Antonio Valencia

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Solskjaer: ‘We just need consistency’

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In a vague, general word, Manchester United manager knows exactly what his club have been missing. Consistency.

More specifically, consistent success.

In a sit-down interview with the BBC, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mentioned striving for consistency in performances on no less than four occasions, including when speaking about Alexis Sanchez. Man United won eight straight matches in all competitions and 10 of its first 11 under the Norwegian manager.

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And yet, the consistency wasn’t there late in the season, when Man United faltered down the stretch and won just two of its last ten matches to close the season on a sour note. Man United finished in sixth place, and while Solskjaer said he believed it would be a challenge to break into the top four, he said with some consistent performances, Man United could achieve its goals.

“We have to aim for further up than fourth,” Solskjaer told the BBC. “I would rather be an optimist and be wrong than a pessimist and be right. I am not used to us being fifth or sixth but that is where we are at. That is the size of the challenge. I love that challenge.

“We have to work with the players, sign the right types and gradually make our way to the challenging line. Our players do have quality. They do have a chance. We just need consistency. We have to keep working every single day and not take our eyes off the target. Everyone gets off line at some point but you can’t let it drift too far because then you won’t get to the overall goal.”

Some Man United fans have been mumbling and rumbling due to the slow start in this summer’s transfer window. Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia have both departed on free transfers, while only Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have come in. While it’s not the improvements some fans were hoping for, it’s helped give some of the young players, like James Garner, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenword, some hope that they can get minutes.

Perhaps the push from the young players for first team minutes will make Man United a bit more competitive in training again, which can only help in terms of having success on the field.

The big question remains, which Man United team will we see this season. The one from Solskjaer’s first two months on the job, or the one from his last six weeks.

Man United complete $57-million Wan-Bissaka transfer

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Manchester United’s pursuit of Aaron Wan-Bissaka is complete after the 21-year-old made his long-rumored transfer from Crystal Palace, the clubs announced on Saturday.

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The initial fee is understood to be $57 million — a record for an uncapped British player — with an additional $6.3 million of add-ons possible. Wan-Bissaka signed a five-year contract with Man United.

Wan-Bissaka will immediately take over as the starting right back at Old Trafford, replacing Antonio Valencia who signed for Ecuadorian side LDU Quito on Friday after 10 years at Man United, most of which saw him hold down the job at right back.

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United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer called Wan-Bissaka “one of the best upcoming defenders in the Premier League.”

“He has the right work ethic, talent and mentality to play for Manchester United and he fits exactly the type of player that we are looking to bring into the squad to help us improve and push on further.”

WATCH LIVE: Chile takes on Ecuador in Copa America

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Chile looks to continue its hot start as the defending Copa America champions meet Ecuador in Salvador.

[ WATCH LIVE: Chile vs. Ecuador ]

The tournament favorites topped Japan 4-0 in their opener four days ago and now have the chance to snatch sole possession of first place in Group C after Uruguay’s slip against Japan last night.

Eduardo Vargas scored a double against Japan and he leads the lines again tonight supported by Alexis Sanchez and Jose Fuenzalida. Chile boss Reinaldo Rueda makes no changes to the side that won its opener in convincing fashion, looking for the blistering start to continue.

For Ecuador, they hope for a stark turnaround after being blitzed by Uruguay 4-0 in the opening match. Head coach Hernan Dario Gomez has made heavy changes to the starting lineup, most notably benching Antonio Valencia and bringing Sebastian Mendez off the bench into the midfield. He has also brought Sao Paulo center-back Robert Arboleda into the side in place of Arturo Mina who had an own-goal in the loss to Uruguay.

Ecuador has gone five matches without a win, and Gomez received a vote of confidencee from the head of the Ecuadorian federation. “We are not understanding the reality of our football and that is not the fault of one or two people,” FEF president Francisco Egas told Ecuadorian radio station La Radio Redonda on Thursday. “If we believe that the crisis of the national team is the product of one person, we make a mistake already.  Today, we are paying for things that have not been done well for several years.”

Nonetheless, a shock victory over Chile would right the ship in a heartbeat and set Ecuador up for a shot at a knockout stage slot.

Official: Mata signs new two-year contract with option at Man United

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Manchester United is expected to experience some large turnover this summer, but at least one veteran will be staying into the future.

Man United confirmed the news that Juan Mata has signed a new two-year contract with the club. The deal also includes an option for a third year, though it’s unclear whether it’s a club or player option. Other terms of the deal were not disclosed, though the Guardian reported on Tuesday that Mata’s previous contract paid the Spanish midfielder around $9.2 million per season.

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“It is a real honor to continue to represent this amazing club and our incredible fans. I have been at Manchester United for five years and I am proud to call Old Trafford my home,” Mata said in a statement. “I am looking forward to working with Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] and his fantastic coaching staff; the vision that they have for the club is truly exciting and I am so happy that I will be a part of that.”

Like teammates Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia, Mata’s contract was coming to an end this summer. However, unlike the former two players, Mata has agreed to stay, though it’s likely on a much smaller contract considering his diminishing appearances the last few seasons.

Mata made just 22 starts this past season for Man United, the lowest in his career since moving to England from Valencia. He also finished with just six goals in 42 games, one of his lowest outputs in years. Now 31-years old, Mata is likely being kept around to be a father figure of sorts for the young and transitioning Man United squad, as well as providing some midfield guile as either a No. 10 or a passing No. 6 that can start the attacking moves from deep.

“Juan is the ultimate professional and one of the most intelligent players I have worked with,” Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said in a statement. “He is a great example to our younger players in his approach. He understands what it means to be a Manchester United player and has embraced everything about this great club.

“As well as everything he brings on the pitch, we have some fantastic young players here and I know that Juan’s vast experience will help them to reach their potential over the coming seasons. I am delighted that he has signed a new contract, as I know that his talent and mentality will be invaluable to the squad.”

The former Chelsea midfielder joined Man United in a mid-season transfer in January 2014, reportedly worth more than $47 million.

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!