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Three things we learned: Chelsea v. Man United

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Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday, with Antonio Conte picking up his second domestic trophy in England in just his second season in charge of the Blues.

[ MORE: Mourinho defends United ]

Eden Hazard‘s first half penalty kick put Chelsea ahead and the Blues weathered a severe second half storm from Jose Mourinho’s United to secure the silverware.

Here’s what we learned from a tense final at sunny Wembley.


MOURINHO’S MAN-MARKING GOES WRONG

It was clear from the first whistle that Jose Mourinho’s plan was to thwart Chelsea’s flair players. It didn’t work and he lost for just the third time in 15 major finals as a manager. Usually being solid and tough to break down has worked well for Mourinho in the past who had never lost a cup final in England before Saturday.

Hazard got on the ball time and time again early on as Ander Herrera couldn’t lock him down with the Belgian wizard twisting and turning past Phil Jones on multiple occasions as he isolated United’s cumbersome center backs all too easily. Olivier Giroud bullied Chris Smalling and Paul Pogba failed to dominate in midfield with Cesc Fabregas and N'Golo Kante winning the battle against Nemanja Matic.

Mourinho is known as a pragmatist and there’s no doubt that Romelu Lukaku being unfit to start in the final played its part in his team selection, but showing Chelsea the kind of respect they did straight from the kick off handed the initiative to Conte’s side. And they took it early and sat back, soaked up pressure and rather easily handled a rigid, predictable attacking display from United.

In the second half Mourinho ditched his man-to-man approach across the pitch (Herrera stopped being a second right back after failing to snuff out Hazard) and United looked like a different team with Marcus Rashford twice denied by Thibaut Courtois and Alexis Sanchez having a goal ruled out, correctly, for being offside. Such was the dominance of United in the second half, it begged a serious question as to why Mourinho handed Conte and Chelsea, his former club, the initiative from the start.

The Special One managed liked the Scared One.


HAZARD ON ANOTHER PLANET AS CONTE ENDS ON A HIGH

Hazard was the match-winner in the FA Cup final and the Belgian magician shrugged off the man-marking exploits of Herrera with ease to lead Chelsea, and Conte, to FA Cup glory.

With rumors swirling, once again, about his future at Chelsea this summer as Conte is almost certain to leave, Hazard, 27, reminded everyone just how good he can be. When he’s on, he’s unplayable. His scampering around the pitch left Mourinho incensed as his team were chasing shadows all game long.

In both the FA Cup semifinal and final Hazard has turned it on to lead Chelsea to another trophy, and the way in which he glides around the pitch, commits defenders into making tackles and leads counter attacks, he is at the perfect club for his style of play.

Whether or not Hazard thinks his future is at Chelsea remains to be seen but in this form a big summer for him with the Belgium national team may well prompt the likes of Real Madrid and PSG to grab him in his prime with just two years left on his current deal at Chelsea.

A man of the match display from Hazard was the main difference between the two teams at Wembley.


PIVOTAL MOMENT SPOT ON FROM REFEREE

When Jones slid in and took out Hazard to give away the pivotal penalty kick midway through the first half, there were calls from many that Jones should’ve been sent off by referee Michael Oliver.

Those calls were wrong and Oliver was spot on to rubber stamp his status as the top referee in the Premier League.

Jones made a genuine attempt to play the ball and due to the rule changes from two years ago, his challenge inside the box should only have yielded a yellow card rather than a red despite denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

The International Football Associations Board (IFAB) announced plenty of subtle changes in the summer of 2016, with the most impactful the removal of the so-called ‘triple-punishment law’ which would see a defender sent off for giving away a penalty kick.

“When a denial of a goalscoring opportunity offense is committed by a defender in the penalty area, the penalty kick effectively restores the goalscoring opportunity so the punishment for the player should be less strong (e.g. a yellow card) than when the offense is committed outside the penalty area. However, when the offense is handball or clearly not a genuine attempt to play or challenge for the ball, the player will be sent off.”

Despite Conte’s uproar on the sidelines, Oliver got the call spot on and the relatively new rules of the game were refereed correctly.

It has to be said that a handball decision against Ashley Young wasn’t given via VAR as the ball looked to have struck his arm and handed Chelsea another penalty kick in the second, but with the United defender so close to the ball when it struck him it wasn’t a terrible call from Oliver and his crew.

They got the pivotal calls correct.

Kane talks social media, calls FA tweet “silly”

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It’s safe to say Harry Kane isn’t exactly a fan of social media after the last few weeks.

England faced a mini uproar when the official Twitter account of the English FA mocked Kane a few weeks ago by joking that he was, as the saying goes, in Chris Smalling‘s pocket. Everyone but Kane has had their say, until today when he finally discussed it.

“I talked to the gaffer about it and all he was saying was, ‘Would other countries do that to their own players?’ Probably not,” said Kane. “The FA tweet was a silly tweet, we all know that. It is something that has gone, it was two weeks ago or whatever it was, I am over it. The gaffer said I was sad, I am focused. I am a guy who gets on with things.”

Kane has expressed his general displeasure towards social media, saying he’s tired of the same old jokes about England’s recent underwhelming performances.

“It is strange, I think it is a mentality thing,” Kane said after the 2-0 win over Watford on Monday. “It is easier these days to maybe banter England players or take the mick out of England players, if we don’t do well in the World Cup it’s, ‘Oh we told you so’. It’s maybe a weaker mentality, but it is what it is, as a team we are focused on what we need to do. We have got to go with a mindset and a belief that we can win, we try and win everything we do and the World Cup is no different. On social media you can get a few people that don’t see eye-to-eye but that is part of fans and opinions.”

The 24-year-old isn’t the only England star receiving criticism of late. Somehow, Raheem Sterling has also spoken about the criticism he’s received, as has Dele Alli.

“Everyone is passionate about their clubs and rightly so,” Kan said, “but as a nation when it comes to the World Cup that is the most important thing is the nation, that’s what comes first.”

Bournemouth 0-2 Man Utd: Red Devils tighten grip on 2nd

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  • United moves to 74 points
  • Smalling scores from Lingard
  • Pogba assists Lukaku
  • Bournemouth remains 11th

Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku scored as Manchester United rebounded from a weekend loss to top Bournemouth 2-0 at the Vitality Stadium on Wednesday.

United moves four points clear of Liverpool and six ahead of Spurs in the race for second, with all three teams having played 34 matches.

Bournemouth sits 11th with 38 points, three back of Newcastle which has played two fewer matches.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Bournemouth was busy in the first 10 minutes, capped by a Phil Jones intervention to thwart a burst by Callum Wilson, and Jordon Ibe’s shot going wide of goal.

United had a top chance through Rashford, who muscled the ball off Nathan Ake and had a rip diverted for a corner by Asmir Begovic.

The goal came moments later, with Smalling darting into the six to meet a feed from Jesse Lingard.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Luke Shaw dodged giving a way a penalty when he wrapped up Wilson on a 56th minute cross.

United made it 2-0 with a classy connection between Pogba and Lukaku, who finished with a deft chop over the sliding Begovic.

Manchester United 0-1 West Brom: Red Devils concede title

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  • Win clinches league for Man City
  • Foster makes key saves
  • Rodriguez scores winner

A shocking Jay Rodriguez goal gave West Bromwich Albion a rain-soaked 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, meaning United cannot catch crosstown rivals Manchester City in the race for the Premier League crown.

It’s a first Premier League title for Pep Guardiola, whose team has 87 points, 93 goals, and a 16-point lead on second place United.

West Brom is dead last in the Premier League, now nine points back of safety with four matches to play. But caretaker manager Darren Moore has picked up a beautiful feather for his cap in Manchester.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Ander Herrera was denied an early penalty off a Romelu Lukaku feed, and United was very much on the front foot against Ben Foster and the Baggies.

Jesse Lingard thought he’d get a penalty for handball in the 64th minute, as the substitute tried to lead a United breakthrough.

Foster made an outstanding slap save on a Lukaku header in the 66th minute, and the Baggies dealt with a pair of ensuing efforts to keep it scoreless.

Lingard hammered a shot that took a slight turn off Chris Brunt, but it wasn’t spotted and West Brom got a goal kick.

Craig Dawson then headed a cross down to the center of the box, where Rodriguez dove to head an opener past David De Gea.

Foster collected a Chris Smalling header at the back post deep into stoppage time.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

England’s evolution: How the Three Lions squad has changed from Brazil to Russia

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Even in the smoldering wreck that was England’s 2014 World Cup performance in Brazil, there was a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

Several of the youngsters included in the World Cup squad were beginning to come into their own, and in the Premier League and select matches for the England National Team, showed flashes of their world class talent. This includes Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Jordan Henderson, all who have developed into important Premier League players for their clubs.

But there were a number of youngsters, and players in their prime, that many would have presumed would be even better four years from then, and would be players England fans could count on at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Ross Barkley. Luke Shaw. Daniel Sturridge. Jack Wilshere. Phil Jones. Chris Smalling. Adam Lallana.

The septet of players, all of whom when fit can be world beaters, have failed to prove they can stay healthy consistantly for their club teams and England, save for Wilshere. But even Wilshere couldn’t stay fit for England’s last two friendly matches.

Then you have the declines of Gary Cahill, Joe Hart and Leighton Baines. Add in the international retirements of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson and this summer’s England World Cup squad will have a much different look. And perhaps that’s a good thing.

After hiring a pragmatist in Roy Hodgson who ultimately saw England fall to Iceland in Euro 2016, Gareth Southgate has taken advantage of his work in the England youth ranks to give plenty of youngsters a chance, ones that weren’t ready yet for the big stage in 2014.

The Tottenham trio of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier are all expected to start in England’s opening match against Tunisia on June 18. Add in Manchester United pair Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford, as well as Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford (and maybe even Nick Pope) and you have an evolution of young players moving up the national team ladder, as well as performing each week for their clubs. And each of those players are 25-years and under.

From England’s lineup against Italy in the Three Lions’ opener at the 2014 World Cup, it appears that just Henderson and Sterling are locked in for starting places in 2018, with Danny Welbeck potentially making the list. But after a succession of veteran-laden tournaments, perhaps a tournament in Russia (not too far from England compared to Brazil) is the best place to throw out a group of youngsters on the field in the England shirt, and see what they can do.

Expectations for England remain grounded, and for good reason considering its last two tournament performances. But with so many fresh young faces, there’s still a chance that, like their counterparts at the Under-20 and Under-17 levels, they can put a run together.

England will certainly miss out on what could have been with Barkley and Sturridge in the attack, Wilshere in midfield, Smalling and Jones along the backline and Shaw bombing down the left. But with the introduction of more young players playing at a high level, this team has the talent to compete at the World Cup, and potentially get out of their group.