Phil Jones heads in the opening goal in Manchester United's 3-0 win at West Brom

West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Manchester United: Baggies in real danger after loss (video)

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After coming from behind to draw even in each of their last four home matches, West Bromwich Albion must’ve been confident when they went into halftime down by just a goal. Instead Manchester United managed to tear them apart in the second, leaving the Baggies even closer to the drop zone. They’ll be praying that Cardiff – Fulham finishes in a draw (and Pepe Mel will likely be praying he’s still got a job).

West Brom spent the majority of the first half sitting deep, inviting pressure from the visitors. They had an excellent chance in the 11th minute, when a quick counter allowed Victor Anichebe space to get behind the United defense. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones managed to stop his run, but Jones immediately gave the ball away. Unfortunately for the hosts, Chris Brunt could only aim his shot into the side netting.

(MORE: Premier League Roundup – Chelsea clear at the top, Man United click, Cardiff bag huge win)

From that point on, the first half belonged to Manchester United, as the Red Devils continued to wear down West Brom. In the 16th minute, a shot from Marouane Fellaini bounced off Brunt, but Youssouf Mulumbu was there to clear off the line.

The turning point came in the 34th minute, when Brunt fouled Rafael. It was Robin van Persie that stood over the ball, putting a lovely free kick into the midst of the red shirts. Jones got on the end of it, barely needing a touch to flick his header past Ben Foster and into the back of the net.

Then, in the 42nd minute, Foster handed us all a nice, big, talking point, one that will surely be discussed by pundits for the next few days. The Albion keeper came out to deal with the ball, but appeared to handle it just outside the area. The linesman was nearby, but no call was made. West Brom got away with one, as it certainly looked like Foster should have been sent off.

Early in the second half, United breathed their own sigh of relief when, minutes after being booked for a late challenge on Morgan Amalfitano, van Persie escaped a second yellow for a foul on Steven Reid.

Possibly mindful of West Brom’s tendency to come back and snatch a late equalizer in the dying minutes of the match, Wayne Rooney decided to knock in a second for his side in the 65th minute. Rafael, getting forward once more, put in the cross, with Rooney getting on the end to head home.

And that was game-set-match for the Baggies, whose spirit seemed broken by the second goal. Thus the third United goal came as little surprise. Danny Welbeck, on for van Persie shortly after the booking-that-wasn’t, put the ball in after a lovely move that saw Fellaini and Rooney exchanging passes as they made their way up the pitch. It was Rooney that provided the assist, a through ball that Welbeck pounced on to slide into the bottom right corner of Foster’s goal.

West Brom: Foster; Reid (Sessegnon 60), McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Yacob (Morrison 40), Mulumbu; Amalfitano, Gera, Brunt (Berahino 66), Anichebe

Manchester United: De Gea, Rafael (Vidic 87), Smalling, Jones, Evra, Carrick, Fellaini, Mata, Rooney, Januzaj (Kagawa 76), van Persie (Welbeck 63)

Goals: Jones 34′; Rooney 65′; Welbeck 82′

Klopp hopes for speedy solution in club, fans’ ticket-price dispute

Liverpool's fans wave flags during the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Stoke City at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
AP Photo/Jon Super
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From his time at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp is used to a much more positive, family-like, everyone-pulling-in-the-same-direction atmosphere at his club of employment, so the present goings-on at Liverpool understandably have the Reds’ first-year manager feeling more than a little uneasy.

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Saturday’s late 2-2 draw with Sunderland wasn’t the first time Liverpool fans have headed for the exit before the final whistle, leaving Klopp feeling all alone, but it was the first time the fans have departed from Anfield early in a pre-planned, organized manner (Klopp missed the game himself with appendicitis). The Anfield faithful didn’t walk out on 77 minutes due to their team’s poor performance — Liverpool were 2-0 ahead at the time — but in protest of steadily rising ticket prices, which were unveiled at $111 per game to sit in the 132-year-old stadium’s new main stand next season.

