Tag Archives: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United vs RB Leipzig Match Preview

The second round of matches in the Champions League Group Stage sees Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s team host Bundesliga side RB Leipzig.  

United will certainly be looking to build on their impressive start to Europe’s Premier competition. On match day one they secured a 2-1 win against Paris Saint Germain at the Parc Des Princes. 

Since then, Solskjaer’s side were involved in a rather dull Premier League encounter at Old Trafford this past weekend, a 0-0 draw with Chelsea.

This subsequently meant that it was the first time the Red Devils have failed to win any of their first three home games in the League since the 1972-73 campaign. 

RB Leipzig, meanwhile, are coming into this match in good form having won four out of their last five games. They currently lead the German Bundesliga after the opening five games.   

In addition, Julian Naglesmann’s team began their Champions League campaign with a 2-0 over Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir. Manchester City loanee Angelino scored both of the goals. 

Manchester United Team News

Solskjaer has suggested ahead of this game that there are a few knocks. Centre-back Eric Bailly and midfielder Jesse Lingard are likely to be the only absentees for their Group H clash.

French forward Antony Martial will also be available despite his domestic ban still being in force. 

One topic that enviably has come up in the pre-match conference is the lack of opportunities currently being given to the Dutch new signing Donny Van de Beek.  The 23 year old has yet to start a Premier League or Champions League tie for his new club.  

Indeed, Van de Beek has, however, looked impressive when he has been used from the bench so far, scoring in a 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace on the opening day of the season, while he also involved in the winning of the last minute penalty that secured victory at Brighton.  

Both Sky pundit and former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher and also ex-Dutch international Marco Van Bastan have already questioned why Van de Beek moved to Old Trafford, with the former suggesting he would not get in ahead of Bruno Fernandes, while the latter has stated that his fellow country man will live to regret his £40 million pound move from Ajax.

Solskjaer has since said:

“When Donny has played he has played really well.  It says a lot about our depth of squad that we don’t have to use him every game. 

“It’s nice for some players and commentators to have a little go, but you have to know that you don’t have to start the first three games to be a very important player in the squad.”  

RB Leipzig Team News

Despite missing the goals and assists of Chelsea’s new attack Timo Werner that has not hindered RB Leipzig’s impressive development.

RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann will, however, likely be without both Lukas Klostermann and Konrad Laimer (both knee injuries) for the German side’s first ever meeting with United.  While both midfielders Tyler Adams and Nordi Mukiele are also doubts.

Former Crystal Palace striker, Alexander Sorloth would be available for Nagelsmann. Sorloth joined RB Leipzig in the summer from Trabozonspor and could partner Yussuf Pouslen up front. French defender Ibrahima Konate is also fit again.   

The Mangers Thoughts

When asked about building on that win against PSG in the pre match press conference Solskjaer said:

“We look at every single game as a chance to get three points and in the group stage of four teams, you’d think 10 points will get you through.

“To get 18 points though ultimately is the aim.”

When asked about Manchester United’s impressive result in Paris, Julian Nagelsmann said:

“When I analyse an opponent I do not look at the results.  I try to find out how they score goals, concede, and build up play, counter attack, counter press and other things. 

“We know that their (League) start was not that good, but at the end it is one of the biggest clubs in the world, a big name in European football and world football.

“I’ve never played in Old Trafford or been there. It will be a great experience.”

Key Player

For Manchester United Bruno Fernandes I reckon holds the key to them getting a result in this game. The Portuguese international is the Red Devil’s top scorer so far and ultimately has that ability to make things happen and provide the spark that could make the difference in what I predict will be a tricky encounter for Ole’s men.

The German side will be looking to their impressive young centre back Dayot Upamecano. Upamecano made his debut for France last month and was crucial in Leipzig’s quarterfinal victory over Atletico Madrid last season.

Match Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 RB Leipzig

I am predicting another draw at home for Ole’s side. I reckon this is a harder encounter for them then the one in Paris as the emphasis will be on the Red Devil’s to have more possession and try to break the German side down. This is something that United have traditionally struggled with over the past few seasons. For this reason I will go for a score draw.

Premier league 2020/21: WHO CAN WIN IT?

The new Premier League season begins this weekend, unbeleivably as it seems like only yesterday we were waving goodbye to the last season.

Ahead of the 2020/21 season, we have some questions surrounding the top of the table. Can Pep’s Manchester City rid themselves of last years frailties and compete for longer this time? Or will Liverpool continue their consistency and defend their title?

