Manchester United came out all guns blazing, thumping Chelsea 4-0 in a season-opener that will stay etched in the minds of many.
To the eye, such complete performance indicates that the Red Devils are exactly where they need to be already – aggressive offensively, disciplined in the back and feeding off of Paul Pogba‘s enchanting wizardry to seal games off. Then again, it’s only a positive result in the first match of a long, demanding season – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s first full season at the helm, to be exact. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that he comprehends the PL’s environment better than most, though.
“4-0 you can’t dream of more or expect more but then again we are working on improving as a team and finding a style that suits us a team,” Solskjaer told the BBC. “We still need time but it is coming.
“Team spirit has been fantastic,” he added. “We started 1 July as the aim to get as many players fit for this game. We had everybody bar Eric Bailly fit. There are a lot of disappointed players who wanted to be part of this start. But they wanted to be here and they are happy to be part of a winning start.”
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From Pogba, to Marcus Rashford, to Anthony Martial, Sunday’s big stage at Old Trafford was good to the home side, specifically to debutant Daniel James, 21, who scored in the 81st minute after coming on as a substitute. “It was a big moment for him,” the Norwegian manager said about the Englishmen’s impressive cameo. “He has had a tough summer and some ups and downs in life so I am happy for his debut goal.”
Manchester United are on the right path: winning in convincing manner at home, against one of their fiercest rivals. But it’s not new news at Old Trafford, where winning is second nature and expectations are sky-high.
If you don’t think that’s the case, just ask Solskjaer.
“Winning is a habit,” the 46-year-old manager confessed. “We are lucky to go in 1-0 up but in second half our nerves settled, our confidence grew.”
According to a report by The Telegraph’s John Percy and Sam Wallace, Manchester United has finally completed a deal for Leicester City defender Harry Maguire, making him the most expensive defender in the world.
The deal is for a reported $103 million plus add-ons, surpassing the $91 million Liverpool paid for Virgil Van Dijk a year and a half ago. The BBC has corroborated the report, along with the Press Association, although both claim the Maguire deal is for $97 million, slightly undershooting The Telegraph’s financial figure. ESPN is also reporting a completed deal, although a number was not given.
Maguire was left out of the Leicester City squad for tonight’s pre-season match against Serie A side Atalanta due to the transfer speculation, and now there is likely just a medical for the 26-year-old to officially complete the transfer.
This transfer saga has taken twists and turns this summer, with multiple reports of agreed fees often followed by other reports that the two sides were “miles apart.” Still, it always seemed likely that Manchester United would find a way to make it happen, and the Red Devils will add to the crowded defensive ranks.
At Old Trafford, Maguire will compete with Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, and Axel Tuanzebe for time at center-back. Eric Bailly is also in the mix, although the Ivorian has struggled with injuries and is expected to miss the first few months after knee surgery.
Maguire would become the third signing of the summer for Manchester United, following Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Manchester United defeated Norwegian side Kristiansund in Oslo on Tuesday, but the winning performance came with a dose of bad news.
Eric Bailly, injured last week against Tottenham Hotspur, is set to miss 4-5 weeks after surgery.
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Juan Mata won and converted a stoppage time penalty for United, who provided Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a winning match in his home country.
Solskjaer split his starters and subs evenly in the victory.
But it’s difficult not to question United’s center back depth as Bailly suffers another spell on the sidelines. United has been heavily linked with a world record bid for Harry Maguire, but so far has almost the same CB corps as last season: Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof, Axel Tuanzebe, and the ailing Bailly (Timothy Fosu-Mensah is back from his Fulham loan).
Another day has come and another day has gone. Harry Maguire is still a Leicester City player.
Weeks after intense rumor and speculation that Maguire was on his way to Manchester United in a major transfer, those same rumors and reports have calmed down, with Maguire also keeping his head down and continuing training for the upcoming season.
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Leicester City on Saturday defeated Stoke City, 2-1, with Maguire going the full 90 minutes for the first time all preseason along with a handful of his teammates. For most clubs, a player subject to this kind of transfer speculation may be kept on the sidelines to avoid injury, but Leicester City is treating Maguire with the kind of confidence that it expects him to be ready to go for the Foxes this season.
“He’s been brilliant since the first day of pre-season,” Rodgers said after the game, via the Leicester Mercury. “There’s a lot of speculation around Harry but he’s just got on with it. Like I’ve always said, we’re all pretty relaxed with it. We’re looking to prepare the whole team and squad and Harry’s a part of that. He was excellent today, he’s working very hard.”
Manchester United made two bids for Maguire earlier in the summer but it appears neither bid was able to rise to the $99 million valuation placed on Maguire by Leicester City, so Maguire has remained.
Man United meanwhile is now down another defender after Eric Bailly suffered yet another injury during Man United’s preseason match against Tottenham earlier this week. With the transfer window closing soon, it could leave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the Man United front office with no choice but to come up with the $99 million needed to sign Maguire.
If not, Rodgers won’t have to worry about replacing an England international in the back and he can focus on continuing to prepare his squad for the upcoming season.
Eric Bailly has battled with injuries his entire Manchester United career, and that struggle looks to continue as the center-back appears to have suffered another serious knee problem.
After seeing just 10 minutes on the field as a halftime substitute in Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Tottenham in Shanghai, Bailly was stretchered off and was seen leaving the stadium on crutches. With Manchester United returning home after the match, Bailly was pictured in a wheelchair with a brace around his left knee.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hinted after the match that Bailly may yet again see the sidelines for a long spell. “We’ve just got to do some scans,” the Manchester United boss said after the match. “It doesn’t look great but let’s see how it goes.”
Bailly joined Manchester United in the summer of 2016, but in his three years at Old Trafford he has made just 74 appearances across all competitions, including 50 in league play. He made 25 Premier League appearances his first season with the Red Devils but missed all of November with a slight knee injury. The 25-year-old saw his top flight appearances drop to 13 in 2017/18 thanks to an ankle injury that left him sidelined for three months, and that number dropped to 12 last season with a knee injury late in the campaign that kept him out of the Africa Cup of Nations this summer.
Manchester United has a plethora of central defenders in the squad to replace Bailly, but Solsjkaer has gunned for improvements at the position nonetheless. Bailly’s injury only strengthen’s Leicester City’s negotiating position as they look to push the price for Harry Maguire higher and higher. English tabloids reported that Bailly’s place in the Manchester United squad was already tenuous before the injury, and this will only add to his frustrations.