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Mikel Merino makes Newcastle move from Borussia Dortmund permanent

Mikel Merino makes Newcastle move from Borussia Dortmund permanent


Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane has been named the Premier League's Player of the Month for September.

Kane beat Manchester City pair Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne, Chelsea's Alvaro Morata, Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku, Jamaal Lascelles of Newcastle and Brighton's Pascal Gross to the award.

After failing to find the net in August, the 24-year-old scored six times in four league matches last month, hitting braces against Everton, West Ham and Huddersfield. Kane's only failure to score came in Spurs' frustrating 0-0 home draw with Swansea.

Congratulations, @HKane - September's @premierleague Player of the Month! ????#OneOfOurOwn

He added another five in two Champions League matches and four in as many England internationals to finish September with 15 goals in 10 games for club and country.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola was named Manager of the Month earlier on Friday.

Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.

Playing against Liverpool at Anfield is "the ultimate test" for a Manchester United player, according to Phil Neville.

United travel to Anfield on Saturday and head into the game sitting second in the Premier League, behind leaders Manchester City only on goal difference and seven points ahead of seventh-placed Liverpool.

Neville, who spent 18 years at United, says the clash will be a test of his former club's title aspirations.

"Going to Anfield is the ultimate test for a Manchester United player," Neville told Sky Sports. "Last year Jose Mourinho played down expectations of winning the league. This year fans want a bit of pressure, they want to be talked about as title winners.

"What Saturday will give us is a barometer -- last year they did not beat the top sides. On Saturday I want to see a style that means that after the game we say there is a title-winning side there."

Neville feels United may have a chance of securing three points on Saturday given Liverpool's defensive problems, which he says manager Jurgen Klopp has yet to solve.

"The front six look good, but defensively, and the goalkeeper, he has not addressed that situation," Neville said. "I think he really missed a massive thing in the summer by not selling [Philippe] Coutinho.

"They have not got vast amounts of money, they would have been able to invest in the squad, maybe two defenders. Put two defenders of quality in there and you are talking about a title-winning team.

"They are at the same level they were at two years ago, four years ago, and they can just not get over that point of challenging for the league.

"Look at the players they have bought -- [Andy] Robertson, £8 million. [Ragnar] Klavan, £4m. [Joel] Matip, free transfer. That's almost Championship spending on an area of the field where Liverpool are very weak. You spend that amount of money, you get that level of performance."

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When Liverpool play Manchester United on Saturday, both clubs face critical examination of their current credentials.

In Liverpool's case they must persuade fans that September was a blip and their top-four finish last season was no flash in the pan aided by an absence of European football; United have begun the season strongly but face suggestions they have benefitted from an easy opening fixture list.

If none of the above were relevant it would still be Liverpool vs. Manchester United: one of the bitterest rivalries in world football and a game supporters dread losing.

This has always been true, but when United hired Jose Mourinho things took a sterner turn. The Portuguese coach has a long, fractious history of his own with Liverpool which began when he joined Chelsea in 2004.

The Londoners' domestic dominance wasn't matched by European success, because the Reds stood in their way for two Champions League semifinals. All of which means this fiercely fought and occasionally tasteless grudge match might even get worse in coming years, despite two largely humdrum draws in the league last season.

Geographical proximity and a desperate desire to be the No. 1 club is blamed for the often ugly overreaction of both sets of fans to what is ultimately just a football match.

One other ingredient is that for over four decades there's never been a time when both clubs were on an equal footing. In the 1970s and 1980s, Liverpool won all the trophies while their rivals seethed with resentment; during the 1990s and 2000s it was United's turn.

The clubs have experienced either feast or famine. Jealousy of another club while living with one's own shortcomings is no recipe for harmony.

Like most strong rivalries, it isn't enough to be successful, the others must suffer simultaneously. If it's due to their own mistakes so much the better.

