MOVIE TILL 16 APRIL 18

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BPL G33 : MANCHESTER UNITED 0 WEST BROM 1

Manchester United were brought back down to earth after the high-octane drama of the Manchester derby as the Reds were stunningly beaten at Old Trafford by relegation favourites West Bromwich Albion. 

Jose Mourinho’s men had deliciously put the brakes on Manchester City’s crowning as the 2017/18 Premier League champions last Saturday at the Etihad Stadium but, against the almost doomed Albion, they handed the title to the Blues, with Jay Rodriguez scoring the winner.

Old Trafford was numb after this disappointing defeat so soon after the delights of the derby triumph. Few would have predicted this. After the thrills of United’s sensational second-half comeback in the derby it was a more sedate start by the Reds against the Premier League’s bottom club.

David De Gea was worked in that slow opening. After Ander Herrera was dispossessed in the 11th minute, Albion broke and the counter-attack saw Jake Livermore attempt to curl in a low shot past De Gea. The Spaniard, as so often, was equal to the effort as he got down to get his left glove on the attempt to steer it away from goal.

United finally settled and appealed for an 18th minute penalty when Herrera appeared to be up-ended by Craig Dawson. Referee Paul Tierney, officiating at Old Trafford for the first time, was having none of it. Replays suggested Herrera certainly had a strong case.

Former goalkeeper Ben Foster, who left the club for Albion in 2012, twice denied United in the matter of seconds and never used his hands once! His first stop was via his face as a Romelu Lukaku stab struck him, the rebound fell to Alexis Sanchez and his effort was kept out by Foster’s left leg. United’s threat disappointingly petered out and allowed West Brom to recover.

There were a few hearts in mouths in the 42nd minute when a deep Albion corner saw Dawson steal onto the set-piece at the far post. But the angle narrowed and he chose to head back across goal rather than have a go. The Stretford End breathed a sigh of relief as his set up was cleared.

Mourinho sought to add a more attacking option for the second half by bringing Jesse Lingard on and dismantling his derby engine room by taking Herrera off at the interval. The switch almost paid immediate dividends with Lingard’s shot a minute after the restart being blocked as the visitors desperately defended.

The tempo was still too languid for the United boss and, after 58 minutes, that derby midfield was further broken up when Paul Pogba, the two-goal hero at the Etihad, was taken off and replaced by Anthony Martial.

Reds striker Lukaku had a season on loan at West Brom in 2012-13 and he was denied an opener in the 66th minute by his former Hawthorns colleague Foster. It looked like Lukaku’s powered header from Nemanja Matic’s cross was destined for a goal until Foster did a more than passable impression of De Gea with a reflex stop to keep his goal intact.

Mourinho had just signalled Marcus Rashford to come to the bench to take off his tracksuit in a final throw of the dice when West Brom took a shock 73rd minute lead. Matic was involved in an aerial struggle at the far post with Dawson as they contested a corner and the Serb was forced to knock his header back into the danger area. It was a gift for Rodriguez who stole in and stooped to head home.

Rashford was on soon after for Ashley Young as United sought to comeback yet again in a game. There was no late dramatic theatre on this occasion as nothing would come off for the subdued Reds and the Baggies held on for an unexpected first league win since January.

THE LINE-UPS

United: De Gea; Valencia (C), Lindelof, Smalling, Young (Rashford 75); Matic; Pogba (Martial 58); Herrera (Lingard 45); Mata; Alexis, Lukaku.

Subs not used: J. Pereira, Jones, Rojo, McTominay.

Booked: Pogba

West Brom: Foster, Nyom, Dawson, Hegazi, Gibbs, Phillips (Krychowiak 77), Livermore, Brunt (Yacob 90), McClean, Rodriguez, Rondon (Sturridge 85).

Subs not used:
 Myhill, Gabr, Burke, Field.

Booked: Nyom

TALKING POINT 

United need a good Wembley warm-up at Bournemouth. United’s credentials as big-game hunters is unquestionable having beaten Chelsea, Liverpool and City recently and that bodes well for the FA Cup semi-final date on Saturday at Wembley against Spurs. Wednesday’s league match at Bournemouth has a more Category B look about it but United cannot afford to go to London next weekend without some impetus after this shock loss.

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BPL G32 : MANCHESTER CITY 2 MANCHESTER UNITED 3

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Manchester United breathtakingly wrecked neighbours Manchester City’s plans to wrap up the Premier League title on derby day by producing an astonishing comeback at the Etihad Stadium.

The Reds had looked down and out after a first half when the hosts were superior and scored twice through Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan.

The Blues supporters were prematurely readying themselves for a party at United’s expense but the old never-say-die spirit was revived in a spectacular second period that saw a double from Paul Pogba and a winner from Chris Smalling ruin City’s dreams in a captivating contest.

There was a brilliantly respected minute’s applause before the game for former United midfielder Ray Wilkins, who died this week at the age of 61. But the old blood and thunder of a local dust-up followed quickly as referee Martin Atkinson blew his whistle to get the 176th derby under way.

Eric Bailly and Ander Herrera were back in Jose Mourinho’s starting XI in two changes from the previous Saturday’s 2-0 win against Swansea City at Old Trafford.

For City, Pep Guardiola made four changes from the Blues side that had been comprehensively beaten 3-0 at Anfield against Liverpool in midweek in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final.

After the early minutes when neither side could grasp control of the match, City began to take command of the derby and the Reds were unable to test Blues goalkeeper Ederson before the hosts took the lead in the 25th minute.

Antonio Valencia conceded a corner and from the resulting setpiece, Leroy Sane’s killer ball into the box was met by a powerful header from Blues captain Vincent Kompany.

City had their tails up and United were struggling to turn the tide. The Reds were penned back and five minutes after the opener, Gundogan made it 2-0.

De Gea, who has been one of the stand-out figures this season with save after brilliant save, unfortunately sent a low clearance straight to the Blues who swiftly attacked again. A clinical, swift passing move was finished off by Gundogan after he turned neatly in the box to steer home a right-footed shot. United were on the ropes.

Fortunately for the Reds, Raheem Sterling wasn’t in destructive mood when he was presented with two gilt-edged chances to rub salt in the visitors’ wounds.  Twice in the space of three minutes, he was in a one-on-one situation but he scooped both his efforts over the bar to let United off the hook.

Gundogan almost grabbed his second goal when he had a free header just before half time but he could only send it into De Gea’s gloves.

The interval whistle was a welcome reprieve for United but initially after the break, the torment continued with Gundogan hitting the woodwork.

The Reds desperately needed a road back into this derby and Paul Pogba provided it. After having his first shot saved by Ederson, he scored twice in the space of 97 seconds to turn the tide against the Blues.

The Frenchman’s blitz came in the 53rd and 55th minutes and both were crafted brilliantly with Alexis involved superbly. The first saw the Chilean pick out Herrera and when he chested the ball past Kompany, Pogba ghosted in to stroke the ball home as the rest of City’s defence looked on.

Before the Blues could steady themselves, United had brilliantly levelled the score. Alexis lofted a killer through-ball for Pogba again to drift into the six-yard area and guide his header home to make it 2-2.

It was a thrilling comeback from the Reds that hadn’t honestly looked on after the first 45 minutes. And it wasn’t even over at that point.

The unbelievable turnaround culminated with another assist from Alexis. In the 69th minute, his deep-probing free-kick picked out Smalling who’d again taken advantage of City’s defensive frailties. His right-footed volley was striker-like as he planted in United’s third goal from close range ahead of the Blues’ despairing rearguard.

Perhaps inevitably there were some flashpoints as the derby boiled over and Atkinson had to show a few yellow cards to maintain order.

As for the football, City substitute Sergio Aguero almost equalised in the 89th minute but De Gea pulled off one of his customary acrobatic flip overs to end the Blues’ hopes of a late fightback.

The match was supposed to end with City being confirmed as champions but instead it was United who took home the points and the local pride, applauded off by the ecstatic Reds supporters inside the Etihad Stadium on a remarkable evening.

THE LINE-UPS

City: Ederson; Danilo, Kompany (c), Otamendi, Delph, B. Silva (Jesus 72), D. Silva (De Bruyne 72), Fernandinho, Gundogan (Aguero 75), Sane; Sterling.

Substitutes not used: Bravo, Walker, Laporte, Toure.

Booked: Sterling, Fernandinho, Aguero, Danilo, Kompany, Jesus.

United: De Gea; Valencia (c), Bailly, Smalling, Young; Matic, Pogba, Herrera (Lindelof 90); Lingard (McTominay 84), Alexis (Rashford 82), Lukaku.

Substitutes not used: J Pereira, Rojo, Mata, Martial.

Booked: Herrera, Pogba, Lukaku.

TALKING POINTS

Pogba answered the critics
The Frenchman had been a central figure in the verbal build-up to the derby but after a difficult first half, he showed his ability as he hit back at City with two classic attacking-midfielder goals. He was top class and finished both chances brilliantly.

Alexis was brilliant again
United beat City to the Chilean’s signing in the January transfer window and the Blues supporters were not going to let him forget it. His reply to the taunts was devastating. Following on from an impressive return to form against Swansea, the South American was involved in all three of United’s goals as he helped carve open City.

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MOVIE TILL 8 APRIL 2018

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MOVIE TILL 1 APRIL 2018

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BPL G31 : MANCHESTER UNITED 2 SWANSEA CITY 0

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Manchester United regained our second-place spot in the Premier League by setting up a comfortable Old Trafford win against Swansea City with an early double goal blast.

The Reds effectively ended the contest after 20 minutes, by which time Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez had scored twice. United had been demoted to third spot ahead of the match following Liverpool’s lunchtime victory at Crystal Palace but it didn’t last long.

There had been a strong and honest verbal response from manager Jose Mourinho following the Emirates FA Cup quarter-final tie at Old Trafford against Brighton. Mourinho would have been looking for a positive response to his criticism and he certainly got it.

Swansea have recovered their composure since the appointment of Carlos Carvalhal in late December to replace the axed Paul Clement. But they had no answer to United’s early blitz.

The Reds were on the front foot from the kick-off and were in the mood to answer some of the flak that has come our way since the Brighton win. The slickest move brought instant reward in the fifth minute. It was incisive and intricate and involved Nemanja Matic, Jesse Lingard and Alexis. The Chilean provided the assist as he squared to Lukaku. The Belgian is red hot in his debut United season and planted a shot, via a deflection off Alfie Mawson, home for his 26th goal of the season and 100th overall in the Premier League.

Alexis was back in Mourinho’s starting XI after being left on the bench for the FA Cup game against Brighton. The forward, bought from Arsenal in the transfer window, had confessed he’d been disappointed with the way he’d started his Old Trafford career. But, after providing the set-up for Lukaku’s goal he was on the scoresheet himself in the 20th minute.

Lingard, operating in the roving no.10 role, was again involved, this time piercing Swansea’s backline to free Alexis. The forward drilled in his goal with his right foot. It was his second goal of his United time adding to his last against Huddersfield in the league in early February.

Swansea were not offering up much as an attacking force leaving David De Gea as a spectator and United looking for a big scoreline. After tailing off in the first half the Reds were lively again in front of goal early in the second half.

Juan Mata was a key figure setting up a game of head tennis between scorers Lukaku and Alexis before the latter nodded over. Mata himself then spectacularly came close as a cross dropped over his shoulder and he volleyed into the Stretford End.

United were given a huge warning that they could face a comeback if we fell asleep when finally Swansea awakened. De Gea was called into action by Swans half-time substitute Tammy Abraham twice in a matter of seconds as the new introduction added a dangerous quality the visitors’ attack.

The Spaniard added to his unbelievable catalogue of world-class saves by denying Abraham twice just before the hour. It left the striker beating the ground in total frustration joining a long list of opponents who’ve been left similarly dumbfounded.

Swansea’s threat virtually ended there and then and, with the danger over, Old Trafford was looking for a final flurry to add to the score. Lukaku almost added his second after he chested down a Pogba cross to control and shoot but his effort was blocked. The match ended in lacklustre style with United unable to add to their two goals in the first half.

THE LINE-UPS

United: De Gea; Valencia (c), Lindelof, Smalling, Young; Matic, Pogba; Mata (McTominay 90), Lingard (Herrera 75), Alexis (Rashford 75); Lukaku

Subs not used: J. Pereira, Bailly, Shaw, Martial

Swansea City: Fabianski, Van Der Hoorn, Mawson, Fernandez (c), Olsson, Naughton, Clucas (Routledge 55), King, Ki (Carroll 45), Dyer (Abraham 45), A. Ayew.

Subs not used:  Nordfelt, Narsingh, Bartley, Roberts.

TALKING POINTS

LINGARD’S PRIME POSITION IS NO.10
There are a number of candidates among Jose’s squad who can operate as the No.10 and Jesse once again gave a strong case as to why he should always be in the role. Fresh from scoring against Italy at Wembley for England, Lingard was the man who hurt Swansea most. The Welsh side were unable to close him down as he roved behind Romelu Lukaku.

DAVID DE GEA IS IMMENSE
There’s no real need to provide evidence that the Spaniard is the world’s best but just to add weight to that belief is the fact that there is no better measure of a goalkeeper than what he can produce when he’s been inactive for long spells. In De Gea’s case, he had a watching brief for almost an hour until Abraham threatened to drag Swansea back into the match. De Gea had a stunning answer to both goalbound shots early in the second half.

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MOVIE TILL 28 MARCH 2018

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