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Man United would strike gold by replacing Paul Pogba with any of these two midfield aces – Agreed?

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Manchester United Opinion: 2 replacements for Pogba United must consider

Manchester United star Paul Pogba is a summer transfer target for Real Madrid, according to the Express.

The Frenchman, 26, returned to Manchester United in 2016 from Juventus after the Red Devils paid a then world-record fee of £89million. However, he is yet to live up to the expectations of the fans and has constantly been linked with a move away from Old Trafford some time now.

In late March, Paul Pogba was asked about the prospect of playing for Real Madrid and said joining the Los Blancos under manager Zinedine Zidane would be “a dream for anyone.”

The World Cup winner has always divided opinions amongst the fans, as he possesses the talent and quality to deliver at the highest order but isn’t consistent enough. When he is on song, the 26-year-old is an absolute monster of a player, capable of creating chances, scoring goals and winning games single-handedly.

Pogba’s form saw a fantastic upturn when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho at United in December. After starring in the first couple of months under Solskjaer, the midfielder has again attracted widespread criticism, with the Reds recently losing six of their last eight games in all competitions.

Given the constant speculation surrounding Pogba’s future, Solskjaer needs to start plotting potential replacements from now. Here are two replacements the Red Devils should consider if the French midfielder leaves for Madrid in the summer.

1. Tanguy Ndombele (Lyon)

Solskjaer is eyeing to rebuild Manchester United and is expected to spend a lot of money in the summer. The Reds will have a huge void to fill if Pogba departs the club at the end of the season.

That makes signing a midfielder a priority for Solskjaer and the Norwegian should target Lyon star Tanguy Ndombele.

Ndombele, one of the rising stars in French football, has been in excellent form for Lyon. He is a box-to-box midfielder, known for dribbling skills, ability to pick a pass and work-rate. He possesses the technical qualities to produce moments of magic on the pitch and he’ll be a welcome addition to United.

2. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio)

Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was one of the hottest properties in the summer transfer window. Such was his influence in Serie A that United were hugely interested in getting his signature in the January transfer window.

But as this season has progressed, the Serbian midfielder’s stock has plummeted following a string of underwhelming performances. Given his current situation at the club, a move away would certainly be in the best interest of the Milinkovic-Savic’s career.

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With just five goals and three assists in all competitions this term, this summer could be the right time for this talented Serbian to move away from Lazio. United should take a punt on Milinkovic-Savic, as he comes the closest to replacing Pogba.

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Cardiff City

5 of the biggest upsets in the 2018/19 season of the Premier League

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2018-19 Premier League rewind: A look back at the 5 of the biggest upsets

There was hardly any shortage of drama, excitement and hype in the 2018-19 season of the Premier League, with some mesmerizing individual performances, sheer moments of magic, edge-of-the-seat thrillers and a see-saw title race producing yet another enthralling season of football.

As a matter of fact, it was goals galore all throughout the campaign, as the grand total of 1072 goals made the 2018-19 season the most prolific ever in the history of the Premier League.

In the end, Man City successfully managed to defend their Premier League title, as Pep Guardiola’s side broke Liverpool’s hearts and ensured that the Reds’ pursuit of a first domestic title since 1990 ultimately ended in failure.

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The final day of the campaign ended in ecstasy for the fans at Etihad, while those at Anfield would have felt the pain of falling short by a solitary point despite a valiant effort from their team.

We all know that the Premier League is famous for producing plenty of thrills and spills, which is probably the reason why it is widely acclaimed as the most competitive league in the world.

When we speak about competition, it is expected that the league would also have a touch of unpredictability to it.

The 2018/19 season, indeed, produced some massive upsets, where the lesser teams defied the odds and took everybody by surprise to shock the heavyweights operating in the upper reaches of the competition.

Surprisingly, winners Man City were also at the receiving end of three such upsets; one each at the hands of Leicester City, Crystal Palace and Newcastle United.

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It is true that we have a definitive top-six in the Premier League these days but we witnessed last season that the mid-table teams and even the relegation-threatened sides are more than capable of pulling off surprises on their day. With that in mind, let us revisit those instances when teams defied belief to register the unlikeliest of victories.

1. Leicester City vs Man City- Boxing Day

Leicester City were enduring a rather inconsistent campaign under Claude Puel but the Foxes came into the game high on confidence following a 1-0 victory over Chelsea in their previous outing.

Man City, on the other hand, arrived at the King Power Stadium on the back of a shock 3-2 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace at home, although Pep Guardiola’s side were the outright favourites to claim all three points against Leicester.

Unsurprisingly, Leicester defended in numbers and got bodies behind the ball as Man City stamped their authority in the opening quarter of the game.

It didn’t take long for them to open the scoring though, as Sergio Aguero played Bernardo Silva behind the Foxes’ backline to set up the Portuguese for an easy finish.

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However, Leicester responded within just four minutes, as Jamie Vardy’s cross found the run of Marcus Albrighton, who outsmarted Fabian Delph with his clever movement and beat Ederson to score the equaliser. Well, you cannot keep Jamie Vardy out of the action, can you? 

Aguero lost his footing numerous times in the final third quite uncharacteristically and Man City failed to score the winner despite enjoying a lot of possession. James Maddison and Hamza Choudhury called Ederson into action a few times but the scores stayed level until the very end.

Some late drama saw Ricardo Pereira fire home a pile driver from just inside the edge of the box to hand Leicester a 2-1 advantage before Man City’s Fabian Delph received the marching orders from the referee.

The game was an eye-opener to all the fans who would have thought that Man City’s loss against Palace was a mere bad day at the office.

2. Man City vs Crystal Palace – 22nd December

Man City had only lost a single game in the Premier League season, which was against Chelsea, when they played host to Crystal Palace at the Etihad on 22nd December and with Roy Hodgson’s side struggling in the lower reaches of the table, the Citizens were the clear favourites.

Pep Guardiola’s side kept Palace under the cosh in the opening stages of the game and Fabian Delph’s cross was headed in by Ilkay Gundogan, who gave City the lead in the 27th minute.

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Palace, however, found an instant reply as Wilfried Zaha’s dazzling run followed by McArthur’s clever pass allowed Jeffrey Schlupp to equalise with a clinical finish.

The match turned out to be closer than expected and a moment of sheer brilliance from Andros Townsend turned the game in Palace’s favour. The former Spurs man put his magical left foot through the ball from a long way outside the box but his thunderous effort evaded the fingertips of Ederson, thus putting Palace 2-1 up before half-time.

Townsend hit the post early in the second half and Max Meyer, in an attempt to score from the rebound, was brought down inside the box by a reckless challenge from Kyle Walker, prompting referee Andre Marriner to point to the penalty spot. Luka Milivojevic buried the penalty kick to give Palace an unlikely 3-1 lead.

De Bruyne made it 3-2 with a cross that luckily sailed over the head of Guaita and Leroy Sane hit the post later on but the Eagles did enough to hold on to their lead for a famous win.

3. Wolves vs Chelsea – 6th December

Premier League newcomers Wolves impressed one and all with their character and resilience but as a matter of fact, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were going through a patchy period when they played host to Chelsea on 6th December.

Wolves came into the game on the back of miserable defeats at the hands of Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town, and the Black Country outfit were under pressure to justify that their flying start to the campaign wasn’t a mere flash in the pan.

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Things didn’t go according to plan for Wolves though, as Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s powerful effort from 25 yards was headed into his own net by home captain Conor Coady just 18 minutes into the game.

Both teams failed to produce anything spectacular in the first half but Chelsea went into the interval with a 1-0 lead.

However, Wolves staged a remarkable comeback following the restart, as two quick goals from Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez in the space of just four minutes proved to be the turning point in the clash.

Wolves ultimately won the game 2-1 and Nuno Santo’s lion-hearted warriors went on to register impressive victories over the likes of Man United, Spurs and Liverpool thereafter. 

4. Newcastle United vs Man City – 31st January

Pep Guardiola sat in the dugout for his 100th Premier League game, as Newcastle United played host to defending champions Man City towards the end of January.

With Man City and Liverpool going hammer and tongs at each other in a bid to get the upper hand in the title race, this was always going to be a must-win game for the Citizens and they were the definitely the strong favourites against Rafael Benitez’s unit.

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And it looked like the travelling fans were in for an absolute feast when Sergio Aguero put the visitors 1-0 ahead just 24 seconds into the game. City dictated the play in the first half and they could have had the second goal just at the stroke of the interval, only for David Silva’s attempt to be blocked by Florian Lejeune.

Man City upped the ante after the restart and Martin Dubravka was called into action numerous times early in the second half, as Sterling, Sane and David Silva all had attempts on goal.

However, in a twist of fate, Newcastle made City pay for their missed chances and equalised in the 66th minute. Salomon Rondon got in front of John Stones and volleyed it straight into the net after a bit of a scramble in the final third.

City went all out in pursuit of the winner but it was Newcastle who had the last laugh and pulled off a massive upset.

Fernandinho’s challenge on Sean Longstaff was deemed worthy of a penalty and Matt Ritchie stepped up to send Ederson the wrong way, thus making it 2-1 with just 10 minutes left to play. The 2-1 victory meant that Newcastle registered their first victory over Man City in the Premier League since 2005.

5. Man United vs Cardiff City – 12th May

Man United thrashed Cardiff City 5-1 in December in what was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game in charge as the caretaker manager of the Red Devils. However, the tides turned dramatically when an already-relegated Cardiff City travelled to Old Trafford to take on United in the final game of the campaign.

Marcus Rashford missed a couple of promising chances and Neil Warnock’s side drew first blood. Diogo Dalot’s rather tame looking challenge on Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was deemed worthy of a penalty by referee Jonathan Moss for some unknown reason and Mendez-Laing stepped up to make it 1-0 from the spot.

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United continued to miss chances and Mason Greenwood saw his shot get tipped on to the post by Neil Etheridge.

Things turned from bad to worse in the second half for United when Josh Murphy picked out Mendez-Laing’s run at the far post with an accurate cross following a dazzling run, and Cardiff took a 2-0 lead.

It didn’t turn out to be a happy outing for Solskjer against his old club, although the Bluebirds ended their campaign on a high. Cardiff City registered their first victory over Man United since 1960 and first at Old Trafford since 1954.

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Chelsea

Throwback to the all-English CL final in 2007/08 between Man United and Chelsea

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Throwback to the 2007-08 CL final between Man United and Chelsea

The 2018-19 UEFA Champions League final contested between Liverpool and Spurs turned out to be a rather one-sided encounter, as the Reds, managed by Jurgen Klopp, romped home with a comfortable 2-0 victory and in doing so, claimed their sixth European Cup title.

It was also Liverpool’s first Champions League victory since the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ way back in 2004-05 when Rafael Benitez inspired the Reds to a penalty shootout victory over AC Milan in the final.

Both Liverpool and Spurs progressed to the final with dramatic victories over their opponents in the semi-final clashes. While Klopp’s side successfully overturned a 3-0 deficit from the first leg at Camp Nou against Barcelona, Spurs found themselves 3-0 down on aggregate at the halfway mark in the second-leg against Ajax away from home, yet managing to book their berth in the final.

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Liverpool fell agonisingly short of Man City in the Premier League title race and finished the season as runners-up in the league, while Mauricio Pochettino also guided Spurs to a 4th-place finish in the league following a few hiccups towards the end of the campaign.

Both teams had promised a lot throughout the season without winning any trophies and the 2018-19 Champions League final was a golden opportunity for them to end their drought for silverware.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were pretty much the underdogs in the 2017-18 final against Real Madrid but they went in as the outright favourites this time around.

Moussa Sissoko, who had been so good for Spurs all season, turned into a villain in the final. The Frenchman’s handball incident inside the box just a few seconds into the game was deemed worthy of a penalty and Mo Salah converted from the spot to give Liverpool a 1-0 advantage.

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Spurs retained most of the possession in the first half but they struggled to create any clear-cut scoring chances, whilst Liverpool continued to threaten on the counter. The rest of the first half was anything but eventful, although Spurs did make an attempt to up the ante in search of an equaliser after the interval.

Both managers made some key substitutions in an attempt to alter the balance of the game, with Klopp bringing in Divock Origi in place of Robert Firmino, whereas Pochettino opted for Lucas Moura in place in of Harry Winks.

Spurs pressed higher up the pitch and attempted several shots on goal in the last twenty minutes or so, leaving themselves vulnerable to Liverpool’s devastating counter-attacks.

Divock Origi, who was the comeback hero for Liverpool at Anfield against Barcelona in the semi-finals, struck in the 87th minute, taking advantage of some sloppy defending from the Lilywhites. The Belgian’s goal sealed the win for Liverpool and Klopp lifted his first ever trophy as the manager at Anfield.

Well, the 2018-19 season was the first time in history when both the major European finals were contested between teams from the same nation, with Arsenal and Chelsea fighting it out for the Europa League crown.

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That hadn’t happened before but as a matter of fact, the 2007-08 UEFA Champions League final was the last time when two English teams fought it out for the bragging rights in Europe’s top-flight.

It has been 12 years since that final in Moscow between Man United and Chelsea but shades of that fateful encounter still loom large in the memories of the fans each time the two heavyweights of English football lock horns in the Premier League.

From a neutral point of view, the 2007-08 Champions League isn’t one to forget and it has to go down as a Champions League classic, not only because it was an intriguing contest decided by a penalty shootout, but also for the tears, smiles and the completely different set of emotions that it evoked amongst both the sets of fans.

With that in mind, let us now open the vault and revisit that rainy night in Moscow when Avram Grant’s Chelsea and Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United went head to head at the Luzhniki Stadium in what was the first ever all-English final in the history of the Champions League.

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The build-up to the game

Chelsea

The 2007-08 season witnessed the end of Jose Mourinho’s illustrious reign at Chelsea and the Blues would eventually go on to finish runners-up to Man United in the Premier League.

Also, defeats in the Community Shield and the League Cup final meant that the Champions League final was the last opportunity for Chelsea to get their hands on silverware.

Chelsea were drawn in Group B along with Schalke, Rosenborg and Valencia and the Blues progressed to the round-of-16 as the undisputed winners of the group without suffering a single defeat.

The Blues faced Greek giants Olympiacos in the last 16 of the competition. A resounding 4-0 victory at Stamford Bridge in the second leg was enough to progress to the quarter-finals after the first-leg in Athens had ended 0-0.

The quarter-final tie against Fenerbahce proved to be a much tougher one for Chelsea, as the Blues lost 2-1 away from home in the first leg. However, goals from Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard guided them to a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge and booked the Blues’ place in the last four with a 3-2 aggregate scoreline.

Chelsea faced Premier League rivals Liverpool in the semi-finals, with the first leg at Anfield ending in a 1-1 draw. The second leg at Stamford Bridge finished 3-2 in favour of Chelsea after extra time, as a brace from Didier Drogba sent the Blues through to their first ever UEFA Champions League final.

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Man United

Having won the Premier League in the 2007-08 season, Man United were high on confidence and Sir Alex sensed the opportunity to complete the double.

As a matter of fact, United went into the Champions League final without losing a single game, registering victories over Lyon, Roma and Barcelona in the knockout stages. 

En route to the final, United won nine and drew three of their 12 matches, eclipsing their record of four wins and six draws in the 10 games they played to reach the final in 1999.

Brief Review of the Game

Sir Alex went into the game with his preferred 4-4-3 system, with a back four of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrick Evra and Wes Brown protecting Edwin van der Saar in goal.

Carrick and Scholes formed the double pivot in the midfield with Owen Hargreaves and Cristiano Ronaldo operating on either flank. Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney started up front.

Chelsea manager Avram Grant made a surprise decision by fielding Michael Essien at right-back alongside the likes of John Terry, Ashley Cole and Ricardo Carvalho.

Claude Makelele started in a holding role in front of the back four with Lampard and Ballack operating in a more advanced role. Didier Drogba was complemented by Joe Cole and Florent Malouda up front.

Following a relatively lacklustre opening 20 minutes from both the teams, Paul Scholes and Makelele clashed in mid-air, prompting the referee to dish out a booking to both of them, with Scholes leaving the field to receive treatment for a bloody nose.

