Manchester United v Newcastle United - Premier League

Flawed and fabulous, Manchester United gives up three goals in Boxing Day win

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The defending remained terrible, which made the outcome foreseeably dramatic. In hindsight, it was foolish to dismiss any Manchester United game (including today’s) as being predictable. With the firepower to overcome any foolishness at the back, the Premier League’s leaders will forever have to out-shoot their opponents, something that’s lead them to the top of an entertaining if highly flawed Premier League.

Today was no different. David de Gea deserved an assist on Newcastle’s opener, his poor block pushing a long range shot right into the path of James Perch (the only onrushing attacker). A 29th minute Jonny Evans’ own goal restored the Magpies’ lead shortly after the Red Devils’ defender had equalized. After new goal scoring machine Patrice Evra (up to four goals on the season) pulled United back, Papiss Demba Cisse put Newcastle in front with 22 minutes left.

But then Manchester United did Manchester United things. Robin van Persie hit his league-leading 13th goal three minutes later, bringing the Red Devils back for the third time. Then as regulation time ended, Javier Hernández beat Tim Krul low to deliver full points, giving United a seven-point lead and one more point than they had at the same juncture last year.

If any 4-3 result was predictable, this was it.

MORE: Wayne Rooney left out of Boxing Day squad

There’s no more entertaining team in the world right now than Manchester United, adulation which serves as a double edged sword. If they don’t have the best set of attackers in the world, they certainly have the most clinical, the team posting an amazing conversion rate throughout their campaign. But their defense is nowhere near good enough to sustain their style of play, particularly on days when Michael Carrick is asked to carry Paul Scholes in midfield.

Not good enough to hold leads, Manchester United provides opponents no reason to revere them the way Barcelona and Bayern Munich are esteemed. If you go after them, you will score on the Red Devils. Your best chance to win is to hope they’ll sit on a lead (as they did against Manchester City) or fail to convert the chances they create (as they did against Everton and Norwich).

MORE: Hart, Mancini failings on display for City

They’re the perfect leaders of a league that has proved enticing if extremely flawed. As the league’s performances in Champions League showed, there are no great teams in England, but there are a number (like Liverpool, Fulham, Southampton, and even Chelsea) whose entertainment value transcends their results.

Were those clubs (or Manchester United) in Spain or Germany, they would sit lower in the standings. But England doesn’t have to be the highest quality competition every year. Let leagues ebb and flow, especially if they’re going to offset their drops with fun factor that augments the best talent in the world.

And no doubt, today’s game at Old Trafford wasn’t the highest quality soccer. But it was fun. It was exactly why the Premier League is the most popular league in the world, if not necessarily the best.

MLS Snapshot: Colorado Rapids 1-2 Real Salt Lake

SANDY UT - MARCH 14: Olmes Garcia #13 of Real Salt Lake celebrates his goal during their game against the Philadelphia Union at Rio Tinto Stadium on March 14, 2015 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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The game in 100 words (or less): Real Salt Lake stays alive in the hunt for a playoff berth in the Western Conference with a crucial 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids. After falling behind early, RSL scored twice before halftime and held onto the lead for the rest of the match, moving within three points of the final playoff spot in the West. Real Salt Lake has three matches remaining, including a massive clash against the Portland Timbers, which will pretty much decide their season. For Colorado, it’s another year without playoff soccer.

[ MORE: FC Dallas clinches playoff berth ]

Three moments that mattered

16′ — Doyle heads Colorado into the lead — The former Premier League man gave the home side an early lead, thanks to a powerful header from quite a bit out. Sean St. Ledger played in a cross, where Doyle snapped a header into the top corner past Nick Rimando.

33′ — Joao Plata bends in the free kick — Trailing 1-0, Joao Plata drew RSL level with a brilliant free kick. Plata’s shot dipped over the wall and under the crossbar, as Clint Irwin stood helpless in goal for Colorado.

43′ — Mulholland fires home a volley to put RSL ahead — Luke Mulholland scored his first goal of the season, and it was a beauty. A corner kick popped out to the midfielder at the top of the box, as he rifled a shot off the bounce and into the side netting.

Man of the match: Luke Mulholland

Goalscorers: Doyle (16′), Plata (33′), Mulholland (43′)

Wenger lauds team spirit following Arsenal’s big win

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Arsenal put on a superb performance against Manchester United today, flying out to a three-goal lead in the opening 20 minutes of the match.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 3-0 Manchester United ]

United was stunned by the fast-paced, free-flowing Arsenal attack, unable to recover from the Gunners’ early dominance.

All of this came on the heels of a disappointing loss to Olympiacos in the Champions League, after which many questioned manager Arsene Wenger and his side.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Arsenal’s win vs. Manchester United ]

Following the big 3-0 win at the Emirates, Wenger praised his team’s spirit, saying there were outstanding performances throughout the side.

You go from Petr Cech up to Theo Walcott, and we had only outstanding performances. Sometimes we have that magic side in our game.

[Against Olympiacos] maybe we lacked a little bit of urgency and discipline, and that’s why we lost the game. But let’s not forget, last Saturday we won 5-2 at Leicester. Today we beat Man United 3-0.

[The players] have shown that we have an outstanding spirit in the squad. To respond the way we did after what happened to us, you need to have an exceptional spirit.

The Gunners’ performance today immediately silenced all the critics, as Wenger’s side put out on a display that many have been waiting for all season. The combination play of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott was brilliant, as Santi Cazorla continued to impress in the center of the midfield.

Wenger’s teams have not always been known to show strong heart and resiliency, but that’s exactly what they showed today against a Manchester United side that was in great form. Now sitting second on the table, Arsenal continues to climb up the Premier League.