Patrice Evra

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Reports: Man United exploring Edwin van der Sar for Director of Football

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According to a number of tabloid reports across England, first broken by The Mirror, Manchester United is highly interested in bringing Edwin van der Sar back to Old Trafford as Director of Football.

The former Manchester United goalkeeper has led Ajax in a similar role since 2016, and has gained enormous respect in the business for his successful construction of last year’s Ajax squad that reached the Champions League semifinal with a wealth of young talent. Ajax won the Eredivisie title and took the Champions League by storm, and also netted an enormous windfall with the sale of valuable talent like Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong.

That has turned the head of Ed Woodward who has reportedly been searching high and far for a Director of Football to take on responsibilities of building a squad, hoping to find someone with a stronger connection to the game to be charged with identifying transfer targets and acquiring talent. While Marc Overmars holds the Director of Football role at Ajax, van der Sar holds the role of CEO and has led the setup successfully in Amsterdam.

The Mirror report states that there are roadblocks to a deal with van der Sar, including convincing him to turn his back on Ajax at a critical juncture, as well as convincing his wife to move abroad amid health issues over the past decade.

Woodward is clearly targeting someone who has history with the club, including reports of conversations with former players Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, and Darren Fletcher, neither of whom has any experience as an executive. United is one of just three Premier League clubs without a Director of Football.

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.

Season preview: Pellegrini the man to meet West Ham’s ambition?

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West Ham United at a glance

Premier League titles: 0
FA Cups: 3 (1964, 1975, 1980)
League Cups: 0
UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup: 1 (1965/66)

[ MORE: 2018-19 PL season preview hub ]  


They will challenge for the Top Six because… Pellegrini is simply a different class of manager to their recent bosses, and has a better grip on massaging bigger egos in a bigger squad. Marko Arnautovic is a tough mark up-top, and should be further freed by the addition of Brazilian winger Felipe Anderson. The full backs are good, especially Arthur Masuaku, and Lukasz Fabianski is an upgrade on the Joe Hart-Adrian combination.

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They’ll again stumble and find themselves in a relegation scrap… Last season’s demons hit the club on and off the pitch, and fan anger is just a moment away. Arnautovic is a combustible character, and the club is an injury or two away from counting on Mark Noble.


Transfers in: Felipe Anderson ($43 million, Lazio), Issa Diop ($29 million, Toulouse), Andriy Yarmolenko ($23 million, Borussia Dortmund), Lukasz Fabianski ($9 million, Swansea City), Fabian Balbuena ($5 million, Corinthians), Ryan Fredericks (free, Fulham), Jack Wilshere (free, Arsenal).

Transfers outCheikhou Kouyate ($12 million, Crystal Palace), Reece Burke ($2.5 million, Hull City), James Collins (free agent), Patrice Evra (free agent)


Best possible XI

—– Fabianski —–

—- Fredericks — Diop —  Ogbonna — Masuaku —- 

—- Rice — Wilshere — Obiang—-

—- Anderson —- Arnautovic —- Yarmolenko


Ranking their offseason: 7/10 – Anderson missed significant time last season but was a big part of Lazio’s strong second half to the season. Yarmolenko has been productive in multiple top leagues, and Jack Wilshere on a free is a big deal. If Issa Diop can stand firm in his first Premier League season, this figure might be an 8/10 or better.


Star player: Marko Arnautovic –  Yes, the striker often gets top billing in these preview pieces, but it’s hard to debate another player as West Ham’s star when this Austria menace is on his game. The 29-year-old matched his career-best output of 11 goals and six assists.

Coaches’ CornerManuel Pellegrini — The Premier League winner returns to England, this time in London. He’s been successful in both league and Cup play, which could bode well for West Ham’s hopes of taking a step into Europe via an alternative route.


PST Predicts: Comfortably midtable, but just below the radar of making a threat to the Top Six.

Transfer rumor roundup: Man United on verge of signing Shakhtar’s Fred

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Jose Mourinho is nearing a boost to his attacking midfield, with Brazilian international Fred reportedly on the verge of joining Manchester United.

The 25-year-old midfielder has starred for Shakhtar Donetsk the past five seasons, cementing his place as a starter for the Ukrainian side and impressing in UEFA Champions League matches. Fred follows the likes of Manchester City’s Fernandinho and Chelsea’s Willian as using Shakhtar as a mid-way point between Brazil and the Premier League.

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According to multiple reports in England, Manchester United is in advanced negotiations to sign Fred for a reported transfer fee of nearly $59 million. The singularly-named Fred would be the third-famous Fred to play for Man United, following Freddie Goodwin, who played for the Red Devils from 1954-60 and Fred Erentz, who played from 1892-1902.

Although he is not physically big, Fred could be an Eden Hazard-type player, a tricky midfielder who puts defenders on their heels as he skates past them with the ball.

Here are more transfer rumors and notes from around the Premier League:

(more…)

West Ham 1-4 Man City: Champs on cruise control

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Raheem Sterling was a menace, bagging two assists as Manchester City crushed West Ham United 4-1 at the London Stadium on Sunday.

Fernandinho, Gabriel Jesus, and Leroy Sane scored for City, which also found its way to the scoreboard due to a Pablo Zabaleta own goal. City’s 102 goals are one shy of Chelsea’s Premier League record.

Aaron Cresswell scored for West Ham United, now just three points clear of the drop zone with a minus-24 goal difference becoming an increasing concern.

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Marko Arnautovic and Mark Noble issued a pair of hard fouls early, and Man City responded by almost going ahead through Ilkay Gundogan. The German couldn’t get enough on a cross into the 18, and it bounded through the box.

Sane opened the scoring in the 13th, with Patrice Evra‘s headed block attempt wrong-footing Adrian.

Ederson intervened to stop West Ham’s answer, with Manuel Lanzini‘s cross too far for Aaron Cresswell and punched clear.

An own goal off the boot of Declan Rice and rear end of Pablo Zabaletagave Man City its 100th Premier League goal of the season, and the Citizens had 63 minutes to score three more en route to the record.

That quickly became background noise with a scary head injury to Cheikhou Kouyate, who was lay stricken on the turf for some time. Kouyate went head-to-head with Aymeric Laporte in an accidental collision that the latter saw coming.

But hold on: moments after Marko Arnautovic had a goal pulled back for a foul, Cresswell zipped a gorgeous free kick past a flying Ederson for 2-1. 42′.

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City carved up the West Ham 18 for a third when Jesus cut to the penalty spot and passed behind Adrian.

The Irons could’ve been behind 4-1 when Cresswell cut down Raheem Sterling, but the foul went uncalled.

Fernandinho did make it four, starting and finishing a play with Man of the Match candidate Stirling to put City on the precipice of tying the PL record.