Manchester United 4-1 Aston Villa: United secure in comfortable comeback win

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Manchester United may have managed to quell – temporarily at least – the negative voices surrounding the team’s performance this season. The hosts came back to secure all three points at Old Trafford, beating an Aston Villa side that seemed to take a rather creative approach to defense.

For the first ten minutes, all talk focused on the hotly-anticipated banner funded by a group of disgruntled United fans. The plane flew overhead, the crowd below boo’d the banner reading “Wrong One Moyes Out.”

But by the 13th minute, the Old Trafford faithful were once again shaking their heads. Rafael, unable to deal with Gabby Agbonlahor’s pace, brought down the Villa forward just outside the box. Ashley Westwood sent the resulting free kick curving over the wall, landing directly in the corner of David De Gea’s net.

It took just seven minutes for United to draw level. The Villa defense, sleepwalking yet again, gave plenty of space for Shinji Kagawa to put in a cross. Wayne Rooney, unmarked inside the box, had no trouble flicking the ball past Brad Guzan for the equalizer.

(MORE: Premier League Roundup: Chelsea slip up, Man United respond, relegation drama)

By halftime, Aston Villa fans must’ve been wondering if they were stuck watching a repeat of last week’s 4-1 loss to Stoke, another game in which they took an early lead. This time, Leandro Bacuna made the curious decision to clip Juan Mata’s shins inside the area. Martin Atkinson wasted no time in pointing to the spot and Rooney wasted no time putting in his shot. His perfect penalty flew into the bottom right corner, giving Guzan no chance.

Christian Benteke missed a golden opportunity to put the visitors level at the start of the second half. The Belgian got on the end of a ball from Marc Albrighton, chesting it down perfectly. Then, with plenty of space to shoot, he managed to whiff his shot completely.

Villa came to regret that wonderful miss in the 57th minute, when Mata put United up 3-1 with his first goal for his new side. Marouane Fellaini made space inside the area, but it was the Spaniard that was able to find a clear opportunity on goal, putting his shot into the bottom right corner.

As if that weren’t enough for the hapless Villa, Javier Hernández had to go and score a fourth in injury time, perfectly mimicking last week’s defeat. Fellow substitute Adnan Januzaj was the creator, slipping down the left before sliding the ball to Chicharito at the far post.

Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael (Carrick 46), Jones, Vidic, Buttner; Young, Fellaini, Fletcher, Kagawa (Januzaj 68); Mata, Rooney (Hernández 75)

Goals: Rooney 20′, 45′; Mata 57; Hernández 91′

Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar, Clark, Bertrand, Westwood, Delph, Albrighton (Lowton 78), Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor (Tonev 71)

Goals: Westwood 13′

Pochettino: Dembele “next to Ronaldinho, Maradona”

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Mousa Dembele‘s been appreciated as a midfielder for sometime, but the Belgian is getting as many rave reviews as any other non-scorer these days.

Tottenham’s middle man got the twice-over from his manager on Friday, as Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino prepares for Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

Calling Dembele a “genius,” Pochettino heaped praise on the 30-year-old.

“I’ve told you, I put him next to Ronaldinho, Maradona, Okocha – players I’ve been lucky enough to play with. For me he’s one of the unbelievable talents in the history of football.”

The temptation is to make a joke about Dembele being next to Ronaldinho and Maradona in the lobby of an awards ceremony, but the player has been dynamite for some time.

The advanced stats, for what they’re worth, aren’t incredibly kind to Dembele aside from his club-best 93 percent passing percentage and average of 2.2 successful dribbles per game. Still, it’s improbably hard to ignore the eye test, and Dembele passes that one every time.

Spurs are off to Selhurst Park for a Sunday match with Palace (Watch live at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Fonte leaves West Ham after one year (for Dalian Yifang)

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Surely it was supposed to go a bit better than this: West Ham has moved center back Jose Fonte to the Chinese Super League.

Fonte, 34, is the latest member of Dalian Yifang, the Irons announced Friday. Reports say it’s a move for about $7 million.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

It ends an unexceptional 12 months for the center back, who made just 24 appearances for West Ham after engineering a move away from Southampton.

Fonte was publicly criticized by West Ham’s co-owner David Sullivan earlier this season as Sullivan said his children “begged him” not to sign Fonte and Robert Snodgrass last January. Ouch.

Injured for much of this season, Fonte was one of the Saints’ heroes as the club moved from the disappointment of League One to the Europa League.

Those heroics inspired this longform piece from Joe Prince-Wright.

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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Week 28 of the Premier League season is here and the main talking points are the battle for the top four and the ever-changing relegation situation.

MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

Remember: due to the League Cup final on Sunday, finalists Arsenal will host Manchester City on Thursday, Mar. 1 as they were also scheduled to play in the PL this weekend. That worked out smoothly.

The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Leicester City vs. Stoke City – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Ham – CNBC [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Newcastle United – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton vs. Swansea City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Burnley vs. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
10 a.m. ET: West Brom vs. Huddersfield Town – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
12:30 p.m. ET: Watford vs. Everton – NBC [STREAM]

Sunday
7 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur – NBCSN [STREAM]
9:05 a.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM

Pep sticking with Bravo for final: “Locker room more important”

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Petr Cech and Ederson will watch from the bench as their clubs start the League Cup Final on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola announced that Manchester City will turn to Claudio Bravo between the sticks against Arsenal, which has already appointed David Ospina as its backstop for the final.

[ MORE: Europa League draw ]

And if you think Pep, having seen his side lose to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup, should go back to Ederson for the final, he gets it.

“You can have an opinion, I am the manager. We are here for Claudio. He saved two lots of penalties. He deserves to play in the final. The locker room is more important than the final.”

The points aren’t completely independent, of course, but at this point the final is pretty darn important as Man City could see its trophy potential drop from 4-2 in little more than a week’s time.

Bravo has played just 45 minutes in the Premier League, against Liverpool in relief of Ederson, but has been the man for each of eight League and FA Cup matches.

City has just one clean sheet in that group, but won the seven matches apart from the 1-0 Wigan defeat. Two of those, against Wolves and Leicester, came in penalty kicks.