The Red Devils are back on form and unbeaten in five, can Cardiff upset the apple cart?

Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal: Van Persie header the difference as Moyes earns signature win (video)

2 Comments

David Moyes now has a signature win, the first of his tenure at Manchester United.

The highly built-up match may not have entirely lived up to its billing, but in a game of few clear chances Robin van Persie was just that much more clinical than his former club as Manchester United take the 1-0 victory over Arsenal.

David Moyes’ side started out bright, a good side for the home crowd, dominating possession and taking the early searching chances.  Arsene Wenger, meanwhile, began content with playing on the counter-attack, which Arsenal do so well.

United slowly built in the physical battle, although there wasn’t much in terms of chances for either side.  Until the goal, that is.

Robin van Persie busted the roof off Old Trafford and has given new life to United’s season when he cut behind Aaron Ramsey and beat Olivier Giroud in the air to connect his head to a corner and bury it in the back of the net.  Arsenal sorely missed Per Mertesacker, who was deemed to be too sick with a virus to play.

His goal – and subsequent emphatic celebration – assures his full transformation from Gunner to Red Devil and put Manchester United fully on top in the first half.  They continued to press Arsenal and kept the visiting defenders working hard.

Old Trafford saw a pair of scary moments that reminded us how dangerous the 6-yard box can be. A corner saw Arsenal goalkeeper Wojiech Szczesny end up motionless on the ground after colliding heads with United defender Phil Jones.  Szczesny was soon to his feet, but not after he regained his senses with medical staff crouched over him. Jones puzzlingly received a yellow card from referee Michael Oliver.

Nemanja Vidic himself received a blow to the head on the other end a few minutes later when he went headfirst into the hip of David De Gea and remained on the ground for a number of minutes.  He wobbled off the pitch and into the tunnel with a bloody lip and was replaced after halftime by Tom Cleverley.

source: Getty Images
Phil Jones earned himself NBCSN’s Man of the Match award with his work both in the defensive midfield and in central defense.

Arsenal continued to play on the counter-attack in the second half, giving Manchester United tons of time on possession but also building a chance or two. Mesut Ozil fired just high and wide in the 59th minute.

On the other end United began to become dangerous as well. Wayne Rooney had tons of space in the box just minutes later, but he misfired just too far right with a low shot along the ground.  He may have had Szczesny beat had he been on target.

The game offered little after that, as both managers countered with late changes but there wasn’t much there for either side as van Persie’s goal proved the difference.

The work from Phil Jones at the back keeping Olivier Giroud at bay, earning him NBCSN’s Man of the Match award, along with the pace of Wayne Rooney up front were enough to make Santi Cazorla uncomfortable in the midfield and keep Arsenal off their usual game.

Arsenal pushed in stoppage time, with Nicolas Bendtner nearly connecting on a cross from the right and Olivier Giroud firing just wide but the Gunners didn’t have enough.

Arsenal are still in first place following the road defeat, but are now looking over their shoulder with Liverpool still just two points back.  Manchester United jump up to 5th, level with Everton and one behind Chelsea as they now have a view towards reestablishing their annual top-four place.

GOALS:

Manchester United – van Persie 27′

LINEUPS:

Manchester United – De Gea; Smalling, Vidic (Cleverley, 45′), Evans, Evra; Valencia, Jones, Carrick, Kagawa (Giggs, 78′); Rooney, van Persie (Fellaini, 85′).

Arsenal – Sczcesny; Sagna, Koscienly, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Arteta (Gnabry, 82′), Flamini (Wilshere, 61′), Ramsey, Ozil, Cazorla (Bendtner, 78′); Giroud.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.

Qatari official says World Cup drunks will be treated “very gently”

In this photo taken during a government organized media tour, laborers work at the Al-Wakra Stadium that is under construction for the 2022 World Cup, in Doha, Qatar, Monday, May 4, 2015. Qatar’s top labor official told The Associated Press Monday that Qatar’s inability to ensure decent housing for its bulging migrant labor population was “a mistake” the government is working to fix as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, vowing his country would improve conditions for its vast foreign labor force. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo
Leave a comment

One of the biggest unanswered questions still hanging over the 2022 World Cup — at least for fans traveling to Qatar for the tournament — has to do with the rules and regulations placed upon their consumption of alcohol.

[ MORE: All of the latest FIFA news ]

On Monday, Hassan Al Thawadi, the head of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup committee, attempted to ease those fears when he said that not only will the consumption of alcohol be permitted during the tournament in six years’ time, but that in the event of public drunkenness, the visitors in question will be dealt with quickly and “very gently” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I know in South Africa there where specific courts established during the World Cup for this kind of thing, and that is something we were discussing with FIFA.”

“In relation to drunk fans it will be as it is anywhere else, anyone who is rowdy, anyone who breaches the law, will be very gently – depending on how they react – taken care of in a manner to make sure that people are not disrupting the public order. Everyone will be able to have fun and be exposed to Qatari culture.”

“We welcome everyone in the world. We’ve hosted many people, from many places and [drinking] was never an issue. This will be a fun World Cup. It will be one of the best cups out there.”

Chelsea’s next manager? Juve GM tells Allegri to “think twice” about it

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri waits for the start of a Serie A soccer match between Inter Milan and Juventus at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
AP Photo/Luca Bruno
Leave a comment

Chelsea fans, quickly think up a few qualities and characteristics you’d like your club’s next manager to possess. Got your list? OK, good. Massimiliano Allegri ticks just about every box you’d hope your next manager would do, which is why there are plenty of rumors flying around linking Juventus’ current boss to the Premier League’s highest profile vacancy.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

For staters, he’s young (48) and massively ambitious; he’s had plenty of success at his two most recent stops as a manager (2010-11 Serie A title with AC Milan; 2014-15 Serie A title, Coppa Italia triumph and UEFA Champions League runners-up with Juventus); and he boasts a successful enough playing career to command the respect of his players.

Juve aren’t going to let Allegri walk out the door without putting up a fight to keep their in-demand leader, though. The club’s general manager, Beppe Marotta, has warned Allegri that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side — quotes from the Guardian:

“In the space of one month we have to play in every competition: the league, the Coppa Italia and the Champions League. The next month will tell us a lot about how the whole season is going to play out.

“But we talk to Allegri about footballing matters, not about other matters. Beyond the contracts you have to sign there are the relationships you must build with people, and we’re happy with Allegri.

“All the conditions are right for us to continue with him as coach. Results are what count and Allegri has delivered plenty of those. Football is a business and the role of a coach is important when it comes to breeding continuity.

“Chelsea are a top club and it’s obvious that they’ll want to look at the best coaches. All I can say is that Allegri is already at a top club, so he’d do well to think twice before leaving Juventus.”

[ MORE: Van Gaal calls Mourinho speculation false, a bunch of “nonsense” ]

In the end, if Allegri wants to test himself at a higher level where league titles are anything but a foregone conclusion at the beginning of the season (Juventus are currently in pursuit of their fifth straight Serie A crown), Marotta and Juve stand little chance of changing his mind. Not even Bayern Munich could withstand the pull of the PL and keep hold of Pep Guardiola, just as Diego Simeone will one day join Jurgen Klopp and many others as foreign coaches who established themselves elsewhere and eventually ended up in England.

Checking in with the Championship’s Premier League promotion hopefuls

HULL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 07: Jake Livermore of Hull City in action with Diego Fabbrini of Middlesbrough during the Sky Bet Championship match between Hull City and Middlesbrough at the KC Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Hull, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With roughly one-third of the schedule to play, there are four clubs within three points of automatic promotion to the Premier League and five more in or within shouting distance of the promotion playoffs.

So while we’re tracking the race to avoid PL relegation between Aston Villa, Sunderland, Norwich City and others, let’s take a look at who’s making bids to take their places.

[ MORE: Difficulty looms for in-form, relegation-scrapping Villa ]

Only one of last season’s relegated teams is far removed from the race to rejoin the Premier League, and that’s Queens Park Rangers. The R’s are 11 points back of sixth place, the final PL playoff spot.

Top dogs

Steve Bruce has Hull City in line for an instant return to the Premier League, but it’s far from sewn up. The Tigers have the Championship’s best goal differential (26), but are tied with Middlesbrough on points and just a point ahead of Sean Dyche‘s Burnley.

Also within a win of the Top Two is Brighton and Hove Albion, led by ex-Norwich City and Newcastle United manager Chris Hughton. He guided the Magpies to promotion, and also got Birmingham City to the playoff in 2012.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01:  Jonathan Spector of Birmingham City during the Pre-Season Friendly match between Birmingham City and Leicester City at St Andrews (stadium) on August 1, 2015 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Also in the running

Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday would be headed to the playoffs if the regular season ended today, but either could drop out of the six within a single game weekend.

Ipswich Town is in 7th with 48 points, while Birmingham is a point back. And remember Vincent Tan? Cardif City’s 45 points have them in the discussion for a PL return.

Of those teams, only one carries an American player. That’s USMNT defender Jonathan Spector (right), the former Manchester United and West Ham United man.