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Thinking through assertions of those “straightforward” Manchester United tactics

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We’ll set aside for now the wisdom of Rene Meulensteen having a wee go at mighty Manchester United. David Moyes’ first year as boss around Old Trafford certainly isn’t going as planned, but does anyone doubt that in the long run, the trophy count around Old Trafford will trump the total at cozy Craven Cottage?

The Fulham boss, perhaps drunk on elation of seeing his team’s big accomplishment in a 2-2 draw at United, labeled Manchester United’s tactics as “straightforward.”

This BBC story notes that the men of Manchester United supplied 81 crosses, and says that was the most by any team in a Premier League team in a contest 2006. Of that telling total, 18 found a United target.

Fulham’s manager was proffering that United became surprisingly easy to defend.  Essentially, he said, it comes down to “see cross, deal with cross.”

It’s not always that simple, of course. Center backs and goalkeepers need to be more or less mistake free in terms of positioning, communication and technical merit to successfully deal with 70 to 80 crosses over 90 minutes. Give any team that many opportunities and you’re asking for it at some point.

United did, after all, score twice. It certainly wasn’t an alarming number of crosses that saw United concede two at home to the Premier League’s bottom side.

(MORE: Prindi’s picks for this weeks’ Premier League matches)

But the Fulham manager does get us to this point: wasn’t Juan Mata’s ballyhooed January arrival supposed to help in this very matter? Wasn’t the former Chelsea man’s move north from West London supposed to address the Red Devil’s over-reliance on service from wide areas?

On the one hand, Fulham put so many bodies behind the ball that crossing from wide areas was often the one and only way through. On the other hand, it’s on Moyes to get the most from what should now be a potentially devastating, attacking foursome of Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Adnan Januzaj and Mata, however that may be.

The team’s next chance to get it right comes Wednesday at Arsenal.

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia