Premier League Predictions: Week 23

It’s another round of the English Premier League with some exciting games as the top 4 is still up for grabs and so is relegation. Which teams will be able to make in roads and can Liverpool stretch their unbeaten run to 39 games when they face old rival Manchester United?

Watford v Tottenham

The weekend kicks off with this Saturday lunchtime game and what a game it looks to be. Watford have been in brilliant form and are unbeaten in their last five games. They have climbed out of the relegation zone. Tottenham have been in mixed form and are 9 points behind 4th place now. With Harry Kane out Jose Mourinho will be relying on Heung-Min Son to find some form.  Watford and Tottenham to draw

Arsenal v Sheffield United

Arsenal have been average even under Mikel Arteta with just one win in his 4 games so far. But last time they were at home they beat Manchester United 2-0. One would think they will have too much for the Blades here. Mesut Ozil looks like a new player, though Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang their potent striker will be missing after being sent off. A narrow win perhaps? Arsenal to beat Sheffield United

Brighton v Aston Villa

Both sides have shown a lack of form and Brighton have slipped to 14th place and have won just once in their last five games. Aston Villa lost 6-1 at home to Manchester City last weekend and are in 18th but a win here could move them out of the bottom three and they could join Brighton on the same points. Watch out for Jack Grealish who is using this year to try and get into England’s team for Euro 2020. Brighton and Aston Villa to draw

Manchester City v Crystal Palace

Last season Crystal Palace stunned Manchester City at the Etihad with a 3-2 win. But it was a one off stunning goal that won it for the Eagles. City are in rich form and scoring goals, with 10 in their last 3 games. A win here would take them to 50 points. Can Sergio Aguero score more goals this weekend after his fantastic hat trick? Manchester City to beat Crystal Palace

Norwich v Bournemouth

Norwich look doomed for relegation. They are bottom of the league and 8 points from safety. They have earned 2 points from their past 15. Bournemouth are in 19th but are six points ahead of the Canaries. This is Norwich’s biggest game of the season, they need to win and need a player like Teemu Pukki to show his early season form. Norwich to beat Bournemouth 

Southampton v Wolves

Along with Watford, Southampton have been the team of the moment. They beat Leicester away from home after losing to the same team 9-0 a couple of months ago. Their recovery looks complete. Wolves have quality but had to play in midweek in the FA Cup and lost to Manchester United. The Saints are at home and the fresher team. Southampton to beat Wolves

West Ham v Everton

David Moyes will face his former team who he spent 11 years at. Moyes’ 2nd stint with the Hammers started well but they lost to Sheffield United last week. Carlo Ancelotti has won 3 of his first five games with Everton. We expect to see a very entertaining game with the away side getting all three points. Richarlison looks fired up since Ancelotti took charge. Everton to beat West Ham

Newcastle v Chelsea

Newcastle have only lost 3 games at home and Chelsea usually don’t travel so well up here. The Blues have gone their last three matches unbeaten, but this will be a tough game for them. The Magpies have not won in 4 games but this record won’t keep up. Jonjo Shelvey just needs to show some of his brilliant form before Christmas. Newcastle to beat Chelsea

Burnley v Leicester

Burnley have lost 4 games in a row coming into this match and that includes losing 4 of their last five home games and now they are up against the 3rd best team in England right now. Leicester’s form has dipped but they can get back on track with a win here. Leicester to beat Burnley

Liverpool v Manchester United

One of the all time great fixtures of football. Liverpool are still unbeaten and have a  100% record at Anfield. They have no major injuries and no distractions. Manchester United are missing Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford could be touch and go. Liverpool are light years ahead of United even though it was the Red Devils who have taken the only points from Liverpool so far. Liverpool to beat Manchester United

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Man Utd 4-0 Norwich: The Red Devils pick up their first win of 2020 as the Canaries continue to struggle

With Leicester City dropping points in their respective game whilst Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool go head-to-head with one another on Saturday evening in gameweek 22, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had the perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways as they faced a Norwich side that currently sit at the bottom of the league and have not win a league game since November.

Going into the afternoon game at Old Trafford, Solskjaer would have anticipated a couple of goals as well as a simple win, despite the side facing a number of problems when it comes to breaking down the mid-table teams. On the other hand, for Daniel Farke, even taking a point away from Old Trafford would have been more than enough, as the Canaries sit rock bottom in the Premier League.

Overall, looking at the game from the first second till the final whistle, the hosts had full control and dominated on and off the ball, going onto creating four big chances, completing six shots on target and most importantly, scoring four goals in a single league match after a long time. Meanwhile, the visitors did not have much good moments at all and would have preferred the match to be over as soon as possible, as they did not have the quality in each department to pick up a result today.

United struggled for small period in the beginning to get to the final third of the pitch and to get past the opposition’s defence. However, they managed to get their first goal of the game just before the 30 minute mark, as Juan Mata came into the middle from the right flank before crossing the ball into the far corner of the post, which was connected by a composed volley from Marcus Rashford.

The side continued to control the game, with some good passage of play through the middle as well as out on the flanks, but did not show the ideal urgency to look for the crucial second goal, in order to put the game to bed before half-time. With just a few moments till the end of the first half, the away side managed to complete their first shot on target through Todd Cantwell, who attempted to pass the ball into the far corner of the net, but his shot was well pushed away by David De Gea.

Following the half-time break, United were on the front foot once again and it did not take them long to get another goal, as they were awarded a penalty, with Rashford stepping up to take it and scoring his second goal of the game and his 14th league goal of the season. The side went on to get to get the third goal in quick succession, as a short corner from the right side was then crossed perfectly by Mata, which was met by the head of Anthony Martial and into the corner of the net.

United’s youngsters continued to show their quality and are become quite the fans favourite, as Brandon Williams had a really great performance in the left-back role and should have ended the match with a goal, whilst Mason Greenwood came on from the bench in the 71st minute and went onto scoring a couple of minutes later with a fine finish to send it past Tim Krul and into the goal.

In the end, the result helps Manchester United to go back to fifth-place on 34 points, being just five points away from fourth-place Chelsea. Meanwhile, Daniel Farke’s Norwich City sit uncomfortably at the bottom of the league on 14 points, as they have only won three league games in 22 matches.

Here are the four valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league game…

Marcus Rashford continues to show his world class quality

It was an amazing day for Marcus Rashford to remember, as he reached his 200 appearance for Manchester United and capped his day off at Old Trafford with a brace and an impressive showing on and off the ball. Given that he is still only 22-years-old, the best is yet to come from him and he is a few years away from his actual peak, making his ongoing development to be seen as a beautiful sight, as the critics and his doubters are starting to look silly as he is proving them all wrong.

It’s only early January at the moment, but he is currently on 14 league goals and is already past his best league tally in a single season, and he could continue to go on to scoring 25 league goals and 40-45 goals in all competitions as long as he stays fit and remains in good condition. With both Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku leaving the club in the summer, Rashford has stepped up massively and is more or less showing that he is the clinical forward that the club and manager desperately needs.

Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic produced a fine performance from their good old days

Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic are two experienced individuals who are clearly past their best and do not have the legs to complete consistent displays on a regular basis. However, the duo put up quite the performance against Norwich, with Matic providing the much needed security ahead of the backline and helping the team to recycle the ball effectively in the opposition’s half of the pitch.

And on the attacking side of the match, Mata was able to complete two assists, 82 touches on the ball and a successful pass completion rate of 90.1%, as the Spaniard produced the perfect performance from the number ten role, despite his movement out onto the flanks. As a whole, it was delightful to see Mata and Matic complete a throwback of a display from their good old days.

The Old Trafford faithful have had enough, as they called out on The Glazers and Ed Woodward

As the fixture was game, set and match by the hour mark or so, the home supporters around Old Trafford were united and stood up together to sing out their thoughts and feelings towards the Glazers and Ed Woodward. With the club failing to implement a title challenge in the Premier League or in the Champions League over the last five to six years, the United fans have simply had enough.

Most importantly, they did not show any anger or negativity towards Solskjaer, as in recent years, the United supporters would have preferred to blame the likes of David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, who had failed to live up to the club’s expectations and standards. It may not make much difference that the chants were sang out loud for one game, but if it starts to happen on a more daily basis, it will surely be seen as sending a powerful message to the main people in charge.

The Premier League relegation battle is taking shape and Norwich City look doomed

Norwich City look like they will be playing next season in the Championship as they were slaughtered 4-0 against Manchester United in a match that was largely one way traffic from the first whistle.

The Canaries latest defeat which is their 14th of the season from 22 games leaves the club rock bottom with 14 points. Later today 19th plays 18th as Bournemouth take on Watford in what should be a fascinating match but Norwich look doomed whatever the outcome. Currently the club are 7 points from safety, that’s basically a month’s worth of football and it would take an almighty set of games to put things right.

Of course Norwich could look to Watford for some inspiration. The Hornets have climbed from the bottom of the league, themselves being six points adrift. They are 19th but have gone 4 games unbeaten and could climb out of the bottom three with a win today. The difference though is that to get here Watford had to sack their manager-indeed in Nigel Pearson they are on their 3rd manager this season alone.

Appointing Daniel Farke as manager was always going to be risky for Norwich, in part because he had no top flight managerial experience. Although he was appointed in 2017 and helped the club gain promotion to the Premier League, in that sense perhaps Farke’s ambitions lie away from the Premier League. In it Norwich have huffed and puffed this season, they stunned the champions Manchester City beating them 3-2 and have in general played some good football against the top teams. But motivation has been a problem against bottom half clubs and teams around them, and it does look like Norwich will be going straight back down again.

As for the rest, it is quite an open book. One would think that Watford will simply surge forward. They have been outstanding under Pearson, and even if they do face a set back there is a clear objective and belief in the club to do well. This puts pressure on Bournemouth, Aston Villa, West Ham, Burnley and Brighton who look like the likeliest to struggle. Two of those teams look like going down at this time, and all have faced misery in recent years regarding relegation.

Aston Villa after Norwich are the next favourites to go down according to the bookmakers. But perhaps one should keep an eye out for West Ham. They are being quoted at 3/1. The Hammers have some very difficult games coming up, including quite a few away games, They will have to face the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea in close succession.

There are still 16 games to play and anything can happen, but for almost certain we know that one of the teams going down this season is Norwich. The question remains will the club react and sack Farke, or will they take a gamble on him?

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Is racism growing in the Premier League?

Many people would call the Premier League the best in the world but the league has been hit hard this season and in recent weeks for racist chanting amongst a minority of fans who have spoiled great occasions and overshadowed matches.

In truth it was thought that before the season started that racist chanting was resigned to Eastern European countries and in Serie A in Italy they have also had their fair share with ex Premier League player Mario Balotelli facing the brunt of so called fans’ actions. But it is easy to point at other countries and other fans, less easy to admit that there is a much bigger problem in England and the Premier League than there was first thought.

There have been countless incidents this season and it really does feel that sadly racism is growing in the league. Manchester United’s Paul Pogba was subjected to racism earlier in the season for missing a penalty. Marcus Rashford then came to his defence and he was subjected to the same vile chants. Again at Manchester United a fan had to be ejected for his actions in the massive game against Liverpool seen by millions of people around the world.

In the Manchester derby a fan had to be arrested after his actions towards certain players and the game had to be stopped as a consequence. Most recently in the Tottenham and Chelsea London derby clash the game had to be interrupted no less than three times to remind fans to stop alledged monkey chanting. Some of these seemed to be aimed at Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger although police later said that there was no evidence of an attack on the player. Stlll if true there were plenty of unsavoury moments.

The Premier League has been excellent in leading the charge to kick racism out of the game. A hint of it and actions have been taken and other leagues can still learn from this zero tolerance attitude. But it is still a worry that some fans turn up to the game not to watch it but to vent their hate for another player based on the colour of their skin.

