Marcus Rashford

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Solskjaer admits Man United “one down” in striker department

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21-year-old Marcus Rashford. 17-year-old Mason Greenwood. That’s it.

Those are all the true strikers on the Manchester United first team.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had no choice but to admit the club is thin in the frontman department, ahead of Manchester United’s clash with Southampton at St. Mary’s. “We are one down, to be fair, but we just didn’t find the right one,” the Red Devils manager said in his pre-match press conference. “We didn’t find the answer that we wanted.”

Solskjaer is completely, unequivocally right. And yet, his words are also utterly baffling.

Manchester United did the unthinkable this summer – they sold two valuable attacking players without identifying a replacement. Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez were both offloaded to Inter Milan, the latter of which on a loan deal that did not include an option to buy.

Both players offloaded seemed on their way out. Lukaku had struggled to make his mark at Old Trafford with 28 goals in 66 Premier League games, and leaking valuable team training data proved an unmistakeable last straw. Sanchez flopped mightily since arriving from Arsenal, and his stumbles were compounded exponentially by gargantuan wages that turned the club’s structure upside down and unsettled others like David De Gea, making it monumentally more difficult to sign important players to necessary contract extensions. There’s no debating the players were on the chopping block, and rightfully so, in a vacuum.

But soccer is not played in a vacuum. Sanchez showed his worth this summer at the Copa America, proving his immense talent need only be unlocked. Lukaku scored in his Inter debut, and his massive $74 million price tag proves there is plenty to value in the towering Belgian’s game. While they’re clearly not the best of options at Old Trafford, they’re certainly better than…well…nothing.

The purge, somehow, was not followed by a corresponding move for replacements – no reinforcements arrived. This isn’t about reinvesting money – Manchester United has more cash than nearly any club on the face of the Earth. This is about plain old addition and subtraction. You subtract two struggling but capable members of the squad and add zero, and the numbers don’t lie.

“We are creating but of course you are always looking for someone to improve us and we were looking,” Solskjaer said. “It’s about taking the chances. We have created enough in the first three games to have nine points so we have to be more clinical, we have to work on the last pass, the last finish, but we have created enough chances to win – and maybe score penalties.”

You know whose job it is to finish chances? A striker! Blimey, what a revelation!

There are options should Manchester United find itself breaking glass in case of emergency. Anthony Martial can play up front, but is best out on the left wing. Jesse Lingard is the same on the opposite. But the other attacking options in Juan Mata, Daniel James, and Andreas Pereira are all incapable of that fill-in role, and that leaves the boss man criminally undermanned.

Whether the blame falls on Ed Woodward, Solskjaer, or a combination of both is irrelevant. The club simply failed to balance a simple numbers game, and the excuses are starting to flow. Solskjaer attempted to write this off by claiming good enough players didn’t magically appear at his door, as if they should be lining to play Europa League football at the Theater of Dreams.

Yet again, Manchester United finds itself felled by another self-inflicted wound, a worrying trend at Old Trafford of late. This season, if the goals don’t flow, the Manchester United heirarchy may once again be a

Palace stuns wasteful Manchester United at the death

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Manchester United found a way to throw away a dominant performance through more penalty drama and a poor late concession from its well-paid goalkeeper.

Crystal Palace had not beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford since 1989, and never topped the Red Devils in the Premier League era, but now has a 2-1 Saturday win for its resume.

Daniel James‘ 89th minute goal seemed to have given United a result for its controlling effort, letting Marcus Rashford off the hook for a missed penalty, but De Gea allowed Patrick Van Aanholt to score a near post, stoppage time winner with poor goalkeeping after Paul Pogba was caught in possession and allowed Christian Benteke to spring a rush.

[ MORE: How did Pulisic perform v. Norwich? ] 

Marcus Rashford smashed an effort off the post less than a week after Paul Pogba saw his effort saved at Wolves.

VAR absolved Palace of a possible first half red card and seemingly clear second half penalty, and Jordan Ayew scored on the Eagles’ only true chance of the morning.

James set the game level with a gorgeous strike after quickfire, clinical passing in the 89th minute.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

United has now won just three of 15 matches in all competitions since defeating PSG in the UEFA Champions League.


Three things we learned

1. MORE PENALTY DRAMA: Yes, all caps. Should we bold, too? After Anthony Martial raced to make sure Marcus Rashford would take United’s 70th minute penalty, the English youngster did what Paul Pogba did and missed his chance. Rashford smashed off the post.

2. Everyone can finish a glorious chance (even Palace): Roy Hodgson‘s goal-starved Eagles needed a bit of help to get on the score board, and Ayew’s finish came on Palace’s first touch inside the Manchester United 18. Victor Lindelof underestimated Schlupp in the challenge, and Ghanaian won a Vicente Guaita goal kick onto the path of Ayew. 1v1 with De Gea, he didn’t miss.

3. The kid’s got flair: Daniel James’ second finish in three PL matches for United was a beauty, a quickly snapped side-of-the-foot offering that swam over the gloves of a flailing Vicente Guaita. The 21-year-old’s $20 million transfer tag looks pretty justified early.

Man of the match: Martial


United was far and away the better team in the match, aside from Marcus Rashford’s penalty miss.

