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Report: Juventus in England to talk Pogba, Cancelo with Man Utd

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Intriguing? You bet.

Paul Pogba may continue his yo-yoing between Manchester and Turin, as Sky Sports says Juventus is in England to speak with Manchester United about the 26-year-old playmaker.

Pogba left United for Juventus in 2012, as the midfielder did not see a big future under Sir Alex Ferguson.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule announced ]

His career simply exploded to the tune of four Serie A titles and the top assist total during the 2015-16 edition of Italian top flight football.

That earned him a big money move back to Old Trafford, where he has consistently divided opinions of Red Devils supporters and detractors.

Now Juve is ready to bring him back to Italy, and is reportedly offering Joao Cancelo as part of the deal.

Cancelo just turned 25 and is a Portuguese right back who can also play right midfield and on the left side. He provided three Champions League assists this season, against Valencia, Atletico Madrid, and Ajax.

He’s rated at $56 million, but a word of caution from the report: Juve is also in England to speak about getting Maurizio Sarri from Chelsea, so the discussions may just be introductory or a convenient progress report.

Report: Darren Fletcher ‘leading candidate’ for Man United director

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No, your eyes are not deceiving you. You are not hallucinating. You read the headline correctly.

35-year-old Darren Fletcher, who retired from playing exactly one week ago at the end of the Championship season, is the “leading candidate” for the Manchester United technical director position, according to a report by Sky Sports.

[ MORE: Ed Woodward must be held accountable ]

Fletcher knows Manchester United well, having played for the club for 12 years before departing for West Brom and Stoke City, but he has zero managerial or executive experience. He last made an appearance for Stoke in mid-March, struggling for time in the Potters squad.

Current Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has been reportedly searching for a technical director to take over more on-field executive responsibilities such as player recruitment and contract negotiations, to allow Woodward – a career accountant – to take on a more financial focus with the club. While Fletcher would pair well with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as both played for Manchester United in the recent past, his glaring lack of experience at any kind of executive level is frightening for Manchester United fans who feel the club’s squad slipping in quality since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Should Fletcher sign on, it may signal that Woodward sees the duties of a technical director less involved with important club decisions and more as a liaison between manager Solskjaer and the club hierarchy. That could leave Woodward still saddled with player recruitment decisions he has struggled with since taking over as top club executive in 2013. A number of massive transfer investments, such as Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, and Fred have failed to live up to expectations since joining the club, while the massive wages given to Alexis Sanchez have put the club in a position of difficulty when looking to re-sign stars like David De Gea.

Meanwhile, former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar continues to be immensely successful in a Director of Football role at Ajax, something many Red Devil fans look to with envy.

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.

Solskjaer says Man United challenge will take “a long time”

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With Manchester United falling 2-0 to relegated Cardiff City to close out the campaign, a broken Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told the media that the club still has a lot of work to do to regain its former glory.

“More or less the only positive from today is that the season is over,” a despondent Solskjaer said after the loss, which completed Manchester United’s season-ending tailspin that featured just one win in the final seven matches of the campaign.

“To reach the leaders it will take a long time,” Solskjaer said, admitting the supporters must understand the club needs realistic ambitions while they search for the right formula. “For ourselves, the short-term focus in the league will be getting into the top four. We have got the Europa League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup to go for a trophy because Manchester United can’t go many years without winning a trophy. Jose [Mourinho] won the Europa League last and that is a realistic ambition.”

It has been six years since Manchester United last won a Premier League title, as the club continues to search for a light at the end of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson tunnel. Solskjaer appeared to be the answer, with the club on a 12-match Premier League unbeaten run to start his tenure, but they fell off the map after that, winning just two of their last nine league matches and ending on a four-match winless run.

“The last couple of months have been extremely hard for the team, the club and for the players,” Solskjaer said.

Supporters are beginning to get restless with the club’s character, as video on social media showed Paul Pogba receiving abuse from his own supporters during the club’s lap of honor around Old Trafford after the loss.

Solskjaer faces ‘great challenge’ to resurrect Man United

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stabilized Manchester United during a terribly turbulent time when he took over as interim manager back in December, but the Norwegian couldn’t will the Red Devils to a top-four finish after being named Jose Mourinho’s permanent replacement in March.

[ MORE: Man United can’t hold early lead, draw Huddersfield (video) ]

Now, with a summer full of uncertainty looming, Solskjaer is fully aware of the “great challenge” ahead of him: rebuilding a first-team squad that hasn’t challenged for the Premier League title since winning it in Sir Alex Ferguson‘s final season. The year was 2013.

To make a tall task even taller, Solskjaer and chief executive will have to maneuver through the transfer market without the benefit of Champions League revenue after Man United were eliminated from top-four contention upon throwing away an early lead and drawing already-relegated Huddersfield Town on Sunday — quotes from the BBC:

“We are where we are for a reason. Over a long season we haven’t been good enough to challenge for the Champions League places. It’s not come as a surprise but we hoped to show a better performance today.”

“We haven’t taken enough points, won enough games, scored enough goals — its always difficult when you lose your manager halfway through the season. It’s caught up with us a little bit.

“It shows us where we are. We’re not living in fantasy land, thinking we can catch the top two. We’re far away, but we shouldn’t be speaking about being far off the top-four at Manchester United.

“We’re many levels [behind] at the moment, that’s the size of the challenge, it’s a great challenge for us but I’m sure we’ll make it.”

Defender Ashley Young, who’s won four major trophies since joining the club in 2011, longs for the days of competing for titles and winning trophies.

“I’m not sure what it is, its a number of things. It’s a disappointment now we can’t make the top-four. We must go away and be ready to go again.

“We haven’t been playing the way we should, that’s why we are where we are in the league table. It’s a massive blow for a club like Manchester United. It’s not what we want to be talking about, fighting for top-four, we want trophies and titles.

“It’s been tough, we haven’t been fighting for titles and it’s a massive disappointment. We must come back next season ready to win.”