European review: Man United’s slump continues, Real Madrid thump Girona, Bayern and Leipzig draw, more

European review: Man United’s slump continues, Real Madrid thump Girona, Bayern and Leipzig draw, more
  • PublishedOctober 1, 2023


Saturday produced enough talking points across European soccer to solve the energy crisis, as both Manchester United and Manchester City lost, Tottenham overcame Liverpool in controversial fashion, and Real Madrid thumped Cinderella story Girona to take top spot in LaLiga.

Elsewhere, Bayern Munich fought back for a valuable point at RB Leipzig, and on Friday night, a longtime Real Madrid star helped his rivals, Barcelona, to victory against Sevilla.

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

Here’s a look back at an eventful Saturday.


The Saturday lead: Rashford form emblematic of Man United’s struggles

You can argue that after losing their fourth league game of the season to Crystal Palace, Manchester United’s problems extend beyond Marcus Rashford, though the England forward’s form is becoming a worry. He got 30 goals in all competitions last season and was rewarded with a lucrative new contract over the summer, but so far this term he has managed just one.

Rashford’s season so far was summed up neatly vs. Palace. With United desperately chasing an equaliser midway through the second half, manager Erik ten Hag decided to replace him with Christian Eriksen. Having started in his favourite position on the left, Rashford had already been moved to the right when Alejandro Garnacho came on.

Garnacho did far more in half an hour than Rashford managed in 77 minutes, and when Ten Hag comes to pick his team for the Champions League clash against Galatasaray on Tuesday, the Argentina winger should be one of the first names on the team sheet. On current form, he’s United’s best attacking player.

Ten Hag has got problems to solve at Old Trafford, and it’s reaching the point where the Dutchman is running out of excuses. The same is probably true of Rashford, who needs to start playing his part if United are going to turnaround their campaign. — Rob Dawson

Saturday talking points around the leagues

Sergio Ramos is Barcelona’s saviour vs. Sevilla

Sergio Ramos would not have imagined being a match winner for Barcelona when he returned to LaLiga in the summer, but that’s exactly what he was on Friday. The Sevilla defender scored the only goal of the game, turning into his own net in the 76th minute after 16-year-old Lamine Yamal had headed the ball back across the box.

It was just the third own goal Ramos has scored in LaLiga — the other two were against Sevilla for Real Madrid — and it was warmly welcomed by the home support at the Olympic Stadium. “Ramos” chanted the Barça fans having previously jeered their old clásico rival’s every touch.

The goal meant three points for Barça as they bounced back from a midweek draw at Mallorca to remain unbeaten this season and maintain the pace with early league leaders Real Madrid and Girona.

Xavi Hernandez’s side were good value for the win, too. João Félix had earlier rattled the woodwork and Robert Lewandowski was denied on a couple of occasions. The downside was an injury to Raphinha. The Brazil forward joins Frenkie de Jong and Pedri on the sidelines until at least the October international break with a hamstring problem.

This was also an improved performance from Sevilla, who came closest through former Barça midfielder Ivan Rakitic, but it was not enough to leave with any points. They remain in the bottom half of the table after a slow start to the season. — Sam Marsden

Manchester City wobble without Rodri, lose at Wolves

Saturday saw something we don’t see very often these days: a Manchester City defeat. That it came with manager Pep Guardiola exiled to the stands following a one-match touchline ban, and influential midfielder Rodri serving his suspension following a red card against Nottingham Forest, is no coincidence. If anything, it hints at the one true weakness this superclub must endure these days: that they boast only one of each.

With Mateo Kovacic and Kalvin Phillips both trying, and failing, to emulate Rodri in a reworked midfield and Matheus Nunes enduring a limp half of football against his former club before being withdrawn, City looked far less stable and capable. There’s a world in which these absences wouldn’t have mattered — City had 23 shots on goal across the 90 minutes, with Jérémy Doku squandering six of them — but Wolves took an early lead via a Rúben Dias own goal and bunkered in, resolutely swatting away anything that came near the penalty area.

Then, after Julián Álvarez smacked home a free kick to make it 1-1 around the hour mark and primed us all for the inevitable flurry of City goals, Wolves seized on a perfect counterattack to lead just eight minutes later, with Matheus Cunha coolly teeing up Hwang Hee-Chan for the winning goal. (Kyle Walker, bravely putting his head in front of the shot on the goal line, nearly got enough noggin behind the ball to knock it clear.) In a game of fine margins, City had little response over the final 15 minutes as Wolves clung on for just their second league win of the season.

Guardiola and Rodri will obviously return, as will City’s all-conquering form, but this was a rare chastening moment and, perhaps, a bit of inspiration for the other title hopefuls. — James Tyler


It’s the topic that’s been on everyone’s lips: just why do the Villa players look like they’ve gone for a swim mid-match?

As has been discussed, the Villa home kit simply does not breathe properly, and instead of pushing the sweat through the material, it clings to it instead, making the shirts in turn cling to the players. Anyone who’s been caught in inclement weather knows how uncomfortable it can be to keep peeling a shirt off your skin, and any distractions like that can impact the marginal gains needed to win games.

Although it clearly wasn’t an issue for the men’s team who trounced Brighton 6-1 early on Saturday, in the run-up to their first Women’s Super League game of the season, it is a concern that’s been echoed by the women’s team ahead of Sunday’s match.

