Diogo Dalot

How ‘ruthless’ should Solskjaer be at Man United?

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said he is going to be “ruthless” when it comes to ins and outs at Manchester United this summer.

But how ruthless does he have to be?

After a narrow, and undeserved, win against West Ham United on Saturday, Solskjaer admitted that the Hammers got away with one and it once again showed just how much work he has to do at Old Trafford to turn the Red Devils into a genuine force once again.

Here’s a reminder of what United’s new permanent head coach had to say last Friday about potential departures and arrivals this summer.

“It’s going to be survival of the fittest or survival of the best,” Solskjaer said. “That’s how ruthless we have to be.  We need players here who are going to be able to take us forward. That means culture in the dressing room, what we do every single day here to make us challenge again… Liverpool and City are too far head at the moment for what we like. We played against a Barcelona team that sets the standard in European football. We’re under no illusion it’s going to be hard work and there will be some tough decisions made by me, Mick [Phelan] and the club.”

Solskjaer’s task has become a lot tougher now his interim tag has been removed, with the Norwegian coach losing four of his last six games in all competitions and United struggling to make the top four and looking like they will crash out of the UEFA Champions League at Barcelona on Tuesday.

But at least he accepts he must be ruthless, as a whole host of players look set to move on this summer.

Antonio Valencia is leaving at the end of his contract, while Ander Herrera also looks set to leave for PSG and Juan Mata appears to be heading out of the door too. Then there is Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo who both seem set to leave, while Alexis Sanchez and United will both want to move on from a nightmare 18-month spell.

So that’s six first team players potentially on the way out, but only one or two are genuine starters. A bigger overhaul is needed. Here’s a look at where United need to strengthen over the summer, as they also need to sort out David De Gea‘s contract situation very quickly or run the risk of losing him too.


Man United lineup for the 2019-20 season

—– De Gea —–

—- New RB —- New CB —- Lindelof —- Shaw —-

—- New DM —- New DM —- 

—- New AM —- Pogba —- Martial —-

—– Rashford —–


Now, Diogo Dalot can replace Ashley Young as the long-term right back, while Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have been handed new deals at center back, and Eric Bailly is around too, but their limitations have been made clear over the years. A new RB and CB are a must. In central midfield the likes of Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic have all had their ups and downs and that is the main area where United need to strengthen. Going forward, they are pretty set, especially with the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez in reserve. But the main thing here is clear: have a clear-out of squad players this summer and focus on bringing in 3-4 star players.

Which players should be the top targets for United? Solskjaer should aim for young, hungry players who can be at United together for a decade, while some experienced center backs are key. Bur remember: Solskjaer has been keen to promote youngsters from United’s academy whenever he can, so that may also be the route he goes down to freshen things up and Ed Woodward and United’s hierarchy would probably be fine with that given how much money Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have spent over the past five years.

Here’s a look at the players who should be their top priorities:

Four things we learned: Arsenal v. Man United

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LONDON — It was a case of unlucky 13 for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as he lost for the first time as Manchester United manager in the Premier League at Arsenal on Sunday.

The Gunners scored in each half through Granit Xhaka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to push themselves into the driving seat in the top four battle as they won a ninth-straight home game. United missed numerous glorious chances and hit the woodwork twice as their heroic midweek win at PSG seemed to catch up with them.

Here’s a look at what we learned from a gripping encounter in north London.


EMERY HAS INSTILLED STEEL

It wasn’t pretty from Arsenal, but they got the job done and kept a clean sheet, and it is clear that Unai Emery has instilled a steely resolve into this Gunners team. In recent weeks they’ve held firm against the rampant attacks of Tottenham and Man United in the Premier League, and on Sunday it took a lot of courage to dig deep and fight back after their disappointing midweek defeat at Rennes in the Europa League. By the end of Arsene Wenger‘s Arsenal reign, they had become a weak-minded, fragile bunch of players. There is now a fighting spirit and grit to their play which complements their free-flowing attacking prowess. Despite various setbacks along the way this season, one thing that has improved drastically under Emery is their defensive organization. And despite that improved defensive solidity, helped mainly by Sokratis’ arrival, they have also scored more goals (63) than they had at this point last season. With three goals conceded in their last five PL games, if Arsenal’s defense keeps this up it will get them into the top four. Coupled with turning the Emirates into a fortress, the Gunners have finally added some steel to their silky attack.


UNITED’S MIDFIELD MUDDLE COSTS SOLSKJAER

25 minutes into the game Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had seen enough from his midfield. He switched the formation from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2 because Fred and Nemanja Matic were left woefully exposed to Arsenal’s fluid attacks. Young shifted to center back, Diogo Dalot went to right wing-back and all of a sudden United had more control. Pogba was drifting around aimlessly early on, not sure if he was playing in the center or on the left of midfield, and it was all a bit of a muddle. Ander Herrera and Scott McTominay were badly missed alongside Matic, and although Fred gave away a penalty kick, he didn’t play too badly. United’s failure to finish chances was their biggest downfall on Sunday, as Solskjaer’s fine unbeaten run is over. Injuries, constant personnel changes and the PSG win in midweek caught up with them, but there is still plenty of life left in their top four quest.


