Luke Shaw

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Early goal holds up for Barcelona at Man Utd (video)

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  • Suarez scores 13th minute opener
  • Man Utd with 10 shots, zero on target
  • Second leg Tuesday in Barcelona

Manchester United out-attempted UEFA Champions League favorites Barcelona but couldn’t find a way into the goal in a 1-0 quarterfinal first leg loss at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Luke Shaw own goal was the difference in a scrappy affair, put behind David De Gea on a play produced by Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

The second leg is Tuesday at the Camp Nou.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The early stages had a typical “feeling it out” vibe, though Marcus Rashford was especially lively.

Barcelona went ahead, and VAR helped give the goal overcome the linesman’s offside flag. Who knows what he was looking at it, but Suarez’s attempted header of a Messi cross came off Shaw and defied David De Gea with everyone onside. 1-0, 13′.

De Gea saved from Coutinho in the 36th minute, and Barca was buzzing again.

Diego Dalot headed over the goal with the crown of his head after a long cross found him back post.

By the way, Manchester United center back Chris Smalling saw nothing for this:

United has all of the ball and the chances to start the second half, but Barca held firm like Spurs versus Man City a day earlier.

Suarez knifed into the 18 but sliced his shot into the outside of netting in the 65th.

Messi tried to sneak a free kick through the wall but his shot deflected and De Gea adjusted to catch it in the 83rd, the lone moment of interest in a sleepy 10-15 minutes.

Gerard Pique then intervened to stop Anthony Martial from a prime scoring chance. The ensuing corner kick led to nothing.

Here’s the only goal:

Manchester United too much for Watford

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  • Shaw with delightful assist (video)
  • Rashford, Martial score
  • United back into Top Four
  • Watford drops into ninth

Manchester United scored twice to give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a win in his debut as full-time manager, as the Red Devils beat Watford 2-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial scored United’s goals, while Abdoulaye Doucoure netted a late concession for the Hornets.

United has 61 points, and sits fourth before Spurs, Arsenal, and Chelsea play their matches. Watford drops ninth with 43.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Rashford opened the scoring, but give Luke Shaw a lot of the credit for the counter attacking goal. The English left back led the charge and swept an improbable pass through two defenders and around another for Rashford’s finish.

Martial made it 2-0 and United looked to be cruising toward a win if not a blowout, but Doucoure capped off a sublime combination play to get the game within one on the outskirts of stoppage time.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

WATCH: Shaw cues up Rashford with inch-perfect pass

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Manchester United used the counter attack to put up the first goal against Watford on Saturday at Old Trafford.

Luke Shaw‘s fine rejuvenation continued with a long dribble up the left of the pitch, and what he did with his assist to Marcus Rashford was simply outstanding.

[ MORE: Man City tops Fulham ]

Shaw cut a cross between two defenders that swept around a third to meet Rashford’s sprint into the heart of the Watford final third.

The 21-year-old did not miss his chance to put the Red Devils ahead, popping the ball over Ben Foster and into the yawning cage.

Stars and duds from Manchester United 0-0 Liverpool

AP Photo/Jon Super
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Manchester United and Liverpool played an engaging if sloppy draw at Old Trafford on Sunday.

[ MORE: Match recap | JPW’s 3 Things from OT ]

The point may well give the Reds its Premier League title when all is said and done, but Liverpool was poor in attack against a United side which used all three of its subs inside of 42 minutes.

Luckily, it’s goalkeeper was wonderful. And United showed supreme composure in the face of much consternation.

Stars (Ratings in parentheses)

Alisson Becker (8) — Made a couple of fine interventions, but his best moment came when the otherwise strong Virgil Van Dijk was fooled by a Romelu Lukaku pass. Alisson slid toward Jesse Lingard, patient with his arms to control the Englishman’s bid to dribble around him.

Luke Shaw (10) — Pretty much perfect at left back, putting Mohamed Salah in his proverbial pocket. Also delivered a number of fine crosses and set piece bids.

Romelu Lukaku (8) — United’s big striker needed to play right wing with Marcus Rashford limited and wobbling around up top. He made some big tackles and sent a terrific cross into the mix that could’ve prodded a surprise winner on the edge of stoppage time.

Virgil van Dijk (7) — Even though he was fooled by Lukaku’s pass to Lingard, VVD was quite good in the face of a strong first half from United’s injured attack.

Andreas Pereira (8) — We could put Scott McTominay here, too, but the midfielder got away with at least one likely penalty. Pereira came into the game cold against a brilliant attack and had no problems adjusting to a crucial match against a heated rival.

Paul Pogba (5) — Had enough defensive moments to prod him further up the ratings scale, but days like today are made for extraordinary players to do legendary things with the ball. The Frenchman didn’t have one.

Duds

Mohamed Salah (4) — The Egyptian has been poor against top teams this season, and was nearly invisible for large stretches of the match. Take away a 1-goal, 1-assist match against Arsenal, and he has not been on the scoresheet against a Top Six side this season.

Sadio Mane (3) — The first time I noticed Mane was in a 50-50 with Romelu Lukaku deep in Liverpool’s end. It was the 77th minute.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (5) and Jurgen Klopp (5) — Solskjaer whiffed when he brought an unfit Jesse Lingard into the match and had to bring him off before halftime. And Klopp’s decision to put Daniel Sturridge in for Roberto Firmino instead of moving Mohamed Salah up top against United’s center backs was baffling and did nothing.

Man United believe top four is possible

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Manchester United’s players are hopeful this Christmas.

They still believe they can reach the top four of the Premier League and qualify for the UEFA Champions League this season.

[ MORE: Why Poch should leave Spurs ]

After Jose Mourinho was fired ahead of the festive period and replaced by caretaker manager, and United legend, Ole Guunar Solskjaer, the shackles were off in the 5-1 win at Cardiff City on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters after that game, United left back Luke Shaw believes they can reach the top four.

“Of course we want the top four; we want to be playing in the Champions League next season,” Shaw said. “I don’t see why we can’t if we keep playing like that.”

Eight points off the top four ahead of their Boxing Day clash with Huddersfield Town (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold and online via NBCSports.com), United have a favorable run of games coming up as they play Bournemouth and Newcastle next.

If United’s key attacking players such as Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford continue to play with confidence after the extra freedom given to them by Solskjaer then United can expect some big wins over the festive period.

If that is the case, the eight point gap to fourth-place Chelsea will quickly be cut.

Shaw also discussed the lack of respect for what Mourinho achieved during his time at Old Trafford, and pointed chiefly at the trophies in the cabinet over the past three seasons.

“People might be quick to forget what Jose did for United – the three trophies he won – he did a lot,” Shaw said. “One of the trophies [Europa League] was one we had not won before, and he took us to three trophies in one season. So those people need to respect him and remember what he did.”

That is true.

Although Mourinho’s time at United didn’t work out, it wasn’t the worst tenure in PL history. United won the League Cup, Community Shield and Europa League, while they also lost in the FA Cup final and finished second in the PL last season.

This season is all about one thing: repairing the damage of the final weeks/months of Mourinho’s reign and somehow sneaking into the top four.

There will be an almighty scrap between Arsenal, Chelsea and United for that fourth spot, with Liverpool, Man City and Spurs well ahead in the top three.