Getty Images

Solskjaer: Man United players need ‘reality check’

1 Comment

The honeymoon period for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is definitely over at Manchester United.

After losing five of their last seven games in all competitions, the Red Devils are out of Europe, the FA Cup and now facing a tough task to finish in the top four of the Premier League. And the two games they won over their last seven were far from impressive displays against Watford and West Ham at home.

[ MORE: Who/where should United buy? ]

Speaking ahead of United’s game at Everton on Sunday (Watch live, 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Solskjaer believes some of his players need a reality check in order to save their season.

“I’ve learnt a lot about them over the months I’ve been here,” Solskjaer explained. “Most of them have really impressed me in their attitude. Of course there are some who need to get a reality check on where they’re at. But most of them know they can improve if they keep working as they do.”

Solskjaer was asked about which players in particular need to have a long hard look in the mirror, and although he didn’t name names, he did mention having a chat with Anthony Martial to try and help the Frenchman regain his best form.

Things were going so well for Solskjaer pretty much up until he was handed the United job on a permanent basis with 14 from his first 17 games in charge. You have to wonder if some of the players have taken their foot off the accelerator now the Norwegian coach has been handed the keys on a long-term basis.

Even if human nature kicked in and they relaxed a little, in reality they all know they can’t let their levels drop as it’s clear Solskjaer is planning yet another overhaul of this hodgepodge of a United squad in the offseason.

Asked about transfers this summer, Solskjaer wanted to calm everyone down and let them know he is in it for the long haul.

“We know there is a job to be done, there is no quick fix. It’s not like we can buy seven players and suddenly we are in the right shape. We are where we are and you have to take it step by step,” Solskjaer said. “Of course there will be signings made in the summer. I know there has been loads of criticism. I don’t know if all these critics know what is happening. We have got scouts scouring the planet for good footballers. We’ll sign players that we think are the right fit personality wise, quality wise, price wise, and can have longevity here at this club. I’m confident we are doing what we can to get the right players in.”

United need to strengthen at right back and central defense, while central midfield is also another area they need to beef up with plenty of outgoings expected.

In a strange way, this poor run to end the season will have focused Solskjaer and United’s board to try and reshape this squad rather than paper over the cracks. If they kept edging games and winning it would have brought false hope for the 2019-20 campaign. Now, everyone knows that big changes are needed, and a new direction in terms of player recruitment and a consistent playing style.

Can Solskjaer do what David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho couldn’t?

Solskjaer: ‘We got away with’ win

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer displayed some brutal honesty after Manchester United’s 2-1 win over West Ham, saying his side didn’t deserve to win based on how they played.

“We got away with it, you can put it that way, Solskjaer said, referring to the win. “I know it’s not easy because we played a game on Wednesday and there were a few changes that we had to make. So, we got away with it. They deserved their goal, but then again we’re allowed to have a good goalkeeper.”

Two Paul Pogba penalty kicks were the difference for Man United in the win, but aside from he and Anthony Martial, the Red Devils struggles at times against West Ham. The Irons finished with nearly 58 percent possession four shots on target and a game-high 18 shots in total.

Man United we’re forced to make 25 clearances and 21 tackles to win back possession as well.

Solskjaer admitted that Man United’s luck may be evening out, after strong performances at Arsenal and against Wolverhampton Wanderers ended in defeat.

“Away from home, especially the Wolverhampton and Arsenal games [defeats], I’ve stood here and been pleased with the performances, when we’ve played well and created chances but didn’t get what we deserved,” Solskjaer said. “In the last two games here at home, against Watford and now West Ham, we’ve probably got more than we deserved. But it’ll even itself out over the season. Sometimes you can’t always be on your game and we have to be honest that today and in the Watford game we have been poor. We haven’t performed, we’ve been too open, our shape wasn’t good enough.

Sloppy Man Utd rides Pogba penalties past West Ham (video)

Leave a comment
  • Pogba converts two penalties
  • Anderson scores for WHUFC
  • United fifth with 64 points

Paul Pogba converted a pair of penalties as Manchester United doubled up West Ham United 2-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Felipe Anderson scored West Ham’s goal, as the Irons remain 11th.