In the build-up to this fixture there have been references to Liverpool nightmares of the past. Sir Alex Ferguson has again spoken of knocking Liverpool "off their perch," albeit in a foreword to former Everton star Peter Reid's autobiography. In truth Liverpool were already falling by then but Ferguson still wants credit for it -- as well as all the trophies.

The subject of Rafa Benitez's rant about "facts" in January 2009 was also revived, its importance in Liverpool coming second to United that year once again inflated.

It's a regular occurrence. Few refer to the 1996 FA Cup final as "the Eric Cantona game" for his winning goal. It's the "white suits final" because of Liverpool players' garish prematch attire and its questionable relevance.

During Saturday's game there will be inevitable away end songs about Steven Gerrard's slip against Chelsea on April 27, 2014. For some reason, it's important to United fans that Liverpool don't just fail; they must somehow instigate their own downfall -- even if that Gerrard lapse led to Manchester City being crowned champions instead.

Not that Liverpool fans can be snooty about other clubs' motivations. Back in 1986 the Reds won their only league and FA Cup double, with Everton runners up in both competitions. That didn't stop fans from revelling in United's misfortune after they'd won their first 10 league games and a national newspaper produced the infamous headline "Give It To United Now."

Liverpool fans were not shy in reminding their rivals about that, singing about United coming fourth in a two-horse race while waving a banner at Wembley for the final with Everton which mocked Manchester as a "trophy free zone."

For such an intense rivalry, how often have Liverpool and United actually been the top two of the same league table? The extremes of success and luck helped create this monster.

The upcoming fixture has been preceded by comments about Mourinho's defensive tendencies, although United's recent improvement is based largely on the frequency of their goals. Such talk about pragmatism tends to reveal some jealousy in the Liverpool ranks, Mourinho's abiding wish to get the right result at almost any cost being something their own team was once famous for.

The absence of Sadio Mane is a big blow to Jurgen Klopp, already mindful of a poor record in games that have an early kick-off and also immediately following an international break.

The combination of the two does not bode well for Liverpool. Their last three victories against United all featured a clean sheet, something which is regularly eluding them this season.

Of the two managers it is Klopp who is more in need of a confidence boost than his rival. Even a draw, especially if combined with a battling performance, might be enough.

For two hours on Saturday, who stands where in the table and who stands to gain most from victory will be almost irrelevant. Pride is at stake. For winners and losers alike, that will mean everything.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has been named Premier League Manager of the Month for September after winning four games in a row.

City went on a goal scoring spree throughout a perfect month as they demolished Liverpool 5-0, Watford 6-0 and Crystal Palace 5-0, rounding off September with a 1-0 win at champions Chelsea.

The high-scoring run sees Guardiola's side top of the Premier League on goal difference from neigbours Manchester United.

Pep Guardiola named @BarclaysFooty Manager of the Month after perfect September with @ManCity:

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach has guided City to nine wins in 10 games in all competitions this season, and a statement on the club's official website said: "Everyone at City would like to congratulate Pep and his staff on a well-deserved award."

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When it comes to reacting to disappointment, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is better than most. Some might suggest that he's had plenty of practice, but we like to rise above that sort of talk here. Wenger is experienced: he doesn't panic and, with the notable exception of last season, he can pull his team out of any nosedive and secure a fourth-place finish.

Since losing 4-0 to Liverpool at Anfield in August, Arsenal have picked up 10 points from 12 and kept four clean sheets in the process. They are rediscovering their confidence. And they'll need it this weekend at Watford.

Marco Silva surprised many this summer when he opted to take the manager's job at Vicarage Road. With his stock high after somehow cajoling a spirited fight out of a broken Hull City squad who eventually succumbed to relegation, he was not short of options. So why Watford?

Managers do not tend to last too long in Hertfordshire, no matter how good their reputation. Walter Mazzarri and Quique Sanchez Flores were granted just one full season each, with Slavisa Jokanovic almost getting there, though they are relative veterans compared to their predecessors Bill McKinlay (2 games), Oscar Garcia (4 games, but he left for reasons of ill health) and Beppe Sannino (31 games). With Southampton and Crystal Palace both in the frame, along with the option of sitting tight and waiting for "sacking season" this autumn, why would Silva take his chances with a revolving door club?

