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Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, transfers, contracts, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba



Last month Cristiano Ronaldo was Manchester United’s saviour, scoring a 95th-minute match-winner in a 2-1 Champions League victory over Villarreal at Old Trafford.

A ruthless finisher Ronaldo is but a solution to United’s title-winning woes, he is not.

That much was obvious after the Villarreal win, with Ronaldo’s heroics failing to paper over growing concerns Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was not the manager to get the most out of United’s star-studded squad.

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Ronaldo’s return tipped United’s investments to over £100 million ($A185m), joining Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane in a clear sign the time is now for the Red Devils.

On Sunday there was no Ronaldo magic to save United, no cohesion or plan to bring this group of exceptionally talented individuals together.

Instead, in the space of eight minutes, they fell apart and succumbed to a 4-2 defeat to Leicester.

Now Solskjaer is under even greater scrutiny without a win in his last three Premier League games and the schedule is only going to get tougher from here.

Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City and Atlanta (twice in the Champions League) await.

It is not just football pundits demanding changes either, with Paul Pogba delivering a scathing assessment of United’s efforts under Solskjaer after the Leicester loss.

“To be honest, we have been having these kind of games for a long time,” he said.

“We have not found the problem, conceding easy goals, stupid goals. We need to be more mature, play with more experience and arrogance in a good way.

“We need to find something, we need to change.”

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That change could have come during United’s summer spending spree, with Solskjaer needing to bolster the club’s stocks at the back and in particular at defensive midfield.

Instead, he signed Ronaldo and the whole balance of the squad has been thrown into disarray.

“It’s scrappy and scruffy to watch,” United legend Gary Neville said post-game on Sky Sports.

“When you play a team with a clear organisation and a methodology, you’re going to get pulled apart and that’s what happened here. They were pulled apart by Villa, pulled apart by Everton and pulled apart by Villarreal.

“We’ve seen a team picked today with Marcus Greenwood, Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes starting. Five of them, so I wouldn’t want to be a defender in that team.

“I love them as players those five, but having them all in the same team there’s not enough work horses. There’s a reason that Darren Fletcher, John O’Shea, Nicky Butt, Tom Cleverley, Park Ji-sung and Owen Hargreaves got a game at United over the years.

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“Manchester United at this moment in time are imbalanced. The performances are now getting what they deserve in terms of the results. It needs to change. The performances need to be a lot better and today was no surprise.”

Solskjaer admitted pressure is building and questioned his side’s desire after the 4-2 defeat.

“The whole performance was not good enough with and without the ball,” he said.

“Every time you lose, the pressure builds of course, but we are used to living with that pressure.

“We are Man Utd. We’ve got to bounce back. Something may have to change. Do we need more legs in there? What do we need? It is one that we have to really analyse.”

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For Neville, the clear answer to that is a greater focus on United’s work without the ball.

“They’re nowhere near good enough out of possession,” he said.

“They’re the weakest team among those near the top of the league without a shadow of a doubt for pressing.

“They’ve got this real conundrum with Pogba and Fernandes, they’ve got this real conundrum with Ronaldo and Cavani, another conundrum with Greenwood, Rashford and Sancho.

“You put all these teams into a unit when out of possession, and those players’ strengths aren’t out of possession. The great players are able to do it in both ways, but they’re biased towards the attacking side of the game.”

Fernandes had long carried United in attack when it lacked creativity or a goal-scoring presence.

That is no longer an issue though, with a move deeper to help control the midfield one potential solution for a United side lacking flexible tactics.

Neville said it goes past tactics, questioning the work ethic of United’s stars.

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“World-class players who work like absolute dogs every game… I don’t see that among United’s most talented players,” he said.

“They’ve spent a fortune and they’ve got some of the best players in the world.

“When I look at those United players I’ve mentioned in the team today, they don’t work as hard as Mane or Firmino or Bernardo Silva. A better player who works harder means you’re not going to finish higher than them – it’s as simple as that.

“The pressure will build on the manager and the pressure will build on the players. They won’t do anything with the manager.”

The Athletic reports similar, claiming on Sunday morning that Solskjaer has “a lot of credit in the bank and board level” and “will not be sacked” despite the run of poor form.


October 21: Atalanta (H) – Champions League

October 25: Liverpool (H) – Premier League

October 31: Tottenham (A) – Premier League

November 3: Atalanta (A) – Champions League

November 6: Man City (H) – Premier League

November 21: Watford (A) – Premier League

November 24: Villarreal (A) – Champions League

November 29: Chelsea (A) – Premier League

December 1: Arsenal (H) – Premier League

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Highlights, stats, Sam Kerr goals



It wasn’t pretty, nor was it convincing but it’s all but passage sealed to the Women’s Asian Cup quarter-finals for the Matildas.

Memories of the 18-0 drubbing over Indonesia were quickly put to rest as Australia were given their first real test of the tournament by a well-drilled Philippines outfit.

After an uninspiring, goalless opening-half, Sam Kerr nodded home her sixth goal in two games before Emily van Egmond, Mary Fowler and a Hali Long own-goal rounded out the scorers to close-out the 4-0 win.

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While the result solidified their spot on-top of Group B, the performance raised more questions than answers especially in regarding how they perform against a disciplined defensive unit.

The Philippines, led by former Matildas coach Alen Stajcic in his first match against his old side since his controversial sacking in 2019, proved to be a headache from the onset and didn’t allow the Australian midfield to have the same amount of control as they were afforded in their opening group game.

Australia players celebrate their first goal scored by Sam Kerr. Picture: Thananuwat Srirasant
Australia players celebrate their first goal scored by Sam Kerr. Picture: Thananuwat SrirasantSource: Getty Images

While the Matildas created ample chances across the first 45 minutes, Stajcic’s Philippines outfit defended brilliantly to ensure the scoreline remained 0-0 by half-time.

The Matildas’ lack of scoring across the first 50 minutes had some fans and commentators concerned.

However, they would eventually come unstuck as the game wore on – especially from set-pieces where both Kerr and Van Egmond were able to force the ball home after the interval.

Tony Gustavsson’s side will play their final group stage game against Thailand on Friday morning (AEDT).


Why try to fix what isn’t broken?

The heart of the Matildas’ struggles came in the midfield and it was no surprise this would be the case when taking into account the starting line-up, the Philippines’ intent to cede possession and force the Aussie midfielders to try to pick holes in their well-organised backline.

Emily van Egmond of Australia. Picture: Thananuwat SrirasantSource: Getty Images

Gustavsson dropped Clare Wheeler for Tameka Yallop and moved Emily van Egmond to the base of midfield – a role which has proven throughout time to under-utilise her greatest strength as a creative midfielder.

Given that the move didn’t pay dividends, it made the pre-game alteration all the more puzzling.


When the draw was released in October last year, it was the fixture that was immediately circled on the calendar.

In only his second game in charge of the Philippines, Alen Stajcic came up against his former side for the first time since being controversially sacked as coach in January 2019 only months before their Women’s World Cup campaign in France.

Head coach Alen Stajcic of the Philippines. Picture: Thananuwat SrirasantSource: Getty Images

If there was anyone to understand and decipher the Matildas playbook, it would be Stajcic, having coached the majority of the Australian squad throughout his almost five years at the helm.

— NCA Newswire

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