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.

LAFC erase 2-goal deficits to beat Montreal in 8-goal thriller

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The game in 100 words (or less): LAFC are, by definition, an expansion team; they are, to the eye, also very much an expansion team, in that they experience drastic mood swings from one game to the next and, on a number of occasions already this season, from one half to the next — or, as evidenced in Saturday’s 5-3 win over Montreal Impact, one 15-minute period to the next. 2-0 down after 16 minutes, Larent Ciman wanted the ground to open up and swallow him whole as his return to Montreal wasn’t going so swimmingly. The Belgian proceeded to score a stunning free kick eight minutes later. Montreal went down to 10 men and Evan Bush saved a penalty in the 33rd minute. Ignacio Piatti completed his hat trick on 43 minutes to restore the two-goal lead. LAFC score four second-half goals to run away with all three points, racking up 26 shots (18 of which were on target) in the process. Through two games this weekend, MLS has seen 14 goals scored.

[ MORE: Sporting KC increase West lead with 6-0 win over Vancouver ]

Three Four moments that mattered

24′ — Ciman’s free kick just about bursts through the back of the net — If not for the net, this ball continues to slowly rise until it cross the U.S.-Canada border and begins to orbit the planet in outer space.

43′ — Piatti smashes past Miller for 3-1 — Piatti takes his hat trick with aplomb, letting the ball bounce across his body before pulling it back across the face of goal and just inside the far post.

52′ — Feilhaber picks out the top corner for 3-2 — The comeback is on… again.

83′ — Vela bags the winner from the spot — Bush denied Marco Ureña from the spot in the first half, and so nearly did it again in the 83rd, but Carlos Vela’s effort crept over the line to make it 4-3.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | MLS Three Things ]

Man of the match: Ignacio Piatti

Goalscorers: Piatti (9′, 16′, 43′), Ciman (24′), Feilhaber (52′), Raitala (57′ – OG), Vela (83′ – PK), Blessing (89′)

Mourinho’s message to Man United’s much-maligned stars

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LONDON — All week the talk was about Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez not being good enough for Manchester United and that they may be left out of the starting lineup for the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley.

On Saturday at Wembley they dragged their team back into the contest and past Tottenham Hotspur to reach the FA Cup final.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

After a shaky start, Pogba’s powerful tackle on Mousa Dembele was followed up by a perfect cross to Sanchez who expertly headed home in, using every last muscle in his neck, to make it 1-1 in the 24th minute. United never looked back.

Pogba and Sanchez grew stronger as the game wore on and the latter bullied Kieran Trippier for United’s winner as the tireless Chilean speedster ran down a lost cause and helped set up Ander Herrera to score the winner.

The duo have been heavily criticized since the turn of the year with Pogba hauled out of the team by Mourinho, then having to deal with issues such as rumors about his United future following Pep Guardiola‘s claim that Man City were offered the Frenchman in January. While Sanchez has scored just twice in the Premier League since his January move from Arsenal which made him the best paid player in the Premier League and was left out of United’s lineup for the win at Bournemouth on Wednesday.

Mourinho had a message for his much-maligned stars after they stole the show at Wembley: he wants consistency.

“I told Alexis the same thing I told Paul a few weeks ago, I cannot expect my players to be Man of the Match every match. I cannot expect them to score goals every match. I cannot expect them to be perfect every match,” Mourinho said. “What I expect is a certain level that you don’t go below that. That level is the level of the basic things in the game. If you do the basic things of the game and then in some matches your talent appears and you makes the difference. That is fine. I am not waiting for Alexis the next match to score again and to be the Man of the Match. I just want him to be stable and I think  in Alexis’ case next season gives him much better conditions to be a top player for us.”

Despite their gutsy and pivotal displays, both Pogba and Sanchez (the Man of the Match) still showed glimpses of their poor form with wasteful passes from Sanchez and slack defensive play, early on, from Pogba. Their confidence still remains brittle but at least they showed their talent when it mattered most.

But the main thing is that they dug deep to grind out the win and keep United’s hopes of a piece of silverware this season alive. That is what top players do and both delivered, even if Pogba’s United future remains uncertain beyond this season. This was a game where the duo showed Mourinho they could be trusted to dig deep and after they combined for United’s equalizer they grew in confidence and, most importantly, did the dirty work to help United reach the final.

Pogba and Sanchez aside, Mourinho was keen to ask why United have so many critics, even though they are on course to finish second in the Premier League this season and the fact that he has reached his third major final out of six tries since he arrived at the club in the summer of 2016.

“This season is successful if we finish second. If we do a better Premier League than Spurs, Liverpool Chelsea and Arsenal, if we do that I think it is successful,” Mourinho said. “To break the 80-point target to finish second against an untouchable winner is good. To make a lot more points than last season to win more matches, to score more goals, to concede less goals, to have much better results against the top teams I think is a successful teams.”

Dele Alli, Pochettino after FA Cup ouster: “We can’t keep doing this”

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
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This felt like a different year for Spurs, one which would include something shiny.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

Instead, Tottenham Hotspur will exit another season without hardware after blowing an early lead and fairly controlling first half with a 2-1 loss to Manchester United in the FA Cup semifinal on Saturday at Wembley Stadium.

This was at their home venue, even if they weren’t the home team. And it just fell apart.

Here’s Dele Alli, from the BBC:

“Everyone talks. We want to win trophies, we have the staff that want to win. We can’t keep doing this. We can’t throw it away. We have got to improve.”

His boss, Mauricio Pochettino, was more upbeat regarding his Spurs project but no less disappointed in the result. The North Londoners are only going to face more questions all offseason and into next.

“I think we need to understand where we have come from,” he said. “It’s easy to talk about winning trophies. To win a trophy when you face a side like Manchester United, Chelsea or Manchester City is not easy. But the most important thing is we are able to compete.”

Tottenham is on the up, and will continue to grow in resources but not renown until it puts something in its trophy case under Pochettino. It really did feel like this could be the year.

Man Utd races past Spurs to reach FA Cup Final

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  • Man Utd reaches 20th FA Cup Final
  • Alexis plays role in both Utd goals
  • Dele scores for Spurs

Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera scored as Manchester United came back to beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Wembley Stadium in Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal.

United will meet the winner of Sunday’s semifinal between Southampton and Chelsea at Wembley on May 19.

Dele Alli scored Spurs goal.

[ MORE: Full box score ]

Spurs went ahead through Dele, as Paul Pogba lost Christian Eriksen as the Dane raced onto a long ball. Eriksen crossed to the back post for Dele’s sliding finish.

Pogba made amends in his preferred third of the pitch, stealing the ball from a Mousa Dembele and lofting an inch-perfect cross for Alexis to nod home. The headed finish was anything but easy, hit across the goal while falling to the pitch.

Michel Vorm made a save on a deflected Pogba rip in the 44th minute, and Ander Herrera hit a chance high and wide off the ensuing corner.

And Eric Dier cranked a shot off the framework in stoppage time.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

The best chance of the early second half saw Harry Kane‘s deflected shot go out for a corner, set up by Dele.

Herrera put United ahead just after the hour mark, as Lingard dummied a mistouch from Romelu Lukaku.