Solskjaer positive in defeat; makes prediction for top four battle

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LONDON — Manchester United’s luck under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finally ran out on Sunday, as the Red Devils lost 2-0 at Arsenal in a game they could have easily won.

[ MORE: 4 things we learned ]

They had to lose at some point, and doing so in a week where they had beaten Paris Saint-Germain against all the odds to the reach the last eight of the UEFA Champions League softened the blow.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Solskjaer was extremely positive with the display as his side hit the woodwork twice, forced Bernd Leno into fine saves and conceded a “soft” penalty kick in the defeat at the Emirates Stadium.

“You have to be disappointed with the result, but the performance was a good one,” Solskjaer said. “We created miles more chances today compared to the cup game when we played them. The first goal always determines the way the game will go. Maybe after they scored the first goal they let us have the ball more than they wanted to. We created chances, big chances, hit the woodwork twice, Leno played well. In terms of what you can control, as in our own performance, we can’t be too disappointed.”

Solskjaer pointed to the “four or five big chances” United had and Arsenal not really creating chances, as his injury-hit side seemed to run out of steam after a gruelling period in the FA Cup, league and Europe. All things considered, United’s caretaker boss has steered them into a very good position.

With United sitting in fifth in the table, two points off Arsenal in fourth and three points off third-place Tottenham, the Red Devils are embroiled in a massive battle for Champions League qualification with Chelsea also lurking in sixth with a game in hand.

How does Solskjaer think the top four battle will play out in the final eight games of the season?

“I don’t think nerves go into it yet,” Solskjaer said. “Spurs lose, we lose, Chelsea draw. It is going to be down to the wire. Down to the last few games. Definitely. We’ve given ourselves a great chance to be in that fight. Two points behind fourth, three points behind third. A good position to be in.”

Even in defeat, Solskjaer was as positive as he always is. He is right. United’s run of 10 wins, two draws and one defeat in his first 13 PL games in charge has put them in a sensational position to finish in the top four.

On another day Romelu Lukaku would have buried his chances, Leno would have failed to save United’s shots and David De Gea would have done better on Granit Xhaka‘s opening goal.

Solskjaer is keeping the positive vibes as long as he can, and it will now be intriguing to see how United respond in their FA Cup quarterfinal at Wolves next weekend.

Ole is at the wheel and is still guiding United brilliantly.

Rumored Neymar for Bale swap: Who wins?

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Who would gain more of an advantage from the rumored, sensational Gareth Bale for Neymar swap: Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid?

Both players are currently problems for their clubs, though neither is known as a true rabble-rouser; Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wants to be done with the newly-minted 30-year-old Bale, while PSG knows Neymar wants to leave and would love to satiate Kylian Mbappe’s appetite to be the man at their club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

Presumably some money would be headed PSG’s way in addition to Bale, and both clubs would be getting a motivated megawatt star.

Neymar doesn’t turn 28 until February, but the difference in age may be offset by the Brazilian’s track record of injuries.

In fact, his injury status last season combines with an off-field accusation of sexual assault and a red card for confronting a fan to overshadow his production: Neymar’s 23 goals and 13 assists in just over 2300 minutes last season, including five and two in the Champions League (and a goal and an assist against defensively-stout Liverpool).

Bale presents very few personality challenges, and PSG won’t have a problem with his massive wages (especially with Neymar off the books). His numbers have dipped in two of three seasons since his otherworldly 2015-16, but La Liga is a more difficult scoring league than Ligue 1.

Neymar has twice been a Ballon d’Or finalist and, presuming his legal troubles don’t persist, could be a title fight changer in La Liga. Imagine the Neymar, Eden Hazard, and Luka Jovic trying to outgun Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Luis Suarez? Insane.

We’d say Real would be winning the straight-up swap, and that it’s pretty unlikely to go down that way. So it depends what PSG does with the relative Financial Fair Play freedom that would come with the money that also arrives from Spain. Is it Idrissa Gana Gueye? Someone else who helps take PSG’s Champions League hopes to the next level?

Manchester United in ‘concrete talks’ with Lille over Pepe

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Manchester United are reportedly in “concrete talks” to agree a fee with Lille for much-tracked playmaker Nicolas Pepe.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been linked with Liverpool and Arsenal amongst others, and Lille has admitted he’ll be leaving the club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

United’s reported salvo was around $87.5 million. He’d give them a star who could play across from Anthony Martial or as an attacking midfielder under Romelu Lukaku.

Only Kylian Mbappe and Teji Savanier garnered better season-long ratings than Pepe in the 2018-19 Ligue 1 campaign, and Pepe’s 22 goals and 11 assists stand out from the pack. Only Mbappe had more goals and only Savanier more assists.

Pepe has four goals in 11 caps for the Ivory Coast, and made three starts in Les Elephants’ five-match run at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He’s a fit for the Premier League, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s system. And if the Red Devils can keep him from Liverpool, well, all the better we’re sure.

Report: Manchester United, Leicester agree to monster Maguire fee

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Manchester United and Leicester City have agreed a fee for Harry Maguire, clearing the way for the English center back to join the Old Trafford set.

That fee is a whopping $100 million, according to Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones. That’s about $4 million more than the world record for a defender, set when Liverpool purchased Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton.

[ MORE: USMNT CB to West Ham? ]

Maguire has been a statistical monster for Leicester City, and he passes the eye test, too.

Manchester United has needed to upgrade its stable of center backs for some time, and now the biggest question is who will work best alongside the 6-foot-4 26-year-old.

The former Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic, and Hull City defender is now 20-times capped by England.

The move could have a ripple effect on the Premier League, as the Foxes have been expected to bid for Burnley star James Tarkowski should Maguire leave the King Power Stadium.

Transfer rumor roundup: USMNT’s Long to London, Newcastle linked with pair

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Could USMNT center back Aaron Long be headed to the Premier League?

The 26-year-old could join West Ham United’s stable of center backs, which includes Issa Diop, Fabian Balbuena, and Angelo Ogbonna.

Sky Sports says that the Red Bulls defender has drawn the interest of Lyon and Fiorentina, but been offered to the Irons should they match his $5 million release clause.

Unable to find a place with Portland and Seattle, Long spent a few seasons in the USL before earning a place with RBNY.

Now 11-times capped by the USMNT with two goals, Long could be bringing his talents to London’s Olympic Stadium.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Newcastle United has the chance to sign oft-injured Danny Welbeck on a free transfer.

The longtime Arsenal striker, weaned at Manchester United, scored five times in 12 matches last season in a return to injury woes following a 43-match season the prior year.

Newcastle is also being linked with a former defender. James Tavernier has gone on to captain Glasgow Rangers, and the 27-year-old would cost around $10 million.

Surely Steven Gerrard would want more for the defender, but prices haven’t met quality for Scottish Premiership players as we’ve seen with Kieran Tierney at Celtic.