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Four things from the Manchester Derby

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Three more wins.

That’s all Manchester City needs to guarantee a second-straight Premier League title under Pep Guardiola following a 2-0 defeat of Manchester United on Wednesday at Old Trafford.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 0-2 Man City ]

How did City get there? A gritty first half stepped aside for a clear gulf in class.

That pregame fouling banter was more than a subplot

On Tuesday, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed that City is a kicking foul machine to limit counter attacks and Pep Guardiola responded by, and I’m paraphrasing, “We aren’t, but let’s talk after the game, bruh.”

Well, City snapped into those tackles with a little more vigor on Wednesday, willing to take yellow cards in exchange for some angry staredowns with United and its bench.

Sometimes the Manchester Derby doesn’t get the true derby vibe because neither side is known for snapping into the other with tackles, but Vincent Kompany‘s NHL-style open-ice hit to earn a first half yellow served notice that the physical play wasn’t going away.

Gundogan steps up at both ends, helps Bernardo open scoring

German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan was not at his best when City fell to Spurs in the UEFA Champions League, but he was versatile and vigorous on Wednesday at Old Trafford.

Neither David De Gea nor Luke Shaw covered themselves in glory on Bernardo Silva‘s opener, but Gundogan cued it up with a tougher-than-it-looks pass to the right side of the 18.

And with key piece Fernandinho on the bench with injury, Gundogan put forth a strong performance as a combination holding/defensive midfielder.

Zinchenko as Pep’s safer Sane

Follow me here: Twenty-two year old Oleksandr Zinchenko is not the elite-level threat presented by an in-form Leroy Sane, but he doesn’t have to be when Pep Guardiola wants to play it a little safe.

Sane attacking from the left was the key to Guardiola’s 2017-18 masterpiece, but the winger has been a less important piece given the MVP-level season of Raheem Sterling.

A capable center midfielder turned left back, what Zinchenko gives Guardiola is a relentless engine up-and-down the left who can dribble to start plays and pass as well as most on the pitch.

Just look at the matches when Zinchenko has not been available to Guardiola and witness the struggles at left back. The Ukrainian was linked with a move away from the Etihad before the season, but it seems more likely he’ll be choice A for Pep moving forward.

Pogba not enough, Rashford still stuck in rut

Both Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford are remarkable talents, but neither delivered on Wednesday relative to ability.

Pogba hit a delightful pass that could’ve been an assist if Jesse Lingard has his legs correct, and also won a few tasty free kicks, but was not the world-class talent we’ve seen so many times.

And Rashford will be a fine forward in the Premier League for a long time, but was again not the consistent force we’ve seen Romelu Lukaku be more often. Rashford has to get that experience to get there, but this was a big spot for him and he was not able to deliver the goods.

Extra things

— Raheem Sterling’s assist on the Leroy Sane insurance goal is a perfect illustration of how much he’s grown as a player. He saw the pass before we saw it on television, and still waiting that extra moment to give Sane time and the perfect weight. He’s my Player of the Year if City wins the title (Otherwise, Virgil Van Dijk).

— Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a good tactical move out of halftime to harry Man City in possession near the halfway line, but never found an answer to the introduction of Sane and Gundogan’s more than capable answer to Fernandinho’s injury.

— Jesse Lingard could’ve scored a handful of goals but his technical skills didn’t reward his utility and intelligence. He’ll sleep poorly tonight.

Transfer rumor roundup: Everton join Zaha chase; Matuidi to Man Utd?

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A roundup of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors from around the world, including those involving a few Premier League clubs…

[ MORE: PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly” ]

Wilfried Zaha is one of the most wanted men in England, with Arsenal reportedly hot on his trail all summer. An deal between the Gunners and Crystal Palace is yet  to transpire, though, which has perhaps left the door open for Everton to sneak through and sign the 26-year-old Ivory Coast international.

Arsenal would obviously pay more in wages, but are yet to meet Palace’s valuation of their talisman. If Everton is the club that calls with the requisite figures on offer, it wouldn’t be the worst landing place for Zaha. With Arsenal yet to make a meaningful signing this summer, and the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Laurent Koscielny already gone or on their way out, the 2019-20 season could see the Gunners take a step back, opening the door for — you guessed it — Everton to break into the top-five… or -four.


Speaking of Ramsey, his arrival at Juventus has perhaps made Blaise Matuidi surplus to requirements, which means he could be available for cut-rate price.

Manchester United seem to be perennially in need of influential central midfielders, especially this summer after the departure of Ander Herrera and the failure of a signing that was Fred last summer. Man United have reportedly been in contact with Juve about the 32-year-old, as have Paris Saint-Germain and Everton.


Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is another midfielder who’s been linked with United, but he’ll likely just as much as, if not more than, the $59-million fee paid for Fred. Milinkovic-Savic seemed a surefire target for the world’s top clubs after a star’s showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, but the 24-year-old remained at Lazio and is still yet to move 12 months later.


Patrick Cutrone was one of Europe’s breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, now the 21-year-old AC Milan forward is reportedly high atop Wolverhampton Wanderers’ shopping list this summer. He won’t come cheap — Milan are expected to demand nearly $30 million — but he could offer some serious insurance in the event of an injury to Raul Jimenez.

PL refs told to defer to VAR more, go to the monitor “sparingly”

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Premier League interim chief executive Richard Masters says that referees have ben instructed “to use the referee review area a bit more sparingly” and rely on the numerous video-assistant referees (VAR) at their disposal to make simple calls upon review when video review is instituted in the PL next month.

[ MORE: Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan ]

Following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where far too many trip to the monitor were made by the center referees, the PL is keen on ensuring that “the Premier League or English football [is not] interrupted, or the pace of the game [is not] changed.” It sounds very much like a “less is more” approach  — quotes from the BBC:

“I think fans want to see those clear and obvious mistakes changed and put right. But they don’t want to see the Premier League or English football interrupted, or the pace of the game changed.

“I think the only difference you might see is the referees using the referee review area a bit more sparingly and relying more on the VAR for the more subjective decisions.

“But we are putting something new into the Premier League and if it needs to be refined or improved or tweaked we will look at it when the moment arises.”

In theory, this should work quite well for the PL. Many of the decisions that referees go to the monitor to review themselves could easily be made by the “fifth official.” If it’s obvious to the VAR and he/she can make the call with 100 percent certainty, the center ref should always take their decision in the name of keeping the game flowing. If the VAR isn’t so sure, or it’s a more subjective call that should be made by the person making 99 percent of the game’s calls, go to the monitor. But do so quickly.

Lukaku latest: Man United reject $67-million bid from Inter Milan

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Given two key factors — the date on the calendar and how far apart the two sides appear to be in their respective valuations — it’s looking increasingly likely that Romelu Lukaku will still be a Manchester United player when the upcoming Premier League season starts, despite numerous bids by Inter Milan this summer.

[ MORE: Borussia Dortmund tops Liverpool 3-2 at Notre Dame ]

According to reports out of the UK, Man United have rejected Inter’s latest bid, said to be for $67.5 million. The Red Devils paid $96 million for the big Belgian forward just two summers ago and appear hellbent on recouping most, if not all, of their investment.

Antonio Conte called Lukaku “an important player for us” this week in an attempt to further unsettle the 26-year-old, but that doesn’t appear to have shaken United’s resolve in holding out for the fee they desire.

[ MORE: Wolves top Man City on penalties in PL Asia Trophy final ]

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is growing tired of answering questions about the saga, especially since there has been little to no progress made in recent days and weeks. When pressed on the topic again this week, he said he had “no more updates.”

Wolves top Man City on penalties in PL Asia Trophy final

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The 2019 Premier League Asia Trophy wrapped up on Saturday, as four PL sides took the field in Shanghai, China…

[ MORE: Borussia Dortmund tops Liverpool 3-2 at Notre Dame ]

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-0 (3-2 PKs) Man City

Wolves turned in a fantastic defensive display against the two-time reigning PL champions, indicating that Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side is very much ready for the start of the season. Man City had plenty of the ball in dangerous areas, but Wolves were quick to close off the passages when City typically dominate.

Wolves captain Conor Coady was part of the stellar defensive performance and he lauded some of the young players who entered the game as second-half substitutes and saw the game out to 0-0.

“To beat City at any point is a great accomplishment for us,” he said after the game. “We rode our luck at times but I thought the young boys were outstanding”

David Silva had perhaps the game’s best scoring chance in the 78th minute, but Rui Patricio made a top-drawer save to deny the Spaniard’s curling effort at the last possible moment.

Silva and Ilkay Gundogan began the penalty shootout with back-to-back efforts saved by Patricio. 20-year-old forward Lukas Nmecha was also denied on City’s fifth and final attempt.

Newcastle United 1-0 West Ham United

Newly appointed head coach Steve Bruce watched as an observer, due to “the terms of his visa,” as his Newcastle side beat Manuel Pellegrini‘s West Ham 1-0 in the third-place playoff.

Yoshinori Muto bagged the game’s only goal in the 34th minute. Jamie Sterry whipped in a cross from the right wing that curled around a pair of defenders at the near post and presented itself to Muto, still with plenty of work to do, for a first-time finish.