‘Jinxed:’ Four Times Man United Lost Semi-Final Games Under Solskjaer

In this file photo taken on October 16, 2021, ex-Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts at the end of the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Manchester United sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the club’s manager on Sunday, ending a three-year trophyless stint which saw the Norwegian losing four semi-finals and a final.  

A 1-4 humiliating defeat against relegation-threatened Watford at the Vicarage Road on Saturday, the latest in a string of losses, was the final straw.

The loss left the Old Trafford side seventh on the league log, 12 points behind leaders Chelsea. They are also facing a threat of non-qualification for the Champions League next season.

Before Sunday’s sack, United under Solskjaer had failed to win a trophy, their last being the Europa League they clinched during Jose Mourinho’s reign.

But the former Molde manager did get some near misses during his time with the 1999 European champions.

READ ALSO: Five Potential Candidates To Replace Solskjaer

Here are four times Manchester United lost semi-final encounters under Solskjaer:

2020/21: Man Utd 0-2 Man City (Carabao Cup)

File photo: Former Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts at the final whistle during the English League Cup semi-final first leg football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, northwest England, on January 6, 2021. PETER POWELL / POOL / AFP

 

With the COVID-19 pandemic halting sports globally, the Carabao Cup semi-final was a single-legged affair.

But Manchester United, in their fourth semi-final encounter under the Norwegian coach, crumbled 0-2 in the hands of neighbours Manchester City.

Brazil’s Fernandinho was on song during the game, wrapping up a match that also saw  John Stones getting on the scorer’s sheet.

2019/20: Sevilla 2-1 Man Utd  (Europa League)

Players including Manchester United’s Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea reacts after the UEFA Europa League semi-final football match Sevilla v Manchester United on August 16, 2020, in Cologne, western Germany. Ina Fassbender / POOL / AFP

 

After taking a first-half advantage via a Bruno Fernandes goal. However, they were pegged back just before the break. United missed several chances before Luuk De Jong punished them with a winner with 12 minutes to go. It’s the team’s third semi-final defeat under Solskjaer.

2019/20: Chelsea 3-1 Man Utd (FA Cup)

Chelsea players celebrating after Giroud scored the opener in the FA Cup semi-final win over Manchester United on Sunday, July 19th, 2020. Photo: [email protected]

 

 

The second semi-final defeat for United since the arrival of the club legend ended their 19-match unbeaten streak. It was also the third time in four terms that Chelsea had eliminated the Red Devils from the competition.

 2019/20: Man Utd 1-3 Man City; Man City 0-1 Man Utd (agg 2-3) – Carabao Cup

United’s Brandon Williams leaps high in the air to try to win the ball against Mahrez during the clash. Photo: Manchester United.

 

In a classic display for Pep Guardiola’s men, Manchester United blew away Solskjaer’s boys, taking a massive 3-0 lead under 30 minutes.

English striker Marcus Rashford got a consolation goal for United in the second half in the first leg encounter.

In the second leg encounter, Manchester United won 3-2 but that was inadequate to see them through to the final.

Tottenham Hit 10-Man Man Utd For Six On Mourinho’s Return

 

 

Tottenham cashed in on Anthony Martial’s first-half red card to thrash Manchester United 6-1 as Jose Mourinho enjoyed a dream return to Old Trafford on Sunday.

Son Heung-min and Harry Kane scored twice as Spurs opened up a disorganised United defence at will even before Martial was harshly punished for an off-the-ball clash with Erik Lamela.

Tanguy Ndombele and Serge Aurier were also on target for Tottenham, who showed no ill-effects of a draining week in their fourth match in eight days.

United’s worst home defeat since 2011 will turn the spotlight onto them ahead of the transfer deadline on Monday.

Uruguayan striker Edison Cavani is reportedly set to join the Red Devils, but it is at the other end of the field Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men are in desperate need of reinforcements.

Mourinho, who was sacked as United boss in December 2018, has claimed his old club are too often the beneficiaries of dubious penalty decisions. But he could have no complaints when Davinson Sanchez upended Martial inside the area in the first minute.

Bruno Fernandes coolly slotted home the spot-kick to seemingly give the home side the perfect start.

However, within four minutes it was 1-1 as calamitous defending from Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw presented Ndombele with the chance to sweep home an equaliser from close range.

Kane was the provider for all four of Son’s goals in a 5-2 win at Southampton two weeks ago and the two combined to perfection once more as Spurs took the lead three minutes later.

Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka were caught ball watching as Kane’s quickly taken free-kick was perfect for the South-Korean to race through and dink the ball over the advancing David De Gea.

The visitors could have had plenty more as a poor touch from Son denied him another one-on-one with De Gea before the Spaniard saved from Aurier.

Any chance of a United revival went with Martial as he was shown a straight red card for raising his hands to Lamela’s face in retaliation to an elbow from the Argentine, which went unpunished from VAR.

Even that decision, though, could not mask a disastrous performance from United, who gifted another goal away within two minutes of losing a man.

Kane intercepted Bailly’s attempt to play out from inside his own box and when the ball broke to Son, he unselfishly squared for Kane to slot into an unguarded net.

Son had been a major injury doubt after suffering a hamstring problem in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Newcastle, but he was full of energy as he burst into the box to flick his seventh goal of the season between De Gea’s legs.

Solskjaer introduced holding midfielders Scott McTominay and Fred at half-time in a bid to stem the tide, but United were cut open again when Paul Pogba failed to track Aurier’s run and he fired into the far corner from Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg’s perfect pass.

Pogba was at fault again for the sixth as he dived in on Ben Davies and Kane converted emphatically from the penalty spot.

A second straight home defeat to start the season drops United to just above the relegation zone in 16th, while Tottenham move up to fifth.

Man City Pounce On Varane Mistakes To Dump Out Real Madrid

 

Manchester City took advantage of two shocking mistakes by Raphael Varane to beat Real Madrid 2-1 in their Champions League last 16-second leg on Friday and advance to the quarter-finals as Pep Guardiola came out on top in his duel with Zinedine Zidane.

The Frenchman had never been knocked out of Europe’s elite club competition as Real coach, leading them to three consecutive victories between 2016 and 2018 in his first spell before returning to the job last year.

But Madrid had been left with a mountain to climb in this tie after throwing away the lead to lose 2-1 in the first leg in Spain in February, before the coronavirus forced the competition into hibernation.

An identical defeat at an empty Etihad Stadium means it is City who advance 4-2 on aggregate.

READ ALSO: Lyon Hold Off Juventus To Reach Champions League Quarter-Finals

Without Sergio Ramos due to suspension, Real were undone by mistakes by their other first-choice centre-back.

Varane was dispossessed inside the box in the ninth minute allowing Raheem Sterling to put City ahead, and his poor headed backpass attempt gifted Gabriel Jesus another goal midway through the second half.

Before that second goal the tie had been in the balance with the in-form Karim Benzema having scored for the visitors just before the half-hour mark.

The circumstances may be highly unusual, but this is still City’s finest Champions League result, their most significant victory in a knock-out tie.

Their best performance in the competition remains a run to the semi-finals in 2016, when they went out rather limply to Real.

Now they should very possibly be considered the favourites to win the competition in Lisbon on August 23.

If they do so, the victory would taste all the sweeter coming so soon after their successful appeal to the Court of Arbitration of Sport against a two-year ban from Europe handed down by UEFA for breaches of their Financial Fair Play rules.

They have already qualified for next season’s tournament after coming second in the Premier League but now they can look forward to facing Lyon in the quarter-finals next Saturday at the Estadio Jose Alvalade.

Real, meanwhile, will get over this.

They have dined out on success in the Champions League in recent years but their main objective after the coronavirus shutdown was to win La Liga and they did that.

Zidane’s team overhauled Barcelona thanks to 10 successive victories after La Liga returned in June but they were not especially prolific in front of goal during that run, despite Benzema’s fine form.

