Three things learned: Man City v. Man United

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MANCHESTER — What. A. Game.

Manchester United denied bitter rivals Manchester City winning the Premier League title on Saturday as they overturned a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2.

Remember: Man City only needed a win against their bitter rivals to secure the trophy in the fastest-ever time in top-flight history.

Goals from Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan had City 2-0 up inside 30 minutes but United came roaring back in the second half. Paul Pogba scored twice in three minutes at the start of the second half to turn the game on its head, while Chris Smalling scored the winner to stun the home fans inside the Etihad.

City cannot clinch the PL title in their next game at Tottenham and Pep Guardiola‘s men now need two more wins to secure the title, assuming that United keep winning.

Here’s what we learned from a bonkers game in the Manchester Derby.


DESIRE TAKES OVER FOR MAN UNITED

Manchester United were dead and buried and half time. Dead and buried. Trailing 2-0, they should have been at least 4-0 down after letting Raheem Sterling go clean through and then he missed two sitters.

United were dragged back into the game by not only their fine attacking play but also their pride as they cut City’s lead atop the table to 13 points.

It was one of the great turnarounds in Premier League history.

Jose Mourinho’s side have heard all season long just how good City are and now they had the perfect chance to deny City winning the title. It didn’t start well, at all, but United have made a huge statement against a City side which was understrength given their their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg against Liverpool on Tuesday.

United, and Mourinho, played the role of party poopers expertly. This was just their fourth win in their last 14 games against City, as the power continue to shift to City. But it was more than that. It was about pride and delaying the inevitable.

City’s fans were already in full party mode in the 30th minute when they went 2-0 up but they will now have to wait until Apr. 22 at the earliest to seal the title.

Mourinho has now won just five times in 21 meetings with Guardiola but there’s no doubt this will have been the sweetest victory.


PAUL POGBA GIVES TIMELY REMINDER OF HIS TALENTS

On the eve of the Manchester Derby, Guardiola revealed that Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, had offered Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pogba to Man City in the January transfer window.

Pep had played the mind games and Pogba was in the middle.

Much-maligned in recent months at United for his displays on the pitch and attitude off it amid reports of a relationship breakdown with Mourinho, Pogba inspired United’s fight back with two goals of real quality.

Pogba drove United on from midfield and proved he can flourish in a more attacking midfield role. For all of his critics, Pogba turned up when it mattered most.

In the first half he was part of the problem as he allowed City’s midfielders, particularly David Silva, to run the show. City in full flow aren’t easy to stop but Pogba looked flustered in the first half after a testing time.

Yet Pogba’s complete turnaround after the break summed up United’s incredible revival. It was perhaps sink or swim time for Pogba with regards to his United future. He proved there’s still plenty of fight left in him despite a turbulent week. And maybe, just maybe, Guardiola will give Raiola a call back in the summer…


CITY DO A “CITY”

Sandwiched in-between two UCL quarterfinals against Liverpool (and trailing 3-0 from the first leg at Anfield on Wednesday), this was always going to be a tough game for City.

But there was something so poetically “Man City” about this. Their fans will tell you that doing “a City” is to crumble right at the time you don’t expect them to. To falter when it seems like that could never possibly happen. It happened so many times over their history it became a trait and it reared its ugly head again on Saturday, just when everyone seemed to be getting ready to pop the Champagne bottles.

Guardiola clearly prioritized the second leg against Liverpool on Tuesday with Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Kyle Walker and others not starting.

It all seemed to be going so well but backfired badly as United fought back valiantly and capped off a bad week for City. Before this game they had won 14-straight at home in the league and were unbeaten in their last 27 home games.

United knocked them off their perch in dramatic fashion as City lost back-to-back games for the first time under Guardiola.

City will win the title this season but this shocking defeat showed that there’s still some of the old City in their locker despite all of the money spent and all of the changes over the last decade.

Benitez happy to stay at Newcastle if he “has the tools to compete”

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Rafa Benitez is approaching something vaguely resembling sainthood in the northeast of England — with the Newcastle United-supporting portion, at least — but his future remains in doubt as the end of the current Premier League season draws nearer and the next one approaches.

[ MORE: Salah beats De Bruyne to win PFA Player of the year award ]

Benitez and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley have endured an unhappy working relationship for much of Benitez’s 25 months at the club. The Spaniard was true to his word, though, when he stuck around another season after being relegated from the PL in 2016, then again after winning promotion on the Magpies’ first attempt, but he’ll be faced with the same dilemma again this summer, even after guiding Newcastle to a mid-table finish (they currently sit 10th with five games left to play).

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Chelsea join them ]

If he’s not given assurances that he’ll be handed the necessary funds to properly strengthen his squad during the upcoming summer transfer window, the 58-year-old could very well walk away and leave Ashley to play the part of all-too-familiar villain. Or, as Benitez put it this weekend, Ashley could fork over “the tools to be capable of competing” and make everyone, from the manager to the fans, happy — quotes form the Guardian:

“If they [Ashley’s representatives] want to talk to my people [about a new contract,] they can talk. The main thing is to be sure we share the same ambition.

“I want to win games and I want to win trophies and I want to have the tools to be capable of competing. At the same time, I like to improve players, coach players, follow a business plan, a realistic business plan in modern football. I have no problem with that because I did it in the past.

“We have to be sure to have all the tools to compete and achieve what we want to achieve because Newcastle is a massive football club and we want it to reach its potential.”

Of course, the perfect scenario for everyone involved would have been for any one of the numerous takeover bids to have gone through during the last two years, but as was most recently evidenced earlier this year, Ashley and the Toon can’t seem to quit each other just yet.

