Sunderland 1-1 Manchester United: Rodwell’s first Sunderland goal thwarts United again

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Two matches, and Louis van Gaal is still without a win at Manchester United.

The defense still looked shaky and the attack disjointed as Sunderland nicked a point off the Red Devils and kept them winless through the first two Premier League matches of the year.

Former Manchester City young gun Jack Rodwell scored on his second Sunderland start and cancelled out Juan Mata’s early score to split the spoils.

It was a rough start for Manchester United’s defenders still learning Louis van Gaal’s 3-at-the-back system, as their defenders continually allowed opponents in behind them and made poor passes that were often cut out.

Will Buckley looked bright along the Sunderland flank, and he earned two fouls as United continued to play without their heads.

Despite these, Manchester United picked up the game’s first chance, and they were incisive enough to snatch the game’s first goal. Against the run of play, Antonio Valencia worked a deflected cross on the right flank and it found the end of Juan Mata’s run for the Spaniard to poke home for a lead after 17 minutes.

Sunderland continued to be bright, especially Buckley who ran rampant down the right, and he earned a corner on the half-hour mark. Jack Rodwell headed the corner into the back of the net after losing Tyler Blackett, and Sunderland were level.

There was little else from the first half other than a half-chance that Steven Fletcher whiffed with a bicycle kick, and Chris Smalling was forced off with a hamstring injury.

Manchester United didn’t look any sharper in the second half, and Connor Wickham nearly earned Sunderland the lead five minutes after the break when a beautiful touch scooped the ball over Darren Fletcher’s head before unleashing a volley that cannoned off Tyler Blackett and just evaded the post.

Robin van Persie did have an opportunity in the 61st minute, but his lovely feed from Mata and Fletcher resulted in a heavy touch from the Dutchman as he latched onto the ball.

Just one minute later, Manchester United had a pair of chances, with both van Persie and Ashley Young going to ground in the penalty area. Referee Martin Atkinson waved off both challenges, and booked Young for diving in the process.  There was definitely contact on both challenges, but van Persie’s was a good challenge by John O’Shea, and Young anticipated contact with Wes Brown the whole way through.

United thought they had a breakthrough in the 78th minute when substitute Danny Welbeck played a beautiful ball across the pitch to spring open Ashley Young behind the defenders, but Vito Mannone came well out of the box to thwart the attack.

That was about it, as United pressed and pressed and pressed for a goal as time wound down, but Sunderland defended bravely and looked to nick something off the counter.  Gus Poyet brought in Jozy Altidore with 13 minutes to go and he looked most dangerous on the break.  But it would not be as the sides shared the points.

LINEUPS:

Sunderland: Mannone; Vergini, van Aanholt, Brown, O’Shea; Cattermole, Larsson, Rodwell (Jordi Gomez 64′), Buckley (Bridcutt 79′); Wickham, Fletcher (Altidore 77′).

Goals: Rodwell 30′

Manchester United: De Gea; Jones, Smalling (Keane 44′), Blackett; Valencia, Cleverley, Fletcher (Januzaj 63′), Mata, Young; Rooney, Robin van Persie (Welbeck 63′).

Goals: Mata 17′

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.