Juan Mata

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Just how different will Manchester United look next year?

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It’s Sunday morning, Paul Pogba wants to leave Manchester United, and the USWNT doesn’t play its World Cup match until Noon: Let’s deal in theoreticals by starting with a fact.

This season is going to be a major challenge for one Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Manchester United boss will seemingly be pulling together a significant amount of new parts into a team which is coming off a sixth place finish in the Premier League, with four of the five teams ahead of him having maintained their managers and most if not all key pieces.

Oh, and he’ll have to fashion this team based out of parts willing to buy into the club’s mystique and ignore the lack of UEFA Champions League play (which is seemingly why Paul Pogba is ready to skip town).

Big paychecks will help, but there’s no way to quickly meld these pieces into one unit. That’s especially true if the biggest piece of their 2018-19 puzzle, Pogba, isn’t in the middle of the park (or pushed a bit forward).

Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, and Antonio Valencia are out of contract, and Romelu Lukaku has been as mentioned as any striker on the market (He has three goals in four days for Belgium, albeit against Kazakhstan and Scotland).

Pogba’s potential departure puts a lot of weight on Ed Woodward to spend money well (One could make an argument for United needing 60-80 percent of those names).

Subtracting them and adding no one, United’s best XI is something like David De Gea, Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, Anthony Martial, Andreas Pereira, Jesse Lingard, and Marcus Rashford.

As an aside, the expectations and pressure heaped on Rashford by the “he’s better than Lukaku, play him now centrally” media crowd is going to be a burden if the 21-year-old has to bear the center forward burden alone. My goodness are there Old Trafford subplots in excess or what?

Now, of course, there are seven weeks to go in the transfer window and there’s no guarantee Pogba and Lukaku will leave town. In fact, you may want to place your confidence on Pogba opening the season unhappy but at Old Trafford. Either way, the center of the park is going to get a remarkable makeover, and both center back and goalkeeper will get upgrades, too.

To the fixes:

— United is expected to spend big on Crystal Palace right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who was sensational last season with the Eagles. They reportedly have sent a $51 million offer to Roy Hodgson‘s squad.

— They’ve been linked with desire for Issa Diop, though West Ham has hopes of $75 million for the center back who made JPW’s Top Ten of the season.

Wilfred Ndidi is “flattered” by links to United, but is focused on Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations line. Should the Red Devils want to buy the 22-year-old, he’s likely in the same price range as the above names.

— Don’t forget Monaco’s Youri Tielemans, who feels like a PL player from his outstanding time at Leicester City last season. He’d merit another $50 million or so.

It’s worth noting that all would get more European football than at their current home with a bump in wages plus an new iconic shirt. Don’t sleep on that.

You’re probably talking a $240-250 million outlay there, should United land them.

Without going further, nor mentioning Swansea’s young Daniel James and Sheffield United loanee Dean Henderson, you can see a thread here: United could be showing us how a Premier League Best XI without any Top Six players would fare in the top flight.

Of course, United has also been linked with big buys from outside of the Premier League and many of these are older than Ndidi, Diop, Tielemans, and AWB.

But taking those four young players and assuming a focal point/back bone strengthening holding mid would likely join part-time players and full-time leaders Nemanja Matic and Chris Smalling (and maybe Juan Mata).

Now of course there are rumors of experienced leaders Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona and there could be a return from Real, PSG, or Juve. And this whole post looks even worse when United swaps Pogba for Neymar straight-up.

Here’s another question in the myriad facing Solskjaer and Woodward: Is the Europa League a better route to the Champions League than the idea of beating out two of Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, and Liverpool (And noting that Spurs, City, and Liverpool will be heavily expected to finish 1-2-3 in some permutation and Chelsea has a leg up on the field assuming Eden Hazard is their lone significant departure).

Manchester United w/ above transfers (Age when season starts)

De Gea (28)

Wan-Bissaka (21) — Lindelof (25) — Diop (22) — Shaw (24)

Ndidi (22) — Matic (30)

Tielemans (22)

Lingard (26) — Rashford (21) — Martial (23)

What a time to be alive. Rashford better deliver!

Out of contract Premier League Best XI

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With the 2018-19 season in the books, Premier League clubs are already turning their attention to next season.

Players are coming towards the end of their contracts, with the PL’s summer transfer now open which means some players can move on free transfers when their deals expire, usually on July 1.

Which players are available to pick up at the end of their deals on freebies?

There is always a lot of chatter at this time of the year about who will stay, which players have a one-year option to extend their deals, and which clubs also have that option. Olivier Giroud will stay at Chelsea for one more season, but he would have been the top striker available on a freebie this summer, while Ander Herrera is expected to sign for PSG after announcing he will leave Man United when his contract expires. Plus, Aaron Ramsey has already signed for Juventus, so he’s not available to pick up on a free transfer.

However, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding several star names at some of the PL’s biggest clubs. If you are a newly promoted club (Norwich, Sheffield United and one of Aston Villa and Derby County) you are no doubt looking at this list of experienced PL players and getting pretty excited.

Take a look at our “Out of Contract Best XI” below, as several players have yet to agree new deals with their current clubs.


Premier League, Out of Contract Best XI – 4-4-2 formation

—– Michel Vorm —–

Danny SimpsonGary CahillPhil JagielkaNacho Monreal — 

Antonio ValenciaMohamed DiameJuan MataAlberto Moreno — 

—- Daniel Sturridge —- Fernando Llorente —- 

On the bench
Willy Caballero
Leighton Baines
Danny Williams
Ander Herrera (expected to join PSG on free transfer)
Samir Nasri
Bakary Sako
Andy Carroll


Dybala’s brother: Paulo ‘needs a change’ from Juventus

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Paulo Dybala’s brother is either breaking news, or a really awful sibling.

Gustavo Dybala says his brother is ready to leave Juventus after the season, having become a lesser part of Max Allegri’s team since the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo.

[ MORE: Jovic to Real Madrid ]

Paulo Dybala, 25, scored 10 goals with six assists across all competitions this season, making 40 appearances and playing 2,640 minutes. He played 700 more minutes in 2017/18, scoring 16 more goals with two more assists.

“There are many possibilities that Paulo leaves Juventus. He needs a change,” Gustavo told Radio Impacto show Futbolemico. “Let’s say that Paulo is no longer at ease and happy, as many other Juventus players are no longer well. He is not the only one who will leave.”

Juventus continues to win scudetti like Serie A is a children’s game, though its UEFA Champions League failures are also becoming old hat.

With Ronaldo seizing the spotlight in the prime of Dybala’s career, he could head just about anywhere and the Premier League is certainly in consideration. Manchester United will be linked and Dybala could be the striker’s version of Juan Mata (It’s an odd comparison but let’s grab a drink and I’ll try to explain).

Man United can’t hold early lead, draw Huddersfield (video)

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  • Man United officially eliminated from top-4 race
  • McTominay scores on Lossl’s howler (8′)
  • Mbenza strikes back for Huddersfield (60′)

Manchester United’s top-four dreams officially crashed and burned on Sunday, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side coughed up an early lead and drew already-relegated Huddersfield Town.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

With one game left to play, Man United (66 points) trail fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur by four points.

United went ahead through Scott McTominay, with many thanks to Huddersfield goalkeeper Jonas Lossl, in the 8th minute. The academy product worked his way past a pair of defenders to free himself up for a shot from the edge of the penalty area. His effort was quite tame, but Lossl made an absolute mess of it.

United so nearly doubled their lead in the 42nd minute, when Paul Pogba went inches from scoring an acrobatically impossible header. Juan Mata‘s cross came in from the left side, well behind Pogba, but the Frenchman contorted his body in the air and got plenty of power behind his effort, only to be denied by the crossbar.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Disaster struck for the Red Devils right on the hour mark. Lossl made a simple saved and charged ahead before launching a counter-attack with a seeing-eye through ball headed for Isaac Mbenza. With the majority of United’s defense inside the Huddersfield box for a corner kick, Mbenza was in behind and only had to be David De Gea, which he did by calmly slotting the ball past him.

United’s first chance at an equalizer came and went when Phil Jones failed to even put the ball on frame with only the goalkeeper to beat. Ashley Young sent a bouncing free kick into the box and Jones was completely unmarked at the near post. He got the finish all wrong and watched helplessly as the ball bounded over the goal.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Their best chances came and went in the 88th minute, in agonizing fashion. First, Tahith Chong raced in on goal with just Lossl to beat, but saw his effort pushed away with no one arriving at the back post to tap home the free rebound. Seconds later, Pogba struck a curler from the edge of the penalty area, but found only the crossbar.

That kind of day — that kind of season — for Man United.

Man United to seal deals for Portuguese superstars?

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Manchester United have already said they will be “ruthless” as they rebuild their squad this summer, and it appears they are trying to crack on with that as soon as possible.

[ MORE: Can Spurs beat Ajax? ]  

A report from the Evening Standard states that the Red Devils are lining up deals for two Portugal youngsters who have impressed mightily in the Portuguese capital this season.

Joao Felix and Bruno Fernandes are at the top of United’s summer wishlist, and the report states that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to seal the deals as soon as possible. A transfer fee of $196 million for both of the players has been suggested, with Felix costing a little more as Benfica aim to cash in on their top talent after his stunning season.

The only snag is that United may not be able to offer the duo Champions League action next season, as their chances of finishing in the top four are very slim heading into the final two weeks of the season.

Man City and Real Madrid have also been linked with a move for Felix, just 19 years old, as the Portuguese attacker is dubbed ‘the new Cristiano Ronaldo’ in his homeland. The Benfica youngster has scored 18 times in his first season in the top-flight and his trickery and direct play saw him score a hat trick in their UEFA Europa League quarterfinal first leg win against Eintracht Frankfurt.

As for Fernandes, 24, Man City are also chasing him hard as he continues to score goals from midfield for Sporting Lisbon (he has 28 in all competitions this season) and is exactly the type of player who could replace Juan Mata and Paul Pogba if they leave this summer, as expected.

These two midfielder are needed, for sure, but United also need to add a center back, right back and another striker this summer if they are truly going to kick on under Solskjaer this summer.

There is a core of players at Old Trafford for Solskjaer to build around, but it is clear they need to cut plenty of players adrift this summer and that will be tough to do.