Ryan Giggs

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USMNT announces March match versus Giggs’ Wales

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Gregg Berhalter is set to match wits with Ryan Giggs when the United States men’s national team visits Wales this Spring.

The Yanks will visit Wales at Cardiff City Stadium on March 30, four days after visiting the Netherlands.

Wales and the USMNT are tied at 22nd in the FIFA rankings, though Wales is 25th in Elo Ratings to the Yanks’ 39th.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“One of the important parts of continuing to develop this group is the opportunity to play against high-level opponents away from home,” Berhalter said in a press release. “The Netherlands is a soccer powerhouse featuring some of the world’s best talent. This game will be a good chance to compete as we build toward important competitions in the summer and fall.”

The two sides have only met once before, with Landon Donovan and Eddie Lewis scoring in a 2003 win.

Wales is preparing for EURO 2020, where it’s in Group A with Turkey, Switzerland, and Italy.

The next competition for the USMNT is this summer’s CONCACAF Nations League semifinal against Honduras. Mexico and Costa Rica are in the other semi.

Solskjaer bemoans poor Man United first half performance

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Manchester United seemed to be holding up strong defensively early as Manchester City attacked with the ball in the first leg of the League Cup semifinal on Tuesday.

Then, Bernardo Silva unleashed a moment of brilliance in the 17th minute, and for the next 28 minutes, Man United crumbled as Man City built up a 3-0 halftime lead.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

“From their goal until half-time, that is the worst that we have played,” Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told Sky Sports. “From the first goal to half-time we just could not cope with that setback. We were running in between. The pressure didn’t work and we let them play. Our heads dropped. We just made decisions that we should not do.”

Whatever the gameplan was, it appeared that either the players were incapable of executing it, or they lacked the ability to do so. Man City players constantly found time and space to turn and attack the Man United defense, and Man United struggled to string more than a few passes together at a time in the first half.

The team, even with Paul Pogba fit and in the lineup, lacks a strong, vocal leader like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes or Gary Neville to get everyone on the same page while on the field. Instead, as Solskjaer mentioned, players are dropping their heads and not pressuring the ball, leading to more goals.

After likely lighting into his team at halftime, Solskjaer said he did get a response from his team.

“That needed sorting at half-time… Someone needed to take the responsibility and we did that in the second half,” Solskjaer said. “When you come in at half-time with that result then pride is one word that you speak about. Make sure you win the second half and you are in the tie. Of course, it’s a difficult task that we have got in front of us but that second half at least gives us something to hang on to. After that second half, we have got something that we believe in.”

James says he was not knocked unconscious in Wales draw

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Head injury awareness again rose to the forefront in the 1-1 draw between Wales and Croatia in Cardiff when Daniel James went down after colliding with a pair of opponents.

The Manchester United winger looked to almost sure have been knocked unconscious when Domagoj Vida’s knee appeared to tap the back of his head while challenging for a ball in the air. Vida went toppling over the back of teammate Borna Barisic who ducked out of the way, but it was James who many were concerned for as he lay motionless on his back with his eyes closed.

Yet James was allowed to come back onto the field and completed the full 90 minutes, sparking criticism from injury advocates and fans who were concerned for James’ safety on the field, at potential risk for even more serious consequences should he indeed have suffered a concussion.

After the game however, despite what fans saw as James lie on the turf, the 21-year-old insisted he was not knocked unconscious. “I’m fine,” James claimed after the match, speaking to Sky Sports. “I think he just caught me in the head but I didn’t get knocked out fortunately.”

Wales boss Ryan Giggs backed up the decision as well, calling James’ motionless display “a bit of acting.”

“The medical staff went over, he was compos mentis and we did all the checks at half-time and he was fine,” Giggs said, referring to the latin phrase for “of sound mind.”

If James was indeed faking unconsciousness, it’s natural to wonder if he should face a fine from UEFA for looking to con referees, and in the process possibly confusing the independent neurologists on site assigned to assess head injuries.

ESPN broadcaster Taylor Twellman, who has been outspoken over the past few years advocating for head injury awareness after his career was cut short by concussions, took to Twitter to criticize Wales for allowing James back into the game. Twellman, who was on the ESPN call of the broadcast with Ian Darke, said more needs to be done to prevent players from being able to force their way back onto the field, lest someone be killed by second impact syndrome.

Former Hull City player Ryan Mason, who was forced to retire after a serious skull fracture saw him fighting for his life, was also seriously concerned about the incident.

