Solskjaer Blames Klopp For Man Utd Getting Fewer Penalties

File photo combination of Klopp and Solskjaer

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claims Manchester United are being given less penalties since Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp questioned the number of spot-kicks awarded to the Old Trafford outfit.

Solskjaer was furious after Cristiano Ronaldo was denied two strong appeals for a spot-kick in a 2-1 win at West Ham in the Premier League last weekend.

The Hammers got their revenge by knocking United out of the League Cup on Wednesday with a 1-0 victory, but Solskjaer’s men again felt hard done by when Jesse Lingard was not awarded a penalty.

Back in January, Klopp erroneously claimed United had been awarded more penalties in Solskjaer’s two-and-a-half years in charge than his first five years at Anfield.

“We just have to hope that we get what we deserve. We should have had three pens in the last two games,” Solskjaer said on Friday.

“I don’t know, but there was a certain manager last year who was starting to worry about us getting penalties and after that it seems like the decisions are more difficult to give. I’ve seen a big, big difference since then on.

“But we just have to leave it up to the refs and hope that they will make the right calls very soon.”

With another opportunity for Solskjaer to end his wait to win a trophy as United boss having slipped by, there is even more pressure on United to challenge for the Premier League this season.

United sit level on points with leaders Chelsea and Liverpool with 13 points from their opening five games, thanks in part to Ronaldo’s flying start since returning to Old Trafford.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has scored four goals in three games and Solskjaer has no concerns about the Portuguese being a marked man ahead of Saturday’s clash with Aston Villa.

“Cristiano has been used to that ever since he came to the club, but maybe more so in say the last 15 years of his career,” he said.

“His first few years, I think everyone wanted to try to kick him because they wanted to stop him, and then he became such a top player that all the teams would have to have an eye on him.

“His record shows already what an impact he has had with us and he is ready for that challenge. He’s so used to it, so no worries.”

AFP

Ronaldo To Make Second Man Utd Debut Against Newcastle

A cardboard cut out of new signing Cristiano Ronaldo is held by Manchester United supporters during the English Premier League football match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton, central England on August 29, 2021. Oli SCARFF / AFP
In this file photo, a cardboard cut out of new signing Cristiano Ronaldo is held by Manchester United supporters during the English Premier League football match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United at the Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton, central England on August 29, 2021. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has revealed Cristiano Ronaldo will make his first Manchester United appearance since his blockbuster move from Juventus when Newcastle visit Old Trafford on Saturday.

Portugal superstar Ronaldo returned to United in a shock transfer just before the transfer deadline.

The 36-year-old striker, who left United to join Real Madrid in 2009, has been training with his new team-mates for the past few days.

United manager Solskjaer confirmed on Friday that Ronaldo would play at least some part in the Premier League clash with Newcastle but it remains to be seen whether the five-time Ballon d’Or winner will start or come off the bench.

“He’s been having a good pre-season with Juventus, he’s played for the national team, he’s had a good week with us here,” Solskjaer said.

“He will definitely be on the pitch at some point, that’s for sure.”

Ronaldo won three Premier League titles and the Champions League during six trophy-laden years with United, before going on to shine with Real and Juventus.

His status as one of the world’s all-time greats is unquestioned, but initially it seemed United would miss out on a reunion with their former star when Manchester City moved to sign him.

Ronaldo said his relationship with former United manager Alex Ferguson played a key role in convincing him to return to Old Trafford.

Solskjaer, who played with Ronaldo during his first spell at the club, said: “Of course we’ve followed his career from afar since he left here and I think everyone’s very happy to have him back.

“He can speak for himself but he seems like he’s happy to be back as well.

“The mood’s been very good, he’s worked well and we’re looking forward to Saturday, of course.”

READ ALSOFIFA ‘Regrets’ Chaos At Abandoned Brazil vs Argentina Match

Fifa To Make Decision On Biennial World Cup ‘By End Of Year’ – Infantino

‘No place to hide’ 

Fergusson retired from Manchester United in 2013. Photo: Instagram/Manchester United.

 

Ronaldo’s return to Manchester came after Solskjaer had already strengthened his squad with swoops for England forward Jadon Sancho and France defender Raphael Varane.

