#FlawedButFabulous update: Another day, another late goal, another win for Manchester United

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For the same reason you won’t turn off a Manchester United game when they’re trying to hold a 2-1 lead over one of the worst teams in the league, you don’t doubt the Red Devils as time ticks away on a 0-0. Even after he’s spent 26 years at United, we still don’t know how, exactly, Alex Ferguson gets his teams so supremely prepared for these situations, but he does.

That’s why it was not only expected by anti-climatic when Wayne Rooney scored in the 79th minute at Craven Cottage, giving United a 1-0 win over Fulham. It was too early by Manchester United’s standards. Where’s the drama?

That came a few minutes before. Rafael da Silva, defending the right post on a corner kick,  had to jump to head the go ahead goal off the Red Devil line. A couple of exchanges later and a long pass out of United’s end sent Wayne Rooney hopping behind the ball into the Fulham box. Just inside the area he pulled up and opened his right foot onto a shot he put around Aaron Hughes and into Mark Schwarzer’s net. Game.

MORE: Chelsea plays Mr. Hyde at Newcastle

Again they were flawed, nearly going down late to a team that’s struggled all season. And again they were fabulous, a well executed counter giving them full points. For all their spells that lack control and the complains about their defending, Manchester United is still 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League ahead of tomorrow’s Manchester City-Liverpool match.

But that defending which was so error-prone mid-week and has been so suspect all season  held up today. There were nervous moments — off the line clearances from both Rafael and Robin van Persie – but the central pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans played well (particularly Evans, who recorded an assist on the only goal). If the Red Devils can keep two of Ferdinand, Evans, and Nemanja Vidic healthy at all times, they may have a chance in Champions League against Real Madrid.

MORE, EPL Roundup: Fellaini England’s best?

Fulham also had a series of nice defensive plays in a game that should have had more than one goal, one that played out in very United fashion. Against the standard that we normally judge title contenders, giving up near-as many chances as you create would be a problem, particularly against a lower-half team.

But we’re used to finding new ways to judge Manchester United. And against those standards, Saturday’s was just a typical Red Devil performance.

EFL Cup Tues. preview: Spurs-Reds, plenty of non-PL participants

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 27:  Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur in action during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on August 27, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
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Sixteen teams remain in the battle to clinch the Premier League’s first European place of next season’s tournament, and we have some tremendous battles on tap for Tuesday and Wednesday in the EFL Cup (formerly the League Cup).

Today we focus on the 24 hours ahead of us, focusing on Tuesday’s five matches and allowing the Manchester Derby, West Ham-Chelsea, and Southampton-Sunderland to percolate a bit.

[ MORE: Finland’s “Leicester” gets it done ]

That’s not to say we don’t have a pair of giants dueling on Tuesday. Liverpool is three wins away from a return to the final, where the Reds fell in penalties last season. Standing in their way is Tottenham Hotspur, a deep squad which won’t have to worry much about a quick turnaround from Saturday.

That said, the Reds didn’t have to play at all last week, while this will be Spurs third match in a week. Spurs have been to the EFL Cup final thrice since 2008, and one of two teams (Chelsea) to make three finals this decade. Liverpool will start Simon Mignolet between the sticks.

The remaining four EFL Cup matches include at least one team outside the Premier League.

Arsenal will host USMNT midfielder Danny Williams and Reading.

— Hull City is off to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City.

— Newcastle United is leading the Championship, and will get a visit from Preston North End in the first of two matches between the two sides this week.

— Norwich City will pay a visit to Elland Road and Garry Monk‘s Leeds United.

FC Dallas gave injured Mauro Diaz a home champagne shower (video)

FRISCO, TX - APRIL 12:  Mauro Diaz #10 of the FC Dallas controls the ball against the Seattle Sounders FC on April 12, 2014 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
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FC Dallas has two jewels of its triple crown all set, having claimed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield.

One of the key reasons the club was able to sustain its pace this season was Mauro Diaz, 25, who shone even as Fabian Castillo shockingly left the club before the stretch run.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

A River Plate product, Diaz gave FCD seven goals and 15 assists over 32 appearances before tearing an achilles tendon last week.

Diaz underwent season-ending surgery, but his teammates made sure he was a part of the champagne celebration by heading to his very nice-looking house for an early morning visit.

[ MORE: Pre-playoff power rankings ]


VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week – Matchday 9

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There was some eye-popping moments in the Premier League this weekend, yet still very little debate who shone brightest.

Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored a pair of Goal of the Month competitors in the same day in the Potters’ 2-0 win at Hull City on Monday.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

The first was a curling wonder from distance, while the second came from a bit closer as the big-calfed Swiss attacker bamboozled the Hull wall and goalkeeper.

The Potters are up to 16th in the Premier League table with nine points.

Finnish fans celebrate surprise title for IFK Mariehamn

IFK Mariehamm
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HELSINKI (AP) Fans of IFK Mariehamn have gathered in the main square of the remote Finnish town to celebrate their team’s surprise league title.

“I feel very proud,” the club’s managing director, Peter Mattsson, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday, adding that “thousands” were expected to turn up for the party.

Watched by more than 4,000, Mariehamn clinched the Finnish title on Sunday with a 2-1 home victory over Ilves, from the industrial city of Tampere.

[ MORE: Full MLS Cup bracket ]

Mariehamn held off 11 other teams, including the traditionally strong Helsinki club, HJK, and defending champion SJK from western Finland. It ended three points clear of second-placed HJK for its first league title.

Local media dubbed the team “Leicester” after the surprise English Premier League champions last season.

Mariehamn, which has a population of 11,500, is the capital of the Aland islands off the southwestern Finnish coast