Kyle Bonn

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Woodward insinuates new contracts at Man United down to transfer struggles

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Ed Woodward rarely speaks publicly as he leads Manchester United through a season of struggles, but his most recent words have given further ammunition to those who criticize the squad talent level.

Speaking after the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa while piled more pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Woodward was asked about the multitude of new contracts given to players at Manchester United rather than attempting to upgrade positions of weakness. His answer seemed to admit transfer window failings and that contract extensions were fallback options.

“It’s hard enough to get three players done in a transfer window,” Woodward said. “To get six or seven done is extremely difficult if you are getting proper talent. If you choose to churn every player because they are not good enough and you’re not extending contracts, you are putting yourself at risk of execution. Sometimes you have to take a broader view.”

Manchester United has signed players like Phil Jones, Andreas Pereira, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, and Ashley Young were all extended in the past calendar year, and all those players have at times heard noise about their Red Devils’ futures. Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo also received new contracts last fall. The club has also given extensions to David De Gea, Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay, and Victor Lindelof, although those players have been far less criticized for their performances on the pitch.

It doesn’t help that the few players offloaded this summer have performed well overseas, as Romelu Lukaku has built a strong partnership with Lautaro Martinez at Inter Milan while Chris Smalling has helped Roma to one of the best defenses in Serie A.

“It’s a multi-year squad evolution analysis,” Woodward said, seeming to brush squad decisions off as more than just the struggles faced this season.

Marco Silva says all he can do is plug along at Everton

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Everton manager Marco Silva says that speculation around his job status is left to those who have opinions, and all he can do is continue to press forward at Goodison Park.

The Toffees slumped to a 2-1 defeat to Leicester City at King Power Stadium on Sunday thanks to a late Kelechi Iheanacho goal, dropping them to 17th in the Premier League table. Silva has been unable to achieve sustained results, with points gained in consecutive matches just twice this entire season, including once since the opening pair of games.

When asked if he will still be in charge for Wednesday’s Merseyside derby, Silva said, “Like I’ve said before many many times, I’m not the person to speak about that. I know what I’m doing. I know what is my job. Tomorrow will be another day for me to prepare another training session.”

Silva called the defeat “a very harsh result,” claiming “the first 65 minutes we were the best team on the pitch.” Everton led through Richarlison‘s first-half opener until Jamie Vardy leveled the scoreline on 68 minutes.

“I have no doubts that I have the players’ backing,” Silva said. “No one can say nothing about the attitude of my players. They showed a reaction.”

Everton has struggled to cling to draws this season, with just two level scorelines on the year and three one-goal losses.

Embolo scores 2 to lift Gladbach back to top of Bundesliga

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MONCHENGLADBACH, Germany — Borussia Monchengladbach took back the top spot in the Bundesliga on Sunday after Breel Embolo scored two goals and set up another in a 4-2 win against Freiburg.

The win puts Gladbach back into first place by a point over Leipzig and is a welcome turnaround for the team after defeat to promoted Union Berlin last week.

With the score at 1-1, Embolo needed less than a minute of the second half to put Gladbach in front with his first Bundesliga goal in nearly two months.

The Switzerland striker hit a penalty against the post soon after, but redeemed himself by setting up Patrick Herrmann for Gladbach’s third in the 51st minute.

Freiburg scored through Lucas Holer and nearly leveled soon after but for a goal-line clearance. However, Embolo was there again to restore the two-goal lead in the 71st.

Earlier, Marcus Thuram had given Gladbach the lead in the 3rd minute when Freiburg goalkeeper Mark Flekken dropped a header, but the lead lasted just three minutes before Jonathan Schmid leveled with a free kick.

La Liga: Messi leads Barca over Atletico, Sevilla wins

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It took 86 minutes to find the opener at the Wanda Metropolitana, but Barcelona came through to move back in front of the La Liga title race, and who else but Lionel Messi was the man of the hour.

The Barcelona legend worked a beautiful one-two with Luis Suarez at the top of the box and slotted it into the bottom-left corner to see Barcelona through with a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid. It wasn’t exactly pretty for the visitors as Gerard Pique struggled at the back on numerous occasions, but they pulled out the clean sheet. It helped that Atleti managed to put just two of its 17 shots on target, with Alvaro Morata only managing to test the keeper once in his six efforts.

Messi’s winner marked his ninth goal of the season and gave Barcelona its eighth win in their last nine league games to go top of the La Liga table, level with Real Madrid on 31 points but ahead on slim goal differential.

Elsewhere, Diego Carlos’s first goal of the season gave Sevilla a 1-0 win over Leganes to keep hold of third position in the La Liga table. Leganes had a few good chances late, but Guido Carrillo and Youssef En-Nesyri couldn’t find the back of the net, and Leganes has just a pair of one-goal losses against two top-three sides to show for their efforts the last two weeks.

