Why Solskjaer getting the Man United job makes sense

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Is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now the favorite to land the Manchester United job on a permanent basis?

That is the question circling the soccer world Monday morning, as a huge 1-0 victory at Tottenham saw the Norwegian coach became the first-ever United manager to win their first six games on the trot. Of course, David De Gea‘s brilliance was the main reason United beat Spurs, but it was still a huge moment as Solskjaer’s made a huge statement in his biggest test yet as a manager.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ] 

Solskjaer’s caretaker tag will see him in charge of United at least until the end of the 2018-19 campaign, and because he’s technically on loan from Norwegian top-flight club Molde this is a bit complicated.

There’s no doubt the calls for him to get the job are growing after beating Mauricio Pochettino Spurs, even though it is way too early to evaluate how he can progress this United team long-term.

But it makes sense on many levels.

[ MORE: Solskjaer, Pochettino respond to United links ]

He is getting the best out of the players at his disposal. The fans adore him and that will buy him time to turn things around. His connection with the club as a former legendary striker instantly gains him respect and leverage behind-the-scenes at Old Trafford. His tactical ability, along with assistant coaches Mike Phelan and Michael Carrick, was tested at Spurs and his first half plan was magnificent.

When you think about it, hiring Solskjaer to a long-term deal at United does make a lot of sense. He isn’t a player who has just retired and been thrown in at the deep end. He has grafted with United’s reserve teams, then at Molde, then had a tough spell at Cardiff City to toughen him up and is back at Molde doing well in Norway before this incredible opportunity arose.

For United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward Ole would be a much cheaper option instead of paying Spurs compensation for Pochettino, and then paying the Argentine coach huge wages.

But United owe it to their fans, to their players and Solskjaer to take their time and wait until the end of the season.

If Solskjaer has United in the top four, progressing deep in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds and the FA Cup, then he has to be the favorite to land this job.

United have tried everything since Sir Alex Ferguson left. The pragmatic approach in David Moyes. The two coaching behemoths of Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. None of them worked out.

Solskjaer is someone who has been handed a chance to impress and even though Pochettino should still be the leading candidate due to the way he transforms the entire philosophy of clubs on and off the pitch, the current man in charge of United has had the perfect start to life in the dugout at Old Trafford.

Sometimes the best solution is the simplest choice to make, and Solskjaer’s case as the best man for the job is growing week by week.

Monaco keeper scores penalty winner in Coupe de la Ligue quarters

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It took 22 penalties to finally find a winner, but find a winner they did as Monaco advanced past fellow Ligue 1 side Stade Rennais in Coupe de la Ligue action.

The two sides had drawn 1-1 on goals from Monaco’s Rony Lopes and Rennais’ Benjamin Bourigeaud, with the visitors at Stade Louis striking first on the half-hour mark and Thierry Henry’s squad equalizing nine minutes after the break.

In the penalty shootout, each side missed twice in the original five-man pod, with Belgian youngster Youri Tielemans and Swiss international Kamil Glick missing for Monaco, while former Newcastle attacker Hatem Ben Arfa and Algerian international Mehdi Zeffane failing to score for Stade Rennais.

Everyone in spots 7-10 made their penalties, before Stade Rennais goalkeeper Tomas Koubek. That left 20-year-old Monaco goalkeeper Loic Badiashile to bag the winner, which he did.

Monaco did not win a single match under Thierry Henry until November 24, but they have won two in league play since then along with Wednesday’s Coupe de la Ligue victory, moving them into the semifinals of the competition. They still remain five points from safety in the Ligue 1 table, currently 19th with 13 points on the campaign.

FOLLOW LIVE: FA Cup Sunday

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Only four of 16 sides for Sunday’s FA Cup action hail from the Premier League, with Manchester City the headliners.

And don’t think facing a Championship side means Pep Guardiola is choosing only second-choice players.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: FA Cup scoreboard ]

Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, and Ederson are in the Starting XI for Man City when Rotherham United visits the Etihad Stadium.

The other PL action has Fulham hosting Oldham Athletic, and Watford going to Woking before Leicester City visits Newport County in the lone late (morning) contest.

FA Cup Sunday fixtures
All matches at 9 a.m. ET Sunday except where listed

Fulham v. Oldham Athletic
Man City v. Rotherham United
Millwall v. Hull City
Preston North End v. Doncaster Rovers
Sheffield United v. Barnet
Queens Park Rangers v. Leeds United
Woking v. Watford
Newport County v. Leicester City — 11:30 a.m. ET
Wolves v. Liverpool — 2:45 p.m. ET Monday

Solskjaer backs players in first interview as Man United boss

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave his first interview since taking the reins of Manchester United as interim manager, and clearly wants to bring the expectation back to Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Rating Mourinho’s MUFC signings ]

Given that the interview was conducted for MUFC TV, the former United striker, 45, wasn’t asked any brain busters, but one answer about squad depth said plenty about what he’s expecting of his Red Devils this month.

He wants them to “express themselves” and assert what makes United one of the legendary clubs in world football.

Here’s the aforementioned quote, from ManUtd.com:

The amount of games coming up is no problem because we’ve got an amazing squad, we’ve got 23-24 players, Solskjaer said. They are all quality and they’ll all get a chance now with the amount of games coming up. They’ve got a chance to show they are Man United players.

David Moyes, Jose Mourinho, and to a lesser extent Louis Van Gaal were always careful to stress that United was a special club, but the returns of Solskjaer and assistant Mike Phelan will make the words ring louder and longer.

The players have a second chance to show their red mettle.

Top priorities for Solskjaer at Man United

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been appointed Manchester United’s caretaker manager until the end of the season and his remit is clear: restore positivity to the club.

How will the United legend do that?

Below is a look at his top priorities to salvage something from United’s worst-ever start to a Premier League season, as the post Jose Mourinho era begins at Cardiff City on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).


Reintegrate Pogba
One of the things which has flown under the radar a little is that Solskjaer managed United’s reserve team which included the likes of Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard back in the day. At the start of this season Solskjaer told the media he would “build the team around” Pogba, so that is great news for the World Cup winner. Mourinho’s issues with Pogba no doubt played a big factor in the rest of the dressing room turning on the Portuguese coach, but if Solskjaer is respected by the French star then it could well get the best out of him. Whatever you think about some of Pogba’s antics on and off the pitch, there’s no doubting that he is a wonderful midfield player in the right situation. In Mourinho’s last few weeks he spent most of the time on the bench. That will not be the case anymore. Having a coach later in your career who was influential in your formative years often allows a player to feel more comfortable and regain their best form. Maybe hiring Solskjaer was Pogba’s idea…


Forgot defensive solidity
If Jose Mourinho can’t get this team to defend, no coach in the world can. So Solskjaer should forget about it. Seriously. United have already conceded more goals in 17 games this season than they did in the whole of last season. With defensive injuries piling up and the likes of Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Victor Lindelof basically told they were not good enough due to Mourinho’s desperation to sign two new center backs in the summer, they all get a fresh start. That could bode well, but Solskjaer needs to focus on scoring goals and getting the best out of United’s strikers.


Get support for Lukaku
Whether it is playing Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial up front alongside him, playing two playmakers underneath him or just chucking more balls into the box from wide areas, whatever it takes you have to get the best out of Romelu Lukaku. The lack of support the Belgian forward has had in recent seasons has been shocking at times, and you almost feel sorry for him when United go away to some big clubs and he hardly has a sniff of the ball and has two center backs to hold off before he even gets a chance to get a shot off. Lukaku’s form has been up and down due to a lack of confidence and he has missed some big chances, but some one-on-one training from one of the best finishers in the game (who just so happens to be the new gaffer) should do him the world of good.


Tap into the knowledge around him
Mourinho basically did everything on his own at United, and that was fair enough. He had won enough trophies at big clips to warrant doing things his way. But Solskjaer has the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson to lean on, Mike Phelan who is returning to assist him and several of his former teammates in Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Co. who can lend him a hand and be sounding boards. All of the aforementioned people are United fans and want the club to do well. Solskjaer would be silly to ignore their advice, while of course sticking to his own playing style and philosophies as a coach.


Involve the fans
The majority of United’s fans tried to stick with Mourinho until the very end but he is a tough guy to like at the best of times and it never felt like he bought into the identity of the club. He lived in a hotel for over two-and-a-half years at United and went back home to London whenever he could. Solskjaer is a Man United fan and his goals delivered some of the greatest moments United’s fans have ever witnessed. Getting them on his side should not be difficult, but keeping them on board for the rest of the season will be key if he’s going to be successful. If United claw back the 11-point deficit and finish in the top four, plus make a deep run in the Champions League, who is to say Solskjaer isn’t the man for the job long-term?