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:

Mane to Real Madrid; Manolas to Man United?

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Now that you’ve all recovered from the January transfer window, it is time to focus on the summer transfer window.

[ MORE: Sacramento, St. Louis in MLS?

After all, the transfer window opens in just a few months time for Premier League clubs. With that in mind, here are couple of juicy rumors doing the rounds…

A report from France Football claims that Zinedine Zidane wants to make Liverpool’s Sadio Mane one of his first big signings back at Real Madrid.

Mane, 26, only signed a new contract with Liverpool in November but the Senegalese flyer has been in sensational form in recent months and is carrying their hopes of winning the Premier League and UEFA Champions League. Per the report, Zidane is a huge fan of Mane and wanted to sign him in the summer of 2018 before he abruptly left Real.

Mane has scored 20 goals in 36 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool this season, and has scored 11 times in his last 11 games. And besides his improving goalscoring record he has the one thing modern teams want: blistering pace.

Whether or not Mane could be tempted to leave Liverpool this summer remains to be seen, but if they do win either the PL title or the UCL, is that a good time for Mane to move on?

He may believe it won’t get any better than that, but leaving Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah and breaking up that partnership would certainly upset Liverpool fans and neutrals alike. Zizou plans to rebuild this ageing Real team and it is quite right that he wants Mane to be the future of their attack alongside the likes of Vinicius Junior.


Man United’s plans to sign a new center back haven’t been a secret for some time now. We just weren’t sure if that was a priority since Jose Mourinho left and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived as the new caretaker manager.

It appears getting in a new commanding center half is still a top priority for the Red Devils.

A report from Calciomercato in Italy has linked United with a move for Roma and Greece defender Kostas Manolas, with the 27-year-old said to have a $39.8 million release clause in his contract if Roma do not qualify for the Champions League. They are currently four points off the top four with 10 games left in Serie A.

The powerful Greek defender has been a regular at Roma over the past five seasons and was influential in their run to the Champions League semifinals last season. With Phil Jones and Chris Smalling handed new contracts recently, United’s policy when it comes to retaining their current center backs is strange.

Victor Lindelof has improved drastically under Solskjaer, but it seems like both Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo will be sold this summer. Toby Alderweireld and Kalidou Koulibaly have both been linked with moves to United, and having Manolas and Alderweireld as center backs, with one of Lindelof, Smalling and Jones alongside them in a 3-4-3 formation could work very well.

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.

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.

Premier League transfer needs: Final week of the window

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One week ladies and gents, that is all we have left.

Until the January transfer window slams shut in the Premier League, of course. Sorry for sparking any apocalyptic thoughts among you…

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Anyway, with the transfer window closing at 6 p.m. ET next Thursday, Jan. 31, there are still plenty of PL clubs who have yet to make a single signing and are coy on the possibility of adding to their squads. There are also plenty of players praying for a big move, or just a switch to somewhere they can lock down some guaranteed playing time.

You just know everyone loves a last-minute bargain.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the business each of the Premier League’s clubs should do if they dip into the market in the final seven days.

Tick-tock…


Arsenal
Key transfer needs: Center back, CM – Unai Emery has had so many injuries in defense that he needs to add cover, but he’s already said he can only bring players in on loan. With Aaron Ramsey agreeing his move to Juventus for the summer, Denis Suarez seems to be coming in on loan from Barcelona, but do Arsenal really need another central midfielder? Getting a new center back in should be the priority and although they’ve been linked with Eric Bailly, that seems like a long shot.


Bournemouth
Key transfer needs: None – They’ve done their business nice and early with Nathaniel Clyne and Dominic Solanke arriving from Liverpool, then promising young Welsh center back Chris Mepham arriving from Brentford for $15 million. With Jermain Defoe moving to Rangers, buying Solanke was a big risk at $24.1 million but he has bags of potential and Eddie Howe will think he can develop that talent a la David Brooks, Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson. Clyne is only on loan, but you can see a permanent deal happening this summer. Mepham could be a long-term replacement for Nathan Ake, who reportedly has a buy-back clause in his contract and his former club Chelsea are keen to exercise it.


Brighton & Hove Albion
Key transfer need: Central midfield – Some extra depth in central midfield is all that is needed, as Chris Hughton has a strong squad and the quality of his starting XI doesn’t drop significantly when a regular is replaced. Having some extra nous in central midfield would be a good move, but not essential. The Seagulls probably won’t sign anyone.


Burnley
Key transfer needs: Winger, attacking midfielder – Injuries to key players in attack have hampered Burnley for most of this season, and with their defense sorted out in recent weeks and Tom Heaton back in goal, they are shored up at the back. They could do with adding more creativity in the final third but Sean Dyche will be hesitant to spend big.


Cardiff City
Key transfer needs: Striker, defenders – There is real work to do for Cardiff to seal some signings, and with the tragic situation regarding their club-record signing Emiliano Sala they are likely without a new forward to push them away from the relegation zone. Cardiff do not have a big budget and will have to wait for the last minute. They will have to get creative and look at loan deals, as Neil Warnock was angry to lose out to Bournemouth for Nathaniel Clyne.


Chelsea
Key transfer needs: Central midfield – With Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud misfiring, Maurizio Sarri needed a new striker and he finally got one: Gonzalo Higuain arrived initially on loan from Juventus and will be tasked with putting away the copious chances Chelsea create. Cesc Fabregas left for Monaco and Sarri wants a new central midfielder, but a $55 million move for Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella seems unlikely, while Leandro Paredes seems to be heading to PSG instead. Maybe just play Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi or Ross Barkley more, Maurizio?


Crystal Palace
Key transfer needs: Striker, striker, striker… – Roy Hodgson needs one thing to turn this team into a midtable side: a striker. Michy Batshuayi has been mentioned on several occasions but Hodgson has had to rely on less than prolific Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew for goals. Palace are set elsewhere, but need a new targetman. If they don’t sign anyone, at least Christian Benteke is  now back from injury. Reports that Borussia Dortmund want to sign Wilfried Zaha in the summer are worrying for Palace, but the Ivory Coast winger would demand a huge transfer fee if he did leave Selhurst Park. All of the focus should be adding help for Wilf as the Eagles aim to push away from a relegation battle in the final months of the season.


Everton
Key transfer needs: Striker, center back – The Toffees need a new center forward too, as Cenk Tosun‘s move just hasn’t worked out and Dominic Calvert-Lewin may not cut the mustard at the top level. Richarlison has had to play through the middle a lot this season and he is clearly better coming off the left. Jean-Kevin Augustin has been linked with a move to the Toffees, as well as other PL clubs, but he may be too expensive after a big outlay on new players over the past 12 months. Perhaps getting Michy Batshuayi in on loan makes more sense? As for defense, Kurt Zouma, Michael Keane and Yerry Mina have had rollercoaster campaigns and getting them extra cover, especially in a 3-4-3 formation, is vital.


Fulham
Key transfer needs: Center back, full backs – Claudio Ranieri has improved this Fulham defense significantly but this may be all he can do with his group of players. Gary Cahill has been linked with a loan move from Chelsea and Ranieri could do with strengthening both full back positions and adding two new center backs. Going forward they look more than adequate, and added Ryan Babel on loan to help with that, but there’s no real balance in this team. Gary Cahill was linked with a move to Fulham on loan, and his experienced would be helpful for plenty of teams at the bottom of the table.


Huddersfield Town
Key transfer needs: Everywhere – It is quite simple, Huddersfield need to spend big in the transfer window or they are going to get relegated. It seems they’re already resigned to their fate. Jason Puncheon has arrived from Crystal Palace on loan and has made a difference, but top quality in midfield and attack is needed. Losing Aaron Mooy and Danny Williams for a key part of the season was a blow. The Terriers know they will have to add a few new players in the next week to give themselves a chance of staying up, but that likely depends on how they get on in their next game.


Leicester City
Key transfer needs: Striker, central midfield – With Vicente Iborra sold to Villarreal, there is a hole in central midfield for Claude Puel to plug. Up top the likes of Shinji Okazaki and Kelechi Iheanacho continue to deliver lackluster displays and Jamie Vardy really needs some support. Bringing in a strong center forward who can link up with Vardy would be ideal. But Leicester probably won’t spend anything.


