Blades, Red Devils engage in thrilling 3-3 draw

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A match with almost everything saw Sheffield United throw aside a 2-0 lead but rally for a 3-3 draw with Manchester United at Bramall Lane on Sunday.

Oli McBurnie’s stoppage time goal withstood VAR review, joining a great performance from Lys Mousset in helping the Blades to another memorable result in their return to the Premier League.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made the changes that mattered at halftime, as his Red Devils rallied for the point.

The feckless first half Red Devils turned into a force through three second half goals from 19-year-old Brandon Williams, 18-year-old Mason Greenwood, and relatively ancient 22-year-old Marcus Rashford, who also recorded an assist.

Sheffield United moves into sixth place with 18 points, a point and three places above their visitors.


Three things we learned

1. Three kids give hope after Ole fixes formation: Brandon Williams scored his first senior goal for United with a quivering rocket in the 73rd minute. Daniel James was industrious all day if a bit sloppy, and helped set up the goal with a move down the right before Williams pounced on a ball at the back post. The behind the goal angle was sensational, showing a ball with only one destination.

Then Greenwood got on the end of a Rashford cross, one that Phil Jagiela was too slow to poke, as the Red Devils claimed an equalizer with 13 minutes to play. Greenwood turned 18 on Oct. 1, and Williams 19 on Sept. 3.

The subs fit in nicely, but the victory also came about after manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had the humility to change his miserable, porous first half game plan. Phil Jones was removed as the side went from something of a 3-4-2-1 to a 4-2-3-1. The payoff took 20 minutes to really arrived, but then it just kept coming until the Red Devils were in front.

2. Mousset, Blades cut through United’s miserable back line: David De Gea was standing on his head from moment one, as the Red Devils continuously got worked. And after the Red Devils took the lead, the back line gave it away.

Lys Mousset’s new lease on life continued to work wonders, as he destroyed Phil Jones en route to setting up the first goal and then cut into a danger area to slot a 22-yard shot past De Gea early in the second half.

I mean, this is staggering stuff.

3. David De Gea keeps gauze on a deep wound: While United was getting run off the pitch — really this could’ve been 3 or 4-0 at halftime — its Spanish keeper was his best self, making a number of phenomenal saves and commanding his area. Without him, the second half outcome isn’t remotely possible.

Man of the Match: Marcus Rashford might just be coming into his own. The English striker has shown himself quite the passer of late, and there are plenty of reasons to think he’s starting to fulfill his potential. Rashford has 10 goals and 4 assists in 18 matches across all competitions.


David De Gea made two incredible saves in the 11th minute, the second an acrobatic palming of David McGoldrick‘s header.

The Blades also had a pair of penalty shouts in the first quarter hour, both unheard.

Lys Mousset was lively, and bodied Phil Jones to set up John Lundstram for a chance well-saved by De Gea only to see another John, Fleck, pop the rebound inside the far post.

McGoldrick kept coming in a bid for the second, drilling a ball to De Gea.

Manchester United had some moments in counter attack, but overall everyone short of Fred an De Gea were extremely sloppy.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The Red Devils snapped to life at halftime, with Rashford using a couple deft moves to create space for a swirling shot over the frame in the 48th.

Mousset made it 2-0 when a run dragged Harry Maguire away from the Frenchman’s dribble, allowing the players to tear into a shot from 22 yards.

Manchester United got one back in the 73rd through Williams’ vicious finish, and the wall was broken down. Greenwood got to Rashford’s cross to make it 2-2, and Rashford reaped the rewards of Anthony Martial and James’ playmaking to make it 3-2.

McBurnie then settled a cross calmly, somehow avoiding a handball before smashing home for a stoppage time equalizer.

Pearson: ‘I was semi-retired’ before Watford came calling

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Nigel Pearson had come to terms with the fact he would never again manage in the Premier League — or any league, perhaps — before Watford came calling out of sheer desperation last month.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s Lampard prepared to go without January signings ]

“I was semi-retired, more or less,” Pearson admitted on Friday. He had been out of work for nearly 10 months following an 18-month spell at Belgian side Leuven. That came on the heels of a disastrous five months at EFL Championship side Derby, where he compiled a win percentage of just 21.4 percent — quotes from the Guardian:

“I wouldn’t have been thinking it was possible, of course I wouldn’t. It really is a situation that’s come out of nothing. I was semi-retired, more or less.”

“I’ve been asked whether I was worried about getting a reputation as a ‘firefighter’ and it doesn’t bother me. If that’s how people want to look at it, fine. From my own perspective, coming into a situation like this, it’s just a good opportunity to work back in a league I didn’t think I’d be working in again. In terms of risk to my reputation or anything like that, I’m not bothered about those things. I wouldn’t have taken on the challenge if I didn’t think we had a realistic chance of succeeding.

“It’s just one of those situations where clearly there was a need for something different. So far it’s going OK. I’m pleased with how we’ve started to turn things around but I’m also experienced enough to know that it’s still going to be a tough job to maintain the standards we’ve set and push on again.”

Now at Watford, and back in the PL for the first time since 2015 (Leicester City), Pearson has guided the Hornets to four wins in his first seven games, including five straight without a defeat, and a 17th-place standing ahead of the weekend’s round of fixtures. When he took over, Watford sat 20th out of 20 teams with eight points from 15 games. Less than a month later, they sit a point outside the relegation zone with 22 to their name.

USWNT: Olympic qualifying roster minus five from World Cup team

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The United States’ roster for the upcoming CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will look very similar to the one that won the Women’s World Cup in France, with notable exceptions.

Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh, Allie Long, Morgan Brian and Tierna Davidson were on the title team but were left off the 20-player CONCACAF tournament roster announced Friday.

Morgan is expecting her first child with husband Servando Carrasco. Coach Vlatko Andonovski said that Davidson is still recovering from an ankle injury that sidelined her during January camp.

Pugh, a young forward who has shown promise, was one of the most surprising omissions. Andonovski said she has been invited to train with the team even though she didn’t make the roster.

“It was competitive and she did well,” Andonovski said. “But there were other players that I believe that performed better than Mal. Now, I just want to be clear that she is very good, very talented player and she performed well. She has a big future in front of her. So I’m really sure that if she keeps on developing going forward, she will be on this roster.”

The roster includes 18 players who were on the World Cup squad. Newcomers include midfielder Andi Sullivan and forward Lynn Williams.

Sullivan, a former standout at Stanford who plays for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League, has 13 appearances with the national team. Williams, who plays for reigning NWSL champion North Carolina, has made 21 appearances with the national team since 2016, scoring six goals.

Carli Lloyd, who will turn 38 before the Tokyo Games, is the oldest player on the roster. Lloyd scored three goals in the 2015 World Cup final against Japan, but last year in France started in just one game as she took on more of a reserve role.

Andonovski, who was named coach of the team last October after Jill Ellis stepped down, praised Lloyd’s work ethic and said that if she continues to play well, he sees “no reason for her not to be a starter.”

Andonovski said Megan Rapinoe, the Ballon d’Or winner who scored six goals in the World Cup, was also nursing minor injuries during January camp.

“In the end, the ones that I believe will give it the best chance to be successful, that will give us the best chance to win the games and qualify for the Olympics, are the ones that made the roster,” he said.

The United States opens qualifying on Jan. 28 in Houston with a match against Haiti. The top two finishers in the eight-team tournament’s two groups advance to the semifinals in Carson, California, on Feb. 7. The final is in Carson on Feb. 9.

Two berths in the Tokyo Games this summer are up for grabs. The United States has made the field for every Olympic tournament since women’s soccer was added to the Games in 1996 and has won four gold medals.

FULL USWNT ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals), Emily Sonnett (Orlando Pride).

Midfielders: Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).

Forwards: Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue), Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Courage), Christen Press (Utah Royals), Megan Rapinoe (Reign), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage).

Bundesliga: Schalke spoils Gladbach’s chance to go top

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GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) Michael Gregoritsch scored one goal and set up another as Schalke dealt a blow to Borussia Monchengladbach’s Bundesliga title hopes in a 2-0 win on Friday.

In the Bundesliga’s first game of 2020 after the winter break, Gladbach’s defense was frequently overwhelmed by host Schalke’s rapid team moves, especially on the counterattack.

After a string of first-half saves by Gladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer kept the score 0-0 at the break, Schalke scored twice early in the second half to secure the win.

Gregoritsch took the ball out to the left flank in the 48th minute, stretching the Gladbach defense and opening up space in the middle. He then passed for Suat Serdar to charge through the gap in Gladbach’s back line and score from the edge of the penalty area.

Ten minutes later it was Gregoritsch’s turn to score, finishing off a counterattack which ran almost the length of the field, with a lay-off pass from Benito Raman.

“We had trouble the whole game with Schalke’s movement. They put a lot of pressure on us and it was hard to play the ball out too. We gave them too much room,” Sommer said in televised comments. “We had chances in the first half when we could have scored a goal, but in general we were not good enough today.”

As well as his key role in attack, Gregoritsch also made a key intervention in defense, clearing Marcus Thuram’s header off the line in the 38th in what proved to be one of Gladbach’s best chances.

“When it works like this, it’s really great,” Gregoritsch said, crediting Schalke’s home crowd for the win. “We’re at home and we can hit the gas pedal a bit more with the 12th man here.”

Starting in goal for Schalke due to a suspension for first-choice Alexander Nubel, Markus Schubert made a good reaction stop to deny Gladbach’s Patrick Herrmann just before the break.

Gladbach stays two points behind leader Leipzig and can be overtaken by third-place Bayern Munich on Sunday if Bayern beats Hertha Berlin.

Gladbach was the surprise leader earlier in the season as its fans started to dream of a first German title since 1977, but it’s started to stall, having won just one of its last five games in all competitions.

Schalke moves up one place to fourth, overtaking its fierce rival Borussia Dortmund, which visits Augsburg on Saturday.

Chelsea’s Lampard prepared to go without January signings

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Frank Lampard is not only prepared for, but almost seems to prefer that, Chelsea make no new signings this month despite the club’s transfer ban being reduced to allow the Blues to sign players in January.

[ MORE: Report: Bruno Fernandes to Man United after Lisbon Derby ]

It’s not that Lampard believes he has the perfect squad, but he fears upsetting the balance and good vibes for a young group of players who have performed admirably thus far. Signing players for the sake of signing players would be “a knee-jerk reaction,” according to Lampard — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t want to comment on those deals because I think it’s easy with hindsight. … I think the idea of January being a time to buy players, it’s difficult for everybody: for players coming in — especially if they’re coming from a different league — for the club and for the settlement of the group. I think that’s why we have to think ultra-carefully.

“I don’t want to make some knee-jerk reaction to say: ‘Here’s my first big signing’ because we couldn’t sign anyone in the summer. No, I want to do the right thing for the club. That’s why if I do it I’ll try to consider all things. Hopefully it’s the best thing for us. Whether that’s more of a short-term option or a long-term option, we’ll also have to consider.”

As for potential outgoing players, West Ham United reportedly made a bid to take midfielder Ross Barkley on loan, but Chelsea rejected the offer and have no intention of letting the player leave Stamford Bridge this month.