Liverpool Vs Man United: Three Key Battles In Sunday’s EPL Showdown

A photo combination of Mo Salah and Bruno Fernandes.

 

When Liverpool and Manchester United clash at Anfield on Sunday, there will be more at stake than just the usual bragging rights.

The bitter rivals are engaged in a battle for the Premier League title, with leaders United sitting three points clear of second-placed Liverpool.

AFP Sport takes a closer look at three duels that will define the vital showdown:

Jordan Henderson v Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes has played a major role in transforming Manchester United from also-rans to title contenders.

Widely credited with reviving United with his fierce will to win and positive attitude, as well as his classy performances, the Portugal playmaker’s next mission is to stamp his authority on the biggest game of his time with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.

READ ALSO: Rooney Loses First Game In Charge Of Derby

Fernandes, signed from Sporting Lisbon last January, will head to Anfield as the first star to win the Premier League Player of the Month award four times in a calendar year after earning the prize for December.

Overall, he has 15 goals and nine assists in all competitions this term, making it 27 goals and 17 assists in 48 United appearances.

No wonder Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is a huge admirer and will task Reds captain Jordan Henderson with subduing the midfielder on Sunday.

“He’s an outstanding player. Before he joined United, we played against Sporting in the USA on the tour and in that game already you could see, ‘Wow!’,” Klopp said.

“He is settled, he is a very influential player for United obviously, involved in a lot of things. So, yeah, a good signing, unfortunately, for United.”

Mohamed Salah v Eric Bailly

With 17 goals in all competitions this season, Mohamed Salah will pose the biggest threat to United, but the Egypt forward can expect a stern challenge from the revitalised Eric Bailly.

Bailly has struggled for form and fitness throughout his United career, but the Ivory Coast centre-back has been key to their winning streak.

In six games with Bailly in the team, United have won five and drawn once, conceding just three goals.

Harry Maguire looks more comfortable alongside Bailly, whose out-going personality kept his team-mates relaxed during their difficult periods earlier this season.

United manager Solskjaer could also revert to the three-man central defence he has deployed against Liverpool in the past.

Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are a formidable test for United’s rearguard, although they have gone through a barren patch of late, with Liverpool netting only once in their last three league games.

Fabinho v Marcus Rashford

Ravaged by injuries to his top centre-backs, Klopp will be forced to deploy Brazil midfielder Fabinho as a makeshift defender once again.

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are long-term absentees, while Joel Matip has spent the last week battling to return from the adductor injury the last three games.

Matip has returned to training but if he is not deemed ready then Klopp will have to choose between youngsters Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips to partner Fabinho.

That puts the onus on Fabinho to maintain his solid form at the position, but it won’t be easy against a lively United attack led by Marcus Rashford.

Rashford and Anthony Martial have the pace and poise to hurt Liverpool, while Edinson Cavani’s experience and physical presence make him an intriguing option.

“We know that we can beat anyone, anywhere on any given day, so to go into a game like this feeling that if we play to our best we can win is a good feeling,” Solskjaer said.

“It’s a test and reality check of where we’re really at because we’ve won many, many tight games, scored a few goals in injury time, showed that mentality.”

AFP

Can Man Utd Sustain Premier League Title Push?

Manchester United’s French midfielder Paul Pogba is mobbed by teammates after scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Manchester United at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on January 12, 2021. Clive Brunskill / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester United are top of the Premier League table with nearly half the season gone but are they title contenders or mere pretenders?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men beat Burnley 1-0 at Turf Moor on Tuesday courtesy of a Paul Pogba goal to move three points clear of champions Liverpool after 17 games.

It was the first time United had ended the day top of the table so far into the season since their last title-winning campaign in 2012/13 under Alex Ferguson.

AFP Sport looks at whether United can win their first top-flight title for eight years as they prepare to travel to Anfield on Sunday.

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Squad strength
Manchester United’s success in the transfer market has been more miss than hit since Ferguson guided them to a 20th top-flight title.

But a glance at the substitutes’ bench at Turf Moor shows Solskjaer has quietly put together a powerful squad that gives him enviable options.

The Norwegian started with Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Bruno Fernandes in midfield, with in-form Scott McTominay, Fred and Donny van de Beek on the bench.

 

Manchester United’s French midfielder Paul Pogba is mobbed by teammates after scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Manchester United at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on January 12, 2021.
Clive Brunskill / POOL / AFP

 

Edinson Cavani was back as the focal point in attack after a three-match ban, with academy graduate Mason Greenwood used as a late substitute.

In central defence, Eric Bailly is impressing alongside Harry Maguire, offering United real pace at the back.

But it is not just the personnel that catch the eye — there is a palpable sense of togetherness at the club, shown by the players’ wild celebrations when they recently beat Aston Villa 2-1.

Manager
Solskjaer — who won six Premier League titles as a player at Old Trafford — has not had an easy ride in charge.

Whenever the club have hit a rocky patch the pressure has been ramped up, with suggestions he does not have the experience or nous to go toe to toe with Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.

An impressive 29 points from a possible 33 show the strength of their revival after a poor start to the campaign but Solskjaer is not getting carried away.

“We’re almost halfway through the season so it’s a little bit of an indication of where you’re at,” said the 1999 treble hero.

“But no one will remember the league table on the 12th of January.”

Rivals
Despite their fine run of form, bookmakers still have United as third favourites for the Premier League title, behind Manchester City and Liverpool.

Klopp’s men have failed to hit the heights of last season but are still firmly in the title picture despite a defensive injury crisis this term.

United will travel to the home of their fierce rivals with a spring in their step — a far cry from last year, when defeat at Anfield left them 30 points behind the Merseyside outfit.

Solskjaer, whose side are unbeaten in domestic away fixtures since losing to Liverpool in January 2020, said United were looking forward to the challenge.

“We just want to go there, knowing we’re playing the best team in the country by a mile over the last year and a half,” he said. “They are champions by right and it will be a great test of where we are.”

For their part, City have quietly put together an impressive run to move to within striking distance of the top of the table.

They are seven points behind United but have two games in hand and are favourites to win their third title in four seasons.

Former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, who played alongside Solskjaer at Old Trafford, is not sure his old side are “quite there yet” but believes they are not far away.

“If we could add players like (forward Erling) Haaland from Dortmund or (defender Dayot) Upamecano from Leipzig I would say then we would be championship challengers,” he told the BBC.

It is up to his ex-teammate to prove him wrong.

AFP

FA Cup: Manchester United To Face Liverpool

Manchester United’s Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes celebrates with teammates after he takes a penalty and scores his team’s third goal during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Manchester United at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton, southern England on September 26, 2020. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / POOL / AFP) 

 

Manchester United will face Liverpool in the blockbuster tie of the FA Cup fourth round, while League Two Cheltenham host Manchester City.

Liverpool and United will clash for two consecutive weekends with the top two also facing off in the Premier League on Sunday.

National League North side Chorley’s reward for their victory over a depleted Derby was a home tie with Premier League Wolves.

Chorley manager Jamie Vermiglio told BBC Sport: “That’s what we really wanted, Premier League opposition, great.

“And there’s a bit of history because in 1986, Chorley played against Wolves at home and beat them 3-0, so we just need to do that again.”

Should Chorley pull off another upset, they could face holders Arsenal in the fifth round.

League Two Crawley, who thrashed Leeds 3-0 in the third round, travel to Bournemouth.

The fourth round ties will be played across the weekend of January 22 to 25 with the fifth round taking place between February 9 to 11.

FA Cup fourth round draw:

Manchester United v Liverpool

Cheltenham v Manchester City

Bournemouth v Crawley

Swansea v Nottingham Forest

Southampton or Shrewsbury v Arsenal

Barnsley v Norwich

Chorley v Wolves

Millwall v Bristol City

Brighton v Blackpool

Wycombe v Tottenham

Fulham v Burnley

Sheffield United v Plymouth

Chelsea v Luton

Stockport or West Ham v Doncaster

Brentford v Leicester

Everton v Sheffield Wednesday

Fifth round draw:

Manchester United or Liverpool v Stockport/West Ham/Doncaster

Fulham or Burnley v Bournemouth or Crawley

Sheffied United or Plymouth v Millwall or Bristol City

Chorley or Wolves v Southampton/Shrewsbury/Arsenal

Barnsley or Norwich v Chelsea or Luton

Everton or Sheffield Wednesday v Wycombe or Tottenham

Swansea or Nottingham Forest v Cheltenham or Manchester City

Brentford or Leicester v Brighton or Blackpool

AFP

Manchester United Complete Signing Of Amad Diallo From Atalanta

Amad Diallo joined Manchester United from Atalanta.
Amad Diallo joined Manchester United from Atalanta.