The Premier League has issued statements and will enforce bans and this is very good and the right steps to make. But this season has clearly been a step back into a time that no one wants to remember and a big wake up call that the Premier League has a huge racism issue that perhaps the people running the league did not think was the case before.

The good news is that punishments are being handed out which normally means an arrest and being banned from football for life. But one senses that more education is needed on the topic, it is just sad that we are still talking about divides amongst people in 2020.

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Man Utd: Three tweaks that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should make to see out this difficult period

Manchester United are going through an up and down type of season, where they have been moving one step forward but two steps back, regardless of the current options available within the squad and who is managing the side. And with how the campaign is going so far, the side’s chances of finishing in the top four positions are very slim as they continue to drop points time after time.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have a lot to review over the next couple of weeks, with the January transfer window now officially open whilst he is not far away from having a fully fit squad. Not only that, with five points separating themselves from fourth-place Chelsea, the momentum can be turned around if the side begin to win their games consistently and not depend on other results.

Here are three tweaks that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should make as soon as possible…

Switch to a three-man midfield

Solskjaer looks to be fixed on a 4-2-3-1 system, which could be down to the lack of progress from midfield to attack, however, the current setup does not allow the side to control and dominate the games in a way a top side normally would. Given the injuries to Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay, keeping them on the sidelines for at least a number of weeks, the board and manager will have to enter into the transfer window and do their best to save the season from going bad to worse.

Despite the rumours spreading around on whether Pogba will leave or stay at Old Trafford, the team have to focus on themselves and continue to give their all on the pitch, even if it is with or without a certain individual. A potential three-man midfield of Fred, Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba or a new signing in January, would assist the team in excelling on both sides of the pitch and helping them to be stable, something they have not been able to do on more than one occasion so far this term.

Time to be proactive on and off the ball

United’s lack of identity and style of play has got majority of the Old Trafford faithful raising a few questions, as they are unable to see an actual attacking system that has been implemented onto the team. Being brutally honest, not much has changed under Solskjaer compared to what was experienced in the final months of the Jose Mourinho era, as the side are still quite suspect defensively and are only creating clear chances when they break through on the counter-attack.

On top of that, the side have had a number of matches where they have found it very difficult to breakdown a deep low block, forcing them to take shots from outside of the box and slowing down the movement on and off the ball. Also, the team have been giving the opposition a lot of space and time in possession from time to time, something that is not naturally done by a team chasing for a top four position, as they would constantly be pressing the opponents into making mistakes high up the pitch.

The work on the in-game management has to be done

And finally, the most important area that Solskjaer has to improve on to turn the season around, is his in-game management and the key decisions he makes, as the timing of the change of formations and substitutions over the last couple of months have been questionable. It was more than understandable that this issue would occur at the start of his managerial time at United, however, one year on, he is still trying to overcome this ongoing problem and is finding it tough and really impossible to find an ideal solution.

Overall, too much cannot be expected from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as it does not look like he’s very knowledgeable when it comes to tactics and is not showing that he has a backup plan when badly required. Given his lack of flexibility in terms of methods and strategies, his days at Old Trafford could seriously be numbered if he is unable to come up with some consistent and effective ideas, that can help turn the side’s performances and results around, as they somehow continue to suffer week after week.

The 10 best Premier League teams of the decade

In England the Premier League’s best teams have, for a time, been described as the big six and below we look at how these big six teams have compared points wise, which team has garnered the most points since January, 2010- December 31st, 2019?

If one was to say who has been the most successful Premier League team of the decade, do you say Manchester City or Chelsea? Both clubs have won 7 titles between them and of course it is City who have won the most titles this decade winning 7. That would have been unthinkable at the beginning of the decade where City had just been taken over and injected with money.

This table is based on points earned in the Premier League only:

6th- Arsenal  702pts

The great Arsenal side have really had a down turn this decade and winning a few FA Cups aside this has been a disappointing 10 years for the club who finally saw the end of the Arsene Wenger era when he left the club after 22 years. His first half reign had been supreme but after the club moved stadium success did not follow. Arsenal are certainly a team in transition.

5th – Tottenham Hotspur  703pts

Tottenham forever in Arsenal’s shadow it seemed stepped out of it this decade even if they had a lack of trophies to show for it. The club surpassed Arsenal and started qualifying for the Champions League on a regular basis instead of their north London rivals. They even made a Champions League final in 2019 but lost to Liverpool. Now the club has one of the most successful managers in charge of them in Jose Mourinho as they try to continue to build on former boss Mauricio Pochettino’s hard work.

4th-  Liverpool  710pts

It may be a surprise to see Liverpool only 4th in the decade standings and that is in large part because of some of the poor seasons the club had endured. This included finishing below Everton their rivals for a few seasons. Brendan Rodgers did almost win the league for the club in 2014, but they have only looked like the Liverpool of old under Jurgen Klopp. When the German was appointed manager he struggled at first but now he looks like the best coach in the world. Liverpool are the European and World club champions and are after their first league title since 1990 which they look like they will wrap up in style this season. They have not lost in the Premier League for 1 year.

3rd-  Chelsea  740pts

Continuing on from a very successful 2000s, Chelsea went a step further and won the Champions League in 2012 and this decade they have won 3 league titles, with 3 different managers. They are a superb team when they want to be, but surely would have taken 2nd place here after they had two poor seasons this decade.

2nd-  Manchester United  747pts

This has been a very tough decade for Manchester United, their worst since the 1980s, and so this is all very new for a new generation to witness the fall of this great club. The decade started off well enough with 2 league titles and a Champions League final appearance. But once Sir Alex Ferguson left the club the wheels started to come off. David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho couldn’t find the solution, though the club still picked up a league cup, an FA Cup and a Europa League in between, they have had a succession of very poor league results.

1st-  Manchester City  818pts

Way out in front is Manchester City who won 4 league titles this decade including their first ever back to back wins in 2018 and 2019. The club have been fantastic and really went up another level once Pep Guardiola came into the fold. He installed a winning only attitude and the club raised the bar so much that in one season they got 100 points, the other Liverpool got 97 points and that wasn’t enough either. In two seasons City earned 198 points, incredible stuff. And no club can come near them this decade.

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Burnley 0-2 Man Utd: The Red Devils continue their fine form with a strong victory over the Clarets

With the main focus of gameweek 20 being on how the Premier League table shapes up on both sides of the division, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had the great opportunity of pushing towards the top four positions, as they travelled away to Turf Moor to face Sean Dyche’s Burnley.

Ahead of the game, both managers would have looked well into the squad depth and any other individuals available, given the hectic list of fixtures in December and where nearly all the teams in the league are playing in three games in ten days. The Red Devils were looking to start being consistent when it came to victories whilst the Clarets were hoping to pull off a potential upset.

Overall, the visitors had dominated possession effortlessly and were hardly under much pressure, which isn’t a surprise as the hosts are the type of team that prefers to defend in a deep block and take the opposition on with a more direct and long ball approach. However, there were only six shots on target throughout the game, as both sides had lacked the much needed creativity.

The first half was pretty much a snooze fest, with very little happening on both areas of the pitch as a lack of risks and opportunities were actually taken by the influential players. It took until the 44th minute of the game to see the first goal, which was taken by the away side due to a defensive mistake made by Charlie Taylor, as Andreas Pereira latched onto the ball on the right side of the pitch before placing into to the feet of Anthony Martial, who calmly slotted it into the net.

Following the half-time break, the game began to open up for both teams, especially for the hosts as the likes of Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil and substitute Aaron Gudmundsson were picking up the ball within the advanced areas of United’s half. Because of this, Solskjaer’s men had to be more compact and proactive on the defensive side, as they have been dominated aerially in recent weeks.

There wasn’t much to go into detail or cover of the second half, until what actually occurred in the final moments of the game. As Burnley won a free-kick in a very dangerous area, which led to a counter-attack for United in a couple of seconds thanks to Daniel James and his burst of pace, and it was just about completed by Marcus Rashford as he went past the keeper and his fortunate touch was able to take the ball away from the Burnley player on the goal line and into the back of the net.

