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Premier League hits and misses: Erik ten Hag endures losing start at Man Utd as Erling Haaland shows how he can transform Man City

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Nothing dashes optimism more than a dose of reality. Heading into the new Premier League season, with Erik ten Hag coming in along with some new faces, there was hope this could be the year Manchester United finally come good.

It did not take long for the rigours and demands of the Premier League to set in. Unsurprisingly, Man Utd’s problems from previous seasons had not magically disappeared.

While they generally began brightly, they rode their luck on two separate occasions when mistakes from Diogo Dalot and Fred almost allowed Leandro Trossard to score. Errors out of possession and a lack of organisation were at times hard to watch.

Man Utd were in disarray defensively. They seemed to be continuously shocked when Brighton players popped up nearby and were not in a position to stop them, epitomised as Pascal Gross scored twice towards the end of the first half.

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That’s not to say there were not some bright moments. Christian Eriksen shone on his debut and Bruno Fernandes continues to be the beacon of hope for Man Utd fans. Cristiano Ronaldo showed just why he is so important for his side too, despite all the summer dramatics. Whether Ten Hag likes it or not, Ronaldo is at the club and he must be utilised to help Man Utd out of their current predicament.

Although the Dutchman was keen to stress he will need time to implement his ideas, he also knows that is not something afforded to many in football. He has now seen first hand the kind of issues he is facing at Man Utd and, with a constant pen and pad in his hand during the first half, it’s time for him to find the solutions.

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As ever, all is not lost for Man Utd, but the Ten Hag renaissance is a long way from starting yet.

Erling Haaland’s two-goal performance against West Ham made it a straightforward afternoon for Manchester City at the London Stadium. It also provided a first clue of just how much the Norway striker could elevate this already brilliant side.

There was talk of patience and adaption time after last weekend’s Community Shield defeat to Liverpool, during which he only touched the ball 16 times and missed a gilt-edged scoring chance, but on the evidence of his Premier debut, neither of those things will be necessary.

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Haaland was outstanding, taking his two goals brilliantly and causing West Ham problems they could not solve. Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville described him as “unplayable”, while Roy Keane tipped him to score “30 or 40” goals.

“One week ago, he could not adapt in the Premier League,” said a smiling Guardiola in his press conference, referencing the reaction to Haaland’s display against Liverpool. “And now he is alongside Titi Henry, Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo.”

Guardiola was speaking ironically but his goals certainly put him in good company, making him only the second Manchester City player to score twice on his Premier League debut after Sergio Aguero. The early evidence suggests they now have a striker capable of taking on the mantle from the Argentine.

In addition to his two goals, Haaland ranked top for shots (five), shots on target (two) and touches in the opposition box (10). He even linked the play effectively too, completing 21 of his 23 passes at a success rate of 91 per cent.

It is fair to say Brighton have struggled over the years at Old Trafford – in fact, ahead of their season-opening clash at Manchester United on Sunday, the Seagulls had lost on 12 of their previous 14 visits there.

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However, Graham Potter’s side, who gave United a run for their money before losing 2-0 at the Theatre of Dreams back in February, were in no mood to roll over and hand Erik ten Hag a first win on his United bow.

The visitors could have scored straight from the kick-off in what should have served as a warning of what was to come to United as they played, according to Sky Sports commentator Jamie Carragher, like Ajax in the first half such was the free-flowing, slick, one-touch football that carved their hosts apart at times.

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Both of their goals were easy on the eye and typical of the football played under Potter since he arrived on the south coast in 2019, especially in a first period that saw United face an alarming 12 shots on goal.

While some may have mistakenly marked this down as the sort of fixture Ten Hag and United would enjoy to get the new man’s reign off to a winning start, they will now be rapidly revising that opinion.

It was a difficult pre-season for Leicester.

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Kasper Schmeichel left the club and a number of their top names have been linked with moves away from the King Power Stadium. On the other hand, Leicester are the only club in Europe’s top five leagues not to make a signing.

However, the issues were swept aside when Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall doubled their advantage seconds into the second half.

Leicester were bright and two of the players linked with moves away in James Maddison and Wesley Fofana were at the heart of it. Fofana’s crucial tackle on Bryan Mbeumo stopped a potential goalscoring opportunity for Brentford before Maddison’s inch-perfect corner set up Timothy Castagne’s header for Leicester’s opener.

Maddison has now been directly involved in 13 Premier League goals for Leicester in 2022 (seven goals, six assists). Only one Englishman has had a hand in more in this calendar year (Harry Kane – 21), showing Maddison’s importance to Leicester.

But, worryingly for Leicester, old problems resurfaced as they blew a two-goal lead at home for the first time since August 2003 versus Southampton.

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Finding a solution to that, and keeping hold of their stars ahead of the transfer deadline will be high on the agenda for Rodgers in the coming weeks.

Thomas Frank earned his money at the King Power Stadium as he masterminded a second-half Brentford comeback thanks to his substitutions and tactical changes.

With his side trailing 2-0, Frank brought on Keane Lewis-Potter and Josh Dasilva in the 59th minute and switched to a 3-4-3.

