The Star (Kenya)

LET THE PRE­MIER LEAGUE SEA­SON BE­GIN

Red Devils’ first chal­lenge is to re­duce their 31-player squad to com­ply with FA rules

- BY DAVID BILLING­TON Sports · UEFA Champions League · Soccer · Manchester United F.C. · Manchester · Crystal Palace F.C. · The Football Association · Everton F.C. · Everton · Carlo Ancelotti · Liverpool Football Club · Liverpool · Jürgen Klopp · Leeds United A.F.C. · Leeds · England national football team · England · Arsenal F.C. · Joe Gomez · Rhian Brewster · Thiago Emiliano da Silva · Paris Saint-Germain FC · Paris · Chelsea F.C. · Chelsea · Neymar da Silva · London · Nice · West Bromwich Albion F.C. · West Bromwich · Marcelo Bielsa · Josep Guardiola · Mauricio Pochettino · Championship · Real Madrid F.C. · Madrid · FC Bayern Munich · Munich · Gareth Bale · Valencia CF · Valencia · Newcastle United Football Club · Andreas Pereira · Marcos Rojo · Sergio Romero · Juan Manuel Mata · Phil Jones · Harry Maguire · Jesse Lingard · Andrew Robertson · Joel Matip · Virgil van Dijk · Jordan Henderson · Divock Origi · Xherdan Shaqiri · Sardinia · Leicester City F.C. · Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. · Jonny Evans · Wes Morgan · Atalanta B.C. · Derby County F.C. · James Rodríguez

Ithink one of the most in­ter­est­ing teams to watch this sea­son will be Ole Gun­ner Sol­sk­jaer’s Manch­ester United. I have spent the week chas­ing down play­ers, train­ers and as­sis­tants within the club.

United are set to play nine games in De­cem­ber and eight in Jan­uary and in the cold weather, in­juries could well be a prob­lem. United will play a min­i­mum of 46 games and un­less they are knocked out of the League Cup, they will not have a free mid-week un­til De­cem­ber. I checked on their pre-sea­son train­ing and found that all has not gone ac­cord­ing to plan.

Last week, they could only just ar­range a game of five-a-side be­cause so many play­ers were on in­ter­na­tional duty. Bishop, Grant, Fosu-men­sah, Dalot, Tuanzebe, Wil­liams, Shaw, Smalling and Lin­gard were present and An­dreas Pereira, Aaron Wan­bis­saka and Mar­cos Rojo re­ported for a later ses­sion as they had been quar­an­tin­ing.

Ser­gio Romero, Odion Igahlo, Juan Mata, Ne­manja Matic, Fred and Phil Jones did not, as far as I could see, ar­rive for any of the ses­sions. Harry Maguire was granted ad­di­tional time off be­cause of his re­cent Greek Is­land prob­lems. How­ever, he re­turned to train­ing on Tues­day and will cap­tain the side against Crys­tal Palace next week. The club’s first chal­lenge is re­duc­ing their 31-player squad to com­ply with FA rules.

Top of their “un­wanted” list is Mar­cus Rojo who is on a £150k-aweek deal and has en­tered the last year of his con­tract. Sol­sk­jaer was less than pleased to hear that Rojo was filmed smok­ing dur­ing the sum­mer break (and not for the first time!).

How­ever, his daugh­ters have started school near Manch­ester which is why nearby Everton would have been a good fit for him though the Ar­gen­tine does not fea­ture in Ancelotti’s plans.

Phil Jones is an­other United player Sol­sk­jaer would like to see leave as he has not even been in the squad since Jan­uary. Some­one at United gave him a four-year deal and he is tied to the club un­til 2023. An­dreas Pereira, 24, and Jesse Lin­gard will be sold if suit­able of­fers come in.

In­side info on Liverpool’s start­ing team I have also spent the last few days get­ting the in­side in­for­ma­tion on Jur­gen Klopp’s plans for the start of the sea­son. Liverpool kick off against Leeds this week­end. De­fen­sively, Klopp thinks he has only one de­ci­sion to make and that is who to play at right back.

Trent Alexan­der-arnold did not play dur­ing pre-sea­son due to in­jury but he joined his Eng­land team play­ers last week. Stand-in Nico Wil­liams had a tough time against Arsenal in the Char­ity Shield loss but will prob­a­bly be used again if Alexan­der-arnold is not quite fit.

Andy Robert­son will def­i­nitely be at left-back de­spite the ar­rival of Kostas Tsimikas. Joel Matip only re­turned to train­ing last week and Vir­gil van Dijk and Joe Gomez will re­main at the heart of de­fence.

Naby Keita did well in the Char­ity Shield and the Guinean is tipped to start but Jor­dan Hen­der­son will prob­a­bly be on the bench as Klopp doesn’t want to risk him too early fol­low­ing in­jury.

Those play­ers pro­vide a 4-3-3 sys­tem which Klopp favours. Divock Origi is still away and Xher­dan Shaqiri is re­cov­er­ing from yet an­other in­jury and young new tal­ent Rhian Brew­ster is head­ing for the sub­sti­tute bench be­cause Klopp is look­ing at much-im­proved Mi­namino as a part­ner for Mane, Firmino and Salah.

LAM­PARD CAN THANK NEY­MAR

Sign­ing Thi­ago Silva from Paris St­ger­main will def­i­nitely be one of the big­gest trans­fer coups of this cur­rent sea­son and Chelsea prob­a­bly have PSG su­per­star Ney­mar to thank for land­ing him. In the PSG team ho­tel Thi­ago sought out Ney­mar and they spent quite a while talk­ing. I can re­veal that Silva was ask­ing Ney­mar’s ad­vice about what he should do.

