Man Utd Target Erik ten Hag Suffers Dutch Cup Final Defeat With Ajax

File photo of Erik ten Hag /AFP

 

Erik ten Hag, the man widely tipped to become the next Manchester United manager, suffered defeat on Sunday when his Ajax team lost 2-1 to PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch Cup final.

Ajax opened the scoring through Ryan Gravenberch in the 23rd minute before Dusan Tadic saw a goal ruled out just before half-time.

PSV then hit back with two goals in quick succession through Erick Gutierrez in the 48th minute and Cody Gakpo two minutes later.

Ajax had another effort scrubbed off by VAR just before the hour, this time Davy Klaassen was the unlucky player.

READ ALSOWorld Cup Qualifier: Nigeria Thrash Egypt In First Leg

For PSV, it was a first Cup triumph since 2012 and their 10th overall.

Defending champions Ajax, the 20-time cup winners, are still on course to the Dutch league. They hold a four-point lead over PSV.

Ten Hag is reportedly the overwhelming favourite to take over at Manchester United next season.

The 52-year-old Ajax manager is seen as fitting the profile the United board desire to restore the glory days the club enjoyed under Alex Ferguson.

AFP

Man Utd Say ‘Thorough Process’ Under Way To Find New Manager

Manchester United’s Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes (L) and teammates react after conceding their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Sheffield United at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on January 27, 2021. (Photo by Dave Thompson / POOL / AFP)

 

Manchester United football director John Murtough says a “thorough process” is under way to find their next permanent manager, pledging the club remains focused on challenging for “top trophies” again.

United, who announced their latest financial results on Tuesday, have endured another difficult season despite the return of superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford.

A top-four finish is the best the best the English giants can hope for domestically, but they only managed a draw against lowly Watford on Saturday and are just two points ahead of West Ham and Arsenal — the Gunners also have three games in hand.

United have a tough set of fixtures coming up, including meetings with title-chasing Manchester City and Liverpool as well as the second leg of their Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid, which is delicately poised at 1-1.

READ ALSO: UK Relaxes Immigration Rules For Ukrainian Refugees

The club, who have not won a trophy since 2017, have been working under interim manager Ralf Rangnick since December, when the German succeeded Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a poor start to the campaign.

Murtough said he had been heartened by the “improved results” as they look to secure Champions League qualification.

“We know that consistency is key as we strive for a top-four finish this season,” he said.

“I want to reiterate however that this is not the ultimate objective for Manchester United, and everyone at the club is focused on challenging for the top trophies.

“We are now conducting a thorough process for the appointment of a new permanent manager who will take charge this summer, with the objective to get us back to challenging for those domestic and European titles.”

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax coach Erik ten Hag are among the favourites to permanently succeed Solskjaer.

Richard Arnold echoed Murtough’s sentiments as the chief executive commented publicly for the first time since taking up the role on February 1, when executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward departed.

“We have a clear vision and we are implementing a strategy to win with an empowered leadership team to drive that forward,” he said.

“We will foster a culture of excellence through a world-class football environment, while strengthening the role of fans at the heart of the club.”

United’s second-quarter results for fiscal 2022, for the period ending December 31, showed the club paid £10 million ($13.4 million) in “exceptional items”, which included compensation to former manager Solskjaer and certain members of the coaching staff.

The results show an operating profit of £5.4 million for the quarter, with total revenue of £185.4 million — a 7.3 percent rise on the same period the previous year, with crowds back in stadiums after the coronavirus shutdown.

United’s net debt has increased to £494.8 million — up 8.6 percent — and wages rose 19.6 percent to £97.7 million “due to investment in the first team playing squad”.

AFP

Man Utd End Aeroflot Deal After Ukraine Invasion

In this file photo, Manchester United’s players celebrate after Swedish forward Anthony Elanga scored a goal during the UEFA Champions League football match between Atletico de Madrid and Manchester United at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on February 23, 2022.
JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Manchester United said Friday they had ended their sponsorship deal with Russia’s flagship airline Aeroflot after President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The British government on Thursday imposed a biting package of sanctions on Moscow, which included banning Russian carriers from UK airspace.

Premier League club United announced Aeroflot as their “official carrier” in 2013 and have regularly flown to European matches on the company’s planes. The latest deal was due to run until 2023.

But the club, who used charter airline Titan Airways for their Champions League last-16 away leg against Atletico Madrid earlier this week, announced that they had severed ties with the airline.

READ ALSO: Retaliatory Measures Will Follow Against Western Sanctions – Kremlin

“In light of events in Ukraine, we have withdrawn Aeroflot’s sponsorship rights,” United said in a statement.

“We share the concerns of our fans around the world and extend our sympathies to those affected.”

The Manchester United website had described Aeroflot as providing “strategic advice” on travel arrangements but a link to the relevant page no longer worked on Friday.

The Aeroflot website still listed United on its list of partners.

Moscow on Friday banned all UK-linked planes, including transiting flights, from its airspace, saying the decision was taken “as a response to unfriendly decisions of the UK aviation authorities”.

Invading Russian forces reached the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Friday, with Putin defying a barrage of international sanctions to press on with the invasion.

AFP

Premier League: Man Utd Must Finish In Top Three, Says Ronaldo

Manchester United’s Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo makes a rare appearance as captain during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford in Manchester, northwest England, on January 3, 2022.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo says finishing outside the top three in the Premier League would be unacceptable for Manchester United as Ralf Rangnick struggles to turn around his under-performing team.

The German interim boss has steadied the ship since taking over from the sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but United are languishing in seventh place, 22 points behind leaders Manchester City.

The five-time world player of the year has called for a change of mindset within the dressing room to address United’s poor form, which resulted in a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Wolves in their most recent league outing.

“Manchester United should win the league or be second or third,” Ronaldo told Sky Sports. “I don’t see any other position for Manchester United.

“In my heart, I don’t accept that our mentality be less than being in the top three in the Premier League, in my opinion.

“I think to build up good things sometimes you have to destroy a few things. New year, new life, I hope that Manchester can be at the level people want, especially the fans. We are capable of changing things now.

“We can do it better, all of us. I don’t want to be here in the club to fight to be in sixth or seventh place. I am here to try to win, to compete. I believe if we change our mind we can achieve big things.”

Rangnick was brought in until the end of the season after Solskjaer was dismissed in November following a run of heavy defeats.

The German has won four of his seven games in charge in all competitions but the team’s style of football has still attracted criticism and there have been reports of disquiet within the squad.

United produced another disjointed display in their FA Cup third-round tie against Aston Villa on Monday but managed to scrape through 1-0.

Ronaldo backed Rangnick to turn things around but pleaded for patience ahead of Saturday’s league trip to Villa Park.

“He arrived here five weeks ago,” said the Portugese superstar. “He changed many things but he needs time to put his ideas through the players and on the pitch.

“It takes time but I believe that he is going to do a good job. We know we don’t play the best football, as we should do, but we have many games to improve. Since he arrived I think in some points we are better, but he needs time.”

COVID-19 Has Hampered Man Utd Progress, Says Rangnick

Manchester United German Interim head coach Ralf Rangnick looks on during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Manchester United at St James’ Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north east England on December 27, 2021. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

Ralf Rangnick said Wednesday that the upheaval caused by the coronavirus crisis had hindered his efforts to stamp his authority on the under-performing Manchester United squad.

United are unbeaten in all four games they have played under the German, who replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on an interim basis late last month.

But a Covid-19 outbreak at the club meant United had not played a match for more than two weeks before Monday’s disappointing 1-1 Premier League draw at struggling Newcastle.

United, who host Burnley on Thursday, are seventh in the Premier League table, seven points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, but with two games in hand.

Asked if he had achieved as much as he had wanted in his first weeks in charge, Rangnick said: “Of course not.

“Every coach, every ambitious coach — and there’s no difference between other coaches and myself in that area — wants to take faster steps and larger steps forward.

“But in order to do that, you need to be able to train.

“As you know, we had to close Carrington (training base) for four days. Before that we had eight or nine outfield players in training, so directly after the Norwich game, and they only came back in small bits and pieces.

“The last three days we were almost back to full strength with regard to the size of the squad, but we couldn’t do that much in training.”

Rangnick said his players had looked good in the few training sessions they had managed before the Newcastle game, which made Monday’s performance a “negative surprise”.

French international Raphael Varane made his first appearance since November 2 at St James’ Park in a central defensive partnership with Harry Maguire, which was far from convincing.

However, Rangnick defended the former Real Madrid man.

“Rafa hasn’t played for the last five or six weeks and even before the Tottenham game he was injured so in total in the last three months he hasn’t played that many games,” he said.

“Yes, he made a mistake before the first goal that we conceded, but apart from that, I think he was OK. I wouldn’t say that he was outstanding and the same with Harry, but they did OK.”

Defender Victor Lindelof, who missed the trip to Newcastle after testing positive for coronavirus, will still be absent for the Burnley match, while Paul Pogba remains out with a thigh problem.

Bruno Fernandes will be unavailable due to a one-match suspension, after collecting his fifth yellow card of the Premier League season.

Man Utd, Spurs Games Off As COVID Wreaks Havoc On Premier League

Manchester United’s Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes (C) holds the match ball as he reacts with teammates at the final whistle during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Leeds United at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on August 14, 2021. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

 

The Premier League on Thursday postponed two more matches due to the worsening coronavirus pandemic but said it intended to “continue its current fixture schedule where safely possible” as calls for a circuit break intensified.

Manchester United’s weekend game against Brighton was called off shortly after Leicester’s scheduled match against Tottenham on Thursday was postponed — bringing the total to five top-flight fixtures scrapped in the past week.

Britain is battling record numbers of Covid-19 cases as the Omicron variant runs riot, with fears growing that the crisis could derail the football season.

“Regarding Manchester United’s game on Saturday, the club continues to have an ongoing Covid-19 outbreak within their squad, which has left them unable to field a team for the match at Old Trafford,” the Premier League said in a statement.

“A significant number of Covid-19 cases led to their game against Brentford FC being called off earlier this week, and today additional positive tests have been confirmed.”

United are believed to have had only seven senior players available because of Covid and other injuries for the Brighton game.

Leicester and the Premier League earlier confirmed the cancellation of Thursday’s game between the Foxes and Spurs, who have been badly hit by virus postponements.

“The club has an insufficient number of first-team players available to fulfil the match,” Leicester said in a statement.

– Covid break? –

Brentford manager Thomas Frank said he would like to see a break to help manage the situation across the Premier League.

His team’s fixture against United, scheduled to take place on Tuesday, was postponed and the club now have their own Covid infections to tackle.

“We think we should postpone the full round of Premier League games this weekend,” he said.

“Covid cases are going through the roof at all Premier League clubs. Everyone is dealing with it and having problems.

“To postpone this round and also the Carabao (League) Cup round would give everyone a week at least, or four or five days to clean and do everything at the training ground so everything is clean and you break the chain.”

But the Premier League said it planned to press ahead with its schedule as the busy festive season approaches.

“While recognising a number of clubs are experiencing Covid-19 outbreaks, it is the league’s intention to continue its current fixture schedule where safely possible,” it said in a statement.

“The health and wellbeing of all concerned remains our priority.”

It added: “The (Premier League) board assesses applications to postpone matches on a case-by-case basis, based on existing rules and Covid-19 postponement guidance issued to all clubs.

“It will assess a number of factors, including the ability of a club to field a team, the status, severity and potential impact of the Covid-19 outbreak at the club, and the ability of the players to safely prepare for and play the match.”

Thursday’s game between Chelsea and Everton and Liverpool’s match against Newcastle are both still scheduled to go ahead.

However, there were reports on Thursday that Chelsea had three more players test positive after Mateo Kovacic caught the virus last week.

The number of postponed weekend matches across England’s top four divisions reached double figures on Thursday, with the English Football League announcing stricter Covid protocols including increased testing.

The EFL, which runs the second, third and fourth tiers, said it was encouraging all eligible players and staff to get fully vaccinated and also book a booster jab to “help protect colleagues and minimise the risk of fixtures being postponed”.

November’s figures showed 75 percent of players across the EFL had been either fully vaccinated, had a single jab or intended to be vaccinated.

The total of double-vaccinated players was just 59 percent.

Five Candidates To Replace Solskjaer As Manager Of Man Utd

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 24, 2021. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) /

 

Manchester United’s historic 5-0 thrashing at the hands of fierce rivals Liverpool has left manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer clinging to his job despite signing a new three-year deal just three months ago.

Solskjaer has failed to win a trophy in nearly three years in charge at Old Trafford and tangible signs of progress after finishing second in the Premier League last season have been blown away amid a run of five defeats in their last nine games.

United are already eight points off the pace at the top of the table and there is a growing consensus that they need a coach to match the calibre of Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Chelsea’s Champions League winner Thomas Tuchel.

Solskjaer has led United to two consecutive top-four finishes for the first time since Alex Ferguson’s retirement as manager in 2013, but his time looks to be running out.

AFP Sport looks at five of the candidates to replace the 48-year-old if and when he is shown the door at Old Trafford.

Antonio Conte

A proven title winner, Conte turned a Chelsea side that had finished 10th the previous season into Premier League winners in his debut campaign in England in 2016/17.

The Italian is without a club having left Inter Milan in May after ending their 11-year wait to win Serie A.

Conte appears a perfect fit to solve United’s defensive woes that have blighted their season. Solskjaer’s men have kept one clean sheet in 21 games and shipped 11 goals in a week against Leicester, Atalanta and Liverpool.

However, Conte’s fiery temperament and tendency to fall out with his superiors could count against him.

“He’s not a fit for United,” said former United captain Gary Neville on Sunday.

Zinedine Zidane

Expectations were high for United to challenge for major trophies this season after the signings of serial winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane, along with £73 million ($100 million) winger Jadon Sancho.

Three of Ronaldo and Varane’s Champions League titles came under Zidane at Real Madrid and the Frenchman is also a free agent having ended his second spell with the Spanish giants in May.

Zidane proved himself a master of moulding a star-studded squad into a team at Madrid, where he also won two La Liga titles.

That is exactly what United need and his global profile fits the brand-building exercise the English giants have gone down in recent years, at times to the detriment of a well-functioning team on the field.

Brendan Rodgers

The outstanding option on the domestic market for United is Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers.

The Northern Irishman’s past as a Liverpool manager may rule him out for many United fans, but he has rebuilt his reputation since a rollercoaster three years at Anfield between 2012 and 2015.

Rodgers proved himself capable of handling the demands of winning every week in three years at Celtic, where he won a clean sweep of seven domestic trophies before returning to the Premier League with Leicester.

The Foxes have narrowly missed out on the Champions League for the past two seasons to Chelsea despite far inferior resources and beat the European champions to win the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s history last season.

Erik Ten Hag

The Dutchman is responsible for arguably the form team in Europe right now with Ajax cruising towards the last 16 of the Champions League and another Eredivisie title after thrashing PSV Eindhoven 5-0 on Sunday.

Ten Haag was linked with a number of top jobs after leading the four-time European champions to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 1997 two years ago.

But unlike many of his players from that run, he is yet to be poached by one of Europe’s top clubs.

The former Bayern Munich youth team coach would fit the attacking style demanded of a United manager, as exhibited by a 4-0 thrashing of Borussia Dortmund last week.

Luis Enrique

The Spain coach is another with plenty of experience in getting the best out of a collection of talented individuals.

He won the treble in his first season at Barcelona and added another La Liga title with a front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

Fluent in English, Luis Enrique has never hidden his desire to one day coach in the Premier League

His success with Spain this year at Euro 2020 and the Nations League finals shows he is also capable of producing an exciting side without the same quality of stars he had on offer at the Camp Nou.

Solskjaer Vows To Stay As Man Utd Boss Despite Liverpool Thrashing

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks on from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford in Manchester, northwest England, on October 24, 2021. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted he is the right man to manage Manchester United despite a historic hammering by Liverpool on Sunday as Mohamed Salah scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 rout at Old Trafford.

For the first time in Premier League history, United trailed 4-0 at half-time and lost by five goals without scoring at home for the first time since 1955.

The Red Devils have now taken one point from a possible 12 in the league to fall to seventh, eight points off leaders Chelsea.

“I do believe in myself, that I am getting close to what I want with the club,” said Solskjaer.

“The results lately haven’t been good enough, that brings doubt in anyone’s mind, but I’ve got to keep strong and believe in what we’ve been doing.”

Naby Keita started the rout before Diogo Jota doubled Liverpool’s lead inside 15 minutes.

READ ALSO: Salah Hits Hat-Trick As Liverpool Humiliate Man Utd

Salah then took centre stage to take his tally for the season to 15 goals in 12 appearances and become the top-scoring African player in Premier League history in the process.

To round off a miserable day for United, Paul Pogba lasted less than 15 minutes as a second-half substitute as he was shown a straight red card for a reckless lunge that forced Keita to leave the pitch on a stretcher.

Liverpool’s first victory in front of a crowd at Old Trafford under Jurgen Klopp moves them back above Manchester City into second, just a point behind Chelsea.

“What we did in the last third was insane. Pressing high, winning balls, scored wonderful goals,” said Klopp after Liverpool’s record away win against United.

“The result is insane. I asked if there was one like this in history and if there isn’t then it will take a while (to beat).”

By contrast, United’s hopes of a first league title since 2013 already look over.

That gap is likely to grow in the coming weeks with Tottenham and City to come in the next fortnight before an international break.

Whether Solskjaer will still be in charge come November is now in serious doubt as he has completely failed to form a balanced team from a talented collection of star players.

“In the last few weeks we’ve hit a brick wall,” added Solskjaer. “The performances haven’t come, the results haven’t come. We’ve conceded too many easy goals and that’s a concern.”

Salah teed up Keita to open the floodgates after just five minutes with a composed low finish past David de Gea.

United came from 2-0 down at the break to beat Atalanta 3-2 in the Champions League on Wednesday.

But former midfielder Paul Scholes’ warning after that match that Liverpool would be 4-0 up in 45 minutes if handed the same space to attack into came to fruition.

Jota justified his selection ahead of Sadio Mane as he stretched to turn in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross to double Liverpool’s advantage.

Salah has now scored in 10 consecutive games and overtook Didier Drogba with his 105th Premier League goal when the Egyptian turned home Keita’s cut-back with the United defence all at sea.

Liverpool inflicted further punishment before the break when Salah smashed home at De Gea’s near post.

Salah then completed his hat-trick with another cool finish five minutes into the second-half after Jordan Henderson’s pass dissected the United defence once more.

Cristiano Ronaldo thought he had pulled a goal back only for a VAR review to catch him in an offside position.

Another VAR check saw the end of Pogba’s brief cameo for a horrendous studs-up challenge on Keita that forced the Guinean off.

Solskjaer sacrificed Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford to try and stop the bleeding as Old Trafford emptied during the final half-hour.

De Gea ensured Liverpool failed to match their record margin of victory against United with an incredible save from Alexander-Arnold’s drive.

However, that did not subdue the mood among the travelling fans as they mockingly chanted for Solskjaer to remain in his job.

Man Utd Must Fix ‘Mentality And Tactics’, Says Pogba

Manchester United’s French midfielder Paul Pogba applauds the fans at the end of the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on October 16, 2021. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

Paul Pogba delivered a withering assessment of the state of Manchester United’s form after a 4-2 defeat to Leicester left the Red Devils already five points adrift in the Premier League title race.

United have not won an English top-flight title since 2013 but were expected to challenge this season after splashing out to sign Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane in the transfer window.

However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have taken just one point from a possible nine against Aston Villa, Everton and Leicester in their last three league games.

United also crashed out of the League Cup last month and are under pressure for Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Atalanta after losing their opening group game to Swiss side Young Boys.

“If we want to win the title, these are the games we need to win, even if they are very hard,” Pogba told Sky Sports.

“We have been having these kinds of games for a long time and haven’t found the problem. We have conceded easy and stupid goals.”

United’s defence was easily exposed by a Leicester side that had not won since August before Saturday.

Solskjaer started with all of Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Sancho, Mason Greenwood and Ronaldo and hinted afterwards he may have to sacrifice some of his attacking stars to better balance the side.

“We know that the fans were going to push and put pressure on us and we need to be more mature, play with more experience and arrogance – in a good way – by taking the ball and playing our football,” added Pogba.

“We need to find the key for this change because we deserved to lose.

“I don’t know if it is the mindset of the players. We need to change something. We need to find the mentality and tactics to win. We have to look as individuals and as a team to fix this.”

Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville said Solskjaer’s forward players were not working hard enough defensively.

“I love them as players those five, but having them all in the same team there’s not enough workhorses,” said Neville.

“We needed workhorses alongside the great players. Manchester United at this moment in time are imbalanced.”

The pressure is rising on Solskjaer to turn things around quickly ahead of a demanding run of fixtures.

Solskjaer’s men face Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in their next six Premier League games.

Man Utd Stumble Again As Chelsea Top Premier League

Players from both teams exchange words after Manchester United’s Scottish midfielder Scott McTominay fouled Everton’s French defender Lucas Digne during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford in Manchester, northwest England, on October 2, 2021. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

 

Manchester United were held at home by Everton on Saturday after Cristiano Ronaldo was dropped to the subs bench as Chelsea scored two late goals against Southampton to top the Premier League table.

Elsewhere, Brighton drew 0-0 with Arsenal to end the Gunners’ recent winning streak while Leeds earned their first league win of the season.

United’s 1-1 draw at Old Trafford continues an unimpressive run of home results including a League Cup defeat by West Ham and last week’s shock Premier League loss at the hands of Aston Villa.

Ronaldo has scored five times in six games in all competitions since rejoining the club in late August but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he did not regret resting the 36-year-old — who scored a dramatic stoppage-time winner against Villarreal in midweek.

“You make decisions throughout the season, you’ve got to manage the players’ workload,” said the Norwegian manager. “The decision was, for me, the correct one today.

“We have started better than last season, but it is still not what we wanted.”

Everton created plenty of chances in the opening period but fell behind shortly before half-time when surprise pick Anthony Martial curled home his first Premier League goal since February from a Bruno Fernandes pass.

Solskjaer called on Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho 12 minutes after half-time as he looked to put the game beyond Rafael Benitez’s men but Everton ruthlessly exposed United’s frailty on the counter-attack.

Demarai Gray won the ball back on the left and freed Abdoulaye Doucoure into acres of space in midfield. Doucoure played in Andros Townsend to fire home his fifth goal in nine appearances.

Townsend performed a Ronaldo-style “Siuuu” goal celebration and said it was done in tribute to the Portuguese superstar, whom he said was his “idol”.

Everton thought they had won it late on but Yerry Mina’s close-range finish from a Tom Davies pass was ruled out for offside following a VAR review.
– Chelsea strike late –

Chelsea ended a miserable week on a high, with Timo Werner and Ben Chilwell striking late in a 3-1 win against Southampton, who are still without a league victory this season.

The three points lifted the Stamford Bridge club to the top of the Premier League on 16 points, two clear of Liverpool, Manchester United, Everton and Brighton.

Thomas Tuchel’s side, tipped by many to win the Premier League in the early weeks of the season, were well beaten by Manchester City last week and lost to Juventus in the Champions League in midweek.

But they returned to winning ways in London on Saturday, helped by a second-half red card for Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse.

Trevoh Chalobah nodded Chelsea into an early lead but Ward-Prowse levelled from the penalty spot just after the hour mark before he was sent off in the 77th minute for a dangerous tackle on Jorginho after a VAR check.

Werner provided the decisive moment, sliding in from Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross before Chilwell volleyed in from close range on 89 minutes to secure the victory.

“After two defeats we had to be careful that we didn’t start being too sad or too worried because there was a chance to be on 16 points,” Tuchel told the BBC.

“It was important to have a better performance than the last two games, that we sharpened our mindset so that we are not afraid to lose. It was nice to play the way we did and get a deserved win.”

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal were bottom of the Premier League table after three matches before three consecutive wins lifted them to the comfort of mid-table.

But they found it tough to break down high-flying Brighton in a soggy evening contest on England’s south coast and Arteta admitted his team did not deserve to win.

Earlier, Leeds beat Watford 1-0 thanks to a first-half strike by Diego Llorente while Hwang Hee-chan struck twice as Wolves beat struggling Newcastle 2-1.

Norwich stopped the rot against Burnley after six straight league defeats but they remain rock bottom of the Premier League table with just a single point from seven games after a 0-0 draw.

Liverpool host Manchester City in the pick of Sunday’s Premier League matches.

AFP

Man Utd Falter At West Brom, Aubameyang Treble Sinks Leeds

Manchester United’s English defender Harry Maguire (L) reacts at the end of the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on February 14, 2021.
Nick Potts / POOL / AFP

 

 

Manchester United’s faltering Premier League title challenge suffered another blow in a 1-1 draw at struggling West Brom, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit a hat-trick in Arsenal’s 4-2 win against Leeds on Sunday.

United have dropped points in five of their last seven league games to allow Manchester City to pull seven points clear, with a game in hand.

A point was enough to nudge Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men back above Leicester into second on goal difference.

But that was of little consolation to United against a West Brom side that had conceded 24 goals in taking just one point from their previous seven home games.

Indeed, it was Sam Allardyce’s men who had the better chances to win the game and give their dwindling hopes of beating the drop a boost.

United made the worst possible start when Conor Gallagher swung in a cross and Mbaye Diagne outmuscled Victor Lindelof to power home a header after just 80 seconds.

“We gave ourselves a tough start,” said Solskjaer, whose side have fallen behind in eight of their 12 away league games this season.

“You’ve got 90 odd minutes to make amends so there is no need to panic but I didn’t feel we built that momentum until too late in the first half.

“Second half there was only one-way traffic but still there were a couple of moments where we could have lost the game.”

United struggled to make the most of their territorial dominance until Bruno Fernandes produced a moment of magic with a dipping volley on his weaker left foot a minute before half-time.

Sam Johnstone denied Mason Greenwood and Scott McTominay had an effort cleared off the line as United pressed for a winner after the break.

But it was Diagne who twice should have won the game late on as he was denied when one-on-one with David de Gea before blazing an enticing low cross over the bar.

Johnstone was required once more deep into stoppage time when he tipped Harry Maguire’s header onto the post.

Aubameyang Propels Arsenal

At the Emirates Stadium, Gabon forward Aubameyang scored his first Arsenal treble since 2019 to get the Gunners back on track after two successive defeats and three games without a win.

Aubameyang has endured a difficult season marred by poor form and his mother’s illness, which prompted him to take a leave of absence recently.

The Arsenal captain struck in the 13th minute when he skipped away from Luke Ayling and fired low past Illan Meslier.

Aubameyang converted a 41st-minute penalty after Meslier lost possession and then fouled Bukayo Saka.

Hector Bellerin made it three on the stroke of half-time when his shot beat the hapless Meslier’s weak attempted save at his near post.

Aubameyang completed his hat-trick in the 47th minute with a diving header from Emile Smith Rowe’s cross for his 11th goal of the season.

Pascal Struijk’s 58th-minute header and Helder Costa’s strike in the 69th minute came too late for Marcelo Bielsa’s men as Arsenal climbed above Leeds into 10th place.

“The hat-trick means a lot. It’s been a tough time for me,” Aubameyang said.

“Everyone was giving a lot of love to me, my mum and my family. I have to say thank you to everyone at the club and the fans.”

Wolves moved 15 points clear of the drop zone after coming from behind for a 2-1 win that extended Southampton’s miserable run.

The Saints had beaten Nuno Espirito Santo’s men to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals in midweek and made a promising start when Danny Ings converted Stuart Armstrong’s cross.

Scoring goals has been a problem for Wolves without the injured Raul Jimenez, but they were gifted an equaliser from the penalty spot when Ryan Bertrand was penalised for handball.

Ruben Neves stroked home the spot-kick before Pedro Neto’s strike just past the hour earned only a second win in 11 league games.

Southampton, who topped the table earlier in the season, have lost six league games in a row to slip to 13th.

Lampard Hails Chelsea’s ‘Character’ After FA Cup Semi-Final Success

Chelsea's English head coach Frank Lampard gestures during the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on July 19, 2020. Andy Rain / POOL / AFP
Chelsea’s English head coach Frank Lampard gestures during the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on July 19, 2020. Andy Rain / POOL / AFP

 

Frank Lampard saluted Chelsea’s “character and personality” as they powered into the FA Cup final with a 3-1 win over woeful Manchester United on Sunday.

Lampard’s side were gifted their goals by an error-strewn display from United goalkeeper David De Gea, but Chelsea were deserved winners as they dominated the semi-final from start to finish.

Olivier Giroud opened the scoring late in the first half and Mason Mount got the second after the interval at Wembley.

Harry Maguire’s own goal killed off United before Bruno Fernandes’ late penalty.

After some shaky performances in recent weeks, including a 3-0 hammering at Sheffield United, Lampard was impressed with the spirited way his players out-classed in-form United at Wembley.

“I can’t ask for any more from my players than that. The work ethic and the level of performance. We were on top and when they changed their system we were even better,” Lampard told the BBC.

“Where we are at, it is going to happen that we have some bad displays like against Sheffield United. But to do that against Manchester United, I’m delighted and very proud.

“There was a lot of work done in the last two days to change the system, and you’re only as good as your players in that situation. They deserve a huge amount of credit.

“They should take confidence from that display. We have leaders, you can’t compare across eras but we have leaders in the team. It was a performance full of character and personality.”

Chelsea’s victory moved Lampard a step closer to silverware in his first season in charge of the club where he earned legendary status as a player.

Before their FA Cup final date with London rivals Arsenal on August 1, Chelsea have to focus on qualifying for the Champions League via a top four finish in the Premier League.

They sit third — one point above Leicester and United — with games against Liverpool and Wolves to finish the league season.

“We have finals ahead. Two in the league and then Arsenal,” Lampard said.

“We want to win things, and at the start of the season we wanted to be up there challenging for the top four.

“A lot of people were tipping against us, but quietly I was always hoping.

“I don’t want to put everything on these three games defining everything we’ve done and the progress we’ve made, but of course we want top four, we want trophies and we’re at the business end, so let’s see.”