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How long is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s leash?

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Since the dismal 1988/89 season when Manchester United finished 11th, no manager has ushered in fewer points through the season’s first 14 matches than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this campaign, with the Red Devils held again on Sunday to a 2-2 draw with newly-promoted Aston Villa.

Not David Moyes, not Louis Van Gaal, not Jose Mourinho.

That does not tell the whole story – far from it. Manchester United is in the midst of a rebuild that has not gone as smoothly as Chelsea’s youth movement, but for all the bumps in the road it has not felt as chaotic as Arsenal’s train wreck, despite the Gunners sitting a spot higher.

Still, you are what the table says you are, and right now the table has spoken: Manchester United is the ninth-best team in the league.

Ole Gunnar Solakjaer’s sheer numbers are just as ugly. He has a 27% win rate as a permanent manager in the Premier League, having emerged victorious in just six out of 21 league matches since signing on permanently on March 28. In contrast, the now-fired Unai Emery retained a 47% mark during his time at Arsenal. Even with his spectacular start during the caretaker manager days, Solskjaer has won under 50% of his matches in charge of Manchester United (24 wins, 14 losses, 12 draws in 50 matches – an 84-point haul over that span).

In a league environment that often sees clubs shoot managers first and ask questions later, patience can be a virtue, but it can also be a club’s undoing, and the fine line between those two parallel universes is often as blurry as . The manager in that 1988/89 season was Sir Alex Ferguson, amidst his third year in charge. Thanks in large part to what he achieved after to Manchester United stayed its hand, there is no way he would have survived that kind of lost campaign in this climate.

There are a host of sharks circling, and the allure of returning Manchester United to glory would be enough to lure any top manager should the board make a move. Carlo Ancelotti is running out of time at Napoli and could be available. Massimiliano Allegri is available, as is Mauricio Pochettino, who the Manchester United board has reportedly coveted for years.  A number of up-and-coming Premier League managers like Nuno Espirito Santo and Dean Smith could be options, and Manchester United may not want to wait for Arsenal to get its pick first.

All is not lost for Manchester United this season, and xG metrics seem to suggest an eventual turnaround. Their -3.92 xG differential to actual goals scored is third-worst in the Premier League, indicating the offense should come around. To go along with that, their defense has been fantastic, owning the 2nd-best xGA in the league, and their +3.04 xGA differential to actual goals conceded is sixth-worst in the league. Daniel James, despite a poor performance against Villa, has been a positive addition this season, and Fred has improved in midfield under Solskjaer. Harry Maguire looks worth every penny spent this offseason, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka has quietly been one of the better Premier League values of the summer.

Solskjaer has to this point avoided the off-field blights that eventually spelled disaster for Emery at Arsenal, but the results are no longer an anomaly – they have become the norm. Along with that, Solskjaer’s notable calm demeanor may be having an adverse effect on the club; he himself claimed that Jack Grealish‘s goal in the Villa draw “knocked us a little emotionally,” a mental frailty never present during Ferguson’s best days.

The Norwegian said after the Villa draw that he’s not looking at league position. “I wouldn’t have sat here and talked about us being fifth if we had got that one goal extra, so the league table at this point is not the biggest concern because it is so tight. I just need to make sure that we get performances and get three or four performances after each other – and results.”

He should start worrying about league position soon, because while it doesn’t feel like the wheels have fallen off the OleMobile just yet, the optics are looking less and less savory. Manchester United stuck with Sir Alex back when the going got tough, but these are entirely different times. As the season slips away, where is the point of no return? When is enough, enough?

Michael Bradley re-signs with Toronto FC

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Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley has re-signed with the Major League Soccer franchise.

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Bradley, 32, saw his previous contract run out at the end of the 2019 season but he has now agreed a new deal with the Canadian side and Toronto have squeezed him into their salary cap by using Targeted Allocation Money (TAM).

During his six season stint so far in Toronto, Bradley has led the team to three MLS Cup finals as TFC stunned MLS with a run to the final against Seattle in 2019. They lost on that occasion but beat Seattle in 2017 and Bradley’s displays, along with that of Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and now Alejandro Pozuelo have seen Toronto become one of the most consistent teams in MLS.

Explaining his reasons for signing a new deal in Toronto, Bradley revealed that he wants to take them onto bigger and better things.

“I feel so attached to the city of Toronto, the club, the team. I love it here and I am really proud of what we’ve been able to do over the past six years,” Bradley said. “Beyond the success, I am equally as proud of the mentality and identity this club has taken on. The relationship between the club and the city, the club and the fans are both very special and I’m proud to have played a part in that. What we have in Toronto doesn’t exist everywhere. My family and I are so happy to remain in Toronto and we’d like to thank everyone at Toronto FC for ensuring that this process was done quietly and professionally behind the scenes. I’m looking forward to continuing to play in the biggest games and competing for trophies every year.”

Bradley still has plenty left in the tank, as last season showed, and despite rumors that he would link up with his father, Bob Bradley, at LAFC, he is staying in Ontario.

That’s great news for Toronto FC as despite plenty of criticism from USMNT fans over recent years, Bradley has continued to deliver consistency and leadership at BMO Field.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Our latest Premier League player Power Rankings have landed.

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Matchweek 16 followed a similar pattern to recent weeks as players from Liverpool, Leicester City, Spurs and Man United dominated our top 20 with so many games played over the last seven days.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League. If they didn’t play in the last matchweek, they aren’t getting in this list!

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]  

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


1.  Jamie Vardy (Leicester) – Even
2. Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – Up 7
3. Marcus Rashford (Man United) – New entry
4. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – New entry
5. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – Up 6
6. Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle) – New entry
7. Jonny Evans (Leicester) – New entry
8. Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – Down 4
9. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton) – New entry
10. Danny Ings (Southampton) – New entry
11. Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Man United) – New entry
12. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool) – Down 2
13. Caglar Soyuncu (Leicester) – Even
14. Dele Alli (Tottenham) – Down 11
15. Kevin De Bruyne (Man City) – Down 10
16. Raul Jimenez (Wolves) – Down 3
17. Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) – Down 1
18. Anthony Martial (Man United) – New entry
19. Diogo Jota (Wolves) – New entry
20. Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal) – New entry

Christian Pulisic named USMNT Player of the Year

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Who else could it be? Christian Pulisic has been named the USMNT player of the year for 2019.

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The Chelsea star, 21, excelled for club and country over the past 12 months and after taking a few months to settle into life in England, he’s now taking the Premier League by storm on a weekly basis.

Pulisic has now won this award for a second time after first winning it in 2017 and he becomes the youngest player in U.S. men’s national team history to win the award twice.

His achievements over the last 12 months are numerous, as he dragged a struggling USMNT to the 2019 Gold Cup final and also became the youngest player to reach double figures in goals for the USMNT.

MLS veteran Sacha Kljestan signs with hometown LA Galaxy

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Carson, Calif. (AP) Veteran midfielder Sacha Kljestan has signed with the LA Galaxy as a free agent.

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The 34-year-old U.S. national team contributor officially returned to his native Southern California on Wednesday.

Kljestan has scored 49 goals over 10 MLS seasons in a career that began as the fifth overall pick by defunct Chivas USA, the Galaxy’s former stadium partners. After a successful five-year stint with Belgium’s Anderlecht, he spent the past five seasons with New York Red Bulls and Orlando City.

The Huntington Beach native also has made 51 appearances for the U.S. team, playing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Kljestan will provide veteran leadership for a Galaxy roster in transition after the departures of its top two goal-scorers: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Uriel Antuna.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports