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Liverpool step up restart progress, hammer Blackburn in friendly

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Liverpool do not look like they will be slowing down when the Premier League restart arrives as they hammered Blackburn Rovers 6-0 in a friendly at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp’s side — who lead the Premier League by 25 points in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past six months — played a friendly at Anfield last weekend between their own squad but in their first friendly against opponents they waltzed past the Championship side.

Sadio Mane opened the scoring and then Naby Keita and Takumi Minamino scored before half time as the Reds were rampant throughout in the Anfield sunshine.

Joel Matip, Ki-Jana Hoever and Leighton Clarkson all added a goal each in the second half to complete the rout as Klopp’s side are warming up nicely for their return to action. Plenty of academy products featured late on but Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino, Virgil van Dijk and James Milner all featured heavily.

Mohamed Salah and Andrew Robertson did not feature but Liverpool said they do not have any current injury concerns.

Should Man City lose against Arsenal on Wednesday, June 17 (Watch live, 3:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Liverpool would secure the Premier League title by winning the Merseyside Derby at rivals Everton on Sunday, June 21 (Watch live, 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Merseyside Derby will take place at Goodison Park after both Everton and Liverpool were given the green light to host home games, as the local Ground Safety Advisory Group (GSAG) granted a safety certificate for games to be played in empty stadiums at both Goodison Park and Anfield.

After falling just short of clinching their first league title in over 30 years before the Premier League was suspended on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Liverpool seem eager to get the job done as soon as possible when the Premier League returns.

Jurgen Klopp was certainly impressed with what he saw as he team continue to rev their engines before the restart.

Premier League On This Day: Blackburn Rovers win it all

Blackburn Rovers
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Blackburn lost 2-1 to Liverpool on this day 25 years ago, but that didn’t stop the celebrations as the Rovers won the Premier League.

There would’ve been nerves everywhere as Blackburn entered the day with only one point, but Manchester United choked away their chance with a draw at West Ham United.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The team was loaded, and there was a bit of controversy thanks to owner Jack Walker pouring money into transfers for Alan Shearer, Chris Sutton, David Batty, Stuart Ripley, Tim Sherwood, and Graeme Le Saux over the previous few windows.

Yes, that’s NBC Sports broadcaster Graeme Le Saux, who made the PFA Team of the Year for the first of two times in his career. He scored three goals and collected a robust eight yellow cards on the season.

“We’re always really defensive about the comparison of other clubs when it comes to big pockets, spending loads of money and buying success because it was far more sophisticated than that,” Le Saux told The Mirror. “The group, the culture that Kenny (Dalglish) and his No.2 Ray Harford set was so important. There was no hierarchy, nothing flash and when I got there in 1993, they paid £600,000 for me and Chelsea paid £5.5million to buy me back and they made a £40m profit on that team.”

The Rovers only won two of their final six matches, drawing once and losing twice, which put them in the final day predicament. Manchester United were the two-time reigning champions, but choked away their chance despite losing just twice from the festive fixtures through the 42nd match day.

Sales were made and the Rovers were relegated four seasons later. They’d return to the Premier League from 2001-12, but sunk as far as League One before promotion to the Championship in 2018-19. They were three points back of the promotion playoffs spot when the coronavirus pause hit the Championship in March.

Mourinho pleased with United’s “attitude” after gritty FA Cup win

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Danny Graham gave Manchester United some early worries on Sunday at Ewood Park but the Red Devils ultimately responded and booked themselves a place in the FA Cup quarterfinals.

[ MORE: United books place in quarterfinals after Zlatan’s winner ]

Despite the adversity from both the Blackburn Rovers supporters’ roars and the deficit, United fought their way back into the tie after Marcus Rashford equalized on 27 minutes and Zlatan Ibrahimovic completed the comeback with a quarter hour remaining.

[ MORE: Kane hat-trick sends Spurs past Fulham ]

Ibrahimovic entered the match after the hour mark along with Paul Pogba, which gave United the final lift it needed to get past Blackburn.

