Manchester United 3-0 Partizan Belgrade: 5 talking points as Red Devils qualify for knockout stage with comfortable win

Marcus Rashford (L) leads Manchester United celebrations against Chelsea

Manchester United assured themselves of a place in the next round of the Europa League with a comfortable win over Partizan Belgrade at home. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points. 

#1 Wasteful Rashford a worry for Solskjaer

Marcus Rashford came off to bright applause, having scored Manchester United’s third of the night with a thunderous strike, but the worry for his manager will definitely have been his wastefulness.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has constantly spoken of his desire to turn the youngster into a great goalscorer, instead of just a scorer of great goals, which is exactly what he is at this minute. The England international spurned no less than four genuine opportunities to score before finally scoring one and questions will continue to be asked unless he improves his conversion rate.

#2 McTominay injury scare

Undoubtedly one of the Red Devil’s best players this season, the sight of Scott McTominay making his way down the tunnel was a devastating one for the fans. The midfield enforcer has been crucial in Pogba’s absence and his manager now faces a nervous wait as the extent of his injury is determined, ahead of their crucial weekend Premier League clash.

#3 Mata and Martial shine as attacking flow improves 

A constant complaint against Manchester United has been their lack of attacking flow, something that seemed to have greatly improved, at least on the night.

The home team scored thrice and could have had at least four more with relative ease had they put away their chances. Anthony Martial and Juan Mata linked up play beautifully, add to that Marcus Rashford along with Mason Greenwood and the Old Trafford crowd were in for a treat with several bursts of free-flowing, sublime football on display.

#4 United qualify for next round with two games to spare 

Having played his best team in almost every game in the competition up to this point, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can finally shuffle his pack – since Manchester United have now qualified for the next round with two games to spare.

The likes of Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay, Marcus Rashford and Fred have been severely overworked and a break from continental encounters could do wonders both for the players as well as for United’s domestic form.

#5 Good things on the horizon for Ole?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer provides injury update on Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire after Manchester United's win over Chelsea

There have been far too many false dawns in this club over the course of its recent history for one to say that Manchester United have definitely turned a corner, but the effort in their displays is there for all to see.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have lost far too many games due to poor finishing this season and there is a palpable sense around Old Trafford that things will work out if the players get their head down and finish the chances – a conviction that was reinforced by tonight’s performance. As to whether or not that really is the case, one can only wait and watch.

Manchester United 1-0 Bournemouth: 5 talking points as Joshua King ends United’s 3-game winning run

Manchester United 1-0 Bournemouth: 5 talking points as Joshua King ends United's 3-game winning run

Manchester United’s purple patch came to an abrupt halt as former academy boy Joshua King turned villain and condemned them to a 1-0 loss. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points from the game here.

5. First-half fracas and VAR drama 

While not as contentious as some other calls this season, the Vitality Stadium saw another example of a subjective VAR decision that divided opinions. Bournemouth’s Lerma went across Anthony Martial in the Bournemouth penalty area and the United man went down after what seemed to be a barge. Replays showed contact but VAR ruled in Bournemouth’s favour in accordance with the ‘high-bar’ instruction issued by the Premier League. In the meanwhile, a quarrel ensued between the teams after Lerma reacted angrily to Martial’s perceived dive and the Frenchman retorted in kind.

4. United old boy Joshua King grabs the headlines 

Former Manchester United academy boy Joshua King grabbed the headlines for the Cherries, scoring the game’s only goal with a fantastic take and turn. There were a number of question marks as to how the visiting back-line allotted him so much time and space, but King had no complaints and grabbed his chance with aplomb to make it 1-0 at the stroke of half-time, as he scored what turned out to be the eventual winner.

3. Ramsdale saves the day

Bournemouth’s number one Aaron Ramsdale was one amongst the numerous success stories on the day, keeping his side ahead with some vital saves and interceptions. The goalkeeper closed down space brilliantly to ensure that Manchester United striker Mason Greenwood had enough room only to hit the post while also making key blocks from Pereira and McTominay to hand his side a win.

2. Bournemouth’s first win in 5 matches

Bournemouth overcame their worst goal drought in 7-and-a-half years of 4 games to not only score a goal, but also then preserve their lead to win the game. It was also their first win in 5 games, something that propels them to 6th place, ahead of United who themselves have dropped to 8th and might end up even lower by the end of the game-week.

1. Back to the drawing board for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 

After a week that provided renewed hope and optimism to the Old Trafford faithful, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign at Old Trafford is once again shrouded in a fog of doubt. Consistency has eluded them – they have not won two games on the trot in the league since last season and yet again, it’s back to the drawing board for Solskjaer and co.

Manchester United 3-1 Norwich City: 5 talking points from United’s win at Carrow Road

Manchester United 3-1 Norwich City: 5 talking points from United's win at Carrow Road

Manchester United beat Norwich 3-1 in what was a drama-filled evening at Carrow Road. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points. 

1. Specialist Krul adds to United’s penalty woes 

Having already drawn 2 games this season owing to missed penalties, United would have put their penalty woes behind them, right? Not necessarily though, as they missed not once but twice from the spot. Holland’s famous penalty specialist Tim Krul guessed correctly both times, denying Marcus Rashford first before saving Anthony Martial’s effort to keep his team in the game and to ensure that United weren’t done with it just yet.

2. Martial shines on return

After over a month out with injury, Anthony Martial returned to United’s starting line up in the Premier League, and did he have some game! The French international reminded fans of what their team had so sorely missed as he combined with Rashford to great effect with some lovely link-up play. Despite missing a penalty, he capped off the evening with a lovely dink over the goalkeeper to make it 3-0 and wrap up the game for his side. Perfect return.

3. First Premier League away win in over 7 months for Manchester United 

The draw against Liverpool last week was supposed to be the turning point and United made sure it was no false dawn, delighting viewers with some well-worked attacking play. The reward for their endeavour was their first away win in the Premier League since early March, a result they desperately needed to back their manager’s claims of progress.

4. Wan-Bissaka the key

Summer signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been one of United’s best players this season and the English youngster once again put in a stellar display. His total of 11 tackles won during the entire 90 minutes is more than any other player in the Premier League this season and it is hard to underplay how important he has become to his team this season. One of the best in the league.

5. From 15th to 7th for Ole’s United

Finally moving into the top half of the table is a welcome relief for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on whom the pressure had been ramping up in recent weeks, as United jumped from 15th to 7th. Moreover, dropped points for Spurs and Arsenal added extra importance to this win as they also finally rejoined the race for the Premier League top-6.

Manchester United 1-0 Partizan Belgrade: 5 talking points from United’s first away win in 7 months

With Manchester United hanging on to take all 3 points at the FK Partizan Stadium, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points. 

1. United score with their only shot on target 

Despite hitting the woodwork in the first half, statistically United had only one single shot on target – the penalty that Anthony Martial converted, which as it turned out was the game’s only goal. Partizan didn’t fare much better, with only two shots on target but that will be no excuse for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who knows his side must improve.

2. United youngster Williams impresses

Manchester United left-back Brandon Williams

One of the bright spots for United was the performance of teenage prodigy Brandon Williams. Brought into the fold by Solskjaer earlier this season, Williams’ energetic forays and front-foot defending have caught the eye and this outing was no different. The youngster was up and down the left-side for the entire 90 minutes and even managed to win the penalty for what inadvertently turned out to be the winner.

3. Partizan give it their all 

Third in the group after their loss, the Serbians cannot be faulted for a lack of effort. They had 15 shots to United’s five and could have scored a few had it not been for Sergio Romero. The home crowd were in full voice for the entire duration of the game and no chanting was reported till the final whistle, despite Serbian football’s recent reputation to the contrary.

4. Pressure off Ole, for now 

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

The pressure had been simmering to boiling point for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who can finally breathe a sigh of relief with this win. The young team he put out got a lot wrong, but defended well and ground out a result, something that was especially important to build on their positive performance against Liverpool.

5. United’s first away win in over 7 months 

After a club record 9 away wins on the trot in his first few months in-charge, Manchester United’s win in Belgrade was their first in over 7 months. That a club the size of United could go 11 away matches without a win is unthinkable. Nevertheless, they have brushed off the tag, after an 11 game winless run away from home and perhaps, just perhaps, things can only get better from now on.

5 players who deserve a rating downgrade in FIFA 20

fifa 20 hazard lingard

FOX Sports Asia takes a  look at five players who deserve a rating downgrade in EA Sports FIFA 20.

1. Jesse Lingard (82) 

Man United stars Lingard, Matic & Bailly thrill fans in Singapore

Even a modest rating of 82 seems to much for Jesse Lingard at the moment, who has had a very poor 12 months of football. His game is admittedly more than just numbers but surely 0 goals and 0 assists in the whole of 2019 is inexcusable?

The new campaign has been no better as questions over his form and injuries continue for the United academy product while he has also been dropped from from Gareth Southgate’s England squad.

Morever, his off-field antics and flashy lifestyle haven’t done him any favors either. Surely, a downgrade to 80 is on the cards?

2. Eden Hazard (91)

Real Madrid forward Eden Hazard

Brought in with the view that he would become the talisman that Madrid have craved since Ronaldo’s departure, Hazard’s form has led to more questions than answers. After injury led to the postponement of his debut, Hazard has managed only one goal for his new team since.

Zinedine Zidane has stuck by his signing but the crowd at the Bernabeu has been very unforgiving and are running out of patience with the 100 million man. Clearly lacking in form and fitness and nowhere near the level he was at in England, the winger isn’t doing justice to his 91 FIFA 20 overall at all and must be downgraded.

3. Thomas Muller (86) 

Bundesliga Buzz Wire Challenge: Robert Lewandowski v Thomas Muller

Thomas Muller’s form has been on the wane for quite sometime and with the start of the new season, his dip in fortunes have become even more pronounced. Coach Niko Kovac publicly stated the forward wasn’t part of his plans earlier this season, although he was forced to retract his words later.

Joachim Low’s decision to unceremoniously drop him from the German team suddenly also seems justified now more than ever. When fallen heroes the likes of Alexis Sanchez are rated 82, Muller certainly shouldn’t be in with a rating of 86.

4. Nicolas Otamendi (83) 

Pep Guardiola with Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi

Woefully out of form, Nicolas Otamendi’s individual errors are one of the reasons Manchester City are trailing so far behind Liverpool at the minute. Kompany’s departure and injuries to John Stones and Aymeric Laporte have thrust the Argentine into the limelight as City’s only fit center-back and to say he has disappointed would be an understatement.

Otamendi played the a decisive role in the goals conceded as City lost 3-2 to Norwich and then 2-0 to Wolves – the latter defeat stretching the gap from Liverpool to 8 points. Definitely in line for a downgrade.

5. Ivan Rakitic (86) 

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic

Once untouchable, Ivan Rakitic’s stock has plummeted since Frenkie De Jong’s arrival. The Croatian has started just one match for Barcelona this season and is no longer the force of old. A fan favorite at the club, Rakitic’s fall from grace wouldn’t have been predicted even by the biggest of pessimists and is a difficult pill to swallow for the home support.

A January move is rumored to be on the cards but at 31, top clubs will be hesitant to come in for the midfielder. Thus, a rating of 86 does not at all seems justified for someone who has been languishing on the Camp Nou bench, with little to no resale value.

5 early contenders for Ballon d’Or 2020

Reports: Lionel Messi wants Cristiano Ronaldo's Juventus teammate at Barcelona

Barely two months into the new season and some players have already hit top gear – FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the early contenders for next season’s Ballon d’Or. 

1. Cristiano Ronaldo 

Cristiano Ronaldo on 700th career goal in bittersweet night

The Portuguese remarked that records ‘follow him’ after scoring his 700th career goal and it’s hard to disagree. Losing out on the UEFA Best Player as well as FIFA’s ‘The Best’ awards to Virgil van Dijk and Lionel Messi respectively has added fuel to his fire and it’s impossible to count him out of the reckoning for another Ballon d’Or in 2020.

The forward has had a fine start to the season at club level, with four goals and an assist in eight appearances, while also bringing up 700 career goals, as mentioned previously. An absolute machine.

2. Raheem Sterling 

‘I have faith in UEFA’ – Sterling on racism protocol

FIFA’s reluctance to recognize Premier League talent in their World XI continued as Raheem Sterling was left out despite a startling campaign with Manchester City last term. The man himself doesn’t seem to care, picking up where he left off with 7 goals in 9 club appearances already.

He has also by and far become the talisman for his country while his off-field goodwill hasn’t gone unnoticed, lauded by many as the de-facto ambassador in the fight against racism. Having taken his game to another level, another season without recognition would be scandalous.

3. Kylian Mbappe 

The enduring feel around the player is that he is going to win the Ballon d’Or sooner or later, it’s just a question of when. Despite the fact that Mbappe’s season is yet to burst into life, having scored only a solitary goal at club level after his return from injury – form is no concern for him.

Winning the Champions League with PSG along with a stellar Euro ’20 should put him right up there in contention with the likes of Messi and Ronaldo. Definitely the one to keep an eye on.

4. Lionel Messi 

‘Griezmann rift rumours a lie and I wanted Neymar return’ – Messi

The reason the little master figures so far down the list is a stop-start season so far, marred by muscle issues. When he has featured, Messi has been as deadly as ever and only 1 goal and 1 assist in the La Liga does a disservice to how good he has been.

Barcelona have struggled at times without their captain and his return might just be the tonic to spur their campaign back to life. What’s certain is that as long as he plays, the Argentine will always be a contender.

5. Robert Lewandowski 

Lewandowski on his way to becoming GOAT with history-making, record-breaking ways

At 31 years of age, Robert Lewandowski shows no sign of slowing down. Indeed, the Pole is the most prolific amongst all the players in the list – 14 goals in 9 appearances(league and Europe) means he is averaging well over a goal per game.

The addition of Coutinho was hailed by Lewandowski and the playmaker has certainly brought the best out of him. Who knows, with Bayern looking fresh and the Euros to play for over the summer, Lewa might just be in with a shot.

5 reasons why Jose Mourinho deserved another chance at Manchester United

Reports: Jose Mourinho 'never wanted' to sign €60million rated Manchester United star

Retrospect is a funny thing – Jose Mourinho’s reign at Manchester United looks rosier than ever as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struggles under the burden of expectations. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at five things the Portuguese got right during his time at United because of which he deserved a bit more time. 

1. First season – three trophies 

United’s league campaign in Mourinho’s first full season in charge ended in a dismal 6th place finish but he did manage to bring back the trophy-winning culture, becoming the only manager to win trophies in his first full season at the club. A Zlatan Ibrahimovic inspired League Cup win over Southampton followed by the Europa League against Ajax meant United were finally coming around to being winners once again.

2. Highest league finish since Sir Alex Ferguson 

Mourinho’s claim that second position with United is his greatest achievement in football is far-fetched at best, especially considering he spent over 200 million Pounds on assembling the squad.

What cannot be ignored, however, is that United did indeed finish second, their highest league finish since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure. It gave renewed optimism to fans and made them believe that they weren’t too far away, however short-lived that feeling may have been.

3. Bringing Scott McTominay through

If there has been a shining light in United’s recent drab period since the end of last season, it has been academy boy Scott McTominay. Not for his silky skills or technical ability, but for ‘personality’ – something sorely missing in the team.

The fans love him as one of their own and so did Mourinho, praising him for his ‘special character’ and always trusting him in big games. McTominay too has picked up where he left off under Solskjaer and could go one to be one of those famous Mourinho protégés.

4. Signing Victor Lindelof 

Before signing a contract extension with United, Victor Lindelof was courted by the likes of Barcelona and credit must go to the man who brought him to United. The Swede’s first season in England was managed carefully by the Portuguese.

Mourinho gave him ample game time while protecting him equally well and the rewards are being reaped by United – he has firmly established himself as the first-choice partner to Harry Maguire at the heart of their defence and looks set to stay for years to come.

5. Marking the need for a defender 

The beginning of the end for Jose Mourinho at United was the time he was denied a centre-back by the board, something that might ironically also go down as one of his key-contributions. Mourinho’s media whine-frenzy was well documented but as the season went on, his team’s defensive frailties were in the open for everyone to see.

Eventually, the hierarchy realised the problem, culminating in the 80 million Euro signing of Harry Maguire, too late for the manager who first wanted it, but just in time that United can avail his services for the foreseeable future.

5 players Manchester United must sign in January to solve undergoing crisis

It’s official! Manchester United are in crisis once again. But who can the Red Devils sign in January to bolster their ranks as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks for solutions?

#1 Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)

Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele

Unsettled since the summer at Barcelona, Ousmane Dembele represents the sort of young, star signing that Manchester United want to bring in under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. There was talk of him being moved on to Paris Saint Germain as a make-weight for the Neymar deal but nothing materialized and a red card against Sevilla marked another troubled outing for him despite Barcelona’s win.

While his talent is undoubted, United may be reluctant to sign another ‘problem-player’, with the likes of Paul Pogba already at the club. 50-50 this one.

#2 Mario Mandzukic (Juventus)

Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic

The Croatian veteran was reportedly close to joining Manchester United in the summer and has been completely cast-away at current club Juventus as manager Maurizio Sarri looks to guide them into a new era.

Having sold Romelu Lukaku, the Red Devils were in the market for a replacement and it looks like both parties are ruing the failed deal. Paulo Dybala, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Gonzalo Higuain are all ahead of Mandzukic in the pecking order and a short-term move in January would give United some much-needed experience up-front.

#3 Sean Longstaff (Newcastle United)

Newcastle United midfielder Sean Longstaff

It was the stuff of dreams for Sean Longstaff as his team beat his reported suitors at St James Park with brother Matthew scoring the winner. All said and done, Longstaff senior clearly demonstrated why Manchester United were after his services – bossing the midfield, head and shoulders above the duo of McTominay and Fred.

The Newcastle academy graduate admitted having his ‘head turned’ due to United’s interest and will have a decision to make should they come back for him in January.

#4 Moussa Dembele (Lyon)

Lyon striker Moussa Dembele

23 years of age and already more clinical than every one of Solskjaer’s options upfront, Lyon’s Moussa Dembele represents the kind of brute and clinical presence Manchester United are sorely lacking.

Marcus Rashford has disappointed, Anthony Martial has been injured, and Mason Greenwood is still too young. As a result, Dembele might be the solution to United’s woes – claimed to be the one deal that United were close to getting over the line in the summer but couldn’t.

#5 Bruno Fernandes (Sporting CP)

Sporting CP star Bruno Fernandes

The Sporting sensation was overlooked by many a club in the summer but has continued to shine in Portugal. 2 goals and 2 assists in 2 games mean he has already picked up where he left off.

At 25, Fernandes could be the ready-made creative player that the Red Devils are lacking, the kind that could have unlocked the drab game at St James. Indecision cost them in the summer but should they decide to move for the Portuguese international, they would certainly face stiff competition.

5 managers Manchester United could appoint should they sack Ole Gunnar Solskjaer immediately

Manchester United legend passes verdict on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's future after draw against Arsenal

Another insipid draw in the Europa League means the clouds of crisis are hovering over Old Trafford once again. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at 5 potential replacements, should Manchester United decide to part ways with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the near future.

#1 Massimiliano Allegri

Unparalleled domestic glory is what Manchester United have been associated with over the years and in Massimiliano Allegri, they have a man adept at winning league titles.

The Italian guided AC Milan to a Seria A in his first season and his Juventus stint from 2014 to 2019 yielded a league trophy in every one of the five seasons. While rumours claiming he has already been taking English lessons seem far-fetched at best, Allegri will definitely be amongst the front-runners should United have a decision to make on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

#2 Mauricio Pochettino 

Mauricio Pochettino’s model at Tottenham is ideally the one Manchester United would like to replicate and who else but the Argentine to take them forward?

A large majority of the fans at Old Trafford believe he should have been the first choice as the permanent manager ahead of Solskjaer and a move for him would definitely appease the fanbase. Spur’s current run of form means Pochettino might even be available should United decide to sack Solskjaer come December, meaning they might not have to pay a hefty compensation fee either.

#3 Arsene Wenger 

Ex-Arsenal star reveals what went wrong for Arsene Wenger in his final season

Arsene Wenger’s comments following United’s recent loss to West Ham made some pretty big headlines and how! The Frenchman mischievously remarked how the Old Trafford hot-seat would always be a ‘dream job’ for any manager, also adding that the Red Devils were just four first-team players away from challenging for the title.

Wenger’s experience, as well as play-style, would certainly suit the Red Devils and despite the reservations, some fans might have over him, it would be a football romantic’s dream come true should the man take over as Manchester United manager.

#4 Laurent Blanc 

Former PSG coach Laurent Blanc

Former United player Laurent Blanc was under consideration to replace Mourinho as the interim boss before Solskjaer grabbed his opportunity. Like Ole, Blanc knows the place well, having played for two years under Sir Alex Ferguson before hanging up his boots.

His top-level experience, however, is much greater – having managed both the French national team as well as PSG previously. The likes of Paul Pogba are well acquainted with him and his man-management might be one of the factors that give him the edge – managing explosive personalities such as the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic ably during his time in Paris.

#5 Marcelino Garcia 

Valencia coach Marcelino

An outside bet for the job may be the recently departed sacked Valencia manager Marcelino. The Spaniard completely transformed Peter Lim’s floundering Valencia outfit and led them to back-to-back Champions League campaigns.

The highlight of his stint, however, was undoubtedly their win over Lionel Messi’s Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey final, cementing his place in the club’s folklore. A disagreement with the club’s hierarchy meant Marcelino was sacked in September, a move heavily criticized by fans and players alike – meaning he is now available for Manchester United to sign, should they be interested.

