Angel Di Maria Is Making Me Nervous

Just two days after he signed for Manchester United, Angel Di Maria – the man on whose bony shoulders United’s hopes di mariaof a post-Moyes resurgence rest – released a farewell letter to Real Madrid fans saying he wished he could stay at the Bernabeu. At the time, I wrote the letter off as a PR stunt designed to preempt accusations of footballing betrayal. But now I’m not so sure.

This weekend, Di Maria told the French channel Telefoot that he would have joined PSG instead of United were it not for a “money problem.” He added, “Now I’m in the English league. But you never know. There is a lot of movement in football. You can never predict where you’re going to play.”

Cristiano Ronaldo won a handful of domestic titles and a Champions League before he started telling reporters that “only God” knew whether he would stay at United. Di Maria – who clearly didn’t want to move to England in the first place – has spent three months at Old Trafford, and he’s already pondering aloud about the strange, unpredictable forces that supposedly control the summer transfer window.

This can’t be good.

David Moyes: The Toast of Europe

Since Manchester United sacked him last April, David Moyes has been linked to a series of semi-prestigious moyes confusedcoaching jobs. For a while, Galatasaray wanted Moyes, then Inter Milan expressed interest, and now, according to The Guardian, Real Sociedad has placed him on a four-man shortlist. Curiously, Moyes – whose embarrassing, one-dimensional tactics made him the laughingstock of the Premier League – seems to have transformed from a middling British manager into a cosmopolitan football celebrity with a line of European suitors.

As a United fan, I feel it’s my duty to remind Real Sociedad chairman Jokin Aperribay about last season’s 2-0 loss to Olympiakos. And about the home defeat to Newcastle. And about the summer transfer window from hell.

I’m currently sending telepathic warning signals to Spain.

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Three Days. Two Upsets. Zero Practical Significance.

On Saturday, Poland beat Germany 2-0 in a European Championship qualifier. The general consensus seems to be that the match was really, really important: it marked Poland’s poland germanyfirst ever victory in a fixture freighted with historical significance and ended Germany’s amazing seven-year unbeaten streak in qualifiers.

But here’s the thing: UEFA’s controversial expansion of the Euros, one of the few international tournaments that consistently features exciting soccer, pretty much guarantees that powerhouses like Germany and Spain, which lost 2-1 to Slovakia on Thursday, will qualify. This week’s upsets were exciting to watch – but in terms of the Road to France ’16 (or whatever we’re supposed to call the qualification campaign), they were completely meaningless.

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Unfortunately, It’s That Time of Year

The September international break is universally despised. It inaugurates a new round of boring qualifiers, rooney norwaybrings the daily news cycle to a standstill, and forces fans to wait two weeks to see their teams’ deadline-day signings in action. Moreover, most of the games take place on Monday or Tuesday, so the first weekend of September is almost always devoid of soccer.

During this summer’s World Cup, sports fans stayed glued to the television as star players competed for a prestigious title. Last week, England played Norway in a half-empty Wembley stadium, and virtually no one watched on TV. That’s the great irony of international soccer: for a few weeks every four years, it attracts hundreds of millions of viewers, many of whom aren’t even soccer fans – but the rest of the time, it’s kind of a drag.

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The Great Manchester United Exodus Is Here. And About Time, Too.

Tomorrow is the last day of the summer transfer window, and the Great Manchester United Exodus is finally nani sportinggaining momentum. Last week, Luis Nani returned to Sporting Lisbon – though, thanks to Ed Woodward’s world-class negotiating, United still pays his wages. Earlier today, Shinji Kagawa re-signed for Borussia Dortmund. Javier Hernandez is about to complete a loan move to Real Madrid. Tom Cleverley looks set to join Aston Villa, where, hopefully, his “lack of ability and beady little eyes” won’t provoke quite so much outrage.

Woodward often delays important business until the end of the window. But I kind of doubt Arturo Vidal will leave Italian champions Juventus for a team that recently drew 0-0 with Burnley. So this year, my deadline-eve wish is rather modest. I want the long-overdue GMUE to keep rolling along.

