Three things we learned: Man United v. Liverpool

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Manchester United and Liverpool played out a tense, absorbing clash at Old Trafford as Adam Lallana snatched a late point for the Premier League leaders.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Marcus Rashford‘s first half goal looked to be leading Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s injury-hit squad to a huge victory over their bitter rivals, but Jurgen Klopp‘s men dug deep to find a way to secure a point.

Here’s a look at what we learned from a nervy encounter.


VAR TAKES CENTER STAGE, GETS BIG MOMENT WRONG

After a Saturday which was dominated by big VAR calls, it was only fitting the big game of the weekend also saw VAR take center stage. Two key moments in the first half shaped this game, and one was incorrect. Rashford’s opener should have been chalked off after Divock Origi was fouled by Victor Lindelof in the build-up. VAR was used but didn’t overturn the goal, with Liverpool livid. As for the other big moment involving VAR, Sadio Mane’s goal just before half time was correctly ruled out. Without VAR, that goal would have stood because the replays clearly showed the Senegalese forward handled the ball and then scored.

We saw the best and worst of VAR on Sunday, and United were on the right side of the new technology. VAR is still far too subjective and the fact Premier League referees aren’t willing to head to the TV screen on the side of the pitch to double check their decisions is taking the decision out of their hands and leaving the decisions down to the subjective views of officials sat in front of a TV in Stockley Park. Fans and players won’t mind if a referee has a quick look on the TV screen to double check and the fact no penalty kick decision (which has been awarded) hasn’t been overturned shows that VAR officials aren’t keen to overturn a refs decision and signal for a ‘clear and obvious’ error.


MAN UNITED’S NEW FORMATION SHOULD STAY

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer caused a shock with a 3-5-2 formation and it worked a treat to lock down Liverpool’s wide players. This looked like a specialist formation to make United better defensively against a stunning attacking team, but they should use it more often. When you have full backs like Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw (when he’s back fit) you have to make the best of their strengths, and that is going forward.

Harry Maguire loves to maraud out of the back, and having two center backs alongside him gave him the license to do that. Midfield is still a problem area for United, but the trio of Marcus Rashford, Daniel James and Andreas Pereira and their movement made up for that with Rashford and James playing centrally unnerving Joel Matip and Virgil Van Dijk. The pressure and pace United’s attackers put on Liverpool’s defense meant United could push themselves higher up the pitch and Solskjaer got his tactics spot on, even if his young team tired and hung on for a draw.

Sometimes you stumble on the right system and Solskjaer should probably stick with these tactics going forward. Yes, United couldn’t hang on for the win, but they played much better than they had in recent weeks and with Pogba, Martial and Shaw to come back in, things will get better. It’s okay to tweak your tactical plan while staying in line with the masterplan. Solskjaer’s youngster did him proud.


NERVOUS LIVERPOOL MISSED SALAH

Liverpool’s winning streak came to an end at 17, as they failed to match Man City’s record for most consecutive Premier League wins and their 100 percent start to the season is over. In truth, they never looked like winning this game but they will bee happy with a point. Klopp cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines as Liverpool’s attack didn’t fire and they looked nervous in possession and made bizarre decisions in midfield. Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane had both been touted as Liverpool’s new leading men in attack, but they missed Mohamed Salah.

The Egyptian winger was out injured over the international break after Hamza Choudhury‘s late challenge on him two weeks ago, and although Salah’s form has been up and down this season Liverpool didn’t look the same without him. Adam Lallana got them out of jail late on after Firmino’s dummy and Klopp will be happy enough to grind out a point without playing well. Liverpool are six points clear at the top of the table and they’ve yet to get out of second gear this season. Man City will stay in touching distance and Klopp knows he needs Salah fit and back to his best to help Liverpool kick on in the winter months. Liverpool know they have to play much better than this if they’re going to win the Premier League title this season.

Brazilian player Taison banned in Ukraine for response to racism

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) Brazilian player Taison has been banned for one game for his reaction to racist abuse in a Ukrainian league game.

The Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder showed his middle finger to Dynamo Kyiv fans who had abused him with monkey chants and kicked the ball into the stands during a game Nov. 10. Taison was shown a red card.

[ MORE: Mou says Spurs can win the PL next season ]

The Ukrainian Football Association ordered Taison to serve a one-game ban plus a suspended two-game ban.

Dynamo has been fined 500,000 hryvnyas ($20,000) and ordered to play one game behind closed doors. Another one-game sanction is suspended.

