Man United believe top four is possible

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Manchester United’s players are hopeful this Christmas.

They still believe they can reach the top four of the Premier League and qualify for the UEFA Champions League this season.

[ MORE: Why Poch should leave Spurs ]

After Jose Mourinho was fired ahead of the festive period and replaced by caretaker manager, and United legend, Ole Guunar Solskjaer, the shackles were off in the 5-1 win at Cardiff City on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters after that game, United left back Luke Shaw believes they can reach the top four.

“Of course we want the top four; we want to be playing in the Champions League next season,” Shaw said. “I don’t see why we can’t if we keep playing like that.”

Eight points off the top four ahead of their Boxing Day clash with Huddersfield Town (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold and online via NBCSports.com), United have a favorable run of games coming up as they play Bournemouth and Newcastle next.

If United’s key attacking players such as Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford continue to play with confidence after the extra freedom given to them by Solskjaer then United can expect some big wins over the festive period.

If that is the case, the eight point gap to fourth-place Chelsea will quickly be cut.

Shaw also discussed the lack of respect for what Mourinho achieved during his time at Old Trafford, and pointed chiefly at the trophies in the cabinet over the past three seasons.

“People might be quick to forget what Jose did for United – the three trophies he won – he did a lot,” Shaw said. “One of the trophies [Europa League] was one we had not won before, and he took us to three trophies in one season. So those people need to respect him and remember what he did.”

That is true.

Although Mourinho’s time at United didn’t work out, it wasn’t the worst tenure in PL history. United won the League Cup, Community Shield and Europa League, while they also lost in the FA Cup final and finished second in the PL last season.

This season is all about one thing: repairing the damage of the final weeks/months of Mourinho’s reign and somehow sneaking into the top four.

There will be an almighty scrap between Arsenal, Chelsea and United for that fourth spot, with Liverpool, Man City and Spurs well ahead in the top three.

Watford chasing Rennes, Senegal star Sarr

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Watford may capture one of the rising stars of the game.

Ismaila Sarr would cost the Hornets a club transfer record fee, and Sky Sports says that Watford and Rennes are about $10 million apart.

The Ligue 1 side reportedly wants $34 million for the Senegal national team right wing.

[ VIDEO: Nketiah leads Arsenal win ]

Sarr, 21, scored a goal and an assist in Senegal’s run to the Africa Cup of Nations final, playing opposite Sadio Mane of Liverpool.

He posted 13 goals with 14 assists last season between Ligue 1, the French Cup, and the Europa League. He was the lone Rennes player to score against Arsenal in the UEL Round of 16.

Watford has held onto Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dodi Lukebakio this offseason. Lukebakio is also a 21-year-old right wing, and had a sensational loan season with Fortuna Dusseldorf in 2019-20.

Nketiah leads Arsenal past Fiorentina (video)

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Eddie Nketiah scored twice as Arsenal beat Fiorentina 3-0 in Charlotte on Saturday.

Joe Willock also scored for the Gunners, which beat Colorado Rapids and Bayern Munich in their first two matches of the preseason and meet Real Madrid in Maryland on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Guardiola hails KDB ]

Fiorentina took 18 of the match’s 30 shots, though Arsenal had nearly 60 percent of the ball.

Nketiah, 20, scored against Burnley in last season’s Premier League finale and then late against Bayern Munich earlier this week.

He was deft in a high-pressure spot for this one.

Premier League friendlies: Watford beats Bayer, Man Utd over Inter

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Arsenal and Fiorentina are set to kickoff in Charlotte tonight, with the Gunners the last of a bevy of Premier League sides to engage in preseason friendlies this muggy Saturday.

[ MORE: Guardiola hails KDB ]


Girona 1-2 Bournemouth

Juanpe’s late header pushed La Liga’s hosts past Eddie Howe and his 10-man Cherries, playing down after VAR deemed Jack Simpson‘s foul worthy of a sending off. Ryan Fraser scored Bournemouth’s goal, assisted by Jordon Ibe.

Northampton Town 0-4 Sheffield United

Oliver Norwood converted two penalties in an easy win for Chris Wilder in his return to a club he played for and managed.

Fulham 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion

Pascal Gross scored with an early free kick — a Megan Rapinoe special — but Tom Cairney scored twice after halftime for the Championship side.

Cheltenham Town 1-2 Leicester City

The Foxes collected a second win over a lower league side this week, with Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton on the board.

Newcastle United 1-0 West Ham United (Shanghai)

New manager Steve Bruce watched from the crowd as the Magpies made amends for a 4-0 loss to Wolves by blanking West Ham. Jamie Sterry‘s cross for Yoshinori Muto was delightful, and the Japanese striker’s finish was well-taken.

Port Vale 1-3 Burnley; Crewe Alexandra 0-1 Burnley

Chris Wood, Matej Vydra and Robbie Brady scored as the Clarets overcame an early Nick Pope goal to beat Port Vale, but the Premier League side couldn’t do much in a simultaneous friendly at Crewe.

Inter Milan 0-1 Manchester United (Singapore)

Substitute forward Mason Greenwood, just 17, scored the late goal in a match United controlled, outshooting Inter 21-8.

Preston North End 1-3 Southampton

Brace-bagging Danny Ings doesn’t usually have a problem with finish, so passing the ball directly to him is not something we’d recommend to goalkeepers. Jake Vokins also scored for Saints at Deepdale.

Watford 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen (Austria)

Will Hughes and Andre Gray scored as the Hornets collected a win over Champions League competition.

Man City (0-0, 2-3 pens) Wolves (Shanghai)

Rui Patricio was very good over 90 minutes, and stopped City’s first two penalty attempts as Wolves continue to perplex the PL champions.

WATCH: Marco Fabian smashes set piece goal

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Marco Fabian sent a missile toward goal, and perhaps it’s good the goalkeeper didn’t get to the hand-breaking shot.

Philadelphia took a 1-0 lead over Chicago on Saturday in Chester, Pennsylvania, thanks to the Mexican midfielder.

[ REPORT: Man Utd locks up De Gea ]

It was a pretty set piece from Jim Curtin’s men, a backwards played free kick was laid off to Fabian for his audacious rip.

Fabian hasn’t had a wonderful 2019 season, but his fourth goal of the season will give Union supporters hope that he’ll pick up his form and make the already East-leading side all the more dangerous.