Speaking to the media ahead of the season opener against Manchester United, manager Carla Ward reiterated that her focus had been on preparing for the game ahead, with the matter in the hands of the club and Castore (their kit manufacturer), mentioning “a genuine care from the football club” that is palpable to the players as they’ve kept an open line of dialogue and “constant communication of how can we help the players and make them feel better.”

While discussions are ongoing behind the scenes, Villa women — like their male counterparts — will take to the Villa Park pitch this weekend in their current kits, hoping their attire is not the main talking point after the game. — Sophie Lawson

Real Madrid back on top, ending Girona’s unbeaten run

Real Madrid’s trip to Girona on Saturday was supposed to be a make-or-break test for Carlo Ancelotti’s side against a team who went into the weekend as surprise, unbeaten LaLiga leaders. Instead, it was resolved in four first-half minutes.

A moment of extraordinary quality from Jude Bellingham — impersonating Luka Modric to cross with the outside of his boot for Joselu to finish — put Madrid in front, before Aurélien Tchouaméni‘s header from Toni Kroos‘ delivery made it 2-0. The game was over as a contest long before Bellingham added a well-taken third in the 71st minute, his sixth league goal of the season.

The comprehensive 3-0 win completes a satisfactory week for Real, who bounced back from last Sunday’s Madrid derby defeat to Atletico with six points from two games — while rivals Barcelona dropped points in midweek — to return to the top of the LaLiga table. Bellingham starred again with a goal and that imperious assist, while Joselu once again showed that while he may not be Real Madrid’s ideal No. 9, his goals — four so far, this the first away from home — will be essential. And Vinícius Júnior played a useful, if subdued, 68 minutes as he continues his comeback from injury.

Nacho Fernandez’s needless late red card, in the midst of a defensive injury crisis, was the only bad news. It leaves Antonio Rüdiger as Madrid’s only available senior centre-back. — Kirkland

Leipzig fail to finish Bayern off as champs roar back for a draw

As we head into the spookiest month of the year, one punctuated by Halloween and scary movies, there’s something as inevitable as Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger when it comes to watching Bayern Munich. Try as you might to impede them, finish them off or escape their assault, they simply can’t be denied.

The latest proof of this came Saturday in the marquee game of the Bundesliga weekend: a late-afternoon visit to Red Bull Arena and the challenge of RB Leipzig. Of all the teams in Germany, Leipzig are the closest to a magic weapon against Bayern’s unrelenting talent, having won twice and drawn once in their past four encounters heading into this weekend. That sense of hoodoo showed in a dizzying first half in which Leipzig surged into a 2-0 lead at the break, with Loïs Openda beating Sven Ulreich via a hefty deflection off Kim Min-Jae and Castello Lukeba finishing from close range just six minutes later.

But then came Bayern, halving the deficit 10 minutes into the second half after Ben Henrichs’ extended arm blocked a free-kick and led to a penalty, which Harry Kane calmly snuck beyond Janis Blaswich. From there, it seemed inevitable there’d be an equalizer rather than a third Leipzig goal, and sure enough, Leroy Sané made it 2-2 after a fine run and through-ball from Jamal Musiala, who looks like he’s back to full fitness.

A point is still something worth celebrating if you’re Leipzig or Bayern, especially this early in the season, but Bundesliga teams need to make sure that if they get a lead on the Bavarians, they keep it. — Tyler

Debut loss for Gattuso at Marseille

As debuts come, it was hard to make it more difficult for Gennaro Gattuso. The new Marseille manager has been at the club for three days and three training sessions, and he had to take his team down the road to Monaco for a hot derby against one of the best teams in Ligue 1 so far this season.

If the Italian was smiling after 31 seconds and his side’s first goal, scored by Iliman Ndiaye (his first one since joining the club), his frustration was visible at the end after yet another defeat, this time 3-2. L’OM lost against a better team. They lost despite leading twice, and they lost because once again, they were not strong enough defensively while not being efficient enough in front of the opposition goal.

When you struggle so much in both boxes, you can’t expect much in a game of this calibre. The rivalry between the two clubs is massive and you could see how much this victory meant to the Monaco players, fans and staff, especially a week after losing another derby, against Nice, 1-0.

It means Monaco and Adi Hutter are back at the top of the table after PSG’s disappointing draw at Clermont (0-0) and before Brest‘s game at Nice on Sunday. As for Gattuso, he has already moved on to the next game: Brighton away in the Europa League on Thursday. It’s another massive challenge for him without much time to prepare. — Julien Laurens

News of the day



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And finally …

Wrexham came from behind three times, including in stoppage time, as they claimed a 3-3 draw to Crewe Alexandra despite playing much of the match with 10 men.

Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds’ Wrexham went a goal down on 25 minutes when Crewe’s Mickey Demetriou broke the deadlock, and their task was made harder 10 minutes later when they saw a red card handed to winger Ryan Barnett for a mistimed tackle.

Paul Mullin levelled the scores on 40 minutes with an improvised overhead kick, but Crewe restored their advantage on the stroke of half-time through a penalty from Chris Long.

Mullin netted again just two minutes after the restart, but a goal from Shilow Tracy midway through the second half put the visitors ahead for a third time. However, Wrexham remained in the contest and managed to rescue a point when replacement forward Steven Fletcher netted a 96th-minute header — his first goal since joining the club on a free transfer earlier this month.


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