Alejandro Garnacho steps up for Man Utd as Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez finds his shooting boots – Premier League hits and misses | Football News

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Garnacho inspires Man Utd response

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Manchester United and Aston Villa.

“Too many people talk about the strikers at Man Utd.” There was a pointed message from Alejandro Garnacho that cut through the otherwise joyous post-match interview he gave at Old Trafford after inspiring a special comeback for his side.

Before Tuesday’s terrific turnaround, United’s forwards had just four goals from open play in the league. Whatever Garnacho says that’s not good enough, but credit to the 19-year-old, and his team-mates, for providing the perfect response. It was desperately needed.

Following Saturday’s poor defeat to West Ham, two early Aston Villa goals could’ve easily seen United fold. Perhaps they would’ve done had it not been for the tireless work of Garnacho, who collapsed with cramp in the final moments such were his exertions.

The winger had to bounce back from seeing a goal ruled out for offside. It felt, at that point, as if United’s goal drought would never end. Garnacho’s persistence, though, ensured that it did. His youthful exuberance lifted his team-mates and the crowd.

Alejandro Garnacho celebrates scoring for Man Utd vs Aston Villa

Before Garnacho did, eventually, score United had gone more than 420 minutes without a goal. His words paint a picture of the frustration and scrutiny he and his colleagues have endured. That made the comeback all the sweeter.

Garnacho, who finished the game with two goals, says it was one of the best nights of his life. You’d imagine he won’t remember it as such for long. He’s growing into United’s next superstar.
Zinny Boswell

Nunez’s shooting boots arrive

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Burnley and Liverpool.

It’s Christmas Day. The alarm goes off. Darwin Nunez springs from his bed and charges downstairs to see if Santa has received his letters. Had he been a good boy this year? He looks under the tree. There it is. A new pair of shooting boots. Burnley didn’t stand a chance in hindsight. Santa must be a Liverpool fan.

Nunez took just six minutes to show off his new strides at Turf Moor, showing a confidence and assurance with his finish from the D that belied his goal drought of more than 600 minutes. Jurgen Klopp will be hoping this will be the lift-off for his frustrating striker. We’ve been here before though. Remember those two clinical finishes at Newcastle to steal 10-man Liverpool a 2-1 win? It feels like decades ago. And Nunez remains hard to predict.

Almost four months have passed since that famous double salvo, and Liverpool are in the process of laying the foundations for a very exciting season even if their £80m man isn’t living up to the price tag. It’s now just one defeat in their last 30 Premier League games.

If Nunez catches form, then Liverpool may just take control of this title race.
Lewis Jones

Nuno brings Christmas cheer to Forest with Gibbs-White revitalised

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Newcastle and Nottingham Forest

The Nuno Espirito Santo era at Nottingham Forest has lift off – and in some style too.

The stunning 3-1 win at Newcastle was a fully deserved victory built on incisive counter-attacking and a masterclass in the transition.

Nuno used the pace and skill of Anthony Elanga, Morgan Gibbs-White and Callum Hudson-Odoi to terrorise a frail Newcastle backline, with striker Chris Wood providing a perfect focal point to be the beneficiary of their fine attacking work as he scored a clinical and composed hat-trick.

Such was Forest’s attacking verve under Nuno, they had six shots on target – the most they have had in an away Premier League match since records began (2003/04).

The Portuguese is having the early positive impact Forest desired, with star man Gibbs-White looking particularly revitalised under him.

Positioned in the number 10 role, the 23-year-old – who played under Nuno at Wolves – was sensational as he ran the game. He created the most chances (4) and won the most duels (12) of any player, and had the most touches (61), most crosses (4) and most passes in the final third (17) of any Forest player.

Nuno will now want these match-winning performances consistently from Gibbs-White as he begins to stamp his authority and ideas on this Forest team.

The travelling fans, who had been so loyal to Nuno’s predecessor Steve Cooper, are also quickly being won over as they chanted the 49-year-old’s name during the Newcastle win.

Nuno’s arrival has certainly brought some much-needed Christmas cheer to Forest and he will now want to use this impressive win to keep the club looking forwards rather than over their shoulders.
Declan Olley

Super Solanke giving Southgate food for thought

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of the Premier League match between Bournemouth and Fulham

Dominic Solanke is in the form of his life. His first career hat-trick against Nottingham Forest on Saturday and another goal against Fulham on Boxing Day has taken his Premier League tally this season to 12 – only Erling Haaland has scored more than the Bournemouth striker so far.

It took Solanke 96 top-flight games to reach double figures. He’s bettered that already and the current campaign hasn’t even reached the halfway stage for the Cherries yet.

Dominic Solanke celebrates after doubling Bournemouth's lead over Fulham from the penalty spot
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Dominic Solanke has scored eight goals in his last seven Premier League games

While his clinical finishing has been a key reason for Bournemouth’s rapid rise up the table, the former Chelsea and Liverpool forward’s contribution in other areas is equally as impressive. Solanke is also putting in the hard yards for his side, who under Andoni Iraola have transformed into a well-oiled, high-pressing machine.

Only Heung-Min Son has made more pressures in the final third leading to a turnover in the Premier League this term, while just seven players have won possession in the final third more times. Solanke is evolving into a complete striker – his two stunning headers against Forest and composed penalty against Fulham only underlined that.

Solanke’s one cap for England came back in 2017 in a friendly against Brazil when he was 20 years old. If he continues to perform at his current level, though, it will surely only be a matter of time before he adds to that total. Gareth Southgate will be watching closely as he looks to finalise his squad for Euro 2024.
Dan Sansom

How damaging have the last two games been for Sheffield United?

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Chris Wilder was not happy with the attitude of his Sheffield United players following their 3-2 loss to Luton

In the last four days, Sheffield United have let five points slip from their grasp. They could have been just a few points away from the safety of 17th. But they find themselves still rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table with just nine points.

They deserve more.

Despite a late draw away to Aston Villa, that must be seen in a positive light. Villa were on a 15-game winning streak in the league at Villa Park, but the Blades impressed on Friday. A point there is no mean feat – neither Arsenal nor Man City have managed it this season.

But the late defeat to Luton, done so by their own hand – or head and leg – will be far more damaging. Chris Wilder was furious at the two own goals, branding them ‘not unlucky’ but ‘poor in terms of approach and attitude’.

“I couldn’t give a monkey’s how they feel, they’re professional footballers. It’s up to them to get themselves back,” the ever-honest Wilder added.

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Paul Merson and the Soccer Special panel discuss the Premier League’s relegation battle

His plan is clear. The Blades boss is hoping that a very public dressing down will galvanise his side and give them the impetuous to improve on defensive errors, which he claimed were basic enough to not need work on the training ground.

But it will be the heart and fight they showed to lead from 1-0 down that Wilder needs to harness. They attacked well in their best spells, but a finesse in finishing will be another focus once they are able to string some training sessions together.

It remains to be seen how damaging the Luton result will be for their season, or their mentality going forward. We are bang on the halfway mark, and there is a lot of football to play.

But Sheffield United cannot afford to keep making such mistakes, conceding such goals and dropping vital points. Wilder has made improvements, but some of those – especially defensively – are in danger of being unpicked. The time to implement everything they need is now.
Charlotte Marsh

Luton had the bark – now the bite has followed

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Sheffield United and Luton Town.

Everyone knew what to expect from Luton when they were promoted to the Premier League. Concourses through back gardens, a ground tight enough to hear every individual welcome to Bedfordshire from the stands, and a team who would fight for everything on the pitch.

The only question was whether they had the quality to take their fairytale return to the top flight to another level, only nine years since they were outside the EFL altogether, and defy the odds to stay in the Premier League.

For the opening weeks of the season, it looked like they would be heading down as plucky underdogs – far from a disgrace given their budget would be pocket money to Chelsea boss Todd Boehly, whose side visit Kenilworth Road on Saturday.

After 12 games, they had narrowly lost at Man Utd, were seconds away from beating Liverpool, but had only six points to their name.

Scoring 10 goals in that time was always going to leave them in trouble. But something has clicked. 10 goals in their last six games has earned them another nine points, more than doubling their previous tally. They are not only within touching distance of Everton in 17th, they are only four points off Brentford in 14th.

Victory at Sheffield United had both the fight and the quality. Alfie Doughty led the charge, making his opener for himself, but even after the hosts had turned the game on its head Luton wrestled back control, kept getting the ball in the box, and saw Carlton Morris come off the bench to force two own goals to secure a hugely valuable three points.

There’s a long way to go for Luton, but when the Blues visit the Kenny this weekend, no-one would be surprised if the three points remain in Bedfordshire.

Not only because of the mess Chelsea are in. But because this Luton side will give anyone a game, and now they might just win it too.
Ron Walker



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