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Juan Mata has challenged Manchester United to improve in the coming season after admitting they were not up to standard in 2018-19.

United finished sixth and failed to win a trophy for the second consecutive season, with Jose Mourinho sacked in December and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer unable to salvage success despite a strong start in the Old Trafford dugout.

The Red Devils' failure to lift a first piece of silverware since the 2016 Europa League was made worse as they had to endure fierce rivals Manchester City completing a domestic treble and Liverpool winning the Champions League.

It means Mata, who signed a new two-year deal in June with the option to extend for a further year, is desperate to see some improvement in the coming months.

"We know that last season wasn't good enough. So, we need to improve, we need to try our best in this upcoming season," he said at a sponsor event in Singapore.

"What we have to do is raise our level and compete and let's see where we end up.

"The level in the Premier League is getting better every single year. All the clubs have been bringing very good players. So, we need to try to be at our best."

United have enjoyed an encouraging pre-season, beating Perth Glory and Leeds United in friendly matches and Inter in the International Champions Cup without conceding a goal.

Mata expects difficult games against Tottenham and AC Milan to come but hopes they leave United in good stead for a daunting first Premier League match of the season at home to Chelsea on August 11.

"Tottenham is going to be tough, Milan is going to be tough, so we still have a few difficult games but [we planned] to use these games to get ready for the Chelsea game which is our first official game and that's the important one and the one that we have to be ready to win," he said.

Matthijs de Ligt was left bemused by transfer stories circulating about him before his move to Juventus, particularly one concerning Manchester United and fears about his weight.

The Netherlands international completed a move to Juventus on Thursday in a deal that could cost the Serie A champions €85.5million.

De Ligt, 19, had been one of the most in-demand young players in the world following his exceptional performances as captain of Ajax, who won the Eredivisie and reached the Champions League semi-finals last season.

He was linked with a possible move to United until a story emerged in the Daily Mirror suggesting a scout had warned the Red Devils off making a bid as De Ligt would be susceptible to gaining weight as he got older, like his father.

De Ligt says such claims left him truly baffled, even amid the persistent speculation over where he would be playing football next season.

"Every day, there was something new," he told Voetbal International. "Suddenly, even my father was too fat and that's why one of the clubs wouldn't want me. That makes you go, 'Come on, man...'"

There was another rumour De Ligt turned down Paris Saint-Germain because he wanted a higher wage than Kylian Mbappe, something he previously told Algemeen Dagblad was "insane".

"Money played no role at all in my choice for a new club," he said. "Everyone who knows me, knows that. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I will respect that, but some people were saying things like that [PSG story] very easily."

De Ligt is the latest high-profile player to secure a big-money transfer through the hugely successful agent Mino Raiola, who counts Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti among his clients.

"He has a lot of experience," De Ligt said of Raiola. "I think there may be a certain negative image of him in Holland, but I certainly don't experience it that way.

"I think if you ask all of his players if Mino does a good job for them, everyone would say yes. That's the most important thing. It's not about what other people say about him, it's about what he can do for me."

Anthony Knockaert has completed a loan move to Fulham from Brighton and Hove Albion.

The 27-year-old has agreed a 12-month deal, with the move expected to be made permanent for an agreed undisclosed fee at the end of 2019-20.

Brighton boss Graham Potter suggested the winger would not have been part of his plans had he stayed at the Amex.

"The move is a good one for the club and Anthony. The wide positions are areas in which we have a lot of competition within the squad," he said via Brighton's website.

"I've only worked with Anthony for a short period of time, but that's been a pleasure and he's been very professional and hardworking throughout pre-season. On behalf of the club, I would like to wish him well with Fulham."

Knockaert joined from Standard Liege in January 2016 and was named the Championship Player of the Year as Brighton won promotion the following year.

He scored two goals in 30 Premier League appearances last term as Brighton narrowly avoided relegation.

"It feels amazing to be here. I feel really welcome already. It just feels great to get this done and for me to be a Fulham player," he said.

"The goal is to get back to the Premier League where Fulham belongs. I have come here with the clear intention to get promoted and I want to help in any way that I can."

Mauricio Pochettino has urged Tottenham supporters to be patient with record signing Tanguy Ndombele despite his impressive debut against Juventus on Sunday.

The France international joined the club earlier this month in a deal worth £62.8million (€70m), eclipsing the £42m spent on Davinson Sanchez in 2017.

Ndombele was introduced for Erik Lamela shortly after the hour mark in the International Champions Cup clash in Singapore and made an immediate impact.

He teed up Lucas Moura for an equaliser within just a minute, which set the scene for Harry Kane to score a spectacular stoppage-time goal from the halfway line to seal a 3-2 win.

Pochettino was impressed by the 22-year-old's contribution but was quick to manage fans' expectations.

"Ndombele is a player that has the capacity to do what he did today," he told a media conference. "But still it's too far away in his adaptation. It's only been one week with us.

"Today he played more than I expected because our plan was to play him for only 15 minutes, but with the tempo in the second half it was good to give him 30 minutes.

"We are happy with him but still we don't expect too much. We know his talent and what he can add to the team but it's step by step and we will try not to put too much pressure on him.

"Everything is new for him but I think with the first touch of the ball he started to show his quality. It was amazing and you can see when he runs something can happen.

"He has the capacity to add to the team different things and I hope during the season he can help the team achieve all that they want."

The game was played at a more frenetic pace than Pochettino would normally like at this stage of pre-season, but he acknowledges that it will have done wonders for his players' fitness levels.

"I think they're very good games, very competitive," he added. "To be honest, we are very sure in our preparation. This has always been a period that we used to play friendlies against League Two sides or games in our training ground.

"But we are a team that is happy with how things have gone and our intention is to arrive in the best shape for the first game of the Premier League.

"Of course, we are happy because the atmosphere when you beat a team like Juventus is fantastic. The result, though, is not important; it's about the performance and how we are doing in our fitness. That is our priority for the rest of pre-season."

Daniel James feels driven to succeed at Manchester United following the loss of his father prior to his transfer from Swansea City.

The Wales winger has enjoyed an encouraging pre-season with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side following his move from the Championship club for a reported £15million.

James' father, Kevan, died only weeks before he completed his switch to Old Trafford.

Speaking after United's 1-0 International Champions Cup victory over Inter, James said: "Every day, I miss him. He always drove me on when he was here.

"There are times when I am a bit down about it but what he would say is just keep playing and working hard.

"I know he is looking down on me now, still driving me on."

James has started all three of United's pre-season games so far - against Perth Glory, Leeds United and Inter - and has been praised for his performances by Solskjaer.

He almost scored his first goal for the club against Leeds when he sprinted beyond Marcus Rashford and shot against the base of the post after being played through on goal.

But James is not getting carried away by his performances, with United still to play Tottenham, Kristiansund and AC Milan before beginning the 2019-20 Premier League campaign against Chelsea on August 11.

"It is pleasing but there are three more games to the start of the season," he said.

Mauricio Pochettino does not know if Tottenham have made a bid to sign their former player Gareth Bale from Real Madrid.

Zinedine Zidane revealed on Sunday that Madrid are working on selling the Wales international after omitting him from the squad that lost to Bayern Munich in the International Champions Cup (ICC) on Saturday.

Zidane seemed to indicate the club were in negotiations with a particular club, saying: "We are working on his transfer to a new team."

Newspaper reports on Sunday have suggested that Paris Saint-Germain are interested in a swap deal involving Neymar, while Pochettino – speaking after his side's 3-2 ICC win over Juventus – refused to rule out if his chairman Daniel Levy has tabled an offer for the 30-year-old.

"I saw the reports in the media but I don't know which club is trying to sign him," he told reporters.

"I don't have any information from my chairman; I don't know if it's us or another club. It's the job of my chairman."

Harry Kane struck a sensational stoppage-time winner from the halfway line as Pochettino's side opened up their pre-season campaign with a win over Juve in Singapore.

Alex Iwobi has described as "fake news" suggestions he could quit Arsenal as a direct consequence of the club signing Wilfried Zaha.

Nigeria winger Iwobi was quoted by The Sun as saying Zaha's hypothetical arrival from Crystal Palace "would add more stress" in his battle for first-team minutes at Emirates Stadium.

Iwobi added: "I am up for the fight but the only time I would consider leaving is if I am not playing as much as I would like to."

Another British newspaper interpreted the comment as a warning to Arsenal, a claim the 23-year-old dismissed in a post to social media.

"Fake news and click bait! I don't know why some newspapers enjoy twisting words," Iwobi wrote on Twitter.

"I hope we sign world-class players and Arsenal progress as a team. I'm looking forward to the new season. Happy Sunday."

Arsenal reportedly submitted an unsuccessful £40million bid for Zaha earlier this month.

The Eagles star and attacker Iwobi would likely compete for similar positions as Unai Emery seeks to boost his options, but Zaha is said to be valued at £80m by Palace.

Gareth Bale's days at Real Madrid appear to be numbered after head coach Zinedine Zidane confirmed the club are working on a transfer for the forward.

Zidane was billed a "disgrace" by Bale's agent Jonathan Barnett, who has previously confirmed the coach and player have a fraught relationship, with the Frenchman seemingly not valuing Bale's ability despite his contribution to three consecutive Champions League titles.

It was Bale's double that sealed Madrid's last European crown a year ago, a stunning overhead kick contributing to a 3-1 defeat of Liverpool in Kiev that proved Zidane's last match in charge - soon after he announced his shock resignation.

But Zidane is back and seemingly set on selling Bale, so what are the options available to the Wales international now the Madrid coach has clearly signalled he has no place for him?

 

TOTTENHAM

The romantic option, a return to Tottenham would enable Bale to play first-team football and slot back into a club where he became a global superstar. Finances would surely scupper a permanent move although Spurs have smashed their club record to buy Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombele and are reportedly considering doing so again to sign Giovani Lo Celso from Real Betis. An initial loan has been mooted but Madrid would still likely have to cover a large portion of Bale's massive wages - how desperate are they to move him on? Bale would certainly improve Mauricio Pochettino's forward options and a front three of Son Heung-min, Harry Kane and Bale looks incredibly strong on paper.


MANCHESTER UNITED

Bale has long been linked with United, but their failure to qualify for the Champions League does not make them an attractive option for top-level players right now although they remain among the world's biggest clubs. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has also indicated he is willing to put his faith in young players such as the talented teenager Mason Greenwood, who has impressed in pre-season to force his way into first-team contention at Old Trafford despite being just 17. Bale would be an upgrade on United's wing options but they seem to be going in a different direction with the arrivals of Dan James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka signalling a long-needed change in transfer policy. Madrid's reported interest in Paul Pogba could see Bale offered to United as part of a potential deal, though.


PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

If PSG lose Neymar - the club confirmed recently he wants to leave - they will have room for another elite talent and Bale might just fit the bill. Whether moving to what is essentially a one-team league due to PSG's financial firepower is attractive to the Welshman is unclear, but teaming up with a thrilling talent like Kylian Mbappe could be persuasive. PSG are also one of a very small number of teams who could pay Bale the wages he has become accustomed to earning in Madrid and he has plenty of experience of winning the Champions League, which remains PSG's goal.


CHINESE SUPER LEAGUE

According to the bookmakers, Bale's most likely next destination is the Chinese Super League. Finances are again the key here, although CSL clubs have shown a reduced willingness over the last 12 months to pursue the most expensive players on the market due to a change in the league's regulations, which means they must pay considerable taxes on top of large transfer fees. Bale has been unable - or perhaps unwilling - to learn Spanish while in Madrid so it would be interesting to see how he would fare with the culture clash in China.


STAY AT REAL MADRID

Reports in Spain previously claimed Bale is happy to see out his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu, which still has three years to run. It would be a tempting option given no other clubs are likely to match his pay packet, while the lack of stability in the dugout could play in his favour. Zidane was Madrid's third permanent head coach last term and failed to inspire any significant improvement in the latter weeks of the 2018-19 campaign. Although the Frenchman has considerable credit from his trio of consecutive Champions League titles, it is not impossible to see Madrid starting the season poorly and president Florentino Perez opting for yet another change of head coach. Another man in charge could see Bale as an asset so the 30-year-old may choose to stay put for now.

Liverpool keeping a settled squad under Jurgen Klopp means they are set up to challenge for honours over the next few years, according to Dejan Lovren.

The Reds won last season's Champions League – a year after losing in the final to Real Madrid – and finished just a point behind Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title.

Centre-back Lovren believes the Reds' ability to hold on to their best players puts them in the perfect position to enjoy a period of sustained success, both domestically and in Europe.

"There are quite a lot of players who stayed in this team, which is quite important," he told the club's official website.

"If we keep this focus for the next couple of years we can reflect on last season and hopefully win many more trophies.

"We are a team with special characteristics, with fantastic individual players who can change the game in a second."

