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Premier League 2019-20 season review: our writers’ best and worst

Tue, 07/28/2020 - 12:00

The best players, greatest games and notable signings – plus those that didn’t work out, and what needs to change

Ed Aarons: The performances of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mané and Jordan Henderson were crucial for a brilliant Liverpool team that left Manchester City floundering in their wake but Virgil van Dijk held it all together. An inspirational leader in a team inspired by their manager’s vision.

Related: Premier League 2019-20 review: goals of the season

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Premier League 2019-20 review: signings of the season

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 11:30

From scurrying strikers to impulsive wingers, here are our pick of the top flight’s best new arrivals. Also: Players | Flops
Gripes | Matches | Pundits | Goals | Managers | Young players

Welcome to theguardian.com review of the 2019-20 Premier League season. We have nominated some contenders for this category but this is just to get the discussion going: offer your suggestions below the line …

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Premier League 2019-20 review: young players of the season

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 11:00

This year’s suggestions are made up of players who were aged 21 and younger at the start of the season

Welcome to theguardian.com review of the 2019-20 Premier League season. We have nominated some contenders for this category but this is just to get the discussion going: offer your suggestions below the line …

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Premier League 2019-20 review: matches of the season

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 10:30

Watford’s jaw-dropping win over Liverpool and Brighton and West Ham’s slapstick six-goal draw stick in the mind

Welcome to theguardian.com review of the 2019-20 Premier League season. We have nominated some contenders for this category but this is just to get the discussion going: offer your suggestions below the line …

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Premier League 2019-20 review: players of the season

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 09:00

We select a few contenders for the Premier League’s player of the season – and invite you to have your say

Welcome to theguardian.com review of the 2019-20 Premier League season. We have nominated some contenders for this category but this is just to get the discussion going: offer your suggestions below the line …

Sadio Mané (Liverpool)

Related: 'It wouldn't be the end of the journey': Solskjær looks beyond top-four finish | Paul Wilson

Related: Jordan Henderson: criticism used to affect me but now it fuels me

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'A massive achievement': Solskjær proud as Manchester United clinch third place – video

Mon, 07/27/2020 - 01:46

Ole Gunnar Solskjær hailed his side's third-place finish in the Premier League as a 'massive achievement', after Manchester United beat fellow top-four contenders Leicester 2-0 to secure a place in the Champions League next season.

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Solskjær hits back at critics after Manchester United make top four

Sun, 07/26/2020 - 22:14
  • Manager says the doubters drove him on
  • ‘It didn’t seem like you were expecting this’

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has taken a swipe at his critics after leading Manchester United back into the Champions League, saying their gloomy forecasts had driven him on.

Solskjær’s team won 2-0 at Leicester on the final day to secure a third-placed finish – an achievement that had been hard to predict with any certainty at the end of January when they lagged six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea. On 30 January, they were 14 points off Leicester in third.

Related: Solskjær's simple plan hints at red dawn for new-look Manchester United | Barney Ronay

Related: Manchester United seal Champions League return as Leicester miss out

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Solskjær's simple plan hints at red dawn for new-look Manchester United | Barney Ronay

Sun, 07/26/2020 - 20:48

The win at Leicester offered few thrills but the no-frills way it clinched Champions League football will do United no harm

They’re back, baby, they’re back. Back with a whimper perhaps, at the end of an edgy, sluggish, winning performance at the King Power Stadium. But Manchester United are back in the Champions League all the same, a top-four place secured with a slow-burn 2-0 defeat of Leicester City.

This being planet Earth in the year 2020, it came in the strangest of circumstances. Seven minutes into injury time on a muggy late-July day Jesse Lingard could be seen rolling the ball into an empty net in front of a row of inspirational tarpaulins.

Related: Manchester United seal Champions League spot with win as Leicester miss out

Related: Solskjær hits back at critics after Manchester United make top four

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Manchester United reach Champions League after Fernandes sinks Leicester

Sun, 07/26/2020 - 18:15

When Manchester United signed Bruno Fernandes at the end of January, they were fifth in the Premier League and trailed Leicester in third by 14 points. After a fraught season finale at the King Power stadium, Fernandes’s team held on to a third-placed finish, breaking Leicester’s hearts in the process and, fittingly, it was Fernandes that struck the decisive blow.

The midfield signing from Sporting Lisbon has still to lose a league game in United’s colours and his tenth goal for them, from the penalty spot, was enough to make the difference.

Related: Leicester v Manchester United: Premier League – live!

Related: Premier League final day clockwatch – live!

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Leicester v Manchester United: Premier League – live!

Sun, 07/26/2020 - 16:23

4.23pm BST

24 min I’d love to see Roy Keane’s coupon right now.

4.22pm BST

23 min “Following your commentary from 40,000 ft above Norway,” says Osama Hanif.

Blimey, that is definitely a first for the Guardian MBM. Safe travels!

4.22pm BST

22 min Both sides look really nervous with and without the ball.

4.21pm BST

20 min Maguire lets the ball run under his foot, just inside the area, and is fortunate that Matic is behind him. Iheanacho would have been in on goal otherwise.

4.20pm BST

19 min Is there anyone reading who doesn’t want to know the other Premier League scores? If so, speak now or forever hold your peace. Either way, I’ll have to give updates from the Chelsea game (it’s still 0-0) as it is linked with this one, but if you prefer I won’t mention the other matches.

4.18pm BST

18 min “Hi Rob,” says Peter Oh. “That Maguire tackle on Iheanacho (9 min.) looked like a tribute to Paul Scholes.”

It reminded me of that Francis Begbie tackle at the start of Trainspotting, which is basically the same thing. (NB: Clip contains adult language/themes)

4.17pm BST

17 min Thomas’s cross bounces all the way across to his fellow right-back Albrighton. He moves the ball away from Williams and screws a shot wide of the near post. The angle was pretty tight.

4.15pm BST

15 min If you don’t want to know the other Premier League scores, don’t click this.

Related: Premier League final day clockwatch – live!

4.15pm BST

14 min Matic plays a miserable pass on the edge of his own area, straight to Iheanacho. He finds Tielemans, who invites Ndidi to shoot first time from 25 yards. His rising drive whistles a few yards over the bar.

4.13pm BST

13 min It’s cagey stuff out there. United are dominating possession but their passing has been a bit safe.

4.12pm BST

11 min Rashford, just inside the Leicester half on the left, floats a long ball over Evans to find Greenwood near the penalty spot. He has to take the header first time, on the stretch, and loops it over the bar. It was a lovely run and pass though.

4.10pm BST

9 min Maguire is booked for taking a shortcut through Iheanacho on the halfway line. Leicester are starting to come into the game. We’ve now seen a replay of that penalty appeal - I’d like to see it again to be sure, but I think Pogba pulled his leg away just before Iheanacho fell over.

4.08pm BST

8 min Iheananacho goes over in the area after a slightly absent-minded challenge from Pogba. Martin Atkinson isn’t interested.

4.07pm BST

7 min Williams plays a one-two with Rashford, moves into the area and is well tackled by Ndidi.

4.06pm BST

6 min It’s still all United, though everything has been in front of the Leicester defence.

4.05pm BST

5 min Martial plays a one-two with Matic on the left and wins the first corner. Fernandes curls it deep and Thomas heads clear.

4.03pm BST

3 min United have started like the home team, with most of the game taking place in Leicester’s half. Leicester won’t mind that, especially with Vardy’s pace. They’ve won bigger prizes than a Champions League place playing on the counter-attack.

4.02pm BST

2 min Greenwood plays an excellent pass to Pogba, who eases it behind the defence towards Martial. He is just offside.

4.00pm BST

1 min Peep peep! United kick off from right to left.

3.59pm BST

This is it, then. Twelve months of football comes down to one match. Annnnd it’s etc.

3.58pm BST

“If United win the Europa League, both sides will end up going through regardless of today’s result,” says John Delaney. “Is that correct or have I got all this wrong?

I think that if Leicester finish fifth and United win the Europa League, they would still most out. The only way England will get a fifth Champions League place is if United (or Wolves) win the Europa League and finish outside the top four. I think.

3.33pm BST

“Afternoon, Rob,” says Digvijay Yadav. “Do you remember during the last Cricket WC (I am sure you’ll remember it for the rest of your life) when England briefly floundered and looked like they might crash out of the competition prompting you to label them as ‘Bilateral Bullies’? That’s me with this United team if they lose. Boys. Just. Get. The. Job. Done.”

