Andreas Pereira

Getty Images

Would Saul make sense at Man United?

Leave a comment

As Manchester United prepares its roster construction for the future, one player that’s reportedly on the shortlist is Atletico Madrid central midfielder Saul Niguez.

Although originally from Elche, in southeast Spain, Saul has been on the books of Atletico Madrid since 2008 (other than a season on loan with Rayo Vallecano), making his first team debut in 2012 and growing from a scrawny midfielder into an international-calibre box-to-box star for both club and country. Per Diario AS, Man United has been interested in signing Saul before, and now it’s been revived. The report states, “The interest from Manchester is very real, and strong.”

[READ: Arsenal comes back to beat West Ham]

So, what kind of a player is Saul?

As mentioned before, he’s a sturdy, powerful box-to-box midfielder who can win headers defensively and knows how to play well in a Diego “Cholo” Simeone system. At the same time, he’s certainly not afraid to make a late run into the box. Last season he tied a career high with four goals in La Liga and also scored in the UEFA Champions League.

At 25-years old, he’s a hardened veteran player. But is he what Man United needs?

If you look at the current squad at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s disposal, he’s got quite a few No. 8’s, right? There’s Paul Pogba, Andreas Pereira, and Fred. You can argue Scott McTominay has at times played like an 8, as has Jesse Lingard on occasion. One might argue that what Man United really needs is a better No. 6, someone who can be a destroyer and cover a lot of ground, freeing up that side of the game so Pogba could feel more comfortable attacking.

If Man United were to sign Saul in January – or next summer – we could potentially see him line up in a midfield three, though he’d be center right with Pogba to his left. Behind the pair would be McTominay to clean up the messes.

On paper, it’s a decent midfield for sure, but it’s just one step on Man United’s path towards becoming a team that can challenge for the Premier League and Champions League.

Of course, this is all theoretical. Saul carries a $166 million transfer release clause, and for the player he is, considering he doesn’t score many goals and affects the game in little ways, it’s a lot to spend for a guy who isn’t a guarantee to improve his team enough to make it back to the Champions League.

But if Man United was able to negotiate a better transfer fee for Niguez, they could do worse than a talented midfielder from Atletico Madrid. The question then will be – is Saul a system player (only successful under Simeone), or can he find success in the Premier League too?

Player Ratings from Man City 1-2 Manchester United

Leave a comment

It was even closer than it looked, but Manchester United held on to defeat Manchester City 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: RecapJPW’s 3 things ]

It’s a significant jolt for the Red Devils and boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who bewildered City’s backs with lightning quick counters.

Were it not for Ederson, it might’ve been the sort of result that raised worldwide eyebrows. Heck, it probably is, anyway.

Here’s how the players fared as City out shot its guests 22-11 and held onto 71 percent of the ball only to lose the match.

Manchester City

Ederson — 7 — Kept City in the match early, but would’ve liked to have gotten his paw to Martial’s goal.

Kyle Walker — 7 — Quite effective at both ends, including a great intervention in the first half.

John Stones (Off 59′) — 6 — Not involved in either conceded goal before leaving with injury.

Fernandinho — 5 — Not his day.

Angelino — 6 — Lively, but will have wanted to do better on Martial’s goal.

Rodri (Off 86′)– 7 — City’s best player, with four interceptions, more tidy passing, and decisive wins in some big 50-50 challenges.

David Silva — 7 — Four key passes and two shots on target as a promising part of the attack.

Kevin De Bruyne — 7 — A fairly brilliant performance that would normally have netted an assist or two; Five key passes to go with 117 touches.

Bernardo Silva (Off 65′) — 5 — Conceded a poor penalty to Rashford; Won some duels but didn’t manage shot on target.

Raheem Sterling — 6 — Lively, but not his starring self.

Gabriel Jesus — 5 — A pretty terrible day filling in for Sergio Aguero.

Subs

Pep’s subs made a difference, led by goal scorer Nicolas Otamendi (59′). who gets an 8.

Riyad Mahrez (65′) — 7. Ilkay Gundogan (86′) — N/A


Manchester United

David De Gea — 6 — Four saves, one of them great, but failed to claim the corner that became Otamendi’s goal.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka — 8 — United got it right when they splashed the cash to bring this one from Crystal Palace. Might’ve saved a goal off a bad Lindelof giveaway.

Victor Lindelof — 7 — A couple of very dicey moments including a bad giveaway, but overall played his part.

Harry Maguire — 7 — Eight clearances, three interceptions, two tackles, and a blocked shot but to blame along with De Gea for the goal.

Luke Shaw (Off 89′) — 6 — A little wobbly and weary as the match wore on, but credited with six clearances.

Fred — 7 — Had a banner day offensively, dribbling well in tight spaces (4-for-4). Amazing he kept his composure while being racially abused and pelted with objects. Reprehensible.

Scott McTominay — 9 — Outstanding. Won 12 of 15 duels, drew five fouls, and made three interceptions to go with three tackles.

Daniel James — 7 — An efficient day, with some early moments of attacking power.

