Three reasons Man Utd need to pull out the stops to beat PL rivals to £26m-rated left-back

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is on the hunt for a new left-back and he needs to do everything he can to ensure the Red Devils beat Premier League rivals Manchester City and Chelsea to the signing of AS Monaco left-back Benjamin Mendy this summer.

The 22-year-old Frenchman has starred for Monaco as they chase a first Ligue 1 title in 17 years this season. He joined the club in a £13 million deal from Marseille last summer but is expected to be on the move again this summer, with an offer of around £26 million expected to be enough to force Monaco’s hand.

Mourinho’s critical comments about Luke Shaw in recent weeks suggest he may not see a long-term future at Old Trafford for the youngster. Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian are also options at the position but none of them are natural left-backs and struggle to get up and down as much as Antonio Valencia on the opposite wing.

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Mendy would give Manchester United a fresh look and another attacking outlet down the left side. He has proven his quality in Ligue 1 and in the Champions League this season so here are three reasons United need to do all they can to sign him in the coming months…

1. Attacking threat from left-back

Mendy would offer United something they don’t currently have – a consistent attacking outlet down the left side. Luke Shaw is an attacking full-back but is clearly not one of Mourinho’s favourites, while Matteo Darmian struggles to offer regular support in the attacking third.

Mendy has eight league and Champions League assists this season – more than any other defender in Europe, including Real Madrid’s Marcelo and Bayern’s David Alaba who are both rated as two of the world’s best in the position.

Antonio Valencia gives United a regular threat from right-back but they become quite one-sided due to the lack of similar support on the left, so the addition of Mendy would add balance as well as some much-needed creativity from deep.

2016/17 League Stats
Games
Assists
Chances
Created Per 90 Mins
Pass
Completion (%)
Tackles
Won Per 90 Mins
Benjamin
Mendy
21
5
1.05
76%
1.9
Luke
Shaw
10
1
1.32
85%
0.92
Matteo
Darmian
12
0
0.21
81%
2.00

Table: Benjamin Mendy’s league statistics compared to Luke Shaw and Matteo Darmian this season (stats via: Squawka).

2. Play style perfectly suits the Premier League

The table above shows how Mendy compares to Shaw and Darmian – the two most natural left-backs United have at their disposal at the moment. His stats suggest he is a well-rounded full-back, who is as adept at winning the ball back as he is creating chances. His pass completion could be better but 66% of his passes go forward, further highlighting his direct approach.

Premier League full-backs that can get forward quickly but also defend well in 1v1 situations tend to standout and Mendy fits that billing perfectly. A move to Old Trafford could see him establish himself as one of the club’s best left-sided defenders, as his approach to the game isn’t too dissimilar to that of Patrice Evra’s when he joined the Red Devils in 2006.

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3. Bright future ahead

Mendy is still only 22. That’s easy to forget considering he made his professional debut almost six years ago. But he has established himself as one of Europe’s best full-backs this season as Monaco continue to impress domestically and in the Champions League.

Mendy made his France debut last month, getting an assist in the 3-1 win over Luxembourg and a long and successful career is expected for club and country, no matter where he is plying his trade.

Luke Shaw is a year younger than Mendy but with his future unclear, the Frenchman would be an ideal replacement this summer and would potentially give Manchester United a reliable and improving left-back for many years to come.

Should Man United do everything in their power to sign Benjamin Mendy this summer?

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Thierry Henry retires: The story of his career

Thierry Henry has announced his retirement from football after 20 years of service to the game which saw him play for five clubs, winning 19 titles and an endless list of individual honours along the way.

He said, “it has been an incredible journey and I would like to thank all the fans, team mates and individuals involved with AS Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal FC, FC Barcelona, the New York Red Bulls and of course the French National Team that have made my time in the game so special.”

The 37-year-old confirmed that he will now be working as a pundit for Sky Sports as of 2015.

“It is now time for a different career path and I am pleased to say that I will be returning to London and joining Sky Sports. I will hopefully share some of the insights, observations and experiences I have learnt over the years with you guys.”

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There aren’t enough superlatives to describe a man of such legendary status but hero, icon, genius, idol are just a few words that have been used in an attempt to label the Frenchman.

Monaco and Juventus

Henry’s professional career began at Monaco in 1994, aged 17, where he went on to make 141 club appearances, scored 28 goals and won Ligue 1 and the French Super Cup before leaving for Juventus in January 1999.

The move to Italy was probably the lowest point of his career as he struggled to settle in and was unable to influence the game playing as a left-winger.

Arsenal

Just eight months later, Henry was on the move again and this time it was to be a life-changing moment as he joined Arsenal, but perhaps more importantly at the time, he joined up with his former Monaco manager Arsene Wenger.

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Wenger decided to push Henry up-front as opposed to out wide, and essentially the rest is history.

He notched an incredible 226 goals in 369 appearances for the club and in the meantime became Arsenal’s all-time top goalscorer as Ian Wright’s previous record of 185 was blown out of the water.

As well as numerous Golden Boot awards, he lifted three FA Cup’s and two Premier League titles and was part of the famous ‘Invincibles’ side of the 2003-04 season.

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Barcelona

Desperate for Champions League success that eluded him at Arsenal, Henry made an emotional farewell in 2007 to join Spanish giants Barcelona.

He spent three years in Spain scoring 49 goals in 121 appearances, winning two La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey and his dreams also came true when the Catalan side lifted the Champions League title in 2009. He then went on to also win the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup with Barca.

New York Red Bulls

In 2010, Henry made his move to MLS and joined up with the New York Red Bulls where he spent four seasons and scored 52 goals in 135 appearances in all competitions. He returned to Arsenal for a brief loan spell in the 2011-12 campaign and scored twice for the Gunners taking his overall goals tally at the club to 228.

France national team

As well as the remarkable achievements in club football, Henry was also part of the French national team between 1997 and 2010. He scored 51 international goals in 123 appearances and was a World Cup winner in 1998, a European Championship winner in 2000 and a FIFA Confederations Cup winner in 2003.

He finishes his career having played an overall total of 915 competitive matches for club and country, while scoring a monumental 411 goals.

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Key moments of each year from Henry’s illustrious career:

  • 1994 – Professional debut for Monaco on August 31
  • 1995 – Became first-team regular with Monaco
  • 1996 – French Young Footballer of the Year
  • 1997 – Ligue 1 winner with Monaco
  • 1998 – World Cup winner with France
  • 1999 – Joined Arsenal from Juventus
  • 2000 – European Championship winner with France
  • 2001 – Included in PFA and UEFA Team of the Year
  • 2002 – Premier League and FA Cup winner with Arsenal (PL Golden Boot winner)
  • 2003 – FA Cup winner with Arsenal and FIFA Confederations Cup winner with France
  • 2004 – Premier League ‘Invincibles’ winner with Arsenal (PL Golden Boot winner)
  • 2005 – FA Cup winner with Arsenal (PL Golden Boot winner)
  • 2006 – Champions League finalist and scored last ever goal at Highbury in a 4-2 win vs. Wigan (PL Golden Boot winner)
  • 2007 – Joined Barcelona
  • 2008 – Entered into English Football Hall of Fame
  • 2009 – La Liga, Copa del Rey, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup winner with Barcelona
  • 2010 – Joined New York Red Bulls and topped Eastern Conference
  • 2011 – MLS All-Star
  • 2012 – MLS All-Star and returned to Arsenal for loan spell
  • 2013 – MLS Supporters’ Shield winner with New York Red Bulls
  • 2014 – Retired from football and became Sky Sports pundit

In his announcement Henry mentioned how he hoped that we have “enjoyed watching as much as I have enjoyed taking part” and it’s fair to say that we have all enjoyed watching him play and many will continue to reminisce in years to come over some of the incredible goals and special moments in his career.

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He also added that he has “had some amazing memories (mostly good!) and a wonderful experience” – as have we thanks to his elegance on the field.

You rarely come across anyone who has a bad word to say about Thierry Henry and tributes will continue to pour in for a legend who will be sorely missed on the pitch, but he will have a place in history forever in the shape of his statue outside Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

Thierry Henry is quite simply, a living legend.

Should former USA prospect return home?

At the age of twenty-five, Freddy Adu still has at least five years in front of him to prove his quality. He is however, without a club at present, and will need to find one to have any chance of resurrecting his career.

Following the success of the USMNT at the World Cup, there is no better time to be a soccer player in America as the level of the current buzz is unheard of in the USA.

Adding to that, big names such as David Villa and Kaka have recently joined new franchises New York City FC and Orlando City respectively in time for next season, and with the new franchises comes a chance for Adu to restart his career back home.

Currently training with former USMNT manager Bob Bradley in Norway with Stabaek, Adu is clearly trying to get back into the game, with a lot to prove still.

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He has been without a club since his release from Brazilian side Bahia in November 2013.

The attacking-midfielder has been keeping himself fit though, having trained with Blackpool in England as recent as February.

Adu has been known to travel around Europe, having enjoyed spells at Benfica and Monaco, but maybe now it’s time to go home for good and force his way back to the top of American soccer.

The 25-year-old was with Philadelphia Union from 2011 until 2013 and made 35 appearances for the club, scoring seven times and could thrive in his homeland now that the nation has taken to soccer.

USA lacked creativity in Brazil, possibly the only blaring weakness. Could Adu be the answer to their creative problems?

One thing is for certain; Adu’s best hope of revival is MLS.

Eric Abidal edging towards MLS move

French defender Eric Abidal could be on his way to Major League Soccer, with the former Barcelona star yet to sign a new deal with AS Monaco.

A report from French publication L’Equipe claims that Abidal “would consider ending his career in the United States, among others.”

The 34-year-old has yet to sign a new deal with Monaco, and his current contract is set to expire at the end of June, after he was signed on a one-year rolling deal with the option of a second year last summer.

Abidal has won 23 trophies, including two UEFA Champions League victories in his hugely successful career, and would add experience to any defence in MLS.

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(Photo: Eric Abidal would add vast amounts of experience to any side in MLS)

He is an aging defender, as has had health issues which could mean that he was not to be made a designated player, but he would still demand high wages for his services.

The Frenchman fell out with the now former-Monaco coach, Claudio Ranieri last season after he left the stadium without permission after being dropped, and Monaco may look to replace him now that his contract has expired.

If this is the case, MLS clubs will no doubt pounce to try and get Abidal on a free transfer.

He has not made the French national side for the World Cup and is thought to be ready for one last challenge before he retires, Major League Soccer could certainly be that challenge.

Would Eric Abidal be a welcome addition to MLS?