Teenagers could steal limelight in Manchester derby

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MANCHESTER, England — An $800 million cast of global superstars will take the field for the Manchester derby in the English Premier League on Saturday.

The game could be decided, though, by two teenage academy graduates who’ve barely cost City and United a penny.

Marcus Rashford of United and Kelechi Iheanacho of City are fearless, free-spirited strikers who provide proof that kids can still break through at top clubs in the world’s most lucrative league. That they’ve started the season as the No. 2 strikers for their teams is testament to their ability and the faith being shown in them by their managers.

The 18-year-old Rashford is the better known of the pair. Plucked from United’s youth team to solve an injury crisis in the first team in February, Rashford scored eight goals in the final months of last season and forced his way into England’s squad for the European Championship.

Quick, lithe, direct and with a composure in front of goal, Rashford is proving to be a player for the big occasion. He has scored at least one goal on his senior United debut, his Premier League debut, his England debut and his England under-21 debut. Oh, and he also netted the winner in his first Manchester derby.

Rashford is already showing last season was no fluke, coming on as a sub to score United’s injury-time winner against Hull before the international break in his first league game this campaign.

“The kid is going to play lots of matches, for sure,” United manager Jose Mourinho said.

Iheanacho, 19, has done remarkably well to emerge as City’s second-choice striker considering the caliber and number of attackers who have been at the club in recent seasons.

City has been happy to offload Edin Dzeko, Stevan Jovetic and Wilfried Bony over 12 months to give Iheanacho his chance, making him the first player to come through from the club’s $300 million training and player-development center – the City Football Academy – since its opening in December 2014.

Already a Nigeria international, Iheanacho is quick like Rashford, is technically gifted and has been compared to Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge with his movement and finishing ability.

Iheanacho was elevated to the senior squad in the summer of 2015 and scored 14 goals in his breakthrough year last season, including a winner in his second league start and a hat trick in an FA Cup game. He opened his account for this season with a long-range piledriver for Nigeria in its 1-0 win over Tanzania last week.

With Sergio Aguero suspended for this weekend, Iheanacho is in line for a start at Old Trafford in what might be the biggest game of his life.

“Games like this mean a lot,” he said, “and it doesn’t come bigger than a derby.”

Here’s a look at where Rashford and Iheanacho might fit in during the Manchester derby:

MARCUS RASHFORD

Zlatan Ibrahimovic stands in the way of Rashford with United deploying a 4-2-3-1 formation, but Mourinho said after the teenager’s winner against Hull that he could pair them up front.

“We play now with a second man behind Zlatan,” Mourinho said. “We can start some matches with a player in front of Zlatan.”

Alternatively, and more likely, Rashford could start on the wing, potentially on the left in place of Anthony Martial to use his pace against Pablo Zabaleta or Bacary Sagna.

Rashford still hasn’t started a game under Mourinho, who may decide to keep him in his role as an impact substitute.

KELECHI IHEANACHO

The most straightforward option for City coach Pep Guardiola is to replace the suspended Aguero with Iheanacho and retain the 4-1-4-1 formation City has used in its opening five wins this season.

Guardiola could, however, choose to play one of his wingers – Raheem Sterling or Nolito – up front. Or there’s the option of using David Silva or Kevin De Bruyne as a so-called “false nine,” basically leaving City without an out-and-out striker and instead flooding the midfield.

“We try to reduce the unpredictability of the game,” Mourinho said. “(But) we know they have so many options, so for (my) players is more difficult. It feels a bit of a contradiction, but without Aguero it’s more difficult.”

Late drama galore as Palace hold Man City

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Crystal Palace scored a 90th minute equalizer to draw 2-2 at Man City on Saturday.

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Cenk Tosun had given Palace an early lead and it looked like that would be enough but Sergio Aguero struck twice in the final 10 minutes to put City 2-1 up, then Wilfried Zaha‘s run and cross was bundled into his own net by Fernandinho as the Eagles snatched a point.

With the draw Man City momentarily close the gap on Liverpool at the top of the table to 13 points but Liverpool have two games in hand. Palace sit in ninth place on 30 points.


3 things we learned

1. City’s set piece problem: Palace’s first goal summed up the issues City are having each game due to their lack of fit and in-form defenders. Gary Cahill rose above City;’s defense and Tosun was left unmarked to head home his header. For all of City’s stunning play on the ball, defensively they always look vulnerable from set piece situations. That is why they are so far off Liverpool.

2. Zaha leads Palace: Over the last few months Zaha has been superb and he really is taking games by the scruff of the beck. Palace have lost just one of their last 10 and are tough to beat and Zaha and his teammates never give up. Saturday was the perfect example of that as his probing run and cross set up the equalizer and he was a constant threat.

3. Title race will be over on Sunday: Anybody who had a slight feeling that City could get themselves back in the title race will now be feeling otherwise. Liverpool are 13 points clear of second place City and have two games in hand. Liverpool have been superb but City are dropping so many needless points.

