Three things learned: Man United v. Tottenham

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MANCHESTER — Jose Mourinho and Manchester United are in a really, really bad place right now.

[ RECAP: Spurs hammer United

United lost their second-straight game in the Premier League, with second half goals from Harry Kane and Lucas Moura handing Tottenham their first win at Old Trafford since 2014 as the 3-0 victory underlined their title credentials.

Mourinho and United were left in a crumpled mess after several lineup changes failed to do the trick and the pressure on the Portugeuse coach was cranked up a few notches. The loss was the largest home defeat of his managerial career.

Here’s what we learned from an intense, error-strewn battle at Old Trafford.


POCHETTINO WORKS OUT MOURINHO’S SPECIAL

Whatever Jose Mourinho was drinking when he came up with his team selection for the game against Tottenham, I’ll have a glass of that…

Under pressure since United’s 3-2 defeat at Brighton last Sunday, Mourinho made six changes to his starting lineup. Nemanja Matic was shown as a center back in a graphic by MUTV before the game but played in midfield. Ander Herrera played at right center back during the game. Holding midfielder Fred played as a surging No.10. Midfielder Jesse Lingard played as a central striker.

And it worked quite well in the first half barring a few individual errors from Paul Pogba, Lingard and Matic who gave the ball away cheaply. They had Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia offering genuine width, with Fred, Pogba and Lukaku going close with first half efforts as the latter should’ve scored after picking off a poor Danny Rose backpass, rounding Hugo Lloris but slotting wide.

It took Tottenham until the end of the first half to figure out how to get an attack going as they could have had a penalty kick when Lucas Moura was brought down, while Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen were both denied. And then the second half happened. Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen tucked themselves in the gaps between Shaw and Valencia and the center backs and caused havoc. Kane scored from a corner and missed a free header. Moura slotted home Eriksen’s cross. Alli forced David De Gea into a fine save. Spurs were rampant once they figured out how to expose United’s creaking mess of a defense.

Mourinho was the coach who use to change his tactics mid-game to win back momentum and change it in his favor. Pochettino was the man who did that on Monday and proved just how much further Tottenham are ahead of United in the battle to challenge Manchester City and Liverpool for the title.


PRESSURE BUILDS AS UNITED LACK CONFIDENCE, DIRECTION

Jose Mourinho has been a moody mess for the last few months and all of his negativity seemed to culminate in the jumbled performance his team put in as they were rolled over by an organized, resolute Tottenham.

Cries of, “you’re getting sacked in the morning!” rang out from the Tottenham fans, as one United fan was shown praying and close to tears on the TV screens. It’s not quite getting that bad, but there are serious issues for Mourinho to try and resolve, if he’s given the chance.

A lack of confidence was clear from United’s players ands so too was a clear direction as to how to play. United’s players were trying “Hollywood balls” and giving it away. Not tracking runners in the second half. Just not focusing on doing the simple things well. This had all the hallmarks of a team freelancing.

That’s when a manager knows he is in trouble.

All the talk of Mourinho’s “third-season syndrome” will be rife in the coming days as he battles to turn it around. This situation is eerily similar to the mess the 2015-16 season became at Chelsea as he was sacked in December with the Blues languishing in the bottom half of the table. It may not get that bad at United this season, but it’s not going to get a lot better if the performances we’ve seen so far continue.

The fact of the matter is, United are well behind Manchester City, Liverpool, Spurs and maybe even Chelsea in the title race.

Since taking over United in the summer of 2016, Mourinho has won 153 points, 19 fewer than Spurs and 31 fewer than Man City. He is not only struggling to turn United into genuine title contenders, he is also struggling to turn them into top four regulars.


SPURS RECOVER VALIANTLY TO SHOWCASE TITLE CREDENTIALS

The World Cup hangover is severe for plenty of teams in the Premier League, but Tottenham will perhaps suffer from it the most. Out of their starting lineup on Monday, only Christian Eriksen and Lucas Moura didn’t reach the final two days of the World Cup. Five Englishman, three Belgians, and a Frenchman mean that Pochettino has been handed a rough deal when it comes to trying to rejuvenate his stars.

In the first half they were off the pace, apart from Moura who was a pest throughout. Kane received a yellow card for a late tackle and Alli wasted a glorious chance. But after Spurs figured out United’s bizarre formation, they took the game by the scruff of the neck. Their midfield finally came to life as Mousa Dembele, Eric Dier and Eriksen won the ball back, used it wisely and that allowed Alli and Moura to time their runs to perfection from wide areas.

Tottenham didn’t play well in the first 45 minutes but they dug deep to turn the game around as their horrendous run at United failed to unnerve them. Pochettino’s squad are no longer “young hopefuls” and they now seem ready to truly challenge for trophies. Last season was supposed to be their season, but this season it just has to be. Even though they didn’t spend any money this summer and there are issues with their new stadium being delayed, Spurs have won their opening three games and look genuine title contenders alongside Liverpool and Man City.

Pochettino is learning, as well as his team, as Tottenham’s dismal away record against the top six has improved. Tottenham have now won three of their 21 PL games away to the “big six” sides, and this was the biggest of them all.

Lampard: Chelsea first leg loss ‘quite sobering,’ ‘harsh lesson’

Frank Lampard
AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
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Chelsea manager Frank Lampard isn’t sugarcoating his side’s 3-0 first-leg loss to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 on Tuesday.

“Sometimes you have to be brutally honest about it,” he said in televised remarks after the loss. “It’s quite sobering.”

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Lampard admitted that Bayern was firing on all cylinders at Stamford Bridge, and proffered tepid support for the idea of an unlikely comeback in Germany next month.

“The level of team they showed that they are, hence why they challenge in the Bundesliga and the Champions League,” he said, via Football.London. “I’m disappointed we couldn’t do better against them. It’s a reality check. Don’t look at anyone else apart from yourself.”

“We should never say the door is closed because our fans would never accept that. I’m more concerned with the bigger picture here. There’s a lot to be done.”

Sure is.

Chelsea leads fifth-place Manchester United by three points in the top four race and has a four-point edge on sixth-place Spurs in the scenario that fifth is enough for Champions League football.

That’s important because the UCL path back to the tournament looks like a massive ask. And Lampard said the players need to use Tuesday’s blowout loss at home “as a positive effect” moving forward.

But he also put it pretty plainly during his post-match comments.

“It was a harsh lesson,” Lampard said. “This is Champions League football.”

Griezmann gives Barcelona first leg draw with Napoli (video)

Napoli v. Barcelona recap and video highlights
Photo by CARLO HERMANN/AFP via Getty Images
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Antoine Griezmann scored in the second half to earn Barcelona a 1-1 draw with Napoli in a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg at the San Paulo Stadium on Tuesday.

Dries Mertens scored a beautiful opener for Napoli, who heads to the Camp Nou for a March 18 second leg.

Arturo Vidal was sent off in the 89th minute for a second yellow card, and Sergio Busquets picked up a yellow which will cost him the second leg.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Gennaro Gattuso’s plan was to limit Barcelona’s shots, and it worked well in the first half.

Mertens got his goal on one of only five shots in the half, the only two on target coming via Napoli.

How a tale can turn on a moment, though, as Nelson Semedo set up Griezmann’s second-half marker to give Barca a useful away goal.

Barca was much better in the second half but could not find a second away goal.

Here’s the goal of the day, and it belongs to Mertens.

Bayern Munich puts Chelsea in three-goal hole

Bayern Chelsea
Photo by Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images
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Too easy.

Serge Gnabry scored off a pair of Robert Lewandowski assists as Bayern Munich earned a 3-0 first-leg lead over Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Lampard reacts to ‘harsh lesson’ ]

Chelsea played the last dozen minutes down a man; Marcos Alonso was sent off via VAR for contact to the face of Robert Lewandowski away from the play. He’ll miss the second leg, as will Jorginho after collecting another yellow card.

Lewandowski capped off the scoring to make Chelsea’s task even more difficult heading to the Allianz Arena for the March 18 second leg.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]


Three things we learned

1. Bayern loves London: Just under five months ago, Bayern Munich buried Tottenham Hotspur in North London in a seven-goal show. This wasn’t quite that, but the Bavarians out-classed a Chelsea side which had few answers for Hansi Flick’s tactics. Bayern has hung 10 on London.

2. Ex-Gunner Gnabry runs the show: Gnabry scored just one goal in 14 appearances over four years between Arsenal and West Brom, and is making up for lost time during this season’s Champions League. He scored four times and added an assist when Bayern visited his former North London Derby rivals. This time, it was two goals in four second-half minutes at Stamford Bridge, the German playmaker contributing plenty in the defensive half.

All it took was one slip from Cesar Azpilicueta to start the scoring.

3. Chelsea’s backs torn apart: It’s difficult to find any fine individual performances from the Blues aside from Mateo Kovacic, though Mason Mount had his moments, but the worst days came from the back three. Bayern was credited with a half-dozen big chances via Sofascore, and the visitors took a whopping 11 shots inside the box.

Man of the Match: The 30-year-old Muller was everywhere early, but it’s difficult to give this to anyone but Gnabry or Lewandowski. We’ll give it to the German.


Kingsley Coman was the first to scare the opposition, working a long 1-2 with Thomas Muller before thumping a low shot wide of the near post in the 12th minute.