World players’ union FIFPro says “sanctioning a victim of racial abuse is beyond comprehension and it plays into the hands of those who promote this kind of disgraceful behavior.”

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

Top Premier League storylines: Week 13

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Yes, Jose Mourinho is back in the Premier League and, sure, both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manuel Pellegrini are in managerial hot seats, but is there any match more intriguing than Man City and Chelsea squaring off with the knowledge that a bad outcome could see them double digits out of first?

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ] 

Below we take a look at the key storylines to keep an eye on across the PL this weekend.


The Jose Mourinho Era begins against a familiar foe

  • West Ham v. Tottenham Hotspur — Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho have matched wits many times, which could help the former in his bid to get ready for a rankled Spurs side to kickstart the Premier League weekend.

Mourinho has only matched up with six managers more than Pellegrini in his career, and boasts a 7W-3D-4L record. Can he quickly get Spurs put together for a visit to a desperate Irons side.


Chelsea, Man City put slim title hopes on the line

  • Manchester City v. Chelsea — Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Both Pep Guardiola‘s City and Frank Lampard‘s Chelsea have lost to Liverpool, meaning their chances to directly affect the Reds’ title hopes are limited. Matches like this one are the ones that get the Reds salivating, in fact, knowing that only one team can snare three points.

City enters the day nine points back of first and a point behind Chelsea and Leicester City. The Top Four race sure looks clear cut right now — the chasing pack is eight points behind fourth — but failure to win on Saturday will likely leave either side double-digit points back of first.


Knock off the Red Devils? Wilder things have happened

  • Sheffield United v. Manchester United — Sunday, 11:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder has the newly-promoted side in fifth place on the table, one point better than his celebrated visitors. The Blades will sit no worse than five points back of the Top Four if they can beat Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Red Devils, adding another big name to a season of results which already includes a defeat of Arsenal and draws against Chelsea and Spurs. United is still without Paul Pogba and now will also miss Scott McTominay. Another upset brewing?


Reds hope to get back to business as usual in title fight

  • Crystal Palace v. Liverpool — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

A week removed from a glitzy show against Man City, Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds now visit a Palace side who is probably getting sick of facing the Premier League’s best. Roy Hodgson‘s table rise has been stunted by a four-match winless run that includes 2-0 losses to Man City, Leicester City, and Chelsea to go with a 2-2 draw against Arsenal.

A Liverpool win will boost it clearer of Man City and/or Chelsea, as the Reds seek a double-digit lead on the field (Second-place Leicester City is away to Brighton and Hove Albion).


Arsenal looks to right wobbly league ship versus slumping Saints

  • Arsenal v. Southampton — Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Unai Emery‘s Gunners may be doing fine in the Europa League, but they’ve taken just two points from 12 since an Oct. 6 defeat of Bourrnemouth at the Emirates Stadium. Saints only win since mid-September in any competition is a 4-0 demolition of rivals Portsmouth. If Arsenal cannot get right here, well…

The 2 Robbies break down Tottenham’s big switch from Poch to Mou

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Maybe you saw the firing of Mauricio Pochettino coming, and maybe you even though Jose Mourinho could be in the running to take his place, but the whole thing happening in rapid fire fashion calls for something different.

Call it an emergency podcast for The 2 Robbies.

[ MORE: Ederson back in training ]

Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle respond to the shocking and divisive news coming from North London earlier this week.

Tottenham Hotspur sacked Pochettino and quickly replaced him with The Special One. This episode also includes some of Jose’s first words as the new Spurs Head Coach.

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Pochettino leaves emotional whiteboard message to Spurs

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Mauricio Pochettino and his backroom staff have left Tottenham Hotspur, but not without fond words for the North London set.

Pochettino’s backroom staff was also dismissed, with assistant Jesus Perez and coaches Miguel D’Agostino and Antoni Jimenez leaving to make room for Jose Mourinho’s crew.

[ MORE: Mou says Spurs can win the PL next season ]

And Perez wanted to make sure that the world knew the final words Pochettino left for his players, something that has Tottenham supporters even more emotional.

It also surely plays as a political piece which will increase the villain status of Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, who’s been under fire for not helping Pochettino by selling players who did not want to be in North London.

Even Mourinho heaped praise on his predecessor.

“Mauricio, for the work he did, this club will be always his home,” Mourinho said. “He can come when he wants. When he misses the players, when he misses the people he work with. The door is always open for him. He will find happiness again. He will find a great club again. He will have a great future.”

Get your tissues, Spurs fans.