Matteo Darmian

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Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Burnley

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  • Man United has the Premier League’s best Boxing Day win percentage at 83%
  • Only Man City and Chelsea have conceded fewer away goals than Burnley
  • Burnley has not won at Old Trafford in league play since 1962

Jose Mourinho is not happy. Not happy at all. In fact, the Manchester United manager is so edgy that even the slightest misstep can set him off. It did this morning.

[ MORE: Top Premier League Storylines – Boxing Day ]

The Portuguese boss man abruptly ended his press conference when asked an odd but fair question about Paul Pogba‘s qualities as a leader and whether Mourinho sees him as a long-term challenger for the captain’s armband.

It’s easy to understand why Mourinho is so testy of late. His side has conceded a pair of late goals in critical moments over the past two matches, calling Manchester United’s performance against Leicester City “childish,” referring to both their ability to increase the lead in front of net and their defending at the death. Now, they return home to the friendly confines of Old Trafford hoping to use the home crowd to push the squad the full 90 minutes as they host Burnley on Tuesday (Watch live, 10:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Meanwhile, Burnley has its own wounds to lick. The big picture view sees the Clarets in 7th position, a spot any supporter would take in a heartbeat heading into the Boxing Day test, but the 3-0 defeat to Spurs last time out exposed them as top four pretenders and will give Sean Dyche reason to brood over his team’s usually stout defensive abilities.

Team News

Manchester United:  Out – Eric Bailly (ankle), Antonio Valencia (hamstring), Marouane Fellaini (knee), Michael Carrick (heart). Questionable – Matteo Darmian (unspecified), Chris Smalling (unspecified)

Burnley: Out – James Tarkowski (suspension). QuestionableStephen Ward (knee), Chris Wood (knee).

What they’re saying

Burnley manager Sean Dyche on loaded upcoming fixture list“We’ve got some big teams coming, big challenges, but wherever you are in the league you’ve got to play them. They [Manchester United] were superb last season, [goalkeeper] Tom [Heaton] was saving all sorts. We know the run of games we’ve got – no problem with it, that’s life in the Premier League”

Jose Mourinho on loss to Leicester City: “Some players have childish decisions and time helps them to have maturity and to decide better. But some other players stay with childish decision until the end of their career. It’s a big frustration because they are easy goals to score and to kill the game. On top of that in the last couple of minutes, we allow the opposition to throw a few balls to the box and we couldn’t defend the last cross so I think we were punished by our mistakes.”

Prediction

While Manchester United have struggled in recent past, coming back home should provide the club a boost. Burnley has looked great at times this season and Sean Dyche should be praised for squeezing all he can out of this lineup, but the Clarets have not fared well against the best teams in the league this season, a trend that will likely continue. Mourinho and United should win this one in customary 1-0 fashion as United scores soon after halftime and closes up shop late, especially as Burnley continue to sorely miss James Tarkowski.

Wenger slams referees after Arsenal’s defeat to Man United

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LONDON — Arsene Wenger looked a little dumbfounded as to how his Arsenal side had lost 3-1 at home to Manchester United on Saturday.

[ MORE: 4 things we learned ]

The Gunners had 75 percent of the possession and 33 shots (15 of which were on target) but they came up against an inspired display from David De Gea who equaled a Premier League record for single saves in a game with 14.

Yet three catastrophic defensive errors saw his side lose for the first time in 18 home games in all competitions and end a winning-streak of 12 league games at the Emirates.

[ MORE: Mourinho slams Arsenal, Koscielny ]

Speaking to reporters after the game, Wenger criticized the referees after Arsenal were denied penalty kick appeals in either half with Alexandre Lacazette hauled down by Marcos Rojo in the first half, then Danny Welbeck felled by Matteo Darmian late on.

Was he upset about not being awarded at least two penalty kicks?

“I am,” Wenger said, before giving his opinion on if they were penalties and then intimating that United would have been awarded penalty kicks had they been playing at home. “I don’t know, I have to watch it again, but I thought it was. Yes. We will see. I hope that at Old Trafford it will be the same…”

Wenger wasn’t finished though. Oh no.

Asked if his own player, Laurent Koscielny, should have been sent off for hauling down Romelu Lukaku as the last man late on, the Frenchman was far from complimentary about referee Andre Marriner and his officiating crew.

“Maybe I don’t know every situation in the game. Last night I watched Napoli v Juventus on television. You have seen a top class referees. You want to analyze well? Watch that and the difference between them and us and then you see,” Wenger added.

Arsenal were the better team for vast swathes of this game but failed to covert their dominance and chances into goals and were hit three times on the counter by a ruthless United attacking unit.

