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Clock counting down transfer window resembles hostage situation with Manchester United held to ransom in pursuit of top players
To put it bluntly Manchester United have five days until the transfer window closes to save their season. Humiliated in the League Cup tonight by minnows MK Dons, the club crowned champions for a record 20th time just 15 months ago have become a shambles. Not just on the pitch – but off it too.
Humiliated 4-0 in Milton Keynes hours after breaking the British transfer record by agreeing to pay Real Madrid an eye-watering 59.7 million pounds for Angel Di Maria, this is a script you simply could not make up.
The brutal reality is that Louis Van Gaal is still at least two, possibly three more marque signings away from assembling a squad with any hope of challenging the top six.
With clubs around the world aware of the Red Devils’ desperate situation, further meteoric spending will be required. Not to mention the huge salaries that will be expected to persuade world class players to miss out on the Champions League for one season at least.
Blinded by a perfect pre-season that produced six wins out of six, fans and pundits alike expected the new manager to deliver a challenge for the Premier League. The Dutchman was a tactical genius when he guided Holland to third place in this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
But three matches into the new campaign, Van Gaal has a return of just one point out of six in the Premier League and a crushing Capital Cup exit that ranks as one of the worst embarrassments in the club’s history.
“I am not shocked because it can happen, especially when you have nine injuries and you have to play a match within 48 hours,” was Van Gaal’s verdict. “We have to build a new team and that can’t be done in one month.”
Di Maria it is hoped will make his debut at Burnley on Saturday, along with Marcos Rojo, signed for £16 million pound from Sporting Lisbon a week ago. But it is impossible to envisage an instant fix, such is the frailty of United’s defence and the confidence shattering blows to an inadequate squad further weakened by injuries.
Make no mistake United were battered by the minnows from League One. This was no fluke. MK Dons were more organised, more determined. After a promising start, United’s unfamiliar 3-5-2 system was ripped apart with embarrassing ease.
Any manager will tell you he needs time and the extent of the re-building required at Old Trafford means there is no longer any way to paper over the cracks. But time is a rare commodity in the 21st century, where football is no longer simply a sport. This is big business and the consequences of failure and poor investment are potentially catastrophic.
The Glazer’s front man Ed Woodward has entered the fray splashing the cash at the eleventh hour with everything to prove. His stature in the cut-throat arena of the global transfer market is yet to match the class act United took for granted when David Gill was calling the shots. But he has been dealt a tough challenge to deal with.
It is not rocket science to conclude that Woodward has overpaid. So far he has recruited Marouane Fellaini (27.5M), Juan Mata (37.5M), Ander Herrera (£28.8M), Luke Shaw (27M) plus Rojo and Di Maria for a combined 76M spree in the last seven days. That’s 196.5M on six new faces, and, if Paul Scholes was on the ball last week with his evaluation, United still need three more big signings.
By my reckoning – and through the good and the bad times I have followed United for close on 50 years – we still need a world class centre back, a ball winning central midfielder and a quality marksman to come close to challenging Chelsea and Manchester City. The Blues are both a cut above their closest challengers in the Premier League and even further ahead of the Reds.
Woodward’s ability to deliver the missing ingredients with the clock ticking down will have long reaching consequences because the stakes are so high and there is little room for error. United fans are hoping and praying he can deliver and equally that Van Gaal has sent him in search of the right signings.
The Old Trafford faithful admire LVG’s continuation of the United tradition of giving homegrown players a chance and the signs are that the latest crop of starlets include some great prospects. But whatever the makeup of his re-built squad he can only succeed if he firstly wins trophies and secondly moulds a team that plays the beautiful game the United way. And that means we must be entertained.
In the full glare of the media spotlight on the biggest club floundering in the world’s most watched domestic league, there is no hiding place – as the much maligned David Moyes found out in his ill-fated solitary season in the hot seat.
Failure to qualify for the Champions League as a result of last season’s spectacular crash to seventh place under Moyes meant United were competing in the League Cup for the first time in over 20 years. But that ignominy was nothing compared to the shame on a Tuesday night in Milton Keynes brought on United by a collapse so spectacular that it beggared belief.
Triumphant MK Dons manager Karl Robinson summed up the magnitude of his side’s four goal demolition of the Manchester giants when he told BBC radio minutes after the final whistle: “We are still in shock. For the first 20 minutes they dominated us and we didn’t know what to do.”
But then came a spectacular collapse by the club that claims to be the biggest in the world. To do so at the hands of League One minnows who only came into existence a decade ago has intensified the pressure on the new manager to start performing miracles.
This could be most exciting Premier League season ever and here is our preview of the opening weekend’s fixtures
Visionsport TV’s Top 10 goals compilation from the first ever Premier League season . . .
The race to join the Premier League is under way and you can expect the promotion battle to be widely contested by up to a dozen candidates in the Championship . . . Cardiff City, Derby County and Ipswich Town are my tips for the top three positions.
But it’s the top flight where we are in store for a campaign I am expecting to be the most hotly contested season since the Premier League started in 1992/1993.
Withe five heavyweight challengers for the all important top four positions, there is a strong argument to be made for Manchester City, Chelsea Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United. While Everton and Tottenham Hotspur will be pushing hard to made an impact.
Most difficult to predict is just how high new manager Louis Van Gaal can guide the Premier League’s most successful club after last year’s blip under David Moyes.
But there is no underestimating how important a strong start will be this year. And here is our review of next weekend’s big kick-off.
Arsenal v Crystal Palace
Arsenal have failed to win on the opening weekend for the last four seasons (D3 L1). Last year they crashed 3-1 at home to Aston Villa. They had won eight of the previous nine (D1).
Palace have won only one of their five opening weekend fixtures in the Premier League (D2 L2).Last season was the first time the Eagles managed to end a PL season without being relegated.
The Gunners beat Palace 2-0 home and away last season.
Burnley v Chelsea
Burnley lost their only previous opening weekend fixture 2-0 at Stoke in August 2009. While Chelsea have won more points (47) than any other team on the opening weekend of the Premier League.
Jose Mourinho has a 100 percent record in his previous five opening weekends as Chelsea manager.
The Blues are unbeaten since 1998/99, winning 13 of 15 first weekend games (D2).
Burnley lost both games against Chelsea in 2009/10, their only previous Premier League season .
Leicester City v Everton
The Foxes have failed to win in five attempts on the opening day (D3 L2).
Not since the opening game of the 2009/10 season has Roberto Martinez enjoyed a victory on the first weekend of the PL, drawing two and losing two since then.
Everton are unbeaten in their last nine Premier League clashes with the Foxes. But they have won just two of those games (D7).
Liverpool v Southampton
Last year’s 1-0 win over Stoke was Liverpool’s first victory on the opening weekend in five attempts (D2 L2).
Seven of Southampton’s last eight opening games in the PL have been away from home, winning just two of the previous seven (D2 L3).
Southampton won 1-0 win at Anfield last season. Liverpool’s new striker Rickie Lambert scored 28 league goals for Southampton over the last two seasons.
Manchester United v Swansea City
The reverse of last season’s opening fixture when United won 4-1 at the Liberty Stadium, their sixth win in their last nine opening PL matches. (D2 L1). The Red Devils have never lost on the opening weekend at Old Trafford (W8 D3).
Swansea’s three previous matches on the opening weekend have produced 14 goals.
Danny Welbeck has scored three times in his last two league games against Swansea City.
Newcastle United v Manchester City
The reverse of last season’s opening fixture when Newcastle United lost 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium.
Newcastle have only won once in the last five seasons in their opening match (D2 L2) and have failed to score in their last three PL games with the defending champions.
City have won four and lost none of their last five opening matches, keeping four clean sheets in the process.
Queens Park Rangers v Hull City
This will be the first Premier League meeting between Queens Park Rangers and Hull City.
Queens Park Rangers have taken just one point from six opening weekend matches in the Premier League (D1 L5).
In 10 matches, Steve Bruce has enjoyed just two victories on the opening weekend of a Premier League season (D4 L4).
Stoke City v Aston Villa
Last season’s 3-1 win over Arsenal was Paul Lambert’s first victory on the opening weekend of a Premier League season. Peter Crouch scored in both Stoke’s victories over Aston Villa last season.
Despite winning just once on the opening weekend (D2 L3), Stoke are unbeaten at the Britannia Stadium on the opening day (W1 D1).
West Bromwich Albion v Sunderland
The home team has won each of the last three clashes between West Brom and Sunderland, Stephane Sessegnon scoring in two of the last three league meetings, once for each side.
Gus Poyet will be the fourth different manager Sunderland have had on the opening weekend in the last four seasons and the fifth in the last seven.
West Brom’s last four opening day fixtures have produced 13 goals.
West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur
This game will be Sam Allardyce’s 400th as a Premier League manager and last season he had a 100 percent record against Spurs. The Hammers won both PL clashes and also knocked Spurs out of the Capital One Cup when they met in the Quarter Final.
These two sides met on the opening day of the 1999/2000 season, Harry Redknapp’s West Ham winning 1-0 at Upton Park. Spurs have won just four of their last 17 opening weekend fixtures (D4 L9).
What a brilliant idea by the organisers of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games to make the opening ceremony a spectacular fund raising event for children’s charity UNICEF.
In the unprecedented move, the countdown to the start of the ceremony was interrupted by a video plea broadcast on the 100-metre wide screen stretching across the stadium at Celtic Park.
“Right now thousands of world-class athletes are here in Glasgow. And over the next eleven days they’ll be doing their best to come first,” said the UNICEF ambassador.
“But tonight, they’re asking all of us watching to take a moment to think about the children in our Commonwealth who usually come last. Last to get healthcare. Last to get an education. Last to just get a fair chance in life.”
Money raised through the partnership between the Commonwealth and Unicef will be used to help to protect children from disease and exploitation, providing food and vaccines, and by giving children the chance to take part in sport.
To donate £5 to the Children Of The Commonwealth Fund text FIRST to 70333
Watched by a global audience of up to a billion and a crowd of 40,000 inside Celtic Park this was the biggest event staged in Glasgow’s proud history. And the opening ceremony was a glorious success.
Even a hilarious few moments that delayed the conclusion of the opening ceremony by Her Majesty the Queen did not detract. Sir Chris Hoy came to the rescue of Commonwealth Games Federation president Prince Imran from Malaysia when he struggled to open the ceremonial baton that contained the closing message.
Once the message was retrieved, the Queen said: ‘At Buckingham Palace last October I placed this message into the specially-crafted baton and passed it to the first of many thousands of baton-bearers. Over the past 288 days the baton has visited all the nations and territories of the Commonwealth, crossing every continent in a journey of more than 100,000 miles.
‘The baton relay represents a calling together of people from every part of the Commonwealth and serves as a reminder of our shared ideals and ambitions as a diverse, resourceful and cohesive family.
‘And now, that baton has arrived here in Glasgow, a city renowned for its dynamic cultural and sporting achievements and for the warmth of its people, for this opening ceremony of the Friendly Games.’
Can Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United stop City retaining the Premier League – or will it be Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea?
With the World Cup over and the countdown to the new season fast approaching, all eyes are on the Premier League kick off on 16th August – and the big question is: ‘Who can stop defending champions Manchester City from making it two in a row?’
The summer transfer window has already seen plenty of activity among the leading contenders and who gets it right before the deadline will certainly boost their odds of winning the title. So here is our rundown of the top moves made so far by the leading contenders.
Manuel Pellegrini’s title holders have signed three new players and their focus has been on bringing in new signings that will make them even harder to beat. Despite mistakes at the back costing City a damaging defeat by Liverpool in the title run in last season, the Manchester club eventually squeezed home ahead of the Merseysiders by 86 points to 84. The new squad is strengthened by the addition of Fernando – £12m from Porto; Bacary Sagna – free from Arsenal; and Willy Caballero – £6m from Malaga
City’s switch around has already met with the approval of the bookmakers who currently have odds of 12/5 on City to retain the Premier League. But this looks like being another hugely competitive season with all the big guns keeping busy in the transfer market.
It is only 14 months since United were champions for a record 20th time in Sir Alex Ferguson’s farewell season. But can new manager Louis Van Gaal repair the spectacular demise last term under David Moyes? There is certainly huge expectation among Reds fans after watching their new boss guide the Netherlands to an impressive third place at the 2014 World Cup that included a Robin Van Persie assisted demolition of Spain in the group stages.
So far £58m has been spent on bringing in defender Luke Shaw from Southampton and midfielder Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao. But Van Gaal has raised expectations that more names will follow telling fans: “Watch this space.” With Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand already departed and Ryan Giggs retired, there is certainly a lot of room to add to the squad at Old Trafford. The optimism created by LVG’s appointment has lifted the Reds to third favourites for the title at 5-1.
