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Mourinho’s message to Man United’s much-maligned stars

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LONDON — All week the talk was about Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez not being good enough for Manchester United and that they may be left out of the starting lineup for the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley.

On Saturday at Wembley they dragged their team back into the contest and past Tottenham Hotspur to reach the FA Cup final.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

After a shaky start, Pogba’s powerful tackle on Mousa Dembele was followed up by a perfect cross to Sanchez who expertly headed home in, using every last muscle in his neck, to make it 1-1 in the 24th minute. United never looked back.

Pogba and Sanchez grew stronger as the game wore on and the latter bullied Kieran Trippier for United’s winner as the tireless Chilean speedster ran down a lost cause and helped set up Ander Herrera to score the winner.

The duo have been heavily criticized since the turn of the year with Pogba hauled out of the team by Mourinho, then having to deal with issues such as rumors about his United future following Pep Guardiola‘s claim that Man City were offered the Frenchman in January. While Sanchez has scored just twice in the Premier League since his January move from Arsenal which made him the best paid player in the Premier League and was left out of United’s lineup for the win at Bournemouth on Wednesday.

Mourinho had a message for his much-maligned stars after they stole the show at Wembley: he wants consistency.

“I told Alexis the same thing I told Paul a few weeks ago, I cannot expect my players to be Man of the Match every match. I cannot expect them to score goals every match. I cannot expect them to be perfect every match,” Mourinho said. “What I expect is a certain level that you don’t go below that. That level is the level of the basic things in the game. If you do the basic things of the game and then in some matches your talent appears and you makes the difference. That is fine. I am not waiting for Alexis the next match to score again and to be the Man of the Match. I just want him to be stable and I think  in Alexis’ case next season gives him much better conditions to be a top player for us.”

Despite their gutsy and pivotal displays, both Pogba and Sanchez (the Man of the Match) still showed glimpses of their poor form with wasteful passes from Sanchez and slack defensive play, early on, from Pogba. Their confidence still remains brittle but at least they showed their talent when it mattered most.

But the main thing is that they dug deep to grind out the win and keep United’s hopes of a piece of silverware this season alive. That is what top players do and both delivered, even if Pogba’s United future remains uncertain beyond this season. This was a game where the duo showed Mourinho they could be trusted to dig deep and after they combined for United’s equalizer they grew in confidence and, most importantly, did the dirty work to help United reach the final.

Pogba and Sanchez aside, Mourinho was keen to ask why United have so many critics, even though they are on course to finish second in the Premier League this season and the fact that he has reached his third major final out of six tries since he arrived at the club in the summer of 2016.

“This season is successful if we finish second. If we do a better Premier League than Spurs, Liverpool Chelsea and Arsenal, if we do that I think it is successful,” Mourinho said. “To break the 80-point target to finish second against an untouchable winner is good. To make a lot more points than last season to win more matches, to score more goals, to concede less goals, to have much better results against the top teams I think is a successful teams.”

3 things from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Peru

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The USMNT led Peru 1-0 late before a back post marking error allowed the World Cup participants to level the score line in Connecticut.

[ MORE: Recap | Player ratings ]

But that’s not what resounds from Tuesday’s match, as we once against confirmed that the U.S. is producing some fine young attackers.

Teenage trio grows into game, puts U.S. ahead

These friendlies provide good chances for players to express themselves individually, and there’s reason to be excited by three young Americans attackers.

Yes, there were plenty of sloppy moments for Josh Sargent (18) and Jonathan Amon (19), but those came early and both European-based players seemed to relax as the match wore into the second half.

Sargent in particular showed flair with one-touch flicks and dynamite touch passes even before he scored his opener. Amon misplaced a looping outside of the foot pass in the first half, but swept a ball over the top of the defense to cue up Sargent in the second half.

And while Tim Weah misfired on that chance, the Paris Saint-Germain man is as exciting as any American teenager on the scene.

