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′

Rashford’s childhood hero played for USMNT (Take one guess)

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But can he grow a beard?

Manchester United attacker Marcus Rashford is known for his darting runs and clever finishes, but he grew up begging to get between the sticks with a lot of love for an American.

“Howard was my idol. I used to have a little Tim Howard shirt.”

[ MORE: Dempsey still wants USMNT role ]

Rashford said he’d ask his youth coach to allow him to play goal so he could mimic his hero, who at the time was the Manchester United backstop and now USMNT legend.

The 20-year-old was nine when Howard left Old Trafford, but it hasn’t changed his enjoyment for tending goal. Rashford joked that he’s got to be the choice to replace David De Gea in case of a post-sub emergency.

Watch Live: Watford vs. West Ham United

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David Moyes‘ first match in charge of West Ham United sees a striker change at Vicarage Road against testy Watford (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Andy Carroll will be up top, and Andre Ayew is hurt to boot.

Marco Silva leads Watford’s hosts with Adrian Mariappa, Christian Kabasele, and Miguel Britos at the back of a 3-5-2.

LINEUPS

Watford: Gomes; Mariappa, Kabasele, Britos; Femenía, Cleverley, Doucouré, Zeegelaar; Hughes, Richarlison; Gray. Subs: Karnezis, Prödl, Holebas, Capoue, Pereyra, Carrillo, Okaka.

West Ham United: Hart, Zabaleta, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Noble, Kouyate, Obiang, Arnautovic, Lanzini, Carroll. Subs: Adrian, Masuaku, Rice, Fernandes, Quina, Sakho, Martinez.

Dempsey still happy to accept USMNT role (which is good)

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Clint Dempsey is tied with Landon Donovan for the most goals in USMNT history, and seems set to continue with the side in some capacity as he threatens to stand alone in American history.

[ MLS: Steve Bruce to Miami? ]

The 34-year-old striker spoke with Steve Zakuani on the Sounders’ web site (video below) and said he’s happy to accept continued call-ups should they arrive from USSF headquarters.

From SoundersFC.com:

“We’ll see what happens,” Dempsey said.” I mean, in terms of what I’ve been able to accomplish with the national team, I’m at peace with it. It’s not really about me. It’s about a group of guys that want to be moving forward.

“If there’s an opportunity that comes where you get to play a role and try to help and I’m feeling good and I’m playing well, then yeah, you’ll never say no. But you know, if the call never comes I’m still happy, still at peace, and focused on being here and trying to make the most of the time I have left.”

There are a number of players whose national team futures should be in question, but Dempsey is in a different class. No one has debated his motor or fuel, and his engine is still there (to complete the Springsteen-esque car comparisons, he remains one of the only things that qualifiers as chrome-wheeled, fuel-injected, and steppin’ out over the line).

If anything, he plays too close to the edge. That’s not something I see as one of the Yanks’ problems right now, so perhaps Dempsey needs to be viewed like Cuauhtemoc Blanco or Carlos Ruiz as a CONCACAF guy who’s around as long as he wants to be a part of it.

I mean, shoot, if Dempsey wants to keep passing the fire to Christian Pulisic and now Weston McKennie, there are far worse ambassadors for the program. He’s the most accomplished field player in recent history, and will be able to share so much when it comes to balancing club and country.

Heck, maybe he needs to be the late era Ryan Giggs of the 2018-2022 USMNT.

Beckham reportedly wants Steve Bruce in Miami

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He’s got the same initials as South Beach, you know?

Steve Bruce is being tipped to be the first manager of David Beckham’s Miami MLS outfit, according to The Sun.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup ]

It’s going to be some time before Bruce would have the opportunity. The 56-year-old former Manchester United star has Aston Villa in a Football League Championship promotion push, and Miami does not even have a start date for life on an MLS pitch.

Of course, managerial life tends to be short, so there’s no guarantee Bruce will have a job at any point during the build-up to Miami in MLS. And several expansion clubs have named their coach very early in the team building process (Jason Kreis and Bob Bradley amongst others).

Bruce on MLS’ parity-driven playing field, if not as one of the big spenders, would be intriguing to watch. He’s a terrific man motivator and has the connections to combine with Beckham to make something special happen in terms of personnel.