Interestingly enough, later in the match just seconds after the second half restart, young Wales midfielder Ethan Ampadu was whalloped from behind by Croatia’s Bruno Petkovic in a wild and reckless aerial challenge. Petkovic’s elbow went clattering into the back of Ampadu’s head, and the was left writhing on the ground holding his head. The Chelsea youngster was taken off the field and immediately replaced by Joe Morrell, while Petkovic was lucky to escape with just a yellow card.

Can Man United buy its way back to glory?

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By all accounts, Manchester United is having a woeful start to the Premier League season. However, the front office reportedly believes it can solve the crisis at the club with strategic purchases over the next two seasons.

According to a report in the Telegraph, Manchester United is looking to make eight signings spread through the next two summer transfer windows. The report claims they’ve already created a shortlist of targets and one may even be acquired in the upcoming winter transfer window in January. Players like Leicester City’s James Maddison and Ben Chillwell have been rumored to be on Man United’s radar in recent days, as it looks to improve its squad.

[READ: Maddison pulls out of England squad]

There’s no doubt that Man United’s team is in dire straights. From the days of Sir Alex Ferguson where the team had Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand and many others, the current squad absolutely pales in comparison.

This summer was supposed to be a massive one for the club after another season outside the top four. And yet, the only major signing was Harry Maguire. Ironically, one of the summer’s first signings for current manager – for how long, who knows? – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Daniel James, has been very good when fit.

While on defense Man United is decent, in the final third, the Red Devils are woeful. With Anthony Martial still out injured and the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez this summer, Marcus Rashford looks too under pressure to handle all the responsibility right now. Man United has only scored one goal from open play in the last five games, and it’s not looking like things will improve that much even when Paul Pogba and Martial return from injury.

So it raises the question: Can Man United buy its way out of trouble? The answer, is maybe.

Manchester City spent boatloads of money, and it did end up with a first Premier League-era title in 2012. Only Micah Richards was from the club’s youth system in the squad. The latest smart purchases from Man City has put the club on a path to long-term success.

And yet, it’s not like Man United hasn’t spent a ton of money over the last decade chasing success. Since Ferguson retired, millions were spent on signing so many players, some of whom turned out to be good, but none turned out to be great. There was Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini. Then Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, and Angel Di Maria. Then Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, and Anthony Martial. Soon after it was Pogba and Eric Bailley and don’t forget Henrik Mkhitaryan. How much did Victor Lindelof, Lukaku and Sanchez cost Man United?

I could go on even further, but the point is made. Man United has spent tons, and it seems like with no plan.

The only way this new plan works is if they buy smart and buy players who fit well in a system, not just the ones who are shining in other systems.

Absurd Paul Scholes pass has Premier League fans all nostalgic

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Vincent Kompany‘s testimonial on Wednesday featured some big names from the former Manchester City defender’s time in the Premier League, and one in particular put jaws on the floor.

Paul Scholes, whose time at City’s cross-town rivals Manchester United overlapped Kompany’s Premier League journey by four years, produced a moment of brilliance that brought fans back to his time in midfield for the Red Devils. The 44-year-old donned a dark blue shirt for the Premier League All-Stars side at Kompany’s testimonial and wow’d the crowd.

With Robin Van Persie and Robbie Keane breaking forward, Scholes took a square pass from Cesc Fabregas and produced a stunning flick with the outside of his boot that fell perfectly in line for the two strikers on a run. Unfortunately, both Keane and van Persie went for the ball, and they ran into each other allowing Jolean Lescott to recover and end the chance.

The match ended in a 2-2 draw as Benjani Mwaruwari scored a last-minute equalizer for the Manchester City Legends. Martin Petrov opened the scoring for Man City Legends, but the Premier League All-Stars took the lead through goals by van Persie and Keane before the late goal left things all square.

Current Manchester City players David Silva and Sergio Aguero were on hand to participate, as were former City players Samir Nasri, Joe Hart, Kolo Toure, Mario Balotelli, and Pablo Zabaleta. The likes of Edwin van der Sar, Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, and Thierry Henry suited up for the opponents.

Kompany himself was unfortunately sidelined for the match by a hamstring injury – a cruel homage to the rampant injury history of his long 11-year playing career at the Etihad. He picked up the injury while playing for his new club Anderlecht where he serves as player/manager. The club has started the Jupiler Pro League season on a terrible run of form, without victory through its first five games, but picked up its first win of the season against rivals Standard Liege with Kompany out injured.

Proceeds from the match went to benefit A Bed Every Night, a charity in Manchester dedicated to helping aid the homeless in the city.