David Moyes’ “never deserved to be behind” view epitomizes his first five months at Manchester United

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For Manchester United fans, David Moyes’ post-match sentiments are going to sound familiar, with the Red Devils’ boss going so far to say his team “never deserved to be behind” while lauding their play in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Tottenham.

If the New Year’s Day game was an isolated example of decent play coming up short, the explanation might carry more weight, but for a team that ran away with last year’s title, decent isn’t enough. It’s the type of standard that allows you to accept dropping points when you’re otherwise controlling games at home.

[MORE: Manchester United 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur: Eriksen inspires more Old Trafford blues]

For Moyes, however, the “small mistakes” that led to United’s fourth home loss of the season shouldn’t completely overshadow the good that came from his players’ effort. From the club website:

“The players played very well,” the manager said. “Their effort was terrific to try and get back into the game after being 2-0 down …

“We shouldn’t have been in the position of being 2-0 down. We’d already made a change to see if we could go for it a little more and get a goal back but their second goal was on the counter-attack.

source: Getty Images
Last season, Manchester United last three games at home en route to the Premier League title, and while few expected David Moyes to replicate the success the Red Devils experienced under Alex Ferguson, United have last four of their first 10 games at Old Trafford this season. (Photo: Getty Images)

Although Moyes says his team should have never been in that position, they got there because they didn’t generate enough chances. When Christian Eriksen put Spurs up two in the 66th minute, Spurs had more shots on target (3-2) despite United holding near 60 percent possession. Total shots were in United’s favor, but unable to generate better opportunities, the Red Devils had let the scoreboard lean decisively toward Spurs.

That’s why it’s difficult to reconcile the type of ‘one of those days’ analysis Moyes seems to be spinning. From one point of view, United did play well, especially as they were chasing the game, but that’s a view that tends to overstate the value of possession while underestimating the influence of goals (particularly the first one). United may have controlled the ball, but they trailed for over 56 minutes in a game they were expected to win.

In that sense, Moyes’ overall evaluation seems inconsistent.

“We got done on the counter-attack for a couple of goals and made a couple of mistakes,” Moyes told the club’s website, “but I thought the team played very well today.

“All you can do is play well and then hopefully you take your opportunities when they come and you don’t make small mistakes.”

Perhaps, but getting “done” on the counter-attack is not consistent with playing well. Failing to generate enough good chances is also inconsistent with playing well, as is dropping to 4-4-2 at home on the season. Perhaps this is parsing Moyes’s words too much, but if his approach forced more on generating chances rather that “[taking] your opportunities when they come,” United wouldn’t be in seventh place.

It’s a microcosm of Moyes – the heart of the tension underlying his move to Manchester United. What would have been seen as “playing well” for a team of Everton’s resources doesn’t work at Old Trafford, where the talent, recent success, and expectations of his new club demand a higher standard.

Moyes surely understands this, but it’s unclear when that understanding will translate into United’s approach. In games like Wednesday’s, playing well just isn’t enough.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.

Klopp “angry, surprised” by Liverpool defeat to Swansea

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Liverpool fans might disagree — Jurgen Klopp certainly does, tonight, at least — but the beauty of the Premier League is that you can end the runaway leaders’ bid for an unbeaten season, then lose to the last-place team in the league, in back-to-back games.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

This, of course, leaves Klopp, Liverpool’s fiery, combustible manager, more than a little hot under the collar. Following Monday’s 1-0 loss away to bottom-of-the-league Swansea City, Klopp pulled no punches in describing the emotions he feels after such a result.

“Frustrated,” “angry” and “surprised” quickly came to mind after seeing his side’s 14-game PL unbeaten run come to an end. Despite creating 21 chances on the night, the likes of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain managed to put just four on target, which was undoubtedly the genesis of his frustration, anger and surprise — quotes from the BBC:

“I’m frustrated and I’m angry because it was not a good game. We lost the game in the first half. We didn’t do what we wanted to do. It hasn’t happened too often so I didn’t expect that, I was quite surprised. Because of the first half we weren’t flying and they were.

“We made pressure at the end but not enough to score. The last situation was unlucky but if we got a point it would still have been a bad game for us, and it was the opposite of what we wanted. That happens from time to time and it’s never the right moment and like it should be.

“It’s not that we threw it away. Swansea are fighting for their life and we’ve no problem with that, we had a problem with our offensive motions. It’s not what we came here for tonight. We have nothing, and that’s our fault.”

Swansea 1-0 Liverpool: Last-place Swans shock Reds

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  • Swansea shock Liverpool in game of few chances
  • Mawson sweeps home the winner — 40′
  • Reds’ 14-game PL unbeaten run ends
  • Swans now 2W-1D-1L under Carvalhal

From the high of snapping Manchester City’s unbeaten run (30 games dating back to last season) and bid for an unbeaten 2017-18 Premier League season, to being beaten by last-place Swansea City… in back-to-back games… all in the span of eight days.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

On Monday, Swansea topped Liverpool, 1-0 at the Liberty Stadium, to claim just their fifth PL victory all season; two of the five have come in the first three weeks of new manager Carlos Carvalhal’s tenure (four games).

Virgil Van Dijk cost Liverpool $100 million, but he’s yet to arrest the Reds’ woeful set-piece defending. It was the big Dutchman who failed to head the ball clear from the Swans’ 40th-minute corner kick. After an unfortunate bounce in the box, the ball fell to Mawson just 10 yards out. The young Welshman swept his right foot through the ball and Loris Karius could do nothing about it.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Liverpool’s first surefire chance of the second half came in the 60th minute, when Mohamed Salah delicately lifted just over the wall a free kick from 22 yards out. The ball quickly fell as it neared goal, but Lukasz Fabianski reacted quicker and pushed it over the crossbar at full-stretch to preserve the lead at 1-0.

Right on 94 minutes, with the referee staring at his watch, Roberto Firmino headed off Fabianski’s right-hand post and Adam Lallana missed an open-net follow-up, somehow booting the ball well over the bar from three yards out.

Despite holding over 70 percent of possession on the night, Liverpool put on target just four of their 21 total shots.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

With the defeat, Liverpool (47 points) fail to capitalize on Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw with Southampton on Sunday. Having ultimately gained a point in Round 24, Tottenham now trail Liverpool by just two points in the race for fourth. The two sides meet in two weeks’ time, on Sunday, Feb. 4, at Anfield.

Swansea (20 points), meanwhile, have done nearly enough to climb out of the PL cellar, but remain 20th out of 20 teams on goal differential. Three points stand between them and safety.