Marcus Rashford — 7 — Coming into his own.

Jesse Lingard (Off 89′) — 5 — Did very little on the day, one of the only odd and unrewarded decisions from Solskjaer

Anthony Martial (Off 74′) — 7 — Did well to get his shot away for United’s second goal, but that really his only moment of influence on the match.

Subs 

Andreas Pereira (74′) — 5 — Pretty poor from the Brazilian, who had a petulant foul or two on the day.

Ashley Young (89′) — N/A; Axel Tuanzebe (89′) — N/A.

Woodward insinuates new contracts at Man United down to transfer struggles

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ed Woodward rarely speaks publicly as he leads Manchester United through a season of struggles, but his most recent words have given further ammunition to those who criticize the squad talent level.

Speaking after the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa while piled more pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Woodward was asked about the multitude of new contracts given to players at Manchester United rather than attempting to upgrade positions of weakness. His answer seemed to admit transfer window failings and that contract extensions were fallback options.

“It’s hard enough to get three players done in a transfer window,” Woodward said. “To get six or seven done is extremely difficult if you are getting proper talent. If you choose to churn every player because they are not good enough and you’re not extending contracts, you are putting yourself at risk of execution. Sometimes you have to take a broader view.”

Manchester United has signed players like Phil Jones, Andreas Pereira, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, and Ashley Young were all extended in the past calendar year, and all those players have at times heard noise about their Red Devils’ futures. Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo also received new contracts last fall. The club has also given extensions to David De Gea, Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay, and Victor Lindelof, although those players have been far less criticized for their performances on the pitch.

It doesn’t help that the few players offloaded this summer have performed well overseas, as Romelu Lukaku has built a strong partnership with Lautaro Martinez at Inter Milan while Chris Smalling has helped Roma to one of the best defenses in Serie A.

“It’s a multi-year squad evolution analysis,” Woodward said, seeming to brush squad decisions off as more than just the struggles faced this season.

Villa comes back to draw Man United

Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester United came back from an early deficit to lead against Aston Villa, only to toss away the win in a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Aston Villa took a point off United at Old Trafford for the first time since a 1-0 win on Dec. 12, 2009, almost exactly 10 years ago.

Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings scored for Villa, who rise into 15th with 15 points, while United’s 18th point leaves it ninth.

Tom Heaton‘s own goal was United’s first marker, Victor Lindelof its second.


Three things we learned

1. Captain Grealish scores sensational opener: Anwar El Ghazi got off a cross despite his knee buckling, and Grealish collected the ball to the left of the United box. Cutting free of Andreas Pereira to open up space, the Englishman curled an aesthetically-pleasing effort just inside the far post, leaving David De Gea helpless.

The marker is Grealish’s fifth to go with five assists in 14 appearances for Villa this season, and his 20th senior goal for his boyhood club.

2. Corner kick routines lead to United goals: Both of United’s goals were set up by corners played short and then sent into the mix. The first was Andreas Pereira making amends for his role in Villa’s opener by sending a pinpoint cross to the back post for Rashford on what would become a Heaton own goal, while Lindelof was at the back post to nestle a header into the same part of the next as Grealish’s first half sensation.

3. Mings punishes United’s advanced back line: Villa’s equalizer came off a corner kick routine of its own, as the United back line pushed high up into own 18 only to see Mings time his run perfectly for one of those chances where most are imagining the player “must be off.” Instead, the English defender thumped Targett’s cross past De Gea for 2-2.

Man of the Match: There wasn’t a true star in this one, so we’ll credit Grealish for his marvelous goal.


Both sides hit the frame on the day, Rashford and Trezequet the causes.

Villa took its lead through Grealish’s wondrous opener, though El Ghazi had to leave the match with an injury suffered on the cross.

Rashford made it 1-1 before halftime on a corner kick routine swept to the back post by Pereira.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

United called for two penalties in the first 15 minutes of the second half, but both weren’t legit.

Heaton denied a vicious Aaron Wan-Bissaka shot set up by Fred, and United took the lead on the ensuing corner kick when Lindelof scored his second goal in 84 club appearances.

The lead lasted a minute, as Mings rose to finish Matt Targett‘s chopped cross over the United back line.

A chaotic sequence in the 78th saw Martial chip Heaton and the cross bar.

WATCH: Grealish scores impossibly cool wonder goal v. Man Utd

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jack Grealish scored an impossibly cool goal to give Aston Villa an early lead over Manchester United at Old Trafford.

The Villa captain, 24, arrived inside the left side of the box to collect an Anwar El Ghazi cross and saw United midfielder Andreas Pereira give him some room.

[ WATCH: Man Utd-Villa | Leicester-Everton ]

Grealish then coolly zipped a shot across the box and just inside the far post, disarming Red Devils goalkeeper David De Gea to make it 1-0.

It’s his fifth goal to go with five assists in 14 appearances for Villa this season, and his 20th senior goal for his boyhood club.

El Ghazi was injured on the play and tried to go on, but subbed off in the 17th minute.