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One thing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got right and two he got wrong in Man United’s Villarreal win

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Cristiano Ronaldo popped up with a 95th-minute winner as Manchester United came from behind to beat Villarreal 2-1 in the Champions League on Wednesday night at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had been under increasing pressure following losses against Young Boys, West Ham and Aston Villa and the United boss had Ronaldo to thank for his last-gasp strike against the side which beat them in May’s Europa League final.

But it was far from a straightforward draw. Villarreal dominated the first half and should have gone in with the lead at the break.

Arnaut Danjuma was a constant threat on the left-hand side and forced David de Gea into making two strong saves, while Paco Alcacer, Albert Moreno and Yeremi Pino also went close.

United’s best chances came when Ronaldo headed over an early corner and Moreno nearly turned the ball into his own net.

The Spanish side did take the lead in the second half when Danjuma crossed for Alcacer to poke through De Gea’s legs at the near post.

They weren’t ahead for long, though, as Alex Telles provided a moment of magic, volleying in Bruno Fernandes’ free-kick from the edge of the box.

Solskjaer made a double substitution, bringing on Edinson Cavani and Nemanja Matic for Jadon Sancho and Paul Pogba after 75 minutes and the change almost brought about an immediate impact.

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Mason Greenwood picked out Cavani at the back post with a pinpoint cross, but the Uruguayan could only steer his reactive header wide.

De Gea was forced into a double save from Danjuma and Boulaye Dia before Telles’ block kept out Dia’s rebound attempt before substitute Jesse Lingard nearly won it.

That task was left to Ronaldo, as he pounced on a loose ball at the back post to force in the winner before taking off his shirt in a passionate celebration.

It was a brilliant end to the night for United, but it was definitely a fortunate result. Here are the things Solskjaer got right – and wrong – on an dramatic night at Old Trafford.

Making De Gea his No 1

As poor as his team were in the first half, one player did shine at Old Trafford.

De Gea continued his impressive form to keep his team in the game in the first 45 minutes, keeping out Danjuma on more than one occasion.

The Spaniard also made a good slow stop to keep out Pino, while he was also fortunate that Alcacer could not hit the target when Raphael Varane’s mistake let him through on goal.

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There was a slightly fortunate double-stop late on, but there was little doubt De Gea was United’s stand-out player.

At the start of the 2021/22 season there was plenty of clamour for Solskjaer to make Dean Henderson his No 1 goalkeeper, but De Gea’s form since then shows he deserves credit for sticking to the £375,000-a-week man.

Playing 4-3-3

Solskjaer has stuck stubbornly to his usual 4-2-3-1 formation this season, with two holding midfielders sitting in front of the defence to provide balance behind four attack-minded players.

But the Norwegian manager chose to change things up to try and get some sort of revenge on the team that beat him in May’s Europa League final.

Put bluntly, it did not work. With the much-maligned Fred on the bench, Scott McTominay was left with acres of space to cover while Pogba and Fernandes often made a five-man attack.

United were carved apart time and again in the first half and were fortunate to go in with the score at 0-0.

Fans may complain about Fred’s inclusion in the side, but the reality is he or Nemanja Matic might be needed to balance the team.

Backing Dalot

United wanted a right-back in the summer transfer window and only didn’t sign one because Atletico Madrid played hard ball over Kieran Trippier.

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After Atleti slapped a hefty price tag on the England international, Solskjaer and the club’s recruitment department decided to stick rather than twist.

Having spent months trying to find a home for Diogo Dalot, United eventually decided the Portuguese fullback was good enough to become the club’s back-up right-back behind Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

With Wan-Bissaka suspended following his red card against Young Boys, Dalot was pushed into the limelight and he did not shine once he got there.

Villarreal’s record signing Danjuma turned him inside out over and over again with ease. He simply ran past him and only his poor finishing and De Gea’s gloves prevented the former Bournemouth man scoring in the first half.

But Solskjaer did nothing to rectify the problem at the break and, with a sense of inevitability, the goal arrived after 53 minutes when Danjuma collected a through ball that Dalot missed and crossed for Alcacer to score between De Gea’s legs.

Dalot does not look up to standard, but Solskjaer may well be forced to play him again against Atalanta because Wan-Bissaka’s suspension has one more game to run.

Chelsea

Tuchel hands 22-year-old his first Chelsea start – predicted starting XI against Leeds this weekend

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Chelsea will look to get back to winning ways in Sunday’s game against Leeds United at Elland Road.

The Blues dominated proceedings in the London derby against Spurs last week, however only came out of things with a point following Harry Kane’s late equaliser.

Thomas Tuchel operated a fluid and unique system at Stamford Bridge, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount especially thriving in the new look system.

However, the Blues could turn back to the recognised back three this weekend, with our predicted lineup for the game against Leeds.

