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Every Loss Is Damaging In United’s Fight For Top-four Finish –

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Every Loss Is Damaging In United's Fight For Top-four Finish -

Manchester United’s hopes of a Champions League berth took another hit on Sunday but the fact it was crosstown rivals Manchester City delivering the blow was secondary, captain Bruno Fernandes said.

United’s 3-1 derby loss to City at the Etihad Stadium left them 11 points behind fourth-place Aston Villa in sixth with 11 games remaining.

“Every time you don’t win a game it is a damage at this club,” Fernandes said. “We know what this club demands and we want to win the games we are involved in.

“We didn’t get the three points today but there’s still a long way to go. We know it is not everything in our hands because other teams have to lose points but we have to do our job.”

Marcus Rashford gave United an unlikely lead eight minutes into the game with a rasping strike measured at 72 miles per hour. His goal came days after he hit back at critics in a column in The Players Tribune and was one of the lone bright spots for United, who had just three shots to City’s 27.

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The loss amplified the ongoing conversation around manager Erik ten Hag’s future, which has only increased since new co-owner Jim Ratcliffe took control of football operations, with changes expected off the pitch.

United have lost 11 of their 27 league matches this campaign, two more than all of last season. The two previous seasons with 12 league losses (2013-14 and 2021-22) led to managerial changes.

United had been unbeaten in their previous 143 league matches when leading at halftime with 123 wins and 20 draws — an illustrious run they saw end on Sunday.

“Manchester United will have to take their medicine today. Huge question marks for this team and the manager,” former United captain Roy Keane said on Sky Sports.

“Standards have dropped. We’re almost praising United. They’ve lost. They used to perform in the big games and compete,” he added.

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“Now we’re sitting here saying they did alright, better shape. They lost 3-1.”

Ten Hag pointed to the fact that Rashford and Jonny Evans were playing with injuries on Sunday. United are also missing striker Rasmus Hojlund, who had scored in six successive league games before being sidelined with a muscle injury, and defender Harry Maguire.

“Absolutely they fought, the togetherness and the performance was very good,” Ten Hag said. “On another day we could have won this — small margins.”

Ten Hag said their 2-1 loss to Fulham a week earlier was more disappointing. United had been unbeaten in five consecutive league games until then.

“This year on we are really progressing and you have to get some points back,” he added. “Everyone can beat everyone and things can quickly turn around. Number five (in the league) can also be a position for Champions League so we have to fight for it.”

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-Reuters

 

 

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Premier League

Arsenal suffer 2-0 loss to Villa, hand Man City title race boost

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Premier League - Arsenal v Aston Villa - Emirates Stadium, London, Britain - April 14, 2024 Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

Arsenal were stunned by two late Aston Villa goals as they lost 2-0 at home on Sunday to hand the initiative in the Premier League title race to defending champions Manchester City.

Villa substitute Leon Bailey tapped home from close range in the 84th minute before Ollie Watkins’ sublime finish three minutes later sent Gunners fans streaming for the exits.

Arsenal’s defeat, their first in 12 league games, sees them remain second, two points behind City and level on points with third-placed Liverpool with six games left to play.

Following Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat at home to Crystal Palace earlier on Sunday, the weekend belonged to City who bolstered their chances of an unprecedented fourth straight league title with a 5-1 demolition of visiting Luton Town on Saturday.

Villa weathered pressure in the first half, with Kai Havertz shooting straight at goalkeeper Emi Martinez before Gabriel Jesus and Bukayo Saka hit the side-netting as an opening goal for the Gunners’ felt like an imminent inevitability.

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But Villa went closest when Watkins’ effort bounced off one post and narrowly wide of the other, while Youri Tielemans’s rasping effort hit the crossbar then the post and somehow stayed out as the visitors improved considerably after the break.

Bailey gave the visitors the lead when he turned in Lucas Digne’s dangerous cross before Watkins broke Arsenal hearts with a beautiful chip over keeper David Raya to settle the contest.

“It’s massive to come away to Arsenal when they are playing such good football and to play like that just shows where we are going really, it was a perfect away performance,” Villa’s England striker Watkins told Sky Sports.

The win boosts fourth-placed Villa’s chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League and moves them three points above Tottenham Hotspur, albeit having played a game more.

-Reuters

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Premier League to introduce semi-automated offside technology next season

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Premier League - Nottingham Forest v Brighton & Hove Albion - The City Ground, Nottingham, Britain - April 26, 2023 A big screen displays a VAR review message with a no goal for offside REUTERS/Molly Darlington/File Photo

The Premier League will introduce semi-automated offside technology next season to speed up decision-making after the clubs unanimously agreed on the move at a shareholders’ meeting on Thursday.

The technology has been in use in major tournaments and helps limit the need for long waits for VAR reviews, where match officials manually check if a player is offside or not, while also reducing the margins for error.

“The new system will be used for the first time in the Premier League next season, and it is anticipated the technology will be ready to be introduced after one of the autumn international breaks,” the league said in a statement.

“The technology will provide quicker and consistent placement of the virtual offside line, based on optical player tracking, and will produce high-quality broadcast graphics to ensure an enhanced in-stadium and broadcast experience for supporters.”

The Premier League currently has VAR officials check offsides but the system has faced heavy criticism for the time taken to come to a decision while also leaving fans in the stadium in the dark with no replays.

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The technology involves several cameras tracking the ball as well as each player. The technology alone cannot determine if a player is offside, with VAR still having to validate it based on the data available — hence the term “semi-automated”.

The technology has been used in the 2022 World Cup and the Champions League, while most recently it was implemented at the Asian Cup earlier this year.

-Reuters

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Computers say Arsenal won’t win title, on the pitch they look like champions in waiting

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Premier League - Brighton & Hove Albion v Arsenal - The American Express Community Stadium, Brighton, Britain - April 6, 2024 Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and his players applaud their fans after the match REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

The super computers and number crunchers still don’t fancy Arsenal’s chances of winning a compelling three-way Premier League title race despite, on current form, the London club being the best team in England.

Twelve months ago Arsenal were gobbled up by a relentless Manchester City in a two-horse race, but this time Mikel Arteta’s side are showing absolutely no sign of flinching and lead Liverpool on goal difference and City by one point.

They have won 10 of their last 11 Premier League games with the only dropped points coming in a masterful 0-0 draw at champions Manchester City that was concrete proof of how much they improved from last year’s model.

Arsenal have scored 20 times in their last five away league games in which they conceded not a single goal.

They wear the confident look of champions elect but there are caveats, notably a seven-game run in that looks tougher than Liverpool’s and Manchester City’s with matches against Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester United.

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Premier League data analysts Opta ran the likely scenarios through their computer after Liverpool’s 2-2 draw at Manchester United on Sunday and come up with a conclusion that will not be comforting for Arsenal fans.

In fact the weekend’s matches, which began with City’s 4-2 win at Crystal Palace and included Arsenal’s superlative 3-0 win away at Brighton and Hove Albion appear to have skewed the title race firmly in favour of Pep Guardiola’s City.

Before the weekend City were 33.6% likely to win a fourth successive title, according to Opta. That has now increased to 40.6%. Arsenal’s title-winning chance is 30.3% with Liverpool slipping from favourites to third at 29.1% — a 15.9% drop from before the last round of fixtures.

A look at the remaining fixtures explains why City are marginally the more likely to prevail in the tightest three-way title duel since City edged out a stumbling Liverpool and Chelsea by two and four points respectively in 2013-14.

Six of City’s last seven games are against Luton Town (h), Brighton and Hove Albion (a), Nottingham Forest (a), Wolverhampton Wanderers (h), Fulham (a) and West Ham United (h) with their biggest test being a trip to Tottenham Hotspur.

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Arsenal host fifth-placed Aston Villa on Saturday before Wolves (a), Chelsea (h), Tottenham (a), Bournemouth (h), Manchester United (a) and Everton (h).

Liverpool face Crystal Palace (h), Fulham (a), Everton (a), West Ham (a), Tottenham (h), Aston Villa (a) and Wolves (h).

While the algorithms still favour City, Arsenal’s hopes of a first league title in 20 years are boosted by a far superior goal difference compared to their two rivals.

In a race that looks like going to the wire, that could be crucial, although Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp knows there will be many more twists and turns to come.

“I knew it would be super tricky until the end. Until yesterday we were top, now it’s Arsenal and — I don’t know when — then it may be somebody else,” he said.

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-Reuters

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