Offshore drilling, England: at Manchester United 2, Liverpool 1

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For 55 minutes, the imperious version of Manchester United gave one of their most controlling performances of the season, but a defensive breakdown near the hour mark sent England’s leaders into a shell, the tentative giants left to bleed out a what could have been a decisive 2-1 win over Liverpool.

Ultimately, there was little chance the Red Devils would lose. Sublime buildup ending with a one-touch goal from Robin van Persie put the hosts up early, with a perfectly executed second half set piece giving United their winning goal. It was only then that a moment of complacency made the match a contest, though after Daniel Sturridge put home the rebound of a Steven Gerrard shot, Manchester United were never seriously threatened. Second half improvement from an impotent start still cast the Reds as incapable of matching their rivals.

It’s tempting to see this performance as emblematic of a flawed but ultimately successful United team, but the one-goal win understates their quality. While the final third of the match provided fuel for their doubters, the first two-thirds showed why Alex Ferguson’s side is temporarily 10 points clear at the top of the league.

No, it wasn’t a perfect showing, but it was worthy of a title-winner, even if the scoreline tries to say otherwise.

Man of the Match: Robin van Persie was absent for long periods of the match. In the second half he was a non-factor, and when the more constant performances of Michael Carrick and Shinji Kagawa helped pin Liverpool in their defensive third, van Persie was given very little space to operate. You could argue Carrick, particularly with some strong defensive play to open the match, should get this honor.

But goals matter. Execution in the final third really matters, and nobody is better at that right now than Robin van Persie. His touch on Patrice Evra’s first half cross (after a nice, subtle move away from Daniel Agger) left little chance for Pepe Reina to stop the opener. A beautifully swung-in restart just after half time was the key part in United’s winner.

When Daniel Sturridge went well over the crossbar from 10 yards out late in the match, we were reminded of van Persie’s value. He would have buried that chance and equalized, just as he took advantage of a small, 19th-minute window to give United their lead.

It’s a sport of moments, and Robin van Persie’s mastered them.

Threesome of knowledge

1. Show of respect from United – We’ve become accustomed to the inconsistent, mercurial version of Manchester United, but with the exception of their loss to Tottenham earlier this year, the Red Devils consistently played well against the Premier League’s top teams. They come out witha  clear plan and execute it to perfection, whether that plan being their ball-hogging ways against Arsenal or the intent to counter they showed at Chelsea.

In that way, the preparation and focus United showed against Liverpool was a compliment. While that may patronized a talented Reds’ squad, Liverpool’s performances against the Premier League’s elite would justify Ferguson taking a less intent approach. United’ boss could have rotated players or put out a team which, like many other matches, didn’t play with the intensity we saw on Sunday.

But the rivalry won out. Ferguson’s respect for Liverpool had him put out a full and prepared side. And it paid off.

2. United able to transcend their gap; Liverpool can’t – The key part of this match was the first 55 minutes. Nemanja Vidic’s second half header changed team’s approach, the game’s second goal making Liverpool chasers while United parried.

Until that point, despite the fact the teams were playing different formations (United’s 4-4-2 versus Liverpool’s 4-3-3), each side was tasked with the same concern: How effectively could they move the ball from their deep distributor (Carrick, Gerrard) into attack given the lack of a presence high in midfield.

For United, the formation left them with a hole in front of Carrick and Tom Cleverley. For Liverpool, an ineffective Joe Allen left the team looking for other ways to find Luis Suárez.

Thanks to Carrick, United ended up finding their answers first. The holder’s range of passing and connections with Shinji Kagawa (left) and Ashley Young (right) allowed him to manage the game. Setting up just inside Liverpool’s half when United established possession, Carrick served as the outlet the Red Devils needed, a role most evident when he helped recycle the ball ahead of the first goal.

For Liverpool, Gerrard was given all the time in the world to have an influence on this match but couldn’t. It wasn’t until he lumbered forward in the 57th minute that his impact was felt. By then, his team was down two goals.

Mostly ineffective with a flash of influence, Gerrard’s game served as a snapshot of where his career’s evolved.

3. Ferdinand and Vidic: Together again – It’s been nearly three years since Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were simultaneously healthy, and on Sunday, that only lasted 80 minutes. But before Vidic came off for Chris Smalling after landing heavily on his right knee, the long-time United partnership gave Red Devils’ fans reason to think the team’s defensive problems could be solved. Their strong marking and confident handling of set pieces harkened back to when United’s defense was the cornerstone of a Champions League contender.

Even the goal couldn’t be put on the duo, with the midfield breaking down to allow a long shot ahead of Rafael falling asleep on the rebound.

(MORE: Scholes says United-Liverpool remains EPL’s top rivalry)

