Three things we learned from Man United’s win vs. Crystal Palace

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LONDON — Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park on Wednesday as their stars shone.

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A goal and an assist each for the brilliant Paul Pogba and the clinical Zlatan Ibrahimovic did the damage with United making it two wins on the spin to keep themselves in the top four battle.

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Here’s what we learned from a slow-burner in south London as Palace remain in relegation trouble.


STARS SHINE FOR UNITED

This is why you pay them the big bucks. Pogba and Ibrhahimovic were the difference in this game and Pogba was particularly sublime in midfield.

He set up Wayne Rooney with a wonderful dinked pass in the first half and then right on the stroke of half time he finished off a cheeky chest down from Zlatan (which appeared to come off his arm) to put United 1-0 up.

Pogba then provide the game-winning assist with two minutes to play as he slotted in Zlatan but the Swedish striker still had plenty to do as he dinked home across goal to make it 2-1.

Jose Mourinho hailed Ibra after the game, saying he never questioned his character and his quality.

With Zlatan now scoring 14 goals in 24 games since arriving in England, plus Pogba putting in a man of the match display, United are figuring this thing out. Sure, they’re still six points off the top four but you can’t argue with Mourinho when he says their performances have been a lot better for a long time.

Now, United is finally get the results their performances deserve. That has a lot to do with Zlatan and Pogba stepping up to show their star quality when it mattered most.


KEY DECISIONS INCORRECT

There were four pivotal moments in this game which referee Craig Pawson got wrong. Very wrong.

After the game Palace’s manager Alan Pardew felt hard done by and Mourinho didn’t want to say anything apart from applaud Pawson. Would he have been doing that had United not grabbed the late winner their dominance deserved? Probably not.

Anyway, for United’s first goal, right on half time, Zlatan looked to have handled and Pogba was offside as he finished. Pawson needed help from his assistants but the referee didn’t get any. He did get plenty of stick from the home fans in the first half as he let tough tackles go from United.

That brings us to the second incident: Marcos Rojo‘s lunging tackle.

Now, Mourinho may say he is “playing phenomenally and is a very clean player” but the evidence suggests otherwise. In United’s 1-1 draw with Everton 10 days ago Rojo was lucky to stay on the pitch after a lunging tackle. He did exactly the same in the first half against Palace as he lunged in with both sets of studs showing on Wilfried Zaha. He should’ve been sent off. Pawson missed it and gave him just a yellow.

Then came two more moments of controversy in the second half as first Joe Ledley blatently handled in the box but no penalty kick was given and then Rojo headed down for Juan Mata to slot home but the offside flag went up.

You can clearly argue all four decisions were wrong and in the end they canceled each other out. Still, not a vintage display from a young, promising referee.


PALACE PUNISHED FOR TIMIDNESS

We know Pardew’s Palace have been struggling for a while, but the way he set his team up spoke volumes of their limitations. They only wanted a draw. Nothing more.

With Mathieu Flamini handed his first start of the season, the Frenchman sat in during the first half and so did the rest of his teammates. Palace barely got out of their own half in the first half which frustrated the home fans and something had to change.

Ledley was brought on at the break which livened up the game and when James McArthur equalized it got interesting for a while. But, yet again, Palace retreated when they were level and United deservedly won.

Heading into the busy festive period Palace now have Chelsea and Arsenal in their next three games. With just 15 points on the board and confidence clearly at an all-time low under Pardew, the Eagles won’t be soaring anywhere other than towards the drop zone as 2016 comes to a close.

It has been a truly dreadful 2016 for the Eagles who have just six wins in the Premier League over the last 12 months. Fresh impetus is needed at Selhurst Park as Wednesday’s lack of belief proved. Is Pardew the man to get the best out of this talented, yet top-heavy, squad?

Social media wrap: All 20 Premier League clubs, many players stand against racism

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The protests in the United States have inspired anti-racism statements from around the world, including all gestures from all 20 Premier League clubs and many players and managers.

There have been ongoing protests and horrible violence in the U.S. since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air in Minnesota.

Newcastle United’s American defender DeAndre Yedlin issued an emotional thread (below) as one of a great deal of players to express hopes for change and solidarity, while Schalke’s Weston McKennie explained his wearing a black armband reading “Justice For George” in the Bundesliga this weekend.

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From Ancelotti to Zaha, Antonio to Yedlin, Arsenal to Wolves, we’ve collected many of their sentiments below in what we hope serves as universal disdain for racial prejudice.

