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PLAY IT SHORT: Di Maria deal baffles; Rio the coach? Give us a break!; Liverpool fans crucial to Balotelli; Rodwell comeback

HOW DOES DI MARIA ADDRESS UNITED FAULTS?So where does €70 million Angel di Maria fit in the Louis van Gaal 'philosophy'? The Manchester United manager has asked critics to judge him on his three-year plan. But with time ticking down in the summer market, what necessary need does signing Di Maria from Real Madrid meet? There's still gaping holes in midfield and in central defence that haven't been addressed. But beyond that, looking mid-term, if LvG is to stick with his five across the back, then how does he fit Di Maria and Adnan Januzaj in the same team? Even playing 4-4-2, what is Januzaj's long-term prospects with €70 million Di Maria competing for the same position? Perhaps with Tom Thorpe, Michael Keane and Tyler Blackett coming through, the manager is comfortable with his centre-back options. But there's no talented ball-winner threatening to burst through from beneath the senior squad. Could United really let another transfer window close without addressing their most glaring weakness?

RIO WANTS TO BE COACH? GIVE US A BREAK...!Rio Ferdinand has declared he wants to be a manager. And he says there'll be something wrong if he doesn't get a top job. The QPR veteran reckons he just needs his coaching badges and he's qualified - and entitled. The most successful British manager in the game right now is Brendan Rodgers. No-one gave the Liverpool manager anything. And he's the coach he is because of it. From Chelsea juniors, to Watford, Reading and Swansea City. He served a long apprenticeship - beyond coaching badges. Ferdinand's no longer a world class player. But the world class ego is still intact. Just when the local game is (finally) taking a serious look at how big contracts for young players are dulling their ambition, to have a senior role-model demanding a top manager's post - and warning there's something 'wrong' with the English system if it isn't handed to him - is just the message the local game doesn't need. We should be talking up the likes of Karl Robinson (MK Dons), Eddie Howe (Bournemouth) and Steve Cotterill (Bristol City) and the work they've put into their careers before rolling out the red carpet for the self-entitled Ferdinand.

REDS FANS KEY TO BALOTELLI DEALThose Liverpool fans who made it to Melwood on Friday can rightly feel they played a big part in getting the Mario Balotelli deal over the line. Scores of Reds fans were able to catch the AC Milan striker after his medical on Friday night. If the Italian striker had any doubts about returning to the Northwest, he'll have been assured by the supporters' reaction on Friday. Balotelli has become the poster child in Italy for the sudden demise of AC Milan and the national team's poor World Cup campaign. He's been pilloried by pundits, ex-players, members of Italy's coaching staff and even Milan president Silvio Berlusconi, himself. To go from an environment where he is so unwelcome and unwanted, to what he stepped into at Melwood on Friday must have given the striker the sort of lift he hasn't experienced since his first weeks at Milan. On Instagram, he posted on Thursday a picture of himself sporting simply a big, wide smile. That's what Brendan Rodgers is counting on - that the environment at Anfield and the Kop can get the big man smiling and happy again.

CAN PARISH RESCUE SHERWOOD DEAL?It's a shame Tim Sherwood has ruled himself out at Crystal Palace. As his closest confidants told him, the Palace job would've been ideal for Sherwood - and vice-versa. The former Tottenham manager was the superior candidate to Malky Mackay. But, unfortunately, Steve Parish chose wrong. It's just regrettable that there doesn't seem a way back for Sherwood, someone who would buy Premier League experience to keep Palace up and also bring on the young talent coming through the academy system, like Jake Gray and England U17 Euros champ Mandela Egbo. Palace quickly need points, new players and a manager. But is the door shut for Sherwood? It was a similar scenario during the extended back-and-forth between Parish and Tony Pulis last season. There could be a twist in this tale.

WENGER RIGHT TO HOOK ALEXISThere shouldn't be too much read into Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger hooking Alexis Sanchez at halftime against Everton. Wenger insisted he had fitness concerns regarding the Chilean. And you can understand his thinking with a critical Champions League return-leg clash this Wednesday against Besiktas. With the scores locked at 0-0, Wenger will need Alexis firing on all cylinders to overcome the Turks. There was a lot of frustration expressed by Gooners on talkback after the game, but three matches inside a week would've been too much for Alexis after missing much of preseason. Wenger needs him fresh for Wednesday and sacrificing two points at Goodison Park will be worth it if they reach the Champions League group phase.

RODWELL A GREAT COMEBACK STORYFantastic seeing Jack Rodwell get off the mark for Sunderland. It was a gift from the Manchester United defence, a free header, but he buried it and you could see there was more behind the resulting celebration than simply scoring the equaliser. After two years of injury hell, Rodwell was again a Premier League footballer on Sunday. He still needs to be match hardened, but for the hour he was on, Rodwell was mobile, brave, biting into tackles and making late runs beyond the United defence. Gus Poyet is managing his £10 million signing carefully. But it's coming together and from what he's shown in the opening fortnight of the season, the more time he spends on the pitch, the more he looks the £22 million player Manchester City signed from Everton two years ago.

QPR BLOWING SEASON COVERING LUMBERING FERDINANDIs Harry Redknapp blowing QPR's season by accommodating a lumbering Rio Ferdinand? The back three was a disaster against Tottenham. They looked tighter after halftime (and having conceded three) having reverted to a back four. But it was Richard Dunne who had to make way at the break, not Ferdinand. It was the former Manchester United defender who was caught out for Hull City's late winner at Loftus Road and on Sunday he just wasn't at the races. After two defeats from two games, the Rs appear to be repeating the mistakes of Mark Hughes two seasons ago. QPR lacked the spirit of Clint Hill at White Hart Lane. Time to return to what earned promotion, Harry.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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