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Red Devils vs. Magpies

Following the victory in Amsterdam, United played one away fixture in the Premier League before the October international break. The Red Devils drew 1-1 at Southampton (October 6). Then the October international break took place before United returned to club duties with another 1-1 draw against A.F.C. Bournemouth on the south coast of England (October 20). Fortunately, United returned to winning ways by defeating Spanish side Valencia C.F. in the UEFA Champions League by a score of 2-0 at Old Trafford (October 23).

Regarding squad news, Nemanja Matić returned to first-team duties since the middle of the October international break. Having fully recovered from the ankle injury sustained against Arsenal, the Serbian was able to play a few minutes against Bournemouth. However, Yusuke also earned his right to start the majority of matches thanks to solid performances of his own. The Japanese midfielder was working hard to make it even harder for Andrew Butler to pull him out of the starting XI. Almost in a flash, October was almost over.


Thursday October 25

West Didsbury, Manchester, UK

In the evening, Kakeru, Nana, Yusuke, and Noriko had some free time together. They took the time to test a different skill: playing altogether the latest instalment of the FIFA video game series on the PlayStation 4. Noriko was teaming up with Nana while Kakeru took Yusuke in a 2v2 match.

"Noriko and I already made our fantasy team. What's your pick?" Nana asked.

"Yusuke and I have built THE Ultimate Team." Kakeru replied.

"Guys versus girls... That's quite a matchup." Yusuke said.

"Ready when you are." Noriko added.

And then the friendly match started. Settings were put at 5 minutes per half.

"I'm gonna make the run." Kakeru said.

"Oh, here's the pass... Come on, Mbappé!" Yusuke said.

"GOOOOOOAAAAL!!!" Kakeru and Yusuke shouted as their team took the lead.

"What happened to you?" Noriko asked between chuckles.

"I was pretty rubbish at defending, I guess." Nana replied with a little laugh.

Just a minute later, Nana and Noriko got on the attack.

"Great ball... Run in, Noriko." Nana said.

"Sidefoot it... YES! Come on, Cristiano Ronaldo!" Noriko shouted before she gave Nana a high five after the 1-1 goal.

"I guess we're in for quite a match." Kakeru said with a smile.

Just a few minutes later...

"You lost the ball again?" Noriko asked Nana.

"Here I go. Griezmann, go ahead." Kakeru said.

"Nice cross, it should be… OHH!" Yusuke said.

The player controlled by Yusuke failed to score the goal after a great pass by the player controlled by Kakeru. Nevertheless, that didn't keep Kakeru and Yusuke from bursting in laughter as well.

"I don't think Lewandowski would miss that in real life." Kakeru said.

"Here we go now. I'm gonna try this." Nana said.

Nana controlled the in-game version of herself, and performed a Witch Turn to beat the virtual players controlled by Kakeru and Yusuke. As a result, Nana and Noriko's team took the 2-1 lead.

"YEEEEAAAHH!!!" Nana and Noriko screamed altogether celebrating the goal.

"That's almost cheating to be able to do that in a FIFA game." Yusuke said.

"The guys at EA managed to record my motion capture, so it's 100% legal." Nana said between a few laughs.

A few minutes later, the match entered its final stage.

"I have it, I have it." Yusuke said.

"Pass it, pass it... Oh! Yikes!" Kakeru said at the moment the player controlled by Yusuke was tackled down hard by the player controlled by Noriko.

"Uh, oh... And we're down to 10 players." Noriko said.

"That was brutal." Nana added.

"That's a good spot for a free kick. I will take it with Lionel Messi." Kakeru said.

Finding his spot, Kakeru aligned the shot above the wall and into the top corner of the goal while controlling the virtual Lionel Messi.

"2-2! GET IN!!!" Kakeru and Yusuke screamed out loud.

"We had it coming anyway." Nana said.

Finally, both teams decided to settle the tie with a penalty shootout. After Nana's team scored 3 goals out of 4 attempts, and Kakeru's team scored 2 out of 3, it came down to the 4th shooter for Kakeru's team. Yusuke took control of the shooter.

"Here I go, Antoine Griezmann... AH, MISSED!" Yusuke said before he went to bury his head onto the couch to hide his embarrassment. The scene got everyone else around laughing.

“Match point for us!” Nana exclaimed.

By a strange coincidence, the in-game version of Nana was the 5th penalty taker for Nana and Noriko's team. The power and accuracy of the shot taken left no chance to the virtual goalkeeper.

"GET IN! WE WON!!!" Nana and Noriko exclaimed, celebrating the win.

"Oh, well. That was a good match, ladies." Kakeru said.

"Thanks, Kakeru." Nana replied.

"It's nice to clear our minds with something this fun together before going back to work tomorrow. You guys will have a good tactical session about your next opponent." Noriko added.

"Yeah, Newcastle United. We have to expect a team that will play a very defensive approach, perhaps more than usual." Kakeru said.

"How defensive?" Yusuke asked.

"With Rafa Benítez against one of the top teams, I say extremely defensive. Earlier in the season, he played with a 5-4-1 formation against Chelsea." Noriko replied.

"We will have most of the possession, but they can frustrate us before they hit us on the counterattack." Nana added.

