Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Getty Images

Solskjaer: ‘We just need consistency’

Leave a comment

In a vague, general word, Manchester United manager knows exactly what his club have been missing. Consistency.

More specifically, consistent success.

In a sit-down interview with the BBC, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mentioned striving for consistency in performances on no less than four occasions, including when speaking about Alexis Sanchez. Man United won eight straight matches in all competitions and 10 of its first 11 under the Norwegian manager.

[READ: De Ligt lands in Turin ahead of Juventus move]

And yet, the consistency wasn’t there late in the season, when Man United faltered down the stretch and won just two of its last ten matches to close the season on a sour note. Man United finished in sixth place, and while Solskjaer said he believed it would be a challenge to break into the top four, he said with some consistent performances, Man United could achieve its goals.

“We have to aim for further up than fourth,” Solskjaer told the BBC. “I would rather be an optimist and be wrong than a pessimist and be right. I am not used to us being fifth or sixth but that is where we are at. That is the size of the challenge. I love that challenge.

“We have to work with the players, sign the right types and gradually make our way to the challenging line. Our players do have quality. They do have a chance. We just need consistency. We have to keep working every single day and not take our eyes off the target. Everyone gets off line at some point but you can’t let it drift too far because then you won’t get to the overall goal.”

Some Man United fans have been mumbling and rumbling due to the slow start in this summer’s transfer window. Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia have both departed on free transfers, while only Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have come in. While it’s not the improvements some fans were hoping for, it’s helped give some of the young players, like James Garner, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenword, some hope that they can get minutes.

Perhaps the push from the young players for first team minutes will make Man United a bit more competitive in training again, which can only help in terms of having success on the field.

The big question remains, which Man United team will we see this season. The one from Solskjaer’s first two months on the job, or the one from his last six weeks.

Solskjaer defends Pogba, says Man United don’t need to sell

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has defended Paul Pogba‘s attitude and commitment as the French superstar continues to push for a move away from Manchester United.

Following his agent Mino Raiola saying that “hopefully there will soon be a satisfying solution for all parties” after he announced that he was “in the process” of arranging a transfer for Pogba from United, Solskjaer was asked about Pogba’s situation during their preseason tour in Australia.

He appeared to give Raiola what he wanted, as the so-called ‘super agent’ had suggested that United hadn’t done enough to stop reports about Pogba’s poor attitude off the pitch.

“Paul has never been a concern for me. When he is on the pitch, he is working hard, he is a true professional and he is a proud boy,” Solskjaer said. “I can’t be sitting here talking about Paul all the time and what agents are saying. We have got a few years left of his contract and, for me, he has been fantastic when he has come back in training. There is an agenda against Paul but he is a top, top bloke. He is a great professional, there have never been any problems and he has got a heart of gold.”

Solskjaer then went on to confirm that as far as he knows the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus haven’t bid for Pogba.

He also said United haven’t received offers for any other players, including Romelu Lukaku who is said to be wanted by Inter Milan, and they will not be forced into selling any of their players.

“Well there has been loads of talks and speculation, about many of our players – both ins and outs. For me, it is business as usual,” Solskjaer said. “When you are at Man United you expect these things to pop up in the summer. I have spoken to Pogba and spoken to Romelu. I have spoken to all of the players over the summer, as you do.

“As far as I’m aware we don’t have any bids for any of our players. Most of our players have got long contracts. We are Man United – we do not have to sell players.”

That last line is perhaps the most important.

Solskjaer defending Pogba seems like a message to Real or Juve that they must pay what they want for him, otherwise he is going nowhere. At least that is United’s stance. They will not let such a hugely valuable asset, on and off the pitch, leave for anything less than they think he is worth.

Pogba, 26, has two years left on his contract (with an option of a further year) and this summer is the best chance United have of getting the $110 million back they paid for him in the summer of 2016.

This is a strong stance from Solskjaer and leaves the possibility open that Pogba could well be a United player when the transfer window shuts on Aug. 8.

In terms of incomings Solskjaer also said United “don’t have to overpay” when it comes to signing new players and they hope to do some more business this summer.

Turns out Solskjaer is standing firm as United aim to play hard ball when it comes to selling and buying players. That would be a huge chance in stance compared to most of their dealings under Ed Woodward in recent years.

Inter Milan reportedly meets with Manchester United on Lukaku

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Romelu Lukaku wasn’t very good this year, but it should come as no surprise that some of the biggest clubs in Europe are plenty interested in the big Belgian striker.

Manchester United has given a new rich contract to center forward Marcus Rashford, and Lukaku reportedly wants to leave Old Trafford after a terrible season by his standards.

Inter Milan has been widely linked with him, and Sky Sports says the Serie A side is in England for talks with United, even more intrigued now that serial scudetto winners Juventus are reportedly creeping around the striker. The quoted fee is around $94 million.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

Lukaku just turned 26 in May and is coming off his worst season, well, ever. He scored 12 goals in 32 Premier League appearances and two more in nine Champions League runs.

But United was a mess last season, and finishing wasn’t exactly in form for them. Not only did Lukaku have his goal numbers dip, but his assists sank dramatically.

The Belgian has been a magnet for six or seven assists a season, but only produced one this year.

What both Juve and Inter are betting on is Lukaku’s down year being an aberration, and it’s a safe bet considering he was a big time producer with West Brom, Everton, and United.

