MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Dec 7 – Manchester United landed another body blow to Manchester City’s hopes of retaining the Premier League title with a 2-1 derby win at the Etihad that leaves the champions 14 points adrift of runaway leaders Liverpool.
Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial scored the goals for the visitors, who should have made the margin of victory even greater with a host of first half chances.
Nicolas Otamendi pulled a goal back to give City hope five minutes from time, but that was too little, too late for Pep Guardiola’s men, who suffered a fourth league defeat in 16 games.
United remain eight points adrift of their neighbours, but move up to fifth and within five points of fourth-placed Chelsea to haul themselves back into contention for a return to the Champions League next season.
City’s priority may also now be limited to securing a top-four finish with the gap to Liverpool growing by the week and a makeshift defence that has now failed to keep a clean sheet in nine games.
In the midst of another testing season for United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have often saved their best for the toughest opposition having beaten Tottenham, Leicester and Chelsea and been the only side yet to take Premier League points off Liverpool.
City were powerless to stop the visitors pace on the break in the opening quarter in which United should have scored more than twice.
Ederson made a hat-trick of big saves to deny Daniel James, Jesse Lingard and Martial before United were awarded a penalty when Rashford was chopped down by Bernardo Silva inside the area.
Referee Anthony Taylor amazingly did not point to the spot in the first instance, but was quickly corrected by a VAR review.
Rashford stepped up to continue his fine form with a 13th goal in 14 games for club and country.
The 22-year-old’s 13 for United this season also matches his career-high for a single campaign and he should have had a couple more in the minutes after opening the scoring.
Firstly, Rashford curled an effort wide with just Ederson to beat form a fine pass by Martial before he fired another effort off the bar.
A United second was a matter of time as they continued to cut City open at will on the counter-attack and it duly arrived as James and Martial skipped around a host of half-hearted challenges before the Frenchman caught Ederson out at his near post.
City restored some semblance of order in the closing stages of the first half and should have been given a route back into the game by Gabriel Jesus when he headed Kevin de Bruyne’s inch-perfect cross wide.
The home side were also furious when Fred was not penalised for handball as he blocked Kyle Walker’s cross inside his own area with VAR this time backing Taylor’s decision not to give a spot-kick.
City applied the pressure after half-time but seemed devoid of ideas bar De Bruyne.
The Belgian’s driven effort was deflected over by a brilliant last-ditch challenge from Victor Lindelof before Rodrigo’s effort from De Bruyne’s layoff was tipped over by David de Gea.
Otamendi gave City life five minutes from time when he rose highest to meet Riyad Mahrez’s corner.
United were suddenly rocking and De Gea had to make a brilliant save moments later to deny Mahrez an equaliser.
But they held out to round off a huge week for Solskjaer.
The Norwegian was facing questions over his future just six days ago after a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa left United with just four wins from their opening 14 league games.
However, victories over Jose Mourinho on his return to Old Trafford with Tottenham on Wednesday and now the side who have left United second best in their own city in recent times, massively relieves the pressure on Solskjaer.
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Europe beckons for South African rugby after Kiwi snub
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 20 – World Cup-winning Springbok Schalk Brits believes the future of South African rugby lies in Europe after New Zealand said there was no room for sides from the republic in Super Rugby.
“All of this jet lag and flying across different time zones just does not work,” said the hooker who retired after the triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.
“We have got so many South Africans playing in Europe and it would be awesome to see them in action here for European clubs.”
With New Zealand favouring a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition, South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux will address the media Tuesday about the way forward.
There has been no rugby in South Africa since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed 5,033 lives by late Sunday, the most in an African country.
Here, AFP Sport looks at the possibilities for the world champions Springboks and Super Rugby teams the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.
There has been speculation that the six-round annual tournament will be cut to four matches with New Zealand and Australia playing in South Africa only every second year.
That would be a huge blow for SA Rugby coffers as the century-old rivalry with the All Blacks makes them a huge drawcard.
South Africa might consider abandoning the Championship and pursuing a suggestion by former All Blacks Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson for three-Test tours between the great rivals.
“British and Irish Lions tours are so successful because we look forward to them,” noted another ex-All Black, John Kirwan. The same could be said of an All Blacks-Springboks series.
Should South African franchises move north, would the Springboks follow suit and apply to join England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a ‘Seven Nations’ championship?
Having the world champions on board would surely excite the organisers and costs would be greatly reduced if the Springboks played their three away matches on consecutive weekends.
England, Ireland, France and Wales, in particular, would bring freshness for rugby followers, who have not rushed to the turnstiles for Championship visits by Australia and Argentina.
Ask the SA Rugby treasurer for his ‘dream’ line-up and he would surely say a multi-Test tour by the All Blacks and participation in the ‘Seven Nations’.
Although not official yet, the reality is that New Zealand want to play some Australian sides and the Pacific Islands in a new competition while excluding South Africa and Argentina.
The original version, a Super 10 between 1993 and 1995, was a superb competition, but constant tinkering and expansion has led to waning interest in a difficult-to-follow event.
Even those supporting the Golden Lions of South Africa could not have derived too much satisfaction from a 94-7 thrashing of Japanese visitors the Sunwolves three years ago.
South Africa sides often battled with time differences in Australasia — New Zealand is 11 hours ahead of the republic — and were weary after four-match tours.
Pro14 chief executive Martin Anayi says he would welcome Super Rugby ‘rejects’ the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers into an expanded edition.
“The tournament works well but could be even better if we added some South African teams,” he said, referring to a competition that also includes Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams.
But there may be no room for the two current South African Pro14 participants, the Cheetahs and Kings, who have experienced very different fortunes.
While the Cheetahs have been competitive, the Kings won just four of 55 matches in three seasons with some of the losing margins embarrassing.
The domestic competition has survived constant format changes to remain the vital ‘nursery’ from which Springboks emerge.
First staged in 1892, it was the bedrock of South African rugby until the dawn of professionalism after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
As Test and Super Rugby fixtures took up an increasing amount of the season, the Currie Cup often battled for calendar space.
But it survived and this year could feature the four Super Rugby sides plus the Cheetahs, Kings, Griquas and Pumas, if play is possible amid the coronavirus.
Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19
Kenya’s coronavirus cases rise to 13,771 after 418 more infections
Kenya on Monday reported 418 more Covid-19 infections, raising the country’s tally to 13,771 since the virus was first confirmed on March 13.
Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman also reported four more deaths, raising the toll to 238. He rectified an earlier report about 19 deaths in a single day, which would have been the highest number ever recorded in Kenya.
The 418 new patients were found following the testing of 2,474 samples in the last 24 hours.
Four hundred and eight of them were Kenyans and 10 foreigners while male patients numbered 263 and female patients 155.
Dr Aman also announced that 494 patients had been discharged, raising the country’s total number of recoveries to 5,616.
Of the recovered patients, 465 were under home care and the rest in hospitals.
More to follow