Timothy Fosu-Mensah

Getty Images

Manchester United, Arsenal both desperate at Old Trafford

Leave a comment

Two teams with Top Four expectations meet sitting mid-table in an Old Trafford clash on Monday at 3 p.m. ET live on NBCSN and live online at NBCSports.com.

There is a different feeling surrounding this meeting of bitter Premier League enemies. They are both immeasurably desperate.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Unai Emery are in very precarious positions as they guide two fallen giants hoping to avoid further depths of despair. A loss here could doom one of these squads to a long, hard season of little gain, while a draw would confirm the equal plights of both rival clubs that long for a return to glory that seems so far out of reach.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ] 

The future is now for Manchester United, as Mason Greenwood could see his first Premier League start with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial both sidelined with injuries. Paul Pogba‘s status is questionable thanks to an ankle injury he re-aggrivated midweek in cup action, the same ailment bothering Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette who will likely miss out. The Gunners will, however, have Kieran Tierney available for selection having yet to make his Premier League debut.

Injuries/suspensions

Man United: OUT – Marcus Rashford (hip), Anthony Martial (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (knee). QUESTIONABLE – Paul Pogba (ankle).
Arsenal: OUT – Alexandre Lacazette (ankle), Emile Smith-Rowe (concussion).


Projected Lineups:

Man United: De Gea; Shaw, Lindelof, Maguire, Wan-Bissaka; McTominay, Matic, Mata; James, Greenwood, Pereira.

Arsenal: Leno; Tierney, Luiz, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles; Xhaka, Guendouzi; Saka, Ceballos, Pepe; Aubameyang.


What they’re saying

Man United manager Solskjaer on struggles thus far: “You evaluate every single game and look through the games, but I’m not doubting myself, no. If I doubt myself, then the rest of the world would as well. We have loads of discussions, so we believe in what we’re doing.”

Arsenal manager Emery on rivalry:  “Each match when I watched in Spain, Arsenal v Manchester United, Manchester United v Arsenal, was a special moment. I think Monday at eight o’clock, all around the world, if someone wants to watch a football match, it’s this one. We really want to play matches where we can do something important. We are preparing well. The players are wishing to play the next match – we know it’s a very big opportunity for us to get three points.”


Three key battles

  1. Daniel James v. Ainsley Maitland-Niles – The young Arsenal right-back was sent off last time out against Aston Villa with two yellow cards, and should he get a chance to start and redeem himself, he will need to bounce right back against one of the more in-form wingers in the league. Daniel James has been one of the few bright spots in attack for Manchester United this season, and Maitland-Niles will have his hands full. Should Emery decide against going with the 22-year-old at right-back, he could give Hector Bellerin a chance to return to favor, leading even more intrigue to this matchup on the Manchester United left flank.
  2. Dani Cabellos v. Nemanja Matic – Manchester United fans won’t be worried about Scott McTominay holding his own in front of the Red Devils back line, as the 22-year-old has been fantastic for the club since earning a starting place in the middle of last year. Instead, if Cabellos is to trouble the Man United midfield it will likely be at the expense of Nemanja Matic who has looked off the pace at times this season, both on the ball and off it. If Cabellos gets a hold of the midfield and has room to make magic, the Manchester United back line could be forced to pick up the slack, which means good news for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who would clean up the scraps.
  3. Mason Greenwood v. David Luiz/Sokratis – The 17-year-old Manchester United striker has earned praise from all corners of Red Devil land for his performances in other competitions, and it is time for his first Premier League start. The Arsenal defense, meanwhile, hasn’t done much to cover itself in glory this season, and that could mean a feast for the teenager at the Theater of Dreams. Will Greenwood reward the faith Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has shown in his young talent?

Prediction

These two teams are hungry for a result, and when desperate sides meet, the neutrals benefit from what could likely become an electric affair. Goals and big moments are to be expected, and that makes for an exciting matchup. Ultimately the fear of losing could outweigh the glory of victory, which could lead to a lack of attacking mentality late, but I like Arsenal to shock the hosts in their fortress thanks to the host of injuries Manchester United is dealing with at the moment; the loss of Paul Pogba is more troubling than most Red Devil fans care to admit. Look for Dani Cabellos to shine as Arsenal takes it in an exciting 2-1 affair that goes down to the wire with Mason Greenwood finding the back of the net in a losing effort.

