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Rooney: With Guardiola, England ‘could have won everything’

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Between 2000-2008, the England National Team had some of the best individual players in their positions in all of world soccer. Yet they never made it past the quarterfinals in any tournament they competed in, and the “Golden Generation” came to a relative end with England failing to qualify for the 2008 European Championship all together.

According to Wayne Rooney, in a sit down with Roger Bennett from Men in Blazers on the Wayne Rooney Podcast, had England had a better coach, they would have won it all.

[READ: USMNT Roundtable from the PST Staff]

“You look at our team ten years ago and we arguably had the best group of players in world football,” Rooney said. “Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Gerrard, Scholes, Lampard, Beckham, Myself, Michael Owen. Our team then, if we had Guardiola, with that group of players, we would have won everything. No doubt about it.”

If you’re like me and you’ve enjoyed Rooney’s honest chats with Rog, it’s not super surprising to hear him speak this off the cuff about a major moment earlier in his career. There’s a lot to break down from this comment, though.

Rooney’s first manager for England was the Swede Sven-Goran Eriksen. Eriksen, when he took over England in 2001, was coming off leading Lazio – yes Lazio – to the Serie A title, and had previous success with Fiorentina, Roma, and Benfica in Portugal.

He was ultimately criticized for his lack of fire and emotion on the touchline, as he watched England get knocked out of the quarterfinals at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and the 2004 European Championships. The 2004 Euros and 2006 World Cup exits were both on penalty kicks, both to Portugal.

Rooney of course was injured against Portugal in the 2004 tournament, and had been injured in the run up to the 2006 World Cup and wasn’t at his best for that tournament either.

Perhaps the biggest indictment against Eriksen’s leadership – and that of the managers before him – was that Paul Scholes retired from international duty at just 30-years old, despite being one of the best holding midfielders in the world. Eriksen had tried, repeatedly to somehow fit Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Scholes into a 4-4-2, with one forced to play along the wing, and Scholes apparently decided if he wasn’t valued enough, he’d quit while he was ahead.

You wonder if Guardiola, or any coach today, with the value played on a good holding midfielder, would have made Scholes the first name on the teamsheet.

Things didn’t get much better for England after Eriksen, and Steve McLaren failed to qualify England for the 2008 Euros and was run out of town, but the damage was done.

So could Guardiola have won the World Cup with the former Golden Generation? Perhaps. But Guardiola would have struggled to get all these individual talents – many of whom were rivals for their club teams – to play together and play for the flag on their chest.

Listen to the rest of Rooney’s chat with Rog below.

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.

Mourinho blames lack of spending despite spending $500M

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MANCHESTER, England — The presence of Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford revived memories of much better times at Manchester United, when England’s biggest club had a slew of the world’s best players and no trophy felt beyond them.

[ MORE: Is something amiss with Romelu Lukaku? ]

It was only a decade ago, after all, that United was winning the Champions League and three straight Premier League titles. Ronaldo was the poster boy of the generation that included Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes.

So, the manner of United’s 1-0 loss to Juventus in the Champions League — and the nature of Jose Mourinho’s comments after Tuesday’s match — were stark reminders of just how far the team has fallen.

“Since the draw,” Mourinho said, “we knew it would be a fight with the Valencia for the second position.”

They were remarkable remarks from the manager of a club as huge as United, and it felt like Mourinho’s team took that inferiority complex into the game against Juventus.

United’s players looked in awe of their opponents — left back Luke Shaw acknowledged as much, saying his team gave Juventus “too much respect” — and had only 28 percent of the possession in the first half. United had only two shots on target in the whole match.

[ MORE: Allegri: Juventus tried to “attack around Nemanja Matic” ]

Yet Mourinho wasn’t finished there. In lavishing high praise on Juventus and the Italian club’s re-emergence as one of Europe’s top clubs, he also appeared to be sending a thinly veiled message to United’s board.

“A bit far,” Mourinho said, when asked how far United was behind Juventus. “Juventus is (Italian) champion for seven years in a row, two Champions League finals in the last four or five years and not happy with what they have. They want more, they want more.

