Fulham 1-3 Manchester United: visitors wrap things up early, then cruise (video)

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Manchester United recorded their fourth straight win at Craven Cottage on Saturday, taking a 3-0 lead over Fulham before thirty minutes were up. Although Fulham got back into the game in the second half, they were only able to find one goal. The win lifts the Red Devils to seventh place, while Fulham remain just two points above the relegation zone.

The first half could hardly have gone better for the visitors. Fulham were utterly dismantled by the 22nd minute, and by the half, looked like they simply wanted some quiet time in a dark room. It all started with a goal from Antonio Valencia in the 9th minute. Robin van Persie sent the ball up for Wayne Rooney, who had all the time in the world to wait, twiddling his thumbs, for his teammates to arrive. Rooney then selected Valencia as his target, and the Ecuadorian wasted no time slotting in the first goal.

It took barely ten minutes for the next United goal to come. Adnan Januzaj did well to win the ball in midfield, even if he may have clipped some heels while doing so. The youngster took the ball up through the middle before putting it out wide for van Persie, who was clear on goal and had no trouble tapping it home.

Next it was Rooney’s turn. Once again the ball came up from the back, completely splitting apart the Fulham defense. Van Persie was loitering on the right, with all the time and space in the world to choose his next move. He slid the ball over to Rooney, and once again, only a touch was needed to get the ball in the back of the net.

The second half began with three substitutions for the visitors. No, it wasn’t a strategic move by David Moyes, thinking ahead to the midweek Champions League match against Real Sociedad. Rafael, Jonny Evans and Tom Cleverley all picked up injuries during the first 45, and were replaced by Chris Smalling, Shinji Kagawa and Marouane Fellaini. The action diminished a bit after that.

The defensive shuffling did enable Fulham to take a chance and grab a goal. Martin Jol’s own switch, Alexander Kacaniklic on for Ashkan Dejagah, paid off after not even five minutes had passed. The Swede put in his shot and Rooney, apparently believing it was his duty to be all things to all people in this match, attempted to block the strike. Instead his leg caused the ball to take a big deflection, with David De Gea unable to get anywhere near it.

Fulham might not have been able to get even a point from this match, but Jol should at least have his spirits lifted by their second half display. But with Liverpool coming up next, it’s unlikely those spirits will stay high.

Fulham: Stekelenburg; Riether, Senderos, Amorebieta, Richardson; Dejagah (Kacaniklic 61), Sidwell, Parker (Bent 83), Kasami; Ruiz (Taarabt 74); Berbatov

Subs not used: Stockdale, Hughes, Karagounis, Boateng, Bent

Goals: Kacaniklic 65′

Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael (Smalling 46), Vidic, Evans (Fellaini), Evra; Valencia, Jones, Cleverley (Kagawa 46), Januzaj; Rooney, Van Persie

Subs not used: Lindegaard, Nani, Young, Hernandez

Goals: Valencia 9; van Persie 20; Rooney 22

VOTE: Premier League March Madness playoff final

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Our Premier League March Madness tournament began on Monday and we had some early drama in the relegation playoff semifinals.

The opening two games of our bracket produced two surprise winners, as #20 Norwich City edged out #17 Watford after winning 50.48 percent of the vote, while #19 Aston Villa comfortably beat #18 Bournemouth with 62.14 percent of votes.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub

That means Norwich will now face Aston Villa in the final, and Villa won both of their meetings in the Premier League this season. The first with a 5-1 win at Carrow Road, the second with a undeserved home win at Villa Park.

What do the winners get? If you win the relegation playoff final you are exempt from relegation and finish as the 2020 tournament as #17 seed, while the runner up will be relegated along with the two semifinal losers.

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final
Tuesday: Sweet 16
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

Plus, our own Nick Mendola handicapped the field and here is who he thinks will be the favorites to win it all and which teams you should look out for as dark horses over the next few days. His predictions are wild and Arsenal fans will want to prove he is correct and they pick up a first piece of silverware under Mikel Arteta.

Okay, vote below (until 3 p.m. ET) for the two relegation playoff finalists as our Premier League March Madness tournament continues!

Report: Premier League prepares for June return

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The Premier League is reportedly preparing to return to action in June as the current season remains suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Multiple reports across the UK, including this one from the Daily Mirror, claim that the government has given the Premier League the green light to return to action from June, provided the situation has improved as expected by then.

Per the report, Premier League clubs have been told that they should prepare for games to be played from June 1 onwards behind closed doors and there is a ‘tentative agreement for the top flight to resume behind closed doors after the 20 clubs mapped out a plan with senior officials on a resumption of matches.’

