MOVIE TILL 27 APRIL 2018

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Emirates FA Cup semi-final : MANCHESTER UNITED 2 TOTTENHAM 1

SANCHEZ

The great 2018 comeback kings have only gone and done it again.

Go a goal ahead against Manchester United and you’ll pay the consequence. Tottenham Hotspur did it at their Wembley ‘home’ and the never-say-die Reds simply brushed them aside to come back and book a place in the Emirates FA Cup final on Saturday 19 May.

Jose Mourinho’s side just won’t lie down against anyone. Back in February, the Reds were behind against Chelsea and won. At Crystal Palace the team staged another fightback for three points. Then Manchester City went 2-0 up in the derby but even that wasn’t good enough to silence United’s fighting spirit.

And at Wembley, despite Spurs taking an early lead on their own temporary home ground, United refused to buckle and hit back for a famous win with goals from Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera overturning Dele Alli’s opener.

Mourinho had named ten of the starting XI who had suffered something of a battering in the 2-0 Premier League defeat at Spurs’ temporary Wembley home in January. Some haunting memories must have cone flooding back as Mauricio Pochettino’s side went at United from the off, forcing two corners in the opening minute.

In that same period of the opening winter storm, the Reds conceded a goal to Christian Eriksen after just 11 seconds. This time, United survived long enough to create a chance that could have seen Romelu Lukaku’s name go on the scoresheet first but the Belgian’s ninth-minute header sailed over the bar and Mourinho’s aghast face in the technical area suggested he thought the striker might have done better.

The Reds were left rueing that missed opportunity to get a foothold in the game when Spurs went in front after 10 minutes. A swift move down United’s left flank caught the Reds out and Eriksen slung in an inviting low cross that Alli steamed in on at the far post to poke in the opener.

Spurs smelt blood and came close again in the 17th minute twice – first when Alli almost connected again from a Son Heung-min cross and then Eriksen went close.

Wembley may be the north London club’s current HQ but, with half the stadium on this occasion wearing red, the United support helped the side recover.

In his pre-match explanation about his choice of team, Mourinho had dismissed suggestions that Alexis’s remarkable Wembley goalscoring had had a bearing on his selection. If it didn’t then it was a good job he still chose the Chilean.

With seven goals in the national stadium for Arsenal and his country, Alexis clearly loves the place and after 24 minutes he made it eight goals here. Following on from previous FA Cup semi-final goals for the Gunners against Reading and Manchester City, Tottenham became another victim of his prowess.

Paul Pogba stole in to dispossess Mousa Dembele on the touchline and floated in a deep cross to the far post. Alexis isn’t the tallest hitman around but he got off the ground to guide a header beyond Spurs goalkeeper Michel Vorm.

It was a sweet moment for Alexis as he’d been booed at every touch by the Spurs support because of his previous connection with their local rivals Arsenal. United had wrecked Tottenham’s early fluency and Pochettino’s side began to look more ragged on their own manor.

With both sides needing the FA Cup as silverware salvation this season, a tense, negative affair had been predicted by many. It couldn’t have been further from the truth. United and Spurs traded attacking blows and the last punch of the first half came from the Londoners almost on half-time, when Eric Dier had a deflected long-range shot which rebounded off David De Gea’s post.

Many London pundits reckon Spurs lack the killer edge to add trophies to their quality and United certainly exposed that Achilles heel again as the Reds continued the ascendancy of the first 45 minutes to finally overturn Alli’s goal completely.

Alexis was involved again, possibly fortuitously as his square ball just eluded Lukaku in the 62nd minute. But the ball rolled kindly and, as Lingard stepped out of the way, Herrera stormed in to steer in United’s second.

Mourinho’s men were biting into tackles and not giving Spurs a minute’s peace as the Reds faithful turned the stadium into Old Trafford. There was a rallying roar from the Tottenham end of Wembley when the fourth official raised the electronic board to indicate five minutes of added time.

But it seemed an almost half-hearted backing as United had reduced the ‘home’ side to a nervy and punchless outfit who couldn’t produce the kind of comeback that the Reds are famous for.

Roll on, 19 May.

THE LINE-UPS

United: De Gea; Valencia (c) (Darmian 80), Jones, Smalling, Young; Matic, Herrera, Pogba; Lingard (Rashford 82), Alexis (Fellaini 95), Lukaku. Subs not used: J. Pereira, Lindelof, Mata, Martial.

Booked: Young, Herrera, Rashford, Valencia.

Spurs: Vorm, Trippier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies (Moura 68), Dier, Dembele (Wanyama 78), Eriksen, Alli, Son, Kane (C)

Subs not used: Lloris, Aurier, Alderweireld, Sissoko, Lamela.

Booked: Dier, Alli, Son.

TALKING POINTS

Smalling gave a reminder to England
Chris Smalling may have been in the headlines recently for his goals against City and Bournemouth but it was keeping potent hitman Harry Kane quiet that caught the eye at Wembley. England boss Gareth Southgate had left him out of his most recent Three Lions squads, putting a big question mark over Smaling’s involvement at the World Cup this summer. But with Southgate watching at Wembley it was a timely reminder by Smalling with Russia fast approaching.

Alexis is a cert for the final
Jose Mourinho doesn’t give out guarantees over places in his XI but when you have scored eight times at Wembley for two clubs and your country then as lucky omens go they do not come any better. Surely the Chilean, if he avoids injury, can look forward to another FA Cup final appearance.

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BPL G34 : BOURNEMOUTH 0 MANCHESTER UNITED 2

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Romelu Lukaku’s 27th goal for Manchester United and a third strike in as many away games for Chris Smalling gave Jose Mourinho’s men maximum points against Bournemouth on Wednesday night.

Despite Bournemouth having won 18 points from losing positions this season, a goal in each half was enough to see off the Cherries without reply, as the Reds reinstated a four-point lead over third-placed Liverpool in the Premier League.

The visitors had a much-changed line-up from Sunday’s disappointing home defeat to West Bromwich Albion, with Smalling being the only defender to retain his starting place. In all, Mourinho made seven changes to his side, admitting that some – but not all – were made with Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup semi-final in mind.

United’s attack looked threatening from the outset. In just the third minute, a neat interchange between France team-mates Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial left Cherries centre-back Steve Cook needing to make a well-timed sliding challenge to stop Martial delivering a dangerous ball across goal.

Known for their attractive style, Bournemouth tried to take the game to United in the early stages and had a decent chance when left-back Charlie Daniels slid through a pass for Callum Wilson. Wilson picked out Jordon Ibe on the edge of the area, who could only drag his low effort wide.

Lewis Cook then played in Ryan Fraser with a neat pass, but Phil Jones was on hand to make sure any attempt by Fraser was turned behind. Jones was again present to make a clearance from the resulting corner.

A United goal looked like it was on the way and Marcus Rashford provided a warning sign when he forced Asmir Begovic into making his first save of the evening, shortly before the Reds did take the lead.

After a slick one-two passing move with Ander Herrera, Jesse Lingard had broken free of any markers and was unchallenged in sending the ball into the six-yard box, where Smalling met it to convert his third goal of the calendar year.

Jose Mourinho’s side were in the ascendancy having established a lead and Martial seemed to be clear and ready to add to it, only for him to be flagged offside by the assistant.

David De Gea was called into action as the minutes ticked down towards half-time. Nathan Ake had surged forward and having been fouled, an advantage saw the ball run to Wilson although De Gea was equal to the Englishman’s effort.

It was another strong start for the Reds as the second period got under way. Martial lost Simon Francis as he checked his own run inside the penalty area and aimed a cross for Rashford waiting at the back post. However, Daniels was on hand to cut it out with a headed clearance.

Shortly before the hour mark, Joshua King charged down the left flank and played the ball across in search of Wilson, who was left demanding a penalty after a challenge by Jones as the pair stretched for the ball. His demands were not rewarded by referee Graham Scott who was quick to dismiss them.

No doubt aware of Bournemouth’s comeback ability, Mourinho decided to bring Lukaku into the fold for the final third of the match, with hope of notching another goal and killing the game off.

United had a penalty appeal at the other end when Lys Mosset was deemed to have fouled Paul Pogba, but referee Scott said it was just outside the area. Up stepped substitute Lukaku with the aim of getting that second goal for his team, but could only drive his free-kick hard into the wall.

Just minutes later, the Belgium striker did double the lead, when Pogba picked him out on the break, leaving him with the sort of one-on-one situation in which he is so deadly.

There were to be no heroics from the Cherries on this occasion, leaving United to take all three points and secure a first-ever league double over Bournemouth following the 1-0 home win back in December.

THE LINE-UPS

Bournemouth: Begovic; Daniels, Ake, S. Cook, Francis (c); Ibe (Mousset 56), Surman (Gosling 75), L. Cook, Fraser; King (Defoe 82); Wilson.

Substitutes: Boruc, Simpson, Arter, Pugh.

Booked:
 L. Cook, S. Cook, Surman.

United:
 De Gea (c); Darmian, Smalling, Jones, Shaw; Herrera (Matic 72), Fellaini, Pogba (Blind 80); Lingard (Lukaku 62), Rashford, Martial.

Substitutes: J.Pereira, Bailly, Young, Alexis.

Booked: Smalling 61.

TALKING POINTS

Smalling scores again
The centre-back increased his goal tally for the season to four, by giving United the lead in the first half. It also means he has scored in three consecutive away games, having also scored in the thrilling 3-2 wins over Manchester City and Crystal Palace.

A tight ship
Having conceded just 26 times in 34 Premier League matches, United have a chance of ending the season with the top flight’s best defensive record. With the speed and strength shown by the back line against Bournemouth, it is easy to understand why only the champions Manchester City have let in fewer goals – and that’s only one less, having played one game less.

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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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