Uphill struggle

It was already going to be an uphill struggle for them in the absence of Ramos, sent off late in the first leg, and their task became even harder after they conceded an early opener.

City’s high pressing paid off as Varane was barged off the ball in his own area by Jesus, who squared for Sterling to roll in.

There was a response from the 13-time European champions, though, with Benzema and Eden Hazard both forcing saves from Ederson before their equaliser on the night arrived in the 28th minute.

A fine move ended with Benzema feeding Rodrygo and the young Brazilian clipping in a cross from the right for the Frenchman, who rose above Aymeric Laporte and Fernandinho to head in from the edge of the six-yard box.

It was his 65th goal in the Champions League, putting him one clear of Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski on the overall list and behind only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Raul.

Unfortunately for Real, Benzema was not able to add to that tally and this tie was effectively ended by another Varane blooper.

The Frenchman struggled with an awkward high ball downfield and his header back towards Thibaut Courtois was short, allowing Jesus to prod it beyond the goalkeeper and into the net.

Real will not return to Lisbon, where they won the Champions League in 2014, but the dream remains alive for Guardiola and City.

AFP

Man Utd Beat Wolves To Reach FA Cup Fourth Round

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Mexican striker Raul Jimenez (L) headers the ball but fails to score during the English FA Cup third round-replay football match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford in Manchester, northwest England, on January 15, 2020. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Man Utd Beat Wolves To Reach FA Cup Fourth Round.

Martial Brace Fires Man Utd In Newcastle Defeat

 

Anthony Martial’s double and a Mason Greenwood rocket fired Manchester United to a 4-1 win against Newcastle that lifted the mood at Old Trafford after their recent struggles.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side slumped to an embarrassing 2-0 defeat at lowly Watford last weekend to raise fresh questions about the United manager’s ability to inspire his players.

When Matty Longstaff put Newcastle ahead in the first half on Thursday, Solskjaer’s critics were sharpening their knives again.

But Martial rode to Solskjaer’s rescue with the equaliser and Greenwood’s thunderbolt put United ahead before Marcus Rashford rounded off a first half blitz.

Martial netted again after the interval as United ended a two-match winless run in the Premier League and moved into seventh place, just four points behind fourth placed Chelsea in the race to qualify for the Champions League.

United’s failure to match the levels they showed in their recent win at champions Manchester City during lacklustre efforts against Watford and Everton had put Solskjaer’s future in the spotlight again.

The Norwegian insisted he retains the support of United owners the Glazer family, but he could hardly afford another setback against mid-table opponents like Newcastle.

Scott McTominay tried too hard to set the tone for United when he crunched into a studs-high tackle on Sean Longstaff that earned him the fastest Premier League booking of the season after just 40 seconds.

That was part of a spluttering start from United and Dwight Gayle should have put Newcastle ahead from Joelinton’s pass, but the striker blazed high into the Stretford End.

It was a warning that Solskjaer’s men failed to heed as Newcastle took the lead in the 17th minute.

Matty Longstaff had scored the winner against United on his Premier League debut in October.

The 19-year-old midfielder was making just his third appearance since that dream debut at St James’ Park and this was his first goal since.

Greenwood sparkles

Stepping past Luke Shaw, he produced a fine low finish after Joelinton showed impressive composure to tee up Longstaff inside the penalty area.

Now without a clean-sheet in 14 league games, United needed a quick response to lift the gloom and Martial got a helping hand as he delivered the equaliser in the 24th minute.

Andreas Pereira’s neat lay-off from Shaw’s pass gave Martial a sight of goal and French striker’s low shot squirmed under a weak attempted save from Martin Dubravka at his near post.

Newcastle had contributed to their own downfall on that occasion and Greenwood punished more sloppy defending to put United in front in the 36th minute.

Greenwood, making just his third Premier League start, has been one of the few bright spots in a frustrating season.

