Manchester United's manager Moyes and assistant Neville react during their English Premier League soccer match in Manchester

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.

Burnley’s Andre Gray charged by FA over Twitter posts from 2012

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Andre Gray of Burnley during the Premier League match between Burnley and Cardiff City at Turf Moor on  August 13, 2016 in Burnley, England. (Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)
Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images
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A Premier League player is set to be punished by English football authorities for discriminatory comments he made on social media more than four years ago.

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The comments made by Burnley striker Andre Gray between Jan. 9 and March 11, 2012 appeared anti-gay. They came to light on Saturday, when they were retweeted by other people after he scored his first Premier League goal for Burnley in the team’s 2-0 win over Liverpool. Gray released a public apology after the match.

Gray was charged with misconduct on Tuesday by the Football Association, which said the alleged comments “were abusive and/or insulting and/or improper and/or brought the game into disrepute.”

Gray said in his apology “the tweets were posted four years ago when I was a completely different person to the man I am now.”

“I have experienced a lot over the past four years and have had to take responsibility for a number of things in my life which has enabled me to mature and grow as a person since that time,” the 25-year-old Gray said.

“I have a lot of regrets regarding a number of things I’ve done in the past and realize I have made some big mistakes, none more so than these tweets, but I would like to stress that I’ve worked incredibly hard to completely transform my life since that time.”

[ MORE: Champions League roundup — Roma self-destruct; Celtic sneak in ]

Gray said he wanted to clarify that he was “absolutely not homophobic” and to “ask for forgiveness to anyone I offended.”

The FA said Gray had until Aug. 31 to respond to the charge.

“He has moved a long way in life,” Burnley manager Sean Dyche said Tuesday. “He’s made that clear with an apology and also to remind the club, `It’s four years ago, I’m a different person.’

“A lot has gone on in his life to get him where he’s got to, I think he made that clear. It was authentic what he said (in the apology).”

Gray was the top scorer in the second-tier League Championship last season, helping Burnley achieve an immediate return to the Premier League.

Arsenal, Stoke target Jones part of Mourinho’s plans, will stay at Man United

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 19: Wes Hoolahan of Norwich City and Phil Jones of Manchester United compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Norwich City at Old Trafford on December 19, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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Other Premier League clubs might be interested in Phil Jones, but Jose Mourinho has no intentions of letting the 24-year-old future England captain Manchester United center back leave anytime soon.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Mourinho and Man United have received multiple approaches for Jones this summer, but never entertained the idea of selling, according to the Guardian. Arsenal were said to have been interested earlier in the summer, while Stoke City are presently trying to pry the Blackburn Rovers academy product away from Old Trafford, as confirmed by Mark Hughes’ assistant, Mark Bowen, earlier this week.

Jones moved to Man United in the summer of 2011 for a fee believed to be north of $20 million. While he’s endured his share of hard times in his five seasons at the club, Jones would easily be a 30-$35 million player giving fees paid for comparable center backs in recent transfer windows.

[ MORE: Champions League roundup — Roma self-destruct; Celtic sneak in ]

While Jones is yet to see the field early in the 2016-17 season, he remains a viable option, along with Chris Smalling, behind $40-million summer signing Eric Bailly and midfielder-turned-defender Daley Blind. Over the course of a 38-game PL season, the UEFA Champions League Europa League, FA Cup and EFL Cup, a busy schedule and injuries will provide plenty of chances to impress the new manager and reclaim a regular place in the first team.

MLS preview: Galaxy, Sounders, Toronto FC hit the road midweek

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against Colorado Rapids during the first half of the MLS soccer game in Toronto on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. (Chris Young/The Associated Press via AP)
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Previewing the biggest games across Major League Soccer on Wednesday…

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Orlando City SC vs. Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. ET (MLS Live)

Quick quiz: Which is the hottest team in MLS right now? Answer: It’s TFC, who are unbeaten in their last six games, a stretch which includes five wins and an aggregate score of 16-4. OK, so how are they doing it? Don’t ask silly questions. In those six games, Sebastian Giovinco, who’s again running away in the MVP race and will become the first back-to-back winner in league history (only Preki has ever been a two-time winner), has scored eight goals and notched four assists. He’s been even better this year than he was in 2015. His 2016 season tally currently stands at 16 and 11. He’ll likely be the first player in MLS history to notch multiple 20-goal seasons, if Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has 15 this season, doesn’t get there first.

It’s not only Giovinco, though, but the return Jozy Altidore which has allowed the Italian superstar the freedom, the space, and the hold-up play to thrive as he’s done. Giovinco has been given a free role by head coach Greg Vanney, and Altidore’s ability to occupy two center backs at once, along with his ability to hold the ball up and draw the opposing defense toward him, has resulted in Giovinco scoring a number of easy chances no player of his quality should ever be allowed to see. It’s amazing what happens when you build a team and system around your best player, rather than try to make that player fit into something predetermined. Three points on Wednesday would vault the Reds into first place in the Eastern Conference having finally pulled level on games played with New York City FC.

[ MORE: NYCFC’s Jack Harrison on meteoric rise — “It can only get better” ]

Chicago Fire vs. LA Galaxy — 8:30 p.m. ET (MLS Live)

After rattling off four straight wins over the majority of July, the Galaxy are suddenly winless winless in their last four, though they’ve managed to salvage three points during that period. During the current four-game stretch, the attacking trio of Robbie Keane, Giovani dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes have combined to contribute just one goal and three assists, all but one assist of which have come from GdS.

No team in the Western Conference has won more points away from home (14) than the Galaxy this season, while no team in MLS has won fewer home points (17 — or points, period, 22) than the Fire. All signs point toward a Galaxy victory, but this is a Fire side that has steadily improved bit by bit in recent weeks, culminating in their first road victory in 25 months last weekend. The Vancouver Whitecaps await the Galaxy on the weekend — can you say, “trap game?”

[ MORE: U.S. teen skipping college, heading to La Liga ]

Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders — 9 p.m. ET (MLS Live)

If TFC are the hottest team in MLS, the Sounders are the second-hottest and without a doubt the hottest team in the West. Since firing Sigi Schmid four weeks ago, the bunch in Rave Green are unbeaten in four games, now having won three straight. The signing of Nicolas Lodeiro has been the spark that breathed life into a dying season, but one could reasonably argue that Cristian Roldan’s emergence deep in midfield has meant just as much to a Sounders side that, for the first time all season, has found a strong base between the attack and defense.

Osvaldo Alonso is no longer being ask to play the box-to-box role in which he thrived for a half-decade, instead acting as the organizer and director in front of the backline, with Roldan, the 21-year-old with many miles left in his legs, covering large swaths of space in midfield. The biggest difference between Roldan and your typical defensive midfield in MLS? He can see a pass in the final third, and he can hit it when it’s on. Lodeiro creates plenty of space for Jordan Morris and Clint Dempsey with his unbelievable range of passing, and that’s been a huge part of the eight goals the Sounders have scored in those three wins, but Roldan’s presence alongside Alonso has been just as important in allowing just four goals in four games.

EFL Cup roundup: Chelsea, Liverpool advance; Watford, WBA lose to League 1 sides

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 23:  Michy Batshuayi of Chelsea celebrates scoring the opening goal during the EFL Cup second round match between Chelsea and Bristol Rovers at Stamford Bridge on August 23, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images )
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Watford and West Bromwich Albion were beaten by third-tier opposition in the English League Cup on Tuesday, while fellow Premier League sides Liverpool and Everton enjoyed big wins in the second round.

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Chelsea was pushed hard by third-tier Bristol Rovers before also advancing to the third round with a 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge.

Watford lost 2-1 to Gillingham after extra time and West Brom was beaten 4-3 on penalties by Northampton after they finished 2-2 after 120 minutes.

Northampton famously ousted Liverpool in the 2010-11 competition, but the Reds easily avoided a so-called “giant-killing” this time round by thrashing Burton Albion 5-0. Daniel Sturridge came off the bench to score two goals and wrap up victory over the second-tier side managed by former Liverpool forward Nigel Clough.

Divock Origi and Roberto Firmino also scored for a full-strength Liverpool team, and there was an own goal.

“Very serious, very professional performance by my side,” said Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp, who added that second-half injuries to Emre Can and Origi were not serious.

Everton also had a substitute striker scoring a late double, with Arouna Kone’s goals sealing a 4-0 home win over fourth-tier Yeovil.

[ MORE: Champions League roundup — Roma self-destruct; Celtic sneak in ]

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte‘s decision to field a team largely made up of reserve players nearly backfired. Belgium striker BatshuayiMichy Batshuayi scored two first-half goals as Chelsea took a 3-1 lead into halftime, before Rovers scored a 48th-minute penalty and struck the crossbar as they went in search of an equalizer.

Devoid of European football this season, Liverpool and Chelsea will likely take the League Cup seriously. They are two of the most successful clubs in the competition’s history, having won it 13 times between them.

Stoke, Swansea, Hull and Crystal Palace were the other Premier League teams to progress to the third round, when clubs involved in Europe enter the draw that takes place Wednesday.

Peter Crouch scored a hat trick – including one goal from a scissor kick – in Stoke’s 4-0 win at Stevenage, Oliver McBurnie scored twice on his debut for Swansea in a 3-1 win at Peterborough, Hull beat Exeter 3-1 away and Palace was a 2-0 winner at home to Blackpool.

Palace gave a debut to new record-signing Christian Benteke, who played the first half before being substituted.

Derby beat Carlisle 14-13 on penalties to equal the most goals scored in a shootout in the competition’s history.