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Three things we learned from Crystal Palace vs. Man United in FA Cup final

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LONDON — 10-man Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-1 after extra time in the FA Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday to seal their first piece of silverware since 2013.

Louis Van Gaal‘s men battled until the end and dug deep to clinch a record-equaling 12th FA Cup trophy.

[ MORE: LVG set to be replaced by Mourinho ]

In front of 88,619 supporters a slow burner played out with Palace going ahead in the 78th minute through Jason Puncheon, then Juan Mata replied three minutes later to level things up. Chris Smalling was sent off in extra time but then academy product Jesse Lingard delivered a superb volley win the FA Cup with nine minutes to go.

Van Gaal and his players danced were dancing with joy at the final whistle as they won a first trophy since the Sir Alex Ferguson era ended.

Here’s what we learned from a tense, encapsulating encounter at Wembley.


RASHFORD IS READY

Marcus Rashford is just 18 years old. He only made his debut 86 days ago and the teenage sensation proved on the biggest stage he can deliver. He did it again on Saturday at Wembley with a fine individual display which was cut short 20 minutes from full time with a knee injury. Early on he ran at Palace’s defense whenever he could, scaring the life out of them with his raw pace as Damien Delaney just did enough to concede a corner and Pape Souare blocked another Rasford effort soon after. In the 33rd minute Rashford raced clear on the right flank, surged into the box and squared for Anthony Martial who had his goalbound shot blocked by Joel Ward.

At the start of the second half Scott Dann lunged into a challenge with Rasford but the teenager simply shrugged him off, turned and continued running towards goal with Dann on his back. The Palace center back was correctly booked as the local lad from Manchester showed he has power to go with his pace. Rashford then set up Fellaini with a delightful backheel but the Belgian struck the woodwork. Everything good that United did went through Rashford and he’s high on confidence after making the most of his opportunity in the team when injuries arrived a few months ago. He’s scored eight goals in 18 appearances but he showed a maturity on a huge occasion.

Since Rashford was included in England’s provisional 26-man squad for the 2016 European Championships in France this summer, plenty want the youngster to go to France to provide the Three Lions with a wildcard. On this showing, Rashford might not only provide a wildcard. He’d do an admirable job from the start and has a bright future ahead of him. That’s of course if he’s fit and recovers in time to be part of Roy Hodgson’s squad.

BONUS: Another player Hodgson  may look at in the future, or even to replace Rashford in the squad if he’s injured, is Lingard. The 23-year-old winger came off the bench and belted in a stunning volley in the second half of extra time to win the cup for United and like Rashford, the academy product has been given a chance under Van Gaal.

Look at this strike. You beauty.


ROONEY UP AND DOWN IN DEEP ROLE

Speaking of the England squad, United and England’s skipper Wayne Rooney was deployed in a central midfield once again.

Rooney, 30, enjoyed dropping deep, picking up the ball and dictating the tempo of the game. In the first half he was going back to the center backs to collect the ball and along with Michael Carrick he got on the ball as often as possible. His range of passing is sublime. His cutting, curving balls in behind Palace’s right back position caused plenty of problems. Yet, too often he couldn’t provide the killer final ball as he and Carrick enjoyed plenty of possession but it could be argued they didn’t do much with it.

Well, he did plenty in the 82nd minute as he kept running and running and running until he got free on the right hand side of the box and then clipped over a perfectly weighted ball which Marouane Fellaini nodded down for Mata to volley home. Rooney’s role in that goal was pivotal as his name was chanted by fans as he thrust his arms into the air in delight. On multiple occasions Rooney also arrived as United’s last line of defense, making two last ditch tackles in the box. He made telling contributions when it mattered most and United’s talisman led them to their first trophy since Fergie left.

Rooney tried plenty of passes which didn’t come off too and after playing for over a decade as a forward, his role as a central midfield will take time for him to fully adapt to. Strangely he seemed to have a particular problem with short, easy passes. That will come with time as he fine tunes his midfield role. He’s admitted himself in recent weeks that he sees his future in midfield because even as his pace dissipates, his footballing brain will continue to figure out the new demands placed upon him. He led United superbly on Saturday and the quality he possesses on the ball was arguably the difference between the two teams.

There’s been plenty of debate about where Rooney will play this summer for England. The Three Lions’ skipper simply has to start at EURO 2016. Plenty agree that he deserves that. However, the big question remains where he can slot in. He no longer seems to be among Hodgson’s choices up front with Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy and perhaps Rashford vying for those spots. Given his performance at Wembley and in recent games, the jury remains out on where Rooney should line up not only this summer for England but in the future for United.


