Rio Ferdinand

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Three things from Manchester United’s Champions League exit


Manchester United disappointed on many levels in bailing out of the UEFA Champions League at the Round of 16.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 1-2 (1-2 agg.) Sevilla ]

It wasn’t a matter of bounces, as United was outplayed by the visitors and failed to show anything clinical in attack aside from a Jesse Lingard chance and workmanlike 90 minutes from Romelu Lukaku.

Here are three things we gathered from the contest.

Alexis invisible

For a guy making loads and loads of money and seeking a more ambitious club than Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez essentially went missing at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

The No. 7 red shirt was involved in some combination play, creating some first half chances, but was nowhere near the difference maker he was so many times for the Gunners.

Maybe this is down to Jose Mourinho and Sanchez still familiarizing themselves with each other’s strengths, but the Chilean missed a chance to become an Old Trafford hero in a building which has seen so many heroes etch their way into memory.

UPDATE: You know who agrees? Rio Ferdinand, who said, “The whole 11 today were shocking.”

Mourinho not bailed out by De Gea

Just days after outfoxing Jurgen Klopp in a big derby win, Jose Mourino failed to deliver another winning tactical plan for Manchester United.

Mourinho entered the match with a nil-nil score line, and apparently didn’t think his side could score one more goal than it conceded at Old Trafford.

Marouane Fellaini started the match in the midfield, and the first half saw loads of balls sent to him at the back post for knockdowns. Super sub Jesse Lingard also started and was quite active, denied by Sergio Rico’s fine form.

Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial were on the bench to start, both recovering from injuries but fit for substitute roles.

Was Sevilla prepared for more from United? Steven N’Zonzi seems puzzled by the hosts.

“I thought they were going to press a little bit more, but I don’t really want to talk about the game it’s a great win,” N’Zonzi said.

So often, Mourinho has been bailed out by his talent, in particular his dynamic keeper David De Gea.

But De Gea was slow to recognize Wissam Ben Yedder’s intentions on Sevilla’s first goal (below), and his attempt to slap the Frenchman’s difficult back post header over the goal ended up bounding off the post and into the net.

While he’s not the villain of the loss, he wasn’t near his impervious best on the United goals.

Lukaku makes some amends as the lone bright spot

Romelu Lukaku has, rightly or wrongly, been criticized for his big game performances.

He wasn’t perfect on Tuesday, but the Big Belgian was one of United’s lone bright spots well before he bullied his way into the box to score the side’s lone goal of the tie.

Just as he did against Liverpool at the weekend, Lukaku ran himself ragged tracking down passes and getting very physical with Sevilla’s back line.

It just wasn’t enough, as the bevy of busy and creative players able to play off Lukaku simply did not.

Playback: Where do City rank among best-ever PL teams?

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It is a question which is dominating the Premier League right now: is this Manchester City team the best in Premier League history?

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

There is no doubt that even without winning the Premier League title this season (we are not even halfway in, folks) Pep Guardiola‘s men are set to be up there with the best teams the PL has ever seen after a record-breaking 16 consecutive wins and just generally breaking records like they’re going out of fashion.

They have plenty of competition though to be the best-ever in PL history, though, and they’ll likely need to go the entire PL season unbeaten if they are to be known as the best team ever assembled in England’s top-flight. There are plenty of clubs who have had fine squads (Liverpool, Tottenham, Newcastle) but to be among the PL’s best, you simply have to have won the trophy.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings


Below we rank the top five teams in PL history, with this City side among them.

1. Arsenal (2003-04)

They won the Premier League title without losing (winning 26 games and drawing 12) “The Invincibles” have gone down in folklore for their incredible achievement. Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Sol Campbell and Patrick Vieira were in their prime and they just didn’t look like losing. Arsene Wenger has the perfect mixture of passion and panache to make history and their incredible 49-game unbeaten run is unlikely to be surpassed, even by Man City. Apart from Arsenal, only Preston North End in the 1888-89 season have gone an entire campaign unbeaten. The only slight disappointment was that Arsenal didn’t win any other domestic trophies and lost in the Champions League last eight. That said, Henry scored 39 goals in all competitions and 30 in the PL to lead the Gunners to a feat that many believe will never be repeated.

2. Manchester City (2017-18)*if they win the title

If (and it’s still a big if despite their early season dominance) City win the title this season, given their 16-game winning run and attacking ability they will go down as the greatest team ever. It all depends on if they can go the entire season unbeaten but Guardiola is bringing soccer perfection to the PL. Yes, they’ve spent big to get there but the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United have also thrown plenty of cash at their squads and are nowhere near where City are right now. With Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus in attack, this City side have so many attacking weapons but adding Kyle Walker, Danilo and Benjamin Mendy in defense, plus Ederson in goal, has been a huge reason why they’ve blown the PL away. History is in the making for this City side, in more ways than one. They are totally dominating the Premier League.

3. Manchester United (1998-99)

It took the famous treble winning team until the final day of the Premier League season to win the league title, but their exploits in winning the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League made up for it. Sir Alex Ferguson (just Alex Ferguson back then, actually) rotated his team masterfully in the final months of the season to pull off the greatest achievement in British soccer history. This was vintage United. Peter Schmeichel in goal behind a back four of Neville, Stam, Johnsen and Irwin, while Paul Scholes, Roy Keane, David Beckham and Ryan Giggs were in midfield and Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole were up top. A perfect blend of youth and experience, skill and determination. This was a true “team first” effort with the likes of Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, Teddy Sheringham, Nicky Butt, Henning Berg, Phil Neville and Jesper Blomqvist all playing their parts. Fergie was knighted after their famous last-gasp win in Barcelona against Bayern Munich and although they only won the PL title by one point, their exploits in the FA Cup (where they beat second-place Arsenal in heroic fashion in the semifinal) and in Europe played a huge part in them not running away with the title.

4. Chelsea (2004-05)

Jose Mourinho won the Premier League title in his first two seasons in charge of Chelsea but his squad in 2004-05, which sealed a first league title in 50 years, was the best. Chelsea simply tore the Premier League apart. Didier Drogba led the line as Frank Lampard charged forward from midfield to be the top scorer, while Arjen Robben was on the wing and Claude Makele protected the back four with Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry leading from the back as a young Petr Cech excelled in goal. Chelsea had everything and lost just one game all season long on their way to reaching 95 points, which is still a record points total for the Premier League champions. Defensively they were incredible as they set PL records for the least goals conceded (15), most shutouts (25) and fewest away goals conceded in a season (9). Mourinho, fresh from his Champions League and treble success at FC Porto, proved he was “The Special One” and also won the League Cup as well as losing in the UCL semifinals to Liverpool. Chelsea have won the title four times since 2004-05 but the squad they had over 12 years ago was the finest the west London club has ever seen.

5. Manchester United (2007-08)

Yep, they had to have at least two teams in the top five. With 13 Premier League titles under their belt, they gained more points in their title wins either side of the 2007-08 campaign, but this was arguably their most impressive PL success. Cristiano Ronaldo led United’s charge as the Portuguese superstar scored 42 goals in all competitions to help them win the Premier League and UEFA Champions League. Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez were Ronaldo’s partners in crime as the trio scored 79 goals between them in all competitions. Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Owen Hargreaves, Anderson and Michael Carrick were rotated expertly in midfield by Fergie and at the back Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Edwin van der Sar were formidable. After edging past Chelsea and Arsenal to the PL title, Fergie led United to UCL glory in Moscow against Chelsea as they won on penalty kicks. The trio of Rooney, Tevez and Ronaldo were appointment viewing and United were top of the table from March and never gave up their perch with Chelsea and Arsenal breathing down their necks.


With familiar faces returning to the PL in droves over the past few months, most of them are doing rather well with their respective new clubs.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Sam Allardyce has won four from five with Everton who are now dreaming of Europe. Roy Hodgson is unbeaten in seven with Palace and has them out of the bottom three after two wins on the spin. David Moyes has won two of his last three at West Ham United and has turned them into a tough team to beat. Alan Pardew is slowly turning things around at West Brom.

There were plenty of moans and groans when these experienced coaches who have been on the merry-go-round a few more times than they care to mention were appointed, but they’re proving they can get the job done.

Allardyce is on his seventh PL club. Hodgson and Pardew both at their fifth. Moyes on his fourth.

The initial bump of having a new manager has led Everton and West Ham out of trouble, and Hodgson is starting to turn things around at Palace after inheriting a real mess from Frank De Boer.

Pardew, another old hand who is back in the PL, will be hoping it is his time to shine next. His West Brom side drew away at Liverpool and although they still look goal-shy, he has made them more stubborn to break down.

All four newbies have settled in well and you can expect to see plenty more familiar faces arrive if the likes of Stoke City, Southampton and Swansea continue to struggle.


This is it. Primetime has arrived.

The holiday season is here and the Premier League is in full flow with 40 games coming up over 11 days from this Friday. Like March Madness, having NFL games on Thanksgiving and the NBA’s Christmas Day games, PL action dominates the holidays.

Bring. It. On.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]   

Below is the schedule in full for Boxing Day, the New Year’s Day games and more.

At this time of the year we are full of festive cheer but in the Premier League, this deluge of games can make or break a campaign.

Think about that when you’re tucking into your festive feasts while Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard limber up and prepare themselves for yet another game.

Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

PST Survey results: Club or country?

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The results of PST’s Big American Soccer Survey are in, and our staff will be walking through the results of thousands of votes in a series of posts this week.

We didn’t realize you could acronymize it to BASS, or else we would’ve done it sooner. Today’s question: Where do Americans fall on the club or country debate?

[ MORE: All Big American Soccer Survey posts ]

Here’s one problem (of sorts) the United States faces when it comes to soccer versus the rest of the world.

Most of the country’s favorite team, here or abroad, is the national team.

Fifty-three percent of our voters said that, given the choice of club or country, they choose country.

Now unfortunately we don’t have the stats from around the world, but we’re assuming it’s much much different in nations with more storied domestic leagues (and this is largely not Major League Soccer’s fault, other than to debit its nascency).

Try to imagine this below story from Rio Ferdinand coming from any rivalry, from New York to Cascadia. It feels almost absurd, but over time perhaps that will change a bit.

Then again, perhaps our country is just a bit more rock, flag, eagle than the rest of the world. What do you think? Why is it country over club here?

Giggs: Stones can be “top player” if he cuts mistakes out

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From a Premier League great to one of England’s up-and-comers, the message is simple: cut out the mistakes!

[ MORE: United facing an injury crisis ahead of Arsenal clash ]

Former Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs has acknowledged Manchester City defender John Stones as one of the PL’s brightest talents, however, he does also know that the 22-year-old must limit his shortcomings in order to be considered the best like Rio Ferdinand or Gerard Pique, who he mentions.

[ WATCH: Spurs new stadium is taking shape ]

Stones became the world’s most expensive defender this past summer when the centerback came to the Etihad Stadium from Everton for nearly $60 million.

Giggs notes that Stones has already exhibited great strides in his young career, and like many inexperienced players he’ll have to work the kinks out along the way.

“It is all about balance,” Giggs told ITV. “You look at all the great center halfs – Rio Ferdinand and Gerard Pique – they all made mistakes when they were younger, but center halfs and defenders mature with age.

“He’s [Stones] learning on the job. If he can cut those mistakes out he’s going to be a top player.”

Perhaps one day Stones will reach the heights of a Ferdinand or Pique, but until then he has a long way to go before being mentioned in the breath of those talents.

Ferdinand questions Carrick’s exclusion from United squad

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Manchester United’s latest setback came on Saturday following a 0-0 draw against Burnley, and now Jose Mourinho is taking more heat from one of the club’s former greats.

[ MORE: Top three all pick up wins in Saturday’s PL action ]

Ex-defender Rio Ferdinand released his feelings on social media after the match about Mourinho’s exclusion of midfielder Michael Carrick.

As Ferdinand cites in his tweet, Carrick has been left out of many lineups over the past several seasons at United. Despite serving as vice-captain for the club, Carrick has made a single appearance this season for the Red Devils in Premier League action.

While Carrick’s absence from the United XI has been a common topic of conversation recently, the veteran isn’t the only player losing time at the club. Wayne Rooney has also suffered similar fate as of late, and is even being linked with a possible return to Everton.