Chris Smalling

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Serie A roundup: Roma hold off Napoli; Juventus remain leaders (video)

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Roma’s victory over Napoli highlight Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Roma 2-1 Napoli

On Saturday, at Stadio Olimpico, when Roma found themselves up 2-0 on Napoli, the game came to a pause. Referee Gianluca Rocchi made the decision to grab the ball and blow the whistle in the second half after Roma fans aimed racist chants at Napoli.

After a few minutes, the game resumed, and eventually, Hirving “Chucky” Lozano’s darting ball into the box would find Arkadiusz Milik, who extended his scoring run to four matches.

The first half had it all.

Nicolo Zaniolo opened the scoring, when his left-footed strike zoomed past Alex Meret and into the top-right corner of the goal. The 20-year-old has now scored three league goals in 11 matches. Shortly after, VAR granted Roma a penalty after concluding that Jose Callejon contacted the ball with his arm inside the box when pressured by Chris Smalling. Aleksandar Kolarov‘s penalty, however, was denied by Meret, who recorded four saves throughout the 90 minutes.

Napoli were persistent and came close several times. Giovanni di Lorenzo was denied at the goal line by a full-extended Smalling. In a matter of seconds, the visitor’s struck the woodwork twice, once by header from Milik, which was subsequently followed by a first-time volley from distance that also rattled the bar.

I Giallorossi would get a second chance from the spot in the second half. And this time they didn’t squander it.

Javier Pastore, who zipped through Napoli’s backline, saw his lofting cross crash into Fabian Ruiz’s arm. A penalty was awarded, and Jordan Veretout – on loan from Fiorentina – opened his Roma account, which ended up being the game-winning goal.

Up next for Roma, who moved to third and are only behind Inter Milan and Juventus, take on Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Europa League midweek. Napoli, on the other hand, host Red Bull Salzburg on Tuesday and aim to remain perfect in Group E of the Champions League.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Tornio 0-1 Juventus

Bologna 1-2 Inter Milan

Victor Lindelof signs new five-year contract at Manchester United

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Manchester United has signed Victor Lindelof to a new five-year contract that runs through the summer of 2024, with the option for a further year, Manchester United confirmed on Wednesday.

The 25-year-old Swedish international has been a rock at the back for the Red Devils since joining in the summer of 2017. He started just 17 matches in his first season with the club as Jose Mourinho integrated the then- but earning a consistent starting spot the following campaign and making 30 starts in 2018. Lindelof has started and played the full 90 minutes in each of Manchester United’s first five matches this season with two clean sheets, partnering well with new arrival Harry Maguire.

[ MORE: Premier League underrated XI ]

As reported by David McDonnell of The Mirror back in August, Lindelof’s deal is worth around $187,000 per week, about double what he was making previously. His old deal was set to expire in two seasons, leaving this extension in line with common timing for a player in his prime to sign a new contract.

“Since the day I arrived at United it has felt like home,” Lindelof said in the official announcement. “I have grown significantly both as a player and as a person in the last two years and for that I am grateful to everyone at the club for their help and support. I love playing football and my aim now is to help the team to win trophies and repay the fans for their unrivaled support.”

Lindelof arrived at Old Trafford from Benfica for $39 million, one of three big money center-backs that Manchester United has purchased in the last four years alongside Eric Bailly and Maguire. With Chris Smalling departing for Roma, Bailly going down injured, and the lack of consistent form from Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones, Lindelof has emerged as one of United’s most consistent defensive presences.

The defender’s extension comes just two days after the signing of goalkeeper David de Gea to a long-term contract of his own.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan moves to Roma

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan will get a fresh start at AS Roma.

Mkhitaryan, 30, has agreed to a season-long loan move to Italy, as he will join Roma on deadline day in Europe.

Per reports, Roma have an option to buy Mkhitaryan from Arsenal at the end of the 2019-20 season.

He has a contract with the Gunners until the summer of 2021 and has played in three of Arsenal’s four Premier League games so far, but Unai Emery obviously believes he isn’t needed this season.