LUKAKU GOES COLD IN FRONT OF GOAL

After scoring twice in each of his last three outings, Romelu Lukaku was bang on form heading into this game. Moments before Arsenal took the lead he somehow hit the crossbar from close range, and before half time he gave Bernd Leno just enough time to claw the ball away after he rounded him. In the second half Lukaku was clean through again but was denied and it just wasn’t his day in front of goal. The Belgian striker still caused problems with his runs and combination play with Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba, but he had an off-day in front of goal. Lukaku going stone cold in front of goal was the main reason why Man United failed to get anything from this game. And the fact that only 14 percent of Lukaku’s 113 Premier League goals have come against “big six” opposition (16 in 75 appearances) will add fuel to the fire of those saying Anthony Martial must replace him in the starting lineup.


TOP 4 BATTLE BLOWN WIDE OPEN

The race to finish in the top four of the Premier League got real this weekend. Tottenham lost at Southampton. Chelsea drew at home against Wolves. And Arsenal beat Man United. Arsenal now sit in fourth on 60 points (just one point short of third-place Spurs), Man United are in fifth on 58 points and Chelsea are in sixth on 57 points with a game in hand.

In the matchday programme Arsenal skipper Laurent Koscielny said that this was a “crucial game” for the Gunners and their season. It’s cliche, but every game between now and May 12 is huge for Emery’s Arsenal project. And the same can be said for Pochettino, Sarri and Solskjaer at their respective clubs.

This race for UEFA Champions League qualification will go down to the wire and you have to say that Arsenal have the edge with an easier remaining schedule than their rivals. Spurs still have to visit Liverpool and Man City, while United have to play City and Chelsea. The latter have to play Liverpool and United, so there are plenty of twists and turns ahead in the top four race. Momentum means a lot at this stage of the season and Arsenal’s big win gives them a spring in their step ahead of the run-in. And that is a run-in where they do not have to play against any of their rivals and can sit back and watch them all take points off one another.

Arsenal sinks sloppy Manchester United

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  • Solskjaer’s first league loss as Utd manager
  • Xhaka scores from distance
  • Arsenal back into Top Four
  • Shots 14-14

Granit Xhaka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored on either side of halftime as Arsenal beat Manchester United 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Arsenal rises fourth on 60 points, one point behind rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

Manchester United just didn’t have it on the day, and sinks fifth with 58 points following manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s second loss as Red Devils boss.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Early danger arrived at David De Gea‘s doorstep when Sead Kolasinac swept a cross into the box, with Alexandre Lacazette flicking across frame and wide.

The visitors snapped to life in the ninth minute, as Romelu Lukaku popped a Luke Shaw cross off the bar and a sliding Fred unable to meet the Belgian’s rebound pass.

Xhaka then scored on an odd-looking effort from distance, the Swiss midfielder knuckling a powerful shot to wrong foot De Gea.

The Spanish keeper couldn’t ponder what went wrong because Alexandre Lacazette dribbled into the 18 to put an effort toward goal.

Lacazette then worked Victor Lindelof over to lash into a left-footed shot which careened off Chris Smalling‘s back and out for a corner.

Lukaku twice just missed combining with Diogo Dalot in bids to set-up an equalizer.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

United’s second half started brightly enough, Lukaku missing a chance off a Rashford set-up thanks to a Bernd Leno save.

And Rashford missed with a 30-yard free kick bid that just missed the upper 90.

Xhaka zipped a shot wide in the 66th minute, but Lacazette was taken down by Fred moments later to win a penalty.

Aubameyang rolled the ensuing attempt down the center of the goal to make it 2-0, a week after missing a penalty in last week’s North London Derby.

Lacazette just missed a chance to drive home a goal of his own when Lindelof let a ball bounce over his head in the 72nd minute.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Rashford scores penalty kick after controversial VAR decision (video)

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Video assistant refereeing provided Manchester United with a last-minute chance to stay alive in the UEFA Champions League.

A late strike by Diogo Dalot struck the arm of Presnel Kimpembe in the box and after a lengthy VAR review, Manchester United were awarded a penalty kick. Young Marcus Rashford stepped up to the spot and smashed home the goal that secured his side’s place in the Champions League quarterfinals.

[WATCH: All goals between Man United-PSG]

PSG dominated the second half and seemed very likely to go through. But Rashford’s third goal gave Manchester United the 3-1 win on the night and got them through on away goals.

Watch the drama as it unfolded below.

At the Half: Lukaku brace gives Man United hope, Roma stays ahead (video)

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It’s been a goal-packed afternoon so far with five goals between the two matches.

Romelu Lukaku kicked off the action for Manchester United with a quick, second minute finish in a match with three defensive blunders leading to all three goals. Paris Saint-Germain hit back with a goal from Juan Bernat, who ghosted past Eric Bailly to tie the match on the night. Bailly eventually limped off the field, adding to Man United’s injury crisis. He was replaced by Diogo Dalot.

[VIDEO: Lukaku, Bernat score in game’s opening minutes]

Moments after putting a cross just wide of the post, Marcus Rashford decided to take a strike from distance on the wet pitch, and his calculations proved successful. Gianluigi Buffon was unable to control the dipping strike which struck the ground before the goal, and Lukaku pounced on the rebound to put Man United within a goal of extra time and two goals of advancing to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.

In the other match of the day, host Porto took the lead in the 26th minute through Tiquinho, which put them in the drivers’ seat to advance on away goals. However, Roma struck back with a Daniele De Rossi penalty kick, giving them the one-goal advantage again. De Rossi was substituted just before halftime, with Lorenzo Pellegrini coming off the bench to replace the Roma captain.