Young Boys Stun Man United In Champions League Clash

Young Boys’ Swiss midfielder Sandro Lauper (C) helps Manchester United’s Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo to stand up during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match at Wankdorf Stadium in Bern, on September 14, 2021. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

 

Substitute Jordan Siebatcheu struck with the last kick of the game as Swiss side Young Boys claimed a sensational 2-1 Champions League win over 10-man Manchester United on Tuesday after Cristiano Ronaldo had earlier opened the scoring.

USA striker Siebatcheu pounced on Jesse Lingard’s short back-pass to tuck the ball past David de Gea for a 95th-minute winner in front of a delirious crowd at the Wankdorf Stadium.

Ronaldo had earlier put United ahead with his third goal in two games since returning to Old Trafford.

However, the match hinged on Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s sending-off late in the first half for a dangerous tackle on Young Boys midfielder Christopher Martins which gave Young Boys hope.

The hosts hit back to equalise in the second half through Nicolas Moumi Ngamaleu and Ronaldo was substituted before Siebatcheu got the winner.

It is a terrible start for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in Group F, especially with tougher tests likely to come against Atalanta and Villarreal.

Ronaldo at least added to his statistics — he is the Champions League’s all-time record scorer and now has 135 goals in the competition, 15 more than his old enemy Lionel Messi.

He will be 37 early next year but his hunger for success in Europe’s elite club competition knows no bounds and he clearly felt returning to Old Trafford gave him a better chance of winning a sixth European Cup than if he stayed at Juventus.

Young Boys’ US forward Jordy Siebatcheu Pefok (C) celebrates after scoring a goal with teammates during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match against Manchester United at Wankdorf Stadium in Bern, on September 14, 2021. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

 

However, it is a decade since United were a real force in the Champions League and this is another disappointing European result for them.

Young Boys won their fourth straight Swiss title last season but have since lost their top scorer, Cameroon’s Jean-Pierre Nsame, to a serious injury while coach Gerardo Seoane departed for Bayer Leverkusen.

He has been replaced in the Swiss capital by David Wagner, the German-born former USA international and one-time boss of Huddersfield Town in the Premier League.

 

Red Card Changes Game

While on paper this was an obvious mismatch, Young Boys did have boisterous support behind them in a packed stadium with coronavirus restrictions in Switzerland now eased.

However United silenced the crowd as they took an early lead, Bruno Fernandes delivering a glorious pass with the outside of his right boot from the left for Ronaldo to steal in behind Ulisses Garcia at the back post and score.

Goalkeeper David von Ballmoos made contact with the shot but failed to keep it out and Ronaldo had the first goal of this season’s Champions League.

He has now scored in the Champions League in 16 straight seasons, and he had another shot saved at the end of a quick break forward, just after Switzerland winger Christian Fassnacht had tested David de Gea at the other end.

Manchester United’s Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates with Manchester United’s French midfielder Paul Pogba after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match against Young Boys at Wankdorf Stadium in Bern, on September 14, 2021. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

 

At that point, it seemed only a matter of time before the visitors picked off their opponents on the break, but then came the sending-off of Wan-Bissaka in the 35th minute.

The full-back’s studs caught Luxembourg international Martins above the left ankle, and French referee Francois Letexier had no choice but to show a straight red card.

Solskjaer immediately removed Jadon Sancho to send on a replacement right-back in Diogo Dalot. He then brought on Raphael Varane for the second half in place of Donny van de Beek, who had been given his first start this season.

That meant a back five for the second half, with Ronaldo left alone up front, while Young Boys pushed forward looking for an equaliser that came in the 66th minute when Ngamaleu got in front of Varane and prodded home Meschack Elia’s cross from the right to the delight of the home fans.

Ronaldo came off in the 72nd minute and right at the end of five added minutes, Young Boys won it as Lingard provided the perfect assist for Siebatcheu.

AFP

Man Utd Reach Agreement With Dortmund To Sign Sancho

Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho attends a training session of the German first division Bundesliga team Borussia Dortmund at the team training grounds in Dortmund, western Germany, on August 3, 2020. INA FASSBENDER / AFP
File photo: Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho attends a training session of the German first division Bundesliga team Borussia Dortmund at the team training grounds in Dortmund, western Germany, on August 3, 2020. INA FASSBENDER / AFP

 

Manchester United announced on Thursday they had reached an agreement in principle with Borussia Dortmund for the transfer of England international Jadon Sancho, who will cost the Premier League club 85 million euros.

United have long been keen to bring the winger to Old Trafford and they are finally set to get their man, who is currently on England duty at Euro 2020.

“The signing is subject to contractual terms and a medical, which will be completed after Jadon’s involvement in the UEFA European Championship,” United said in a brief statement.

Bundesliga side Dortmund confirmed earlier Thursday that they had agreed a fee of 85 million euros ($100 million, £73 million) for the 21-year-old.

“The contractual details now have to be coordinated and completed,” the club said in their statement.

“Moreover, the formal processing of the transfer is still subject to the successful completion of all necessary medical tests and examinations.”

Reports said Sancho would sign a five-year deal at Old Trafford.

Speculation had been rife last year that he would be headed to Old Trafford, but no transfer materialised at that point.

Sancho, who has scored three times in 20 senior international appearances, is set to become the second-most expensive English player behind Harry Maguire, whom United signed two years ago from Leicester for £80 million.

Manchester United’s announcement was welcomed by Marcus Rashford, who is with Sancho on England duty preparing for Saturday’s Euro 2020 quarter-final against Ukraine.

Rashford posted a photo of the pair with the caption “Family @Sanchooo10, Welcome brother”.

Sancho’s contract with Dortmund had been due to run until the end of June 2023 and his transfer is one of the most expensive in Bundesliga history.

It will mean a return to Manchester for the player, who was a graduate of Manchester City’s academy before joining Dortmund in search of first-team football.

Even though Sancho never played a first-team game for them, City will be due around £10 million of the fee as a result of a 15 percent sell-on clause they had inserted in the deal when he left the Etihad Stadium.

Sancho joined Dortmund in 2017 and made 137 appearances in all competitions for the club, scoring 50 goals and establishing himself as one of Europe’s brightest young stars.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is expected to use his new player on the right flank as he looks to add more creativity to his attack.

The club have not won the Premier League title since 2013 and last season finished in second place, 12 points behind champions Manchester City.

AFP

Man United Fans’ Protest Went ‘Too Far’, Says Solskjaer

Supporters protest against Manchester United’s owners, inside English Premier League club Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north west England on May 2, 2021, ahead of their English Premier League fixture against Liverpool.  AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the anti-Glazer protest that forced the postponement of Manchester United’s clash against Liverpool went “too far” but reiterated his call for supporters’ voices to be heard.

Anger at American owners the Glazers, who took charge of the club in 2005, spiked after their recent attempt to join the breakaway European Super League.

Thousands of protestors descended on Old Trafford demanding change before Sunday’s scheduled Premier League match against arch-rivals Liverpool.

Around 200 fans got into the stadium and invaded the pitch, while another group made their frustrations clear at the team hotel in Manchester.

Solskjaer, speaking on Wednesday for the first time since the chaotic scenes, said it had been a difficult day for United, who had wanted to beat Liverpool “for the fans”.

“That’s the players’ focus, that’s my focus but, as I said before the game, we have to listen,” he said ahead of Thursday’s second leg of his side’s Europa League semi-final with Roma in Italy.

“We have to hear the fans’ voice. It’s everyone’s right to protest, it has to be in a civilised manner, though. It has to be in a peaceful manner.

“Unfortunately, when you break in, when police officers get injured, scarred for life, that’s too far.

“That’s one step too far. When it gets out of hand like this, it’s a police matter. It’s not about showing your opinions anymore.”

Police patrol outside the stadium after a supporter’s protest against Manchester United’s owners, outside English Premier League club Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, north west England on May 2, 2021. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

A police spokesman said on Tuesday that six officers were injured as flares were let off and bottles thrown, with one sustaining a fractured eye socket and another a facial wound.

A 28-year-old man was charged with a number of offences including throwing fireworks and use of threatening behaviour outside the Lowry Hotel.

Roma clash

United, seeking their first silverware since 2017, beat Roma 6-2 in the first leg at home and are almost certain to reach the final, where they will play Arsenal or Villarreal.

Solskjaer, whose team have stumbled four times at the semi-final stage over the past two seasons, said he would maintain a “laser focus on the football”, with talk of more protests from angry fans.

“My job, my focus has to be on the results, but you don’t really need to be a rocket scientist to see that we have challenges and frictions and things that have to be dealt with within communication,” the Norwegian said.

“Other individuals than me of course have started already, discussing with the fans, communicating with fan groups, which is going to be massive for us going forward.

“I think the players have done terrific to be where they are. I would be sad if all the good work the players have done is disrupted, so our focus is on playing well and getting through to a final now.”

United co-chairman Joel Glazer has apologised for the Super League debacle saying “we got it wrong”.

Asked whether the owners should speak directly to supporters, Solskjaer said: “I’ve been communicating with the owners. I’ve got an apology, personally.

“They’ve apologised to the fans that this came out. I know that there is communication between other individuals than me and the fans.”

AFP

Man United Face Granada, Arsenal Draw Slavia In Europa Quarter-Finals

This handout picture taken and made available on March 19, 2021, by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) shows the quarter-final draw results as shown on a big screen following the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals and semi-finals draw at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon. Valentin FLAURAUD / UEFA / AFP

 

Manchester United were paired with Spanish side Granada in Friday’s draw for the quarter-finals of the Europa League, while Arsenal will take on Slavia Prague.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United, who beat AC Milan in the last 16, are due to play away in the first leg on April 8 but it remains to be seen where that match will take place.

The Old Trafford club faced Spanish opponents in Real Sociedad in the last 32 but the first leg of that tie was moved to Turin in Italy because of restrictions on travel from the UK to Spain as a result of the pandemic.

Granada are in Europe for the first time after finishing seventh in La Liga last season. The team from southern Spain notably beat PSV Eindhoven away in the group stage and eliminated Napoli in the last 32 before defeating Solskjaer’s old club Molde of Norway in the Round of 16.

Granada coach Diego Martinez has won the Europa League before, during his time as an assistant coach at Sevilla.

Meanwhile, Ajax will face Roma with the winners of that quarter-final playing either United or Granada in the last four. United beat Ajax in the 2017 Europa League final.

Arsenal are set to host Slavia in the first leg of their quarter-final and will be wary of the runaway Czech league leaders who have eliminated Leicester City and Scottish champions Rangers in the last two rounds.

However, if the Gunners get through they could face their former coach Unai Emery in the semi-finals.

Emery’s Villarreal will take on Dinamo Zagreb, last-16 conquerors of Tottenham Hotspur, in the other quarter-final.

Emery took Arsenal to the final of the Europa League in 2019 when they lost to Chelsea in Baku.

The final of this season’s competition is set to be played in the Polish city of Gdansk on May 26.

AFP

Europa League: Bruno Fernandes’ Late Penalty Sends Man United To Semi-Final

solskjaer-man-united
Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (C), FC Copenhagen’s Greek midfielder Zeca and Manchester United’s Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes react at the end of the UEFA Europa League quarter-final football match between Manchester United and FC Copenhagen at the RheinEnergieStadion, in Cologne, western Germany, on August 10, 2020.
WOLFGANG RATTAY / AFP / POOL

 

 

Bruno Fernandes scored a penalty in extra time as Manchester United scraped past FC Copenhagen 1-0 on Monday in the quarter-finals of the Europa League, reshaped into an eight-team straight knockout tournament in Germany due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Portugal international notched his competition-best seventh goal of the season as United set up a semi-final clash against Sevilla or Wolves, joining Inter Milan in the last four following the Italian side’s 2-1 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in Dusseldorf.

