Phil Jones

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Solskjaer: Alexis will play more often than many think

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is feeling good about Manchester United’s depth, and thinks there will be plenty of contributions from it.

Case in point: The Red Devils manager believes fans will see a lot of Alexis Sanchez despite the Chilean’s absence from the lineup against Chelsea and perceived status as a desired transfer.

[ PL PREVIEW: Man City-Spurs ]

Solskjaer noted that his leaving Alexis, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, and Fred out of the 18 on Opening Day, and pointed to the former Arsenal playmaker in particular.

Alexis hurt his hamstring at Copa America but is getting back up to speed. From Sky Sports:

“Alexis is such a professional. He comes in working every single day, really hard. He wants to be part of this. These stories that he’s been put in the reserves – of course he hasn’t. He’s part of our squad and he’s a very good player. He’s a few weeks behind the rest but he’s very close to being part of it.

“We don’t have the biggest forward line so Alexis might end up playing a lot more games than you expect. We expect him to come good at this club. He’s quality.”

Solskjaer would love Alexis to turn things around, especially since Jesse Lingard also struggled last season and Juan Mata isn’t getting any younger (Andreas Pereira, while well-regarded, didn’t light the Premier League on fire last season, either).

Alexis has five goals and nine assists in 45 appearances for United since arriving in a swap deal with Arsenal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Last season saw him manage just one goal and three assists in 877 PL minutes.

Weekend Premier League friendlies: Arsenal visits Barcelona, Man United takes on AC Milan

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The final weekend without Premier League football is here!

Teams face their final tests before the new campaign begins next weekend, and there are some fun preseason matchups to look forward to. Every team has a match of some kind over the next three days with the season on the horizon.

First off, the Community Shield takes place on Sunday between Premier League winners Manchester City and second-place finishers Liverpool. The Reds have an opportunity to start the season with some silverware and exact some sliver of revenge for the near-miss last season.

Manchester United will head to Wales to meet Italian side AC Milan. The Red Devils have reportedly completed a deal for Harry Maguire, and while the England international won’t be in tow, the squad will be boosted. In addition, there could be even heavier competition for the center-back positions, so all eyes could be on the likes of Chris Smalling, Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones, and the rest of the defensive line in the unit’s final chance to prove their worth.

Chelsea visits German side Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday with Christian Pulisic looking for another glittering performance after his two-goal showing against RB Salzburg. On Sunday, Arsenal takes on Messi-less Barcelona at the Camp Nou with Nicolas Pepe possibly in contention for his Gunners debut, while Spurs host Inter Milan with the hopes of staying healthy before the start of the Premier League season.

Friday

Bournemouth v. Lazio
Brighton & Hove Albion v. Valencia
Leicester City v. Atalanta

Saturday

Bournemouth v. Lyon
RB Leipzig v. Aston Villa
Burnley 
v. Parma
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace 
v. Hertha Berlin
Werder Bremen v. Everton
Manchester United 
v. AC Milan (Cardiff, Wales)
Newcastle United v. St. Etienne
Norwich City v. Toulouse
Stade de Reims v. Sheffield United
Southampton 
v. Koln
Watford v. Real Sociedad
West Ham United v. Athletic Bilbao

Sunday

Liverpool v. Manchester City (Wembley Stadium – Community Shield)

Barcelona v. Arsenal
Tottenham Hotspur v. Inter Milan

Report: Maguire to Manchester United complete for world-record fee

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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.

Bailly injury announcement overshadows Man Utd win

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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.

[ USWNT: Ellis stepping down ]

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).

Romelu Lukaku left out of Man United squad

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Romelu Lukaku has yet to feature for Manchester United in preseason and speculating regarding his future at Old Trafford will continue to swirl.

The Belgian star was left out of United’s 26-man squad for their trip to Norway to play Kristiansund on Tuesday, and there was no reason given for his absence on the club website.

Lukaku, 26, has been linked with moves to Italian giants Juventus and Inter Milan throughout the summer and it appears the end-game is near.

Reports suggest that Juve will offer Paulo Dybala for Lukaku, while Inter have been negotiating with United for some time but the Red Devils are said to want over $90 million for their Belgian striker and Antonio Conte‘s side are yet to offer anywhere near that.

An extra caveat to all of this is that Lukaku traveled with United to Australia and China for their lengthy preseason tour but didn’t play a single second due to a minor injury.

He could often be seen training on his own or working out on an excercise bike in the gym, as his future remains up in the air.

Do United need him?

Given his penchant as a proven goalscorer, you always need those around. But given the fact that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants young, speedy strikers and he has a lot of them, Lukaku’s skillset makes him surplus to requirements right off the bat.

We saw him chucked out wide at times during the second half of last season and although he caused problems in that role, he never looked comfortable. Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and youngsters Dan James and Mason Greenwood looked more natural fits for United’s new high-octane playing style.

Lukaku has talked about his love for Serie A on multiple occasions and it appears his time in the Premier League is about to come to an end.

When we look back on his United career, 42 goals in 96 appearances isn’t a bad record at all. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.

His hold-up play didn’t improve much, neither did his record against the top six clubs, and the lack of service he received — especially in the opening months of Jose Mourinho’s final season in charge — saw him frustrated so when chances did arrive he snatched at them.

Along with Paul Pogba, Lukaku always seemed to be under pressure at United and it seems close to the mark to say both have been too inconsistent over the past few seasons.

Here is United’s squad in full for the trop to Norway

David De Gea, Lee Grant, Joel Pereira, Sergio Romero; Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Axel Tuanzebe, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Ashley Young; Fred, Angel Gomes, Daniel James, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira, Paul Pogba; Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford.