Glass half empty? Man Utd told Ten Hag to lower hopes for the season


Manchester United told new boss Erik ten Hag to lessen his expectations ahead of the new season — ESPN’s Insider Notebook has the latest. PLUS: Chelsea’s spending spree shows no sign of ending.

Jump to: Chelsea look for three big signings | City’s left-back search, Bernardo latest | No NFL-style matches in Premier League | Barca not the only LaLiga concern with registrations | PSG banish Icardi as they seek a departure

Ten Hag told to temper Man Utd expectations

Manchester United chiefs were keen for Erik ten Hag to play down expectations ahead of the new season, sources told ESPN, but the Dutchman instead decided to talk up their chances in an effort to improve the confidence within his squad.

United finished sixth in the Premier League last season, 13 points outside the Champions League places and a whopping 35 points behind champions Manchester City. It prompted some Old Trafford staff members to advise Ten Hag to keep early expectations “realistic” while the bulk of the squad remained the same, but the new United boss was bullish about his team’s hopes for the new campaign over the summer.

He also chose to talk up the players he inherited — including problem areas of the squad, such as central midfield — in a bid to repair morale within the dressing room after coming to the conclusion it has been severely damaged by a miserable season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick.

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Sources told ESPN there is a feeling inside the club that some of Rangnick’s public comments about the squad have affected the players, and Ten Hag has been quick to distance himself from much of the German’s assessment, including that United needed “open-heart surgery” this summer. Despite heaping praise on midfielders Scott McTominay and Fred ahead of the opening-weekend defeat to Brighton, sources told ESPN that Ten Hag was already well aware they would struggle without further reinforcements.

Interest in Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot, which became public on Monday, has been viewed as a knee-jerk reaction to the 2-1 defeat to Brighton, but sources said that Juventus first received official contact from United on Saturday just 24 hours before the game against Graham Potter’s side. United remain in talks over a deal for Rabiot and remain in the hunt for Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong despite a growing feeling they may lose out to Chelsea. — Rob Dawson

Chelsea spending spree shows no sign of ending

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel wants three additional signings before the transfer window closes next month, sources told ESPN, with Wesley Fofana, Frenkie De Jong and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang his key targets.

The Blues are keen on bringing in a centre-back, a central midfielder and a striker as the club continue to play catch-up in the transfer market. Although Chelsea have made five signings, including Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly and Marc Cucurella, Tuchel is concerned about the depth and quality of his squad if they are to compete for the Premier League and Champions League titles.

Leicester City‘s Fofana is his top centre-back target although Leicester are demanding a world-record fee for a defender, in excess of the £80 million Manchester United paid them for Harry Maguire in 2019.

The Blues are also interested in De Jong and have indicated to Barcelona they are willing to match United’s bid for the Dutchman, which stands at €63m rising to €75m. Sources have also indicated De Jong wants to stay at Barcelona, but if he is forced to leave, the 25-year-old would prefer a move to Chelsea over United.

Chelsea are also exploring a deal to sign striker Aubameyang, but similar to De Jong, he wants to stay at Camp Nou and his departure is only being considered due to Barcelona’s ongoing economic difficulties. Chelsea suffered a further blow earlier this week when another forward under consideration, Benjamin Sesko, agreed a deal to move from FC Salzburg to RB Leipzig next summer.

Meanwhile, Tuchel is also planning for the future with interest in Inter Milan midfielder Cesare Casadei, although he is not seen as an immediate first-team prospect given the 19-year-old has yet to play a game in Serie A. — James Olley

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Julien Laurens and Mark Ogden slam Manchester United for targeting Marko Arnautovic as a striker solution.

Man City stand firm over £80m-rated Bernardo Silva

Manchester City have serious doubts about whether Barcelona can come up with a financial package to tempt them into allowing Bernardo Silva to leave, sources told ESPN.

Barcelona are keen on the Portugal midfielder, who told ESPN this week that his future remains up in the air ahead of the transfer deadline. But sources told ESPN that City would only consider a deal if the Spanish side were to bid in excess of £80m and the Premier League champions had time to find a suitable replacement. Barcelona remain in financial difficulty and are struggling to register the new signings they have made already this summer, and there is a feeling at the Etihad Stadium that Silva is beyond their reach.

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Sources added that City’s focus before the transfer deadline is to sign an established left-back after walking away from a deal for Marc Cucurella — who has since joined Chelsea — because of Brighton’s demand for a fee of more than £50m.