The 18-year-old showcased his vast potential when he seized on Fabian Schar’s wayward pass and crashed a sublime strike past Dubravka from 20 yards for his eighth goal of the season.

United had all the momentum and increased their lead in the 41st minute, with Rashford climbing highest to power a header into the roof of the net from Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s pin-point cross despite Newcastle appeals for a foul in the build-up.

Following Rashford’s 15th club goal this season, Solskjaer sent on Pogba at half-time for his second appearance since returning from a lengthy ankle injury.

It was Pogba’s compatriot Martial who put the result beyond doubt in the 51st minute.

Sean Longstaff’s woeful attempted back-pass from near the halfway line was intercepted by Martial and he raced into the area before clipping his shot over Dubravka.

Martial was inches away from a hat-trick when his long-range blast hit the post.

Man City’s Title Defence Rocked By Defeat Against Wolves

 

Manchester City’s bid to win a third successive Premier League title suffered a huge setback as the champions crashed to a shock 2-0 defeat against Wolves on Sunday.

Pep Guardiola’s side are trailing leaders Liverpool by eight points following Adama Traore’s two late goals at the Etihad Stadium.

READ ALSO: Abraham, Mount Fire Chelsea To Victory At Southampton

It was second-placed City’s second league defeat this term after their surprise loss at Norwich in September.

Liverpool — pipped to the title by one point last term — have won all eight of their league games as they bid to win the English crown for the first time since 1990.

Aubameyang Denies Man Utd Morale-Boosting Win Over Arsenal

Arsenal’s Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring their first goal, decision of off-side overturned by VAR (Video Assistant referee) during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on September 30, 2019. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s second-half strike, awarded by VAR, denied Manchester United a much-needed win to kickstart their season as Arsenal emerged from Old Trafford with a 1-1 draw on Monday.

Scott McTominay’s stunning strike to give United the lead was a rare moment of quality in a poor first-half.

However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men could not hold out for all three points as Aubameyang’s goal just before the hour mark was allowed to stand despite the Gabon international being initially flagged offside.

United have now won just two of their last 12 Premier League games dating back to last season and sit 12 points adrift of leaders Liverpool just seven games into the campaign.

A point is enough to edge Arsenal back into the top four on goal difference and maintain their three-point advantage over United, who move up to 10th.

For many years the clashes between these sides were the Premier League’s marquee fixtures. United and Arsenal were the champions of England for nine consecutive seasons between 1996 and 2004.

However, the fact the were facing off a Monday night because neither are in Champions League action later this week was reflected in a first 45 minutes devoid of quality.

It took 28 minutes for either goalkeeper to be tested as Arsenal’s Bernd Leno saved well low to his left to deny Andreas Pereira after a solo run.

United have not scored more than one goal in any match since the opening day of the season and, even against an Arsenal defence that had conceded nine goals in their last four league games, looked toothless when not afforded space to counter-attack into.

Arsenal, though, played right into the hosts hands in the final five minutes of the first-half.

Firstly, Marcus Rashford wasted a huge chance when played in behind by Paul Pogba’s through ball with the Gunners furiously protesting for a free-kick against the Frenchman as he dispossessed Matteo Guendouzi.

Arsenal then had the chance to strike on the counter-attack themselves as from a United corner the visitors burst forward through Bukayo Saka and after his effort was palmed away by David de Gea, the Spaniard got back in position to block Guendouzi’s follow-up effort.

But from the resulting corner, it was United who took the lead.

Daniel James led the counter from one end of the field to the other and after his cross just evaded Rashford, the England international cut the ball back to the edge of the box where McTominay smashed into the top corner.

That was the first goal United had scored a goal from open play at home in the first-half this season.

But they soon needed a second as Arsenal struck back after the break thanks to VAR.

Saka pounced on a loose pass deep inside the United half and fed Aubameyang, who had been flagged offside, before dinking the ball past De Gea.

However, replays showed he was clearly played onside by Harry Maguire and his eighth goal of the season was allowed to stand.