Remember it? I barely slept for five nights between the defeat to Australia and the win over India. It’s an interesting comparison, though I don’t really see it myself. I suppose one consolation for United, if they do lose today, is that they can still qualify through the Europa League. I have a feeling Leicester will win 2-1 (Vardy 2).

3.17pm BST

Pre-match reading

Related: Leicester’s labours must not cloud verdict on Brendan Rodgers' high-flyers | Jonathan Wilson

Related: 'It wouldn't be the end of the journey': Solskjær looks beyond top-four finish | Paul Wilson

Related: Rodgers urges Leicester to deliver 'result heard around the world'

3.06pm BST

Leicester make three changes from the team that lost heavily at Spurs a week ago: Marc Albrighton, Hamza Choudhury and Kelechi Iheanacho replace Ryan Bennett, Ayoze Perez and Harvey Barnes. It looks like James Justin will play as the right-sided centre-back, with Marc Albrighton at wing-back.

Luke Shaw hasn’t made it, so Brandon Williams stays at left-back for United. They make one change: Aaron Wan-Bissaka replaces Timothy Fosu-Mensah at right-back.

3.02pm BST

Leicester City (3-4-1-2) Schmeichel; Justin, Morgan, Evans; Albrighton, Choudhury, Ndidi, Thomas; Tielemans; Iheanacho, Vardy.
Substitutes: Ward, Bennett, Gray, Barnes, James, Mendy, Praet, Perez, Hirst.

Manchester United (4-2-3-1) de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Williams; Pogba, Matic; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial.
Substitutes: Romero, Bailly, Fosu-Mensah, Mata, Lingard, Fred, James, McTominay, Ighalo.

12.43pm BST

Hello. After barely 18 months in charge, Brendan Rodgers and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have taken Leicester and Manchester United to a Champions League final. Sure, if you really want to nitpick, it’s a final to decide who plays in the Champions League rather than who wins it. But it’s still progress for both clubs.

There is a small chance they will both qualify, but that’s only if they draw and Wolves win at Stamford Bridge. The likelihood is that this will be a straight shootout. United have the draw but they also have the pressure, having reeled Leicester in since they were 14 points behind at the start of February. Leicester arguably have nothing to lose, because most people think they’ve already lost the Champions League place that seemed a sure thing in the winter.

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'It wouldn't be the end of the journey': Solskjær looks beyond top-four finish | Paul Wilson

Sat, 07/25/2020 - 22:30

The Manchester United manager says sealing a Champions League place against Leicester on Sunday would be a step towards chasing down Liverpool and Manchester City

The number of times Ole Gunnar Solskjær mentions the journey Manchester United have been on this season you would think he is employed as a travel guide rather than the manager, but though it is tempting to view Sunday’s showdown at Leicester as journey’s end, the Norwegian insists otherwise.

“We’ve not ended up anywhere yet,” Solskjær says of the chance to clinch third place in the Premier League table and Champions League qualification. “If we get a result against Leicester I think people will say we’ve not had a bad journey this season. But whatever happens, it won’t be the end of the journey because we’ve still got some catching up to do on the two teams ahead of us.”

Related: Three into two will not go as race for Champions League enters final sprint

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The Premier League's overachievers, underachievers and those on par | Paul Wilson

Sat, 07/25/2020 - 12:00

Liverpool’s ruthless consistency and Sheffield United’s ability to adapt exceeded expectations, but Arsenal and Spurs slumped, while Manchester City and United have been satisfactory

League tables may never lie, though everyone knows they can be economical with the truth. By Sunday evening we will have our final Premier League table, after an extraordinarily difficult season is played out to a compromised but fair conclusion. Yet what the record books and finishing positions never quite reveal is what was expected of teams beforehand.

Some teams in the top half of the table will be disappointed with their place in the order of things, whereas some teams in the bottom half will be relieved. What follows is an attempt to break up the table into three groups: those who have done better than anticipated, those who have done worse and those who have simply completed the course with an acceptable but unspectacular score.

Related: Three into two will not go as race for Champions League enters final sprint

Related: Relegation zone: What Aston Villa, Watford and Bournemouth need to do

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Ole Gunnar Solskjær urges Manchester United to stay focused at Leicester

Fri, 07/24/2020 - 12:40
  • One lapse in concentration could cost Champions League place
  • ‘We’re going into final game with strong frame of mind’

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has warned that a “lapse of concentration” could cost Manchester United Champions League qualification at Leicester City on Sunday.

A point would guarantee United a top-four finish, while victory would confirm Solskjær’s side in third. And though they could still claim Champions League football if they lose against Leicester and Chelsea are beaten by Wolves, the manager is intent his team will not play for a draw.

Related: Three into two will not go as race for Champions League enters final sprint

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Three into two will not go as race for Champions League enters final sprint

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 18:18

Manchester United and Chelsea currently sit third and fourth respectively but Leicester can take advantage of any slip-ups on the final day of the Premier League season

Sunday’s fixture Leicester (a) What they need A draw, though defeat will suffice if Chelsea lose

Related: Manchester United can forget a title challenge with a defence like this | Jonathan Liew

Related: Cybersecurity at risk after hackers try to sabotage Premier League transfer deal

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Manchester United can forget a title challenge with a defence like this | Jonathan Liew

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 10:42

United’s backline is their weakest link, with crosses a particular trouble spot, and significant reinforcements are needed

Naturally, the jokes were not long in coming. Paul Pogba: the solution to Manchester United’s goalkeeping problems. A better reaction save than David de Gea has managed all season. If it wasn’t humour, it was blind fury.

“It’s rubbish from him, embarrassing,” Gary Neville chided on Sky Sports. “You’ve got to take that in the face,” James Collins agreed in the studio. And as a tired Manchester United stumbled at home to West Ham, putting their Champions League participation next season in doubt, Pogba felt like a very convenient scapegoat for a team whose current problems go plenty deeper than one pair of wandering hands and one instinctive handball.

Related: Greenwood grabs point for Manchester United after Pogba's penalty blunder

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Greenwood grabs point for Manchester United after Pogba's penalty blunder

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 20:01

Mason Greenwood’s 17th goal of the season places him alongside George Best, Wayne Rooney and Brian Kidd as Manchester United’s most prolific teenagers. More important his second-half equaliser means Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side have only to draw at Leicester on Sunday’s final day to seal fourth place and Champions League qualification: a demand the manager would have accepted during the dark days of winter.

Related: Manchester United 1-1 West Ham United: Premier League – live reaction!

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Manchester United v West Ham United: Premier League – live!

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 17:56

5.56pm BST

“Hi Simon,” writes Rob Carey. “Just wondering if anyone wanted to bet on what minute Man Utd will get their penalty tonight? I’ll go for the 36th minute.”

5.55pm BST

Tough call, this one. Looks like Fernandes is further off the ground and Pogba is closer to the sky.

5.45pm BST

David Moyes is asked to explain West Ham’s improved recent form. He doesn’t entirely succeed.

Well, there’s never only one thing but we’ve been scoring goals, we’ve been making chances, we’ve defended a little bit better in the last couple of games. But I just think making chances and taking chances when we’ve got them as well.

5.40pm BST

“Huge game for United tonight because you know qualifying for the Champions League keeps Adidas happy and any prospective new recruits who just have a burning desire to play six games in next years competition,” meows Neil Carter. “Enough cynicism, after the debacle that was the FA Cup Semi three points would be great! Good luck in goal tonight David, no pressure son!”

5.29pm BST

Eight people photographed standing close together at Old Trafford. The odd thing about this photograph is that I can’t for the life of me work out who is talking/interacting/fist-bumping who.

5.18pm BST

I love how Robbie Savage is working the camera here.

The men in masks are ready... @ConorMcNamaraIE and @RobbieSavage8 are at @ManUtd vs @WestHam in the @premierleague for @5liveSport - commentary coming up from 6.00pm. #bbcfootball pic.twitter.com/dWhuQqLyaL

5.06pm BST

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer makes four changes, bringing in Pogba, Martia, Fosu-Mensah and Greenwood, and leaving out Bailly, Wan-Bissaka, Fred and James. West Ham are unchanged.

5.03pm BST

The team sheets have been handed in, and this afternoon/evening/morning/whatever’s game will feature this lot:

Manchester United: De Gea, Fosu-Mensah, Lindelof, Maguire, Williams, Pogba, Matic, Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Rashford, Martial. Subs: Mata, Lingard, Fred, Dalot, James, Romero, Ighalo, Wan Bissaka, McTominay.
West Ham: Fabianski, Johnson, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Soucek, Rice, Bowen, Noble, Fornals, Antonio. Subs: Balbuena, Yarmolenko, Felipe Anderson, Lanzini, Wilshere, Haller, Masuaku, Randolph, Coventry.
Referee: Paul Tierney.

Your #MUFC XI for our penultimate #PL clash of 2019/20!#MUNWHU

The team is in! Here's how we line up for #MUNWHU pic.twitter.com/x6rF9EVnMN

2.37pm BST

West Ham are now unofficially safe, though given that Watford and Aston Villa could both catch them on points (their goal differences are inferior by 14 and 13 respectively, so some thrashings would need to be handed out) they will be eager to bank the one point it would take to make it official. Wins tonight and at home to Villa on Sunday would leave them with a sufficiently large final points tally for the whole relegation threat to seem like a grim and distant dream. They might be inspired by these opponents: when the Hammers beat United 2-0 in September they were, with six games played, merrily skimming along in fifth (one place above Bournemouth). Happy memories, but they won only two more games before the end of 2019, losing nine, and by the turn of the year they were 17th (one place below Bournemouth).

It’s got to be said that they probably won’t win, mind. Manchester United are a team transformed over the last few months, and their FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea on Sunday is the only reverse in any competition in the last six months - it is their half-year anniversary of their last league defeat, against Burnley at Old Trafford, today. They also have the incentive of knowing that draws in their last two games (they play Leicester, with whom they are currently level-pegging on both points and goal difference, in their last fixture on Sunday) would be enough to secure Champions League football next season, which would be a jolly impressive thing to achieve.

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De Gea mentally strong and knows his job is to perform, says Solskjær

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 11:18
  • Manager determined not to increase pressure on goalkeeper
  • Manchester United ‘sticking together’, Solskjær insists

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has insisted David de Gea is “mentally strong” following the goalkeeper’s latest error in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final defeat but refused to discuss his No 1 in depth to avoid increasing pressure on him.

De Gea’s soft hands were at fault for Mason Mount’s second goal in Chelsea’s 3-1 win and he should have done better for Olivier Giroud’s opener, when he failed to repel a close-range effort. The Spaniard has also made mistakes in other matches.

Related: De Gea's decline continues as United's FA Cup chance evades his grasp | Jonathan Wilson

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Frank Lampard talks of Chelsea's 'three finals' after FA Cup semi win

Sun, 07/19/2020 - 22:38
  • Manager wants trophy and Champions League qualification
  • Solskjær says United have ‘got to move on’ from De Gea errors

Frank Lampard urged Chelsea to build on their potential by qualifying for the Champions League and winning a trophy after they took advantage of a poor goalkeeping display from David de Gea to join Arsenal in the FA Cup final thanks to an impressive 3-1 victory over Manchester United.

Chelsea head into the final week of the Premier League campaign on a high after Lampard ended a run of three defeats this season to Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side, who were left with concerns over De Gea’s declining form after the Spaniard allowed shots from Olivier Giroud and Mason Mount to squirm past him.

Related: Chelsea pounce on De Gea errors to reach FA Cup final at United's expense

Related: De Gea's decline continues as United's FA Cup chance evades his grasp | Jonathan Wilson

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De Gea's decline continues as United's FA Cup chance evades his grasp | Jonathan Wilson

Sun, 07/19/2020 - 22:00

The Spanish goalkeeper handed Chelsea at least one goal at Wembley and his manager may soon have a decision to make

Amid the chaos of Spain’s World Cup in 2018, perhaps the greatest casualty was David de Gea. The days when his heroics repeatedly papered over the cracks at Manchester United feel a long time ago. It can be debated whether De Gea was at fault for the first and third goals, but he was clearly to blame for the second and, in those two moments, United’s long unbeaten run disappeared, and Chelsea’s passage to the FA Cup final was secured.

Frank Lampard had left out Kepa Arrizabalaga for his Cup keeper Willy Caballero, although given no goalkeeper has conceded a higher proportion of the shots on target he’s faced since Opta began collecting the data, he may have done so with a sense of relief. Ole Gunnar Solskjær will perhaps wish he had done something similar. Although he made a number of changes to a putative first-choice lineup, both a reflection of the fact his side had played Crystal Palace on Thursday and an indication that Champions League qualification remains the priority, he preferred De Gea to Sergio Romero, who had played in the four previous rounds.

Related: Giroud leads Chelsea's march to FA Cup final at Manchester United's expense

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