WWE News: Ric Flair helps Triple H extend his in-ring career

There’s an argument to be made that Triple H and Batista are two sides of the same coin. Setting aside their shared time in Evolution, the two are time-proven opportunists who, given the right circumstances, would throw away any shred of decency or respect to achieve their goals.

Triple H’s victory over The Animal at The Show of Shows was vindication for several reasons, but it was also, in its own way, validation of his choice to recruit him as an ally all those years ago, and his identification of Batista as a kindred spirit. They moved the same. They kind of looked the same. And most importantly, they fought the same: As it became abundantly clear during their No Holds Barred Match, there is truly nothing either of them wouldn’t do to get what they want.

What Batista wanted was to end his career on his terms, and Triple H’s as well. That’s how the two ended up in a fight on The Grandest Stage of Them All with The Game’s in-ring career on the line. But it became readily apparent that what Triple H wanted, more than anything, was to hurt, humiliate and maim The Animal. There’s no other way to explain the torturous opening to the match in which Big Dave was smashed in the face with a toolbox, had his fingers bent back by a wrench and his nose ring ripped from his nostril by a pair of needle-nose pliers.

Despite the respective paths they took to achieve their goals – Batista was impactful but conservative, while Triple H was wild and improvisational – their shared similarities came to the forefront at every turn. Batista kicked out of a Pedigree. The Game fought his way out of a Batista Bomb. And they both even ended up with a sledgehammer in their hands, although Triple H had a bit of an assist in getting his. After The Animal stole his opponent’s signature implement, Ric Flair – who Batista ambushed to set this rivalry off in earnest – emerged to hand The Game a backup, and “The Nature Boy’s” presence took The Animal’s attention off his foe long enough to allow The King of Kings to smash him with the hammer. One Pedigree later, and it was over.

And you could be forgiven for thinking that the similarities between The Game and The Animal ended with the pinfall – after all, there’s a pretty clear line between winning and losing – but, in its own way, the conclusion could be read as satisfying to both of them. Now, there really isn’t anything Triple H hasn’t done. And Batista got exactly what he wanted.

WWE News: The Usos defeat Aleister Black & Ricochet, The Bar and Shinsuke Nakamura & Rusev

For a brief moment at WrestleMania 35, the MetLife Stadium became The Uso Penitentiary as Jimmy & Jey stood tall on The Grandest Stage of Them All, defeating The Bar, Ricochet & Aleister Black and Shinsuke Nakamura & Rusev to retain the SmackDown Tag Team Championship.

The action was fast and furious right from the get-go as Aleister Black and Jey Uso traded holds, but the frantic nature of the Fatal 4-Way Match soon came into play, as members from all four teams tagged into the fray in rapid-fire succession.

The NXT upstarts looked like they had the upper hand, as Ricochet dizzied Cesaro with a dazzling headscissors takeover, but an uppercut from The Swiss Superstar stopped The One and Only right in his tracks. The Bar went on a rampage from there, as Cesaro spun Ricochet in the Cesaro Swing for minutes, while Sheamus grabbed anyone within reach and pummeled them with the Beats of the Bodhrán.

Ricochet recovered from Cesaro’s stomach-churning ride, but he was soon caught in the clutches of Rusev, who overpowered the speedy Superstar. Soon, the bout devolved into utter chaos, as a stacked superplex-powerbomb combo from the top rope brought all eight men crashing to the mat in a heap.

The relentless pace continued from there, as superkicks, Kinshasas and Black Masses were delivered with extreme precision. After Sheamus clobbered Ricochet with a Brogue Kick, though, The Celtic Warrior was all alone with Jimmy & Jey. The Usos took Sheamus down with a pair of superkicks, then crushed him with a double splash from the top rope to retain their titles.

The Usos may have left The Show of Shows with their SmackDown Tag Team Titles, but it was clear to the WWE Universe that there will be plenty of tough challenges ahead for the champions.

Peyton Royce & Billie Kay take WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles

Name a more iconic moment than Peyton Royce & Billie Kay winning the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles at WrestleMania 35. We’ll wait.

