Solskjaer Defends Team Performance Against Liverpool, Plays Down Neville’s Criticism

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, north-west England on January 19, 2020. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has contradicted former team-mate, Gary Neville, by saying on Tuesday United are on the “right track”.

Outspoken TV pundit Neville had said in a podcast after United’s 2-0 defeat at leaders Liverpool on Sunday, which left the Red Devils 30 points behind their rivals in the Premier League, the club was in a mess.

The former United captain pinned much of the blame for the team’s current problems on the recruitment undertaken by chief executive Ed Woodward.

But with United still fifth in the league and competing in three cup competitions, Solskjaer believes it is not the right time to start a blame game.

“We’ve just lost to Liverpool, who you all say are fantastic and we have been in the game until the last kick of the ball,” he said at his press conference on the eve of United’s Premier League game with Burnley on Wednesday.

“For me, that is strides forward.

“The signs are there that we’re on the right track, definitely.

“For me, now is not the time to talk about recruitment.

“We are always looking to improve the squad, so now is not the time to start that discussion, Gary.”

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer throws the ball back in from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, north west England on January 19, 2020. Paul ELLIS / AFP

Fighting for the fourth place — the final Champions League spot — is not what is expected of a club of United’s stature, but the manager remains confident they are doing things to rectify that.

“We know we’re not where we want to be and should be, historically,” he admitted.

“It’s down to us to work better and from my experience, in the 12, 13 months I’ve been here, the players that I’ve brought in have been good, so I have no complaints whatsoever.”

Rashford’s ‘new injury’ 

On the pitch, United will give Marcus Rashford all the time he needs to recover from a double stress fracture to his back.

Rashford picked up the injury in the 1-0 win over Wolves in the FA Cup replay last Wednesday and will miss at least three months.

The England striker, who has scored 19 times for United this season, had been monitoring his back following the away match at Burnley on December 28, but Solskjaer says it was not a previous injury.

“Marcus will be out for a while, but he will get the time he needs to recover,” he said.

“He’s not had that injury before.

“He complained a little bit after the last time we played Burnley.

“We managed him as well as we could then.

“He had some days off for treatment, we took him off in some games and then suddenly this was a new injury.”

Solskjaer must now decide whether to make a late move in the transfer window for a striker to cover for Rashford’s absence.

If he cannot bring anyone in, the Norwegian will look to 18-year-old Mason Greenwood and veteran midfielder Juan Mata — who scored the goal that knocked Wolves out of the FA Cup — to try and plug the gap.

“Mason will get more chances now and Juan will have to step up again,” he said.

“We know we’re stretched with the injuries we’ve had but we’ll cope with that.”

AFP

FA Charges Manchester United With Players Misconduct

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrives back on the pitch for the second half of the English League Cup semi-final first leg football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England on January 7, 2020. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Manchester United have been charged by the Football Association (FA) over the misconduct of their players in the 2-0 defeat by runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool.

United’s players surrounded referee Craig Pawson midway through the first half on Sunday after Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk challenged goalkeeper David De Gea.

Roberto Firmino subsequently scored, but his goal was ruled out following a VAR review of van Dijk’s clash with the Spanish goalkeeper.

De Gea dropped the ball which the defence failed to clear allowing Firmino to take advantage and score.

“Manchester United FC has been charged with a breach of FA Rule E20(a),” read the FA statement.

“It is alleged that the club failed to ensure its players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion during the 26th minute of the Premier League fixture against Liverpool FC on Sunday (19/01/20).”

A furious De Gea led United protests, rushing over to Pawson to vent his frustration. The Spaniard, who was booked for his actions, was joined by a number of his team-mates in surrounding Pawson.

Van Dijk had already opened the scoring for Liverpool prior to the incident and Mohamed Salah added a second in time added on to extend Liverpool’s lead over Manchester City to 16 points — United trail by 30 points.

United have until Thursday to respond to the charge.

AFP

Liverpool Beat Man United 2-0 In Premier League Thriller

Liverpool’s Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk (L) runs off to celebrate leaving Manchester United’s Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea (2R) rooted to his position after Van Dijk scored the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, north west England on January 19, 2020. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Liverpool stretched their commanding lead at the top of the Premier League to 16 points and advantage over Manchester United to 30 as goals from Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah earned a 2-0 win over their historic rivals at Anfield.

A 13th straight league win since the sides last met at Old Trafford in October continues Liverpool’s relentless run towards a first league title in 30 years, while United remain five points off the top four in fifth.

Liverpool also have a game in hand to come on closest challengers Manchester City and could have been more comfortable winners after seeing two first half goals ruled out and a host of clear chances go astray.

United are the only team to take Premier League points off the European champions this season, but it rarely looked like lightning would strike twice once the hosts went in front on 14 minutes.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s game plan was undone by a simple set-piece as Van Dijk rose highest to power home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner.

The Norwegian had set up with a back five, with Luke Shaw forced to deputise out of position as a third center-back, and only a great challenge from the former Southampton left-back denied Sadio Mane a certain second as he burst onto Roberto Firmino’s pass.

Jurgen Klopp’s men did have the ball in the net twice more before the break, but VAR and the offside flag came to United’s rescue to keep the score down.

Firstly, Firmino’s brilliant strike was ruled out as Van Dijk was penalised for an aerial challenge with David de Gea after a VAR review.

Georginio Wijnaldum then slotted past the Spaniard after a brilliant through ball from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but the Dutchman had strayed marginally offside.

Shorn of injured top scorer Marcus Rashford, United failed to even muster a shot in anger for the first 40 minutes until Anthony Martial pulled his effort wide of the near post.

However, they could easily have been level against the run of play moments later when Andreas Pereira could not stretch to turn home Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s ball across the face of the goal.

At the other end, De Gea had one more key intervention before the break as he saved with his feet from Mane’s driven effort.

United rode their luck even more at the start of the second half as Salah somehow skewed wide from point-blank range before Jordan Henderson smashed a shot off the post.

But Liverpool’s failure to put the game to bed could have cost them when Martial blazed over United’s best chance of the game after a well-worked one-two with Pereira just before the hour mark.

Just like in the 1-0 win at Tottenham last weekend Liverpool tired in the final 20 minutes, with Klopp forced to withdraw Mane and Firmino to bolster the midfield.

However, the hosts held out for a seventh consecutive clean sheet in all competitions and took another giant step towards the title as Salah secured the three points with virtually the last kick of the game.

The Egyptian was picked out by goalkeeper Alisson Becker and ran from inside his own half before slotting under De Gea.

AFP

Maguire Named As New Man Utd Captain, With Young Set For Exit

Manchester United’s English defender Harry Maguire gestures at the end of the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Norwich City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on January 11, 2020.
Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed Harry Maguire as Manchester United’s new captain less than six months after his £80 million ($104 million) move from Leicester.

Maguire will take over as skipper from Ashley Young, who is expected to complete his move to Inter Milan pending a medical on Friday.

“Harry has come in and been wearing the captain’s armband and he will keep wearing it,” said Solskjaer.

“He has been a leader in the group and I have not been surprised but impressed with his leadership skills.”

Solskjaer cast doubt on Marcus Rashford’s hopes of shaking off a back injury for Sunday’s clash with Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Rashford made a brief appearance in the midweek FA Cup win over Wolves, which may have cost him his chances of figuring at Anfield.

Solskjaer said: “We’re going to give him the absolute amount of time but I am not going to hold my breath.

“I would think that he probably wouldn’t be ready but he’s still got 48 hours so let’s see.”

AFP

Man United Can Still Compete With The Best In Transfer Market, Says Solskjaer

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer/ AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Manchester United retain the power to compete at the top end of the transfer market despite warnings their status as the Premier League’s richest club is “at risk”.

According to Deloitte’s Football Money League, United’s revenue of £627.1 million ($814 million) in 2018-19 put them third overall behind only Barcelona and Real Madrid.

But the consulting firm warned United could soon find themselves slipping behind Liverpool and Manchester City due to their failure to qualify for the Champions League.

Solskjaer offered a robust defence of the club’s status on Tuesday, speaking ahead of his side’s FA Cup third-round relay against Wolves.

“The most important thing for me is we get the results sorted and the performances on the pitch,” he said.

“But I know that we’ve got the resources, we’ve got the backing. If we need to go into the transfer market we are still up there so we’re still in a good place.”

United are reportedly in talks over a deal for Sporting Lisbon midfielder Bruno Fernandes, who could cost as much as £70 million, though Solskjaer offered no update on that or any other moves in the January market.

Wednesday’s match against Wolves at Old Trafford could offer another opportunity for 18-year-old striker Mason Greenwood, who started in the goalless draw between the two sides at Molineux on January 4.

 Greenwood warning 

Greenwood has enjoyed a hugely impressive season to date, scoring nine goals for United‘s senior side in 26 appearances but Solskjaer cautioned against England taking him to Euro 2020, with concerns over the availability of the injured Harry Kane.

“I think Mason will have a top career, a long career, but let the boy settle in now before we talk about England and the Euros,” he said.

“His focus has to be playing for us and improving. When he plays well for us, that will happen by itself.”

Solskjaer is trying to carefully manage the demands on his younger players, and his squad as a whole, as they prepare for their 14th game in 46 days.

“It is physically and mentally demanding and we’ve got to make sure we energise them with results,” he said.

“After a performance like Norwich (a 4-0 win) they all felt good about that and used that as motivation.

“We’re not there yet, we’ve got to keep working and improving, just keep the rhythm. I didn’t play in all these games when I was playing but I felt like, as a team, we improved when we got in a rhythm of match, rest, match, rest.

“The likes of Roy (Keane), Gary (Neville), (Paul) ‘Scholesy’, they only seemed to improve and we need to get to that.”

With United well off the pace in the Premier League and needing to overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit to rivals Manchester City in the semi-finals of the League Cup, Solskjaer is looking to the FA Cup as the most realistic prospect of silverware this season.

“This tournament is one that we all dream about winning when we’re young,” he said. “I loved my time in the finals and lifting the trophy, so we want to go through.”

AFP

Solskjaer Hails Rashford After United Thrash Norwich

Manchester United’s English striker Marcus Rashford (R) scores their second goal from the penalty spot during the English Premier League football match against Norwich City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on January 11, 2020. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

 

Marcus Rashford marked his 200th appearance for Manchester United with two goals in a 4-0 win over Norwich on Saturday, leaving his manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer predicting he can get even better.

Anthony Martial and impressive teenager Mason Greenwood were also on the mark as Solskjaer’s team maintained their hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League through the league table.

But those prospects may depend on the continued fitness of Rashford, who was substituted after less than an hour and was declared doubtful for Wednesday’s FA third-round replay with Wolves due to injury problems.

Solskjaer admitted he will have to handle Rashford’s fitness carefully and little wonder given that the 22-year-old has now scored 19 times in his past 23 games for United and England.

“What an achievement, to get to 200 games at his age,” said the Norwegian boss. “I don’t know how many goals he has scored but he has 19 (for United) this season and he’s been absolutely top class to work with.

“He’s a great kid, great attitude, he wants to learn, wants to improve but knows he has to keep his feet on the ground but is always available even though today he is carrying quite a few knocks.

“He’s played many, many games, I might have to look at how we manage him but of course he can get so much better. He’s got everything to be a top-class player.”

– Rampant Rashford –

Rashford now has 64 goals in his United career, with the 63rd of those coming in the 27th minute after largely unrelenting home pressure, although the goal owed everything to a fantastic assist from Juan Mata.

The Spanish playmaker received a long pass from Victor Lindelof and, after Todd Cantwell backed off a little too far, had the space to float in a perfect cross which Rashford volleyed in at the far post.

David de Gea was required to make a superb save late in the first half to keep their lead intact, diving well to claw away a curling shot from Cantwell.

But that was a rare lapse from a United side that dominated for the bulk of the game and should have been enjoying a more comfortable cushion by the interval.

That finally came with two goals in quick succession early in the second half, with Rashford heavily involved in the first of those, playing a ball into the area for Brandon Williams to chase.

The young full-back won a penalty after a rash challenge from goalkeeper Tim Krul.

United had missed four of their previous eight penalties this season — two in their win at Norwich before Christmas — but Rashford made no mistake on this occasion with a firm strike into the bottom right-hand corner.

The Reds did not have long to wait for a third as Williams played a quick, short corner to Mata whose cross was headed in brilliantly by Martial, who rose powerfully amid a crowded six-yard area to head firmly past Krul.

It was the second assist of an impressive afternoon for Mata, with Norwich’s outplayed midfield and immobile defence having no answer to his skill-set.

“When you get Juan facing forward he can pick those passes and put crosses in, he was excellent,” said Solskjaer.

Williams himself should have continued the rout moments later, missing an open net from three yards, before substitute Greenwood finally produced that fourth after 75 minutes, driving a left-foot shot past Krul from the edge of the area.

