Three things we learned from Man United vs. Arsenal

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MANCHESTER — It was honors even between Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger on Saturday at Old Trafford as Manchester United and Arsenal drew 1-1. 

[ MORE: Mourinho bemoans luck ]

Juan Mata‘s second half goal was canceled out by a late Olivier Giroud header but in truth United dominated most of the play and had the better chances but couldn’t finish the Gunners off.

[ MORE: Giroud “a regular” ]

Here’s what we learned from a tense, tight encounter at Old Trafford.


UNITED UNLUCKY

Mourinho will be upset his team let a big two points drop late on against Arsenal but he won’t be upset with the performance. From the first whistle his side took the game to Arsenal and they deserved to win.

Much has been made about United’s recent run of just two wins in eight Premier League games prior to this match, but this performance epitomized a side confident in their system, manager and each other.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic missing, Marcus Rashford led the line well. Anthony Martial shows glimpses of promise on the left and Paul Pogba kept plugging away even if keeping possession seemed problematic for him at times.

There will be plenty of positives for Mourinho from this game and although you can point to poor defending for Arsenal’s goal, he was playing without three of his first-choice back four. Mourinho will also point to the fact that United could have had a penalty kick in the first half when Antonio Valencia was brought down by Nacho Monreal in the box but no PK was awarded. United were unlucky.

Not the result Mourinho wanted but certainly a performance to show his side are moving in the right direction.


MIDFIELD BALANCE SPOT ON

United’s midfield was far superior to Arsenal’s on Saturday. Yes, the Gunners were missing their hub in Santi Cazorla but Ander Herrera not only set up Mata’s goal but was everywhere in the middle. Alongside Michael Carrick they locked down the middle and Pogba was given license to roam forward and take more chances in support of Mata, Rashford and Martial.

It worked sublimely well.

Many have been calling for Carrick to start and it was clear to see why. Time and time again United’s captain for the day stepped in to thwart Arsenal attacks and he must now be one of the first names on the team sheet for Mourinho. United missed a chance to close the gap on Arsenal to three points but they found out their best midfield partnership.


ARSENAL LACKLUSTER

Arsenal threatened twice in this game. Twice. In the seventh minute Alexis Sanchez (playing with a heavily bandaged right hamstring and looking far from fully fit) sent a free header across goal and wide. In the 89th minute Giroud powered a header home. In-between Wenger’s men didn’t offer much.

Wenger will likely be very happy with the draw. His side were poor and failed to take the game to United.

Aaron Ramsey looked unfit and unable to help out Nacho Monreal who struggled defensively against Juan Mata and Antonio Valencia, while Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny were full of industry but failed to get the Gunners moving forward.

Arsenal haven’t lost since the opening day of the Premier League season but Wenger knows this performance didn’t warrant anything. The fact a lackluster Arsenal dug in and struck late on to grab a point bodes well that perhaps a more rigid backbone has emerged. Maybe, just maybe this November curse will be negotiated a little better this year by the Gunners.

Josef Martinez scores 2 more in win, including sensational solo work

AP Photo/John Minchillo
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Josef Martinez scored his 25th and 26th goals of the MLS season, and if he challenges his MLS record of 31, he may also stare down soccer royalty.

The Venezuelan striker scored two more on Wednesday in a 2-0 defeat of FC Cincinnati in Ohio to give him goals in 15-straight league contests.

He now has 76 goals in 80 MLS games, which is good.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

On the season, he’s six goals shy of matching the Major League Soccer record he set with last season’s 31 regular season goals.

According to MLSSoccer.com, he’s six games shy of tying Lionel Messi’s world record for consecutive league matches with a goal.

Even that’s a little tricky: Messi scored in 21-straight games in which he was eligible for selection, but 19-straight before missing two matches for injury. In that remarkable run of 21, he also had a run of six-straight braces.

It’s not really worth it to attempt to compare the two streaks: If Martinez gets to 21 (or even 19), it’s amazing stuff and worth celebrating on a worldwide level. Everyone has a bad game every now and again, but Martinez still finds the score sheet in ’em.