“They had (Gonzalo) Higuain, (Mario) Mandzukic, (Paulo) Dybala, they want more. They want Ronaldo. They had (Andrea) Barzagli, (Giorgio) Chiellini, (Daniele) Rugani, they are not happy, they want more, they want (Leonardo) Bonucci. And they go for the best players in the world. A big, big club with a big past, but with also a big desire to have a big future.”

Just like the United of yesteryear.

Mourinho said his team, essentially, was no longer in the same league as Europe’s powerhouses.

[ MORE: Man United arrive late (again) for Juventus game ]

“To go to Juventus level? Barcelona level? Real Madrid level? How can we reach that level?” Mourinho asked reporters, adding: “Man City level? How can we reach that level?”

A reply came. “Investment?”

“Yes,” Mourinho said.

Yet he had just put out a team containing a center forward costing $97 million (Romelu Lukaku), a center midfielder costing a then world-record fee of $116 million and signed from Juventus (Paul Pogba), while an offseason signing for about $70 million (Fred) was on the bench, failing to make it on as a substitute.

Mourinho has spent more than $500 million on players since joining United in 2016. Either the money hasn’t been spent well or Mourinho isn’t getting enough out of them.

Lukaku, for example, has gone eight games without a goal and looks short of confidence playing for United.

“No criticism at all, and a complete understanding that the player is a fantastic professional that wants to give everything for the team,” Mourinho said. “But I have to agree his moment is not sweet, not just with the goals he is not scoring but in his confidence, movement, touch. He is not linking the game well with the team.

“But he’s our striker and a good striker and a striker we believe in.”

[ MORE: Man City atop group after blowout in Ukraine ]

Mourinho finished the game by responding to the goading of Juventus’ fans by holding up three fingers toward them, denoting the Champions League-Serie A-Italian Cup treble he won with Inter Milan — Juve’s rival — in the 2009-10 season.

Just three days earlier, he was sticking three fingers up at Chelsea fans who were hurling abuse at him at Stamford Bridge, a reminder of the three Premier League titles he won at the London club over two spells.

Mourinho continues to hark back to his trophy-laden past.

It’s the future he and United have to worry about.

Klinsmann to be World Cup TV pundit

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Some will say he should be coaching the U.S. national team in Russia this summer, but Jurgen Klinsmann will instead be a pundit on the 2018 World Cup for the BBC in England.

The BBC announced on Tuesday that Klinsmann will be alongside the likes of Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Alan Shearer, Pablo Zabaleta and Rio Ferdinand to give his analysis on the tournament, one he may way feel he should be at as a coach had things worked out differently 18 months ago.

Klinsmann, 53, was fired by the U.S. men’s national team after losing the opening two games of the final round of CONCACAF qualifying against Mexico and Costa Rica.

By now we all know, of course, that Klinsmann’s successor, Bruce Arena, wasn’t able to salvage a slow start to the Hexagonal round of qualifying as the USMNT lost at Trinidad & Tobago in their final qualifier to not make the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Klinsmann has largely been a bystander since the USA’s World Cup debacle, appearing here and there at coaching seminars or spotted watching his son Jonathan, a goalkeeper with Hertha Berlin and the U.S. youth teams, play.

The German legend was in charge of the USMNT for five years from 2011-16 and led the Stars and Stripes to the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Klinsmann’s insight into not only the teams at the tournament but also what happened with the USMNT will be intriguing, especially as he could be more relaxed on the subject of the U.S. considering he will be talking to a UK audience.

This will also be a great chance for Klinsmann to put himself back in the shop window as the managerial merry-go-round swings into overdrive following a World Cup tournament…

Still, there will be a nagging feeling among most USMNT fans that had Klinsmann not been fired back in November 2016 and trusted to get the U.S. back on track, they’d be cheering on their team this summer at the World Cup instead of twiddling their thumbs and being somewhat of a World Cup third wheel.