Chelsea, Manchester United secure valuable road points

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It wasn’t easy for either of the English giants, though it would be an exaggeration to say it was hard. Chelsea and Manchester United had their share of obstacles on the road against Champions League minnows, yet each earned a comfortable three points, vaulting them to the top of their UEFA Champions League groups.

Chelsea had the easier of things, showing early signs of dominating Danish champions FC Nordsjaelland. The underdogs had trouble matching the Blues’ early pressure, though by the middle of the first half, FCN were holding enough of the ball to set up in Chelsea’s end and ask a few questions. Had Chelsea not scored before halftime, this match could have been destined for a 0-0, the holders faced with a newly-confident underdog coming out of halftime. Instead, a well-executed goal eventually put in by Juan Mata gave the Blues a halftime lead.

More: Snap judgments on Tuesday’s action

In the second half, Nordsjaelland eventually broke. Chelsea got goals from David Luiz, Mata, and Ramires, leaving the final score at a deceptive 4-0.

The Danes were better than that, and Chelsea deserve credit for putting up a lopsided score against a team that was more than minnows. Ultimately, though, this is just holding serve. The Blues were expected to get these points, got them, and now move on to back-to-back games against Group E co-leading Shakhtar Donetsk. Chelsea’s well-equipped to handle Shakhtar, but as the Ukrainian champions showed today at Juventus, they’ll be formidable.

In Romania, Manchester United got an early scare, conceding an goal that sparked memories of last year’s Champions League disappointment. Take away the score, however, and the match was only slightly different than Chelsea’s. Both English giants were feeling the bite of an emboldened host. While Cluj looked more dangerous than Nordsjaelland, the challenge remained the same. Despite the deficit, United just needed to keep playing their game.

It quickly paid off. Robin van Persie headed United even before half time. In the second half, a beautiful pass from Wayne Rooney produced and unstoppable volley from van Persie. Combined with 65 percent possession, it was a well-earned win for United, 2-1.

That doesn’t mean the Red Devils won’t be in for some criticism, especially after giving Cluj a chance to draw even near the end. Nobody who criticized United before this match will be convinced. But Manchester United (and their fans) should be used to the same qualms they’ve continually heard in the post-Ronaldo era. They never look good. They never win by enough. Their midfield’s never that strong. Other teams control matches. Their defense is leaky. They need to settle on a goalkeeper. Overall, they’re very overrated.

All of which might be true, but season-after-season, the team continues to put up results. They posted 89 points in last year’s Premier League. Two years ago, they won the league and made the Champions League final. As long as the team keeps producing those kind of results, criticisms are better seen as ways to improve, not reasons United aren’t good. They are clearly a good team.

There is, however, the little detail of them missing group stage in last year’s Champions League. Today went a long way to correcting that problem. Three good points on the road give them six through two rounds. The points also make last year look less like a pattern and more like an aberration.

Memphis jersey biggest seller in Premier League

during the Barclays Premier League match between XXX and XXX on September 26, 2015 in Manchester, United Kingdom.
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Memphis Depay‘s name has been printed on more Premier League jerseys than anybody else.

[ PHOTOS: Must-see Klopp merch ]

According to Kitbag.com, the Manchester United winger is the biggest climber on their top 10 list and fans have flocked to have “Memphis” printed on the back of their United jerseys.

The Dutch winger, 21, has had an up-and-down start to life at Old Trafford but that is not detracting fans from having Memphis, the name he prefers, emblazoned on the back of their shirts. Folks from an unnamed city in Tennessee, have you been buying lots of jerseys on the internet? No doubt the number of United fans in that region has sky-rocketed in the last few months. No doubt.

[ MORE: Dust settles, questions remain for USMNT ]  

Anyway, below is the list of the top 10 players name printed by Kitbag.

Top 10 selling jerseys worldwide

1. Lionel Messi – Barcelona
2. Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid
3. Memphis Depay – Manchester United
4. Bastian Schweinsteiger – Manchester United
5. Eden Hazard – Chelsea
6. Wayne Rooney – Manchester United
7. Neymar – Barcelona
8. Sergio Aguero – Manchester City
9. Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal
10. Philippe Coutinho – Liverpool

New Arsenal contracts on the way for Alexis, Ozil

Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil
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Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are both in line to be handed new contracts by Arsenal.

The attacking duo, who have been in fine form in recent weeks after slow starts to the season, both have current deals which run until 2018 but the Gunners are said to be keen on locking the attacking midfielders down to contract extensions.

[ MORE: Dust settles, questions remain for USMNT ] 

According to the Daily Mail, Sanchez is set to become Arsenal’s top earner with a new deal on the table in excess of $220,000.

Sanchez is currently being paid $197,000 per week but is not the highest paid player at the Emirates, with Ozil taking that mantle and earning a cool $215,000 a week. Speaking of Ozil, talks over a new deal for him are also being prepared by Arsene Wenger and club officials with the German playmaker finally showing consistency this season, which is his third campaign in the Premier League following his $63 million move from Real Madrid in 2013.

[ MORE: Sanchez, Ozil dazzle in Arsenal’s win vs. United ]

Sanchez, 26, missed most of Arsenal’s preseason after winning the 2015 Copa America with Chile on home soil this summer, but he is now back in his groove and the former Barcelona forward has scored five goals in his last two PL games and seven times in his last four outings for club and country.

Ozil scored his first goal of the season against Manchester United in Arsenal’s recent 3-0 win, as Ozil and Sanchez ripped United’s defense apart in a stunning 19-minute spell at the beginning of the match.

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With Theo Walcott locked down to a new long-term contract in the summer, Wenger now looks to have found his go-to front three as Walcott, Sanchez and Ozil possess a superb combination of pace, power and trickery. It’s no surprise to hear reports about new deals being prepared for Sanchez and Ozil, as the duo have that extra bit of class which has seen the Gunners win back-to-back FA Cups and comfortably finish in the top four of the PL.

Now, can they kick on and contend for the title this season? If Sanchez and Ozil stay fit and in-form, there’s no reason why not.