Jurgen Klopp's side face Sevilla in Boston on Sunday amid a heatwave that has hit much of the United States.

Lovren, however, has backed his team-mates to cope with the challenging conditions.  

"We adapt to everything," he added. "It's an important tour for us, playing against big teams.

"It will be a challenge again to play in the heat and to adapt. There are no easy opponents. But it's about our character and we are used to it already."

"It's always a pleasure to come to the States and see so many fans behind us. It's a privilege to be here."

Sheffield United have broken their transfer record for the third time in a month to sign striker Lys Mousset from Bournemouth.

The Blades reportedly paid £10million to secure the Frenchman and have tied him to a three-year deal.

The fee eclipses the club's outlay on Luke Freeman and Callum Robinson, who are said to have joined for £5m and £8m respectively, earlier in the window.

Mousset, 23, becomes United's fifth new addition since winning promotion to the Premier League.

Manager Chris Wilder said: "Lys is big, quick and a different type of threat at the top of the pitch to what we already have.

"I think he will prove to be a great fit for us and the fact that he selected us above other options shows he's hungry to do well.

"It is a fantastic bit of business for us in the current market and we are looking forward to him joining up with the squad."

Mousset struggled for goals at Bournemouth after joining from Le Havre in 2016.

The former France Under-21 international netted three in the Premier League during his stay at the Vitality Stadium, appearing almost exclusively as a substitute under Eddie Howe.

Wilfried Zaha's arrival at Arsenal would create "more stress" for Alex Iwobi and potentially lead the forward to consider his future at the club.

Arsenal reportedly lodged an unsuccessful £40million bid for Crystal Palace winger Zaha earlier this month.

The Eagles star is thought to be interested in the move and would command a starting spot at Emirates Stadium after hitting 19 goals across the past two Premier League seasons.

Nigeria international Iwobi is prepared to fight for his position but reduced playing time could prompt him to seek a move elsewhere.

"Whenever the chance comes I always try and prove I should be starting," Iwobi told The Sun.

"But it's going to be difficult if Zaha comes. He will add more stress.

"I am up for the fight but the only time I would consider leaving is if I am not playing as much as I would like to.

"Obviously, my joy is to play football and not just sit out.

"If it comes to that I would have no choice but to leave. But I would always put up a fight to play - that is what I have done all my life.

"We have big stars already, so by adding another one I'll just have to prove I can do better than them."

Iwobi started 22 times in the Premier League last season, scoring three goals. 

N'Golo Kante has left Chelsea's tour of Japan to undergo rehabilitation on an issue stemming from the knee injury he suffered late last season.

Chelsea confirmed Kante's departure from their Saitama base less than 48 hours after the friendly loss to Kawasaki Frontale in Yokohama.

The midfielder missed multiple matches for club and country throughout May and June – though he started the Europa League final – and has failed to feature in pre-season so far.

Chelsea open their Premier League campaign against Manchester United on August 11.

"N'Golo Kante has travelled back to the UK to continue his rehabilitation for an injury connected to the knee problem he sustained at the end of last season, " the club confirmed on Twitter.

Speaking before the journey to Japan, head coach Frank Lampard said of Kante: "[He's] still feeling the effects of his injury from the end of last season, which we know with the Europa League final.

"It's not a problem, we know he's a fit boy, we know he's got a great attitude."

Kante's potential absence at the start of the 2019-20 season could generate more opportunities for Mason Mount, who played over an hour against Kawasaki Frontale.

The young midfielder idolised Frank Lampard growing up and hopes years spent modelling his game on the club legend will lead to a Stamford Bridge breakthrough.

"Being at Chelsea, and being a midfielder, the thing I took from him was how he got into the final third to score goals and make assists," Mount told reporters.

"He was the one I always looked up to as a role model, watching his game, trying to learn from him and working first hand with him.

"There's no one better to learn from and speak to day in, day out."

Chelsea's next pre-season outing is against Barcelona on Tuesday.

Christian Eriksen put some of Europe's biggest clubs on alert when he declared he would "like to try something new" and now it seems the Tottenham star could make a surprise move.

Initial speculation suggested that Real Madrid would make a move for the talented Spurs playmaker.

As the 2019-20 season draws ever closer, however, it could be that another Spanish giant – and neighbours of Real Madrid – steal a march in the quest to land the Denmark international.

