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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
Paul Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola has hinted the Manchester United star could leave Old Trafford if he is unhappy at the end of the season.
Pogba has made just eight appearances for United during the current campaign after battling a nagging ankle injury and rumours have swirled about the France midfielder’s future during his absence.
Pogba made a comeback with two substitute appearances against Watford and Newcastle in December, but suffered a fresh ankle problem, with speculation mounting that he wants to end his second spell with United.
Raiola added to the drama surrounding Pogba on Wednesday when he said his client was not guaranteed to remain with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s stuttering side if he is not happy.
“I expect my players to be happy and I expect the clubs to be happy. That is my work. I do not want to work in front of what might be happening in the summer,” Raiola told Sky Sports News.
“For now he (Pogba) needs to be getting fit and then it is my job to get both parties if possible, happy. If one of those parties is not happy then there are other ways to resolve that.
“But that is not today the way to talk or to speculate. I don’t say anything for sure. There’s only one thing for sure in life and that is that one day you die.”
‘Elephant in the room’
Raiola was quoted last month suggesting that he would stop bringing his players to Old Trafford as speculation over Pogba’s future rumbled on.
The 52-year-old has now questioned United’s “project” and whether Pogba still wants to be part of the club’s plans as they battle to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish in the Premier League.
“The quotes were a little bit strong but I think what I meant is that Manchester United needs to get their project right, otherwise there is no sense. I said what I said,” Raiola said.
“Everybody knows the ambition from both parts has not been met the last few years. Let’s be honest, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
“So we need to see in the summer if Paul is still in the plans of Manchester United and if Manchester United is still in the plans of Paul.”
The uncertainty over Pogba’s future is one reason United have been so keen to sign Portugal midfielder Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon.
United are reported to be haggling with Sporting over a price for Fernandes, whose agent Jorge Mendes admitted on Wednesday he expects the star to leave Portugal by the summer.
“If he will not leave now he will leave for sure in the summer because Sporting, they have spoken already with other clubs and something will happen,” Mendes told Sky Sports News.
“I’m not sure if (it will happen) now or the end of the season.”
Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has decided to make a personal protest against racism following the ongoing “ignorance” demonstrated at football stadiums throughout Europe.
The 26-year-old France star came off the bench during United’s a 4-1 win win away to Newcastle on Thursday, when he wore black and white wristbands during the warm-up.
‘No to racism’ and ‘We are one’ read the wristbands that Pogba asked his team-mates to join him in wearing before the match, with the World Cup winner then presenting his to a young fan in the crowd.
Pogba later posted an image of that moment on Instagram with a Martin Luther King quote – “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that” – and the hashtag #NoToRacismWeAllOne.
“It was my idea to do that,” Pogba said of the wristbands, in an interview with Britain’s Press Association news agency.
“I mean, I’ve been thinking about doing this but I don’t want to go through the UEFA or the FIFA. I (have) done it myself.
“I think we have the chance to have this power to show things in football, on TV.
“People see it so I think that will make people understand some things.
“I think it’s ignorance. Ignorance and stuff like that, and just to show people that you are all one. We are all one.”
Pogba was subjected to racism on social media at the start of the season and he also mentioned Antonio Rudiger after the Chelsea defender was subjected to alleged racist abuse at Tottenham last weekend.
“I mean, a lot of players in a lot of leagues — not only in Premier League, in Italy, Spain, everywhere — and we keep hearing this (racism),” said Pogba.
“We are just football players, we want to enjoy that. The fans needs to enjoy coming and seeing some nice football and that’s it.”
An initial fee of £45 million with an extra £5 million in add-ons has reportedly been agreed between the clubs, making Wan-Bissaka the most expensive defender in United’s history.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling and an honour to call myself a Manchester United player and something I know that only a small number of players have the privilege to say,” said Wan-Bissaka.
The Red Devils are in need of an overhaul after finishing sixth in the Premier League last season to miss out on Champions League qualification.
A long-term replacement at right-back for club captain Antonio Valencia, who left Old Trafford at the end of last season when his contract expired, was one of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s priorities in the transfer market.
“Aaron is one of the best upcoming defenders in the Premier League,” said Solskjaer.
“He has the right work ethic, talent and mentality to play for Manchester United and he fits exactly the type of player that we are looking to bring into the squad to help us improve and push on further.”
Wan-Bissaka will become United’s second signing of the summer following the arrival of winger Daniel James from Swansea as United turn their attention towards young, British players rather than the expensive star buys of recent seasons.
He will travel with his new teammates for a pre-season tour in Australia, Singapore and China after a short break to recover from a disappointing under-21 European Championships with England.
Wan-Bissaka scored an injury time own goal to gift France a 2-1 victory in England’s opening game in Italy and was then dropped for matches with Romania and Croatia as Aidy Boothroyd’s side crashed out at the group stages.
“I will have a short break now after the European Championships but I’m looking forward to starting training with the manager and my new team-mates on the pre-season tour,” he added.