Three things we learned from Manchester United vs. Arsenal

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MANCHESTER — Dubbed as the battle for third-place before the game, it was a stalemate at Old Trafford on Sunday as Arsenal fought back to draw 1-1 with Manchester United.

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United are now two points behind Arsenal and the Gunners have two games remaining to United’s one. Neither team wants to finish in fourth-place and enter the lottery of a UEFA Champions League play-off to get into the group stage, so grabbing a point late on was vital for Arsenal as they aim to qualify automatically for next seasons UCL.

Here’s three things we learned from Manchester.

YOUNG REBORN

Ashley Young’s resurgence in recent months has been remarkable. Many thought Young’s United career was over last summer, as the winger bought for $28 million from Aston Villa in 2011 had Angel di Maria arriving in his left-wing spot. Young has won the spot from Di Maria and rightly so. Sure, his numbers aren’t phenomenal. He’s scored twice and assisted five times this season for United but other things are turning him into a fans favorite as one of their forgotten men has played a leading role in securing a UEFA Champions League return for the Red Devils. Initially deployed by Louis van Gaal as a left-wing back during preseason, Young suffered injuries and struggled to oust Di Maria in the opening  months of the season. But since February the England winger has been sublime with his work rate pleasing fans, and the quality of his deliveries causing the opposition so many issues. His late winner away at Newcastle on Mar. 4 seemed to give him confidence and he followed that up with a majestic display against Manchester City in April  where he scored and had two assists in a big derby win. Last week against Crystal Palace he ran the Eagles ragged and he was at it again on Sunday.

Against Arsenal, Young again came up big against the big teams, as he slide in and won crunching tackles much to the delight of the home crowd. His patient wing-play and delicate cross to the back post found Herrera for United’s goal, then soon after Young nutmegged Hector Bellerin on the run as Arsenal’s right back had a torrid afternoon trying to keep the United winger quiet. A rejuvenated Young is likely to feature in Roy Hodgson’s next England squad and given his recent form, he thoroughly deserves it.

ARSENAL’s SOFT CENTER RETURNS

Arsenal, once again, proved their silky, skillful core has a soft center. Francis Coquelin tried to chip away at United’s central midfield but had no joy as Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Young kept coming at him in the first half. Not until late on did Arsenal’s attacking midfielders cause such problems for United’s holding midfielder Daley Blind. Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey all had says to forget but Theo Walcott arrive to inject pace in Arsenal’s attack. Sanchez and Ramsey have been influential in securing another top four finish for the Gunners this season but if Arsene Wenger’s side have any aspirations to win the Premier League title next season, and they do, then another midfield general needs to arrive. The current squad is settled, see below, but it does need some sprucing up.

We’ve said it time and time again but the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin would be a great addition and either instead of or alongside Coquelin, that would give the Gunners’ core more steel and allow their flair players to flourish. Jack Wilshere’s return from injury can provide them with more bite, but the Gunners arguably need a new goalkeeper and another top central defender to make any inroads on Chelsea and Manchester City ahead of them. When it comes down to it, Arsenal seem to be two or three key players short of being genuine title contenders.

source: Getty Images
United and Arsenal shared the spoils at Old Trafford.

FALCAO’S FAILINGS CLEAR

The same can be said for United, especially in the striker department. The early signing of Memphis Depay should boost van Gaal’s striking options next season but after giving Radamel Falcao his first start since Apr. 18 in the 1-0 defeat at Chelsea, it was clear that it’s just not happening for Falcao at United. The man on loan from Monaco until the end of the season may well have played his last game at Old Trafford. It wasn’t a lack of effort but perhaps Falcao was trying too hard. Early on he twisted and turned on the ball numerous times and tried to do too much which got the crowd on his back from the get-go. At every club there is always one player the fans turn on and use as a scapegoat. At United, that player is, and has been, Falcao.

In the 38th minute we briefly saw the hunger of Falcao as Juan Mata dinked a ball to the back post and the man they call “El Tigre” in his homeland charged at the ball with ferocious intent and flung himself forward to somehow get contact on it. It was a brief moment of controlled desire as he was substituted in the 61st minute and replaced by Robin van Persie amid rumors that the Dutch striker will leave United this summer and could be heading to Juventus. With Wayne Rooney out injured on Sunday, the state of United’s attacking options looked a little bleak. Van Gaal is likely to get upwards of $200 million to spend on new signings this summer. It’s a safe bet that a large chunk of that will be on bringing in a couple of new strikers. United need it.

Zidane quizzed on Pogba: “We know what we want to do”

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Zinedine Zidane’s open flirtation with Paul Pogba continues, as the Real Madrid manager was asked about Manchester United’s star midfielder again on Saturday.

“We need to respect everybody, but the only thing I can say from the club is we know what we want to do,” Zidane said. “Something could happen before the end of August. We could have some changes.”

[ MORE: Wolves beat Man City in pens ]

On paper the purchase of Pogba makes sense to reloading Real, but the problem here is the sheer amount of paper the Madrid side has spent on players this season.

While sales of James Rodriguez, Dani Ceballos, and Gareth Bale could put Real in okay position regarding Financial Fair Play, buying Pogba would move the needle hard in the other direction considering the club has bought Ferland Mendy, Eden Hazard, Eder Militao, Luka Jovic, and Rodrygo.

Plus, Florentino Perez likes to buy only one Galactico per transfer session, and Hazard is undoubtedly this summer’s model.

That said, Real has assets that United could use in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s overhaul of the Old Trafford set.

UEFA gives partial stadium bans to Bulgaria, Romania for fan racism

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) Bulgaria will have to close part of its national stadium for European Championship qualifiers against England and the Czech Republic because of fan racism.

UEFA issued the order, saying Bulgarian fans were racially abusive during a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic and a 3-2 loss to Kosovo last month.

Bulgaria hosts England on Oct. 14 and the Czech Republic on Nov. 17.

Romania has also been ordered to close part of its home stadium for a future under-21 game after UEFA ruled its fans behaved in a racist manner during the European under-21 championship last month.

Another racism case against Latvia was dropped.

UEFA also handed out various fines to Romania, Ukraine, and Greece for rowdy behavior by fans.

Transfer rumor roundup: Everton join Zaha chase; Matuidi to Man Utd?

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A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]

Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet  to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.

Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.


Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.

Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.


Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.

PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly”

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Premier League interim chief executive Richard Masters says that referees have ben instructed “to use the referee review area a bit more sparingly” and rely on the numerous video-assistant referees (VAR) at their disposal to make simple calls upon review when video review is instituted in the PL next month.

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Following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where far too many trip to the monitor were made by the center referees, the PL is keen on ensuring that “the Premier League or English football [is not] interrupted, or the pace of the game [is not] changed.” It sounds very much like a “less is more” approach  — quotes from the BBC:

“I think fans want to see those clear and obvious mistakes changed and put right. But they don’t want to see the Premier League or English football interrupted, or the pace of the game changed.

“I think the only difference you might see is the referees using the referee review area a bit more sparingly and relying more on the VAR for the more subjective decisions.

“But we are putting something new into the Premier League and if it needs to be refined or improved or tweaked we will look at it when the moment arises.”

In theory, this should work quite well for the PL. Many of the decisions that referees go to the monitor to review themselves could easily be made by the “fifth official.” If it’s obvious to the VAR and he/she can make the call with 100 percent certainty, the center ref should always take their decision in the name of keeping the game flowing. If the VAR isn’t so sure, or it’s a more subjective call that should be made by the person making 99 percent of the game’s calls, go to the monitor. But do so quickly.