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Uttiyo Sarker

An unbiased Manchester United die-hard. Lover of the beautiful game. Addicted to the Premier League and beyond. Hopeful writer in the search for the greater good.

Manchester United Player Ratings vs Wolverhampton Matchday 2

August 19, 2019

Manchester United entered Monday’s fixture against Wolverhampton with a chance to end the day atop the Premier League table. 

United took full control of the game early on, keeping the lion’s share of possession and looking undaunted in a volatile environment. After not creating anything early on, Anthony Martial scored an absolute thunderbolt to give them the lead in the 27th minute. 

Wolves equalized proceedings with a beautiful curler from Ruben Neves in the 56th minute, before Paul Pogba wasted an opportunity to retake the lead by missing a penalty he earned. One point dropped, but conceding United lost on both visits last season, maybe one gained?

Manchester United Player Ratings

Manager

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (6.0) –

Solskjaer made the correct decision in swapping Pereira for James, who not only added more pace but also aided defensively. He set up the side perfectly to control the game and also protect themselves from Wolves’ dangerous counter-attacks.

Perhaps needs to time his substitutions better as he took things too late when it came to bringing on Greenwood. Needs to elect the leaders in his side and provide fine-tuning to defensive as well as attacking set-ups.

Goalkeeper

David de Gea (6.0) –

DDG was mostly untested. but almost had his heart sink when a 54th minute Jimenez header struck the post and hit him, but went out. However, his luck ran out with Neves’ brilliant strike two minutes later.

Defenders

Aaron Wan-Bissaka (7.0) –

AWB’s fine touch continues despite Wolves’ reliance on attacking through his side. Made some promising tackles early on. Put in a beautiful cross for Lingard in the 49th minute that should’ve gone in!

Almost picks him out again with a wonderful through-ball in the 52nd! Booked for a necessary hand-block late into the game. However, another solid defensive outing in which his attacking movement displayed further encouraging signs.

Harry Maguire (7.0) –

Maguire’s made great use of that big head of his to clear out danger in the first few minutes. Looks very comfortable moving around the ball from defense to offense and has added a protective layer with his impressive positional sense and clearing ability.

Victor Lindelof (6.5)-

The Swedish Iceman looks cool as ever in possession. Won a header affirmatively early on to overpower Jota. Lindelof almost embarrassed himself with a botched header in the 25th, but lucky to pass it on to De Gea. Did well to keep Jota neutralized from the game and surged through on goal in the dying moments to no avail.

Luke Shaw (6.0) –

Defensively more stable than last week. Shaw’s cleared danger a number of times and delivered a decent corner in the 10th minute. Made a decent run breaking Wolves’ defensive line for the goal. Won an uncountable number of recovery headers in the first half.

Looks a bit rattled by the pacy Adama Traore. Molineux remains a bogey ground for him.

Midfielders

Paul Pogba (5.5) –

PP looks more comfortable in a deeper role dictating the play. Flung in some exquisite long-balls early on. Conceded a silly free-kick in the 15th. He was relatively quiet dictating pace from deep, but produced a moment of inspiration with a fantastic one-two with Martial and earning a penalty for his side. Took it himself, but ended up scuffing it! What an anticlimax!

Perhaps needs to train on improving his penalty-taking!

Scott McTominay (6.0) –

Bravely won the ball despite being cramped out in the 11th minute. The Scotsman’s done his defensive duties well in regaining possession, but still uninspiring going forward

Jesse Lingard (5.0) –

Lingard is really not finding his mark in this attacking role. Struggling to create chances or put enough pressure on the opposition. A liability so far. Had two glorious chances to score early in the second half, but wasted both! Another frustrating outing.

Forwards

Marcus Rashford (6.0) – 

Displayed some brilliant skill in the 18th to put a peachy cross for Martial. Cleverly found Martial inside the box for the opener. Tried his moments of magic with ambitious shots or bursts of pace, but was relatively ineffective with his final delivery on the day.

Daniel James (5.5) –

Looks packed with energy in his starting debut. Tracked back to stop a Wolves counter-attack in the 4th. Earned a silly booking with an unnecessary dive outside the penalty area in the 24th.

Lucky to not get booked for a mistaken stamp in the 47th. Tried his heroic moment in the 70th by stealing the ball, but failed to deliver. Wore off towards the end.

Anthony Martial (7.0)

Gave away promising chances with too many loose touches early on. Needs improvement in that department. Failed to tap in Rashford’s cross in the 18th. Made up emphatically with a thunderous strike to get the lead in the 27th. That’s what numbers 9’s should do!

AM9 looks extremely confident and more menacing moving towards the goal. Should’ve capitalized on Wolves’ error when through on goal just before the break! His performance should maintain optimism towards his transformation as a complete striker.

Substitutions

Juan Mata (N/A) –

Tried an unnecessary late cross which did no good whatsoever. Failed to complete a through-ball for Martial who was through on goal in added time.

Mason Greenwood (N/A) –

Brought on too late to make an impact, even though he looked impressive in fleeting moments.

Andreas Pereira (N/A)

Barely stitched a few passes together.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Anthony Martial’s still a tad bit frustrating with his showboating or losing possession too many times, but he effectively earned United the point today. Also growing as a clinical goal-scorer once again.

Wolverhampton vs Manchester United Matchday 2 Preview

August 16, 2019

Who: Wolves vs Manchester United
When: Monday, August 19th @ 3:00 pm ET
LineWolves +230 | Draw +225 | NYCFC +138

The gloomy atmosphere parted ways for bright sunshine at Old Trafford with Manchester United’s emphatic 4-0 victory over Chelsea. After much uncertainty, a strong performance like that reaffirmed the many positives of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s philosophy.

Now, consistency is key for United to fight for a permanent Premier League top-four spot. However, a trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers is anything but fun. Granted, Wolves’ season began with only a draw, but they’re still a force to be reckoned with at home. Considering their impenetrable fortress that is the Molineux Stadium, OGS and co need to be at their strongest to sustain their wonderful start.

Wolves Likely Starting XI:

Patricio, Bennett, Coady, Boly, Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves,  Jonny, Moutinho, Jota, Jimenez.

Wolves shouldn’t have to make any changes from last week because of how well synchronized their regular starting lineup already is at home. New signing Patrick Cutrone, I think, will need to wait for his league full-debut after featuring on Thursday’s UEFA Europa League qualifiers game.  

Manchester United Likely Starting XI:

De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Pogba, James, Pereira, Rashford, Martial.

Thankfully for OGS, all three summer signings shone through with strong performances against Chelsea. Daniel James, I feel, should get his full Premier League debut after impressing at Old Trafford. Fred, as well as Nemanja Matic, are yet to prove themselves worthy of breaking into the midfield, while Alexis Sanchez remains unfit amidst questions marks around his future.

Wolves vs Manchester United Match Preview

Well, this hasn’t exactly been the nicest hunting ground for Manchester United in recent times. United lost twice in both visits to the Molineux last season, leaving OGS frustrating. When you look back at how end-to-end, action-packed the fixtures were last season, I think some fireworks are guaranteed on Monday.

United, although, look a much more refreshed side from last season thanks to an effective pre-season. They’re now fitter, more energetic in the field and most importantly, looking very strong defensively with Harry Maguire along with Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s heroics. With Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial roaring, Daniel James bringing the speed, Paul Pogba enjoying life, United look daunting going forward again.

However, they must put in a more compact performance than against Chelsea. Some worrying signs crept up last season, as they were overrun in midfield and albeit sloppy going forward. Those cobwebs must be extinguished if Solskjaer truly wants his side to come out with comprehensive victories away from home.

A cruel case of VAR denied Nuno Espirito Santos’ side an opening matchday win. While they weren’t as clinical as last season against Leicester City, Wolves tend to turn up the volume at home. The atmosphere, fan-support, and similar surroundings all work wonders in amplifying the effectiveness of their fast breaks and beautifully linked attacking style.

If the Raul Jimenez-Diogo Jota duo isn’t deadly enough, new signings Pedro Neto and Cutrone’s arrival has amped up their dynamism. It’s effectively an attack vs defense battle for both sides to decide the encounter. But with United desperate to break their curse, I think their superior momentum along with rigid shape will offer the hosts a menacing challenge than last season.

Prediction

As much as a giant threat Wolves are at home, I think United should scrape a win. OGS’ side looks confident, happy and well-synchronized. These are all potent ingredients to get a narrow win on Monday night.