“Third time this season we’ve been to the semis, every competition we’ve been in. Delighted we’ve gone through, we deserved to win tonight,” United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told BT Sport.

“Their keeper was fantastic, unbelievable. We hit the post a few times, there were a couple of VAR decisions against us. It could have been one of those nights that you end up with penalty shoot outs. They made it hard for us.”

All games from the quarter-finals onwards in this season’s Europa League are being played behind closed doors as one-off ties across four venues — Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen — in a unique format following a five-month interruption.

Solskjaer recalled Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial but the 2017 competition winners struggled early, and 18-year-old Copenhagen forward Mohamed Daramy was twice involved as the Danish underdogs threatened a creaking United backline.

Eric Bailly intervened just as Daramy attempted to stab home a bouncing cross, and the Ivorian defender was then played into trouble by Fred with Jens Stage’s subsequent effort blocked.

Rashford finally tested Karl-Johan Johnsson just before the interval with a long-range shot — the first of a multitude of saves for Copenhagen’s outstanding Swedish goalkeeper.

Greenwood looked to have put United ahead as he drilled in via the far post moments later only for the teenager to be ruled offside following a VAR review.

He again went close early in the second half when he slammed against the upright, with Fernandes promptly smacking the opposite post with a dipping 20-yard drive.

The Portugal international, who scored five times in the group stage with Sporting, stung the palms of Johnsson with another hit from distance — shortly after Aaron Wan-Bissaka made a desperation block to thwart Bryan Oviedo after a mesmerising dribble from Rasmus Falk.

– Johnsson outstanding in goal –

Appearing in their first European quarter-final, and the first Danish club to reach this stage since 1997, Copenhagen continued to frustrate United as they sought a repeat of their 1-0 win when the clubs last met in the Champions League group stage in 2006.

Martial nearly won the game in normal time but again a sprawling Johnsson tipped away his curling attempt that appeared destined for the top corner.

The France striker was once more repelled by Johnsson at the start of extra time, but Martial won a penalty as United kept the attack alive and the striker was upended by Andreas Bjelland.

Fernandes blasted home from the spot on 95 minutes but Solskjaer’s team were left to sweat until the end as Johnsson pulled off sensational stops from the Portuguese and substitute Juan Mata, with Victor Lindelof the third United player to strike the post.

United though ultimately ensured their 2019-20 campaign will extend into a second year, having started the season 365 days ago with a 4-0 Premier League win over Chelsea. Awaiting them on Sunday will be Sevilla — who have won the Europa League and its precursor, the UEFA Cup, a record five times — or domestic rivals Wolves.

Former United striker Romelu Lukaku grabbed the decisive goal for Antonio Conte’s Inter against Leverkusen as the Serie A runners-up moved a step closer to adding to their titles from 1991, 1994 and 1998.

Inter struck first as Nicolo Barella guided in from the edge of the area on 15 minutes, with Lukaku bundling in a second six minutes later.

Kai Havertz reduced the deficit in possibly his final game for Leverkusen on 25 minutes after exchanging passes with fellow Germany international Kevin Volland, but Inter held on to seal their place against Shakhtar Donetsk or Basel in next week’s semi-final.

“The defence did a tremendous job again tonight. We are growing but we have to learn to kill games off when we have the chances to do it, and we didn’t tonight,” said Lukaku.

“Now we have time to recover physically and prepare for another great game. We will have to be ready.”

AFP

Winning Europa League Would Be My Proudest Moment In Life – Solskjaer

In this file photo taken on January 13, 2019 Manchester United’s Norwegian caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer applauds the fans following the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium in London.  Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would love Manchester United to round off the coronavirus-affected season by winning the Europa League which he says will be the proudest moment of his life.

United travel to Germany on Sunday for the climax to the competition with Monday’s quarter-final against Danish outfit FC Copenhagen a launch-pad Solskjaer hopes for lifting the trophy on August 21.

A potentially tougher semi-final looms with either AS Roma or Sevilla.

Having already fallen short in two semi-finals this term — losing to Manchester City in the League Cup and Chelsea in the FA Cup — the Norwegian wants to go the whole way.

“I am ambitious — and one of my dreams is to lift the trophy as a manager for this club,” said Solskjaer as cited in the British media. “That would be the proudest moment of my life.”

File photo: Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (C) substitutes Manchester United’s English midfielder Jesse Lingard during the UEFA Europa League last 16 second leg football match between Manchester United and Linzer ASK at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on August 5, 2020. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

 

The 47-year-old won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the Champions League as a player and scored the goal that clinched the 1999 Treble.

He is self-deprecatory about his contribution to that success but only re-enforces his desire to repay that with a trophy as their manager.

“I owe my football career to this club so, to lift a trophy as a manager, would be the biggest achievement in my career,” said the former Molde and Cardiff manager.

“I was part of a fantastic team. Sometimes you just ride a wave on the sea you are in.

“The team I was in carried me. Roy Keane (former United captain) would say his back was sore because he carried me! And he is probably right.

“I contributed as well as I could, I was always ready for the team and the club.

“But if I could lift a trophy as a manager, that would be the proudest moment of my career without a doubt.”

– ‘Another step forward’ –

Solskjaer — who guided United to a Champions League spot for next season with a third-place finish in the league — says he and United chief executive Ed Woodward had formed a long-term plan when he replaced Jose Mourinho in December 2018.

Initially he was appointed caretaker manager before being awarded the job on a permanent basis in March 2019.

“We put a plan together as a club 18 months ago when I sat down with Ed Woodward and it wasn’t going to be a quick fix,” he said.

“We want to build. We have been to the semi-finals of the League Cup and the FA Cup and the next step is to get past that.

“That (the Europa League) would be another step forward for this team.”

Solskjaer said he could sense the hunger in his players and that winning the Europa League would only increase their desire to win more silverware.

“Some players may rest on their laurels once they have won something, but looking at this group it would mean what we’re doing now is working,” he said.

“It’s all in their hands. They know they’re at Man United and know we have the resources to build.”

AFP

Man United, Man City Unite To Help Manchester Food Banks

A worker delivers grocery bags to households in Stockholm, Sweden, on March 21, 2020 as internet shopping of food stuffs have skyrocketed in Sweden since the start of the Coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak. Anders WIKLUND / TT NEWS AGENCY / AFP
A worker delivers grocery bags to households in Stockholm, Sweden, on March 21, 2020 as internet shopping of food stuffs have skyrocketed in Sweden since the start of the Coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak. Anders WIKLUND / TT NEWS AGENCY / AFP

 

Manchester United and Manchester City have joined forces to donate a combined £100,000 ($117,000) to help local foodbanks affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Collections are normally made at home games for both Manchester giants by fans’ groups supporting foodbanks, but football in England is suspended until at least April 30 due to restrictions on mass gatherings due to coronavirus.

“We are proud of the role our supporters play in helping local food banks and recognise the increased strain likely to be placed on these charities by the impact of coronavirus,” the clubs said in a joint statement.

“At a time of challenge for our community, we are pleased to come together with our fans to help vulnerable members of society in a City United.”

The donation will support the Trussell Trust’s 19 foodbank centres in the Greater Manchester area.

United have been taken steps to try to alleviate the burden on their staff and supporters during the crisis.

The Red Devils have vowed to pay 3,000 casual staff even for the remainder the season even if matches at Old Trafford are forced behind closed doors or cancelled.

And fans who travelled to Austria for the Europa League last 16, first leg against LASK only for the game to be played behind closed doors at late notice were given a £350 ($415) payment towards travel and accommodation.

