Football

Early Premier League Transfer Window Closure: Was It The Right Thing To Do?

The Premier League last week confirmed that plans for the summer transfer window to close prior to the commencement of the new season will become a reality as the result of a vote at the beginning of September. But was it the right decision to make?

From the 2018-19 season, clubs will no longer be able to sign players after the season has begun, with all incoming business needed to be completed the Thursday before the start of the new season.

Fourteen of the twenty top-flight clubs voted in favour of the early transfer window closure, with Manchester United, Manchester City, Crystal Palace, Watford and Swansea City voting against the proposed plans.

This could potentially pose a problem for Premier League clubs for more reasons than one, as should another club swoop in for one of their players across the continent or elsewhere, they will be allowed to sell or loan out players after the deadline, however, will not be allowed to sign a replacement.

Additionally, upon the start of the season should a player become injured, this could potentially pose the risk of leaving a club short in a certain position, particularly if that player has sustained a serious injury and faces a long period of recovery.

Leagues across Europe are yet to follow suit, with their respective transfer deadline days remaining on the 31st August. This could leave several players in the vulnerable position of being snapped up should their release clause be met for instance, and their clubs will be unable to replace them until the following January at the earliest.

However, if they had anything about them then they would do everything in their power to hold onto their players if any chance of signing a replacement was not possible, echoing the opinion of Manchester United boss Mourinho who stated the following, despite his club voting against the early transfer window closure:

“So the risk is minimal and even those powerful clubs have to know if we can’t buy after, let’s say 14th or 15th of August more or less, if we can’t buy players we’re not going to sell.”

For players who are on the fringe or have perhaps fallen out of favour with their managers, however, their respective club shouldn’t necessarily have to worry about signing a replacement on the basis of their squad numbers being sufficient enough.

The benefits of having an early transfer window will mean that clubs will have to work fast to obtain their targets and get their business done early. This will allow clubs to give any new signings time to adjust to their new surroundings and adapt to the system of their new manager.

Given that the plans for an earlier transfer window are now in place, it would perhaps be a good idea for fellow leagues across the world to take a leaf of the Premier League’s book to allow for clubs to have a fair chance to bolster their squad, and reduce the risk of losing star players with no chance to sign a replacement.

However, with the transfer window opening sooner from next summer, this would still give clubs more than adequate time to bolster their squads, reduce the risk of unsettling players, and give managers the opportunity to slot new recruits into their system.

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Football

Manchester United v Swansea City Review

Manchester United continued their fine start to the 2017-18 season with a second successive 4-0 win against Welsh club Swansea. The Old Trafford club remain top of the table having made it two from two, and are yet to concede having kept a second clean sheet of the season. The starting line-up remained unchanged from last week’s victory against West Ham, with two of United’s summer acquisitions earning themselves a starting berth once more. Nemanja Matic started in the centre of the park, with Romelu Lukaku starting as a lone striker.

In the first half, The Red Devils failed to break the Swans’ defence down, and weren’t able to find the net until just before the half time whistle. They eventually found their feet and began to run riot in the closing stages of the game which allowed them to increase their goal difference to 8 continue their blistering start to the season.

The Swans were able to start the game strongly, with them holding off United until the 45th minute in which Eric Bailly commenced the scoring. The Ivorian pounced onto a deflection of the ball to find the back of the net after Paul Pogba hit the woodwork with a header from a United corner.

The Welsh club recently sold their star player Gylfi Sigurdsson to Everton in a £45 million deal, and are yet to find a replacement. The Liberty Stadium based club are yet to find the net in their first two games of the season, having started their campaign with a 0-0 draw against Southampton.

Summer signing Romelu Lukaku was next to find the net, scoring his third goal in two games in the 80th minute to continue his strong start in his career with the Red Devils. The towering Belgian took advantage of poor defending by Swansea with an assist provided by Henrikh Mkhitaryan, to put the ball past Polish keeper Lukasz Fabianski with a powerful finish from an unmarked position. Henrikh Mkhitaryan gained his fourth assist in 2 games with United’s fourth goal, in which Paul Pogba scored, chipping the ball over the keeper with a sublime finish. This will send a stern message to United boss José Mourinho that the Armenian deserves a regular starting place having struggled on occasion last season. Anthony Martial again found the scoresheet with a fourth goal for United, assisted by compatriot Paul Pogba.

The Frenchman glided past the defence with ease to put the ball in the lower right-hand corner of the net. The former AS Monaco forward made his second appearance of the season having replaced Marcus Rashford in the 75th minute, proving he is worthy of regular game time having been linked with a move away from Old Trafford for much of the summer.

United dominated the game in the latter stages of the second half, and finished the game with superior ball possession with 59% in total. 17 shots on goal were registered by the Red Devils, in contrast to Swansea’s five attempts on goal. United look strong having bolstered their squad this summer, and given their strong start they will look to continue this and establish themselves as serious title challengers, hoping to improve on a sixth-place finish in the 2016-17 season. The Old Trafford club struggled against teams they should arguably have beaten last season, as their poor home form saw them drop points with a series of draws.

Football

Romelu Lukaku linked to £75m Manchester United move

Manchester United were yesterday linked with a sensational move for Everton striker Romelu Lukaku. A reported fee of £75m was reported to have been accepted by the Merseyside club, although there is no deal yet in place.

In a remarkable turn of events, Lukaku had looked set to return to former club Chelsea, with the Londoners reportedly looking to re-sign the striker as a replacement for Diego Costa, who has recently been linked with moves to China, as well as his former club Athletico Madrid, despite the Spanish club’s transfer ban.

Lukaku, who plies his trade internationally with Belgium, has been at Goodison Park since 2013. The Toffees then signed him permanently from Chelsea in a £28m deal ahead of the 2014-15 league campaign having undergone a successful loan period with them in the 2013-14 season.

The towering Belgian was sold by then Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who was seen as surplus to requirements by the Stamford Bridge club. With the former West Bromwich Albion loanee having gone from strength to strength since his move to Merseyside, Lukaku looks set to link up with his former boss at Old Trafford, with club legend Wayne Rooney looking set to move in the opposite direction.

The former Everton forward has been consistently linked with a move away from United having seen first-team opportunities limited under Mourinho, despite being club captain. Since his move to the Red Devils in 2004 the striker has scored a remarkable 253 goals in all competitions, overtaking Bobby Charlton’s long-standing record of 249.

In spite of reaching a record goalscoring milestone, Rooney has faced a heavy amount of criticism in recent times, perhaps rather harshly, with many fans calling for him to leave the club. The United striker looks increasingly likely to call time on his career at the Theatre of Dreams at the ripe age of 31, seeking first-team football elsewhere. Linked with several moves including in China and the USA, the United forward has stated his desire to once again play for the team where he began to make a name for himself, catching the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Sky Sports reported earlier today that Rooney is willing to take a pay-cut in order to join his former club, with the forward’s current wage demands in the region of £300,000 per week. Everton are said to be the only club Rooney is willing to join if he were to stay in the Premier League, and he has been said to form part of any deal to bring Lukaku in the opposite direction.

The Red Devils look set to continue their summer spending after the acquisition of Swedish defender Victor Lindelof from Benfica. Jose Mourinho presented a list of targets to the club’s Chief Executive Ed Woodward at the end of last season and one of his biggest priorities is bolstering his attacking options. United suffered a frustrating number of home draws which saw them obtain a sixth place finish in the league, although the season ended with a League Cup and Europa League win for the Portuguese boss, achieving his goal of gaining entry to Europe’s elite cup competition the UEFA Champion’s League in the 2017-18 season.

United have been in the market for a new striker after releasing Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the end of the 16-17 season having been ruled out with a long-term injury. The Old Trafford club took the decision to not renew his contract despite a remarkable season, scoring 17 goals in 28 appearances.

Many thought the striker, who turned 35 in October, would struggle with the demands of the Premier League, but he certainly proved his doubters wrong, despite cruelly ending his season early. The former PSG attacker sustained serious ligament damage whilst playing the Europa League against Anderlecht on the 20th April, and was forced to remain on the sidelines for the rest of the campaign.

United were said to be close to sealing the signature of Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata, who had often played second fiddle to Karim Benzema throughout last season since returning to the Bernabeu from Juventus. The current European champions are standing their ground in their valuation of the striker, however, United are said to be unwilling to meet the Spanish club’s demands having seen more than one offer declined. United seem to have changed tactics and go for a striker who is a proven goalscorer in the Premier League, and that could prove to be a wise decision.

With nothing yet set in stone, it remains to be seen whether Lukaku will don the currently vacant number 9 shirt at Old Trafford come next season. The powerful forward certainly has big boots to fill with the recent departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, however, has all the right attributes to be a success at Old Trafford should a move materialise.

Football

Man Utd Season Review 16/17 – Successful First Season for Mourinho? 

Despite ending the season with an FA Cup win, Manchester United took the decision to sack manager Louis Van Gaal after league performances faltered, meaning United missed out on a Champions League spot for the second season in a row, instead having to contend with a spot in the second tier European competition the UEFA Europa League. The Dutchman spent two seasons at the helm having been chosen as the club’s second manager since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson after 26 glorious years, off the back of an abysmal campaign under the reign of former Everton manager David Moyes, who failed to hold the position a full season after a poor run of results. The Old Trafford club finished the season under the leadership of club legend Ryan Giggs, who then took the decision to retire after spending his entire senior career with the Red Devils. The former Welsh International then became part of David Moyes’ coaching staff as a player coach, and later chosen to be Van Gaal’s assistant for his two seasons in the hotseat. Upon the sacking of the former Netherlands boss, Giggs decided to step down as assistant despite being offered the chance to remain in the post as former Chelsea boss Mourinho was appointed manager ahead of the 16/17 Premier League season. 

The Portuguese boss, who’s former clubs also include Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Porto, was said to be after the United job for some time. Many thought he would be the man to succeed Sir Alex upon his retirement in 2013, but upon leaving Real Madrid eventually ended back at his former employers Chelsea. After seeing the Stamford Bridge club finish in 12th place after an appauling run of results, notorious Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who has become famous for appointing and sacking a considerable amount of managers since his purchase of the club in 2003, became frustrated at his team’s performance, and took the decision to sack Mourinho. When appointed manager of United, José got straight to work to build the team to his liking, signing four players in his first transfer window at the helm, including Villareal defender Eric Bailly, Dortmund winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and finally the capture of former youth team player Paul Pogba from Juventus, having to break the world record fee in the process. 

Each of the players that were signed by Mourinho slotted into his setup remarkably well, with the exception of Mkhitaryan who unfortunately suffered setbacks in the form of injury throughout the course of the season, however when called upon after being publicly motivated by Mourinho, performing exceptionally well in United’s Europa League campaign scoring 11 goals in his debut season. Arguably Mourinho’s best signing was that of Swedish giant Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was signed on a free transfer from French club Paris Saint German. People were quick to judge the the former Barcelona and Inter Milan striker who was approaching his 35th birthday, and argued he would not be able to cope with such a physically demanding league which is widely regarded as the best in the world. The Swede proved his doubters wrong, scoring an incredible 28 goals in all competitions despite cruelly ending his season early with a long term injury, eventually leading to his release from the club. Upon the season ending, Mourinho must now make it an absolute priority to replace the Swedish international, as United have been linked with several big names, such as Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata, as well as former player Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ivory Coast defender Eric Bailly also had a fantastic first season, receiving plaudits from around the world, becoming accustomed to the Premier League with ease, and for the majority of the season formed a formidable partnership with Argentinian international Marcos Rojo in the centre of defence. The towering center back once plied his trade in La Liga with Villareal, and was a loss to the team when suffering from injury towards the latter stages of the season, as well as being called up to his national squad for the African Cup of Nations at the start of the year. 

Mourinho’s final signing of last summer was French international Paul Pogba, who left United for Juventus having failing to agree to a contract with The Old Trafford club under the reign of Sir Alex Ferguson. He was signed from French club Le Havre and formed part of the United youth squad. However having seen his first team chances limited departed for Serie A, and went on to become a huge part of the Juventus setup, scoring spectacular goals which most certainly caught the eye of José Mourinho, who then re-signed the player for a world record fee of around £90m. Many questioned the monumental fee that the Frenchman commanded, and a huge amount of pressure was placed on his shoulders, as he had a lot to live up to to justify the huge price tag United had spent on him. Despite not scoring perhaps as many goals over the course of the season as many expected, the 24 year old formed a huge part of Mourinho’s squad, featuring regularly and stats proved his worth overall despite him scoring 5 goals in 30 appearances. 

United finished the season in sixth place, having endured a frustrating amount of home draws, performing better on the road. The final league position was lower than what was achieved by Louis Van Gaal the previous season, and many ridiculed Mourinho for placing more emphasis on the club’s Europa League campaign to gain entry to the Champions League next season, as opposed to a top four finish. However, after beating Ajax in Sweden to earn United their first ever Europa League trophy last month, the Portuguese boss achieved his goal of getting United into the top European competition next season. Coupled with a League Cup Final win against Southampton, United finished the season with a double, which is more than can be said for the first seasons of David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal, and so overall Mourinho’s first season in charge can most certainly be classed as a success, despite an under-par performance in the league. 

It goes without saying that United have room for improvement, and Mourinho’s plans for next season are fully underway, with several arrivals and departures expected at Old Trafford. The Red Devils have already began their summer transfer business having sealed the transfer of Swedish international Victor Lindelof in a £30m deal from Portuguese club Benfica, and have been linked with several other players. The question remains however on the future of club captain Wayne Rooney, who has received a heavy amount of criticism for recent performances, and was resigned to the bench for a considerable amount of last season. Will he still be at Old Trafford come next season? That remains to be seen. 

Football

Cristiano Ronaldo – The Story that Will Not Go Away

Cristiano Ronaldo’s love affair with Manchester United never seems to fade away. The Real Madrid star regularly speaks of his admiration for his former club, and his close relationship with his now retired former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, the man who signed the player from Sporting CP for a mere £12m back in 2003. Ever since his debut for Manchester United against Bolton Wanderers in his first season at the club he quickly became a fan favourite, with his spectacular skills on the ball, which most certainly did the club’s iconic number 7 shirt justice, donned previously by United legends Eric Cantona, David Beckham and George Best. Ronaldo quickly became regarded as one of the best players in world football, which by today’s standards makes the fee United paid for him look minuscule. 

The player went on to win several titles with the Red Devils, and after winning the Champions League with United in 2008, Ronaldo played one more season with the side that arguably made him famous, and was widely tipped to join the team he dreamed of playing for when he was a boy, that being Real Madrid. Breaking United fans’ hearts, he left the club for a then World record transfer fee of £80m, a figure which has since been exceeded with Madrid paying in excess of this for Gareth Bale, whose fee was reported to be around £85m, as well as United’s signing of their former youth team player Paul Pogba from Juventus, who commanded a fee of £90m.

Upon transferring to Real Madrid, Ronaldo continued his remarkably successful career, going head to head with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and continued to receive plaudits from around the world, and has won 4 Ballon D’or awards in his career, the most prestigious award that can be won by a player in terms of their personal success. 

Despite achieving his ultimate goal of playing for his boyhood club, Ronaldo has many times over the years been consistently linked with a return to his former team, only for the player to sign a renewed contract at Madrid. Eight years on from his dream move from Manchester United to Real Madrid however, Ronaldo continues to be linked, and despite Real Madrid recently becoming the first team to retain the Champion’s League Trophy, the Portuguese International has reportedly stated his intention to leave the Spanish club after becoming upset and angry after allegations of tax fraud from the Spanish authorities, and has even mentioned seriously considering a return to Manchester United. Sending Red Devils fans into sheer excitement, Ronaldo would most certainly be welcomed back with open arms, but despite coming towards the latter stages of his career at the age of 32, he will without a doubt command a phenomenonal transfer fee, and Manchester United will clearly need to break the bank to see a return for their former star.

Football

Will He Stay or Will He Go? The David de Gea saga. 

The summer has arrived, and once again the English Premier League season draws to a close. That can only mean one thing, time for departures and arrivals from across the footballing world as the transfer window opens, giving teams the chance to offload unwanted players, and acquire new ones to bolster their squads for the start of the new season in August. Despite not officially opening until the 1st July, many teams have already begun their transfer negotiations, including Everton with their £30m capture of England international goalkeeper Jordan Pickford from Sunderland. A remarkably high figure for a player of such a young age, albeit with bags of potential.

With transfer records being broken season after season, the transfer rumour mill is now in full force, and it is common for clubs like Manchester United to be constantly linked with just about every player under the sun, only for the vast majority of rumours to be nothing more than just plain old gossip (cue if it’s not on Sky Sports, it isn’t true). Conversely, Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea has been consistently linked with a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid, who have been chasing his signature for the past two seasons after a series of scintillating performances over the years, and it would not be surprising to see him as Spain’s first-choice goalkeeper for many years to come, following in the footsteps of legendary Real Madrid and Spain keeper Casillas. Arguably United’s lifeline in several games under the management of ill-fated managers David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal, and more recently under current manager José Mourinho it comes as no surprise to see De Gea linked with the European champions once more.

Real Madrid, who have recently become the first club to retain the Champions League trophy since its inception in 1992, along with domestic success in finishing first in La Liga under legendary midfielder turned manager Zinedine Zidane, remain highly interested in making De Gea their new number one, and club President Florentino Perez remains determined in his quest to make De Gea his latest ‘Galactico’ signing, replacing Costa Rican international Keylor Navas, whom Perez doesn’t see as the club’s long-term solution between the sticks. A £60m bid was submitted just weeks ago, a fee that dwarfs the amount paid by Everton for Jordan Pickford, but this was swiftly rejected by Manchester United who will certainly play hardball when it comes to selling one of their star players, who is seen by many as one of the world’s best goalkeepers, having progressed leaps and bounds since his move to Manchester United from Athletico Madrid in 2011. Two summers ago, De Gea came within minutes of joining the club on transfer deadline day only for the swap deal involving Navas to fall through due to a ‘faulty fax machine’. This led to his exclusion from the first team starting line-up by then United manager Louis Van Gaal for the beginning of the term as his head was not in the right place, but was then reintroduced into the team after the first few games of the season, replacing summer signing Sergio Romero, and his magnificent performances returned.

With the transfer window yet to open, let alone close, it remains to be seen whether De Gea will still call Old Trafford home by the start of the season. However, with a question mark over the future of former United star Cristiano Ronaldo, who recently stated his intention to leave Real Madrid this summer (a return to United on the cards perhaps?), coupled with United’s pursuit of a successor to the recently released Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Madrid forward Alvaro Morata, could De Gea be used as a bargaining chip for both parties to come to some kind of player plus cash agreement? Either way, if De Gea were to leave in some capacity he will certainly not come on the cheap, Real Madrid will most certainly have to pay a premium if they wish to get their man.