Chelsea Player Ratings vs Liverpool – UEFA Super Cup

August 14, 2019

Last year’s Champions League winners, Liverpool, faced off against the Europa League victors, Chelsea, for the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday.

The Blues were pegged back in the early minutes with Liverpool’s pressure. However, they soon gained control and started creating the better chances. Olivier Giroud’s 38th-minute strike affirmed a successful first half. However, Liverpool equalized quickly into the second half with Sadio Mane’s goal.

It was an open goal from there on, but none could find the winner, forcing extra-time! Extra-time was quite the frantic one, with Mane giving Liverpool the lead with a powerful hit. Chelsea received a penalty later on, which Jorginho obliged to make it 2-2. Jurgen Klopp’s side ended up winning 5-4 in the penalty-shootout, with Tammy Abraham’s penalty being saved by Adrian.

Here’s how Chelsea’s squad performed. Also be sure to read our Liverpool UEFA Super Cup player ratings as well.

Chelsea Player Ratings

Manager

Frank Lampard (7.0) –

Lampard recovered from his Old Trafford nightmare by slotting N’Golo Kante and Christian Pulisic into his starting XI. The move worked wonders with Pulisic getting an assist and Kante ruling as their midfield general with his decisive movement. The Chelsea gaffer’s attacking philosophy and encouragement to take on Liverpool unveiled the fearlessness in his side. Yes, they lost, but many positives showcased how his Chelsea should operate going forward.

Goalkeeper

Kepa Arrizabalaga (7.5) –

Kepa’s forced to make a calm save early on. Held onto Fabinho’s powerful attempt well in the 9th. Distribution poor and almost led to an opening goal in 10th. Redeemed himself with a solid save off Salah in the 15th.

Unable to keep Mane’s 48th-minute strike out despite diving correctly. Held onto Henderson’s powerful attempt pretty well minutes later, despite it taking a deflection. He also made a fantastic reaction save to deny Salah in the 75th. The Spaniard came extremely close to saving a few in the shootout, but lady luck averted him.

Defenders

Cesar Azpilicueta (5.0) –

The Chelsea captain recovered from Sunday’s nightmare quickly, neutralizing Oxlade-Chamberlain’s threat and not allowing Robertson to overlap that effectively. However, he was rattled by Firmino and played him onside for Mane’s equalizer.

Looked the weakest of all defenders and offered very little going forward. Perhaps a positional change can do him good!

Kurt Zouma (6.0) –

Took a nasty sting on his thigh blocking Salah’s shot early on. Made a few strong clearances with some regained confidence. The Frenchman made a crucial challenge in the 74th to avoid being in a 1v1 against Salah.

Almost received his moment of glory in the dying minutes when his emphatic header from a corner went just over. Improved over the nightmare on Sunday.

Andreas Christensen (6.0)-

The Danish center-back headed out an important clearance to deny a goal in the 13th minute. Outjumped by Van Dijk at the half-hour mark but lucky to see his header go over. Huffed and puffed the remainder of the game, but jumped into action whenever necessary.

Emerson (6.5) –

Beaten in the air by Matip in the 5th minute. Allowed Salah to whiz past him too easily in the 15th. The Brazilian got troubled by Salah and Mane’s trickery, but looked much more comfortable going forward.

Skipped past Gomez in the 50th minute to yards away from goal, but his pass wasn’t met by anyone. Emerson showcased impressive fitness to survive the 120 minutes bombing down the left and also fulfilling defensive duties. Duly converted his penalty in the shootout.

Midfielders

Jorginho (6.5) –

Protected his backline pretty well and pinged forward ambitious longballs to trouble Liverpool’s resolve early on. The Italian sloppily lost possession to Firmino in the 54th minute, but lucky to see the attack wasted. Calmly tucked in his penalty to equalize in extra-time. Flicked in his penalty in shootout coolly.

Mateo Kovacic (5.0) –

Kovacic’s link-up play early on was promising with his team-mates. Almost got through on goal in the 32nd minute, but stopped by Adrian. After that, he was almost invisible in midfield and rarely got involved in crucial chances. Subbed in extra-time.

N’Golo Kante (7.0) –

Back to his old tricks early on, nicking the ball off Henderson to force loud cheers. Skipped past multiple Liverpool players and almost got a shot on goal in the 11th. Kante looked his old self with interceptions and lung-bursting runs to trouble Liverpool in the first half.

Kick-started the opening goal. Continued stealing the ball and drive his side forward., showcasing endless energy. Lampard must’ve been impressed by his tenacity in dominating the midfield line.

Forwards

Pedro (7.0) – 

Pedro had Adrian scampering with a curling left-footed attempt early on. Put Giroud through on goal only to see a chance wasted. Forced a punch off Adrian later.

Kept causing problems and struck the post with an emphatic shot in the 22nd minute. He displayed great energy with his end-to-end contribution, which included impressive defensive work. Almost assisted Abraham with a beautiful low-ball which was led just wide of the goal.  

Olivier Giroud (6.5) –

Used his physical attributes to make things uneasy for Liverpool in the early minutes. Scuffed a shot horribly wide in the 16th. Giroud struck an overhead kick attempt hilariously wide and couldn’t even score from five yards out after being called offside later on.

The Frenchman redeemed his errors with a strong finish in the 36th to get the lead. Giroud lost steam in the 2nd half and was bullied by Van Dijk before being subbed.

Christian Pulisic (7.0)

The exciting American almost breached Liverpool’s defense in the 4th minute in an opportunistic manner. Showcased his class by sliding a clever pass through Van Dijk-Matip to hand Giroud his goal and get his first assist.

Pulisic almost got his dream first goal by skipping past multiple players and thumping the ball into the bottom corner, only for the lineswoman to ruin his moment. Tried another clever through-ball after the hour-mark, but saw his chance cleared. Moved forward with intent and his sparkling creativity proves he’s got lots to give.

Substitutions

Mason Mount (6.5) –

Mount put the ball into the net minutes after coming on, but unlucky to see his goal ruled out to a prolonged offside call. Forced a super save from Adrian with his powerful shot in extra-time. He tested the opposition keeper again in ET’s dying moments. Powered in penalty confidently.

Tammy Abraham (6.0) –

The youngster pulled up his defensive socks by denying Liverpool the lead with a last-ditch block in the scrappy set-piece minutes after coming on. Did superbly to outmuscle Van Dijk and strike a shot in extra-time, only to see it saved.

However, he earned a penalty immediately afterward, capitalizing on Adrian’s error. Had a great opportunity to win the game in the 104th minute, but his attempt sailed agonizingly wide. Scuffed his penalty to end his night in misery.

Fikayo Tomori (5.5) –

The youngster didn’t have a European debut to remember. He played Firmino onside for Mane’s second, undoing his defense’s good work.

Ross Barkley (N/A) –

He was just…..there. Slotted in penalty comfortably.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Well, they might’ve been on the losing side, but Kepa’s heroics in goal makes him the man of the match in my eyes. He made one solid save after another, proving just how crucial he will be for the Blues this season.

Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur Matchday 2 Preview

August 14, 2019

Who: Manchester City vs Tottenham
When: Saturday, August 17th @ 12:30 pm ET on NBC Sports
Where: The Etihad
LineManchester City -286 | Draw +450 | Tottenham +700

Well, the Premier League title defense got off to the perfect start for Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s side crushed West Ham United 5-0 to kick-off their campaign, which doesn’t really seem surprising if you see they’ve scored 22 goals at the London Stadium in recent years.

Going by their untouchable dominance, there aren’t many to stop their annihilation. However, UEFA Champions League finalists Tottenham Hotspur could have something else in mind  Mauricio Pochettino’s side threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Aston Villa, with their relentless attacking nature proving they’re capable of blowing away any side. Tread carefully, Pep Guardiola.

Manchester City Likely XI:

Ederson, Cancelo, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko, Rodri, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Mahrez, Sterling, Aguero.

It’s probably affirmative towards their unbelievable depth that even without regular starters like Sergio Aguero or Bernardo Silva that City destroyed West Ham. Both players should start at the Etihad Stadium knowing their comfort at home. New signing Joao Cancelo made the bench on Saturday, but should get his debut to weave his magic against Spurs.

Tottenham Hotspur Likely XI:

Lloris, Walker-Peters, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Ndombele, Sissoko, Eriksen, Son, Kane, Moura.

Tottenham Hotspur’s newest signing Tanguy Ndombele had a dream debut against Villa. Now,  he’ll be expected to prove his mettle against the daunting Man City. Spurs’ other signings Ryan Sessegnon, Giovani Lo Celso are still being phased in, while Dele Alli is still injured.  However, Heung-Min Son should draft back in after serving his suspension, as should the influential Christian Eriksen.

Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur Match Preview

Going by the attacking intensity both sides displayed in Matchday 1, this should be an end-to-end encounter. Of course, overruling the champions at their own yard is no joke, but Mauricio Pochettino’s sides’ fearlessness could result in a feisty encounter.

However, City love breaking spirits. With RaheemSterling scoring, Mahrez assisting and De Bruyne dominating the midfield, the champions look just as good (if not better) as last season. With Aguero’s as well as Bernardo Silva’s introduction, the lethality meter will spike up.

Considering they netted 57 goals (more than 3 per game) at home last season, City’s impenetrable home rule should continue through this season.  However, John Stones’ uneasy moments in defense last week raised questions. Guardiola needs to fix that to neutralize Harry Kane and co.

Tottenham are looking a more menacing unit this season. They attempted 24 shots against Aston Villa in an absolute unrelenting approach. With Tanguy Ndombele’s dynamic presence in midfield, Spurs’ fluidity in possession has been amplified. Harry’s Kane’s scoring early, Christian Eriksen’s assisting while Lucas Moura and Son remain persisting threats.

While both sets of wing-backs are crucial with their contribution on both sides of the field and center-backs vital to contain the onslaught, the real battle will be in midfield. As Spurs’ defensively solid, bullish trio take on City’s possession masters, sparks are bound to blow over.

Whoever dominates the midfield or breaks their opponents’ line should come out victorious. Of course, City also have revenge on their mind after the Champions League elimination earlier this year, so they’ll be out for blood like thirsty hounds.

Prediction

This should be a thrilling, open encounter between two unflinching teams, producing plenty of goals. However, I don’t see Spurs unsettling City this early at the Etihad and Pep’s side should get another decisive win to retain their top spot.

Manchester United Player Ratings vs Chelsea – Matchday 1

August 11, 2019

The marquee match-up of Premier League matchday 1 saw Chelsea visit Old Trafford and Manchester United

In a really end-to-end game, United took the lead in the 18th minute after Marcus Rashford’s cool penalty.  Chelsea struck the post twice in the first half to frustrate new coach Frank Lampard.

Hoever, United shifted gears in the second half, scoring three goals to blow the visitors away and get their season underway with swagger. Yes there still are some improvements to be made and bit more decisiveness to be improved upon, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must love what he’s seeing.

Manchester United Player Ratings

Manager

Ole Gunnar Golskjaer (7.5) –

Took a risk by playing a defensively shaky midfield trio, but ultimately received his rewards with Pogba and Pereira both assisting goals. Integrated a similar blazing counter-attack style which will be loved by fans everywhere. However, he still needs to work on improving his defense ahead of more difficult ties ahead. Must’ve been frustrated with some sloppiness in their game and needs to get that out of his team’s game.

Goalkeeper

David de Gea (7.5) –

Lucky to see Abraham’s powerful attempt hit the post in the 4th minute. Made a strong save to deny Mount in the 12th. Backed it up with another stunning left-foot one in the 28th.

Thumped away a bullet from Emerson in the 55th minute to keep saving United’s graces. Continued his fine day a solid diving save to deny Mount in the 85th and Emerson in the stoppage time to keep his first home clean-sheet for god knows such a long time!.  Big Ol’ Dave seems to be back in business!

Defenders

Aaron Wan-Bissaka (7.0) –

He’s already looking a major upgrade over Young! Rarely allowed anyone to go past and made some smart tackles early on. Impenetrable despite constant attempts from Emerson. Showed some showboat skills going forward. Lucky to see Emerson’s shot hit the post in the 40th minute after being caught out of possession.

He also kept Christian Pulisic at bay after he came on later in the second-half. A solid debut for the youngster to keep a clean-sheet in his league debut for United.  

Harry Maguire (6.5) –

The record signing displayed some signs of nerves early on. However, grew into the game and made some good clearances before the half-hour mark. Found himself in possession inside the Chelsea area early on, but couldn’t conjure an assist.

Made thumping clearances with that big head of his in the second half which had the fans all delighted. My guess is he’s going to get even more popular as he adapts to his new home.

Victor Lindelof (7.0)-

The Swede looked very comfortable in possession. Got the ball forward with confidence. Sloppy for allowing Abraham a shot on goal in the 4th minute.

However, he picked up his game afterwards. Bullied Abraham after finding his feet and made many crucial challenges to protect his side’s lead. Outperformed Maguire on his big day.

Luke Shaw (6.0) – The player which Chelsea seemed to have targeted early on. Caught out of possession in the early minutes only encouraged their chances. Picked up another knock and was limping for sometime, but looks fine thankfully for OGS and co.

Midfielders

Paul Pogba (7.5) –

Continued spraying passes forward to forcer the issue. Bit guilty to losing possession occasionally early on. He did make some promising forward movement in the first half, but best he did was hit a weak header into Kepa’s hands.

Continued spraying passes forward to forcer the issue. Showcased his class in the 67th minute with a world-class assist for Rashford’s second and later teeing up James’ strike. He’s staying and expect him to do the damage this time as well.

Scott McTominay (6.5) –

Cut the most energetic figure in the United side and Refused to be bullied by Chelsea in the second half and showcased a fiery spirit. Recovered possession and put he ball forward resulting in the 4th goal.

Andreas Pereira (6.5) –

Pereira was somewhat frustrating as the playmaker, but did well to pick out a peach pass to assist Martial’s strike.

Forwards

Marcus Rashford (8.0) – 

Tried being too tricky in the first fifteen minutes only to frustrate the faithful. Won a penalty immediately after. Scored it with conviction as well to get his season underway in style.

Impressively moved past Chelsea’s whole defence to put the embarrassment marks on Chelsea with his emphatic second goal. Made Old Trafford back singing his name!  

Jesse Lingard(5.5) –

Lingard cut an isolated figure on the right and lacked the driving factor after moving centrally. However he did assist Rashford’s penalty. Often dispossesed in the first half leading to some chances for Chelsea.

Booked for a silly challenge in the 48th minute. However, sorta made up by getting Jorginho booked minutes later. Showcased a good amount of energy late into the game, but needs to improve his clinical nature going up front.

Anthony Martial (7.0)

AM9 was gifted an opportunity at goal in the 7th minute which was struck straight at Kepa. Made a stunning forward pass which fooled Chelsea into losing their shape and conceding a penalty. Often moved into the left-wing but his final delivery and decision making was woeful to say the least.

Proved why OGS gave him the #9 shirt with a clever finish inside Kepa’s legs to get his season underway and give United a comfortable cushion.

Substitutions

Daniel James (7.0) –

James came on for Pereira and already seemed a touch better since coming on. Got his dream debut moment when Pogba found him and he(thanks to Emerson’s deflection) got his first United goal in front of the Stretford End. Welcome to the Theatre of Dreams!

Juan Mata (N/A) –

Did nothing noteworthy after coming on against his former side.

Mason Greenwood(N/A)

The 17-year-old came on with only minutes to spare, but had a thunderous attempt be blocked off by Chelsea’s defence after coming on.

MAN OF THE MATCH

 Marcus Rashford might’ve been frustrating whilst finding his feet early in the game, but made no mistake when handed chances in the final third. Let’s just hope he can continue his goal-scoring run for a considerable period of time.  

Manchester United vs Chelsea Matchday 1 Preview

August 10, 2019

Who: Manchester United vs Chelsea
When: Sunday, August 11th @ 11:30 am ET on NBC Sports
Where: Old Trafford
LineManchester United +117 | Draw +240 | Chelsea +240

The 2019-20 Premier League schedule kicks off in just one week!

In the marquee game of the opening weekend, Manchester United host rivals Chelsea at Old Trafford. 

After missing out on the top-four again last season, United will surely be looking to start this season on a banger. Chelsea, under new management again, aims to get Frank Lampard’s reign started on a positive note by putting on a show at the Theatre of Dreams.

Let’s take a look at the match, from projecting the starting XI’s to talking tactics.

Chelsea Likely Starting XI

Chelsea: Kepa, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Luiz, Emerson, Kovacic, Jorginho, Pedro, Barkley, Pulisic, Giroud.

Lampard will want to play his strongest XI for his first match. For me, that means he keeps Mason Mount on the bench to reserve his Premier League debut for a later date. N’Golo Kante is still injured,  making him a doubt for the first game along with Antonio Rudiger.