But the Portuguese has taken a squad that appeared little more than Troy Deeney and a transient blob of international investment opportunities and he has made a team. Watford rocked Liverpool back on their heels on the opening day, kept three consecutive clean sheets thereafter and, with the exception of being obliterated 6-0 by a rampant Manchester City, have impressed in every game. That they were able to claw back a point in the dying seconds of their clash away at West Bromwich Albion speaks volumes for their character.

Their away record (10 points from a possible 12) is rather better than at home (two from nine), which is odd because Silva's record at Hull was the exact opposite. However, it is unwise to make big conclusions from small sample sizes. Home and away, Watford present a sizeable challenge.

Watford's owners, the Pozzo family, have raised a few eyebrows with their commitment to freshening up the manager's office so regularly, but it's hard to argue that any of their decisions have backfired. Some former employees can certainly feel hard done by, but the club sails serenely onwards and even reached the FA Cup semifinals in 2015-16 -- their first season back in the top flight in almost a decade.

For this, much credit must go to the transfer policy and scouting network that holds up the family's interests. The same structure that unearthed talents like Alexis Sanchez and Samir Handanovic at Udinese continues to pay dividends.

But it's Silva who has tied it all together in the most compelling way. Watford are, as Hull were for a time, a dynamic, intense side. Abdoulaye Doucoure and, now that the impressive Nathaniel Chalabah is injured, Etienne Capoue, provide a formidable base in the midfield while Tom Cleverley is slowly rediscovering the form that saw him considered as one of his generation's most promising talents when at Man United. Andre Carillo offers invention on one flank, but it is the irrepressible Richarlison who has really caught the eye. 

A £13 million summer signing from Fluminense, the 20-year-old was unknown to many Premier League fan. He is not unknown now.

Indeed, his form has been so good that reports in South American suggest Brazil manager Tite has earmarked him for a place in the senior squad for the forthcoming friendlies against Japan and England. And Tite, having blown away the rest of the competition in the World Cup qualifiers, is hardly a man desperate for options.

Watford have had good starts before, of course. Under Flores, the Hornets were seventh on Boxing Day, having drawn with Chelsea and beaten Liverpool 3-0 in what was a very merry Christmas period. They would win just two of their next 14 games, plunging down the table in a run of form that would eventually cost the likeable Spanish manager his job.

The Premier League can be cruel and unforgiving to over-confident dressing rooms. But there are signs that Silva is building something a little more resilient. His Watford team are a little like Rafa Benitez's Newcastle in that there is a palpable sense of unity, clear evidence of organisation and just enough talented players to cause a threat to any opponent. Arguably, in the case of Richarlison in particular, Watford have the higher calibre players.

Arsenal should be wary. Their reaction to disaster at Anfield has been impressive, but they go to Watford without the injured Shkodran Mustafi, perhaps without Laurent Koscielny too, and Sanchez's mind spinning from Chile's failure to qualify for the World Cup. This is not the straight-forward fixture it might appear.

Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.

Newcastle United have made midfielder Mikel Merino's loan move into a full-time transfer from Borussia Dortmund.

Merino, 21, who joined Newcastle on loan from the Bundesliga club in the summer, has signed a five-year contract.

He has played in all seven Premier League matches this season and won the club's Player of the Month award for August.

The Spain under-21 international told the official Newcastle website: "I'm really happy to be here for five more years, and I hope to keep playing for this club and to give good things to all the people and the club.

"I have been focused on football always, but it's good to know it [the transfer] is now official and people will know it."

Manager Rafa Benitez said Merino "has played very well since he joined us" and added: "He has a lot of quality on the ball and is keen to learn -- that is a crucial part of his future development.

"He has to keep working hard and playing well, and hopefully he can improve and enjoy playing here."

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