Three minutes later Brentford scored through Ivan Toney and then substitute Dasilva fired in a late equaliser. Frank’s changes had paid off.

“We started in the 4-3-3 then changed to 3-5-2 and then I changed to 3-4-3 to have one more offensive player in the middle of the park,” he explained.

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“Yoane Wissa was an outside centre-back and then Keane in, so we just had more offensive players on the pitch and changed the structure a bit so we could hopefully put more pressure on Leicester, which happened.”

Wissa was then brought off in the 84th minute for Halil Dervisoglu and two minutes later the Turkey forward assisted Dasilva for the equaliser.

Dervisoglu was one of five substitutes made by Frank as he took full advantage of the new ruling, that many people believed would favour the bigger clubs.

But the Dane disproved that at Leicester as he used his full allocation expertly and ensured Brentford completed an impressive comeback.

Outfoxed, outmanoeuvred, outshone by the reigning Premier League champions. Perhaps that was to be expected. Except few people anticipated quite such an impact from Erling Haaland this early into the new campaign. What may be of small comfort to West Ham fans is the fact they will not be the Norway international’s only prey this season.

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  • How the teams lined up | Match stats

The atmosphere quickly faded from a game with so much promise, as a record-breaking crowd packed into the London Stadium. What they saw was a team in need of greater stability at the back, and more consistent threat in forward areas. Admittedly, that is difficult when you only have a 25 per cent share of possession.

It’s widely accepted David Moyes’ side are one potent striker short of a very good team. But tactically they had very few answers. City’s pressure was incessant, relentless even, and West Ham lacked a plan B. It was far too passive for a team whose weapons come alive on the break. In transition, they were slow and uninventive.

Moyes started none of the club’s five summer signings, although Gianluca Scamacca was a 57th-minute substitute – perhaps that will change in coming weeks. It’s clear that some fresh impetus is needed, albeit there will be much more opportunity to stamp authority on games when facing the league’s other 18 teams. Pep Guardiola’s side were simply too good on the day.

 

 

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2022 World Cup: Unwanted history for hosts Qatar against Ecuador

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Qatar on Sunday, became the first host country to be defeated in their opening game in the 92-year history of the World Cup.

Ecuador beat the Middle East country 2-0 courtesy of two first-half goals from captain Enner Valencia. Ecuador’s captain also saw a goal ruled out for offside. The result means Qatar become the first host nation ever to lose their opening game at a World Cup.

It’s obviously not the start Qatar will have wanted to make to a competition that had been plagued by controversy before a ball had even been kicked.

Supporters also made their feelings clear about the match at half-time as they abandoned the game in large numbers with the hosts already 2-0 down. Initial estimates suggest around 20,000 supporters left the game at the break.

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There were just 11 shots in this game (five for Qatar, six for Ecuador) – no World Cup match on record (since 1966) has seen fewer attempts.

The hosts return to action on Friday against Senegal.

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Victor Osimhen Bags Huge International Award And Recognition

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Nigeria and Napoli forward Victor Osimhen has received a huge international award and recognition for his relentless contribution at the international and club level.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria and Napoli forward Victor Osimhen received a huge international award from the Globe Soccer Awards. The talented player was recognized for his immense contribution to both club and country.

He was crowned the Emerging Player Of The Year 2022, which was deserved on every level as the player has continued to show his importance at the club level for Napoli by contributing towards the impressive run of the club in the new season as well as the previous season.

Although the Super Eagles of Nigeria would not be going to the World Cup 2022 in Qatar, he had been one of the stand-out players for the Eagles in their qualifiers.

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Contragulations Victor.

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2022 World Cup: I am totally, absolutely focused on Portugal- Ronaldo says amid Man Utd criticism

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In the wake of his scathing interview about Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo declares that Portugal will be his “absolute focus” during the World Cup.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner, in an interview with Piers Morgan for TalkTV, which will be made public in its entirety on Wednesday, criticised United manager Erik ten Hag, Ralf Rangnick, and senior officials at Old Trafford.

Ronaldo claimed that United had “betrayed” him and that the team had not advanced since Alex Ferguson left in 2013.

Man Utd react to Ronaldo’s interview with Piers Morgan

After the interview, United reacted with a statement on Monday mentioning it and promising to respond “after the full facts have been established.”

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Prior to Portugal’s November 24 match against Ghana in Group H, the 37-year-old declared on Monday that his entire attention would be on playing for Portugal in Qatar.

“Total and absolute focus on national team work. United group, towards one objective: realise the dream of all Portuguese people!,” he posted on Instagram.

Despite missing United’s previous two games due to “illness,” he posted a photo of himself with his Portugal teammates during a training session.

Without Ronaldo, the Red Devils defeated Fulham 2-1 on Sunday, moving them up to fifth place in the Premier League, three points behind Tottenham with one game remaining.

In the Middle East, where Fernando Santos’ team will also play Uruguay and South Korea, Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo hopes to lead his nation to World Cup triumph.

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