Looking to make their mark on The Grandest Stage of Them All, The IIconics shocked the world by beating reigning champions The Boss n Hug Connection, Nia Jax & Tamina, and Natalya & Beth Phoenix in a frenetic Fatal 4-Way Match to claim the tandem titles.

If there was a sentimental favourite going into the bout, it was the returning Phoenix, who joined Natalya in donning the colours of the 2019 WWE Hall of Fame inductees The Hart Foundation. The two were even joined on the ramp by Bret “Hit Man” Hart during their entrance.

If there was an odds-on favourite, it was the defending champions The Boss n Hug Connection, who took control of the contest with the well-oiled offense they’d honed in recent months as champions.

As for Tamina & Nia Jax, they were determined to become the favourites through sheer force. The Samoan Slaughterhouse laid out all three opposing pairs at one point and ascended the ropes ready to deliver a crushing blow, but The Glamazon knocked Nia off her perch.

After a melee on the outside, The Boss n Hug Connection slugged it out with Natalya and Beth in a scrap that culminated with The Glamazon executing a jaw-dropping Glam Slam from the top rope at Bayley expense. With victory within her grasp, Beth saw her pinfall broken up when Royce pulled her away from Bayley and hurled her out of the ring, allowing Billie Kay to capitalise, score the three-count, and capture the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship for The IIconics.

How’s that for iconic?

Roman Reigns scores emotional win over Drew McIntyre

Competing in a singles match for the first time since returning from his battle with leukemia, Roman Reigns scored a decisive emotional victory over Drew McIntyre at WrestleMania, getting payback on The Scottish Psychopath after weeks of physical and psychological attacks.

Intent on obliterating each member of The Shield one-by-one to cement his dominance in WWE, McIntyre defeated Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins in back-to-back weeks on Raw, yet sought to finish the extermination of The Hounds of Justice on The Grandest Stage of Them All. Reigns accepted the challenge, but many in the WWE Universe wondered if Reigns – who had just announced his cancer was in remission back in February – was making a rash decision. Based on the punishment Reigns endured for the duration of this intensely physical bout, that criticism seemed valid.

However, as McIntyre took pleasure in making The Big Dog suffer, he grew overconfident, disrespectfully slapping Reigns across the face. This brazen act woke something within Reigns, who unleashed on the sadistic Scotsman with an offensive flurry that culminated in a Spear. Following weeks of callous comments about Reigns’ family, Shield brotherhood and personal health, McIntyre was finally silenced.

The indomitable Reigns has captured the WWE Championship and defeated The Undertaker at The Showcase of the Immortals, but this victory against McIntyre at WrestleMania 35 just might be his most personal triumph.

WWE News: Rollins & Kingston take down The Bar in reconfigured main event

Kofi Kingston challenges Seth Rollins to a Winner Take All Match

If there was anything to be learned from WrestleMania, it’s that if you place a mountain in front of Kofi Kingston, he will eventually find a way to climb it. This time, the new WWE Champion sought out a new summit on his own, crashing the #RawAfterMania to challenge freshly-crowned Universal Champion Seth Rollins to a Winner Take All Match.

Kofi’s presence came as a surprise to The Beastslayer, though perhaps it shouldn’t have: Rollins has made much of his desire to be a fighting Universal Champion, and as Kofi mentioned, the main event of WrestleMania was certainly an inspiring moment. So, as far as he was concerned, it was the perfect time and place to go title for title. Rollins agreed, and the match was, apparently, on. The bad news, of course, is that one of these inspiring WrestleMania moments might end up with a very short shelf life. But a blaze of glory is its own form of history, too.

The Revival put Hawkins & Ryder’s new win streak to the test

Curt Hawkins finally won a match at WrestleMania Kickoff and the Raw Tag Team Titles, too, much to the chagrin of The Revival. But was Hawkins & Zack Ryder’s win a fluke or a harbinger of things to come? All indications point to the latter, as the new champions successfully defended their titles against Dash & Dawson in a rematch, thanks in large part to a repeat of the play-possum strategy that snapped Hawkins’ infamous streak in the first place.

