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Bournemouth and Watford score six in crazy first half but draw 3-3

Bournemouth and Watford score six in crazy first half but draw 3-3

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MANCHESTER, England -- Pep Guardiola doesn't know if Manchester City can catch Liverpool but says they must start by beating them on Thursday night.

The two sides meet at the Etihad Stadium with third-placed City desperate to defeat unbeaten Liverpool and cut the gap at the top of the Premier League to just four points.

"Honestly, I don't know," Guardiola told a news conference when asked if City can catch Jurgen Klopp's side. "That is the point. What do I think? Yes, we are ready. I don't have doubts but honestly I don't know.

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"It's the same as when we had a 10 or 11-point [lead, last season], if you asked me if we would maintain that distance for a long time, I don't know.

"I have a game in my mind, I know what we want to do. I will speak with the players. That is what I feel but I am not good enough to anticipate what is going to happen."

The City boss believes his side have to get used to the pressure of being the favourites if they are to become the successful club they have not always historically been, but says his players have all the fighting qualities.

"If people think last season was everything comfortable, sweet and easy, just because we make a lot of points, that is a big mistake," Guardiola added. "We fought a lot, we had lot of problems but we overcame those situations.

"How we react, even 3-0 down in the Champions League game in the second half [at Anfield]. They don't have to convince me about [how] they react in bad moments. Even in the first season, when there was a tough series of results, we never gave up, never. We reacted and came back.

"If it is different pressure, we have to live it. We have to handle it. Maybe people expected we would always be top but we are Manchester City, we are not Liverpool or Manchester United. We are Man City. In that situation, it is quite usual in the history. That is why it is nice after what we have achieved in the last decade to still be up there."

A win for Liverpool would see them take a huge step towards their first English title in 29 years. Guardiola says it is understandable if Klopp's players had a greater hunger at the start of the season but says his squad must be ready if the pressure gets too much for their rivals.

"My feeling is last season it was a little bit easier to maintain that hunger because 80 percent of the players had not won anything in our lives," he added. "I can feel what they feel -- the Liverpool players. After 29 years not winning the Premier League, to be there to win the Premier League. I understand.

"And I said to the players, that's the difficult [thing] to handle that. That is why in this season it is [important to] maintain form and [remain] there for as long as possible."

NEWCASTLE, England -- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made it four wins from four as Manchester United manager with a 2-0 victory over Newcastle at St. James' Park on Wednesday.

Romelu Lukaku came off the bench to score with his first touch in the second half before Marcus Rashford wrapped up the points in the closing stages with his third goal in four games under Solskjaer. The result helped United close the gap with the top four to six points after Chelsea were held at home by Southampton.

Solskjaer has been pleased with the goals, but he has made a point of demanding a clean sheet as well. Against Newcastle he got his first as United manager, and in truth, David De Gea had very little to do. United had conceded from a set piece in each of Solskjaer's first three games but they looked more solid against balls into the box even with the physical presence of Salomon Rondon to deal with.

Antonio Valencia has not played a lot of football in the past three months, but he would have hoped to make more of his chance against Newcastle. He had plenty of space to run into with Juan Mata cutting inside but struggled to make the most of it. He didn't do much to show he should be ahead of Ashley Young or Diogo Dalot in the pecking order.

8 -- Solskjaer's team had started to the struggle when he threw on Lukaku and it paid off immediately. His second substitute, Alexis Sanchez, also made an impact by setting up the second for Rashford. You can't ask for much more as a manager than having your decision impact games and Solskjaer's changes helped win the game.

GK David De Gea, 7 -- Got down well to make two saves from Christian Atsu in the first half and did not have much else to do to keep a clean sheet.

DF Antonio Valencia, 5 -- Making his first Premier League start since September. Didn't let right wing-back Matt Ritchie get forward but could have pushed on himself more often.

DF Luke Shaw, 7 -- Made one full-length challenge to deny Ayoze Perez after he was given a sight of goal by Jonjo Shelvey's lovely pass with the score still at 0-0.

DF Phil Jones, 6 -- Back in the team because of Eric Bailly's suspension. Caught on the ball to gift Rondon a chance in the first half but made up for it with a fantastic recovery challenge.

DF Victor Lindelof, 7 -- Had a couple of nervous moments alongside Jones but defended well. Wasn't allowed to step out of defence with the ball as much as he was in Solskjaer's first three games.

MF Nemanja Matic, 7 -- Gave the ball away once or twice in the opening stages but recovered to have another encouraging game, even if he wasn't given a lot of time on the ball.

MF Ander Herrera, 7 -- Early mistake to let a long ball drop over his head and give Atsu a chance, but was disciplined in midfield and led the press to win the ball back quickly.

