Manchester United players believe Louis van Gaal’s time is up, while Eden Hazard's future may still be at Chelsea. That and more from the Saturday papers.
Players know van Gaal is done for
Things are bleak for Van Gaal at Old Trafford. The Sun understand that the Manchester United players know he has no future at the club. "A few of them are certain Van Gaal won’t be there next season — and some look like they have downed tools already.” The paper goes as far to claim that Van Gaal is now seen as a "dead man walking” by a number of the squad. The players all believe Mourinho will be their next manager and it's just a matter of whether it happens this season or in the summer.
Paper Round's view - The United players aren't dumb. They can see what the rest of us do, and they probably even see more. The Dutchman isn't at Old Trafford for the long haul and without a future, it's tough to get players to believe in you. That lack of belief is why Woodward is apparently trying to get Mourinho in, but even if Mourinho takes over, there's not much left to play for. The top four is almost out of sight and they've been bounced from the Champions League, but getting some excitement back at the club would be a plus.
United are desperate to hire Jose Mourinho as Van Gaal's successor. The Mirror claim that executive vice-chairman Woodward reached out to Mourinho's agent Jorge Mendes and asked if the manager would be willing to take over immediately following another awful loss that has the club in a panic. The Red Devils had planned on letting Van Gaal finish the season, then turning to Mourinho in the summer, but the team's losses to Sunderland and FC Midtjylland have them reconsidering that plan.
Paper Round's view - There is an increasing air of inevitability about Mourinho to United – it is becoming more of a case of when rather than if. It appears that United had initially wanted to wait until the end of the season but the paucity of the Red Devils’ recent form may force them to reconsider that position. Mourinho, possibly in an attempt to force United’s hand, has let it be known that he has offers from elsewhere.
Eden Hazard wants to stay at Chelsea, Guus Hiddink told The Standard. The Blues manager said he spoke with the Chelsea star, who has struggled this season and has been rumoured to want out, and Hazard reassured him that he believes his future is at Stamford Bridge. "He is very keen to be here, he extended his contract. He is happy here. His family are happy here," Hiddink said.
Chelsea's Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard
Image credit: AFP
Paper Round's view - Hazard isn't going to tell Hiddink that he wants out - what has he to gain from telling the club that he wants to leave while the transfer window is closed? Nothing. That doesn't mean Hazard doesn't want to stay either. It's simply that a conversation in February between a player and interim manager about a future months away probably doesn't mean much.
The Chinese Super League is considering a move for Mario Balotelli and Liverpool would love to sell him there, per The Express. Liverpool have no interest in bringing Balotelli back to Anfield and with his loan at AC Milan not going well, China might be the only place where Liverpool could get the £16 million they paid for him back. Clubs in Turkey have also shown some interest.
AC Milan's forward from Italy Mario Balotelli reacts after missing a goal oportunity during the Italian Serie A football match Empoli vs AC Milan, on January 23
Image credit: AFP
Paper Round's view - It's a shame that Balotelli's career is in this place. He's still terrifically talented and has shown that he can be a top class striker. Now AC Milan have an issue with his attitude and injuries have been a problem too. it's unlikely that any big European club will give him another shot right now so if he wants to continue getting paid big wages and actually play, China might be his best bet.