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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Southampton 1:2 Manchester United

Robin van Persie’s double lifted Manchester United into third place in the Barclays Premier League with a 2-1 win over Southampton at St Mary’s on Monday night.

The Dutchman’s sixth and seventh goals in five starts against the Saints extended the Reds’ winning run to five successive matches and ensured Graziano Pelle’s first goal since October was nothing more than a consolation as Louis van Gaal’s men leapfrogged the hosts and also West Ham in the table.

United were made to work hard for the win though, and could be thankful for a couple of second-half interventions made by David De Gea to prevent the hosts from increasing their goal tally on an evening when Southampton showed plenty of attacking intent.

Wayne Rooney returned to skipper the travelling Reds, but it was his strike partner who announced himself with greater impact in the early stages. The encounter began calmly and was starved of any threat from either side until van Persie latched onto Jose Fonte’s weak backpass and rolled the ball through the onrushing Fraser Forster’s legs to open the scoring.

Pelle looked for the goal-getting response two minutes later, but the towering frontman was too far ahead of the near post when meeting a corner with a header well wide.

A solid first quarter-hour for United was dampened by an early injury – a strain in Chris Smalling’s lower body – that forced the defender off and also prompted a comeback for substitute Jonny Evans.

The visitors’ mood was worsened in the 31st minute when Saints produced an equaliser after securing a foothold in the game. An initial shot from Dusan Tadic squeezed through Paddy McNair’s legs, allowing Pelle to follow up and drive in off De Gea from the six-yard line.

Shane Long, who provided the cross for Tadic ahead of the hosts’ first goal, was afforded a glimpse of De Gea’s net soon after. McNair looked to flick away Sadio Mane’s prod and inadvertently directed it to Long, who controlled and drove narrowly over from an acute angle.

As the shift in control of the game drifted towards Southampton, van Gaal looked to tweak his system – changing from a 3-4-1-2 formation to employing a flat back-four – with the introduction of midfielder Ander Herrera for defender McNair.

Despite the home side’s increase in confidence, van Persie caused brief concern in first-half added time when turning away from Nathaniel Clyne on the edge of Forster’s area and curling into the side-netting.

While Ronald Koeman’s side continued with the same momentum displayed towards the end of the opening 45 minutes, they lacked the cutting edge to establish a lead. Long was once again the recipient of an inviting opportunity when meeting a Tadic cross at the back post, but he could only aim his header at De Gea’s midriff.

Constantly at the heart of Southampton’s attacking play, Tadic was the architect of another threatening move shortly before the hour mark. The Serbian gently slid the ball through for Pelle, only to see the striker scoop well over the crossbar.

As many teams have been unfortunate to find over the years though, United have a knack of grinding out the upper hand under any circumstances – a quality that was evident with just under 20 minutes remaining.

Created and finished by the Reds’ frontline, Rooney swung a free-kick far for van Persie to meet – relatively unchallenged – and haunt Forster by once again nudging through the goalkeeper’s legs, but this time with the use of the outside of his left boot to volley in.

Pelle looked to double his and the Saints’ tally when played through by Mane, but the Italian’s shot from a fairly tight angle was expertly glanced off target by the palm of De Gea.

For all of Southampton’s movement and activity in United’s half later into the match, van Gaal’s team kept Koeman’s men largely outside the box as the Reds battled on to claim another three points.

There we go to Third!

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Arsenal 1:2 Manchester United

Manchester United’s elusive search for a first away win in 2014/15 came to what had initially seemed like an unlikely end with a 2-1 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. A Kieran Gibbs own goal in the second half, Wayne Rooney’s galloping breakaway effort in the 85th minute and, not for the first time, the heroics of David De Gea at the other end of the field earned the three points.

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Antonio Valencia’s low shot after 56 minutes was inadvertently deflected by Gibbs into his own net to give the Reds the lead, then Rooney finished off an incisive counter-attack to make it 2-0. Angel Di Maria could have made it 3-0 late on but missed a good chance and Olivier Giroud pulled a goal back to make it a nervy finish. But this was a commendable performance of persistence from United in testing circumstances.

With a host of ailments debilitating United’s squad, Louis van Gaal was again forced into personnel and formation changes – this time 3-4-1-2 – with Paddy McNair, Chris Smalling and Tyler Blackett forming a back three, with Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia occupying wide midfield positions. Even that lasted just 15 minutes as Shaw picked up a knock from a challenge by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Ashley Young replaced him as a left-back and United switched to 4-4-2.

Danny Welbeck, facing United for the first time since leaving Old Trafford in the summer, had a shot blocked in the fourth minute, before Per Mertesacker headed wide. Welbeck then missed the target with a header of his own and, with Arsenal cranking up the pressure, the former Reds forward teed up Jack Wilshere, who forced a brilliant point-blank range save from United’s outstanding no.1 De Gea.

United’s first opening came from a set-piece on 21 minutes as Rooney fired over the bar. It was rare relief from previous one-way traffic and United had De Gea to thank again when he forced Oxlade-Chamberlain wide in a one-on-one and saved the Arsenal man’s shot with an outstretched leg.

Wilshere was lucky to escape punishment after half-an-hour in an altercation with Marouane Fellaini, but referee Mike Dean chose instead to calm tempers by talking to both players. Although unconnected, that break in play signalled a change of pace for United. Di Maria produced the Reds’ best chance of the half when he cut inside from the right and steered a left-foot shot just wide of the post, while Rooney had a shot blocked and a series of United corners came and went to no avail.