"I guess it means that we have to keep working hard for 90 minutes." Yusuke said.

"That's right." Kakeru replied. "They main midfield man is a former Liverpool player: Jonjo Shelvey."

"People call him Lord Voldemort because he looks like him. An ugly and nasty piece of work." Nana added.

"I guess I should be laughing then." Yusuke said.

"Not exactly." Noriko replied. "He's one player who can play dirty and vicious, but he can lose his head pretty quickly if you give him a rough time."

"I say it's better not to get involved with him." Nana said.

"On the contrary, I think I will enjoy the challenge against him. After all, I still need to show to some English about how tough I am." Yusuke replied.

"As long as you don't do anything stupid, I'm fine." Kakeru said.

'Well, Yusuke looks pretty determined to show what he's made of. I just hope he will do things right.' Noriko thought.

Sometime later in the evening, Yusuke already left to go back to the neighboring apartment below. While Kakeru already went to sleep, Nana and Noriko took a few moments to have a little conversation about the latter's private life.

"How are things going between you and Yusuke? I noticed you are fully comfortable with him as good friends, but I haven't seen much of an attempt to go further recently." Nana said.

"Except for one time when we went to watch a movie on last Sunday, there were not many opportunities for us to make progress although we had a good time back then. To be honest, our lives have been quite hectic between September and now for both of us." Noriko replied.

"I understand. There were lots of matches, lots of training sessions, clinical placement obligations, and more. It's not ideal to push a relationship further."

"You're right, Nana. However, there's something else that came across my mind too." Noriko said.

"What is it?"

"You know that my dream has always been to become the first-team doctor at United. The question I'm asking myself is: if I push my relationship further with Yusuke, would I jeopardize my dream?" Noriko said.

"Noriko..."

"I know, it's silly for me to think about something that’s so remote in the future since I’m not a physician yet. However, I remembered when Eva Carneiro was bashed in the tabloids in the midst of her demotion from touchline duties by José Mourinho at the beginning of the 2015-16 season. Although it was unfounded bullshit, a so-called ex-boyfriend accused her of sleeping with Chelsea players. Regardless, she left Chelsea on bad terms. Since United are stricter in terms of public image, I'm worried that I would be scratched immediately from the shortlist if I am in a relationship with a player at the same time the opportunity comes by."

"How old was Eva Carneiro when she joined Chelsea's medical staff?" Nana asked.

"She was 36 when she first joined the club to work with the reserves in 2009, and then 38 when she was promoted to first-team duties." Noriko replied.

"There's plenty of time to make that dream a reality. Yusuke will either be retired or playing for a J-League team during one or two seasons at the most by the time he reaches that age. Nevertheless, he really wants to make life-lasting memories in Manchester both on and off the pitch; that’s what he told me once." Nana said.

"He said that?"

"Yep. If you ask my opinion, being in a relationship with a player doesn't mean it would be a roadblock for your aspirations if you're happy." Nana said.

"Nana..."

"The only thing that matters in your quest is that you show the people at the club that you are the best candidate available regardless of everything else. With that in mind, I don't think I have ever seen anyone who is as intelligent, good and hard-working as you are in medical studies."

Noriko remained silent for a few seconds before she finally took Nana's words to heart.

"You really mean everything you just said?" Noriko asked.

"I do at 110%. I stand by my word."

"Thank you, Nana. It means a lot to me. I guess I shouldn't have caught myself up with such thoughts." Noriko said.

"I would do anything to cheer up a very good friend." Nana replied. "I will help you in any possible way in due time, but make sure to maintain that same determination. OK?"

"OK, I promise." Noriko finished.


Saturday October 27

Manchester United vs. Newcastle (Premier League match 10)

Old Trafford, Manchester, UK

Newcastle United Football Club comes from the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, in the Northeast of England. Founded in 1892 by the merging of 2 local clubs, Newcastle United is a club that has had a good share of ups and downs throughout its history. In the 1990s and in early 2000s, the "Magpies" were highly successful in the Premier League although they won no trophies during that period. In recent years, Newcastle had to fight they back into the Premier League twice after being relegated to the lower division twice, but they also managed a 5th place in 2011-12. Regardless, a match against Newcastle still remains a tricky test for any Premier League club.

In the players' tunnel before the match:

"He's really one ugly bastard from up close." Yusuke said as he was looking at Jonjo Shelvey right next to him.

"No need to tease him now." Kakeru whispered.

"That hage (baldy) doesn't understand a word." Yusuke replied. The word was in fact a derogatory term in Japanese to call a person as "stupid" rather than to describe a man's actual baldness.

However, Jonjo Shelvey felt that he was being stared at. Thus the English midfielder turned to face Yusuke.

"What are you looking at, butthead?" Shelvey asked.

"I was thinking that you might need hair tonic with that look of yours." Yusuke replied, obviously taunting his opponent.

"Piss off." Shelvey simply replied.

Nevertheless, Yusuke's remark got everyone chuckling among the Manchester United players. A short time later, both teams walked out of the tunnel behind the referees.

For this match, Andrew fielded the following players in a 4-3-3 formation: David de Gea (goalkeeper and acting captain), Diogo Dalot (right-back), Eric Bailly (centre-back), Matthias Köhler (centre-back), Luke Shaw (left-back), Ander Herrera (central midfielder), Yusuke Saeki (central midfielder), Paul Pogba (central midfielder), Kakeru Aizawa (right forward), Romelu Lukaku (striker), and Alexis Sánchez (left forward). Nana was starting on the bench, but she was also waiting for a possible opportunity to have a go against a tired opponent later on.

As people expected of Newcastle, they started with the following 5-4-1 formation: Martin Dúbravka (goalkeeper), DeAndre Yedlin (right-back), Jamaal Lascelles (right centre-back and captain), Fabian Schär (centre-back), Ciaran Clark (left centre-back), Paul Dummett (left-back), Ayoze Pérez (right midfielder), Mohamed Diamé (central midfielder), Jonjo Shelvey (central midfielder), Kenedy (left midfielder), and Salomón Rondón (striker). Instead of wearing their traditional black and white striped shirts, the Newcastle field players wore sky blue shirts on the day.

Transporting the action to the 15th minute, your commentator is Ian Crocker.

Ian Crocker: A pass towards Shelvey... dispossessed by Saeki.

An attempted pass from a Newcastle player was made towards Shelvey, but Yusuke came in with a good tackle that surprised the Englishman. Having retrieved the ball, Yusuke started the counterattack by launching the ball towards Kakeru from the center circle.

Ian Crocker: He finds Aizawa on the right.

Kakeru was leading the charge forward in full speed until he stopped his run just before the byline. Kakeru came up facing Newcastle defender Ciaran Clark, but he easily took him out of the equation with a skillful feint to create some space.

'There is some space. He defenders have fallen back too deep there.' Kakeru thought.

When Kakeru saw the gap between the Newcastle defenders and midfielders, he immediately kicked a low ball intended for a teammate.

Ian Crocker: It's a good ball by Aizawa...

And that teammate was the Spaniard, Ander Herrera. With the ball laid out almost like on a silver plate, Ander smashed the ball into the bottom corner at the goalkeeper's right to give his team the lead.

Ian Crocker: It's smashed in by Ander Herrera! Manchester United take the lead after a quarter of an hour gone.

"Nice goal, Ando!" Kakeru congratulated Ander.

"Thanks, Knight. Great pass too."

Meanwhile in the stands, Noriko was attending the match with her father as usual. However, Sarah and Taeko Ishiki received Sayuri and Harry's tickets for this match. Regarding Taeko, she quickly became the captain of the revived Manchester United Ladies team since its reinstatement.

"It's good to see Ander score today." Sarah said.

"Indeed. He doesn't play as often as he would like these days, but he's such a good guy, and he deserves the goal." Noriko replied.

"It's a great start, alright. We should just keep on attacking them." Taeko said in English to keep everyone in the same conversation.

"Yeah. It's a good way to play against a team coached by Rafa Benitez." Noriko finished.

And so the match carried on with United controlling most of the play. The Red Devils were looking to find the gap to punch in, hoping to crush Newcastle’s morale before halftime. However, Newcastle were still holding onto a slender gap between the 2 sides. The Newcastle manager made an adjustment by ordering Irish defender Ciaran Clark to mark Kakeru very tightly. With a reputation of playing a very hard game, the Irishman was about to give Kakeru a hard time.

In the 24th minute:

Ian Crocker: Now Köhler for Manchester United.

Matthias was strolling with the ball from just inside his own half, looking for someone to pass to just as the Newcastle players were puling several players back to defend their own half. The German defender then made a pass ahead towards Romelu.

Ian Crocker: Lukaku... to Herrera...

With no room forward, Romelu passed the ball 5 yards backwards to Ander. Then the Spaniard attempted a through pass towards Kakeru’s run. The Japanese forward timed his run well against the offside trap.

Ian Crocker: Great pass towards Aizawa...

Kakeru was chasing after the ball inside the penalty area, but so was Ciaran Clark. Knowing that Kakeru would have an open path for goal if nothing was done, the Irishman never hesitated by going in with a hard tackle that sent Kakeru flying. The vast majority inside Old Trafford shouted for a penalty kick, but the referee saw that Clark got to the ball before the follow-through knocked Kakeru down.

Ian Crocker: What a tackle by Clark!

"What the hell is that?!" Kakeru shouted at the referee, who didn't reply.

"That's a dangerous tackle! Inside the box! How did you miss that?" Pog asked as well.

"How can he get away with that? That should be a penalty. You messed up big time; that's a really bad call." Matthias also protested.

Meanwhile in the stands:

"Is that referee joking? Even I could see that from here, you meatheaded cretin." Noriko said out loud.

"That's bloody ridiculous!" Sarah exclaimed.

"Nah. It was close, but I think he got the ball first. We don't like to see Kakeru getting decked like that, but I think it's the right call." Robert said.

"How can you tell, Uncle Robert?" Taeko asked in Japanese.

"The linesman was in a good spot. He would have been the first to make the call if it was 100% illegal." Robert replied.

"Damn! I hate to see that!" Noriko cursed.

"It could have been worse though. At least, Kakeru can still carry on." Sarah finished.

Following that incident, the Manchester United players were being tested more by the Magpies. It was difficult for the Red Devils to get into dangerous areas as the visiting side didn't mind "parking the bus". Nevertheless, United were also good at retrieving the ball before they kept piling up the pressure again.

In the 32nd minute:

Ian Crocker: It's towards Shelvey... cut by Saeki.

Following another bad pass from a Newcastle player, Yusuke intercepted the pass. Then Yusuke passed the ball across the halfway line to Kakeru.

Ian Crocker: A pass to Aizawa...

Kakeru first attempted a pass towards Alexis, but it was blocked by a Newcastle player. Nevertheless, the loose ball bounced back towards Ander, who then passed to Luke on the left wing.

Ian Crocker: Herrera... Shaw...

Spotting Alexis on the run ahead of him, Luke launched the pass towards him. Then Alexis was facing the Newcastle captain, Jamaal Lascelles, a few yards from the Newcastle penalty area.

Ian Crocker: Sánchez... comes up against Lascelles.

When everyone expected Alexis to try dribbling his way against the Newcastle captain, the Chilean chose to launch an aerial ball towards the front of the goal. The ball flew above both Romelu and Newcastle defender Fabian Schär, but it was in a good spot for Kakeru at the far post.

Ian Crocker: Long ball to Aizawa! He fluffed it!

Kakeru didn't touch the ball as cleanly as he would have wished for, but he still saved the ball from going out of bounds by kicking it back towards the front of the goal. And then Yusuke let the ball bounce once on the pitch before he took a jumping left-footed volley in mid-air.

Ian Crocker: IT'S SAEKIIIII!!!

The shot flew like an arrow, out of the goalkeeper's reach, off the inside of the post, and into the back of the net. The 75,000+ spectators inside Old Trafford got on their feet, the vast majority celebrating a very spectacular goal.

Ian Crocker: United have doubled the lead through Yusuke Saeki! The supporters love it at Old Trafford! It's Saeki's first goal at Old Trafford for Manchester United!

"YOSHAAA!!!" Yusuke shouted.

"Great goal! Great goal, Yusuke! You banged that one!" Kakeru exclaimed.

"Thanks, Kakeru. Great reflex pass too." Yusuke replied.

"Huge goal!" Romelu also congratulated Yusuke.

"Big goal, Yusuke!" Matthias added to the congratulations while the rest of the Manchester United field players mugged the Japanese midfielder.

Meanwhile on the bench:

"Perfect timing with that goal." Nana said.

"On en avait besoin (We needed it)." Anthony remarked.

"Mets-en! (You bet!)" Nana replied to Anthony.

At the same time, in the stands:

"GREAT GOAL, YUSUKE!!!" Noriko shouted.

"That was amazing!" Sarah exclaimed.

"I thought for a second that Kakeru kicked the ball out, but good thing that he had the awareness to keep the lay alive with a blind pass towards the front of the Newcastle penalty area." Taeko said in Japanese.

"Yeah, Kakeru put a second effort there. Then Saeki's shot... the technique and right on the inside of the post. No one was going to stop that." Robert replied to Taeko.

"The ball was high above the ground too. He had to go with both feet off the floor. So think of having to keep control, keep the power and the accuracy... That is just pure brilliance by Yusuke." Noriko finished.

United were up by a pair of goals just as they wanted to be. However, one danger of a 2-goal lead was that the team in front may drop their energy levels unconsciously. Feeling the urgency to score at least one goal in order to plant a seed of doubt in the minds of the local team and its supporters, the Magpies launched more attacks and counterattacks against the Red Devils.

In the 44th minute:

Ian Crocker: It's towards Aizawa... now kicked away by Kenedy to Dummett.

After a game of see-saw with the ball, Newcastle retrieved the ball inside their own half. Paul Dummett then passed the ball Kieran Clark. The Irishman then passed forward towards Brazilian left midfielder Kenedy, who then kicked the ball ahead for Salomón Rondón. Within a few seconds, the Venezuelan striker entered the Manchester United penalty area with Eric Bailly in front of him.

Ian Crocker: Here's Salomón Rondón...

Instead of taking a shot, Rondón chose to let the ball roll across the penalty area. Unseen to most people on the pitch, the Newcastle right-back was beating Luke for speed in his run. And suddenly, the gap was wide open for the Newcastle player to shoot in. 

Ian Crocker: DeAndre Yedlin is making a great run... and IT'S IN!!!

Much to the dismay of the Manchester United supporters, their team conceded a goal against the run of play. Inside Old Trafford, it was total silence except for the noise coming from the Newcastle United supporters in the Southeast corner of the stadium.

Ian Crocker: It's a spectacular run by the American right-back! Newcastle have cut the deficit in half; it's Manchester United 2-1 Newcastle United.

Meanwhile in the stands:

"Oh, come on!" Noriko exclaimed with a mix of disappointment and disgust.

"Yedlin is one of the fastest players in the Premier League. Shaw was never going to catch him, unfortunately." Sarah replied.

"It's easy to pin the blame on Shaw, but Köhler should have seen him coming too. If he put himself between Yedlin and the goal, there's no way we would get scored on." Robert said.

"Yeah, we fell asleep right there. I hope Butler will wake them up at halftime." Noriko said.

"Me too." Taeko added.

