Premier League roundup: Manchester United go third, tight wins elsewhere

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On Saturday six games took place in the Premier League and there was plenty of movement in the table.

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Manchester United were the big winners as Wayne Rooney’s double moved the Red Devils into third place, while there were tight wins for West Brom, Newcastle, Stoke and Swansea elsewhere. Crystal Palace shocked West Ham in the early game, as plenty of teams continue to pull clear of the relegation zone.

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Below are recaps, videos and analysis from all six matches, as the PL enters a pivotal stage of the season.

Manchester United 2-0 SunderlandRECAP

After a shaky start United coasted past Sunderland, with Wayne Rooney scoring twice in the second half to send the Red Devils into third. A moment of real controversy arrived before Rooney’s first goal. Referee Roger East awarded United a penalty kick after Radamel Falcao was hauled down by John O’Shea… but East then sent off Wes Brown in a case of mistaken identity. Bizarre. Anyway, United have now lost just twice in their last 22 games but Sunderland are only three points off the bottom three.

West Ham United 1-3 Crystal PalaceRECAP

Glenn Murray put Palace ahead in the first half, then Scott Dann added another before Murray made it 3-0 early in the second half. Murray was then sent off for two bookable offences and Enner Valencia pulled one back for the Hammers, but the Eagles continue to soar clear of the relegation zone with Alan Pardew winning on his return to Upton Park in a feisty London derby.

West Bromwich Albion 1-0 SouthamptonRECAP

The Baggies have now kept four clean sheets on the spin and Saido Berahino’s 17th goal of the season (which arrived just over a minute into the match) sealed the win for Tony Pulis’ men. Southampton have scored just once in their last five games, as the wheels are coming off for Ronald Koeman’s side in their challenge for a place in the top four.

Stoke City 1-0 Hull CityRECAP

Peter Crouch jumped off the bench and bagged a second-straight win for the Potters who are in 10th place on 39 points. Mark Hughes’ side ground out this one against a Hull City side who were missing several key players including Nikica Jelavic. The Tigers have a huge match vs. Sunderland on Tuesday, while Stoke can move into the top eight with a win over Everton on Wednesday.

Newcastle United 1-0 Aston VillaRECAP

Papiss Cisse’s goal was enough to see off Aston Villa, as Tim Sherwood has started his time in charge of Villa with two defeats on the spin. Christian Benteke went close on several occasions for the away side, but they remain in the bottom three on goal difference. Newcastle stay in 11th on 35 points

Burnley 0-1 Swansea CityRECAP

In a must-win match, Burnley came up short as a scrappy second half goal which went down as a Kieran Trippier own goal was the only strike. Swansea’s fine season under Garry Monk continues, with the Swans climbing to eighth on 40 points and they are now just six points off a place in the top five. As for Burnley, they remain in the relegation zone and have two tough games against Liverpool and Manchester City coming up.

Burning Question: Who is the best player in North America right now?

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It’s a question many have tried to answer recently, and now it’s ProSoccerTalk’s chance to give a verdict of their own: Who is the best player in North America right now.

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Knowing the loyalty of the devout Liga MX fan, the following statement may make a few onlookers cringe, or become enraged: Carlos Vela is currently the best player in North America. Period.

Truthfully, it shouldn’t take more than 15 seconds to generate such an answer. The question should instead be: What player comes at a touching distance from 31-year-old Vela?

Carlos Vela has been on a legendary streak since arriving in Los Angeles from San Sebastian, scoring for fun. Literally, scoring for fun – when he wants, how he wants: long or short range chips, stunning volleys, headers, from the spot, 30-yard runs leading to gentle tap-ins, free kicks, you name it. In numbers, it reads more like a humble 57 goals in 71 appearances.

That’s a healthy goal-per-game-ratio.

And to be clear, goalscorers aren’t the only type of players that qualify for the sweepstakes – supreme talent doesn’t discriminate. But in this case it just happens to be that an inverted winger, with a penchant for goal, happens to outdo not only every player in MLS, but in every other North American top-flight contest, including Liga MX.

And perhaps scoring goals isn’t his ultimate quality – Vela’s dynamism, agility and tenacity are at the core of his magic. There’s a reason why he’s considered the most talented Mexican player of his generation.

Still tough to accept? Ask yourself this: Who was the last player in North America that Josep Maria Bartomeu and Barcelona went after?

You guessed right – Vela. The Spanish giants know a thing or two about scouting elite talent, don’t they?

Transfer news: Kane to Real Madrid, Alexis Sanchez to West Ham

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The latest transfer news continues across the Premier League and here’s a look at some of the juiciest rumors.

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According to Sport, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has his sights set on signing Tottenham striker Harry Kane this summer.

