Three things we learned: Man United vs. Liverpool

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Manchester United and Liverpool drew 1-1 at Old Trafford on Sunday as James Milner‘s penalty kick in the first half was canceled out by Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s late header as the points were shared between the bitter rivals.

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Jurgen Klopp looked like he’d get the better of Jose Mourinho for most of the match but Liverpool and United both remain firmly in the top four hunt.

 [ MORE: Klopp blasts “long ball” United

Here’s what we learned from a cagey encounter between these rivals at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Watch full match replay ] 


EMOJI GAME NOT STRONG FOR POGBA

Simply put, if you choose one of the biggest games on the planet to launch your own emoji, then make sure you play well.

Pogba, 23, didn’t do that and the most-expensive player in the world had a nightmare in several key scenarios during the game.

He lost Dejan Lovren time and time again on corner kicks in the first half and then was played through by Henrikh Mkhitaryan but scuffed his effort wide when he looked certain to score.

At the other end, Pogba then panicked when he lost sight of the ball as a corner came in and Lovren got the wrong side of him. He put his arm out and it was a clear handball as referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot. Pogba looked mortified.

As his new emoji spun around the adverting boards, Pogba’s head must have been spinning. For the rest of the game he tried to make up for his monumental mistake but the Frenchman was caught in possession on multiple occasions and when that happened he looked like a horse galloping in quicksand as he tried to retreat and gain the ball back from Liverpool’s small, speedy attackers.

[ LISTEN: 2 Robbies on Man United, Liverpool ] 

Following his slow start to life back at Old Trafford, Pogba had been mercurial in recent weeks as United won nine-straight games in all competitions. Against Liverpool his display stunk of someone trying too hard to impress and knowing everyone was watching him. That intense pressure shouldn’t impact Pogba, but it did. Big time.

After the initial deluge of #Pogba on the advertising boards int he first half, we didn’t see it in the second half. Brand Pogba took a big hit on Sunday.


LIVERPOOL LET OFF THE HOOK

United let Liverpool’s defense off the hook throughout this game.

Both Pogba and Henrik Mkhitaryan surged through huge gaps in Liverpool’s defense in the first half both Pogba dragged his effort wide and Mkhitaryan was denied by the brilliant Simon Mignolet in goal for Liverpool.

Mignolet also denied Ibrahimovic’s powerful low free kick in the first half and in the second half a giveaway from Trent Alexander-Arnold let Mkhitaryan race free down the right but his cross was missed by Anthony Martial under pressure.

United had the better scoring chances, by far, but looked rushed, panicked and like Pogba’s performance it seemed like the pressure was a little too much for them to handle.

For the equalizer Wayne Rooney, who had jumped off the bench at half time, used plenty of his experience to cross in and another sub, Marouane Fellaini, saw his header hit the post before Antonio Valencia pulled the ball back for Ibrahimovic to brilliantly head home. United let a much-changed Liverpool side off the hook. Simple as that.


KLOPP, MOURINHO STALEMATE… AGAIN

Klopp has now lost just one of his seven games against Mourinho as a manager and the Liverpool boss got his tactics spot on for most of the game on Sunday.

Lining up with a diamond in midfield from the start, Adam Lallana nullified Michael Carrick‘s influence and Klopp’s gameplan worked well up until the 60th minute. Mourinho had to go more direct, and it worked, but a draw was what neither manager wanted but had to begrudgingly accept. More often than not, they cancel each other out and Mourinho and Klopp now drawn four of their seven games against one another.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

For Liverpool, they are now seven points off leaders Chelsea but they are also just five points ahead of sixth-place United. It is all to play for with 17 games of the Premier League season to go as Liverpool and United drew their two games against each other this season.

What now for United? They sit 12 points behind leaders Chelsea but more importantly four points away from the top four and are just two points behind fifth-place after Man City’s defeat at Everton earlier on Sunday. United remain in the hunt but Klopp will be the happier manager after this draw at Old Trafford.

“This game belongs to the players” Wenger downplays Guardiola success

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Arsene Wenger has stressed that Pep Guardiola has not changed the game of soccer over the last decade or so, maintaining that the players are the ones who make a team truly great.

Asked if Guardiola has “raised the bar” of managing in his time at the top, Wenger said, “No, because you look at Barcelona and they are still the best team in Europe. You have to accept that the modern game has changed with the recruitment of the best players in a short number of clubs.”

[ MORE: EFL Cup final preview ]

“We, as managers, can maybe impart our philosophy but this game belongs to the players because the importance of the players has become bigger than ever before.”

In fact, Wenger showed a twinge of jealousy at all the attention Guardiola is getting with the team blowing out the rest of the Premier League this season, referencing trophies in the recent past Arsenal has hoisted. “We are maybe underdogs but we have to believe in our quality. The history, the fact we have done it before, shows why not do it again?”

“At the end of the day, you have to be cool,” Wenger said, “because Manchester City is dominating the league in the head of everybody and so maybe we are more underdogs than in the FA Cup semi-final [last season when Arsenal beat Man City].”

Deportivo wastes penalty kick, remains winless under Seedorf

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MADRID (AP) — Clarence Seedorf remained winless as Deportivo La Coruna coach after a 0-0 draw with Espanyol in the Spanish league on Friday.