AFP

United Won’t Make Panic Buys, Says Solskjaer

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrives back on the pitch for the second half of the English League Cup semi-final first leg football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England on January 7, 2020. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists Manchester United will not look for short-term solutions in the January transfer window just to guarantee his job security.

Solskjaer will not countenance bringing in players if they do not fit in with United’s long-term plan.

His squad has been stretched by injuries and a gruelling schedule and they have not won any of their three matches so far in 2020.

Those weaknesses were brutally exposed in the 3-1 defeat by Manchester City in the first leg of the League Cup semi-finals on Tuesday to once again put the spotlight on Solskjaer.

United struggled in the absence of injured midfielders Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay.

However, Solskjaer refuses to discuss the idea of any stop-gap signings.

“I am not going to protect myself,” Solskjaer said ahead of Norwich’s visit to Old Trafford on Saturday.

“I am here to do what I think is best for the club and what I feel is best.

“I would never, ever, ever, put myself before the club. This is Manchester United and there is no I in Manchester.

“I could never do that. That is not me. I am working and managing for Man Utd.

“Myself and Ed (Woodward) are having conversations all the time about how we are going to look in one month, in five months and in a longer period.

“He knows my feelings and I am very happy working with these players we have.”

– ‘Due diligence’ –

Despite the shortcomings United have shown this season, they are still just five points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea, who occupy the final Champions League qualification spot.

The right signing could make all the difference in reaching Europe’s elite club competition next season.

Yet Solskjaer is firm in his belief that any newcomer must adhere to the values and qualities that United want.

“We are building towards something, but I am sure the fans are bored listening to me talk about what we do have as a vision and a plan,” he said.

“It doesn’t change from September 1 to now. That is impossible to change.

“You wouldn’t put yourself in a position now that you do something that you regret in 18 months.

“So we have to do due diligence on players’ quality and character to make it the right fit into this squad.”

After the defeat by City, United striker Marcus Rashford admitted his team were only playing at 50 percent of their current potential.

Solskjaer was reluctant to go that far, but he cites Rashford, who has scored 14 goals in his last 19 games for United, as proof of what can be achieved.

“We didn’t perform really well for long periods in that game, that’s for sure,” he said.

“I don’t think it was a half performance but I know where Marcus is coming from.

“We know the potential of how we can perform and sometimes we don’t reach that.

“But Marcus is an example of how well this team has improved and how much it is improving.”

AFP

‘I’m Not In Medieval Times’, Solskjaer Dismisses Van Persie’s Criticism

United Seek To Derail Liverpool Title Bid
Manchester United’s Norwegian caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium in London, on January 13, 2019. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hit back at criticism of his management style from former Red Devils striker Robin Van Persie, saying: “I’m not in medieval times.”

The Dutchman felt Solskjaer appeared too upbeat in the aftermath of the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal on New Year’s Day that left United five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea in the Premier League.

Van Persie said Solskjaer “seems like a really nice guy” but that the Norwegian needed to be more “mean at times” and “more angry” and added: “You need to have fear as well for your coach.”

Solskjaer, who is also having to handle fresh speculation surrounding the future of star midfielder Paul Pogba, said Van Persie was not in a position to judge his methods.

“I don’t know Robin and Robin doesn’t know me,” he said ahead of his side’s FA Cup third-round tie away to Wolves.

“He probably doesn’t have a right to criticise my management style and I won’t change. That’s definite. Robin took my number 20 (shirt) and that’s probably all he’s going to take from me as well. Because I’m not in medieval times.”

The “medieval times” remark was perceived to be Solskjaer defending his man-management methods, which appear far removed from the more autocratic approach of his old United boss Alex Ferguson.

Solskjaer was also asked about criticism of the club in general from Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola.

The Italian is reported to have told La Repubblica he would stop sending his clients to United, saying they would “ruin” even a great player.

Coming in the context of a fresh injury setback for Pogba, who will be out for three to four weeks after surgery to remove bone fragments from his ankle, the comments have been interpreted by some as Raiola seeking to engineer a move away from Old Trafford for Pogba.

“Paul Pogba is our player and agents are hired by players, not the opposite way around. It’s not ‘agents’ players’, it’s ‘our players’,” said Solskjaer.

“What me and Paul are talking about I don’t have to talk to you about. That will be between us.”

United travel to Molineux on Saturday to take on the team that knocked them out in last season’s quarter-finals.

AFP

Man United In Full Support Of Pogba Operation, Says Solskjaer

Manchester United and France midfielder Paul Pogba gives a press conference in Tours, central France, on December 29, 2019.  AFP

 

Manchester United were in full support of the decision that led to Paul Pogba undergoing ankle surgery, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said on Friday.

The Norwegian boss appeared to suggest after the New Year’s Day defeat to Arsenal that Pogba’s “people” had recommended the surgery, raising questions over how much input the club had in the decision.

The French World Cup winner made his comeback after nearly three months out with an ankle injury in a 2-0 defeat at Watford on December 22 and also made an appearance off the bench in a 4-1 thrashing of Newcastle four days later but has since been sidelined again.

Speculation continues to surround the 26-year-old, who has been regularly linked with a move away from Old Trafford and whose agent, Mino Raiola, has been scathing about the club in comments made in the Italian media.

But Solskjaer was keen to play down any suggestion of a disagreement regarding the injury, and said: “Paul came back after a long spell out, (featured in) a few games, had a reaction, didn’t go to Burnley.

“He felt his ankle was sore, we did a scan. It’s not the same injury, it’s a different injury. Of course when you get that scan you consult your own medical people as well, like I did. He wanted a second opinion and the advice was to have it done.”

On the injury, Solskjaer added: “It’s not a major one and probably, as I said, three or four weeks.

When asked again about why he had suggested it was Pogba’s “people” behind the decision to undergo surgery, he added: “As in when you consult your surgeon and the ones you trust.

“That’s maybe my bad English — you have people you trust and you speak to. When I had my injuries, knee operations, I had my people in Norway and Sweden that I spoke to and Paul obviously has people as well that he trusts, and that’s important.”

Wolves FA Cup test 

Solskjaer’s team face Wolves in the FA Cup third round at Molineux on Saturday, having been dumped out of the competition by them in the quarter-finals last season.

“They’re not going to make it easy for us,” he said.

“It’s the fourth time at Molineux since I’ve been here and we haven’t won yet. Liverpool lost there last season, City have just lost there so we have got to earn the right to win there. We’ve got to perform and go there positive.

“We want a reaction after the defeat against Arsenal, which everyone says was such a bad, bad performance. But in my mind it was a good game by two good footballing teams.”

Eighteen-year-old Mason Greenwood, who started and scored in the Boxing Day win at home to Newcastle and came off the bench at Arsenal, could be in contention.

“He’s grown a lot. He’s mentally and physically more robust which of course you expect from an 18-year-old,” Solskjaer said.

“He’s had more or less 12 months with us now and he’s grown fantastically, his confidence and performances in the top games. He’s played a lot of cup games and done well.”

Solskjaer also confirmed that reserve goalkeeper Sergio Romero would play at Molineux.

AFP

Arteta Secures First Win As Arsenal Beat Man Utd

Arsenal’s Spanish head coach Mikel Arteta (2nd L) celebrates with his players on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium in London on January 1, 2020. Arsenal won the game 2-0.
Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Mikel Arteta claimed his first win as Arsenal manager in impressive fashion as his side outplayed Manchester United to secure just a second victory in 16 games with a 2-0 win at the Emirates.

Nicolas Pepe and Sokratis Papastathopoulos struck before half-time to reward arguably Arsenal’s finest 45 minutes of the season so far.

The Gunners started the game three times as many points off the top four as the relegation zone, but a first home win in 87 days hauls Arteta’s men up to 10th and within four points of United in fifth.

READ ALSO: Gabriel Jesus Stars As Man City Beat Everton

There were signs of encouragement for Arsenal in Arteta’s home debut against Chelsea on Sunday when only a late collapse saw a 1-0 lead turn into a 2-1 defeat.

However, this time the hosts saw the game through as a dismal United performance raised fresh questions over their chances of finishing in the top four.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were again shorn of Paul Pogba, who faces another few weeks on the sidelines due to an ongoing ankle injury.

United have grown used to coping without Pogba this season, but still, struggle to create when denied the counter-attack and failed to recover after falling behind early on.

For the first time, Arsenal started with all of Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, and Mesut Ozil together in attack and Arteta’s bold choice paid dividends eight minutes in.

Pepe scored just his second Premier League goal from open play since a £72 million move from Lille when he swept home Sead Kolasinac’s cross at the back post.