5 top stars name their Ballon d’Or 2019 picks

Why Virgil van Dijk will beat Lionel Messi to win Ballon d'Or

Lionel Messi and Virgil Van Dijk are neck-and-neck for the prestigious award, but whom do the players and their peers feel is the best player in the world? 

1. Kylian Mbappe 

PSG and France star Kylian Mbappe

Coming in ahead of Neymar as the Ligue 1 Player of the Season, Kylian Mbappe had some words of appreciation about a certain Argentine in his acceptance speech back in May.

“The favourite [for the Ballon d’Or] is Messi. The elimination in Champions does not change anything, he is the number one in everything. He has shown this year that he is the best player and although the year goes until December, I’m not worried about him, he’s going to play until December.”, Mbappe was quoted as saying when questioned on his pick for the Ballon d’Or.

The PSG forward came up against Messi in the World Cup 2018, when France eliminated Argentina en route to the trophy, but Leo certainly seems to have left a big impression on the youngster.

2. Virgil Van Dijk 

 

Liverpool’s star center-back recently lost out to Messi in the race for FIFA’s ‘The Best’ award, but Van Dijk had conceded that his contemporary was and will always be the best as far back as June. Following Liverpool’s Champions League triumph, he made his feelings known –

“I think Messi is the best player in the world and I think he deserves it as long as he plays. The Ballon d’Or is not something I am thinking of, but if it happens by any chance I will obviously take it. I don’t think there is any case and I think that Messi is still the best player in the world and it doesn’t matter if he isn’t in the Champions League final.”, clearly stating that he felt Messi was the best player in the world irrespective of him making it to the Champions League final or not.

3. Sergio Ramos 

Sergio Ramos

Himself endorsed for the Ballon d’Or by several people when at his peak, Ramos stated his belief that players other than Ronaldo and Messi had a greater chance to claim the prize now more than ever and endorsed fellow defender Van Dijk for the gong.

“If Van Dijk wins it, it will be on sufficient merit. As a defender, it’s harder. It seems as though it’s not just Messi and Cristiano . It seems there’s a route opening.”

The Madrid captain however lamented the lack of Spanish players who have won the award as well as the inconsistencies in handing it out, saying how ‘It’s not really known what is being recognised’.

4. Sadio Mane 

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane
 

As a player who has shared the dressing room with front-runner Van Dijk for the best part of two years, one would reasonably expect Mane to back his team-mate for the Ballon d’Or, right? Not quite.

The Senegalese came up against Messi in the semi-finals of the Champions League last season and like Van Dijk, seems so mesmerised by the the Argentine that he just couldn’t say any other name. Mane replied with a mischievous ‘No’ when asked if he would feel frustrated should Messi claim the award ahead of him, before adding,

“I will recognise that he deserves to win it. For sure, everybody knows Messi, so I don’t have to describe how good he is.”, clearly showing just how bowled over he is by Messi’s talent.

5. Gerard Pique 

 

Fellow La Masia graduate Gerard Pique backed Messi for the award, but made a number of interesting points while doing so.

“I always said that for me, if you have to vote for the best player of them all, you have to vote for Lionel Messi. For the last ten years, he has been by far the best player in the world, but it is fair enough that Van Dijk has done a great season and he should be there fighting for it. It is not easy. This game is made for strikers. When they score they are the stars and when they don’t score, normally nothing happens. For keepers and defenders, it is more difficult. When you do a good job it is difficult for people to recognise you but when you make a mistake you are everywhere. Normally strikers will win it.”

In an antithesis of sorts, Pique empathised with his fellow defender Van Dijk at the difficulty defensive players have in getting recognised, while at the same time giving his full backing to team-mate Messi in the race for the award.

 

Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal: 5 talking points as VAR helps Arsenal snatch a draw at Old Trafford

Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal: 5 talking points as VAR helps Arsenal snatch a draw at Old Trafford

It was honours even at Old Trafford as Arsenal’s Pierre Emerick Aubameyang dinked over David De Gea to cancel out Scott McTominay’s screamer for Manchester United. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points. 

1. McTominay’s first Old Trafford goal

Jose Mourinho often singled him out for praise while at Manchester United, famously handing him the ‘Manager’s Player of the Year’ during his second season in-charge and Scott McTominay showed exactly why he’s so highly rated by both the Portuguese as well as his current manager. The Scot has added some silk to complement his steel this season and after Rashford failed to get on the end of a flowing counter-attack, he sent it back for McTominay to hammer an unstoppable strike into the top-corner, ensuring United went into the break one goal up.

2. Pepe fails to find his feet yet again

For all the hype around his move, Nico Pepe has failed to justify his price tag so far, ballooning shots over De Gea’s crossbar time and again. The winger set up the all-important equalizer and some glimpses of his skill were evident but like Arsenal’s payments, Pepe seems to be playing in instalments at the moment.

3. VAR drama as Aubameyang levels

Axel Tuanzebe’s clumsy play around United’s goal handed Arsenal the initiative and Bukayo Saka wasted no time in finding Aubameyang. The home side, however, seemed to slow down slightly due to the linesman raising his flag early, while Aubameyang continued and dinked the ball over an onrushing De Gea to seemingly put the Gunners level. Celebrations were cut short but were restarted once again as referee Kevin Friend consulted his VAR which showed Maguire playing the African striker on.

4. United’s worst Premier League start ever 

A draw against the Gunners has now made this Manchester United’s worst-ever start to a Premier League season. 9 points from 7 games is worse than the 10 points the Red Devils had at the same stage last season and in 2014-15, meaning yet another uncomfortable week for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the Manchester hot-seat.

5. Arsenal into top-4 with Old Trafford draw

It was a case of contrasting fortunes for Manchester United and Arsenal, who jump into the top four with their draw at Old Trafford. Unai Emery might feel they could’ve had more but had United finished one of their many chances, it might very well have meant 0 points for the Gunners.

Manchester United 0-2 West Ham: 5 talking points as United fall to defeat at the London Stadium

Manchester United’s loss against West Ham at the Olympic Stadium leaves them languishing at the 7th spot in the Premier League standings. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the key talking points from the game.

5. Solskjaer equals unwanted Van Gaal record 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United side have now played 7 straight games without an away win – a joint-record he now holds with former manager Louis Van Gaal. United’s last away win came in the Champions League last season – the famous win against PSG in 2019 March.

Since then, they have remained winless on the road. Overall, Solskjaer has recorded just two wins in the last eleven games in the Premier League, and the long glare that he gave his side at full time on Sunday was a damning indictment of their overall performance.

4. United’s lack of squad depth

Two major injuries – that is all that it took to expose how shallow United’s squad really is. Since Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba’s injuries, there has been a lack of both creativity as well as goals in the team, something that was ever so apparent at the London Stadium against West Ham.

 

Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford looked lethargic while Nemanja Matic seems like he can no longer fight anymore. On the balance of it, Solskjaer’s reluctance to sign a midfielder and a forward this summer, looks to have done more damage than good.

2. Matic finished?

While starting Nemanja Matic for three games straight in a span of 8 days is a questionable decision in itself, his performances have done him no favours in the long term either. Matic’s subtle criticism of Solskjaer during the international break was picked up by media outlets and after he was handed a few chances to prove that he can be a regular in this side, he disappointed.

The Serbian’s labored build-up and his slow pace mean he is simply not a good enough fit for this young Manchester United team.

3. Rashford’s injury a big worry

If his glaring misses weren’t already a big worry enough, Marcus Rashford’s injury has given his manager an even bigger headache ahead of the coming weekend.

Anthony Martial is proving to be a big miss and with no guarantees over his return date, Mason Greenwood might be the only option come the next Premier League game. Although the youngster might yet take his chance and make a big impact, it seems a tad too much to ask of him at the moment.

1. West Ham: top-6 challengers?

West Ham have climbed up to fourth place in the table after their win against Manchester United. And now, the Hammers suddenly look very different than how they had been, at the start of the season.

The Londoners are one of several teams vying to oust the top-6 from their metaphorical throne(s) and with a title-winner like Pellegrini at the helm as well, anything is possible for the London outfit.

FIFA Men’s Player of the Year: Ranking the contenders

Stats reveal Lionel Messi is by far a better goalscorer than Cristiano Ronaldo

‘The Best’ FIFA Men’s Player of the Year is set to be announced in less than two days’ time. FOX Sports Asia ranks the top three. 

Virgil van Dijk being crowned as the UEFA Player of the Year has instantly catapulted the Dutchman to the top of most people’s list. While it’s true that you never really know with awards of this magnitude, he remains the firm favourite – as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo go neck-to-neck for the second spot.

1. Virgil Van Dijk 

Image result for van dijk uefa player of the year

Are there any superlatives left for the man? Not since the days when Fabio Cannavaro lifted the World Cup with Italy has a defender been so imperious – both domestically and in Europe. Liverpool’s Champions League trophy was thanks in no small part to the former Southampton man and he has quietly eclipsed both Ronaldo and Messi to emerge as the front-runner for the award.