PL Sunday preview: Man Utd and Arsenal chase top five; Chelsea host Liverpool

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures is filled up to the brim of top-six sides in action, as Manchester United and Arsenal look to climb into the top five in the table, while Chelsea looks to send a strong message as they host leaders Liverpool.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

West Ham vs. Manchester United — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Aside from leaders Liverpool, there is no other team in the league experiencing such a positive run as West Ham. The Hammers are unbeaten in their last four bouts – wining twice and drawing twice – as they head into Sunday’s showdown against Manchester United. Equal with five other sides with eight points, Manuel Pellegrini is conscious that it’s the ideal time to make a statement and climb into the top six.

“We have a very strong team in front of us, it will be a strong test against United. It is the only way we can get into the top six, demonstrating you are able to do it,” Pellegrini said heading into Sunday.

As for the Red Devils, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side – who share the podium with West Ham – are looking to extend their current winning form to three games. Ahead of the game, however, the talk surrounding United isn’t Sunday’s game, but Paul Pogba‘s rumored move to Real Madrid this summer. What a better way to get everyone’s mind of theoretical situations and injury worries than with a win.

INJURIES: West Ham — OUT: Michail Antonio (hamstring), Arthur Masuaku (suspended) | Manchester United —OUT: Anthony Martial (thigh), Paul Pogba (back), Luke Shaw (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (knee)

Crystal Palace vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 9 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Not many expected it: Wolves winless throughout the first five games of the season. That, however, is the reality for a team that finished seventh last season. By now, Wolverhampton Wanderers have had plenty of time to pick up on the alarm bells, it’s time for them to respond.

Manager Nuno Espírito Santo, for instance, knows that it’s time for his side to get back into shape before it’s too late.

“This is important,” he said. “We face the reality and the reality says we not performing well so we have to analyse it and find solutions in the team to improve. We must react immediately. We have to take decisions and find solutions for the team because we have to come out of this situation and improve our performance so we can bounce back.”

Crystal Palace, on the other hand, are dealing with adversity of their own after falling to Tottenham Hotspur, 4-0, last week. Playing at Selhurst Park this time around should be a positive, but Palace has only managed to score a goal in three matches in front of their home crowd this season.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace — OUT: None | Wolverhampton Wanderers — OUT: None

Arsenal vs. Aston Villa — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Arsenal have had several things going for them this season: scoring at home, positive first Europa League performance, a healthy and productive Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, among others. One thing they’ve been missing, though, is an effective Nicolas Pepe, especially after shelling record-money for the 24-year-old Ivorian.

“He needs more adaptation,” Emery said in his pre-match press conference. “He is playing good but progressively we know there is going to be more performance in him to help us and I want to do now quickly the last step in the adaptation for us, for example, against Aston Villa.”

With Alexandre Lacazette still out with an ankle injury, Pepe, again, will have the opportunity to showcase his true worth to a packed Emirates Stadium. Arsenal, too, can use his skill to get that much closer to three, vital points.

“When will Aston Villa finally break out of their shell?” is the million-dollar question for the visitors. At times, the newly promoted side has shown the flair that made it so powerful in the Championship last season, only to leave spectators on the edge of their seats, waiting for that final blow. In North London on Sunday, Dean Smith and Co. have the chance to do so with several players back in the mix, but that’s not to say the task will be a walk in the park.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Alexandre Lacazette (ankle) | Aston Villa — OUT: James Chester (thigh), Jonathan Kodjia (cheek)

Chelsea vs. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Liverpool, like Chelsea, suffered opening losses in European play midweek; however, there is a different, more positive impetus fueling Jurgen Klopp‘s side. The defending Champions League winners’ immaculate record speaks volume to their current situation, one that’s biggest setback has been the aforementioned loss to Napoli and the injury to goalkeeper Allison, while regaining influential player Nabi Keita in trainings.

It begs to ask: with Manchester City already behind and several top-six sides struggling, how will Liverpool not runaway with the league title this season? That type of talk, however, is exactly what Klopp doesn’t want to hear. The season is green – very, ver green – and this season, for one reason or another, is nothing like last year’s.