GK and Defence

Edouard Mendy made a brilliant save just before Spurs’ late equaliser at the end, and his position in the squad is more than secure for this one.

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With there still being no breakthrough on the Wesley Fofana front, Cesar Azpilicueta will return to the starting lineup as captain at Elland Road.

Fixtures are yet to pick up in the early stages of the season, so Thiago Silva should still be fresh and okay to participate again.

The centre-backs will be completed by Kalidou Koulibaly, who showed his quality again in an emphatic display against Spurs.

Midfield

Reece James scored almost instantly after being moved back to wing-back on Sunday, and the Blues will look to get the attacking best out of him on Sunday.

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Jorginho may have been at fault for the first conceded goal last week, although his great performance will still see him start again against Leeds.

Injuries have ruled N’golo Kante and likely Mateo Kovacic out of the game, there is a big choice to be made to partner the Italy internatonal. While Ruben Loftus-Cheek starred against Spurs, Conor Gallagher will be chosen to partner in midfield, being handed his first start for the club.

Marc Cucurella will look to build on his impressive performance last week with another start against Leeds, with Ben Chilwell still not quite at match fitness.

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Attack

The Chelsea attack will have a familiar look to the last two weeks, with Mason Mount occupying the free-roaming role in the attack against an opponent he has had a lot of success against before.

Raheem Sterling will try again in his quest to open his Chelsea league account, with him missing a glorious chance last week.

Kai Havertz is another man who missed a great opportunity to win the game for the Blues at the weekend, although his work in the front three was enough to see him start again.

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Atletico Madrid do not want to pay €40 million for Barcelona attacker

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Atletico Madrid are in a precarious situation in regards to their ownership of Antoine Griezmann.

The Spanish giants had signed the Barcelona forward on a two-year loan deal last summer. The contract included a mandatory purchase option worth €40 million if the player features in 50% of the matches with a minimum of 45 minutes between the games across two seasons.

Last season, Griezmann featured in 82.5% of the matches, meaning Atletico Madrid may have to virtually leave him out on the bench throughout the 2022/23 campaign if they are to avoid paying the fee for the Frenchman in 2023.

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However, with Luis Suarez leaving the club, Atletico Madrid consider Griezmann a viable part of the club’s attacking unit and Los Colchoneros must get the best out of him, if they are to regain their lost status in the title race in this new season.

At the same time, the club are not too keen on meeting the mandatory €40 million purchase clause set on Griezmann’s contract. This has been reported by Mundo Deportivo which suggests the club are looking to reduce the overall valuation of the clause.

While Barcelona are yet to respond to Atletico’s overtures, there is a clear indication that the capital club have no intention to pay anywhere near the €40 million for the services of Griezmann, who was barely even a starter for Diego Simeone’s men last season

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The Frenchman was even left out on the bench in Atletico’s opening game against Getafe. However, coming on as a substitute in the final half an hour, the attacker was able to break his scoring duck by netting the third goal in a 3-0 victory.

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It will be interesting to see whether the little cameo compels Simeone to start him in future matches, although his performances should not deter Atletico Madrid from their attempts to lower the price tag of the star striker.

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Chelsea

Barcelona star’s move to Chelsea is now ‘heating up’ – report

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be close to securing a move to Chelsea from FC Barcelona, with the move now heating up, reports Victor Navarro on COPE.

Aubameyang joined Barça only eight months ago, arriving as a free agent from Arsenal in January. He helped the Catalans finish second in La Liga last season and finished the campaign as the club’s joint top scorer in all competitions along with Memphis Depay

And, Barcelona could now lose both their top scorers this summer. Depay is closing in on a move to Juventus, having reportedly agreed a two-year contract with the Italian giants.

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And now Aubameyang could be on his way to Chelsea imminently, with the move ‘heating up’ recently. The Blues have made the 33-year-old Gabonese striker their top target after losing both Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel enjoyed a successful relationship with Aubameyang during their time at Borussia Dortmund and is now pushing for a reunion.

Reports earlier on Thursday indicated that Chelsea were planning to submit a formal offer for the former Arsenal captain imminently.

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Now, Victor Navarro is claiming that the two clubs are negotiating over the transfer of the 33-year-old, with all parties intent on getting the move over the line.

Barcelona need to get rid of players so that they can register Jules Kounde and make more additions, with a new right-back and left-back on the club’s agenda.

The departure of Depay alone will not be enough to register Kounde. And with Frenkie de Jong unwilling to leave and no offers arriving for Sergino Dest yet, Aubameyang’s exit seems the best option for Barça.

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The ex-Arsenal superstar has fallen down the pecking order at Camp Nou this season following the arrival of Robert Lewandowski. A move to Stamford Bridge could see him become the first-choice striker and enjoy regular game-time.

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