Manchester United kept the critics at bay as they cruised into the League Cup fourth round with a 3-0 win against Crystal Palace on Tuesday.
United boss Erik ten Hag and his players have been under fire after a disappointing start to the season.
But, following Saturday’s narrow Premier League victory at Burnley, they secured a second successive win to ease the pressure at least a little.
Alejandro Garnacho put them ahead in the first half and Casemiro doubled the lead before the interval, with Anthony Martial sealing the victory after the break.
When United lifted the League Cup in February to end a six-year trophy drought, it was seen as the start of a new era of success at Old Trafford.
Instead, United have been engulfed by a series of problems on and off the pitch.
Having lost three of their first five league games to severely damage their title hopes, Ten Hag was under mounting scrutiny until the last four days offered a ray of hope.
“It is a good night. I think we played quite well and we dominated the game. That was what we were looking for,” Ten Hag said after his gamble to make seven changes paid off.
“We made a step forward at Burnley with how we defend and today, on the ball, we make another step. There is still a lot to come.”
Dean Henderson was making his Palace debut after leaving United a month ago, but the keeper’s return lasted just 19 minutes before he limped off injured.
Henderson’s replacement Sam Johnstone had to pick the ball out of the net moments after coming on as United took a 21st-minute lead.
Diogo Dalot’s cross arrowed towards Garnacho and the Argentine winger swivelled to fire a low strike past Johnstone from 10 yards.
Casemiro increased United’s advantage six minutes later, climbing highest to meet Mason Mount’s corner with a glancing header that gave Johnstone no chance.
United’s third arrived in the 55th minute when Martial rifled home from Casemiro’s cross.
Giving further encouragement to Ten Hag, Morocco’s Sofyan Amrabat impressed on his first start since his deadline-day loan switch from Fiorentina.
Amrabat lined up in a stand-in left-back role before switching to his preferred central midfield position after half-time.
“I told the manager I will play where he needs me, even if it’s goalkeeper!” Amrabat said.
United will look to extend their winning run when Palace return to Old Trafford in the league on Saturday.
Luton’s difficult start to the season hit a new low with a shock 1-0 defeat at third-tier Exeter.
Luton enjoyed a fairytale promotion to the Premier League last season, but they are winless after five games in the topflight.
Rob Edwards’ decision to make 10 changes backfired as Demetri Mitchell bagged Exeter’s 83rd-minute winner with a close-range finish before he was sent off in the final moments.
“It was a disappointing night for us clearly. We need to be better, more aggressive, and have more desire to create chances. And, when we do, be more ruthless,” Edwards said.
Wolves were the other Premier League side to suffer an embarrassing exit as they blew a two-goal lead in a 3-2 defeat at Ipswich.
Sabalenka to play in Brisbane
Aryna Sabalenka will launch preparations for the defence of her Australian Open crown by playing at the Brisbane International, organisers said on Tuesday.
Elena Rybakina – beaten by Sabalenka in the final in Melbourne at the start of this year – will also play at the December 31-January 7 Brisbane event.
Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka was already named in the field as she returns to tennis.
“I’m excited about starting my 2024 Australian season in Brisbane,” world number two Sabalenka said in a statement released by organisers.
“Australia holds a special place in my heart after winning my first Grand Slam there.”
Tournament director Cam Pearson said he was looking forward to welcoming the Belarusian Sabalenka and Moscow-born Kazakh Rybakina, who is fourth in the world.
“We all remember the exciting Australian Open final the girls played at the start of the year,” he told a news conference.
“That has really kicked off what is a pretty exciting rivalry between the two players.”
On the men’s side, fast-rising world number 17 Ben Shelton of the United States will join a draw that also includes three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray.
Pearson said he would welcome Australian Nick Kyrgios to the tournament if he recovers from injury in time.
“We would love to have him here, he’s a past champion and a fan favourite but he needs to do what’s best for him and his recovery,” he said.
“If that means he’s playing in January, fantastic.”
Kyrgios had knee surgery in January and then aborted comeback plans at Wimbledon after tearing a ligament in his wrist.
Giro fail to reclaim top La Liga spot
Surprise package Girona failed to return to the top of La Liga on Monday after they were held 1-1 at home by Athletic Bilbao.
Winger Viktor Tsygankov put the hosts ahead 10 minutes after half time but Inaki Williams scored 12 minutes later to claim a point for the away side.
Girona trail league leaders Real Madrid on goal difference after dropping points for just the third time this season, while Athletic climbed to fifth spot.
Athletic had the better of the first half and their best chance fell to Gorka Guruzeta but the striker poked his shot straight at Girona goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.
Girona had early chances of their own including an Aleix Garcia volley, which he skied over the crossbar, but did not find the rhythm they have found so often this season.
After the break, the hosts broke the deadlock when Tsygankov rifled home.
Williams, who started on the opposite wing from his brother Nico, equalised from a counter-attacking move that started in Athletic’s own box.
The wide man finished smoothly for his sixth league goal of the season as the Basques went looking for their third straight win.
With 10 minutes left, Inaki Williams came close to finding the winner as he cut in from the left but his shot was parried by Gazzaniga.
Inaki Williams was replaced in the final minute of normal time for youngster Adu Ares, but both sides were forced to settle for a point.
On Sunday, Rodrygo sent Real Madrid top with a double in 3-0 win at Cadiz.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid are four points clear of fourth-placed Barcelona, who drew 1-1 at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
PCB announces Pakistan team management for Australia tour
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have announced the Team Management for the upcoming Test tour to Australia, which is scheduled to take place from December 2023 to January 2024. They will be playing three Test matches in Australia.
Former England cricketer Adam Hollioake has been hired as the batting coach. Hollioake played four Tests and 35 ODIs for England. The 52-year-old transitioned into coaching, contributing his expertise to the England Lions team. His coaching abilities were further recognized when he was enlisted to join England’s coaching staff for the final two Ashes Tests during the 2021-22 series.
Meanwhile, Simon Grant Helmot will serve as the high performance coach on the tour. Helmot is an Australian cricket coach, who was formerly the coach of the Melbourne Renegades in Big Bash League.
Last week, Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal were announced as fast-bowling and spin bowling coaches, respectively, for the Pakistan team.
Naveed Akram Cheema (Team manager), Mohammad Hafeez (Director – Pakistan men’s cricket team), Adam Hollioake (batting coach), Simon Grant Helmot (high performance coach), Umar Gul (fast bowling coach), Saeed Ajmal (spin bowling coach), Abdul Majeed (fielding coach), Mansoor Rana (assistant team manager), Shahid Aslam (assistant batting coach), Drikus Saaiman (strength and conditioning coach/Trainer), Cliffe Deacon (physiotherapist), Talha Ejaz (team analyst), Lt Col (Rtd) Akhtar Hussain (security manager), Raza Rashid Kitchlew (media manager), Ammar Ahsan (videographer), Dr Sohail Saleem (team doctor) and Malang Ali (team masseur).
The Pakistan cricket team will play their first Test match against Australia in Perth from 14 to 18 December, followed by a Test match in Melbourne, from 26 to 30 December. Sydney will host the last game of the tour from 3 to 7 January, 2024.
The squad is set to depart from Lahore on 30 November.
Pakistan squad for Australia Tests: Shan Masood (captain), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel and Shaheen Shah Afridi.
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