And that’s why I have to think Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is seeing Lukaku report to United preseason and hoping he can persuade him to spend another season at Old Trafford. It’s hard to envision the striker failing to show up, and he did score three goals in his only international caps of the summer.

Rashford signs new deal at Manchester United

Owen Humphreys/PA via AP
Leave a comment

Manchester United 21-year-old Marcus Rashford has signed a new rich contract with the club, tying him to his boyhood team for four years with an option for a fifth.

Rashford has scored 45 times in 170 appearances for United, adding 26 assists. He’s scored 13 times in each of the past two seasons across all competitions.

[ MORE: United linked w/ Ben Yedder, Ndombele ]

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer called Rashford “a shining example” of the club.

With his quotes, Rashford helped illustrate why he’s so well-liked around Old Trafford:

“Manchester United has been everything in my life since I arrived here at the age of seven. This club has shaped me, both as a player and as a person, so it is such a privilege every time I get the opportunity to wear the shirt.”

Rashford has been capped 32 times by England, scoring seven times.

The question moving forward is whether he can take the next step. He won’t turn 22 until Halloween, and this season promises to be his best chance yet to thrive as the No. 1 center forward (Romelu Lukaku is expected to leave Old Trafford).

Just how different will Manchester United look next year?

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
2 Comments

It’s Sunday morning, Paul Pogba wants to leave Manchester United, and the USWNT doesn’t play its World Cup match until Noon: Let’s deal in theoreticals by starting with a fact.

This season is going to be a major challenge for one Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Manchester United boss will seemingly be pulling together a significant amount of new parts into a team which is coming off a sixth place finish in the Premier League, with four of the five teams ahead of him having maintained their managers and most if not all key pieces.

Oh, and he’ll have to fashion this team based out of parts willing to buy into the club’s mystique and ignore the lack of UEFA Champions League play (which is seemingly why Paul Pogba is ready to skip town).

Big paychecks will help, but there’s no way to quickly meld these pieces into one unit. That’s especially true if the biggest piece of their 2018-19 puzzle, Pogba, isn’t in the middle of the park (or pushed a bit forward).

Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, and Antonio Valencia are out of contract, and Romelu Lukaku has been as mentioned as any striker on the market (He has three goals in four days for Belgium, albeit against Kazakhstan and Scotland).

Pogba’s potential departure puts a lot of weight on Ed Woodward to spend money well (One could make an argument for United needing 60-80 percent of those names).

Subtracting them and adding no one, United’s best XI is something like David De Gea, Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, Anthony Martial, Andreas Pereira, Jesse Lingard, and Marcus Rashford.

As an aside, the expectations and pressure heaped on Rashford by the “he’s better than Lukaku, play him now centrally” media crowd is going to be a burden if the 21-year-old has to bear the center forward burden alone. My goodness are there Old Trafford subplots in excess or what?

Now, of course, there are seven weeks to go in the transfer window and there’s no guarantee Pogba and Lukaku will leave town. In fact, you may want to place your confidence on Pogba opening the season unhappy but at Old Trafford. Either way, the center of the park is going to get a remarkable makeover, and both center back and goalkeeper will get upgrades, too.

To the fixes:

— United is expected to spend big on Crystal Palace right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who was sensational last season with the Eagles. They reportedly have sent a $51 million offer to Roy Hodgson‘s squad.

— They’ve been linked with desire for Issa Diop, though West Ham has hopes of $75 million for the center back who made JPW’s Top Ten of the season.

Wilfred Ndidi is “flattered” by links to United, but is focused on Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations line. Should the Red Devils want to buy the 22-year-old, he’s likely in the same price range as the above names.

— Don’t forget Monaco’s Youri Tielemans, who feels like a PL player from his outstanding time at Leicester City last season. He’d merit another $50 million or so.

It’s worth noting that all would get more European football than at their current home with a bump in wages plus an new iconic shirt. Don’t sleep on that.

You’re probably talking a $240-250 million outlay there, should United land them.

Without going further, nor mentioning Swansea’s young Daniel James and Sheffield United loanee Dean Henderson, you can see a thread here: United could be showing us how a Premier League Best XI without any Top Six players would fare in the top flight.

Of course, United has also been linked with big buys from outside of the Premier League and many of these are older than Ndidi, Diop, Tielemans, and AWB.

But taking those four young players and assuming a focal point/back bone strengthening holding mid would likely join part-time players and full-time leaders Nemanja Matic and Chris Smalling (and maybe Juan Mata).

Now of course there are rumors of experienced leaders Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona and there could be a return from Real, PSG, or Juve. And this whole post looks even worse when United swaps Pogba for Neymar straight-up.

Here’s another question in the myriad facing Solskjaer and Woodward: Is the Europa League a better route to the Champions League than the idea of beating out two of Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, and Liverpool (And noting that Spurs, City, and Liverpool will be heavily expected to finish 1-2-3 in some permutation and Chelsea has a leg up on the field assuming Eden Hazard is their lone significant departure).

Manchester United w/ above transfers (Age when season starts)

De Gea (28)

Wan-Bissaka (21) — Lindelof (25) — Diop (22) — Shaw (24)

Ndidi (22) — Matic (30)

Tielemans (22)

Lingard (26) — Rashford (21) — Martial (23)

What a time to be alive. Rashford better deliver!