Scott McTominay

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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!

Steve Clarke named new Scotland manager

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Steve Clarke has been named the new manager of the Scottish national team, as he hopes to take them to a major tournament for the first time in over 20 years.

Clarke, 55, has left his role as the manager of Kilmarnock after he led Killie to a third-place finish in the Scottish Premiership this season as they qualified for the Europa League.

That feat saw Clarke named both the PFA Scotland and SFWA Manager of the Year, as they finished above Aberdeen, Hibernian and Hearts thanks to a final day win against Glasgow Rangers.

Speaking about his arrival as the new Scotland manager, Clarke was delighted to be handed the chance to try and lead his country back to a major tournament (the last tournament they played in was the 1998 World Cup in France) with his contract lasting until the end of the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.

“It is an honor to be appointed Scotland head coach and I will undertake those responsibilities with pride and commitment,” Clarke said. “I firmly believe we have a talented group of players who can achieve success on the international stage. I look forward to working with them and helping them to fulfil those ambitions.

“I appreciate the Scotland supporters have waited a long time for the national team to qualify for a major tournament. Now we have a Women’s World Cup to look forward to in France this summer and it’s my motivation to emulate the success of Shelley Kerr and her squad by leading us to EURO 2020. I believe we can qualify and look forward to that journey with the players and the fans, starting against Cyprus and Belgium next month.”

Scotland are in Group I in EURO 2020 qualifying as they face Belgium, San Marino, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Cyprus, and have three points after their first two games of qualifying. They are assured of at least a playoff to get into EURO 2020 after they won their UEFA Nations League group last year.

Scotland have the likes of Scott McTominay, Andrew Robertson and Ryan Fraser are playing regularly and starring in the Premier League, and Clarke will believe this young core can lead the Tartan Army to the brink of qualifying for a major tournament, especially with 24 teams to compete at EURO 2020.

Clarke certainly has an impressive resume in the game, as he made over 400 appearances as a player for Chelsea and then went on to become a key member of their backroom staff as he was an assistant manager under Jose Mourinho. He also held roles as an assistant manager at Newcastle, West Ham and Liverpool and his experience is undoubted at the top level of the game.

As a head coach he led West Brom to an eighth-place finish in the Premier League (their highest finish since 1981) and since then he has managed Reading in the Championship (taking them to the FA Cup semifinals in 2014-15) and was then hired as Aston Villa’s assistant coach in 2016.

Clarke has rejuvenated his career in Scotland, and he will now get the chance to lead his nation.

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.

PL Sunday preview: Chelsea v. Man United, Burnley v. Man City, Leicester v. Arsenal

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A critical day of Premier League fixtures hits center stage on Sunday as four of the top six are in action, including Manchester City who controls its own destiny in the title race with three matches to go.

With Liverpool having moved in front with a big win over Huddersfield Town on Friday, it is Man City’s turn to respond. In addition, Manchester United meets Chelsea in a critical battle in the race for the top four, with both teams right in the mix for a spot. Also in that conversation is Arsenal who visits Leicester City needing a win to keep pace with whoever comes out of Old Trafford with points.

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Finish to the Premier League season is riveting at the top of the table, with both the title race and Champions League battle coming down to the wire. Liverpool sits two points ahead of Manchester City at the moment, with the Citizens still to play on Sunday. Meanwhile, Tottenham sits on 70 points in third, with Chelsea three back in fourth on 67, Arsenal in fifth with 66, and Manchester United in sixth on 64.


Leicester City v. Arsenal — 7:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Arsenal travels to Leicester City to take on the in-form Foxes with an early morning kick. Leicester has won four of its last six Premier League matches and scored a late equalizer to draw West Ham last time out. The match is critical for Arsenal with either Chelsea or Manchester United figuring to get points at Old Trafford later in the day.

The Gunners, however, are not coming into this match in good form, having lost two straight and three of their last four. The Arsenal defense has coughed up six goals over the last two, and boss Unai Emery is struggling to figure out his squad with a number of injury problems to consider. The most important issue to sort out before kick on Sunday is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who missed the last match after minor sinus surgery.

INJURIES: Leicester City —  OUT: Daniel Amartey (ankle). | ArsenalQUESTIONABLE: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (sinus). OUT: Aaron Ramsey (groin), Denis Suarez (hamstring), Hector Bellerin (knee), Rob Holding (knee) and Danny Welbeck (ankle).


Burnley v. Manchester City — 9:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Manchester City hasn’t dropped points since late January when they suffered a 2-1 loss to Newcastle, and Pep Guardiola‘s squad seems stronger than ever. Last time out was a perfect encapsulation of the squad strength Man City possesses, as Leroy Sane was forced onto the pitch after an injury to vital midfielder Fernandinho, only to see Sane score a goal 15 minutes later.

Burnley was clobbered by Man City last time these two teams matched up back in October, a 5-0 drubbing that sent Man City on a tear through November before bogging down around the holidays. That match also saw Burnley come in with a three-match unbeaten run, but the pasting kickstarted a miserable stretch of seven without a win for Burnley. This time around, the hosts are again coming in having performed well of late, on a run of three wins in four without a loss in that span.

INJURIES: Burnley —  QUESTIONABLE: Phil Bardsley (leg). OUT: Peter Crouch (appendix), Steven Defour (calf), Aaron Lennon (knee). | Man City — QUESTIONABLE: Fernandinho (knee), Ilkay Gundoguan (knock). OUT: Kevin De Bruyne (hamstring), Claudio Bravo (knee).


Manchester United v. Chelsea — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces another brutal test as he looks to bring Manchester United out of the ignominious slump the Red Devils are currently mired in. Manchester United has lost three of its four Premier League matches in April, and that coupled with the Champions League humbling at the hands of Barcelona has left the honeymoon phase of Solskjaer’s managerial tenure in the distant past. Goalkeeper David De Gea will reportedly keep his place in goal for the foreseeable future despite the Spaniard’s struggles over the past few months, which were evident in the derby loss to Man City last time out.

Chelsea, meanwhile, is in a slide of its own with just two wins in the last six matches and Maurizio Sarri desperately hoping to confirm a Champions League place to give Roman Abramovich something to cling to when assessing the Italian’s first season in charge. They also have lost two straight visiting Manchester United, and have not lost three in a row since 1957 – conversely, of the six times Chelsea has won at Old Trafford, five of them came in a manager’s first attempt with the club.

INJURIES: Man United —  QUESTIONABLE: Ander Herrera (hamstring). OUT: Phil Jones, Scott McTominay. | Chelsea — QUESTIONABLE: N'Golo Kante (rib). OUT: Callum Hudson-Odoi (Achilles).

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: