Premier League Playback: Why Moyes should go, Mourinho’s rant, Liverpool close

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MOYES HURTLING TOWARDS UNITED EXIT

On Monday, rumors, reports and the realization arrived that David Moyes’ time in charge at Manchester United is coming to a premature end.

The Telegraph’s Mark Ogden first broke the news as the Glazer family, who own United, have finally given up hope that Moyes is the right man to turn things around at Old Trafford. I witnessed what could well be Moyes’ last game in charge of United, the abject and lackluster 2-0 defeat to his old club Everton on Sunday, and everything that has gone wrong during his time at United’s helm was showcased in a truly shocking display.

A lack of passion and ingenuity from his players coupled with a shortage of tactical nous and one dimensional instructions from Moyes was, and has been, a recipe for disaster for the Red Devils. Now, as has been the suspicion for some time, Moyes seems to have lost the dressing room as his players went down with a whimper at Everton. Then Moyes said the following in his post-match presser.

“I thought we played really well in the first half but we lacked the killer ball. I agree there isn’t much point having a lot of possession if you don’t create chances. And we didn’t do that well enough. I thought the two goals we conceded were rank, rotten.”

I feel some sympathy for Moyes. We all knew that succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson was a hard act to follow, yet the way United have been playing and the way they continue to spiral out of control is alarming. Did anybody truly think that the Glazer family would hand Moyes another handsome transfer kitty of over $220 million this summer? With no guarantee of success and the only track record to go on being 11 defeats in a Premier League campaign for the first time in their history… of course not.

(More: Moyes vilified on return to Everton, as United nightmare continues)

United are out of the UEFA Champions League, unable to attract big name players and they’ve been forced to pay top dollar for good, not world-class, additions. Chuck in losing your entire veteran leadership group and the Empire has come crumbling down during Moyes’ leadership. The Glazers want to put an end to the suffering. Whether or not Moyes deserved more time is a debate for another day but the fact of the matter is, he didn’t do enough with the time he’s been given to lead one of the largest global brands towards success. Everybody knew there would be a drop off from the Ferguson era, but this is a deep nosedive into a dark abyss that’s threatening to derail all of the good work from the last quarter of a century.

The low points thus far: 3-0 and 4-1 defeats to Manchester City, 3-0 and 1-0 defeats to Liverpool, losses to West Brom and Newcastle at home, then to cap it off Moyes was beaten by his old side Everton home and away. Even a brief foray in the Champions League, where they were knocked out by Bayern Munich in the last eight, failed to cajole his side into action.

Sitting in the press box high up in the third-tier at Goodison on Sunday, something caught my eye, near the technical area. ‘It can’t be…’ I thought to myself. ‘It bloody well is.’ How this was allowed to happen, I’m not sure, but as Moyes stood arms-crossed on the edge of his technical area, a sense of foreboding may well have taken over the Scotsman.

Behind him, a fan had dressed up in a Grim Reaper costume, complete with a black cape, haunting face mask and an inflatable scythe which he pointed towards the United manager. On three of four occasions ‘The Angel of the Abyss’ wandered towards Moyes (see above photo) before being asked to remove his costume after 15 minutes of the game by police officers.

That ominous feeling seemed to overtake Moyes throughout, as his side struggled to cope with Everton’s counter-attacks and the Grim Reaper has lived up to his reputation once again, with Moyes hurtling towards the exit at Old Trafford.

Premier League Schedule – Week 35

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 0-0 Southampton Recap and watch here
Cardiff City 1-1 Stoke City Recap and watch here
Chelsea 1-2 Sunderland Recap and watch here
Everton 2-0 Manchester United Recap and watch here
Hull City 0-3 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Manchester City 3-1 West Brom Recap and watch here
Newcastle United 1-2 Swansea Recap and watch here
Norwich 2-3 Liverpool Recap and watch here
Tottenham 3-1 Fulham Recap and watch here
West Ham 0-1 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here

MARTINEZ EMBARRASSES MOYES WITH TACTICAL NOUS

Since the 1969-70 season, Everton had not won home and away against Manchester United in the same campaign.They have now, and they thoroughly deserved it.

Moyes’ replacement at Goodison Park, Roberto Martinez, has breathed new life into the Merseyside club with free-flowing soccer the aim as his players express themselves at every possible opportunity.

Overloading on the right wing, stifling the opposition’s attacker, being patient and keeping the ball when needed, launching incisive and devastating counter-attacks; these are all of the tactics Everton manufactured superbly on Sunday as they defeated Manchester United 2-0 at Goodison Park.

(More: Martinez revels in Everton’s humbling of Man United)

On his return to Everton, Moyes was vilified by boos from the same fans who once adored him. As he stood in his white sneakers on the sidelines, arms crossed and a sour expression spread across his face, a familiar picture unfolded before his eyes; United being outwitted.

Everton loaded the right wing with Seamus Coleman bombing on and Kevin Mirallas staying high on United’s left back Alexander Buttner. It worked a treat. One small tactical maneuver from Roberto Martinez bamboozled Moyes as Everton out-thought United. Worryingly, which is one of the main reasons Moyes seems to be on the way out, Everton outworked the Red Devils. I asked Martinez after the game if their shock 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace last Wednesday provided his side with a wake-up call to go out and beat United, as their race to finish in the top four intensifies.

“I think it was a very important defeat to digest and understand,” Martinez said. “I told the players we were magnificent going forward against a Crystal Palace team who are superb defensively. The problem was we conceded three goals, and you need to control that. You need to know how to win football games. Today was the first time we had something to lose. We were in a position where we weren’t trying to get something, we were trying not to lose something. I think this performance was the perfect answer. To go 2-0 up, then keep a clean sheet against the champions, it is as good as it gets.”

The best is yet to come from Martinez and Everton, as many would argue he has bettered Moyes’ decade of work at Everton in the space of just nine months. Martinez admitted Moyes laid the foundations for him to succeed, yet the real job was always going to be lifting Everton from a side who perennially finished in the top seven, to a team consistently challenging for the top four.

MOURINHO’S RANT

Speaking after Chelsea’s shock 2-1 defeat to Sunderland on Saturday, which put a mammoth dent in Chelsea’s title hopes, Jose Mourinho lost the plot in the post-match interview.

“No, [I am not shocked] I just want to say four things. I am sorry because. If you ask me more questions, I will repeat the same words. I have four things to say: Congratulations to my players because they gave what they have and what they don’t have… Congratulations to Sunderland, because they won… Congratulations to Mike Dean, because he made a fantastic performance… And congratulations to Mike Riley, because of what they did during the season was fantastic for the way the Championship is going. Congratulations to all of them. I’m sorry, I have nothing more to say.”

That was it. Mourinho’s 77-game unbeaten run at home in the Premier League was over, and there’s nothing like accepting defeat gracefully…

Mourinho was up to his old tricks again, as his thinly veiled conspiracy theory about the referees ganging up on Chelsea was a little embarrassing. Mike Riley, the head of the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMO) didn’t escape Mourinho’s wrath, as the late penalty awarded to Sunderland for a foul on USMNT forward Jozy Altidore (yes, he came off the bench) did look dubious. We’ve seen them given though, as Cesar Azpilicueta slid in rashly and Altidore went down leaving referee Mike Dean with no choice after his assistant referee waved his flag.

That said, Mourinho’s constant need to deflect the attention away from his players and on himself is starting to wear thin across the English game. Various columns were written about the Special One being too involved in his own self-importance and unable to lose with dignity.

(More: Mourinho’s sensational swipe at officials after Chelsea suffer shock defeat)

Chelsea have lost to Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and now Sunderland in recent weeks, as the Blues have come undone at the end of a largely inconsistent season. The UEFA Champions League semifinals prove the saving grace for Mourinho’s men, as they face Atletico Madrid in the final four of Europe’s elite club competition this week and next. Sandwiched in between that is a trip to Liverpool, in what was once billed as a title decider, now it looks like damage limitation for Mourinho’s men.

He couldn’t handle losing to Sunderland late on. How will Chelsea’s boss react to losing the title this season?

LIVERPOOL CAN’T DEFEND… CAN’T STOP SCORING EITHER

Last week in the latest PST Extra, myself and Mike Prindiville discussed Liverpool’s run in and if they are worthy title favorites. After Chelsea’s defeat, they are the red-hot favorites. One reservation myself, and many others, have had about Liverpool is their tendency to leak goals like an antique sieve.

(More: Latest Premier League standings)

In their 3-2 win against Norwich on Sunday – which has put them five points clear at the top of the standings with three games to go – leaks started to appear as Simon Mignolet came for a cross when there was no needed, collided into Martin Skrtel and Gary Hooper stood bemused, then tapped the ball into an empty net. Nerves will play a part in the three games to come, as Liverpool host Chelsea and Newcastle, with a tricky trip to in-form Crystal Palace sandwiched in-between. The Red have conceded 44 goals this season, have only kept three clean sheets in their last 10 matches and have conceded 14 in the time frame.

However, here’s the kicker; they’ve scored 33 goals in their last 10 games.

That is why Liverpool will likely win the Premier League title, baring a monumental collapse — only a defeat to Chelsea and Man City winning out may thwart Brendan Rodgers’ men — as the people’s favorite will prevail. If you had a show of hands amongst neutrals, journalists and fans of other PL teams, I’m 99.9 percent sure the overwhelming majority would want Liverpool to win the league, if their own team could not lift the crown.

A joy to watch, full of goals and drama, plus the true inspiration of the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster driving them on, Liverpool’s will soon be the Premier League champions, in my opinion. They also be the people’s champions, too.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES: ANALYSIS

It is awards time in the Premier League again, as spring time is here and the top six players, and young players, have been nominated by their peers for the Professional Footballer’s Association (PFA) Player of the Year award.

Here’s a quick rundown on the six stars in each category, as Eden Hazard and Daniel Sturridge have been nominated for both.

source: AP
Suarez and Gerrard both nominated for PFA award, as Liverpool dominate.

PFA Player of the Year nominees – Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Eden Hazard, Yaya Toure, Adam Lallana

If Liverpool win the league, expect the winner of this award to come from either Suarez, Gerrard or Sturridge. I’d plump for Gerrard. Suarez and Sturridge, particularly the former, have banged in 53 goals between them but Gerrard has reinvented himself since the turn of the year and has been the heat and soul of Liverpool’s sublime title charge. 11 straight wins and counting to finish the season, are you serious? Of course, Eden Hazard has been a star for Chelsea as the Belgian international winger has finally realized his promise on the big stage. Yaya Toure has been a monster in the middle for City, scoring 22 goals and generally ploughing through opposition midfielders and defenenders. Adam Lallana is the wildcard. This season he’s become an England international, has captained Southampton towards what will likely be their best-ever PL campaign and has wowed neutrals with his mind-boggling skills on the ball. A real mixture of players is in the six-man shortlist, but Stevie G gets my vote for his inspirational leadership as Liverpool stroll towards the league title for the first time in 24 years.

PFA Young Player of the Year nominees – Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, Aaron Ramsey, Eden Hazard, Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley

Sturridge and Hazard both got on this list too, and it wouldn’t surprise me if either won the award after stunning seasons. Raheem Sterling has had a superb start and finish to the campaign, but fizzled out in the middle. That said, the 19-year-old winger has sublime talent, pace and has shown in recent weeks that he can finish when given a chance. Aaron Ramsey would have probably won this award had injury not curtailed his season and you have to remember how well the Welshman played in the early months of the campaign. The other two players on the list have both become full England internationals this campaign. Luke Shaw has excelled all season at left back for Saints, with many top clubs sniffing around him as the Saints starlet is set for a bright future. Barkley is a real talent in the middle, where he glides effortlessly into attack and plays as though he has years of PL experience under his belt. Two-footed, an eye for a pass and able to score spectacular goals, what more do you want from a young player?

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Click to enlarge – Relegation picture with three games to go.

PLOT THICKENS AT THE BOTTOM

Last week it was Cardiff and Fulham… this week it was Sunderland and Swansea who gave themselves a shot in the arm against relegation. We’ve already discussed the Black Cats’ shock win away at Chelsea, as Gus Poyet’s side are now just three points from safety with a game in hand over all the teams around them.

(More: Relegation Watch – Sunderland gain ground in tight table)

As for Swansea, Garry Monk’s boys beat Newcastle 2-1, with a Wilfried Bony double (including a last minute PK winner) edging the Swans towards safety. As we’ve seen too often this season, you can’t say they’re totally out of danger. Almost, though. Fulham went down bravely to Tottenham, after dominating large spells of the first half and looking like a team full of confidence as they fight for their lives, As for Cardiff, they hardly battered Stoke, and could’ve easily lost the game late on but held onto a 1-1 draw which they really doesn’t help them.

With three games to go for most of the teams down the bottom, Norwich seem to be the team everyone thinks will slip into the bottom three. With Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea still to play, the Canaries certainly have a tough task on their hands.

It is a case of three from five to be relegated, but who those three teams will be, it’s anybody guess at this late stage of the campaign.

Premier League Playback takes an alternative look at all the weekend’s action from the PL, it comes out every week.

Southgate hails “patient” England, young squad’s tactical nuance

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Inevitably, teams end up taking on the personality and temperament of a talented coach/manager, which in the case of the England squad competing at the 2018 World Cup, is a massive compliment to the Three Lions’ current boss, Gareth Southgate.

[ MORE: Kane “buzzing” after brace secures late win in World Cup debut ]

Southgate, who’s 47 and only four tournaments removed from his second and final World Cup appearance for England, has changed the outside world’s perception of an institution that once seemed arrogant, elitist and entitled, opting to take one of the youngest squads (average age: 25.6 years old) to Russia, and to turn them loose.

On Monday, it was 24-year-old Harry Kane who scored twice and bailed the feel-good favorites out of jail with a 91st-minute winner (WATCH HERE) to largely erase the frustrating hour which preceded it. These growing pains are, of course, to be expected with so little major tournament experience. Southgate, as expected, was pleased with how they responded — quotes from the BBC:

“I was happy with the way we kept playing even though the clock was running down. We stayed patient, we didn’t just throw the ball in the box. We deserved the win.

“We created so many clear-cut chances, especially in the first half, and were in total control in the second half. We were strong on set plays all night. Even if we’d drawn, we‘d have been proud of the performance.

“We’ll do well to make as many chances in a game again in this tournament. The movement, pace, control from the back with the ball was pleasing. We wore them down. Good teams score late goals — if you dominate the ball like that the opposition tire.

“As for Harry Kane the only thing he hasn’t done now is score in August — he’s moved every other barrier. He will feel pride of leading a country to a World Cup win is the most important thing.”

“The way we would change the game is to have different profiles of players that would provide a different threat. You can put attacking players in different positions but lose shape and be caught on the counter-attack.

“The guys that came on had a different threat. As a team you keep working and working. The best teams in the world keep the belief in what they’re doing and in the end break teams down.”

Kane “buzzing” after brace secures late win in World Cup debut

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Four years ago, Harry Kane watched the 2014 World Cup, alongside Tottenham Hotspur teammates, friends and family, while on vacation in Dubai and Portugal, and during the club’s preseason tour of the United States.

[ MORE: Southgate hails “patient” England, young squad’s tactical nuance ]

Fast-forward 48 months, and Kane made his World Cup debut on Monday, scoring both goals, including the stoppage-time winner (WATCH HERE), in England’s Group G-opening 2-1 victory over Tunisia. It’s an outcome we should have seen coming, considering he’s racked up 105 goals (in the Premier League; 135 in all club competitions; another 13 for England prior to Monday) since the start of the 2014-15 season.

Kane continues to take his superstardom — no matter how unlikely or ill-fitting it looks on him — in stride, using obvious phrases like, “It’s the World Cup,” to which you might think, “Well, yes, Harry, it sure is,” and then you realize he sees himself as nothing more than a giddy child living out a lifelong dream — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s massive. I’m so proud of the lads. It’s tough. We played so well especially in the first half and we could have scored a few more. We kept going. It’s a World Cup, you go to the last second. I’m absolutely buzzing.

