Matteo Darmian

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Watch Live: Man United v. Man City, Wolves v. Arsenal

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The Theatre of Dreams is ready for another round of Manchester madness.

The Manchester derby is upon us, with both teams salivating at the prospect of a full three points off their rivals aiding them in their quest for Premier League glory. Manchester City can move back atop the Premier League table with a win, while Manchester United is hoping to gain ground on Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham in the battle for the Champions League places.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has surprisingly opted for a three-at-the-back formation, handing starts at central-defense to giving Matteo Darmian his first start since December while leaving Romelu Lukaku on the bench. Pep Guardiola has countered by handing Fernandinho his second straight start after injury troubles over the past month, while Ilkay Gundogan and David Silva are preferred to young Phil Foden. John Stones doesn’t make the squad, with Nicolas Otamendi on the bench to back up starters Vincent Kompany and Aymeric Laporte.

Meanwhile, Arsenal has a chance to stake its top four claim as well, traveling to Wolves. Unai Emery is without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who required a small sinus procedure and is out for the match, while Sokratis comes back into the defensive unit after serving his suspension. Wolves has Leander Dendoncker back into the lineup, replacing young Morgan Gibbs-White.

Both Arsenal and Manchester United currently sit outside the top four, but today represents their game in hand, and they can both gain significant ground. Arsenal can jump into the top four by leaping Chelsea with a win, while Manchester United could potentially pull level with the Blues on points, needing a six-goal margin to draw level on differential.


Wolves v. Arsenal — 2:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Wolves: Patricio, Bennett, Coady, Boly, Doherty, Dendoncker, Moutinho, Neves, Jonny, Jota, Jimenez
Bench: Ruddy, Cavaleiro, Costa, Gibbs-White, Saiss, Vinagra, Traore.

Arsenal: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Torreira, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Ozil, Iwobi, Lacazette
Bench: Cech, Elneny, Mustafi, Guendouzi, Kolasinac, Nketiah, Willock.


Manchester United v. Manchester City — 3:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Manchester United: De Gea, Young, Darmian, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw, Fred, Pereira, Pogba, Rashford, Lingard.
Bench: Romero, Dalot, Matic, Martial, Mata, Sanchez, Lukaku.

Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Kompany, Laporte, Zinchenko, Gündoğan, Fernandinho, B. Silva, D. Silva, Sterling, Aguero.
Bench: Muric, Danilo, Otamendi, Foden, Mahrez, Sane, Jesus.

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:

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.

Lukaku to join Man United’s summer exodus?

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Romelu Lukaku could be joining the summer exodus at Old Trafford.

With Alexis Sanchez, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, David De Gea and Marcos Rojo linked with moves, plus Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian out of contract, Manchester United’s star forward is the latest to be linked with a move away.

His representatives have hardly quashed talk of a transfer this summer.

Lukaku, 25, has lost his starting role to Marcus Rashford in recent weeks, with Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard impressing in wide areas under new permanent boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Speaking to our partners at Sky Sports, Federico Pastorello revealed that Lukaku is ‘very open’ to a move this summer.

“At the moment he is very focused on finishing the season,” Pastorello said. “The competition for third and fourth place in England is very tight so let’s see what will happen in the future at the end the season. It’s his second season here and he will still have three years on his contract until the end. Let’s see. He’s someone who loves to know a different culture, a different football.”

“He sees a way to have a career playing in different countries because he would like to win some trophies and prove himself and say to his children ‘I won there and I won there and I won there’ and ‘I was a very good player in all the top championships’ so let’s see, the future is really very open but, at the moment, we don’t discuss about that because really the season is in a big moment.”

Talking about those different countries and culture, Pastorello went on to confirm that Lukaku is interested in playing in Italy, Spain and Germany, and the former is a real option as Serie A is a league he grew up watching. Yet there was also a comment that he appreciates Solskjaer bringing him into the team when he can, as Lukaku how now started seven of United’s last 10 games in all competitions.

But does he have a future at Old Trafford? As a starter, probably not.

Lukaku arrived from Everton in the summer of 2017 with huge expectations on his shoulders and with 42 goals in 90 appearances in all competitions he has delivered plenty of goals. But his all-round play has been criticized time and time again, and with Rashford flourishing in the central role and Solskjaer’s tactics setting United to be a counter-attacking team, it’s clear Lukaku doesn’t really suit that style.

If he leaves United this summer, Lukaku will leave having scored close to one goal every other game, plus winning the League Cup and Europa League. Not a bad haul. United may struggled to get close to the $97 million they paid Everton two years ago for him, but getting around $65-70 million should be doable.

With young talent earmarked to come in under Solskjaer’s watch, the likes of Jadon Sancho, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Declan Rice have all been mentioned as possible arrivals and getting a large chunk of cash for Lukaku while they can wouldn’t be the worst piece of business United could do given their other attacking options.