“Nothing is won already,” Klopp said. “We have seen teams make big steps. There is nobody you think will go down with no points. Watford and Wolves have been at the bottom, struggling, but will end up going back up. The league is much different (to last season). So many things can happen. Five games is nothing, not even created a basis…”

Klopp’s counterpart on Sunday, Frank Lampard, as a result of his own environment, is managing a different dialogue ahead of the clash, like the possibility of fielding Mason Mount, who came off midweek against Valencia in Champions League play.

On the bright side, Chelsea are unbeaten in their last four league bouts, and have a game against Liverpool under their belts this season already – a penalty-shootout loss in the UEFA Super Cup – that should have seasoned them ahead of this season’s part two of the rivalry.

“Times have changed slightly, but it doesn’t change that feeling,” Lampard said on the Chelsea-Liverpool rivalry. “I think the fans feel it, the players feel it, it does involve a lot of passion whenever it’s played. If your levels aren’t there it’s a game that can get away from you quickly so my first thing to say to the players is to make sure they feel this game, recognise what it is, because it always does have an edge.”

INJURIES: Chelsea OUT: Antonio Rüdiger (groin), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (achilles), Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James (both fitness) | Liverpool  OUT: Alisson (calf), Nathaniel Clyne (knee)

Premier League Preview: Southampton v. Man Utd

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Leave a comment

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.

Bailly injury announcement overshadows Man Utd win

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester United defeated Norwegian side Kristiansund in Oslo on Tuesday, but the winning performance came with a dose of bad news.

Eric Bailly, injured last week against Tottenham Hotspur, is set to miss 4-5 weeks after surgery.

[ USWNT: Ellis stepping down ]

Juan Mata won and converted a stoppage time penalty for United, who provided Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a winning match in his home country.

Solskjaer split his starters and subs evenly in the victory.

But it’s difficult not to question United’s center back depth as Bailly suffers another spell on the sidelines. United has been heavily linked with a world record bid for Harry Maguire, but so far has almost the same CB corps as last season: Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof, Axel Tuanzebe, and the ailing Bailly (Timothy Fosu-Mensah is back from his Fulham loan).

Reports: Man United nears Wan-Bissaka deal as fee agreed with Palace

Getty Images
1 Comment

According to widespread reports, including the BBC, Sky Sports, and ESPNFC, Manchester United and Crystal Palace have neared completion of a deal for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and the player is set to complete a medical and finalize a move worth $57 million with another $6.3 million of add-ons.

The 21-year-old Wan-Bissaka will reportedly sign a five-year contract with an option for a sixth year, leaving him under Manchester United control until he is in his prime at 27 years old. He will reportedly undergo a medical within the next 24 hours and become the second Manchester United signing of the summer after Daniel James of Swansea put pen to paper two weeks ago.

According to reports, Wan-Bissaka’s wages will explode at Manchester United, set to earn $5.3 million a year. The increase is significant after coming from Crystal Palace where he was the lowest earning first-team player making under $700,000 a year.

The deal took significant time to complete, with Crystal Palace rejecting a pair of Manchester United bids worth $44 million and $51 million. Palace was most concerned with the amount of deferred and add-on payments, wanting more up front which Manchester United executive Ed Woodward eventually conceded to.

Wan-Bissaka, a Crystal Palace youth product, was a workhorse for the club last season, starting all but three Premier League matches and completing the full 90 minutes in all but one of those starts. The youngster joins a Manchester United squad thin at full-back, with just Luke Shaw, Diogo Dalot, Matteo Darmian, Ashley Young, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, and Timothy Fosu-Mensah at the position.

The 21-year-old was on duty with the England youth squad at the U-21 Euros, but made a mistake in the opening match, scoring an own-goal that led to a late 2-1 defeat to France. He was then sat for the next two matches by head coach Andy Boothroyd, who admitted his decision to bench the youngster partially had to do with the transfer. “For a young player who all he knows is Crystal Palace academy and Crystal Palace it would be daft not to say that in some way he must think about it,” Boothroyd said after England’s early exit from the tournament in the group stage. “When that speculation is flying around it is bound to turn your head. But having said all of that had he not scored the own goal we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.”