After scoring Manchester United’s opener in the team’s 3-1 win against West Ham, Danny Welbeck was forced to leave Saturday’s game after 54 minutes with a suspected knee injury. Though there were some fears the England international had aggravated a problem that sidelined him earlier this season, the 23-year-old’s recovered enough to travel to Hull on Boxing Day, all fears of serious injury having been averted.
[REVIEW: Manchester United 3-1 West Ham: Rampant Red Devils ease to three points (video)]
Welbeck’s goal after 25 minutes Saturday at Old Trafford was his third in as many games, the young striker having stepped up in the absence of the injured Robin van Persie. But just nine minutes after halftime, David Moyes had to bring off his number nine, with Welbeck forced off in favor of Javier Hernández. Though United would go on to their fourth straight win, the status of their hottest goalscorer was in doubt.
Having started the last three games, Welbeck’s been crucial to Manchester United’s uptick in goals, with the team scoring eight times in that span. Though Hernández and Wayne Rooney are also capable of being deployed as David Moyes’s lead striker, the ongoing absence of van Persie (thigh) increases Welbeck’s importance. Without him, Hernández or Shinji Kagawa (eight league starts combined) would be forced into United’s starting XI.
[PREVIEW: Hull City vs. Manchester United]
From Moyes’s perspective, however, that possibility doesn’t seem particularly likely. From reporting by the Guardian:
“I didn’t know exactly what it was after the game. He had a problem with his knee a few weeks ago but this was just a kick right on the kneecap,” the United manager said. ” It is only a contact injury, one he should be able to shake off. He has trained and we hope he is OK.”
With or without Welbeck, United will be favored to extend their winning streak to five on Thursday when they kick off Boxing Day with their visit to Hull.
Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.
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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”
Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:
“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.
“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.
Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.
[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]
Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.
Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)
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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.
That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.
One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.
[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]
Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.
Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.