Chelsea backstop Willy Caballero made a sliding trail leg save on Robert Lewandowski in the 28th.

Muller then swirled a shot around Caballero but just past the far post before heading off the cross bar in the 35th.

Chelsea got a prime moment in the 48th minute, but Mason Mount was dispossessed and Manuel Neuer stymied Ross Barkley.

Gnabry then stole the ball in Chelsea’s half and worked a 1-2 with Lewandowski to put Bayern on the board.

Mount latched onto a big mistake from Joshua Kimmich but badly missed his bid to catch Neuer out of the goal.

Canadian phenom Alphonso Davies produced the third goal with a roaring run down the left flank, crossing to Lewandowski for the goal.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 27

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The latest batch of Premier League Club Power Rankings has the season’s biggest surprise dipping a bit while serial grinders Burnley head back up the list.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Norwich City — The Canaries’ defense is covering the club in coal.
Last week: 20
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-0 at Wolves
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Friday v. Leicester City

19. Aston Villa — Did Dean Smith‘s strong words wake ’em up? We won’t know until after the League Cup Final, where everyone will be amped.
Last week: 14
Season high: 6
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Saints
Up next: 4 p.m. ET March 9 at Leicester City

18. Watford — The new manager bounce is super dead.
Last week: 18
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-0 at Manchester United
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Liverpool

17. Bournemouth — The schedule is not forgiving, which makes the 3-0 loss to Burnley all the more sickening for fans of the Cherries.
Last week: 15
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Sheffield United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Chelsea

16. West Ham United — An improved performance from Moyes’ boys, even if all they’re doing is not winning.
Last week: 19
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-2 at Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Southampton

15. Newcastle United — Woeful versus Palace, and are in dire need of looking like a proper football team when Burnley visits St. James’ Park this weekend. If they can’t do it versus the Clarets, who don’t really require the ball, maybe they can’t do it. Not safe yet.
Last week: 13
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Burnley

14. Crystal Palace — The Eagles were all over Newcastle, but should be alarmed to only score once. Wilfried Zaha is a mess, but perhaps the M23 Derby will sort him out.
Last week: 16
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Won 1-0 v. Newcastle United
Up next:  7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Brighton

13. Brighton and Hove Albion — Three-straight draws, but Graham Potters’ men still have not won in 2020. It’d be a shame if they slipped out of the top flight.
Last week: 17
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Sheffield United
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Palace

12. Southampton — Totally dominant v. Villa, a trip to West Ham could be a goal fest.
Last week: 12
Season high: 7
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Aston Villa
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at West Ham

11. Sheffield United — No shame in just getting by, but Chris Wilder‘s men are looking a bit less like a Europa League side in recent weeks.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Brighton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET March 7 v. Norwich City

10. Burnley — Wins are wins are wins are wins, and we can no longer discount anything Burnley is doing just to lean on stats. Sean Dyche is Cinderella Man.
Last week: 11
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 3-0 v. Bournemouth
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Newcastle United

9. Everton — Carlo Ancelotti will be truly let down by the lack of stops versus Arsenal to kickstart a brutal run of fixtures. Manchester United home, Chelsea away, Liverpool home are up next.
Last week: 5
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 3-2 at Arsenal
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Manchester United

8. Arsenal — With West Ham, Brighton, Saints, and Norwich next, the win over Everton could be a real springboard for a surprising top four run.
Last week: 8
Season high: 4
Season low: 13
Last match: Won 3-2 v. Everton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET March 7 v. West Ham

7. Wolves — Huge Top four six-pointer at Spurs on Sunday, and Wolves will be grateful they’re bringing a 4-0 advantage to Espanyol on Thursday. Will Nuno Espirito Santo actually rotate?
Last week: 9
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 3-0 v. Norwich CIty
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Spurs

6. Leicester City — The Foxes’ next four matches are against relegation candidates. Let’s see if Brendan Rodgers can get the boys looking like a top four side again.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Lost 1-0 v. Man City
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Friday at Norwich City

5. Manchester United — Bruno Fernandes is the real deal.
Last week: 10
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 3-0 v. Watford
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Everton

4. Tottenham Hotspur — Very fortunate on so many levels to not have been walloped by Chelsea.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Chelsea
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

3. Chelsea — A much-needed win over an old friend, sweeping Jose Mourinho to firm up top four credentials.
Last week: 7
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Bournemouth

2. Man City — It’s all about the UCL for a club which is clearly one of the two best in the Premier League but miles off the title.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Won 1-0 at Leicester City
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

1. Liverpool — For maybe the first time this season, Liverpool looked like it thought it could walk into a venue and win on its jersey alone. They were awakened before it was too late.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 3-2 v. West Ham United
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Watford