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English Premier League

Aaron Mooy’s unique journey to Huddersfield Town and Premier League success

Jake Jackman

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Mooy

Huddersfield Town recorded one of the most famous victories in their history as they beat Manchester United on Saturday. They had failed to win a Premier League match since August and came into the weekend’s fixture as huge underdogs against Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten side. However, they played with passion and endeavour to earn the three points. It was their first victory over the most famous club in the country for 65 years. Although they haven’t met very often, this is a notable statistic and represents the latest chapter of the Terriers’ rise to the top.

There have been a number of key individuals in their recent success. Dean Hoyle has done an excellent job from the boardroom, while David Wagner has built a squad good enough to compete at the top of the English football pyramid. On the pitch, the team is greater than the sum of its parts, but the most important component is Australian midfielder Aaron Mooy.

The 27-year-old is a complete midfielder that is key both in and out of possession. He scored the first goal, which was well taken and displayed the threat he poses when he drives forward to support the striker. His movement is clever and he is composed when an opportunity presents itself. The Terriers’ number ten made one key pass and touched the ball on 48 occasions. This more than all but one of his team-mates, underlining how central he is to the team.

Mooy is a multi-functional midfielder and Huddersfield’s style of play relies on him playing well. Out of possession, he is a tireless worker who regularly presses the opposition team. Against Manchester United, he made four ball recoveries and made two clearances to aid the defensive effort. If there was only one word to describe his style, it would be tenacious and the same word is often used to describe the team as a whole. The 27-year-old often sets the tone for that.

His interesting path to the top

Aaron Mooy since moving to England in 2016, but it wasn’t his first experience of football in the UK. He was once on the books of Bolton Wanderers as a young player. Although he didn’t make an appearance for them, he wasn’t released and opted to leave the club, despite the offer of a contract renewal. The Australian wanted to play first-team football and that was the first example of his impressive mentality.

That came at St Mirren, as he made over 20 appearances for the Scottish club during a two-year spell above the border. He didn’t make a huge impact, but it would have been good experience for him and prepared him for British football ahead of his return years later. At the end of the 2011-12 season, he moved to his homeland to join Western Sydney Wanderers, before a spell with Melbourne City. It was there that he emerged as one of the best players in the A-League and was brought to the attention of Manchester City.

The City Football Group have a number of clubs under their charge and Mooy made a name for himself at Melboune City, which is the sister-club of Manchester City. During his final season in the A-League, he contributed 11 goals and 21 assists. It was clear that he was destined for greater things and although he didn’t play for City, the move did help his career. Brian Marwood, the club’s managing director of football services, raved about the midfielder at the time of his transfer to England.

“Aaron is an extremely talented player who possesses the attributes we hope to foster and encourage within the City Football Group,”

“Aaron’s move to Manchester allows us to further expose him to a high standard of opportunities to ensure his professional growth.”

It wasn’t a regular transfer designed to strengthen the buying club, as he was never likely to feature for Pep Guardiola’s side, but Marwood’s comments did turn out to be true. Mooy’s move to Manchester did lead to greater opportunities to grow, while the club benefitted in the long run when they made a significant profit 12-months later. Everybody was a winner.

He was then loaned out to Huddersfield Town and it was a move that went under the radar in the Championship. The focus was on the spending of Newcastle United and Aston Villa, but looking back now, Mooy was one of the signings of the summer. His impact was immediate and he emerged as one of the best players in the division over the course of the season.

During the 2016/17 season, his contribution of four goals and seven assists underplays his overall importance to Huddersfield’s promotion. The Australian averaged 2.21 chances created and 2.48 ball recoveries per ninety minutes. It is rare for a player to thrive both in and out of possession, but Mooy has done that during his time at the John Smith’s Stadium. Regular watchers of the Terriers will attest to his importance and that is why they had to sign him on a permanent basis during the summer.

The lack of interest from other teams surprised some, but there was only ever likely to be one destination for the midfielder and that was Huddersfield. David Wagner was quick to pay the £10 million required to sign Mooy. He had few doubts that he would adjust to the top-flight, as shown by the following quotes reported by the Examiner:

“Just like we showed we were good players and a good club in the Championship, now we have to do it at the higher level – and Aaron has everything, so I am totally sure he will do this.

”My expectation is that Aaron will be able to give our game the same stamp as he did last season. He has everything to do that.”

Wagner and the club had all the confidence in Mooy to make the step up. He has now repaid that with consistency in the top-flight. It will be a long season for Huddersfield and they will be fighting to survive first and foremost. Their start gives them a great chance of succeeding in that aim. Saturday was a warning to the rest of the league to take them seriously or suffer defeat as a result. The Australian international was the man-of-the-match and his career continues on an upward trajectory.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

FA Cup

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham – Lucas Moura shines despite disappointing day for Spurs

Jake Jackman

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Tottenham

Tottenham are going to have to rely on a replay for the second successive round as they conceded a dramatic late equaliser to Rochdale. It was a reminder of the magic that the FA Cup still possesses and it will provide a useful cash injection for the League One club. Spurs opted to make several changes and rest key players, but they selected a team that should have progressed on the day.

Ian Henderson scored in the first-half to give Dale a first-half lead and it was deserved. Keith Hill’s team played good football and went toe-to-toe against their more illustrious opposition.

Lucas Moura and Harry Kane scored to put Tottenham into a 2-1 lead, but that wasn’t the end of the goal-scoring as Steve Davies scored to take the tie to a replay. Here are three talking points from Spotland:

Lucas Moura’s performance showed why Tottenham signed him

It was a signing that came out of left-field, as Tottenham prefer to do their transfer business in the summer. However, this opportunity was too good to turn down as they were given the chance to sign a proven Brazilian international. He had fallen on tough times at PSG and rarely featured this season, but he proved why the club signed him on Sunday.

The Brazilian wasn’t afraid of the fight and was up for the test offered by League One opposition. Every time he got on the ball, it looked like he could make something happen, as shown by his seven dribbles completed.

He had a touch of class that allowed him to stand out from the rest of the players on the pitch and if he can consistently perform at that level, he will turn out to be a great signing.

His movement was superb, as he regularly found pockets of space to exploit. Interestingly, he won five aerial duels and that shows that he has quickly adjusted to English football. It was Lucas that scored the equaliser mid-way through the second half with a confident finish. He will have played himself into Mauricio Pochettino’s plans for the coming weeks.

Rochdale impressed on their day in the spotlight

They were written off before a ball was kicked as they were facing one of the best teams in the country. Rochdale are currently rock-bottom of League One and 11 points from safety, albeit with four matches in hand. They laid a new pitch ahead of this match and the players adapted to it well, showing that they can play good football.

Callum Camps and Andrew Cannon impressed in the centre of the park, while their two wily experienced strikers got the goals. Ian Henderson was a tireless worker in the final third and put the Tottenham defenders under pressure.

He snatched at a couple of chances in the first-half, but he remained cool when another chance came his way and scored the opening goal.

It will be a tough ask for them to go to Wembley, but they can go there with no fear as they have nothing to lose. The tie will give them an injection of money that the club needs, especially if they are to suffer relegation this season.

Toby Alderweireld looks a long way from his best

The Tottenham defence didn’t look as assured as they usually do and both of their centre-backs struggled at times during the match.

Alderweireld was left out of the trip to Juventus and there were some supporters that questioned that decision. However, he looked short of match fitness against Rochdale and was arguably at fault for the late equaliser.

The Belgian international looked rusty and his decision making was not great. He picked up a yellow card for a rash tackle and that is one example of that. Juan Foyth played alongside Alderweireld and his inexperience showed when Rochdale did attack.

For Alderweireld, he wants to be back in the first-team and that is eventually where he will be, but he isn’t at the level required to be starting right now. Tottenham are fighting on multiple fronts and they can’t afford to have any players that aren’t at 100%. He is returning from a serious injury and he will need time to get back to his best.

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Liverpool

Roberto Firmino: His performances will shape the end to Liverpool’s season

Martyn Cooke

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On Sunday afternoon at St Mary’s Stadium the returning Virgil Van Dijk took centre stage and assumed the role of pantomime villain for the day.

However, whilst much of the pre-game build up was centred on the former Southampton defender, who was making his first return to the club since signing for Liverpool in January, the post-match conversations were focused on the brilliance of the Dutchman’s attacking teammate.

Roberto Firmino is one of the most under-rated players in the Premier League and his performance last weekend reaffirmed that he is one of the most effective forward players in the top-flight of English football.

The Brazilian has rarely been the centre of attention since arriving at Anfield in the summer of 2015 for £29 million and the media have often overlooked his significant contributions on the pitch.

Roberto Firmino

At Liverpool he has been forced to be content playing in the shadow of Philippe Coutinho, prior to his move to Barcelona, and Mohamed Salah, who has been a revelation since joining the club in the summer.

But Firmino is now emerging as one of the most creative, innovative and exciting forwards in the Premier League and he is undoubtedly one of the most improved players of the season.

The 26-year-old is both a creator and a goal scorer, as Southampton discovered to their cost at the weekend, when he opened the scoring with a neat finish within the opening six minutes before providing the assist for Salah’s goal with an ingenious flick.

The goal was his 20th of the campaign, which was shortly followed by his 21st of the season against Porto in the Reds’ midweek Champions League fixture, and he is now only nine short of becoming the Premier League’s all-time highest Brazilian goal scorer.

Firmino is a unique mixture of technical brilliance, creativity, innovation and an intelligence that makes him unpredictable, difficult to mark and a constant threat, regardless of where he pops up on the pitch.

However, whilst his Brazilian flair may catch the eye it is his willingness to pressurise opponents and work hard off the ball that is genuinely impressive.

He is certainly a favourite of Jurgen Klopp, who admires his hard running, work rate and pressing that often sets the tone for the rest of the team.

The 26-year-old has still gone somewhat unnoticed this campaign despite his consistency and performances on the pitch and the fact that he has missed only one league game all season.

But that is set to change.

Firmino’s performances and form have proven that there is still a bright future at Anfield despite the departure of Coutinho in January.

Deployed as an unconventional number nine, the Brazilian is the centre of a dynamic attacking forward line that sees him flanked by Salah on one side and Sadio Mane on the other.

The trio possess the pace, intelligence and creativity to threaten any team in Europe, as demonstrated by the mid-week five-goal demolition of Porto in the Champions League, and central to their effectiveness is the link up play of Firmino.

Still only 26, the Brazilian is about to reach the peak of his prowess and his continued development under Klopp poses the exciting question of how much better the forward might become in the forthcoming two or three years.

He certainly possesses all of the characteristics to become a legend at the club, should he choose to remain at Anfield long term, and he now has the opportunity to step out of Coutinho’s shadow and enjoy the limelight for himself.

Liverpool supporters will be hoping that Firmino can maintain his current run of form over the coming months and his performances will shape the club’s season.

His creativity and knack for scoring goals will be an invaluable commodity as Klopp goes in search of a top four place and potential silverware.

Firmino my have been underrated in the past, but he is now taking centre stage as the focal point of Liverpool’s attack.

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Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town 0-2 Manchester United: Three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium as Manchester United overcame Huddersfield Town in their FA Cup 5th Round contest.

Rob Meech

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Photo: Reuters

A brace from sharpshooter Romelu Lukaku fired Manchester United into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the expense of Huddersfield Town.

Lukaku opened his account in the third minute before netting his second of the evening shortly after the second-half resumption.

Victory was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggested. However, as the Terriers produced a spirited display after the early setback.

There was also controversy involving the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.

Juan Mata saw an effort ruled out for offside after a review, but confusion abounded about whether it had been the correct decision.

Here are three talking points from an eventful encounter, as United set up a last-eight tie with Brighton & Hove Albion…

Lukaku’s goals are a fillip for Jose Mourinho

The Belgian has come in for criticism from some quarters for his goal return since last summer’s big-money transfer from Everton.

While he may not have reached the levels of Harry Kane or Mohamed Salah, Lukaku has now scored 21 times in all competitions for United this season.

That tally was boosted by his double against Huddersfield, which showed off his best attributes.

Lukaku was too strong and clever for Huddersfield’s defence as he latched on to Mata’s through ball for the first, before putting the finishing touch to an Alexis Sanchez pass for his second.

The former Chelsea man’s performance will be the biggest plus for United boss Jose Mourinho, who is relying on him to spearhead the attack for the remainder of the campaign.

Lukaku is a confidence player, so this was a timely boost ahead of a crucial run of fixtures both domestically and in Europe.

VAR under the microscope yet again

The introduction of technology to any sport usually results in teething problems.

It is fair to say VAR has experienced more than its fair share in football this season.

Employed in some FA and League Cup matches, controversy has never been far away. This was again the case at Huddersfield.

Mata appeared to have doubled United’s lead just before half-time, but referee Kevin Friend waited for confirmation from VAR that he had been onside.

After about a minute, Friend disallowed the goal when it was judged that Mata had been fractionally offside as the ball was played.

Contention emerged when viewers saw the incident on TV, where the guidelines were clearly not straight.

In fact, they were embarrassingly wonky.

Further replays suggested – with parallel lines correctly in place – that Mata’s knee had indeed been offside, but it was a very close call and certainly not an obvious mistake by the referee’s assistant.

These technical hitches will need to be ironed out before VAR is brought in universally.

Huddersfield can be positive despite FA Cup exit

With their Premier League status hanging in the balance, it would have been understandable if Huddersfield manager David Wagner had seen this fixture as an unwanted distraction.

But there was absolutely no suggestion that they were trying not to win the match, or prepared to exit the competition without a fight.

The Terriers, who famously beat United at home in the Premier League last October, carried on from where they left off last weekend in the impressive 4-1 victory over Bournemouth.

Conceding so early to United had not been in the script, but the hosts regrouped quickly and caused their opponents plenty of problems.

Ultimately, the difference between the two sides was the quality of finishing.

Whereas the visitors scored with their only two shots on target, Huddersfield wasted numerous openings as they slipped to defeat.

Nevertheless, attention can be turned back to their bid for survival, without their confidence dented.

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