Three things we learned: Liverpool v. Man United

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LIVERPOOL — Liverpool returned to the top of the Premier League table with a resounding, humiliating drubbing of Manchester United on Sunday.

The 3-1 scoreline didn’t do justice to the gulf which now exists between the two teams. Sadio Mane‘s first half goal set Liverpool on their way, while Jesse Lingard equalized after a mistake from Alisson. But two deflected strikes from Xherdan Shaqiri won it for Liverpool in the second half, as Jurgen Klopp‘s side were deserved winners and remain the only unbeaten team left in the Premier League.

As for Jose Mourinho and United, they sit in sixth place and are now 11 points off the top four as so many of their problems were ruthlessly exposed.

Here’s what we learned from a tense encounter between two bitter rivals, as Liverpool’s fans have the bragging rights and will enjoy a sensational festive period.


LIVERPOOL’S FRONT THREE FINALLY BREAK UNITED DOWN

Ahead of this clash Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane had all failed to score or grab an assist for the Reds against Manchester United in 855 minutes in the Premier League. Mane changed that early on and both Firmino and Salah looked sharp throughout. United’s five-man defense sat deep and try to stop their runs over the top but Mane timed his perfectly to put Liverpool ahead. Mane then set up Shaqiri to score Liverpool’s second with a surging run down the left, and a lovely flick from Firmino set up Shaqiri to score his second and Liverpool’s third. United’s defense was makeshift with Chris Smalling going down in the warm-up and the likes of Matteo Darmian and Diogo Dalot chucked in at the deep end, but Liverpool’s famous front three finally fired on all cylinders against their bitter rivals.


MOURINHO IS NO LONGER KLOPP’S KRYPTONITE

Jurgen Klopp had failed to beat Jose Mourinho since he took charge of Manchester United, but at the fifth time of asking he recorded his first win against Mourinho’s United. Three of those matches have been draws, most of which United have played for, and last March United beat Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford in a proper smash and grab. But Klopp wasn’t to be denied on Sunday as the progress his team has made over the past 12 months is clear for all to see. Aside from Alisson’s howler they didn’t look like conceding, as Liverpool have now let in just seven goals in 17 games so far this season. As for United, Mourinho’s strength has become their biggest weakness as the Red Devils have now conceded more goals in their opening 17 games of the season than they did in the whole of last season. This defeat was only his third in 17 away games at Liverpool in his career, and it was perhaps the most damaging of all.


SHAQIRI, Fabinho PROVE STRENGTH OF LIVERPOOL’S SQUAD

Last year Liverpool would have drawn this game on Sunday, just like they did at home against Manchester United in their previous two PL encounters, but Shaqiri scored twice after coming off the bench to underline the new strength of this Liverpool squad. Shaqiri made a huge difference, with his pace and power and two deflected efforts leading Liverpool to victory. But it was all over the pitch where Liverpool showed they have built a better, and deeper, team than Man United. Nathaniel Clyne came in for his first start since last May with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez out and excelled. Fabinho was superb in place of Jordan Henderson and Dejan Lovren held his own with Joel Matip and Gomez out. Now 19 points ahead of United, Liverpool’s strength in depth is clear for all to see and along with Man City they’re the genuine title contenders.

As for United, they were riddled with defensive injuries and it showed. United’s problems were compounded by having the likes of Paul Pogba as an unused substitute as Mourinho’s squad have reportedly turned against him and the players who do want to play just simply aren’t good enough.

Carlos Vela scored a celestial goal. We are blessed to have seen it

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Carlos Vela is making all other spectacular individual MLS seasons look run of the mill.

I mean, look at the gumption on this guy.

[ VIDEO: Rooney sent off, Kamara scores golazo ]

The Cancun-born playmaker left the San Jose Earthquakes back line on the beach with a soft shoe routine to give LAFC its third goal in a 4-0 win on Thursday

Vela, 30, now has 25 goals and 11 assists in 25 league matches for LAFC this season. He added two goals and an assist in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play.

But this one, yeah, this one takes the cake.

First, there’s Vela’s non-chalant dummy before picking up the pass.

