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Can Solskjaer succeed long-term at Manchester United?

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has Manchester United fans over the moon, and he’s earned the permanent job earlier than anticipated as a result. Yet the club still has a long way to go to return to the heights of old, and while many have tabbed the results of the past three months as a sign of things to come, there are still plenty of unknowns as the 2018/19 season heads down the home stretch.

The decision to officially hand Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the keys to Manchester United was essentially a foregone conclusion given the immediate and spectacular turnaround of the club in the wake of Jose Mourinho’s departure. Few have passed a trial phase with such flying colors as the Norwegian, masterminding the first six-game league winning streak in club history to start a managerial career. Yet somehow, despite all the fanfare and accolades, the timing of the announcement still comes with a twinge of perplexity.

[ MORE: Official Solskjaer announcement ]

Solskjaer is in the midst of his first losing streak as manager, falling 2-0 to Arsenal in a vitally critical game that saw the club fall back out of the top four, before dropping 2-1 to Wolves in the FA Cup quarterfinals. With those two losses, the honeymoon phase is finally over for the Norwegian, and yet Manchester United didn’t wait to find out how he and the club respond to their first true bout with adversity together.

Manchester United still has plenty of business to take care of this season as the campaign rockets towards the finish line. With his first Manchester derby plus a date with Chelsea and a rematch against Wolves all still left on the docket, not only does Solskjaer have plenty still to prove but Manchester United still sits outside the Premier League’s top four, the loss to Arsenal a major setback in the quest for a Champions League place. There’s also still this season’s Champions League to take care of, with the high from the PSG comeback quickly drowned out by a quarterfinal draw against runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona. An exit against the Spanish giants would be a blast of cold air to the face, a reminder that this season still potentially leaves so much on the table.

[ MORE: Bayern sets Bundesliga transfer record with Hernandez ]

Ultimately, Solskjaer’s time in charge has been about calming the Mourinho chaos. He’s successfully quieted the noise around the Old Trafford locker room, made sound tactical decisions and adjustments on the pitch, and brought a friendly smile back to the postgame interview room. He’s reignited the spark in the club’s best players like Paul Pogba, a fatal flaw of Mourinho’s time in charge. He’s rekindled the club’s feeling of pride in its past and stature in the English game, something the three previous post-Sir Alex managers had critically let slip. He’s steered the ship like he has nothing to lose, an accurate approach given he took over with the Red Devils seemingly out of league contention and barreling aimlessly towards Premier League obscurity under his predecessor. Suddenly, that no longer seems the case, and with hope comes expectation. Should the Red Devils fall short on all fronts, nobody would blame Solskjaer for the club coming up empty, but there would be an empty feeling given the serious return of the chase.

At the time Solskjaer was named caretaker manager in December, the club stated he would remain in charge until the summer when a decision on a permanent replacement for Mourinho would be made. That stake in the ground gave the Red Devils a free pass through to the summer, with the club able to point back to its original announcement even in the face of increasing pressure to make a decision. Instead, Ed Woodward chose to change course and end the speculation early to put Ole at the wheel. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with confirming a decision many felt was overdue, it’s nonetheless a true statement of intent, one Woodward must own if it ultimately proves to be rash.

WATCH: Zlatan stunner answers Vela’s opener in El Trafico

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is walking it like he talks it, not that that’s anything new.

A few days after claiming superiority over LAFC superstar Carlos Vela, Ibrahimovic and his Galaxy trailed early in El Trafico via a Vela penalty.

[ MORE: Latest on Eriksen ]

Naturally, Zlatan took it upon himself to answer the bell with his 14th goal in 17 games.

Ibrahimovic chests a long ball onto his right foot, cooking Eduard Atuesta by pushing it into position for a tremendous lash into the LAFC goal.

And if you haven’t been following LAFC’s amazing season, Atuesta’s probably been the side’s best player after Vela, who now has 20 goals in 20 games.

Wizard stuff.

Borussia Dortmund tops Liverpool 3-2 at Notre Dame

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A half-hour of the big guns wasn’t enough to get Jurgen Klopp a result against his former team.

Harry Wilson and Rhian Brewster scored for Liverpool in a 3-2 loss to Borussia Dortmund at the University of Notre Dame on Friday.

Paco Alcacer, Thomas Delaney, and Jacob Bruun Larsen scored for the Black Yellow, who led 3-1 when mass changes began with Virgil Van Dijk, Georginio Wijnaldum, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson, and Andrew Robertson entering the match.

Liverpool faces Sevilla on Sunday at Fenway Park in Boston.

[ MORE: Latest on Eriksen ]

Alcacer with the ball in the box is a bad idea, and the Spaniard took advantage of Nathaniel Clyne and Joel Matip to smash home from a yard outside the six.

Wilson leveled the score before halftime, but Delaney made it 2-1 in the 53rd minute when a long diagonal ball beat the Reds line and a low pass across the box went undetected.

It was 3-1 via a clever Bruun Larsen touch to wrong foot James Milner, but Brewster brought the Reds back to within one when he converted a 75th minute penalty won by Ben Woodburn.

Liverpool was without Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah, who are on break after deep summer tournament runs.

Eriksen offered big Spurs wages, but Atletico Madrid lurks

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Christian Eriksen may trade London for Madrid after all, but Marca claims it’ll be Real Madrid’s rivals who earn the services of Tottenham’s Danish playmaker.

Eriksen, 27, scored 10 goals with 17 assists for Spurs in all competitions last season, and was reportedly ready to spread his wings for Real Madrid.

[ MORE: Kean to Everton? ]

But pro-Real site Marca says Zinedine Zidane doesn’t want Eriksen at the Bernabeu, and that Diego Simeone feels differently… should Atletico Madrid fail at landing his prime option.

That’s James Rodriguez, who remains property of Real and that’s a problem.

So Eriksen to Atleti, helping to replace Antoine Griezmann? It’s possible.

From Marca.com:

Just last November, the London club put a 250 million euro price tag on his head, but now appear keen to move him on. The next few days will likely reveal a lot about what’s to come.

So we may get an idea of whether this report has any guts to it by next week. There could be some sense to it, but Metro claims that Spurs are offering Eriksen an “enormous” contract to keep him in North London.

Enormous means a doubling of Eriksen’s wages, and the Dane is said to be happy in England. Might Spurs hold off the finest of La Liga and Serie A after all.

Report: Everton could land Juventus’ Kean after all

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Everton could end up with one of the hottest prospects in world soccer.

Moise Kean may wind up leaving Juventus due to the club’s failure to offload fellow strikers Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain.

And Kean, 19, was poised for a breakthrough to the first team, to the extent that Juve reportedly turned down a $33 million bid from Everton.

[ MORE: Algeria wins AFCON ]

The Toffees, however, may have new life due to the Higuain/Mandzukic problem, and Sky Sports Italia reports that Kean may indeed be an option for Marco Silva‘s club. He could join Michael Keane, if he’s keen.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Kean elected to leave Italy given the racial abuse he’s suffered in Serie A (Though racism is everywhere, of course).

The same report says Kean turned down a Barcelona offer because he would’ve headed on loan, while Arsenal is also said to be in the mix.

Kean scored six Serie A goals with an assist in just 13 matches for Juventus last season after scoring four times for Hellas Verona on loan.