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MF Paul Pogba, 6 -- The Frenchman has been brilliant since Solskjaer took over but he was shackled by Newcastle, who kept him further away from goal than Huddersfield and Bournemouth.

FW Juan Mata, 6 -- Interplay around the penalty area was good. Had license to drift inside but did it a little more than Solskjaer intended.

FW Anthony Martial, 7 -- Had United's first real chance but scooped his shot over the bar. A constant threat down the left in the first half but could not keep it going after half-time.

FW Marcus Rashford, 8 -- Gave Martin Dubravka his first test with a free kick aimed at his near post. Set up the first goal with another fierce free kick and scored the second with a cool finish. Another positive display under the new manager.

FW Romelu Lukaku, 7 -- Scored with his first touch.

FW Alexis Sanchez, 7 -- Set up Rashford with a clinical pass.

FW Jesse Lingard, N/R -- Replaced Rashford with two minutes to play.

NEWCASTLE, England -- Three points from St James' Park on Man United's 2-0 win at Newcastle in the Premier League.

1. Solskjaer does it again

Everything Ole Gunnar Solskjaer touches is turning to gold.

With Manchester United getting pushed onto the back foot in the second half against Newcastle, the Norwegian sent on Romelu Lukaku. Less than a minute later the Belgian had scored with his first touch and a game that looked like it might end in a draw or worse was suddenly under control.

As a player, Solskjaer made a name for himself by changing things from the bench. It turns out he can do it as a manager, too.

He is only the second United manager to win his first four league games in charge matching a record set by Sir Matt Busby in 1946. This was a tougher test than the first three but the end result was the same.

For the first time under Solskjaer, United were not leading at half-time. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford had chances but the interim boss had more than just congratulatory handshakes to dish out during the break.

They were saved until the final whistle after watching Lukaku replace Martial after 63 minutes and immediately poke the ball into the net after Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka had fumbled Rashford's free kick. It was a horrible mistake of the type Rafael Benitez could do without with his team already firmly in a battle against relegation.

With Newcastle pushing for an equaliser 10 minutes from time United broke quickly, Lukaku found fellow substitute Alexis Sanchez, who squeezed a fine pass through to Rashford, who wrapped up the points with a slotted finish. That's three in four games for the England youngster since Solskjaer took over.

The only thing missing from Solskjaer's United CV was a clean sheet and even that was delivered by the time the full-time whistle sounded. The away fans high above the goal sang Solskjaer songs all night -- just as they did against Cardiff, Huddersfield and Bournemouth.

A trip to Tottenham in 10 days will provide a real test of the Norwegian's credentials but most of the United supporters inside St James' Park have already decided he should be in the running to get this job permanently.

2. Lukaku becoming United's super sub

Romelu Lukaku missed the first two games of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's reign having been granted compassionate leave. After coming on as a substitute against Bournemouth, he scored with his fourth touch. He was even quicker here, finding the net the first time he touched the ball.

The Belgian went through a spell under Jose Mourinho of being untouchable but with Rashford playing so well as a striker, he has work to do to convince Solskjaer he should be starting every week. Scoring twice in two games is not a bad way to start.

Solskjaer wants him to play more facing the goal and the way United are set up under their temporary boss should help him do that. The 45-year-old has made a point of telling his full-backs to push further up the pitch than they were used to under Mourinho and that should translate into more crosses into the box for Lukaku.

Paul Pogba playing further forward will help too -- it was the Frenchman who set up his goal against Bournemouth -- although he was kept at arm's length by Newcastle's midfield. Isolated and feeding off scraps during the final months under Mourinho, Lukaku became something of a figure of fun. After two games with Solskjaer he has reminded everyone that he is still a lethal goalscorer.

3. Benitez really needs help this time

Rafa Benitez ended his programme notes by telling supporters he hoped "2019 is a great year for you all" but for the majority of the 52,217 fans who packed inside St James' Park on a bitterly cold night, that will depend on whether their team are still in the Premier League in 12 months' time.

Like any Benitez team, they are well organised and, for the most part, tough to break down. They started the new year having conceded 27 goals in their first 20 games -- a better defensive record than both Manchester United and Arsenal. But the problem is at the other end and only Fulham scored fewer goals during the first half of the season.

Benitez needs help in the transfer market -- he needs a striker -- but that is unlikely to happen while Mike Ashley is in charge of the cheque book. Whether Newcastle buy in January or not, they should still stay up, but only because there are worse teams in the division.

They've got games against Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham in their next four and Cardiff's visit here on Jan. 19 has already been circled as a key clash. Newcastle fans deserve more than an annual fight against relegation but the change that needs to happen is off the pitch rather than on it.

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