Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Pogba, Shaw, Martial remain sidelined

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Paul Pogba will miss a second straight Premier League match as he continues to overcome a persistent ankle injury.

Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, ahead of his side’s league matchup at West Ham United on Sunday, confirmed that Pogba, along with left back Luke Shaw and forward Anthony Martial will all miss out on the match-up. Pogba hasn’t played since suffering an ankle injury in Man United’s 1-1 draw with Southampton before the international break.

Pogba missed a chance to join up with the France National Team for Euro 2020 qualifiers and according to Solskjaer, via the Manchester Evening News, Pogba hasn’t returned to full training. At the same time, Wales international and rising star Daniel James could also miss the match with an undisclosed injury. James reportedly suffered the injury during Man United’s 1-0 win over Leicester City.

The quartet of players all missed out on Man United’s 1-0 win over Astana in the UEFA Europa League group stage opener. Man United is now 2-0 since losing Pogba, with the wins over Leicester City and Astana. It will be fascinating to see whether Nemanja Matic retains his place alongside Scott McTominay, and whether that gives Man United a little more defensive balance.

Pogba so far has played four matches for Man United this season. Both Shaw and Martial have just played three times, though Martial already has two goals on the season.

Europa League preview: Man Utd, Wolves, Arsenal begin group stage

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The Europa League begins its group stage on Thursday, with the three Premier League combatants taking on clubs from Kazakhstan, Portugal and Germany.

Manchester United’s kids are gonna get some playing time when Astana visits Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Teenager Mason Greenwood and 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe will start, and Sergio Romero will be between the sticks.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

And the Manchester Evening News notes that Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes could also start at Old Trafford, meaning the veterans in the fray will be quite important.

Enter Fred, the forgotten $68 million man from Shaktar Donetsk. The 23 minutes he played last week versus Leicester City account for his lone time on the pitch this season.

Here’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:

“I’m sure we’ll see more and more of Fred. We spoke about it earlier, he’s had some great games in midfield with Scott against PSG and Arsenal, for example, and we’re just waiting for that to flourish.”

Fred had an odd record under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last season, barely in the squad when the team started hot but trusted against PSG and Barcelona in the Champions League.

Speaking of little-used midfielders, Arsenal boss Unai Emery is getting a little grief for leaving Mesut Ozil behind for the Gunners’ trip to Germany for a big match with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Ozil made his first start of the season in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Watford at the weekend, playing 71 minutes and departing with the club up 2-1.

So why not even bring him abroad? Rest.

“Because we are going to play another match on Sunday,” Emery said, via The London Evening Standard. “My decision is because he played and also I’m thinking tomorrow the focus and the first 11 and after that I decided who are the players who can be the best for tomorrow and also the players not and that is Sokratis and Mesut.”

Sokrastis Papastathopoulos is also out, having played a big role in the embarrassing performance at Watford.

There have been tough times for Wolves as well, who sit in the relegation zone after five matches of the Premier League season.

They’ve been quite good in Europa League, though, dispatching a pair of minnows before winning both legs against Serie A side Torino.

Why the inconsistency? It’s not fixture congestion, according to Ruben Neves:

“I don’t think fatigue has anything to do with it, Neves said, via The Birmingham Mail. “We’re all top players, we’re used to it, we’re used to playing a lot of games in quick succession. I don’t think the Europa League has (anything) to do with our position in the Premier League. Obviously, we haven’t had the start that we’ve wanted, but it’s been a beautiful journey into the Europa League. This is a historic moment for Wolves and we’re going to do our best in this competition.”

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men meet Braga at the Molineux, one of three tricky opponents in Besiktas and Slovan Bratislava.

Full slate

12:55 p.m. ET
CFR Cluj v. Lazio
LASK v. Rosenborg
Getafe v. Trabzonspor
PSV Eindhoven v. Sporting Lisbon
Basel v. Krasnodar
APOEL Nicosia v. Dudelange
Copenhagen v. Lugano
Standard Liege v. Vitoria SC
Qarabag v. Sevilla
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Arsenal
Rennes v. Celtic
Dynamo Kiev v. Malmo

3 p.m. ET
Wolfsburg v. Oleksandriya
Espanyol v. Ferencvaros
Rangers v. Feyenoord
Porto v. Young Boys
Slovan Bratislava v. Besiktas
Borussia Monchengladbach v. Wolfsberg
Partizan v. AZ Alkmaar
AS Roma v. Istanbul Basaksehir
Gent v. Saint-Etienne
Manchester United v. Astana
Wolves v. Braga
Ludogorets Razgrad v. CSKA Moscow

Man Utd’s Maguire ‘showed what a man he is’ vs. Leicester

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Manchester United is still working to find its form as a team, but center back Harry Maguire continued his run of fine performances when the Red Devils beat his former team on Saturday.

United beat Leicester City 1-0 on the day, a Marcus Rashford penalty the difference, but Maguire and fellow new back Aaron Wan-Bissaka were again exceptional.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 1-0 Leicester City ]

Ashley Young has been through a few iterations of Manchester United, and the long-time club offered up lofty words to credit Maguire’s contributions to the team.

“Again he showed today what a man he is,” Young said. “You know, I think the manager’s said about him, he talks non-stop, he’s a real leader and he can play as well.”

Maguire won five aerial battles and two tackles while completing 83 percent of his passes and managing two shots against his former side (WhoScored). On the season, only Anthony Martial has consistently been more important to the team.

He also did not record a loss of possession, and seemingly was unbothered by plenty of criticism from the traveling fans. From The Manchester Evening News:

“I don’t think it bothers (Maguire) whatsoever,” said Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “You’ve got to be that way and when you play, when you coach, when you manage, we don’t get carried away when we win a game that we maybe didn’t deserve to win, but we don’t get in the dumps when we don’t win.”

Solskjaer also loved Maguire and Victor Lindelof for their performance against pesky Leicester star Jamie Vardy.

“I’ve got loads of admiration for Vardy,” Solskjaer said. “I think he’s my type of centre forward, runs in in behind, harasses and you’ve got to be spot on with the decision-making, when to stay up, when to drop off, and both of them proved their worth today. There were a couple of races and Harry did well.”

Maguire didn’t love being on the other side of Vardy, either.

“It was tough playing against Jamie,” he said. “I’ve played with him for two years and he is a top player who can terrorize defenses when he is on his game. … We knew it was important to get the win, especially after the international break. We have to build on a solid base and we want to keep clean sheets, especially at Old Trafford. We are always going to score goals with the attacking talent we have.”

United hosts Kazakhstan’s Astana on Thursday in the Europa League before visiting West Ham United on Sept. 22.

Matic criticizes Solskjaer’s team selections

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It’s no surprise that Nemanja Matic is unhappy with his current situation.

The Manchester United veteran central midfielder has not only appeared to have lost a step, losing the pace that helped him close down defenders all over the park as well as beat others on balls in the air, but it’s in more real terms lost his place in the starting lineup. So far this early Premier League season, Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has preferred 22-year-old midfielder Scott McTominay as the holding midfielder for the team, leaving Matic to stew on the sidelines.

If Man United fails in its quest to finish in the top four, Matic says the blame lays solely at the feet of Solskjaer.

“The coach must opt for the team that will fight for the title and if he does not win, he bears the responsibility,” Matic said at a press conference ahead of Serbia’s Euro 2020 qualifying match against Portugal on Friday. “I have been in football for a long time, I have played almost all the games for all the clubs in the last 10 years. In order for me to play, one had to sit on the bench and accept that fact, and so do I now.”

It’s been three straight matches without a win for Man United, after a rollicking 4-0 victory over Chelsea where the Red Devils certainly finished all of their chances. The side could do with a player of Matic’s ability – at least in the past. Someone who can put out fires in central midfield, but could also dribble or have the technical ability to play the ball to forwards in tight spaces.

At the same time, Matic’s suggestion that Man United would surely achieve all its objectives with him in the lineup is doubtful. In addition, the players and Solskjaer will equally share the blame if Man United continue to struggle this season. At some point, it’s not just the manager.

At 31, Matic might be at the point where he has to change his game, either shifting to a centerback or playing a new role. With Pogba, it’s never an easy partnership, as Pogba likes to drift around to be available to play the killer pass, but that could leave another central midfield partner with more space to cover.

Ultimately, Matic seemed to understand that it’s up to him to get himself back in the Man United starting eleven.

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