Three things we learned from Manchester United’s win vs. Southampton

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MANCHESTER — Two Zlatan Ibrahimovic goals gave Manchester United a 2-0 win at home against Southampton on Friday under the lights at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Mourinho a happy man ]

It was a fairly routine win for Jose Mourinho on his home debut in the Premier League as world-record signing Paul Pogba made his debut and shone with touches of class.

[ MORE: Stars shine under “Friday Night Lights” ]

Here’s what we learned from Old Trafford.


Not bad for a free transfer…

Wheeling away after his fourth goal in his first three games for Manchester United, it all looked too easy for Ibrahimovic on Friday night.

He towered about Jose Fonte to head home the opener in the first half and then six minutes into the second half he slotted home a penalty kick to make it 2-0 and effectively end the game.

Zlatan, 34, is showing no signs that the Premier League is too much for him. Only on a one-year contract at United, the Swedish striker has already made a huge impact in his short time at the club. He scored the winner against Leicester City late on in the FA Community Shield at Wembley, grabbed a fine strike at Bournemouth and scored both goals against Saints.

It couldn’t have been a better start for Zlatan in England and to silence any doubters he head. Sure, not everything was perfect as he dropped deep and on at least two occasions gave the ball away cheaply. Even Zlatan held his hand up to apologize on one particularly bad giveaway.

He is human, after all. Another thing which was hugely recognizable at Old Trafford was the fact that many of United’s fans had Zlatan’s name on the back of his shirt. United are already making plenty of the hefty wages they pay Zlatan.


His first touch back in a Manchester United shirt was a miskick which allowed Southampton to launch a counter attack. Things got better from there on out.

Pogba, 23, seemed to tower over Southampton’s midfielders and he often held a defender off with one arm as he dictated play with the ball at his feet. Pogba started on the left of a central midfield three and we got a glimpse of how he and Ibrahimovic could link up in the first half as Pogba clipped in a delicious ball which was flicked on by Juan Mata and then acrobatically scissor kicked over by Zlatan.

Pogba headed over from eight-yards out in the second half as he had a great chance to open his account on debut and he hammered the ground with frustration. Pogba then started to turn on the flair late on as he drove forward relentlessly from midfield, turned his men with clever tricks and sprayed the ball out wide with pin-point passes. By the final 10 minutes he had run out of steam but Mourinho didn’t bring him off as he played the full 90 on a debut which showed plenty of promise.

The French international midfielder may well not be worth the $117 million United paid for him but he already looks a classy acquisition. And, like Zlatan, his shirt seems to be flying off the shelf at United’s mega store which will help pay back some of that transfer fee.


Dressed in a black suit and tie with a white shirt, Claude Puel looked like he belonged in reservoir dogs. Like the ending for Mr. White in Quentin Tarantino’s cult film, it has not been a happy start to life in the Premier League for Puel.

After dropping two points at home on the opening day against Watford, Saints were undone by two silly defensive mistakes at United. For spells they controlled possession and moved the ball well but they snatched at chances in the final third. Shane Long hit the side-netting with a snapshot. Long sent a header inches wide, while Jordy Clasie twice snatched at shots, Dusan Tadic hammered another wide and Nathan Redmond squandered chances and possession in promising areas. Southampton didn’t look outclassed and they were coming up against a fired up United on Mourinho’s home debut in the PL, yet Puel will be concerned that Saints’ regression following the sale of Graziano Pelle, Sadio Mane and Victor Wanyama has hit them harder than they thought over the summer.

It could be a long hard season for Saints with the latest rebuild perhaps proving it was one too many.

Transfer news: Gabriel to Arsenal; Lewis to Liverpool

Gabriel to Arsenal
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In the latest transfer news Gabriel Magalhaes has been linked with a move to Arsenal, while Jamal Lewis to Liverpool is a surprising transfer rumor.

[ MORE: Predicting 2020-21 PL table ]

Starting in north London, Arsenal appear to be kicking on with their pursuit of Brazilian defender Gabriel Magalhaes who has also been linked with Manchester United, Everton and Napoli.

The Lille center back, 22, is certainly a wanted man and Gabriel will cost $35 million. According to France Bleu, Arsenal are now at the front of the queue for Gabriel.

Arsenal want to strengthen their defensive unit and big changes are expected at the back with Pablo Mari, William Saliba and now Gabriel expected to be the new wave of talent at center back. That said, with David Luiz and Rob Holding playing really well in recent weeks, plus Shkodran Mustafi turning things around too and Sokratis and Calum Chambers around, why do Arsenal need so many center backs?

If Mikel Arteta could move on plenty of these defensive players then he should be good to bring in Gabriel. Expect plenty of outs at Arsenal this summer as the north London club continue to battle through the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jamal Lewis to Liverpool
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Moving up to Liverpool and a slightly surprising report, as Norwich’s Jamal Lewis to Liverpool is not a move many expected this summer.

Multiple reports claim that Liverpool value Lewis at $13 million but Norwich want closer to $26 million, so there’s some negotiating that needs to happen here.

Lewis, 22, is a rising star at left back but with Andy Robertson around at Liverpool, he will be an understudy for many years to come. The Northern Ireland international had a very solid first season in the Premier League with Norwich as he and Max Aarons stood out as attacking full backs for the Canaries.

Robertson has no cover at left back and when he has been out injured, Jurgen Klopp has used James Milner as an emergency left back and in a pinch Trent Alexander-Arnold can switch over to the left.

Predicting the 2020-21 Premier League standings

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The 20 teams for the 2020-21 Premier League season are now set and we are releasing a prediction for the standings.

That’s right.

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With Fulham only sealing their spot in the Premier League on Tuesday via the playoffs, usually we would say this is very early to be releasing this standings prediction. But with the 2020-21 season kicking off in 40 days from now due to all of the schedule changes, it doesn’t seem too outlandish to have a crack at this.

Of course, transfers in and out will heat up between now and Sept. 12 when the new season kicks off and the transfer window open until Oct. 5, a lot can change with all 20 teams.

That said, Leeds United, West Brom and Fulham will all add something slightly different to the Premier League as the newly-promoted teams and it will be intriguing to see if teams who finished the 2019-20 season in red-hot form can carry that into the start of next season given the short break over the summer.

Champions Liverpool and Manchester City will be the favorites to win the Premier League title, while Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham will battle it out for the remaining two Champions League spots as they are rebuilding and nowhere near being title contenders, although Man United are closer than the other three.

[ PHOTOS: Ranking the Premier League kits for 2020-21 ]

At the bottom, it’s tough to see how the three newly-promoted teams can prosper given the short turnaround between the 2019-20 season and the 2020-21 campaign but Leeds seem the most prepared to solidify their spot in the Premier League.

In the fight for Europe, Wolves, Leicester and Everton look like the best bets of challenging the established top six but watch out for Southampton. Other surprise packages could be Brighton and West Ham, while you worry for Burnley and Crystal Palace given a lack of squad depth, plus Sheffield United and Newcastle United limped to the finishing line in 2019-20.

All in all, a lot will change in the coming weeks before the 2020-21 season kicks off, so we will do another one of these predictions post before the season starts.

For now, here’s my 2020-21 Premier League standings prediction and how I think the table will look when the final whistle blows on May 16, 2021.

Prediction for the 2020-21 Premier League standings

1. Manchester City
2. Liverpool
3. Manchester United
4. Chelsea
5. Arsenal
6. Tottenham
7. Leicester City
8. Wolves
9. Everton
10. Southampton
11. West Ham
12. Brighton
13. Burnley
14. Sheffield United
15. Leeds United
16. Aston Villa
17. Newcastle United
18. Crystal Palace
19. Fulham
20. West Brom

Do Man United need to sign Jadon Sancho?

