All three parts of the MSN trident helped Barcelona produce an International Champions Cup goal against Manchester United on Wednesday, though not in the most traditional of fashions.
Lionel Messi’s through ball was off target, and Neymar rushed onto it before spinning toward goal. Luis Suarez literally shoved Chris Smalling out of contention to stop the Brazilian, and Neymar did the rest with a finish past David De Gea.
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Say it with me, “It’s preseason for the officials, too, you guys.”
Neymar’s goal has given Barcelona a 1-0 lead over United, and the match is at halftime. Obviously, he hasn’t been sent to Paris Saint-Germain.
Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.
Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.
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Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.
Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.
- Baggies won fixture 1-0 last season
- Man Utd leads all-time 54W-31D-43L
- WBA just 4 pts back of United
West Brom looks to continue its run up the table when its hosts streaking Manchester United at the Hawthorns on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. EDT on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).
Chris Smalling is ready to return, while another Manchester United center back may not be far off.
United boss Jose Mourinho announced the good news on Friday, confirming that Eric Bailly’s injury is less severe than initial expectations. Luke Shaw and Henrikh Mkhitaryan join Bailly as absent from Saturday’s match at WBA.
Mourinho raised eyebrows on Friday when he praised British managers for their relegation-avoiding “trophies”, a genuine sentiment aimed at West Brom manager Tony Pulis and other PL bosses.
The manager added that this match would be Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s last before a week off.
What they’re saying
West Brom’s Pulis on hat trick hero Salomon Rondon: “Salomon feels more part of the group this year and his English is a lot better. He can concentrate more on his football. The group really like Salomon because of the effort he puts in. You have to drag him in from training every day.”
United’s Mourinho on January transfer window: “I am quiet and calm. We will see what happens. I would like to keep my squad the same but I never feel I stop people from feeling happier and getting a different direction for their careers. If that moment arrives in January we will have to react. But are we chasing someone for 1 January? Not at all.”
Aside from a draw with Spurs, West Brom’s fine season does not include any wins over top sides. We don’t expect that to change, especially given United’s depth is better suited to handle three matches in a week. Manchester United, 2-0.
Jose Mourinho has three center backs available to him to help stop Harry Kane and Dele Alli, but it was nearly more dire than that.
Eric Bailly is available for Manchester United for Sunday’s match against Spurs after appearing to be injured late in Thursday’s encounter at Zorya Luhansk.
Chris Smalling won’t be, however, meaning Bailly will likely pair with either Phil Jones or Marcos Rojo in the back of the Red Devils formation.
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This won’t surprise too many, but the conversation turned to Wayne Rooney. The attacker has three goals and eight assists in 20 matches this season (one and four of those in the Premier League).
Mourinho says he expects more goals from Rooney, but no more than he does any of his other attackers aside from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
From Sky Sports:
“In the national team he is their player, he is not my player, and they can do what they want. If they want to play him right-back, they can play him right-back. It’s not my problem.
“In my team, he is an attacking player – he will play as a nine or a 10, or eventually coming from one of the sides.”
Nothing new there, but you can understand how any manager and Rooney himself would tire of answering the same questions every week. And it won’t ease much if he leaves Old Trafford.
Manchester United is currently fighting to get past an early rough spell under Jose Mourinho, but the team will have continue to improve without one of its top defenders.
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According to the Daily Mail, Smalling is expected to miss at least a month, and may not feature again for the Red Devils before Christmas, after sustaining a broken toe in October’s 4-0 defeat against Chelsea.
(UPDATED: Goal is reporting that Smalling’s injury isn’t as severe as previously stated. United isn’t expecting the 26-year-old to miss four weeks, although the extend of the defender’s injury is still somewhat in question.)
United would be dealt a massive blow if Smalling were to miss that much time due to the squad’s upcoming schedule. The Red Devils face critical matches in the Premier League over that span, including taking on Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham.
Mourinho has recently called out Smalling for his lack of “bravery” when it came to fighting through injury, however, the Portuguese manager made those comments prior to the Englishman’s diagnosis.
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With Smalling potentially out for an extended period of time, United is running thin at the center back position, which is already missing summer signing Eric Bailly. The former Villareal defender will miss at least another month after suffering knee ligament damage.