December 20, 2016

FREE KICKS: Red Devils rise from the ashes

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

All of the sudden, there’s some signs of life coming from Old Trafford.

Manchester United is now unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions and have won three straight in Premier League play, including picking up nine points in the span of seven days.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba are finally playing like the big-money signings that they were supposed to be and the defence has tightened up as well, remarkably, after the return of Phil Jones for injury.

Has Jose Mourinho finally gotten his squad to start playing up to its ability? It certainly seems like it. Beating Tottenham last weekend, followed by Palace midweek and then West Brom on Saturday, it wasn’t like they were beating up on the dregs of the Premier League.

The Red Devils are still sixth and four points out of the fourth and final Champions League spot, but there’s beginning to be a belief that maybe they have turned this season around. With the transfer window about to open, you can bet that Mourinho will be doing some shopping, too.

There’s no reason with his budget to keep trotting Marouane Fellaini out there.


The Black Cats were able to pick up three more crucial points this weekend thanks to a stellar effort from Patrick van Aanholt.

The Sunderland left back scored the game’s lone goal and also helped secure the clean sheet.

It wasn’t a great week for Sunderland, losing last weekend to fellow relegation battler Swansea and midweek to Chelsea, but any win is a big positive for David Moyes’ side.


After 11 games worth of waiting for it, Diego Costa finally picked up his fifth yellow card of the season, meaning he’ll get Boxing Day off. N’Golo Kante will also be suspended, too, but we still don’t expect Bournemouth to be able to hang with the league leaders … After winning the early game on Saturday, Chelsea was nine points clear at the top of the table. Of course, everyone else had their game to play, but it’s still an impressive number when you consider how close the title race has been this season … After thinking the Leicester City was losing it and the Foxes were showing their frustration with the refs against Stoke, the defending champions battled back while a man down to draw with Stoke. That’s the kind of fight we expect from a champ and we hope to see it more often … If you don’t think Jamie Vardy deserved to be sent off for his horror tackle this week, you probably reffed the Merseyside Derby. Ross Barkley clearly tried to injure Jordan Henderson and should’ve seen red for it … A crap goal by Sadio Mane deep in injury time was an appropriate way to end another crap Merseyside Derby. For all the hype these Liverpool-Everton clashes get, they rarely turn out to be good games … Leicester is one of two teams yet to win on the road this season, along with Burnley … Did West Ham really deserve that penalty call against Hull City? Antonio went down way to easily and made a meal of it, too. The Tigers should feel robbed and incredibly unlucky. After all, they did hit the post three times, too … In December, 2008, Bournemouth was sitting in 91st of 92 teams in English football. Now, it is in 10th. What a remarkable climb for the Cherries … Let’s all admit that we thought that Man City was in some deep trouble after turning in a terrible first half and trailing against Arsenal. I, for one, did not expect the Citizens to come back and not only draw the Gunners, but win it … That long pass from Kevin De Bruyne to set up the winner was exactly why he’s considered on the world’s best players. And he’s only going to get better, too.


Remarkably, we’ve only seen one Premier League manager get sacked this season and the second could actually be his replacement.

There are already reports swirling that Bob Bradley is on the chopping block at Swansea after his hiring has failed to spark the Welsh side.

In the American’s 10 games after taking over for Francesco Guidolin, the Swans have a record of 2-1-7 for seven points and have allowed three or more goals in seven of the 10 games.

It’s easy to see why Swansea is conceding so often, too: The defending is just incredibly lazy. Jordi Amat left his foot in to earn Middlesbrough a penalty and Alfie Mawson was caught lagging on the third goal Saturday.

It’s not looking good for the Premier League’s first American manager and we don’t see him bringing this team back without some major investment in transfers this January – if he’s still in charge then.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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