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Stars and duds from Manchester United 0-0 Liverpool

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Manchester United and Liverpool played an engaging if sloppy draw at Old Trafford on Sunday.

[ MORE: Match recap | JPW’s 3 Things from OT ]

The point may well give the Reds its Premier League title when all is said and done, but Liverpool was poor in attack against a United side which used all three of its subs inside of 42 minutes.

Luckily, it’s goalkeeper was wonderful. And United showed supreme composure in the face of much consternation.

Stars (Ratings in parentheses)

Alisson Becker (8) — Made a couple of fine interventions, but his best moment came when the otherwise strong Virgil Van Dijk was fooled by a Romelu Lukaku pass. Alisson slid toward Jesse Lingard, patient with his arms to control the Englishman’s bid to dribble around him.

Luke Shaw (10) — Pretty much perfect at left back, putting Mohamed Salah in his proverbial pocket. Also delivered a number of fine crosses and set piece bids.

Romelu Lukaku (8) — United’s big striker needed to play right wing with Marcus Rashford limited and wobbling around up top. He made some big tackles and sent a terrific cross into the mix that could’ve prodded a surprise winner on the edge of stoppage time.

Virgil van Dijk (7) — Even though he was fooled by Lukaku’s pass to Lingard, VVD was quite good in the face of a strong first half from United’s injured attack.

Andreas Pereira (8) — We could put Scott McTominay here, too, but the midfielder got away with at least one likely penalty. Pereira came into the game cold against a brilliant attack and had no problems adjusting to a crucial match against a heated rival.

Paul Pogba (5) — Had enough defensive moments to prod him further up the ratings scale, but days like today are made for extraordinary players to do legendary things with the ball. The Frenchman didn’t have one.

Duds

Mohamed Salah (4) — The Egyptian has been poor against top teams this season, and was nearly invisible for large stretches of the match. Take away a 1-goal, 1-assist match against Arsenal, and he has not been on the scoresheet against a Top Six side this season.

Sadio Mane (3) — The first time I noticed Mane was in a 50-50 with Romelu Lukaku deep in Liverpool’s end. It was the 77th minute.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (5) and Jurgen Klopp (5) — Solskjaer whiffed when he brought an unfit Jesse Lingard into the match and had to bring him off before halftime. And Klopp’s decision to put Daniel Sturridge in for Roberto Firmino instead of moving Mohamed Salah up top against United’s center backs was baffling and did nothing.

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.

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.

[ MORE: Europa League preview ]

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.

[ MORE: Europa League preview ]

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.

[ MORE: Europa League preview ]

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.

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