The defeat leaves Arsenal possibly 15 points behind PL leaders Manchester City (if they beat West Ham tomorrow) and the Gunners’ title hopes are all but over before the festive period has even begun.

Wenger rued their wasteful nature.

“When you have 33 shots on goal in a game of that stature, it means our dominance was top class but I am angry and disappointed because at the end you have nothing to show for it,” Wenger said. “Even at 2-1 you make another mistake at that back that made the game even more difficult… I felt that at the back our concentration at the back was not sharp enough from the start and not dominant enough.

“We have produced an excellent performance but we have conceded three goals. We had at least 10 chances and we were not efficient enough in the box. That is the reality. I feel sorry for the players because our spirit was outstanding, the quality of the performance was outstanding but we were not efficient enough in areas where it mattered.”

Mourinho hits out at Arsenal, Koscielny after Man United win

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LONDON — Jose Mourinho had a point to make after 10-man Manchester United’s 3-1 win at Arsenal.

[ MORE: 4 things we learned ]

Mourinho didn’t park the bus away from home against a top four rival like he usually does, but he had David De Gea to thank as Arsenal had 15 shots on target and 75 percent of the possession but were caught out but ruthless United counter attacks on three killer occasions.

United’s Portuguese boss was not happy with Arsenal and accused them of diving to try and win penalty kicks and made a sly remark about Alexandre Lacazette‘s fitness, as well as hitting out at Laurent Koscielny for his part in getting Paul Pogba sent off in the second half.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Mourinho was asked if he was upset with Arsenal appealing for multiple penalty kicks as he lambasted their “desire to go to the grass” with the most obvious situation coming in the second half as Danny Welbeck appeared to be scythed down by Matteo Darmian in the box.

“Look if it is not a penalty, it is not a penalty. I know the pitch is amazing and maybe it creates a desire to go to the floor. If it was hard, no. If it was mud, no. But the pitch is absolutely beautiful. I think they were a bit too much,” Mourinho said.

He then made a point of congratulating both medical departments with his tongue firmly placed in his cheek.

Ahead of the game Arsene Wenger, Mourinho’s arch nemesis over the years, had declared that Lacazette was completely out of the game. He started, scored Arsenal’s goal and played a full 90 minutes.

“I don’t want to forget my congratulations to both medical departments. My medical department managed to recover [Nemanja] Matic from a maybe to a yes. But Arsenal’s medical department managed to recover a player from a no to a complete 90. Amazing. I congratulate them all.”

Mourinho also hit out at Arsenal’s center back and captain Koscielny, who was at fault for two of United’s three goals and could have been sent off late on for hauling down Romelu Lukaku when he appeared to be the last man.

His beef with Koscielny was how he reacted to try and get Pogba sent off following a studs up challenge on Hector Bellerin. Mourinho said that Pogba was far from impressed with his international teammate for the way he reacted.

“The red card, I didn’t see. I was not even looking in that direction. No television yet for me. I know that Paul is frustrated. A bit disappointed with his colleague Koscielny with this kind of reaction,” Mourinho said. “Paul is frustrated because everybody knows that Paul is a clean player and it was not his intention, not at all, to be close to a red card.”

Asked what kind of message this result (it is Mourinho’s first win as United managed in eight attempts against one of the so-called “top six” since he arrived at United) he downplayed the importance of closing the gap to Manchester City, momentarily, to five points.

“No message. We are second in the table. We win four games in the Premier League, two at home, two away. The two away difficult teams Watford and Arsenal. We managed to win and win well and to play well. I am just happy,” Mourinho said. “There is no message. There is match after match. Now it’s on to CSKA.”

Everything is set up for a blockbuster clash between United and City next Sunday in the Manchester derby but without the suspended Pogba and a shaky defense bailed out by David de Gea, Mourinho will still have plenty on his mind besides Arsenal’s supposed simulation.

Four things we learned from Arsenal v. Man United

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LONDON — There were not a parked bus in sight at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday as Arsenal and Manchester United put on a show.

[ MORE: Mourinho slams Arsenal, Koscielny ]

United ran out 3-1 winners with two goals from Jesse Lingard and an early Antonio Valencia strike, but that only tells part of the story as Alexandre Lacazette scored for the Gunners, Paul Pogba was sent off and David De Gea was in sensational form.

[ MORE: Wenger fuming with refs after loss

Here’s what we learned from an absolutely bonkers encounter in north London.


DE GEA ON ANOTHER PLANET

David de Gea saved Manchester United time and time again on Saturday.

In the first half the Spanish goalkeeper saved superbly from Alexandre Lacazette while on the floor as the ball looped up and hit the bar. He then clawed the ball away as Romelu Lukaku knocked the ball towards his own goal.

He wasn’t done. Oh no. In the second half he saved superbly from Alex Iwobi and then moments later, with the score 2-1 and Arsenal pushing, he made one of the best double saves you will see. De Gea dove to his right to save Lacazette’s low effort and then his reactions to get up and deny Alexis Sanchez were lightning quick. That moment changed the outcome of this game.

De Gea was the man of the match by a country mile. It is time we placed him above Manuel Neuer and Thibaut Courtois as the best goalkeeper on the planet right now. Simple.

Judging by United’s defensive performance, De Gea will be a busy man against Manchester City in the Manchester Derby next weekend.


SAME DEFENSIVE ISSUES ARISE FOR ARSENAL

Arsenal were the better team from the majority of this game. They had 15 shots on target and 75 percent of the possession but defensive mistakes, once again, cost them dear.

Wenger’s men were 2-0 down with 12 minutes gone and it came via two absolutely needless giveaways from central defenders. United’s third goal came from another defensive mistake.

Just like against Manchester City and Liverpool this season, Arsenal’s lack of defensive solidity in big games against their top four rivals was the difference.

Laurent Koscielny gave the ball away cheaply for United’s first goal and was bullied by Paul Pogba for United’s third and Shkodran Mustafi‘s poor ball led to United’s second.

Arsenal missed chances galore and came up against an inspired De Gea and on another day they could have won 4-3. They didn’t because their defensive lapses surfaced once again. That’s what will cost them any chance of achieving anything more than finishing in the top four for the foreseeable future.


UNITED RUTHLESS ON COUNTER

Yes, United rode their luck and had DDG to thank for their win, but they also launched several sensational counter attacks with Pogba, Anthony Martial and Lingard leading the charge to support Lukaku.

All three of United’s goals came on the counter but their second goal summed up how ruthless they were on the break. Lukaku played in Martial who had cut in from the left and his clever turn and ball into Lingard led to the onrushing United midfield sweeping home. It was a thing of beauty.

In truth, United could have scored with more of their counters as Lingard had his shot tipped onto the post by Petr Cech in the second half and Lukaku was reluctant to shoot on similar breakaways.

Remember: this was a team who has scored just one goal in seven outings away at the “top six” since Mourinho took charge in August 2016. They could have scored five times, at least, on the counter on Saturday.

There was no parking the bus. The bus was strategically placed for a quick getaway and it worked a treat with Pogba and Lingard causing havoc.


POGBA RED CARD MADNESS; TOUGH CALLS WRONG

Pogba undid all of his good work with a moment of madness.

United’s French midfielder went in studs up on Hector Bellerin who had his left leg across the floor and referee Andre Marriner gave Pogba a straight red card. That will keep him out of the next three games, including the Manchester Derby against Manchester City next Sunday. That’s a massive blow for United, who are a totally different, and much more dangerous, side when he’s playing.

You can see why Marriner gave the red card.

Pogba had time to pull out of the challenge and it was studs up on Bellerin’s calf. You can’t be doing that. It didn’t look great, especially on the replay, but did he mean it? Was it malicious? The jury is out but it’s unlikely Pogba will win his appeal, if he lodges one, with the FA. His lung-bursting runs will be badly missed by United against Man City next Sunday and his much anticipated battle with Kevin De Bruyne will have to wait until later in the season.

Other big calls were clearly incorrect as Danny Welbeck was brought down by Matteo Darmian in the box and Arsenal should have had a penalty kick, while Koscielny should have been sent off when taking down Lukaku as last man. Bellerin may have been getting back, but when the foul was committed Arsenal’s center back was the last man. Not a good day for the officials.

Substitute Johansson gives Sweden early advantage over Italy

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It’s not exactly a mountain to climb, but Italy still has its work cut out for themselves after falling on Friday.

[ MORE: Senegal qualifies for World Cup with win over South Africa ]

Sweden earned an important 1-0 victory over Italy at the Friends Arena, giving the Swedes an important lead heading into next week’s second leg.

The hosts were on the back foot for much of the match, but second-half substitute Jakob Johansson gave the home side the lead in the 61st minute after his shot from outside the box was deflected and in past goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Italy nearly found an equalizer 10 minutes later when Matteo Darmian struck a brilliant shot off the post, but the Azzurri couldn’t find the back of the net.

The Italians received some bad news in the first half after Marco Verratti picked up a yellow card around the half-hour mark, and made him ineligible for the second leg between the two nations due to accumulation of bookings.

Andrea Belotti nearly gave the visitors an early lead on five minutes when his free header glanced just wide of the left post.

Sweden and Italy will meet once again in Milan on Monday at the San Siro with a place in the World Cup on the line.