Manchester United players and supporters alike could only shake their heads in disbelief; the Magpies planted the seed of doubt. Less than a couple of minutes later, the halftime whistle was blown by the referee, and both teams retreated to their respective dressing rooms.

Inside the Manchester United dressing room:

"You OK?" Nana asked Kakeru.

"Yeah, but Clark is giving me a hard time out there. I have to find a way to get past him." Kakeru replied.

"I know you can do it. Just don't waste too much energy for nothing while doing so."

"OK." Kakeru said. "Not too tired, Yusuke?"

"Not at all. I'm having fun out there."

"That was a cracking goal." Kakeru said.

"Yeah, but I'm having my share of fun by neutralizing Jonjo Shelvey. I have a feeling that he's getting more frustrated because of me." Yusuke replied.

Then Andrew came in to give his instructions for the second half: "Alright, lads. It's disappointing that we conceded just before halftime, but being ahead is still a big positive. The thing is that you have to play the ball faster against a team like that. Everyone has to support the player with the ball. Keep your feet moving at all times. Be aware of your surroundings. That's what I want to see in the second half, people. Let's do this!"

The players replied with a good round of applause in approval. Following the team talk, Andrew ordered the 7 substitutes to leave the room. The substitutes had to make a few exercises on the Old Trafford pitch while the 11 starters took their time to absorb the last few instructions from the manager.


The second half started with the Red Devils still controlling most of the play. The only difference was that the home side took a more aggressive approach both offensively and defensively. The Magpies didn't have much time with the ball. However, things didn't look like improving for Kakeru against Ciaran Clark as the latter still used all the little dirty tricks in the book to stop the Japanese striker. Kakeru's growing frustration was about to boil over on the pitch.

In the 60th minute:

Ian Crocker: Pogba... he finds Lukaku.

After a link-up play between the Frenchman and the Belgian, Romelu ran several yards ahead before he spotted Kakeru angling a run towards the space between a couple of Newcastle defenders. The Belgian striker launched the through pass destined to his Japanese teammate.

'That's it, Rom.' Kakeru thought.

However, the retreating Ciaran Clark lunged in with quite a rash tackle to knock Kakeru down to the ground. But because Clark didn't play the ball at the time of the contact, the incident was seen as an impeding foul. Hence the referee blew his whistle, and gave a free kick to the Mancunians.

Ian Crocker: It's a free kick for Manchester United, and perhaps more to come against Clark.

Despite having the foul called against him, Ciaran Clark still came in to give Kakeru a verbal jab: "Get off the grass, Nikon."

The ethnic slur used in the remark was the straw that broke the camel's back. Kakeru then stood up, and went on to confront the Irishman.

"HEY! What's your problem?" Kakeru shouted before he moved dangerously close and face-to-face with Clark.

You're the problem, you ****.” Clark said.

"Oh, yeah? I only see one **** here, and he's in front of me!" Kakeru replied at the same time the referee came in to stand between the 2 belligerents. Furthermore, players from both teams came in either to separate Kakeru and Clark, or to give a piece of their minds against the opposition.

Ian Crocker: Things are boiling between Aizawa and Clark. You can say it has been coming for a while.

In the aftermath, the referee came in to give the lone yellow card to Ciaran Clark for the previous tackle. Nevertheless, Kakeru was also warned by the referee that the next infringement will result in a yellow card at least.

On the Manchester United bench:

"Kakeru is tired and frustrated. I think you should sub him off." Coach McKenna said.

"Not yet. I still have faith in him. He's also wearing down Ciaran Clark by acting as a constant source of danger for the Newcastle defenders. Let's give him a few more minutes." Andrew replied.

Despite a good position, the following free kick led to nothing as Pog shot it wide. Everyone thought that the confrontation between Kakeru and Ciaran Clark was a sign of emotions boiling over, but no one saw anything yet as a different confrontation was about to take a dramatic turn that would influence the future course of events in the match.

In the 64th minute:

Ian Crocker: Here's Saeki... Herrera...

Passing the ball in midfield, Yusuke attempted to complete a give-and-go with Ander. However, the pass by Ander was going a little far. Newcastle's Mohamed Diamé was in a position to intercept the ball. However, Yusuke didn't hesitate when he went in with a strong tackle.

Ian Crocker: Saeki clatters into Diamé. Referee says play on.

Much to the anger of the Newcastle players, there was no foul. Yusuke got the ball with a fair challenge before he sent the player down according to the referee. The play continued for a few more seconds before Newcastle retrieved the ball.

Ian Crocker: Newcastle trying to build on something here. Diamé...

Mohamed Diamé attempted a pass towards Jonjo Shelvey, but Yusuke came in to tackle the ball away from the Englishman. This time, it was with a sliding tackle.

Ian Crocker: Tackled by Saeki again...

However, the Newcastle midfielder, who was fed up with having to deal with Yusuke everywhere, suddenly saw red. Standing above Yusuke, who just completed his tackle, Shelvey stomped on Yusuke's leg. Obviously, Yusuke didn't take it too well.

"HEY! Come and fight me!" Yusuke quickly stood up to confront Shelvey.

"Come on then, you ****!" Shelvey and Yusuke were already bumping chests.

"No! No! Don't do it, Yusuke!" Kakeru jumped in to restrain Yusuke.

