David Moyes blasts Manchester United, blames tough fixtures after shaky start

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MANCHESTER — Following his sides demoralizing 4-1 defeat to Manchester City in the fiercely contested Manchester derby, new United manager David Moyes wasn’t looking to make any excuses.

But he did have a moan about having to play against so many of the league’s top teams, so early on in the season.

“Yeah, we want to win more of those games, we have to do that,” Moyes said. “But maybe, you know, if those games are later on in the season and not in the early part of it, then I might have a better understanding of all the players and the situation at the club. I think any manager who had been given that run of fixtures when they took over at this club would have found it difficult.”

(MORE: Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United; Manchester is blue, after derby day domination)

When the computer randomly assigned Manchester United games against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in their first five games of the campaign, many thought this would be the perfect test to see how smooth the transition was from Sir Alex Ferguson to Moyes.

It’s been a bumpy ride so far.

With wins against Crystal Palace and Swansea small positives, after losing to rivals Liverpool and Manchester City and being held at home by Chelsea, United sit eighth in the Premier League table after five games. They’ve collected just seven points from a possible 15, and despite Moyes blaming tought opponents, it simply isn’t good enough.

And with Liverpool coming up in the League Cup on Wednesday, more turbulent times lie ahead for the Red Devils.

(MORE: Robin Van Persie’s injury highlights Manchester United’s lack of depth)

Moyes’ side looked devoid of attacking ideas in the first half of the 166th edition of the Manchester derby. Missing Robin Van Persie with a groin injury certainly hampered his sides attacking panache, as he’s so often been the cataylst for United. RVP has scored three of his five goals this campaign before half time, and his aggressive, attacking manner, early in games usually puts United on the front foot.

That was missing on Sunday, despite Wayne Rooney’s best efforts, and Moyes lambasted United’s poor start.

“We certainly didn’t start the game well,” Moyes said. “Manchester City were the better team and stronger. They got control of the game in the early parts and we found it difficult to contain them. I thought as the first half edged on we started to get a little more back into the game. But unfortunately we lost the second goal right on half time.”

source: AP
After a poor start to the season, Moyes’ United are digging a hole for themselves.

But even before that sucker punch from Yaya Toure to put Man City 2-0 on the stroke of the interval, Moyes wasn’t happy.

I was sitting just behind the United bench at the Etihad on Sunday, and Moyes spent the entire first half on the edge of his technical area, trying to cajole his players into life, as they gave away the ball needlessly, time and time again.

(MORE: Vincent Kompany vs. Wayne Rooney: Both players excel in heavyweight clash)

At one point Moyes looked to the ground in disbelief as Ashley Young gave the ball straight back to City. It was a poor display from United, as City’s fans celebrated by doing the ‘Poznan’ all around him.

“I am disappointed that we didn’t perform,” Moyes said. “We played very well in midweek [the Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen], there was no reason for us not to perform today. But it’s one game, there’s plenty more to come and there’s plenty of time for us to fix it. But today I think we were second to things, in the first half especially. We always seemed to be a yard behind it. And we just never got to the pitch of the game, right from the off, which is disappointing as we set out to do that. We never really quite got to grips with it.”

(MORE: Manchester City’s star attackers steal the show in rampant derby win)

When asked post-game about what he expects, in terms of a reaction, from his players following the humiliating derby defeat, Moyes has let his players know they must find their top form. Quickly.

“I’ve made them aware of that,” Moyes said. “If there was ever a group of players that I would expect that from, it would be from Manchester United players. I think the way they’ve been brought up that way, the way they’ve sort of been inbred by the manager previous, I think they react, that’s what they do. And I think that’s what we will do here. We make sure we react.”

(MORE: Manuel Pellegrini hails Manchester City, after resounding victory against old foes United)

Moyes also spoke about the magnitude of the defeat, and called on his players to pick themselves, dust themselves off, and ultimately demanded more from them.

The Scotsman had no qualms about giving them a rollicking at half time.

“No, I think it’s just what I would have done,” Moyes said. “I’ve been here with Everton many times and don’t think I’ve ever suffered a defeat like this when I’ve been here in my time. So I told the players, the way I would have told any other club or any other players, if I don’t think they’re doing it.”

“They are good players, good pro’s here,” Moyes added. “They know when they’re bang at it, and when they’re not.”

Needless to say, they weren’t at the races on Sunday. And that’s been the case for most of the season so far, as tough fixtures or not, Moyes’ men are struggling to cope with the transition from the Ferguson era.

One thing worth contemplating is how Moyes’ spell in charge at Everton often saw the Toffees start very poorly, then play incredibly well in the second half of the season. His coaching methods and training regimen may be constructed in such a way that his team improves and strengthens over the season. But United will have to improve a lot after this poor start, if they’re going to get anything positive from Moyes’ first campaign at the helm.

Whatever way you look at it, there’s work to do at Old Trafford.

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.

League Cup semi: Man City take 2-1 lead into 2nd leg vs. Bristol

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Manchester City can move one step closer on Tuesday to claiming their first of four potential trophies this season, when Pep Guardiola‘s men take on Bristol City in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday ]

After coming back to beat the Robins in the first leg at home, Man City must now go on the road and take care of business to reach the Feb. 25 final at Wembley Stadium. As he has done so many times — and so famously — in the sky blue of City, Sergio Aguero grabbed the late winner (91st minute — WATCH HERE) 14 days ago.

For a few not-so-insignificant periods of the game, Bristol were very much the aggressors and appeared more likely to make the score 2-0 than for City to get back to 1-1. Bobby Reid converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after her was brought down under John Stones‘ wild, sliding tackle. Kevin De Bruyne leveled things up 10 minutes into the second half, setting the stage for Aguero’s late heroics.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

Since the first leg on Jan. 9, City have failed in their bid to finish the PL season with an unbeaten record before bouncing back to beat Newcastle United on the weekend, courtesy of a hat trick from Aguero — Guardiola quotes, from Sport24:

“I said many times it was going to happen, we can lose, so (it is) important the reaction we have. Still we have 42 points to play (for). It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like Saturday and like Liverpool. It is important to show the team is still there but I don’t have the feeling we give up.

“We want to go through to the final in the (League) Cup and the FA Cup, so (we have) a lot of games but I think the people have the desire to keep going, to keep going, to keep going.”

[ MORE: One dream January signing for each top-six side ]

Bristol, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times: it’s been nearly a month (Boxing Day, to be specific — five losses, one draw) since Lee Johnson’s side last won a game in any competition, and they’ve fallen from second to fifth in the Championship table — Johnson quotes, from the Guardian:

“We don’t want to be brave losers, we want to compete to win. It’s up to the players to be focused and tactically aware, and who knows what will happen if we can show the same quality as we have shown in the previous rounds?

“We have to make sure we’re really bold. If you’re going to deliver a corner, do it like you mean it. I’d rather fail bold than fail timid. We know we have to score. I hope Pep picks his absolute best team and we can give them a right go. I’m not sure you could go and play an under-23 side against us at the moment and I think he’ll know that.”

The winner of Arsenal versus Chelsea (0-0 after the first leg) awaits in the final.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.