latest report suggests it is far from a formality.


Everton are “very interested” in signing Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic this summer, according to Sky Sports.

Mitrovic, 24, scored 11 times for Fulham this season but couldn’t stop them being relegated after the newly-promoted side struggled to adjust to life back in the PL. Although the Serbian striker looked out of sorts in the final months of the season and scored just once in his final 13 games of the campaign, he was always a handful for opposition defenders.

The former Newcastle striker arrived at Fulham last summer for a fee of $25 million and the Cottagers could expect to recoup most of that if Mitrovic was sold. That said, if he stays at Fulham he has already shown how lethal he can be in the Championship as his loan move to Craven Cottage in the second half of the 2017-18 campaign was a huge success as his goals propelled Fulham to promotion.

Everton have Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Cenk Tosun leading the line, but neither have been prolific so it makes sense for Marco Silva to add a targetman who is also a poacher as Mitrovic would link up well with Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Bernard in attack.


Staying with transfers within the Premier League, Man United are said to be interested in signing Newcastle youngster Sean Longstaff, 21, after he impressed in his first full season in the Premier League.

Multiple reports claim United are interested in Longstaff, but Sky Sports say Newcastle have yet to be approached by the Red Devils and they do not want to sell the man they gave a new contract to in December.

Longstaff, a defensive midfielder, suffered a serious knee injury which put a swift end to his superb first season in Newcastle’s first team. The Newcastle academy product looked at home in the PL with his range of passing, reading of the game and tough-tackling and he could fit the bill as United aim to replace midfield terrier Ander Herrera who is leaving the club.

If United are to keep Paul Pogba around and have him at his best, they need players in midfield who can win the ball back and get Pogba further up the pitch. Longstaff is certainly capable of doing that and he fits the bill for United as their main aim this summer is to add young, hungry British players with Declan Rice, Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka all linked with moves to Old Trafford.

When will Ed Woodward be held accountable for Man United failures?

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Six seasons, five managers, three Champions League qualifications, zero Premier League titles.

That is the Manchester United story since they last trimphed over the English top flight in Sir Alex Ferguson‘s final season as Red Devils boss.

The leadership has been chopped and changed many times over, but there is one constant: Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who ascended to his current role in 2012 and was made top operational executive a year later after the departure of David Gill. Since Woodward took full control of the club, Manchester United has spiraled completely out of control, with the luster of 13 Premier League titles almost fully rusted away.

While Manchester United has collected three trophies under his watch, the two most coveted – the Premier League and Champions League titles – have eluded the storied club, instead settling for an FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League title (plus two Community Shields, as Jose Mourinho would tell you).

Still, Woodward has somehow escaped heavy criticism for his rocky tenure, with the first-team managers – far more publicly accountable figures than club executives – taking the brunt of the flak for losing streaks, negative tactics, mediocre youth development, and shambolic defending. Yet Woodward remains unscathed, free of full-scale scrutiny while everything he touches turns to ash.

Woodward’s history in the transfer market has been downright abysmal. Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Angel Di Maria, Fred, Eric Bailly, and Luke Shaw have all been purchased for enormous sums of money during Woodward’s time in charge, yet none of them have lived up to their financial burdens. It is impossible to truly know what Woodward’s exact role is in the transfer dealings, but as the top operational executive at the club, he is responsible for the consistent failures whether he has taken a hands-on approach or has delegated most of the duties to others. It’s time the buck stops at the top.

Since the start of the 2013 summer transfer window, Manchester United has shelled out a gargantuan $712 million in transfer net spend and the Red Devils are no closer to challenging for the Premier League title than when they began their quest to replace Sir Alex Ferguson. After losing to relegated Cardiff City to close out the 2018/19 Premier League season with little more than a whimper, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said it would take “a long time” for Manchester United to be in a position to compete for the league title. The Notwegian boss even dared to warn supporters to temper their expectations; the Europa League would be a reasonable ambition for the time being. Those words from a Manchester United mouthpiece like Solskjaer are a brutal indictment of Woodward and his leadership of the club over the past few years.

When Sir Alex departed, the team admittedly needed an overhaul. The legendary boss somehow squeezed one last triumph out of an old and dilapidated squad, as if fans needed yet another reason to revere the greatest manager the game has ever seen. Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, and Dimitar Berbatov were all over 30 and on their way out of the club while David De Gea, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Rafael, Fabio, Jesse Lingard, Danny Welbeck, and Adnan Januzaj were all 22 years old or younger and looking for guidance and direction as they continued to develop.