PALACE FAIL TO SEIZE THE  MOMENT

It felt like Crystal Palace never truly believed they could win the FA Cup. They matched United for most of the game but it always felt like they gave their opponents too much respect.

Referee Mark Clattenburg didn’t cover himself in glory during the final and help Palace either. Twice in the first half he pulled Palace back when he should’ve played advantage. First Connor Wickham got clear from Chris Smalling but instead of letting the Palace forward play on he pulled it back for a foul by Smalling. Wickham tucked the ball home but the whistle had gone and United’s defenders had stopped.

Clattenburg again reacted too quickly instead of letting the play unravel when Joel Ward raced clear down the right flank and Clattenburg decided to show Marcos Rojo a yellow card and pull play back for a free kick on the halfway line when Ward was running clean through on goal. Who knows if that, or a failure to hand Rooney a second yellow, would have made a big difference but Palace fans will argue that it surely would have.

Despite their misfortune, the Eagles stuck to their gameplan superbly, soaking up pressure and surrendering possession to United in central areas. They knew they would get chances on the break to score and that’s exactly what happened.

Puncheon took the corner and it was half cleared, then knocked back to him. The local lad from Croydon then lashed the ball home at the near post past De Gea and Puncheon wheeled off to celebrate in front of the delirious Palace fans. It seemed as if the script had been written for Puncheon to grab the winner and Pardew danced with delight on the sidelines with moves that will haunt him. Then Mata equalized to put a spanner in the works and Palace never fully recovered. Their fans kept pushing them on but they couldn’t break a resilient United down.

It was a game where it seemed as though Palace never truly believed they could win it. They stuck to their gameplan and took the lead and with a man advantage at 1-1 they had chances to win it. Dwight Gayle got free at the start of the second extra time period but De Gea saved his tame effort as he couldn’t sort his feet out. It was a case of being good but not quite good enough for Palace. They didn’t rise to the occasion against a far from vintage United side.

Transfer rumor roundup: Mari to Arsenal; Defoe makes permanent Rangers move

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors, including those involving Premier League outfits.

[ MORE: Premier League January transfer needs ]

Arsenal are reportedly hours from adding a defender to Mikel Arteta‘s squad.

Flamengo’s Pablo Mari has reportedly arrived in London and set for a medical at Arsenal, Sky Sports reports. The 26-year-old Spaniard will join the North London side for the remainder of the season with an option to buy.

It won’t be Mari’s first time signing for a Premier League side, however.

In 2016, the center-back signed with Manchester City, but never featured for the defending champions, instead making appearances for Girona, NAC and Deportivo La Coruna on loan.


Jermaine Defoe is not returning to Bournemouth.

On Saturday, Rangers announced that Defoe signed a pre-contract to join Rangers on permanent basis in the summer.

The storied 37-year-old English striker has 20 goals in 57 appearances since joining the Scottish giants last January on a 18-month loan. Defoe’s new contract runs through the 2020-21 season, a one-year deal.

“It’s fantastic news,” Rangers manager Steven Gerrard told the club’s website. “It’s something we have been working on over the weeks and it is great to finally get that done and dusted.”

“He is an incredible professional with the way he goes about his work on and off the pitch – he is a credit to himself and his family. And also on the pitch, which is the main thing. He is still contributing heavily – he is a major part of this group, this team and this squad and hopefully together we can go and share some success as I think he deserves that.”

This season, Defoe has scored 16 goals in 28 games.


Crystal Palace are in talks to sign Belgium international Yannick Carrasco, according to Sky Sports.

Carrasco, 26, wants to leave Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang and is currently training in Belgium, ahead of a return to European play.

Carrasco has scored 24 goals in 52 appearances since making a move to China from Atletico Madrid in February 2018.


Norwich City are actively pursuing Danel Sinani, according to the Daily Mail.

The 22-year-old Luxembourg winger is out of contract with Luxembourg side FC Dudelange this summer. If the parties involved can’t reach a deal this week,  the Canaries are reportedly ready to propose a pre-contract agreement.

Mourinho hints Spurs to sign Lo Celso permanently: ‘I think the boy is earning the decision’

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Tottenham Hotspur loanee Giovani Lo Celso is closer to permanently stay in North London than he is to return back to Sevilla.

