Manchester United's ongoing search for defensive consistency
Tottenham Hotspur defender Toby Alderweireld has said he could stay at the club despite reports that he would leave in the summer.
Belgium international Alderweireld has been linked with Manchester United after failing to agree a new Spurs deal.
"Yeah, why not? he said when asked after his country's friendly win over Costa Rica whether he could stay. "I have two years left on my contract. I don't know what is going to happen."
Earlier this month, sources told ESPN FC that Tottenham and United and Tottenham were around £20 million apart in their valuations of Alderweireld.
United had hoped to tie up a deal for the defender before the World Cup but were unable to agree a fee.
Sources said they were willing to pay around £50m but Spurs value the 29-year-old at closer to £70m.
Alderweireld has a clause in his contract that allows him to leave for £25m next summer if he has not reached agreement over a new contract.
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Laurent Blanc told Le Monde he would like to prove himself as a coach outside of France as he continues to be linked to take over at Chelsea.
Blanc, 52, has been out of a job since leaving Paris Saint-Germain in 2016 and is among the candidates at Chelsea with manager Antonio Conte reportedly set to leave.
After taking time to recover from a difficult three years in Paris, he said he is ready to get back into coaching, with a move abroad high on his list of ambitions.
"When you have done three years in Paris, it's wearing," Blanc said. "I needed to take a breather. I'm very happy with that, because I'm someone who takes an interest in things outside of football.
"I have some demands in relation to myself. I would like to prove to myself that I'm capable of coaching abroad."
A centre-back during his career, Blanc played at Barcelona, Napoli, Inter Milan and Manchester United but has only coached in his native country, winning the Ligue 1 title at Bordeaux before coaching the France national team and then moving to PSG.
Chelsea forward Eden Hazard said recently that he wants to know who will manage next season, with former Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri also on the club's shortlist.
"You know as well as me the market for coaches," Blanc said. "There are a lot of coaches on the market. If a new project comes along, I'll take up the challenge. If not, I'll move on to something else."
Ian is ESPN's French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger is unlikely to manage France in future because he needs to be involved in football every day, ex-Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna has told ESPN FC.
Wenger stepped down from his role as Arsenal manager at the end of last season but confirmed that he had no intention of bringing an end to his career.
He has been linked with a role with the France team, either as a potential successor to Didier Deschamps or in a more technical job, but Sagna said he did not expect that to appeal to his former boss.
"I don't think he will be the France national team manager one day because he wants to be part [of the game] every single day in what he is doing," Sagna said at the launch of Primetag, a digital tool that offers players, teams, brands and media a new way to utilise social media information.
"There's only some momentum with the French national team and for him it's not enough. I think he will try to get a team [a club].
"After being such an important man in the football world, such a big manager and having so much influence on so many players, he can't stay away from the pitch.
"I don't know where it's going to be, where he's going to end up, but he's going to be back soon, I think."
Sagna angered many Arsenal fans when he ran his contract down and joined Manchester City on a free transfer in 2014 after seven years with the Gunners.
But he stressed that his respect for Wenger was undiminished, saying: "He's the one who had a big impact in my life because he brought me to English football, to the dream of many players, and he made me play for Arsenal which was my favourite team when I was young.
"I had the chance to wear the shirt and he gave me the opportunity to do it. I was sad when I saw him walking away after 22 years. He deserved a farewell and the respect he had. Everyone showed gratitude to him. He deserved it."
Having played in three of the last four major international tournaments Sagna, 35, is not in the France World Cup squad but was upbeat about their chances.
"The France national team is really strong," he said. "Every single position is really strong. We have amazing players going to the World Cup and I think they're going to do well, not only because they are talented but because they are really young.
"There's a good vibe in the team and in the most recent competitions, in the World Cup in 2014 and in Euro 2016 we did well. I'm looking forward to seeing the team reach the final and winning."
Sagna also believes that losing the Euro 2016 final to Portugal in France will make the national team even more determined.
"I remember the first words [in the dressing room] after losing the final were thinking about the World Cup," he said.
"It was disappointing to lose the final the way we did in France, and I think the team wants to live these kind of moments again because it's just magical, crazy when you see the impact it had on the country itself. They have quality and they're going to go step by step."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.
You'd think given their glaring need for a new goalkeeper that Liverpool would be heavily linked to anyone with a pair of gloves this summer, yet journalists most closely connected to the club only seem to be mentioning one man; Roma's Brazilian shot-stopper Alisson.
Alisson's rise has been rather sudden. A little over a year ago he was Wojciech Szczesny's backup and did not become the starter until the former Arsenal man left to join Juventus. After only a couple of months as Roma's number one, Alisson's value had soared and there was talk of Liverpool preparing a massive January offer for him.
That offer never materialised as Jurgen Klopp instead gave Loris Karius a chance to prove himself, but the speculation never went away and has intensified in recent weeks following the meltdown suffered by Karius in the Champions League final last month.
Alisson's main credentials appear to be that he is Brazil's number one and by definition better than Manchester City's Ederson, his understudy in the international setup.
That might not actually be the case though. Roberto Firmino is being kept out of the very same Brazil side by Gabriel Jesus, but you'd be hard pressed to find any "Kopite" who would take the City youngster over their beloved "Bobby".
International managers occasionally get these things wrong, even the great ones. Who could forget Sir Alex Ferguson not taking Alan Hansen to the 1986 World Cup? The Liverpool skipper would have walked into almost any team in the world at that time yet he couldn't get into Scotland's. Yes, it's been 32 years and I really ought to let it go, but what can I say, it still rankles.
Getting back to the matter at hand though, being better than Ederson isn't really that big an accomplishment. The City 'keeper had a good first season in England but he's no David De Gea. The Manchester United man is the benchmark for all goalkeepers in the Premier League, and currently no one in England comes close.
Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak is up there, but is Alisson in the conversation too? His price tag suggests so. Liverpool seem to agree as the suggestion from the Merseyside press is that Klopp has his heart set on the Brazilian and refuses to consider alternatives, in much the same way he did with Virgil van Dijk.
Klopp's "Van Dijk or no one" stance a year ago was as admirable as it was risky, but taking the same approach with Alisson would be a far greater gamble given Liverpool's obvious need for a goalkeeper.
Last August, Klopp challenged a room full of journalists to "tell me five (centre-backs) that would make us stronger. Five. Then you win a prize." If he asks that same question about goalkeepers he might be there for a while and he'd better be prepared to give out a lot of prizes.
There was a belated happy ending to the Van Dijk chase as the defender arrived in January and made exactly the kind of impact Klopp expected. Some still believe that Klopp should have addressed the issue in the summer while still going for Van Dijk in January, but the German doesn't operate like that.
There are goalkeepers out there who are better than those Liverpool already have, but unless Klopp sees them as being a clear upgrade (like Alisson) the feeling is that he'd rather stick with what he has. It makes sense; why pay £40 million for Jack Butland if he is only a bit better than the man he would be replacing?
Before the Champions League final that approach was fine, but the extraordinary events in Kiev changed everything, certainly for the fans. We can only guess how Klopp feels but there are very few Kopites who would be ok with the club not signing anybody if for whatever reason they are unable to land Alisson.
Turning to Simon Mignolet again is surely out of the question. He lost his place because he was not the answer and nothing has changed in that regard.
Twenty-four-year-old Karius hasn't hit his ceiling yet, but after his nightmare showing against Real Madrid perhaps he never will. Suffering such humiliation on the grandest of stages is not an easy thing to come back from. Not only does he need to rebuild his own confidence, he must also win back the trust of his teammates and the crowd.
He will be under the most intense scrutiny imaginable and any mistake, no matter how small, will be magnified. As much as Klopp might want to keep faith with his young compatriot, it would be a distraction the team could do without.
Karius may still have an Anfield future but he cannot be counted on for next season, so if Klopp genuinely is thinking only of Alisson then he'd better be prepared to pay whatever it takes to get the Brazilian, or else be willing to change his mind.
The incredible success of Mohamed Salah at Anfield makes a deal for Alisson far more difficult. Roma feel they were short changed by the Reds over the Egyptian so Alisson won't come cheap. It might even take a fee close to the £75m it took to land Van Dijk.
That seems excessive, but that's what many said about the Van Dijk fee, too. Nobody says that anymore after seeing the Dutchman completely transform Liverpool's previously shaky backline.
For a genuinely world-class goalkeeper almost no price is too high. Whether Alisson is in that bracket is for Klopp to decide, but if he believes he is then he should pay whatever it takes to get him.
If he is not sure, if Real Madrid swoop in or if Roma simply refuse to sell, then Klopp must look for an alternative because sticking with what he has is simply not an option. Not this time.
Dave Usher is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.
Wolverhampton Wanderers forward Benik Afobe has joined second-tier side Stoke City on a six-month loan ahead of a permanent move in January -- just days after signing for the Premier League club, Wolves said on Tuesday.
