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:

Dortmund’s Pulisic returns to training after two-week layoff

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American midfielder Christian Pulisic has resumed training with Borussia Dortmund, two weeks after injuring a leg while playing for the United States.

The 20-year-old from Hershey, Pennsylvania, participated in a two-hour session Wednesday ahead of this weekend’s match against Mainz, Dortmund said.

[ MORE: UCL summations for each quarterfinalist ]

Pulisic strained his right quadriceps in an exhibition against Chile on March 26 at Houston. He scored in the fourth minute, then left late in the first half.

Pulisic has been limited to 15 league matches and 25 overall this season for Borussia Dortmund. He tore a calf muscle last October and a thigh muscle in February, and lost playing time because of the emergence of 19-year-old English winger Jadon Sancho.

Second-place Dortmund, which is one point behind Bayern Munich, hosts Mainz on Saturday.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Lukaku to join Man United’s summer exodus?

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Romelu Lukaku could be joining the summer exodus at Old Trafford.

With Alexis Sanchez, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, David De Gea and Marcos Rojo linked with moves, plus Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian out of contract, Manchester United’s star forward is the latest to be linked with a move away.

His representatives have hardly quashed talk of a transfer this summer.

Lukaku, 25, has lost his starting role to Marcus Rashford in recent weeks, with Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard impressing in wide areas under new permanent boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Speaking to our partners at Sky Sports, Federico Pastorello revealed that Lukaku is ‘very open’ to a move this summer.

“At the moment he is very focused on finishing the season,” Pastorello said. “The competition for third and fourth place in England is very tight so let’s see what will happen in the future at the end the season. It’s his second season here and he will still have three years on his contract until the end. Let’s see. He’s someone who loves to know a different culture, a different football.”

“He sees a way to have a career playing in different countries because he would like to win some trophies and prove himself and say to his children ‘I won there and I won there and I won there’ and ‘I was a very good player in all the top championships’ so let’s see, the future is really very open but, at the moment, we don’t discuss about that because really the season is in a big moment.”

Talking about those different countries and culture, Pastorello went on to confirm that Lukaku is interested in playing in Italy, Spain and Germany, and the former is a real option as Serie A is a league he grew up watching. Yet there was also a comment that he appreciates Solskjaer bringing him into the team when he can, as Lukaku how now started seven of United’s last 10 games in all competitions.

But does he have a future at Old Trafford? As a starter, probably not.

Lukaku arrived from Everton in the summer of 2017 with huge expectations on his shoulders and with 42 goals in 90 appearances in all competitions he has delivered plenty of goals. But his all-round play has been criticized time and time again, and with Rashford flourishing in the central role and Solskjaer’s tactics setting United to be a counter-attacking team, it’s clear Lukaku doesn’t really suit that style.

If he leaves United this summer, Lukaku will leave having scored close to one goal every other game, plus winning the League Cup and Europa League. Not a bad haul. United may struggled to get close to the $97 million they paid Everton two years ago for him, but getting around $65-70 million should be doable.

With young talent earmarked to come in under Solskjaer’s watch, the likes of Jadon Sancho, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Declan Rice have all been mentioned as possible arrivals and getting a large chunk of cash for Lukaku while they can wouldn’t be the worst piece of business United could do given their other attacking options.

Maybe a club like Bayern Munich, who are rebuilding their squad and have an ageing Robert Lewandowski to rely on up front, would be a good fit for Lukaku…

Sarri expects Hudson-Odoi to stay at Chelsea next season

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Callum Hudson-Odoi is young, English, good, and wanted by at least two of the game’s absolute giants: Current club Chelsea and the Bundesliga’s Bayern Munich.

The 18-year-old winger has five goals and four assists in 19 appearances for Maurizio Sarri‘s Blues this season, and the manager says Hudson-Odoi will start in two or three of Chelsea’s next eight matches.

[ MORE: Rashford wants new Man Utd deal ]

And Hudson-Odoi fever is spreading in England and the media, especially after the teenager collected his first two caps for the Three Lions while picking up an assist against Montenegro.

Hudson-Odoi, however, has not committed his future to Chelsea after a January transfer window which saw Bayern lodge several big bids for his services and the player handing in a transfer request.

Sarri said he expects Hudson-Odoi to spend next season at Chelsea whether he pens a new deal at Stamford Bridge or not, and backed the player to continue improvement.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“He is doing very well, but he needs to improve more. His potential is very high. I don’t want him to stop improving. He can become one of the best players in Europe, but he needs to improve more. The risk is to stop improving.”

Sarri said the presences of Eden Hazard, Pedro, and Willian are keeping him out of the Starting XI more than many would like, though Sarri expects “in the near future probably he will start 75 or 80 per cent of matches.”

Borussia Dortmund has also been credited with an interest in Hudson-Odoi, no doubt aided by the massive success of import Jadon Sancho. The reality of Hudson-Odoi’s massive skill and young age means that Sarri is tactically correct to not force him to play just because he could be playing more elsewhere. Whether that ultimately costs Chelsea in their pursuit of keeping the youngster in blue is another story.

Solskjaer: ‘We will do some business this summer’

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is now the permanent Manchester United manager, and it means that he has some big decisions ahead.

As Man United showed in 2016, the club can attract some of the world’s biggest stars whether it is in the UEFA Champions League or not. That season, Paul Pogba signed with the Red Devils despite them competing in the Europa League.

[READ: Can Ole succeed long term?]

Regardless of whether Man United finish in the top four of the Premier League or not, they’re going to have to spend smartly in the summer to add depth and upgrade at certain positions, including centerback.

“Of course, we’ve been discussing how to move the club forward,” Solskjaer said at a press conference. “That doesn’t mean we’ve said x amount of money or x amount of players. We’ve sat down and discussed, but now it’s easier to be clear about what we need to do because we will do some business this summer.”

He later added: “…there are so many players or players’ agents that have been in touch with our administration [to say] that they want to come here. I’m sure when we decide what we have to do, hopefully, we’ll get them by pre-season.”

In recent weeks, Man United has been linked with the likes of Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane and Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho. It’s unclear whether either will be available for Man United this summer, but it shows the ambition that the team may have in prospective signings.

Outside of Romelu Lukaku, who could still develop into a top-quality center forward, and goalkeeper David De Gea, Solskjaer can upgrade all throughout the spine of the team. There are holes in central defense and central midfield, especially with Nemanja Matic starting to look his age. With the World Cup now one year gone in the rear-view mirror, more players may be willing to jump to another club, knowing there’s plenty of time before they have to be at top form for the next big tournament. .