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Van Persie called into Dutch squad

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David Villa isn’t the only former national team great to get a recall this international break.

Former Arsenal and Manchester United striker Robin Van Persie was called in by Netherlands manager Dick Advocaat, marking his return to international play, where he last made an appearance back in October of 2015.

The 34-year-old currently plays for Turkish club Fenerbahce, where he’s made a pair of league starts to little impact. He played 67 minutes in a 2-2 season opening draw against Goztepe, and then was yanked at halftime of Fenerbahce’s 2-2 draw with Trabzonspor, failing to register a goal or assist in both games.

[ MORE: Manchester United vs. Leicester City preview ]

Despite his struggles with form and fitness, Advocaat said Van Persie may the best the Netherlands has got.

“I still think he is one of the best strikers we have,” Advocaat said in the squad announcement. “He can make a very important contribution to the Dutch team.”

The Netherlands is in significant trouble in European qualification Group A, where they sit in an elimination position of third place with 10 points, three points back of both Sweden and France. The top team in the group automatically qualifies for the 2018 World Cup, while the second-place group must traverse a playoff game, or even risk straight elimination if enough points are not obtained.

Other forwards on the squad include Memphis Depay (Olympique Lyon), Bas Dost (Sporting Lisbon), Vincent Janssen (Tottenham Hotspur), Quincy Promes (Spartak Moscow), and Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich).

Since the 2014 World Cup, Van Persie has three goals for the Dutch national team in 10 appearances. He made his national team debut in 2005, garnering 101 appearances and 50 goals.

Reports: Advocaat tabbed to steady wobbly Netherlands

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It was less than two months ago that veteran manager Dick Advocaat said he’d be retiring at the end of Fenerbahce’s season.

Now reports say the former Sunderland boss is going to take charge of the Netherlands national team as early as this week.

[ MORE: Kante earns another Player of Year award ]

Advocaat, 69, has twice helmed the national team and thrice served as assistant manager, so his return is not a big surprise despite his retirement talk.

The manager inherits the side midway through World Cup qualifying, and the Dutch are six points out of an automatic qualifying spot — three points behind second place Sweden — in the race to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The Netherlands has lost to Bulgaria and is yet to keep a clean sheet through five matches.

A former Chicago Sting player, Advocaat also led Belgium, Russia, Serbia, UAE, and South Korea, and has plenty of experience in club soccer as well. He has managed PSV Eindhoven, AZ Alkmaar, Rangers, and Borussia Monchengladbach in his long career.

In form in Turkey, Jeremain Lens says he isn’t coming back to Sunderland

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Sunderland is in the basement of the Premier League, stuck at the bottom of the table with just five points, having finally earned their first win 11 matches into the season. They have just nine goals on the season, the lowest number in the Premier League.

They sure could use an in-form winger serving up chances in the box, right?

Turns out, they have one. He just isn’t coming back.

On-loan winger Jeremain Lens, now at Fenerbahce, has a goal and five assists after eight matches into the Turkish Super Lig season, with the club sitting in fifth and on a three-match league winning streak bracketing a win over Manchester United in Europa League play in which Lens scored.

Thus, it’s no surprise Lens wishes to stay where he’s playing at his best, and doesn’t wish to return to the Premier League’s bottomfeeders. “I am not happy at Sunderland,” Lens said to Dutch outlet Voetball International. “I have friends within this (Fenerbahce) team, my relationships with my team-mates are excellent.”

There’s plenty of time left before Lens has to officially make a decision, with his loan good for the entire season, but at this point, it seems Sunderland maybe should have kept him.

The 28-year-old Lens initially joined Sunderland from Dynamo Kiev in the summer of 2015, coming to the Stadium of Light for a $10 million fee. He made just 20 Premier League appearances for the Black Cats, often left on the bench during Sam Allardyce‘s time at Sunderland. His manager at Fenerbahce is Dick Advocaat, the same manager form whom Lens signed for at Sunderland and made eight of his Premier League appearances for, scoring two goals and assisting two more before Advocaat was let go.

Fenerbahce beats Manchester United despite historic Rooney bullet

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  • Sow scores early shocker
  • United drops to 3rd
  • Rooney hits late laser

Fenerbahce scored a 2-1 win over visiting Manchester United at the Sukru Saracoglu in Europa League play on Thursday.

The loss puts more heat under Jose Mourinho, who got a good-looking late goal from Wayne Rooney. The tally was Rooney’s 38th for United in Europe, putting him level with Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Senegalese striker Moussa Sow scored after a minute’s play, and ex-Sunderland man Jeremain Lens netted a free kick for Dick Advocaat’s men.

A draw between Zorya Luhansk and 10-man Feyenoord means United sits third in Group A, as Fener and Feyenoord each have 7 points to the Red Devils’ six.

[ MORE: Europa League standings ]

Moussa Sow hit a 17-yard bicycle kick in between Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo, besting David De Gea barely 60 seconds into the match.

The old cliche of “bad to worse” came around half-hour into the match, as Paul Pogba left the match with an apparent leg injury.

 [ MORE: Europa League schedule ]

Fenerbahce doubled the lead on a free kick at the hour mark. Zlatan Ibrahimovic conceded the kick about 25 yards out, and David De Gea didn’t even more as Jeremain Lens swept a quick shot around the wall. 2-0

Emmanuel Emenike just missed a sliding goal that would’ve made it 3-0 in the 79th minute. Could Mourinho’s men find magic?

Rooney helped, burying a long shot in the 89th minute to make it 2-1. He then had a stoppage time header cleared off the line.

United several corners in stoppage time, but Volkan Demirel collected the last offering to save the day.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Rooney’s goal made history for United.

Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame

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In case you haven’t already noticed, Sunderland are in serious trouble — again. More trouble, though, than any of us are probably aware, says former Black Cats manager Dick Advocaat.

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Advocaat, who resigned following Saturday’s 2-2 draw with West Ham United, went on Dutch TV program “Studio Voetbal” on Monday and spilled what is surely only the first bit of information regarding his time — and struggles — at Sunderland.

Advocaat, on the club’s current predicament — quotes from the Guardian:

“Our squad was simply not good enough. The club knew we had to strengthen ourselves but the chairman never told me how much we could spend. The struggle against relegation is not my cup of tea. It was time for someone else to take over. I became negative and didn’t feel like myself.”

The last thing supporters of any club wants to hear from a departed manager is, “The chairman (Ellis Short) made my job very difficult due to incompetence and/or a strained working relationship,” because chances are that’s not something likely to change for the next man in charge.

[ MORE: Klopp expected to be named new Liverpool manager this week ]

Whoever replaces Advocaat (Sam Allardyce and Sean Dyche are widely being reported as the favorites) will have to overcome the same trials and tribulations from within. Anytime you find yourself in a relegation battle, which is now an annual tradition at the Stadium of Light, it’s paramount that everyone is working together and pulling in the same direction in order to remain in the Premier League.

Per Advocaat’s comments, that’s not the case at Sunderland, and one of many reasons we could finally say goodbye to the Black Cats this season.