Jose Mourinho spoke highly of his group following the 2-1 victory, particularly of his squad’s “attitude” after trailing inside the opening 20 minutes.

“I think the attitude of every player was really good,” Mourinho told BT Sport. “With a different attitude, we wouldn’t win. They gave us a really hard match and I am really happy with the players, of course.”

“I have important players on the bench and I can try to make them have an impact, but that doesn’t always work,” he said. “I spoke with Paul and Zlatan and they came with the right attitude.”

While Mourinho was understandably pleased with the result, the Portuguese boss gave Blackburn their credit for the hard-fought bout.

“We deserved to win, but Blackburn also deserve to go to Old Trafford,” he said. “But they can now focus on a very difficult Championship. A second match at Old Trafford would have been a disaster.

“I think the referees had everything under control and were really calm and even the ball boy to my right was really good.”

United will now move on to face Premier League leaders Chelsea in the FA Cup quarterfinals, easily making for the most exciting fixture in the last eight of this season’s competition.

FA Cup: Zlatan completes Man Utd’s comeback against Blackburn

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Manchester United are through as the sixth of eight sides who will eventually make up the quarterfinal round of the FA Cup, thanks to a 2-1 come-from-behind victory away to Blackburn Rovers on Sunday.

[ MORE: FA Cup roundup — Premier League sides underwhelm in 5th round ]

The first half saw Blackburn race out to an early lead in the 17th minute, when Marvin Emnes set up Danny Graham with an inch-perfect through ball. Chris Smalling was out of line with the rest of Man United’s defenders, holding Graham onside, and the 31-year-old was pinpoint with his far-post strike.

United responded quickly, though, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s made Emnes’s earlier work look pedestrian. The Armenian’s pass sent Marcus Rashford in on goal, which made rounding Jason Steele quite easy, and the empty-net finish even easier (WATCH HERE).

Following the halftime break, United enjoyed mostly one-way traffic, without anything so much as resembling an end product. Until the hour mark, that is, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba came off the bench to replace Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial. 13 minutes after their joint-introduction, Pogba found Ibrahimovic with a long ball over the top, and the big Swede found the back of the net.

Blackburn thought they’d grab a late equalizer, in the 86th minute, but Sergio Romero made a pair of stunning saves in back-to-back fashion, before Anthony Stokes hit home the rebound. The assistant referee correctly ruled him to be offside, though, and United were through.

[ MORE: Fifth-division Lincoln City shock PL side Burnley in FA Cup ]

Elsewhere in the FA Cup

Burnley 0-1 Lincoln City — RECAP | REACTION
Huddersfield Town 0-0 Manchester City
Middlesbrough 3-2 Oxford United
Millwall 1-0 Leicester City
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Chelsea
Fulham 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur

Monday’s FA Cup schedule

Sutton United vs. Arsenal — 2:55 p.m. ET

AT THE HALF: Man Utd, Blackburn level at 1-1 in FA Cup

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Of the seven FA Cup fifth-rounders played this weekend, Manchester United’s clash with Blackburn Rovers is only the second one to feature goals scored by both sides, and the only one of the bunch to see both sides score before halftime.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: The second half at Ewood Park ]

Man United went a goal behind after just 17 minutes, when Danny Graham lifted and inch-perfect strike over the outstretched arms of Sergio Romero. Chris Smalling was the United defender responsible for keeping Graham onside, and for allowing him the space to run onto Marvin Emnes‘s through ball.

The deficit was short-lived, though, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan provided a delightful through ball of his own to unlock the Rovers defense. Marcus Rashford latched onto it, rounded Jason Steele, and slotted the ball into the empty net.

Saturday’s FA Cup results

Burnley 0-1 Lincoln City — RECAP | REACTION
Huddersfield 0-0 Manchester City
Millwall 1-0 Leicester City
Middlesbrough 3-0 Oxford United
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Chelsea

Sunday’s FA Cup schedule

Fulham vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 9 a.m. ET
Blackburn Rovers vs. Manchester United — 11:15 a.m. ET

Monday’s FA Cup schedule

Sutton United vs. Arsenal — 2:55 p.m. ET