United will be expected to challenge champions Manchester City for the title after such a productive transfer window.

Solskjaer believes Ronaldo will add a higher level of quality to the squad, both physically and mentally, as they look to win the first trophy of the Norwegian’s reign.

“We have grown as a group the last few years. The determination, the desire, the focus has improved over time and bit by bit,” he said.

“Even like bringing Raphael (Varane) in, he’s come in with a winner’s mentality, an unbelievable focus.

“Then of course Cristiano comes in as well and there’s no place to hide when you’ve got winners like them. You can’t go into training and give 95 percent or not being focused.”

As a former Manchester United player, Newcastle boss Steve Bruce appreciates what an emotional afternoon it will be for Ronaldo and the club’s supporters on Saturday.

“The goals he’s scored at every club he’s played for is quite remarkable,” Bruce said.

“That, quite rightly in my opinion, makes him the best player in the world. It’s a terrific signing by Manchester United.

“It’s quite an incredible story of him going back and I’m sure they could have sold out Old Trafford 10 times over if they wished.”

AFP

Depleted Man Utd Will Relish Leipzig Champions League Decider, Says Solskjaer

Manchester United's Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on November 1, 2020. Paul ELLIS / POOL / AFP
File photo: Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on November 1, 2020. Paul ELLIS / POOL / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Manchester United’s players will rise to the occasion as they head into their make-or-break Champions League clash at RB Leipzig without Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial.

After losing 3-1 at home to Paris Saint-Germain last week, United are level on nine points with the French champions and their German opponents ahead of the final round of games in Group H on Tuesday.

United will qualify if they avoid defeat to Leipzig, where the Red Devils will be without attackers Cavani and Martial after they sustained knocks in Saturday’s 3-1 comeback win at West Ham.

An unwanted Europa League campaign awaits if they falter against last season’s Champions League semi-finalists, but Solskjaer believes his players will step up.

“The players are here, they are Man United players because they have qualities that we’ve looked for and I’m sure that tomorrow night will prove that’s the reason why they’re here, they will show it,” said Solskjaer.

“I think the character of the group is getting better and better and we’re looking forward to the game.”

United, who last won the Champions League in 2008, can take heart from their striking away form this season.

– Away form –
The three-time European champions have won eight out of their nine away games, coming from behind to triumph in all five of their Premier League games on the road.

“It’s something that we want, games like this,” said the Norwegian boss, who famously scored the winning goal for United in the 1999 Champions League final.

“It’s a tradition for Man United — we never make it easy for ourselves.

“Of course we look at the games, especially the away game against Istanbul (Basaksehir) that we could have got three points, but that’s just the way we do things.”

READ ALSO: UNICEF Seeks $2.5bn For Mideast Children As COVID-19 Deepens Poverty

United’s task at the Red Bull Arena will be made tougher by the absence of three first-team players.

Fred is suspended following last week’s red card against PSG, while attackers Cavani and Martial have not travelled after sustaining knocks at the London Stadium.

“David (De Gea) is back again, Luke (Shaw) is travelling,” Solskjaer said of his 23-strong travelling squad “Edinson and Anthony, they’ve only minor niggles but they won’t be making the trip.”

Solskjaer’s side have struggled to match their away form at an empty Old Trafford, although they did romp to a 5-0 victory at home against Leipzig.

“You can’t ignore it,” the United boss said of that stunning October win. “Of course it’s a game that we’ll remember fondly because we did many things right — and we need to do lots of things right again.

“But we should also correct the few wrongs that we had and we will. We’ve prepared well. We know Leipzig well enough to know that they’re unpredictable in their shape or systems but we know the players and the style they play in.”

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 Utd Striker Rashford To Receive Honour For Charity Work

File photo: Manchester United’s English striker, Marcus Rashford / AFP

 

Marcus Rashford is to become the youngest person to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Manchester for his work campaigning against child poverty and his sporting achievements.

The 22-year-old Manchester United and England forward will follow in the footsteps of United greats Alex Ferguson and Bobby Charlton in earning the accolade from the university, which is the highest honour it can bestow.

Last month he forced a government U-turn after he wrote an open letter to MPs asking for the reversal of a decision not to award free school meal vouchers to vulnerable children outside term time.

