Fred

Pepe drives Arteta to first Arsenal win
Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

Pepe, Arsenal impress in dispatching haggard Man Utd

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Arsenal gave Mikel Arteta his first win and it came against an age-old rival.

The Gunners controlled Manchester United 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday, riding an eye-opening show from Nicolas Pepe in the process.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Pepe and Sokratis Papastathopoulos scored the goals as Arsenal moves 10th on 27 points. The Gunners are nine points back of the Top Four.

United whiffs in a bid to move within a win of fourth-place Chelsea, and remains fifth with 31 points.


Three things we learned

1. Arteta overwhelms injury-hit United midfield: The Red Devils midfield isn’t a league-winner at full strength, and not having Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay is a problem. The depth behind them is just not there, or too green. Nemanja Matic and Fred were easy starters, but Jesse Lingard‘s rough time continues and Andreas Pereira has been inconsistent.

Mikel Arteta knew this and was able to start Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, and Nicolas Pepe. It was less of a risk than usual because of the opposition. It became even less so given another fine showing from Granit Xhaka.

United should go shopping even if Pogba plans on staying, given Matic’s age. Both Matic and Fred were decent in a poor effort for United. Maybe Juan Mata was the play, as his cameo was okay.

2. Pepe embraces rare start, demanding more: Nicolas Pepe has been much more effective for Arsenal as a Premier League starter than a sub, and his first league start since Dec. 15 was right on the money. His first half: Goal, 25-of-25 passes, hit post, whipped-in corner that became 2nd goal, three dribbles, two aerials won, one tackle. 2-0 Arsenal. He was still subbed off in the 62nd minute, so, okay. He must be the worst training player on Earth, or hide everyone’s car keys.

To borrow Pep Guardiola‘s favorite phrase modifier, he was so, so good. And there’s room for more, as he’s a shade off when it comes to following his instincts in the final third. That’s something Mikel Arteta will have seen fine-tuned with Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus at Manchester City.

3. Rashford runs out of steam: If we’re going to relentlessly praise Marcus Rashford‘s arrival, and deservedly so, we need to note when United’s key piece doesn’t quite have it. It’s understandable given the minutes and magnitude of contribution asked, but he won just one of nine first half duels. He didn’t get a shot on target during the frame and passed at less than 70 percent.

Man of the Match: Pepe only played the first hour, so we’ll give a nod to beleaguered goal scorer Sokratis Papastathopoulos. The ex-Borussia Dortmund man was the standout performer of a back four which seems to have a simplified plan under Arteta.


A bad Ainsley Maitland-Niles giveaway threatened to open up Arsenal, but Jesse Lingard didn’t handle the opportunity well.

Pepe put Arsenal ahead when Sead Kolasinac‘s cutback was deflected into his path. A clever adjustment later and the ball was in the back of the goal.

Aubameyang couldn’t side volley a Pepe cross home moments later.

The Gunners were all over the Red Devils, and Pepe slipped Lacazette into the box for the Frenchman to torch Harry Maguire but fire wide.

Pepe then curled an 18-yard shot off the far post.

The Gunners got a deserved second in the 43rd as De Gea saved Lacazette’s flick of Pepe’s corner, but Sokratis was at the ready to punch in the rebound.

Harry Maguire headed a free kick to Bernd Leno on the final play of the first half.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

United’s second half was improved at the outset, with Fred stinging Leno’s palms with a shot in the 55th but still no real threat on goal.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer removed Daniel James and Jesse Lingard for Mason Greenwood and Andreas Pereira in the 58th minute.

Matic set up Pereira for a shot in the 59th, but the Brazilian smashed into the outside of the goal.

Leno beat Rashford to Juan Mata’s cross in stoppage time to keep the clean sheet.

Player Ratings from Man City 1-2 Manchester United

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It was even closer than it looked, but Manchester United held on to defeat Manchester City 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: RecapJPW’s 3 things ]

It’s a significant jolt for the Red Devils and boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who bewildered City’s backs with lightning quick counters.

Were it not for Ederson, it might’ve been the sort of result that raised worldwide eyebrows. Heck, it probably is, anyway.

Here’s how the players fared as City out shot its guests 22-11 and held onto 71 percent of the ball only to lose the match.

Manchester City

Ederson — 7 — Kept City in the match early, but would’ve liked to have gotten his paw to Martial’s goal.

Kyle Walker — 7 — Quite effective at both ends, including a great intervention in the first half.

John Stones (Off 59′) — 6 — Not involved in either conceded goal before leaving with injury.

Fernandinho — 5 — Not his day.

Angelino — 6 — Lively, but will have wanted to do better on Martial’s goal.

Rodri (Off 86′)– 7 — City’s best player, with four interceptions, more tidy passing, and decisive wins in some big 50-50 challenges.

David Silva — 7 — Four key passes and two shots on target as a promising part of the attack.

Kevin De Bruyne — 7 — A fairly brilliant performance that would normally have netted an assist or two; Five key passes to go with 117 touches.

Bernardo Silva (Off 65′) — 5 — Conceded a poor penalty to Rashford; Won some duels but didn’t manage shot on target.

Raheem Sterling — 6 — Lively, but not his starring self.

Gabriel Jesus — 5 — A pretty terrible day filling in for Sergio Aguero.

Subs

Pep’s subs made a difference, led by goal scorer Nicolas Otamendi (59′). who gets an 8.

Riyad Mahrez (65′) — 7. Ilkay Gundogan (86′) — N/A


Manchester United

David De Gea — 6 — Four saves, one of them great, but failed to claim the corner that became Otamendi’s goal.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka — 8 — United got it right when they splashed the cash to bring this one from Crystal Palace. Might’ve saved a goal off a bad Lindelof giveaway.

Victor Lindelof — 7 — A couple of very dicey moments including a bad giveaway, but overall played his part.

Harry Maguire — 7 — Eight clearances, three interceptions, two tackles, and a blocked shot but to blame along with De Gea for the goal.

Luke Shaw (Off 89′) — 6 — A little wobbly and weary as the match wore on, but credited with six clearances.

Fred — 7 — Had a banner day offensively, dribbling well in tight spaces (4-for-4). Amazing he kept his composure while being racially abused and pelted with objects. Reprehensible.

Scott McTominay — 9 — Outstanding. Won 12 of 15 duels, drew five fouls, and made three interceptions to go with three tackles.

Daniel James — 7 — An efficient day, with some early moments of attacking power.

Marcus Rashford — 7 — Coming into his own.

Jesse Lingard (Off 89′) — 5 — Did very little on the day, one of the only odd and unrewarded decisions from Solskjaer

Anthony Martial (Off 74′) — 7 — Did well to get his shot away for United’s second goal, but that really his only moment of influence on the match.

Subs 

Andreas Pereira (74′) — 5 — Pretty poor from the Brazilian, who had a petulant foul or two on the day.

Ashley Young (89′) — N/A; Axel Tuanzebe (89′) — N/A.

Allegations of racial abuse as Fred hit by objects in Manchester Derby

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Manchester City fans were caught on camera physically and racially abusing Manchester United players during the Manchester Derby on Saturday, according to reports.

United was leading 2-0 in the match when Fred was temporarily unable to take a corner kick due to lighters, bottles, and other items being thrown at him.

[ MORE: RecapJPW’s 3 things ]

The NBC Sports Soccer broadcast team was able to confirm that a man on the film below was yelling racial epithets at United midfielders Jesse Lingard and Fred.

Here’s what Man City said in a club statement:

Manchester City FC are aware of a video circulating on social media which appears to show a supporter making racial gestures during the second half of the match against Manchester United this evening.
Officials from the Club are working with Greater Manchester Police in order to help them identify any individuals concerned and assist with their enquiries.

The Club are also working with GMP regarding an instance of objects being thrown onto the field of play.

The Club operates a zero tolerance policy regarding discrimination of any kind, and anyone found guilty of racial abuse will be banned from the club for life.

Here’s Marcus Rashford, via the BBC:

“I wasn’t aware of it during the game but it can happen and we’ve seen it happen lately. The fact it is still happening is not good enough.”

More to come…

Europa League preview: Man Utd, Wolves eye qualification

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Manchester United midfielder Fred wants to get Europa League knockout round qualification done and dusted on the double.

United hosts Partizan Belgrade at 3 p.m. ET Thursday, and a win would boost them six points clear of their visitors with two matches to play.

Fred said he’s hopeful not just for the place in the next round, but to help more of the squad get playing time.#UEL

“It will also provide more opportunities for players to get a run of games, which is very important as we have a lot of games coming up and will need the entire squad, so to have already achieved qualification is important,” said Fred. “With this run of games coming up, we’ll be gradually putting the pieces together over these fixtures.”

[ MORE: Atalanta 1-1 Man City | Red Star 0-4 Spurs ]

The Red Devils will bid to achieve that goal without Victor Lindelof, who was an unused sub for the 1-0 win in Serbia.

Meanwhile, Wolves are home to face Slovan Bratislava in a Group K which is anything but straightforward.

The Premier League side is a point back of Braga’s seven, and sits two clear of Thursday’s visitors. Besiktas, stunningly, is without a point through three matches.

Nuno Espirito Santo said the advantage is not enough, and Wolves cannot expect to be safe for the knockout rounds.

“We are always confident, we cannot expect things to happen, we have to make them happen,” he said. “We have to play the game, we are ready to compete and Slovan are a very tough team. Competing well is more important (than thinking about qualifying).”

Arsenal failed in its early bid to earn a place in the Europa League knockout rounds, but an Eintracht Frankfurt defeat of Standard Liege in Belgium could send both the Gunners and Eintracht there.

Other notable UEL Thursday fixtures

Lazio v. Celtic — 12:55 p.m. ET

Rangers v. Porto — 3 p.m. ET

Wolfsburg v. Gent — 3 p.m. ET

Borussia Monchengladbach v. Roma — 3 p.m. ET

Braga v. Besiktas — 3 p.m. ET

Europa League preview: Man Utd, Wolves, Arsenal begin group stage

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The Europa League begins its group stage on Thursday, with the three Premier League combatants taking on clubs from Kazakhstan, Portugal and Germany.

Manchester United’s kids are gonna get some playing time when Astana visits Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Teenager Mason Greenwood and 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe will start, and Sergio Romero will be between the sticks.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

And the Manchester Evening News notes that Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes could also start at Old Trafford, meaning the veterans in the fray will be quite important.

Enter Fred, the forgotten $68 million man from Shaktar Donetsk. The 23 minutes he played last week versus Leicester City account for his lone time on the pitch this season.

Here’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:

“I’m sure we’ll see more and more of Fred. We spoke about it earlier, he’s had some great games in midfield with Scott against PSG and Arsenal, for example, and we’re just waiting for that to flourish.”

Fred had an odd record under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last season, barely in the squad when the team started hot but trusted against PSG and Barcelona in the Champions League.

Speaking of little-used midfielders, Arsenal boss Unai Emery is getting a little grief for leaving Mesut Ozil behind for the Gunners’ trip to Germany for a big match with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Ozil made his first start of the season in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Watford at the weekend, playing 71 minutes and departing with the club up 2-1.

So why not even bring him abroad? Rest.

“Because we are going to play another match on Sunday,” Emery said, via The London Evening Standard. “My decision is because he played and also I’m thinking tomorrow the focus and the first 11 and after that I decided who are the players who can be the best for tomorrow and also the players not and that is Sokratis and Mesut.”

Sokrastis Papastathopoulos is also out, having played a big role in the embarrassing performance at Watford.

There have been tough times for Wolves as well, who sit in the relegation zone after five matches of the Premier League season.

They’ve been quite good in Europa League, though, dispatching a pair of minnows before winning both legs against Serie A side Torino.

Why the inconsistency? It’s not fixture congestion, according to Ruben Neves:

“I don’t think fatigue has anything to do with it, Neves said, via The Birmingham Mail. “We’re all top players, we’re used to it, we’re used to playing a lot of games in quick succession. I don’t think the Europa League has (anything) to do with our position in the Premier League. Obviously, we haven’t had the start that we’ve wanted, but it’s been a beautiful journey into the Europa League. This is a historic moment for Wolves and we’re going to do our best in this competition.”

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men meet Braga at the Molineux, one of three tricky opponents in Besiktas and Slovan Bratislava.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Lazio
LASK v. Rosenborg
Getafe v. Trabzonspor
PSV Eindhoven v. Sporting Lisbon
Basel v. Krasnodar
APOEL Nicosia v. Dudelange
Copenhagen v. Lugano
Standard Liege v. Vitoria SC
Qarabag v. Sevilla
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Arsenal
Rennes v. Celtic
Dynamo Kiev v. Malmo

3 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Oleksandriya
Espanyol v. Ferencvaros
Rangers v. Feyenoord
Porto v. Young Boys
Slovan Bratislava v. Besiktas
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Wolfsberg
Partizan v. AZ Alkmaar
AS Roma v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Gent v. Saint-Etienne
Manchester United v. Astana
Wolves v. Braga
Ludogorets Razgrad v. CSKA Moscow