How Barcelona will beat Man Utd

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They might be favourites to win the tie over two legs, but there’s no way that Barcelona will be taking Manchester United lightly, particularly at Old Trafford.

Playing at the Camp Nou for the second leg may seem to afford the Catalans an advantage of sorts, but Ernesto Valverde and his team will want to make that a formality.

In order to do so, they’ll need to take the game to the Red Devils and quieten the expected 75,000 crowd.

But just how are they going to manage it?

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Manchester United have to be ruthless in the summer by selling their beloved old guard

Old Guard

Manchester United have without a doubt suffered a huge downfall over the last six years, where they have failed to challenge for the Champions League and Premier League effectively in that time. On top of that, the ongoing problems on and off the pitch have been clear for quite some time now, which could not be fixed or solved by the likes of David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

A lot of managers and players have come in throughout the last couple of seasons or so, however, not many of the deadwood individuals have actually been shipped out of the club since the departure and retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. From then till now, players such as Ashley Young, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones continue to play regularly for the team despite not being good enough.

Each one of the coaches have had their good and bad moments at Old Trafford, but have not been able to match the club’s style of play as well as produce the consistent results that you expect from a big club like Manchester United. Also, the same goes for the big signings that have come through, who have not been able to rally the side on or create the big moments that were badly needed.

Now, it’s time to focus back on the old guard and to why the board and Ed Woodward should be blamed for the situation the club are currently in at this moment of time. Many still remember the days of when Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young were the side’s main starters at full-back, two players who used to play as wingers week in and out but used in a position they are not experts in.

Thanks to the arrival of Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw being more injury-free this season, it has led Valencia to only play in the league on five occasions as he is expected to leave in the summer on a free transfer. Meanwhile, Young has been playing a lot this season either at left-back or right-back, where he is a defensive liability and is a huge burden in terms of progressing forward with the ball.

And in the heart of defence, both Jones and Smalling have played too many games than necessary in a United jersey, where they have committed constant mistakes whilst not showing enough intelligence and quality on the ball. Victor Lindelof has been at the club for nearly two seasons, and is already proving to be the side’s best defender, summing up the severe problems in defence.

Once upon a time, Jones and Smalling were brought into to be the long-term replacement for Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, but have been unable to reach the top tier level that many of the football experts had predicted them to reach for both club and country. Fast forward the clock, the English duo have spent more than seven seasons at the club and are yet to show consistent displays.

Potentially, United may have to take a page out of Pep Guardiola’s book in his second campaign at Manchester City, where the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager got rid of individuals such as Aleksandar Kolarov, Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy, Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta, players who were no longer crucial or useful enough despite spending a number of years at the Etihad stadium.

The club may feel they will miss out on the experience and leadership of the old guard, on the other hand, the hungry and younger player will strive on the opportunity of playing regular football and also in their natural position. Not only that, it will allow the side’s style of play to be more fluid and unpredictable, as it currently looks to be limited and lethargic through the middle and the flanks.

Overall, the Old Trafford faithful will be hoping that the hierarchy are bitterly seeing the rivals in Liverpool and Manchester City challenge for the league whilst United are sat in sixth-place and are attempting to finish in the top four to save their season. If the people in charge truly care about the club, they would be making their plans for the summer window, including on how to get rid of the deadwood.

The Premier League players struggling to reclaim their England place

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England produced one of the biggest surprises of the international week by coming from a goal down to beat Croatia 2-1 at Wembley on Sunday.

It looked as though the Three Lions were going to be relegated when they trailed with 12 minutes to go, but late goals from Jesse Lingard and Harry Kane ensured that Gareth Southgate’s side qualified for next summer’s Nations League semi-finals.

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How many Manchester United players have actually improved under Jose Mourinho?

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho’s third-season crisis has kicked into gear extra early in 2018-19, with Manchester United currently sitting 10th in the Premier League table after losing three of their first seven games of the new campaign.

The club’s below-par start to the season, which has included defeats against Brighton, Tottenham and West Ham, as well as a League Cup exit on penalties to Derby, has led to intense speculation about Mourinho’s future at Old Trafford.

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England call up completes Luke Shaw’s career revival

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The start to Manchester United’s season couldn’t be any worse. The Red Devils have won only one out of three games to kick-start their Premier League campaign. There are confusions about the heart of the defence, the midfield is all over the place while the forwards are struggling. The manager, Jose Mourinho, could be a casualty, yet again. The Board underperformed in the transfer market, too. In a team that is struggling, Luke Shaw has stood out, putting in excellent performances throughout pre-season, and in the Premier League too.

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Danny Rose better option than Ashley Young

Thursday night’s friendly against Costa Rica gave Gareth Southgate the chance to fine tune his England team ahead of their trip to Russia for the World Cup. Over the past few weeks and months, the national team boss has settled on a shape, system and a number of positions. Nonetheless, there were still some questions to be answered as their final warm-up game got under way at Elland Road.

Up front, there was a place for Jamie Vardy as Southgate tested out playing with the Leicester City striker as the focal point of his attack. In goals, Jack Butland was given a chance, while Trent Alexander-Arnold made his England debut in the right wing back position.

Switzerland U21 v England U21 - European Under 21 Qualifier

However, it was in the left wing back position that the real litmus test took place. Ashley Young started the first World Cup warm up game against Nigeria last weekend, hinting that the Manchester United man might be given the nod against Tunisia on June 18. However, Danny Rose was presented with an opportunity to prove himself against Costa Rica.

And he excelled. There was a balance to England’s play, both from an attacking and defensive standpoint, that was lacking with Young as the outlet on the left wing. This was largely down to the fact that Rose is a natural left back, left footed as well. While there is a predictability to Young’s game, there isn’t so much to Rose’s.

Of course, it’s crucial that Southgate gets his picks right in the wing back positions. Having adopted a back three, the wing backs will be integral to bringing England up the pitch at the World Cup this summer. Without effective wing backs it’s possible that Southgate’s entire game plan will come crumbling down.

Rose is an honest character, as demonstrated by his recent comments to the press about racism in Russia and depression. In previous England squads, the 27-year-old might not have had the support structure in place to help him through such things, especially with the whole country analysing his every move this summer. Southgate has cultivated a healthy environment for his players, though.

“He is part of our team and part of our family for the next few months so we intend to protect and support our players,” Southgate said in a recent interview. “No one knows what is going to happen in Russia but he felt there could something his family experiences and he thought that might distract from his football.”

From a purely sporting perspective, though, Rose would appear to be the best fit for England in the left wing back role. Young can play there, his crossing in particular gives Southgate another quality to play with, but the national team manager must consider the bigger picture. Rose is a better option for England at this moment than Young.

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Game of the Week – United tame Liverpool at home

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Since his arrival in England, Jurgen Klopp has transformed the Liverpool side. The Reds have been responsible for playing some of the best football in the country this season.

However, the German manager has failed to guide his side to a league win over arch-rivals Manchester United. Prior to the visit to Old Trafford this weekend, Liverpool had drawn their last three league games against United. They were also without a league win over their rivals since the 2013-14 season. Continue reading