Moving forward, it’s all about the attack (and that is exciting)

This isn’t to say that Weston McKennie, Matt Miazga, Tyler Adams, and a few other intriguing young players can’t buoy the hopes of the U.S. heading into the Gold Cup and then World Cup qualifying, but what’s so exciting about this team is a new wealth of attacking options (most of it now growing overseas).

Sargent, Weah, and Amon are 19 or younger. Christian Pulisic is the most important national team talent in a generation, and just turned 20. That’s the same age as Weston McKennie, whose played everywhere from CDM to CB to CAM at his club.

All are playing for clubs whose senior teams are competing for places in Europe. Sargent has yet to play for Werder Bremen’s senior team and Weah sparingly for PSG, but the other three are key pieces for Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, and Nordsjælland.

That’s why it’s key the new U.S. coach knows how to push down on the gas pedal.

Let’s hear it from the long-term caretaker

Sarachan (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Dave Sarachan may’ve just coached the final match of his long-term interim run as USMNT boss, and the Rochester-born 64-year-old deserves a lot of credit for Tuesday’s performance.

While his late substitution of DeAndre Yedlin for a thriving Reggie Cannon led to Peru’s equalizer, no one should blame him for thinking an every week Premier League starter would be able to mark a back post.

Sarachan drew up a short free kick from Kellyn Acosta that led to a Josh Sargent goal, and coaxed a strong performance from first time center back mates Cameron Carter-Vickers and Aaron Long.

The longtime assistant’s record as USMNT boss sits at 3-3-3 despite a very tricky schedule. He’s earned draws against three World Cup nations: Portugal, France, and Peru. He also has the distinction of being 1-0 against Mexico, never a bad thing.

In another climate, Sarachan would have earned something close to a full-time gig. And Bruce Arena’s assistant will surely be involved with the USMNT program in some capacity. But coming off a World Cup qualifying failure, it was always going to be time for fresh blood.

Player ratings from USMNT 1-1 Peru

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The United States came within a handful of minutes of giving their fans a win over a World Cup participant, but instead had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Peru in the final home match of 2018.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

Here’s how the individuals fared:

Starting XI

Brad Guzan — 6 — You’d like him to do better on the goal, but he made a big stop on a crazy free kick in stoppage time to save the draw.

Ben Sweat — 5 — Struggled in the first half but put in a solid second 45.

Aaron Long — 7 — A decent performance from an unfamiliar center back pairing, and Long was the better of the two.

Cameron Carter-Vickers — 6.5 — Needs to get more playing time at club level to work out his propensity for making spectacular plays… but also occasionally looking like he’s unsure of his responsibilities. Both happened Tuesday.

Reggie Cannon  (Off 83′) — 6 — Not a bad debut at all, as the FC Dallas man was involved from minute No. 1. He almost drew a penalty in the first 10 minutes, and had a few gutsy tackles.

Wil Trapp — 6 — Some good interventions, but not a major factor moving forward. Is the 25-year-old capable of raising his game to the international level.

Jonathan Amon  (Off 55′) — 6 — The 19-year-old Nordsjælland winger fought his touch early but showed good vision and an ability to try the daring pass.

Kellyn Acosta (Off 78′) — 7 — Dangerous for sure, but his touch betrayed him on a number of solid moves. Executed the short free kick to Sargent to perfection.

Marky Delgado — 6 — Composed and technical, if unspectacular on the night.

Timothy Weah (Off 90+2′) — 8 — Just looks to have that extra special something, to go with a competitor’s mentality. The future is very bright when the USMNT can put him on one wing and Christian Pulisic on the other.

Josh Sargent — 8 — Like Amon, he looked a little rattled early but also showed a number of clever flicks and tricks in his arsenal. A goal is a goal, but his lay off for Weah moments earlier was the stuff of promise (even if you maybe like him to tear into a shot there).

