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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.

Herrera, Lingard, Martial among debilitating Man United injury list

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Manchester United has a sizable 2-0 hole to dig itself out of when the Red Devils take the field against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday in Champions League play.

Making matters far more difficult, they’ll try to make up ground while missing a whopping nine first-team players who are either injured or suspended for the second leg of the Round of 16 match in the French capital.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer announced he would be without the services of injured midfielders Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, and Ander Herrera plus forwards Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial, with defenders Phil Jones, Matteo Darmian and Antonio Valencia also unavailable. Paul Pogba is suspended, meaning Manchester United will be leaving 263 total appearances this season on the sideline.

“Not really, no,” Solskjaer said when asked if any of his currently injured players could find themselves fit in time for the match. “It doesn’t look like it. I don’t think we can risk Martial. He’s not been training yet, so I don’t think so.”

It’s likely that Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof pair at the heart of the Red Devils defense, as they did against Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday, while Scott McTominay could also see the field either along the back line or in midfield, with Solskjaer preferred the latter of late as he navigates this injury crisis. 23-year-old Andreas Pereira has also seen the field recently in a deputy role, and Romelu Lukaku will almost certainly lead the lines up front. Eric Bailly or Marcos Rojo could also be used at the back if Solskjaer wishes to rotate his defense.

This could also be a big opportunity for 25-year-old Brazilian midfielder Fred who has made just one start since the start of the new year, but he came off the bench for eight minutes in the match against Southampton and went the full 90 minutes against Crystal Palace in late February. With Pogba out, Fred would be a natural replacement for the Frenchman.

It is also possible that facing a 2-0 deficit and such a long injury list, Solskjaer essentially throws the PSG match and uses a completely second-choice lineup featuring youngsters like Diogo Dalot and Tahith Chong, deciding not to risk his healthy first-team players with such little depth remaining. With Manchester United sitting fourth in the Premier League table and looking over its shoulder at Arsenal and Chelsea, it’s not inconceivable that Solskjaer pragmatically decides to focus on just the league battle with such a handcuffed roster. Manchester United has a critical match against Arsenal on Sunday, making his decision to risk first-choice players – or not – even more important.

Newport County shocks Leicester City as five PL clubs exit

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A late Padraig Armond penalty helped Newport County to a surprising 2-1 win over Premier League mainstay Leicester City in FA Cup action on Sunday at Rodney Parade.

Jamille Matt also scored for the Exiles, who became the second League Two side to knock off a top-flight team on the day after Fulham was upended by Oldham Athletic.

It was one of several big upsets on Sunday, though we’ll get to those a bit further down the page.

Rachid Ghezzal scored for Leicester, who left Jamie Vardy, Harry Maguire, Wilfred Ndidi, and Kasper Schmeichel out of the 18, and only found their equalizer once Demarai Gray and James Maddison subbed into the game.

Matt scored in the 10th minute.

Leicester needed 72 minutes of play to level the score through Ghezzal, their first success in a match which held 70 percent for the Foxes and a 24-9 edge in shot attempts.

But the stalemate was only three minutes long, as Marc Albrighton handled a ball in the box, and up stepped Armond. Scenes, as they say.

More upsets

League One side Gillingham used home field to beat Cardiff City 1-0 on Saturday.

Huddersfield Town lost 1-0 at Championship side Bristol City.

Bullets dodged 

Newcastle United got a late penalty from Matt Ritchie to dodge Blackburn Rovers upset bid at St. James’ Park, and will face a replay at Ewood Park.

Jordan Ayew‘s late goal helped Crystal Palace avoid a stunning home loss to Grimsby Town.

Burnley got a lone goal in holding off Barnsley.

Southampton tossed away a 2-0 lead at Derby County but will still get the chance to advance through a replay.

A pair of early goals had Everton ticketed for an easy ride past Lincoln City, but the Imps had other ideas and were unlucky not to level the score late in a 2-1 Saturday loss.

Big boys have little problem

Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata scored as Manchester United beat Reading 2-0 while handing Tahith Chong a debut at Old Trafford.

Manchester City hung seven goals on Rotherham United on Sunday, with Ilkay Gundogan starring with four assists.

Spurs absolutely worked over Tranmere Rovers, scoring seven goals of their own in a Friday clean sheet.

Blackpool was pesky enough in front of a half-empty stadium, but Arsenal mostly cruised in a 3-0 win highlighted by a pair of Joe Willock goals.

Chelsea got a brace from Alvaro Morata in knocking off Nottingham Forest.

Liverpool plays Monday at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Other Premier League teams

Watford dodged a solid challenge from non-league Woking and its assistant coach, long time Premier League broadcaster Martin Tyler.

West Ham United scored in the second minute through Marko Arnautovic and added an Andy Carroll goal in stoppage time to hold off Birmingham City.

Brighton and Hove Albion beat Bournemouth 3-1 at the Vitality Stadium.

FA Cup round-up: Manchester United, West Ham win

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The early set of FA Cup matches is complete, with just two matches headed for replays.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: FA Cup scoreboard ]


Manchester United 2-0 Reading

Juan Mata put the Red Devils ahead, and then gave Alexis Sanchez the green light to slip Romelu Lukaku on goal for a second goal before the break against the relegation-threatened Championship visitors.

[ WATCH: Lukaku’s terrific finish ]

Curacao-born 19-year-old Tahith Chong made his full debut, becoming the 229th academy graduate to play for United.

West Ham United 2-0 Birmingham City

Mark Arnautovic scored in the second minute for the Irons, and for a while it looked like it would be all the Irons would need at the London Stadium. In stoppage time, Andy Carroll scored his first goal since April.

Bournemouth 1-3 Brighton and Hove Albion

As far as aesthetically-pleasing goals go, Anthony Knockaert‘s finish of a back heel pass is among the top examples. Yves Bissouma and Florin Andone also scored for the visitors.

Elsewhere

Sheffield Wednesday 0-0 Luton Town
Shrewsbury Town 1-1 Stoke City
Burnley 1-0 Barnsley
West Bromwich Albion 1-0 Wigan Athletic

Still to come

10 a.m. ET
Bolton Wanderers v. Walsall
Gillingham v. Cardiff City
Brentford v. Oxford United
Everton v. Lincoln City
Chelsea v. Nottingham Forest
Derby County v. Southampton
Accrington Stanley v. Ipswich Town
Fleetwood Town v. AFC Wimbledon
Middlesbrough v. Peterborough United
Aston Villa v. Swansea City

12:30 p.m. ET
Newcastle United v. Blackburn Rovers
Crystal Palace v. Grimsby Town
Bristol City v. Huddersfield Town
Blackpool v. Arsenal
Norwich City v. Portsmouth