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Quick Six: City rebukes United, Sunderland sacks Di Canio, and the other storylines from the Premier League weekend

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1. COULDN’T HAVE BEEN WORSE FOR MOYES, MANCHESTER UNITED

It’s not just that they were blown out. Or allowed four goals. Or did both of those things against a club that is among their biggest rivals. It’s that all those goals came in 50 minutes, and at the points where his side needed to be strongest — right before halftime, in the opening minutes of the second — David Moyes’s team capitulated. If he didn’t have 15 years of successful coaching experience, we’d swear Moyes was out of his depth today. And maybe he was.

The impact of Sunday’s 4-1 loss at Manchester City will build on Deadline Day, when a disastrous close to the summer transfer window cracked faith in the Moyes-Ed Woodward tandem. Poor performances against Chelsea and Liverpool had already shaken the foundation, but with the club embarrassed on Sept. 3, fans started seeing implications that transcended the field. This was not the United they’ve known.

Now the embarrassment creeps onto the pitch, though having suffered through a 6-1 loss in this derby two years ago, United fans know how to deal with that. What they don’t know how to deal with is the doubts. What experience does a Red Devil fan have with the uncertainties of an unproven, under-performing boss?

Part of the today’s story should really be able Manchester City: about Kun Agüero’s greatness; about Yaya Touré’s persistent influence; about Vincent Kompany’s influence. But we’re in uncharted waters with United, meaning their troubles are going to dominate headlines.

Until Moyes can prove he’s the right man for the job, that’s where the story will stay: In the headlines.

[MORE: Manchester City’s star attackers steal the show in rampant Derby win]

[MORE: Vincent Kompany vs. Wayne Rooney: Both players excel in heavyweight clash]

[MORE: Manuel Pellegrini hails Manchester City, after resounding victory against old foes United]

2. PAOLO DI CANIO WINS PREMIER LEAGUE SACK RACE

Sunderland looked to be in bad shape while Di Canio was putting his squad together, but we all gave him an evil genius benefit of the doubt. After the first game of the year, where Sunderland lost at home despite giving up only one shot on goal, we gave home some more time. And the draw at Southampton? That was okay, too. But multi-goal losses at Crystal Palace and at home to Arsenal produced a momentum that made Saturday’s 3-0 loss at West Brom untenable. Di Canio is not the guy you want bossing a fledgling operation.

This was the time to make a move. It’s been a disappointing start, but they’re only three points from 17th place. There’s still time to salvage the season, especially if your plan hinges on giving a new boss three months to evaluate talent ahead of a winter overhaul. But you can’t let Di Canio stick around and berate the team into the ground and expect a winter turnaround.

So that’s what’s next for the Black Cats: A new boss. What’s next for Di Canio? Having started his managerial career at Swindon Town, he’s shown he’s not afraid of more humble surroundings. Somebody, somewhere in the Football League will give him another chance. And having managed only 12 games at the top level (2-7-3 record), it’s unlikely Di Canio’s been made to believe he can’t be a good Premier League boss.

3. ARSENAL, TOTTENHAM TAKE DIFFERENT ROUTES TO THE TOP

North London occupies the top of the table after five rounds, Arsenal’s superior goal difference giving them first place ahead of Spurs, but both teams are off to identical 4-1-0 starts. That, however, is where the similarities end.

With 11 goals in five games, Arsenal’s ridden the league’s second-best attack to the top, their 3-1, Sunday win over visiting Stoke showing an added dimension to their game. A team that normally lacks a set piece threat has become dangerous thanks to Mesut Özil, whose dead ball service led to goals from Aaron Ramsey, Per Mertesacker, and Bacary Sagna. Geoff Cameron’s first Premier League goal prevented a clean sheet, but Arsenal still won comfortably.

Those three goals are more than half of Spurs’ haul through five games, yet André Villas-Boas’s team still posted their fourth win in five with a 1-0 result Sunday at Cardiff. It took a full 90 minutes to break through, but a game dominated by Spurs to the tune of 64 percent possession, 29-6 edge on shots, 12-0 advantage in shots on goal was decided by a piece of at-the-death brilliance finished by Paulinho.

It was only Spurs’ fifth goal of the year, something we’ve talked about before. They’re not converting control into chances, giving them huge room for improvement. That’s both scary (they can be so much better) and a cause for concern.

4. FOUR CENTRAL DEFENDER GAMBIT SEES LIVERPOOL FALL TO SAINTS

Brendan Rodgers was left longing for Luis Suárez’s return after Liverpool was shutout at home by Southampton, but had the Reds started their normal back line, perhaps Suárez’s absence wouldn’t have been as noticeable. Instead of picking José Enrique and Andre Wisdom at fullback, Liverpool’s manager went with central defenders in those roles: Mamadou Sakho on the left; Kolo Touré on the right. As Southampton retreated into their own end to play on the counter, Liverpool missed the option of throwing more attacking players forward, providing width that could have loosened Southampton’s defense.

