Three things we learned from Liverpool vs. Manchester United

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LIVERPOOL — Liverpool and Manchester United battled to a 0-0 draw at Anfield on Monday.

[ MORE: Mourinho calls out Liverpool ]

A battle hyped up for days delivered few goalmouth chances with Jose Mourinho the happier of the two managers as his side set out their stall and Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool put in a lackluster display.

Here’s what we learned from a chilly night on Merseyside.


CLASSIC MOURINHO

If there’s a man on this planet who knows how to set up his teams to get a result away from home, it’s Jose Mourinho.

Manchester United’s manager can set up his teams to defend resolutely in his sleep and that’s exactly what he did.

With Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini clogging up midfield, his game plan worked a treat. Herrera was snapping away at the heels of Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane whenever he got the chance and Fellaini was his partner in crime.

In truth, United were more adventurous in the opening exchanges. Mourinho’s men managed the match well. Early on they looked for Marcus Rashford out wide and Mourinho was urging Paul Pogba to surge forward in support of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but then midway through the first half they retreated. It was almost like he split the game up into four quarters.

The 0-0 scoreline at half time suited Mourinho and United perfectly and his side had a glorious chance to snatch a 1-0 win as Pogba’s cross found Zlatan at the back post but his tame header back across was horribly off target. United were in the game to create one clear-cut chance and take it. That turned out to be the one chance. Still, Mourinho will be happy to take a point back to Old Trafford as he set up his stall expertly and Liverpool played into his hands.


STURRIDGE REMAINS ODD MAN OUT

One of the reasons Liverpool did that was their lack of fluidity in the final third.

You could forgive Daniel Sturridge for cutting a frustrated figure up front in the first half. Nobody in a red shirt was near him in the first half and that was indicative of both his lackluster display and the frustration the attacking trio behind him suffered from.

If Adam Lallana had been fit, Sturridge wouldn’t have started. Even if Sturridge’s scoring record speaks for itself (he’s scored 43 goals in 75 PL appearances for Liverpool) you just get the sense that as long as Jurgen Klopp is the manager at Anfield, it won’t work out for Sturridge. His trademark runs off the last shoulder of a defender aren’t suited to this team and he is too static up top. He’s an old fashioned No.9 in a team which doesn’t need one.

You couldn’t fault his work rate but with a fluid four frontmen of Firmino, Adam Lallana, Mane and Coutinho, Klopp’s formula works better with them in the team. That was evident after Lallana replaced Sturridge in the 60th minute as Liverpool’s attacking fluidity and rhythm returned. Coutinho tested David De Gea from distance and United’s stopper produced a magnificent save and then Antonio Valencia produced a superb last-ditch tackle to stop Firmino who was clean through following Coutinho’s flick. The last 30 minutes proved there’s simply no room for Sturridge’s strengths in this Liverpool attack.


TOO CLOSE TO CALL

It is still early days but both Liverpool and United showed that a top four finish, their main aim for this season, is very achievable. So early in the season, this game between two bitter rivals saw both teams fail to go for broke. United will be the happier of the two with this result and Liverpool badly missed Georginio Wijnaldum in midfield as they failed to break through the first line of United’s midfield and get attacks going.

On another day and with Wijnaldum and a fully-fit Lallana, you might think Liverpool could’ve taken the game to United more.

United look solid if yet unspectacular but we mustn’t forget that Mourinho has had a few months in charge at United to gel this team and get his ideas across. Klopp’s first game in charge of Liverpool was a year ago today at Tottenham and yes, there has been huge progress in those 12 months, but the German coach will be left with a nagging feeling that his side could’ve got more if they’d taken more chances.

When this season is over both United and Liverpool will be right in the mix to fight for the top four but on this showing a title push may be just out of reach when you look at the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City. It’s early days and it’s too close to call which of these teams will fare better this season.

Mane: Feud with Salah is over

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Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are friends again.

Sort of.

Following Mane’s angry reaction to not being passed the ball by Salah in their win at Burnley before the international break, there were concerns that the relationship between the two star forwards would impact their play on the pitch.

But speaking to French outlet Canal+ after their 3-1 win against Newcastle United on Saturday, Mane put a lid on the matter.

“With Salah? It’s forgotten,” Mane said. “Sometimes you have to say things face to face. These are things that happen in football, sometimes it happens that I am not given the pass. But we have reconciled and become the good friends we were before.”

That’s that then.

Salah posted the following video ahead of the weekend, which says it all.

Mane scored twice on Saturday to continue his stunning start to the season, so it hasn’t impacted his form. But Salah, the Egyptian King and darling of Anfield, has come out of this worse.

Liverpool fans, generally, were on Mane’s side in this disagreement and the Senegalese attacker has been applauded for his response.

Will this impact Salah’s confidence and the fluidity of Liverpool front three? Probably not.

As Mane said, these things happen in football but it does prove that despite all of the success something has been brewing behind-the-scenes at Liverpool.

Arsenal “too scared” of Watford in collapse

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Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka admitted the Gunners were “too scared” of Watford as they collapsed in the second half.

Leading 2-0 at half time thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal were totally outplayed in the second half as Watford roared back to draw 2-2 at Vicarage Road on Sunday.

Speaking after the game, Xhaka said the Arsenal players were not confident enough to see out the game.

“No-one wanted the ball. In the end we are happy to take a point,” Xhaka said. “We didn’t show our game in the second half, we were too scared… Every team in the Premier League is strong enough to score but you have to keep calm, to show good character, to be mentally strong. We weren’t today.”

If only this was a rare occurrence for Arsenal.