"Jonjo, come here. Only you, Jonjo." the referee asked Shelvey over.

Ian Crocker: It looks like Jonjo Shelvey could be in trouble here for the stamp on Yusuke Saeki.

"Come on, I barely touched him. What about his tackle?" Shelvey pleaded his case.

"His tackle was fair. But you used your studs to stamp on Saeki. That's a no-no with me. You're off." the referee replied before he produced a red card, much to the joy of the Manchester United supporters at Old Trafford.

Ian Crocker: It's a red card against Jonjo Shelvey! and Newcastle have to play the next 26 minutes with 10 men!

Shelvey was distraught at the referee's decision. He made the long walk of shame under the jeers of the crowd. Noriko and Sarah were not going to stand there without giving their 2 cents at someone they have hated for years.

"How do you like it now?! Not so bright now, are ya?" Sarah shouted at Shelvey.

"You should grow some hair. You'd look not so fookin' stupid!" Noriko added to the taunts.

Back on the pitch:

"I'm glad you didn't do anything stupid there, Yusuke." Kakeru said.

"That was only an act. If I really wanted to deck him, I would have done it already."

"Are you serious?" Kakeru asked.

"You never saw me in a scrap. He doesn't scare me one bit." Yusuke replied, leaving Kakeru disconcerted.

After Shelvey left the pitch, Newcastle were pushed back into their own half by relentless pressure from Manchester United. The Red Devils could smell blood as they knew a 3rd goal would be a dagger to the hearts of the Tyneside club's supporters. Less than 2 minutes after Shelvey's sending off, United launched another attack. 

In the 66th minute:

Ian Crocker: Here's Saeki. He's looking for support... Pogba.

Looking to find a partner as he was holding onto the ball at short distance from the Newcastle penalty area, Pog found Kakeru waving his arm up asking for a pass. Then the French midfielder went for some creativity by chipping the ball behind the Newcastle defenders and inside the penalty area. At the very same moment, Kakeru managed to move into Clark's blind side on the run forward. Desperate to stop the danger, Clark grabbed Kakeru's shirt, and dragged him to the ground.

PEEP!

Ian Crocker: Aizawa's brought down! It's a penalty for Manchester United!

Realizing that he committed a serious foul, Clark walked to the referee in an attempt to plead his case. However, the referee asked for any other player to walk away while the Irishman Ciaran Clark is the only player being summoned.

"Come on. He just fell down on his own. That's not a penalty." Ciaran Clark said.

"Ciaran, come here." the referee replied. "I already gave you both verbal warnings and a yellow card. You won't get away this time; you’re off."

Ian Crocker: And Ciaran Clark is gonna get a second yellow... and Newcastle are down to 9 men! First it was Shelvey. Now it's Clark. This could spell the end for Newcastle today.

The second yellow card and the ensuing automatic red card left Ciaran Clark stunned before he turned his gaze for a moment at Kakeru. The Newcastle defender had a look of utter disgust on his face.

"If we score, I think you can start banging your head on a wall for some time." Kakeru said.

"We'll see if you can keep your shit in January." the Irishman replied.

"Just piss off!" Romelu gave his 2 cents to the Newcastle and Republic of Ireland defender.

Clark was then urged by his teammates to let it go. On the way to the players' tunnel, he was greeted with jeers and insults from the home supporters. Among the spectators, Noriko, her relatives, and her friend took their shots at the Newcastle defender.

"How do you feel now? You're shite!" Noriko taunted.

"Get off the grass, tosspot!" Robert added.

"Go home, scumbag!" Taeko added as well.

Meanwhile, the Manchester United players were expecting Pog to take the penalty kick at the time. However, Kakeru uncharacteristically took the ball all for himself when Pog was the official designated penalty taker.

"Hey, Kakeru. What are you doing? I'm supposed to take the penalty." Pog asked.

"I'm going to ram it down Clark's throat. Don't you dare taking that one away from me." Kakeru replied.

"Come on, man. We have never seen you take penalties before." Pog said.

"Let him take it." Matthias said to Pog before he turned towards Kakeru. "It's all yours, Knight."

"OK, you take it." Pog said.

"OK." Kakeru then took the ball towards the penalty spot.

Ian Crocker: Paul Pogba is supposedly the designated penalty taker, but it looks like Kakeru Aizawa will take the penalty this time. This is intriguing.

The referee ordered all players to stand outside the penalty area except for the pnalty taker, Kakeru, and the Newcastle goalkeeper, Martin Dúbravka. While Kakeru blanked himself out from any distraction in the vicinity, only one thought came up to his mind: the desire to rub even more salt in Ciaran Clark's wound with a goal that would almost bury the Magpies for good. When ready, the referee gave the OK.

PEEP!

Kakeru made his run while looking towards the left of Martin Dúbravka. The Newcastle goalkeeper chose to dive to his own left, but Kakeru's shot was pounded hard and accurate into the top corner at the goalkeeper's right. Old Trafford erupted for the 3rd time of the afternoon as Kakeru extended United's advantage to 3-1.

Ian Crocker: Clinical finish by Aizawa. Manchester United have now regained their 2-goal cushion with less than 25 minutes to go.