With Manchester United leaving Turf Moor with the much needed three points, it pushes them back to fifth-place and just four points behind fourth-place Chelsea, who have started to become quite inconsistent themselves. Meanwhile for Burnley and Sean Dyche, they have unsurprisingly dropped by one or two spots into 13th place, leaving them with just six points above the relegation zone.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league game…

Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford continue to produce the goods

A lot of questions were rightfully asked at the start of the season, on whether the club will regret letting go of both Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku, especially with no effort being made in replacing the attacking duo. Despite the fact that they were not in Solskjaer’s long-term plans, the side have been better without them, which has to be more down to the brilliance of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who have only started to play again together and have been running riot.

Rashford has been incredible so far this season, having bagged 12 goals and four assists in 20 league appearances, with a number of his goals coming in the crucial matches and he is yet to hit his peak. And with Martial, he has been out with an injury here and there for around two months so far this term and has still managed to hit double figures in goals and assists by the end of December.

Fred has stepped up massively over the last couple of weeks in midfield

When looking at a midfielder like Fred, it’s quite obvious that he doesn’t have the presence or brilliance that makes him to be seen as a standout defensive-midfielder or attacking-midfielder. On the other hand, his personal role is more of making the team tick and being able to break up the opposition’s play to setting the team on the counter, which he is starting to be appreciated for.

Although he needed some time settling into the physicality and high intensity side of the Premier League, the Brazilian international has now gained a better understanding of how everything is set out and what he had to do on his end. Due to his determination and hunger to succeed, he has turned his United career around and has become one of the side’s best players so far this season, having produced some dominant displays against the likes of Brighton, Man City and Spurs.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men picked up a huge victory and have to build on from here

It’s been the side’s second time this season where they have completed back to back victories in the league, which does imply that the ideal consistency is not there in order for the team to convincingly finish in the top four. However, with both Chelsea and Leicester City slipping up slightly in recent weeks, the race for a top four finish could become wide open once the busy fixtures are finally over.

Most importantly, Solskjaer and United will have to focus on their own games and begin to pick up the three points week in and out, and then depend on other results in the league to go their way. If the momentum can shift into their favour and they get down to business in the January transfer window, then the side’s chances of seeing Champions League football next season increases massively, especially when the first half of the campaign has been quite forward and backwards.

Can Nigel Pearson save Watford from Premier League relegation?

Can it be 3rd time lucky for Watford that is the question being asked as the troubled Premier League team look to survive in the top flight this season.

Nigel Pearson has stepped into the club and he is charged with saving the Hornets skin. He is Watford’s 3rd manager this season following the sackings of Javi Gracia and Quique Sanchez Flores. It was thought that bringing back Sanchez Flores in September would save the club but they got worse, flirted with the bottom three and then exchanged who would be bottom of the Premier League with Norwich for most of the season.

When Pearson was appointed the club were bottom of the league and had earned just 9 points and were 6 points from safety. It is safe to say that even though that gap remains at 6 points under Pearson Watford look like a different club, even showing shades of how good they can be from last season, finishing in the top half of the table and reaching the FA Cup final.

For a club who have lost 10 games this season, 55% of their games so far they have only been defeated once in their last four encounters. Witness the change and it couldn’t have got better than beating Manchester United 2-0 just before Christmas. It was a magnificent result and was highlighted by the fact that United had turned a corner, were playing great football, had climbed up the table and were one of the best in form sides in the league. And yet here was Watford not just sneaking a very lucky win but being worth their victory too. What a managerial change can do?

Pearson has history saving clubs from relegation. One of his most famous was saving Leicester who would go on to win the Premier League title in 2016 under Claudio Ranieri. No one is suggesting the same of Watford if he were to save them, but look at how history would have changed for the Foxes had Pearson not done his job in the first place.

The Hornets went on to draw against another in form side in Sheffield United and as a result of decent form they have exchanged once more with Norwich for the bottom of the league trophy and are now 19th.

