Marcos Rojo

Stalemate as Chelsea peg Man United back (video)

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  • Mata put United ahead
  • Alonso equalized
  • Chelsea fourth, United sixth

Manchester United were pegged back by Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday, as the Red Devils and Blues played to a 1-1 draw.

Juan Mata gave United the lead but Marcos Alonso equalized after a huge error from David De Gea to grab a point for Chelsea.

With two games of the Premier League season to go, Chelsea sit fourth on 68 points and United sit in sixth on 65 points, as the top four battle will go down to the wire.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Lukaku had a huge chance early on as Luke Shaw sent in a wonderful pass for the Belgian forward who ran in on goal, but Kepa smothered and saved.

United didn’t have to wait too long after to take the lead, as Mata scored after 10 minutes. Lukaku’s lovely chip played in Shaw who got free in the box and passed across goal, where Mata took his time and stroked home against his former team.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Pogba then glanced a header just wide as United pushed hard for a second, while some tasty challenges flew in from Cesar Azpilicueta and Matteo Kovacic.

Chelsea were then handed a lifeline as Antonio Rudiger‘s shot from distance was spilled by David de Gea (his poor form continues) and Alonso swept home to make it 1-1.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

At the start of the second half neither team grabbed the initiative, and some injuries disrupted the fluidity of the game. Rudiger reinjured his left knee and was replaced, while David Luiz went down, Marcus Rashford was replaced by Alexis Sanchez, Eric Bailly suffered a nasty knock and was replaced, and Kovacic also went down.

When the substitutions were made and played resumed, the speed of play never really returned.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

In stoppage time Marcos Rojo‘s header was cleared off the line by Pedro, while Gonzalo Higuain was denied by De Gea, and that was as close as either team came to scoring in the second half.

Honors even.

How will Man City and Man United line up for critical derby?

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There is as much on the line in Wednesday’s Manchester derby than anyone could have hoped for, and the enormous stakes will only feed the excitement on the pitch.

Whereas these big matches often end in cagey draws in the first half of the season with little incentive for the teams to do anything other than avoid losing, a draw won’t do for either side this time around, and there could be goals on the cards. So with everything on the line, how will these teams line up on the field?

[ MORE: Hudson-Odoi injury renews contract talks ]

There are injuries to consider on both sides. Pep Guardiola confirmed that Kevin De Bruyne will not be available tomorrow for Manchester City after his injury against Tottenham left the rest of his season in doubt. Manchester United, meanwhile, will reportedly be without defender Phil Jones after he was withdrawn in the heavy defeat to Everton last time out. Other than that, both squads are fully healthy minus the long-term injury to City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

The biggest question for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be how to deploy his back line against the vicious Manchester City attack – particularly on the flanks. He left Ashley Young on the bench each of the last two matches, with natural center-backs Victor Lindelof and Marcos Rojo deputizing at full-back, but that experiment could come to an end with Luke Shaw returning from suspension. In Jones’ absence, Rojo or Lindelof could be moved back to the middle, or Solskjaer could bring Eric Bailly back into the fold after failling to see the field in the last two months. The midfield has also been a conglomeration, with the third spot up in the air next to Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic. Fred and Juan Mata have both seen time, but Ander Herrera will be reportedly returning from his injury and could see the field.

[ MORE: Solskjaer hoping for turnaround ]

For Manchester City, Guardiola’s headache will be constructing his midfield without De Bruyne. He has had Fernandinho in and out of the lineup over the last few weeks due to nagging injuries, and it remains to be seen if he utilizes the defensive midfielder to anchor the formation. Ilkay Gundogan has played deeper when Fernandinho has been absent, and he’s played well in that spot, but at times they still seem to be missing a natural anchor, and it was Fernandinho who came in to replace De Bruyne after his injury.


MANCHESTER UNITED

—– De Gea —–

— Dalot — Rojo — Smalling — Shaw —

—- Matic —- Herrera —-

—- Martial —- Pogba —- Rashford —-

—– Lukaku —–


MANCHESTER CITY

—– Ederson —–

— Walker — Stones — Laporte — Zinchenko —

—– Fernandinho —–

—- Gundogan —- Foden —-

— B Silva —- Aguero — Sterling —


How ‘ruthless’ should Solskjaer be at Man United?

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said he is going to be “ruthless” when it comes to ins and outs at Manchester United this summer.

But how ruthless does he have to be?

After a narrow, and undeserved, win against West Ham United on Saturday, Solskjaer admitted that the Hammers got away with one and it once again showed just how much work he has to do at Old Trafford to turn the Red Devils into a genuine force once again.

Here’s a reminder of what United’s new permanent head coach had to say last Friday about potential departures and arrivals this summer.

“It’s going to be survival of the fittest or survival of the best,” Solskjaer said. “That’s how ruthless we have to be.  We need players here who are going to be able to take us forward. That means culture in the dressing room, what we do every single day here to make us challenge again… Liverpool and City are too far head at the moment for what we like. We played against a Barcelona team that sets the standard in European football. We’re under no illusion it’s going to be hard work and there will be some tough decisions made by me, Mick [Phelan] and the club.”

Solskjaer’s task has become a lot tougher now his interim tag has been removed, with the Norwegian coach losing four of his last six games in all competitions and United struggling to make the top four and looking like they will crash out of the UEFA Champions League at Barcelona on Tuesday.

But at least he accepts he must be ruthless, as a whole host of players look set to move on this summer.

Antonio Valencia is leaving at the end of his contract, while Ander Herrera also looks set to leave for PSG and Juan Mata appears to be heading out of the door too. Then there is Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo who both seem set to leave, while Alexis Sanchez and United will both want to move on from a nightmare 18-month spell.

So that’s six first team players potentially on the way out, but only one or two are genuine starters. A bigger overhaul is needed. Here’s a look at where United need to strengthen over the summer, as they also need to sort out David De Gea‘s contract situation very quickly or run the risk of losing him too.


Man United lineup for the 2019-20 season

—– De Gea —–

—- New RB —- New CB —- Lindelof —- Shaw —-

—- New DM —- New DM —- 

—- New AM —- Pogba —- Martial —-

—– Rashford —–


Now, Diogo Dalot can replace Ashley Young as the long-term right back, while Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have been handed new deals at center back, and Eric Bailly is around too, but their limitations have been made clear over the years. A new RB and CB are a must. In central midfield the likes of Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic have all had their ups and downs and that is the main area where United need to strengthen. Going forward, they are pretty set, especially with the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez in reserve. But the main thing here is clear: have a clear-out of squad players this summer and focus on bringing in 3-4 star players.

Which players should be the top targets for United? Solskjaer should aim for young, hungry players who can be at United together for a decade, while some experienced center backs are key. Bur remember: Solskjaer has been keen to promote youngsters from United’s academy whenever he can, so that may also be the route he goes down to freshen things up and Ed Woodward and United’s hierarchy would probably be fine with that given how much money Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have spent over the past five years.

Here’s a look at the players who should be their top priorities:

Watch Live: Manchester United v. West Ham United

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Manchester United and West Ham United both hope to keep season aims alive when they meet at Old Trafford on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Irons are seeking their first league sweep of the Red Devils in over a decade, and will turn to Chicharito to lead the line.

United has a makeshift back four of Diego Dalot, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, and Marcos Rojo.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea, Dalot, Jones, Smalling, Rojo, Mata, Fred, Pogba, Lingard, Lukaku, Martial. Subs: Romero, Darmian, Lindelof, Andreas, McTominay, Greenwood, Rashford.

West Ham United: Fabianski, Zabaleta, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Masuaku, Rice, Noble, Snodgrass, Lanzini, Anderson, Chicharito. Subs: Adrian, Diop, Fredericks, Obiang, Diangana, Holland, Antonio

PL Preview: Manchester United v. West Ham

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
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  • Irons won 3-1 at Old Trafford
  • United defense is suspension-, injury-hit
  • Man Utd leads all-time 65W-31D-44L

West Ham United seeks its first league sweep of Manchester United since 2006-07 when the Irons visit Old Trafford on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

How bad is Manchester United’s injury and suspension status out wide? Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said, “We don’t have full-backs this week.”

So that’s music to the ears of Felipe Anderson and the West Ham attackers, as Manuel Pellegrini‘s side hopes to make an unlikely climb into the Europa League.

Meanwhile, United has to balance its desire to finish Top Four — they enter the weekend three points back of fourth-place Spurs — with preparation and freshness for its UEFA Champions League second leg at Barcelona next week.

What th ey’re saying

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: “We don’t have fullbacks this week. Not too many as we’ve lost Luke and Ashley through suspension. Antonio Valencia is still not fit. Maybe Matteo Darmian will be available for the bench and Marcos Rojo has been training for a while. He’s available and we’ve got Jonah (Phil Jones), who could also play there. Rojo needed to get out on the big pitch (in the Under-23s, against West Brom last Friday) so he could have that game but we’ve had a couple of practice matches so let’s see what we decide.“

West Ham captain Mark Noble: “We’re looking forward to going to Manchester United on Saturday. We were encouraged by our second-half performance at Stamford Bridge, it’s our last away game outside London and if we can reproduce the sort of performance we produced at home back in September, when we beat them 3-1, then no one will be more delighted than me. Our main worry is that, away from home, we’ve scored just one goal since this year.”

Prediction

Goals on both sides of a 2-2 draw which leaves both sides a bit perturbed with their performances.