United is now fifth, two points back of Chelsea and three behind Spurs.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The Irons had an early goal pulled back for an infraction, and Manchester United soon helped move a wide-open game forward.

Juan Mata won a penalty atop the 18 when his attempted first touch of an Anthony Martial lay-off was clattered into by Robert Snodgrass. Pogba didn’t need a tip-toe run-up here, blasting a shot past Lukasz Fabianski.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

But wait. West Ham went level in the 49th minute through Anderson, who was on the business end of an awful distribution move from David De Gea.

The keeper collected a low drive from Pablo Zabaleta a few minutes later.

Marcus Rashford subbed into the game and was lively but lacking the finishing touch, forcing into nodding over the goal by a leaping Zabaleta challenge.

Moments after David De Gea made a stunning one-handed stop, Ryan Fredericks chopped down Martial in the box. Pogba laid into his effoert for 2-1.

Early goal holds up for Barcelona at Man Utd (video)

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Suarez scores 13th minute opener
  • Man Utd with 10 shots, zero on target
  • Second leg Tuesday in Barcelona

Manchester United out-attempted UEFA Champions League favorites Barcelona but couldn’t find a way into the goal in a 1-0 quarterfinal first leg loss at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Luke Shaw own goal was the difference in a scrappy affair, put behind David De Gea on a play produced by Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

The second leg is Tuesday at the Camp Nou.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The early stages had a typical “feeling it out” vibe, though Marcus Rashford was especially lively.

Barcelona went ahead, and VAR helped give the goal overcome the linesman’s offside flag. Who knows what he was looking at it, but Suarez’s attempted header of a Messi cross came off Shaw and defied David De Gea with everyone onside. 1-0, 13′.

De Gea saved from Coutinho in the 36th minute, and Barca was buzzing again.

Diego Dalot headed over the goal with the crown of his head after a long cross found him back post.

By the way, Manchester United center back Chris Smalling saw nothing for this:

United has all of the ball and the chances to start the second half, but Barca held firm like Spurs versus Man City a day earlier.

Suarez knifed into the 18 but sliced his shot into the outside of netting in the 65th.

Messi tried to sneak a free kick through the wall but his shot deflected and De Gea adjusted to catch it in the 83rd, the lone moment of interest in a sleepy 10-15 minutes.

Gerard Pique then intervened to stop Anthony Martial from a prime scoring chance. The ensuing corner kick led to nothing.

Here’s the only goal:

Report: Man United scouted D.C. United’s Acosta

Leave a comment

Count Manchester United in as the latest European giant to scout D.C. United’s star playmaker Luciano Acosta.

Just a few months after Paris Saint-Germain nearly signed the Argentine on transfer deadline day last January, Manchester United has reportedly sent a scout to watch Acosta, according to a report from Pablo Maurer with The Athletic. It’s Acosta’s fourth season at D.C. United but he’s finally lived up to the talent he has since the arrival of Wayne Rooney in July 2018. Last season Acosta had 10 goals and 17 assists, most of which came in the second half of the season.

[READ: Everton tops Arsenal with Jagielka’s goal]

So far this season, he has one goal and two assists in five matches, though he struggled in Los Angeles FC’s 4-0 rout of D.C. United last weekend.

It’s likely that Man United sent a scout to Audi Field on the advice from Rooney himself or his intermediaries, but it’s also a sign that big clubs in Europe are really starting to scout and look at players plying their trade in MLS. Miguel Almiron’s performances for Newcastle since his arrival have shown that the level in MLS has risen to the point that stars in the league can fit into the Premier League in the right setting.

MLS is an attractive setting for Premier League clubs to see if players can grow. Especially for South American talents, its a chance to move to a new culture, learn English and challenge themselves in a more physical league, all of which are similar to the Premier League. While the talent and skill level in the Premier League is clearly higher, just adapting culturally and learning how to live abroad are key skills that will make the adjustment to England much easier.

Barring any sort of big departures this summer, it doesn’t look like there’s a place for Acosta at Old Trafford at the moment. He’d certainly be behind Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata and maybe even Alexis Sanchez in the depth chart.

Per The Athletic, Acosta has drawn interest from clubs in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, England and France.