This weekend Watford are at home to Aston Villa where one would expect them to pick up all three points and that would be a major boost for the club in survival given that Villa re directly above them and have a 5 point gap over the club. Watford then host Wolves on New Years Day and will face Villa again by the end of January.

Indeed January looks on paper to be a month where Watford could genuinely plan the great escape, only a game against Tottenham looks like being the hardest match to win.

There is confidence pumping throughout the squad now and it would take a brave man to predict that Watford under Pearson will go down this season, clearly the fight to stay up begins now and continues into the next decade.

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A resurgent Paul Pogba can fire Manchester United into the top 4, if he wants too

How will Paul Pogba be remembered at Manchester United and on the bigger picture how will he be remembered in world football, if for example, he was to stop playing this second?

Obviously Pogba is a world class player, you don’t win the World Cup and play for Juventus and Manchester United. But at the same time it does feel as if Pogba at times has not given everything to the cause. Was he ever 100% committed when he played for Juventus? His time at Manchester United in reality will be remembered for magical moments, bursts of inspiration and some great goals, but it will also be remembered for confrontations with managers especially Jose Mourinho and niggling injuries.

Pogba can still change that attitude and end the season on a high and it was telling how good Pogba looked when he made his return against Watford a week ago. True United in United fashion this decade lost the game, and against the bottom side but Pogba came on from the bench and in the 30 minutes he had changed the way United were playing. He was fearless in his attacks from midfield and his pace and vision were also superb. We were seeing the very best of Pogba, the same version of Pogba we saw at the 2018 World Cup where his performances especially in the knock out rounds were superb. There is no doubt that when Pogba wants it, Pogba is a wonderful player to witness.

It should have come to no surprise then that in United’s next game against Newcastle they would win 4-1 with an outstanding performance and another confident game for the Frenchman. So now one wonders if United has a chance to finish in the top 4?

At this moment Chelsea are making it rather easier for them than it should be. The gap to 4th should be and could have been 15 points at least instead it is just 4 points and United do have a genuine chance to make a top 4 challenge. Of course other teams have bunched up in the league because of Chelsea’s bad form and United are in 8th place.

Wolves, Tottenham and Sheffield United stand between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team and 4th. But United do have fire in their belly and before the Watford loss there is no doubt that the club had found their form again and we were seeing a United side who looked the business when Solskjaer first took over from a sacked Jose Mourinho a year ago.

United though need Pogba to be on his game if they are going to challenge for a top 4 spot. Sure form came to the club when Pogba was ironically injured and on the sidelines for a few weeks. But now he is fit he will play and if he doesn’t find consistency then that will be an extra ‘ghost’ player on the field for the club which will help no one.

Does Pogba want to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the United greats? He could be and still has the time to be. Now much like he did with France in that glorious World Cup win he needs to drag his team across that line, or he may just forever be known as a player that could have instead of something that did.

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Man Utd 4-1 Newcastle: Ole’s men continue to keep their top four hopes alive

With Arsenal and Chelsea dropping points in their respective games whilst Liverpool take on Leicester City in gameweek 19, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had another opportunity to take the advantage of the situation as they faced a Newcastle side who have been struggling in the games away from home. The end outcome was no surprise given the differences of both teams.

Going into the Thursday evening match, Solskjaer would have expected a couple of goals as well as a straightforward victory, despite the side have been unable to breakdown the mid-table teams over the last couple of months. On the other hand, for Steve Bruce, even taking a point away from Old Trafford would have been more than enough, as Newcastle United sit confidently in tenth-place.

Looking at the game on a whole note, the hosts had dominated possession as expected and were the side that had produced more chances and completed shots on target. Meanwhile, the visitors had a few good moments early in the first half, especially on the counter-attack, but were constantly sat deep in their own half for the full match and were not successful in chasing and recovering the ball.

The first goal came for the away side, as the Red Devils lost the ball in the middle of the pitch, allowing the Magpies to counter effectively with a couple of passes as Matthew Longstaff slotted the ball past David De Gea and into the net. However, the visitor’s lead was cancelled out seven minutes later, as Anthony Martial’s shot on goal got a slight deflection by Martin Dubravka before going in.