Under Unai Emery their defensive collapses have been frequent, and this issue even dates back to Arsene Wenger‘s final few seasons in charge.

Arsenal were their own worst enemies on Sunday.

Instead of playing the ball out of dangerous areas they tried to play short goal kicks time and time again and were caught in possession on several occasions. David Luiz gave away a penalty kick, Xhaka and Mateo Guendouzi were overrun in central midfield in the second half and in the end they were lucky to grab a point.

Trying the same things time and time again and expecting different results is just bonkers, and that is what this Arsenal squad is going.

Luiz, Bernd Leno, Sokratis and Xhaka are players Arsenal have built their defensive core around, and the same issues keep cropping up when they are in the team. Adding Luiz to the mix after losing Laurent Koscielny was a risk and it seems like a move which will backfire for the Gunners.

It is true that defenders Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney are all close to returning from injury, so when that happens perhaps we will see a newfound defensive solidity and things will improve.

Then again, it’s likely neutral everywhere will be grabbing their popcorn whenever Arsenal play this season because you’re guaranteed entertainment at both ends of the pitch.

Galaxy hammer Sporting KC; Zlatan: “I’m the best ever in MLS”

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LA Galaxy smashed Sporting Kansas City 7-2 on Sunday, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a hat trick then called himself the best player in MLS history.

Just a casual Sunday for Zlatan, then…

Ibrahimovic, 37, scored a hat trick as LA raced into a 7-1 lead after falling 1-0 behind early on as Felipe Gutierrez scored both of Sporting’s goals.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Ibrahimovic was typically humble after his hat trick which means he now holds the record for the highest scoring season in Galaxy history with 26 goals.

“I think I am the best ever to play in MLS. And that’s without joking,” Ibrahimovic said. “Scoring goals is easy, you just have to be like Zlatan and it’s coming.”

Zlatan is now two goals behind Carlos Vela in the race for the Golden Boot in MLS with four games remaining, and he’s now scored 48 goals in 52 games since arriving in MLS.

Joe Corona, Uriel Antuna and Sebastian Lletget grabbed the Galaxy’s other goals as they won for the first time in five MLS games to boost their chances of making the playoffs in the congested Western Conference.

With the defeat Sporting KC’s hopes of reaching the playoffs is all but over.

Check out the highlights in full below. It will take quite a while to sort through the nine goals, so set down and soak in Zlatan’s brilliance.

Mexicans Abroad: Weekend Roundup

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Taking the field in the 70th minute, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez made his debut with Sevilla, who became La Liga’s leaders following Sunday’s result.

In Portugal, despite transitioning to right back at the start of the season, Jesus “Tecatito” Corona continues flourish with Porto. The 26-year-old has two assists after five league games.

Elsewhere, Carlos Vela, who returned from injury, is on the cusp of trying MLS’ all-time single-season scoring record. To be exact, the 30-year-old needs three goals to tie the record, four to surpass Josef Martinez. LAFC has four regular-season games still to play.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli — Lozano’s second appearance for Napoli wasn’t as captivating as his first, but he did have his positive moments. On Saturday, Chucky started and played 65 minutes, recording a shot off target, 23 touches, and earning two fouls along the way.

Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers — Jimenez started and played 70 minutes in Wolves’ 5-2 loss to Chelsea. Will Nuno Espirito Santos side’s  struggles start to affect Jimenez productivity?

La Liga

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Sevilla — Chicharito is officially a Sevillista. The 31-year-old replaced Luuk De Jong in 70th minute in Sevilla’s 1-0 over Alaves on Sunday.

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid — For a fourth consecutive league game, Herrera was left on the bench. At this rate, it’s difficult to say when the 29-year-old will make his debut with Los Colchoneros, who lost 2-0 to Real Sociedad on Saturday.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis —  Guardado, who recently became a father for a second time, didn’t feature in Betis’ 1-1 draw against Getafe on Saturday.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old make the 18, but didn’t take the field against Getafe.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Araujo took the field in the 15th minute following Jorge Saenz’s red-card challenge. Celta ended up losing 2-0 against Granda.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven — Gutierrez is out with a hand injury suffered with the national team. A return date is unknown.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — Alvarez started and played 80 minutes in Ajax’s 4-1 drilling of Heerenveen. The 21-year-old is, slowly but surely, becoming a fixture for  Erik ten Hag.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Things are going great for Tecatito. The right back (yes, you read that right) played 90 minutes and recorded an assist in Porto’s 3-2 win over Portimonense. It’s been a good transition for the 26-year-old, to say the least.

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Govea started, but came off at halftime in Zulte’s 1-1 draw with KAS Eupen on Saturday.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Hector Moreno, Al Gharafa   On Saturday, Moreno started and played all 90 minutes in Al Gharafa’s 3-1 win against Qatar SC.

Juan Gerardo Ramirez Alosno, Roda JC — The 21-year-old fullback was left on the bench in Roda’s 1-1 draw on Friday.

Carlos Fierro, San Jose Earthquakes – Dressed but didn’t play in the Quakes’ 2-1 loss to NYCFC.

Carlos Vela, LAFC – In his return from injury, Vela started and scored in LAFC’s 1-1 . draw against the Philadelphia Union. The Mexican is three goals from tying Josef Martinez’s single-season goal record.

Jonathan Dos Santos, LA Galaxy – Dos Santos started in Galaxy’s game against Sporting Kansan City on Sunday.

Uriel Antuna, LA Galaxy – Antuna started in Galaxy’s game against Sporting Kansan City on Sunday.