Subs

Julian Green (On 55′) — 5 — For all of his offensive gifts, he does not in the slightest get stuck in as a midfielder. Timid.

Bobby Wood (On 69′) — 6 — Followed up his goal against Colombia with an industrious 20 or so minutes.

Michael Bradley (On 78′) — 6 — Moves into third all-time in USMNT caps.

DeAndre Yedlin (On 84′) — 4 — Maybe he wasn’t prepared to come off the bench, but quite simply the reason Flores was able to equalize. He won’t want Rafa Benitez to see the tape.

Antonee Robinson (On 90+2′) — N/A

Late concession denies USMNT win vs. Peru

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The United States men’s national team lost focus late in a 1-1 draw with Peru in Connecticut on Tuesday.

Josh Sargent scored his second USMNT goal, but Edison Flores took advantage of sleepy defending at the back post to snare an equalizer.

The U.S. finishes its 2018 with matches against England and Italy in November.

[ MORE: Player ratings |  3 things ]

Timothy Weah continued to produce in the national team’s shirt, playing Kellyn Acosta into the box. The Colorado Rapids man was quickly challenged and pushed his shot wide of the near post.

Picking up a flick from Josh Sargent, Jonathan Amon had a chance to cue up a streaking Weah in the Peruvian box. His outside of the boot pass was too ambitious and the PSG man could not reach it.

Peru, though, enjoyed the first half more than their hosts, though very chances ended up meeting Brad Guzan.

There weren’t any changes at the break, and Amon swept a pass over the top of the Peru defense to allow Sargent a path into the box. Sargent squared for Weah, whose shot missed wide of the near post.

Sargent made good on his promise in the 49th minute, a short free kick from Kellyn Acosta that took a deflection off Renato Tapia.

Amon came off in the 55th minute for Julian Green.

Peru brought the match to life with an Andy Polo bullet off the cross bar.

The Yanks then broke back the other way, with Reggie Cannon starting a rush that Julian Green marshaled into a chance. The end product was a blocked Ben Sweat shot.

Dave Sarachan put in a number of veterans late, and one of them was at fault for Peru’s equalizer.

DeAndre Yedlin failed to react to a cross that bounced twice on its way through the six, and Flores was at the back post to punch it into the goal.

And Brad Guzan might’ve not liked his decisions on the goal, but the Atlanta United backstop saved the Yanks’ bacon with a punch save on a late free kick.

Atlanta’s Bocanegra responds to Martino to Mexico reports

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Another report claims that Tata Martino will take the Mexican national team job, and puts a date on the start of employment.

David Medrano of Azteca Deportes has the report, saying that Martino will be announced as Mexico boss on Dec. 8 (the date of the MLS Cup Final).

[ MORE: USMNT-Italy to be hosted in Belgium ]

Atlanta United technical director Carlos Bocanegra did his best not to comment on the report in a Tuesday radio appearances, saying the Five Stripes have been having “ongoing discussions” with Martino.

From 929thegame.radio.com:

“It’s all good. There’s all kind of rumors, for our coach, for our players, for everything. I guess that means we’re relevant in the soccer world at the moment, which is a good thing. We’ve been having ongoing discussions. We can’t control what goes on in the rumor mill but we’re doing our job. Tata’s our manager, and going forward we’re looking to get into the playoffs with the Supporters’ Shield under our belt and that’s about as much as it is right now.”

As recently as Sept. 28, Martino had said he hadn’t had discussions with anyone outside Atlanta.

He has also been linked with the Colombia job, while several have connected the dots between the USMNT job and Martino‘s expiring contract in ATL.

As for how hard it would be to replace Martino? Bocanegra seems to think it won’t be as difficult as some fear.

“Each coach has a unique style. We have a philosophy and a way of playing as a club. Within that, you try to put people in place that fit that style, fit that philosophy. That’s where Tata fit nicely. Each coach out there will put his own spin on things but it’s the club that has the long-term vision, playing the younger players.”