The refereeing didn’t help. As Liverpool pressed early, seeking to break through Saints’ compact set up, Neil Swarbrick swallowed his whistle was Southampton’s physicality frustrated Daniel Sturridge. The referee’s 15 fouls tied with Mark Clattenburg at Cardiff City-Southampton for the fewest whistles among this weekend’s matches.

Regardless, this is a game that Liverpool would have expected to win, and in failing to do so, they’ve given back the advantage they earned by getting full points against Manchester United. Perhaps Luis Suárez would have made the difference, but on Saturday, he shouldn’t have needed to.

5. MOURINHO CONFESSING HE DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO COACH HIS SQUAD

By now you’ve read the excuse. Chelsea, who were 1-3-2 in their last six before Saturday’s visit from Fulham, don’t have a squad that plays Mourinho’s style, the returning coach has noted. He’s essentially having to break them in, taking the early part of this season identifying who does (and in the case of the omitted Juan Mata, does not) fit into his approach. The implication:  Chelsea are going to be slow out of the gate.

They were slow out of the gate again on Sunday, controlling play but failing to breakthrough during the first 45 minutes of their West London Derby. An early second half goal from Oscar eased the tension before a late tally from John Obi Mikel produced a comfortable 2-0 win. Still, this was an unconvincing performance against a bad team, one that could have gone another way if a Basel-esque squad were visiting Stamford Bridge.

The outcome played into Mourniho’s thesis, but we shouldn’t be so quick to believe the coach’s complaints. If we accept the common premise that great coaches adapt to their talent, then why isn’t Mounrinho better adapting to his? That isn’t to say that a new boss shouldn’t impose his style on a team, but he should be able to see when his style won’t improve a squad. He should have at least one alternative approach.

Perhaps Mourinho sees that but, like last year at Real Madrid, is looking long-term. Perhaps he’s willing to sacrifice September, October, and November with the hopes his team will be more responsive in March, April, and May.

But if that’s the case, the excuse isn’t the players’ limitations. It’s the manager’s inflexibility.

6. EVERTON: UNDEFEATED BUT STILL UNPROVEN

Perhaps the Toffees would found a way to beat Chelsea even if the Blues defense didn’t break down last week. And maybe they beat West Ham on Saturday if Mark Noble doesn’t get sent off. They haven’t lost this season, so maybe we should be giving Roberto Martínez’s team the benefit of the doubt. They are, after all, the only team in the league without a loss.

But to revert back to comparison from point two, Everton’s start is more like Tottenham’s than Arsenal’s. Whereas the Gunner have gone out and made people believe they have reached a certain level, Spurs have survived their shortcomings and remain a bit unproven. We’ll know more about them one they hit their next obstacle.

Everton, recording their second win in a row on Saturday, did what every good team needs to do: Take advantage of the opportunity they were presented. And they did the same thing when Chelsea came to Goodison. Whether they can start generating opportunities of their own and start winning games on more than their opponent’s mistakes has yet to be seen.

AT THE HALF: Man City 1-2 Monaco; Atleti lead in UCL round of 16

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Radamel Falcao Garcia of AS Monaco celebrates as he scores their first and equalising goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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We’re only halfway through the first leg of Manchester City versus Monaco, and Bayer Leverkusen versus Atletico Madrid, in the UEFA Champions League round of 16, but the goals are coming fast and furious from England to Germany.

[ MORE: Rooney left out of Man United’s Europa League squad (again) ]

Man City found themselves 1-0 up at the Etihad Stadium, when Leroy Sane turned on video-game mode to set up Raheem Sterling for the opening goal in the 28th minute. But, as City have so typically done in the Champions League, they began self-destructing four minutes later. Radamel Falcao‘s diving header brought Monaco level in the 32nd minute, and Kylian Mbappe’s finish over the head of Willy Caballero put the visitors 2-1 up eight minutes later.

[ MORE: FA Cup QF draw — Chelsea vs. Man United; Arsenal vs. Lincoln City ]

As for Tuesday’s other round-of-16 tie, Saul Niguez simultaneously opened the scoring and snatched the soul of every Bayer defender who dared to contest him. Antoine Griezmann added a second for Atleti, who hold their 2-0 lead at halftime, seven minutes later.

LIVE: UCL last 16 – Man City v Monaco; Bayer v Atletico Madrid

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his sides fourth goal during The Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between West Ham United and Manchester City at London Stadium on January 6, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 clashes get underway on Tuesday.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Manchester City host AS Monaco at the Etihad Stadium with Pep Guardiola knowing his shaky defense must stay strong against the leading scorers in France’s top-flight. Monaco have already come to England and beaten Tottenham Hotspur in the UCL group stage and under talented manager Leanardo Jardim the likes of Radamel Falcao looks fired up and ready to go.

That said, City have been much better in recent weeks and have shown their best form this season in the UCL. Remember, Pep has never failed to reach the semifinals of this competition as a manager. Quite the record.