 

Manchester United announced on Thursday they had completed the transfer of Ivorian winger Amad Diallo from Serie A side Atalanta.

The 18-year-old has signed a contract at Old Trafford until 2025, with the option of an extra year.

The agreement between the clubs was first announced on October 5 but the transfer was subject to a medical, work-permit and personal terms.

These steps have now been completed and an application has been made for a visa. Once this has been issued, Diallo will be cleared to travel to Manchester.

Diallo made a total of five senior appearances for Atalanta and scored one goal.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the teenager had been on the club’s radar for a number of years.

“Manchester United has such a proud history of developing young players and everything is in place to enable Amad to reach his potential here,” he said.

“It will take time for him to adapt but his speed, vision and fantastic dribbling ability will stand him in good stead to make the transition. He is a player with all of the raw attributes that are needed to be an important player for Manchester United in the years to come.”

Diallo said the move was a “dream come true”.

“I have had time to prepare for this move, both physically and mentally, and I have worked really hard to be ready to make the step up to this amazing club,” he added.

AFP

We Met The Best Team In England, Solskjaer Admits After Fourth Semi-Final Loss In Two Years

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts at the final whistle during the English League Cup semi-final football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England, on January 6, 2021.
PETER POWELL / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester United coach, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Wednesday admitted that Manchester City were a better side following his team’s 0-2 loss to their city rivals in the semi-final of the League Cup. 

It was United’s fourth semi-final loss in two years with John Stones and Fernandinho the unlikely goalscorers for Guardiola’s men, who will face Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham in the final at Wembley on April 25.

READ ALSO: Manchester City Confirm Three More COVID-19 Cases

“It’s not psychological, sometimes you meet good teams in the semis,” said Solskjaer, whose side also lost to City at this stage of the competition last season.

“We met the best team in England and for me we didn’t have enough today.

“But we’re getting closer. This is a much better Manchester United compared to a year ago in those semis, that’s positive but not enough.”

 

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola (C) and players react at the final whistle during the English League Cup semi final first leg football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on January 6, 2021.

 

Mourinho was United boss the last time they lifted a trophy in 2017 and the Red Devils’ wait for silverware under Solskjaer continue.

Guardiola had also dedicated the victory to club legend, Colin Bell, a day after the City great died aged 74.

“That’s for him and his family. This person helps to build something for this club,” said Guardiola about Bell who scored 152 goals in 492 appearances for City during a 13-year career in which he won five major trophies.

“It is an incredible victory for us to beat United away and reach another final and, especially today, it is for him.”

City players warmed up in number eight shirts in honour of Bell’s old number.

A minute’s silence was held before kick-off with Bell’s former teammate Mike Summerbee reduced to tears as he watched on from the stands.

 

Fletcher Joins Man Utd’s First-Team Coaching Staff

Former Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher has been promoted to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first-team coaching staff.

Fletcher returned to Old Trafford last October to take up a coaching role with United’s under-16 squad.

The 36-year-old will now step in to help with Solskjaer’s side on a full-time basis.

Fletcher was a product of United’s youth academy and made 300 first-team appearances, helping the club win five Premier League titles, the FA Cup and the Champions League.

The former Scotland midfielder moved to West Bromwich Albion in 2015 and finished his playing career at Stoke.

“Darren has the United DNA running through his veins and he knows exactly what it takes to be a Manchester United player,” Solskjaer told United’s website.

“He is at the start of his coaching career and his experience both on and off the pitch along with his winning mentality, commitment and hard work will be a great addition to the staff.”

Fletcher’s appointment comes with United in the midst of a Premier League title challenge after closing the gap on leaders Liverpool.

United last won the Premier League in Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge in 2013, with Fletcher a member of that successful squad.

“I am delighted to be returning to the club as a first-team coach,” Fletcher said.

“It’s a very exciting time for this young team and I am looking forward to taking the next steps in my coaching career by working with Ole and his staff.”

AFP

Manchester United Eye Premier League Summit After Liverpool Stumble

Martin Rickett / POOL / AFP

 

Liverpool will start 2021 in a familiar position at the top of the Premier League but with a rejuvenated Manchester United leading a pack of challengers who are all within striking distance.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side would join the champions on 33 points if they beat Aston Villa on Friday, with Jurgen Klopp’s men not in action until Monday.

But just seven points separate Liverpool from their next opponents Southampton, all the way down in ninth spot, giving clubs a chance to dream.

AFP Sport looks at some of the main talking points ahead of the weekend action in the English top-flight.

Liverpool v United battle?

Jurgen Klopp said he was not “overly frustrated” after seeing his side held to a goalless draw at Newcastle on Wednesday.

But the squandered points denied Liverpool the comfort of a five-point lead over bitter rivals United heading into the New Year.

The leaders have now drawn three of their past five Premier League games, including last weekend’s disappointing 1-1 draw against struggling West Brom.

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Midfielder James Milner has noticed Manchester United’s rise and has warned injury-hit Liverpool that they must “kick on” or risk losing their crown.

Liverpool and United are the two most successful clubs in English football history but have rarely been at their best at the same time.

It would take a brave punter to back against Liverpool, and Manchester City are tipped by the bookies as more likely winners than their neighbours.

But despite lingering questions over United’s defence, there is a sense of momentum at Old Trafford and a growing belief that they could mount a proper title challenge for the first time since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

Chelsea face Man City test

The most eye-catching game of the weekend pits Frank Lampard’s Chelsea against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday — coronavirus permitting.

New-look Chelsea appeared to have found a good balance after an early defeat to Liverpool, embarking on a long unbeaten run, but have lost their way in recent weeks, taking just four points from their past five matches.

They now find themselves level on 26 points with City, who also have two games in hand after quietly putting together an impressive string of results following a slow start to the campaign.

Despite the cluster of teams within striking range of the Premier League summit, neither manager will want to risk falling further behind Liverpool, who have the capability to go on a long unbeaten run.

The reason Guardiola’s team have an extra game in hand is because their match against Everton this week was postponed over a Covid-19 outbreak at City.

First-team training has resumed and the club said a fresh round of testing had not revealed any new positive cases.

Following the update from City, the Premier League issued a statement confirming the game at Chelsea on Sunday currently remains on.

Frustrated Mourinho

Just a few short weeks ago Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham were top of the Premier League and looking every inch credible challengers.

Now they are seven points off the pace after two draws and two defeats in their past four matches — and had to face the further frustration this week of a coronavirus-enforced postponement.

Mourinho said his side should be doing more to kill games after conceding late in a disappointing 1-1 draw at Wolves.

His mood was not helped by the postponement of Spurs’ home match against Fulham on Wednesday with three hours’ notice after a coronavirus outbreak in the visitors’ camp.

Tottenham host free-scoring Leeds on Sunday in a mouthwatering clash, with Marcelo Bielsa’s men just three points behind Spurs after bouncing back from their 6-2 Old Trafford humbling with two wins.

Fixtures

Friday (GMT)

Everton v West Ham (1730), Manchester United v Aston Villa (2000)

Saturday

Tottenham v Leeds (1230), Crystal Palace v Sheffield United (1500), Brighton v Wolves (1730), West Brom v Arsenal (2000)

Sunday

Burnley v Fulham (1200), Newcastle v Leicester (1415), Chelsea v Manchester City (1630)

Monday

Southampton v Liverpool (2000)

Cavani Banned For Three Games Over ‘Negrito’ Post

Manchester United's Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani warms up during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Manchester United at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, southern England on November 29, 2020. Adam Davy / POOL / AFP
Manchester United’s Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani warms up during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Manchester United at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, southern England on November 29, 2020. Adam Davy / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester United forward Edinson Cavani has been banned for three matches and fined £100,000 for using a racial term in a social media post, the Football Association announced on Thursday.

The 33-year-old summer signing produced a match-winning display at Southampton on November 29, providing an assist for Bruno Fernandes before netting a two goals in a 3-2 comeback win.

Cavani posted a social media message on Instagram shortly after the match, replying to a message of congratulations using the Spanish term “negrito” (small black person).

The Uruguayan swiftly deleted the post and issued an apology after being made aware of the connotations, with the player releasing an apologetic statement saying he was “completely opposed to racism”.

But the FA has now punished the striker after he admitted breaching FA Rule E3.

“A comment posted on the Manchester United FC striker’s Instagram page was insulting, abusive, improper and brought the game into disrepute,” the FA said in a statement.

“The post also constitutes an ‘aggravated breach’… as it included reference, whether express or implied, to colour and/or race and/or ethnic origin,” the statement added.

Manchester United issued a statement saying Cavani was not aware his words could have been misconstrued and “sincerely apologised” for the post and to anyone who was offended.

“Despite his honest belief that he was simply sending an affectionate thank you in response to a congratulatory message from a close friend, he chose not to contest the charge out of respect for, and solidarity with, the FA and the fight against racism in football,” the club said.

United said they hoped the independent regulatory commission appointed to decide the sanction would make it clear in its written reasons that the former Paris Saint-Germain player “is not a racist, nor was there any racist intent in relation to his post”.

 

AFP

PSG Confirms Sack Of Tuchel, Pochettino Favourite To Take Over

(FILES) This file photo taken on April 29, 2019 during a press conference at the Camp des Loges in Saint-Germain-en-Laye shows German coach Thomas Tuchel who has been sacked as Paris Saint-Germain’s head coach on December 24, 2020. – The French champions declined to make any comment when contacted by AFP to confirm the reports carried by L’Equipe newspaper and RMC and German tabloid Bild. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

 

Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday confirmed the sacking of coach Thomas Tuchel, who had been at the club since July 2018, but did not name his successor.

“After an in-depth analysis of its sporting situation, Paris Saint-Germain decided to terminate Thomas Tuchel’s contract,” the French giants announced in a statement.

Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino, the ex-Tottenham coach and a former PSG player, is widely reported to be the favourite to take over.

Tuchel, whose axing was widely reported but unconfirmed last week, managed PSG 127 times in all competitions, with 95 wins, 12 draws and 20 defeats.

His trophy haul featured two Ligue 1 titles (2019, 2020) as well as the French Cup and French League Cup in 2020.

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The 47-year-old German also led the Parisian club to their first ever Champions League final last August, which they lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich.

Despite appearing to be adept at man-managing PSG’s squad of superstar players such as Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, Tuchel reportedly upset the Qatari-backed club after complaining about an apparent lack of recognition at leading PSG to the Champions League final.

“I would like to thank Thomas Tuchel and his staff for all they have contributed to the club,” said PSG chairman Nasser al-Khelaifi.

“Thomas has put a lot of energy and passion into the job, and we will of course remember the good moments we shared together. I wish him all the best for the future.”

Less than three months on from the final defeat to Bayern Munich in Lisbon, Tuchel has become the first PSG coach to leave mid-season since Antoine Kombouare was replaced by Carlo Ancelotti in December 2011.
– Barca date looms –

Tuchel departs the Parc des Princes having secured a last 16 Champions League clash with Barcelona and PSG sitting third in Ligue 1 — a point shy of leaders Lyon — despite being plagued by injuries, suspensions and coronavirus infections.

Should Pochettino take over, his opening match in charge will be January 6’s trip to Saint-Etienne on Ligue 1’s resumption after the winter break.

Then, on February 16, the Argentinian could face his first massive test against his compatriot Lionel Messi’s Barcelona, with the return leg on March 6.

Pochettino was let go after five and a half years at Tottenham in the aftermath of leading the north London side to their first ever appearance in a Champions League final against Liverpool in 2019.

Although he has yet to win any silverware the former PSG defender’s stock is high in managerial circles.

The Parisians will be keen to complete his signing and avoid missing their man who has been linked to the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United and Barca in recent months.

Importantly, Pochettino, like Tuchel, is at ease in man-managing a dressing room crammed with a galaxy of stars.

Neymar has been at the centre of new controversy this week after Brazilian media reported that he is organising a huge New Year’s Eve party despite the coronavirus pandemic — claims his lawyers have denied.

Pochettino is the son of a farmer from Murphy, in the north of Argentina.

He is known as a stickler for detail, which coupled with his tactical acumen, devotion to an attractive style of play and his popularity amongst Parisian fans, makes him a potentially ideal fit as the new occupant of the PSG dugout.

He would have under his wing several compatriots such as Mauro Icardi, Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes.

His anticipated arrival before the winter transfer window will allow him to bring in new faces, potentially one former Spurs charge, Inter Milan’s attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen.

And looking further ahead, given their Argentine ties, Pochettino may be the catalyst for six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi to start regarding PSG as potential new employers when he is free to move from the Camp Nou at the end of the season.

AFP

Premier League: Leicester Strike Late To Share Points With Man Utd

Leicester City's English striker Jamie Vardy (L) celebrates with Leicester City's English midfielder James Maddison (R) after scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on December 26, 2020. Michael Regan / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s English striker Jamie Vardy (L) celebrates with Leicester City’s English midfielder James Maddison (R) after scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on December 26, 2020. Michael Regan / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester United missed out on the chance to move within two points of Premier League leaders Liverpool as Axel Tuanzebe’s own goal five minutes from time earned second-placed Leicester a 2-2 draw on Saturday.

Slow starts had been a feature for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men on the road this season as they had won their previous six away league games despite conceding first.

However, this time it was the Red Devils who twice failed to hold onto the lead.

Harvey Barnes’s fierce strike cancelled out Marcus Rashford’s opener before half-time.

Bruno Fernandes thought he had claimed another away win 11 minutes from time, but Jamie Vardy’s predatory instincts kept Leicester one point and one place above United in the table as his shot deflected in off Tuanzebe.

Liverpool’s lead at the top now stands at three points and Jurgen Klopp’s men can move further clear when they host West Brom at Anfield on Sunday.

Solskjaer has been keen to put an end to his side’s sluggish starts and should have been celebrating inside 90 seconds when Rashford headed over Fernandes’s inch-perfect cross with only Kasper Schmeichel to beat.

The England international was not so forgiving to the Foxes when given a second chance midway through the first-half as he swept Fernandes’s prodded through ball into the bottom corner for his 13th goal of the season.

Leicester’s only threat before falling behind had come from a mishit clearance from David De Gea from which Barnes could not pick out a teammate in the middle.

However, Barnes hauled his side back into the game with one moment of brilliance as his powerful blast from outside the box had too much power for De Gea on 31 minutes.

United continued to pose the greater threat, but lacked the killer instinct on the counter-attack that has played a major role when they have had success this season.

Paul Pogba again had to make do with a place on the bench, but the Frenchman made an instant impact when he was introduced just before the hour mark and helped United take control of the midfield.

Solskjaer’s men were still most dangerous when given space to run in behind as Fred fed Rashford whose fierce shot was repelled by a brilliant save by Schmeichel.

Moments later Rashford was the creator as Anthony Martial coolly slotted beyond the giant Dane in the Leicester goal, but this time the offside flag, backed up by a VAR review, denied United.

Edinson Cavani was also brought off the bench by Solskjaer in search of a winner in the final 15 minutes and the Uruguayan made a big impact as he fed Fernandes for the Portuguese to drill home his 14th goal of the season.

But United failed to hold out for a record-equalling 11th consecutive away Premier League win as Vardy’s movement outfoxed the visitor’s defence as he turned Ayoze Perez’s cross towards goal and the ball bounced in off the unfortunate Tuanzebe.

 

AFP

How Will Brexit Rules Affect The Premier League?

premier-league-fixtures-today
The Premier League was put on hold since mid-March due to COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: Twitter/Premier League.

 

The Premier League has become the world’s richest league based on its staggering global appeal, with millions tuning in to watch the best talent from around the globe week by week.

But a change of rules as a result of Brexit means English clubs will not have the same freedom to hoover up the best of European football’s young players.

From January 1, a points-based system will be in place, meaning players from the European Union will now need to gain a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE), subjecting them to the same criteria as other overseas players.

Points will be awarded on the basis of the number of international appearances made, as well as club appearances in domestic and continental competitions and the standard of the club and league the player is coming from.

Getting a GBE will not be a problem for the vast majority of the Premier League’s big-money arrivals but the changes will have a bigger effect on the recruitment of youth players and further down the football pyramid.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters sounded confident earlier this month when the English top-flight, the Football Association and the English Football League announced post-Brexit arrangements.

“Continuing to be able to recruit the best players will see the Premier League remain competitive and compelling and the solution will complement our player development philosophy of the best foreign talent alongside the best homegrown players,” he said.

The same rules will also apply to managers and coaches based on the level they have previously worked at. For example, under the new criteria, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would not have been granted a GBE, having spent most of his coaching career in Norway.

However, players and coaches who do not automatically qualify for a work permit can appeal to a panel of experts for an exemption.

As with much surrounding Brexit, however, the rules will be constantly reviewed.

