Andreas Pereira

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Just how different will Manchester United look next year?

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It’s Sunday morning, Paul Pogba wants to leave Manchester United, and the USWNT doesn’t play its World Cup match until Noon: Let’s deal in theoreticals by starting with a fact.

This season is going to be a major challenge for one Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Manchester United boss will seemingly be pulling together a significant amount of new parts into a team which is coming off a sixth place finish in the Premier League, with four of the five teams ahead of him having maintained their managers and most if not all key pieces.

Oh, and he’ll have to fashion this team based out of parts willing to buy into the club’s mystique and ignore the lack of UEFA Champions League play (which is seemingly why Paul Pogba is ready to skip town).

Big paychecks will help, but there’s no way to quickly meld these pieces into one unit. That’s especially true if the biggest piece of their 2018-19 puzzle, Pogba, isn’t in the middle of the park (or pushed a bit forward).

Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, and Antonio Valencia are out of contract, and Romelu Lukaku has been as mentioned as any striker on the market (He has three goals in four days for Belgium, albeit against Kazakhstan and Scotland).

Pogba’s potential departure puts a lot of weight on Ed Woodward to spend money well (One could make an argument for United needing 60-80 percent of those names).

Subtracting them and adding no one, United’s best XI is something like David De Gea, Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, Anthony Martial, Andreas Pereira, Jesse Lingard, and Marcus Rashford.

As an aside, the expectations and pressure heaped on Rashford by the “he’s better than Lukaku, play him now centrally” media crowd is going to be a burden if the 21-year-old has to bear the center forward burden alone. My goodness are there Old Trafford subplots in excess or what?

Now, of course, there are seven weeks to go in the transfer window and there’s no guarantee Pogba and Lukaku will leave town. In fact, you may want to place your confidence on Pogba opening the season unhappy but at Old Trafford. Either way, the center of the park is going to get a remarkable makeover, and both center back and goalkeeper will get upgrades, too.

To the fixes:

— United is expected to spend big on Crystal Palace right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who was sensational last season with the Eagles. They reportedly have sent a $51 million offer to Roy Hodgson‘s squad.

— They’ve been linked with desire for Issa Diop, though West Ham has hopes of $75 million for the center back who made JPW’s Top Ten of the season.

Wilfred Ndidi is “flattered” by links to United, but is focused on Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations line. Should the Red Devils want to buy the 22-year-old, he’s likely in the same price range as the above names.

— Don’t forget Monaco’s Youri Tielemans, who feels like a PL player from his outstanding time at Leicester City last season. He’d merit another $50 million or so.

It’s worth noting that all would get more European football than at their current home with a bump in wages plus an new iconic shirt. Don’t sleep on that.

You’re probably talking a $240-250 million outlay there, should United land them.

Without going further, nor mentioning Swansea’s young Daniel James and Sheffield United loanee Dean Henderson, you can see a thread here: United could be showing us how a Premier League Best XI without any Top Six players would fare in the top flight.

Of course, United has also been linked with big buys from outside of the Premier League and many of these are older than Ndidi, Diop, Tielemans, and AWB.

But taking those four young players and assuming a focal point/back bone strengthening holding mid would likely join part-time players and full-time leaders Nemanja Matic and Chris Smalling (and maybe Juan Mata).

Now of course there are rumors of experienced leaders Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona and there could be a return from Real, PSG, or Juve. And this whole post looks even worse when United swaps Pogba for Neymar straight-up.

Here’s another question in the myriad facing Solskjaer and Woodward: Is the Europa League a better route to the Champions League than the idea of beating out two of Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, and Liverpool (And noting that Spurs, City, and Liverpool will be heavily expected to finish 1-2-3 in some permutation and Chelsea has a leg up on the field assuming Eden Hazard is their lone significant departure).

