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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is ignoring potential solutions to Man United’s midfield problems



Donny van de Beek started warming up with 20 minutes left at the King Power Stadium when he had about as much chance of coming on as his manager.

By the time Manchester United had made their second and third changes, Leicester had breached a permeable defence. Jesse Lingard, unfortunate not to start again, replaced Mason Greenwood – United’s most threatening forward.

The incumbent manager’s substitution strategy is the least of United’s worries. The defeat to Leicester – the second in three Premier League games to leave United with five wins from 11 this season – is the cue for inquests and the back pages to be cleared. The club crest is starting to crack.

David de Gea stared bleakly at his stanchion after Caglar Soyuncu pounced, doubtless having flashbacks. He was a one-man rearguard amid his teammates’ inability to defend a set-piece. United’s standout performer so far this term, in all bar one year De Gea has received the Sir Matt Busby statue the United manager has been sacked.

There is no longer any credible argument for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to be the United manager and his authority erodes by the day. Club sources insist the managerial situation has not changed.

The recent contract extension for Mike Phelan is insignificant for, although he rejoined the club at the same time as Solskjaer, they are not conjoined. Phelan’s last managerial stint was with Hull and United have already appointed a caretaker whose previous Premier League job was associated with relegation.

Former players enthused about Phelan’s coaching sessions when he was the assistant manager to Sir Alex Ferguson for five years yet now he is off the grass. Phelan did not emerge into the technical area once at Leicester. A club source said he is the ‘link to the past’. United are living in the past.

Kieran McKenna and Michael Carrick continue to do the bulk of coaching and that is coming under intense scrutiny. Darren Fletcher still pulls on his boots, participates in the rondos , poses for the ‘winning team’ shots, and was preparing Raphael Varane in Bern. He is the technical director. Industry sources are baffled by his visible presence at Carrington.

Red flags have been planted throughout the year. The first as early as January, when United became dizzy as soon as they reached the league summit. If the players lost their nerve in that demoralising defeat to Sheffield United then it was Solskjaer who lost his in the Europa League final.

It happened again on Saturday, when he was in thrall to the marquee names. A braver manager would have hooked Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, or Cristiano Ronaldo, not Greenwood or Jadon Sancho.

As the cameras zoomed in on Solskjaer as full-time loomed, he bore the look of a man who had hit a brick wall. One could gauge Solskjaer’s anger by the eternity he took to emerge for his post-match media duties. There would have been a dressing room dressing-down.

That was some brass neck on Pogba to suggest ‘change’ when many would suggest United change him for another midfielder. More than five years on from his blockbuster return, Pogba’s role is still uncertain.

Play him on the left and United – renowned for wing play – are deprived of a winger. Play him in midfield and he often plays his partner into trouble. Nemanja Matic mopped up time and again at Leicester until he was eventually rinsed by Youri Tielemans.

Pogba has excelled for most of the calendar year. United’s form deteriorated without him during his six-week lay-off and improved with him. No midfielder reached Pogba’s lofty level during the European Championship, a tournament that has elevated fellow midfielder Jorginho to Ballon d’Or favourite. Pogba was rated highly by L’Equipe following France’s Nations League final victory over Spain eight days ago.

Sources say Pogba has shown no inclination to spend the next phase of his career at United and you cannot hold that against him when he would have the pick of the lot in eight months’ time.

His lack of contract commitment would make any demotion straightforward. Solskjaer almost always goes into bat for Pogba but the zenith of his in-game management was the win at Paris Saint-Germain last season – when Pogba started on the bench.

Solskjaer is privately unhappy United failed to recruit a midfielder in the summer amid a desire to switch to a proactive 4-3-3 formation. A midfield incoming was always unforeseeable with no takers for Pogba and an addition to the department is a near-certainty next year, though it remains to be seen if Solskjaer greets that arrival.

A compliant manager, Solskjaer can hardly lament United’s midfield imbalance when he has been furnished with £461.3million worth of talent in two years. There are potential internal solutions he is ignoring.

Matic has been underused this season and was United’s best outfield performer at Leicester but cannot hold vigil every week, never mind on his own. Scott McTominay, transformed into a goal-getting midfielder by Solskjaer, is a suitable stop-gap and the reprogramming would not be inordinate given his regular defensive role for Scotland.

Van de Beek’s situation and signing have been covered chapter and verse but elite managers have got a tune out of players foisted onto them or whom they have inherited. Consider Jurgen Klopp with Divock Origi, Pep Guardiola and Nicolas Otamendi or Mauricio Pochettino and Moussa Sissoko. Or, more relevantly: Jose Mourinho and Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Louis van Gaal and Ashley Young.

