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Blunt Van Gaal, Di Maria questions, Vidal benefit, Ramos remains, more

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has warned his side not to make another poor start, with the new Premier League season less than two weeks away.

Louis Van Gaal's bluntness remains unmatched and refreshing. In a world where managers never talk down their players in public and seem to go out of their way to stroke egos, the Dutchman speaks his mind.

As Netherlands manager at the 2014 World Cup, he explained one tactical switch -- moving Daley Blind from the flank to a more central position -- by saying that Blind wasn't "fast enough" against his opponent that day. When asked why he removed Nigel de Jong against Argentina in the semifinal,...

Football's most influential ultimately get their power from fans

ESPN FC's Gab Marcotti discusses the most influential footballers, managers and administrators and their growing importance.

Influence and power derive from money and authority. Football is not that different from real life. So it should not be particularly surprising that so many of the folks on ESPN FC's Top 50 Most Influential List are linked to one or the other or, perhaps most often, both.

On the money side, some are suppliers, either injecting their own funds or acting as gatekeepers for other people's cash. Others are redistributors: They decide which way it should flow and how quickly to keep the giant machine...

Man United's Nicolas Otamendi pursuit exposes the folly of transfer valuations

ESPN FC's Rafael Honigstein believes Manchester United have a more realistic chance of landing Valencia's Nicolas Otamendi than Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos.

Nicolas Otamendi's agent, Eugenio Lopez, is apparently due to fly to England to try to secure a move away from Valencia, most likely to Manchester United. Otamendi has been linked to Old Trafford since before the season ended, and it's not hard to see why. He's a veteran centre-back, an Argentine international and a guy who would likely bring stability, defensive savvy and veteran leadership to the heart of a defense that badly needs all three.

The backdrop to the negotiation is fairly straightforward....

Man United taking shape under Louis Van Gaal; Sterling-Liverpool fallout

The ESPN FC crew discuss what Bastian Schweinsteiger offers to Manchester United, where Steve Nicol feels the German will fit in just perfect in Louis van Gaal's side.

So 48 hours and $60 million later, Manchester United got themselves a brand spanking new central midfield. Talk about moving quickly and decisively.

But the key thing about the acquisition of Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger is that unlike last summer, these signings seem part of a coherent strategy with an eye toward value -- or as much value as you'll get when other clubs know you're sitting on a massive transfer budget.

You can pick holes in either deal if you so choose, but...

The era of the "player agent" is over, but they still have a place in football

Defensive reinforcements are high on the agenda of several Premier League teams, as they look to strengthen their respective back lines.

The transfer window is open. This is their time to shine.

Depending on who you believe, agents are either the lubricant that keeps the transfer market moving efficiently, ensuring clubs and players aren't exploited, or the parasites who suck money out of the game.

The truth, obviously, is somewhere along that spectrum.

But first, we really shouldn't be talking about agents because, technically, they no longer exist. As of April Fools' Day, there is no such thing. There are only "licensed...

Sergio Ramos' situation, U-21 lessons, Marseille misery, Inter spending

The ESPN FC crew discuss the continued Sergio Ramos rumours to Manchester United, but Steve Nicol does not feel Ramos is worth the cost.
The ESPN FC panel respond to your tweets on Arsenal's chances of winning the Premier League if they sign Morgan Schneiderlin and Petr Cech and whether Sergio Ramos is worth the cash.

Whenever a deal gets made, both sides walk away thinking they got a bargain. It's the whole point behind free markets. We trade, so we both can benefit.

Obviously, in the medium-term, we find out that this is often not the case -- that $40 million striker seemed like such a good idea at the time, before he scored two goals in 21 games and sulked his way through the season -- but what's crucial is that at the moment of transaction you can plausibly see how both sides think they are benefitting from...