Some players like Leicester City’s Wes Morgan and even entire clubs (Arsenal) changed their online identity photos to reflect these troubled times.

All PL clubs issued messages of solidarity, many using the Black Lives Matter hashtag and making no bones about where they stand.

And we’ll start with a longtime PL club currently in the Championship, who blasted a season ticket holder’s rejection of their unifying Tweet.

Here are some other clubs and players worldwide to have noticed what’s happening in the United States.

 

Season restart preview: Bournemouth

Bournemouth season restart
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Bournemouth when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Tough sledding for the Cherries, who face zero of their fellow bottom-six sides (though 13th place Newcastle and 14th place Saints both visit the Vitality Stadium).

There’s been an element of bad luck to Bournemouth’s woes, with its expected goals stats showing Ryan Fraser, Joshua King, and Callum Wilson have deserved better end product and that the Cherries’ 14 goals from open play should be closer to 22. The defense has been bad and xG says it could’ve been worse, too. Injuries had hit Bournemouth’s defense corps in a big way, too. How much better will they be after the break?

[ MORE: Ranking every Cherries player in 2019-20 ]


Tactical analysis: Eddie Howe utilized a 4-4-2 with two defensive midfielders for much of the early season, but has gone between a lone striker with a packed-in midfielder and a 4-3-3 when he thinks an opponent is exploitable.

Howe started a 4-4-2 against almost all of the Cherries’ remaining opponents, choosing a 5-4-1 against Wolves and Man City. There’s no guarantee he’ll continue that, especially when some matches may dictate a draw or limited goal differential damage over wins.


Possible XI (4-3-3) 

—– Ramsdale —–

— Smith — S. Cook — Ake — Rico —

—– Lerma —– Billing — L. Cook —

— Fraser —– C. Wilson —– King —–

Howe prefers to attack when at all possible, but the points will be at a premium against some very challenging opponents. It’s a safe bet that he’ll ask a lot from his forwards while trying to deploy his three relentless midfielders together whenever possible. The question here is whether Aaron Ramsdale returns quickly from his COVID-19 positive test, or if it’ll be Artur Boruc or someone else between the sticks.


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Remaining schedule
Home: Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Spurs, Leicester City, Southampton
Away: Wolves, Manchester United, Man City, Everton

Predicted finish: The Cherries stay up, just, as King and Callum Wilson deliver the goods in front of a determined and improved midfield.

Premier League clubs will reportedly be allowed preseason friendlies

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Premier League clubs will be allowed to play preseason matches ahead of the 2019-20’s restart season later this month.

There will be strict protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, and the matches will likely be officiated by club coaching staffs (We have so many Jose Mourinho as ref quips to make here, but let’s keep going anyway).

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Sky Sports says clubs will be limited to opponents within 90 minutes of their venue, and that players will have to drive themselves to the stadiums and go directly to the field in uniform.

With the League One and League Two seasons still hanging in the balance, it’s likely PL sides will be limited to each other and Championship sides. Presumably clubs will not want to meet others still on their fixture list.

We assume some players will get dressed in their vehicles outside the ground, but allow yourself some levity in these challenging times and imagine a fully kitted-up Virgil van Dijk driving the roads from Liverpool to Wigan Athletic.

English defender Onuoha speaks out on fear of police in the U.S.

Nedum Onuoha
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Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha is speaking out on his experience as a black man in the United States in the wake of ongoing protests and violence following the killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air in Minnesota.

Speaking with the BBC, Onuoha says he has loved his time in the United States but admitted a wariness around law enforcement that he does not experience at home in England. The 33-year-old says there are “plenty of good” police in the country but admitted he doesn’t feel “100% safe” around law enforcement officers and that he has a “fear and distrust” of them.

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Onuoha says the protests and demands for reform are “emotional” and “overdue,” adding that he feels empowered by the non-black voices joining the calls for justice.

From The BBC:

“I have loved living in this country but there is [another] side of it. In the UK, I am more comfortable because if something happens it probably will not be deadly – but over here because of their rights it is more common that altercations become deadly. I am always very aware of that whenever I go around anywhere.

“I am comfortable but when it comes to any kind of brutality, if it’s from the police, if they read me the wrong way then my life could be taken. I feel that every single day. It is not just me but everybody else as well.”

The Nigeria-born English defender joined RSL in 2018 and has played 36 times for the Utah club. Onuoha previously spent seven years with Queens Park Rangers after beginning his career with City and Sunderland.

MLS released a statement on the Floyd killing earlier this week, expressing unity with the black community and “horror” at the “senseless murder” of the 46-year-old American man.