Gritty Man Utd make a point
There was less than a minute on the clock at Stamford Bridge when Manchester United fans got a glimpse of the philosophy popularised by their impending new interim manager Ralf Rangnick.
So unfocused and lethargic in the final weeks of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s failed reign, United started their hard-fought draw against Chelsea by showing Rangnick that they are not afraid of hard work as Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford chased and harried from the front.
Rangnick, currently working for Lokomotiv Moscow, is expected to be appointed shortly.
Michael Carrick remained caretaker boss ahead of his arrival and he sprang a surprise by leaving Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench for the first hour, allowing United to use Rangnick’s ‘gegenpressing’ tactics.
Sancho reaped the rewards as he closed down Jorginho in the second half, capitalising on the Chelsea captain’s poor control to open the scoring.
Although Jorginho equalised from the penalty spot, United will feel this was a step in the right direction after a terrible period featuring five defeats from their prior seven league games.
For Chelsea it was a rare misfire, although boss Thomas Tuchel will feel they would have taken the points but for a fine display from United goalkeeper David de Gea.
Jota shows Liverpool attacking riches
Liverpool won the Premier League in the 2019/20 season with a breathtaking forward line of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
Despite those attacking riches, manager Jurgen Klopp splashed the cash on Portugal’s Diogo Jota in September 2020 and has been richly rewarded.
Jota could have been content to play second fiddle to his illustrious team-mates but instead he has made himself indispensible in Liverpool’s free-scoring side.
The 24-year-old took his overall goal tally to eight this season with a double in Liverpool’s 4-0 win against Southampton on Saturday as the Anfield side reached an eye-popping 39 goals in just 13 league games.
Klopp, whose men became the first English top-flight team since 1927 to score two or more in 17 games in a row in all competitions, described Jota as a “perfect” signing.
“He has everything that a Liverpool player in this squad needs,” said the German boss. “He has the technical skills, he has the physical skills and he is very smart and can learn all the tactical stuff pretty quick.”
Howe’s key tests
A bout of coronavirus meant Eddie Howe had a disrupted start to his new managerial post at Newcastle but the next week could be crucial to the club’s survival in the Premier League.
The Magpies, who lost 2-0 to Arsenal on Saturday, are rock bottom of the table and still without a win after 13 games.
But they have vital home matches against Norwich and Burnley — the two clubs directly above them — over the coming week.
That is followed by a challenging run of games against Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.
Howe said he saw positive signs despite the defeat at the Emirates but said he would not focus on specific games.
“I think they all are (vital),” he said. “I think today was, I think the next game is. You don’t prioritise games, you try and win every single one… but we need to get that first win as quickly as possible.”
A drop to the second-tier Championship was not in the plans of Newcastle’s new Saudi-led owners but the club are already six points from safety and time is not on their side.