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Man United, Liverpool must be better

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Fulham's Mladen Petric celebrates his second goal of the day against Norwich.
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Rob Stone

A 15-year broadcast veteran, Rob Stone is the lead host for FOX Soccer Match Day, Goals on Sunday and UEFA Champions League coverage. Follow him on Twitter.

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For a few brief days, Fulham held first place in the Premier League—before Chelsea’s midweek win gave the Blues the top spot. But the surprising start to the season for the Cottagers should have everyone—including Manchester United—paying attention.

Manchester United vs. Fulham (Saturday, 10 AM ET, FOX Soccer)

The Red Devils are probably scratching their heads after their 1-0 loss to Everton.

Yes, they are very thin at centerback, and need a little bit of time to incorporate Robin van Persie into the lineup. However, I think Everton is a massively underrated side that will make a lot more noise this season—so the Toffees’ win wasn't as big of an upset.

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Still, if you’re a Manchester United fan, your expectations were clearly higher than losing and not scoring a goal on the road.

I am not one to ever doubt Sir Alex Ferguson, but I was very interested to hear his postgame remarks, where he complained that his players did not incorporate van Persie as much as they should have into the game.

I fully anticipate RVP to be in the starting 11 against Fulham, and for the Red Devils to come out more motivated for this second game. They’re going to prove that they are the great Manchester United.

That being said, I have to give tons of credit to Fulham. Coming off that big 5-0 win, they have lots of confidence as they head to Old Trafford.

I love how they played in their opener, even without Clint Dempsey — who will again be sitting this one out. His saga is not going to end for another week or so—I’ll chime in on that situation after we check out the rest of the action coming up this weekend.

Chelsea vs. Newcastle (Saturday, 12:30 PM ET, FOX Soccer)

Chelsea may be top of the table with two wins over the course of just a couple of days, but the level of competition wasn’t like what they’ll face when they host Newcastle this weekend.

Newcastle had a flat first 45 in their opener, but then woke up and picked up a strong win over Tottenham. It will be interesting to see how The Toon plays without their manager Alan Pardew, who is suspended for this one—in case you missed it, he shoved the assistant referee and is facing some time off.

Not a lot of folks have given Newcastle credit coming into this season. I think it’s because they didn’t make a lot of moves—but they didn’t need to. Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse scored the goals. Now as a combo, they weren’t all that great, but who cares? The bottom line is that they have two potent goal-scorers, and Newcastle is an important team to keep an eye on.

But Chelsea have Eden Hazard, who appears to be the off-season pick-up of the league, if not the entire soccer world. He’s led them to a hot start and Chelsea are set up nicely to pick up a quick nine points and tell everybody that they are the front-runners in the BPL.

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Stoke City vs. Arsenal (Sunday, 8:25 AM ET, FOX Soccer)

Stoke is making a play to become my new favorite Premier League team, because all I do is cheer for my Americans. I’m hoping Geoff Cameron makes his debut this weekend. He’s a wonderful addition and his style will fit right in to England. There’s also talk that Maurice Edu (who paired with him in the USA’s historic win over Mexico) may be joining him at Stoke as well.

Arsenal is coming off a frustrating home scoreless draw with Sunderland over the weekend. On the bright side, they attempted 23 shots. The Gunners’ new pick-up, Santi Cazorla created seven goal-scoring chances in his debut—more than any other player on the day.

I still think Arsenal has better days ahead of them in their post-RvP world, and I anticipate them making a move or two to strengthen their squad.

Liverpool vs. Manchester City (Sunday, 10:30 AM ET, FOX Soccer)

There is no doubt that just one game is a completely small and unfair sample set—yet, welcome to the Premier League, where judgments are rushed and conclusions jumped to based on a single match.

Was Liverpool's performance a flat one on the road in week one? Absolutely. But has Brendan Rodgers lost his team, as some have already suggested? It is way, way, way too early to say that.

Our cameras for BEING: Liverpool are still filming and they were in the locker room at halftime. I was told that Steven Gerrard was shooting some nasty glances at our camera crew. But that’s the stress of being Liverpool.

The biggest question on my mind isn’t our cameras – it’s what are Liverpool going to do with Andy Carroll? He might be slightly injured, but his playing time through week one has got to be questioned. This is a guy who fought his way into the national team pool for England, and represented them at the Euros. To have him just sitting on the bench doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Manchester City cannot continue to play this unbelievable, dramatic style of soccer. As much as I love it, and the viewers as well, Roberto Mancini is losing years off his life! Last week we saw a remarkable comeback by City, and I expect them to win this game.

But Liverpool cannot fall to 0-2 under the Brendan Rodgers regime and not expect some fallout.

Swansea City vs. West Ham

The three sides newly promoted from the Championship did themselves proud over the weekend, including the Hammers, who got a win in their return to the Premier League.

But, the side that really impressed me, and has a lot of people talking is Swansea. They lose manager Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool, but in comes seasoned pro Michael Laudrup.

They dismantled QPR on the road — easily. They had two or three more gears left in their tank. Now, they have the opportunity to go home and get a 2-0 start to their campaign. I think this Swansea team is one that a lot of managers from around the league are going to be asking for the tape on their previous games just a little bit earlier than they would have in the past.

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And while we weren’t on the subject…

It’s really hard to get a good grasp on what the Clint Dempsey situation is. Liverpool is saying that yes there was interest earlier, but the price is too high. But the word I hear is that Dempsey is just “too old” for Liverpool.

Too old? He’s 29! When did 29 become too old? If that’s the case, I’ve been “too old” for too long, apparently.

I’m really starting to question the strategy by Clint—essentially sitting out, or at least forcing Fulham’s hand to have him sit out.

In my eyes, he should be playing. Be a good soldier, but also let the team know in the back room, away from us, that he wants out. But, he should keep fighting and doing what’s right for Fulham in the meantime.

I hope the situation doesn’t get ugly, because there are so few Americans that are put in the spotlight where the focus is on them. I always want it to be a positive result, and I want what is best for Clint’s future.

Regardless, the window is closing, and a resolution—be it good or bad—is on its way.

You can always ask me a question via my Twitter account @RobStoneonFOX using the hash tag #askStone. Each week I’ll pick a few and we’ll give you a shout-out right here. Enjoy the game this week and I’ll see you right here on FOX Soccer this weekend!

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