Manchester United Likely Starting XI

Man U: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Smalling, Shaw, Pogba, McTominay, James, Lingard, Martial, Rashford.

So for Manchester United, the transfer business is heating up in the last few days of the window. They are being linked to multiple last-minute moves. I reckon they should nab a few players before it ends.

Harry Maguire’s looking closer to a potential $100million move. He should be slotted right into the backline for Smalling if he signs on, while Paulo Dybala could also get his debut if he agrees to join United. 

Manchester United vs Chelsea match preview

Two sides on the road to reclaiming their status among the Premier League’s best, United vs Chelsea should serve up a special treat on Sunday. With both Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as well as Lampard opting for modern, attacking styles, I feel the game should be a high-octane battle.

United are on the road to redemption and after the end of last season’s debacle, they must pour their heart into the game to win back the confidence of the fans. Now, I know the last time these two met at Old Trafford it didn’t produce the most exciting contest, but United have looked a rejuvenated side in pre-season.

With the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba all looking to make a statement, we’ll probably witness them operating with a higher intensity to produce thrilling attacking football. But how the defence holds up against Chelsea’s electric attacking line is only something the footballing gods can answer.

Lampard hopes to replicate his heroics with Derby County last season by sneaking another famous win at Old Trafford. He’s already integrated an exciting philosophy at Chelsea. Watching him let the young players express themselves comes as a breath of fresh air.

All eyes will be on Christian Pulisic, who’ll be making his Premier League debut after an impressive pre-season campaign. The 20-year-old’s taken to Lampard’s style superbly, making him the player to watch out for. His sublime dribbling ability and clutch work in the final third will be decisive in winning the game for the Blues.

Prediction

Manchester United and Chelsea have both enjoyed equally successful pre-season campaigns. I think they’ll cancel each other out in the first match. It should be an exciting, goal-scoring draw with plenty of drama to get the league started on a high note.

West Ham United vs Manchester City Matchday 1 Preview

August 8, 2019

Who: West Ham vs Manchester City
When: Saturday, August 10th @ 7:30am ET on NBC Sports
Where: London Stadium
Line: West Ham +1100| Draw +550 | Man City -435

The 2019-20 Premier League season kicks off tomorrow. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City aims to do the threepeat this time, something they’ve never achieved in their pre-21st-century history (which wasn’t much to speak of, in fairness). Who said oil money can’t build a legacy?

However, their title defence isn’t starting with an easy fixture. Former manager Manuel Pellegrini stands in their way, with West Ham United ready take down the champions. The Hammers have themselves made impressive summer signings and will not at all back down without a fight. If City wants a win on opening weekend, they’ll have to produce their absolute best to get it done.

West Ham United likely XI:

Fabianski, Fredericks, Diop, Balbuena, Masuaku, Rice, Noble, Fornals, Lanzini, Anderson, Haller.

West Ham United’s big-money signing Sebastien Haller is expected to make his much-anticipated Premier League bow against the champions. Exciting Spaniard Pablo Fornals should also be involved, as both players are going to be crucial towards spicing up their attacking rhythm. New striker Albian Ajeti, meanwhile, is not expected to feature after being signed on deadline day.

Manchester City likely XI:

Ederson, Walker, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko, Rodri, Gundogan, B.Silva, De Bruyne, Sterling, Aguero.

Manchester City’s newest signing Joao Cancelo is unlikely to feature after having arrived in England very recently. Their record-midfielder Rodri is set to make his Premier League debut after impressing in the Community Shield game. Sergio Aguero and Ederson, both who were on the bench on Sunday, should be in contention for starting while Fernandinho is still not quite match-fit.

West Ham United vs Manchester City preview

While this isn’t exactly a David & Goliath match-up, West Ham really needs to chug hard to reach City’s level. Pellegrini’s created a competitive squad with quality acquisitions, but his team isn’t perfectly gelled together like City. Guardiola’s side knows every little detail of each other’s strengths, making them even scarier to face.

For the Spaniard, the record-breaking deal just never ends since he arrived at England. He’ll become the first foreign manager to win the Premier League thrice in a row (Jose Mourinho did it twice consecutively) if he manages to repeat the feat this time around. However, for me, their defence could cause internal problems in their game this season.

Inability to replace Vincent Kompany could lead to defensive hiccups. However, to me,  City are just too strong going forward to be fazed defensively. Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva are already looking unstoppable as their creative midfield core. Sergio Aguero along with Raheem Sterling’s goal-scoring phenomenon will blow away West Ham as well as others going forward.

Manuel Pellegrini has done well to keep his core, even though it’s meant to sell striker Marko Arnautovic. He’s implemented an exciting, fast-paced attacking style which sees West Ham create beautiful goals, but doing so against City is difficult.

Of course, new signing Haller will have every fan’s attention with his incredible physical attributes making him a menace in the box. Along with Pablo Fornals, Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson tormenting defences with their clever movement as well as clinical work going forward, I think the Hammers could end up causing multiple headaches for City.

Prediction

As much I’d love to say the champions are suffering a shock, I just can’t see it happening. City are just too strong right now. Even though West Ham’s attack could trouble them, their attacking force should consolidate an emphatic victory to start the title defence.

Transfer Grades: Arsenal Bolster Defense with David Luiz, Kieran Tierney Signings

August 8, 2019

Who: David Luiz
From Where: Chelsea
To Where: Arsenal
For How Much: £8million ($9.7M USD)
Grade For Arsenal: B
Grade For Chelsea: B+

Who: Kieran Tierney
From Where: Celtic
To Where: Arsenal
For How Much: £25million ($30M)
Grade For Arsenal: A
Grade For Celtic: C

David Luiz to Arsenal Overview

Deadline day was crazy in North London, wasn’t it? Some outrageous deals were completed throughout the Premier League. However, there aren’t many more than David Luiz moving cross-London to join arch-rivals Arsenal from Chelsea.

So Frank Lampard wasn’t convinced with the Brazilian’s ability, hence granted a sale to a desperate Arsenal. Luiz has now joined up under Unai Emery in a fluid, attack-minded system which will also complement his aggressive style.

He’s an expert when it comes to playing out from defence, shooting blazing free-kicks and emphatic headers, but questioned have questioned his defensive capabilities. Can he curb his error-prone nature for Arsenal’s benefit? The Gooners hope so.

Who Is He?

David Luiz, 32, is a Brazilian international who has enjoyed two separate stints at Chelsea. His first one was from 2011-14, while the second one started in 2016, after which he won the league.

In 160 Premier League appearances, he’s scored 11 times and helped Chelsea keep 56 clean-sheets. At his previous club, Paris Saint-Germain, he made 56 Ligue 1 appearances, also winning the league title twice.

At the international level, the Brazilian has also made 56 appearances for his national side. American fans might remember him for all the wrong reasons, as he was a major culprit in Brazil’s embarrassing 1-7 loss against Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Luiz is an aggressive tackler, who tends to lose his senses on one-too-many occasions.

Kieran Tierney to Arsenal overview

Well, this deal finally gets done! Arsenal had been chasing Kieran Tierney through the entire summer window, having multiple offers rejected before finally nailing a deal with the Scottish champions.

The Celtic fans are left fuming over losing such a gem of the player. When you see his work in the field, can you really blame them? Unai Emery had been chasing Tierney for a long time and, for me, landed a future star.

What is Celtic’s loss is their gain, as Arsenal’s left-back position is finally secured with an all-round star. Tierney is a nightmare when he bombs forward down the left, but his defensive capabilities have kept men double his side quiet in recent years. The Gunnars will surely hope he keeps the Premier League wingers at bay.

Who Is He?

Tierney, 22, is a Scottish International who has been at Celtic for the past 14 years.

The Scotsman joined Celtic when he was 7 years old, eventually working up through their youth system into the senior team. He won the Scottish Treble Treble(their domestic league+cups competitions three years consecutively!) in recent years.

On the international stage, Tierney’s made 12 appearances for Scotland. He’s actually the understudy/backup to Liverpool’s Andy Robertson! Could we see a tug-of-war for a national team spot in the Premier League? You bet we can!

Tierney, at 5’10’, is a relatively smaller lad but has the heart for days to run oppositions ragged.

Are The Prices Fair?

Let’s all agree that the reported £45 million budget for Arsenal was probably the biggest myth of the summer?