Deportivo squandered chances including a second-half penalty kick taken by Lucas Perez. Its winless streak reached 10 games in all competitions.

It was the third game in a row without a victory since Seedorf took over to try to avoid relegation. Deportivo was 18th in the 20-team standings, in the relegation zone.

In addition to the missed penalty, Deportivo twice hit the posts in front of a supportive crowd at Riazor Stadium. The players left the field applauded by the local fans despite the setback.

Perez’s penalty attempt was saved by Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 65th minute. Lopez, who earlier this season stopped a penalty taken by Lionel Messi, dived to his right to stop Perez’s low shot.

The match marked the Deportivo debut of veteran Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari. He played alongside Seedorf at AC Milan, and was signed this week after a trial period.

Espanyol, 15th in the standings, hasn’t won in seven matches, since it ended Barcelona’s 29-match unbeaten streak in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Espanyol’s last league win was in January, seven rounds ago.

Barcelona defends its seven-point lead in the standings when it hosts Girona on Saturday. Second-place Atletico Madrid visits Sevilla on Sunday.

Conte says he believes in his selection regarding Willian

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Antonio Conte has lashed out at anyone questioning why Brazilian winger Willian hasn’t played regularly.

Conte fired back at reporters when he was asked about Willian’s earlier lack of playing time at his pre-match press conference ahead of Chelsea’s match on Sunday against Manchester United. “Do you think that I am stupid when I put Willy on the bench?”

[ MORE: Heynckes squashes Lewandowski to Premier League rumors ]

“I have to try and make the best decision for the team, no? Maybe last season we won the title, or did I forget something?”

The 29-year-old has made 29 Premier League appearances, but only 13 starts. He started in the midweek Champions League match against Barcelona and not only scored Chelsea’s only goal but also proved their most incisive player, prompting questions about his selection.

“Now he is playing because he deserves to play, not because there is some regret from the past,” Conte said. “For what? If a player deserves to play, and shows me during the training session that he is on top of his form, and wants to work defensively, he plays. If not, [he will] stay on the bench, stay in the stands.”

Instead of saying he wishes Willian had played more earlier in the season, he praised himself for giving the Brazilian the start at the appropriate time.

“He is playing now and I am very happy with my choice. Willian deserved to start in the previous game, and played well. I did a fantastic choice, and I want to take credit for that.”

EFL Cup Final preview: Arsenal, Manchester City fight for different types of glory

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  • These two clubs have never met in a major Cup final
  • With a win, Arsene Wenger would become the 8th PL manager to win all 3 major English trophies
  • Sergio Agüero has scored in all of his last 4 appearances against Arsenal

For Manchester City, it’s the first step of a potentially record-setting season. For Arsenal, it’s the Gunners’ best chance at securing a trophy.

The two teams are fighting for very different levels of glory as the two meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET. Manchester City, despite losing to Wigan in the FA Cup just a week ago, would still be on track for a Double this season with a win against the Gunners. Meanwhile, Arsenal is outside the Premier League top four, and – as they have done each of the past two seasons in the FA Cup – could salvage an otherwise disappointing league season with a major Cup trophy.

Both teams will be struggling with selection in certain areas. Manchester City is likely missing Raheem Sterling, who could sit out due to an unspecified muscle injury according to Pep Guardiola in his pre-match press conference, while Fabian Delph is suspended after his sending off against Wigan in the FA Cup. That means either Danilo or 21-year-old Oleksandr Zinchencko would start at wing-back. Zinchenko is the likely candidate there, having appeared in four of City’s five EFL Cup games this season so far and playing almost every minute of those four matches. Gabriel Jesus, who missed more than two months with a knee injury, could be ready to make his early return. Claudio Bravo will continue to play in goal for the domestic Cup competitions.

Arsenal, meanwhile, is without new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan who is cup-tied to his previous club Manchester United, while Alexandre Lacazette is not yet recovered from his knee injury suffered in the North London derby, and Mesut Ozil could miss out with an illness. The Gunners are likely, however, to get Aaron Ramsey back in midfield after recovering from a groin injury, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can return to the lineup after his own cup tied absence in the Europa League midweek.

What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on playing Arsenal twice in a week: “We will be happy if we win, sad if we don’t but after the game we have another match against Arsenal. We are going to try and maintain our level, but finals are different, it is not what you have done in the past.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on playing Manchester City: “Manchester City have so many players that you think you have to stop that it is better to focus on the team plan than rather than on any individual. It’s true that I always used to use this competition with a youth team. For us it’s an opportunity. We’ll play with all the regular players.” 

Prediction

Arsenal has often come up big in hotly contested Cup matches, despite poor form in the surrounding competitions, so it would not be surprising to once again see Arsene Wenger hoist a trophy on Sunday to temporarily distract the fanbase and media from larger struggles. However, picking against this Manchester City team would be selection suicide, even after their disappointment against Wigan and considering the absence of under the radar star Raheem Sterling. Manchester City wins 3-1 with a pair of late goals to sink the Gunners, with a newly healthy Gabriel Jesus providing an influential injection off the bench in the final 20 minutes. Pep Guardiola raises another trophy at the site where he won the 2011 Champions League.