Manchester United celebrate, but where does 20th league title rank?

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No doubt there will be a few sore heads in the red half of Manchester this morning.

That’s because the title celebrations continued long into the night as Manchester United grabbed the EPL crown back from ‘noisy neighbors’ Manchester City in emphatic fashion. The Red Devils sealed the 2012-13 trophy with a 3-0 win against Aston Villa on Monday night at Old Trafford, clinching the hallowed title with four games to go.

Defender Rio Ferdinand tweeted out this picture of pretty much the whole squad having a drink to celebrate late last night. And incredibly for Ryan Giggs, this is the 13th league title in his United career.

Robin van Persie’s clinical first-half hat trick sealed the title in front of their own fans, as United’s target now switches to registering a record points haul. They can better Chelsea 2004-05 record of 95 points in a season by winning their remaining four games.

So after a stroll in the park for much of this campaign, where does Manchester United’s latest league title rank alongside the others?

Well, it’s right up there. Many wrote United off after Manchester City grabbed the crown so dramatically on the final day of the 2011-12 season. But Sir Alex Ferguson splashed the cash to get RVP on board and United have won 27 of their 34 EPL games this season. I’d say this title win ranks in the top five for United since Ferguson took charge. The 1998-99 crown was crucial, due to it being part of the famous treble, and the first few EPL titles spearheaded by Eric Cantona in the mid 90s were significant in establishing the dynasty that remains today. But this season’s success isn’t far behind, as United have roared back to silence Roberto Mancini’s Man City side by recording their 13th EPL crown in 20 years with consummate ease.

However this United team isn’t a vintage one. Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and RVP have all gone through long barren spells in front of goal and there’s been plenty of scrappy 1-0 and 2-1 wins along the way. But after their acrimonious Champions League exit to Real Madrid, United have rallied admirably to accelerate away from the rest of the EPL with professional and focused displays.

The fact that they’re taking the title away from Manchester City makes it that much sweeter, and with a plethora of players all under the age of 23 — including Tom Cleverley, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Rafael, David de Gea and Danny Welbeck — it seems as though Ferguson’s rebuild has set United up for yet another decade of dominance.

UEFA: Wales in trouble; Spain dominates; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear at the top midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.

Dele Alli to miss next three European matches, UCL or UEL

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Tottenham Hotspur is primed to qualify for a second-straight UEFA Champions League campaign this year, and will have to start that sophomore run without Dele Alli.

The 20-year-old playmaker has banned for his next three matches. If Spurs finish fourth, that would mean both qualifying matches and an additional match.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ]

If they finish higher, Dele will miss the first three group stage matches.

Dele was shown red for a tackle on Brecht Dejaegere in Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Gent in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, as Tottenham left the tournament.

Men in Blazers podcast: Man City-Liverpool review, USMNT preview

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Rog and Davo recap the Top Four battle between Manchester City and Liverpool, ask (again) whether it’s time for Arsene to go, and break down two of the most important USMNT games in modern history.

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