EPL Insider: Man Utd hoping for midfield boost & City plan Yaya talks

Louis van Gaal’s side hope to have Michael Carrick back to full fitness soon, while their rivals will sit down for talks with the Ivory Coast international over his future

Manchester United hope for midfield boost

While all eyes will be on the incomings and outgoings at Manchester United over the next two days, under the radar one man is looking to provide manager Louis van Gaal a welcome boost with a return to fitness ahead of schedule.

Michael Carrick underwent ankle surgery in mid-July, and was expected to be out for at least three months.

Van Gaal described the midfielder’s injury as “a big blow” at the time, and despite the arrival of Ander Herrera this summer, Carrick’s absence has been keenly felt as United have picked up just one point from their first three league games and crashed out of the Capital One Cup thanks to a 4-0 defeat at MK Dons this week.

The Englishman has, however, impressed coaches and medical staff with his recovery process so far.

While keen not to put a date on his first-team return at this stage, both player and club are hopeful he could be ready for a possible comeback in October.

With Chelsea scheduled to visit Old Trafford on 26 October, Carrick will be desperate to have proven his fitness before then.

- By Paul Clennam

Tottenham to continue tradition of busy deadline days

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is usually the busiest man in the country on deadline day and it is unlikely to be any different this year.

The priority for Spurs is to trim their squad and a number of players are expected to depart before the transfer window closes.

Sandro, Lewis Holtby, Paulinho and Vlad Chiriches and Benoit Assou-Ekotto – all proven internationals – are among the players actively being offered to clubs across Europe.

A number of youngsters are also likely to leave for loan spells, including 23-year-old midfielder Ryan Mason should a Premier League club make a suitable offer.

But manager Mauricio Pochettino would be happy to keep Mason, who spent last season on loan at Swindon and has been hampered by injuries over the last few years.

Pochettino has told confidants that he was taken aback by Mason’s ability in pre-season and he was even in line for a shock start in the Premier League opener against West Ham earlier this month.

Despite being ruled out through injury since the start of the campaign, Mason has been visibly around the first-team on matchdays and could yet emerge as a surprise package for the Londoners this season.

- By Greg Stobart

Manchester City to discuss Yaya Toure’s future

Manchester City will sit down with midfielder Yaya Toure in the coming weeks with a mind to clarifying the Ivorian’s international future.

After a summer of public machinations about a move away from the club, interest from Paris St-Germain, a furore about the club’s failure to recognise the player’s birthday, and subsequent insistence from Toure that he is happy at Eastlands, the Insider understands that City’s hierarchy now want to meet to discuss his potential international retirement.

With the African Cup of Nations scheduled from 17 January to 8 February next year, City would welcome Toure stepping down from Ivory Coast’s national team.

However, the decision will be left to the player who, at 31, may feel he still has at least one big tournament in him.

If he opts to continue with the national team, his resulting absence will certainly prompt activity in the January transfer market.

- By Paul Clennam

One Night In Istanbul to thrill Liverpool fans

Liverpool supporters can relive one of the club’s finest moments when the feature film ‘One Night in Istanbul’ is released next month.

The Insider was privy to a secret screening of the flick in London this week – and Reds fans are sure to love the tale of a group of hardcore supporters watching the 2005 Champions League final.

Featuring Robbie Fowler and ‘Denzil’ from Only Fools and Horses, the film will be released in September following a glitzy premiere on Merseyside featuring Liverpool players past and present.

In fact, the low-budget film was made possible thanks to some generous donations from Liverpool players and it features a cameo appearance from Jamie Carragher’s young daughter.

- By Greg Stobart

Miralem Pjanic picks his best world XI – featuring Messi and Suarez

The Bosnian – one of Serie A’s finest midfielders – selected six Liga stars, three Bundesliga players and one apiece from the Premier League and Ligue 1 in his all-star line-up

Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic has revealed his perfect world XI, featuring a formidable frontline of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Pjanic, who placed 20th in 2014′s Goal 50, was one of the stars of Serie A in 2013-14 and was linked with a host of top clubs earlier this year – including La Liga giants Barcelona – before putting pen to paper on a new deal in May.

The 24-year-old chose four Camp Nou players in his all-star selection, alongside three Bayern Munich men, two European champions with Real Madrid, one Manchester City man and a single Paris Saint-Germain star.

“Manuel Neuer is the best goalkeeper around,” Pjanic, who has his sights set on taking the Scudetto away from Juventus in 2014-15, told Goal.
“At right-back I would have Philipp Lahm and at left-back David Alaba. My central defenders would be Thiago Silva and Sergio Ramos.
“My favourite midfielders are Andres Iniesta, Yaya Toure and Xavi.
“Up front I would have to go for Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez.”

Yaya Toure: I will stay at Manchester City for as long as possible

The 31-year-old Ivorian has been the subject of much speculation in 2014 that he might leave the Etihad Stadium but says he is “very happy” to be back for pre-season

Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure is adamant that he wants to remain at the club for “as long as possible”.