There is also the small matter of not being dribbled past for an astonishing period of roundabout 6 months, a statistic unheard of at the top level. A runners-up medal with Holland in Nations League followed shortly after his European conquest with the Reds and if everything goes as planned, expect the Liverpool man to be crowned the world’s best at the ceremony.

2. Lionel Messi 

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Were prizes given purely based on statistics, Lionel Messi would have no one within even a sniff of him. 51 goals and 22 assists in all competitions is simply the stuff of fairytales and Messi continued to rewrite the records with his numbers last season.

The customary La Liga title was claimed with relative ease. However, there are three blots on his copybook which might go a long way in ensuring he doesn’t claim the award.

The Champions League semi-final knockout against Liverpool, the Spanish Cup debacle versus Valencia and his Copa America exit against Brazil – critics say the little master simply hasn’t won enough to claim the big prize!

 

3. Cristiano Ronaldo

Image result for ronaldo ballon dor 

If it were up to him he’d win all the awards, all of the time. Cristiano Ronaldo’s ‘new challenge’ in Italy proved to be a huge success both on and off the pitch as Juventus continued their Serie A dominance.

Ronaldo’s numbers, however, dropped below their usual stratospheric standards – 28 goals and 10 assists is a far cry for the 50 goal seasons he is so used to.

Coppa Italia and Champions League ambitions too were surrendered meekly and even though he starred in Portugal’s successful Nations League campaign, Ronaldo’s drop in stats and Champions League failure means he will need a miracle to claim the trophy ahead of his counterparts.

5 disastrous crashes at the Singapore GP

With the Singapore Grand Prix scheduled for the weekend – FOX Sports Asia takes a look at 5 of the worst crashes on the circuit. 

5. Schumacher and Sergio Perez ‘misunderstanding’ (2011) 

 

What prima facie looked like an error from the legend was instead attributed by him to a ‘misunderstanding’ with Sergio Perez. Schumacher’s Mercedes rammed into Perez from behind and crashed.

‘Schumi’ was quick to downplay the incident, “What happened was what I would call a misunderstanding between Sergio Perez and myself. He was about to go inside and lifted, and I was not expecting him to do that so early, and therefore hit him”, but was later handed an official reprimand for his dangerous driving.

4. Nico Hulkenberg’s first lap crash (2016) 

 

Nico Hulkenberg’s race was a rather short one – labelled as the ‘Hulk Smash’ by some. Caught between Red Bull’s Verstappen and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz – who in turn moved to avoid Verstappen, pitching Hulkenberg straight into the inside pit-wall.

Funnily enough, in what was a very bizarre sequence of events – the race restarted with a marshal still out on the tracks, and he had to sprint to safety!

3. Kamui Kobayashi goes airborne (2011) 

 

The infamous ‘Singapore Sling’ gave fans some heart-pounding moments, none more so than Kobayashi’s flight-and-crash during qualifying in 2011.

Attempting to repeat his top-ten finish in practice, Kobayashi took full blame for his crash and apologised, “”I ended up in the wall in Q2 and the accident was my fault,” he said. “I feel very sorry for the team. I took too much kerb in turn 10, the car jumped too high and this was the outcome.”

2. Renault crash controversy (2008) 

The inaugural Singapore GP in 2008 was marred by controversy in when Nelson Piquet Jr. crashed into the wall at lap 17, which led to a safety car deployment. Renault’s Fernando Alonso won the race despite starting 15th, as the other cars subsequently pitted.

Dropped from the Renault team after the 2009 Hungarian GP, Piquet alleged he had been instructed to deliberately crash his car and in the subsequent inquest that followed, the cards came tumbling down for Renault – who along with their managing director and executive director of engineering, were heavily sanctioned.

1. Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen crash (2017)

The first Grand Prix staged under wet conditions at night time provided a dramatic start that still seems fresh in memory. Raikkonen’s fantastic start turned into a nightmare as Verstappen was stuck in between the two Ferraris with nowhere to go. The chain reaction that followed meant contact with Verstappen sent Raikkonen out of control, whose car hit Vettel and then Verstappen’s car again.

Raikkonen and Verstappen had to retire immediately while Vettel too bowed out shortly as his car spun due to the damage. This incident also marked the first time in Formula 1 history where both Ferraris were eliminated in the first lap.