MLS: Timbers end NYCFC’s unbeaten start; Seattle get 1st win

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Sunday was a very good day for a pair of green-clad Cascadia rivals, the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders, as the former put to end the unbeaten start of the best team in MLS, while the latter picked up their first win of 2018…

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS roundupOther MLS Things — The Archive ]

Portland Timbers 3-0 New York City FC

Through their first seven games, NYCFC were almost inarguably the best team in MLS (aside: how much better is their opening-day walkover of Sporting KC looking these days?), but Patrick Vieira’s side might as well have not even shown up to Providence Park on Sunday. Chalk it up to “it’s only one game,” or “these things happen in MLS,” or “NYC to Portland is a long trip for Russian clubs,” or any other credible rationale you prefer, but they were nothing more than 11 passengers for the whole of 90 minutes.

A quick look at the defending on all three of Portland’s goals…

Vieira was right at halftime, when he said his side was lacking intensity and aggression, and that it’d be nigh impossible to get back into the game in the second half if they continued to play that way. Spoiler: it was, because they did.

Just as I’ll not be rushing to judgment over NYCFC’s no-show performance, I’m not yet buying into the idea that Portland have figured things out defensively on the back of one clean sheet (their first of the season).

Seattle Sounders 3-1 Minnesota United

Speaking of firsts, Seattle are the proud owners of points — as in, more than one point — after putting three past Minnesota but almost fatally failing to kill the game off after going 2-0 up. I’m not sure what any defender in black is doing on this sequence…

Alas, Gustav Svensson, Will Bruin and Jordy Delem were far more clinical with their chances than the Loons…

Still, though, Seattle were completely helpless when it came time to grab control of the game while in a commanding position. Osvaldo Alonso is nowhere near the player he once was, which is a massive problem against teams that set up to counter-attack, as Minnesota did on Sunday. It doesn’t help that Roman Torres and Chad Marshall are the plodding center backs behind him.

The obvious answer to the midfield problem is to play Cristian Roldan deeper, alongside Alonso as they did en route to winning MLS Cup in 2016, but injuries to a number of key attackers have forced him into a de facto no. 10 role for the time being. These things will work themselves out with a bit of time, I suppose.

Full MLS scoreboard

Sporting Kansas City 6-0 Vancouver Whitecaps (Friday) — FULL RECAP
Montreal Impact 3-5 Los Angeles FC — FULL RECAP
Houston Dynamo 5-1 Toronto FC
New York Red Bulls 1-2 Chicago Fire
Columbus Crew SC 2-2 New England Revolution
Orlando City SC 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
FC Dallas 2-0 Philadelphia Union
Real Salt Lake 3-0 Colorado Rapids
LA Galaxy 0-2 Atlanta United

Salah beats De Bruyne to win PFA Player of the Year award

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LONDON (AP) Mohamed Salah has been voted Player of the Year by his fellow professionals in English football in recognition of an incredible scoring return to the Premier League with Liverpool.

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Chelsea join them ]

The Egypt forward collected the Professional Footballers’ Association award at a ceremony in London on Sunday, two days before Liverpool’s Champions League semifinal first leg against Roma.

It is a reunion with the Italian club he left in the offseason for 42 million euros (then $47 million). The hefty fee appeared to be a gamble for Liverpool but now represents a real bargain.

The former Chelsea player has scored 41 goals in 46 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool – enabling him to beat Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne in second place to the PFA award.

Tottenham striker Harry Kane was third.

[ MORE: Man City thrash Swansea in pursuit of points record ]

“It’s a big honor,” Salah said. “I’ve worked hard and I’m very happy to win it.”

Salah is preparing to lead Egypt into its first World Cup in 28 years and he is the first player from the North African nation to win English football’s top individual prize.

“Hopefully I’m not the last one,” he said. “I’m very proud to win and I’ve worked very hard.”

Salah’s impact has been more remarkable given his underwhelming 2014-15 season at Chelsea before being offloaded by then-manager Jose Mourinho. He went on loan to Fiorentina in early 2015 and Roma in 2016, and then on a permanent basis to Roma in August 2016.

Scoring 15 goals and setting up 11 more for Roma convinced Liverpool to bring Salah back to a second spell in England.

[ MORE: Liverpool draw West Brom in final tune-up before UCL semis ]

His goal at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday was his 31st in the league this season, tying the scoring record in a 38-game campaign held by Cristiano Ronaldo, Alan Shearer and Luis Suarez.

Suarez was the last Liverpool player to be crowned player of the year by the PFA in 2014 before moving to Barcelona.

It’s a sign of his remarkable impact that Salah secured the award with third-place Liverpool and that none of Manchester City’s newly crowned champions won the accolade.

But City winger Leroy Sane was voted PFA Young Player of the Year.

The PFA women’s player award went to Chelsea forward Fran Kirby, while Lauren Hemp of Bristol City secured the young player prize.

CONCACAF cancels women’s U-17 tournament due to violence

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) CONCACAF has canceled the rest of its 2018 Women’s Under-17 Championship following violence in Managua, Nicaragua, where the tournament began Thursday.

The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football made the announcement Sunday. The tournament was to have determined the region’s qualifiers for the Under-17 World Cup in Uruguay, which starts Nov. 13.

More than two dozen people have been killed since Wednesday according to the independent Nicaraguan Human Rights Center, though the government had acknowledged only nine dead. Dozens of shops in Managua were looted during protests and disturbances sparked by government social security reforms.

The U.S. opened Friday with a 4-0 win over Costa Rica and had been scheduled to play Bermuda on Sunday and Canada on Tuesday.