Five minutes into the second half and De Gea once again denied the Gunners as he closed the angle on Welbeck’s shot and United were looking increasingly thankful to the Spaniard’s heroics between the posts, but little more than five minutes later the Reds were in front. Szczesny clashed with Gibbs when the Arsenal goalkeeper came to collect a cross and the loose ball fell to Valencia and his low shot deflected off Gibbs, who was lying prone on the floor, and diverted into the net. It was by no means pretty but United’s persistence in adversity paid off. The collision with Gibbs forced Szczesny off, to be replaced by Emiliano Martinez on his Barclays Premier League debut, but still Arsenal were intent on finding an equaliser.

The last half an hour was tense until Rooney seemed to put the game out of sight, sprinting away to dink the ball over Martinez. Di Maria’s missed chance for an almost identical finish to Rooney could have proved costly when Giroud beat De Gea to give the Gunners a fighting chance of a draw. But the Reds held on for a morale-boosting first triumph on the road.

Watch us go now!

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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.

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Manchester United 1:1 Chelsea

Robin van Persie’s injury-time equaliser rescued a point for Manchester United after Chelsea had been reduced to 10 men late on in a gripping encounter at Old Trafford.

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The captain smashed the ball home in the 94th minute, just after Branislav Ivanovic had given away a free kick and been sent off for his second bookable offence. Angel Di Maria’s set-piece allowed Marouane Fellaini a shot which Thibaut Courtois saved, only for van Persie to drill the rebound emphatically home.

Van Persie had seen three earlier chances saved by Chelsea’s goalkeeper, and his heroics snatched a deserved point following Didier Drogba’s headed goal early in the second half.

Stirred by a raucous atmosphere, both sides had played at a high tempo for the opening minutes with a breakaway from Di Maria upping the ante after an early pair of Chelsea corners. The mercurial Argentine’s shooting was not as good as his on-the-ball skills, with two attempts flying high and wide before 10 minutes had gone by.

The visitors asserted themselves and forced a succession of corners, but David De Gea and his defence coped to quell the threat of Drogba in particular. But despite Chelsea’s pressure, it was van Persie who came closest to breaking the deadlock around the 20-minute mark. Breaching the Chelsea back four, the Dutchman saw an angled low effort blocked by Courtois’ right leg, and seconds later his clever back-header was clutched from under the bar by the highly-rated Belgian goalkeeper.

Ivanovic’s claims for a penalty at the Stretford End, for what he felt was a shove, were ignored by referee Phil Dowd, and as tempers began to fray, Di Maria then stung Courtois’ palms with a curling free kick from the right.

United’s defence was bailed out twice in quick succession, firstly when the recalled Chris Smalling raced across to tackle Willian after Rojo had been caught in possession. De Gea then spared the Reds when Drogba was gifted a shooting chance, but the keeper’s legs deflected his effort away.

Both sides exchanged chances early in the second half, Marouane Fellaini firing just wide and De Gea saving brilliantly to deny Eden Hazard. But slack defending at the resulting corner undid the Spaniard’s good work, with an unmarked Drogba rising to nod Chelsea ahead.

James Wilson replaced Juan Mata as United sought a more direct approach with two up front, but it was Ivanovic who went close to grabbing another, rolling a shot across goal from an acute angle. United eventually forced Courtois into action when Shaw wriggled through to feed van Persie. But once again the Reds’ skipper saw an attempt on goal blocked by the Chelsea stopper’s legs, but at least the chance spurred his side on, with Wilson looping a header just over the bar within a minute.

And just as it looked like United would be frustrated, Ivanovic went in crudely on Di Maria near the byline and was shown his second yellow card. The Argentine chipped the free kick into the area, Fellaini’s shot was blocked, but van Persie pounced and Old Trafford erupted.

#Believe

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Manchester United 2:1 Everton

Manchester United head into the latest international break on a high after second consecutive 2-1 home victory, secured against Everton, a side that did the double over the Reds last season.

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New boys Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao grabbed the goals to overcome Steven Naismith’s reply for the Merseysiders and David De Gea saved a Leighton Baines penalty at the end of the first half in an entertaining encounter.

The Reds were quickly on the front foot with Falcao’s diving header from a Luke Shaw cross well saved by Tim Howard and another delivery from the left, by Di Maria, sent over the bar by Robin van Persie.

The shots continued to rain in on goal from Daley Blind, Falcao and Di Maria and the pressure told when the excellent Rafael’s cross was dealt with unconvincingly by Phil Jagielka. Juan Mata pounced to intelligently roll an inviting ball into the path of Di Maria and the Argentinian supplied an immaculate finish out of Howard’s reach.

September’s Player of the Month was denied a second by Howard’s fine save when a free-kick flicked off the wall and headed for the corner of the net as United remained in control. However, Rafael needed to make a vital clearance from a corner and Romelu Lukaku escaped Paddy McNair to flash a warning sign wide.

There still appeared to be no huge threat to the lead until deep into first-half stoppage time when Shaw was adjudged to have fouled Tony Hibber inside the box. Penalty expert Baines stepped up but De Gea plunged to his right to pull off a wonderful save.

Despite an encouraging opening to the second period, which saw Falcao unable to meet a driven Di Maria cross-shot and then spurning a clear chance following Shaw’s tremendous run past Hibbert, the Toffees levelled on 55 minutes. A well-worked free-kick led to Baines crossing and an unmarked Naismith nodding home in from close range.

Falcao was a central figure in the next passage of play, clearing off the line from Jagielka at one end before sticking out a right boot to divert Di Maria’s shot past Howard following some patient work by Rafael and Antonio Valencia. Although the goal settled the hosts again, a raft of substitutions prevented any real flow to the proceedings.

Naismith passed up a golden opportunity to shoot and De Gea brilliantly kept out two firm drives by Leon Osman as Louis van Gaal’s men ultimately held out with the outstanding keeper also producing a stupendous late stop to deny Bryan Oviedo in injury time.

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