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Jadon Sancho to Manchester United is set to be the transfer saga of the summer/fall and the big question is this: do Man United really need Sancho?

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Sancho, 20, is no doubt one of the top young players on the planet. So, in theory, every club needs Sancho.

Dortmund want $140 million for him and want a deal soon, while Man United are playing it cool despite talks of them already agreeing personal terms with Sancho and a breakthrough in negotiations being made with Dortmund.

Our partners at Sky Sports in the UK have the latest update, as they say Man United are determined not to be bullied over a deal for Sancho and will not agree to a Aug. 10 deadline.

It is believed United want to spend a lot less than $140 million for Sancho, especially given the current financial situation. I keep thinking ‘is their money better spent elsewhere on their squad?’ Perhaps on a center half or a holding midfielder?

The answer is somewhere between yes and no.

In their current front four they have a wonderful mixture of pace, trickery and creativity. Marcus Rashford flying off the left. Anthony Martial holding the ball up and running in-behind up top. Bruno Fernandes pulling all the strings just behind. Then there’s Mason Greenwood on the right, the prodigious talent who has burst onto the scene at the age of 18.

Greenwood’s emergence is the main reason we can question this deal for Sancho.

There’s no doubt Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to sign the former Man City academy star but Sancho is more of a luxury signing for Man United at this point. Nobody expected Greenwood to burst onto the scene the way he has this season and not allowing him to be a regular starter next season and beyond would be a harsh, and damaging move for Solskjaer.

Rashford and Martial are guaranteed starters at this point and the only other way Sancho would fit into this team is if Martial dropped to the bench and Rashford played centrally with Greenwood and Sancho on the wings.

Rashford, Martial and Greenwood are similar players and combine well but we saw how United’s attack stuttered a little against teams who defended deep and Sancho’s trickery would give them something slightly different.

Aside from United’s current front four they have Odion Ighalo (on loan until January 2021), Jesse Lingard, Daniel James and Juan Mata. That’s quite a drop off in terms of quality but those are also players who are happy enough to play 15-20 games a season and play supporting roles. Sancho is not and if he arrives he will obviously start most games.

Jadon Sancho to Manchester United will rumble on but he’s a luxury signing. Man United will be fine without him but better with him, even though it could cause a few headaches for Solskjaer.

Scott Parker’s first season as a manager ends in Fulham promotion

Fulham promotion
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Fulham are headed back to the Premier League after just one season in the EFL Championship, and that means Scott Parker has worked something of a minor miracle in west London.

[ MORE: Promoted! Fulham back in PL after 1 season in Championship ]

Parker took on a hefty challenge when he accepted his first senior managerial job last year. Fulham were a virtual lock to be relegated from the Premier League when he was named interim boss in February, and their place in the second division had long since been confirmed by the time he was named Claudio Ranieri’s permanent successor in May. The squad was expensive, bloated and full of players who had no intention of sticking around after relegation.

Given the club’s wealth of resources relative to the rest of the Championship, promotion at the first time of asking was more an expectation than a hope at Craven Cottage. Fast-forward 15 months, and the 39-year-old has quickly proven himself the right man for the job after doing just that — taking Fulham back to the PL by way of Tuesday’s Championship promotion playoff final.

Promotion may have been sealed on Tuesday, but Parker believes it was earned over a long period of transition and self-reflection by the players, beginning when he first took the job — quotes from the BBC:

“We’ve done what we’ve done tonight, but there’s still improvement, and that’s what makes me so proud and happy.

“For all of the good players and everything you see, what makes me so happy is I see a group of players who only a year ago were struggling psychologically, didn’t have a mindset or mentality.

“I’ve driven this team every single day and what makes me proud is I stood on the touchline tonight and seen a team that represents what I’ve been saying over the last 12 months.”

Now comes the the truly difficult challenge for Parker: after winning Fulham promotion he must assemble a squad of players not only good enough to stay in the PL, but also one full of individuals who want to be at his club and not simply any club that just so happens to be in England’s top division.