The striker said his family relied on free school meals when he was growing up.

During the coronavirus pandemic he has also teamed up with poverty and food waste charity FareShare to help raise millions to provide meals for vulnerable people.

Rashford said in a statement: “It’s a proud day for myself and my family. When you look at the great names that have been awarded this doctorate in the past, it’s humbling.

“We still have a long way to go in the fight to combat child poverty in this country, but receiving recognition from your city means we are heading in the right direction and that means a lot.”

Manchester United’s English striker Marcus Rashford gestures at the final whistle during the English Leaguse Cup fourth round football match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in London on October 30, 2019. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

The university’s president and vice-chancellor Nancy Rothwell said: “Marcus is an extraordinary young man with an extraordinary talent and drive that stretches well beyond the football field.

“His work for charity and his high-profile campaign will not only help countless young people across our own city, but across the entire country.”

The Football Association tweeted offering “huge congratulations” to Rashford, adding it was “deserved recognition for your remarkable efforts”.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hailed his player.

“We’re so proud of Marcus,” Solskjaer said. “I’ve said it a few times, but he’s a great person and great human being. He cares about so much more than himself.”

AFP

Manchester United Now A ‘Different Team’ – Solskjaer

File photo: Manchester United’s Norwegian caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures at the end of the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on December 26, 2018. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Manchester United are a “different team” from the sluggish side that started the season after extending an unbeaten run to 17 games with a 3-0 win at Aston Villa.

United became the first team in Premier League history to win four consecutive games by a three-goal margin as Mason Greenwood continued his rise to stardom with another thunderous finish after Bruno Fernandes’s controversial penalty opened the scoring.

Fernandes then teed up Paul Pogba to score his first goal for over a year as United closed to within a point of the top four.

Pogba missed the majority of the season prior to the coronavirus shutdown due to injury, but his return to fitness and the January signing of Fernandes, alongside the emergence of Greenwood, have transformed United’s fortunes.

“He’s a fantastic person, fantastic player, one of the best midfielders in the world,” said Solskjaer on Pogba.

“He’s getting better and better because he’s been out for so long, which is natural.

“You can see he is enjoying himself. The team is a different team to the one he left when he was injured. The focus, the attitude, everything is miles better in that dressing room.”

The impact of the coronavirus outbreak could turn Pogba’s United career around.

Prior to the pandemic, the French World Cup winner seemed set to leave the club for the second time in his career.

But with interest from Real Madrid now unlikely to materialise this summer given the economic impact of the crisis, Solskjaer is hoping to extend Pogba’s contract beyond 2022.

Pogba, meanwhile, wants United to show their form of the last few weeks over the long haul to challenge newly-crowned champions Liverpool and Manchester City for the Premier League title next season.

“We are talking in training that we have to carry on, that’s what Manchester is, it is a big club and the performances the last few weeks are the standard of Manchester,” Pogba told Sky Sports.

“We didn’t win the Premier League, that’s the standard, we didn’t win anything yet so there is a lot of work to do.”

Villa’s winless run stretches to 10 games as Dean Smith’s men remain rooted in the bottom three, four points adrift of safety with just four games to go.

But Smith was furious his gameplan was undone when Fernandes won a penalty despite initiating the contact with Villa right-back Ezri Konsa as he spun just inside the area.

“It unravelled with the first goal,” said Smith. “I can understand (referee) Jon (Moss) getting it wrong but I don’t know what VAR are looking at – it’s a disgraceful decision.

“They have a screen they can go and look at it but they don’t seem to be bothered.”

Fernandes took responsibility from the spot to score his eighth goal for the club.

Greenwood scored powerfully off both feet against Bournemouth at the weekend and showed again why Solskjaer rates him among the best finishers he has ever seen by smashing home his 16th goal of the season on his supposedly weaker right foot just before the break.

United have now scored 14 goals in winning their last four league games and turned on the style after the break.

Pogba was given time to control and measure his shot from Fernandes’s cut-back to arrow the ball into the bottom corner for his first goal since April 2019.

Fernandes then teed up Martial to crash a shot off the underside of the bar and Pepe Reina denied Marcus Rashford from Pogba’s sumptuous pass in stoppage time as United had to settle for three.