After bagging in Nicolas Pepe for a club-record fee, the Gunnars have showcased an extremely shrewd nature with their next double acquisitions. At only £25million ($30M), Tierney is, to me, an absolute steal. He’s already proven to be a hard-working left-back at Celtic, but surely has his best years ahead.

It could take time for him to adapt. But once he gets accustomed to Premier League’s surroundings, he’ll not only neutralize top wingers, but also become an absolute menace down the left-wing to prove himself a steal for the reported amount.

Not so defensively agile is David Luiz. Over the years, he’s been the butt for many defensive jokes. Once he can put in a wondrous defensive performance, but follow it up with a disaster-show the next week. However, for £8million ($9.7M), which is considered cheap at this market, Luiz’s experience along with fearless factors should work in Arsenal’s favour.

What Impact Should We Expect?

After having conceded cheap goals like flies last season, there was an immediate need to solidify Arsenal’s defence. Kieran Tierney should fit into Unai Emery’s four-line or even five-man backline seamlessly because of his versatility.

The 22-year-old can operate as a full-back or a wing-back, playing to his side’s strengths after having read the situation. When necessary, he’ll sit back defensively, make crucial challenges to fend away danger. When his side needs him, he’ll race upon forward. He isn’t one-dimensional like Saed Kolasinac or Nacho Monreal, which is obviously a good thing.

The workaholic left-back still has much to learn, but is a passionate lad ready to play his heart out for the badge. Knowing Tierney’s limitless ability, I feel Emery could churn him into among Premier League’s best left-backs for the years to come.

While Tierney’s clearly a long-term buy, David Luiz is anything but one. At 32 years of age, retirement’s bound to come calling his name. However, the positive Brazilian never allows his age to wear him down, always putting in hyperactive performances to dominate proceedings.

That does lead to defensive breakdowns occasionally, but Luiz is a positive influence on the youngsters. He’s a cheery lad with a fiery attitude, tough-tackling nature and an unflinching attitude. Luiz’s positivity should cloud over his defensive vulnerabilities, while I think his leadership traits might strengthen their backbone.

The Grades:

David Luiz:

Arsenal (B)

Of course, Luiz isn’t the ideal centre-back Arsenal would’ve wanted in this window, but he’s the only one who was willing to make the jump. The Gunnars are desperate for some experience in their backline and are getting just that with the confident 32-year-old. He’ll integrate into the system seamlessly to help work the ball out their defence better. Emery just needs to pray his tendency to change games with his silly mistakes is toned down.

Chelsea (B+)

Call me nuts, but I think Chelsea are actually getting a great deal. Frank Lampard didn’t really care for a temperamental defender like Luiz. Now he can easily integrate the youngsters into his starting XI. They could be short in experience, but at least that everlasting worry off something going wrong isn’t hovering over their heads anymore.

Kieran Tierney:

Arsenal (A)

Believe me, but Kieran Tierney could end up a better buy for Arsenal than Nicolas Pepe! The left-back is packed with the potential to become something big. Looking at how Andy Robertson rose through at Liverpool, Tierney can experience a similar rise. A complete left-back with that cutting edge in his game, the Scotsman is easily the permanent left-back for the Gunnars over the next decade.

Celtic (C)

Celtic, on the other hand, obviously don’t feel so good on losing Tierney. He was a vital part in their unprecedented domination in the Scottish Premiership for years and one of their own all the way through. Producing another committed, determined asset like him is nearly impossible, as the Scottish Champions could experience left-back problems of their own now.

Transfer Grades: Romelu Lukaku Leaves Manchester United for Inter Milan

August 8, 2019

Who: Romelu Lukaku
From Where: Manchester United
To Where: Inter Milan
For How Much: £73 million ($88.7M USD)
Grade For Inter Milan: B+
Grade For Manchester United: B

Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan Overview

So it’s finally done. After a long-stretched summer saga involving Romelu Lukaku training with Manchester United, controversially leaking their training stats and then going on strike to train with another club, he’s finally received his dream move.

It needed some forcing to do, but good luck to him in Serie A! He should take to the Italian league fairly well having united with a long admirer Antonio Conte. The Belgian never really got kicking at Manchester United, but now leave the Premier League for a new journey.

United are losing a natural striker, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s already indicated he’s not exactly fond of his style. Inter, on the other hand, receive the natural striker they’ve been hunting for all summer long to replace disgraced former captain Mauro Icardi.

This seems a match made in heaven. Just for their fans’ sake, hope it doesn’t turn out sour for Inter as it did for United.

Who is he?

Romelu Lukaku, 26, is a Belgian international who has featured for Manchester United since the 20187-18 season.

In all, he netted 28 goals in 66 appearances for the Red Devils. He was a bit more productive at his previous club, Everton. In 110 appearances from 2015-17, Lukaku tallied 53 goals.

He’s produced at a similar level for the Belgium national team as well, with 48 goals in 81 caps. American fans might remember him from the havoc he caused in the 2014 World Cup Round of 16 against the USMNT. Coming on as a sub, he assisted on Kevin de Bruyne’s goal and scored the winner in the 105th minute.

Lukaku is a bruiser. He’s 6’3, physical, and as he tweeted out recently, faster than you’d think.

Is the price fair?

The total cost, including add-ons, climbs up to a hefty £73 million. Even in this inflated modern market, that is no joke!

However, if the 26-year-old plays to his strengths and guides Inter to some trophies or challenging with Juventus, he’ll be worth the fee in the long-run. To his benefit, Conte will angle his attacking style around the Belgian, not allowing him to fluff chances or expose his hilarious first-touch.

Conte’s style should suit him better, as it tenders to require the strikers to just focus on the goal-scoring. With a packed midfield and creative players behind him, Lukaku should find his confidence back. Considering his bullish physical aspects along with goal-scoring versatility, the more tactical Serie A should, for me, unleash his best traits.

As long as he keeps scoring goals, the 26-year-old can keep the doubters silenced. To Inter’s credit, the Belgian is yet to hit his peak, something he can achieve under a mentor like Conte. If he fulfils his prophecy of banging in goals consistently, it’ll be a gamble well taken from the Nerazzurri.

What impact should we expect?

For Inter, Lukaku’s the last piece to complete Conte’s new puzzle. After a long chase, the Italian gaffer now plans on getting the best out of him. He’ll be the centrepiece in Inter’s 3-5-2- formation, which is slowly being integrated.

The Nerazzurri have already made a flurry of transfers assured to benefit their new striker, with wingers Mateo Politano, Valentino Lazaro both capable of churning chances one after another for strikers. Nicolo Barella’s the creative midfielder to find the Belgian’s forward runs. Influential players like Ivan Perisic, Stefano Sensi would only amplify his effectiveness.

Of course, Lukaku’s prime objective will be to take Serie A by storm, contributing towards goals in possibly every game. Considering that he’s scored in double digits consecutively for their past few seasons, there’s a belief he’ll be netting 20+ strikes this time around as well.

More than just the scoring aspect, he’s also proven to work in a two-man forward line. This means good things for rising star Lautaro Martinez, with whom he’ll probably create a dynamic partnership knowing their similar traits.

Moreover, the Belgian’s crossing ability as well as work through the wings will add another dimension to stretch Conte’s attacking plans. If he hits his stride and finds his ability to make an impact in big games, I think Lukaku can definitely eclipse Icardi’s goal-scoring phenomenon at Inter.

The Grades:

Inter Milan (B+)

Of course, breaking their club-record for Lukaku shows ambition on Inter’s side. As long as he can maintain consistency while also stop making blunders on the pitch, the Belgian should be a brilliant buy for them. He’s a game-changer, can win them many points, while also being capable of adding that fear-factor back into their game with his lethal goalscoring ability.

Manchester United (B)

As weird as it’d be to say this is a profitable deal for both clubs, I think Manchester United will be pleased to get such a high fee for the erroneous Belgian. He never really hit his peak at Manchester, always fluffing in big games as well as struggling to maintain his rhythm. He never suited OGS’s style anyway, as if United sign a top-quality striker with the received amount in winter, it’ll also be a win-win for United.

2019-20 Premier League Preview: Can Manchester United and Chelsea Keep Their Grip on The Top 6?

August 7, 2019

This 2019-20 Premier League preview will examine whether Manchester United and Chelsea have done enough to solidify a top-six place. Like two fishes in the same pond, United and Chelsea now struggle to regularly solidify a top-four finish.

The fact that Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have both boosted their squads with quality signings makes a UEFA Champions League spot that much difficult to attain. In the hands of relatively inexperienced managers, both fallen giants have taken a calculated risk to usher a brighter future.

It wasn’t too long ago when the title race was being decided between the two sides. Now they fight to keep their stronghold in the European slots of the Premier League.

We’ll learn a lot about Manchester United and Chelsea on matchday 1. But first, here’s a look at the squads heading into the season.

Manchester United 2019-20 Premier League Preview

Last Season: 6th
Last Time Champions:
2012/13
Stadium:
Old Trafford, Manchester
Nickname:
The Red Devils
Manager:
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Key Additions: Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James
Best Player: Paul Pogba (when he’s happy, anyway)

A happy and motivated Paul Pogba would go a long way towards keeping Manchester United in the top 6.

Since legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, Manchester United have only made the Premier League top-four twice. This shows just how far they’ve fallen from grace.

Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, they looked invincible for a period of time last season. Then a harsh reality check brought them back to square one. However, United have looked a sharper side in pre-season and better prepared for the season ahead.

Their real downfall has been an inconsistency in form. Can OGS find the right formula to fix that? Expect a wild ride throughout the upcoming campaign.

 A bit of United history:

  • The were founded in 1878 (as Newton Heath LYR FC) and as Manchester United in 1902
  • Man U has won the English top division 20 times (most among any PL club).
  • They are the only Premier League club to win the European treble.
  • They are the most decorated English club with more than 40 trophies.
  • This includes 5 FA Cups (last being 2015-16), 3 European/Champions League (last being 2007-08) and one Europa League (2016-17).

Why you should like United:

  • You’ll have a lot of friends. United are one of the top brands in all of football.
  • They operate with a high-voltage attacking style.
  • Their youngsters are exciting to watch on the field.
  • They have American owners and are traded on the NYSE (MANU)?

Manchester United betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)

  • To win Premier League: +3300
  • To finish top 4: +100
  • To finish top 6: -500
  • Relegation: +100000

Manchester United Outlook:

Manchester United have been going up and down in the proverbial soccer ladder in recent years.  

However, new dawn could be at bay after a potentially profitable summer. Not only were bright signs displayed in pre-season, but their transfer blitz before the Premier League is encouraging.

Record-setting right-back transfer Aaron Wan-Bissaka has already looked the real deal with his “you shall not pass” vibe. Daniel James blistering speed, I think, will cause nightmares for defenders. Record-setting transferee Harry Maguire is among the top English centre-backs and will exponentially solidify their defence.

Given how positive OGS has been in preseason, for me, shows United should be serious contenders for the top four. They have reinforced their defence — something Arsenal and Spurs have not done. They have signed a combination of proven and promising players with a 90’s United winners’ mentality which, I think, is necessary to bring back the Champions League nights back to Old Trafford.

Chelsea 2019-20 Premier League Preview

Last Season: 3rd
Last time champions: 2016-17
Stadium:
Stamford Bridge
Nickname:
The Blues
Manager:
Frank Lampard
Key Additions: Christian Pulisic, Mateo Kovacic (permanently)
Best Player: N’Golo Kante

Can Christian Pulisic replace enough of Edez Hazard’s production for Chelsea to finish top 4 again?

Chelsea are an unpredictable bunch. As seen last season, they’ll be a trainwreck one week, while winning the UEFA Europa League another. With the transfer ban imposed by FIFA for malpractices, their summer was a quiet one.

Then again, when you play with fire and break the rules, you’re bound to get burned. Frank Lampard’s been handed a hoard of responsibilities, perhaps one too many. Chelsea still boasts an exciting, young attack full of potential, but the Premier League’s competitiveness could turn out to be too hot to handle.

A bit of Chelsea history:

  • Compared to other clubs, they’re just babies, having been founded in 1905.
  • They have won the Premier League 5 times.
  • They have won the FA Cup 8 times (the third most in England).
  • Chelsea has 1 Champions League trophy (2011-12) and 2 Europa League titles (including one this past season).
  • They are the first English club to have won the European Treble (Champions League, UEFA Europa League and European Cup Winners’ Cup).

Why you should like Chelsea:

  • Christian Pulisic.
  • Former NYCFC star Frank Lampard is their manager.
  • Their away kit resembles the USMNT’s jersey…intentional?

Chelsea betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)

  • To win Premier League: +3300
  • To finish top 4: +110
  • To finish top 6: -455
  • Relegation: +100000

Chelsea Outlook:

Chelsea have really been affected by the transfer ban, further slowing their rise to becoming title-contenders.

Considering that owner Roman Abramovich has splashed well over $1 billion since taking over in 2003, spending on transfers has been his pleasured hobby. You gotta use the shady money somewhere, right? (Man City ownership nodding head in approval)

However, luckily for the Blues, wonder-boy Christian Pulisic was snapped up before the transfer ban. He’s the total excitement package fans should trust upon to provide the goods.

Mateo Kovacic’s permanent deal should also smoothen up their midfield. Lampard’s quick-paced, attacking style, along with his trust upon blooming youngsters, brings plenty of positive signs.

However, Chelsea’s defence is still full of issues. David Luiz is a walking time-bomb and the others are either too young or just not good enough. It’s their defensive hiccups which, I feel, will hold them back from competing for a top-four spot. Lampard needs to hope too many problems don’t creep up to end up compromising their chase for Europe.

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Last Season: 6th
Last Time Champions:
2012/13
Stadium:
Old Trafford, Manchester
Nickname:
The Red Devils
Manager:
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Key Additions: Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James
Best Player: Paul Pogba (when he’s happy, anyway)

Since legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, Manchester United have only made the Premier League top-four twice. This shows just how far they’ve fallen from grace.

Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, they looked invincible for a period of time last season. Then a harsh reality check brought them back to square one. However, United have looked a sharper side in pre-season and better prepared for the season ahead.

Their real downfall has been an inconsistency in form. Can OGS find the right formula to fix that? Expect a wild ride throughout the upcoming campaign.

 A bit of United history:

  • The were founded in 1878 (as Newton Heath LYR FC) and as Manchester United in 1902
  • Man U has won the English top division 20 times (most among any PL club).
  • They are the only Premier League club to win the European treble.
  • They are the most decorated English club with more than 40 trophies.
  • This includes 5 FA Cups (last being 2015-16), 3 European/Champions League (last being 2007-08) and one Europa League (2016-17).

Why you should like United:

  • You’ll have a lot of friends. United are one of the top brands in all of football.
  • They operate with a high-voltage attacking style.
  • Their youngsters are exciting to watch on the field.
  • They have American owners and are traded on the NYSE (MANU)?

Manchester United betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)

  • To win Premier League: +3300
  • To finish top 4: +100
  • To finish top 6: -500
  • Relegation: +100000

Manchester United Outlook:

Manchester United have been going up and down in the proverbial soccer ladder in recent years.  

However, new dawn could be at bay after a potentially profitable summer. Not only were bright signs displayed in pre-season, but their transfer blitz before the Premier League is encouraging.

Record-setting right-back transfer Aaron Wan-Bissaka has already looked the real deal with his “you shall not pass” vibe. Daniel James blistering speed, I think, will cause nightmares for defenders. Record-setting transferee Harry Maguire is among the top English centre-backs and will exponentially solidify their defence.

Given how positive OGS has been in preseason, for me, shows United should be serious contenders for the top four. They have reinforced their defence — something Arsenal and Spurs have not done. They have signed a combination of proven and promising players with a 90’s United winners’ mentality which, I think, is necessary to bring back the Champions League nights back to Old Trafford.

Chelsea 2019-20 Premier League Preview

Last Season: 3rd
Last time champions: 2016-17
Stadium:
Stamford Bridge
Nickname:
The Blues
Manager:
Frank Lampard
Key Additions: Christian Pulisic, Mateo Kovacic (permanently)
Best Player: N’Golo Kante

Chelsea are an unpredictable bunch. As seen last season, they’ll be a trainwreck one week, while winning the UEFA Europa League another. With the transfer ban imposed by FIFA for malpractices, their summer was a quiet one.

Then again, when you play with fire and break the rules, you’re bound to get burned. Frank Lampard’s been handed a hoard of responsibilities, perhaps one too many. Chelsea still boasts an exciting, young attack full of potential, but the Premier League’s competitiveness could turn out to be too hot to handle.

A bit of Chelsea history:

  • Compared to other clubs, they’re just babies, having been founded in 1905.
  • They have won the Premier League 5 times.
  • They have won the FA Cup 8 times (the third most in England).
  • Chelsea has 1 Champions League trophy (2011-12) and 2 Europa League titles (including one this past season).
  • They are the first English club to have won the European Treble (Champions League, UEFA Europa League and European Cup Winners’ Cup).

