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

Transfer rumors: Willian, Alderweireld to Manchester United

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The transfer rumor mill is picking up steam this Monday, including some persistent whispers regarding two Premier League players with possible futures at Old Trafford.

Both of these make a lot of sense.

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A day after Nemanja Matic stressed the need for experienced players at United, two good fits hit the rumor mill (again).

Matic’s old Chelsea pal Willian has interest from United if he seeks a way out of London — which seems likely — where he’s said to be ready to go if Antonio Conte remains as manager.

Then there’s Toby Alderweireld, whose been very strong at Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur but reportedly fallen out with current Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino.

During a rut, the Tottenham manager claimed that Alderweireld was held out of Spurs’ lineup due to the form of the players in front of him.

Also from Sky, we’ll leave this quote from PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi on the idea of possibly selling Kylian Mbappe.

Al-Khelaifi told Canal+: “You want me to give you a number? More than €1bn! Yes, I said one billion! And even if you gave me a billion, I wouldn’t sell him.”

Pogba: Mourinho “made me progress in leadership”

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Paul Pogba says “we are never sure of anything but contractually, it’s sure” that he’ll remain at Manchester United.

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement from United’s most expensive transfer purchase, as many have linked him with a move away from Old Trafford.

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He also said he’s not worried about his relationship with United boss Jose Mourinho, and pointed out that his problems and growth in Manchester are a natural part of a player’s progression. From Sky Sports:

“There were times where I wasn’t playing, I was on the bench. There was a lot of talk, people thought it wasn’t working out,” Pogba added.

“But a coach and a player don’t have to be best friends, we don’t have to go to restaurants together. I had a few little problems too… football is sometimes all about the mental side. He put me on the bench and I gave my response on the pitch. I always give everything I’ve got.

“He made me progress in leadership. I had the armband with Mourinho, it was the first time in a club, it’s important for me, it makes me grow to be also a leader in the France team.”

In a candid talk, the 25-year-old Pogba was asked about Paris Saint-Germain and told French television that he’d be open to representing the club in the future despite the fact that his parents are Marseille supporters.

Moore takes hold of West Brom’s promotion bid

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Darren Moore‘s spell as West Brom caretaker manager couldn’t quite pull off a miraculous run to Premier League safety, but the promise it contained has helped him to the first chance at earning promotion back to the top flight.

West Bromwich Albion announced Moore as its new manager on Monday, with the boss promising his Baggies would play attractive football while also being a side “that’s willing to fight and scrap for every ball.”

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Moore is also happy to carry a flame for minority coaches — called BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) — in England.

“If it does inspire others, I would be extremely proud,” he said. “I don’t just speak on behalf of BAME coaches but the young, aspiring British coaches across the board.”

Moore, 44, only lost one of his six PL matches as WBA boss, winning three times and inspiring many to wonder what would’ve happened had the Baggies’ pulled the plug on Alan Pardew — and Tony Pulis before him — earlier.

A center back in his playing career, Moore spent 18 seasons between a number of clubs including West Brom, Derby County, and Doncaster Rovers. He won promotion as a player twice with West Brom, and again with Derby.

Belgium goes to World Cup without Nainggolan

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BRUSSELS (AP) Belgium left midfielder Radja Nainggolan out of its World Cup squad despite a standout season with Champions League semifinalist Roma.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has long had a difficult relationship with the stormy midfielder. But after being called up for a warm-up game in March against Saudi Arabia, expectations had been that he would be on the 28-man roster announced Monday.

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On top of the troubled relationship, Nainggolan was also the victim of the unparalleled wealth of talent the small nation has produced over the past few years.

Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku were all named in the squad, which will be cut to 23 before the World Cup.