“We should have won by five clear goals in all of them!” Solskjaer added when informed of his side setting a new record.

Man Utd Must Be Ready For Return To ‘Normality’ – Solskjaer

File: 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

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking at transfer targets during the lockdown and believes Manchester United are well-placed to exploit any knock-on effects of the coronavirus suspension.

With training and matches halted in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Norwegian has used some of this unexpected free time to pinpoint how best to improve the squad.

Jadon Sancho, Jude Bellingham and Jack Grealish are among the names liked with the club, with Solskjaer working with United’s staff to fine-tune targets.

READ ALSO: Real Madrid Players Accept Up To 20% Pay Cut

“Football is going to get back to normality at one point, and it’s very important we’re ready when that happens,” the United manager told Sky Sports.

“We want to be the best at everything, and of course now is a chance to spend more time, you discuss players, discuss plans.”

Asked whether United can exploit the transfer market when football returns, Solskjaer said: “Who knows how the market is going to react to this? Who knows which clubs need to sell players?

“There might be just a situation there where you can exploit, and I know that we at Man United, we are one of the biggest, and the biggest, financially well-off.

“I’m sure we are capable, when we get back to normality, that we can do the business that we want to.”

Solskjaer’s team last played on March 12 against Austrian side LASK in a Europa League last-16 first-leg game played behind closed doors, which they won 5-0.

Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba are likely to have recovered from their injury lay-offs by the time football resumes.

“In a way, they have got an opportunity here to play a bigger part in this season than they had hoped,” said Solskjaer.

“And they are big players for us, some of the most important players.”

United are currently fifth in the Premier League table, chasing a top-four berth that would guarantee entry into next season’s Champions League.

“We can kick on, I’m sure we can get a good start and climb up that table if we keep doing the right thing,” said Solskjaer.

“Even with the FA Cup and Europa League, if that does go ahead, we’ve got good chances there.”

Solskjaer Defends De Gea, After Watford Loss

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Watford and Manchester United at Vicarage Road Stadium in Watford, north of London on December 22, 2019.
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

 

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came to the defence of David De Gea after the goalkeeper’s blunder proved pivotal in a 2-0 loss away to Premier League bottom side Watford on Sunday.

The Vicarage Road clash was still goalless when De Gea somehow allowed a tame, spinning effort from Ismaila Sarr to creep through his hands and in at the near post.

Watford doubled their lead four minutes later when Troy Deeney fired home from the penalty spot after Aaron Wan-Bissaka brought down Sarr with a misjudged sliding tackle and not even the returning Paul Pogba, on as a second-half substitute, could prevent defeat.

But what irked Solskjaer more than De Gea’s mistake was the pace of United’s play.

“We started the game slow,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports.

“The first half was very, very poor from both sides and when you concede two goals like we did in quick succession with their two shots on target we gave ourselves too much to do.

“It was too slow, it was like a testimonial in the first half from both teams,” he added after a defeat that left United in eighth place and continued their run of poor results against lower-ranked teams in the top flight — a marked contrast to their recent wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.

READ ALSO: Watford Upset Man United At Vicarage Road

United’s five league losses this term have come against Crystal Palace, West Ham, Newcastle, Bournemouth and now Watford.

‘Mistakes Happen’

As for Spain international De Gea’s howler, Solskjaer said: “It was a mistake, it happens in football and it is what we train for every day to make sure they don’t happen again. David has been very good lately, it is just one of those things that happen.

“You have to earn every point on the pitch and today we didn’t deserve that.

This was just Watford’s second league win this season and first of the campaign at home as they marked new manager Nigel Pearson’s first match in charge at Vicarage Road in style.

Although the Hornets remain at the foot of the table, they are now level on points with second-bottom Norwich and a mere six shy of safety.

Victory followed an impressive display in a defeat last time out at leaders Liverpool and Deeney said: “We’ve been close (to winning) for ages now.

“People are looking and see us at the bottom of the league but performances like Liverpool, Leicester before that, there are games we’re thinking we should have won.”

“It was a great team performance, lots of people did a proper shift and I’m happy for everyone here that they can have a decent Christmas.”