Gunners manager Arsene Wenger has been notorious for not spending big money in the past. But the arrival of Alexis Sanchez for a cool £35 million looks like one of the buys of the summer. The Chilean forward was a big star at the World Cup and looks a class addition to the team that won the FA Cup. Mathieu Debuchy from Newcastle United is the other big money signing at £12 million. Nonetheless, the Gunners remain fourth favourites at 6-1.
One manager who claims his club have already completed their summer spending is Jose Mourinho. The Blues have splashed out close to £80 million. The marquee signings have been teasing Cesc Fabregas away from Barcelona for £27 million and Diego Costa the much needed striker from Atlético Madrid costing £32 million.
Chelsea are strongly fancied at 7-4 to top the league.
With odds of 10/1 to end their 25 year wait to be champions, last season’s runners-up have been weakened by the loss of their talisman Luiz Suarez to Barcelona. In compensation the Anfield club have already recruited six new faces for around £60 million and appear to be in the market for at least one more big money signing. But will this prove to be too much surgery in one summer for Brendan Rodgers’ squad? The new arrivals so far include Adam Llallana (Southampton, £25m), Lazar Markovic (Benfica, £20m), Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen, £9.75m) and Ricky Lambert (Southampton, £4m). The betting at least suggests Liverpool’s chances of winning the Premier League for the first time have drifted.
Germany 7, Brazil 1
– Muller 11, Klose 23, Kroos 25, 26, Khedira 29, Schurrle 69, 79
– Oscar 90
Wow! Wow! Wow! Where do I start?
This has been an unbelievable World Cup on so many levels – but this was an extraordinary match the likes of which we have never seen before.
In the yellow corner, without their injured hero Neymar and suspended skipper Thiago Silva, this was the worst Brazilian team we have seen in the history of this proud nation.
But take nothing away from the Germans because they were awesome. Ruthless in their demolition of opponents who collapsed in embarrassment. Take nothing away from Joachim Loew’s side who in one six minute spell smashed home four glorious goals.
This was the biggest humiliation Brazil have ever experienced. Even more humbling than the the shame of the “Maracanasa” when they were beaten in the final by South American rivals Uruguay when they last hosted the world cup 54 years ago.
But how good is this German team? Only after Sunday’s final against Holland or Argentina will we truly be able to judge this team. Meantime this was the day a Brazilian dream was exposed as pure fantasy by the most spectacular win in German history.
Tour de France 2014 | Why cycling is challenging to become Britain’s most popular sport and Cavendish threatens to sue
British sport is so often a roller coaster of highs and lows. From winning and losing the Ashes, to Champions League triumphs for Manchester United and Chelsea, to the latest disastrous showing by Roy Hodgson’s England at the 2014 World Cup.
Two years ago at London 2012 we hit so many highs across the board it was almost unbelievable. At the weekend Mark Cavendish, who for so long was recognised around the world as “the fastest man on two wheels” crashed out of the Tour de France when he was the great British hope to win the first leg from Leeds to Harrogate. It was another devastating disappointment for the Manxman who failed to claim his anticipated Olympic road race gold two years ago.
But single out one sport that has gone from strength to strength over the past decade and you have to pick cycling. While Cavendish is now embroiled in a bitter exchange with Norwegian rider Alexander Kristoff who has accused him of “crashing on purpose” at the climax of Saturday’s stage one of the Tour de France, his sport and his own profile in the UK has sky rocketed.
Cavendish, anonymous not so long ago in public consciousness in the UK, has become one of our most recognised sportsmen with huge earning capacity. That’s why he must defend his reputation and his image, responding to the slur from Kristoff by insisting: “I would normally say it’s best just to let some things go, but this is libellous and we are considering legal action.”
Meantime, cycling continues to grow in popularity with ever increasing numbers taking to the streets the length and bredth of the British Isles. The last time the TDF took place on English soil was 2007 when membership of British Cycling was hovering around the 20,000 mark. Seven years later that figure has soared to 93,000, with 3,000 new members signing up every month.
It is a surge in popularity inspired by unprecedented success for Team GB at successive Olympic Games and beyond. For the last two years the world’s most gruelling cycling race has been dominated by the Brits with back to back wins of the TDF by Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. Both have been well supported by the impressive Team Sky, the professional outfit Cavendish also used to race for that is managed by Sir Dave Brailsford, the brains behind much of our cycling success.
In Sir Chris Hoy – who won a sixth Olympic gold medal in London – we boast the the most successful British Olympian of all time.
It is a success story that extends from the track to the road and now to staging the first three legs of the world’s most famous cycling event. Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme has pledged that the race will return.
Prudhomme said pleas had already been made for a fifth visit of cycling’s most prestigious race – previously hosted here in 1974, 1994 and 2007.“The question is not if but when, although I don’t have the answer for the second part,” he said. “We have many requests to host the Tour from Holland, Belgium, Italy and Spain.”
When Tim Krul saved twice in a sensational penalty shoot out win that eliminated brave Costa Rica and earned Holland a semi-final showdown with Argentina, this remarkable World Cup hit another unbelievable high.
It was also confirmation if any was needed that Manchester United have found a worthy manager to fill the hot seat at Old Trafford.
Has any national team boss ever made a bigger call than the one LVG made when he sent Krul on as a substitute seconds before the end of a pulsating extra time that finished goal-less.
It was a master stroke that unsettled the Costa Ricans who scored a flawless 5 out of 5 in their previous round’s penalty shoot out win over Greece.
Well done Krul who had only made two previous saves from spot kicks for Newcastle United. And well done Van Gaal for proving he is both a master tactician and a master of mind games.
2014 World Cup | Super Chile were fantastic, but Spain were atrocious | Shock early exit for defending champions
Would you believe it – defending champions SPAIN are the first team eliminated from the 2014 World Cup. And I’m sorry to say my Spanish friends your boys simply weren’t good enough!
Crushed 5-1 by Holland in their opening match, Spain had to avoid a first ever defeat by Chile. And remarkably the South Americans were too strong for Vincente Del Bosque’s men.
An opening strike by Eduardo Vargas gave Chile the lead. And for the second time in less than a week Spain’s tippy tappy football was ineffective.
Charles Aránguiz made it 2-nil just before half-time – capitalising on another huge mistake by goalkeeper Iker Casillas. For me Spain paid the price for failing to go with the in-form David de Geay.
Also hugely disappointing was Diego Costa. In 126 minutes at this world cup the Spaniard had only 5 shots, none on target – touching the ball just 21 times. One wonders does Jose Mourinho still want to sign the Athletico Madrid striker?
Spain are only the fifth reigning champions to go out in the group stages – the first to fall after two just matches
So it’s the end of an era for Spain who’d won the three previous major tournaments. Two European Championships and the 2010 World Cup.
Meantime, it will be fascinating to see how Chile fare against Holland in the final match that will decide who finishes top of Group B
2014 World Cup | Mexico exposed Brazilian weaknesses | why host nation will not win record sixth World Cup
Six days gone at World Cup 2014 and pre-tournament favourites BRAZIL are struggling to live up to expectations . . . MEXICO the second team to expose Brazilian weaknesses.
A stand-out performance by Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was the highlight of a goal-less draw. Neymar gave everything in his efforts to lift the home nation who will need to find a new level if they’re to reach the final stages. It was a stalemate that could easily have resulted in Brazil losing a group match for only the second time in 44 years.
Meanwhile in the final round of opening matches, much fancied Belgium staged a thrilling second half fightback against Algeria.
BELGIUM 2-1 ALGERIA
Manchester United’s Marouane Fallaini came off the bench to land the equaliser. Fellow substitute Dries Mertens completed the comeback with a late winner.
It was Belgium’s first World Cup win since 2002.
KOREA 1-1 RUSSIA
In the other game in group H, a shocking mistake by the Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev sparked another dramatic finish against South Korea.
Alexander Kerzhakof made it 1-1 for Fabio Capello’s men.
GROUP H TABLE + MUSIC
Belgium out in front at the top but this is a group that still looks wide open.
Ronaldo’s Portugal Müller-ed by Germany
The big talking point on Day 5 of the World Cup in Brazil was Germany’s domination of Portugal. And Pepe’s red-card for his stupid attack on Thomas Muller.
The Germans were already leading 2-0 when Pepe destroyed Portugal’s hopes of topping Group G. Muller should have received a yellow card at least for his over-reaction to Pepe’s initial foul. But Pepe let his team-mates down badly. And Muller went on to score the first hat-trick of this World Cup.
Group G table
For Cristiano Ronaldo it was a humbling experience. The pressure now on the World’s No.1 player to rescue his team – defeat in the next match against the USA would mean an early exit for Portugal.
Meantime, who would bet against the Germans becoming the first European team to win a world cup in South America.