“We’ve done it for a while [had good resilience] since the gaffer has been here — he’s instilled it into us. We’ve got a great bond off the pitch so it’s great to see it on the pitch. We’ll get onto the plane happy tonight.

“We could have had a couple of penalties, especially when you look at theirs. A few corners, they were trying to grab, hold and stop us running. Maybe a bit of justice to score at the back post at the end. That’s football, that’s the ref. It showed good character to get on with it.

“We are proud of each other and in a World Cup you are not sure how it is going to go, but we have a great togetherness and are always proud to see it come off in the game. We never panicked, never looked like conceding another one and got what we deserved in the end.

“We got told there would be a lot of flies and when we went out for the match it was a lot more than we thought. We all had bug spray on and it was important as some of them went in your eyes, some in your mouth, but it is about dealing with what comes your way.”

Kane will be the first to tell you that he’s been handed nothing during his career. Early on, before breaking into Tottenham’s first team, he endured four largely unsuccessful loan spells over the course of three seasons, at which point his career path appeared destined for England’s lower leagues. Through his refuse-to-lose attitude, an insatiable appetite to continue improving, and eagerly stepping up to the moment every time a new, grander stage is laid in front of him, he’s now 24 years old and set to captain his national team for the next decade.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

It’s this kind of wide-eyed, relatable approach that endears this young Three Lions side (average age: 25.6 years old) to neutral viewers and made them a popular, if unlikely, feel-good favorite ahead of the tournament in Russia. Following Monday’s performance — no matter how belabored the result itself might have been — the bandwagon will continue to fill up, and Kane is reasons no. 1, 2, 3 and 4 for that fact.

Kane scores early and late, England narrowly top Tunisia

AP Photo/Sergei Grits
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England’s 2018 World Cup debut began brilliantly, then appeared headed for a disappointingly familiar outcome, but was ultimately saved by Harry Kane who scored both goals in the Three Lions’ 2-1 victory over Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

England came sprinting out of the starting blocks — so quickly they nearly took flight — and taking an early lead through Harry Kane in the 11th minute (WATCH HERE). John Stones‘ header was spectacularly saved by Mouez Hassen, but Kane was in the right place at the right time and swept home the rebound for his first World Cup goal (on his World Cup debut).

The opening half-hour was all England, with the likes of Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling cutting through the Tunisian midfield and defense with very little resistance and creating a half-dozen golden scoring chances. Unfortunately for Gareth Southgate‘s side, they couldn’t capitalize, and they were made to pay for it.

Kyle Walker caught Fakhreddine Ben Youssef with a raised arm as an innocuous cross came into the box, prompting referee Wilmar Roldan to blow his whistle and point to the penalty spot immediately. Ferjani Sassi stepped up and converted, just out of reach of Jordan Pickford, who perhaps got a fingertip on the ball (WATCH HERE), to make it 1-1 and negate an otherwise dominant first-half performance by England. It would be Tunisia’s only shot on goal for the game.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

England’s best chance to re-establish a lead came during a six-yard-box scramble just seconds before halftime. Alli’s header hit the crossbar and Stones badly scuffed — nearly whiffed — on the follow-up. Kane was dragged to the ground during the rest of the commotion, to no interest of Roldan.

It took far longer than anyone back home in England would have liked, but Kane grabbed the winner in the 91st minute, heading home from acres of space at the back post. Jordan Henderson got the first crack at heading the corner kick, but it was blocked and bound high into the air. Somehow, some way, Kane was unmarked and snuck his redirect just inside the post.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

Up next for England is a meeting with Panama on Sunday, a day after Tunisia take on Belgium, who thrashed the Panamanians, 3-0, on Monday.

VIDEO: Tunisia equalizes on controversial penalty kick

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England centerback Kyle Walker put his arm up to halt the forward progress of Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. Unfortunately for Walker, Ben Youssef was in the box and Walker’s elbow caught Ben Youssef’s face.

Referee Wilmar Roldan quickly whistled for a penalty kick and despite the protests from a half-dozen of England players and a check from the VAR, the called stood. Ferjani Sassi’stepped up to the spot and found the lower-left corner, just barely beating Jordan Pickford to tie the game in the 35th minute.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

How will England respond?