Premier League hits and misses: Man Utd lost without Rasmus Hojlund as Vincent Kompany’s woes continue

Plus: Marco Silva’s boldness is rewarded as Adama Traore helps Fulham stun Man Utd; Lewis Dunk impresses again as he bids for a place in England’s Euro 2024 starting XI; Pau Torres’ injury dampens Aston Villa’s celebrations

Man Utd lost without Hojlund

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Manchester United and Fulham

Any team would feel the impact of losing the Premier League’s most in-form striker – but that doesn’t excuse Manchester United for being outplayed at home by Fulham.

Without Rasmus Hojlund, Marcus Rashford was asked to lead the attack and was virtually anonymous, ending the game with 0.05 expected goals (xG) from two shots.

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Omari Forson was equally ineffective and was replaced early in the second half – but the fact he was handed a first senior start despite Antony being available shows how far the £86m signing has fallen in Erik ten Hag’s estimations.

In fairness to the forwards, United’s midfield struggled to keep hold of the ball, let alone create chances – while they were regularly overpowered by Fulham’s counter-attacks.

United’s ineffectiveness in front of goal was summed up by the fact that, without Harry Maguire’s two chances – his goal from close range and a free header he powered over the bar – they finished with an xG of just 0.63.

The momentum created by an unbeaten start to 2024 has been extinguished in one limp 90 minutes and Ten Hag – watched at Old Trafford by INEOS’s Sir Dave Brailsford – once again has questions to answer.
Joe Shread

Traore rewards Silva’s boldness

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Watch Paul Merson’s reaction to Fulham’s 97th-minute winner

There were 77 minutes on the clock at Old Trafford when Fulham boss Marco Silva sent on Adama Traore in place of Harrison Reed. An attacker for a defensive midfielder. It seemed a bold change for a side leading at Old Trafford. But it was handsomely rewarded.

Traore had carried a threat on the break even before the Harry Maguire effort that brought Manchester United level in the 89th minute. But it was as the hosts pushed for a winner, rather than a leveller, that the 28-year-old really exploded into life.

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Having moments early carved out a chance for the excellent Rodrigo Muniz, Traore picked up the ball deep in his own half, motored away from Christian Eriksen and Maguire, and teed up Alex Iwobi for the 97th-minute goal that clinched a famous win for the Cottagers.

Traore’s game-clinching introduction summed up the bravery of Fulham’s performance. In the first half, and despite having not won an away game in the Premier League since the opening day, they looked more like the home side as they tore into the hosts.

It continued after the break. As Manchester United floundered, Fulham continued to throw bodies forward. Even when United began to show signs of improvement, Silva eschewed defensive changes in favour of one intended to kill the game.

Maguire’s goal ensured they had to do it the hard way. But kill the game it did, Traore’s role in the winner underlining the merits of boldness instead of a backs-to-the-wall approach.
Nick Wright

Glasner overcomes first obstacle with minimal fuss

Image: Oliver Glasner made a winning start at Palace

It was no secret that Oliver Glasner wanted to come to the Premier League. He turned down offers from big German clubs to grab the opportunity of managing Palace. This was always on the cards, always the next stop for those who know him well.

Though the Austrian joked Palace chairman Steve Parish “didn’t tell me to win the Premier League”, he is serious about a side he felt had not yet reached their full potential.

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It is an exciting prospect having a manager who has won the Europa League and has got teams into the Champions League.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Crystal Palace and Burnley

He took charge of his first Palace training session only on Wednesday and referenced the famous American illusionist as he said: “I’m no magician. I’m not David Copperfield.”

But judging by his first 90 minutes in charge, the Selhurst Park faithful will be confident of more miracles being worked by the amiable 49-year-old.

Glasner had a meeting with league officials in which he checked to see where his naturally expressive nature on the touchline might get him into trouble, but here there was no reason to get carried away. He oversaw a professional job with minimal fuss.

Some in SE25 may not have known much about their new manager prior to this week, but for now those supporters have no evidence to doubt him after this perfect start.
Ben Grounds

Walls closing in on Kompany’s Burnley

Image: Of the five instances a side has failed to record a shot on target in a Premier League game this season, three have been by Burnley – also against Liverpool in December and Arsenal in February

Vincent Kompany insisted his struggling Burnley side would show plenty of “fire in the belly” as they looked to bounce back from their thrashing against Arsenal. But the Clarets have now won just once in their last 13 matches, with time running out to kickstart the turnaround they need to stay afloat.

Their prospects sustained another big dent at Crystal Palace as Kompany saw his side’s stubborn resolve following Josh Brownhill’s dismissal evaporate during a nine-minute spell.

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The Belgian appeared to gesture an apology to the travelling fans at the final whistle, but it was not to be read as the towel being thrown in.

Image: Chris Richards heads in Palace's opening goal

“It’s not about apologising [to the fans],” said Kompany, whose side had a late consolation chalked off.

“You do your work really hard every day so it’s not about apologising. It’s easy to give the first pump when you’re winning 12 games in a row and we made a big effort of being humble during that and it’s the same now.

“There’s 250,000,000 who play football in the world so the odds of getting into the Premier League is so small as a player. Smaller than staying up, so the belief will remain.”

Burnley are eight points from safety and have lost, and conceded three goals, in each of their last four away games. Only in November 2009 have they conceded three or more goals in more successive away matches in the Premier League. Kompany is not about to give up the fight but the walls are closing in.
Ben Grounds

Dunk playing his way into England XI

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Brighton and Everton

Lewis Dunk is fast becoming the best option to fill England’s troublesome left centre-back position.

The Brighton captain led by example in their draw with Everton, scoring an injury-time header on his 400th league appearance for the club.

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Called up to Gareth Southgate’s last two squads, although having to pull out of November’s fixtures due to injury, Dunk has the experience, leadership and form at domestic level to force his way into the starting back four.

Image: Lewis Dunk heads in Brighton's late equaliser against Everton

The 31-year-old’s composure on the ball will suit England’s possession-based style, while his threat from set-pieces can be an asset for England – who have often benefitted at corners.

Should he avoid injury during the remainder of the season, then Dunk is the answer for Southgate at the back.
David Richardson

Torres withdrawal clouds near-perfect day

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest

It was a largely perfect day for Aston Villa. Three points, four goals and some fantastic football for the Villa Park faithful to lap up.

Yet there was a worrying moment after half-time when Pau Torres did not emerge. He was replaced by Calum Chambers, with worries rife in the stands their influential centre-back had suffered a recurrence of his recent injury issues.

  • Aston Villa 4-2 Nottingham Forest – Match report & highlights
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Torres started his first Premier League game for two months last weekend at Fulham. It was no coincidence Villa won that game and battered Forest in the first half, with Torres orchestrating things at the heart of their defence.

“He had a small pain, hopefully not injured,” Emery said in his press conference. “We decided not to take a risk with him. He was progressively feeling worse but not feeling really injured.”

Villa are already without Ezri Konsa, Diego Carlos and Tyrone Mings through injury. You can see why Emery is taking a risk-free approach to Torres. They cannot afford to lose him.
Lewis Jones


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