DR Congo international Afobe joined Wolves on a loan from Bournemouth in January and scored six goals in 17 appearances as the Molineux outfit finished top of the Championship last season and sealed promotion to the top flight.
But after making his transfer permanent on June 1, Wolves have agreed to him moving to Stoke on loan, with an obligation for the Championship side to buy him outright in the January transfer window.
Wolves said Stoke had made "a significant offer" for the 25-year-old.
#WelcomeAfobeStoke City are delighted to announce the signing of @Wolves striker Benik AfobeThe 25-year-old striker has moved to the bet365 Stadium on a six-month loan but with an obligation to purchase him for an undisclosed fee in January???? https://t.co/m3OlyfxJuH#SCFC pic.twitter.com/CoHv85EAL4
"Whilst we decided to exercise the option in Benik's loan deal from AFC Bournemouth at the end of the season, Stoke City's interest in signing him was very strong. The end result is positive for all parties," Wolves sporting director Kevin Thelwell said on the club website.
Stoke were relegated to the second tier after finishing 19th in the league standings last season.
Manager Gary Rowett, who signed Nigerian midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo on Monday, told Stoke's website: "If there's one signing you want to make to get you out of the Championship Benik is that kind of player."
Afobe said: "The manager is probably the main reason why I'm signing, to be honest. He's very ambitious; he's got a project going on here and I want to be a big part of it.
"I believe it what he is trying to achieve and I want to help us get back where we belong."
Huddersfield Town have snapped up Stoke City's Egypt international winger Ramadan Sobhi, who will sign a three-year deal after the conclusion of the World Cup in Russia.
The 21-year-old has made 46 appearances for Stoke across all competitions after joining from Egyptian side El Ahly in 2016.
He scored one of his two Premier League goals last season against Huddersfield on Boxing Day.
Sobhi has 26 caps for Egypt and is among the team's key players at the World Cup, which begins on Thursday, the day before Egypt's opener against Uruguay.
✅ #htafc will sign Egyptian international @RamadanSobhi from @stokecity for an undisclosed fee following the conclusion of this summer's World Cup.???????? Ramadan flew in from Egypt's training camp to sign a three-year contract with the Club.➡️ https://t.co/TatWwxFids (AT) pic.twitter.com/VHRg25HTAL
"He's a real talent and has achieved a lot for a player who is only 21 years old," Huddersfield manager David Wagner told the club's website.
"Ramadan will join our club on the back of a challenging season. However, he already has a lot of the qualities ... he's skilful, direct and very quick-thinking. He still has a lot of space to improve, too, which is very exciting."
Stoke were relegated to the second-tier Championship after finishing 19th in the Premier League last season.
Mexico forward Raul Jimenez will join newly promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League next season, on loan from Benfica.
Wolves announced the move on Tuesday, less than a week before Jimenez and Mexico kick off against Germany on Sunday.
The 27-year-old is Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo's first signing of the summer as they prepare to compete in the top flight for the first time since 2012.
We are delighted to confirm that @Raul_Jimenez9 has joined Wolves on a season-long loan from @SLBenfica. #BienvenidoRaúl???????????? pic.twitter.com/NGBFMx8kFU
"Wolves have secured the signing of Mexico and SL Benfica forward Raul Jimenez, subject to international clearance and work permit," the English club said on their website.
Jimenez scored six goals and provided seven assists in 33 appearances for Benfica in the Portuguese top-flight last season. He has 19 league goals over the past three seasons after one year at Atletico Madrid.
The Club America product has scored 14 goals in 63 appearances for Mexico.
Manchester United are the world's most valuable football club for a second consecutive year, according to the annual list published by Forbes on Tuesday.
The Premier League runners-up, who last year ended European champions Real Madrid's four-year stint at the top of the list, were valued at $4.12 billion, up 12 percent from a year ago, Forbes said.
The average value of the top 20, which relates to the 2016-17 season, rose by 14 percent over the period.
Real Madrid, who last month won a third-straight Champions League title, were second, with a value of $4.08 billion, up 14 percent from the previous year.
Barcelona ($4.06 billion), Bayern Munich ($3.06 billion) and United's neighbours Manchester City ($2.47 billion) rounded off the top five. Six English clubs feature in the top 10.
According to Forbes, which bases valuation on the level of equity plus net debt, Barcelona or Real Madrid could soon take over top spot -- the former because of their consistently high performance in the Champions League and the latter because of additional expected revenue from their renovated stadium when completed in four years.
Only the top three clubs rank in the top 10 teams in all sports, with United, Real Madrid and Barcelona taking up the 2-4 spots behind the NFL's Dallas Cowboys but just ahead of baseball's New York Yankees.
Forbes said the 20 most valuable teams are now worth an average of $1.69 billion, a rise it attributed to the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar relative to the Euro.
The 20 most valuable clubs:
1. Manchester United ($4.12bn)
2. Real Madrid ($4.08bn)
3. Barcelona ($4.06bn)
4. Bayern Munich ($3.06bn)
5. Manchester City ($2.47bn)
6. Arsenal ($2.23bn)
7. Chelsea ($2.06bn)
8. Liverpool ($1.94bn)
9. Juventus ($1.47bn)
10. Tottenham Hotspur ($1.23bn)
11. Paris Saint-Germain ($971m)
12. Borussia Dortmund ($901m)
13. Atletico Madrid ($848m)
14. West Ham United ($754m)
15. Schalke ($707m)
16. Roma ($618m)
17. AC Milan ($612m)
18. Inter Milan ($606m)
19. Leicester City ($500m)
20. Napoli ($471m)
LONDON -- Manchester City can emulate Barcelona's level of dominance under Pep Guardiola in the next few years if they keep the core of their team together, according to former City defender Bacary Sagna.
Guardiola led City to the Premier League title in historic fashion this season, breaking competition records for most points, most wins, most goals scored, biggest margin of victory and biggest goal difference -- though they exited the Champions League at the quarterfinal stage to Liverpool.
Sagna, who played under Guardiola for one year before being released in the summer of 2017, believes it is only a matter of time before City make their presence felt in Europe in a similar manner to the great Barcelona teams that won the Champions League in 2009 and 2011.
"They're going to be flying in the next five years, because all of them are 22, 23 years old," the Frenchman told ESPN FC at the launch of Primetag, a digital tool that offers players, teams, brands and media a new way to utilise social media information.
"If they keep the shape of the team -- and they will -- they're going to be very successful, a bit like Barcelona were [under Guardiola] in the past. They're going to be flying in every competition they're going to be playing in."
Sagna added that he saw the foundations for City's domestic achievements being laid by the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona boss last season, though he admitted the players' execution of the system fell short in key moments that undermined their hopes of winning major silverware.
"The way we were training was different, the pressure we had on training was different," Sagna added. "It was very demanding and it's still very demanding. He wants to take the best of every single player and I think this season shows that he managed to do it.
"The previous season we had a good team, we were really strong, but we missed a little bit of attitude, of desire on the pitch. This season you notice the team was like sharks. That's what they called themselves and they were, because they reached 100 points. They achieved great [things].
"The Champions League was the only bad point of the season, but they're going to be leading the top teams in the seasons coming and they're going to be achieving a lot."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.
David Seaman believes that although a top four finish is achievable for Arsenal under Unai Emery, their defence needs to be addressed.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles has signed a long-term contract extension with Arsenal.
He is the first member of the Arsenal first-team to extend his contract since Unai Emery took over as head coach, an indication the new boss views the England youth international as part of his plans.
New season, new contract, new number.Get your @Ains_7 shirt ???? https://t.co/XRihKEbj2z pic.twitter.com/PlB3Ig8azG
Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis hinted as much after Emery was announced as Arsene Wenger's replacement on May 23, when highlighting how the former Paris Saint-Germain boss had impressed in his interview with his detailed knowledge of players like Maitland-Niles.
"If we were speaking about one of our young players, if we targeted Ainsley Maitland-Niles for example, Unai knows Ainsley," Gazidis told the Arsenal website at the time.
"He's watched him, he's familiar with his patterns of play, his capabilities, he's very excited about his potential and was able to talk about how excited he was to work with Ainsley, to develop him as a player."
Maitland-Niles said: "You don't really hear a lot of young players being shouted out by their managers, especially a new manager who hasn't really seen them play too much.
"I think it's brilliant to hear from him and it gives me a load of confidence. It feels fantastic knowing that I'm going to be a part of the squad, and a big part of the squad. It means a lot with the new head coach coming in and Arsenal tying me down [with a new contract]. I'm very pleased.
"We had a little meeting. [Emery] said that he wants all of his players to work hard and I'm no stranger to doing that. It will be second nature to me. I think [the high-pressing game] suits me a lot, too. I've got a lot of pace to give to the team, pressing up high and winning the ball back as soon as possible is a major factor in football."
The 20-year-old joined Arsenal's Hale End academy at the age of nine and was frequently used as a utility player by Wenger last season, when he made 28 appearances in all competitions.
He is mostly viewed as a central midfielder but was also used as a full-back and wing-back by Wenger.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.
Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson is set to sign a new deal before being loaned to a Championship club, sources have told ESPN FC.
Henderson's existing deal was due to expire later this month and United feared he could leave following an impressive loan spell in which he helped Shrewsbury Town reach last season's League One playoff final.
The England under-21 international was named in the PFA's League One Team of the Year and a number of clubs were reported to be keen to sign him as a free agent when his contract expired.
However, United have convinced the goalkeeper to extend his stay at the club, where he has played since joining from Carlisle at the age of 14.
Henderson will be behind David De Gea, Sergio Romero and Joel Pereira, but United have high hopes for his future.
They feel he would be best served by going out on loan to a Championship club next term to continue his development.
Peter O'Rourke is ESPN FC's transfer news correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @SportsPeteO.
LIVERPOOL, England -- Liverpool's move for Nabil Fekir fell through last weekend following the medical the French international took ahead of a €60 million transfer.
A source has told ESPN FC that Liverpool did not attempt to renegotiate terms with Lyon, who said in statement on Saturday that they had broken off negotiations. Both clubs have since offered no indication as to why the move broke down.
Fekir suffered a cruciate ligament injury when on international duty back in September 2015 that forced him to miss the majority of the 2015-16 campaign.
ESPN FC spoke to former Chelsea first-team doctor Ralph Rogers for his insight into the process of a football medical.
ESPN FC: Can you explain how in-depth and thorough medicals are for multi million pound transfers?
Dr Rogers: Actually, it's a fallacy. Sometimes they're not at all. When you have these transfer deadlines, how in-depth can a football medical be? Sometimes they're not. Sometimes teams are not forthcoming with past medical injuries.
How in-depth can medicals be when you have these transfer deals going on left and right? Especially when a club has not totally disclosed all the medical details -- and clubs don't always do that, it's not always transparent. It's almost like: "It's for you to find out."
ESPN FC: Fekir, for example, suffered a serious knee injury three years ago and underwent a minor procedure last March. Can previous injuries be a deal-breaker?
RR: I don't know if Liverpool had all the information about his previous injury, I'm sure they might have suspected because he was out for a few months. Nobody really tells you too much about your medical history if they don't want you to know. It's like buying a used car. If you're buying a used car, they might not tell you everything that's wrong with that car. That's in all industries.
But then if you're going to buy someone then you get all the information. On top of that, there are tests that are made -- you can look at muscle balance, muscle strength across both knees. There are all kinds of strength, agility and speed tests you can make for you to be happy or not happy. It's all about whether these (previous injuries) would impact a player in the future.
ESPN FC: It seems it's all comes down to risk. Some Liverpool fans will watch Fekir at the World Cup this summer and wonder why the transfer fell through ...
RR: There always can be a danger when playing a contact sport such as football. I would applaud the medical staff for making such a call. They looked at the risk and they weren't happy with what they saw. For fans, it's easy to spend somebody else's money. But if you bought the player and then he broke down then there would be questions about why their club bought that player.
You have experts, highly trained, highly intelligent people looking at risk, injury-risk and what could happen in the future. The club might want the player for the long term and not just one or two years. They might want him for their five-year plan, but he might only have an 18-month knee or whatever the injury is.
It's a science and it's not all about: "I want, I want, I want." It's all about what's right for the club. €60m is a lot of money. I'm very supportive of the medical staff in whatever decision they make because they made it for a reason.
ESPN FC: I get the impression that every club is different in regards to how much emphasis they place on the results of a medical
RR: If you've got a player that is supremely gifted, but can possibly become injured because of some underlying condition -- do you buy him? It comes down to the club. That's my point.
If you're a very wealthy club then you don't really care because it's not a problem. "We bought this person for £80m and he broke down. No problem, we'll just buy another one." If money and support is in abundance then you can just about do anything. Again, I applaud the medical staff for making the call.
Glenn is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.
Arsenal have announced that former Gunners midfielder Freddie Ljungberg will return to the club as head coach of the club's under-23 side.
Ljungberg spent the 2016-17 season as the U15 coach before leaving to become then-academy director Andries Jonker's assistant when he took over at Wolfsburg.
He will work under new academy director Per Mertesacker as Arsenal continue to make former players key figures in the youth setup.
"I'm delighted to be returning to the club," Ljungberg said. "Arsenal has always been a special place for me and I'm really excited at this opportunity to work with our under-23 team.
"I look forward to working with the talented young players we have at the club. I know many of them well and will work hard to help them continue developing and become the best players and people they can be."
Welcome home, @freddie ???? https://t.co/2Js4IGKmBF
Ljungberg inherits a team full of talent as Arsenal's U23s won the Premier League 2 division last season despite often playing without top players like Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah when they were called up to Arsene Wenger's first team.
However, former U23 coach Steve Gatting was suspended near the end of the season after accusations of bullying.
Ljungberg's return also helps continue Wenger's legacy at the club after he ended his 22-year reign as manager, with Jens Lehmann also part of backroom staff under new head coach Unai Emery.
"It's great to have Freddie back at the club. He brings great footballing experience and the highest possible levels of enthusiasm, energy and encouragement for our young professionals," Mertesacker said.
"He understands the club's values and how important it is to give young players the opportunity to grow and develop. When Freddie left for Wolfsburg it was with the club's blessing and with a return to Arsenal some day in mind. Everyone knows Freddie loves the club and we look forward to him developing his career with us."
Ljungberg joined Arsenal in 1998 and stayed for nine seasons, winning two Premier League titles and three FA Cups as well as being a member of the side that went a full league season unbeaten.
Fellow "Invincible" Robert Pires told ESPN FC last week that he was thrilled about Ljungberg's return.
"I'm very happy for Freddie because he's back with Arsenal," Pires said. "For the legacy, of course, it's very important for the club to keep ex-Arsenal players. That's why they chose Freddie, Jens Lehmann and Per Mertesacker.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.
Here's a cruel irony: just as England have adopted a tactical setup that plays to Luke Shaw's best strengths, the defender finds himself at home for the summer.
Gareth Southgate has chosen to make England line up in a 3-5-2 formation, reminiscent of that which saw Glenn Hoddle's side play with such freedom at World Cup 1998, a strategy which would suit Shaw's natural desire to attack the final third.
This deployment, ahead of three highly attentive and ball-playing centre-backs, would also lessen the danger in Shaw's approach, which is to allow space in behind him when he pushes forward. This was a failing for which Jose Mourinho held him to task early in the Portuguese manager's time at Old Trafford, and in truth one from which he has never truly recovered. Instead, Danny Rose -- who would, in any case, be difficult to dislodge from the team -- and Ashley Young will represent England in Russia as the team's left wing-backs. Shaw, meanwhile, may continue to ask himself how it has come to this.
How, indeed? Shaw was once coveted as one of the best young full-backs in the world, and though he still has his youth -- he is 23 in July -- his career has lost its early and supremely thrilling momentum.
It is tempting to trace all of Shaw's problems back to that horrifying challenge he endured against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League, when his leg was so badly shattered that he was out for the rest of the season. Worse still, he had been in exceptional form, and was arguably his team's best player. He had to fight back from that awful moment, recovering himself both mentally and physically, and one wonders if he is still affected in the latter respect -- not in terms of fearing further injury, but frustrated at just how much further ahead he could and should be.
It is clear that the Shaw we see now is not the same one we saw before his injury, but there could be other factors at play. It is notable that both Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have at times been brutal in their assessment of the player's condition, with Van Gaal saying that Shaw needed a fitness regime to get him into shape. Mourinho has subsequently cast doubt on Shaw's professionalism, which leaves the question as to whether Shaw is ready for the ruthlessness of a club the size of Manchester United.
When at Chelsea, Mourinho previously had an issue with Shaw's salary demands, and so he may have been concerned on arriving at Old Trafford that the player had too much, too soon. However, one wonders whether Shaw could have produced better performances if a gentler touch had been employed. Whatever Mourinho is doing -- and however Shaw is reacting -- we are not seeing the best of one of English football's most exciting talents, and that is a great shame.
His loss, of course, is Young's gain. It is remarkable the veteran will play a starring role in Russia, and his career makes him one of the more durable and adaptable footballers in modern English football. He travels to this World Cup as an elder statesman and a survivor not only of a harrowing penalty shootout defeat (at Euro 2012) but as someone who has successfully reinvented himself as a defender. Southgate clearly trusts Young, and that is a significant achievement -- he brings not only tactical discipline but, judging by his half-time role in rallying United from two goals down to win the most recent Manchester derby, great leadership as well.
Over on United's other flank, the future is fortunately much brighter. Diogo Dalot looks to be a fine acquisition from Portugal and was recently the subject of a recent and anguished message from a lifelong Porto fan, who told me that he regarded Dalot as the best young right-back in the world.
The tone of the message was sufficiently wistful that there seemed to be plenty of weight behind it, but Dalot's time as a regular is probably a season or two away -- Antonio Valencia, who is ahead of him in the pecking order, is still in fine form, though Dalot may have greater ability in attack.
Dalot's acquisition is intriguing because, though he has only played a handful of games of professional football, he has an excellent pedigree as a youth international. Though promising youth stars do not always mature into superb senior professionals, it is not like Mourinho to get a bet on a young defender wildly wrong.
All the indications are that Dalot is a star in the making. This, incidentally, is a status that Shaw once had, and which he may rue, but to which -- crucially - he still has time to return.
Musa Okwonga is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow on Twitter: @Okwonga.
Mexico striker Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez says he would turn down a $10 million deal to move to MLS if he could make half as much playing in Spain.
As he prepares for the World Cup, the 30-year-old's club future is in doubt after he only started 16 Premier League games at West Ham last season, with a further 12 appearances off the bench. Sources told ESPN FC in April that West Ham would be open to offers for Hernandez, who scored eight goals last season despite his limited opportunities.
Hernandez has long been linked to a move back to North America, either to an MLS club or to Liga MX side Chivas, but in an interview with ESPN's David Faitelson last month he made it clear he would prefer to stay in Europe.
In a series of rapid-fire questions, Hernandez was asked, "$10 million playing in MLS or $5 million playing on a mid-table team in Spain?" -- and he responded "$5 million in Spain."
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Hernandez, who moved to Europe with Manchester United in 2010, has played only one year in Spain -- the 2014-15 season with Real Madrid while on loan. He then spent two seasons with Bayer Leverkusen in Germany before returning to the Premier League last season.
And despite a long-term fondness for Chivas, Hernandez said he would rather "return to Manchester United" than his boyhood club.
Asked if he would stay in Europe "as far as it takes you," he agreed: "Yes, literally like that, as far as I can go."
"You said it well, as far as it takes me," Hernandez said. "And it doesn't mean I'm carrying burdens or something bad. Let's say, and I'll say it, that's it."
Hernandez also said that if he had to leave Europe in the near future that he would play in Mexico rather than MLS -- but that doesn't mean it would be the final move of his career.
"I'll tell you this, when I return, when I'm able to return to [North America]... it'll be Mexico, obviously," he said. "But wherever it is, that doesn't mean that's the end of it, OK? For me, the end is when I retire, be it in China, Dubai, Qatar, MLS, the Spanish league, Dutch, French."
Hernandez also spoke about his distaste in general for the current state of the transfer system, saying teams who hold out for higher fees can keep players from reaching their full potential.
"The problem now is with transfers. They don't want to sell," he said. "If you listen now, clubs are vying for [Monterrey's] Rodolfo Pizarro for $15 million to $20 million, but no team is going to pay that. Those teams are keeping Rodolfo Pizarro from succeeding when they can open a door for him."
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LONDON -- Fulham should not go "full throttle" with their spending in a bid to maximise their chances of surviving in the Premier League next season, according to former goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.
Slavisa Jokanovic's men secured a return to the top flight with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa in last month's tense Championship playoff final, a match that was estimated to be worth around £160 million to the victors.
Defeat at Wembley has left Villa in serious financial trouble, with chief executive Keith Wyness suspended last week and administration only narrowly avoided amid reports that the club must cut around £15m from its wage bill to remain solvent.
Fulham, in contrast, now have the means to keep the highly-rated core of their promotion side together while strengthening their squad for a Premier League campaign, but Van Der Sar, who serves as Ajax's chief executive, warned that owner Shahid Khan should not go overboard in the transfer window.
"I think it will be nice for Fulham to keep the guys they want to keep, and of course add some quality to the team," Van Der Sar said last week ahead playing in a World XI for Soccer Aid, which raised more than £5.5m for UNICEF at Old Trafford on Sunday.
"I watched the playoff final with my son. The first half I think they were the better team, second half they suffered a little bit, but it's great to see them back up [in the Premier League].
"But I wouldn't go full throttle and throw everything that you earned this year into the team. Make sure you have a stable organisation, a stable background. You've seen with other clubs that have got promoted that it's not impossible to stay up in the first year [without spending big]."
Several of Fulham's key players have been linked with moves elsewhere -- not least Ryan Sessegnon, the 18-year-old winger who has reportedly attracted serious interest from Tottenham after registering an astonishing 16 goals and eight assists in the Championship last season.
But former midfielder Danny Murphy, who played for England XI at Old Trafford, believes midfield playmaker Tom Cairney is the player that Jokanovic would miss most in the Premier League.
"Cairney is a terrific player," he said. "What I like about him is he tries to make things happen, make a difference in the final third.
"I think he probably could be a bit fitter. That's not saying anything against him because that will come with playing at the next level anyway. He missed quite a few games, and they need to keep him fit because at the moment he is the one, the game-changer."
Murphy was full of praise for the progress that Jokanovic and his players made last season, though he expects that both will need help to build on their success in the top flight.
"They play terrific football and the manager's done a terrific job with limited resources compared with other big clubs in the Championship," he added. "But they need players. A bit of experience and a bit more legs."
Disney is partnering with Unicef to launch its 24 Hour Challenge to inspire families to get active this summer with the chance to support Unicef UK's work. In celebration of Disney•Pixar's Incredibles 2, make it an Incredible Summer and take part in the 24 Hour Challenge. For more information visit https://www.24hourchallenge.com/.
The 24 Hour Challenge is part of Disney's Healthy Living commitment to use the power of its characters and storytelling to inspire families to be more active.
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.
Manchester United used seven different central defenders last season -- Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind, Axel Tuanzebe and Marcos Rojo -- yet none started more in the Premier League than Smalling's 28 games.
Twenty-eight was also the number of league goals conceded by United, only one more than the league-best Manchester City. Jose Mourinho's defenders should be complimented, though that total would have been higher had it not been for the manager's tactical pragmatism, which can bore fans, and David De Gea's brilliance in goal
Nobody thinks that having such a changeable defence is the mark of a great team. When United were English, European and world champions a decade ago, the back four was set with Nemanja Vidic (35 league starts), Rio Ferdinand (32), Wes Brown (34) and Patrice Evra (33).
The quartet were in the lineup for, on average, 48 games in all competitions. Indeed, so settled was the defensive alignment that it may have blocked Gerard Pique's passage to the United first team, but it was a significant contributory factor to success.
In 1991, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Clayton Blackmore and Denis Irwin averaged an astonishing 54 starts and the treble-winning side of 1998-99 had two defenders who started more than 50 games (Gary Neville and Jaap Stam), while Denis Irwin managed 45. Last term? United's four most-used defenders managed an average of 31.
For the third summer in succession, a manager noted for building teams from the back is seeking to add another central defender -- after Bailly in 2016 and Lindelof last year. Bailly, 24, started well at Old Trafford while Lindelof, who is one year younger, began nervously in the European Super Cup and was given fewer chances, having to wait until October for his league debut.
Though not the finished product, Bailly looked good at the start of this season alongside Jones and then, after missing several months, was brilliant against Liverpool. The Ivory Coast international is happy at United, but his manager wasn't satisfied with him at the end of the season, oddly claiming that he was out of favour because he wasn't going to the World Cup. Neither were other players, but they still played.
Bailly and Lindelof cost £30 million, which may not seem so pricey given football's post-Neymar inflation, but only seven defenders have cost more than £35m: Leonardo Bonucci, John Stones, David Luiz, Benjamin Mendy, Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker and Virgil van Dijk. Four of them have moved to Manchester City in the last two years. Though Mendy and Stones have hardly been mainstays, that shouldn't detract from United's concerns.
Mourinho likes some characteristics of every defender at the club and has praised -- and criticised -- them all at times, as their form has fluctuated. Rojo, 28, is a case in point: In 2016 few fans would have been sad to see him leave. Twelve months later he was one of the best players on the team, yet injury has since seen his stock dip.
Jones, 26, is a very good defender but one who is injury prone and started just 23 league games last season. He was excellent against Tottenham in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley -- if not in the league game between the sides at the same venue -- but he rarely features in European games. His bravery should be applauded, but Vidic was similarly brave and he managed to play 30 percent more games.
Smalling, 28, can be a fan scapegoat and is not considered to be at the same level as the players he replaced by his peers, though few are on the level of Vidic and Ferdinand. His mistakes don't make for pleasant replays and yet, just as the abuse peaks -- even from his own fans -- he'll do something like score the winner in the Manchester derby.
United have not told any of the five established central defenders that they can leave as yet, but the search for improvement continues. It is why Mourinho bought Bailly and Lindelof and why he went for Atletico Madrid's Jose Gimenez in January 2017. The tough Uruguayan was interested in the move, but his club had no interest in selling him. He has stayed on United's radar, as have Real Madrid's Raphael Varane and Spurs' Toby Alderweireld.
Getting them is the hard part, though. United will continue trying to sign another central defender, hopefully a talented player who will be welcomed by supporters and play every week like the greats of the past.
Andy Mitten is a freelance writer and the founder and editor of United We Stand. Follow him on Twitter: @AndyMitten.