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:

‘We nullified them:’ Smalling, Man Utd confident after 1-0 loss to Barca

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
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Barcelona scored a goal, then absorbed foul after foul while allowing Manchester United’s home crowd very little to enjoy in Wednesday’s first leg of a UEFA Champions League tie.

Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay was happy to be down just a goal against Lionel Messi and company, but admitted frustration at his side not being able to find the back of the net in the 1-0 loss.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 0-1 Barca ]

“We have to do more in front of goal, score more goals. It’s a big second leg to go. It’s only half time. We are Manchester United and you can never write us off.”

As for the defense, outspoken United back Chris Smalling was bullish on his team’s evening.

“The whole team, we nullified them,” Smalling said. “I think there was only one other save for David De Gea. We knew we had to bring that intensity that they’re not used to.”

Not sure Smalling understands what nullified means, though United was very physical and both teams brought plenty of anger to the tackles, but the swagger is back at Manchester United.

Or at least the players’ willingness to express it in public.

Solskjaer not panicking after Man Utd loses lead, game

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is finding it hard to fault his Manchester United players following a 2-1 loss at Wolves on Tuesday.

The Red Devils led through Scott McTominay but were level at the break and in deep trouble when Ashley Young took a pair of yellow cards inside a five-minute spell early in the second half.

[ MORE: Match recap | Messi, Suarez stun Villarreal ]

United couldn’t hold, and didn’t look likely to score after conceding a circus act of an own goal in the 77th minute.

Still, Solskjaer is doing okay despite United settling into fifth place.

“Very disappointed with the result but pleased with the performance up until 75 mins,” he said. “An excellent performance from the boys.”

That’s a head scratcher, although Wolves have been quite good. Solskjaer has often spoken of United’s status and expectations, and the conceded goal alone was not along those standards.

To fail to take any points from the match after blowing a lead? Not great, even if United out-attempted Wolves 18-9, and it hasn’t happened in since the pre-Jose Mourinho days at Old Trafford.

“At 10 men it’s hard but we had to keep the ball,” said Solskajer, who admitted that the red card was a deserved one. “We didn’t want them to put pressure on us. They scored with their first chance after the sending off and you have to give them credit for that.”

Wolves top 10-man Man Utd (video)

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  • United remains fifth in Premier League
  • Wolves a point ahead of 8th place Watford
  • McTominay scores first PL goal
  • United out-attempts Wolves 18-9 in loss

Ashley Young was sent off and Chris Smalling scored an own goal as 10-man Manchester United blew an early lead and lost 2-1 to Wolves at the Molineux Stadium on Tuesday.

Diogo Jota scored for Wolves, who remain in control of the race for 7th place and a potential spot in the Europa League.

Wolves continue its season control of United after drawing them at Old Trafford and knocking the Red Devils out of the FA Cup.

Scott McTominay scored his first Premier League goal in the loss, as United is level on points with fourth place Spurs. Tottenham plays Wednesday at home versus Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Romelu Lukaku pounded a header right at well-stationed Rui Patricio off a strong 5th minute opportunity.

McTominay delivered on United’s early promise, taking a square ball from Fred about 22 yards from goal and dragging a low shot across Patricio and inside the far post.

Patricio made a fine save to deny Lingard’s header of a chipped Lukaku cross in the 17th.

Wolves wouldn’t trail for long, unlocking United through the magnificent Jimenez’s pass to Jota and a fine finish.

Leander Dendoncker popped an unchallenged shot over the bar in the 31st as Wolves bid for their first lead of the night.

Lukaku and Paul Pogba combined well, the Frenchman using a faked shot to slip the Belgian to about 8 yards out. Lukaku dragged his effort wide of the goal.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Patricio made an outstanding save on McTominay in the 55th, keeping the deadlock in tact.

Ashley Young was sent off by Mike Dean in the 57th minute when he hit Jota with a studs-up tackle and picked up his second yellow card in less than five minutes.

It was a milestone moment.

Wolves then went ahead when Phil Jones headed a ball off Jimenez’s legs, and David De Gea couldn’t find it before Chris Smalling punched it across his own goal line.

McTominay had another low drive pushed out for a corner kick in the 78th, but it was Wolves who repeatedly missed chances to score including Ivan Cavaleiro‘s stoppage time rip off the bar.

