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Edwin van der Sar the key to making Manchester United great once again

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When I was young and saw Manchester United play in the years they used to challenge for titles, one player whose role was underestimated was Edwin van der Sar.

At the time, he was at the backend of his career and I never really noticed his importance until I saw David de Gea struggle in his first few months to life at Old Trafford.

I don’t think United would’ve won any of their trophies in the 2000s period if it wasn’t for Edwin van der Sar. He was simply sensational and oozed class.

I loved him, like a lot of United fans. During his time at the club, the Dutchman won four Premier League titles, two League Cups, one Champions League and one Club World Cup in only six years – a monumental achievement for any player.

Van der Sar eventually retired in 2011 after Manchester United secured their 19th League title and it’s safe to say that it took time to adjust to him not being in net for us.

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No wonder the great 2008 team were so special. Think about that triangle of Van der Sar, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. Could you have asked for a better three to defend your goal? I don’t think so.

Anyways, since he’s left the club, a lot has changed. United have only won one league title and that was under Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013.

So, it’s been over eight years since United last won the Premier League and if they’re not careful, it could stretch further than that.

People point to a lot of reasons why United haven’t won the title since Ferguson. Has it been the choice of managers? Is it due to the hangover of the Ferguson years? To be honest, you’d have to point your fingers at Ed Woodward and the Manchester United board.

Now, I’m not going to single out and completely criticise some of the failures the United board have been through over the last few years, but there have been mistakes and consequently, some of the standards at the club have dropped.

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Need an example? Well, let’s take this season. United were meant to be challenging for the title after the summer additions of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Instead, the club have been dragged into a top-four race and although a lot of people are blaming this on the manager and his coaching staff, ultimately, it’s those above him who make the decisions at the football club.

What has Van der Sar been doing in his time away from United? Well, since 2012, he’s been involved on the directory side of things at his former club, Ajax, and took on a role as their Marketing Director on 19 November 2012. Since then though, He was promoted in late 2016 to the role of CEO.

Is he good at his job? You bet he is!

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He and Marc Overmars have transformed the fortunes of the club. Although they weren’t in a bad state, it feels like they’ve taken the team from Amsterdam to another level, bringing in coach Erik ten Hag, as well as developing some outstanding players, including Frenkie de Jong, Mattijs de Ligt and Hakim Ziyech.

Together, they’ve won many Eredivisie titles and even got to the Champions League semi-final in 2019, whilst spending next to nothing.

It’s a great credit to him that he’s managed to achieve this on a small budget, putting faith in youth.

On what is his 51st birthday today, Van der Sar is a symbol of success. Imagine what he could do at United if he was CEO at the club. He’d take us back to greatness. I would love it.

If the Glazers want to show United supporters they’ve changed, they’d make Van der Sar the new CEO once Ed Woodward leaves.

Chelsea

Tuchel hands 22-year-old his first Chelsea start – predicted starting XI against Leeds this weekend

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Chelsea will look to get back to winning ways in Sunday’s game against Leeds United at Elland Road.

The Blues dominated proceedings in the London derby against Spurs last week, however only came out of things with a point following Harry Kane’s late equaliser.

Thomas Tuchel operated a fluid and unique system at Stamford Bridge, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount especially thriving in the new look system.

However, the Blues could turn back to the recognised back three this weekend, with our predicted lineup for the game against Leeds.

GK and Defence

Edouard Mendy made a brilliant save just before Spurs’ late equaliser at the end, and his position in the squad is more than secure for this one.

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With there still being no breakthrough on the Wesley Fofana front, Cesar Azpilicueta will return to the starting lineup as captain at Elland Road.

Fixtures are yet to pick up in the early stages of the season, so Thiago Silva should still be fresh and okay to participate again.

The centre-backs will be completed by Kalidou Koulibaly, who showed his quality again in an emphatic display against Spurs.

Midfield

Reece James scored almost instantly after being moved back to wing-back on Sunday, and the Blues will look to get the attacking best out of him on Sunday.

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Jorginho may have been at fault for the first conceded goal last week, although his great performance will still see him start again against Leeds.

Injuries have ruled N’golo Kante and likely Mateo Kovacic out of the game, there is a big choice to be made to partner the Italy internatonal. While Ruben Loftus-Cheek starred against Spurs, Conor Gallagher will be chosen to partner in midfield, being handed his first start for the club.

Marc Cucurella will look to build on his impressive performance last week with another start against Leeds, with Ben Chilwell still not quite at match fitness.

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Attack

The Chelsea attack will have a familiar look to the last two weeks, with Mason Mount occupying the free-roaming role in the attack against an opponent he has had a lot of success against before.

Raheem Sterling will try again in his quest to open his Chelsea league account, with him missing a glorious chance last week.

Kai Havertz is another man who missed a great opportunity to win the game for the Blues at the weekend, although his work in the front three was enough to see him start again.

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Atletico Madrid do not want to pay €40 million for Barcelona attacker

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Atletico Madrid are in a precarious situation in regards to their ownership of Antoine Griezmann.

The Spanish giants had signed the Barcelona forward on a two-year loan deal last summer. The contract included a mandatory purchase option worth €40 million if the player features in 50% of the matches with a minimum of 45 minutes between the games across two seasons.

Last season, Griezmann featured in 82.5% of the matches, meaning Atletico Madrid may have to virtually leave him out on the bench throughout the 2022/23 campaign if they are to avoid paying the fee for the Frenchman in 2023.

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However, with Luis Suarez leaving the club, Atletico Madrid consider Griezmann a viable part of the club’s attacking unit and Los Colchoneros must get the best out of him, if they are to regain their lost status in the title race in this new season.

At the same time, the club are not too keen on meeting the mandatory €40 million purchase clause set on Griezmann’s contract. This has been reported by Mundo Deportivo which suggests the club are looking to reduce the overall valuation of the clause.

While Barcelona are yet to respond to Atletico’s overtures, there is a clear indication that the capital club have no intention to pay anywhere near the €40 million for the services of Griezmann, who was barely even a starter for Diego Simeone’s men last season

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The Frenchman was even left out on the bench in Atletico’s opening game against Getafe. However, coming on as a substitute in the final half an hour, the attacker was able to break his scoring duck by netting the third goal in a 3-0 victory.

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It will be interesting to see whether the little cameo compels Simeone to start him in future matches, although his performances should not deter Atletico Madrid from their attempts to lower the price tag of the star striker.

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Chelsea

Barcelona star’s move to Chelsea is now ‘heating up’ – report

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be close to securing a move to Chelsea from FC Barcelona, with the move now heating up, reports Victor Navarro on COPE.

Aubameyang joined Barça only eight months ago, arriving as a free agent from Arsenal in January. He helped the Catalans finish second in La Liga last season and finished the campaign as the club’s joint top scorer in all competitions along with Memphis Depay

And, Barcelona could now lose both their top scorers this summer. Depay is closing in on a move to Juventus, having reportedly agreed a two-year contract with the Italian giants.

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And now Aubameyang could be on his way to Chelsea imminently, with the move ‘heating up’ recently. The Blues have made the 33-year-old Gabonese striker their top target after losing both Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel enjoyed a successful relationship with Aubameyang during their time at Borussia Dortmund and is now pushing for a reunion.

Reports earlier on Thursday indicated that Chelsea were planning to submit a formal offer for the former Arsenal captain imminently.

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Now, Victor Navarro is claiming that the two clubs are negotiating over the transfer of the 33-year-old, with all parties intent on getting the move over the line.

Barcelona need to get rid of players so that they can register Jules Kounde and make more additions, with a new right-back and left-back on the club’s agenda.

The departure of Depay alone will not be enough to register Kounde. And with Frenkie de Jong unwilling to leave and no offers arriving for Sergino Dest yet, Aubameyang’s exit seems the best option for Barça.

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The ex-Arsenal superstar has fallen down the pecking order at Camp Nou this season following the arrival of Robert Lewandowski. A move to Stamford Bridge could see him become the first-choice striker and enjoy regular game-time.

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