The Ivorian was suddenly brimming with confidence as he twisted and turned Luke Shaw before cross for Aubameyang to volley just over.

Lacazette then rolled Harry Maguire easily in a night to forget for the world’s most expensive defender before pulling his shot across goal.

David de Gea is another of United’s more experienced stars suffering an alarming dip in form and a poor clearance from the Spaniard offered another sight of the goal to Pepe, whose long-range strike came back off the post.

Arsenal’s first half dominance was rewarded with a second goal before the half-time interval as De Gea could only palm Lacazette’s header from a corner back into the danger area and Sokratis pounced to fire into the roof of the net.

As the hosts’ energy levels dipped from a frantic first 45 minutes, United were allowed to dictate the game but did have the guile to make their possession count.

Andreas Pereira had the best chance to give United a lifeline but fired into the side-netting from Nemanja Matic’s clever reverse pass.

Mason Greenwood also forced Bernd Leno into a smart save, but United’s normal source of goals, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, were kept in check as a much-maligned Arsenal defence kept just a fourth Premier League clean sheet this season.

AFP

Martial, Rashford Score For United In Burnley Win

Manchester United’s French striker Anthony Martial (C) puts the ball in the back of the net but is ruled to have fouled Burnley’s English defender James Tarkowski (L) ruling out the goal during the English Premier League football match at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on December 28, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

 

Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford scored late in each half as Manchester United moved into fifth place in the Premier League with an impressive 2-0 win at Burnley.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have responded positively to disappointing 2-0 defeat to then bottom-of-the-table Watford less than a week ago to head into the new year with fresh belief they can secure a return to the Champions League next season.

If United are to achieve that goal, Martial and Rashford will be key and they again provided the goals for the Red Devils in a game of few clear-cut chances.

There were also positives for Solskjaer at the back as his side ended a club-record 14-match run without a Premier League clean sheet.

Burnley have not beaten United since 2009 and never looked likely to spring a surprise.

Rashford was first to threaten when he hit the outside of the post midway through the first half.

But Burnley were architects of their own downfall just before half-time when Charlie Taylor gifted possession to Andreas Perreira and he fed Martial to score his third goal in two games.

Phil Bardsley forced David De Gea into a fine save with Burnley’s only shot on target.

United finally got the second goal their performance deserved to add a shine to the scoreline deep into stoppage time.

Daniel James led a counter-attack down the right and Rashford slotted home his 16th goal of the season at the second attempt after slipping as he rounded Nick Pope.

Solskajer Rues Festive Fixture Pile-Up

Manchester United Name Solskjaer As Permanent Manager
Manchester United’s Norwegian caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has become the latest Premier League manager to complain about the “unfair” packed programme of fixtures over Christmas and New Year.

United play their final league match of 2019 against Burnley on Saturday, just over 48 hours since competing a 4-1 comeback win over Newcastle.

Those matches form part of a sequence of seven games in 21 days that is hard to square with modern notions of rest and recovery.

But such is the commercial appeal of the traditionally congested programme that change does not appear likely anytime soon, even though Jurgen Klopp, the manager of runaway leaders Liverpool said recently it was a “crime” for teams to have to play on both December 26 and 27.

“I don’t think it is fair on the boys at all,” said United manager Solskjaer.

“I don’t think it is fair to be expected to perform at the best of your level, both mentally and physically, 48 hours after you have played.

“But I think we are in the best position to perform on Saturday. One — the game was over after 45 minutes. Two — we are young,” the former United striker added.

“We have a great chance against Burnley to perform at the best level because our boys, when you are 23, which is the average age of the outfield starting players (against Newcastle), that will make it easier for us to recover than Burnley, for example. I think.

“They played until the end against Everton. We were done after 45 minutes and used the second half as recovery.

“But it is not fair, especially when a game at Watford has just gone and there will be a game New Years’ Day.

“Two games in three days is possible once in a while but not when it is as tight as this.”

The Norwegian, asked if English football might change its ways, replied: “You are a traditionalist country. You like your traditions. I can’t see it being changed, no. But it should be.”

As for how he coped during his playing days, Solskjaer jokingly said: “It was easy for me. I was on the bench all the time! I never played 90 minutes twice in three days.

“Maybe I did one year. I scored against Villa and Ipswich. You have to look after yourself.

“You have to eat the right things, drink the right things, sleep well.”

AFP