The Prince of Queens’ initial attempt to feign an injury – a tweaked hammy, this time – nearly landed him a roll-up victory, but a later canny bit of strategy earned him the win when he tagged in on Ryder moments before the “Top Guys” pummeled The Ultimate Broski with the Shatter Machine. Hawkins made himself scarce until Scott Dawson went to cover the downed Ryder, then he struck, tossing Dash Wilder from the ring and rolling up Dawson to earn the pinfall. Misdirection and subterfuge is a strategy that can only work so many times, as The Revival are starting to find out. But for Curt Hawkins, at least for now, it’s a winning one.

Lars Sullivan makes his Raw debut by destroying Kurt Angle

Kurt Angle got a second chance at a fond farwell on Raw, and for the second night in a row, The Olympic Hero’s exit from WWE ended in disaster. While the WWE Hall of Famer did manage to turn the tables on Baron Corbin by dropping his cocky conqueror with an Angle Slam, his victory lap was interrupted by the appearance of Lars Sullivan, the long-awaited colossus from NXT who immediately made a statement at the Olympian’s expense, flattening him with the Freak Accident and a top-rope headbutt. No one would have begrudged Angle a mulligan on his exit from WWE, but clearly, with Lars Sullivan in the picture, fairytale endings will be hard to come by.

Bayley answers Alexa Bliss’ open challenge on Raw

As fun as it’s been to see Alexa Bliss blaze a trail on the talk show circuit, The Goddess has been conspicuous by her absence as an in-ring competitor these last few months. As it turns out, she hasn’t lost a step between the ropes – or, on the keyboard, as The Goddess used social media to prod The Boss n Hug Connection to send out one or both members of their team to the ring for her return match.

The unlucky volunteer was Bayley, and despite her recent success, The Huggable One found The Goddess to be as obstinate an opponent as ever. Bliss was so hard to put away that Bayley got uncommonly aggressive, executing a sunset flip powerbomb that bounced Bliss’ head off the turnbuckle like a basketball and may have spelled the end for Alexa had she not grabbed the rope during the pinfall attempt. The five-time Women’s Champion still had one ace in the hole: A wicked DDT for a sudden 1-2-3 that signalled her return to the WWE Universe and let The Boss n Hug Connection know that there is a long gap between blocking someone on Twitter and getting them to shut up.

Lacey Evans makes her move against Becky Lynch

Even by the standards of champions, Becky Lynch has it pretty good these days.

She has a historic main event win at WrestleMania, two titles on her shoulders, a catchy theme song and even a new rival. The Man had just finished her victory lap (complete with an open offer of a rematch to Ronda Rousey) when she ran afoul of Lacey Evans, who has made a show of strutting up and down the entrance ramp in recent weeks. This time, however, The Lady of WWE made her move, blasting Lynch in the jaw with the Woman’s Right. The fist briefly staggering the champion, but wasn’t enough to drop her, instead instigating a brawl up the ramp that ended with Lynch getting the upper hand by ensnaring Evans in the Dis-arm-her. And for all The Irish Lass Kicker’s accomplishments over the last few days, she may have inspired Evans to follow one very specific lesson of her main-event journey: To be The Man, you have to beat The Man.

Roode & Gable debut new attitude on Raw

Bobby Roode & Chad Gable have played it pretty straight-and-narrow in the ring over the last several months, but the well of success has recently run dry, and as far as they’re concerned, the good-guy shtick has all but run its course. Now, the former Raw Tag Team Champions have thrown out the rulebook, and along with it, any pretence of decency and sportsmanship.

Not even a loss to Aleister Black & Ricochet could dim the impact of the newly-refocused tandem; Roode & Gable looked as great in defeat as they ever did in victory. The One and Only barely put the match away after connecting with a leaping, one-legged Codebreaker to Gable, but Roode & Gable immediately stomped out the high-flier following the match looking none the worse for wear. As well they shouldn’t. The night seemingly wasn’t about winning or losing. It was about a statement. Consider it made.

