Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

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Solskjaer warns ‘could have been one of those nights’ for Manchester United

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was clearly relieved after his dominant but wasteful Manchester United finally beat goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson and Copenhagen in extra time of their Europa League quarterfinal in Cologne.

“I think it was just one of those nights,” he said after the win. “I think we deserved to win, that’s clear, but they made it very hard for us.”

Johnsson made 13 saves as United out-attempted the minusM-1000 underdogs from Denmark by a 26-9 margin. The Red Devils blocked several Copenhagen chances in tight, making the Danes’ total of zero shots on target a bit deceiving.

[ RECAP: Manchester United 1-0 Copenhagen ]

“Their keeper was unbelievable and we hit the post a few times,” Solskjaer said. “It could have been one of those nights that you end up with a shootout. We had to block, defend well and they made it hard for us.”

But United was clearly the better team on the day, as expected. Juan Mata entered late in the game and was an influential sub in extra time.

He says the Red Devils were a bit beat up on a hot night in Germany.

“The team is quite tired physically,” Mata said. “At this stage of this season it is important to win games like today and we go through. We stay in Germany for quite some time and hopefully we can win.

“Both teams got a little tired and there were more spaces and more chances. They played some good football and credit to them. We could have scored more goals in extra time but we are through.”

United will meet either Sevilla or Wolves in a dynamite semifinal in one week.

Delighted Solskjaer has message for Man United critics; praises Fernandes

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A delighted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a message for the Manchester United critics out there and reserved special praise for Bruno Fernandes as they sealed a top 4 finish on the final day, as they finished third in the Premier League and have qualified for the Champions League.

[ MORE: Man United beat Leicester ]

Solskjaer and United were unbeaten in their final 14 Premier League games of the season as their attacking unit fired, they looked largely solid defensively and they return to the Champions League after a season out of the competition.

Speaking to reporter via Zoom after the game, Solskjaer was asked about pundits predicting his team to finish outside of the top 4 and if he has finally proven he is the right man for the job.

“It didn’t seem like you were expecting that because all of the predictions were about sixth or seventh,” Solskjaer said. “That’s alright. It is a massive challenge and I’m not the one to answer that. I believe in what I do and I believe in what have been doing and we will all have different ideas or management in how we go about things. I do it my way and that is the only way I can do that. I have a fantastic staff, the players have bought into this, the personalities out there have taken on board what we have been doing. I’m not going to say I’m not the man because, of course, I’m in the job. I believe in what I’m doing.”

Has it been particularly sweet to silence the criticism after pundits believed that Man United would finish outside of the top four?

“I’ve always been made that way. If I’m getting criticized that makes me stronger and believe more in what I’m doing,” Solskjaer smiled. “Please don’t praise me too much because you can be complacent… That’s just the way I’m made. I didn’t know until a few days ago because I was just reading through them, me and some of the staff were just discussing. I think third with this team, this squad and where we have been with the rebuild, it is a massive achievement from everyone.”

Bruno Fernandes has been a massive reason why Man United are back in the Champions League as his January arrival from Sporting Lisbon has reignited the entire side and Solskjaer admitted his impact has been incredible.

“We have to admit he has come in and had a massive influence. He’s made a massive impact, been fantastic scoring goals, creating goals but also his enthusiasm and mentality around the place has helped,” Solskjaer said. “Maybe today you could see a tired Bruno and that’s natural because he’s played too much, you can see his passion, he’s moaning a little bit here and there, but we will have to take that away from him sometimes. He stepped up, calm as you like, and slotted away the penalty kick.”

ProSoccerTalk also asked Solskjaer if the defensive improvements this season will be key to kicking on in the Champions League and Premier League next season.

“Any teams foundation is built from the back and that is our 21st clean sheet and David [de Gea] has a record today with 114 clean sheets for the club,” Solskjaer smiled. “We have to be able to have a stability from the back to play, and we can release the talent. Marcus, Anthony, Mason, all the players up front. they have not had the pressure of having to score three, four or five goals because we’ve kept it tight lately.”

Solskjaer and Man United are on the charge and are enjoying proving the doubters wrong with this top 4 finish. Somewhere, Sir Alex Ferguson is nodding to himself and likes what he sees from this young team.

Solskjaer on players wanting to join Man United, De Gea’s form

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Manchester United will not have problems when it comes to transfer incomings, even if they don’t finish in the top four, as they continue to be linked with stars in the latest transfer news columns.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Asked about the need to finish in the top four to sign players as United host West Ham on Wednesday, then travel to Leicester City on the final day of the season on Sunday (start time, 11am ET online via NBCSports.com), Solskjaer was adamant it won’t make a big difference.

“You always want to be part of the best tournaments and playing the best teams,” Solskjaer said. “That is an attraction in itself, but Man United is attractive enough. Everyone can see we are on a journey to something better. It is in our own hands. I don’t want to talk about how much it will mean financially or to attract people. We have to focus on the next two games and make sure we are there.”

If Man United are to make it back to the Champions League they will need David de Gea to improve his form.

The Spanish goalkeeper made two big errors in the FA Cup semifinal defeat to Chelsea at Wembley on Sunday and De Gea has made an increasing number of mistakes over the past two seasons.

“This is not going to become a David de Gea press conference,” Solskjaer said. “We are just going to stick together. We’ve got two games and we’re going to focus on that. David is mentally strong enough to know his job is to perform in training the next day and be ready for the games. My job is to prepare the team for West Ham and that’s what we’re doing. We’re not going to talk about individuals because no one here is going to feel that we put more pressure on them.”

With Dean Henderson starring on loan at Sheffield United, it is still unknown whether or not the young English goalkeeper will return to Manchester United next season. If he does, there’s a real sense he could usurp De Gea as Man United’s number one goalkeeper.

For so long the main reason Man United were in the top four hunt, De Gea is now the main reason they could be out of it. He has to perform against West Ham and Leicester because in attack you know that Man United will score.

When it comes to Solskjaer’s comments on Manchester United transfer news, he’s right, to a certain extent, but he’s kidding himself if he thinks the financial benefits of being in the Champions League and generally what that means to players isn’t a big deal. His rebuild hinges on winning these final two games of the season and getting back into the top four.

Solskjaer on Bailly injury, De Gea errors in Manchester United loss

Bailly injury update
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Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer issued an update on Eric Bailly after the defender’s scary injury saw him in a neck brace and stretchered off the field in Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal loss to Chelsea at Wembley Stadium.

“Hope he’ll be fine,” Solskjaer said, via The Manchester Evening News. “He’s in hospital going through all the routine checks and protocols, he got a cut in the back of his head as well, I haven’t heard, not spoken to the doctor about it yet.”

[ MORE: Arsenal ousts Man City | Spurs top Foxes ]

It was 0-0 between the sides when Bailly went head-to-head with teammate Harry Maguire, opening a cut in his head. Bailly eventually got to his feet and walked off the pitch, but laid down again on the grass outside the touchline for more medical attention.

Chelsea scored within nine minutes of restart and went on to cruise to a 3-1 win and a date with Arsenal in the Aug. 1 final.

“It had a big impact on the game, Eric played well and we conceded just after the restart and that was very disappointing. Eric was a big part of us not having any chances against us, really.”

A bigger part of the loss was longtime star goalkeeper David De Gea, who allowed two bad goals. At least one of the pair would be deemed a howler by anyone, with scorer Mason Mount admitted he was very lucky to get it.

A Harry Maguire own goal would make it 3-0 before Bruno Fernandes bagged a late penalty to ruin Willy Caballero’s clean sheet.

Solskjaer tried to go easy on De Gea.

“I can’t speak for David de Gea’s confidence but he is mentally very strong,” Solskjaer said, via the BBC. “He knows he should save that one 100 times out of 100 but that’s football for you. I made the decision to play him and mentally he was ready for it.”

United now has to get off the mat and beat West Ham on Wednesday to keep the upper hand on Leicester City before meeting the Foxes in a top four decider on the final day of the season.

Then there’s the Europa League. Given the remaining field, De Gea or another goalkeeper will have to shine at some point in the tournament.

