What the papers say
Our writers name the outstanding performer during the past 10 years for each of the current 20 top-flight sides
It took the midfielder over a year to recover from the injury he suffered in a tackle from Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross in February 2010 but Arsène Wenger’s patience with the Welshman was ultimately rewarded with more than 350 games and 65 goals, two of which were winners in FA Cup finals – against Hull in 2014 and Chelsea in 2017. The way Ramsey was allowed to leave last summer rankles among Arsenal fans but he eclipses Laurent Koscielny as the club’s best performer of the decade. Paul ChronnellContinue reading...
Forward’s explosive emergence has shown all the hallmarks of a superstar in the making – and brought the supporters rare joy
Watching a teenager make their name is a moving, affirming experience, equal parts empathy and envy: if you’re young you want to be young and good, and if you’re old … you still want to be to be young and good. In a wild world, there’s no feeling like watching talent explode, all wide-eyed, grateful and disbelieving.
Mason Greenwood is none of these things, a child who scores goals like a man. Often young players snatch at chances, lost in the supermarket trying six different finishes at once. But Greenwood handles things differently, blessed with a clear mind and the resting heart rate of a table.Continue reading...
• ‘Hopefully we can speed up the process,’ says Solskjær
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has admitted Manchester United are behind in their development under his management but believes the team will improve and become more consistent the longer he is in charge.
Solskjær’s one-year anniversary as United manager was marked by the 2-0 defeat at Watford on Sunday, a result that leaves them on 25 points and in eighth place after 18 games. At the same stage last season United had 29 points and were sixth. They had also won more games – eight compared with six – somewhat undermining the view that they have become a more attacking side since Solskjær replaced Mourinho at Old Trafford.Continue reading...
Leicester’s title hopes are fading, Danny Ings makes his England case and John McGinn’s absence is a huge blow for Villa
At this rate there is every chance two of the Premier League’s deadliest English strikers will not be part of Gareth Southgate’s squad at Euro 2020. Jamie Vardy is unlikely to be tempted out of international retirement and then there is Danny Ings, the Southampton striker who took his tally to 13 goals for the season with a double. Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Tammy Abraham and Callum Wilson may be ahead of Ings in the pecking order but seven goals from his past seven games means it is impossible to ignore the 27-year-old’s credentials for a recall. Ings’s only cap came against Lithuania four years ago under Roy Hodgson, when the striker was at Liverpool. “He is a typical No 9 in the box,” said the Saints manager, Ralph Hasenhüttl. “With his technique, there are not a lot of strikers who are better than him.” Ben FisherContinue reading...
Our picture editors choose their favourite images from the weekend’s actionContinue reading...
• Nigel Pearson hails ‘important result’ for league’s bottom side
Ole Gunnar Solskjær believes a lack of urgency lay behind Manchester United’s shock defeat against Watford, going as far as to accuse his players of performing at testimonial pace in the first half.
Goals from Ismaïla Sarr and Troy Deeney inside five second-half minutes helped Watford secure only their second victory of the season and first at home. They remain bottom but are now level on points with 19th-placed Norwich ahead of the Boxing Day visit to Sheffield United.Continue reading...
The odds remain stacked against Watford, relegation a cloud that continues to hang over them, but heading into Christmas all involved with the club will no doubt be filled with festive cheer and a renewed sense of hope following this most stirring of victories. Manchester United came and Manchester United were ultimately conquered by a team that, having looked listless throughout the season, finally appear to have the heart and resilience required in a dogfight.Continue reading...
- Updates from the 2pm GMT kick-off
- How they stand: the latest Premier League table
- Solskjær insists he has final say on transfers
- Get in touch with John by email or on Twitter
So far, Manchester United’s social media team has not yet resorted to the #pogback hashtag. But there is time yet, even if Paul Pogba’s star does not shine nearly so brightly as in that heady summer of 2016 when Britain was heading out of the European Union and had a bright and shiny new prime minister.
And, to get back to the football, even if he were fully fit, would have the right to challenge that redoubtable midfield partnership of Fred and Scott McTominay. Both are playing the best football of their time at United.
This match will be preceded by a minute’s applause for World Cup winner Martin Peters, whose death was announced yesterday.
Here’s some overnight news on Manchester United. Ole calls the shots, apparently.
For Watford, Nigel Pearson seems to have been happy with his new charges’ performance against Liverpool and selects the same team. Troy Deeney to target Vic Lindelof?
The big news is on the Manchester United bench: Paul Pogba, whose earrings looked resplendent as he arrived at Vicarage Road. Looks like his dancing at this brother’s wedding was a mark of a return to fitness. United were a little tardy in their arrival, 30 minutes late, in fact. Their logistics teams seems to have misjudged the Hertfordshire traffic; this type of thing seems to happen rather too often.
Here’s the teams in analogue, non-social media guff fashion.
Watford starting XI: Foster, Cathcart, Hughes, Mariappa, Femenia, Kabasele, Capoue, Doucoure, Sarr, Deulofeu, Deeney
Here are the teams for today
Here’s the thing: Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s Manchester United are good against good teams, and bad against bad teams. Enter Watford, who have had so abominable a season that they are already on their third manager. One win all season, and just nine goals scored: it couldn’t happen here, could it?
Enter Nigel Pearson. He’s already one game into his attempt to repeat Leicester’s great escape in the 2014-15 season and this time he can’t take any blame for his team being in the mire. Last week’s defeat to Liverpool showed positive signs, including a typically muscular approach from a Nige team. Expect to see Troy Deeney given rein to prove himself the on-pitch alpha male that his manager will be in the dug-out.
Can Ole’s embryos live up the physical battering they might have to take at the Vicarage Road? Or will Watford’s need for victory push them forward and open the space that United’s quick attackers have made hay with?
Kick-off 2pm UK time.
• ‘He’s back in training; that’s a step forward for us’
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has played down the possibility of Manchester United spending big in the January transfer window but insisted that any players who do come in will be subject to his approval.
“I’ll always have the final say on transfers,” the manager said. “No one comes in the door without me saying yes. It has to be that way, even though signing players is a process involving other members of staff. I don’t really speak to agents, because I have nothing to do with the money side of it, but the final decision on who becomes a Manchester United player will be mine.”Continue reading...
It is hard to see Watford turning things around until Nigel Pearson has had a chance to refresh the side in January and, as such, hard to see them stopping Manchester United. Watford have conceded from open play after the 80th minute in each of their last four defeats, scored nine goals in 17 matches and are the only side not to win at home this season. Their last home win was April. Their misery is relentless and United will be eager to profit as they try to gain ground in the race for the top four. Graham Searles
Sunday 2pm Sky Sports Premier LeagueContinue reading...
Fans rate the best and worst of the season so far – the stars, the flops and what needs to change in 2020
Without doubt we’ve dipped below the standards we set over the last two seasons, but there’s no panic. Our (relative) woes can be attributed to an accumulation of a few separate problems: Laporte/Sané’s injuries, the Bernardo Silva saga, no new centre-half, and certain players’ decline. It’s not a structural issue. Hopefully we can recover our level in the second half of the season – though losing Mikel Arteta is a concern. 7/10Continue reading...
The Mercury prize-winning rapper and the Manchester United striker discuss hype music, family and fame
In a hard-to-find studio in north London, there is a small encounter between two big names. Dave arrives first. The south London rapper, 21, moved into the mainstream this year, winning the Mercury prize with his first album, Psychodrama, and making an explosive acting debut in Netflix’s Top Boy, as the thoroughly terrifying Modie. His sellout tour and Glastonbury show made news, too: remember the viral footage of the bucket-hatted kid who joined him on stage to rap on Thiago Silva (11m views)? Dave is cool and quiet, shaking everyone’s hand before taking himself off with his phone until Marcus Rashford appears.
Rashford is a little late. Understandable, perhaps: it was Manchester United’s Christmas party last night, and he’s recently played vital, hard-fought games against Tottenham and City. But, despite being only 22, United and England’s young forward isn’t known for partying, and when he arrives he’s fresh and relaxed. Slighter than you might expect, and taller, he’s not flash, though his jeans have diamante sprinkled across the rips. He and Dave are months apart in age, but Rashford has a younger, less wary air. When he smiles, he looks like a kid.
Black people excel in music and football because talent is undeniable
A lot of people I know can relate to musicians because when they were younger they had nothing, same as me
There’s no team-mates in rap. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because I know, if it’s a great show, it’s on me
Seeing Ronaldo when I was young did a lot for me. You can have that much impact, even on someone who doesn't play sportsContinue reading...
- Everton also close to confirming Carlo Ancelotti appointment
- The guesswork trying to answer two managerial questions
- Why not send your thoughts to Will on email or Twitter
We are closing in on noon! Will we get the the big announcement? Will I decide what to do for lunch? Will I put wine in the fridge for tonight? Will I bring you a bit of hot transfer gossip?
As mentioned earlier, the Guardian’s top 100 make footballers is complete. Spoiler: Lionel Messi is top.
Live footage from Manchester City’s training ground shows that Mikel Arteta is not there. I wonder where he could be ...
Arteta will need to put together a backroom staff. I am hoping he will be bringing Richard Wright back to Arsenal from Manchester City where he’s been working as a goalkeeping coach.
I enjoyed this from Ben Fisher earlier this week. Will they be making moves in January?
And Macclesfield have released a statement about their match tomorrow:
Further to issues regarding our ground safety certificate, Macclesfield Town are desperately trying to get these resolved ahead of tomorrow’s Sky Bet League Two clash with Plymouth Argyle.
We fully accept that this is far from ideal - especially for those Plymouth fans who have a gargantuan trek ahead of them so close to Christmas. As a result of the above, ticket sales for tomorrow’s game have been suspended until we gain further clarity regarding this situation.
An update from the EFL about Macclesfield Town, whose game with Plymouth is in doubt due to safety concerns.
Football and ethics are not always the best of friends.
Chris Wilder has bemoaned the cynical tactics of Premier League players, which has seen his midfielders pick up plenty of bookings this season.
“There are players in the Premier League when the ball has not even come to them and they are looking to go down,” Wilder explained.
Steve Bruce has been speaking glowingly about Miguel Almiron despite his lack of goals since arriving at Newcastle.
He said: “I understand that he hasn’t scored. After speaking to a lot of people about last year in January when he arrived, he gave the impetus to the team, and really nothing has changed in that respect, as far as I’m concerned.
An interesting David Conn story from yesterday ...
Anyway ... back to disappointing football-related Xmas presents. Two years ago my mum purchased me a football annual, something similar to Match. I was 30 at the time and therefore far too old for it, so gave it away to a child on Boxing Day and she did not speak to me for 24 hours.
Jamie Jackson has the very latest from Manchester United.
Albert Camus and t-shirts:
Tomorrow’s 3pm kick-offs are not the most exciting on paper. which is the pick of the matches?
I think this is what they describe as a ‘healthy’ addiction.
Norwegian media reported this morning that Erling Haaland was on his way to Manchester for talks but Ole Gunnar Solskjær has quickly quashed that claim. “I know the boy and his friends and he’s on a Christmas holiday,” Solskjær explained in his pre-match conference.
MORE BIG NEWS! The list is complete. Who has come top? Has Scott Carson made it in? Is this further proof that democracy does not work? Check out the list to find out and then shout into void your own view.
The big news we’ve all be waiting for in north London ...
Defender Toby Alderweireld has signed a new deal with Tottenham which will run until 2023, the club have announced.
Newcastle could have two key players back this weekend after they missed out against Burnley. Miguel Almiron and Jonjo Shelvey are in contention to face Crystal Palace following hamstring and calf issues, respectively. Steve Bruce has a few injury problems, though.
“Almiron and Shelvey have a chance. They trained yesterday. As we speak at the moment, we haven’t seen them just yet, but they both seemed OK yesterday,” Bruce said.
Arteta is an exciting gamble, says David Hytner.
Elsewhere in English football ... Macclesfield were docked six points yesterday and their game with Plymouth tomorrow is currently in doubt.
Daniel Serridge asks: “I was wondering, will this weekend’s game between Everton and Arsenal be the first time both teams have new managers, as the cliche goes, ‘in the stands’ to watch their new clubs?”
I cannot remember a similar time. Can we think of a game when both managers have been caretakers?
There’s been plenty happening at Arsenal this week, including Mesut Ozil’s run-in with China. Eni Aluko wrote about speaking out:
Sky Sports News are going across the country, ground-hopping as they go. I offer similar commitment to Premier League press conferences by watching SSN while drinking coffee from London.
It is a waiting game but Arsenal still expect to announce Mikel Arteta’s appointment imminently, with a mid-afternoon press conference to unveil him looking highly likely. Still expecting him to take on a watching brief at Everton tomorrow, along of course with Carlo Ancelotti.
Chris from Stockport emails in a question: “Just wondering what you think made Arsenal think – other than desperation – that Arteta is more ready to be gaffer now than he was when they appointed Emery?”
Well ... I think they panicked last time and did not want to take the risk, so went with a safer, more experienced pair of hands. Seeing as that was a massive failure, it’s time to take a punt on someone with potential.
After missing the semi-final victory over Monterray, Virgil van Dijk was seen as a doubt for the Club World Cup final but the Dutch defender trained briefly on Friday. Jurgen Klopp did send Van Dijk straight back to the team hotel after the media section of the session closed, meaning he could still be absent on Saturday. Van Dijk’s compatriot Georginio Wijnaldum was absent, though, so could miss out on the final.
Some top top rumours this morning.
Arsenal were supposed to hold their pre-match press conference yesterday but cancelled it at short notice due to the fact Mikel Arteta’s appointment will be confirmed later today. It is likely though that Freddie Ljungberg will be the man in the dugout when they face Everton, with Arteta in the stands.
While following this blog, you will probably be searching the internet for Christmas presents to purchase for people you have forgotten about or dislike. What is the worst football-related Christmas present you have ever received?
Barney Ronay has done the research to find out about the process of picking a new manager.
Today we can expect at least one major managerial appointment in the Premier League. Mikel Arteta will be announced as the Arsenal boss sooner or later (probably this afternoon). The Basque is heading into his first top job and will have a long to do list when he arrives at Colney. Players are looking restless and he needs to build a coaching staff in double quick time as Arsenal look to get back in the top six. Will he keep Freddie Ljungberg on? Will he cheer up Mesut Özil? Can we sort out the defence? We might start getting answers today.Continue reading...
• Solskjær denies striker Haaland is flying to meet him
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has denied Paul Pogba will be sold in January, though Manchester United’s manager refused to offer details of the ankle injury that has ruled out the midfielder since late September.
Pogba’s recovery has been hampered by a recent illness, Solskjær said this week, and the future of a player who stated in the summer he wanted “a fresh challenge” has again been the cause of speculation.Continue reading...
Leicester will be looking to emulate 2016 at City, Frank Lampard has a special reunion and Freddie Ljungberg signs off
Unless Mikel Arteta decides there really is no time like the present and, without even taking a training session, oversees Arsenal’s visit to Goodison Park from the dugout this will be Freddie Ljungberg’s final match in temporary charge. It is easy to feel some sympathy with Ljungberg given that, throughout his five games so far, he has had to operate with no coaching staff to speak of and little certainty about the length of his tenure. Arsenal had made clear upon Unai Emery’s departure that they would be open to giving Ljungberg a run until the end of the season but failed to equip him with the tools required to show what he could do. Was this meant to be a kind of audition or not? In fairness to the Swede, he has cut a dignified figure throughout the process and stressed he is aware that, in the end, this is all strictly business. Ljungberg will presumably join Arteta’s backroom staff and keep an eye out for future managerial opportunities elsewhere; what a nice touch it would be, though, if one of Arsenal’s most beloved former players could sign off his brief return to the spotlight with a crucial win to set up the new head coach’s reign. NA
Twitter: follow us at @guardian_sportContinue reading...
If Marcus Rashford performs, Manchester United often follow suit. So it was that he transformed this quarter‑final when turning it on in the second half to give Ole Gunnar Solskjær the win which is the best way for him to celebrate his one-year anniversary of taking charge on Thursday.
Rashford scored the opener and was a key factor in United’s other two strikes in a 10-minute burst that was precisely what was required against a Colchester United who had proved durable. The victory means Solskjaer’s side are just 180 minutes away from the inaugural final of his reign in a first full campaign as the manager.Continue reading...
Today’s blurb is better late than never
The Christmas holidays seem to have come early at The Mill given the tardiness of today’s tattle, but there’s no sign of such inactivity at Manchester United, where suits are busy trying to tie up a deal for the Red Bull Salzburg and Norway striker Erling Braut Haaland. The 19-year-old would cost United £76m – although Salzburg’s caffeine-laced sister club Red Bull Leipzig have an arrangement which would allow them to pinch the goal guzzler for a paltry £20m. Haaland himself is believed to prefer a move to Old Trafford, and if the transfer does go through he could be loaned back to his current club until the end of the season. However another whippersnapper has turned down a January move to United, with Barcelona’s 15-year-old left-back Juan Larios set to join Manchester City when he turns 16 next month.Continue reading...
• Ole Gunnar Solskjær admits it is hard to leave out young striker
• Illness sets back Paul Pogba in recovery from ankle injury
Ole Gunnar Solskjær is considering giving Mason Greenwood a sequence of starts for Manchester United because of the 18-year-old’s impressive form.
Greenwood has scored three times in his past two matches, though he started only the 4-0 Europa League win over AZ Alkmaar, featuring as a replacement in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Everton. Solskjær’s side were trailing against Everton until Greenwood entered, the striker scoring 12 minutes later with a calm 18-yard finish.Continue reading...
Colchester forward is preparing for Manchester United and the biggest night of his career by waiting for a 42lb carp
It is an overcast day in late November, and Colchester United have given their players a day off. A few minutes’ drive from their training ground, by the side of a small private lake accessible only, given recent rain, by navigating across a few hundred metres of thick sludge, Luke Norris is putting up a tent. This will be the striker’s home until the next morning, when he will pack up and head straight to training. Inside the tent is a simple camp bed and some basic provisions, protected from the rats that frequent the water’s edge; inside the lake is a 42lb carp, and Norris hopes to catch it sometime in the following 22 hours .
Whenever it happens, the enormous fish will be out of the water only for as long as it takes to secure a commemorative photograph. The only giant-killing Norris is interested in is of the footballing kind, with his team already having knocked Crystal Palace and Tottenham out of the Carabao Cup and heading to Old Trafford on Wednesday in the quarter-finals. “There’s one fish I’m after and I think if I get that fish I’ll move on, I’ll go to the next lake,” he says. “I think that’s normally what guys do – they’ll see a fish, either in the magazines or on social media, and they’ll think: ‘I want that one.’ It’s the biggest one in the lake, and most of the time guys do want the biggest fish in the lake. I’ve had bigger over in France but in the UK that is a good fish.”
It all started with a 3-0 home defeat of Swindon in August for a first League Cup win since 2010. Three weeks later they held Crystal Palace to a goalless draw at Selhurst Park, winning 5-4 on penalties as Dean Gerken denied Andros Townsend from the spot. In the third round, it was the turn of Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs: another goalless draw and a dramatic 4-3 win in the shootout, despite Jevani Brown’s failed Panenka, prompting a wild pitch invasion. They finally conceded a goal in a rare all‑League Two affair in the last 16 against Crawley but roared back to secure a 3-1 win and a date with Manchester United.Continue reading...
Our picture editors select their favourite pics from the weekend’s actionContinue reading...