Let’s not rule out the possibility of Manchester United’s continuing their progression and it would be almost insanity to dismiss Chelsea, given their spends, wouldn’t it?

Here’s how I think the teams involved in the upper echelons of the Premier League title race will play out in 2020/21…

Liverpool

The reigning champions. Jurgen Klopp’s side may have ended the season in somewhat bizarre fashion as they rather limped over the line following lock-down and title celebrations. That should not take away from the sheer dominance the Reds imparted on the Premier League.

While many people question the business, or lack of business done by the champions up until now, its my belief only minor changes are required, if any at all.

Natural left-back cover for Andy Robertson was required and has been found in Greek international Kostas Tsimikas.

One saga, which rumbles on is the Thiago Alcantara links, now joined by the Gini Wijnaldum to Barcelona rumours. Whilst many Liverpool fans may argue why not have both? I’m not sure there is room both in the current group, a squad that already boasts a plethora of central midfield options and the two players are of a similar mould.

The main bone of contention continues to be the back-up options to the starting XI. Should Klopp face a long-term injury to his front-line options the understudies may not be of a level required, although in truth that is the case of almost every team in world football. Not many can be a suitable understudy to Virgil van Dijk.

Overall, I believe Liverpool will go on to retain their title, the relentless nature in which Klopp has his squad churning out results is very difficult to keep up with week on week. Don’t be surprised by the growing influence of some of the younger players, in particular Curtis Jones, and also Naby Keita may finally find his feet in English football.

Manchester City

The main contenders to take Liverpool’s crown, Pep Guardiola’s well furnished Man City side.

There is little doubt 2019/20 can be viewed as somewhat of a failure from a sky blue perspective in Manchester. As glorious a victory as the Carabao Cup may have been, a side comprised of such talent and expenditure is expected to finish closer than 18 points off the summit. Not to mention the dismal UEFA Champions League exit.

That, however, was last term, how about now? The arrival of Nathan Ake certainly plugs a crack in the issues faced at City, a forced to be reckoned with going forwards, just ask Watford, but defensively they were often found wanting, just ask Adama Traore. However, I’m not sure Ake is the answer, for one the Dutchman is very much a left-sided centre-back, similarly to Aymeric Laporte. On top of which, despite being a more than decent operator at Premier League level, he isn’t elite, and City are operating amongst that level.

Elsewhere, the club has seen the departure of David Silva from the Etihad, a fine servant to the football club who leaves with the knowledge he will be forever immortalised in statue form. On the field, in a more mobile capacity, Silva is likely to be replaced by the much praised but lesser seen Phil Foden.

Pep has also spent £20 million on former Valencia man Ferran Torres, a 20 year old right winger who arrives with plenty of plaudits and provides competition to the likes of Rihad Mahrez, Bernado Silva and Foden himself.

Whilst the transfer window remains open there is always the chance City could strengthen further, although the Lionel Messi links have now subsided, as things stand in the week of the season’s opening day they haven’t addressed the areas of the squad suitable to overcome an 18 point swing.

Manchester United

Despite the obvious improvement in the past six months, particularly since Bruno Fernandes arrived back in January, there are still areas of weakness at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær is learning on the job somewhat and with that there is bound to come mistakes, certainly when up against seasoned campaigners over a prolonged period.

Despite the frailties, however, it should be another year of progression for the red half of Manchester, who have already bolstered their midfield ranks with the arrival of Donny van de Beek from Ajax. One or two more signings, particularly in defensive positions and they should find themselves cutting the gap to the top two.

Chelsea

Who haven’t they signed? One thing is for sure is the Blues are set to be an enthralling watch with the attacking prowess in their currently huge squad.

Boasting the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, to name but a few, Frank Lampard’s side will give anybody a match on their day, but it’s consistency they may lack to begin with.

They shipped goals all too regularly to maintain prolonged title challenge last term and as things stand that won’t change too much, despite the arrival of the vastly experienced Thiago Silva, it’ll remain a difficult ask to breach the gap to the top two.

Any Other Contenders

Whilst the Premier League has seen Leicester City win the title against the odds, it seems unlikely 2020/21 will see another Claudio Ranieri and Jamie Vardy shaped fairy-tale, but you never know. The main protagonists would of course be Tottenham and Arsenal, although the rivals may be best focusing on breaking into the top four instead of harbouring serious title ambitions.

Outside of the North Londoners, perhaps Wolves could be considered for a tilt for a time being, however a 38 game threat seems unlikely at this stage.

With over a month left in the transfer window anything can happen (Messi), but for now it’s back to back Liverpool glory. After-all, top flight domestic titles are like Mersey Ferries, you wait 30 years for one and two come along at once….

Martial, Rashford and Greenwood – the Premier League’s deadliest front three

Much has been made of Manchester United over the past five/six years of football, with the loss of a plethora of attacking talent the club has been criticised for its poor recruitment. Yet for all the money they have spent two of their dangerous front three are academy graduates.

Perhaps slightly under the radar is the fact they have scored more goals than Liverpool’s much-talked about front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. Granted United have played lesser opposition in Europe but it is still an impressive feat nonetheless. This article takes a look at their development as a front three.

Mason Greenwood

Possibly the most exciting out of these talents is 18-year-old Mason Greenwood. The Bradford-born striker scored two wonderful goals against Bournemouth as his side tore them apart 5-2. This took him on to a tally of 15 goals in all competitions this season.

For a young player playing his full debut season that record certainly makes for impressive reading. ESPN even tweeted out how he has scored more goals than Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria put together.

 

If Greenwood was to score another five goals during the rest of the campaign, he would help break a very impressive long-standing club record.

It will be the first time that three United players have scored 20 or more goals in the same season since 1964-65, when Denis Law (39), David Herd (28) and John Connelly (20) did the same thing.

 

Given the fact he only recently started playing consistently in the Premier League you have to be impressed with numbers he’s managed to put up.

A real earmark of his play has been the quality of his finishing, his two goals against Bournemouth showed fantastic shot power and accurate finishing, the ability to do that at this level and at only 18 years old, it shows he could be the real deal. In fact he has already outscored Marcus Rashford’s debut season. So in that sense he’s showing more promise.

In fact, only Michael Owen , Robbie Fowler and Wayne Rooney have scored more goals in a single Premier League campaign at the age of 18 and under. The esteem of that company alone should give you an idea of his talent.

United have been longing for their academy talents to replicate the class of 92, and while a group of that caliber is extremely rare, Greenwood certainly has the potential to be a superstar for club and country.

Marcus Rashford

A hero on and off the pitch this season. It feels as though Marcus Rashford has been around for a while and you’d be right in thinking that considering he has played 206 games for the club (according to transfermarkt). Alongside this he also had 38 caps and 10 goals for the England first team – so he has plenty of match experience for a 22-year-old.

Over his time at the club he has amassed 65 goals and 35 assists, which when looked at is a pretty impressive number. Rashford has long been criticised for his lack of goals, particularly in the Premier League.

That is within reason, before this campaign the most he’d scored was 10 goals, and he’s smashed that with 15 this time around. The England striker has improved every season – scoring 5, 5, 7, 10 and now 15 goals. A steady rise but a clear improvement in form.

He’s now hit 20 first the season in all competitions, easily performing at his best, which could be due in part to the creative talents around him like Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, etc.

Perhaps the role of a Manchester United no.9 is one that has put added pressure on his ability to perform at the highest level. The controversy surrounding his position (was he an inverted winger or a striker?) stunted his growth as he was moved around the pitch constantly.

This campaign has shown that he does have a real ability to grow and evolve into a word-class attacking player, and if this steady upwards trajectory continues who knows how many goals he could get.

His positive charity work outside the game has also earned him respect and admiration, and he has proved he has a mature head on his shoulders and at such a young age too – that can only bode well for his attitude on the pitch.

Anthony Martial

Martial has had an odd time at Manchester United. The Frenchman came in for a lot of money and has always had buckets of ability. His debut goal against Liverpool is still a thing of beauty. Despite this we have yet to really see his true potential.

Perhaps his disappointing career for France has removed him from the spotlight – scoring one goal in 18 caps. In 213 appearances for United he has 68 goals and 35 assists, only marginally better than Marcus Rashford.

Now at the age of 24, Martial would ideally need to find his form and we have seen his talents fully with this post-lockdown campaign.

He equaled Rashford’s tally of 20 goals for this season and at times has looked unplayable. His long range goal against Bournemouth tells you all you need to know about the ability of the man.

A lot has been made of his attitude and at times he hasn’t looked settled at the club but the return of this post-lockdown United has seen a complete u-turn in the player. Pogba and Martial both look happy at the club – the addition of Bruno Fernandes has apparently had a great impact on the dressing room atmosphere.

Martial seems like a player that thrives off the ability of those around him and this allows to play with a great deal of confidence. At times, he has looked lost but others he has looked like a real superstar.