 

TOP STORY – ATLETI AND TOTTENHAM IN ERIKSEN TALKS

Atletico Madrid have enjoyed a productive transfer window – despite losing Antoine Griezmann, Rodri and Diego Godin – and could be set to swoop for Tottenham's Christian Eriksen.

The Dane has spent six seasons with the north London club but is ready for a new challenge and could join former team-mate Kieran Trippier in the Spanish capital.

AS reports that the two clubs have started discussions over a fee for the 27-year-old, with Spurs likely to demand in excess of €70million.

ROUND-UP

- Paris Saint-Germain have found their target if Neymar gets his desired move away from the Parc des Princes. According to RMC Sport, Juventus midfielder Paulo Dybala is PSG's top option if Neymar leaves.

- James Rodriguez is linked with the likes of Atletico Madrid and Napoli, and Real Madrid want around €40m for the playmaker, according to Marca.

- David de Gea will become the world's highest paid goalkeeper. The Manchester United shot-stopper has agreed to a six-year deal worth around £117m with the Premier League giants, according to The Telegraph.

- Arsenal could land Moise Kean from Juventus, but only if any deal includes a buy-back clause. The Daily Mail say Juve will insist on a £36m (€40.1m) clause in a possible deal involving the forward.

- Danny Rose is widely expected to leave Tottenham this close season, with numerous clubs linked with the left-back. Now, the Mirror report Serie A champions Juventus are the frontrunners to sign the defender.

- After Aaron Wan-Bissaka's move to Manchester United, Crystal Palace may have found their replacement. The Daily Mail report Palace have held further talks over a potential deal for Liverpool right-back Nathaniel Clyne.

Arsenal head coach Unai Emery said he wants to sign "three or four players" ahead of the 2019-20 Premier League season.

It has been a quiet transfer window so far for Arsenal, who have been linked with moves for Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney, Saint-Etienne teenager William Saliba, Real Madrid's Dani Ceballos and Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha.

However, Arsenal are reportedly close to signing Saliba in a deal which would see the 18-year-old loaned back to Saint-Etienne until the end of the season.

Speaking to reporters following Arsenal's 3-0 win over Fiorentina at the International Champions Cup on Saturday, Emery said: "I am patient because we want to choose the best solution.

"Some players are very expensive and we are waiting for this possibility because we don't want now to go to the second line of players. We are waiting and really we have very good young players.

"We are aware we also need to improve some areas in this squad. But I only want to sign three or four players only if we can be sure they are coming to improve our squad.

"There are a lot of names and the club is working. Edu is very close to me every day and also with the Kroenke family.

"I want to send a message to all our supporters that we want to [build] the best squad possible."

While Arsenal try to sign players, Eddie Nketiah has impressed on the United States tour and the 20-year-old continued his fine form against Fiorentina in Charlotte.

After scoring a late winner against Bayern Munich on Wednesday, Nketiah netted a brace to lead Arsenal past Fiorentina in North Carolina.

Asked if Nketiah will remain at Arsenal instead of being loaned out, Emery said: "I spoke with him and with the club. He has started with a doubt if it is better for him to stay here with us or leave to play more minutes with another team.

"But we have examples last year of some players who wanted to go away and didn’t play all we wanted. I said to him to first be focused here. If you earn the right to be with us it’s because I can promise you that you are going to have minutes. But in those minutes you need to learn.

"And in the pre-season at the moment he’s playing like we want. The young players who are here, this is the moment for them to show how we can use them to help us in the season."

Leicester City star Harry Maguire has not been affected by links to Manchester United and Manchester City, insisted captain Wes Morgan.

Maguire has emerged as a target for Manchester neighbours United and City, with the Red Devils reportedly the favourites to sign the England centre-back.

Leicester have rejected two bids for Maguire, who is thought to be valued at £80million by the Premier League side, as the 26-year-old's future continues to dominate headlines.

Amid the transfer rumours, Leicester defender Morgan said in-demand team-mate Maguire has not changed.

"He has been the same Harry that we know and love," said Morgan. "You can see in the games he's putting 100 per cent effort into everything he does and his quality is there for everyone to see. 

"I don't know what's going to happen in the future but for now he's still a Leicester player and we enjoy having him here. He's said nothing.

"There's going to be speculation because he's a top-class player who has done well at international level. Big teams are going to take an interest and that goes for many of our top players. People want our best players and he is one of them.

"In training, it's the same old banter, the same old training. He's part of Leicester so we just treat him the same."

 

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