Look at the magician’s tricks he used for this one, including a back heel first touch and two freeze-frame cut moves. That’s not even mentioning the finish.

USWNT announces final matches of World Cup-winning year

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CHICAGO (AP) The Women’s World Cup champion U.S. team will wrap up 2019 with matches against Sweden and Costa Rica.

U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday that the U.S. will face Sweden in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 7 and Costa Rica in Jacksonville, Florida, on Nov. 10.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

The team is wrapping up its World Cup victory tour next month with matches against South Korea on Oct. 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and on Oct. 6 in Chicago.

Coach Jill Ellis is stepping down following the match in Chicago after leading the team to a pair of consecutive World Cup titles.

The United States is 15-1-2 this year and currently riding a 14-game winning streak.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Report: Mane to get big raise, Liverpool contract through 2025

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Liverpool’s Senegalese sensation looks set to stay at Anfield deep into his 30s.

Sadio Mane is in talks with the Reds hierarchy over a new deal that will run through 2024-25, and pay him more than $15 million per season.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

Mane, 27, currently has a deal through 2023, but surely wouldn’t mind a raise. And Liverpool will be happy to tie him down on Merseyside a bit longer.

He’s scored six times in seven matches this season, also grabbing an assist. That’s on a better pace than his 26 goals and five assists over 50 appearances in 2018/19.

Mane has 70 Premier League goals at the moment. Do you tip him to eclipse 100 while still at Anfield? 125?

Europa League preview: Man Utd, Wolves, Arsenal begin group stage

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The Europa League begins its group stage on Thursday, with the three Premier League combatants taking on clubs from Kazakhstan, Portugal and Germany.

Manchester United’s kids are gonna get some playing time when Astana visits Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Teenager Mason Greenwood and 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe will start, and Sergio Romero will be between the sticks.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

And the Manchester Evening News notes that Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes could also start at Old Trafford, meaning the veterans in the fray will be quite important.

Enter Fred, the forgotten $68 million man from Shaktar Donetsk. The 23 minutes he played last week versus Leicester City account for his lone time on the pitch this season.

Here’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:

“I’m sure we’ll see more and more of Fred. We spoke about it earlier, he’s had some great games in midfield with Scott against PSG and Arsenal, for example, and we’re just waiting for that to flourish.”

Fred had an odd record under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last season, barely in the squad when the team started hot but trusted against PSG and Barcelona in the Champions League.

Speaking of little-used midfielders, Arsenal boss Unai Emery is getting a little grief for leaving Mesut Ozil behind for the Gunners’ trip to Germany for a big match with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Ozil made his first start of the season in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Watford at the weekend, playing 71 minutes and departing with the club up 2-1.

So why not even bring him abroad? Rest.

“Because we are going to play another match on Sunday,” Emery said, via The London Evening Standard. “My decision is because he played and also I’m thinking tomorrow the focus and the first 11 and after that I decided who are the players who can be the best for tomorrow and also the players not and that is Sokratis and Mesut.”

Sokrastis Papastathopoulos is also out, having played a big role in the embarrassing performance at Watford.

There have been tough times for Wolves as well, who sit in the relegation zone after five matches of the Premier League season.

They’ve been quite good in Europa League, though, dispatching a pair of minnows before winning both legs against Serie A side Torino.

Why the inconsistency? It’s not fixture congestion, according to Ruben Neves:

“I don’t think fatigue has anything to do with it, Neves said, via The Birmingham Mail. “We’re all top players, we’re used to it, we’re used to playing a lot of games in quick succession. I don’t think the Europa League has (anything) to do with our position in the Premier League. Obviously, we haven’t had the start that we’ve wanted, but it’s been a beautiful journey into the Europa League. This is a historic moment for Wolves and we’re going to do our best in this competition.”

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men are in Portugal to meet Braga, one of three tricky opponents in Besiktas and Slovan Bratislava.

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