Chelsea eases past sleepy, error-prone Manchester United

Manchester United - Chelsea recap
Photo by Andy Rain/Pool via Getty Images
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Chelsea – Manchester United: Chelsea is going to the FA Cup Final for the third time in four seasons after dispatching Manchester United 3-1 at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

Olivier Giroud and Mason Mount got goals off of David De Gea howlers as Frank Lampard moved within a win of his first trophy as Chelsea manager.

A Harry Maguire own goal made it 3-0 before Bruno Fernandes converted a penalty to give the Red Devils a marker.

[ MORE: Premier League summer schedule ]

Chelsea will meet London rivals Arsenal at Wembley for the FA Cup Final on Aug. 1, as it was London 2-0 Manchester in the semifinals.

The Blues and Gunners have combined to appear in 33 FA Cup Finals with 21 wins between the two (Arsenal’s 13 are the most in FA Cup history). Arsenal beat Chelsea in the 2002 and 2017 FA Cup Finals.


Three things we learned

1. Bailly suffers scary head injury: Ivorian center back Eric Bailly has had his fair share of injuries at Old Trafford, but the one that felled him Sunday was scary for other reasons. Bailly went head-to-head with teammate Harry Maguire and both needed medical attention. While Maguire deemed fit to return with a bandage, a bleeding Bailly was able to walk off the pitch but then laid back on the turf outside the touch line for more care. Bailly was then given oxygen and put in a neck brace before being wheeled off the field on a stretcher.

2. Paging Mr. Henderson: David De Gea developed from his early mediocre days at United to become one of the best goalkeepers in the world but he’s made a series of miserable errors this year. His inability to stop Giroud’s opener can be explained away by an ardent DDG supporter but his error on Mount’s long-range shot was putrid. He did well to deny Giroud with a slap in the 59th, but the damage was done. Cries for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to give current Sheffield United loan man Dean Henderson a chance to claim the starter’s spot next season will only grow after De Gea’s Sunday at Wembley.

3. Lampard out-wits Solskjaer: Both managers knew they entered the day two wins from silverware but also in control of their Champions League destinies through the Premier League route. Both teams have Wednesday matches, so there was going to be some rotation. Chelsea didn’t have N’Golo Kante and couldn’t start Christian Pulisic due to a minor injury (though the American was shown warming up during the match).

Lampard went for it, arguably starting his best available XI. Solskjaer switched things up and used Daniel James up top despite the youngster having just one goal, against LASK, in 2020. Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial were on the bench,

Yes, Ole’s in this match for the duration if De Gea’s anywhere near his usual self. Maybe that should weigh a bit more on our analysis but United looked like a team with little concern for hardware.

Man of the Match

Mount — You’ve gotta shoot to score and Mount was willing to do that. He hasn’t had a strong second half of the season compared to his start to the campaign at Chelsea, but Mount was dangerous on the dribble and could’ve scored two. He also made a terrific steal to set up his drive past De Gea. Honorable mention: Cesar Azpilicueta, who has been the Blues rock for weeks (and probably much longer).


Manchester United – Chelsea recap

The first half was relatively sleepy for 30 minutes aside from an adventurous Reece James shot that troubled David De Gea.

It began to open up when a Marcus Rashford-won free kick added some excitement. Wily Caballero had to poke Bruno Fernandes’ arrow over the bar.

At the other end, Mason Mount rolled a tepid 20-yard effort to David De Gea.

United had already seen Eric Bailly suffer an injury and attempt to stay on when Harry Maguire clashed heads with the Ivorian center back. Bailly was removed from the game and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer chose offense in deploying Anthony Martial in his place.

Chelsea scored deep in stoppage but De Gea and Victor Lindelof will both be upset that Giroud’s outside-of-the-boot flick of a Cesar Azpilicueta cross battled its way off the prone keeper’s body and over the line.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Mount made it 2-0 very early in the second half Mount picked off a miserable pass to the center of the pitch and hit a low shot that De Gea absolutely bungled.

De Gea made the save on Giroud’s deflected shot before the hour mark to keep it 2-0.

Maguire then poked a Marcos Alonso cross to Antonio Rudiger off De Gea to complete the scoring with 16 minutes to play.

Callum Hudson-Odoi cut down Anthony Martial in the box late to set up Fernandes’ finish.