Juan Mata

@Arsenal

After the swap: Alexis, Mkhi-infused XIs for Man Utd, Arsenal

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The deal is done: Henrikh Mkhitaryan has moved to Arsenal with Alexis Sanchez going the other way in a monumental January move.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

How will it look for each side once the shape’s settled?

Arsenal

When Henrikh Mkhitaryan was at his very best — for Borussia Dortmund in 2014-15 — he was deployed as a left or right wing. He contributed 23 goals and 32 assists in 52 matches during his final season at the Westfalenstadion, and predictably saw those numbers drop as Jose Mourinho consistently moved him toward an attacking center midfield role.

He’ll get the chance to go out wide again at the Emirates Stadium, though perhaps not always to the extreme flanks. Expect Alexandre Lacazette‘s numbers to explode with this move.

Arsene Wenger used a 4-3-3 to batter Crystal Palace 4-1 at the weekend, with Ozil on the right wing and Alex Iwobi on the left. The club still needs better at center defensive mid while Aaron Ramsey is out, so that will likely keep the lineup similar until he returns (at a minimum):

Cech

Bellerin — Mustafi — Koscielny — Montreal

Elneny (Ramsey, eventually)

Xhaka — Wilshere

Ozil — Lacazette — Mkhitaryan

By the way, a lot of Arsenal supporters aren’t feeling great about this (understatement alert):

Manchester United

Alexis Sanchez prefers left wing, too, and Mourinho has a trio of in-form players who like that side of the field. Anthony Martial is red hot but plays wider than Jesse Lingard, and it seems one of them will take the slot of Juan Mata to the right of Paul Pogba in a 4-1-4-1. Marcus Rashford could also see the far right positioning.

But against top competition — continued apologies to Burnley — it’s usually a 4-2-3-1 for Mourinho with Pogba dropping next to Nemanja Matic a little deeper in the formation. Lingard has been getting the run as CAM here, usually to the detriment of Juan Mata. With Alexis as the clear-cut left wing in this formation, it causes real combat for the two other slots between Mata, Lingard, Rashford, and Martial.

So while it’s likely we’d see something like this in a big game for Manchester United…

De Gea

Young — Jones — Smalling — Valencia

Matic — Pogba

Martial — Lingard —  Sanchez

Lukaku

… We’d love to see something more like this:

De Gea

Young — Jones — Smalling — Valencia

Matic — Herrera

Pogba

Martial — Lukaku — Sanchez

How do you think Wenger and Mou will run ’em out?

Man United 3-0 Stoke City: Clinical Red Devils drops Potters

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  • Antonio Valencia scored on return from injury
  • David De Gea made an important save before halftime
  • United collected three goals on nine shots on target

Manchester United was clinical as they dispatched Stoke City with ease at Old Trafford 3-0 on Monday. Antonio Valencia started things less than 10 minutes in, while Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku were the men to see the scoreline out.

The Red Devils opened the scoring in the ninth minute when Valencia received the ball at the top of the box on a square pass from Paul Pogba, and he cut into the box and to his left to create space, and when the incoming defender over-committed, he belted a curler inside the far post, leaving Jack Butland with no chance. The goal is Valencia’s first since December 2nd, coming on his return to action from a hamstring injury suffered against West Brom in mid-December.

[ MORE: What to do with the emaciated Arsenal squad ]

Xherdan Shaqiri tried an audacious overhead effort minutes later hoping to get Stoke City back on level terms, but his shot was weak and straight at David de Gea from a tight angle. Steven Ireland came inches from tying things back up on 21 minutes, but as he unleashed his effort from the penalty spot with space to shoot, he slipped on the wet surface and yanked it wide left.

After Ireland’s miss, Stoke became the more attacking team, and it put Manchester United on its heels for a period of time as they were sloppy in possession. They failed to capitalize, and by the 35-minute mark, the hosts were back on top, and profited.

In the 38th minute, Romelu Lukaku used his strength on the right edge to get the ball centrally for Pogba, who cut left for Anthony Martial. The 22-year-old hit the ball first-time, and ripped it into the top corner just past the fingertips of a diving Butland.

On the stroke of halftime Shaqiri forced an important save from David de Gea down to his left off a volley, but the Spaniard was there to keep the two-goal lead intact. In the second half, United had a few half-chances early on. Martial nearly had a second just before the hour mark, but Butland smothered the chance on the doorstep. Juan Mata pulled the trigger two minutes later and fired just wide of the far post, and then again rifled over soon after.

Lukaku put the game away with 18 minutes to go as he received the ball from Martial with his back to goal and turned past two defenders and slid the ball into the bottom corner for a 3-0 lead. The win puts Manchester United clear into second place, three points above Liverpool and twelve behind Manchester City, who lost for the first time this season last time out. Stoke City, meanwhile, will hand the reigns to Paul Lambert who was in attendance for today’s game, taking over for the fired Mark Hughes.