Instead, they were met with chaos and instability, as David Moyes, Giggs, Louis Van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho all tried and failed to restore order to the club. None of the managers were given enough time to establish any sense of consistency, and it’s unclear whether any of them were good enough hires that things would have improved if given that luxury. Instead of embracing the period of transition, the club fell into a form of purgatory, hoping to maintain a steady ship while also understanding that things would not be the same. Woodward, a career accountant, may know what it takes to secure a lucrative sponsorship, but eventually they need the on-field results to match the claim of the world’s most popular club, or the financial leverage will wane.

While many players and managers have come and gone over the past few years, Woodward has remained the only constant figure, and the longer the club continues to rot, the more obvious his role in allowing the club to fester. Now, he wishes to bring on a technical director (see: Director of Football) to help with on-field decisions and player acquisitions, a smart choice in delegating the football responsibilities but also another hire to get right. And yet…he’s reportedly looking to hire Darren Fletcher, who literally retired as a player one week ago and has zero executive or managerial experience, in what feels like more of a PR move than anything of actual significance.

With this year’s sixth place finish – the club’s fourth finish outside the Premier League’s top four over the last six years – it is time fans direct their frustration and unhappiness further up the food chain. Ed Woodward must be held accountable for the failures of the club, or the glory days of (actually not that) long ago will become an even more distant memory with every passing year.

Man City works Man Utd, 3 wins from defending title (video)

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  • De Gea makes 1st half saves
  • Bernardo opens scoring from Gundogan
  • Sterling cues up Sane for insurance goal
  • City back atop Premier League
  • First City derby sweep since 2013-14

Manchester City took its latest step toward defending its Premier League title with a controlling 2-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane scored for City, who has one more point than Liverpool with three matches each to play this season.

It’s United seventh loss in its last nine matches, as the Red Devils sit two points back of fourth place Chelsea.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The first goal was nearly an o.g., as Raheem Sterling‘s low pass was deflected by Chris Smalling and collected by David De Gea.

Fred then smashed a left-footed arrow wide of the far post from range, and Lingard lunged onto the end of a terrific Paul Pogba pass. The ball sailed a bit wide of the frame.

Marcus Rashford was injured after a wild minute of play at both ends, with Bernardo Silva saved by De Gea and an offside Rashford taken out by Ederson.

After a strong spell for United, it was De Gea to the rescue as Oleksandr Zinchenko led a quick-passing sequence that finished with a save from the Spaniard.

Sergio Aguero dragged an 18-yard shot well wide following a terrific takeaway by Ilkay Gundogan.

The German was felled in the second minute of stoppage time, and replays showed that Lingard was lucky to avoid a yellow card and maybe worse.

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A slightly-hobbled Fernandinho was removed in the 51st minute, with Leroy Sane entering and Gundogan dropping a little deeper.

Bernardo put City ahead in the 54th minute, taking a step to his left and sweeping a low shot across his body and past a diving De Gea.

Tails up, City nearly had it 2-0 when Aguero ripped a curler wide of the far post from 20 yards.

Out of nothing, Lingard missed a bouncing but easy chance to make it 1-1 and then mishit a pass moments later.

Pogba earned a dangerous free kick when Bernardo fouled him atop the arc in the 62nd minute. The Frenchman hit the wall.

Four minutes later, it was 2-0 City when Sterling waited an extra moment to put a perfect pass onto the path of Sane. Game over, largely.

One area where Mourinho was right: Man Utd badly needs center backs

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Big Manchester United wins and losses, especially post-Alex Ferguson, have a tendency to get overstated at both ends of the spectrum, but there’s plenty to take away from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s recent struggles at the helm of the Red Devils.

[ MORE: Recap | Solskjaer reacts ]

For one thing: Jose Mourinho wasn’t right about much this Manchester United season, but he knew he needed better men in the back.

Everton’s beautiful opener in the first half of Sunday’s 4-0 pummeling of the Red Devils may tempt some to wash over the defending, but heading below the surface shows more problems.

The opener saw Richarlison score a terrific overhead kick after Dominic Calvert-Lewin flick a Lucas Digne throw-in to the back post. Beautiful, for sure, but Smalling never gets up to thwart Calvert-Lewin’s powerful jump.

Now that’s certainly just one example, but United’s slide is a feature of a few things.

