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′

Russia has reasons for optimism despite Confed Cup exit

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MOSCOW (AP) When the anger subsides after another group stage exit and another goalkeeping blunder, Russian fans might find they can be proud of their team at the Confederations Cup.

Russia failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.

“We will move on,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. “We have won (the fans’) hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month that we have been together … I think that we have given some reasons to feel optimistic about us.”

If Russia’s fans agreed with Cherchesov that Russia had done well to limit Portugal to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, there was frustration that Russia hadn’t done better against a poor Mexican side.

Russia wasted chances to exploit Mexico’s ragged defending and add to Alexander Samedov’s opener, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev performed an inexplicable lunge which allowed Hirving Lozano to head in the winner. Akinfeev was lucky not to be red-carded, too, after his foot caught Lozano in the chest.

Akinfeev was the immediate scapegoat for Russia’s exit, with fans and newspapers calling for his removal.

The most-capped player in the squad – the Mexico game was his 101st international appearance – Akinfeev’s bulletproof consistency in the Russian Premier League has kept him the undisputed national-team No. 1 for years.

When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.

Against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup, an innocuous long shot slipped from his grasp and went in, paving the way for another early Russian exit from the tournament. There have been more than a few blunders in the 43 games since Akinfeev last kept a clean sheet for CSKA in the Champions League, too.

But it’s hard to see who could replace him. The naturalized Brazilian reserve keeper Guilheme is agile but injury prone, while Vladimir Gabulov is a solid but unspectacular veteran. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Yuri Lodygin challenged Akinfeev for a while, but was brought low by his own tendency for embarrassing errors.

On the positive side for Russia, defender Georgy Dzhikiya was solid in all three group games after having only made his debut on June 5, and Cherchesov’s three-man back line was mostly reliable.

Less successful was Cherchesov’s attempt to bolster the midfield by starting Roman Shishkin – usually a defender – in a defensive midfield role against Portugal and Mexico, while 33-year-old ex-Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov did his World Cup hopes no favors with a red card Saturday.

Russia’s run of injuries before the tournament weakened the midfield in particular, with Alan Dzagoev and the promising Roman Zobnin both missing out. Forward Artyom Dzyuba’s absence left Cherchesov relying heavily on Fyodor Smolov, who showed touches of class but missed a good chance against Portugal.

Perhaps the biggest damage from Russia’s Confederations Cup exit will be to Russian pride.

Officials have often bragged that the home advantage for next year’s World Cup could drive Russia to new heights, perhaps a repeat of South Korea’s charge to the semifinals in 2002. Those expectations are now being reviewed.

Just one World Cup host in history – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to get out of the group stage. Avoiding a repeat may be the most Russia can hope for.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

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They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

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Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

[ MORE: De Boer set to be named new Crystal Palace boss ]

Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.

Report: Frank De Boer accepts Crystal Palace job

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Frank de Boer is widely expected to be named new Crystal Palace manager this week, as he has reportedly accepted the job after having been offered the position this week.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The 47-year-old Dutchman has been out of work since he was fired by Inter Milan in November. He lasted just 84 days at the San Siro, where he managed to win just five of 14 games. Inter Milan is Inter Milan, though, and that’s something worth remembering when critiquing Palace’s impending appointment of De Boer.

Palace are also widely expected to back De Boer in the transfer market this summer, in a big way. Kelechi Iheanacho is the biggest name linked with a move to Selhurst Park, as the 20-year-old Nigerian striker is reportedly unwanted by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.