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Woodward insinuates new contracts at Man United down to transfer struggles

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Ed Woodward rarely speaks publicly as he leads Manchester United through a season of struggles, but his most recent words have given further ammunition to those who criticize the squad talent level.

Speaking after the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa while piled more pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Woodward was asked about the multitude of new contracts given to players at Manchester United rather than attempting to upgrade positions of weakness. His answer seemed to admit transfer window failings and that contract extensions were fallback options.

“It’s hard enough to get three players done in a transfer window,” Woodward said. “To get six or seven done is extremely difficult if you are getting proper talent. If you choose to churn every player because they are not good enough and you’re not extending contracts, you are putting yourself at risk of execution. Sometimes you have to take a broader view.”

Manchester United has signed players like Phil Jones, Andreas Pereira, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, and Ashley Young were all extended in the past calendar year, and all those players have at times heard noise about their Red Devils’ futures. Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo also received new contracts last fall. The club has also given extensions to David De Gea, Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay, and Victor Lindelof, although those players have been far less criticized for their performances on the pitch.

It doesn’t help that the few players offloaded this summer have performed well overseas, as Romelu Lukaku has built a strong partnership with Lautaro Martinez at Inter Milan while Chris Smalling has helped Roma to one of the best defenses in Serie A.

“It’s a multi-year squad evolution analysis,” Woodward said, seeming to brush squad decisions off as more than just the struggles faced this season.

Report: Phil Jones turned down Manchester United testimonial

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According to a report by Daniel Taylor of The Athletic, Phil Jones has turned down the option for a Manchester United testimonial despite the likelihood he will reach the required 10 years at the club.

Taylor’s article waxed lyrical about Jones’ ability on the field defensively versus his fame as an internet sensation, but one tidbit near the top stood out. According to the report, Jones turned down the option to have a testimonial included in his recent contract extension, believing that his popularity has waned to the point where he may not deserve one.

Jones’ career has been a fascinating one, owning 220 Manchester United appearances across all competitions since joining from Blackburn Rovers in 2011. He has won a Premier League title, an FA Cup, a League Cup, and a Europa League title.

Still, with the majority of his Red Devils career coming after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, he has become more of a symbol to represent the mediocrity the club has been mired in since. He has made more than 22 league appearances in just two of his eight full seasons to date and made his first appearance of the current campaign against Sheffield United over the weekend, yanked at halftime after being culpable of the first Blades goal, scenes that left Jones “devastated” according to the Taylor report.

Taylor says that when asked about a testimonial, Jones would reply, “Apart from my mum and dad, who else would turn up?”

For a player who has spent nearly his entire career with one of the largest clubs in Europe, this remains a tough story to swallow. It’s hard not to feel for a player who gives his heart and soul to a club and gets nothing but laughs in return.

Solskjaer about what went wrong, and right, in Man United draw

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer doesn’t know what to make of Manchester United’s 3-3 draw with Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Sunday.

The Red Devils boss saw his left-for-dead side rally from a 2-0 deficit with three quick second half goals only to concede a sloppy stoppage time equalizer.

[ MORE: Wilder reacts to 3-3 draw ]

That’s not good, and it’s not like this game was a one-off. For thrills? Sure, but this club is supposed to take care of the business at a newly-promoted club coming off an international break.

“It’s mixed emotions,” Solskjaer said, via Sky Sports. “You can’t be happy, we’ve not performed for the majority of the game but the attitude and the way they’ve turned things round, we’ve shown what we’re capable of and we’ve shown ourselves what we’re capable of.

“We should win games like this but you’ve got to learn from that disappointment of the first 70 minutes.”

So why was his team so flat out of the gate, dominated by the Blades?

The answer might be that Solskjaer opted for a 3-man back line including overmatched Phil Jones, but here’s what the boss said about the opening malaise.

“It’s football, sometimes it’s beyond tactics, the passion, the drive, the supporters first half, the energy of their team was so much different to ours, and then our energy and belief come back in.”

Blades, Red Devils engage in thrilling 3-3 draw

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A match with almost everything saw Sheffield United throw aside a 2-0 lead but rally for a 3-3 draw with Manchester United at Bramall Lane on Sunday.

Oli McBurnie’s stoppage time goal withstood VAR review, joining a great performance from Lys Mousset in helping the Blades to another memorable result in their return to the Premier League.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made the changes that mattered at halftime, as his Red Devils rallied for the point.

The feckless first half Red Devils turned into a force through three second half goals from 19-year-old Brandon Williams, 18-year-old Mason Greenwood, and relatively ancient 22-year-old Marcus Rashford, who also recorded an assist.

Sheffield United moves into sixth place with 18 points, a point and three places above their visitors.


Three things we learned

1. Three kids give hope after Ole fixes formation: Brandon Williams scored his first senior goal for United with a quivering rocket in the 73rd minute. Daniel James was industrious all day if a bit sloppy, and helped set up the goal with a move down the right before Williams pounced on a ball at the back post. The behind the goal angle was sensational, showing a ball with only one destination.

Then Greenwood got on the end of a Rashford cross, one that Phil Jagiela was too slow to poke, as the Red Devils claimed an equalizer with 13 minutes to play. Greenwood turned 18 on Oct. 1, and Williams 19 on Sept. 3.

The subs fit in nicely, but the victory also came about after manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had the humility to change his miserable, porous first half game plan. Phil Jones was removed as the side went from something of a 3-4-2-1 to a 4-2-3-1. The payoff took 20 minutes to really arrived, but then it just kept coming until the Red Devils were in front.

2. Mousset, Blades cut through United’s miserable back line: David De Gea was standing on his head from moment one, as the Red Devils continuously got worked. And after the Red Devils took the lead, the back line gave it away.

Lys Mousset’s new lease on life continued to work wonders, as he destroyed Phil Jones en route to setting up the first goal and then cut into a danger area to slot a 22-yard shot past De Gea early in the second half.

I mean, this is staggering stuff.

3. David De Gea keeps gauze on a deep wound: While United was getting run off the pitch — really this could’ve been 3 or 4-0 at halftime — its Spanish keeper was his best self, making a number of phenomenal saves and commanding his area. Without him, the second half outcome isn’t remotely possible.

Man of the Match: Marcus Rashford might just be coming into his own. The English striker has shown himself quite the passer of late, and there are plenty of reasons to think he’s starting to fulfill his potential. Rashford has 10 goals and 4 assists in 18 matches across all competitions.


David De Gea made two incredible saves in the 11th minute, the second an acrobatic palming of David McGoldrick‘s header.

The Blades also had a pair of penalty shouts in the first quarter hour, both unheard.

Lys Mousset was lively, and bodied Phil Jones to set up John Lundstram for a chance well-saved by De Gea only to see another John, Fleck, pop the rebound inside the far post.

McGoldrick kept coming in a bid for the second, drilling a ball to De Gea.

Manchester United had some moments in counter attack, but overall everyone short of Fred an De Gea were extremely sloppy.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The Red Devils snapped to life at halftime, with Rashford using a couple deft moves to create space for a swirling shot over the frame in the 48th.

Mousset made it 2-0 when a run dragged Harry Maguire away from the Frenchman’s dribble, allowing the players to tear into a shot from 22 yards.

Manchester United got one back in the 73rd through Williams’ vicious finish, and the wall was broken down. Greenwood got to Rashford’s cross to make it 2-2, and Rashford reaped the rewards of Anthony Martial and James’ playmaking to make it 3-2.

McBurnie then settled a cross calmly, somehow avoiding a handball before smashing home for a stoppage time equalizer.

Tuanzebe injured in warm-ups, Rojo now in Manchester United XI

Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images
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Well then.

Manchester United’s announced XI has changed thanks to a presumed injury to center back Axel Tuanzebe.

Marcos Rojo will take the youngster’s place in a back three with Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof.

Liverpool and United kickoff from Old Trafford at 11:30 a.m. ET (Watch live at on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The 29-year-old Rojo has played four times this season, but just 30 minutes in the Premier League.

Phil Jones has been added to the bench.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Rojo, Young, Fred, McTominay, Pereira, James, Rashford. Subs: Romero, Mata, Martial, Jones, Greenwood, Garner, Williams.

Liverpool: Alisson, Robertson, Van Dijk, Matip, Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Mane, Origi, Firmino. Subs: Adrian, Lovren, Milner, Keita, Gomez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana.