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United beaten by late Marinos winner

Manchester United fell to their second defeat of their pre-season tour when a late winner from Yokohama F Marinos striker Yoshihito Fujita completed the turn-around for the home side to earn them a 3-2 win, having come back from 2-1 down. United had earlier fought back themselves from a goal down to lead 2-1, but were unable to hold on to their advantage in David Moyes’ third game in charge.

Moyes put out a team with a mixture of youth and experience including young prospects Jesse Lingard, Adnan Januzaj and Wilfred Zaha as well as regular first teamers like Van Persie, Evra and De Gea. There was a large crowd at the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama and they were treated to an entertaining five goal thriller with action right from the off as veteran Brazilian striker Marcos Gomes De Araujo, known as Marquinhos, gave the home side the lead after only a minute.

Youngster Jesse Lingard continued his fine run of form in front of goal on the tour with an equaliser in the nineteenth minute following good work by Zaha and United took the lead on the half hour mark courtesy of an own goal by Masakazu Tashiro when the ball deflected off him following a free kick into the box. However, the lead only lasted until the opening stages of the second period when another of Ypkohama F Marinos’ Brazilians, defender Fabio Aguiar da Silva, headed in from a corner that De Gea failed to gather. There were more chances for both sides but it was Fujita who eventually won it for the Japanese.

Home favourite Shinji Kagawa came on for Januzaj mid way through the second half for his first United appearance of the tour following his extended holiday after Japan’s Confederations Cup campaign and he certainly got a good reception from the crowd, but was unable to have much impact on the game. Moyes won’t be unduly concerned with his team’s form at this early stage with plenty of players still to integrate the squad, but he will be hopeful of an improvement when they next take to the field against Cerezo Osaka on Friday. The united team in full was as follows:

David De Gea, Fabio, Phil Jones, Johnny Evans (Chris Smalling), Patrice Evra, Anderson, Tom Cleverley, Jesse Lingard (Ashley Young), Wilfred Zaha (Ryan Giggs), Adnan Januzaj (Shinji Kagawa), Robin Van Persie (Danny Welbeck).

Monaco target Nani as next big money signing

Newly promoted French Ligue 1 club AS Monaco have targeted Manchester United’s Portuguese winger Nani as the next item on their multi million Euro summer shopping list. The club from the principality tax haven near France’s border with Italy have been spending Russian billionaire owner Dmitry Rybolovlev’s money like it’s going out of fashion as they attempt to compete with fellow money-bags PSG for the French title in their first season back in the top flight.

Nani was restricted to only eleven league appearances at the Old Trafford club last season, partly through injury and partly through the choice of former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, and he only managed one Premier League goal, plus another couple of goals in his ten cup appearances. He was selected for the first team for the crucial Champions League second leg clash against Real Madrid where he received a harsh red card that turned the tie on its head early in the second half. With a World Cup coming up at the end of this season, he will be hoping for a more regular place in a team to play himself into form and into the Portuguese team.

Nani, who was born in Cape Verde, has sixty six caps for Portugal and would be part of a growing Portuguese camp in Monaco as the club have already recruited his international team mates Ricardo Carvalho and Joao Moutinho this summer. They were in addition to the signings of Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez, Nicolas Isimat-Mirin and Anthony Martial, taking their summer spending so far to in excess of €139 million, not to mention the capture of big names such as Eric Abidal and Jeremy Toulalan on free transfers.

Nani, 26, who has also been linked with Inter Milan in Italy as well as Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia, where his former assistant manager at Manchester United, Rene Meulensteen, has just taken charge, is reportedly discussing terms with the directors of Monaco and it’s thought that United would be willing to release him in exchange for an offer of €10 million or upwards although his wage demands might be a potential stumbling block. Nani was missing from United’s summer tour party to Asia due to a broken nose and may find himself down the pecking order for the start of the season if he stays at United as the signing of Wilfred Zaha means they now have an abundance of wide attacking options also including Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and the evergreen Ryan Giggs.

Soldado close to finally ending Spurs quest for striker

Spurs could be on the verge of finally ending their protracted pursuit of a top class centre forward that has seen them linked with endless lists of strikers over the past few transfer windows. Tottenham’s Director of Football, Franco Baldini is reportedly in Spain at the moment for discussions with Valencia, Roberto Soldado and his agent over a €30 million move for the Spain international.

Soldado, 28, has scored an average of around 27 goals a season for Valencia in all competitions over the last three seasons since his move there from Getafe, where he first rose to prominence following his early years in Real Madrid reserves. He has eleven international caps for Spain with six goals to his name and was recently picked ahead of Fernando Torres and David Villa as first choice for Spain’s opening Confederations Cup game in Brazil, where he scored against Uruguay.

Tottenham have been repeatedly linked with Roberto Soldado over the past twelve months as well as with other strikers such as David Villa of Barcelona, Christian Benteke of Aston Villa and Leandro Damiao of Internacional in Brazil as manager Andre Villas-Boas searched for someone to share the responsibility for scoring goals with Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe. The club has now recognised that they need to spend a significant sum of money to acquire the sort of talent that will take them on to the next level and they have identified Soldado as their number one target for that position, having already strengthened the squad in central and wide midfield this summer.

The signing of Soldado, alongside those of Paulinho and Chadli should convince Gareth Bale to stay for at least one more season and could well make the difference in Tottenham’s annual push for Champions League qualification. €30 million for an accomplished striker like Soldado represents good value in today’s market and if Spurs can secure his signature by the end of the week, they will have completed the bulk of their recruitment in the early stages of pre-season, giving them plenty of time to bed in their new signings ahead of the big kick off, so it looks set to be promising campaign for Tottenham fans.

Friendly Result: Nagoya 1-3 Arsenal

Arsenal continued their pre-season preparations with a comfortable 3-1 win over Japanese club side Nagoya Grampus at a packed Toyota Stadium just outside Nagoya City. The Gunners took an early lead through Olivier Giroud in only the third minute and doubled their advantage with a penalty in the twenty sixth minute. Arsenal’s Japanese winger Ryo Miyaichi was handed responsibility for the kick and delighted his home fans by converting it for 2-0. The third goal came ten minutes into the second half when Theo Walcott beat the keeper to make it 3-0 and complete Arsenal’s scoring. The Japanese struck back in the seventy second minute when Kisho Yano headed home.

It was a strong and experienced Arsenal line-up with Lukasz Fabianksi in goal and a back four of Bakari Sagna, Per Mertesacker, Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs. Thomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Ryo Miyaichi made up the midfield with Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott up front. There were plenty of substitutions in the second half as Jack Wilshere, Lukas Podolski and youth teamers Gedion Zelalem and Serge Gnabry replaced Miyaichi, Rosicky, Giroud and Arteta for the restart, Ignasi Miquel later replaced Gibbs and Chuks Aneke and Chuba Akpom came on for Walcott and Ramsey mid way through the half as Wenger experimented with his squad. Next up for Arsenal is a game against Urawa Reds on Friday.

Bernard on the way to Arsenal

French newspaper L’Equipe is reporting that Brazilian starlet Bernard is heading for the Emirates Stadium to sign for Arsenal in what is practically a done deal. The twenty year old is a left-sided attacking midfielder currently on the books at Atletico Mineiro and he has five caps for Brazil, having appeared in their successful Confederations Cup winning campaign this summer. Bernard, or to give him his full name, Bernard Anício Caldeira Duarte, is a diminutive figure with a venomous shot and neat and tidy passing skills that will fit in well with Arsene Wenger’s style of play. Arsenal are rumoured to be paying about £21 million for the player, who they hope to secure on a five year contract worth about £2.8 million per year after tax. According to L’Equipe, he will arrive in London on Friday for a medical, which is expected to be a formality, and will then sign for the Gunners, who have beaten off interest from Shakhtar Donetsk, FC Porto and Spurs for the player’s services.

Before he can travel to Europe, Bernard must play one final match for Atletico Mineiro on Wednesday night as they attempt to overturn a 2-0 deficit in the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final against Olimpia of Paraguay. His send off will be at home in the Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto in Belo Horizonte and the local fans will hope that his presence on the team sheet can inspire a come-back. He missed the first leg through suspension after picking up a yellow card in the semi final second leg and his team struggled to create chances without him, but playing at home alongside Ronaldinho and Jo, he will be expected to take the game to the Paraguayans. The Arsenal squad is currently on tour in Japan but they get back to London at the end of the month in time for the Emirates Cup on the first weekend in August when their new signing could be unveiled.

United increase offer for Fabregas

Manchester United manager David Moyes has confirmed that the club has made a renewed offer for Barcelona’s former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas. United had an offer of around £25 million rejected by the Spanish champions last week, but they have decided to continue with their interest in the player and return with an improved bid, thought to be worth around £30 million.

The situation at the Catalan club has been evolving in the mean time, with manager Tito Vilanova stepping down from his post at the end of last week. Vilanova, 44, has been battling throat cancer since 2011 and was sidelined for much of last season as he underwent treatment in New York and has now taken the decision to leave the club and focus on his fight against the disease. Barcelona have yet to appoint a permanent replacement but they hope to do so in the near future, with Celta Vigo manager Luis Enrique amongst the favourites.

It remains to be seen whether Barcelona will issue an immediate response to this latest offer, or will wait until a new manager is in place to decide whether or not he wants to keep Fabregas. The player himself was reported as saying that he’s happy at Barcelona and isn’t keen on an imminent move back to England and Barcelona’s midfield would start to look a little light on numbers if they were to sell Fabregas, having only recently let Thiago Alcantara move to Bayern Munich. Fabregas was seen as a long-term replacement for Xavi who, at 33, is going to need resting more and more regularly, so Fabregas is likely to get increasing amounts of first team action if he stays at the Nou Camp. However, it’s a World Cup season and he may feel that the offer of a near guaranteed first team spot at United would be good for his chances on nailing down a spot in Spain’s staring eleven for Brazil.

Suarez joins up with Liverpool down under

Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez has joined up with his Liverpool team mates on their pre-season tour in Australia ahead of their friendly match against Melbourne Victory on Wednesday. The want-away striker is expected to feature in the match at the MCG, which will take place in front of a sold-out 95,000 crowd. Suarez missed Liverpool’s 2-0 win over an Indonesia XI in Jakarta at the weekend as he was given leave following Uruguay’s summer Confederations Cup campaign, but he’s now ready to join in with the club’s preparations for the upcoming season.

Suarez has made it public that he wants to move away to a Champions League club and he will be discussing his future with manager Brendan Rodgers this week. There have been plenty of rumours of interest in the striker from clubs such as Real Madrid in Spain and Arsenal and Chelsea in London, but it would take a huge offer to prise the player away from Anfield. Arsenal reportedly offered around £30 million for his earlier this month, but Liverpool will hold out until they receive an offer that matches their valuation upwards of £40 million. New Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has yet to declare any concrete interest in the player, but he has said that Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain will be staying at the Bernabeu, thus ending Arsenal’s chase for his services and perhaps prompting the London club to ramp up their interest in Suarez. However, it’s thought that Suarez would prefer a move abroad if he is to leave Liverpool as he’s unhappy with his treatment from the British press. Ancelotti has already splashed out €30 million on Isco this summer, so the Spanish giants might be reluctant to stump up an even higher fee for another attacking player when they already have Ronaldo, Higuain and Benzema on the books.

The list of clubs that could potentially afford Luis Suarez is probably completed by Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco, but those three are already well advanced in their summer recruitment with all three having spent significantly on their front lines. City completed the purchase of Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic last week, PSG have already spent €64 million on Suarez’s international team mate Edinson Cavani and Monaco spent a similar amount on Radamel Falcao. If Suarez and his agent find that their options are too limited then Brendan Rodgers stands a good chance of being able to persuade the Uruguayan to stay on for another season and pay back some of the club’s support in standing by him throughout his turbulent past couple of years.

Spurs to shell out £7 million for Chadli

Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas is on the verge of completing his second summer signing in the form of Belgium winger Nacer Chadli. Chadli, who turns twenty four next month, will join the north London club for a fee of around £7 million from FC Twente of the Netherlands if he successfully completes a medical.

Spurs fans may remember Chadli from their Champions League encounters with FC Twente in the 2010-11 season, when he scored in both of the group matches between the two sides. He is a winger who can be used on either flank or in a central striking role and will give Villas-Boas more versatility in his attacking options, although the club may also still seek to recruit a genuine centre-forward to further bolster their front line and compete with Adebayor and Defoe for a starting place over the coming season. Chadli himself is a regular goalscorer and he notched up twenty five in his eighty four appearances for the Dutch club as well as two in his fourteen games for Belgium. He is likely to join up with his new team mates on their tour in Hong Kong, where he will find some familiar faces in the squad in the form of his Belgium international colleagues Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele.

Chadli was born in Liege, Belgium in 1989 to a family of Moroccan extraction and holds dual Belgian and Moroccan nationality. He once represented Morocco in a non-competitive match before pledging his international future to the country of his birth. His youth career was spent with clubs in and around Liege before crossing the border to Maastricht in the Netherlands from where he was plucked by second division club AGOVV Apeldoorn and handed his breakthrough in the first team in 2007. He went on to establish himself over three seasons in Apeldoorn before signing for FC Twente in summer 2010 and making his debut for Belgium in 2011. He follows the £17 million capture of Brazilian central midfielder Paulinho as Spurs’ second summer signing.

Sunderland Sign Three Freebies

Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio has strengthened his squad by adding three new players without spending any money. The Italian been scouring Europe for talent on the cheap and has raided his former club Lazio in Italy as well as FC Basel in Switzerland and Maritimo in Portugal to bolster his defence and midfield ahead of the new campaign with more signings still expected as he attempts to make his mark on the squad he inherited from Martin O’Neill in March.

The most well-known of the three new arrivals is twenty six year old centre-back Modibo Diakité, who joins from Lazio of Rome, where Di Canio spent some of the best years of his playing career. The six foot four inch defender was born in France to a family of Senegalese extraction but spent his formative years in Italy on the books of Sampdoria and then Pescara, for whom he made one first team appearance before signing for Lazio in 2006 aged nineteen. He didn’t feature much in his first three seasons there, but made a breakthrough in the 2009-10 season, playing 19 times in Serie A and making 28 appearances in total. He was back on the fringes of the first team the following season but had his best season to date in 2011-12, making 25 league appearances and a further eleven in cups. However, last season he didn’t feature at all in Serie A and was restricted to just one game in Lazio’s successful Coppa Italia campaign so he arrives short on match practice and eager to kick-start his career.

Diakité may find himself partnered in defence with fellow twenty six year old French centre-back Valentin Roberge, who arrives from Maritimo in Portugal. At six foot two, he will cut an equally imposing figure and the pair should ensure that Sunderland are strong at defending set pieces although neither has shown much promise at the other end, with only five career goals between them to date. Roberge began his career with French amateur and reserve clubs, including Paris-Saint Germain reserves, who he left to join Aris Salonika in 2008. He made twenty five appearance over two seasons for the Greek club before he moved on due to the financial crisis and joined Maritimo where he became a regular in the heart of their defence.

The third arrival is twenty four year old midfielder Adilson Tavares Varela, who is more commonly known by his nickname, Cabral. He was born in Cape Verde but grew up in Switzerland and played for the Swiss national sides from under eighteen to under twenty-one level before opting to play for the land of his birth at full international level. He began his professional career with Lausanne in Switzerland before moving to FC Basel and going out on loan to Sevilla reserves in Spain for the 2008-09 season. Upon his return to Basel he established himself as a regular in the first team squad and has made 91 appearances to date, scoring three goals, including one in the Champions League against Roma.

Moyes gets down to work

New Manchester United manager David Moyes has arrived at the club’s training ground for his first official day at work in his new job. He is now getting down to the business of finalising his backroom team, addressing player retention and recruitment issues and planning his training program ahead of the the new season, which begins with a tour of the far east.

Moyes has three full days to devote to administrative issues before they playing staff return for pre-season training on Thursday the 4th of July and just six days of working with his new players before they depart for their pre-season tour on the 10th. The tour will take in Thailand, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong before they return to Europe at the end of the month to complete their preparations with further friendly matches in Sweden and at Old Trafford for Rio Ferdinand’s testimonial.

This is his official first day at the office, but the new United boss has already been working behind the scenes to bring his own support team to Old Trafford and has replaced Alex Ferguson’s assistant, first team coach and goalkeeping coach with his own team from Everton, Steve Round, Jimmy Lumsden and Chris Woods. Round had a short playing career with Derby County but made his name as a coach when working with England manager Steve McClaren. He has been working with David Moyes since 2008.

Jimmy Lumsden had a nomadic playing career as a midfielder with a variety of English, Scottish and Irish clubs before working as a coach and managing Bristol City for a couple of years. He has been working with David Moyes since 1998. Goalkeeper Chris Woods had by far the highest profile playing career of Moyes’ three new assistants, having played at the top level for over twenty years and winning 43 caps for England. He was a coach at Everton from 1998 onwards and has worked with Moyes since the Scot arrived at Goodison Park in 2002.

High on the agenda for the next few days will be the possible recruitment of another member of his backroom team, with the recently retired Phil Neville rumored to be his preferred choice. Neville worked with Moyes for many years as his captain at Everton, having previously played at Manchester United and would bring first hand knowledge of the Old Trafford club. Moyes will also be keen to talk to striker Wayne Rooney as there have been conflicting stories in the press regarding his desire to stay at the club or seek a transfer.

Then there is the issue of the rejected bid for Everton left-back Leighton Baines. Baines, at 28, might see this as his last chance for a big money move to a Champions League contender and would probably be tempted to continue his relationship with his former manager and receive a pay rise to boot. However, a first bid of around £12 million was rejected and United must now decide how much to raise their offer. It is likely that Moyes will push hard to secure the services of Baines as that first bid will have alerted current left-back Patrice Evra that his new manager is looking at potential replacements and could have unsettled the French international, who has regularly worn the captain’s armband at Old Trafford in recent seasons.

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