PSG ac­tu­ally came in with a last-minute of­fer to ex­tend Silva’s con­tract which ex­pired with the Cham­pion’s League but they left it too late – the Brazil­ian had de­cided to join Chelsea and take up a new chal­lenge in the Pre­mier League. Fol­low­ing a hol­i­day in Sar­dinia, Thi­ago is now set­tling into a five star ho­tel in Chelsea and the thought­ful Chelsea man­ager ar­ranged for him to re­ceive a bucket of cham­pagne and a Chelsea shirt which said “Wel­come to Lon­don”. Nice touch Frank.

ROGERS HAS EARLY TEAM PROB­LEMS AT LE­ICES­TER

Le­ices­ter tell me that man­ager Bren­dan Rogers has prob­lems and their open­ing game against West Bromwich Al­bion will be a tough opener to the sea­son. Star at­tack­ing mid­fielder James Mad­di­son is doubt­ful for the match be­cause of an on­go­ing hip prob­lem on which he had surgery in the sum­mer.

The 23-year-old Mad­di­son has signed a new four-year deal worth around £5mil­lion a year. Rogers said he also has de­fen­sive chal­lenges with Wil­fried Ndidi prob­a­bly hav­ing to move to cen­tre-back be­cause Jonny Evans is serv­ing a sus­pen­sion due to a send­ing off on the last day of the 2019-20 sea­son.

Club stal­wart and strong man Wes Mor­gan is hav­ing ham­string prob­lems which again in­di­cates that Ndidi will have to play along­side Caglar Soyuncu in cen­tral de­fence. Ben Chilwell has now left for Chelsea for £50mil­lion which could give a de­but to Ti­mothy Castagne who joined as a wing back from Ital­ian club Ata­lanta.

I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE MARCELO BIELSA IN AC­TION

One of the great man­age­rial char­ac­ters in foot­ball kicks off against Liverpool this week­end. Marcelo Bielsa, man­ager of Leeds is looked up to and has in­flu­enced Pep Guardi­ola, Jur­gen Klopp and Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino.

He has com­manded the rise of Leeds from the Cham­pi­onship League af­ter a pe­riod of 16 years out of the top-flight and sit­ting on his tra­di­tional bucket on the side­lines, he will be worth watch­ing dur­ing matches.

Last sea­son he was caught spy­ing on ri­val club Derby at their train­ing ground. There is a mys­tique about this ec­cen­tric Ar­gen­tine and he is de­voted to foot­ball…he will be a wel­come ad­di­tion to the Pre­mier League along with Leeds.

ANCELOTTI WILL UN­LOCK THE TAL­ENTS OF RO­DRIGUEZ

As soon as Everton man­ager Carlo Ancelotti spoke with Real Madrid’s James Ro­driguez, the Columbian su­per­star’s mind was made up —he wanted to join his for­mer boss in the Pre­mier League.

Ro­driguez knew that sev­eral big Euro­pean clubs were track­ing him but work­ing with Ancelotti at

Real Madrid and Bay­ern Mu­nich con­vinced him to come to the north-east. The 29-year-old, if you re­mem­ber, scored one of the most spec­tac­u­lar goals in the World Cup in 2014.

Many would say that since those days he has not lived up to his po­ten­tial but Ancelotti is the coach who can un­lock that amaz­ing tal­ent once again. Like Gareth Bale at Real, Ro­driguez has not worked well with man­ager Zine­dine Zi­dan and al­though he could have stayed for the length of his con­tract, he de­cided to move on.

I have also re­ceived word from Everton that Ancelotti has made in­quiries about Va­len­cia’s Uruguayan striker Maxi Gomez who could be avail­able for around £12mil­lion.

NEW­CAS­TLE UNITED SET TO LINK JOELIN­TON AND CAL­LUM WIL­SON

New­cas­tle man­ager Steve Bruce is de­lighted with his two new sign­ings Ryan Fraser and Cal­lum Wil­son. Wil­son wants the chance to em­u­late some of his New­cas­tle he­roes such as Mal­colm Mcdon­ald and Alan Shearer.

For man­ager Bruce it is a case of link­ing Wil­son with Joelin­ton to form a dan­ger­ous strik­ing pair. It means prob­a­bly the end of the road for big Andy Car­roll as Joelin­ton and Wil­son are go­ing to be Bruce’s num­ber one pair­ing. Bruce was also in­ter­ested in Arsenal’s Rob Hold­ing but I am told by the Gun­ners that in a dra­matic turn­around Mikel Arteta is hav­ing sec­ond thoughts about let­ting him go.

BARCA LOOK­ING THROUGH LIVERPOOL’S SHOP WIN­DOW

Jur­gen Klopp will not dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­ity of los­ing ei­ther Sa­dio Mane or Gini Wi­j­nal­dum and if the sub­ject is men­tioned he im­me­di­ately bris­tles with anger. New Barcelona boss Ron­ald Koe­man is press­ing his nose up against the Liverpool shop win­dow and both play­ers have links with the Dutch­man.

What wor­ries Klopp most is the dis­tur­bance to his pre-sea­son train­ing and start to the sea­son with pos­si­ble un­rest in the dress­ing room. He is wor­ried the play­ers will be dis­tracted by trans­fer talk.

Other clubs might have bet­ter in­di­vid­ual play­ers but Klopp has built a club spirit which has taken them to num­ber one in the world.

‘AS SOON AS ANCELOTTI SPOKE WITH REAL MADRID’S JAMES RO­DRIGUEZ, THE COLUMBIAN SU­PER­STAR’S MIND WAS MADE UP’

 ?? / REUTERS ?? Aaron Wan­bis­saka
/ REUTERS Aaron Wan­bis­saka
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