Nineteen goals conceded in 17 PL matches is a clear upgrade from the 29 in 17 under Mourinho, and let’s not pretend United hasn’t been better with Solskjaer at the proverbial wheel.

Throw in a very average season from David De Gea — which in his case is far below standards — and it’s not a surprise that United is flailing away from the Top Four. The Alexis Sanchez move has been poor, Romelu Lukaku‘s form has dipped save back-to-back braces against a pair of unremarkable defenses, and Paul Pogba remains mercurial. He’s a monster of the midfield at his best, and a drifting object in the wind at his worst.

There’s a comparison to made with where Liverpool was under Brendan Rodgers somewhere, a legendary club not quite sure of how to fit its standard to its standing. Marcus Rashford needs room to grow, not constant comparison to Romelu Lukaku. There are a lot of extra pieces in the squad, the guys you like as a luxury for a great team but are either too old or too green to be reliable.

Of center backs to play in 10 or more Premier League matches this season, Phil Jones ranks 16th, Chris Smalling is 38th, and Victor Lindelof is 44th. Only 57 are ranked. Advanced stats aren’t foolproof, but they help (Jones and little-used Eric Bailly, for what it’s worth, were well-rated last season).

The club needs a big rebuild, to be sure. De Gea is a suitable goalkeeper for a team with top end ambitions, and we know that Lukaku and Pogba at their best can dominate (whether either is capable of doing it consistently under anyone is a debate).

But really, perhaps De Gea’s amazing 2017-18 and Mourinho’s defense-first system papered over something that’s been evident for some time. There’s neither a Aymeric Laporte or Toby Alderweireld at United, let alone a Virgil Van Dijk.

How ‘ruthless’ should Solskjaer be at Man United?

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said he is going to be “ruthless” when it comes to ins and outs at Manchester United this summer.

But how ruthless does he have to be?

After a narrow, and undeserved, win against West Ham United on Saturday, Solskjaer admitted that the Hammers got away with one and it once again showed just how much work he has to do at Old Trafford to turn the Red Devils into a genuine force once again.

Here’s a reminder of what United’s new permanent head coach had to say last Friday about potential departures and arrivals this summer.

“It’s going to be survival of the fittest or survival of the best,” Solskjaer said. “That’s how ruthless we have to be.  We need players here who are going to be able to take us forward. That means culture in the dressing room, what we do every single day here to make us challenge again… Liverpool and City are too far head at the moment for what we like. We played against a Barcelona team that sets the standard in European football. We’re under no illusion it’s going to be hard work and there will be some tough decisions made by me, Mick [Phelan] and the club.”

Solskjaer’s task has become a lot tougher now his interim tag has been removed, with the Norwegian coach losing four of his last six games in all competitions and United struggling to make the top four and looking like they will crash out of the UEFA Champions League at Barcelona on Tuesday.

But at least he accepts he must be ruthless, as a whole host of players look set to move on this summer.

Antonio Valencia is leaving at the end of his contract, while Ander Herrera also looks set to leave for PSG and Juan Mata appears to be heading out of the door too. Then there is Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo who both seem set to leave, while Alexis Sanchez and United will both want to move on from a nightmare 18-month spell.

So that’s six first team players potentially on the way out, but only one or two are genuine starters. A bigger overhaul is needed. Here’s a look at where United need to strengthen over the summer, as they also need to sort out David De Gea‘s contract situation very quickly or run the risk of losing him too.


Man United lineup for the 2019-20 season

—– De Gea —–

—- New RB —- New CB —- Lindelof —- Shaw —-

—- New DM —- New DM —- 

—- New AM —- Pogba —- Martial —-

—– Rashford —–


Now, Diogo Dalot can replace Ashley Young as the long-term right back, while Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have been handed new deals at center back, and Eric Bailly is around too, but their limitations have been made clear over the years. A new RB and CB are a must. In central midfield the likes of Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic have all had their ups and downs and that is the main area where United need to strengthen. Going forward, they are pretty set, especially with the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez in reserve. But the main thing here is clear: have a clear-out of squad players this summer and focus on bringing in 3-4 star players.

Which players should be the top targets for United? Solskjaer should aim for young, hungry players who can be at United together for a decade, while some experienced center backs are key. Bur remember: Solskjaer has been keen to promote youngsters from United’s academy whenever he can, so that may also be the route he goes down to freshen things up and Ed Woodward and United’s hierarchy would probably be fine with that given how much money Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have spent over the past five years.

Here’s a look at the players who should be their top priorities: