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jcube

Rookie
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Sheffield United and Manchester United played out one of the games of the season so far earlier this evening as they produced a six-goal 3-3 thriller at Bramall Lane. The Blades came into this game knowing that they had a good chance of causing the upset against a depleted Red Devils side, and for large portions of the game, it really did seem as if they were going to get the job done.
Pushing back
John Fleck was able to give Sheffield United an early lead to really put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men on the back foot, which is where they remained for all but seven minutes of this fascinating encounter. Lys Mousset made it two early in the second half, and at that stage, nobody could really see any logical way back for the visitors.
Then, in a stunning seven-minute spell, the game completely changed. Brandon Williams pulled one back for his side to really put the pressure on Chris Wilder’s men, and then before we knew it, Mason Greenwood had equalised. Marcus Rashford put the cherry on top by giving them the lead, but in the final minutes of the game, Oliver McBurnie came to Sheffield United’s rescue and ensured that they would, at the very least, be leaving with a point.
A true classic
The game served as a reminder to Manchester United fans all around the world that they hadn’t quite pulled themselves out of the chaos just yet – and, in fact, that there’s still a pretty long way to go. Solskjaer’s tactical void really does need to be called into question, because at this point, many people can’t really see any remaining form of hope. You never know what is around the next corner but with the January transfer window almost being upon us, there are plenty of reasons to believe that United will look elsewhere for a new manager.
Sheffield United’s unlikely push for a place in the top six is going incredibly well right now, and they’re going to try and continue that push next weekend when they travel to Molineux to face Wolverhampton Wanderers. Man United will travel to face Astana before hosting Aston Villa in the Premier League.
 

jcube

Rookie
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Manchester City knew that they couldn’t really afford any other slip-ups in 2019 regarding the title race, as they’d already given Liverpool such an astonishing head start following the first few months of the campaign. While they certainly had their moments throughout the course of the afternoon on Tyneside, they were unable to get the job done as they slipped to a disappointing 2-2 draw against Newcastle United.
Shocking the world
Raheem Sterling edged the champions into a somewhat fortunate lead, but just a few minutes later Newcastle were level as Jetro Willems produced a lovely finish to round off a really nice move from the home side. It took until the final ten minutes of the game for City to respond courtesy of a Kevin De Bruyne thunderbolt that went in off the bar, but in the end, none of that mattered as Jonjo Shelvey issued yet another quick reply to salvage a point for Steve Bruce’s men.
Following the game, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola had the following to say.
“We played at a good level. It was not easy because they defended deep. We scored two goals but we also let two in which is disappointing.
City struggles continue
“With substitutions sometimes players forget positions. We found a way to get through but unfortunately at the end we conceded a goal. There are teams that defend deeper like this, it happens all season. We do the same work we have done over the last few seasons. We tried to score more goals but it did not happen.”
Liverpool are in the midst of playing Brighton & Hove Albion at Anfield, and if they win, the gap at the top of the table will be extended to a huge 11 points. Manchester City will now turn their attention towards what should be a tricky trip to Turf Moor in order to take on Burnley, whereas Newcastle United will try to keep this momentum going when they face Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
Whatever happens, this could be looked back on as a truly vital moment in the title race for all parties involved.
 

jcube

Rookie
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Manchester United welcomed Aston Villa at Old Trafford for one of the closing games of the 14th round of this season’s Premier League roller coaster.
The Red Devils entered the match from the 11th place after the results on Saturday, hoping to climb back up all the way to sixth with a win here. On the other hand, the newly promoted visitors were sitting in 16th, only two points above the relegation zone.
Team News
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rested his entire team in the Europa League defeat to Astana on Thursday, keeping them fresh for this game. However, Paul Pogba, who is now close to being fit, was still missing. Scott McTominay was back having recovered from an ankle problem.
David De Gea was in goal. Harry Maguire paired up with Victor Lindelof in the heart of defence, flanked by Brandon Williams and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Fred and Andreas Pereira played as the double pivot in a 4-2-3-1 shape, with Juan Mata playing further up in the number 10 role. Marcus Rashford and Daniel James played on the wings, with Anthony Martial the lone striker.
Dean Smith, who recently signed a new contract with Aston Villa, had Bjorn Engels at his disposal again with the defender back from a hip injury. Midfielder Jota was still absent, working on match fitness after a hernia surgery.
Tom Heaton stood between the posts. Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa formed the centre-back partnership, with Matt Target on their left and Frederic Guilbert on the right. Douglas Luiz was tasked with providing cover for the back four, with John McGinn and Conor Hourihane in advanced midfield roles. Anwar El Ghazi and Jack Grealish supported Wesley in attack.
The First Half
The game started in a relatively lively fashion as the ball moved from one end of the pitch to the other. One of the first things of note was that Maguire was having an unusually difficult time with the pace of El Ghazi and Wesley, and he picked up a yellow card in the seventh minute for grabbing the Dutch winger from behind. On the other hand, the pace of James and Rashford was also proving a tough thing to deal with for the Villa defenders.
It seemed only a matter of time and the question of which team would first make one of their dangerous attacks count, and it turned out to be the visitors. Minute 11 was running when Grealish managed to isolate Pereira one-on-one on the left flank, and cutting slightly inside, whipped in a fantastic curved ball from a tight angle straight into the far top corner, leaving De Gea stunned where he stood. A great goal.
0-1.
The first problem for Smith arose in the 17th minute when El Ghazi had to go off injured, due to sliding awkwardly while putting in a cross from the right. Mahmoud Hassan, better known as Trezeguet, came on.
United looked quite well in terms of attacking ideas. They were trying to hit Villa from both flanks and through the middle, but having gone a goal down they were now dealing with a very low block, very hard to break through. Martial managed to hit one low towards the near post from a tight angle in the 21st minute, but Heaton was for up to the task.
But Villa looked dangerous both on counterattacks and set-pieces, and in the 29th minute they managed to put the ball in the net again as Wan-Bissaka hesitated and enabled Grealish on the left to snatch the ball and take it into the six yards. The goalscorer pulled it across,Wesley got involved and eventually Trezeguet slammed it in from close range, but the linesman’s flag was raised for offside – a decision confirmed by VAR.
United had a good chance in the 35th minute as Fred slipped in a cunning through-pass for Rashford, but Mings managed to slow the forward down enough for Heaton to come and claim it. The home team really pushed forward as hard as they could, but they weren’t succeeding in breaking through the Villa lines quickly enough, and they looked vulnerable on the counterattack.
But in the 42nd minute, the score was level. United took a corner short before Pereira swung in a cross which found Rashford completely unmarked inside the six-yard box. The England international appeared to have scored from there at first, but his header actually hit the post and bounced off the back of Heaton before going in.
1-1.
The scoreline looked better from United’s point of view at that moment, but it changed absolutely nothing in terms of what was happening on the pitch. If anything, it made the visitors exude even more energy and even push the hosts back for a while. In that period, Grealish took a shot which got deflected wide, before Trezeguet let a rocket fly from range and hit the woodwork.
There was a moment of questionable refereeing from Craig Pawson in the last minute of injury time as he pulled the play back for a foul by Guilberto on Williams and booked the Villa fullback. The thing is, James was charging free into the box when Pawson’s whistle sounded.
The Second Half
Aston Villa players showed a strong desire to go out and win this game early in the second half. For several minutes pressed high, forced United players into mistakes and won possession in the opposition half, but in the end, they couldn’t seriously threaten De Gea. After five minutes or so, Solskjaer’s men finally shook off the pressure and went forward themselves, but they couldn’t do anything of note either.
The flow of the game was very much the same as in the first half at this point with both teams looking to attack and both defences busy, and it again looked a matter of time before one side found a breakthrough. In the 58th minute, Martial danced past several opponents inside the box and took a shot from close range, prompting a good save from Heaton. Then Mata did something similar but went down looking for a penalty, which the referee was never going to give.
With an hour gone, United were slowly getting a firmer grip on things, but once they reached the final third their passing became erratic and they were still having problems with the threat of counterattacks. Villa had a great chance in the 63rd minute as Trezeguet’s deflected shot fell kindly for Grealish, but Grealish completely misfit the ball and then his team were punished.
A cross came in from the right. Wesley tried to clear but only managed to flick it on, setting up Lindelof at the far post. The centre-back calmly headed in from close range.
2-1.
But straight away, Villa pulled back level. A clever chip by Targett and a smart run by Mings fooled United’s offside trap and the centre-back slammed a volley into the net from seven or eight yards. It was a great way to round off an excellent performance for the Villa defender.
2-2.
In the 74th minute, Solskjaer freshened his team up a bit by withdrawing a tired-looking Mata, whose inlfuence on the game had diminished greatly in the second half, and sending on Jesse Lingard instead. Four minutes later, Williams made way for Luke Shaw, but just before that, Martial had a great chance to put his team back ahead. Fred brought the ball into the box and lost his footing, but Martial picked it up and after a desperate scramble, he tried to lift it over Heaton from three or four yards but ended up lifting it over the bar as well.
With 10 minutes to go, it was Smith’s turn to make his second substitution as he replaced Hourihane with Henri Lansbury. Solskjaer’s last throw of the dice was to bring on Mason Greenwood instead of Martial, and then United had another good chance. James found the head of Fred with a good cross, but the Brazilian practically placed it into the arms of a grateful Heaton, unaware of the run of Lingard who could have perhaps done more with it.
Still, unperturbed by the wasted opportunity, United charged forward more decisively in the last five minutes. Maguire came close as a corner found him on the far post, but not only did Mings clear his header off the line, but the referee also signaled that Maguire had fouled his marker.
But as time slowly dripped through their fingers, their attacks became less dangerous and though they mostly dominated the four minutes of stoppage time, they couldn’t find the winning goal.
 

