Shinji Kagawa came into today’s match with two league goals in his Manchester United career. Over the course of 42 minutes, he pushed that to five, leading Manchester United to a 4-0 victory over Norwich City on Saturday.
The win moves Manchester United 15 points clear in England ahead of Manchester City’s Monday visit to Aston Villa. Even if the defending champions pick up three points at Villa Park, United would need to drop a point per round from now through May to lose this title.
Today’s game gave us more reason to think that’s impossible. Manchester United struggled through the first half, their frequently flawed selves plodding through a match they should have dominated. They were at home against a limited side. They should have blown the doors off this one in the first half-hour.
As the teams approached halftime, it was still 0-0, and only Kagawa’s late first half opener gave United a lead at intermission. Early in the second half, it didn’t get much better, but after Alex Ferguson changed things up, tweaks that included bringing on Danny Welbeck for the team’s leading scorer (Robin van Persie).
United went on to put up their number. Kagawa scored in the 76th and 87th minutes, with Wayne Rooney adding a stoppage time goal to his two assists.
Let’s put that another way. Ferguson has so much talent at his disposal, he was able to take off Robin ven Persie, many people’s best player in England, and his team got better. Even when his best player’s slumping, Ferguson has enough to dominate England.
The win continues an undefeated run in all competitions that’s lastest since Dec. 5. That streak gets tested Tuesday against Real Madrid.
In league, Manchester United hasn’t lost since their Nov. 17 trip to Carrow Road. They redeemed that today, their 22nd win in 27 games.
But can he grow a beard?
Manchester United attacker Marcus Rashford is known for his darting runs and clever finishes, but he grew up begging to get between the sticks with a lot of love for an American.
“Howard was my idol. I used to have a little Tim Howard shirt.”
[ MORE: Dempsey still wants USMNT role ]
Rashford said he’d ask his youth coach to allow him to play goal so he could mimic his hero, who at the time was the Manchester United backstop and now USMNT legend.
The 20-year-old was nine when Howard left Old Trafford, but it hasn’t changed his enjoyment for tending goal. Rashford joked that he’s got to be the choice to replace David De Gea in case of a post-sub emergency.
David Moyes‘ first match in charge of West Ham United sees a striker change at Vicarage Road against testy Watford (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
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Andy Carroll will be up top, and Andre Ayew is hurt to boot.
Marco Silva leads Watford’s hosts with Adrian Mariappa, Christian Kabasele, and Miguel Britos at the back of a 3-5-2.
Watford: Gomes; Mariappa, Kabasele, Britos; Femenía, Cleverley, Doucouré, Zeegelaar; Hughes, Richarlison; Gray. Subs: Karnezis, Prödl, Holebas, Capoue, Pereyra, Carrillo, Okaka.
West Ham United: Hart, Zabaleta, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Noble, Kouyate, Obiang, Arnautovic, Lanzini, Carroll. Subs: Adrian, Masuaku, Rice, Fernandes, Quina, Sakho, Martinez.
Clint Dempsey is tied with Landon Donovan for the most goals in USMNT history, and seems set to continue with the side in some capacity as he threatens to stand alone in American history.
[ MLS: Steve Bruce to Miami? ]
The 34-year-old striker spoke with Steve Zakuani on the Sounders’ web site (video below) and said he’s happy to accept continued call-ups should they arrive from USSF headquarters.
“We’ll see what happens,” Dempsey said.” I mean, in terms of what I’ve been able to accomplish with the national team, I’m at peace with it. It’s not really about me. It’s about a group of guys that want to be moving forward.
“If there’s an opportunity that comes where you get to play a role and try to help and I’m feeling good and I’m playing well, then yeah, you’ll never say no. But you know, if the call never comes I’m still happy, still at peace, and focused on being here and trying to make the most of the time I have left.”
There are a number of players whose national team futures should be in question, but Dempsey is in a different class. No one has debated his motor or fuel, and his engine is still there (to complete the Springsteen-esque car comparisons, he remains one of the only things that qualifiers as chrome-wheeled, fuel-injected, and steppin’ out over the line).
If anything, he plays too close to the edge. That’s not something I see as one of the Yanks’ problems right now, so perhaps Dempsey needs to be viewed like Cuauhtemoc Blanco or Carlos Ruiz as a CONCACAF guy who’s around as long as he wants to be a part of it.
I mean, shoot, if Dempsey wants to keep passing the fire to Christian Pulisic and now Weston McKennie, there are far worse ambassadors for the program. He’s the most accomplished field player in recent history, and will be able to share so much when it comes to balancing club and country.
Heck, maybe he needs to be the late era Ryan Giggs of the 2018-2022 USMNT.
He’s got the same initials as South Beach, you know?
Steve Bruce is being tipped to be the first manager of David Beckham’s Miami MLS outfit, according to The Sun.
[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup ]
It’s going to be some time before Bruce would have the opportunity. The 56-year-old former Manchester United star has Aston Villa in a Football League Championship promotion push, and Miami does not even have a start date for life on an MLS pitch.
Of course, managerial life tends to be short, so there’s no guarantee Bruce will have a job at any point during the build-up to Miami in MLS. And several expansion clubs have named their coach very early in the team building process (Jason Kreis and Bob Bradley amongst others).
Bruce on MLS’ parity-driven playing field, if not as one of the big spenders, would be intriguing to watch. He’s a terrific man motivator and has the connections to combine with Beckham to make something special happen in terms of personnel.