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Someone Should Give Malky Mackay A Stress Ball

Earlier this week, Malky Mackay pulled out of the running for the Crystal Palace job after his former club, mackay phoneCardiff City, told the Football Association about his penchant for racist, sexist and homophobic text messages. The Daily Mail managed to dig up a few especially egregious examples.

But the story doesn’t end there. In an official statement, the League Managers Association, essentially a coaches’ union, insisted that Mackay merely engaged in “friendly text message banter” and that (here’s my favorite part) he “felt under great pressure” at the time.

I suppose different coaches handle stress in different ways. David Moyes jogs around the training ground. Arsene Wenger plays with his zipper. Malky Mackay makes offensive remarks about Jews and South Koreans.

I think Mackay should invest in a malleable toy.

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Surrendering the Moral High Ground

Until recently, Barcelona was not only the most successful team in European soccer; it was also thesuarez barca most virtuous. UNICEF’s logo was emblazoned on its jerseys. Its coach, Pep Guardiola, won admirers simply for not being Jose Mourinho. In 2011, longtime captain Carlos Puyol let his teammate Eric Abidal, who had been treated for cancer, lift the Champions League trophy at Wembley.

But as Barcelona’s dominance has eroded – last season, the team didn’t win a single trophy – the club has gradually surrendered its moral high ground. I don’t need to remind you that Luis Suarez made his Barca debut on Monday. Or that a Qatari airline now sponsors the team’s jerseys. Or that Lionel Messi may have committed tax fraud.

Earlier today, FIFA upheld the two-year transfer ban it imposed on Barcelona in April. Apparently, while we reveled in the talents of homegrown stars like Xavi and Iniesta, Barca was illegally importing underage players to its academy. I am thoroughly disillusioned.

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Maybe David Moyes Wasn’t United’s Only Problem

David Moyes chose a good day to complain about how Manchester United treated him. This morning’s Mail moyes unitedon Sunday quotes Moyes saying, “I don’t feel I was given time to succeed or fail” at Old Trafford. Yesterday, Louis van Gaal’s back-three-ified United lost 2-1 to Swansea in a game depressingly reminiscent of, erm, last season’s home defeat to Swansea. Meanwhile, Ed Woodward, United’s chief executive, has just two weeks to complete 150 million pounds’ worth of transfer deals. We have been here before. It didn’t end well.

Somewhere in Cheshire, Moyes is hooting with laughter.

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Italy Can’t Kick Racism Out of FIGC Presidency, Let Alone Football

Racism is a major problem in Italian football – just ask Mario Balotelli, who fled Italy the first chance Carlo Tavecchiohe got, only to return three years later to escape the not-racist-but-still-pretty-awful English press.

That problem just got a whole lot worse: Earlier today, Carlo Tavecchio, a bona fide racist, was appointed president of the Italian Football Federation. In July, Tavecchio said he hopes to strengthen the rules governing non-EU players, so that Africans “who previously ate bananas” can’t insinuate themselves into Serie A.

Tavecchio won 63 percent of the vote. I think it’s time for Balotelli to move back to England.

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Pep Guardiola Gets Mad, Commits Crime of Century

Soccer fans get really upset when players and coaches don’t shake hands with the other team. Remember the guadiola wagWayne Bridge-John Terry incident, when romantic intrigue spilled onto the playing field? Remember the Rio Ferdinand-John Terry incident, when brotherly solidarity compelled Rio to eschew the traditional pre-match greeting? (It’s amazing how many players have spurned Terry’s outstretched hand.) And remember the days when, every time Manchester United played Liverpool, Fox would skip a commercial break in case Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez started slugging each other?

The first #handshakegate of the new season comes from a surprising source: Pep Guardiola, the anti-Mourinho, the guy widely regarded as the classiest manager in European soccer. At the end of Wednesday’s MLS All-Star game, Guardiola refused to shake hands with MLS coach Caleb Porter, because he resented the All-Stars’ aggressive tackling.

Cue the usual sanctimony. “Poor form from the Bayern coaching staff,” Grant Wahl tweeted. “You don’t deserve a Champions League,” added another user. Before long, #disgrace was trending.

In other news, the Premier League’s new concussion protocol does not empower independent doctors to decide whether injured players should reenter the game. It’s time we started complaining about an actual disgrace.

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