Manchester United 4-0 Norwich City: Giggs Era is off to a fantastic start (video)

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It was a dream debut for Ryan Giggs, who on Saturday took up an unfamiliar position in the Old Trafford dugout. The interim manager, sharply dressed in a snazzy suit, flashed plenty of smiles as Manchester United beat relegation-threatened Norwich City 4-0, with a brace apiece from Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata.

United got off to a pacy start, attacking the Norwich goal and letting fly with shots from distance. Wayne Rooney’s 25 yard strike forced a block from Steven Whittaker, while crosses from Antonio Valencia kept the Canaries defense on its toes.

But it was the visitors who had the ball in the back of the net first, with their traveling fans celebrating a goal from Jonny Howson. Unfortunately for those supporters, the whistle had already been blown for Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s foul on Phil Jones.

John Ruddy did well to keep the hosts out for much of the match. He made a great save to deny Danny Welbeck at the near post. Rooney then took advantage of Norwich’s defensive woes, but his strike was blocked by Michael Turner.

In the end it took a penalty to get Manchester United on the scoreboard. Whittaker brought down Welbeck inside the area, and although replays showed there was minimal contact, Lee Probert pointed to the spot (although he elected not to show the defender a card). It was Rooney that stepped to the spot, putting his shot low and to the right for the first goal of the Giggs Era.

United, perhaps wary of Norwich’s desperation, set off attacking right from the restart. It didn’t take long for Rooney to double his side’s lead. While Ruddy shouted for the Canaries’ defense to close down Shinji Kagawa, the wideman had no trouble slipping the ball to Rooney. He then easily evaded the Norwich defenders and, as he slipped to the ground, fired off a shot that evaded Ruddy to nestle into the back of the net.

The hosts then missed out on two great opportunities to cement their lead. Ruddy did extremely well to keep out Welbeck, who struck wonderfully on the half volley. From the resulting corner, Nemanja Vidić put his header well over the bar.

Those chances ultimately mattered little, however. Just three minutes after replacing Welbeck, Juan Mata got himself on the scoreboard with United’s third goal. Ruddy managed to block a shot from Rooney, but the ball fell back into the crowd of red shirts around the Norwich goal. Phil Jones put in the cross for Mata, completely unmarked, to tap in.

Just ten minutes later, Mata had a second. From the byline, Patrice Evra pulled back to volley to the opposite side of goal. Antonio Valencia got on the end of it, sidefooting the ball into the path of the onrushing Mata. The Spaniard nodded in to give Manchester United their fourth goal.

Norwich did what they could to find the goal, but with their lack of precision, they were unable to find even a consolation. With Fulham’s draw earlier in the day, the Canaries are still safe, but if either Sunderland or Cardiff win on Sunday, they’ll end the weekend in the relegation zone.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea; Jones, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley (Hernandez 71), Kagawa (Young 65); Welbeck (Mata 60), Rooney

Goals: Rooney 41′; 49′; Mata 63′; 73′

Norwich City: Ruddy; Whittaker, Martin, Turner, Olsson; Johnson; Fer (Tettey 80), Howson; Snodgrass; Redmond (Redmond 69), van Wolfswinkel (Elmander 57)

Champions League score picks – Week 2

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The UEFA Champions League group stage kicks off Week 2 on Tuesday, so let’s have some fun and try to predict the scores.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

Feel free to join in down in the comments section, as I’m predicting another unbeaten week for all five Premier League teams in action.

[ MORE: Group stage predictions ] 

Below you will find score predictions for all 16 UCL games across the next two days.


Tuesday

Group E
Sevilla 3-1 Maribor
Spartak Moscow 1-1 Liverpool

Group F
Man City 3-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Napoli 3-1 Feyenoord

Group G
Besiktas 0-2 RB Leipzig
Monaco 2-1 FC Porto

Group H
Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Real Madrid
APOEL 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur

Wednesday

Group A
CSKA Moscow 1-2 Manchester United
Basel 0-2 Benfica

Group B
Paris Saint-Germain 2-2 Bayern Munich
Anderlecht 2-1 Celtic

Group C
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Chelsea
Qarabag 1-3 Roma

Group D
Sporting Lisbon 1-3 Barcelona
Juventus 2-1 Olympiacos

Court hearing opens into spectators attacking referees

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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) Witnesses in Uruguay’s capital testified before a judge on Monday about an attack on two referees by spectators at a soccer match.