Just over ten minutes later, Mason Greenwood pounced on a poor defensive error made by Newcastle and scored a peach of a goal, scoring his third league goal of the season. It didn’t take long for the side to extend their lead, as Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s inch-perfect cross was met by the rising head of Marcus Rashford, who made no mistakes and headed the ball into the back of the net.

Following the half-time break, United were on the front foot once again and it did not take them long to get another goal, as another mistake from Newcastle’s backline allowed Martial to latch onto the ball and run towards goal before bagging his second goal of the game. With the three points being more or less confirmed, Solskjaer made the ideal decision of bringing off both Martial and Rashford just after the hour mark, giving the duo a deserved rest ahead of the Burnley match.

In all honesty, the remainder of the match did not result in many chances created or shots completed on target, as the home side continued to recycle the ball well on both sides of the pitch whilst the visitors were accepting the inevitable outcome and did not want to leak anymore goals.

In the end, the result helps Manchester United to go up to seventh-place on 28 points, being just four points away from fourth-place Chelsea. Meanwhile, Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United still sit well in the middle of league, as they remain in tenth-place and seven points above the relegation zone.

Here are the four valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league game…

Mason Greenwood is on the rise and is proving a point

For sure, it is still early days to look into the potential that Mason Greenwood has and the type of player that he could become, but one cannot deny the incredible confidence that oozes around him and how active he is on and off the ball. Despite the forward playing out of position and on the right flank, he was still able to get into the game through his movement and demand of wanting the ball.

Although it was his stunning goal that highlighted his performance against Newcastle, he still managed to show what else he is able to offer, as he produced two key passes, 84% successful pass rate and great energy when it came to winning the ball back. With how impressive Greenwood has been in recent weeks, it may leave Solskjaer with no choice but to start him from now on as a regular starter.

Turning Old Trafford into a fortress is a key for any type of success

One of the ongoing problems for Manchester United has been their record at Old Trafford, as a number of oppositions have come to the ground in great confidence that they have the possibility of walking away with a result. After beating Newcastle, the Red Devils have now achieved 19 points in 10 home games, which is simply not good enough for a side that are looking to finish in the top four.

The side may have the fifth best record at home in the league, however, it’s the results and the dominant performances in the home games that progress the team to become a collective that are prepared to challenge for the league and in other competitions. Until Old Trafford does not become a fortress once again, any prediction about the club’s long-term success has to be instantly ruled out.

Individual defensive errors from the Magpies bailed out the Red Devils

The main focus will be on the convincing victory and the couple of goals that were scored, however, it could have been a long evening for the Red Devils at Old Trafford if it weren’t for the defensive mistakes that were produced by the Magpies. From Dubravka’s error for the first, Fabian Schar giving the ball away for the second and finally, Sean Longstaff completing a poor back pass for the fourth and final goal, these moments could have been managed more effectively by the individuals.

There is no negatives to take away from a result like this, but United have to be proactive and constantly creative when dominating possession against a low-block side, as not many teams will give away the ball with ease and make mistakes defensively like Newcastle did. They did end the match on three big chances created and ten shots on target, though, Solskjaer’s men have to show that they have too much quality for the opposition rather than winning games through defensive blunders.

Solskjaer and Manchester United have to show the much needed consistency

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been managing the club for just over a year, and despite the lack of quality and squad depth that is available, he is still trying to find the right consistency that can guide the team forward. At the moment, even the Old Trafford faithful cannot predict which United side will show up at the next game, which does sum up the up and down season they are experiencing.

With the team facing the likes of Burnley, Arsenal, Norwich City and Liverpool over the next couple of weeks, United have to start showing a mean streak or a good run of victories in order for them to keep their hopes of finishing in the top four alive. Looking at the season up until now, they have been able to win two league games in a row on only one occasion, which would make a lot of people believe that they do not have the quality or consistency to achieve Champions League football.