The report adds that ‘in principle, with government health officials hopeful of a coronavirus peak in the UK in the next few weeks, they will sanction games under strict guidelines.’ 

Plans are in place for players to be isolated together and away from the public, as they could begin training in May so they can prepare for the current campaign resuming.

With the situation in the UK deteriorating over the last week and the country on lockdown, these tentative plans can of course change quickly.

Premier League players have had differing views on what should happen to the 2019-20 season and Luke Shaw is the latest to say games should not be played behind closed doors. But if teams play two games per week in empty stadiums or training grounds from June 1, there is the real possibility the season could be finished by the start of July and then FA Cup and Europe competitions could follow.

The overwhelming feeling from Premier League clubs, the league itself and many other individuals is that the 2019-20 season should be finished whenever it is safe to do so. Recent PL club meetings came to that agreement and that is the official stance.

However, the next big question is whether or not fans will be able to attend games for the rest of the season and this report seems to suggest that is totally off the table and if the current campaign is concluded, fans will not be present.

Luke Shaw: Scrap season and start again

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Man United and England defender Luke Shaw has said the 2019-20 season should be scrapped and started again if games cannot be completed.

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Shaw, 24, was speaking during a FIFA 20 competition which was streamed on Twitch to raise funds for UNICEF’s Combat Corona campaign.

“Scrap it and start again. Start it again, yeah,” Shaw said. “It’s got to be, you know. If we can’t carry it on, it’s got to be void.”

All 20 Premier League clubs remain committed to completing the 2019-20 season whenever ‘safe to do so’ but there’s no resumption date currently lined up.

One option is for games to played behind closed doors, when possible, but Shaw isn’t keen on that either.

“Fans are so important. You realise it even more (now),” Shaw said. “I think the sport is for fans really… I think if you don’t have fans, and you don’t play in front of fans, it just doesn’t feel right. Especially on matchday, the fans are always amazing and always help the team. Whether it’s home or even away, our fans are always brilliant and I feel like they’re always there with us.”

The view of Shaw differs slightly from other Premier League players who have discussed the current suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic but there is a general consensus that they want to move onto the next season as soon as possible. When it comes to Shaw, his views are very interesting as Man United had rallied to be three points off the top four and had plenty of momentum ahead of the final nine games of the current league campaign, as well as being in a great position in the latter stages of the Europa League and FA Cup.

Man City star Kevin de Bruyne wants to move on from the 2019-20 season as soon as possible as he doesn’t think the start of the 2020-21 campaign should be delayed and is concerned about players being injured if they are asked to resume the season quickly.

Other players are fine to wait to see what the Premier League plans but Tottenham forward Harry Kane has also expressed his desire to move on from the current campaign if games cannot be completed by the end of June.

It is intriguing to hear so many differing views from Premier League players on when the season should resume, if at all, but Kane, Shaw and De Bruyne are all saying something slightly different. Therein lies the problem. How will a consensus be reached between PL clubs with so many different ideas and opinions on what should happen next?

If you throw club affiliations and rivalries into the mix, why on earth would a Man United star want the current season to be deemed as ‘void’ when Liverpool are 25 points clear at the top of the table and just five points away from securing the Premier League title…

Son to complete military service in South Korea

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Tottenham have confirmed that forward Heung-min Son will complete his military service in South Korea this month and will return to London in May.

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Son, 27, previously became exempt from the mandatory 21-month military service as he captained South Korea to gold medal glory at the 2018 Asian Games but there is also a four-week stint he needs to complete in the army.

A new rule which arrived in 2018 means that men in South Korea must enlist in the military by the age of 28 and Son turns 28 on July 8.

Spurs released the following statement on Son’s situation, as he recently returned to South Korea as he continues his rehabilitation from a broken arm he suffered in the 3-2 win at Aston Villa in February.

“The Club can confirm that Heung-Min Son will commence his mandatory military service in South Korea this month. The forward arrived back in his home country at the end of March where he is currently in quarantine. Our medical staff are in regular contact as he concludes his recovery after fracturing his arm in our 3-2 win against Aston Villa on 16 February and continues to train.

“Sonny had surgery on his arm in South Korea before returning to the UK at the end of February to continue his rehabilitation, prior to the initial announcement of the professional game in England being suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Premier League has since announced that the 2019/20 season will only return when it is ‘safe and appropriate to do so’ and is under constant review. Son will return to London following the conclusion of his military service in May.”