– No new Fabregas or Pogba –

Britain’s withdrawal from the EU means Premier League clubs will no longer benefit from an exception to world governing body FIFA’s rules on the signing of minors.

FIFA bans all overseas transfers for under-18s but makes an exception for movement within the European Economic Area. That allowed Cesc Fabregas and Paul Pogba to move to England as 16-year-olds in the past but this will now no longer be possible.

– Connected clubs –

One way of getting around the new rules is for British-based clubs to have a link to a feeder or associate club in Europe.

Manchester City’s network of clubs under the City Football Group (CFG) umbrella is the most high-profile example. CFG has stakes in lower-league sides in Spain, France and Belgium.

Leicester’s owners King Power own Belgian club Leuven while Sheffield United’s Saudi chief, Prince Abdullah, has an ownership stake in Belgian side Beerschot and is closing in on French Ligue 2 side Chateauroux.

These clubs could be used to ‘park’ young EU players until they turn 18 and also help build up the requisite number of appearances to obtain a GBE.

– Boost for British players –

The Football Association’s key objective in coming to an agreement with the Premier League and English Football League was to create more opportunities for young British players.

The number of overseas under-21 players Premier League clubs can sign will be restricted to three in the upcoming January transfer window and thereafter be capped at six per season.

Speaking about the overall agreement, the FA’s CEO Mark Bullingham said: “Despite having different starting perspectives on how Brexit should impact football, this is another example of how the football authorities can work effectively together for the greater good of the game.”

He added: “We will also discuss improvements to the player pathway for the mutual benefit of football clubs and homegrown talent in this country.”

The limits on signing young players from overseas will have a particular impact on EFL and Scottish league clubs, where a far higher degree of imports from Europe will not meet the criteria for a GBE.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon said he thought the rules would make a clear difference.

“We’re probably looking at the British market more than anything else (for new players),” he said. “I think it’s going to be difficult after the end of the year to get players in from the continent.”

AFP

No Sparks As Man Utd, Man City Play Out Drab Draw

Manchester United's English defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka (L) vies with Manchester City's English midfielder Raheem Sterling (C) during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on December 12, 2020. Michael Regan / POOL / AFP
Manchester United’s English defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka (L) vies with Manchester City’s English midfielder Raheem Sterling (C) during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on December 12, 2020. Michael Regan / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester United eased the mounting pressure on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but an uninspired 0-0 draw with Manchester City on Saturday did little for either side’s chances of mounting a Premier League title challenge.

United remain a point better off than their local rivals in the table but sit seventh, five points off Tottenham and Liverpool at the top of the table, while City slip to ninth.

Solskjaer’s men may well be the happier side to take a point after crashing out of the Champions League at the group stages with a defeat to RB Leipzig on Tuesday.

But the Red Devils have won just one of their opening six home league games this season and look set for another campaign where a top-four finish rather than a title tilt will be the target.

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City recorded a sixth straight clean sheet as Pep Guardiola has set about improving their defensive record.

However, that has come at the cost of the thrilling football that City showed in their two title-winning campaigns under the Catalan in 2017/18 and 2018/19.

Both sides were cautious throughout as the first Manchester derby without a crowd never sparked into life.

United only seriously threatened from corners as Scott McTominay, who scored the last goal at Old Trafford in front of fans when the sides last met in March, was inches away from connecting with Victor Lindelof’s near post flick-on.

Lindelof and Harry Maguire also headed off target from set-pieces, but it was City who created the better chances on the few occasions they moved the ball at pace.

Gabriel Jesus fired over from Riyad Mahrez’s ball over the top, but it was Mahrez who was guilty of passing up the best opening when he fired too close to David de Gea after brilliant work by Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne.

The visitors were handed a reprieve early in the second-half when Kyle Walker was penalised for clipping Marcus Rashford inside the area.

A VAR review showed Rashford was offside as he received the ball and United were denied a 32nd penalty in the last two seasons.

City pushed the hosts back, but continued to lack the precision and penetration to cause the United defence problems.

De Bruyne always looked the most likely candidate to produce a winner and the Belgian’s goalbound shot was bravely blocked by Maguire.

At the other end, Bruno Fernandes took two pot shots from outside the box, but the Portuguese’s first effort was easily saved by Ederson and the second ended up closer to the corner flag than the top corner to sum up a miserable match.

 

AFP