Liverpool
Key transfer needs: Defenders – Injuries have hit Jurgen Klopp‘s side hard in this area of the pitch, but Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold will be back fit soon. Maybe a young defender or right back who can be developed is the way to go. Either way, Liverpool don’t need to do anything in the final days of the window.


Manchester City
Key transfer needs: Left back, defensive midfielder – Benjamin Mendy‘s injury problems mean that left back is the main area needed to strengthen in. Pep Guardiola‘s plan to play Fabian Delph there worked last season, but not so much this season, while Oleksandr Zinchenko hasn’t settled in that role. Aymeric Laporte has plugged the gap for now, but a long-term left back to challenge Mendy is badly needed. A long-term replacement for Fernandinho is needed too, as the Brazilian is badly missed when he’s been out injured. A few names thrown around to come into central midfield include Declan Rice (despite his new contract at West Ham) and Everton Soares, while City were priced out of a deal for Frankie de Jong as he signed for Barcelona.


Manchester United
Key transfer needs: Center back, left back – Defensively United need some serious help, as their stable of center backs are getting by in games but David De Gea is usually bailing them out. Luke Shaw is their only real option at left back, with Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo and Ashley Young able to play there out of position in a pinch. But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer probably won’t be allowed to spend money as he isn’t the permanent boss.


Newcastle United
Key transfer needs: Striker, central midfielder, winger – Now, it is very unlikely Rafael Benitez will be given money to spend in January, but he does need to strengthen in a few areas. Defensively they are solid enough and they are all set. But going forward he is woefully short of quality options. Extra quality off the wing, a No. 10 and a striker to partner Salomon Rondon is needed. Miguel Almiron from Atlanta United has been linked with a move to St James’ Park but the Magpies are baulking at the $35 million transfer fee and Atlanta will let this run until the final hours of the window as they are in no rush. Benitez will be pulling his hair out right about now, as Newcastle just need a few reinforcements to push well clear of the relegation zone.  Another club which could use Batshuayi to strengthen their attack.


Southampton
Key transfer needs: Winger, striker, center back – Saints have yet to bring in a new signing, while Wesley Hoedt, Manolo Gabbiadini and Steven Davis have all been moved on and Cedric is on his way out. It seems like Ralph Hasenhuttl is keen to head to his former club RB Leipzig add the likes of Dayot Upamecano or Willi Orban to shore up his defensive unit, while adding Jean-Kevin Augustin, also from Leipzig, would be a major coup. Time is ticking for Saints, and their biggest need is for a new speedy striker to challenge Danny Ings, Michael Obefemi, Shane Long.


Tottenham Hotspur
Key transfer needs: Central midfield, striker – The latter has become essential given injuries to Harry Kane and Dele Alli, while Heung-Min Son‘s absence throughout January has also hurt Spurs. It is unlikely they will do any business in the final week of the window, even after selling Mousa Dembele to the Chinese Super League. Harry Winks and Oliver Skipp will be asked to step into prominent roles in midfield in the final months of the season and that’s the great thing about Mauricio Pochettino: he loves giving young players a chance to shine.


Watford
Key transfer need: Center back – It is unlikely Watford will do much business but if they do, a new center back should be a priority. The Hornets are going along nicely under Javi Gracia and their squad looks extremely strong. If Abdoulaye Doucoure forces a move then it will be tough, but it is likely he will leave in the summer.


West Ham United
Key transfer needs: Striker – The Hammers are pretty set and spent a lot of money in the summer but Marko Arnautovic‘s stance that he wants to leave for the Chinese Super League has complicated what should have been a quiet window. Javier Hernandez reportedly wants out, while Andy Carroll is struggling after his latest return from injury. If Arnie is allowed to leave, Celta Vigo’s Maxi Gomez is said to top their list of replacement strikers. Batshuayi could be a short-term fix until the summer.


Wolverhampton Wanderers
Key transfer need: Striker – Recent wins have shown the strength Nuno Espirito Santo already has in his squad. Having another option for Raul Jimenez up top would be handy if they are going to finish seventh and qualify for Europe. A move for Tammy Abraham fell through, and although they’ve been linked with Jean-Kevin Augustin too, they may not spend at all.