The 31-year-old reportedly came close to leaving earlier this year after his agent, Dimitri Seluk, claimed that Toure felt “disresepected” by the club after not being wished a happy birthday in May, while Toure himself also expressed an interest in joining Paris Saint-Germain.

Toure has previously said both that fans should “not take words that do not come from my mouth seriously” but that “everything Dimitri said is true [and] he speaks for me”, though now insists that he was “always quiet” on the subject of his happiness and future.

The Ivorian told the club’s official website that he is intent on staying, adding his belief that he handled the speculation surrounding an exit from the Etihad Stadium correctly at the time.

Toure explained: “It was not the case about leaving the club, it is difficult because my situation was quite difficult. When we need to do something, we needed to do a statement. For me it was normal … I was always quiet.

“At the end of the day it’s my decision. If you say that, I will say it. If you don’t like that, I will say it again and, if you like it, I will say it, and for me it was the right way and I will stay at Man City as long as possible.”

Toure was an integral part of Manuel Pellegrini’s title-winning side, scoring 20 times in 35 league games last term, but insists that City will have to focus ahead of the 2014-15 season given the array of talent flooding to the Premier League.

“Now I’m very happy to be joining the team and the manager because he’s a fantastic manager,” he enthused. “Everybody is very happy, it is positive. Last year was a good season.

“This year will be amazing because all the big teams are signing good players. For me, first of all it was good to bounce back.”

Toure admits that the last few months had been difficult for his family after his brother, Ibrahim, passed away following a long battle with illness.

“I’m feeling fine,” said the midfielder. “It’s good to start training again. It’s been a difficult pre-season. Unfortunately it was a difficult summer for my family.

“When you lose a brother it is always difficult and he was young, too. We were very sad, all the family. We need to move on and pray for him.

“He was my brother, he loved football. When he was sick in Manchester he was watching every game I was playing in. After them I was coming to see him in hospital.

“I think we need to try to move on and try to think about the next step.”

Messi, Ronaldo & Suarez feature in Goal readers' Team of the Season

Goal asked who were the best players in each position and has compiled an XI of star performers over the last year

The 2013-14 season was as dramatic as ever across the world. Real Madrid won the Champions League for the 10th time in their history, Bayern Munich strolled to a domestic double, Arsenal ended their trophy drought and Manchester City claimed the Premier League title.

The curtain closed on the campaign at the World Cup, which Germany won, and there were many stars from across the world who shone for club and country. Goal asked its readers for their players of the year in each position and the results are in…

Manuel Neuer takes the gloves after playing a key role in both Bayern’s triumphs in Germany and shining at the World Cup for the national team. The former Schalke skipper picked up 35 per cent of the vote, 6.5% more than Thibaut Courtois, his main competitor.

Centre-backs dominated the poll for defenders, with Sergio Ramos winning with 31.7% of the vote. He forms a three-man back line with Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin and Paris Saint-Germain’s Thiago Silva, though the South American duo were some way behind their Spanish counterpart.

Angel Di Maria was another winner from Real Madrid and takes his place in midfield alongside his Santiago Bernabeu colleague Luka Modric, Yaya Toure, Manchester City’s standout man and Aaron Ramsey, who scored the winning goal in Arsenal’s FA Cup final victory.

Up front, three of the biggest stars in the game form a formidable front line. Cristiano Ronaldo was the most popular choice with over 40% of the vote and plays on the left, with Luis Suarez on the right after his heroics almost led Liverpool to the Premier League title and won him a move to Barcelona, where he will play alongside Lionel Messi, who had a quiet season by his high standards for the Catalans but led Argentina to the World Cup final.

Di Maria voted Goal readers' midfielder of the season

The Argentine came out on top in our poll of the best midfielders from 2013-14 as part of the countdown to the Goal 50

Angel Di Maria has topped Goal‘s poll of the best midfielders of the 2013-14 season as we continue the countdown to the Goal 50.

The Argentine was reinvented in a deeper role by Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid and thrived, putting in a man of the match performance in his side’s historic Champions League final victory over city rivals Atletico.

And Di Maria picked some 23.1 per cent of the vote, just ahead of Yaya Toure, who led Manchester City to the Premier League title and garnered 19.9%.

The next highest in the poll is Di Maria’s Madrid colleague Luka Modric, who landed 11.1% after a superb season at the Santiago Bernabeu.

In fourth was Aaron Ramsey, who enjoyed a wonderful year for Arsenal, scoring a dramatic extra-time winner in the FA Cup final to end the Gunners’ trophy drought. His exploits saw him backed by 8.5%.

He had Juventus star Arturo Vidal breathing down his neck, though, the Chilean picking up 8.4% of the vote, while Toni Kroos, who won a move from Bayern Munich to Real Madrid this summer, is next with 7%.

See how Di Maria fared in the Goal 50 when the full rankings, including the winner, are announced on July 28.