The Armenian international arrived at Arsenal from Man United in January 2018 in an outrageous swap deal for Alexis Sanchez. That swap hasn’t worked out for either club, as Mkhitaryan scored six goals and added four assists in 25 Premier League appearances last season. Previously he’d won the League Cup and Europa League with Man United, but he just hasn’t taken to life in the PL and often drifts in and out of games. After starring for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, Mkhitaryan couldn’t replicate that form in England.

With Dani Ceballos and Nicolas Pepe arriving this summer, youngsters Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock breaking through, plus Mesut Ozil still around and returning to fitness, it was unlikely Mkhitaryan would have played much for the Gunners this season.

Roma have reshaped their squad this summer after failing to reach the UEFA Champions League and Mkhitaryan joins Chris Smalling as a loanee from the Premier League.

Paulo Fonseca’s side will be up there in the top four battle in Serie A and Mkhitaryan is likely to get plenty of minutes, at the very least in the UEFA Europa League, for Roma.

Man Utd: Smalling, Darmian seal Serie A moves

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Manchester United is waving goodbye to a pair of defenders, and only may eventually come back to Old Trafford.

Chris Smalling is off to AS Roma on loan, while Matteo Darmian will join Parma for an underwhelming $1.7 million (according to Sky Sports).

[ MORE: UEL group stage draw ]

Those Man Utd salaries have made from less than ideal transfer situations for the Red Devils. While Romelu Lukaku did fetch $90 million from Inter Milan, Alexis Sanchez joined the same Serie A side for an alarmingly low loan fee (reportedly).

Here’s Solskjaer on Smalling’s move to a fellow Europa League side. From ManUtd.com:

“At the moment we’ve got six center backs and it’s just something that popped up in the last couple of days. Chris fancied the chance to go over there; it’s a new experience, new adventure. He’ll come back better for it because it’s a big club, it’s a good league. There aren’t too many English players who have been playing in Italy so I think he’ll enjoy it.”

Whether United is able to bring in some free agent or budget savvy moves like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it’s pretty clear that chairman Ed Woodward (and maybe Solskjaer) believes the club is not ready for a Top Four challenge but has the strength to compete for continued UEL berths via blooding plenty of young depth.

Premier League Preview: Southampton v. Man Utd

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Saints and Red Devils will battle for the high ground on Saturday at St. Mary’s (Watch live at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Southampton’s three points have them in the drop zone, thanks to half of the table holding 1-1-1 records. That half includes Manchester United.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Manchester United will have neither Luke Shaw nor Anthony Martial on Saturday, the latter a huge problem considering he’s been the club’s top performer this season.

And with the Red Devils having sanctioned a pair of Serie A loan moves for Chris Smalling and Alexis Sanchez, the bench is going to look a little different this week.

Saints have injuries, too, as depth will be tested for both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralph Hasenhuttl.


Injuries/suspensions

Southampton — OUT: Nathan Redmond, Moussa Djenepo. UNLIKELY: Michael Obafemi. QUESTIONABLE: Ryan Bertrand.

Man Utd — OUT: Shaw, Martial, Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly, Timothy Fosu-Mensah.


What they’re saying

Saints manager Hasenhuttl eyes progress“I think the team is building up self-confidence now, after that difficult start, with difficult games. We had a very good performance against Liverpool, but with no points after two games, and now we have turned the table a little bit and we can make a massive step now when we take three points against Man United.”

United boss Solskjaer on possible Zlatan return: “Who knows, he knows my number, he looked at my house [to rent]. We can speak a native language, if he’s serious I’ll always speak to Zlatan. I don’t think that’ll happen, no. I think he’s had his time at the club, he’s had a fantastic career at the club.”


Projected lineups

Southampton: Gunn — Danso, Vestergaard, Yoshida, Bednarek, Valery — Hojbjerg, Romeu, Ward-Prowse — Ings, Adams.

Manchester United: De Gea — Young, Lindelof, Maguire, Wan-Bissaka — McTominay, Pogba, Mata — James, Rashford, Lingard.


Prediction: United has been terribly unfortunate this season, but at some point the Red Devils have to let the rubber meet the road in terms of results. It won’t be easy at Southampton, but the lack of Redmond and Djenepo may force Hasenhuttl to play it safe. That sounds like 1-0 United to us. For the entertainment of it, let’s hope somebody scores early.