Who is Solskjaer to dismiss a talent as appreciated as Van de Beek? Like Solskjaer, Van de Beek also marked his United debut with a goal off the bench. He was unused for the 27th time at Leicester.


Rio Ferdinand issues major warning about Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag




Former centre-back Rio Ferdinand believes it is still too early to judge whether Erik ten Hag is the right man to lead Manchester United back to the top, despite their unquestionable improvement under him this season.

United head into tomorrow’s Manchester derby against City at Old Trafford with the knowledge that a win will lift them to within a point and place of their neighbours in the Premier League table.

The Reds have lost just one of their last 18 matches since being battered 6-3 by City back in October, featuring a current run of eight wins on the bounce.

The Reds, such is the level of progress they have made under Ten Hag this season, are now considered as one of the favourites to qualify for the Champions League for next season.

They have made significant strides in a relatively short space of time and victories over the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur already this season have proven that they are capable of competing in the upper echelons of the table again.

However, despite heading into the second half of the campaign with form in their sails, Ferdinand insists the jury is still out on Ten Hag, despite him reaching 20 wins as United manager quick than any of his predecessors.

“I think it’s too early to say,” said Ferdinand to the Mirror. “We’ve been here with previous managers when it looks like we are onto something.

“We’ve got to be patient and give the man time. I think all the signs are very positive at the moment. He’s come in and seen what is happening, assessed how things are, looked at individuals and looked at the shape of the team.

“These were a bunch of players that were quite low. They were shot to pieces and he’s had to build, not only footballers, but men back up again. He’s had to build a lot of human beings back up and that takes time.

“The fact he’s now talking about qualifying for the Champions League so positively, he can sense a confidence coming back into this team. There’s a consistency of performance from the team that wasn’t there before and the signals and signs are all very promising.

“But they’re still not where they want to be. City are way ahead of where United are. The distance is a bit closer, but it’s still not anywhere near where we want it to be. There’s still work to be done.”

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Manchester United takeover bids ‘expected imminently’ with serious interest in Club




Manchester United are expecting takeover offers from across the world as they are set to invite bids ahead of ‘mid-February deadline’.

The Telegraph have reported that the club have received ‘serious interest’ from consortiums based in the Middle East, Asia and the United States.

British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is also weighing up an offer, as the Glazers hope to the sell one of the biggest clubs in the world for over £5billion.

The report also adds that parties who had been interested in taking over Chelsea, before Todd Boehly’s £4.25bn takeover, are set to return with approaches for the Red Devils.

It’s expected that potential investors will go public with their attempts to buy United in the coming weeks with the clock ‘now ticking on a deal’.

Senior United figures will issue a mid February deadline for formal offers in order to help get get the takeover completed before the end of the season.

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Confirmed: Chelsea ready to make late bid to hijack another Arsenal transfer




Chelsea will make a late attempt to scupper Arsenal’s hopes of finally signing Mikhailo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Gunners have submitted their third bid for the Ukraine international winger and hope an offer of £62m before add-ons, which take the deal closer to £70m, will be enough to break the deadlock between the two clubs.

Chelsea’s interest in the 21-year-old winger was earlier this week described only as ‘exploratory’ but ESPN now claim that Todd Boehly will test the waters and attempt to throw a spanner in the works for the Premier League leaders.

Shakhtar’s technical director Darijo Srna was pictured at Stamford Bridge last week as he watched Chelsea’s defeat against Manchester City and Boehly would have little issue with meeting an asking price which is closer to £88million.

Arsenal are said to be confident that their latest bid for Mudryk will be enough to finally secure the services of their No.1 January target, but have already been beaten to the punch once this month by their west London rivals.

Chelsea won the race to sign Joao Felix on loan from Atletico Madrid amid competition from Arsenal and Manchester United, but the Portugal international’s promising debut ended in devastating fashion when he was sent off just shy of the hour mark for a dangerous challenge on Fulham’s Kenny Tete.

Felix will now miss the next three games through suspension as the problems mount for Chelsea’s under-fire manager Graham Potter.

‘It sums up where we are at the moment – everything that can go wrong, is going wrong,’ Potter said after Chelsea’s 2-1 west London derby defeat.

‘It was a forward’s tackle from Joao, there was no malice in it but I understand why it was a red. It is another blow the hits keep coming at the moment.

‘He was really good you could see his quality in the game so it is doubly disappointing for us because he was looking dangerous throughout.

‘I don’t think there was too much malice in it and it is an unfortunate action and we are going to lose him now for three games.’

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