Four things we learned: Arsenal v. Man United

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LONDON — It was a case of unlucky 13 for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as he lost for the first time as Manchester United manager in the Premier League at Arsenal on Sunday.

The Gunners scored in each half through Granit Xhaka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to push themselves into the driving seat in the top four battle as they won a ninth-straight home game. United missed numerous glorious chances and hit the woodwork twice as their heroic midweek win at PSG seemed to catch up with them.

Here’s a look at what we learned from a gripping encounter in north London.


EMERY HAS INSTILLED STEEL

It wasn’t pretty from Arsenal, but they got the job done and kept a clean sheet, and it is clear that Unai Emery has instilled a steely resolve into this Gunners team. In recent weeks they’ve held firm against the rampant attacks of Tottenham and Man United in the Premier League, and on Sunday it took a lot of courage to dig deep and fight back after their disappointing midweek defeat at Rennes in the Europa League. By the end of Arsene Wenger‘s Arsenal reign, they had become a weak-minded, fragile bunch of players. There is now a fighting spirit and grit to their play which complements their free-flowing attacking prowess. Despite various setbacks along the way this season, one thing that has improved drastically under Emery is their defensive organization. And despite that improved defensive solidity, helped mainly by Sokratis’ arrival, they have also scored more goals (63) than they had at this point last season. With three goals conceded in their last five PL games, if Arsenal’s defense keeps this up it will get them into the top four. Coupled with turning the Emirates into a fortress, the Gunners have finally added some steel to their silky attack.


UNITED’S MIDFIELD MUDDLE COSTS SOLSKJAER

25 minutes into the game Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had seen enough from his midfield. He switched the formation from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2 because Fred and Nemanja Matic were left woefully exposed to Arsenal’s fluid attacks. Young shifted to center back, Diogo Dalot went to right wing-back and all of a sudden United had more control. Pogba was drifting around aimlessly early on, not sure if he was playing in the center or on the left of midfield, and it was all a bit of a muddle. Ander Herrera and Scott McTominay were badly missed alongside Matic, and although Fred gave away a penalty kick, he didn’t play too badly. United’s failure to finish chances was their biggest downfall on Sunday, as Solskjaer’s fine unbeaten run is over. Injuries, constant personnel changes and the PSG win in midweek caught up with them, but there is still plenty of life left in their top four quest.


LUKAKU GOES COLD IN FRONT OF GOAL

After scoring twice in each of his last three outings, Romelu Lukaku was bang on form heading into this game. Moments before Arsenal took the lead he somehow hit the crossbar from close range, and before half time he gave Bernd Leno just enough time to claw the ball away after he rounded him. In the second half Lukaku was clean through again but was denied and it just wasn’t his day in front of goal. The Belgian striker still caused problems with his runs and combination play with Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba, but he had an off-day in front of goal. Lukaku going stone cold in front of goal was the main reason why Man United failed to get anything from this game. And the fact that only 14 percent of Lukaku’s 113 Premier League goals have come against “big six” opposition (16 in 75 appearances) will add fuel to the fire of those saying Anthony Martial must replace him in the starting lineup.


TOP 4 BATTLE BLOWN WIDE OPEN

The race to finish in the top four of the Premier League got real this weekend. Tottenham lost at Southampton. Chelsea drew at home against Wolves. And Arsenal beat Man United. Arsenal now sit in fourth on 60 points (just one point short of third-place Spurs), Man United are in fifth on 58 points and Chelsea are in sixth on 57 points with a game in hand.

In the matchday programme Arsenal skipper Laurent Koscielny said that this was a “crucial game” for the Gunners and their season. It’s cliche, but every game between now and May 12 is huge for Emery’s Arsenal project. And the same can be said for Pochettino, Sarri and Solskjaer at their respective clubs.

This race for UEFA Champions League qualification will go down to the wire and you have to say that Arsenal have the edge with an easier remaining schedule than their rivals. Spurs still have to visit Liverpool and Man City, while United have to play City and Chelsea. The latter have to play Liverpool and United, so there are plenty of twists and turns ahead in the top four race. Momentum means a lot at this stage of the season and Arsenal’s big win gives them a spring in their step ahead of the run-in. And that is a run-in where they do not have to play against any of their rivals and can sit back and watch them all take points off one another.