Britain ramped up its response to the pandemic on Friday by ordering pubs, restaurants, cafes and gyms to close.

AFP

Man United Beat Watford, Climb To Fifth In Premier League

Manchester United’s Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes (R) challenges Watford’s English midfielder Will Hughes (L) during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Watford at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on February 23, 2020.
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Bruno Fernandes opened his goalscoring account at Manchester United on Sunday as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side climbed to fifth place in the Premier League table with a 3-0 win against lowly Watford.

United have struggled for consistency all season but the victory at Old Trafford lifts them to 41 points, just three behind fourth-placed Chelsea.

Midfielder Fernandes, bought by Solskjaer last month to add creativity and drive to United’s midfield, scored from the penalty spot shortly before half-time and Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood also found the net.

While United are looking upwards, Nigel Pearson’s Watford are in deep trouble, just one place off the bottom of the table after taking just two points from their past five games.

As it stands, fifth place could be enough to earn a Champions League spot because second-placed Manchester City have been banned from Europe’s elite competition for two seasons, pending an appeal.

United, who beat top-four rivals Chelsea on Monday, took the lead three minutes before the interval with their first Premier League goal at Old Trafford since January 11.

Ben Foster pulled down Fernandes in the box and Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot. The Portuguese midfielder picked himself up to convert the penalty.

Watford thought they were level shortly after half-time only to see Troy Deeney’s goal ruled out by VAR for a handball by Craig Dawson.

The home side doubled their lead just before the hour mark. Foster saved Martial’s initial shot but the ball came back to the French forward and he lofted the ball over the head of the goalkeeper and into the net from a tight angle.

Greenwood found some space and fired home via the crossbar to put United 3-0 up with 15 minutes remaining.

Old Trafford had earlier fallen silent to remember Harry Gregg, a hero of the Munich air disaster in 1958, who died last week.

Liverpool are Premier League champions in all but name while Manchester City are firmly entrenched in second place and third-placed Leicester have a cushion despite recent wobbles.

But just 10 points covers nine clubs from Chelsea in fourth place all the way down to Southampton in 12th.

Despite their mini-revival, United have a tough run of fixtures coming up, with games against Everton, Manchester City, Tottenham and Sheffield United.

AFP

Man United Frustrated By Top Four Finish, Says Shaw

Shaw Signs New Five-Year Deal With United
(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 10, 2018, English defender Luke Shaw gestures after the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Luke Shaw has revealed Manchester United’s stars were hugely frustrated by their failure to close the gap to the Premier League’s top four.

Fourth-placed Chelsea’s 2-2 draw at Leicester on Saturday gave United a chance to chip away at the six-point difference.

But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men slipped to sixth after a 0-0 draw against Wolves at Old Trafford later in the day.

Even the presence of new signing Bruno Fernandes, who made his debut in midfield, couldn’t galvanise United.

Asked how the mood in the dressing room was after the match, United defender Shaw said: “To be honest, really, really disappointed, especially with the way the games have been going recently.

“We haven’t been picking up too many points and today was massive for us, especially with Chelsea dropping points.

“It seems to keep happening. Teams around us drop points and we don’t end up closing the gap and we are suffering from that and we needed to win today.

“Now we haven’t got a game so soon and that is quite annoying, but we’ll have a little break and of course we are looking forward to the big game when we get back.”

United have had a frantic winter fixture schedule and now do not have a match until travelling for a crucial clash at fourth-placed rivals Chelsea on February 17, with a warm-weather camp in Spain lined up in the meantime.

“Maybe it’s nice to have a break but on the other hand with how the game went today, I’d rather have a game around the corner so we can put things right because we need to,” Shaw said.

“But that’s not the case, there’s the break. We’ll regroup, have a little break but obviously focus because it’s not the end of the season yet.

“Look, Chelsea is a massive game and one we seem to love playing in.

“We have played them probably quite a lot as well in the cups and stuff.

“We will have a few days off and then train very hard to get ready for that game because we know it’s going to be tough.