[ MORE: Spurs, Saints draw and force 4-th round FA Cup replay ]

The 23-year-old Argentine, who arrived at Spurs from Real Betis last summer on a season-long loan, experienced a rocky start in the Premier League. Lo Celso – with only 44 minutes of English top-flight playing time under his belt – suffered a hip injury with Argentina, ruling him out two months in the fall.

Since, the attacking midfielder has worked his way up Jose Mourinho’s pecking order, featuring heavily in the Portuguese’s scheme over the past few months. Most recently, on Saturday, Lo Celso displayed his well-balanced virtues in Tottenham’s 1-1 draw with Southampton in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Following the match, Mourinho addressed questions on whether or not his club is going to sign the midfielder on a permanent contract. Praiseworthy of Lo Celso’s learning abilities, Mourinho hopes the midfielder will be a part of the club’s long-term plans.

“It’s not an obligation, it’s an option,” Mourinho said of Lo Celso, who is reportedly available at reduced price of $35 million. “I think the boy is earning the decision. He’s making an easy decision for the club to execute the option.”

“Incredible evolution since I arrived,” he added. “Barely played a game, I think he played against Red Star Belgrade, with me a little bit difficult to come in the first few weeks. But he understood what we wanted. Good learner, good kid and I think by himself he made the decision that the club is going to execute the option. That’s normal, he earned it.”

With Christian Eriksen on the verge of departing the London side, Mourinho and company will have additional funds to land Lo Celso this winter before his price spikes in the summer.

Everything points to the creative midfielder having a future in London, but will Spurs brass follow suit and make it official soon?

Netherlands forward Rob Rensenbrink dies at age 72

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Rob Rensenbrink, the forward who was centimeters away from delivering the Netherlands a World Cup title in 1978, has died at age 72, the Dutch football association said Saturday.

“We have heard with sadness of the death of football legend Rob Rensenbrink,” the association said in a tweet.

Rensenbrink played most of his club football in Belgium with Club Brugge and Anderlecht, where his weaving runs earned him the nickname “Snake Man.” He also played briefly for the Portland Timbers in the United States in 1980.

He was a regular for the Netherlands national team in its period of dominance in the 1970s.

He played 46 times and scored 14 goals for the Dutch team known for its slick, position-swapping “total football.”

But he will always be best remembered for the goal he didn’t quite score in the 1978 World Cup final.

With the scores tied at 1-1 between the Netherlands and host Argentina and the seconds ticking away in injury time of the final in Buenos Aires, Rensenbrink’s shot hit the post. The match went to extra time and Argentina scored twice to win 3-1.

It was the second straight World Cup final defeat for the Netherlands, which has appeared in three finals and lost them all.

Rensenbrink was diagnosed with a muscle disease in 2012 and died as a result of the illness, according to Dutch national broadcaster NOS.

Anderlecht said he died Friday night.

“Thanks for everything Robbie!” the Belgian club wrote on its website. “We will never forget you.”

Serie A roundup: Ilicic powers Atalanta in historic win over Torino (video)

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Atalanta’s historic and overpowering win over Torino highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Torino 0-7 Atalanta

Josip Ilicic scored a hat-trick, including a center-line strike, as Atalanta humiliated Torino 7-0 on Saturday, handing the hosts their worst home loss ever in Serie A play.

With only nine men on the field towards the end of the match for Turin-based side, Atalanta were able to capitalize, elevating their goal count to 57 goals in 21 games this season. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men, who are back in Champions League contention, lead the league in goals.

Robin Gosens and Duvan Zapata, who scored a minute before the break, added to Ilicic’s first of three. A three-goal advantage after the first 45 minutes foreshadowed what Torino was going to encounter in the second half: more goals.

Eight minutes into the final 45 minutes of Saturday’s bout at the Olimpico di Torino, Ilicic quick-fired two more past an exposed Salvatore Sirigu.

With less than 10 minutes to go, Luis Muriel took the field for the visitors. And just six minutes after his first foot on the natural surface, the Colombian striker had a brace to his name.

“All we can do is apologize,” Torino coach Walter Mazzarri said. “In so many years of my career I had never had such a game.”

In fourth place with 38 points, Atalanta look to increase their seven-goal performances this season to three as they host struggling Genoa in a weeks time. Torino, on the other hand, meet AC Milan on Tuesday in the quarterfinal’s of the Coppa Italia.

Elsewhere

SPAL 1-3 Bologna

Fiorentina 0-0 Genoa