What did we learn in the Premier League? (video)

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Seven games took place in the Premier League on Saturday, as the games returned after the two-week international break.

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With seven games to go for most teams, the business end of the campaign has now arrived and the spring sunshine in England saw both Manchester clubs win, Huddersfield go down and plenty of teams jostling for Europe.

Here’s a look at what we learned from another intriguing day of action as we enter the home stretch of the season.

Problems for Ole to sort out
Manchester United are in the top four and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrated getting the job on a permanent basis with a win. But he is far from happy. The Norwegian coach has seen his United side labor in recent weeks, and that was the case once again in their 2-1 win against Watford at Old Trafford. United were outplayed for large periods and the Hornets didn’t take their chances.

“Watford started off really well and we struggled to get to grips with their tempo,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports afterwards. “We defended great, and after about 20 minutes, I felt we were more comfortable. It was more a draw, performance wise. We’ll take the three points. Some of the players who went away maybe played too much.”

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial scored in either half to paper over the cracks, but there are issues for Solskjaer to sort out. A lot of his players were coming off injuries and a long international break, but there is certainly a growing trend of teams sitting deeper against them and nullifying the threat of their devastating counter attacks. So United have to develop a Plan B under Solskjaer. Also, if you can get at United’s midfield trio of Herrera, Matic and Pogba, like Watford did very well, then you can stop their counter attacks at the source. Solskjaer has already said United will do business and spend money well this summer. His top priority should be shoring up his defense and bringing in a new holding midfielder to help not only plug the gaps in front of the back four, but dictate the tempo of games. At the same time Solskjaer knows he has to sort a few things out, he also knows he has that classic Sir Alex Ferguson knack of winning games when his team doesn’t play at  its best. That is priceless.

City put the pressure on Liverpool
The way Manchester City played in the first 30 minutes at Craven Cottage, you just felt like you were watching the best team in Europe, if not the world. Sure, they were playing 19th-placed Fulham, but the Cottagers were petrified of giving the ball away and did so twice early on. Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero (his minor injury was the only negative for City) punished them on both occasions and that was that. City should have won by four or five, but it was a case of job done ahead of a busy few months which could see them win an unprecedented quadruple. They have now go back to the top of the table and all eyes will be on Liverpool who play against Tottenham at Anfield on Sunday, then travel to in-form Southampton on Friday. Over to you, Jurgen Klopp and Co.

Leicester in fine fettle under Rodgers
With four wins from five games since Claude Puel was fired, Leicester have certainly got that ‘new manager bump’ those in charge crave when making the switch. But aside from a sudden jolt up the table this Leicester team are showing real progress in less than two months of working with Brendan Rodgers. This is exactly why he left Celtic. Leicester demolished Bournemouth on Saturday to make it three wins in four under Rodgers, with Jamie Vardy scoring his fifth goal in five games and Wes Morgan popping up to score in back-to-back PL games. The old guard is still there, but Rodgers’ young talents are the reason why Leicester’s fans can be so optimistic about the future. Maddison, Chilwell, Gray and Tielemans all impressed, and all are 22 years of age or younger. It will be intriguing to watch Rodgers nurture this young side into one that can become ‘the best of the rest’ in the PL. With Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea to play in their final three games of the season, Leicester may struggle to finish seventh and qualify for the Europa League this season. But the future is looking very bright as Rodgers has found a nice mixture of counter-attacking play coupled with composed possession.

Relegation picture getting clearer
Huddersfield’s fairytale is over, as the Terriers were relegated from the Premier League on Saturday. It was the second earliest relegation in PL history, and it has been expected since January when David Wagner left. Huddersfield staying up last season, after their unexpected promotion to the top-flight, defied the odds but they simply ran out of steam. Their decision to not spend beyond their means on their playing squad was what ultimately cost them. Huddersfield are a well-run club with loyal fans and a clear playing philosophy. They will be pushing hard in the second-tier next season. With one team gone and Fulham about to go, all eyes are now on Cardiff City. Neil Warnock‘s men are now five points from safety and although they have two games in hand on Burnley who sit one place above them in the table, they have to play Chelsea, Man City, Man United and Liverpool in their final eight games. With wins for Southampton, Crystal Palace and Burnley on Saturday, it appears that the relegation picture has just become a lot clearer. Unless, of course, Cardiff can upset Chelsea on Sunday…

Report: Solskjaer to be named new United boss this week

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Come on guys, just give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the job…

A report from the Daily Mail suggests that Manchester United will hire Solskjaer as their new manager by the end of this week, with the Norwegian boss set to lose his caretaker tag.

According to the report, United want to make the announcement at the end of the season when Solskjaer’s temporary contract runs out. However, in order to halt any more speculation they may appoint Solskjaer this week.

Many, including Solskjaer himself, are relaxed about the decision and believe the decision should be put off as long as possible to see how United finish the season. With Barcelona coming up in the UEFA Champions League and an almighty scrap to finish in the top four, things may not be that rosy in a few weeks time despite the huge upturn in results in Solskjaer’s first few months in charge.

Solskjaer has won 14 of the 19 games he has taken charge of since arriving as United’s caretaker boss in December. He has taken United to the quarterfinal of the FA Cup (where they lost to Wolves), back into the thick of the top four hunt and into the last eight of the Champions League since replacing Jose Mourinho.

Throw in the fact that he has restored confidence in several of United’s stars attackers such as Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, plus shored things up defensively, and it is easy to see why the Red Devils are ready to hand their former striker the reins.

The 46-year-old former United striker has connected everyone at the club again, with fans singing his name and superb wins away at Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and PSG adding to his legendary status.

Solskjaer deserves the chance to get the gig full-time. He has cleaned up the mess Jose Mourinho left behind in record time and with Mauricio Pochettino not leaving Tottenham anytime soon, Solskjaer is the best option available right now.

He may not be the next Sir Alex Ferguson, but right now he’s a safe pair of hands and United’s stars love playing for him. The big test will be this summer in the transfer market and if Solskjaer can buy well and attract some of the top names on the planet to join his revolution at Old Trafford.

Pogba ‘happy’ at Manchester United; Real, Zidane ‘dream for anybody who likes football’

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Paul Pogba may want Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to stick around Old Trafford, but he didn’t say he would be there for the duration of the Norwegian’s tenure at Manchester United.

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The midfield magician has been a big part of the Red Devils’ post-Jose Mourinho turnaround, but money talks and Real Madrid is likely to spend incredible amounts of it this summer as it attempts to flip its fortunes following a domestic and European trophy-free season.

Pogba was asked about the chances of a move to Real Madrid at a press conference on Wednesday. From Goal.com:

“Like I’ve always said, Real Madrid is a dream for anyone. It’s one of the biggest clubs in the world,” Pogba said.

“There is also [Zinedine] Zidane as a coach and it’s a dream for anybody who likes football. For now, I’m at Manchester. We don’t know what the future holds. I’m at Manchester and I’m happy.”

It stands to reason that Pogba likes football, and he would team-up with a fellow French World Cup winner in Zidane (not to mention his purchase may inspire Raphael Varane to stay… and Kylian Mbappe to join).

The problem Real will run into, though, is Financial Fair Play. The Galacticos that Florentino Perez demand cost more money than ever before. With Pogba, Eden Hazard, and many others linked with Real, how much can they afford to spend before getting in trouble?

Going back to Pogba liking Solskjaer’s understanding of what United is all about, wouldn’t he know this is the sort of talk which would get Sir Alex Ferguson on the phone with Real? No one is bigger than the club? It will be interesting to see how these comments are received by the United public and club itself.

Report: Jose Mourinho to take over at Real Madrid

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Real Madrid is going back to the well. The Jose Mourinho well.

The Special One seems to have been given an audition at the highest level, as Goal.com reports that Mourinho will take over at Real Madrid after Los Blancos were eliminated from the Champions League to cap an embarrassing 10 days.

Madrid lost two El Clasicos with Barcelona in one week, falling in league play and in the Copa del Rey. After dropping 12 points behind Barcelona in the league table, the lone competition remaining for Madrid to hang its hat on was the Champions League. However, they bombed out of that too, falling to Ajax 4-1 in the Round of 16 to end their three-year run as Champions League title holders. After the dust had settled, defender Dani Carvajal summed up the disastrous stretch, saying, “our season is over.”

Now, with little to play for except securing next season’s Champions League place, the report states that Real Madrid will axe current manager Santiago Solari and install Mourinho as the new Madrid boss through the end of the season. It will be Mourinho’s second stint in charge of Real Madrid, having led the Spanish giants from 2010-2013, winning the league title in his second season but fell in the semifinals of the Champions League in all three years.

Mourinho has seen his managerial career slip over the past four years during his time in the Premier League. After winning the Premier League title in 2015 in his second season back with Chelsea, he was dismissed the following December with the club off to a disastrous start to the year. He joined Manchester United but failed to return that club back to its glory days of Sir Alex Ferguson, winning the Europa League and the EFL Cup but unable to push the Red Devils back up the league table. He was dismissed back in December of 2018 with the club 19 points off the lead.

Since his dismissal from Manchester United, the Red Devils have climbed back up the table under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, leaving Mourinho with further egg on his face.

The Goal report states that Solari will be dismissed after this weekend’s match against Real Valladolid and Mourinho will be immediately installed as manager. If true, Solari will have lasted less than a year in the position, taking over on an interim basis for Julen Lopetegui in October and installed as permanent manager two weeks later. Goal goes on to report that Mourinho will be installed as manager through the end of the season, although the club’s first choice as long-term boss is the hope of convincing Zinedine Zidane to return.

He’s earned it: Time to give Solskjaer permanent job

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Minutes after his team suffered a brutal 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford to Paris Saint-Germain, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer uttered what could have been considered a throw-away line. “Mountains are there to be climbed.”

On Wednesday, Manchester United and theoretically climbed that mountain. And Solskjaer did too. The Norwegian has been an absolute revelation in his return to Man United as a coach, guiding Man United to a record of 14 wins in 17 games, with just the one defeat to PSG.

Solskjaer re-joined Man United from Molde on a short-term contract as an interim. But by overcoming PSG in the most sensational way possible close to his heart – a winner in second half stoppage time – Solskjaer showed that he deserves to have the interim tag removed.

Solskjaer has brought a new outlook and perspective to the club and it seems that all players have reacted positively to his arrival. Players aren’t afraid of repercussions from their manager for mistakes and with so many injuries, Solskjaer is even getting decent performances from the team’s youngsters. Tahith Chong played 10 minutes and 17-year-old Mason Greenwood made his first team debut with three minutes to go against PSG.

In his last two games, Solskjaer has delivered even when it seemed Man United was under serious pressure and on the verge of losing. Man United came back to beat Southampton and did the same against PSG.

Time and time again, Solskjaer has overcome expectations. With the squad looking very likely to finish in the top four and the fact that it’s made it into the last eight of the Champions League, there’s no reason to keep waiting.

Could Mauricio Pocchetino deliver these results with this squad? Perhaps. But Man United has the coach they’ve been looking for since Sir Alex Ferguson retired on the sidelines right now. It’s time to make it permanent.