Man Utd 2-1 Spurs: Jose Mourinho takes no point back in his return to Old Trafford as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lives to fight for another day

With the Premier League midweek games truly kicking in once again ahead of a busy December schedule, the main focus was solely on the feisty and interesting fixture between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, where Jose Mourinho would be making a return to take on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men. A victory for either side would help them push towards the top four positions.

Going into the game, Mourinho would have mainly wanted the three points to get his side to at least fifth-place in the league, as well as to prove himself to the United board and Ed Woodward, who actually sacked him this time last year. Meanwhile, Solskjaer’s situation was a difficult one, as it looked like his days at the club are numbered and he was on borrowed time, so a win for him was required more than ever.

Overall, the host were more effective and productive with the ball despite not dominating the possession, and were able to get attempt and complete more shots on target. On the other hand, the visitors had some good periods with the ball in United’s half, but were lacking the cutting edge and the final third quality to break down the opposition.

United were on the front foot from the start, winning the key battle in midfield whilst using their pace and movement on the flanks through the likes of Daniel James and Marcus Rashford. Fortunately enough they took the lead through the latter and his high confidence of shooting from different angles, as his quick snap shot took Paulo Gazzaniga by surprise and went into the net.

The home side continued to pile on the pressure and were looking quite determined to doubled their lead, but did not find great success in getting past the Tottenham defence. Spurs managed to complete only two shots on target in the first half, with the most important one coming from Dele Alli in 39th minute of the game, where he created a moment of brilliance by beating both Ashley Young and Fred to the ball in the penalty box before calmly slotting it passed David De Gea.

After the half-time break, it didn’t take long for the Red Devils to take the lead again, as Rashford was fouled in the penalty box Moussa Sissoko and went to confidently taking the penalty to score his ninth league goal of the season. With most of the main action being covered by the hour mark, there wasn’t much to it in the final third of the game, as both sides became sloppy and poor on the ball.

In the end, Spurs were enjoying the fair share of the ball were could not do much about it, as United were being patient defensively and were looking for some moments to counter successfully. Though, the game came to an end with Solskjaer picking up the much needed victory and also doing a number on Mourinho, allowing United to move up to fifth-place as Spurs went down to eighth-place.

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

Marcus Rashford is a man on a mission

Since the final days of Sir Alex Ferguson’s time at Old Trafford, no player has scored more goals for Manchester United than Marcus Rashford (57), which is more than impressive from the 22-year-old who was only given his official debut two years after Sir Alex had went into retirement. And both his goals were well-taken last night, with one being from a tight angle and the other from the spot.

The questions were raised about the key chances he has missed this term and his ability to be a clinical goal-scorer, which he is now proving to the critics and to those who doubted him, as he has bagged nine goals and four assists in 14 league games. Given the lack of attacking options and depth within the department, Rashford will be heavy relied on from now till the end of the campaign.

The midfield duo Fred and Scott McTominay continues to impress

When looking at Tottenham’s midfield compared to United’s quality in the middle of the pitch, one would have thought that the control and dominance in the midfield battle would have been one-sided and in the favour of the away side. However, it was the midfield duo of Fred and Scott McTominay that came out on top, as they were constantly outstanding on and off the ball.

Looking into Fred’s performance, it was arguably the best one he has completed in a United shirt as far as the Old Trafford faithful were concerned, as he was progressive with the ball at his feet and was getting into the defensive duties when required. On the other hand, the return of McTominay was huge for the side and the manager, as his physical presence and ability to protect the ball in midfield was much needed, as the United midfield in recent weeks have been poor and deficient.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues to fight for another day at Man Utd

For sure, the main focus has been on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and how much more longer he will be at the club for, but the credit has to be given where it’s due, as he managed to overcome a strong side in Tottenham Hotspur that is managed by Jose Mourinho. Surprisingly, Solskjaer’s record in the big games have been more positive and effective than in the games against the middle-table sides.

If he wasn’t able to recently get a result against Spurs and one potentially in the Manchester derby on the weekend, he would have surely been sacked by Ed Woodward before the December fixtures had kicked in. With the United fanbase being fairly even on if they want Ole out or not, they will want him to motivate the players to perform like they did on a more regular basis, where they play with urgency, fast tempo on and off the ball whilst having the mentality of being on the front foot.

Man Utd 3-1 Brighton: Ole’s men enjoyed a straightforward afternoon at Old Trafford

Although the main focus of gameweek 12 was the head-to-head clash between Liverpool and Manchester City, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had a must-win match of they own as took on Brighton & Hove Albion, with the aim of turning their form and momentum in the league around. This was the perfect chance for the Red Devils to pick up the win with a solid display.

When looking back at the game as a whole, the hosts were without a doubt the most dominant and attacking-minded side and were on top on both sides of the pitch, whilst the visitors were sat quite deep in their own half and were unable to create enough chances or moments. Nevertheless, United played on the front foot straightaway and it allowed them to gain full control of the end outcome.

The Red Devils got the lead through a good move which went from defence to attack in the matter of seconds, as Andreas Pereira’s shot took quite a deflection before going into the back of net. And then a few minutes later, United got their second from a set-piece which was poorly defended by Brighton, with the loose ball in the penalty box being put into the wrong net by Davy Propper.

Graham Potter’s men were able to pick themselves up from the floor, as they grew in confidence and began to work well on and off the ball for the remainder of the first half. With the tactical changes being made and utilised during the half-time break, the Seagulls were able to get a goal back through Lewis Dunk, who dominantly headed Pascal Gross’ corner passed David De Gea.

Fortunately for Solskjaer and United, Marcus Rashford impressively managed to get the third and final goal for the hosts, which was once again worked well by the team to prevent the visitors from coming up with a potential comeback. Had the side been more ruthless in the final third, they could have ended the match with five to six goals, something that hasn’t happened in quite a long time.

In the end, the Red Devils picked up the much needed three points and their third league victory at home this season as they go up to seventh-place in the table. Meanwhile, Brighton and Hove Albion sit comfortably in eleventh-place, currently seven valuable points away from the relegation zone.

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

One of the best attacking displays at Old Trafford this season

For sure, the goals in the first half came down to a bit of luck and Brighton’s overall quality is not the greatest, but no one could deny the intensity and movement on and off the ball that United had showed, which had been lacking for quite some time. However, if it wasn’t for this early and positive mindset, the side wouldn’t have had the two important goals before the half-time break, something they haven’t shockingly completed for the first time at Old Trafford since the middle of January.

The Red Devils ended the match with five big chances created, 21 shots attempted and with 11 of them going on target. If the team are able to keep this up on a regular basis, especially once the injured players are back from the sidelines, then there should be no doubt that they could possibly push for a top four finish from the middle of the season as well as compete in the domestic cups.

The chemistry between Martial and Rashford is growing once again

After both Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukuaku had left the club in the final days of the transfer windows, majority of Manchester United supporters were quite concerned about the quality and depth available in the attacking department, as no replacements were brought in at all. Though, with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford getting into their stride recently, the side are now able to counter-attack effectively through the pace, movement and understanding they offer to the team.

If we’re being honest, neither of Martial and Rashford have been consistent goal-scorers week in and out, but as long as they work off one another and get into good positions, there shouldn’t be a problem in both players chipping in with 30-35 goals in the league together. United’s attacking options are quite thin at the moment, but they will be hoping that the current individuals will be able to guide them till the end of the year, with the hopes of signing someone in January being high.

Brandon Williams will make the left-back position his own very soon

It had seemed like United had some rising issues in the left-back area, given the injury problems that Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw have been having as well as Ashley Young’s time as a regular player coming to an end. On the other hand, Brandon Williams’ recent introduction has worked wonders for all parties, as he slotted into the position like a glove and is beginning to stamp his own mark.

He may not be seen as the next big thing or the finished article as of yet, but the 19-year-old has been showing his quality and potential on both sides of the pitch, being able to defend with composure, play confidently with both feet and prove to be a threat going forward. If he can continue to perform on a consistent basis and get into the good books of Solskjaer, then the Old Trafford faithful will definitely see the younger be on the team sheet more often than predicted.

Should Manchester United turn to Red Bull Leipzig’s Timo Werner?

As the January transfer window peers ever closer, Manchester United know they have a lot of work to do in such a short space of time. 

At best, a club can aim for one transfer to be completed in January that is a permanent move given the time restrains set in place during the winter market, but the Red Devils need at least two through the door if they are to seriously challenge for a top four place.

Given the lack of recruitment in the forward and midfield departments, it is no real surprise to see Man United suffering in the way that they are. Injuries to key players in Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba have stunted the club so far this season, with the former only just returning to full fitness.

Although Romelu Lukaku clearly didn’t fit into Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s plans, as well as the underperforming Alexis Sanchez, Manchester United made a huge mistake in not replacing them – even if they do have a strong belief in Marcus Rashford and the youngster Mason Greenwood.

The club pleaded to fans to suggest there were no players on the market available, but there never will be that ticks every single box. Mario Mandzukic is still one name to reverberate around Old Trafford, which might be re-ignited in January, but the Red Devils left it too late and could not put a deal in place before the English-buying market closed.

Timo Werner has continually been linked with a move to the Premier League, with Liverpool and Manchester United showing the most interest. After extending his contract until 2023, there is some noise from sections of the German media to suggest his release clause is £27 million.

If this is to be believed, there will be a vast number of teams in Europe that will be queuing up for Werner’s signature in January, which already puts Solskjær’s team at a disadvantage given the league position they are in, as well as their performances.

Werner is not a traditional centre forward, with a lot of his play starting from deep and integrating others. He began his career with VfB Stuttgart, operating as a winger, in which he continues to drift in-and-out of those areas on the pitch in present day.

There is no doubt about it that Manchester United need a new striker to help alleviate the pressure placed on Rashford and Martial. While Werner is not too much older than the pair, he has a reputation of a consistent goal-scorer.

The German international already has 13 goals to his name in 15 appearances throughout all competitions, and another six assists. More than just a typical centre forward, Werner can contribute from all areas of the pitch and help others – just as he has done in tandem with his partner Yussuf Poulson.

Ultimately, it will come down to Werner’s intentions moving forward. If he wishes to start every week and become the main player in a forward line, Liverpool is not his best option, given the fact he will not displace Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.

Manchester United, on the other hand, are more unattractive in where their reputation is currently situated, but offer more game time and the ability to become a hero that helps the club get back on track once and for all.

There will be a lot more Premier League and European teams that come to the table and try to place themselves in a position to sign the German, but Manchester United are Liverpool are the two most interested presently.

For such a cheap transfer fee in the current market, whichever club does manage to land him have themselves a potential world-class striker for the foreseeable future.

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Manchester United’s fall from grace will be underlined by a lack of quality strikers

When Manchester United lost to West Ham, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was asked about his lack of strikers, especially if one of them gets injured like in the case of Anthony Martial. He responded diplomatically by suggesting that on the strikers department there isn’t a problem and seemed happy with that statement. His eyes seemed to say something else though and a few days later in his own press conference he mentioned that the club will be looking for a striker to come in for January.

It is hard to think of a United side who have looked so average up front. At the end of the day Anthony Martial who came from Monaco ended up being the striker that could have been and the one that got away from United was actually the other youngster coming up the ranks in Kylian Mbappe who now plays for PSG.

Marcus Rashford is a quality striker when on form and has got some important goals for the club. However he is 22 and maybe more would have been expected of him given that he has never scored more than 10 league goals in his career, and he has spent 5 seasons with the club. This isn’t to say that Rashford doesn’t deserve his place because he does and plays off well in the team.

Daniel James can attack too and he looks one for the future, and the three attackers have scored 8 of United’s goals from 9 this season. But at the same time United not only have young strikers and no stardust if you like, but also players that can perform on their day but simply aren’t consistent enough, and that will be key in thinking United may not even finish in the top six this season. At this rate top 4 looks very distant too.

It’s hard to think that this situation would have been allowed under Sir Alex Ferguson and that was to sell Romelu Lukaku for over £70m but not replace him, that seemed like an odd choice. Instead United went for defence and brought in Harry Maguire for £80m, but the club need to be in a situation where they could have afforded both targets. If one looks at Mauro Icardi for example, a goalscorer that was bought by PSG as they believed Neymar would be sold and they had injuries up front, instead of resting on their laurels the club knew they had to bring in quality, and they did.

United seemed to have taken their eye off the ball and even if they can navigate themselves until January, that is a month where traditionally the best players are not available. A penny for your thoughts, Ole?

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Predicted lineups for gameweek 3 of the Premier League

It’s time for gameweek 3 of the Premier League season.

Here’s a look at all the predicted lineups for the ten fixtures over the coming weekend.

Aston Villa v Everton

Aston Villa XI: Heaton, Elmohamady, Engels, Mings, Targett, Jota, McGinn, Luiz, Grealish, Trezeguet, Wesley

Everton XI: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne, Gbamin, Gomes, Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Kean

Questionable: Digne, Baines (Everton)

Out: Chester, Hause, Kodjia (Aston Villa); Delph (Everton) Continue reading

A preview of round 3 of the Premier League

It’s already round 3 of Premier League action in the 2019/20 season.

Liverpool and Arsenal are the only two sides with a 100% record after just two matches! These two giants meet at Anfield in the Saturday evening game.

Elsewhere, both Manchester clubs should win comfortably while Spurs will most likely beat Newcastle but Chelsea could struggle at Norwich City.

Aston Villa v Everton

Key men: Grealish (Aston Villa); Richarlison (Everton)

Prediction: Aston Villa 1 – 2 Everton

It could be another tough day at Villa Park for the newly-promoted home side. Continue reading

Man Utd 4-0 Chelsea: The Red Devils kick off the season in winning ways

The main focus of gameweek one in the Premier League was bound to be on Manchester United versus Chelsea, especially when the other top teams in the league had won their respective games. Given that the final positions in the table always come down to the head-to-head between the top-six sides, it was important for Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to get going on a high note and make a statement.

Overall, the match was completed in a typical fashion that the supporters of Old Trafford have been used to in recent years, where they start off very slow before ending the match with the three important points. Chelsea got off on the right foot and went close with Tammy Abraham hitting the post and Emerson smashing the crossbar, however, it was Marcus Rashford’s penalty in the 18th minute that opened up the game and allowed everyone to witness a more end-to-end match.

Things went from bad to worse for the visitors in the second half, as the individual mistakes and the poor man-marking allowed the hosts to score two quick goals between the 65th and the 67th minute through Anthony Martial and Rashford once again. Not only that, Lampard’s options from the bench were not great to create a comeback, whilst Solskjaer was able to give both Daniel James and Mason Greenwood the game time they were in need of, with the former bagging his first ever goal for the club.

Here are the three factors we learnt from United’s first league game this season…

Clinical showing despite nervy periods

There are no doubts at all, that Chelsea were the better side in the first half, from controlling possession of the ball to creating chances patiently, but only the end product was missing. Had they still had the final third quality of Eden Hazard in the team, they would have put the game to bed by the half-time break and the Red Devils would have found it very difficult to turn it around. However, United were fortunate and took the lead from the penalty spot, and from there, they were constantly aiming to pounce on the counter.

After the break, Solskjaer’s men took things up a notch or two whilst Lampard’s boys were unable to be more productive and effective in United’s penalty box. Once the decisive second goal came through for the side from Anthony Martial, it was more or less over, with Chelsea trying to make the most out of any possession they had, whilst United were happy to sit deep and continue to counter when required. In the end, the hosts showed their patience in both phases and were able to adjust to some tactical tweaks, whilst the visitors were unlucky and fell apart as the goals were conceded.

Exciting debuts for the new summer arrivals

When deciding who would start in the huge fixture against Chelsea, Solskjaer was bound to use the new boys in Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire, two players who instantly made an impact in the backline and were able to ease the pressure off the team on many occasions. If neither of them were on the pitch yesterday, the Blues would have easily scored one or two goals in the first half, or even more.

With how the two defensive additions recently performed, individuals such as Ashley Young, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones aren’t expected to make a return into the starting line-up anytime soon. Maguire’s appearance at the heart of defence was huge for the side, as he was able to guide the team forward on the ball and was regarded as a rising leader when needed. Meanwhile, Wan-Bissaka played a crucial role of his own, stopping Chelsea to break on the counter time and time again, and helping the team to recycle and utilise possession on both sides of the pitch.

Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are on the rise

At this moment of time, it can easily be stated that both Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford will be played on a regular basis and also along with each other, something that couldn’t be done effectively the last two seasons due to the presence of Romelu Lukaku. Though, with the Belgian forward now at Inter Milan, the duo have a lot of expectations and high standards on them, with both players potentially in need of scoring around 40-45 goals in order for the team to finish within the top four.

With the club failing to bring in a replacement for Lukaku on deadlind day, a lot of the pressure has now been passed onto Martial and Rashford, as well as the other attacking-minded players in the squad. As long as the pair keep up with how they performed yesterday, in terms of the dribbling ability, movement on and off the ball along with an improvement of their work rate, United should be just fine in the long run.

A big season awaits Marcus Rashford at Manchester United

There were mixed reviews when Manchester United announce the extension of Marcus Rashford’s new contract this week, with the reported wage coming to around £250,000 per-week, should the Englishman achieve all bonuses.

While, of course, fans were happy with the club tying down one of England’s brightest talents until 2023, there were some worried about giving the size of that contract to a 21-year-old who has yet shown and fulfilled his true potential.

 

No one can deny that Rashford has talent in abundance, nor that he works hard, but fans of the Red Devils also have not seen a season in which the England international has mustered up more than 10 Premier League goals.

Rashford’s record stands at 27 Premier League goals in 111 appearances throughout his career so far. The caveat to this statistic is the fact that he has played a lot of his football from the wing position, either due to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney or Romelu Lukaku standing in his way.

But with two of those already having moved on and Lukaku set to follow, this is the first season in which Rashford could be considered the main man to lead United’s forward line.

Even if Man United can activate the deal to bring Sevilla’s Wissam Ben Yedder to Old Trafford, Rashford will have the majority of playing minutes as the club’s centre forward, which brings its own pressures.

At 21, the academy graduate has achieved a lot: from the World Cup semi-final with England to winning the Europa League with Man United, he has experienced a fair amount to shape him into the player he is today.

But, now, with Manchester United entering a new phase under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it is time for Rashford to step up to the plate and prove he has what it takes to take his, and United’s, performances to the next level.

Fans understand that he has been a work in progress since breaking through at 18, but after seeing the likes of Luka Jovic, Kylian Mbappe and Joao Felix putting in consistent performances that warrant big money, it is time for Rashford to follow suit and achieve similar feats.

The England centre forward will have the fans’ overall backing through thick and thin, but criticism will appear through the cracks should Rashford not perform this season and provide a constant flood of goals. He was made for United and now it is time to bring them back to the top.

Predicted lineups for this weekend’s EPL games

EPL Logo

After all the midweek Champions League drama, it’s a return to English Premier League action this weekend with all 20 teams involved.

Here are our predicted lineups for those EPL fixtures so have a read in preparation for another EPL fantasy football round.

Manchester City v Spurs

Manchester City XI: Ederson, Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Mendy, De Bruyne, Fernandinho, D. Silva, B. Silva, Aguero, Sterling

Spurs XI: Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Winks, Wanyama, Alli, Eriksen, Moura, Son Continue reading

EPL Best XI – Week 32

MilivojevicAt this late-ish stage of the season, Premier League clubs do of course start gaining games in hand over some of their rivals. At the time of writing, for example, league leaders Liverpool have played 32 games, while second-placed Man City have featured in 31 and Arsenal (in fifth) are on 30. Of course, Monday evening games play a part, but so too does the progress of different teams in different competitions. Liverpool now have a two point lead at the top of the table, though City have of course played that one game less. It is now time to look at which players performed the best for their clubs in this past weekend’s round of games, adopting a 4-4-2 formation here. For simplicity, we are calling this week 32 but that may not apply to all teams of course.

Continue reading