Watch Live: Manchester United vs. Stoke City

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
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Caretaker boss Eddie Niedzwiecki stares down stiff opposition in his lone match in charge of Stoke City, a visit to Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Stoke City hired ex-Norwich and Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert on Monday, and he’ll watch from the stands as Eric Choupo-Moting and Peter Crouch attempt to find an answer to United backstop David De Gea.

Stoke can climb out of the relegation zone with a win, while Manchester United can close the deficit between Man City and itself to 12 points.

As for the Red Devils, Jose Mourinho will trout out Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, and Anthony Martial underneath Romelu Lukaku.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Shaw, Matic, Pogba, Mata, Lingard, Martial, Lukaku. Subs: Pereira, Lindelof, Rojo, Fellaini, Herrera, McTominay, Rashford.

Stoke City: Butland, Bauer, Zouma, Martins Indi, Tymon, Fletcher, Allen, Shaqiri, Ireland, Choupo-Moting, Crouch. Subs: Grant, Wimmer, Affelay, Adam, Diouf, Ramadan, Edwards.

Everton 0-2 Man United: Red Devils cruise

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  • Martial, Lingard curl home goals
  • United with first win in four
  • No win in four for Everton

Manchester United rode a strong second half display to beat Everton 2-0 at Goodison Park on Monday.

Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard each scored beautiful curling goals to grab the three points for United on New Year’s Day against a lackluster Everton side.

With the win United move into second place in the table and cut the gap to Man City to 12 points, while Everton remain in ninth place.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

An even start to the game saw Wayne Rooney get plenty of the ball but United looked increasingly dangerous as the first half wore on.

Martial flashed a ball across goal which was begging to be finished but Jordan Pickford denied United’s attackers.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

On the break Everton threatened at times, while Ander Herrera thumped an effort just over the bar for United.

Paul Pogba then almost gave United the lead as his effort flashed just wide after a slight deflection off Tom Davies, then Jesse Lingard dragged a shot off target.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Pickford tipped over Juan Mata‘s dipping shot from distance as United started the second half well. Mata went even closer soon after as his dipping, swerving shot from distance beat Pickford but smashed against the post.

Shaw then drove into the box and crossed for Herrera but Cuco Martina cleared brilliantly under pressure. Pogba then cut in from the left and flashed a cross inches away from Martial as the one-way traffic continued.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

United went ahead deservedly thanks to a moment of magic from Martial as Pogba, once again, cut in from the left and found his countryman on the edge of the box. Martial then curled home superbly to put the Red Devils ahead.

The visitors threatened to run away with things after that opener with Pogba going close twice with a shot and a header from Martial’s cross, but at the other end Oumar Niasse headed Mason Holgate‘s cross inches wide as the Toffees pushed for an equalizer late on.

Lingard drilled a low shot in on goal but Pickford saved well, but soon after he made it 2-0 with a fine run from the left and a curling finish for his seventh goal in his last nine PL appearances.

United deservedly grabbed all three points to end a frustrating festive period on a high.

Mourinho “really unhappy” at Man Utd’s penalty no-call

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At this point of his career and tenure as Manchester United manager, we’re so far down Jose Mourinho’s mind-games wormhole that it’s typically quite difficult nigh impossible to discern when — or, if ever — he’s being genuine and forthright with his comments, or attempting to twist the narrative in a way that’s more favorable to him and his team.

[ PL ROUNDUP: Chelsea leapfrog Man United for 2nd ]

Either Mourinho is a master of deception, or we’ve convinced ourselves over the last decade and a half that he is.

Fortunately for the simpletons among us, Saturday appeared to be one of the rare instances in which Mourinho was pretty plainspoken — or so he would have you believe — with his comments following his side’s 0-0 draw with Southampton. Asked about his general disappointment over ending 2017 with a draw — his side’s third straight — and slipping from second to third in the Premier League table, Mourinho went straight for his intended target: referee Craig Pawson — quotes from the BBC:

“I think it is also a disappointing afternoon for Craig, because he’s a fantastic referee, one of the best in Europe. Of course I think it was a penalty.

“We missed easy chances but I’m really unhappy with the penalty, not with Pawson’s performance — today I think Craig had a good performance, it was a big decision to make from Craig.”

Mourinho is, of course, referring to Pawson’s first-half non-call of a potential handball by Saints defender Maya Yoshida (WATCH HERE). As the incident occurred inside the Southampton penalty area, Mourinho is aggrieved his side was not awarded a penalty. He went on to explain his thought process in greater detail, while remaining mindful that a fine or suspension could be in his future (again) if he goes too far — quotes from the Independent:

“I saw it on the touchline and it was very clear. But I was 50 meters away from the decision so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

“Then when I see players like Juan Mata reacting so hysterically, I knew there was no doubt. At halftime, I watched it and it was a penalty — like the foul on (Marcus) Rashford against Leicester and the foul on (Ander) Herrera against City.

“I repeat that the three referees’ performances in those matches were good, but they were unlucky decisions for us. We have been punished.”