A male and a female referee were attacked on Saturday during a second division under-19 game between Basanez and Platense.

The next day, the Uruguay Football Association cancelled all organized football as referees protested the violence by refusing to officiate. Officials are expected to meet on Wednesday to decide if they will lift the stoppage.

Witnesses told Judge Julia Staricco it started after a kid threw rocks on the field with encouragement from his father. The female referee’s partner asked the kid to stop, leading to an argument with other spectators who punched and kicked the referees.

An attorney representing the country’s referees union, Fernando de Los Santos, says the officials suffered bruises to their bodies.

“There are several people responsible here: The players, especially who are all young in the under-19 category; their parents, and their families,” de Los Santos said.

“This is not new. We’ve seen this kind of violence in the lower divisions. But this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The Basanez and Platense clubs have issued statements condemning the violence. Basanez also said it fired one of its players who was part of the attack.

The case is being handled by the same local judge who recently charged three people for violent acts during the Penarol-Nacional derby.

Morata has a warning for Chelsea’s Premier League rivals

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Alvaro Morata believes his fast start to life in the Premier League at Chelsea is only a taster of what is to come.

[ MORE: Who is the PL’s most complete striker? ]

After scoring a hat trick at Stoke City on Saturday in Chelsea’s 4-0 win, Morata spoke to reporters about the chances he missed and admitted he could have had five goals to his name.

The Spanish striker, 24, is clearly not content with simply replacing Diego Costa at Chelsea.

“I am happy with my start in the Premier League but I can do better,” Morata said. “I had two chances at the end of the game against Stoke [but didn’t take them]. I also need to improve my physical condition to be as good as possible.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Can do better. Six goals in your first six Premier League games is a pretty decent return, Alvaro.

Still, you can see what he’s saying. Morata has looked good in fits and starts so far this season but his undeniable quality is there for all to see. He scored three goals and added two assists with his head before Saturday’s breakout where he proved he can also score with his feet.

Morata struggled against Arsenal 10 days ago as he seemed isolated up top and the physicality of the Premier League seems to still surprise him at times.

It is still early days for the Spanish international who joined for $77.8 million (which could rise to $93.9 million) but the way in which he accelerated past Stoke’s defense on his first and second goals, then finished coolly reminded us all that of his schooling at Real Madrid and Juventus.

Morata is now undeniably a contender for the Golden Boot and looks like a more refined, agile replacement for Costa. His quickness of thought and elegance has replaced the brute force and desire of Costa and it seems like it will work out just fine.

Jose Mourinho on Man United’s midfield injury crisis

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Jose Mourinho has been speaking in Moscow ahead of Manchester United’s UEFA Champions League clash with CSKA Moscow on Wednesday.

[ MORE: UCL team news for PL clubs ]

The Man United boss has had a positive start to the new season with seven wins from nine games in all competitions as his side are second in the Premier League table only on goal difference.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

That said, injuries are mounting up for the Red Devils, particularly in central midfield as Marouane Fellaini, Paul Pogba and Michael Carrick are all missing for United’s trip to CSKA.

“We don’t have Fellaini. We don’t have Pogba. We don’t have Carrick. All three midfield players that we lose for this match. The solutions are not many,” Mourinho said. “We are trying not to focus on individual battles in specific areas on the pitch. We are going to have a team with quality and balance to try to win the match. That’s our objective.”

What are Mourinho’s solutions to plug these gaps?

Ander Herrera will likely start in central midfield alongside Nemanja Matic which should be enough but given the extent of the injuries to both Pogba and Fellaini they will also have to play against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Fellaini was injured by Southampton’s Shane Long on Saturday and Mourinho confirmed the Belgian midfielder would not play again before the international break.

“Fellaini was lucky. It could be a much worse situation but in a moment where we don’t have Pogba and Carrick he becomes even more important than he always is. I expect Fellaini not to be out for a long time,” Mourinho added.

As for Mourinho, he was asked about the decision by the English Football Association to take no further action after he was sent to the stands late on in United’s 1-0 victory at Southampton on Saturday.

“If I am not punished it is because there are no reasons for the sending off,” Mourinho said. “I am happy that it is recognized and I can do my work normally against Crystal Palace. That’s enough for me.”