Deeney’s goal was his first since April but the striker insisted he had not felt under pressure to score.

“Real pressure is watching my mum work three jobs trying to make ends meet for Christmas,” he said.

“This is football.”

AFP

Solskjaer ‘Beyond Excited’ After Landing Permanent Man United Job

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has won 14 of his 19 games in charge of the Red Devils. Photo: Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he was “beyond excited” to be handed the Manchester United manager’s job on a full-time basis as the club announced on Thursday he had signed a three-year deal.

The Norwegian, 46, has inspired a dramatic revival of United’s fortunes since taking over from the sacked Jose Mourinho in December, winning 14 of his 19 games and leading the Red Devils to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Solskjaer, who scored 126 goals in 366 appearances for United, was already a hero to fans as the man who scored the stoppage-time winner in the 1999 Champions League final to complete a historic treble.

In his short spell in charge, he has lifted United back into contention for a top-four finish in the Premier League and is preparing for a mouthwatering Champions League clash against Barcelona next month.

“This is the job that I always dreamed of doing and I’m beyond excited to have the chance to lead the club long-term and hopefully deliver the continued success that our amazing fans deserve,” he said in a statement on manutd.com.

Solskjaer told MUTV he had relished the support from the fans since he replaced Mourinho.

“I’ve always had it but I have to say the last few months have been absolutely crazy with the way they’ve taken to the players, to me and to the coaching staff. We’ve really appreciated that support and hopefully, we can pay them back now.”

After Mourinho was sacked following a 3-1 loss to Liverpool on December 16, Molde boss Solskjaer was given the task of reviving United’s flagging fortunes but was expected to return to the Norwegian club following his caretaker spell.

Pogba transformed

At that stage, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was the firm favourite for the permanent Old Trafford hot seat after an impressive few years at the helm at Spurs.

But Solskjaer forced the hand of Manchester United hierarchy by sheer weight of results, becoming the first United manager to win his first six league games.

The Norwegian also helped cleanse the toxic atmosphere at United, where Mourinho had fallen out with a number of key players.

France World Cup winner Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, in particular, have thrived under Solskjaer, who has been credited with restoring an attacking verve missing under a succession of managers.

United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said: “More than just performances and results, Ole brings a wealth of experience, both as a player and as a coach, coupled with a desire to give young players their chance and a deep understanding of the culture of the club.”

Rashford on Thursday posted an image of himself and Solskjaer on Instagram with the caption: “Congrats boss.”

Former United defender Gary Neville welcomed the appointment and urged the club to back the new full-time boss financially.

“I’m delighted for Ole,” Neville tweeted. “I didn’t think this would happen when he was appointed. However, the results and spirit in the club have been incredible since he arrived and he deserves it. He now needs support in the transfer market in terms of finance and the right resource!”

Ferguson effect

Solskjaer spent 11 seasons at Old Trafford as a player under Alex Ferguson, winning six Premier League titles and the 1999 Champions League trophy.

On the pitch, the Norwegian, nicknamed the “Baby-faced Assassin”, became an embodiment of United’s never-say-die spirit, often scoring late goals when points or trophies looked to have been lost.

Solskjaer lost his battle with persistent knee problems in 2007 before becoming the United’s reserve-team manager.

He won two league titles during a first managerial spell at Molde, but struggled badly during a brief stint at Cardiff in 2014.

When he took over as interim boss at Old Trafford, the club were languishing in sixth place in the Premier League, 11 points off the top four.

But they have lost just once in the league since then and are now in fifth place, just two points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, with eight games remaining in the season.

The highlight of his reign so far was a dramatic 3-1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 in the Champions League, with United overturning a 2-0 first-leg defeat to reach the quarter-finals on away goals.

AFP

Arsenal Inflict First Domestic Defeat On Solskjaer To Surge Into Top Four

Arsenal’s Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka (R) celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium in London on March 10, 2019. Ian KINGTON / IKIMAGES / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer blamed Manchester United’s lack of ruthlessness as the Norwegian suffered his first domestic defeat as caretaker manager in a 2-0 loss at Arsenal on Sunday.

Granit Xhaka’s early strike and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang’s penalty 21 minutes from time saw Gunners leapfrog United into the Premier League top four.