Klopp, coming from the Bundesliga, where a season ticket at clubs the size of Bayern Munich and Dortmund doesn’t cost much more than a single-game ticket at many Premier League grounds, understands the fans’ frustration. At the end of the day, though, he works for the club, which is why he just wants the whole thing settled quickly, for the sake of his squad — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s not what we want. What I know is everyone in the club has a big interest in finding a solution for this. We don’t want people to leave the stadium before the game is finished.”

An LFC TV appearance by Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre, in which he was expected to answer fan-submitted questions, was consequently canceled on Monday due to the ongoing dispute.

West Ham want Payet to sign new contract for fear of losing him this summer

Dimitri Payet, West Ham United FC (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Dimitri Payet is going to be a red-hot commodity during this summer’s transfer window, there’s no doubt about it.

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Given he’s currently contracted to one of the Premier League’s “smaller” clubs — in comparison to some of the giants which are bound to be interested — West Ham United, there’s a decent-to-good chance he could be wearing a different club’s shirt come August. Especially if the 28-year-old attacker shows up and shows out at this summer’s European Championship in his native France.

If I can foresee the interest in Payet, then so too can the executives at West Ham, which is why manager Slaven Bilic took to the press on Monday to convey his desire for Payet to consider signing a new, increased contract at his earliest convenience — quotes from the Guardian:

“We are moving, the club is moving, with the new stadium, with the revenue and everything. We have to move and the most important move is to keep your best players and to add some new players who are needed and Dimitri Payet is our best player — I have no problem whatsoever to say that. Of course, I would love to have him happy, long term, at the club.”

Of course West Ham want Payet to sign a new deal immediately — doing so would accomplish two things in the club’s eyes: 1) increase the likelihood he remains at the club next season, or 2) insure the club receives a higher transfer fee for the player if he leaves in the summer anyway. The more total money remaining on his West Ham contract, the more they can demand of a prospective buyer.

[ MORE: Ronaldo commits himself to Real Madrid through 2018 ]

From Payet’s side — unless he has absolutely zero desire to move to a club like Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United, where he’d likely be paid close to $200,000 per week — he’d be crazy to sign a new contract at this point. Not only would it make a move this summer more difficult, but a strong showing at EURO 2016 could be worth another $15,000 or $20,000 per week on a new contract with West Ham (his current contract is rumored to be close to $100,000 per week).

With as many as five seasons still remaining on his current contract (a one-year club option can be exercised at any point), and his stock perhaps at an all-time high, the next six months could hold Payet’s last chance to get really, really paid before he hits the downside of his career.

USWNT players’ union responds in USSF lawsuit

FILE - In this Sunday, July 5, 2015 file photo, the United States Women's National Team celebrates with the trophy after they beat Japan 5-2 in the FIFA Women's World Cup soccer championship in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The U.S. Soccer Federation’s original lawsuit against the union for its champion women’s national team has been sealed after the governing body realized it had disclosed the home addresses and email accounts of many players, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
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(AP) — The union that represents the Women’s World Cup-winning American national team opposed an expedited schedule in the lawsuit filed against it by the U.S. Soccer Federation last week, insisting no collective bargaining agreement exists.

The federation sued in an attempt to establish it has a contract with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association that runs through this year’s Olympics until Dec. 31. The union maintains the memorandum of understanding agreed to in March 2013 can be terminated at any time.

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The USSF filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago asking for an expedited schedule, and the submitted opposition papers Monday that claim “facts asserted in the motion are nowhere near accurate and are hotly disputed.”

The union also maintains the USSF knew about the disagreement since July but did nothing about it.

An initial status conference is set for April 4.

Lionel Messi to undergo tests for lingering kidney problems

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi holds the ball during a quarterfinal, second leg, Copa del Rey soccer match against Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Lionel Messi is to undergo medical tests to assess a recurrence of kidney problems.

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup | Barca win on Sunday

Messi missed the Club World Cup semifinal in December due to a renal colic, an abdominal ailment often related to the presence of kidney stones within renal ducts.

Barcelona says in a statement Monday that the tests to be conducted by Tuesday at the latest, are “to assess the evolution of the kidney problem he suffered last December.”

[ MORE: Champions League returns next week — KO round matchups ]

The statement says Messi will resume training with the squad on Wednesday, when Barcelona travels to Valencia for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals in which it carries a 7-0 lead.