His current form suggests that he is happy to stay and has found a team he can believe in and enjoy playing with. So from a United point of view, long may it continue.

What can they achieve?

The question on every United fans lips is now, can they achieve greater heights?

The beginning of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign as manager was faultless but it took a real nose dive and you could forgive people for thinking the same thing could happen again.

If the form of these three players continues in the same fashion, we could see a very dangerous United side going into the next campaign. With the Europa League still to content for, there is a lot of hope surrounding the club that a season, which looked dead and buried, produce a European trophy and Champions League football.

With such a small gap between this and next season though, you have to wonder how United will compete next year. It appears, however, Solskjaer could be building a fantastic team. Defensively there is still work to be done – but the future certainly looks a lot brighter for the red side of Manchester.

How can Manchester United replace Marcus Rashford for the next few months?

Following this past weekend’s 2-0 defeat to fierce rivals Liverpool, Manchester United manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer confirmed every United fans worst fears, that Marcus Rashford could face a minimum of six weeks out.

 Solskjaer said during his post match press conference on Sunday:

“He has suffered a bad injury.  It’s a stress fracture, it happened against Wolverhampton during the FA Cup third round replay.”

This injury could hardly come at a worse time for the Red Devils with the return leg in the Carabao Cup looming against Manchester City at the end of the month where United somehow have to overturn a 3-1 deficit.

An FA Cup fourth round tie against either Watford or Tranmere Rovers is also on the horizon and not to mention the resumption of their Europa League campaign against Club Brugge in February.

Rashford himself has up to this point enjoyed his best ever goal-scoring season for the club to date having scored 19 goals in all competitions so far – making him the top goal scorer.

So how does Solskjaer go about replacing his main man for these up coming season defining games?

Strikers currently at United who could replace Rashford

Anthony Martial

The French international is the most senior fit forward currently at the club and is enjoying his best scoring return since his debut campaign for the team back in 2015/16.

Martial has scored 24 goals in all competitions this term however question marks still remain however about his consistency, he did also miss a crucial chance at weekend against Liverpool that could of altered the outcome.

Mason Greenwood

Greenwood has enjoyed a terrific start to his career at Old Trafford and has proven that he is a clinical finisher having reached 10 goals in all competitions. On top of that his left foot has been likened to Dutch forward Robin Van Persie.

He is only 18 and it is his first season playing Premier League football. This in mind, would it be worth Manchester United bringing in another striker to help fill the void that Rashford would leave?

Striker options in the Transfer Market

Former Manchester United right back Gary Neville has previously stressed that his old club needed to replace Romelu Lukaku following his move to Inter Milan in the summer and yesterday Neville said:

“United have to go into the transfer market. They need someone up there with a physical presence and a bit more maturity – they need another body.”

Solskjaer has also stated that they would be open to a short-term solution following their growing injury list.  So who is currently available?

Edinson Cavani

The Uruguayan forward’s name immediately jumps out following his transfer request that he has put in this week.  Cavani’s contract at Paris Saint German expires at the end of the season but the 32 year old wants to leave during the January transfer window.

Cavani has scored 195 goals in 269 appearances for PSG, however this season his game time has been limited due to injuries.

He is a proven international striker but could be a gamble due to his inexperience in the premier league and current injury record. So there is the danger of a repeat of Radamel Falcao’s disastrous loan move a few years ago.

Paco Alcacer

Following the arrival of Erling Haaland at Borussa Dortmund the Spanish international’s game time could be further limited so his game time could be further limited at the German side.

Despite his lack of game time Alcacer has still managed five goals in 11 games this campaign and has managed a good goal scoring return at his previous clubs, particularly Valencia.

The 26 year old is another one however that lacks Premier League experience. There would also be further competition for his signature from Atletico Madrid.

Fernando Llorente

Fernando Llorente, unlike the previous striking options has had experience of playing in the Premier League.

The Spanish international has previously appeared for Swansea City and Tottenham Hotspur and would also give United a more physical presence up front that they currently lack with their current forward options.

Llorente is also not getting much game time at his current side, Napoli.

At 34 years old however he is the oldest striker on this list and he also is not scoring many goals having only managed three goals in his 16 appearances so far for the Italian club.

Callum Wilson

Another potential striker option is Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson. His style is similar to that of Rashford’s and he did score 25 goals in all competitions last season.

Wilson however has struggled for form this season scoring just five times but signing for Manchester United could prove beneficial for both player and club and inspire him to get back to that goal scoring form of the last campaign.

Moussa Dembele

The 23-year-old French forward is having a strong season for Lyon.  Dembele has scored 11 goals in 19 appearances in France Ligue 1 and has previously played for English club, Fulham and has impressed while at Scottish Champions Celtic.

Dembele has previously been linked with the 20 time premier league champions while he was at Fulham.   The French side however will unlikely want to part with their prized asset until the summer at the earliest and there would be the added competition from Premier League rivals such as Chelsea for his signature.

Raul Jimenez

Our final option is a striker already applying his trade in the top flight.  Jimenez has already proved to be an excellent acquisition for Wolverhampton Wanders and the 28 year old has led the line brilliantly for Nuno Espirto Santo’s team, scoring ten times and contributing six assists in 23 games.

The Mexican striker would certainly be an effective target man up front for Solskjaer’s side.  The chances of Wolves letting their prize asset go mid-season however are somewhat remote and United may have to splash out in access of 50 million for his signature.

Summary

The need for United to venture into the January transfer market for an additional striker is certainly apparent, particularly if they want to maintain a realistic challenge for the Champions League places and winning a Cup competition.

Otherwise the Red Devils and their fans could face yet again another season without featuring in Europe’s premier competition.

Ole! Ole! Ander Herrera? Spaniard linked with a move to PSG

Emerging reports suggest Manchester United midfielder, Ander Herrera, is closing in on a summer switch to French Champions, Paris Saint Germain.

The Spaniard moved to Old Trafford in 2014 under Louis Van Gaal for a reported £32m. Since then, United’s number 21 has become a fan-favourite amongst the Old Trafford faithful, and was named the club’s Player of the Year in the 2016-17 season.

The 29 year old earned his plaudits via hard-work, passion and dedication both on and off the pitch for the Red Devils. Herrera was even singled out by newly-named manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for praise, “he has so much passion, energy and enthusiasm that he gives everyone around him that little extra spark to go. He’s a leader in that respect.” Herrera’s highlighted leadership has also led to an array of United fans wanting the Spaniard to be given the honour of team captain.

However, in recent weeks, with Herrera on the last year of his contract, negotiations between the player and club have somewhat seemed to stall and rumours are circling of interest from PSG. Herrera is believed to want in excess of £200,000 a week to extend his stay at Old Trafford, however United seem hesitant to oblige. Reports this weekend claim that the midfielder has signed a pre-contract with PSG, who were willing to meet his wage demands, meaning Herrera would leave on a free transfer at the end of the season.

With Alexis Sanchez’s £350,000 per week United salary being common knowledge, it is no surprise the board at Manchester United are struggling to appease their player’s wage demands. With the Chilean failing to meet expectations, it is hard for the Red Devils to justify his pay-packet.

Should Herrera leave, United face the difficult challenge of replacing him. Similar to many players at Old Trafford, Herrera has seemed rejuvenated under the refreshing reign of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. 20 Premier League appearances this season emphasise his importance in a balanced United midfield. His tenacity and work-rate has been complimentary to midfield partner, Paul Pogba, allowing the Frenchman to venture forwards in more attacking roles. Herrera’s 2 goals and 3 assists this season doesn’t entirely represent his value to United, and with European giants such as PSG willing to pay £200,000 a week for him, it shows his work for the team has not gone unnoticed.

In terms of replacements, many fans would argue that £53m summer signing, Fred, could fill the midfield void left by Ander Herrera. However, the Brazilian seems to have struggled to adapt to Premier League life since his switch from Shakhtar Donetsk. Despite a brilliant performance against PSG, Fred has struggled for consistency throughout his 19 appearances this season. However, should Herrera leave, opportunities for Fred to consolidate a position in Solskjaer’s starting 11 will appear, and going off his 15 goals and 15 assists in 155 appearances for Shakhtar Donetsk, could very well play a similar role to Herrera in midfield.

Other rumours circling the football world is that should Herrera depart for PSG, a player could be coming the other way. French international, Adrien Rabiot, doesn’t seem to be having the best of times at PSG, with his mother and agent, claiming “Adrien is a prisoner, a PSG hostage”. It is therefore not surprising that Rabiot is rumoured to want to leave the club this summer. However, if United are keen to claim the signature of the Frenchman, they will have to fend off interest from Real Madrid and Arsenal, who are also looking to replace wantaway midfielders, Modric and Ramsey.

Do you think Herrera will leave? And if so, who should replace him at United?

@SeanFisher1502