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.

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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.

Man City’s attempt to block UEFA investigation denied in court

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MONTREUX, Switzerland (AP) Manchester City lost its attempt Friday to block an investigation into allegations it deceived UEFA while violating rules that monitor soccer club finances.

[ MORE: Berhalter: No “like-for-like” replacement for Pulisic ]

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that City’s appeal against UEFA’s handling of the investigation was inadmissible. The two-time defending Premier League champions tried to stop UEFA’s club finance panel from handling a referral by investigators to impose a punishment.

“At CAS we can only hear appeals against final decisions,” said Matthieu Reeb, the court’s secretary general.

UEFA investigators had called for a severe penalty — that City be excluded from the Champions League for one season.

The file will now proceed to UEFA’s club finance judges. Any sanction they impose can also be challenged at CAS.

The latest UEFA investigation started after leaks of City’s internal correspondence and documents to German news outlet Der Spiegel last year.

The leaks implied City deceived UEFA for several years, including by hiding information that revenue from potentially overvalued commercial deals came from the club’s owners in Abu Dhabi to curb losses.

[ MORE: Report: LA Galaxy want Cavani to replace Zlatan ]

City has never disputed the authenticity of the documents.

“There was absolutely no examination of the merits,” Reeb said of the three-judge panel’s ruling. “We cannot say whether the decision of the alleged breach of financial fair play rules are real or not.”

Friday’s ruling extends a long-standing conflict between City and UEFA in the era of “Financial Fair Play” rules which began in 2009 after consultation with clubs. The project was intended to protect clubs from reckless overspending.

UEFA rules limit cash injections from wealthy owners, which critics say penalize emerging clubs with big ambitions. Commercial deals such as shirt sponsorships that are suspected of being inflated are also assessed for the fair market rate.

City was deducted $22 million of Champions League prize money by UEFA in 2014 in the first round of FFP judgments.

Report: Bruce hopes to bring Xhaka to Newcastle in January

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Steve Bruce has prioritized a loan move to bring Granit Xhaka to Newcastle United in January, according to a report from Sky Sports.

[ MORE: Berhalter: No “like-for-like” replacement for Pulisic ]

Xhaka, now the former captain of Arsenal after his recent confrontation with the club’s fans, is expected to leave Arsenal in January and Bruce hopes that Fabian Schar, a longtime teammate of Xhaka with the Swiss international team, will be able to persuade the 27-year-old midfielder to choose the Magpies over what will surely be a long list of clubs desperate to acquire his services.

According to the report, a number of clubs in Italy have already expressed an interest in signing Xhaka — whether or loan or permanently — therefore Bruce and Co., are likely to face plenty of competition. However, the chance to remain in the Premier League and prove his detractors — many of them Arsenal fans — wrong could be appealing to Xhaka.

[ MORE: Report: LA Galaxy want Cavani to replace Zlatan ]

Xhaka, who is not currently injured, hasn’t made an appearance for Arsenal since the incident occurred late last month. Schar recently said that he “can’t wait to give [Xhaka] a hug” next time the two players see each other.

VIDEO: Each PL team’s best and worst player of October

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PST’s Joe Prince-Wright looks at the best (and worst) player of October for each Premier League team as the league enters its final international break of 2019.

[ MORE: Berhalter: No “like-for-like” replacement for Pulisic ]

With Liverpool and Leicester City flying high, picking the Reds’ or Foxes’ best player presented plenty of worthy candidates. As for terribly underperforming sides like Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Southampton, it was a challenge for the opposite reason, though JPW wasn’t short on options when it came to worst performers.

Hit Play on the above video to see who graded out well — and not so well — for your club, and feel free to agree or disagree all you want in the comments below.

Unhappy in Madrid, Bale ‘more excited’ to play for Wales

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Thanks to the ongoing FIFA-mandated international break, life is currently pretty good for Gareth Bale, who says he “definitely have a bit more excitement playing for Wales” compared to when he’s playing — or not playing — for his club, Real Madrid.

[ MORE: Sterling backs Gomez after boos were heard at Wembley ]

Bale confirmed on Friday what the entire world has known for a couple of years now: that he’s thoroughly unhappy at not being allowed to leave Madrid this summer; that he never truly adapted to his home since the summer of 2013; and that his on-field performance has suffered for those reasons, as well as his extensive injury history — quotes from the BBC:

“With Wales, I’m speaking my own language and feeling more comfortable. I definitely have a bit more excitement playing for Wales.

“I’ve been with most of the players, especially the older ones, since we were in the Under-17s. It’s like playing with your mates down the park on a Sunday.

“But it still doesn’t change what I give on the pitch. I always give 100 percent wherever I am, and that’s what I always strive to do.”

As for how Bale has been painted by the Spanish media, he says he only pays attention to the negative coverage when his friends since him “funny pictures or whatever they write,” but it’s clear he feels like an outsider and that’s a key reason he was so keen to leave the club and country when a(n even more) mega-money offer came from China this summer.

“I’ve heard some stories but I don’t really take notice. My friends tend to send me some funny pictures or whatever they write.

“I find it hilarious to be honest, especially some of the pictures and stuff my friends send me. On one, it said ‘triple bogey’ and I’ve never had a triple bogey. At least give me an albatross! It’s funny.”

Unfortunately for Bale, he’ll have to continue playing nice with manager Zinedine Zidane, until January at least.