Manchester United baffled by Brighton

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Brighton and Hove Albion stunned a haphazard Manchester United 3-2 at the Amex Stadium on Sunday.

The win puts both teams at 1-1, with the Gulls getting goals from Glenn Murray, Pascal Gross, and Shane Duffy. Romelu Lukaku scored for United in the first half, before Marouane Fellaini drew a Paul Pogba-converted penalty.

Manchester United next meets Spurs at Old Trafford, while Brighton travels to Liverpool.

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Pogba played Romelu Lukaku through on goal, but the Belgian’s hard low strike zipped wide of the near post.

It was mostly United in the first 20 minutes before Anthony Knockaert raced onto a long ball and spun a 20-yard shot wide of David De Gea‘s far post.

Brighton did indeed take the lead through Murray, who cut in front of Victor Lindelof to flick a pretty ball from Solly March beyond De Gea.

Duffy then settled a cross in the heart of the United box before doubling Brighton’s advantage, and it would be a big dig for United.

Lukaku made it 2-1, rewarding for a fine first half-hour with a knockdown header from Luke Shaw‘s partially blocked shot.

But a poor pass from David De Gea led to Eric Bailly‘s sliding challenge on Pascal Gross. He converted the penalty to make it 3-1.

Mourinho completed his substitutions early, taking off Anthony Martial, Andreas Pereira, and Juan Mata for Marcus Rashford (HT), Jesse Lingard (HT), and Marouane Fellaini (60′).

United snapped to life with 16 minutes to play, Paul Pogba forcing Mathew Ryan into a flying parry.

But only a Fellaini-won penalty arrived deep in stoppage time, with Pogba converting his effort.

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Mourinho defends Pogba, denies rift

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Jose Mourinho has denied he’s fallen out with Paul Pogba at Manchester United.

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Following Pogba’s Man of the Match display as United’s captain in their 2-1 win against Leicester City to open the weekend, the French midfielder said he would be fined if he spoke about rumors regarding a move to Barcelona.

Mourinho told reporters “you have to ask him” when asked to explain Pogba’s comments, and he then went on to defend his relationship with the World Cup winner.

“The truth is we are together for two years and I’ve never been so happy with him as I am now. That’s the truth. I cannot demand more from him, I cannot ask more from him,” Mourinho said. “It is exactly what I demand from my players, what he is giving me. I want him to play for the team, which he is doing and I couldn’t be happier than what I am.”

Pressed further about why Pogba — who was handed the captains armband for the season opener and will keep it for the trip to Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday — believed he would be fined if he spoke out, Mourinho was defiant.

“I don’t care. I want him to play well. I want him to play for the team. I want him to play for the fans. And that is what he did. He is working extremely well here,” Mourinho said. “I have to say, in his defense, write what you want about him, write what you want about me. But please, don’t say lies. Please don’t put him in a situation where people can think that he is not the polite, educated guy, that he is. He has never had a fight with me. We never had an exchange of words. I have no problems at all. The only player that has been fined here is Anthony Martial, it is not easy to be fined at this club.”

Mourinho is rallying around Pogba and wants to put an end to the speculation around the World Cup winner moving away from Old Trafford.

With Barcelona lurking, Pogba won’t be sold this summer, surely, but there have been more than a few strong hints of their relationship breaking down over the past two years. From Mourinho not praising Pogba for his mature, powerful displays for France at the World Cup to Pogba being dropped last season, United’s manager can’t blame everyone else for picking up on some negative vibes.

Mourinho seems to want to end the speculation but it is down to Pogba to state if he’s happy or not at United under the combative Portuguese coach.

Transfer window grades for each Premier League team

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The summer transfer window is now closed and Premier League teams have done all of their transfer business until January 2019.

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It has been a steady flow of transfers this summer and all of that ended with a flurry on Thursday on the eve of the new 2018-19 PL campaign.

Below we grade each PL club based on their ins and outs this summer.


Liverpool: A
Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool simply blew everyone out of the water this summer with their dealings. Alisson is a huge upgrade as their goalkeeper, while Fabinho and Naby Keita have looked brilliant in preseason and so too has Xherdan Shaqiri. Liverpool will push Man City close for the title this season and that’s largely thanks to their aggressive attitude in the summer window. A fantastic summer which was a huge statement.