Manchester United w/ above transfers (Age when season starts)

De Gea (28)

Wan-Bissaka (21) — Lindelof (25) — Diop (22) — Shaw (24)

Ndidi (22) — Matic (30)

Tielemans (22)

Lingard (26) — Rashford (21) — Martial (23)

What a time to be alive. Rashford better deliver!

Herrera, Lingard, Martial among debilitating Man United injury list

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Manchester United has a sizable 2-0 hole to dig itself out of when the Red Devils take the field against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday in Champions League play.

Making matters far more difficult, they’ll try to make up ground while missing a whopping nine first-team players who are either injured or suspended for the second leg of the Round of 16 match in the French capital.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer announced he would be without the services of injured midfielders Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, and Ander Herrera plus forwards Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial, with defenders Phil Jones, Matteo Darmian and Antonio Valencia also unavailable. Paul Pogba is suspended, meaning Manchester United will be leaving 263 total appearances this season on the sideline.

“Not really, no,” Solskjaer said when asked if any of his currently injured players could find themselves fit in time for the match. “It doesn’t look like it. I don’t think we can risk Martial. He’s not been training yet, so I don’t think so.”

It’s likely that Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof pair at the heart of the Red Devils defense, as they did against Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday, while Scott McTominay could also see the field either along the back line or in midfield, with Solskjaer preferred the latter of late as he navigates this injury crisis. 23-year-old Andreas Pereira has also seen the field recently in a deputy role, and Romelu Lukaku will almost certainly lead the lines up front. Eric Bailly or Marcos Rojo could also be used at the back if Solskjaer wishes to rotate his defense.

This could also be a big opportunity for 25-year-old Brazilian midfielder Fred who has made just one start since the start of the new year, but he came off the bench for eight minutes in the match against Southampton and went the full 90 minutes against Crystal Palace in late February. With Pogba out, Fred would be a natural replacement for the Frenchman.

It is also possible that facing a 2-0 deficit and such a long injury list, Solskjaer essentially throws the PSG match and uses a completely second-choice lineup featuring youngsters like Diogo Dalot and Tahith Chong, deciding not to risk his healthy first-team players with such little depth remaining. With Manchester United sitting fourth in the Premier League table and looking over its shoulder at Arsenal and Chelsea, it’s not inconceivable that Solskjaer pragmatically decides to focus on just the league battle with such a handcuffed roster. Manchester United has a critical match against Arsenal on Sunday, making his decision to risk first-choice players – or not – even more important.

Lukaku leads Manchester United in thrilling comeback win

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  • Lukaku scores twice in 2nd half
  • Saints lead twice on two beauties
  • Pereira, Valery score 1st PL goals

An absolute classic at Old Trafford saw Manchester United comeback twice against visiting Southampton, as the sides only scored thrilling goals in a 3-2 match on Saturday.

Romelu Lukaku scored twice including the last of the stunners, taking a Fred flick and ripping past a flying Angus Gunn.

Andreas Pereira also scored for United, while James Ward-Prowse and Yan Valery are on the score sheet for Southampton.

Four of the five goals were Goal of the Week contenders, with Lukaku’s first quite lovely but not in that category. Gunn stopped Pogba’s penalty late, as Lukaku did not get a chance at his hat trick.

United moves fourth, three points behind Tottenham, while Saints remain 17th with 27 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Brilliant goals were the name of the game, the first being Valery’s absolute terror from better than 20 yards away from goal.

The Southampton youngster laced a right-footed shot which beat David De Gea to the near post; The gorgeous would’ve been stopped by De Gea at his best.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Saints continued to work for a surprise three points at Old Trafford, but that notion was spoiled by Pereira and Lukaku.

Pereira’s goal, like Valery’s his first in the Premier League, was sensational. The Brazilian cut in from the left and took a step before curling a pearler around Angus Gunn and into the goal.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Gunn had been sensational himself over the course of the match, making numerous first half stops for Saints.

He wasn’t able to get to Lukaku’s 10-yards low drive inside the far post, as United took the lead with about a half-hour remaining in the game.

Ward-Prowse got his free kick in the 75th minute, and boy did he get full body on his strike. De Gea was left flying through the air as the ball tore into the upper 90. 2-2.

Lukaku then took Fred’s feed to score a stunner of a winner, and Stuart Armstrong fouled Marcus Rashford to allow Pogba his chance to score from the spot. The French star was saved by Gunn.

Solskjaer calls Man United defender McTominay a ‘Darren Fletcher’

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was over the moon with how his players performed in difficult circumstances against league-leading Liverpool in their 0-0 draw at Old Trafford, which was marred by a slew of first-half injuries.

Solskjaer, a former Manchester United striker and current interim manager, has made a name for himself in recalling old names and moments in Red Devils history during his two-plus months in charge. He did so again while pointing out players he was particularly pleased with on Sunday.

“I learned a lot about the players today,” Solskjaer told the Manchester Evening News after the match. “I learnt a lot about Scott McTominay, who I’ve been waiting to give a chance in a more attacking role, he can run into the box, is dangerous, he was a Darren Fletcher today for us. Absolutely fantastic, he’s not played since Reading, that’s six weeks ago, January 5.”

[ MORE: 3 things we learned from Man United v Liverpool ]

That is incredibly high praise from the United boss. Darren Fletcher is a Manchester United folk hero, having made over 300 career appearances for the club over a 12-year span. He was a do-it-all midfielder who was loved by fans for his bold attitude and fearless nature in the middle of the pitch.

McTominay, a 22-year-old Manchester United youth product and natural center-back, was put under pressure when Ander Herrera and Juan Mata both went off injured. McTominay was deployed as a defensive midfielder just in front of the back line that featured Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling, but had to adapt on the introductions of Andreas Pereira, Jesse Lingard, and Alexis Sanchez. The young Scottish international made seven ball recoveries to lead Manchester United in the match, and had two blocks, three clearances, and two interceptions.

Solskjaer was also pleased with Pereira, who had played just 220 minutes this Premier League season before Sunday. Like McTominay, Pereira is a Manchester United youth product who has been given only a bit-part role in his time since joining the first-team squad. “Andreas, with the criticism he’s had to come on and did fantastic,” Solskjaer said. “So I learnt a lot about the character of the team.”

Bewildered Klopp: Liverpool had me thinking ‘what is going on today?’

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Jurgen Klopp is looking for answers after a tepid 0-0 draw for his Liverpool at Manchester United on Sunday.

The good news is the point that pushed the Reds above Manchester City with 11 matches to play in the Premier League season.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 Things from OT ]

The bad news is pretty much everything else. Mohamed Salah is ice cold. Sadio Mane was non-existent. Roberto Firmino and Andy Robertson were injured.

And the Reds failed to win despite Marcus Rashford hobbling atop a United attack which used all its subs in the first half, had Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira in the midfield, and played Romelu Lukaku at right wing.

But for Klopp, he saluted United’s depth. As said above, the answers aren’t there right now for the German mastermind

“That is the quality of the United squad. You change five times before the game and in it, then you still have Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Marcus Rashford up front.”

Lukaku started, Sanchez barely sees the field for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and Rashford was hobbled by a first half Jordan Henderson tackle. Tell us another one, JK.

That said, he knows the Reds were not very good and is the quality of manager to find the answers. Lest we forget the table lead with a relatively easy run into the final weekend.

“We were without chances. United had only one big one when Alisson made an excellent save, the rest were set-pieces. It kept the game open but we didn’t create enough and that’s the truth.

“We didn’t do well to be honest. We take that. It is a point gained because we have one more than before but it doesn’t feel like that.

“These games are always opened up by one situation. The boys didn’t feel okay. I could see it in their faces. It was strange. I was thinking ‘what is going on here today’. They lost momentum and rhythm and couldn’t really get it back.”