Packaged for takeaway

  • Whenever Danny Welbeck gets the start ahead of Javier Hernandez, you wonder why the young England international is ever out of the team. His enviable combination of athleticism, speed, and technical ability makes him seem like an obvious choice. But then you remember Hernandez’s goal poaching and realize not even he’s assured a spot when Wayne Rooney’s healthy. The attacking talent on this United team is absurd.
  • Wayne Rooney didn’t make it back for today’s match. The United star has been out for three weeks with a knee injury. The original timeline for his recovery had him back close to this derby; however, there was no hint he was close to making today’s 18.
  • The match took some time to settle down, with both teams searching for ways to transcend their gaps in midfield. United didn’t hold their first sustained spell of possession until the 18th minute (eventually scoring). Liverpool first set up in United’s end in the 28th minute, a span that ended with Joe Allen playing a ball out for a goal kick.
  • Liverpool needs a better midfield, which makes you wonder why they couldn’t make room for somebody like Nuri Sahin. The Turkey international moved back to Borussia Dortmund this week.
  • After the opener, United looked like they had a formula for a second and set about targeting the channel to the right of Martin Skrtel. Near chances for van Persie and Welbeck didn’t come off, but in the second half, a long pass from Evra over Skrtel led to a foul when Welbeck had to be pulled down. The resulting free kick led to United’s winning goal.
  • Ashley Young was hurt near the end of the first half and had to come off. Antonio Valencia was brought on at halftime.
  • Liverpool switched to a 4-4-2 to start the second half, Brendan Rodgers bringing on Daniel Sturridge for Lucas Leiva. Though the combination seemed ready to provide the Reds with a lifeline, Liverpool ended the match with only three shots on goal.

Report: Liverpool in talks for Alisson

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It appears Alisson to Liverpool could be back on again.

A report from Di Marzio in Italy claims that AS Roma and Liverpool are in discussions over the transfer of Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson, with further reports from the UK stating Liverpool have offered $81 million for him.

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Their star goalkeeper, 25, was the subject of interest from Liverpool and Real Madrid before the 2018 World Cup began but Brazil’s starting goalkeeper didn’t have an outstanding tournament and Roma’s previous $100 million asking price may now have dropped.

Real may well turn their attention to Thibaut Courtois considering his recent comments that he could leave Chelsea with just a year left on his contract. As for Liverpool, their need for a new goalkeeper remains urgent following Loris Karius‘ mistakes in the UEFA Champions League final and Simon Mignolet falling out of favor.

With Karius backed by Jurgen Klopp several times over the past few months following his UCL final meltdown, Karius has continued to make mistakes in preseason games which may have accelerated Liverpool’s search for a new goalkeeper.

Although both Jack Butland and Nick Pope may well be cheaper options and have Premier League experience, Alisson is highly-regarded for his displays in Serie A and for Brazil and he is not only good with his feet but also a fine shot stopper. I mean, you have to be some goalkeeper to keep out Manchester City’s Ederson as the starter for the Brazilian national team.

Wayne Rooney loving life at DC United

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Wayne Rooney is loving the quiet life in the United States of America.

The all-time leading goalscorer for England and Manchester United made his MLS debut on Saturday, coming on for the final 33 minutes as D.C. United won 3-1 against the Vancouver Whitecaps in their own debut at their new $500 million Audi Field home.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

Rooney, 31, impressed in his brief spell on the pitch as DCU’s loyal fans celebrated a marque moment for the franchise in their new stadium and with a big-name Designated Player wearing the No. 9 jersey.

The former Manchester United and Everton man assisted Paul Arriola for D.C. United’s third goal and was involved in the build-up for their second as his clever touches and flicks impressed in his brief cameo. With 14 of their final 19 games of the season at their new home due to Audi Field opening on July 14, Rooney will be hoping to drag DCU up the Eastern Conference standings as they currently sit bottom.

Speaking to the Daily Mail around his arrival in MLS, Rooney lauded life off the pitch in the capital city as he hasn’t been recognized strolling through a mall or going to a coffee shop.

“I know I can relax a bit more. At home, you are looking over your shoulder and having to think to yourself, ‘What is going on there?’ You don’t know who is watching you and you have to be careful with what you are doing all the time,” Rooney said. “I think I can have a quiet life now and, when the children come over, I’m sure the time I get to spend with them in public will be a lot better now. It has been very easy to settle. I’ve been made to feel very comfortable. I’ve got freedom to be me, which hasn’t always been the case.”

And here is exactly why a move to MLS appeals to so many superstars who, like Rooney, have been followed everywhere for their entire career. Tales of Steven Gerrard hanging out at the beach with his kids and Thierry Henry jumping on the subway in NYC are plentiful as star players get the chance of that “freedom” Rooney talked about.

Rooney has been in the public eye for 16 years since he burst onto the scene as a teenager in the Premier League and now he’s enjoying the quiet life in the D.C. suburbs. Can you blame him?

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic loving the attention in LA and the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and David Villa also seen out and about at events in Chicago and New York City respectively, Rooney will no doubt take on a similar role to interact with the sports community in D.C.

That said, it seems like he’s enjoying popping down to the local coffee shop and hanging out at the mall right now.

PHOTOS: Man United release new kit

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Manchester United have released their new home kit for the 2018/19 season.

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Jose Mourinho’s men have already unveiled a black away kit for the new campaign but as they prepare to play the first game of their U.S. tour on Thursday, their new home jersey is now available.

[ MORE: Sanchez to miss US tour?

Take a look at the video and photos below to get a feel for the kit.


World Cup host Putin gives Trump a ball

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HELSINKI (AP) Riding high after hosting a successful World Cup, Russian President Vladimir Putin brought a special gift to his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump: a soccer ball.

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After a journalist asked a question at their joint press conference Monday in Helsinki using soccer metaphors, Putin pulled out a red-and-white ball and tossed it at Trump, at the neighboring podium.

Trump said he’d give it to his 12-year-old son Barron, a soccer fan. Then the U.S. president tossed the ball to his wife Melania, sitting in the front row.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Putin critic, tweeted: “if it were me, I’d check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House.”

Russia’s organization of the monthlong World Cup, which ended Sunday, won wide praise.