Maybe a club like Bayern Munich, who are rebuilding their squad and have an ageing Robert Lewandowski to rely on up front, would be a good fit for Lukaku…

PL Sunday preview: Liverpool in chase mode; Arsenal v. Man Utd

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By the time Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures is complete, nearly all 20 clubs will have played 30 games in the 2018-19 season, signaling the official start of the run-in.

[ MORE: What did we learn on a wild PL Saturday? (video) ]

From the title, to the top-four, to the relegation battle, there’s still so much left to play for…

Liverpool v. Burnley — 8 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

From runaway PL title leaders and favorites, to staring a four-point deficit — with a game in hand, albeit — square in the face, the last two months have been anything but ideal for Liverpool. It’s not as if Jurgen Klopp‘s side has cratered and even lost a single game, so much as Manchester City have regained their brilliant, historic form of last season (three points dropped from their last 11 games) and managed to capitalize on the Reds drawing four of their last six. When 17th-place Burnley visit Anfield on Sunday, Klopp and Co., will have their hands full against increasingly desperate opponents who now sit just two points and one place clear of the relegation zone. There can be no looking ahead to Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League clash with Bayern Munich (0-0 after the Reds’ home leg).

As for the Clarets, Sean Dyche‘s side was the very definition of up-and-down since mid-January: three draws, followed by two wins, followed by two losses most recently. Prior to starting their potentially season-saving run just before the start of 2019, Burnley sat 19th in the PL table. After winning three straight to start the new year and eventually extending their run to eight games unbeaten (five wins), they had risen as high as 14th. Back-to-back defeats to fellow relegation battlers Newcastle United and Crystal Palace have since dropped them back into perilous danger as they head northwest to take on one of the Europe’s most prolific, irresistible sides on Sunday.

INJURIES: Liverpool —  OUT: Joe Gomez (ankle), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Dejan Lovren (hamstring) | Burnley — OUT: Aaron Lennon (knee), Steven Defour (calf), Jonathan Walters (achilles)


Chelsea v. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 10:05 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Maurizio Sarri‘s debut season in the PL has been one he, and many Chelsea fans alike, would like to forget. And yet, it’s the sixth-place Blues — of the three teams currently jockeying for fourth place — who control their own destiny, due to having a game in hand and trailing the Champions League places by just two points. Sunday’s opponent, sixth-place Wolves, will be anything but a pushover, which they demonstrated the first time these sides met this season: Wolves 2-1 Chelsea, in December.

Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota inspired Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side to the comeback victory at Molineux Stadium, and the prolific duo (17 goals and nine assists between them this PL campaign) will be desperate to complete the unlikely double over such a giant in their first top-flight season in eight years. Against all odds, it’s Wolves who have lost just once in their last seven league games (four wins), and the Blues who have lost three of their last six (three wins) and suffered a frustrating slide down the table. With a six-point advantage over 11th-place Everton, and Sunday’s game in hand, Wolves are merely a handful of results away from mathematically securing a top-half finish with plenty of the season still to run.

INJURIES: Chelsea —  OUT: None | Wolves — OUT: Ryan Bennett (suspension)


Arsenal v. Manchester United — 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com

The leading contestants for a top-four finish are set to face off in a titanic clash at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, with the added bonus of making a real push to catch and surpass a Tottenham Hotspur side suddenly spiraling out of control. Man United moved to within three points of Tottenham with their comeback victory over Southampton last weekend, only for those very Saints to do the Red Devils a massive favor on the back end: handing Spurs their third loss in four games.

Three points won’t come easy on Sunday, however, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side was pushed to its limits in the Champions League on Wednesday, only securing their passage to the quarterfinals in the 93rd minute against Paris Saint-Germain. Further complicating matters, United find themselves in the midst of something of an injury crisis (see below). On the bright side, Paul Pogba will be fit and fresh after missing Wednesday’s game due to suspension. On the brightest of bright sides, United remain unbeaten in 12 league games (10 wins) since Solskjaer took over for Jose Mourinho in mid-December.

Arsenal, on the other hand, will be considerably fatigued themselves after losing to Rennes in the Europa League on Thursday, and playing nearly 50 minutes with just 10 men. With dwindling hope of lifting the final trophy still in play for the Gunners, Unai Emery‘s main objective has become exceedingly clear: get the club back into the Champions League for the first time in three years. Three points would not only send Arsenal two points clear of United for fourth, but would also trim the gap between themselves and Spurs to just a single point with eight games left to play.

INJURIES: Arsenal —  OUT: Lucas Torreira (suspension), Hector Bellerin (knee), Danny Welbeck (ankle), Rob Holding (knee) | Man United — OUT: Alexis Sanchez (knee), Jesse Lingard (hamstring), Juan Mata (hamstring), Antonio Valencia (calf); QUESTIONABLE: Anthony Martial (groin), Nemanja Matic (leg), Ander Herrera (hamstring), Phil Jones (illness), Matteo Darmian (undisclosed)