City are expected to sign Anderlecht’s Sergio Gomez for £11m, but he is viewed predominantly as a development signing, although he could remain at the club this summer if another full-back does not arrive. — Rob Dawson

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Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens debate whether Timo Werner would have a real impact if he returned to RB Leipzig.

No NFL-style overseas games in Premier League for now

The Premier League will not follow the NFL and NBA by staging regular-season games overseas after chief executive Richard Masters said it is “not the right time” to revive plans to play fixtures in major cities across the world.

Back in 2008, proposals to play one international round of Premier League fixtures in addition to the 38 regular games — dubbed the 39th step — were quickly abandoned following widespread condemnation from supporters and many within the game, including former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who criticised club owners for failing to consult team managers. The idea was also dismissed by FIFA and UEFA, but while the project has been in cold storage, nations including Spain and Italy have since taken their Super Cup games — which pit league winners against cup winners — overseas to countries including China, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

Major U.S. leagues including the NFL and NBA now have long established regular season games staged outside the United States. But despite the global appeal of the Premier League, which has now seen the value of the league’s overseas broadcast deal (£5.05 billion) exceed the domestic rights (£5bn), Masters said that it is still too soon to reconsider taking competitive fixtures outside of England and Wales.

“Yes,” Masters said, when asked if it was too soon to review the proposals. “We had this discussion in 2008, which is a long time ago, but I don’t think now is the right time. It’s not part of our agenda.

“There are issues to sort out with the calendar because of the changes at European level [new Champions League format from 2024-25] and FIFA haven’t yet concluded what they want to do with the global calendar.

“We are an active part of the World Leagues Forum, discussing things at a global level and obviously want to protect domestic league football as best we can.

“There are lots of issues going on and, at the moment, it [overseas PL games] is not something that is part of our discussion.” — Mark Ogden

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Rob Dawson feels Manchester City would find it very difficult to replace Bernardo Silva should he leave the club before the transfer deadline.

Barcelona not the only LaLiga concern with registrations

Barcelona‘s issues registering their new players have dominated the headlines in recent weeks, but they aren’t the only Spanish team sweating ahead of the first round of games this weekend.

LaLiga’s squad spending limits have also seen Real Betis struggling to register their new signings — and even the contract extension of captain Joaquin, 41 — meaning that with just hours to go before the season kicks off, they had registered just 16 first-team players.

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Betis had hoped to give themselves some breathing space by allowing wing-back Alex Moreno to join Nottingham Forest, but a late U-turn from the player saw him reject a move to the Premier League earlier this week.

On Thursday, the club were still racing to register a number of big names, including goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, midfielder Andres Guardado and forward Willian Jose, as well as new arrivals Luiz Felipe and Luiz Henrique. Sources told ESPN that Betis were hurrying to resolve the situation before their opening game of the season, hosting Elche on Monday evening, but did not want to set any deadlines.

The club are working on possible player departures, as well as Barca-style financial “levers” — perhaps based on borrowing against future-season ticket income — that could bring in the necessary funds, sources said. Betis have also sought to reassure players’ agents with a message of calm, saying that even if the situation cannot be sorted out this weekend, they are confident of being able to do so before the transfer window closes on Sept. 1. — Alex Kirkland and Rodri Faez

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Julien Laurens provides an update of where Barcelona stand financially as well as their pursuit of Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva.

PSG banish Icardi from training

Paris Saint-Germain have banished Mauro Icardi from first-team training, sources told ESPN, along with a collection of other players they are keen to move on.

Icardi is on the transfer list after manager Christophe Galtier decided to drop him from the first-team squad. The striker, 29, is now training separately alongside Ander Herrera, Idrissa Gueye, Thilo Kehrer and Julian Draxler in a second group dubbed “The Loft.” Icardi was omitted from the squad for PSG’S Ligue 1 opener against Clermont last weekend and decided to spend two days in Ibiza with his family.

The Argentina international has endured a difficult spell in Paris following his move from Inter Milan in 2019. He scored 12 in his first season at the club and then seven the following year. Icardi scored four last season, and PSG have tried to drum up interest in the player this summer, but so far no club has come forward for a player who has a contract at PSG until 2024.

On Thursday, ESPN reported that PSG contacted Marcus Rashford over the possibility of signing the Manchester United forward to strengthen their squad this summer. — Julien Laurens



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