Seconds later, Unai Emery’s men were unlucky not to be in front when Saka’s shot from Callum Chambers’s cross was deflected just over by Victor Lindelof.

Attack looked like the best form of defence for Arsenal as their backline never looked comfortable at holding out for a point.

Pogba fired inches wide from the edge of the area before McTominay somehow didn’t score his second of the night with a free header six yards out from a corner.

Leno produced a fine save to turn a piledriver from Maguire over as the world’s most expensive defender tried to atone for his earlier error.

But the German goalkeeper’s best save of the evening came at the death as he flew to his left to turn Rashford’s powerful free-kick to safety.

 

Guardiola Impressed By Mahrez Revival

 

Pep Guardiola has backed Riyad Mahrez to be a key man for Manchester City after the Algeria winger’s vibrant start to the season.

With Leroy Sane out for at least five months as he recovers from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, Mahrez will have plenty of chances to make his mark this season.

He did that on Wednesday in the Champions League, scoring one and creating another as City strolled to a 3-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Algerian struggled at City last season following his £60 million move from Leicester.

READ ALSO: Barcelona Starlet Fati Granted Spanish Citizenship

But now Guardiola believes the 28-year-old can become a major part of his plans as he adapts to City’s unique style.

“Riyad played well last season apart from the first few games,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday.

“He took a bit of time to adapt as it was different from Leicester where he was used to playing on the counter attack, but that is normal.

“But he loves to play football and he loves training. He just wants to be in the contact with the ball. I like that.

“He doesn’t feel too much pressure and he has a lot of confidence in himself.

“If he has a bad action, he wants the ball back to try again. That is the best detail for players in big clubs.

“He is quality, but the only thing is he just needs to be more relaxed when he does not play.”

While Mahrez was impressing in Kharkiv, Gabriel Jesus also caught the eye with a goal in just his second start of the season.

The Brazilian striker has had to play second fiddle to Sergio Aguero since he came to England in January 2017, but Guardiola says he is the perfect understudy to the Argentine.

– Incredible future –
“It’s difficult to find a striker like Gabriel in Europe or the world. He is a top player and his behaviour in training sessions is outstanding,” Guardiola said.

“He has to handle being behind Aguero, a legend in this club and one of the best strikers I have ever worked with, so my praise for Gabriel is over the moon.

“He needs to be patient but when he plays, he does absolutely everything in the way he fights and the way he tries. He is a young forward and his future is incredible.”

Fernandinho appears certain to retain his place for the Premier League game at home to Watford on Saturday as an emergency centre-half, having stepped in alongside Nicolas Otamendi to replace the injured John Stones in Ukraine on Wednesday.

Stones faces another month out and Aymeric Laporte is sidelined until the new year, so Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho will be needed in defence for the foreseeable future.

With Vincent Kompany joining Anderlecht in the close-season, it leaves teenagers Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis as the only other alternatives to Fernandinho as a centre-half.

However, Guardiola is trying to turn the difficult situation into a positive.

“We don’t have many options. But I don’t see it as a problem, it’s a challenge,” he said.

“We have to accept it and handle it. You have to be positive. If we do that, we’ll be happy.”

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Rashford Penalty Gives United Edge Over Leicester

 

Marcus Rashford put the disappointment of a previous penalty miss behind him by scoring from the spot to give Manchester United a much-needed 1-0 win over Leicester at Old Trafford on Saturday.

But manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was left with more unanswered questions about his team’s prospects as Rashford’s first-half penalty secured just his team’s second win of the campaign.

Beaten on their last Old Trafford outing by Crystal Palace, there was little margin for error for United, or £80 million ($100million) defender Harry Maguire who was facing his former club for the first time since his summer move.

Magure was booed and subjected to insulting chants from his former club’s supporters throughout the 90 minutes.

READ ALSO: Son At The Double As Spurs Thump Crystal Palace

There were still long, perplexing periods where United were distinctly second best and outplayed by a Leicester side who started the day in third place.

At least the United manager did not face a further inquisition over penalties after the chaotic start his team has made in that department.

Penalties have dominated much of the news agenda around United in the early stages of the campaign, with Paul Pogba and Rashford both guilty of costly misses that cost their team points against Wolves and Palace.

So when the Reds won their fourth spot kick in five games this season following a push by Caglar Soyuncu on Rashford after six minutes, all eyes were on the taker’s identity.

Pogba, however, was not a candidate for penalty responsibilities, having missed the game with an ankle injury, paving the way for Rashford, who failed from the spot in United’s last home fixture against Palace, with the duty.

The England forward showed admirable poise and composure by placing a right-footed kick into the bottom corner of the Leicester goal and sending Kasper Schmeichel the wrong way.

It was an ideal start for Solskjaer’s side, having endured an uncomfortable international break in which much had been made of their underwhelming start to the campaign.

That pressure had increased, with French pair Pogba and Anthony Martial unavailable for the visit of Brendan Rodgers’ side due to injury.

United went close to breaking the deadlock within two minutes.

They were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the Leicester area, which Andreas Pereira sent flying towards the top corner, forcing Schmeichel into an important and athletic stop.

But there was an almost immediate reminder of how vulnerable United’s defence has looked.

A long clearance from Schmeichel was allowed to bounce twice before James Maddison out-muscled Victor Lindelof and produced a shot which David de Gea did well to block.

The United goalkeeper was equally alert just before the half-hour when he tipped over a brilliant left-footed 25-yard volley from England defender Ben Chilwell following a half-cleared corner.

But either side of half-time saw Leicester start to take control of the game, with Youri Tielemans dominating midfield and Maddison becoming more influential.

The England squad man almost equalised, after 55 minutes, with a right-foot free-kick which sailed just wide of the home goal as United became increasingly bogged down.

There were chances on the counter-attack for Solskjaer’s side — Daniel James shooting over from 20 yards and Juan Mata being denied by Schmeichel — while Rashford’s 83rd minute free-kick struck the City bar.

Guardiola Fears Laporte Out For Up To Six Months

 

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed that influential defender Aymeric Laporte faces up to six months out after undergoing knee surgery.

Laporte damaged cartilage and the lateral meniscus in his right knee after a clash with Brighton’s Adam Webster in City’s 4-0 win on August 31.

City reported that Laporte had undergone successful surgery in Barcelona, but did not specify how long they expected the Frenchman to be sidelined.

Guardiola confirmed the Frenchman will not return before next year and could even miss the start to the knockout stages of the Champions League in February, should the English champions advance to the last 16.

READ ALSO: PSG Ready For Neymar Return Ahead Of Champions League Campaign

“Long (time). Five months, six months,” said Guardiola when asked how long he expected to be without his defensive lynchpin.

“Next year (for) sure. January or February.”

Laporte will be missed with centre-back one of the few positions where City are not blessed with great strength in depth.

The Premier League champions did not buy a replacement for departed former captain Vincent Kompany in the summer transfer window.

Midfielder Fernandinho is expected to deputise at the heart of the defence with John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi the only two senior centre-backs available to Guardiola.

City may be tempted to reinforce their defence when the transfer window re-opens in January.

However, speaking ahead of his City testimonial this week, Kompany said he trusted Guardiola to find the solution.

“By losing Laporte you lose a big player. You need big players in the bigger games but the key strength of this Manchester City team is relying more on the system than the individuals,” said the Belgian.

“I don’t see City weakening. Pep is way too aware of this danger to let it happen.”

Guardiola Wary Of Tottenham Title Challenge

 

Tottenham Hotspur may have finished fourth in the Premier League last season, far behind champions Manchester City and Champions League winners Liverpool, but City manager Pep Guardiola has branded Spurs the “second best team in Europe” ahead of the two sides’ meeting on Saturday.

Guardiola was referring to the fact that Tottenham knocked out City on their way to a first ever Champions League final last season before losing to Liverpool in Madrid.

“I know how good Tottenham are,” said Guardiola. “It’s the second best team in Europe. For me, that is enough.”

However, bar their 1-0 defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in the first leg of that Champions League quarter-final, City have won five of the last six meetings between the teams and finished 27 points above them in the league.

Since Tottenham’s last trophy –- the English League Cup in 2008 -– City have won ten major trophies.

But if anyone is going to bridge the huge gap that City and Liverpool opened up at the top of the league last season, Mauricio Pochettino’s men appear best placed to do so.

“Tottenham are really, really, good contenders,” he states. “Since I came here to England, every season Spurs was a real contender.

“In the first season they finished second. We won in the last two seasons, but they were always there.”

However, Guardiola also believes Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal will pose a threat to prevent City and Liverpool fighting out a two-horse race for the title like last season.

“I am impressed with how Chelsea played in two tough matches against top teams,” said the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager. “I was really surprised by how good Frank Lampard’s team played.

“We saw Manchester United and the quality they have up front in that first game. While Arsenal bought good players, especially like David Luiz and Dani Ceballos, who was a top player in Spain, and they have people up front like (Alexandre) Lacazette and (Pierre-Emerick) Aubameyang.”

The second match of the season is early to be facing one of your direct rivals for the title, but Guardiola has no complaints about the timing.

“Last season, our first fixture was at the Emirates against Arsenal,” he adds. “The schedule is the schedule, so welcome to the Etihad Stadium.”

Manchester United Inflict 4-0 Thrashing On Lampard’s Chelsea

 

Marcus Rashford scored twice as Manchester United made the perfect start to their Premier League season by inflicting a 4-0 defeat on Frank Lampard in his first match in charge of Chelsea on Sunday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were in need of a fast start to the campaign to erase memories of a terrible end to last season and got it, as Rashford’s early penalty and three goals in 16 second-half minutes from Anthony Martial, Rashford and debutant Daniel James had Old Trafford in raptures.

Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka also impressed at the back on their debuts after United spent £130 million ($156 million) on the pair over the summer to shore up a defence that conceded 54 Premier League goals last season.

However, questions will be asked of Chelsea’s decision to let experienced defender David Luiz leave to join Arsenal earlier this week as the Blues struggled to contain the United counter-attacks despite dominating long spells.

Lampard’s first team selection was a bold one as he put his faith in youth with Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount handed starts, while £60 million signing Christian Pulisic was made to wait for his Premier League debut on the bench.

And Chelsea started the better as Abraham smashed a shot from the edge of the box off the post.

However, the heart of the Chelsea defence always looked fragile.

Kurt Zouma had already gotten away with gifting possession to Martial on the edge of his own box as the Frenchman shot weakly into the arms of Kepa Arrizabalaga before he was turned easily by Rashford and hauled the England striker to the ground.

Pogba the provider

Rashford dusted himself off to blast the penalty high past Kepa to open the scoring and United fed off the momentum of the goal for a spell.

Yet, Chelsea steadied themselves as the first half wore on and should have at least been level by the break.

David de Gea was forced into a fine save with his feet to deny Ross Barkley before left-back Emerson Palmieri also blasted off the inside of the post.

De Gea was at fault with a series of high-profile errors towards the end of last season, but the Spaniard — handed the captain’s armband in the absence of Ashley Young — looked back to his old self as he beat away another two powerful drives from Emerson after the break.

And at the other end, Rashford and Martial provided the clinical touch to kill the game off in the space of 60 seconds that Chelsea lacked.

Maguire showed his presence to outmuscle Abraham on the edge of the United box and set off a flowing counter-attack that ended with Martial bundling the ball home at the far post from Andreas Pereira’s cross.

Paul Pogba then played provider with a brilliant ball over the top for Rashford to burst in behind before coolly slotting past Kepa.

Pogba was the creator again for the fourth as the Frenchman played a one-two with Rashford and powered through the Chelsea defence before laying off to James, who got the benefit of a big deflection to find the bottom corner.