jcube

Rookie
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They were predicting it was going to be one of the most one-sided Merseyside derbies in history, and in the end, that’s how it played out at Anfield as Liverpool tore through rivals Everton with a ruthless 5-2 victory.
It was a result that actually sort of flattered the Toffees who, aside from a few bright sparks here and there, were pretty atrocious. They simply were not able to get themselves going in the slightest, and the title contenders were able to exploit that.
A huge result
It was a really fast start to the game for Liverpool who found themselves 2-0 up within 17 minutes courtesy of goals from Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri. Michael Keane pulled one back to give the visitors hope, before Origi scored his second of the game and Mane added a fourth to really put Everton on the back foot.
Richarlison pulled one back just before half time but in the second half, it just felt like both sides were going through the motions. Gini Wijnaldum gave fans a chance to sing his famous song in the last few minutes in the game, scoring a fifth to rubber stamp a huge result for his side.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was understandably elated with his side’s dominant performance.
Title race domination
“All the goals were incredible, outstanding. Wonderful goals, sensational passes, super pieces of football. I loved it a lot!
“We needed fresh legs and I had to show my respect to the boys in the squad, that’s all. They proved it. It is much more fun making changes, all of the boys are ready to deliver performances like this.
“It was a massive moment in my first season when Divock Origi got injured in the derby. It changed his career for a bit.”
Liverpool’s surge towards the title will now take them down south as they prepare to go head to head with Bournemouth. Everton, on the other hand, need to take a long look at the status of Marco Silva as their manager – especially given the fact that they have to contend with a game against Chelsea at the weekend.
 

jcube

Rookie
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Which top boss would want to take over the mess?
The current Everton team have wildly underachieved. While some teams are better than the sum of their parts, the Blues is the reverse. They no doubt have talented players but they are not living up to their potential. The team can’t defend and have also struggled for goals.
Even as a bias Evertonian, it is hard to see any top boss wanting to take on that mess of a team, especially mid-season. People have talked about offering big money, but even that would unlikely to be enough to attract a boss who could move the club in the right direction.
Everton must be realistic
I have read some of the names mentioned by the press and supporters, and some are simply unrealistic. The likes of Mauricio Pochettino, Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez are unlikely to see Everton as an attractive proposition in their current state.
In an ideal world, the Blues could get a big-name boss to help the club to fulfil its potential. However, we do not live in an ideal world and this is not a fantasy story.
Some of the other names linked are not inspiring either, with the likes of David Moyes and Mark Hughes talked about as potential replacements for Silva. Meanwhile, Portuguese journeyman Vitor Pereira is the latest name linked with the vacant position.
He won two titles in Portugal with Porto and more recently the Chinese Super League crown. However, he has enjoyed an inconsistent managerial career and is known as something of a loose cannon.
Then there is Spanish pair Unai Emery and Marcelino. The former has just lost his job at Arsenal, while Valencia dismissed Marcelino earlier this season. Neither would be universally popular choices amongst the fans.
David Moyes the favourite for the vacant position
The idea of former boss David Moyes returning to the club seems to have gone down like a lead balloon amongst the supporters. The Scot did a solid job, with little financial backing for a decade. However, he also instilled a mentality of mediocrity at the Merseyside club. He basically surrendered in away games against the top-four and his style of play was not great on the eye.
However, it seems that the Toffees are willing to re-appoint the former United boss. In fact, David Moyes is the favourite for the job at odds of 6/4. That is not a great prospect for Evertonian’s as the majority will feel it is a step back.
In their current situation, though, stability and organisation are what the team needs. Moyes despite his failings as a boss is a man who can organise a team. His teams are usually hard to beat.
With not many top-class bosses knocking at the Everton door, and the club seemingly struggling to find a new boss, Moyes returning until the end of the season may just be a necessary evil.
 

jcube

Rookie
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As a city derby, the rivalry between Manchester City and Manchester United has always had a special kind of spark regardless of which club was doing better at a particular moment in time, prompting the debate whether the city was “blue” or “red”. United are, of course, the most successful club on the domestic scene of England with 20 league titles, a lot more than City’s six, but four of those
Team News
Both teams have had a number of injury issues through the course of the season so far. As for City, boss Pep Guardiola been without winger Leroy Sane and centre-back Aymeric Laporte for a very long time now, and their absence, particularly that of the French defender, has been felt. They’ve recently been left without their attacking talisman Sergio Aguero as well. Oleksandr Zinchenko, a midfielder by trade but often deployed at left-back, is now close to returning to contention, but the derby simply came too soon.
Ederson Moraes was in goal. John Stones and Fernandinho were the centre-back pair, flanked by Kyle Walker and Angelino. Rodri anchored the midfield, with David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne in advanced roles. Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling in wide attacking positions supported striker Gabriel Jesus.
Ole Gunnar Solsjaer in the visitors’ dugout was without the services of three defenders; Eric Bailly, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Diogo Dalot. He also couldn’t count of Paul Pogba, with the Frenchman due to return to action soon. Fellow midfielder Nemanja Matic, defender Marcos Rojo and forward Anthony Martial all faced late fitness tests ahead of the game, and only Martial made the team.
David De Gea stood between the posts. Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire paired up at the back, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw either side of them. Scott McTominay and Fred acted as the double pivot in a 4-2-3-1 setup, with the trio of Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Daniel James playing just behind Martial as the striker.
The First Half
It took City less than a minute to impose themselves on the game, move forward in numbers and start circling the opposition box, but it was United who had the first chance early on with Rashford and Martial combining on the left and involving Fred who found James on the other side, but the young Welshman shot straight at Ederson.
City’s domination continued, but for a long time it seemed they were trying to walk into the net with the ball, and with United’s defence rather compact, it wasn’t easy. United occasionally broke the bonds and attacked in numbers, but mostly they looked for chances to hit quickly through the pace of Rashford, James or Martial.
In the ninth minute they broke again and Rashford set Lingard up nicely, but Lingard’s shot from a tight angle prompted a nice foot-save from Ederson. Four minutes later City had a great chance as Bernardo played a one-two with David Silva and squared the ball into the box for Jesus, but Lindelof’s last-ditch tackle stopped the Brazilian from scoring from close range. United quickly threatened again as Rashford’s diagonal found the run of James on the left, and eventually Martial blasted one from just inside the box, forcing Ederson into a third save in the opening 15 minutes. It was a very lively opening period.
There was a lot of controversy in the 20th minute. Rashford again broke into the box and was clearly tackled to the ground by Bernardo. Referee Anthony Taylor initially let the play continue, but VAR intervened and awarded United a penalty. Rashford himself stepped up, sent Ederson one way and the ball the other. A deserved goal for the young England international.
0-1.
Just a few minutes later Rashford could have made it two as Lingard and Fred orchestrated another counterattack, but his shooting was poor this time. Less than 60 seconds later he tried again from the edge of the box and hit the crossbar. Despite their overwhelming possession, City were looking stunned, and there was no stopping the visitors in their next move.
It was launched by De Gea’s long kick. Martial and Rashford did well to hold the ball up and eventually Martial combined with James on the right, before firing past Ederson into the near bottom corner.
0-2.
Sterling played mostly on the left wing for City and his duels with Wan-Bissaka were a fierce contest, mostly won by the United right-back.
City still stuck to their game-plan and kept the ball mostly in United’s half, and in the 37th minute they had a great chance. De Bruyne’s accurate cross from the right found the head of Jesus, but the ball went far from the target. Two minutes later, Sterling finally got the better of Wan-Bissaka and won a free-kick on the very corner of the box. It was taken directly by De Bruyne, and the Belgian’s curved effort scraped the roof of the net on the outside. Rodri won one in a much better position soon afterwards, a great angle for a left-footer, but David Silva’s chip over the wall was too slow to trouble De Gea.
Guardiola’s team pressed high when off the ball, but another interesting thing to note was that United weren’t haveing nearly as much difficulty with it as one would expect, given the champions’ reputation. But De Bruyne did create another good chance with another good cross, this time for D. Silva, but the Spaniard failed to get a shot off.
In the dying seconds of the half the home side had a penalty shout when Walker, having played a one-two with De Bruyne and tried to square from the byline, hit Fred on the hand. VAR reviewed the situation and confirmed the referee’s decision – only a corner.
The Second Half
As expected, City attacked hard after the restart, and after only three minutes D. Silva’s shot from around 15 yards whizzed over the far top corner. But their efforts still weren’t as unpredictable or unmanagable for the opposition as they can be.
United mostly knew exactly where the danger would come from and closed down any space that the hosts had their eyes on exploiting. They also had a good idea when to press high and when to drop into a low block.
Further more, Walker and Angelino were still having much trouble with Rashford and James, respectively. Angelino in particular found it difficult to deal with the pace of James. But in the 55th minute, City came very close after a long and intricate move caused a bit of a scramble in front of De Gea, and eventually De Bruyne took a shot which Lindelof stopped with a timely block.
From the ensuing corner United sprang a counterattack. James took the ball far up and involved Lingard who was mowed down recklessly by Walker. The City defender marvelously passed without a yellow card, but a few moments later disaster struck. With Laporte already out injured, Guardiola was forced to replace Stones through injury, and Nicolas Otamendi took to the pitch in the 59th minute.
A minute later Sterling dispossessed Lindelof deep in United’s half, charged into the box and past several opponents, before Wan-Bissaka stopped him once again with a well-timed toe-poke. A similar situation at the other end almost resulted in City going further down as James stole the ball from Angelino and burst forward, but the Blues defence survived the scramble. Then it was Rodri with a blast into the top corner for City, but De Gea made a fine save. City had another great chance immediately afterwards as Sterling’s shot caught a deflection off Wan-Bissaka and almost fell perfectly for Mahrez, who had replaced Bernardo earlier, but Shaw defended well. Then it was James who pulled another fast counterattack and involved Lingard whose shot was saved by Ederson.
There was also a very ugly moment in the 67th minute. A corner was given to United, and as Fred went to take it, City fans started throwing objects at him and only stopped at the request of several players in blue shirts. It will be interesting to see if there is any action taken from the English FA for that.
As the game entered its final 20 minutes, the frustration of Guardiola’s players was becoming more pronounced. They were now attacking constantly in numbers, but once inside the box, they either went down too easily or screamed for a penalty claiming a United player had handled the ball. They were becoming more nervous with every passing minute, as was Guardiola himself on the touchline. The frustration was perfectly depicted in the 80th minute, when first Walker needlessly clattered Fred from behind and De Bruyne followed that up with a nasty, deliberate foul on McTominay.
On the other hand, United seemed to know what to do in this situation. They defended patiently and still looked for for a chance to hit quickly, but understandably felt no pressure. And when intricate play didn’t work, City finally found another way to break through in the 85th minute.
Mahrez took a corner and delivered the ball well to the edge of six yards. Otamendi came up and jumped highest, slamming the header in.
1-2.
City suddenly sprang alive, attacking more fiercely than ever, and Mahrez came very close to equalizing straight away and was only denied by a great save from De Gea. Solskjaer then reacted by replacing Lingard with Axel Tuanzebe to strengthen the back line, and he had to replace Shaw with Ashley Young because of an injury to the starting left-back.
When the five minutes of injury time started running, United’s intentions were very clear – to defend and waste time by any means possible, which seemed to be driving City players mad. City were flinging the ball into the box non-stop, but apart from a few scrambles, there was nothing they could do. The final whistle was accompanied by a smile from Sir Alex Ferguson from the stands.
 
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