The Red Devils had VAR work against them on three separate occasions, and only one really passed the smell test. While we’ll acknowledge that the VAR crew knows what it’s watching far more than us, Gary Cahill getting off the hook for a take down of clearly through Anthony Martial and the same Frenchman being denied a penalty shout after Martin Kelly put off his shot effort with some since groping will be watched again and again.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Before all that, though, Ayew scored with Palace’s first touch in the United 18.

Report: Rashford named Man United penalty kick taker

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has reportedly named Marcus Rashford as his penalty kick taker after Paul Pogba’s spot kick was saved in the second half of their 1-1 draw at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday.

[ MORE: Solskjaer in the wrong ]

A report from The Sun newspaper claims that Solskjaer was “furious” with Pogba and Rashford after the game, as they failed to sort out before kick off which player was on penalty kicks.

Per the report, Solskjaer has taken Pogba off penalty kick duty and even though he said publicly that both were designated penalty kick takers he was angry that Pogba pulled rank over Rashford. After the draw Pogba apologized to his teammates.

“Solskjaer told the dressing room Rashford is now the penalty taker — and blasted the pair for failing to decide who was on duty before kick-off. The Norwegian was also left embarrassed by their on-pitch squabble, with the world watching the clash live on TV.”

Is this really the fault of Pogba and Rashford?

If Solskjaer had named a designated penalty kick taker before the game, instead of letting them decide who wanted to take the PK in the moment, this issue would not have flared up.

Obviously he left that decision down to two of his star players and the fact that Pogba and Rashford were discussing it on the pitch, just like they did last week against Chelsea when Rashford scored a penalty kick, shows they weren’t prepared.

Solskjaer needs to take responsibility for this, not Pogba or Rashford. If they were told to sort out the penalty kick duties between themselves, as Solskjaer has said, then why is he reportedly angry at both of them?

A manager needs to manage and make tough, clear decisions. Simple.

Solskjaer to blame for Man United’s penalty kick debacle

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Following Paul Pogba‘s spot kick being saved at Wolves, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s explanation for who will be taking penalty kicks for Manchester United this season was nothing short of astounding.

Asked who was the designated PK taker after Man United’s 1-1 draw at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday, Solskjaer revealed they have two: Pogba and Marcus Rashford.

“The two of them are designated penalty takers, it’s up to them there and then – ‘this is mine’” Solskjaer said.

Pogba and Rashford had a brief chat after the former won the penalty on Monday and Pogba took charge of the situation, before having his spot kick saved by Rui Patricio.

The week before, Rashford was brought down in the box and picked himself up to score a penalty kick against Chelsea, and some interesting footage has since emerged showing Rashford, Daniel James, Anthony Martial and Pogba having a mini debate before that penalty kick.

Solskjaer not picking a designated penalty kick taker is causing unnecessary confusion and he needs to make a decision. He needs to rank their top five penalty kick takers one to five, and whoever is the highest ranked player on the pitch when a penalty is awarded takes the kick.

It is so simple but screams of a lack of strength from Solskjaer. His reasoning that certain players may feel more confident at different times is weak.

If the entire team knows that one player is a designated penalty kick taker, it is easy for everyone. There is no debate, no extra pressure and there are no challenges from others who want to boost their stats.

Pogba has now missed four of his last 11 penalty kicks, which isn’t a great record, and Rashford should be the number one penalty taker until he misses. It is as simple as that.

Perhaps this won’t make or break United’s season, but Solskjaer’s lack of clarity contributed to his grabbing one point instead of three on Monday.

Small margins will matter in what is set to be a tight top four battle this season.

Manchester United’s Solskjaer on Pogba, Rashford penalty duty

Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has issued his verdict on Paul Pogba taking (and missing) an ill-fated penalty over Marcus Rashford on Monday in a 1-1 draw against Wolves at the Molineux.

[ MORE: Recap | Nuno reacts ]

The Manchester United boss says both players have been given authority to sort out who takes a penalty (He promises. He has proof on his computer).

Pogba won Monday’s opportunity, and his well-hit effort was parried by Rui Patricio. the score stayed tied, and United didn’t find a winner.

“The two of them are designated penalty takers, it’s up to them there and then – ‘this is mine’.

“Sometimes players just feel they are confident to score. Paul has scored so many for us and today it was a good save. You can see the slides on the Power Point [that prove both are PK takers].

“The two of them have been confident before. Marcus scored last week but Paul was also confident. I like players with confidence.”

As for Rashford, he’s not crying over Pogba’s spilled penalty.

“Paul wanted to take it, it’s that simple,” says Rashford. “Anyone can miss a penalty, he has scored so many penalties and it is normal to miss one.”

Instead, he’s finding a silver lining in a “disappointing” loss by focusing on the fact that United was absolutely worked over at the Molineux last season and arguably deserved all three points this go-round (Wolves beat United 2-1 that day).

“It is of course disappointing, disheartening, but we can’t let it get to ourselves early in the season,” Rashford said. “The last time we came to the stadium they were the much better team, but today was a different story. It has always been a tough place to come and today proved it again.”

United hosts Crystal Palace on Saturday before visiting Southampton on Aug. 31.