United ramp up Mangala chase: Manchester United are set to step up their bid to sign France and Porto defender Eliaquim Mangala, reports the Daily Star. United boss David Moyes watched the centre-back in action for a third time on Sunday during Porto's 2-1 win at Gil Vicente, with a view to taking him to Old Trafford to replace Nemanja Vidic, who is leaving United at the end of the season, possibly for Inter Milan. United face competition for the 23-year-old, who has a £35m buy-out clause, from Chelsea and Manchester City.
Paper Round's view: United have unlimited funds to rebuild their squad in the summer, and you get the feeling they will need every penny to snare Mangala, given the identity of the other clubs interested in him. Chelsea and City are not ones to baulk at massive transfer fees, but with Moyes having been assured his club will back him to the hilt financially, he should be able to give both a run for their money. Moyes will, however, be seriously hampered in his bid if United cannot make the Champions League.
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Webb removed from comedy website: Howard Webb is still a hot topic today after the referee's failure to spot a clear-cut penalty and sending off during Liverpool's FA Cup defeat to Arsenal over the weekend left him an easy target for critics. One of those lining up to have a pop at Webb was former referee Mark Halsey, who suggested his former colleague was concentrating too much on “a lot of work outside of football”.The Daily Telegraph reports that England's World Cup referee has been removed from a celebrity website, advertising his £4,000-a-night after-dinner speaking following accusations he was “losing his focus”. The website, which represents numerous high-profile figures from sport, politics and entertainment, describes itself as “the one stop shop for comedy”. The Daily Mirror, meanwhile, reports that the "blundering" official will not be demoted for this weekend's round of Premier League fixtures and will take charge of the Cardiff-Hull game on Saturday.
Paper Round's view: Apparently, the directive to take down Webb's name from this website came from someone acting on behalf of man himself, a clear indication he knew what kind of message this would send out. Unfortunately for him, the damage has already been done, despite the fact that his work for the agency is a great deal more serious than, as the Telegraph's report puts it, "the frivolous tone of a comedy website would suggest". And the fact that Halsey has seen fit to get involved must leave a rather bitter taste in Webb's mouth, given the now-retired ref was himself a regular on the after-dinner speaking circuit while still officiating.
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RVP not a potential United captain: Manchester United have revealed that they do not consider Robin van Persie as a potential future captain of the club, reports The Independent. An article on United's official website that takes a look at the credentials of possible replacements for Nemanja Vidic surprisingly omitted Van Persie's name. The article points out that David De Gea has "a courageous personality", Jonny Evans is "arguably the perfect candidate", Phil Jones is often "cited as a future leader", Darren Fletcher knows "what it takes to lead a team" and Wayne Rooney is "a player of great strength and courage". But no mention of the Dutchman and his attributes.
Paper Round's view: It doesn't really matter who else is included on the list other than one man: Wayne Rooney, who is dead set to become United's captain once he signs his new deal at the club.
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Rooney to put to paper by end of week: Speaking of which, the Daily Mirror reports that Rooney is expected to sign a new Manchester United contract by the end of the week. The striker has agreed in principle a new four-and-a-half year deal worth £300,000 a week that will keep him at Old Trafford until 2018.
Paper Round's view: Another paper had Rooney signing a deal two days ago, but it seems that we are still waiting for the two parties to make things official. However, it seems widely acknowledged that an outline agreement is indeed in place and that United fans can already start planning for a future with Rooney at the helm of their team. Just an aside, but it's interesting that things have moved along on this deal in the absence of Ed Woodward, who is currently on holiday. Perhaps United should treat their chief exec to a villa in the Caribbean around the end of the season in the hope more business can get done.
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