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.

FOLLOW LIVE: Southampton v. Derby County

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Southampton and Derby County chase the final spot in the fourth round proper of the 2018-19 FA Cup with a replay at St. Mary’s on Wednesday.

[ FOLLOW: FA Cup scoreboard ]

The clubs drew 2-2 at Pride Park on Jan. 5, with a Nathan Redmond 2-0 lead going to waste for the Premier League visitors.

The victor gets a trip to the Crown Ground to face League One’s Accrington Stanley on Jan. 26.

Full fourth round fixture list

Jan. 25
Arsenal v. Manchester United

Jan. 26
Accrington Stanley v. Derby County or Southampton
Brighton and Hove Albion v. West Bromwich Albion
Bristol City v. Bolton
Doncaster Rovers v. Oldham Athletic
Man City v. Burnley
Middlesbrough v. Newport County
Newcastle United v. Watford
Portsmouth v. Queens Park Rangers
Swansea City v. Gillingham
Shrewsbury Town v. Wolves
Millwall v. Everton
AFC Wimbledon v. West Ham United

Jan. 27
Crystal Palace v. Spurs
Chelsea v. Sheffield Wednesday

Jan. 28
Barnet v. Brentford

Leeds’ Bielsa admits he spied “all the rivals”; How widespread is spying?

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Managerial darling Marcelo Bielsa spoke out Wednesday as fallout continues from a Leeds United scout caught spying on Derby County last week.

Bielsa says he’s spied on every team the club has played in the Championship this season.

[ MORE: Neymar praises Weah ]

How rare is this? And how big of a role has it played in Leeds’ 4-point lead in the race for automatic promotion to the Premier League? From the BBC:

“I observed all the rivals we played against and watched the training sessions of all opponents,” he said. “All the information I need to clarify, I gather it without watching the training session of the opponent, so why did I send someone to watch them? Just because I thought I wasn’t violating the norm. I gathered information that I can obtain in another way.

“We feel guilty if we don’t work enough, it [watching the opponents train] allows us to have less anxiety and in my case I am stupid enough to allow this kind of behavior.”

The 63-year-old Argentine has spent time at Lille, Lazio, Marseille, Athletic Bilbao, and Espanyol in addition to running the national teams of Argentina and Chile.

It does raise the question of how much spying is done in soccer. We know that the NFL’s New England Patriots cheated during a game against the New York Jets and that MLB teams try to steal signals, but sneaking around a training session… is that okay? Should it be?

55-goal Martinez re-ups with Atlanta through 2023

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Josef Martinez has signed a new deal with Atlanta United, with a contract tying him to the club through the 2023 Major League Soccer season.

Martinez, 25, has 55 goals in 61 games for the Five Stripes since arriving from Torino in 2017, a strike rate unlike anything the Venezuelan had been able to do in his career with the Serie A club, Young Boys, or Caracas.

[ MORE: Neymar praises Weah ]

That development has him happy to lock down a new Designated Player deal in Georgia, one that certainly would raise his transfer value. From AtlUtd.com:

“This means a lot to me because of the affection that the fans have shown me, that the fans show all of the players. It’s unique,” Martinez said. “They recognize the effort that you give and they know you did everything to win, and I think that’s why we love playing here. I have to thank everyone. My teammates, the city, my family and friends, because this is a dream I’ve always had. I’ve said before that I don’t want to go anywhere because this is my home. You can expect more work, more intensity, because that’s who I am. I want to win. I want to do everything for my teammates and for the city.”

With neither Newcastle nor Real Betis ready to meet Atlanta’s transfer fee for Miguel Almiron, the Five Stripes are in a bit of a bind with a reported deal for expected DP Pity Martinez despite having the league maximum three DPs in Martinez, Almiron, and Ezequiel Barco. Perhaps the European clubs are trying to force Atlanta’s hand.

Men In Blazers Podcast: De Gea heroics; Liverpool, Man City wins

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Rog and Davo applaud David De Gea‘s goalkeeping heroics in Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Tottenham. Plus, wins for Liverpool and City in the title race.

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