3 things

AP Photo/Dave Thompson

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.

Three things from Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea

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Antonio Conte‘s was outdone by Jose Mourinho, only just, as the artist formerly known as “The Special One” had the plan and got the required bounces for a big Premier League win on Sunday.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 2-1 Chelsea ]

Manchester United beat Chelsea 2-1 at Old Trafford, and here are our main takeaways.

Mourinho turns back the hands of tactical time

Manchester United’s boss has rightly been judged for his tactical acumen and organization this year, and not just for perceived parking of proverbial buses.

But Mourinho outfoxed his old nemesis Sunday with a series of changes that weren’t always about the flow of the game as much as keeping Conte’s Chelsea off balance.

Already prepared to play more than usual, United showed inspired work through the middle of the pitch and Paul Pogba was given a bit more freedom and responded by doing a lot of little things right.

The Jesse Lingard sub obviously worked out for the best as the Englishman scored the go-ahead goal, and the introduction of Eric Bailly for his first extended run since Halloween turned out to be an inspired risk.

Lukaku delivers (and delivers)

The big Belgian striker had a dozen goals but none against the Top Six sides of the Premier League before Sunday’s match at Old Trafford.

Lukaku started and finished the equalizer, and then worked well down the right flank before hitting a pinpoint cross for Lingard to head home. That was the one, really, that turned the story line in his favor.

That it came against his old club will feel wonderful.

It’s worth noting that Lukaku did have an assist against Spurs and a goal against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup, but he entered the match with just those numbers and a 2-2-2 record against Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City, and Arsenal.

Conte unlucky, not rewarded by Morata

Spanish forward Alvaro Morata got the start in place of in-form Pedro, as Antonio Conte decided against the so-called “false 9” which has served his club well in recent week.

It has to be said: Morata’s hard early volley off the cross bar makes Conte’s choice look better if it gets the Charlie Conway “quarter of an inch the other way” treatment, but Hollywood wasn’t on the scene here.

Pedro did provide some love off the bench, but it was not enough as Manchester United’s big man ultimately delivered what Chelsea’s target man could not.

Some of Conte’s choices did work out fine: Antonio Rudiger had some key moments, and who knows what happens had play been stopped when Andreas Christensen went head-to-head with Lukaku ahead of the Belgian’s goal.

And it’s worth noting that Conte’s sub of Fabregas had a chance to match Mourinho’s perceived brilliance with Lingard but was ruled just offside.

Conte didn’t necessarily lose this game of inches, but Mourinho made the moves that won it. It could simply be that some matches are just not to be.

Three things from Everton’s 1-1 draw at Manchester City (video)

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Manchester City was down a man for almost 45 minutes, but you could hardly tell as the Etihad Stadium club came back to draw Everton 1-1 on Monday.

[ RECAP: Man City 1-1 Everton ]

An entertaining affair had a bit for everyone, as Wayne Rooney made Premier League history and Everton teammate Morgan Schneiderlin joined City’s Kyle Walker as players to earn iffy second yellow cards.

All that and more, below:

Bittersweet draw for Koeman

Most teams will be quite pleased to take a point at Manchester City.

Most teams don’t have the aspirations of the financial outlay of 2017-18 Everton.

And most teams won’t have played almost a full half with one more man than City, only to manage maybe one more moment of danger against Pep Guardiola‘s men.

So, yes, this Toffees draw feels a bit like a loss. Wayne Rooney had sent Everton into a moment of historical hysteria with a quality first half marker, his 200th Premier League goal off a feed from continuously impressing youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

And when Kyle Walker was given a rather cheap second yellow card in the 44th minute, the Toffees would’ve felt good money for an away win in their quest to join the Premier League’s Top Four contenders.

But City controlled the rest of the match, and it could be argued that a lesser keeper than Jordan Pickford would’ve conceded an equalizer much earlier in the match. Man City was humming.

“Even with one less player on the pitch, they have that high quality on the ball and they can make it difficult. We had a tactical good game, unlucky, the goal. They didn’t create a lot of open chances, but still had the domination of the game and in the counter attack we had some opportunities, but finally it’s a good point and we worked hard for that result.”

The Toffees have loads of promise, and their resilience in holding firm for most of the match is laudable (Mason Holgate‘s clearance into the path of Raheem Sterling is unlucky). Yet three points to start a vicious run of fixtures would’ve been much preferred to the lone marker that made it to the table.

Off day + 10 men = Still a point for City

On a day when Sergio Aguero struggled to find his feet and Walker got his dicey sending-off, Man City was still the better of the two teams and that has to make Pep Guardiola a pleased man.

David Silva remains an important part of City’s attack, and Kevin De Bruyne was pretty good in the draw, but plenty of the hosts’ men didn’t have their A-games.

Aguero had a soft header cleared off the line and wasted a gorgeous first half chance by taking an extra touch. When he was on, like his silky outside of the boot pass to David Silva, the receiver hit the post. Bernardo Silva and Danilo also missed chances that would’ve been fine goals on another day.

Without the “City: Down to 10 men (Walker 44′)” graphic atop the screen, an unknowing viewer would have been stunned upon counting less than 11 City players.

Don’t sleep on Rooney’s day (or Calvert-Lewin moving forward)

Wayne Rooney is one of the best players in the history of English football, and he rightfully joins Alan Shearer as the only players to score 200 goals in the Premier League era.

“To join Alan Shearer with that amount of goals, it’s obviously a big moment and hopefully (there’s) a lot to come,” Rooney said after the game.

While his simple finish through Ederson’s legs lacks the glory of some of his goals (for a reminder, watch below), it’s surprising how many people have absolutely written off England’s all-time scoring leader as a gimmicky signing.

Rooney has two goals in two games, and he linked up well with Calvert-Lewin again on Monday. Koeman was impressed.

“I’m not surprised,” said the Everton manager. “I know the player. I know how eager he was to come back to Everton. Dominic Calvert-Lewin did well. He ran a lot and made it difficult for the Manchester City defenders. Then you can come out of your box and control.”

Perhaps it’s Manchester United overload, or England’s often over-celebrated national team, but Rooney isn’t the sort of player you see every day. Congrats to him on a big day.

Three things we learned from the USMNT’s late 1-1 draw in Switzerland

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What did you take away from the 10-man USMNT’s 1-1 draw at Switzerland on Tuesday? Here are three points and a bonus reminder from the Yanks’ final match until April 15 in Texas against Mexico.

[ MORE: Match recap | Player ratings ]

1) Youngins gonna young — A reminder that inexperienced players are largely going to look the adjective when they hit the international pitch for the first few times. Los Angeles forward Gyasi Zardes is going to take some time to impress, and the same can be said for Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt) and Ventura Alvarado (Club America). It’s individual taste as to where you draw the line on when they should impress, though. Is the 24-year-old Morales coming into it, or has he not shown enough? Has Zardes shown he’s too far away from contributing for the Gold Cup?

2) Two big breakthroughs

— John Anthony Brooks was one of the States’ only effective defenders against Denmark, even if he missed the big header late (Hey! He made it in the World Cup). The Hertha Berlin man is rewarding Jurgen Klinsmann’s patience through a sometimes-trying run with club and country, and he’s a physical specimen. When he makes quick, strong decisions and uses his elite physical specimen the way he did Tuesday, it’s easy to forget he turned 22 in January. Brooks has the potential, far from fulfilled, to become one of the finest defenders our nation’s seen. Then again, so have a lot of young bucks, but this one had a good week. Maybe you want to call his big World Cup goal his breakthrough, but we’ll take the actual defending we saw over the past several days.

— Alejandro Bedoya’s first half was borderline world-class, with cutting runs, smart uses of pace and passes that would earn high-fives from some of the world’s better playmaker. We know from his importance to Nantes and continued use by Klinsmann that Bedoya is a class player, but he was dynamite on Tuesday, fun to watch and effective. That’s a good combination.

3) Come on Jozy — Altidore’s red card, the result of a yellow for a silly tackle and a second yellow for cussing out the ref moments later, was silly. Yes, it was a friendly, but Altidore is far too experienced to be source: Getty Imagesmaking mistakes like that. What if this was an important match? You might say, “He’d know better”, but if that’s the case he should’ve known what a win in Switzerland could do for the reputation of his squad, and the feeling in the locker room.

Bonus) #Brekfeast — Regardless of what you think of Brek Shea as a left back, or a player, he still has the left foot to do things like this: GOOOOOOOOAAAAL.