Athletic Bilbao topped Granada 2-0 with goals at the end of each half by Raul Garcia and Yuri Berchiche respectively. The first came from the spot after a foul by Rui Silva only given after a VAR check. Athletic then doubled the lead in the 83rd minute through Berchiche’s first strike of the campaign, seeing them through to fifth in the table, level on points with fourth-placed Real Sociedad.

Osasuna somehow held off Espanyol for a wild 4-2 win despite falling a man down with over a half-hour to play. Marc Roca put Espanyol in the lead from the penalty spot 20 minutes in, but Ruben Garcia and Ezequiel Avila struck three minutes apart moments after the second-half restart to put Osasuna up. In the 52nd minute the game changed as Facundo Roncaglia absorbed his second yellow card, sent to an early shower. Despite that, Osasuna stayed strong, scoring a pair of man-down goals in the final minutes of the game to go up 4-1 with finishing touches by Jon Moncayola and Roberto Torres, leaving Espanyol to just a late consolation by Jonathan Calleri.

Finally, Getafe pasted Levante, putting up nine shots on target to Levante’s two en route to a comprehensive 4-0 victory, moving the hosts up to seventh in the table on 24 points.

Serie A: Inter goes top, Napoli falls again

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It’s Lautaro Martinez’s world and we’re all just living in it.

The white-hot Argentine scored a brace as Inter beat SPAL 2-1 to go top of the Serie A table, taking advantage of a Juventus slip at home.

Martinez continues to develop a deadly partnership with Romelu Lukaku, and the big Belgian’s presence was felt on the opener 16 minutes in. Lautaro dribbled down the center of the pitch with Lukaku cutting in front of the move, dragging both defenders off the ball enough for the Argentine to bury a scuffed shot in the bottom-left corner of the net.

Lukaku was again involved on the second just before halftime, holding the ball up at the top of the box and feeding it to the right wing where Antonio Candreva delivered a fabulous cross to Lautaro’s head at the far post. That put Inter 2-0 up, and they skirted around a 50th minute Mattia Valoti consolation.

The win moved them top of the table on 37 points thanks to a 2-2 draw for Juventus at home against Sassuolo, in which a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty was required to secure the comeback. Juve opened the scoring 20 minutes in off a pinpoint shot from Leonardo Bonucci, but Sassuolo soon matched that just minutes later via a delicious Jeremie Boga chip from a tight angle.

The visitors moved in front on an ugly goal for Juventus to concede, started thanks to a bad giveaway by Matthijs de Ligt at the back and finished by a miserable effort from Gianluigi Buffon as the ball trickled over the line. Ronaldo won the penalty and finished it off in the 68th minute to level the score, but Juve could not muster a winner despite a whopping 29 efforts on net. Ronaldo struggled for much of the game, not fed his usual quota of service down the left. Gonzalo Higuain wasn’t any more involved, as Miralem Pjanic was the only attacking threat up front for the defending champions.

Juve now sits second on 36 points, six ahead of Lazio who remained in the hunt with a 3-0 thumping of Udinese. Ciro Immobile bagged a brace in the first half while Luis Alberto hit from the spot before halftime to ensure the scoreline was comfortable.

AC Milan required an 88th minute winner from Theo Hernandez to secure a 1-0 victory at Parma, keeping them afloat in the crowded middle of the table. The goal was a dogged effort from Hernandez who followed up a saved Giacomo Bonaventura shot, stealing the ball off a miserable Matteo Darmian clearance and thrusting it into the back of the net. The match saw 28 shots from AC Milan, but just eight on target. They managed to hold Parma without an effort on frame, however, as the defense was never truly tested.

Napoli slumped to yet another poor result, falling 2-1 at home to Bologna on an 80th minute Nicola Sansone winner that puts Carlo Ancelotti’s position under even more pressure. Fernando Llorente opened the scoring just before halftime, following up a Lorenzo Insigne effort at the far post. That was all they had in front of net, however, as Napoli manage to put just six of its 30 shots on target. They were punished after the break as Andreas Skov Olsen struck just before the hour mark and Sansone cropped up 10 minutes before full-time. The loss leaves Napoli on a six-game Serie A winless run and sees them fall to seventh in the league table, 17 points back of leaders Inter.

Roma moved into a Champions League spot with a 3-1 win over Hellas Verona on the road. Justin Kluivert and Davide Faraoni cancelled each other out in the first half but Diego Perotti put Roma up on the stroke of halftime with a penalty to send Roma through. Henrikh Mkhitaryan added the third in stoppage time to seal things off. The victory moved them into fourth in the Serie A table on 28 points, three ahead of Cagliari.