"That's how to do it, Knight. Well done." Matthias congratulated Kakeru.

"You made him pay big time." Romelu added.

"That bastard can now go home in tears." Yusuke said.

After the Manchester United players stopped celebrating, and moved on the way to the restart, Kakeru threw a punch forward in mid-air while shouting "YATTA!!! (I MADE IT!!!)". All of his accumulated frustration was vented in an instant. Before the restart was taken, Andrew ordered 2 substitutions to be made.

Alan Keegan: Double substitution for Manchester United: replacing number 7, Alexis Sánchez, and number 21, Ander Herrera... number 11, Anthony Martial, and number 19, Nana Mishima.

Originally, Andrew thought to subbing Kakeru off. However, Kakeru's perseverance earned his manager's trust to finish the match off on the pitch. Nana came on to replace Ander while Anthony was replacing Alexis on the left flank. When Nana came on the pitch, Kakeru was the most relieved player for his team out there.

"I'm glad to see you on, Seven. I really thought I would get subbed off there." Kakeru said to Nana.

"The manager and the coaches thought about it, but Butler really liked the way you put the effort to grab the 3rd goal." Nana replied.

"I'm happy to hear it. Go kick some butt with no Ciaran Clark to bother you."

"Count on me, Kakeru." Nana said.

The dismissal of Ciaran Clark combined to Kakeru's goal appeared to have flattened the Newcastle United players. Down to 9 men, the Magpies were left to play the remaining time in damage control mode. Nevertheless, that didn't stop United from going for the jugular through their new attacking options in the 71st minute.

Ian Crocker: Saeki... Pogba... He overhits the pass to Martial.

Pog's pass was intended for Anthony, but went towards a Newcastle defender instead. However, that defender didn't expect the pass to come with such velocity, and thus the ball bounced off him, allowing Anthony to apply pressure. When Anthony retrieved the ball, he knew that Nana was standing in a good position. Following Anthony's pass, Nana made her run towards the Newcastle goal with the ball.

Ian Crocker: Martial steals it... Mishima...

Nana escaped one tackle from the defender who lost the ball, then beat a second defender with an elastico feint before shifting her body to the right, and then pushed her run even further after getting past a third Newcastle defender who tried to tackle her. At that moment, only goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka stood in her way. Picking her spot, the Little Witch pounded a low drive across the helpless Newcastle goalkeeper and in.

Ian Crocker: And Mishima... OOOHHH YEEEEEESSS!!!

That little piece of individual effort got the 72,000+ Manchester United supporters jumping off their seats to unleash an explosive roar. Everyone knew that a very special goal to remember just happened in front of their eyes. At the same time, the Newcastle players, down on their knees, could only look at each other while asking for an explanation. Meanwhile, Nana was quickly mobbed by her teammates to be congratulated for a goal to remember.

"That's astonishing, Seven! You're the best!" Kakeru shouted.

"Gorgeous! That was gorgeous, Nana!" Yusuke added.

"Thanks, guys!" Nana replied.

"You made them all look like crap. Love it, Witch!" Matthias said.

"Hehe, nice to hear it, Matthias." Nana replied.

Meanwhile in stands:

"That's the stuff of legend, Nana! Stuff of legend!" Noriko shouted from her seat.

"This is magnificent! She just skipped past 3 defenders as if they weren't there." Sarah said.

"She just scored a similar goal to what Paul Scholes did against Blackburn Rovers in 2007; it's almost identical." Robert replied.

"You're right, Dad. That's almost the same thing." Noriko said.

"It's an OMG! moment just as I like them."  Sarah added.

"That's the goal of the month for me." Taeko finished.

Scholes vs

Scholes vs. Blackburn (2007)

March 31, 2007.

For the remaining minutes of the match, Newcastle gave up the fight while United made sure to run down the clock without getting into incidents that would either lead to unwanted disciplinary actions or injuries. Only 2 minutes after Nana's goal, Pog made way for Nemanja Matić. Although it was only a short period of time on the day, the partnership between Yusuke and Nemanja severely punished the Newcastle midfielders with good tackles. The score remained unchanged at the very end of the match.

Ian Crocker: It's over. Andrew Butler's Manchester United, comfortable winners, have found their winning ways back. Ander Herrera opened the score for the home side. Romelu Lukaku doubled the lead before DeAndre Yedlin cut the deficit. Then Kakeru Aizawa added a third goal on a penalty before Nana Mishima settles it all with a magnificent solo effort. It was a much needed victory ahead of the next 2 Premier League matches before the international break. The final score: Manchester United 4-1 Newcastle United.


After the match, Noriko, Taeko, and Sarah were walking their way outside Old Trafford. Robert already left on his own to go back home. After matches, Noriko sometimes looked for fellow hardcore United fans to talk with. One of those acquainted fans spotted Noriko.

"Hey, Red Kate!" a man shouted. That person has a tan skin, black short hair, and a black beard.

"Oh hello, Adam! You enjoyed the match?" Noriko replied.

"Quite a lot although things were a little hairy at 2-1." Adam replied. "Hey, is that Taeko Ishiki with you?"

"Yep! She's my cousin from my mother's side." Noriko replied.

"My name's Taeko Ishiki. What is your name?"

"I'm Adam McKola. I'm a reporter for the Manchester United fan YouTube channel called FullTimeDEVILS. Nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you too, M. McKola." Taeko replied before she turned back to Noriko "Why did he call you 'Red Kate'?"

"That's my nickname when I'm around hardcore United fans like Adam, Tae-itoko. I only used a derivative of my middle name, Catherine, and it makes it easier for them to remember."

"I see."

"Wanna give your post-match reactions in front of the camera, you two? I have plenty of reactions as usual, but I would really like to have your reactions separately if possible." Adam asked.

"Sure!" Noriko replied.

"Why not? That should be fun." Taeko added.

"You two go ahead. I'll just stand here waiting on the side." Sarah said.

Then Adam and Noriko positioned themselves in front of the cameraman working for the YouTube channel while making sure Old Trafford was visible in the background.

Adam McKola: Hi, guys! Adam McKola here for FullTimeDEVILS. I'm outside Old Trafford where United have beaten Newcastle by a score of 4-1. Kate, what do you make of the performance?

Noriko: I think we controlled most of the play overall. After we scored the second goal, I think United went to sleep a little at the end of the first half when they scored. Otherwise, Newcastle have done nothing but defend, and United went back in the second half giving nothing to them. We had a crazy moment when Shelvey got himself sent off. Then Ciaran Clark got sent off, and Kakeru Aizawa scored the penalty. After that, Nana Mishima scored an absolute peach of a goal. Plenty of positives despite a short period of time where things were hairy. We are back to winning ways in the League, and we needed that before playing the Scousers next week.

Adam McKola: Who is your man of the match?

Noriko: Hmm... I would say Yusuke Saeki. He gave the Newcastle midfielders nothing today, he put in a number of good passes forward, and that goal was just sublime.

Adam McKola: Last question... What do you make of the incident between Yusuke Saeki and Jonjo Shelvey today?

Noriko: If I answer that, you will have to add one or two bleeps in there.

Adam McKola: You can swear.

Noriko: Shelvey is one of the dirtiest *beeeeeep* I have ever seen in the Premier League. I always despised ever since the days when he played for Liverpool. If anything, I'm glad that Saeki got under his skin and got him sent off without retaliating further. Football doesn't need *beep* pieces of work like him.

Adam McKola: Well, the point is clear. Thanks, Kate.

After the cameraman finished filming the little interview with Noriko, Adam asked Taeko to give her own reaction in front of the fan camera. It was more or less routine for the former Nadeshiko Japan captain.

Adam McKola: Hi, folks! Adam McKola here for FullTimeDEVILS. United have beaten Newcastle. I'm with Taeko Ishiki, player for the Manchester United Women's team. What do you think of the performance?

Taeko: To be honest, it was not easy to watch at times because Newcastle came in to park the bus. But I think United played the right way in the circumstances; you can't expect to beat Newcastle without working hard, and that's what they did. The goal I will definitely never forget is Nana Mishima's solo goal.

Between questions, a few male United fans went into the background, and shouted "UNITED! UNITED!" before they left the frame. The little moment got Adam and Taeko smiling a little.

Adam McKola: Speaking of Nana Mishima's goal, how good was that?

Taeko: No disrespect to Yusuke Saeki, Nana scored the goal of the month for me. She has been doing that since she arrived on the big stage when she was 15. She will always find an opening to get past defenders, men's game or women's game, and then have a quality finish at the end.

Adam McKola: Who's your man of the match?

Taeko: I would say Yusuke Saeki. He bossed the midfield.

Adam McKola: Thank you, Taeko Ishiki.

Before Adam went on to collect a few more post-match reactions, he and Noriko had a little talk about the next match.

"Next Saturday is going to be a big match." Noriko said.

"I know. Are you joining the travelling band as usual for away matches in the Northwest?" Adam asked.

"Yep! I already bought my ticket as well as my cousin's."

"Nice. The pickup spot for the buses is the same as usual, so make sure to be there early in the morning on Saturday. And don't forget to change time on the clock tonight." Adam said.

"I will. Thanks." Noriko replied, and then Adam left.

"I must say I'm never went to an away game in Anfield before. Is it OK for a celebrity to join the traveling supporters?" Taeko asked Noriko.

"Of course, Tae-itoko. I have seen players and former players joining the group when they didn't have any obligation on their schedule. I have also seen actor James Nesbitt once when I went to the Emirates Stadium in 2013. It will be fun."

"I can't wait to see that." Taeko finished.

A couple of hours later, Kakeru and Nana were attending a little post-match party with their teammates. At one point, Kakeru received a message from Noriko on his smartphone.

"Ah, it looks like Noriko is featuring in another video." Kakeru said.

"A video?" Yusuke asked.

"She gives post-match reactions sometimes on a YouTube channel for Manchester United fans." Nana replied.

"Let's have a look." Kakeru said.

Kakeru, Nana, and Yusuke then saw the videos from Noriko and Taeko's interviews on the FullTimeDEVILS channel. The 3 Japanese players could only smile at the way their friends gave their comments.

"Same old, Noriko. She earned the last word spot on there." Kakeru said.

"She is really passionate. You think she will come to the match at Anfield next week?" Yusuke asked.

"She definitely will." Nana finished.

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