Lashley leaves Ambrose in a heap in Lunatic Fringe’s final WWE match

Dean Ambrose’s tenure in WWE ended not with a match, but a fight, as Bobby Lashley decided he’d rather make lewd remarks about Renee Young than have a legitimate match against the former WWE Champion.

He underestimated his man, of course, as a nothing-to-lose Ambrose immediately threw hands against The All Mighty and spiked him atop the ramp with Dirty Deeds. Thanks to a distraction by Lio Rush, however, Lashley made it to his feet and countered with a Spear to Ambrose and a one-armed spinebuster that drove him through the commentary table. His business concluded, Lashley made his exit while Renee and WWE officials tended to Ambrose.

So Lashley sets out for further vindication after a less-than-ideal WrestleMania, while Ambrose goes out on his proverbial shield. The Grand Slam Champion was a lunatic who ran the asylum and went out in a heap of limbs and shattered pieces of table. It couldn’t have ended any other way.

Returning Sami Zayn to WWE Universe: “See you in hell”

Sami Zayn is back! But he’s a little different this time. The changes were apparent at first: This wasn’t the skanking Sami Zayn of NXT lore, or even the snarky Sami Zayn of just a year ago. This was a slightly quirkier Sami Zayn, with a shaved head, a loose, irreverent attitude and a few inexplicable dance moves. He also very nearly had the Intercontinental Championship after Finn Balor answered his oddly deferential open challenge (“My schedule’s wide open!”) and struggled to come up with an answer for the former NXT Champion.

But after The Extraordinary Man narrowly retained his championship, the full extent of Zayn’s transformation over the past nine months or so became apparent. Sami didn’t just shave his head and change his gear; he underwent a top-to-bottom enlightenment during his time on the shelf and formed some less-than-savory opinions about the WWE Universe. Stating that the audience is not the “voice of reason” they fancy themselves, Sami lobbed off insult after insult at the Barclays faithful and their inherent, unchecked “ugliness” before declaring he would carry a new mission statement upon his return: To “come out here week after week and hold each and every one of you accountable”. As if to drive the point home, Zayn concluded his return with a biting sign-off: “See you in hell.”

The Undertaker confronts Elias on Raw

Even the most strident of Elias doubters has to feel for him after two years of near-constant interruptions, but he objectively asked for this one: Having set aside some time to perform the rock opera that The Dr. of Thuganomics clowned at WrestleMania, The Living Truth ominously warned (during an oddly impressive freestyle, no less) that the next person who interrupted him would be a “dead man” – and just such a man answered the call.

As if summoned by The Living Truth’s ill-advised trash talk, The Undertaker emerged from whatever hereafter he’s been lurking in to step to the guitarist. Elias didn’t back down from The Deadman, though he might have been better off getting out while the getting was good: He was met with a swift boot to the face when he attempted to charge The Last Outlaw, and a chokeslam-Tombstone combo spelled the end of this performance. Elias certainly doesn’t lack for boldness, creativity, or skill, but he might do better to pick his battles – and his words more carefully.

Rollins & Kingston join forces to take down The Bar in reconfigured main event

The main event of Raw between Seth Rollins and Kofi Kingston was scheduled to be Winner Take All. And the two winners of WrestleMania did take all, though not in the way they expected: The Bar crashed the match (technically handing Kofi a disqualification win) in what was either some kind of pre-Superstar Shake-up power play or just an attempt to refocus the conversation on themselves. If it was the latter, they succeeded: Both the Universal and WWE Champion turned their gazes toward Cesaro & Sheamus, instantly reconfiguring the main event into a bout between the two champions and one of SmackDown LIVE’s deadliest tandems.

The new titleholders stepped up accordingly. The Bar – who came inches from winning the SmackDown Tag Team Titles at WrestleMania – held an early advantage as an established team, but the WWE and Universal Champions had too much momentum to be denied. Once Sheamus was dispatched on the outside, Cesaro was ripe pickings for a one-two combo of Trouble in Paradise and the Stomp.

The final moments of Raw were markedly more civil than the start of the show had been – Rollins & Kofi bumped fists and posed with their titles – but somewhat open-ended all the same: With next week’s Superstar Shake-up looming in the distance, the fate of both champions is somewhat unclear.

But with due respect to a game Cesaro & Sheamus, whatever standard is set at their ultimate destination might have to be adjusted: There’s no denying who sets the bar.

Napoli win to delay Juventus title celebrations

Napoli postponed Juventus’s march to the Serie A title and consigned Chievo to relegation with a 3-1 win at the Stadio Bentegodi on Sunday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side needed a victory to ensure that the Turin club, who lost 2-1 at SPAL on Saturday, would not wrap up their eighth consecutive league championship with a record six games to spare.

Two goals from Kalidou Koulibaly either side of an Arkadiusz Milik strike confirmed Chievo’s demotion despite Bostjan Cesar’s late consolation, after a miserable season in which the Verona club have recorded just one win in 32 games.

The result leaves second-placed Napoli on 67 points, 17 behind runaway leaders Juventus on 84.

Juve can secure the title by avoiding defeat at home to Fiorentina next weekend.

Napoli were in poor form going into the game, having lost their Europa League quarterfinal first leg against Arsenal 2-0 in London last week on the back of a draw against Genoa and defeat to Empoli in Serie A.

Ancelotti picked a strong team as he looked to return to winning ways ahead of his side’s second leg clash with the Premier League side at the Stadio San Paolo on Thursday.

“It’s always difficult to choose my team and it was today too,” the Napoli coach told Sky Sports Italia.

“I wanted to use a reliable side that had a lot of character, as against Empoli I made a lot of changes and we lost something in terms of personality.”

Goalkeeper David Ospina returned for the first time since being hospitalised after suffering a head injury in a league game with Udinese on 17 March.

Milik, Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens all started in an attack-minded line-up and Ancelotti suggested he could take the same approach for the visit of Arsenal this week.

“It’s a possibility,” he said. “I preserved Milik early in the season, but he can do great things that put him along the top strikers in Europe.

“We were surprised by the Arsenal pressing game, as we couldn’t play our way out from the back and kept trying to do it rather than attempt long balls.

“Their second half performance is more like the attitude they’ll have here at the San Paolo, so going for the counter-attack.

“I chose Insigne and Mertens together because they are both quicker than Milik, so I wanted to use their pace. I think next Thursday the key will be to play a lot of vertical passes.”

CHIEVO CONSOLATION

Napoli profited from some slack finishing when Koulibaly snuck in at the front post to head in the opener from close range after 15 minutes.

Milik doubled Napoli’s lead with a curling strike into the bottom corner from outside the box midway through the second half before Koulibaly completed his brace with a low finish inside the final 10 minutes.

Bostjan Cesar headed in from a corner to pull one back for Chievo with the final act of the game.

Domenico Di Carlo’s side have won one game, drawn 11 and lost 20 so far this season but prop up the table with just 11 points, having been handed a three-point deduction for false accounting at the start of the campaign.

Sterling double helps Man City beat Palace and top table

Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling struck twice as the Premier League champions beat Crystal Palace 3-1 at Selhurst Park on Sunday to go top of the table and heap pressure on title rivals Liverpool.

Victory left City on 83 points from 33 matches, one point above Liverpool although the Merseyside club can leapfrog Pep Guardiola’s team with a win over third-placed Chelsea later on Sunday.

The victory was the ninth straight win for City in the Premier League.

Having missed an easy chance early on, Sterling put City ahead in the 15th minute when he ran on to Kevin De Bruyne’s inch-perfect pass from behind the halfway line and fired past goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.

The England international added a second for his 17th league goal of the season after the break, meeting Leroy Sane’s first-time cross into the box with a calm left-footed finish that wrong-footed Guaita as it rolled in.

Palace ensured an entertaining finish to the contest when Luka Milivojevic scored from a free kick with nine minutes to go after midfielder James McArthur was brought down on the edge of the penalty area.

City, however, sealed the deal with their third of the match as De Bruyne latched on to a poor pass from defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka before feeding substitute Gabriel Jesus who finished emphatically.

“We controlled the ball really well but one moment in the game and they are back in it. But we responded again and got the third goal,” said Sterling, who added his belief that the title race will go down to the wire.

“100 percent the way Liverpool have been playing. It will go down to the wire. I don’t see us slowing down now. Liverpool have a great squad, great self-belief, but so do we,” said the former Liverpool forward.

Pep Guardiola’s side now face a crucial ten days starting with a home game against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday in their Champions League quarterfinal second leg, trailing 1-0 from the opening game.

City then play Spurs at the Etihad again, in the league, on Saturday before the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on April 24.

Salah screamer gives Liverpool vital win against Chelsea

Jurgen Klopp hailed “fantastic” Mohamed Salah as the key to Liverpool’s title dreams as they powered back to the top of the Premier League thanks to the Egypt star’s stunning strike in a 2-0 win over Chelsea on Sunday.

Klopp’s side had surrendered pole position a few hours earlier when Manchester City won 3-1 at Crystal Palace, piling pressure on the Reds to respond as the title race heats up.

But Liverpool rose to the challenge as Sadio Mane’s opener five minutes after the break and a blistering long-range drive from Salah two minutes later moved them two points clear of second-placed City on a raucous afternoon at Anfield.

“It was a fantastic goal from Mo. I had the best view,” Klopp said after Salah’s first goal from outside the area in the league since January 2018.

“What a finish, what a shot. But the whole move around it. Wow, brilliant.

“I’m so proud of the team, it was a fantastic performance. I’m so thankful I can be a part of this. It’s overwhelming at times.”

City have five games left compared to just four for Liverpool, leaving the destiny of the title in the hands of the champions.

But there is a growing feeling at Anfield that this will be the season Liverpool finally end their 29-year wait to be crowned kings of English football.

With City having difficult league fixtures looming against Tottenham and Manchester United, Klopp’s men are convinced they can hold onto pole position.

Their run-in is undoubtedly less daunting than City’s, with Cardiff, Huddersfield and Newcastle on the schedule before a potential title party against Wolves at Anfield.

“The first question in the meeting today was ‘what is the City score?’. You cannot avoid knowing about it,” Klopp said of a gripping title battle.

“We expect them to win all their games so we just need to get as many points as possible.

“If we’re champions then great, but if not we are still a really good football team.”

For fourth-placed Chelsea, the loss was a blow to their bid for Champions League football next season and they will drop to fifth if Arsenal win at Watford on Monday.

Claiming that Liverpool’s first goal should have been ruled out for a foul on Emerson, Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri grumbled: “In my opinion there was a foul. I think the level in Premier League is the best in the world but not for the referees.

“We stayed in the match for 50 minutes. It’s not easy of course but we have to fight to the end (for the top four).”

On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster that killed 96 Liverpool fans and in the week that club legend Tommy Smith passed away, there was even more emotion at Anfield than usual.

After a minute’s silence featuring mosaics reading “30 years” and “96” held up by fans around the ground, Liverpool’s focus was trained on avenging one of the more painful defeats in the club’s recent history.

SWEET MOMENT FOR SALAH

Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip in 2014 led to a defeat against Chelsea that effectively gifted the title to Manchester City when Liverpool had looked odds-on to lift the trophy.

But Klopp insisted his players wouldn’t be haunted by the ghosts of that collapse and they were true to his word.

“We have closed the book on that now, Klopp said about Liverpool’s Chelsea demons.

The crucial opener arrived in the 51st minute.

When Salah scampered onto Roberto Firmino’s flick in the Chelsea area, Blues defender Emerson could only prod the ball to the influential Jordan Henderson and his deft cross reached the unmarked Mane, who headed home at the far post.

Any Liverpool nerves had been wiped away by jubilant celebrations and soon after Salah blew the roof off Anfield with a moment of pure genius.

Taking possession wide on the right flank, Salah cut inside and glided away from Emerson before unleashing a sumptuous 25-yard drive that arrowed past Kepa Arrizabalaga into the far corner.

