Jesse Lingard

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Would Saul make sense at Man United?

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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?

Man arrested in connection to racist abuse at the Manchester Derby

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A man has been arrested in connection with the racist abuse suffered by Manchester United players on Sunday.

Video shows a man appearing to make monkey gestures and yell “monkey” towards Jesse Lingard and Fred as the latter prepared to take a corner kick in the second half of United’s 2-1 defeat of Man City at the Etihad Stadium.

[ MORE: Recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

Fred was also hit with an object as lighters, a bottle, and other items were thrown at the player.

According to Greater Manchester Police, a 41-year-old man has been “arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order and remains in custody for questioning.”

From gmp.police.uk:

Superintendent Chris Hill of the City of Manchester Division said: “I would like to thank the public for their ongoing support with this incident.

“Racism of any kind has no place in football or our society and I hope this arrest shows that we are taking this matter extremely seriously.

“We will continue to work with Manchester City and Manchester United Football clubs on this incident  and will investigate any other lines of enquiries.”

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the man should never attend a football match again. He may be in for much worse than that.

Player Ratings from Man City 1-2 Manchester United

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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.

Solskjaer reacts to big Manchester Derby win, racial abuse of players

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A Manchester City appeared to make appeared to make racial gestures and yell “monkey” at black players on Manchester United during Saturday’s derby at the Etihad Stadium.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was asked about it after the game, as was Pep Guardiola who said he supports Man City’s strong statement against the incident.

[ MORE: Recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

He said he’s reviewed the incident and was enraged seeing Jesse Lingard and Fred abused.

“I’ve seen it on the video. It’s Jesse and the Fred, and the fella must be ashamed of himself. It’s unacceptable and I hope he won’t be watching any football any more.”

Solskjaer was also asked about the win, which will be a memorable one for good reasons, too, after beating Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the week.

“We’ll remember this,” Solskjaer said on NBCSN after the game. “We looked so dangerous when we get the ball and go forward. Of course we’re playing against the best team in arguably the world. Just the preparation for this game, the way they can change things tactically. It’s not easy to analyze them, but they are unbelievable. To get a result and defend like we did and create as many chances as we did, we should’ve been three or four up.”

Man United show how they can catch up

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MANCHESTER — The way Manchester United tore through Man City, especially in the first half, proved they can close the gap to those challenging for the Premier League title.

For large spells their attacking unit was reminiscent of a scalpel slicing effortlessly through Man City’s buttery defense.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

This season they’ve now beaten four of the five teams above them in Man City, Leicester City, Chelsea and Tottenham and are the only team to take points off Liverpool, as they sit five points off the top four approaching the halfway point.

The main reason they aren’t in the top four is because they’ve dropped points against teams further down the table who sit back and don’t allow them to play the way they want to.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side rose to the big occasion to beat the reigning champions, but was it as simple as that? It’s more about Man United’s style of play and the blueprint put in place and showcased by their swaggering, speedy demolition of Man City.

United are better suited to playing against the better teams with their counter attacks a well-oiled machine and teams who leave them space on the break do so at their peril.

City found that out the hard way as they did just that and the quartet of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Daniel James and Jesse Lingard were unstoppable.

“We could have had more goals and seen the game out. It was a tough win and I think it will help us a lot going forward,” Rashford, the chief architect in Man City’s downfall, said. “That first 30 minutes was terrific and what we played to do, the challenge is if we can do that for 80 or 90 minutes.”

If this was a glimpse into the future for Man United, it is one which proves they can indeed close the gap on Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea and Tottenham ahead of them.

Pep Guardiola admitted afterwards that it is “not possible to control” United’s front four, led by the irresistible Rashford.

“You cannot deny their quality when they run, they defend deep and then James and Rashford on the break…” Guardiola added.

Liverpool’s high-press bullies team. Man City’s ball possession drains opponents. Chelsea’s young attackers dazzle. Tottenham’s power and pace often sees them through.

For Man United the way forward is clear. Launch counters and use pace and quick passing to make the most of mistakes from the opposition. The balance in midfield was also spot on, with Scott McTominay and Fred doing their best to spring counters and support the back four in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

“I was so happy with the way we started the game,” Solskjaer said. “It looked like we would score every time we went forward. We go for the goal, went for the kill if you like… Quick, attacking, flowing football with the right intent.”

Solskjaer has a plan, and that all came to fruition on Saturday at Man City. It proves that progress is being made and Man United are finally making a move in the right direction.

“We’ve worked on it ever since I came to the club because that is Man United,” Solskjaer said when asked bout counter-attacking. “When we win it there is no use on keeping it or putting it back to the goalkeeper if we can play through them, with great intent of passing forwards. I wouldn’t want James, Rashford, Martial or Lingard running at me.”

If their front three stay fit and teams continue to not pay them respect on the counter, the Red Devils will surely come very close to finishing in the top four this season.

Better than that, there’s a clear masterplan. One which works and just needs fine tuning against teams who sit back with 10 men behind the ball.

“Our player get confirmation on the direction we are going,” Solskjaer beamed. “We do look like a Man United team. That is the biggest thing for me.”