The opening goal didn’t take long to come though, as Wes Brown’s cross from the right was met with a well-timed header from Ronaldo, who put the ball past Petr Cech to make it 1-0.

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Rio Ferdinand’s headed clearance towards his own goal in the 33rd minute almost evaded the reach of Van der Sar but the Dutchman pulled off a brilliant one-handed stop, thus saving United the blushes and denying Chelsea an equaliser.

United were clearly the dominant side in the first half and they could have had a couple of more goals, only for Petr Cech to deny Carlos Tevez and Michael Carrick with his sharp anticipation.

Chelsea did, however, find the equaliser just at the stroke of halftime. Michael Essien’s pile driver from range, which deflected off both Vidic and Ferdinand, found Lampard, who sored with an easy finish to make it 1-1. The goal was a lucky one but it handed Chelsea the momentum heading into the interval, nevertheless.

With momentum on their side, Chelsea caught the game by the scruff of its neck following the restart and it was all one-way traffic in the second half, with the Blues keeping Man United on the back foot with some impressive attacking play.

Didier Drogba’s attempted finish from just outside the box struck the post in the 77th minute before the Ivorian came inches close to turning Joe Cole’s cross home for the winner four minutes from time.

With the scores tied at 1-1 at the end of regulation time, the game went into extra time and both the teams had a few golden opportunities to score the crucial second goal.

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Frank Lampard’s shot came back off the underside of the post, while Ryan Giggs saw his effort cleared off the line by John Terry. However, the tension and the pressure of the final finally had a negative impact on the proceedings late in the second half of extra time.

Ballack and Terry were apparently annoyed with Tevez over a throw-in incident and what started as a confrontation between three players ultimately turned into a melee involving all the 22 players on the pitch.

In the midst of all the pandemonium, Droga received a red card for slapping Vidic on the face, whilst Ballack also received a booking.

United though, didn’t have the time to exploit Chelsea’s numerical disadvantage and with both the teams still locked at 1-1, a penalty shootout was required to decide the fate of the final.

Tevez sent Cech the wrong way from the first penalty kick before Ballack shot powerfully past van der Sar. Carrick and Belletti also converted their respective attempts before Ronaldo’s shot was kept out by a diving Cech, giving Chelsea the advantage in the shootout.

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Lampard, Hargreaves, Cole and Nani all found the net and it was up to skipper John Terry to seal the deal for Chelsea. As both sets of fans watched on with anguish and nervousness, Terry lost his footing on a rainy night, and despite Van der Sar diving the wrong way, his scuffed effort went out off the crossbar.

Chelsea failed to grab their moment and Van der Sar kept out Nicolas Anelka’s penalty in sudden death, thus securing United’s third European Cup crown.

Terry and Drogba were in tears, as were most of the Blues fans in the stands, and the ecstasy amongst the Man United players and supporters made it all the more difficult for them to digest the defeat.

Indeed, it was agony for one and joy for another, but the 2007-08 UEFA Champions League final, the first-ever all-English final, proved to be an intriguing game of football.

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Arsenal

2 Instances which prove that money in the Premier League flows like water these days

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Leicester spend £30m on Ayoze Perez – Other instances which show that money in the PL flows like water these days

The 2019 summer transfer window is already in full swing and as the deadline day in August draws closer, the excitement only gets bigger.

This might be the off-season in club football in Europe but the massive amount of money involved in the transfer dealings certainly evoke a lot of excitement amongst the fans.

It is a no-brainer that football is no longer a poor man’s game and as a matter of fact, the abundance of cash involved in transfer dealings nowadays often looks crazy to a layman’s eyes.

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Things were hardly the same 20 years ago when a fee of £4-5million was considered as a fortune but now, with the involvement of several multi-billion dollar business groups in the game, that kind of money is nothing more than a mere drop in the ocean.

To say that the involvement of large amounts of money in football has changed the complexion of the game over the years, particularly since the turn of the century, would be an understatement.

Realistically, it has completely transformed the fortune of the beautiful game, both in a negative as well as in a positive sense, with even the lesser clubs in the top-five leagues of Europe not hesitating to fork out millions to bring in top talents from across the world.

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Indeed, the involvement of finances in football has escalated exponentially over the years and that has certainly had a profound impact on the level of competition.

As far as the hype surrounding the 2019 summer window is concerned, the likes of Man City and Spurs have broken their transfer records with the big-money acquisitions of Rodri and Tanguy Ndombele respectively for
£62.8million and £60million, while Man United have also spent big to sign Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Cyrstal Palace.

Agreed, the transfer fee involved in each negotiation depends on a number of factors, ranging from the player’s potential, profile, past records, injury-related issues and so on.

However, leaving aside the top-six in the Premier League, Leicester City have made eyeballs turn with the £30million signing of Ayoze Perez from Newcastle United, which does justify the fact that the Premier League sides are spendthrift these days.

With all due respect to Perez’s achievements at Newcastle, one cannot help but wonder if Leicester have paid over the odds to bring the Spaniard to the club this summer.

A strike rate of 48 goals in 195 games, considering that the player came in as a rookie from the Spanish second-tier five years ago, looks pretty decent on paper, but the Foxes’ decision to fork out £30million looks quite outrageous.

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We have all seen over the years that there is nothing so special about Ayoze Perez, and not denying the fact that he is a decent enough Premier League forward, a fee in the region of £15-20million would have applied a touch of logic to the move.

Having spent a paltry £1.5million to bring Perez to the Premier League five years ago, Newcastle have made a huge profit of £28.5m from the Spaniard’s sale to Leicester, more than 20 times the money they had originally invested in him. These numbers are beyond belief.

That, however, isn’t the only instance of some insane flow of cash in modern-day football, with Atletico Madrid shelling out £113million to complete a deal for the 19-year-old Joao Felix from Benfica this summer.

It is totally understandable that he is regarded as once-in-a-generation sort of talent but he is still only 19 and has been around in senior football for not more than a season.

Compare that to the thrifty amount Man United had spent to bring Cristiano Ronaldo to the Premier League from Sporting Lisbon back in 2003 and the difference is telling.

Whether or not this bubble is going to burst somewhere down the line is a topic that can be put up for debate, however, let us take a look at a few instances in the Premier League this summer which do justice to the statement that money is, indeed, crazy.

1. Man United signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka for £50 million

Wan-Bissaka was always going to be a hot property in the summer transfer window following his consistently impressive performances at Crystal Palace in the Premier League this past season.

The 21-year-old right-back was clearly a hot property and it is Man United who have got hold of the Eagles graduate.

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We all saw how he outperformed some of the more established right-backs in the Premier League last season and few would dare to argue against his talent and potential.

However, spending £50million on a player with the experience of just a single top-flight season under his belt can be regarded as completely outrageous.

Yes, Man United desperately needed a new right-back and that was probably the main reason why they paid over the odds to get their hands on Wan-Bissaka. The fact is that he is not yet an England international.

2. Marcus Rashford signing a new
£250,000-a-week deal

With 13 goals in all competitions last season, Marcus Rashford showed exactly why he is held in such high regard by the Old Trafford hierarchy.

The 21-year-old struggled to hit great heights under Jose Mourinho but he rediscovered his mojo under Solskjaer and scored some crucial goals for the Red Devils, especially towards the end of the campaign.

Rashford is one of the highly-rated burgeoning young talents in the Premier League but he has been in that bracket for two or three seasons now, without taking significant steps towards fulfilling his potential.

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That has a lot to do with the managerial instability at Old Trafford following Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, however, one cannot help but wonder as to why United increased their wage bill with extortionate wages.

Well, United were under pressure to secure his long-term future amidst interest (h/t Sun) from Barcelona, which is probably why they offered Rashford a lucrative four-year deal worth £250,000-a-week.

With all due respect to his talent and potential, Rashford is still very much in the developmental phase of his career and is not a sure starter for the club in the Premier League week in week out, which means that offering massive wages to the 21-year-old hardly makes sense.

Given United’s heritage and reputation in English football, it is a shame that they are having to bribe players with such insane wages to keep them at the club.

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