It was a sweet moment of vindication for the Egypt forward after a group of Chelsea fans were filmed chanting “Salah is a bomber” before their team’s Europa League tie at Slavia Prague on Thursday.

And Salah, a practising Muslim, celebrated his 22nd goal of the season by adopting a prayer position in front of the Kop as Liverpool moved a step closer to their holy grail.

Man Utd ‘got away with it’ admits Solskjaer

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted his side were fortunate to grab a much-needed 2-1 win over West Ham on Saturday courtesy of two Paul Pogba penalties.

Solskjaer’s men had lost four of their previous five games in all competitions and could easily have suffered another damaging defeat to their chances of a top-four Premier League finish.

West Ham had a goal harshly ruled out for offside, hit the crossbar and saw David de Gea make a wonder save to deny Michail Antonio giving them a late lead.

“They played better than us, it is fair to say, I don’t think anyone will disagree,” said the Norwegian.

“We got away with it. Sometimes we have lost when we should have won, so over a season it evens itself out.”

Solskjaer left Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay on the bench among five changes from the side that started Wednesday’s Champions League quarterfinal, first leg defeat to Barcelona.

And he admitted the quick turnaround before facing Barca again in the Camp Nou on Tuesday had affected his team selection.

“Playing on Wednesday, and today and again on Tuesday played a major factor,” he added.

“We got away with it, got three points, in a few years no-one will remember how we played if we finished in the top four.

“We rested a couple, thankfully, we got through it and we will be ready for Tuesday. With a performance like this we all know we will struggle in Barcelona, and we will have to improve.”

Victory lifted United up to fifth at the expense of Arsenal and to within two points of fourth-placed Chelsea.

Pogba penalties save Man Utd, Tottenham move up to third

Manchester United needed two Paul Pogba penalties to stay in contention for a top-four Premier League finish by beating West Ham 2-1, while Tottenham moved up to third thanks to Lucas Moura’s hat-trick in a 4-0 win over Huddersfield on Saturday.

United had lost four of their previous five games in all competitions and were extremely fortunate to get back to winning ways as West Ham had a goal ruled out for offside, hit the crossbar and saw David de Gea make a wonder save to deny Michail Antonio giving them a late lead.

However, a much-needed win moved Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men up to fifth, at the expense of Arsenal, and to within two points of Chelsea, who are fourth and hold the final Champions League spot. “They played better than us, it is fair to say, I don’t think anyone will disagree,” said Solskjaer.

“We got away with it, got three points, in a few years no-one will remember how we played if we finished in the top four.” United were gifted a first-half lead when Robert Snodgrass’s clumsy challenge brought down Juan Mata and Pogba sent his first spot-kick down the middle of the goal.

West Ham were deservedly level four minutes into the second half when Felipe Anderson turned home at the back post, and the visitors went on to enjoy the better of the chances.

Antonio crashed a shot from range off the bar before De Gea produced a stunning save to claw the West Ham forward’s header to safety. Within seconds of being saved by their captain, United had a second penalty 10 minutes from time when Ryan Fredericks chopped down Anthony Martial, and this time Pogba buried his penalty into the bottom corner. “I think we had the luck,” said Pogba.

“You always have to take it.” – Tottenham up to third – Tottenham had no such strife despite missing Harry Kane, who is expected to miss the rest of the season due to ankle ligament damage.

Dele Alli was also sidelined by a broken hand, while Mauricio Pochettino took the chance to rest some other key personnel, including Son Heung-min, ahead of the second leg of his side’s Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City, with Tottenham holding a 1-0 lead in the tie.

Lucas took his chance to shine against the already relegated Terriers to show Pochettino he could be an important weapon in Kane’s absence as Spurs look to tie down a top-four finish. “Players need to play to show their quality. The hat-trick is going to build his confidence,” said Pochettino.

Victor Wanyama opened the scoring on 24 minutes to allay any fears that Tottenham could suffer a Champions League hangover. Lucas made it 2-0 three minutes later and then struck twice more in the final three minutes as Pochettino’s men made it three wins from three at their impressive new 62,000-capacity home. – Controversial Cardiff defeat –