With Luka Jovic failing to impress at the Santiago Bernabeu, Los Blancos are set to make some moves to consolidate the presence up top. Kane, 26, and Wolves striker Raul Jimenez are some of the few names to have been mentioned thus far.

Kane, who has a running contract with Spurs until 2024, recently mentioned that he wouldn’t rule out a move out of north London, if Tottenham were unable to capitalize on winning silverware.

“I’m an ambitious player, I want to improve, I want to get better, I want to become one of the top, top players,” Kane said earlier this month. “It all depends on what happens as a team and how we progress as a team. So it’s not a definite I’m going to stay there forever – but it’s not a no either.”

As far as transfers go, nothing gets bigger and more “ambitious” than a summer blockbuster move to Real Madrid. Kane has a promising project spearheaded by Jose Mourinho himself at his boyhood club, but the opportunity to represent Real Madrid – at such a prime age, with an astronomical amount of hype – may only come around once.

Alexis Sanchez’s time at Inter Milan is coming to a close, and his next destination may be a Premier League team not named Manchester United, according to FC Inter News.

The 31-year-old Chilean’s agent, Fernando Felicevich, has reportedly been inquired by West Ham, who are considering placing a bid to lure the winger out of Old Trafford.

Sanchez arrived at Inter last summer on loan but has failed to impress when healthy, recording a mere goal and three assist in 15 appearances this season. With the possibilities of Sanchez remaining at Manchester United past the summer getting slimmer by the day, the Hammers are hoping to land the South American at a reduced price.

Sanchez, one of United’s highest earners, is reportedly also gathering interest from other unnamed Premier League and Bundesliga sides.

Belarusian Premier League roundup: FC Energetik-BGU edge FC Minsk, moves to top of league

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The Belarusian Premier League – the only active European top-flight league at the moment – continued on Sunday despite the coronavirus pandemic.

FC Energetik-BGU 2-0 FC Minsk 

FC Energetik-BGU are the new leaders of the Belarusian Premier League, following a 2-0 victory over FC Minsk, who were atop of the table prior to Sunday’s bout.

Aleksey Nosko broke the deadlock in the 21st minute, while winger Jasurbek Yakhshiboev sealed the victory for the hosts in stoppage time.

With the victory, Energetik-BGU are the only unbeaten team in the league after three matchweeks, winning all three matches. The positive spell began with a 3-1 against Belarus giants BATE Boristov. Since, Energetik-BGU have scored three goals, while managing to concede none.

Slutsk, who also featured on Sunday, moved up to second on the table following a hard-earned 3-2 victory over Isloch, which saw them play the final minutes of the match with 10 players.

Elsewhere in Belarusian Premier League 

Smolevichi-STI 0-0 Vitebsk

Isloch 2-3 Slutsk

Spanish players criticize league’s call for furloughs

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MADRID (AP) Soccer players in Spain on Sunday criticized the Spanish league’s decision to ask clubs to put the footballers on government furloughs during the coronavirus crisis.

The league on Friday said the furloughs were needed because there was no agreement on the size of the salary cuts players must take to reduce the financial impact of the pandemic.

“It is strange that the Liga supports (the furloughs),” Spain’s players’ association said in a statement.

It said the league should have created a financial cushion for this period considering it always boasted about its “economic control measures” and the “well-balanced economy” of the Spanish clubs. The association said it also should be taken into account that the league has been temporarily suspended and not yet canceled.

The league and the players’ association have been in talks to try to find ways to mitigate losses that could reach nearly 1 billion euros ($1.08 billion) if the season cannot be restarted because of the pandemic.

The players said they agree with a salary reduction to help the clubs during the crisis, but not to the extent the league wants, which could amount to nearly half of the total losses if the competition is not resumed.

Players said they want to keep negotiating directly with the clubs instead of being forced into furloughs.

“The clubs and the players have been reaching agreements regarding the salaries,” the players’ association said. “What footballers are not going to do is relinquish labor rights.”

Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are among the Spanish clubs requesting furloughs, but both directly negotiated the amount of the salary reduction with players — 70% in both cases. Both clubs and their players are contributing to guarantee the wages of non-playing employees being furloughed.

The government furloughs help reduce the clubs’ labor costs while also guaranteeing players their jobs once the crisis is over.

Spain has more than 130,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nearly 12,500 deaths. The nation is expected to remain in a lockdown until April 26.

There is no timetable for the return of the Spanish league.

Players maintained their position to only resume competing when health authorities deem it safe for everyone’s heath, a view also shared by the Spanish league.

The league has suggested it will recommend teams start mini-camp while the lockdown is still in place, if it’s possible to do so within the restrictions imposed by authorities.

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