Man of the Match: Wilfried Zaha – His running, passing, crosses and general play was just stunning. Maybe he’s playing for a move away? Maybe he’s finally settled after a unsettled summer.


Man City dominated early on as Aguero’s free kick was saved by Vicente Guaita.

Kevin De Bruyne hit the crossbar from a free kick as Man City battered Palace, but the Eagles felt they should have had a penalty kick as Wilfried Zaha went down in the box. But VAR was used and said no penalty.

Palace took the lead from a set piece situation as a corner was headed across goal by Gary Cahill and Tosun nodded home his first Palace goal on his first start for the Eagles.

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Sterling curled just wide as City worked hard to get back in the game, with Aguero’s shot into the ground finding Bernardo Silva but his shot was saved by Guaita.

On the break Palace almost doubled their lead as Zaha found Tosun but his shot was saved by Ederson.

A huge moment of controversy then arrived as a penalty kick was awarded for a handball against Jairo Riedewald but VAR looked at the decision and overturned it as the ball his his leg first, then deflected onto his hand.

Man City did grab a deserved equalizer as a Gabriel Jesus cross to the back post found Aguero who finished.

Late on City laid siege to the Palace goal and they went ahead. Aguero struck in the 87th minute as Benjamin Mendy whipped in a lovely cross and the Argentine nodded home his second in five minutes to complete the turnaround but more late drama followed.

Zaha raced down the left wing and crossed into the box as Fernandinho could do nothing but put the ball into his own net to make it 2-2.

Fleck artistry gets Sheffield United point at Arsenal

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John Fleck‘s perfectly lashed side volley gave Sheffield United a 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Saturday.

The Emirates Stadium saw a wasteful first hour from the Gunners give way to a resurgent Blades side and a share of the points.

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Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring for the Gunners, who sit 10th with 29 points. The Blades move to 33 points and sit seventh.


Three things we learned

1. Blades are for real: There’s a reason Chris Wilder is getting linked with plenty of jobs and got a new contract: Sheffield United’s men are bought into a system about as well as anyone not named Jurgen Klopp. Granted Arsenal let early United errors slide, but once the Blades took hold of momentum it rarely felt like the Gunners would score the game’s second goal

2. Aubameyang absence glaring: It’s no surprise that missing one of the world’s best scorers is a not good, but you’d peg Arsenal’s talented group of attackers to sort it out. Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette had their moments and Martinelli did get his goal, but there was an Auba-sized hole in both the aura and composure of the Gunners in the final third. That red card is stinging like a fresh cut.

3. Xhaka, Torreira steady: Mikel Arteta has found better play from Swiss hard man Granit Xhaka, while Lucas Torreira is working well with his center midfield mate. Their play allows Mesut Ozil to do whatever he wants, more or less. Throw in a fine day from Shkrodan Mustafi, and the Gunners were a Maitland-Niles 50-50 battle away from a clean sheet

Man of the Match: Give it to Fleck for the goal plus four tackles and another day of committed challenges.


Lacazette sent Nicolas Pepe down the right flank, and the Ivorian sent a terrific cross for Gabriel Martinelli. The youngster volleyed across goal and wide of the far post.

Lucas Torreira popped a dipping shot that Dean Henderson smothered in the 32nd minute.

Martinelli didn’t miss his second, punching home a 45th minute deflected cross from Bukayo Saka. The latter had a terrific first half for the Gunners.

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The Blades didn’t quit, and Arsenal was forced into a goal line clearance in the 56th.

Pepe could’ve won a penalty when he was chopped down on a dribble into the box, but VAR upheld Mike Dean’s initial judgment.

Sheffield United scored an equalizerr in brilliant fashion, Fleck slashing a bounding side volley past Leno in the 83rd minute.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles blocked a shot and Leno made a tremendous save in stoppage time to keep the hosts’ point.

VIDEO: Haaland scores 20-minute debut hat trick

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Teenager Erling Haaland came on for his Borussia Dortmund debut with his side 3-1 down against Augsburg.

He then score a hat trick in 20 minutes as they won 5-3.

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Haaland, 19, has been on fire all season long with RB Salzburg and ahead of his $23 million January move to Dortmund he was linked with a move to Manchester United.

The Norwegian striker has now scored 27 goals in 23 appearances for club and country this season.

Whatever happens in the rest of his Bundesliga career with Dortmund, this start will live long in his memory.

Take a look at his incredible hat trick below.


Watch Live: Newcastle United v. Chelsea

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Chelsea seeks back-to-back league wins for the first time since Nov. 9 when it visits surprising Newcastle United on Saturday at St. James’ Park (Watch Live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

The hosts have scrapped their way to 26 points, five points both clear of the drop zone and back of seventh place. A draw at Wolves last weekend snapped a three-match league losing streak.

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Chelsea maintains a five-point gap over Manchester United in its bid to claim a Top Four place, with the Red Devils meeting unbeaten Liverpool this week.

Electric winger Allan Saint-Maximin returns for the Magpies, who appear to set up in a 5-2-3 against the Blues.

Chelsea has N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic in the midfield with Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi on the wings.

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