Why you should like Chelsea:

  • Christian Pulisic.
  • Former NYCFC star Frank Lampard is their manager.
  • Their away kit resembles the USMNT’s jersey…intentional?

Manchester United betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)

  • To win Premier League: +3300
  • To finish top 4: +110
  • To finish top 6: -4550
  • Relegation: +100000

Chelsea Outlook:

Chelsea have really been affected by the transfer ban, further slowing their rise to becoming title-contenders.

Considering that owner Roman Abramovich has splashed well over $1 billion since taking over in 2003, spending on transfer have been his pleasured hobby. You gotta use the shady money somewhere, right? However, before the transfer, wonder-boy Christian Pulisic was snapped up.

The youngster has all the tools to be as good as, perhaps even better than Eden Hazard in running the show. He’s the total excitement package fans should trust upon to provide the goods. Mateo Kovacic’s permanent deal should also smoothen up their midfield. Lampard’s quick-paced, attacking style, along with his trust upon blooming youngsters, brings plenty of positive signs.

However, Chelsea’s defence is still full of issues. David Luiz is a walking time-bomb and the others are either too young or just not good enough. It’s their defensive hiccups which, I feel, will hold them back from competing for a top-four spot. Lampard needs to hope too many problems don’t creep up to end up compromising their chase for Europe.

Transfer Grades: Wayne Rooney Leaving DC United for Derby County

August 7, 2019

Who: Wayne Rooney
From Where:
DC United
To Where:
Derby County
Grade For Derby County:
B+
Grade For DC United:
C

Wayne Rooney to Derby County Overview

Wait a second. When did that happen? Wayne Rooney is all set to make a sensational return to English soccer in January, when he joins up EFL Championship side Derby County. Quite the surprise, isn’t it?

But wait, there’s a catch! He’s joining in a player-coach role, which will not only see him take the field for the Rams, but also act as a mentor to the players. It’s similar to the role Ashley Cole took upon joining Derby last season. So don’t expect seeing Wazza play ninety minutes through the rest of Derby’s second half of the season.

Now, while joining in January won’t allow Rooney to influence their chase for Premier League promotion, this also comes as a major shock for DC United. They were flying high with thoughts of winning the MLS Eastern Conference and more, but losing a vital player like Rooney brings them back to the ground.

Moreover, they are also losing their knight in shining armour to have upgraded their reputation ever since he arrived. Let’s just say replacing him with be a task just as difficult as winning the MLS championship.

What impact should we expect?

Wayne Rooney’s had quite the career revival in the MLS with DC United. Since his move to the US, the former Manchester United striker has been involved in 35 goals (23g, 12a) which has only been surpassed by Carlos Vela and Josef Martinez. Rooney has produced some of the biggest highlights in the league since he came over too.

Now, I think it’s fair to say the jump from the MLS to the exhausting Championship isn’t easy to take for any player. Rooney isn’t getting any younger and at 33 years of age can only play limited games. That being said, when he does play, the 33-year-old is also capable of producing magic.

As seen in the MLS, he’s still gotten that killer goal-scoring instinct which made him among the world’s best at one point. He’s also amplified his creativity while being more vocal, something that’ll help the youngsters. However, what is crucial is that he also joins as a coach. Rooney will work alongside Philip Cocu’s coaching staff, helping the players train and get prepared for games.

Moreover, he’ll also be responsible for coaching the academy players coming through the system. For someone as experienced as Rooney, I think the players should be excited to be working under his guidance to improve themselves. It’ll also be at Derby where he probably works on his coaching licenses, as the former United man has already hinted at reverting to management soon.

There’s also a good chance he returns back to Manchester United, where he apparently wants to work alongside Ole Gunnar Solskjaer soon. The Norwegian’s already working with a mate of Rooney’s in Michael Carrick. Going by how all-hands-on-deck he is with management, for me, OGS will gladly open his arms to reuniting with another former team-mate which such varied expertise.

The Grades:

Derby County (B+)

That’s one way for Derby to change an England-legend for another one. They’re taking a risk on him as a player, but his expertise in injecting a winning-mentality into the squad makes him invaluable.

Also, If they also manage Premier League promotion, there’s nothing better than Rooney when it comes to performing at the highest level.

DC United (C)

Losing Rooney creates a big roadblock in DC United’s path to future glory. He’s been the heart of the team and won them so many games ever since his arrival from Everton.

Ola Kamara is apparently replacing him, but it just won’t be the same excitement without Wazza.

Six Premier League Youngsters Ready to Breakout This Season

August 5, 2019

The start of the Premier League is just days away.

Every year, new starts emerge and shine.

As we’ve seen with Trent-Alexander Arnold, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling’s rise, players are starting to spike at a young age. There’s just no fear or unnerving them anymore. The managers’ encouragement has allowed youngsters to make their breakthrough very early in their careers.

Here are six young players ready for their moment to breakthrough this year.

(Editor’s Note: Christian Pulisic is not included as a breakout player given American soccer fans are very well aware of him–however, he will have a positive impact with Chelsea this season)

Mason Mount

Termed as the “next Frank Lampard”, I don’t think Mason Mount is his manager’s second-coming. He’s a dynamic midfielder in his own right. An industrious figure looking to regain possession while not being shy of putting in challenges, the 20-year-old’s clever work going forward should also please Chelsea fans.

Mount had an exciting season under Lampard at Derby County, scoring 11 goals. He’s already contributed to a few in preseason, looking well synchronized with Christian Pulisic and co. With his tendency to pop up goals or wander into promising positions towards creating chances, I feel the 20-year-old can be Chelsea’s secret weapon.

Reiss Nelson

Reiss Nelson is perhaps the most talented youngster to come out of Arsenal’s academy in recent times. He’s proven his mettle in the Bundesliga, having a profitable campaign at Hoffenheim with 7 goals in just 630 minutes. Nelson has an electric presence, which suits his sizzling knack of running rings around defenders.

Just ask the Bundesliga players he tormented. He really suits Unai Emery’s fast-pace attacking style, under which he impressed in pre-season. Nelson’s got the pedigree to create chaos in the Premier League with his irresistible trickery. Is he ready for the big leagues? I think he is and if Emery allows him to express himself, the 19-year-old will be a breath of fresh air.

Moise Kean

The latest addition to the marquee Premier League youngsters list, Everton’s big summer transfer Moise Kean earned quite the reputation back in Italy. Coming through seven-time reigning Italian champions Juventus’ youth system, he’s almost like the second coming of Didier Drogba. The youngster likes to have fun outside the pitch but means business inside it.

Considering he netted 6 goals in only 13 appearances in his first senior season, he’s bound to get better. The 19-year-old’s a fox in the box, pouncing on chances to score with conviction. Everton probably has their Romelu Lukaku replacement finally. Kean is on the rise as a potential top-quality striker who, for me, will outscore many others in the blue side of Merseyside.

Mason Greenwood

Among the positives from Manchester United’s perfect pre-season campaign was Mason Greenwood’s emergence. Perhaps the most unique striker they’ve had since Zlatan, the 17-year-old’s outplayed those well above his age-grade. Not only did he net his first senior goals in their pre-season tour, but Greenwood’s composure in goal-scoring positions and lethal finishing touch encouraged bright signs.

He’s still raw in some physical aspects, but makes do with his technical expertise in sliding past defenders. It’s looking doubtful United will sign another striker if/when Lukaku leaves. So rather than shifting midfielders/wingers into the centre, I feel Greenwood could produce timely goals when exposed to Premier League soccer regularly.

Rhian Brewster

Liverpool won’t be changing their world-class attacking trio anytime soon. However, that wouldn’t restrict Jurgen Klopp from giving opportunities to youngsters, something he’s done for years. Rhian Brewster’s time has come to shine. The 19-year-old took full advantage of the pre-season, scoring many goals, while also impressing in Liverpool’s less-than-joyful US tour.

He was among the more impressive players from pre-season, with his ability to warp past defenders as well as bang in emphatic goals benefiting his reputation. Brewster’s surprisingly quick, has a bag of tricks in his arsenal and is hard-working, ticking the boxes for being a Klopp favourite. Liverpool have a long season ahead to finally claim the Premier League. A clinical striker like Brewster should, I think, be their ace-in-the-hole.