Then, there’s Florian Jungwirth’s body language during and after his being cooked with a nutmeg. That’s an entire mood.

Next, Vela dribbles around the keeper and allows a slide tackler so glide past him before finishing with aplomb, the magic touch his going near post as if to say, “Can I beat this guy a second time, or do I have to use the easier route?”

Diego Rossi also had a goal and an assist, while Mark-Anthony Kaye continued his strong season with an assist to ex-Fiorentina prospect Joshua Perez. It’s a first MLS goal for the California-born Perez, now 21.

WATCH: Rooney sees red for forearm shiver, Kamara scores golazo

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Midweek MLS provided plenty to talk about on Wednesday, with two red cards and a golazo in one match alone.

The two main talking points from the New York Red Bulls’ 2-1 win over DC United weren’t really part of what led the victors to three points.

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How? Well, one of the world’s marquee names earned a red card via VAR and a returning star scores an absolute stunner, that’s how.

Here’s Ola Kamara’s debut marker for the Black-and-Red, adding to a record which included 49 goals in 97 matches between Columbus and the LA Galaxy before moving to the Chinese Super League for a wildly disappointing time with Shenzhen FC.

All of that is forgotten.

As for the Rooney incident, the Red Bulls already led 1-0 when DC’s star striker went forearm shiver on Cristian Casseres Jr.

It’s the second red of the season for Rooney, who is set for Derby County in January.

Amro Tarek was later sent off for the Red Bulls, who moved ahead of DC in the standings. Kaku and Daniel Royer had RBNY’s goals.

Newcastle takeover could be back on if in holiday relegation battle

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How much do Newcastle United supporters dislike their owner Mike Ashley right now?

Enough that this report is likely to condemn many to hoping their favorite club in the world is in the Bottom 3 come Christmas.

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The Chronicle’s Mark Douglas speculates that Ashley will lower his asking price for the club if it is in a relegation fight come December — something that looks certain after the Steve Bruce-led Magpies got bossed around by promoted Norwich City.

Nothing But Newcastle transcribed Douglas’ chatter from his podcast, in which he says,

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we hear more in December because there are still people sniffing around that football club and if the team are in the bottom three, there’ll be people thinking they can get a bargain out of Mike Ashley again. … He will probably more open to listening to lower offers in January and December which is what happened last December. He was basically saying ‘take it off my hands, you now have to take the risk’'”

This is notable for two reasons. First: the social experiment of wondering how many fans could see themselves rooting for their team to take a major and perilous back step just to see the back of a man they perceive is at the root of their failures (and that perception is widespread in this case).

But second, we can see if this rumor comes true because it’s difficult to imagine Newcastle as comfortably mid table by Christmas.

Fan protests and anger are nothing new, but here’s an effort to show how wobbly Ashley’s reputation is on Tyneside: Fans have taken to selling a black and white striped shirt with player name and number but no sponsor just so they can have a Newcastle jersey that doesn’t put money into Ashley’s pockets. And this is after he broke the club’s transfer record twice in one year.

If we’ve learned anything from the past few seasons, though, it’s that boycotts and anger will spur Ashley into insisting that he’s willing to sell and just conveniently enough it will be before the January transfer window. He “won’t be able to buy any players” with the takeover in play, and talks will hit a wall come late January, when they’ll loan a couple young players from Top Six sides.

Yes he spent significant money on Joelinton, Allen Saint-Maximin, and others this summer, but one decent window doesn’t make a culture. Count us amongst the skeptical, for now.

Messi back in training, could be fit for Betis

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Lionel Messi was back in full training again on Wednesday and may be fit to face Real Betis in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Messi had been training separately from the squad since injuring his right calf in the preseason.

He missed the team’s 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the league opener on Friday.

Barcelona has not said how long it expects Messi to be sidelined.

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Coach Ernesto Valverde is also dealing with injuries to forwards Luiz Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.

Dembele is certain to miss Sunday’s match at the Camp Nou because of a left thigh injury that should keep him out for about five weeks.

Suarez also isn’t likely to play this weekend because of a muscle injury sustained before halftime of Friday’s game in Bilbao.

Two-time defending champion Barcelona hadn’t loss a league opener in 10 seasons.

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