Premier League Playback: Moyes needs more, Suarez is Superman, Altidore (finally) off the mark

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MAN UNITED ON THE BRINK OF OBLIVION?

Time and time again people have lambasted David Moyes’ stuttering start to his reign on the throne at Old Trafford, let that pattern continue. Not only are Moyes’ Manchester United side regressing rapidly, his old team Everton have now overtaken his new team.

That must be a bitter pill to swallow for the 51-year-old Scot.

Frustration and disappointment was etched across his face post-game, Moyes bemoaned his sides bad luck, once again, as Everton won at Old Trafford for the first time in 21 years in the PL.

“I’m very disappointed. We needed a bit of good fortune and we didn’t get it,” Moyes said. “Everton kept at it and showed us what a good team they are. We didn’t defend the goal well enough so it was our own doing. We had some chances as well, as did Everton. They have been playing well and that’s why they are up near the top of the league.”

And Wednesday’s performance showed us all why United are languishing in ninth spot. Now I, like many, have yet to judge Moyes’ tenure at United just 14 PL games into his reign. That would be slightly misguided. However, it seems as though defeatism is starting to creep into his words and when his old Everton side, a team that under his tutelage never won at United or away at any of the other big teams, strolled into the Red Devils backyard and impressed for large swathes of the game you have to be worried. We all know Moyes was handed “the impossible job” when he took over from Sir Alex Ferguson, but the same could be said for Roberto Martinez taking over at Everton from Moyes. The Spaniard has done a terrific job at Everton and his side are playing without fear. Under Moyes Everton were defense minded and he got the very best out of their ability. Martinez is helping the Toffees’ players dig deeper and go beyond their boundaries.

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Moyes is having the opposite effect at United. His regimented style of management works to a certain extent, but so many players at United possess incredible levels of skill that they can’t be shackled and Moyes shouldn’t try to restrict them. With over a third of the PL season gone, Moyes’ men are 12 points off league leaders Arsenal and in his own words: “It’s a big catch up for us now.”

Can United do it?

Moyes should take a leaf out of Martinez’ book and help United’s players push their talent to the limit, instead of playing within it. If that somehow happens overnight, United are back in the title race. Right now, Moyes’ men have a battle on their hands to finish in the top four.

Premier League Schedule – Week 14

Result Recap & Highlights
Arsenal 2-0 Hull City Recap and watch here
Crystal Palace 1-0 West Ham Recap and watch here
Fulham 1-2 Tottenham Recap and watch here
Liverpool 5-1 Norwich City Recap and watch here
Man Utd 0-1 Everton Recap and watch here
Southampton 2-3 Aston Villa Recap and watch here
Stoke 0-0 Cardiff Recap and watch here
Sunderland 3-4 Chelsea Recap and watch here
Swansea 3-0 Newcastle Recap and watch here
West Brom 2-3 Man City Recap and watch here

SUPERMAN WEARS A LUIS SUAREZ T-SHIRT – IS HE IN THE SAME LEAGUE AS MESSI, RONALDO?

What we all witnessed on Wednesday night at Anfield was a thing of beauty from Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez. Yes, he loves scoring against Norwich City — as three hat tricks in five games against the Canaries and 11 goals in total proves — but the sheer variety and splendor of his three first half goals on Wednesday, and his sublime free kick after the break for his fourth, mean his star continues to rise. Despite all the controversy surrounding him, you just can’t get away from how talented a player he is and Suarez became the first-player in PL history to score three hat tricks against the same club. Since returning from his 10-game suspension, Suarez has scored 13 goals in nine games and leads the Premier League scoring charts.

Across Stanley Park at Everton’s Goodison Park, Toffees fans used to exclaim that “Superman wears a Tim Cahill t-shirt” after the Australian midfielder became a goalscoring legend and used to lift his shirt up to reveal the Superman’s famous ‘S’ under his jersey. No disrespect to Cahill, but Suarez is much more deserving of the comparison with Clark Kent’s alter ego. So much so, that I think the 26-year-old forward is getting to the point of being mentioned in the same breath as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as one of the best players on the planet. The only thing that’s holding him back from that final step to greatness is appearing in the UEFA Champions League. If he keep scoring four goal hauls and putting in virtuoso performances like Wednesday, Liverpool will be back in the UCL next season. Suarez is on a one-man mission to solidify Liverpool’s spot in the top four. Ahead of a World Cup year in his native South America, the incredibly gifted forward is now walking amongst the soccer greats of this world. Messi, Ronaldo and Ribery?! Forget that. After Suarez’ dazzling displays this season, he’s at least third. Come the end of the season, Liverpool will have to be at least fourth in the PL standings to keep hold of ‘Superman.’