Wolverhampton Wanderers: A-
Stunning transfer window for the Premier League new boys. Experienced Portuguese internationals Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho were complemented by Raul Jimenez, Adama Traore and Leander Dendoncker as Chinese owners Fosun backed Nuno Espirito Santo to continue their rise. Top 10 for Wolves this season? One of the best squads of any promoted team in recent, if not entire, PL history.


West Ham United: A-
The Hammers have gone all out to back new manager Manuel Pellegrini and although their owners have plenty of critics, they’ve certainly ponied up the cash this summer. Yarmolenko, Lucas Perez and Felipe Anderson will deliver goals and trickery, while Fabianski, Diop and Fredericks strengthen their defense. Add in Jack Wilshere‘s arrival and West Ham’s squad looks more balanced and hungry this season. A push for Europa  League beckons for the Hammers.


Everton: A-
New boys Lucas Digne, Bernard, Yerry Mina, Andre Gomes and Richarlison are quality additions and the main aim for Marco Silva was always going to be to trim his bloated squad. Keeping hold of Jordan Pickford amid plenty of interest after his summer heroics at the World Cup was a positive. They left it late in the window but Everton were the big winners on Deadline Day with Kurt Zouma also close to a move.


Fulham: A-
Another PL new boy with a superb summer window. The Cottagers aren’t messing around and owner Shahid Khan was obviously hurt badly by Fulham getting relegated four years ago to make sure it doesn’t happen again on his watch. Jean Seri was a huge coup, while adding Andre Schurrle, Mitrovic, Chambers and Mawson was great business. On Deadline Day they pushed through deals galore too as Joe Bryan and Sergio Rico arrived, with Fulham looking more likely to challenge for the top 10 than be sucked into a relegation scrap.


Arsenal: B+
A few very good signings for Arsenal and they managed to keep hold of all of their star names. Unai Emery has signed plenty of young, promising players with Mateo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira looking like real steals in central midfield. Emery has also added experience nous in defense with Lichsteiner and Sokratis, with Bernd Leno set to push Petr Cech all the way for the starting spot in goal. Solid, sensible window for Arsenal given how many top attackers they already had at the club.


Chelsea: C+


Yes, they lost Thibaut Courtois. But Chelsea kept hold of Eden Hazard and they brought in Kepa for a world-record fee for a goalkeeper to solidify that position. Adding Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic will help new manager Maurizio Sarri bed in his new philosophy, but the lack of a new striker will be concerning. Unless Alvaro Morata improves drastically in his second season in the PL, Chelsea could struggle to turn their creativity into goals on a consistent basis.


Leicester City: C+
Getting $75 million for Riyad Mahrez was, in the end, a deal which worked out well for everyone and the Foxes reinvested plenty of that cash with seven new players coming in. Caglar Soyuncu, Jonny Evans, James Maddison, Ricardo Perreira and Rachid Ghezzal were the key arrivals and Claude Puel knows his team must get off to a fast start this season.


Crystal Palace: C+
Keeping hold of Wilfried Zaha was always going to be the main aim and Palace managed to do that. Max Meyer, Vicente Guaita and Cheikhou Kouyate arrived with the Eagles ready to build on their superb second half of last season under Roy Hodgson. Steady progress.


Southampton: C+
Losing Dusan Tadic was a blow and although they’ve spent over $65 million, you question whether Mark Hughes‘ squad is stronger than last season. A late move for Danny Ings could salvage their window as they’ve badly need a poacher for some time. Elyounoussi and Vestergaard will both contribute and Angus Gunn is a bright star for the future in goal. A decent window overall, but could have been better.


Brighton & Hove Albion: C
Plenty of incomings for Chris Hughton, but there is a concern about the quality of some of the new signings. Is this a case of quantity over quality for the Seagulls? Yves Bissouma from Lille will be a mainstay in midfield and has impressed in preseason, while Florin Andone will give them extra options in attack. Steady but unspectacular for the South Coast club in their Sophomore season in the PL.


Manchester City: C


They didn’t have to do much, did they? Pep Guardiola fell one signing short as he wanted to bring in a new central midfielder (because, why not?) but Jorginho chose to play for his former manager Sarri at Chelsea, which is understandable, to an extend. Mahrez will add something a little difference to City’s incredibly fluid attacking machine. City still have the best squad in the PL despite a quiet window.


Bournemouth: C
Jefferson Lerma’s club-record arrival late in the window was a bit of a headscratcher for the Cherries, but Eddie Howe‘s dealings have been pretty spot on over the years. The Colombia midfielder is a destructive force, but Bournemouth perhaps lack a little bit of cover in defensive errors. They also brought in David Brooks and Diego Rico in a quiet window overall.


Burnley: C
Did the business they needed to do with Joe Hart coming in, plus Ben Gibson and Matej Vydra arriving late in the window. Will that be enough to strengthen their squad if they reach the Europa League group stage? An average window overall, but they kept all of their stars this summer.


Newcastle: C-
Another window, another headache for Rafael Benitez as he managed to pick up a few new players but the Magpies faithful will be a little upset with owner Mike Ashley once again. Kenedy and Martin Dubravka are back again, while Ki and Salomon Rondon arrived. Fabian Schar and Muto will be intriguing buys, especially the former who should strengthen Newcastle’s defense. Federico Fernandez’s arrival on Deadline Day will further bolster that backline. However, you always feel like Newcastle’s fans are being let down as their club is so attractive in many ways but the ownership just isn’t interested in pumping huge sums of money into the team.


Huddersfield Town: D
Some loan signings from last season have been signed permanently with Lossl and Kongolo arriving. Durm and Mbenza will be intriguing signings but you can’t help but feel that David Wagner‘s side didn’t sign enough attacking players to spruce things up to try and turnaround their poor from the end of their debut PL campaign. Huddersfield will scrap for their lives but they didn’t add real quality in key attacking areas this summer.


Watford: D
Javi Gracia has brought in a few new names and signing Gerard Deulofeu on a permanent basis softens the blow of Richarlison’s departure. New arrivals in defense may not be strong enough and although Watford signed Doucoure to a new deal, it was a window where they didn’t really address their weaknesses.


Manchester United: D-


A really bad window for the Red Devils. There is no other way to put this. Lee Grant, Diogo Dalot and Fred were their only arrivals and they failed to shift on plenty of squad players. It is likely that big European teams will still be in for the likes of Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Marcos Rojo now their window is still open but it’s unlikely United will sell now. Jose Mourinho will not be a happy man after his desperate search for a new center back was unsuccessful.


Cardiff City: D-
Neil Warnock tried his best to wheel and deal but the Bluebirds failed to spend big and instead stayed committed to the players who won them promotion. That’s fair enough. Bobby Reid could be a surprise package up front after his arrival from Bristol City. Harry Arter will be a decent addition from Bournemouth will all of his PL experience in central midfield.


Tottenham Hotspur: D-


The only team in the history of the transfer window to not buy a new player says it all. With Spurs moving to a new stadium you can understand why Daniel Levy was being a little more frugal than usual, but the main issue for Spurs is that they have three star players still at the club who aren’t wanted by Mauricio Pochettino. Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld and Mousa Dembele should be starters but unless they’re sold to other European clubs in the coming weeks they will be at Tottenham and sitting on the sidelines until January. Not a great situation. Nothing wrong with not buying new players if the quality isn’t there.


Top 10 Premier League storylines

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Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for since Manchester City hoisted the Premier League trophy nearly three months ago.

With the Citizens projected favorites to top England again in 2018-19, 19 other clubs will be gunning for Pep Guardiola‘s side.

Will the Manchester giants be able to sustain their brilliance from a season ago? How will some of the other big clubs’ spending cut into the Citizens’ success?

It’s time at Pro Soccer Talk to take a look at 10 of the most pressing storylines heading into the new season, which kicks off on Friday.

WATCH LIVE: Transfer Deadline Day show, August 9 at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com 


1. Is Man City possibly better than last season?

Guardiola and Co. set so many records in 2017-18 it’s honestly hard to keep track of their brilliance. With a squad that already features world-class talents in Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero, what did the Spanish manager decide to do this year? The club added another one of the PL’s top attackers in Riyad Mahrez, which provides the team with a further embarrassment of riches up front.

It’s a tremendous dilemma to have, but how Guardiola manages to fit Aguero, Mahrez, Sane, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and others into regular lineups will likely determine how the club does not just in the PL but in Europe as well.


2. Who challenges the Citizens?

It’s easier said than done to dethrone a champion, and even some of the other big six clubs in England did well to bolster their rosters, it remains to be seen whether or not it will be enough to topple Man City.

Of Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal (last season’s second through sixth-place finishers), the Reds are certainly the biggest winners this offseason with the signings of Fabinho and Naby Keita to upgrade the team’s midfield.

Meanwhile, Spurs has yet to make a signing. Man United is in turmoil between a number of strains with manager Jose Mourinho and several of his players. See, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial. Also, Chelsea and Arsenal each have new managers (which we’ll discuss later).

It’s not impossible for one of these teams, or perhaps a team like Everton, who has gone transfer-happy again this summer, to contend for the title, but for right now, it looks like a two team race at the top with City and Liverpool.


3. Which newcomer(s) shakes up the PL?

Cardiff City, Fulham and Wolves each earned promotion to the top flight earlier this year, and now it is up to them to stay in the PL with the likes of England’s elite.

Both Fulham and Wolves have spent heavily this summer, particularly the latter, who have signed an entire Portuguese contingent led by goalkeeper Rui Patricio, Benfica’s Raul Jimenez (Mexico) and Atletico Madrid attacker Diogo Jota.

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While spending doesn’t always lead to success, it certainly shows initiative from these clubs that they are in it for the long haul, it could very well end up with sustained time in the top division.


4. How does Spurs do with its current squad?

Nobody can question Mauricio Pochettino‘s brilliance as a manager, but at a certain point he and his staff might have to accept the fact that they’ve gone as far as possible with their current squad.

With just a day left in the transfer window, Tottenham has yet to sign a single new player, although Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish remains a coveted asset by the team.

Finishing runners up a season ago probably isn’t a failure when you consider just how good Man City is/was, but Tottenham’s shortcomings in the UEFA Champions League and other club competitions has to make many wonder if they’ve peaked with this roster.

Harry Kane will always score his goals. Heung Min Son, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen are tremendously gifted players in the attacking third. The team boasts a strong back line, led by Toby Alderweireld and Jan Verntonghen.

However, the rest of the PL is only getting stronger, and if Spurs couldn’t get over the hump before, it looks like the team’s ascent towards the top will only get more challenging.


5. Who adjusts better with a new manager; Arsenal or Chelsea?

Last season did not go according to plan for either club, and subsequently changes were made in the managerial department.

For Arsenal, the departure of Arsene Wenger may have been a bit overdue, but the club’s lack of success in 2017-18 cannot be solely attributed to the Frenchman.

Chelsea’s issues with Antonio Conte boiled up rather quickly, despite having won the PL two seasons ago. That led to his sacking this summer, and the arrival of Maurizio Sarri, who has already seemingly won over the players enough to keep the majority of those linked with moves away from Stamford Bridge.

The Blues arguably have more talent, and the squad seems to have bought into Sarri’s approach, which is more “football first” than Conte. The Italian doesn’t focus on the transfer market or any other phases outside of what goes on within the confines of the pitch.

Meanwhile, Unai Emery has inherited a Gunners team that has bulked up in the offseason, particularly on the defensive side of things. Stephan LichtsteinerSokratis Papastathopoulos and goalkeeper Bernd Leno could aid Arsenal massively on the back end, while the club also managed to pick up one of the biggest risers of the summer in Lucas Torreira after a stellar World Cup for Uruguay.


6. Which club steps into the top-6 race?

Everyone knows who the perennial powers are in England, and in most of the five major leagues across Europe, for that matter.

If you’re not named Arsenal, Chelsea, City, Liverpool, Man United or Spurs, your chances of winning the PL are usually quite slim.

Taking Leicester out of the equation during their magical run in 2015-16, only one club has won a PL title in the Premier League era that wasn’t one of those six previously-mentioned teams (Blackburn Rovers in 1994-95).

Clubs have Everton and Leicester have shown a willingness to spend, just as newcomers Fulham and Wolverhampton have done this summer, but long-term success in England is often hard to come by.

The Toffees are probably the safest bet to have a shot at cracking the top six, but then again, that’s a task that’s easier said than done.


7. Is Jose Mourinho on thin ice at Old Trafford?

For as brilliant of a manager as Jose Mourinho is, he certainly has a way of wearing out his welcome.

And in a very quick manner, too.

Instead of giving the requisite praise to Paul Pogba following the player’s World Cup title with France, Mourinho went after his midfielder, calling for him to replicate those performances during the PL season.

While much of what Mourinho said was tame, it makes one wonder why he would go after one of his biggest stars, especially because it has set up a 24-hour period that could see Pogba exiting United for the second time in six years.

The results have been a struggle for Mourinho in PL play since taking over in Manchester, and if he manages to continue to alienate his players it might not be long before he’s looking for another job.


8. Will West Ham take the next step?

Since the conclusion of last season, only Liverpool has spent more money on new players than the Hammers — who have shelled out an astonishing $117 million this window.

It’s easy to forget that this team was seventh just two seasons ago during the club’s final season at Upton Park, however, last season was a bit more of a struggle despite a hefty spending spree that brought in players like Javier Hernandez and Marko Arnautovic.

This summer, the Hammers are at it again, and with bigger names incoming. Andriy Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson could be game-changing additions to the Hammers attack, while Łukasz Fabiański and Jack Wilshere are steady pieces in their own right.


9. Younger faces make push for bigger roles

We’ve seen clubs thrive when using their younger talents. Just take Spurs as an example, with a squad mostly made up of talents under the age of 25.

Now, we’re seeing a bit more of a trend and willingness from managers to give their youngsters a run out in order to prove themselves.

At Man City, it’s Phil Foden. At Chelsea, new manager Maurizio Sarri sees something special in Callum Hudson-Odoi.

In a league where stars are so prevalent, it’s easy to get caught up in the Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah and Eden Hazard hype train, but it’s the next generation of stars that ultimately carries the league going forward, so it’s nice to see these types of players making their way up the pecking order.


10. Tracking the Golden Boot race

We’re at a stage now where there are so many quality goalscorers in the PL that it’s honestly hard to keep track of them all.

And even though Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku and Sergio Aguero are the traditional goalscorers in that category, there are many others, including Mohamed Salah from last season, that are more than capable of winning the Golden Boot.

If Kane can do it again in 2018-19, he’d become the third player in the PL era to win the Golden Boot on three separate occasions, a truly remarkable feat.

Which PL teams were most affected by World Cup?

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With the transfer window ending earlier than usual in England and a number of the Premier League’s top talents just getting back from an altered summer vacation, it’s safe to say the 2018-19 season will be different than most years.

[ MORE: Will Tottenham rue not spending this summer? ]

The World Cup always affects the top leagues across the globe, whether that be in the transfer market or the injury department, so with a short turnaround Pro Soccer Talk decided to take a look at a few of the club’s that will be most affected by the World Cup, which saw France hoist the 2018 edition.


Manchester City

The clear favorites to repeat as PL champions don’t have many things working against them outside of a large portion of their squad having played in Russia.

While some other clubs benefitted from having their players having a summer vacation and time to rest, City had a full compliment of squad members in Russia, including Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho and Kyle Walker.

Players like De Bruyne, Walker and Vincent Kompany, who made deep runs in the World Cup, have had less than a month to prepare for the new PL season, which will really test their physical capabilities over a grueling nine-month season.

Manchester United

For a player like Paul Pogba, the World Cup should have greatly helped the Frenchman’s stock. After all, he did win a World Cup with France — the country’s second in its history.

However, a strained relationship with Jose Mourinho has caused more questions than answers to be raised at Old Trafford, and now with about a day to go in the transfer window the Red Devils could lose one of its biggest stars.

Meanwhile, a similar situation has transpired between Mourinho and Anthony Martial — a teammate of Pogba’s on the French national team. Martial left United’s preseason tour of the U.S. due to family reasons, which left Mourinho displeased with the attacker.

Liverpool

An early exit for Senegal and Egypt might have been the best thing for Liverpool.

With Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah coming off of a hectic season in 2017-18, the Reds’ two biggest stars needed a decent break to reinvigorate themselves for the upcoming PL campaign.

The duo have looked to be in fine form throughout preseason, and while some of their teammates like Dejan Lovren and Jordan Henderson had to deal with lengthy stays in Russia, this Reds side looks a major threat to topping Man City at the top of England.

Fulham

The World Cup helped the promoted sides greatly because it took the attention off the clubs and allowed them to handle their business in the transfer market.

It’s probably unfair to just single out Fulham because Wolves and Cardiff did their fair share of spending as well, but Fulham did a tremendous job to improve itself in every facet of their game.

That includes a deal for Nice midfielder Jean Michael Seri, which could prove to be one of the best pieces of business this summer, after he was linked with moves to several bigger clubs across Europe.