Unai Emery’s men also close to within just a point of third-placed Tottenham and now hold the upper hand in the race for Champions League qualification.

Arsenal do not face any of the top six in their remaining eight league games, whilst United host title-chasing Manchester City and Chelsea in the coming weeks on top of their Champions League and FA Cup commitments.

“You have to be disappointed with the result, but the performance was a good one,” said Solskjaer.

“The first goal always dictates how the game goes. We created chances, big chances, hit the woodwork twice, (Bernd) Leno played well.

“In terms of what you can control, we shouldn’t be too disappointed.”

European trips to France for both sides in midweek produced vastly contrasting results as United shocked free-spending Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

The Gunners, on the other hand, went down 3-1 to Rennes to give themselves a mountain to climb in Thursday’s second leg to reach the last eight of the Europa League.

Emery made five changes from that side and was rewarded with a vital victory.

“We are going to play difficult matches and being consistent is very important,” said Emery. “At the moment I think we are playing consistently, but we need to be calm and patient.”

De Gea not distracted 

After a bright start, Arsenal were nearly hit with a sucker punch when with United’s first attack, Romelu Lukaku turned Luke Shaw’s cross onto the crossbar for the first of a series of wasted chances for the Belgian striker.

However, at the other end, it was the normally flawless David de Gea who was at fault for the opener as the Spaniard failed to read the swerve on Xhaka’s long-range strike 12 minutes in.

Solskjaer, though, rejected suggestions ongoing contract talks over a new deal for the United goalkeeper has effected his concentration.

“David’s really focused and concentrated, he’s too professional to let his mind wander,” insisted Solskjaer.

United seemed to feel the after-effects of their heroics in Paris early on but soon clicked into gear to look more like the side that had suffered just one defeat in Solskjaer’s first 17 games in charge.

Fred’s curling effort from outside the box clipped the post before Lukaku tried to round Bernd Leno, but the Arsenal goalkeeper stood up well to block.

The German stopper had an unconvincing start to life as Arsenal number one but has looked ever more assured in recent weeks and made another huge save to deny Lukaku once more from close range six minutes into the second half.

United were utterly dominant for the first 20 minutes of the second period, but to Solskjaer’s frustration conceded a penalty when Alexandre Lacazette charged into the area and hit the floor under minimal contact from Fred.

“I don’t think there is enough contact to warrant the penalty,” said Solskjaer, while even Emery categorized the award as “soft.”

Aubameyang missed a last-minute penalty to win the north London derby against Tottenham last weekend but made no mistake to leave the visitors a mountain to climb.

“I knew it would be tough, but I was really confident,” said the Gabon international.

Solskjaer’s time at United as a player and over the past three months as boss has been littered with late drama, none more so than at PSG on Wednesday.

That was a Champions League night that will live long in the memory, but there was no turnaround this time to leave the Red Devils with plenty of work to do just to qualify for the competition next season.

Solskjaer Hopeful Over New United Contract For Martial

Manchester United’s French striker Anthony Martial warms up for the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Brighton and Hove Albion at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England, on January 19, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes Anthony Martial will agree on a new contract with Manchester United in the coming weeks as the club look to tie down a clutch of top players.

France forward Martial and goalkeeper David de Gea are both out of contract at the end of next season after United triggered 12-month extension options shortly before Christmas.

The club are in talks with both players as well as forward Juan Mata, whose contract expires this coming June.

Ed Woodward, United’s executive vice-chairman, is known to be keen to get the futures of all three players sorted out while he works on appointing a permanent manager before the start of next season.

Martial is understood to be close to agreeing to a five-year contract, while Spain international De Gea has made it clear he wants to remain at Old Trafford.

Solskjaer, United’s caretaker manager for the rest of this season following the sacking of Jose Mourinho in December, has received indications that strong progress has been made with Martial, De Gea and Mata.

“I think the club’s making progress but I leave that to the right people to do that,” he said. “I don’t know really how far we are away from it but hopefully we’re going to have some good news in the coming weeks.”

Solskjaer, who has won his first seven matches in charge, will attempt to extend that run on Friday when his side visit Arsenal in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Reports in the British media have suggested that United have rejected an approach from Arsenal to take Eric Bailly on loan for the rest of the season but Solskjaer said he was not aware of any approach for the Ivory Coast defender.

