Manchester United 2:0 West Bromwich Albion

Manchester United got back to winning ways in the Barclays Premier League with a 2-0 win against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford on Saturday.

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After long spells of fruitless first-half pressure from the Reds, the breakthrough finally came early in the second period when Jesse Lingard fired home a super finish, bagging his first goal for the club as his star continues to rise. Juan Mata then secured the victory from the spot in injury time as United stayed fourth in the league, notching a sixth clean sheet in seven in the process.

Louis van Gaal named an unchanged side from the XI that had overcome CSKA Moscow in midweek, although Cameron Borthwick-Jackson became the latest youngster to be included in the Dutchman’s 16, following Axel Tuanzebe’s appearance on the bench against Crystal Palace last week.

Keen to build on the aforementioned Champions League win, the Reds started brightly and dominated possession, though did little to trouble Boaz Myhill’s goal in the opening 10 minutes. The first chance of note came just after the 15-minute mark, when Bastian Schweinsteiger found Wayne Rooney, who turned well and was able to prod ball into the path of Mata. The Spaniard arced his body to curl a shot past the reaches of Myhill, but also narrowly past the post.

Meanwhile, West Brom, who fielded a side containing Old Trafford old boys Darren Fletcher and Jonny Evans, continued to defend with the tirelessness and commitment that those players had come to embody during their time at United, frustrating the home side for long periods. With the Baggies happy to sit back and soak up the play, the onus was on United to break them down, yet, despite the relentless pressure and possession, few clear-cut chances were created.

Left-sided duo Marcos Rojo and Lingard did provide a bright spark for the Reds, keeping West Brom right-back Craig Dawson on his toes, and it was the latter of the United pair who was next to go close.

Mata collected the ball on the edge of the area before arrowing an expertly-weighted ball to the far post looking for the young winger, but just as it seemed destined to provide Jesse with the chance of the half, Dawson intervened with a perfectly-timed header to clear the danger. Lingard enjoyed another opportunity late in the half, having been put through on goal by Anthony Martial, but Evans stood firm, diverting the ball out of play.

Seemingly not content with creating chances, Martial then tested Myhill himself, but his stinging drive was thwarted by the stopper as the score remained goalless at the interval.

There were no changes to personnel from either side at the break and nor was there a change to the state of play, as United began to take the game to the visitors from the get-go.

Buoyed by chants of ‘Attack, Attack, Attack’, it wasn’t long before the Reds finally turned possession into a tangible advantage and, unsurprisingly, it was the excellent Lingard who broke the deadlock.

With just over 50 minutes on the clock, Martial sent a ball into the area looking for Rooney, only for Chris Brunt to clear the danger. Thankfully, the Ulsterman’s clearance only went as far as Lingard, who took a touch before bending a superb effort past the beaten Myhill. The Warrington-born winger’s first goal for the club was one that belied his young years and was greeted by a deafening roar from the Stretford End, stirred from its first-half slumber.

The goal gave everyone of United persuasion a real lift going into the start of an important second half, but chances were still at a minimum, despite the home side’s continued forays forward.

As the half drew on it was West Brom who began to show more ambition going forward and Evans might well have drawn the visitors level as he seized upon confusion in the United defensive ranks, possibly caused by a double substitution for the Baggies shortly before a free-kick. It was a let-off for van Gaal’s men, who then received another huge slice of luck two minutes later when substitute Saidy Berahino headed over from point-blank range.

Borthwick-Jackson and Ander Herrera were then brought on in quick succession in place of Rojo and Rooney, following the earlier introduction of Phil Jones at right-back. The changes seemed to take the sting out of the game, with United now back in control, and the home side earned the chance to seal the points in added-on time.

The ever-sprightly Martial seized upon the tired legs among the Baggies defence and looked set to fire home before being chopped down by Gareth McAuley. The West Brom man saw red for the late challenge, allowing  Mata to step up and coolly slot home from 12 yards – job done.

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Southampton 2:3 Manchester United

Anthony Martial enhanced his burgeoning reputation by scoring twice in a 3-2 win over Southampton that moves Manchester United up to second in the Barclays Premier League.

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The French summer signing executed two impressively composed finishes either side of the half-time break to overturn Graziano Pelle’s opener at St Mary’s. Juan Mata enhanced the lead and Italian striker Pelle bagged his second to set up a tense finale, though the Reds held on to claim an excellent result that closes the gap on leaders Manchester City to just two points following their home defeat to West Ham.

Luke Shaw was unavailable to play against his former club after breaking his leg at PSV Eindhoven and Louis van Gaal selected Marcos Rojo to fill in at left-back, allowing Daley Blind and Chris Smalling to maintain their promising partnership in the middle. Wayne Rooney and Morgan Schneiderlin were recalled to the starting XI, with Martial also making his first Premier League start.

The match began at an even pace with both teams enjoying separate spells of possession in midfield, although it was the hosts who broke the deadlock in the 13th minute when Pelle pounced on David De Gea’s parried save from a Sadio Mane effort to shoot underneath the Spanish goalkeeper. The towering Italian, who scored in this fixture last season, then hit the outside of the post with a low shot just moments later that prompted a visibly angry De Gea to berate his defenders.

Memphis saw a looping header arc over Maarten Stekelenburg’s crossbar on 24 minutes as United – wearing the black adidas third kit – attempted to restore parity on the south coast. But it was far from easy against a home side that was defending with all 11 men behind the ball, while pressing high up the pitch with an intensity that has earned plenty of praise during Ronald Koeman’s reign as boss.

Thankfully, van Gaal’s men broke through the mass ranks to equalise in the 34th minute and it was our new no.9, Martial, who did the honours, receiving the ball on the edge of the six-yard area before showing impressive composure to execute a low finish past Stekelenburg.

United almost took an unexpected lead prior to the half-time break when Memphis intelligently played in Mata from a corner kick, with the Spaniard then slipping another pass inside for Blind to shoot wide from close-range, wrapping up an intriguing and entertaining opening 45 minutes at St Mary’s.

The second half began with both managers making tactical changes as Matt Targett replaced Cuco Martina and Antonio Valencia usurped Matteo Darmian, although Martial picked up exactly where he left off by scoring his second goal of the game on 50 minutes. This time, the 19-year-old livewire latched onto a sloppy backpass from Saints defender Maya Yoshida to execute another cool finish to inspire repeated chants of “Oh Anthony Martial” from United’s ecstatic travelling fans.

The away end was quickly singing the name of De Gea as well after the Player of the Year produced an astounding one-handed save to claw Jose Fonte’s off the line ahead of the hour mark, when van Gaal made his second substitution by introducing Bastian Schweinsteiger for Michael Carrick.

Southampton appeared to tire as the clock ticked on and United took full advantage as Memphis struck the post with a powerful effort that bounced back into the direction of Mata, who guided a neat finish into the bottom corner to bag his second goal of the season following his first at Swansea City.

Although United appeared in complete control in the final stages of Sunday’s match, as several Southampton players went down to ground with cramp, the hosts did manage to hit back and set up a tense finale as Pelle rose admirably to head Mane’s cross past a helpless De Gea.

The Spanish no.1 was then required to produce another acrobatic save to repel Victor Wanyama’s long-range effort, as van Gaal’s Reds kept their calm to secure an important victory that provides a welcomed confidence boost ahead of Tuesday’s Capital One Cup clash with Ipswich Town.

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Manchester United 3:1 Newcastle United

Wayne Rooney inspired Manchester United to a 3-1 win over Newcastle by scoring twice and setting up another for Robin van Persie, even if Papiss Cisse’s late penalty took some of the gloss off a fine day at Old Trafford.

The victory means the Reds are now unbeaten in eight Barclays Premier League matches and have recorded 11 straight wins on Boxing Day. Such a display also suggested Louis van Gaal was right to let his players spend Christmas at home.

The boss made just one change from the XI that started at Aston Villa, with Paddy McNair coming into his three-man defence so Michael Carrick could move back into midfield in place of the benched Darren Fletcher. Angel Di Maria was the only notable absentee from the matchday squad with an injury sustained during the Reds’ final training session.

United began at a lively pace and looked ambitious in the final third, although the first real chance of the game fell to Ayoze Perez, who took a fresh-air shot when presented with a clear view at goal in the 11th minute. Radamel Falcao, starting at Old Trafford for the first time since 5 October, then headed Ashley Young’s right-footed cross just wide of goal.

Moments later, in the 15th minute, Robin van Persie latched onto Wayne Rooney’s lofted pass and slid a low shot into the side-netting after rounding the advancing Magpies goalkeeper, Jak Alnwick. Daryl Janmaat then forced an excellent save from the in-form David De Gea midway through the first half with a rasping drive from around 25 yards, a minute before van Persie ghosted into the area once again to head Young’s in-swinging cross wide of the far post.

United eventually made a breakthrough in the 23rd minute with an excellent counter attack that left fans purring at Old Trafford. Rooney started it off inside his own half with a lovely pass out wide to Juan Mata, whose brilliantly chipped cross was astutely played back across the area by Falcao for Rooney to claim his seventh goal of the season.

The club captain was celebrating once again in the 36th minute when a superb sliding tackle from Falcao allowed Mata to regain possession outside Newcastle’s area, before the diminutive Spaniard slipped an inch-perfect pass through the Magpies defence for Rooney to clip another guided shot past Alnwick.

After the break, van Gaal’s men made a bright start to the second half and extended the lead in the 53rd minute through van Persie, who escaped his marker to nod Rooney’s deliciously lofted pass home in front of a jubilant Stretford End. Newcastle responded by moving up the pitch and almost got one back through 17-year-old Adam Armstrong as his shot flashed wide of De Gea’s far post.

With one eye undoubtedly on Sunday’s trip to Tottenham Hotspur, Carrick and Falcao were both withdrawn to standing ovations just after the hour mark with Fletcher and young James Wilson coming on. Rafael da Silva later made his return from injury – and a first appearance since the 1-1 draw with Chelsea on 26 October – in place of Antonio Valencia. Those changes affected the flow of the game and the tempo dropped significantly as the clock ticked on at Old Trafford, where heavy rain fell throughout the second half.

Newcastle pressed forward nonetheless and earned a late penalty with three minutes left when Jack Colback was tripped by Phil Jones, allowing substitute Papiss Cisse to calmly fire into the top-right corner from 12 yards. That riposte did not spark a dramatic comeback, however, and United held on to record another fine Boxing Day win.

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Manchester United 3:0 Liverpool

Manchester United swept historic arch-rivals Liverpool aside with a fine 3-0 win to record the Reds’ sixth consecutive victory.

Goals from Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata gave Louis van Gaal’s side the comfort of a two-goal lead before half-time, with Robin van Persie clinching all three points after the break.

But United were once again indebted to goalkeeper David De Gea, who made the first of several crucial saves seconds before Rooney’s opener. A magnificent effort to touch a Mario Balotelli shot onto his bar at 2-0 kept the frustrated visitors at bay, and even after van Persie had sealed the game, De Gea was using his body and feet to prevent any kind of consolation goal for the Merseysiders.

Injuries to Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo forced Louis van Gaal to again make changes in the United backline and he opted for the experience of Michael Carrick, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans. They faced a Liverpool side playing without a recognised striker – Raheem Sterling operated as a “false nine” – and with understudy goalkeeper Brad Jones selected ahead of Simon Mignolet. For United, James Wilson was handed a start for the biggest game of his fledgling career so far.

Driven on by a predictably raucous crowd, the opening stages had United on the back foot, with Wayne Rooney clearing Martin Skrtel’s header away from just in front of the goalline two minutes into the match. Marouane Fellaini was booked shortly afterwards as the game showed all the intensity that this fixture is rightly famous for.

Sterling wasted an opportunity when, one on one with De Gea, he shot straight at the keeper, but within seconds United made the visitors pay. Antonio Valencia nutmegged Joe Allen on the right flank before pulling the ball back for the Reds skipper to curl the ball in from just inside the box with keeper Jones completely wrong-footed.

The goal, Rooney’s sixth of the season so far, had come with United’s first attack of note but for a short time Liverpool carried on as before, with De Gea again thwarting Sterling with a block at his near post. Jones, Evans, Rooney and Allen entered referee Martin Atkinson’s book for niggly challenges as the game looked to be evolving into a tense cat-and-mouse affair in midfield.

But United doubled the lead five minutes before the break, with a move starting on the opposite flank to the opener. Ashley Young, enjoying himself in the left wing-back role, whipped in a cross that was met by the stooping Mata’s head at the far post. The ball looked to have scraped the top of Robin van Persie’s head on the way over and there were some claims for offside, but the goal stood and was celebrated wildly by the Old Trafford faithful.

The visitors brought on Mario Balotelli after the break, but within a few minutes De Gea was once again the hero for denying Sterling. A misplaced back-pass allowed the England international to go one on one with the Reds keeper, but the Spaniard forced his opponent wide before making another crucial block.

The let-off roused United, with Rooney forcing Jones to make a save and Wilson flashing a shot just wide of the net. Van Persie stabbed a snap-shot just inches off target, and then De Gea stepped in again to keep Liverpool out, brilliantly touching a Balotelli shot onto his crossbar.

The keeper’s heroics proved vital when United put the result beyond doubt with just under 20 minutes to go. A rapid counter-attack resulted in Lovren scuffing a clearance to Mata who rolled the ball into the path of van Persie, who had the simplest of tasks to score with Jones hopelessly out of position.

De Gea’s excellent afternoon’s work continued when he made two further saves from Balotelli, while at the other end Jones tipped a van Persie volley over his bar. The scoreline remained 3-0 for full-time, therefore, as United’s march continues apace.

Scousers smashed!

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Manchester United 1:0 Crystal Palace

Substitute Juan Mata came off the bench and to United’s rescue as he fired Manchester United to a hard-fought 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at Old Trafford.

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The Spanish midfielder had only been on the field for a few minutes when his deflected strike squeezed between the Palace goalkeeper and the post, but his appearance was the ideal impact substitution on a day when United could not make superior possession count in front of goal.

Luke Shaw went close with a shot saved by Julian Speroni, and Marouane Fellaini had a header scrambled off the line. Fraizer Campbell spurned a great chance in the first half for the Eagles, and Mata went close to a second goal when he struck the post late on.

Injuries and suspensions had forced Louis van Gaal to shuffle his pack at the back once again, with Daley Blind shifting into central defence alongside the recalled Paddy McNair. Replacing the Dutchman in midfield was Michael Carrick, starting for the first time in 2014/15.

United went onto the front foot from the start, with Adnan Januzaj whipping a rasping shot over the corner of post and bar after cutting in from the right flank in only the second minute. Angel Di Maria drove a weak effort straight at Speroni, but a succession of corners from the Reds’ record signing failed to truly test his fellow Argentine in the Eagles’ goal.

Carrick roamed forward from his holding position to try his luck from range with a shot deflected wide, and Wayne Rooney’s frustrated response to his own shot that soared over the goal summed up the first phase of the match. But it was the unlikely source of Shaw who stirred the match into life on 28 minutes. Moving upfield out of defence, the left-back unleashed a shot that skimmed the surface and forced Speroni to tip around the post.

The visitors were content to soak it up and hit on the break, with Campbell coming close to getting a touch to a Yannick Bolasie cross that had cut across the home backline. With five minutes to half-time, Campbell raced onto a long ball, but the Palace striker’s lob floated over David De Gea’s bar.

The frustration of the first 45 minutes spilled into the second half, typified by Rooney skewing a shot just wide following a long run from McNair. Fellaini, who had been imposing himself throughout, headed a corner right on target only to see James McArthur scramble the ball away off the line.

But Mata lifted spirits around Old Trafford with a sublime goal. The Spaniard, on for Januzaj, took aim from outside the box with his left foot and saw his shot fly into the net via a deflection. Only on the pitch for a few minutes, the midfielder had made the perfect impact to put Umited on course.

The goal deflated the visitors and gave the Reds confidence, and the game could have been made safe in the last 10 minutes. Mata was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet again, seeing another defected shot cannon off the post. Then Rooney opted for placement with a late chance but rolled the ball wide. However United looked comfortable with a one-goal lead that brought the recent winless run to an end ahead of the international break.

GGMU!

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Red Devils (5) @ La Beneamata (3)

Manchester United’s successful Tour 2014, presented by Aon, continued with a penalty shoot-out victory after Louis van Gaal’s men were held to a goalless draw by Inter Milan.

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Ashley Young, Javier Hernandez, Tom Cleverley, Shinji Kagawa and Darren Fletcher all converted from the spot to complete a full set of kicks for the Reds – playing in the new blue third kit for the first time – while Marco Andreolli’s miss for Inter proved pivotal at the FedEx Field, home of NFL legends Washington Redskins.

Van Gaal started with his three senior centre-backs all on the pitch, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones switching to the middle and right respectively, while Jonny Evans retained the left-sided role in which he began the tour against LA Galaxy. Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia took up the wing-back positions, with Ander Herrera and again-captain Darren Fletcher allowing Juan Mata to support Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck.

The man who Evans, Jones and Smalling are all striving to replace, Inter’s new no.15 Nemanja Vidic, provided the biggest threat to United’s goal in the early exchanges, albeit not a significant one with both of his headers from corners comfortably clearing Anders Lindegaard’s crossbar. Jones fared better at the other end when his connection with a Mata set-piece forced a save from Samir Handanovic diving low to his left.

Wayne Rooney tried to reprise the goal which unlocked another Italian defence, Roma’s, when he opened up onto his right foot and sent a shot dipping just over the frame but then the game descended into something of a lull, with both sides going through typical pre-season motions.

The crowd were stirred a little when Valencia tracked back in the right wing-back role, all the way to the corner flag, where he dispossessed Dodo in robust but fair fashion. The opponent gesticulated in vain for a foul while the fans closest to the action jeered, whistled and briefly chorused “United, United” in response.

Mata began to impose himself on the proceedings as the half wore down, firstly interchanging well with Rooney and just missing out on the final return ball when an Inter defender intervened. Then the livewire Spaniard created his own space and raked a shot narrowly wide of the right-hand post, close enough to spur Handanovic into an insurance dive. At the other end, Jones flung himself in front of a snapshot from Mauro Icardi to preserve Lindegaard’s majority status as a spectator.

Van Gaal made the now-routine eight changes at the interval, most notably giving Wilfried Zaha his first run-out of the tour and bringing on Luke Shaw for a work-out at wing-back, after discussing his lack of fitness 24 hours previously. The others to come on were David De Gea in goal, Michael Keane, Tyler Blackett, Tom Cleverley, Nani and, in the Mata role, Shinji Kagawa. Only Evans, Fletcher and Young remained on the pitch in pursuit of a full 90 minutes.

Evans and Fletcher combined well on the left as United took the game to Inter in the second period but, with Vidic marshalling the Inter defence and reading the Reds’ ploys like a professor, Zaha in particular cut a frustrated figure. In one moment, the former Old Trafford stalwart watched as two of his team-mates threatened to be left behind by Zaha’s turn of pace and then stepped in with perfect timing to sweep the ball behind for a corner.

Vidic deserved the applause he received around the arena as he departed the field in the 72nd minute with Inter’s clean sheet intact, although there was a close shave when Tom Cleverley drilled a rising shot into the pack of mostly red shirts amassed behind the goal.

With the Serbian off, United sensed an opportunity and Nani was denied by Handanovic’s fine save, with Kagawa’s effort on the rebound blocked. Zaha appealed for a penalty moments later but, even though thousands of fans agreed with him, the referee Edvin Jurisevic took a different view and the deadlock remained. It was a similar story when Cleverley went down with the official stubbornly standing his ground.

