News, views and rumours relating to Manchester United in the past 24 hours
Referee Howard Webb has been selected to officiate United’s clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford next Sunday. Despite Webb has refereed a World Cup final and a Champion’s League final and is rated as the world number one by both FIFA and UEFA.
However, his controversial decisions in the clash between the two clubs back in January of 2011, lead to heavy criticism from Liverpool fans and even some of the players – including Ryan Babel’s suggestion that Webb is a Manchester United fan.
United striker Wayne Rooney has been granted compassionate leave by the club following the death of his sister-in-law Rosie McLoughlin at the weekend.
Rooney is currently unavailable for selection due to a knee injury but will be allowed to be with his family at this difficult time.
United captain Nemanja Vidic has expressed his belief that the team must “do better” defensively, in the wake of their FA Cup near-exit on Saturday.
Should United manage to get a victory from the replay scheduled for Wednesday 16th January, they go through to face either Fulham or Blackpool at home in the fourth round of the competition.
Former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola has announced that he wishes to return to coaching but refused to reveal whether he intends to hold talks with United over his possible succession to Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ferguson described United’s dramatic late equalizer in their 2-2 FA Cup draw with West Ham last weekend as “absolutely fantastic”.
The United boss also took the opportunity to clear up his recent comments about Newcastle United.
"It was never my intention to belittle Newcastle fans,” he said.
"They are up there with the best supporters in the game.”
In transfer news, United have been linked with a bid for Real Madrid’s Luka Modric who has struggled to find his form since his move from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer.
The £33 million maestro has been heavily criticized for his underwhelming displays so far this season for the Spanish champions. United are reportedly lining up a £20 million bid for the Croatian playmaker who could provide extra creativity in the centre of midfield.
Meanwhile, United are confident they can capture Crystal Palace starlet Wilfried Zaha, despite competition from Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs. The striker is valued by his current club at around £20 million but it is understood the bidding is likely to begin at a fee of around £7 million for the 20-year-old striker.
However, reports that Tottenham Hotspur are the current favourites to sign the striker could see United forced to improve their offer to Crystal Palace.
Rumours are circulating over the future of United goalkeeper David De Gea whose performances between the sticks have been somewhat inconsistent since his £17 million move from Athletico Madrid in the summer of 2011.
United are subsequently linked with a number of targets to replace the Spaniard in goal – Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas, Liverpool’s Pepe Reina, Stoke’s Asmir Begovic, Birmingham’s Jack Butland, and Sunderland’s Simon Mignolet are all thought to be possible targets.
United have also recalled young goalkeeper Ben Amos back from his loan stint at Hull City, fuelling further speculation that De Gea could be moved on in the January transfer window.
United youngster Reece Brown has also been recalled from his loan spell at Coventry City. The young defender made 10 appearances for Coventry and has been selected to play for England’s U20s.
United youngster Robbie Brady is linked with a permanent move away from Old Trafford this month. The Republic of Ireland international has been the subject of a bid from Hull City where he has been on loan. The Irish Times reports the fee is thought to be around £2 million.
Bristol City are reportedly interested in a loan move for United defender Scott Wootton and Michael Keane will extend his loan spell with Leicester City for another month following the agreement between both clubs and the player.
United legend Ruud van Nistlerooy has hailed United Dutch youngster Alexander Buttner as “somebody for the future”, tipping him to succeed at Old Trafford.
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