AFTER 1,205 MINUTES… USMNT STRIKER FINALLY HAS A GOAL

Praise. The. Lord. Jozy Altidore finally has a goal in the Premier League for new club Sunderland. It’s been a rough old few months for Altidore at Sunderland but finally he had something to celebrate in the league on Wednesday against Chelsea. The U.S. international scored a typical ‘Altidore’ goal (watch below) as he rolled John Terry with his back to goal and rifled in a left-footed strike to celebrate being recalled to the starting lineup in style. His joy was to be short lived as Chelsea and the Black Cats slugged it out and the Blues came away with a 4-3 win from the Stadium of Light, but with the World Cup draw on Friday reminding us all that Brazil 2014 is right around the corner, the USA need their main man Jozy back on form. Goals like the one he scored on Wednesday show confidence is starting to flicker back into his game at struggling Sunderland. Long may that continue.

FESTIVE SEASON BEGINS WITH GOALS GALORE… IT WILL STAY THAT WAY

33 goals in 10 games in midweek meant a mammoth haul of goals in the PL. Under the floodlights on a cold December evening, it was certainly enough to warm your cockles if the Bovril and Pie wasn’t doing it for the fans in the stadium. At an average of 3.3 goals per game, match day 14 delivered almost a single goal more than the average of 2.58 which has been the norm for PL games so far this season. Then again, just like the Christmas shoppers already dashing around most cities in the UK , the PL becomes a bit crazed this time of year.

Take a look at the image above I stumbled across… now that was one crazy Boxing Day set of results back in 1963. The rest of December and Boxing Day this year could resemble something similar, as new players come into the lineup, injuries mount up due to the large number of games and the weather becomes increasingly poor. Plus the January transfer window is just around the corner, so plenty of players and managers will be on edge. Hold on to your hats, the next month of PL action will be one wild ride, here’s all 32 goals from Wednesday’s games below in a neatly wrapped early Christmas present. Enjoy the video feast.

Premier League Playback takes an alternative looks at all the PL action every week.

Report: Liverpool to escape punishment over Van Dijk pursuit

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The Times states that Liverpool will not be punished further for pursuing Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk.

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Earlier this month the Reds issued a public apology to Southampton and stated they had ended their interest in the 25-year-old Dutch defender following allegations that Van Dijk was flown to Blackpool (just north of Liverpool) to meet with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and their manager messaged VVD “regularly” as they chased the Dutch international.

Southampton, as you would expect, were far from happy about this so-called “tapping up” from Liverpool and reported the Reds to the Premier League by making an official complaint.

Liverpool’s apology was then followed by a preliminary investigation, but reports state that there will be no further action taken against Liverpool by the PL with “insufficient evidence” to support the claims surrounding the alleged “tapping up” of Van Dijk and unless new evidence arrives then the case will be closed.

Regardless, this whole episode has been incredibly embarrassing for Liverpool, especially when you take into account their current ban from signing academy players when a similar case cropped up over chasing a youngster in Stoke City’s academy.

Klopp has not only lost the chance to sign Van Dijk (at least, that’s the way it seems for now) but Liverpool have also lost some respect for the way they supposedly went about this business. American owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) went to great lengths to apologize for this situation and are keen to stress they always conduct their business in a respect manner.

Now, we would all be a little naive to believe that this type of thing doesn’t happen a lot in soccer. A player (usually through his agent) will perhaps gently let another team know he’s interested in a move to them, and the ball gets rolling from there. Of course, the two clubs are supposed to agree a fee for the player first and then said player can meet with his potential new club to square away the details.

Southampton are said to still be furious about the approach from Liverpool to Van Dijk, so much so that if they were to sell their star player and captain this summer (they maintain he’s not for sale) they’d rather take less money from another club (Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal are all said to be interested) than let him leave for Anfield for over $70 million.

After Liverpool plucked Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne and Sadio Mane from Saints in the past few years, it’s easy to understand why the South Coast club are now standing firm and saying enough is enough.

Vidal rips Ronaldo ahead of Confederations Cup semifinal

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Chile hopes to make a statement on Wednesday when it faces EURO 2016 champions Portugal and Ballon d’Or champion Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 2015 and 2016 Copa America champions can lay claim to another inter-confederation title with two more wins in the 2017 Confederations Cup, beginning with the semifinal in Kazan.

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Chile finished behind Germany in Group B but didn’t lose a match and only allowed two goals. That’ll be tested by Portugal and its seven goals in three matches.

Two of those goals came from Ronaldo, but don’t tell that to Arturo Vidal. Chile’s hard-edged midfielder doesn’t like him much.

From Goal.com:

“Cristiano is a smart ass,” he told reporters. “For me he does not exist.

“I have already told my Bayern Munich team-mate Joshua Kimmich that we will meet again in the final.”

Germany will have to take care of Mexico to make that happen, though we have a feeling a certain smart ass will have a thing or two to say before it’s all said and done.

Vidal has spoken loudly of his desire to get Chilean teammate Alexis Sanchez, a former Barcelona man, at his club Bayern Munich. If Ronaldo is on the market, this isn’t a great recruiting tool. Ah, jokes.

Trio of Crew players in Ghana roster to face USMNT, Mexico

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Ghana’s team to face the United States men’s national team on Saturday in East Hartford will look somewhat familiar to fans of Major League Soccer.

Columbus Crew players Harrison Afful, Mohammed Abu and Jonathan Mensah join David Accam of the Chicago Fire, and Gershon Koffie of the New England Revolution on a unit with Kwadwo Poku of the NASL’s Kwadwo Poku.

John Boye, Asamoah Gyan, and Mensah are the only three players from the loss to the USMNT in the 2014 World Cup.

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Like the U.S., this is a less than full-strength squad. Missing are a number of Black Stars standouts, with Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Afriyie Acquah, Daniel Amartey, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Christian Atsu, Jeff Schlupp, and Baba Rahman not with the team.

Saturday’s match is the last USMNT outing before the Gold Cup begins on July 8 in Nashville against Panama.

Goalkeepers: Addo Joseph (Aduana Stars), Richard Ofori (Wa All Stars)

Defenders: Lumor Agbenyenu (Munich 1860), Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew),  Nicholas Opoku (Berekum Chelsea), Jerry Akaminko (Eskiserhispor),  John Boye (Sivasspor), Rashid Sumalia (Al Gharafa), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew), Samuel Sarfo (Liberty)

Midfielders: Mohammed Abu (Columbus Crew, Isaac Sackey (Alanyaspor), Ofori Ebenezer (Stuttgart), Kwadwo Poku (FC Miami), Winful Kwaku Cobbinah (Hearts of Oak), Frank Acheampong (Anderlecht), Thomas Agyepong (NAC Breda), Gershon Koffie (New England Revolution)

Strikers: Asamoah Gyan (Al Alhi), Raphael Dwamena (FC Zurich), Majeed Abdul Waris (Lorient FC), David Accam (Chicago Fire)

Timo Werner abused in Germany but key to World Cup defense

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) The abuse has followed Timo Werner for months, gathering pace as rapidly as the striker has amassed goals.

No German player was more prolific in the Bundesliga last season. No player was as ostracized.

But Werner is now a full-blown Germany international, scoring his first goals at the Confederations Cup on Sunday, and he could hold the key to the World Cup defense next year.

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That could require Germany supporters to forgive a player they jeered at during his first competitive game for Joachim Loew’s team earlier this month.

“Kobe Bryant has also been booed everywhere and he always been the best,” Werner reflected ahead of Germany’s Confederations Cup semifinal against Mexico on Thursday, seeing a kindred spirit in the basketball great. “I do not want to say that I am the best like him, but (the abuse) is a bit of an incentive.”

If playing for the ascendant but deeply unpopular Leipzig wasn’t bad enough, a dive in December by Werner provided a focal point for the animosity – jealousy, perhaps – toward the Red Bull-funded team.

The insults have even been hurled far from Germany, far from soccer stadiums. The dive won a penalty against Schalke, and provided Werner with one of the 21 goals that helped to propel Leipzig into second place and a Champions League debut next season.

“There was a dive, he made a mistake and he admitted it,” Loew said, “but he is very, very young player.”

And a potentially very important one for Loew at the World Cup in Russia next year. Germany’s striking options are being assessed at the eight-team Confederations Cup as Loew still seeks a long-term successor to Miroslav Klose as target man for the world champions.

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Werner opened his account for Germany on his fourth appearance, scoring twice in a 3-1 victory over Cameroon on Sunday in Sochi.

“Werner put in a lot of legwork,” Loew said. “He showed how dangerous he is and that he’s got a great nose for goal. Both of his efforts were very well taken.”

Werner’s rivals for a place in the squad next year include fellow squad newcomers Lars Stindl and Sandro Wagner. They are both close to 30, while the 21-year-old Werner has youth, strength and speed on his side. Even Wagner said he has “never seen such a good striker at that age.”

That’s a result of Werner fusing his pace with intelligence on the ball, mastering dribbling at high speed first with Stuttgart and then at Leipzig.

“There’s no recipe for it,” Werner said. “The quickest players just know how to do it automatically. I like to knock the ball three or four meters ahead of me when I’m on the counter or have space in front of me, that way I can increase the distance between a defender and myself.”

Such proficiency should help Werner win over fans beyond Leipzig. Time, he hopes, will heal the fractures, and there’s certainly support from his new international teammates.

“I wish him well because of the issues he has had to endure,” captain Julian Draxler told Germany’s ARD television.

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

More AP Confederations Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/ConfederationsCup