Elsewhere Bayer Leverkusen welcome Atletico Madrid to the BayArena with Mexico’s Javier Hernandez back among the goals and aiming to give the Bundesliga outfit a lead to take with them to Madrid.

The runners up late season, Atleti are currently fourth in La Liga but Diego Simeone’s side have looked stellar in Europe this season once again as they finished above Bayern Munich to win their group. Expect a tense, tough game in Germany.

Click on the link above to follow live commentary on both games, while we will have reaction and analysis on all of the UCL knockout games here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Tuesday’s UCL Round of 16, first legs

Manchester City vs. AS Monaco – 2:45 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atletico Madrid – 2:45 p.m. ET

Bayern defends Ancelotti for middle-finger gesture to fans

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich has defended coach Carlo Ancelotti for raising his middle finger to Hertha Berlin fans after supposedly being spit at following a dramatic 1-1 draw in the Bundesliga.

[ MORE: Shaw in betting investigation ]

Bayern says “basically we find the human reaction of Carlo Ancelotti with the gesture to be emotionally understandable after the nasty spitting attack.”

Robert Lewandowski’s injury-time equalizer for Bayern on Saturday prompted altercations between Bayern and Hertha players in a heated atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game live

The German soccer federation ended its investigation into the matter after Ancelotti agreed to pay 5,000 euros ($5,300) to its foundation for social work.

In 2014, Norbert Duewel, then-coach of second-division club Union Berlin, was fined 3,500 euros for raising his middle finger in a 4-1 loss at home against 1860 Munich.

Sacha Kljestan ready to take reigns as Red Bulls captain

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 6:  Sacha Kljestan #16 of New York Red Bulls dribbles past Steven Beitashour #33 of Toronto FC  during their match at Red Bull Arena on March 6, 2016 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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When news began to spread of a trade regarding one of Major League Soccer’s most recognizable faces, Sacha Kljestan was with his New York Red Bulls teammate at the U.S. Men’s National Team’s January camp.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The clarity over Dax McCarty’s move to Eastern Conference foe Chicago Fire is very much uncertain — even a month after the fact — but the veteran midfielder’s absence left an opening for the Red Bulls captaincy.

[ MORE: PST talks with Atlanta president Darren Eales ahead of 2017 ]

And that was an opportunity that Kljestan was honored to be named.

“I was just proud. My first feeling was that I’m thankful for Jesse [Marsch] having that trust in me and my teammates having that trust in me as well, which is very important,” Kljestan said. “But I just feel very proud to represent Jesse and the coaching staff and represent every member of the club that works with the New York Red Bulls. Most importantly I want to represent the fans in a way that they are proud of.”

Fortunately for the Red Bulls, what they have had over the past two seasons in Kljestan is a player that not only provides flash and brilliance on the pitch but also stability off the field and in the locker room.

Since making his return to MLS in 2015, Kljestan has notched an astounding 34 assists — the most of any player during that span — to go along with his 14 goals.

Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch has been impressed with Kljestan’s work ethic since bringing in the Designated Player, and he says little thought needed to be put into naming the U.S. international his squad’s next captain.

“It almost wasn’t even a choice at all,” Marsch said in regards to naming Kljestan his primary captain. “He had served as basically a vice-captain for two years and it was an natural fit. There were discussions with the staff but I think it was pretty clear that this is a guy that is a top leader. That being said, we’ve said all along that the captain isn’t a one man job.

“It’s about a community of people and certainly the two guys that will support Sacha the most will be Luis [Robles] and Brad [Wright-Phillips]. I think the three of them will take on big leadership roles and there’s room for young guys to blossom into bigger leadership positions as well.”

The Red Bulls have undoubtedly proven their success in the regular season since rebranding to the aforementioned name in 2006 when the Global giant, Red Bull, acquired the franchise.

The last 11 seasons have provided the club with plenty to cheer about, including two Supporters’ Shield crowns and only missing out on the postseason once, but the Red Bulls have struggled to get past one major hurdle.

Winning an MLS Cup is challenging.

It’s only something that 11 teams have accomplished in the league’s history. Of those 11 teams, only five of them have won two or more titles since MLS’ inception in 1996.

Marsch’s approach since day one has been very clear to both his team and the opponents that the Red Bulls face. The goal has been to play an attacking-minded press, similar to that of Barcelona in the club’s hay day.

While that pressing style likely won’t change, the team is prepared to add another dimension to its attack by switching to a two-forward setup starting in 2017.

“With our little tweak in formation that we’re doing now, we’re trying to be less susceptible to opening ourselves up and creating too much space between our lines,” Kljestan said. “We’re working on ways now to become more connected and become harder to break down and really make teams earn their chances against us. We might go through some growing pains with the formation but I think it’ll make us stronger in the long run.”

The Red Bulls begin their 2017 journey on Wednesday when they face the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. The two sides will meet a second time on March 2 in Vancouver.