“We want to close the gap and we need to beat them.”

AFP

Wolves Battle Man United To Premier League Draw At Old Trafford

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Spanish midfielder Adama Traore (L) vies with Manchester United’s Brazilian midfielder Fred (R) during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on February 1, 2020. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

Manchester United and Wolves missed another chance to close the gap on Chelsea in the race for a place in the Champions League next season with a 0-0 draw devoid on inspiration at Old Trafford.

Both sides remain six points adrift of Chelsea, despite a run of four wins in 13 games for the Blues, and fall a point behind Sheffield United.

United handed a debut to £47 million ($62 million) signing Bruno Fernandes in midfield as he went head-to-head with a host of his Portuguese international teammates.

Fernandes has been recruited to add some much-needed guile and goals to the United midfield and a lack of creativity and cutting edge up front without the injured Marcus Rashford was evident as they failed to break down a well-organized Wolves.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were largely limited to shots from the range with Fernandes keen to make his mark.

Andres Pereira and Fernandes fired wide before the debutant’s clean strike from the edge of the box was too close to Rui Patricio.

Wolves also harbour ambitions of playing Champions League football for the first time next season, but were overly cautious in their approach and have now failed to score in three meetings with United over the past month.

Adama Traore caused Liverpool a litany of problems in Wolves’ last outing, but the Spaniard was not allowed the same space to exploit by United and blasted wide his side’s best chance before the break.

Fernandes tested his former Sporting Lisbon teammate Rui Patricio again from distance with a free-kick and Juan Mata curled wide as United’s pressure began to build without ever cutting the visitors’ open.

And Wolves’ plan to contain and counter-attack nearly paid off when Traore burst through the heart of the United midfield and played in Raul Jimenez, who forced David de Gea into a fine save.

United’s other new signing Odion Ighalo was not available after completing a late loan move from Shanghai Shenhua before Friday’s transfer deadline.

Solskjaer, therefore, had to turn to 18-year-old Mason Greenwood in the search for a winner and the teenager nearly delivered with a deflected shot that fell kindly into the wrong-footed Patricio’s arms.

The hosts best chance fell to substitute Diogo Dalot deep into stoppage time, but his header trickled inches wide to ensure United have won just one of their last five league games.

AFP

United Exit Was ‘Right Decision’, Says Lukaku

Inter Milan’s Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku (L) and Lecce’s Italian defender Cristian Dell’Orco go for a header during the Italian Serie A football match Lecce vs Inter Milan on January 19, 2020 at the Via del Mare stadium in Lecce. Tiziana FABI / AFP

 

Romelu Lukaku believes he made the right decision to leave Manchester United for a new challenge at Inter Milan, saying he had to “re-find” himself after a difficult time at Old Trafford.

The Belgium striker joined United from Everton for £75 million ($98 million) in July 2017, scoring 42 goals in his two seasons at the club before moving to Inter in August last year.

He has been in superb form for Antonio Conte’s side, scoring 18 goals to help the club sustain a challenge for the Serie A title.

Those performances, and United’s reported interest in signing a striker this month after Marcus Rashford’s back injury, have raised questions as to the wisdom of allowing Lukaku to leave Old Trafford.

But, in an interview with Sky Sports News, the 26-year-old said the decision was his and it had worked out well for United as well.

“I think I had to re-find myself,” he said. “Last year was difficult for me on the professional side because stuff was not going how I wanted and I was not performing as well… and I just came to the conclusion that it was time for me to change the environment.

“I made my decision around March, and I went to the manager’s office (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer) and I told him it was time for me to find something else.”

“I think I made the right decision and I think Manchester United now has made space for the younger players to come through so I think it was a bit of a win-win situation for both of us,” he added.

The Belgian was signed for United by Jose Mourinho and had an excellent first season, scoring 27 goals as United finished second in the Premier League.

But Mourinho was sacked in December 2018 after a disappointing start to the season, with Lukaku also unable to discover his best form.

Former Chelsea manager Conte has managed to bring the best out of Lukaku this season, pairing him with Argentine forward Lautaro Martinez to lethal effect.

Lukaku said the Italian knew how to extract the most from his whole squad but revealed he was not afraid to get tough with the players.

“The manager, he tells it straight to your face if you’re doing well or wrong,” he said.

“You work hard, you train hard and you play,” he added. “If you don’t do what he says, you don’t play. You know where you stand — and that’s what I respect about him.”

AFP

Solskjaer Pleads For Patience After Man United’s Loss To Burnley

Unfit United Players Risk Exclusion From Pre-Season Tour, Solskjaer Warns
Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts after the final whistle in the English Premier League football match against Everton at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north-west England on April 21, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pleaded for time to get Manchester United back on track after the beleaguered boss and his under-performing stars were booed off and labelled an “embarrassment” following Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat against Burnley.

Solskjaer’s side were rocked by Chris Wood’s first-half opener before Jay Rodriguez scored with a superb strike after the break at Old Trafford.

It was a woeful display from fifth-placed United, who are in such poor form that there will be fresh questions about Solskjaer’s job security in the coming days.

Former United defender Rio Ferdinand, a Premier League and Champions League winner with the club, slammed the performance and called for owners Glazer family to take action to stop the rot.

“Fans are walking out after 84 minutes! It’s an embarrassment. People at the top need to look and see this and make changes,” Ferdinand told BT Sport.

“The downward spiral in this short space of time, it’s only seven years, has been remarkable.”

Solskjaer had no complaints about a result that laid bare everything wrong with a rudderless team lacking steel in defence, creativity in midfield and a cutting edge upfront.

“We have got to hold our hands up and say it wasn’t good enough. In the first half, we created some half openings but we were not sharp enough to take our chances,” Solskjaer said.

“The boys have given everything they have got but they are experiencing this period for the first time in their lives.

“When you are at Manchester United you are playing at the biggest and best club in the world. Some of them have played 10, 12, 15 games and it’s not easy for them.”

United trail six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea but, given how they have struggled so often this season, the only surprise is that the gap isn’t bigger.

United’s tally of 34 points is their lowest after 24 matches of a top-flight season since 1989-90 and the majority of Old Trafford was on its feet when chants of “stand up if you hate Glazers” echoed around the ground.

 ‘Mentally tired’ 

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward was also subjected to abusive chants in a toxic atmosphere, while those few fans who remained in the stadium booed Solskjaer and his players at full-time.

But Solskjaer is still adamant he can turn the tide if he is given time to develop United youngsters like Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams.

“I’m going to back them and help them get through this. The players are giving everything, they have done absolutely fantastic so far this season but they know it wasn’t good enough tonight,” Solskjaer said.

“The boys looked mentally tired towards the end, we didn’t find that creativity. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.

“When you are at Man United you are privileged because you are playing for the best club in the world. Sometimes you go through periods like that and it is a test I am sure they are going to come through.”

United must regroup to avoid more misery in the FA Cup fourth round against Watford or Tranmere on Sunday before they head to Manchester City looking to overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit in the League Cup semi-finals next Wednesday.

If United are knocked out of both cup competitions, Solskjaer is likely to find the patience of supporters who idolised him during his playing days will dwindle even further.

The gap between United and runaway leaders Liverpool stood at 30 points after Sunday’s defeat at Anfield and there is no sign of Solskjaer bridging the divide any time soon.

Aware the pressure is mounting, Solskjaer is keen to make signings to bolster his injury-hit squad, with leading scorer Marcus Rashford and star midfielder Paul Pogba both sidelined.

“We are looking to improve, we have got our targets. This is our second defeat at home and first since August. I thought we had turned that corner,” he said.

“We have started a clear-out and now I am going to be answering these questions until the window closes. We are working on things.

“For me, the most important thing is we have to perform on the pitch. Tonight wasn’t good enough for a Manchester United team.”

AFP