 Rivalry 

Solskjaer is looking forward to facing Arsenal, a team with whom United enjoyed a fierce rivalry during his time as a player at Old Trafford, between 1996 and 2007.

They faced each other several times in the FA Cup during that period, with United winning two semi-finals, in 1999 and 2004, and Arsenal victorious in both a 2003 fifth-round tie and 2005 final.

The 1999 semi-final has become part of United folklore, with Ryan Giggs scoring a memorable individual goal to win a replay at Villa Park as the club went on to win the treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup.

Solskjaer said: “It was fantastic. That’s the one fierce football rivalry of my years here as a player.

“We were always the closest rivals. They won the double, we won the treble. The games were just fantastic.

“We had a great team, and they had a very good team. They had the French connection with Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires and Emmanuel Petit. There were some tackles flying in between the two teams. They were fantastic games.”

Solskjaer described the disappearance of Cardiff striker Emiliano Sala as “tragic news”.

The Argentine forward, signed from Nantes, was on board a plane from France to south Wales that disappeared from radar on Monday just north of Alderney, in the Channel Islands.

Solskjaer, who managed Cardiff between January and September 2014, said: “It’s tragic news. When you wake up, you hope to read good news but the more time it goes the less likely it is.

“It’s just tragic for the boy and the family and everyone involved and associated. We’re just hoping and praying there’ll be some good news.”

AFP

Pogba Returns As Solskjaer Eyes United Job Boost Over Rival Pochettino

Manchester United’s French midfielder Paul Pogba holds his leg following a challenge during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Manchester United at St James’ Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, north east England on January 2, 2019. Lindsey PARNABY / AFP

 

Paul Pogba will be fit to return from injury for Manchester United’s Premier League match at Tottenham this weekend, interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said on Thursday.

The France midfielder linked up late with his team-mates for a warm-weather training camp in Dubai this week after being injured in a challenge by Jonjo Shelvey during the 2-0 victory at Newcastle on January 2.

Pogba missed last Saturday’s 2-0 FA Cup victory over Reading as a result of the knock, but trained well in the United Arab Emirates, according to Solskjaer.

“He looked OK towards the end, so he will be fit. He did have some problems but he came through the last couple of sessions well, so he should be OK,” the Norwegian said.

Solskjaer has made a perfect start as United’s coach since replacing the sacked Jose Mourinho on December 19, winning each of his first five matches in charge.

The former United striker, who is on loan from Norwegian club Molde until the end of the season, has made clear since his return to Old Trafford he would love the manager’s job on a permanent basis.

However, his opponent on Sunday, Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino, is believed by many observers to be the likeliest person to get the United job.

Solskjaer praised the Argentinian and justified the reports.

“He has done a very good job. That speculation is there for a reason -– because he has done well -– but it’s not my job to rate managers. My focus is on me and my team.”

 Tottenham test 

The interim boss, though, has rejected the idea that this match represents his first serious challenge in charge of United, following wins over Cardiff, Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Newcastle and Reading.

“We’ve had tests. Newcastle away is a test and the first game was a test as to how everyone reacted. The first home game with the crowd is a test,” he said.

“We are not going to get as many chances to attack against these as we had before so when we have the ball we have to be ready to play well with it and we have to use the whole pitch because Wembley is a decent size pitch as well,” he added.

One of United’s biggest test will be containing the threat of Tottenham striker Harry Kane, the joint-leading scorer in this season’s Premier League, with 14 goals.

“He’s not bad is he? He is a fantastic goal scorer and one of the best in the world, but I have got a couple that I’m happy to work with,” Solskjaer said

“He is a top professional. Sure, whoever plays with him and trains with him can talk more about him, but from the outside he is a fantastic finisher,” the 1999 treble winner said.

Solskjaer, meanwhile, revealed defender Marcos Rojo has returned to his native Argentina as he continues to recover from a leg injury that has kept him out for a month.

“He has gone back to Argentina for a while because of his injury. How long will he be out for? How long is a piece of rope? For him, it was mentally important to go away and come back fresh again.”

AFP