The biggest cheer of the night so far came when Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, seemingly popular throughout the United States, entered the fray for the final quarter of an hour. Nani, a half-time substitute, was substituted.

De Gea, like Lindegaard, had little to do in his 45 minutes on the field, although he did provide one reminder of his athleticism when he thrust out his right hand to turn an Inter free-kick over the bar. Jurisevic was by now becoming the central character but the referee endeared himself to the United fans, having largely annoyed them, when he showed the first yellow card of the game to Marco Andreolli.

There was more angst for the dynamic Zaha when he flashed a shot into the side-netting in the final minute of normal time and so off to penalty kicks we went, with Inter already victorious by this method in their ICC opener against Real Madrid. This time the Italians would not prosper and United remained on course to reach the final in Miami after winning the shoot-out 5-3, much to the delight of the majority in the crowd of 61,238.

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Manchester is RED!

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S

Red Devils (3) @ La Maggica (2)

Manchester United made a winning start to the International Champions Cup with an entertaining victory over AS Roma in Denver.

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All three of the Reds’ goals at the Sports Authority Field came in the first half; Wayne Rooney netted twice to make it four goals in two games on tour, sandwiching a Juan Mata effort.

Roma substitute Miralem Pjanic pulled one back after the break with a spectacular strike from well inside his own half, and Francesco Totti added a late penalty, but United held out for a satisfactory three points in this pre-season tournament.

While the Italians posed a much stiffer challenge than LA Galaxy had three days earlier, United were still good value for the win, despite Roma’s second-half rally.

United again lined up in a 3-4-1-2, with Tyler Blackett, the only Red to play 90 minutes, and Reece James, who scored twice against the Galaxy, starting in defence and on the left wing respectively. Tom Cleverley was captain before being replaced with 20 minutes left.

Inside 80 seconds, Roma forward Mattia Destro lobbed Sam Johnstone after being played through on goal, but the ball landed inside the six-yard box and bounced inches over the bar. Soon after, Leandro Paredes sidefooted over when well placed just outside the box as Roma started stronger.

United’s first opening came in the 17th minute, when Danny Welbeck blocked goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis’ attempted clearance on the byline, but his subsequent cross to fellow striker Rooney was cut out.

In soaring early afternoon temperatures, which made for a slow-paced game, manager Louis van Gaal’s request for a two-minute drinks break was granted midway through the first half.

Rooney provided a moment of magic to put the Reds ahead nine minutes before the interval. Latching onto Mata’s pass on the edge of the ‘D’, the frontman arced a wonderful shot into the top-left corner.

And Rooney returned the favour three minutes later with a superb ball over the top from the halfway line, which Mata brought down expertly before lobbing De Sanctis.

Just before the break, Phil Jones motored forward and played the ball to Ander Herrera, whose first-time lay-off into Welbeck’s path resulted in the forward being felled by Urby Emanuelson inside the box. Rooney stepped up to send De Sanctis the wrong way.

Will Keane, one of nine United changes at the break, had a penalty appeal turned down five minutes into the second period after being seemingly brought down inside the box.

Alessandro Florenzi flashed a volley wide soon after as Roma sought to get back into the game, but the Reds had seemingly asserted control in energy-sapping conditions.

Van Gaal took advantage of a second water break to bring on Javier Hernandez – to a rapturous reception from the American crowd – for Cleverley, who handed the skipper’s armband to Chris Smalling.

Roma weren’t looking likely to get on the scoresheet before Pjanic spotted Ben Amos off his line and executed a brilliant, audacious lob from all of 60 yards. Amos then had to scramble to tip a Leandro Castan overhead kick onto his post.

Will Keane came within a whisker of scoring a fourth United goal when Ashley Young’s cross was nicked off the striker’s toes, before Totti converted from the spot after Michael Keane had handled the ball inside the box.

It resulted in a nervy final few minutes but United resisted further pressure to claim the spoils.

The Reds’ next game in the competition is against Inter Milan in Washington DC on Tuesday (29 July). The group also contains Real Madrid, who face the Reds in Michigan on 2 August.

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