Manchester United's Van Persie shoots and fails to score against Queen's Park Rangers during their English Premier League soccer match in London

Considering conventional wisdom as Manchester United cruise to another victory

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In this week’s gap between Champions League and the weekend’s league action, the debate resurfaced: How bad are Manchester United?

The discussion’s been a constant in recent years, reaching an apex last season when the Red Devils failed to make it out of their Champions League group. That the Red Devils still nearly won the Premier League was little consolation when their May collapse gifted the title to their crosstown rivals.

It’s a strange discussion given Manchester United’s obvious quality and successes, but when you watch matches like today’s against Queens Park Rangers, you see the point. The Red Devils cruised to a 2-0 victory thanks to an early goal from Rafael and an insurance tally from Ryan Giggs, but given how poor QPR was throughout the match, you’d expect a team of United’s reputation to put them to the proverbial sword. Instead, it was just another day at the office for the mercurial titans.

The curious thing about this round of  discussion is United’s recent results. After a fall where their defense seemed as weak as a severed Achilles, United’s only three goals in their last six games. That stretch includes a surprise draw at the Santiago Bernabeu, where the Red Devils held Real Madrid to one goal.

This is a team that hasn’t lost since Dec. 15. Even if the dissection is apt in general, it’s still ill-timed now.

(MORE: This is a spectacular hit from Rafael.)

The complaints seems to have two foundations, neither independent of the other. First, United generally looks unimpressive, as they did today. Against a QPR team playing that badly, an elite team should put up a number. Second, United’s midfield is not as strong as other European powers. In an era of midfield primacy (at least, as far as tactical analysis is concerned), this is a capital offense.

From the linked piece:

The midfield, however, having been the basis for success of Fergie’s previous best teams, is constantly pinpointed as the weak link of the current crop, and it’s difficult to argue against that theory.

source: ReutersI’d like to offer an alternative: Maybe this now conventional wisdom is wrong. Maybe Manchester United’s consistently stellar results (including in Champions League, where there’s been but one, obvious blip) indicate Alex Ferguson knows something we don’t. Perhaps United’s legendary penchant for timely goals is indicative of a philosophy that prioritizes moments over spells.

Instead of the all-clock dominance we see from Barcelona and (most of the time) Bayern Munich, Ferguson may subscribe to a view that prefers spending most of the match waiting to exploit moments. Seventy minutes of conservations, 20 minutes of power, perhaps? Unlike a typical implementation of catenaccio, United seeks to exploit in spells they define rather than in moments defined by others’ failures.

Whether that hypothesis is correct or not, it at least does a better job of describing United’s success. The constant discussion of United’s ironic faults in the face of their perpetual results only highlights the dialog’s faults.

If you’re continuing to try and describe why something fails to meet expectations, shouldn’t you eventually question the root of those expectations? Why do people expect United to fail?

(MORE: Style points, schmyle points for Arsenal.)

The obvious irony here is the dialog itself. Bellicosely describing a team whose grandiosity should be undermined by an obvious flaw, the discussion’s developed an obvious flaw of its own. It’s not considering alternatives. It’s not allowing for another vision, one that would discard narrowly applied tenants and consider something that would more readily explain unexpected results. While exhaustively examining Manchester United, the tactical Zeitgeist has failed to examine itself.

All of United’s faults where on display today at Loftus Road, but maybe they’re not faults at all. No, United didn’t put up a huge win against QPR, but this is a team that’s now 15 points clear in England, just got a result in Madrid, and has been to three Champions League finals in five years.

We might want to reconsider our wisdom.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Tight at the bottom

during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Manchester City at St Mary's Stadium on May 1, 2016 in Southampton, England.
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Week 37 of the Premier League season is here and we have a full slate of action.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live online ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Click play on the videos below to hear my score prediction and preview of each game.

[ MORE: Leicester news after PL win ] 

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Man City 3-1 Arsenal – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

West Ham 3-1 Swansea City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Bournemouth 3-1 West Brom – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Liverpool 2-0 Watford – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Leicester City 2-2 Everton – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, USA) – [STREAM]

Sunderland 3-2 Chelsea – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, USA) – [STREAM]

Norwich City 1-2 Man United – (Saturday, 7:45 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Crystal Palace 2-1 Stoke City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Aston Villa 1-2 Newcastle United – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Tottenham 1-2 Southampton– (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

WATCH: Premier League TV schedule, stream links – Week 37

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The penultimate week of the 2015-16 Premier League season is here.

[ MORE: Top 5 storylines to look for in PL ]

It all kicks off at Carrow Road on Saturday as relegation haunted Norwich City host top four chasing Manchester United (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra). Alex Neil‘s men beat United at Old Trafford in December. Can they do the double to boost their survival hopes? Then already relegation Aston Villa host relegation threatened Newcastle United (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) at Villa Park. Rafael Benitez’s side are unbeaten in four and must win this game to boost their survival hopes. At the same time Sunderland host Chelsea (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on USA Network and online via Live Extra) as they aim to boost their own survival hopes.

[ WATCH: Premier League via Live Extra ]

Rounding things off on Saturday, the champions Leicester City host Everton (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on USA Network and online via Live Extra) as the Foxes will hoist the trophy aloft at the King Power Stadium. It will be a magical occasion.

On Sunday Tottenham Hotspur will look to dust themselves up and grab a win against Southampton (Watch live, 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) which will all but secure second place. Ronald Koeman‘s Saints can still finish fifth and qualify for Europe. Plenty on the line.

Week 37 comes to a close on Sunday with a huge encounter between two teams fighting to finish in the top four: Manchester City and Arsenal (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) who go head-to-head at the Etihad Stadium. Arsene Wenger‘s side will clinch the top three with a win, while City will be reeling after their Champions League exit in midweek and they have Manchester United and West Ham chasing them for fourth place.

You can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports Live Extra and theNBC Sports Live Extra App.

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here. They are available soon after the final whistle, but rights limit us to a certain number each week. Looking for game highlights? Try this. Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.

FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday

7:45 a.m. ET: Norwich City vs. Manchester United – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Aston Villa vs. Newcastle United – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Sunderland vs. Chelsea – USA [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. West Brom – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Stoke City  – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Ham vs. Swansea City – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
12:30 p.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Everton – USA [STREAM]

Sunday

8:30 a.m. ET: Tottenham vs. Southampton – NBCSN [STREAM]
11 a.m. ET: Liverpool vs. Watford – Premier League Extratime [STREAM]
11 a.m. ET: Manchester City vs. Arsenal – NBCSN [STREAM]

VIDEO: The Brotherly Rivalry – Liverpool vs. Everton

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The guys at KICK have produced this awesome digital short looking at the most recent Merseyside derby.

[ MORE: Leicester news after PL win ] 

When it comes to Liverpool vs. Everton, families are divided and the two brothers featured in this piece tell us what it’s like to support rivals and live under the same roof.

Remember: Anfield and Goodison Park are less than a mile apart.

[ WATCH: Stream every PL game via Live Extra

Hit play on the video above to watch it play out.

What do other Premier League clubs think about Leicester’s title win?

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It is the most incredible title win in Premier League history.

Leicester City came out of nowhere to win the 2015-16 title in one of the greatest sporting upsets of all time.

[ MORE: Leicester news after PL win ]

With that news still sinking in, how did managers and players of other clubs feel about the Foxes being the unexpected champs?

Overall, pretty much everyone is happy.

[ MORE: Ranieri the mastermind ]

Below is a look at what a leading figure from each club in the PL had to say about Leicester’s title win.


Arsenal – Manager, Arsene Wenger

“Congratulations to Ranieri and all the players. It’s a remarkable achievement and it has also been done in an unusual way which gives us food for thought.Their success is based on team spirit. They had low possession and that is very unusual.

But they were strong in what they did. They defended very well, they were very clinical and they were very efficient defensively. That was unexpected. Is that a trend in the coming season? I don’t know. If you look at their results they lost only three games and that’s remarkable looking at thequality of their competitors.”

Aston Villa – Former manager, Remi Garde

“When you see Leicester now, it’s crazy and unbelievable, nobody could have seen that 12 months ago. We should be inspired by that.”

Bournemouth – Manager Eddie Howe

“I think there is only going to be one Leicester. Who knows what the future holds, but I think it would be difficult for anyone to do that again. That’s why the odds were what they were at the start of the season. I know you have to dream and have that vision and hope, but I do think it was a one-off.”

Chelsea – Captain, John Terry

“Congratulations to Leicester because they have been superb this year. It still hurts us losing the league after winning it last year. It hurts us conceding it to Leicester but we’ll be back next year.”

Crystal Palace – Manager, Alan Pardew

“Leicester won the league after 36 games and for 10 games last season they were the best team in the league. So for the best part of 50 games they’ve been the best team in the country. All this about things falling their way is not quite correct. So they deserve all the plaudits they get. I’m glad they’ve done it early because they can enjoy it now. I think Leicester’s title win is already impacting on other managers,” said Pardew. “You can only name about five or six managers not under pressure in the Premier League.

“At the top clubs it’s had an impact definitely. Leicester have shattered the glass ceiling that I for one thought would probably be impossible to break. They’ve gone and done it and it’s amazing. We all know it’s unique. It puts more pressure on those of us lucky enough to be managing in the Premier League, so we’ll look forward to that. Football isn’t all logic. It’s almost like some stardust has fallen on Leicester.”

Everton – Manager, Roberto Martinez

“They have been a real inspiration in terms of a winning team, and not just in football, throughout sport. To have that intensity and that drive and, against all odds, it has been the real fairy tale of football and sport in general in the modern game.

Liverpool – Manager, Jurgen Klopp

“It is the best story ever.”

Manchester City – Captain, Vincent Kompany

Manchester United – Manager, Louis Van Gaal

“I have great respect for the champions Leicester City who deserved their league win. You cannot say that if we didn’t have our injuries then we would have been first. No, this would be disrespectful to the champions who totally deserve it in my eyes.”

Newcastle United – Winger, Andros Townsend

Norwich City – Midfielder, Gary O'Neil

Southampton – Manager, Ronald Koeman

“What you see in the Premier league now is that there is not a big difference… that gap is not so big and that gap is showed by Leicester, by West Ham and by Southampton last season and this season. The achievement of Leicester is great for football.”

Stoke City – Manager, Mark Hughes

“Whether or not it is unprecedented, are we going to see more so-called unfashionable clubs getting to the top of the pile, who knows? But it’s a great effort that Leicester have been able to do it with a couple of games to spare. They deserve great credit for that.”

Sunderland

Swansea City – Manager, Francesco Guidolin

“In the future the money in the Premier League goes to all teams, so a good squad, good manager and club can make a difference. It is possible to have a project and play for important targets. But it is not easy in the Premier League, you can do it one time (like Leicester) after 20 years. I won’t call it a miracle because it is a true story for Leicester. A team can play for third, fourth or fifth, but to win it is very difficult.”

Tottenham Hotspur – Striker, Harry Kane

Watford – Midfielder, Adlene Guedioura

“I think this story will inspire not only footballers but everyone because it is something unbelievable they did. Knowing Riyad Mahrez and talking to him they were not thinking about being in the top three or top ten this season. When they finished at the top it was something unbelievable. It’s a great story but especially it’s a good example that everything is reachable if you have a lot of motivation, a good spirit in the team and a manager that brings people to the top.”

West Ham United – Manager, Slaven Bilic

“They give hope to not only every football but every sporting club in the world.”

West Bromwich Albion – Manager, Tony Pulis

“You have to give credit for Leicester for getting those players. Everybody is looking for those type of players but Leicester have gone and got them. The great thing about Leicester is they’ve played like a team and once they built up momentum everybody at that football club bought into it.”