Phil Foden

At 19 years old, Phil Foden is already a domestic treble winner with Manchester City. But if anyone thinks we’ve seen the best of him, they are very mistaken. He only netted that one goal last season (an important one in the title race), but there’s still loads for him to score. Described by Pep Guardiola as the most talented player he’s ever worked with, Foden’s about to unload tricks people have rarely seen yet.

He’s pacy with the ball, but it’s his incisive passing along with a knack for popping up in prime positions which makes him hard to track. Now a year older, the youngster knows the Premier League inside out. If Pep gives him more than 10-15 minutes of game-time regularly, I feel he’s about to have his breakthrough season very soon.   

Are Manchester United making a mistake by signing Paulo Dybala?

August 1, 2019

Manchester United are about to pull off their biggest coup of the summer by signing flamboyant Juventus #10 Paulo Dybala.

According to Sky Sports, United and Juventus are working on a deal which will see the wantaway Romelu Lukaku move to the Serie A Champions, paving the way for Dybala to arrive at Old Trafford.

Now, I would lie if I said this isn’t exciting. When you have this kind of a majestic player linked, who wouldn’t be happy? Call me pessimistic, but realistically this deal would also bring some concerning problems into the limelight.

Specifically, Dybala’s basically being force-fed into joining the Manchester club. There’s little doubt that United’s attack would get a world-class boost with the man once touted as Messi’s heir, but problems could arise to sink them even further.

Not your ordinary #9

Now it’s no secret that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer isn’t exactly fond of Lukaku. He’s not the consistent goal-scorer he craves. Also, that horrible / heavy first touch doesn’t help. However, his longtime demand has been to get an effective centre-forward. Dybala doesn’t exactly possess the deadly striker’s instincts OGS wants.

He plays more as a second-striker, loving to get the ball from deep in midfield to run at defences. He’s not the one to thump in headers, bully defenders with his physique or creep into unpredictable goalscoring positions. The Argentine has flair for days, having the attributes to run rings around defenders, but not the sly fox United need.

Dybala will bring a bigger dimension to their attack with his dribbling ability along with creativity going forward, but rarely scores scrappy goals like OGS wants. This deal could end up with United still lacking the emphatic, traditional centre-forward they’ve missed since Zlatan Ibrahimovic left.

Where exactly does he fit into the system?

Sure, the Juventus #10 is the fantasy signing to delight every United fan. However, there must be some thinking processed into how he fits into their playing system. Be it last season or in pre-season, OGS has opted for a 4-3-3 formation, allowing Paul Pogba to play the farthest of the midfielders.

Dybala is no natural winger to fit into any of their side wings. His crossing accuracy is average at best, as he becomes depressed being isolated in one side. However, he can’t operate as a centre midfielder because of his defensive weakness or inability to trackback.

His best position is behind the striker, not as one, which means OGS will need to shuffle up his whole system just to compliment Dybala. He’ll need to shift to a 4-2-3-1 formation, which will drastically compromise United’s defensive fortitude. Well, at least with Lukaku, they have someone with the ability to play down the middle!

Untested to the Premier League environment

Speaking of the Premier League, did I mention earlier that Dybala’s yet to play professionally outside Italy? After initially breaking through the Argentine league, he’s weaved his magic in Serie A in the last seven years, but remains a complete stranger to England.

He could end up struggling to adapt to the English league’s physicality. Moreover, the torturous schedule along with cut-throat oppositions week in, week out would be especially uncomfortable.

For a little Argentine, the intensity of the games could be too much to taken in. Now, I’m not referencing the famous, “Can Messi do it in a cold, wet night in Stoke” jibe, but don’t be surprised if Dybala ends up sweating after he learns the Premier League as a boiler room in comparison to Italy.

A scary similarity to the Di Maria debacle

Is it me or does this whole bringing Dybala to United have a déjà vu feeling to it?

It wasn’t that long ago when United signed another high-profile Argentine —Angel di Maria from Real Madrid — when in desperate need for a marquee superstar. He didn’t want to join them either and we all saw what transpired.

After little sparks of magic, Di Maria flopped under Louis Van Gaal’s system. Despite playing in various positions to his benefit, he couldn’t adapt to the Manchester environment. One year later, he joined PSG, becoming public enemy #1 in Manchester. Similarly, even Dybala doesn’t want to join United as they aren’t playing in the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League nor competing for the title.

He’ll only be coming for a spiked wage and could end up unhappy if he doesn’t like his new home. A forced move could turn down his performance-levels, making him struggle to pile on the misery on United.

Manchester United’s Asia Tour: Four Things We Learned

July 30, 2019

Manchester United’s pre-season tour in Asia came to an impressive halt with a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur. By maintaining a perfect 100% record and winning every single game down under, the atmosphere’s drastically changed since that dreadful final day nightmare in May.

Now, it’s not like everything’s suddenly fixed with a slew of pre-season victories. There are still persisting issues which demand some fixes, but some positives encourage promising signs. Here are four things we learned from the pre-season tour.

1. Mason Greenwood will get more chances to impress

A refreshing positive from the pre-season tour has been how the youngsters have shone through in exhausting conditions. Tahith Chong,  Angel Gomes were both delightful to watch, but Mason Greenwood, I’m looking at you.

After having made his debut for United last season, he looks much sharper and stronger. The 17-year-old netted his debut senior goal in a smart tap-in against Leeds United but also showcased Van Persie like style with an emphatic winner against Inter Milan.

With Greenwood, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has the option to shuffle around his tactics. While most people struggle to decide what to do in their lives at his age, Greenwood’s scoring goals for fun. He was quick going forward, while also clinical in front of goal. He also didn’t shy away from displaying his swagger (just look below how he bamboozled Inter’s Milan Skriniar).

As Romelu Lukaku’s on the verge of leaving and no proper right-winger brought in, deputizing Greenwood as a make-shift right-back or super-sub centre-forward will diversify the effectiveness of United’s attack.

2. Paul Pogba still the man to build around


So Paul Pogba’s summer was an eventful one. First, he went to China to boost his brand image, but also reiterated the need for a “new challenge” after being slagged off by fans. Exit rumours came aplenty, but Solskjaer’s remained firm on wanting to influence his attacking movement through him.

To his credit, Pogba’s actually looked sharper than usual in the pre-season tour. He was energetic, vocal and packed with positive creativity in the hunt for goals. Sure, there were a few boos occasionally, but the Frenchman thrilled the fans by bossing the midfield game during the tour.  

He’s taken new-boy Aaron Wan-Bissaka into his wing, superbly linking with him on the right. Pogba also influenced the new signings’ assist against Leeds United. Moreover, he played deeper, helped control possession more and also contributed defensively.

Yeah, he’s a problem child, but Pogba’s still the world-class star to build around to get the sparks flying again.

3. Manchester United need a leader in defence

So one thing which is obvious despite the glorious pre-season tour is United still need better defenders.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka displayed some strong defensive-work, a much-needed upgrade over the erroneous Ashley Young. Victor Lindelof– amidst a knock- was also assertive, while Luke Shaw solidified his spot for the regular season.

However, a world-class defender is still needed. Granted, United only conceded one goal in the Asia tour but looked shaky on numerous opportunities. Perth Glory, Leeds, Inter all fielded their weaker attackers, but still Marcos Rojo, as well as Phil Jones, looked uneasy. Tottenham Hotspur almost exposed the defensive frailties, but pre-season blues restricted them from handing out a thrashing.

Be it the heavily-linked Harry Maguire or anyone else, United need a stronger leader to hold the defensive line. They need someone to bully strikers, lung into clearances to make life easier for David de Gea. Inflated fees be damned, a top defender must be prioritized above anything else in this transfer window.

4. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s positivity is a good thing

There’s a clear parallel to Manchester United’s pre-season tour this year than the gloomy atmosphere under Jose Mourinho last season. The difference is Solskjaer.

Now, I don’t regard him as good tactically as his recent predecessors. However, there’s something addictive about his irresistible positivity. OGS got dealt with persistent hard-hitting questions regarding incoming or outgoing transfers, despite him promising a rebuild last season.

However, he never lost his cool, answering every question without compromising anyone in his squad. As a result, he’s made Pogba a happy chap again by entrusting all his resources upon him. Unlike Mourinho, the players actually love giving their 100% for him, which was displayed in some tireless, energetic performances.

His upbeat attitude is why OGS will always have the fans backing him and even though he’s unlikely to win a big trophy anytime soon, he’s the man to usher United on the road back to the top.

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