What the papers say

'He's stepped it up': Solskjær praises Martial for quality and new team ethic

What the papers say - Wed, 07/15/2020 - 11:35
  • Manchester United forward ‘developing and improving’
  • Manager pleased with defence despite Southampton draw

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has pointed to Anthony Martial’s growing maturity and praised the striker for working harder for the team.

The Frenchman’s goal in Monday’s 2-2 draw with Southampton was his 21st of the season. Yet his manager is just as pleased with Martial’s all-round contribution.

Related: Marcus Rashford gets honorary doctorate for work against child poverty

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Marcus Rashford gets honorary doctorate from Manchester University

What the papers say - Wed, 07/15/2020 - 08:46
  • Award recognises Rashford’s campaign against child poverty
  • Manchester United striker says it is a ‘proud day’ for him

Marcus Rashford will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Manchester for his “remarkable campaign against child poverty” which caused a government U-turn and the granting of free food vouchers for the poorest families over the summer.

Boris Johnson had initially rejected the Manchester United striker’s move before the prime minister reversed his decision last month.

Related: Majority of Women's Super League clubs against Premier League takeover

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Premier League: which clubs will finish in the top four?

What the papers say - Tue, 07/14/2020 - 15:05

Chelsea, Leicester, Manchester United, Wolves and Sheffield United are battling for two Champions League places

By Martin Laurence for WhoScored

The race to qualify for the Champions League has become a lot more intense in the last few days. Now that the court of arbitration for sport has overturned Manchester City’s ban from Europe, the clubs below them in the Premier League will have to finish in the top four to reach the Champions League next season. The results over the weekend ensured that this fight will go right to the wire, with Chelsea, Leicester and Manchester United all failing to win. Those slip-ups allowed Wolves and Sheffield United to re-enter the picture. With three rounds of games to play, there are five clubs vying for just two Champions League places. Game on.

Related: Frank Lampard calls on quiet Chelsea players to make some noise

Related: Ole Gunnar Solskjær says Manchester United did not deserve to win

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Ole Gunnar Solskjær says Manchester United did not deserve to win

What the papers say - Mon, 07/13/2020 - 23:37
  • ‘We never got the rhythm in our passing,’ says United manager
  • Southampton’s Ralph Hasenhüttl says they earned the point

Ole Gunnar Solskjær admitted Manchester United were below their best as Southampton’s equaliser in the sixth minute of added time cost them the chance to leapfrog Chelsea and Leicester into third place in the Premier League.

United stay fifth as a result of Michael Obafemi’s scrambled late effort from a James Ward-Prowse corner and though Solskjær described it as the worst possible time to concede a goal he conceded his team had not played as well as he had hoped.

Related: Manchester United stunned by Obafemi as Southampton mix up top-four race

Related: Manchester United 2-2 Southampton: Premier League – as it happened

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Manchester United stunned by Obafemi as Southampton mix up top-four race

What the papers say - Mon, 07/13/2020 - 22:17

In the race for a Champions League berth Manchester United faltered – Michael Obafemi’s late equaliser grabbing a draw for Southampton that keeps Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side in fifth.

Until then United had been heading third, their highest position since opening weekend. But with Leicester as final day opponents, a top-four finish – at least – remains in the hands of Solskjær’s team.

Related: Manchester United v Southampton: Premier League – live!

Related: Memories of Jack Charlton and Man City's Cas verdict – Football Weekly

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Manchester United v Southampton: Premier League – live!

What the papers say - Mon, 07/13/2020 - 21:24

9.23pm BST

64 min Fred comes on to replace Paul Pogba, a reflection of how relatively vulnerable United have been in midfield. And Southampton bring on Shane Long for Che Adams.

9.22pm BST

63 min This is a good spell for Southampton. Walker-Peters, on the right of the area, drives a fine low cross that goes through Maguire’s legs and across the six-yard box.

9.21pm BST

62 min “Right or wrong: that if Martial was being managed by a Klopp or even a Pochettino, no-one would be hesitating to cite that as the reason for his improvement?” says Geoff Wignall. “It could just be that he now has a better manager than hitherto.”

Geoff, I’m afraid you’ve made the basic error of giving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer credit for something.

9.21pm BST

61 min The game is still very open, and so the next goal feels huge. You might even go so far as to say it will make it 3-1 or 2-2.

9.18pm BST

57 min “Just saying no one questions De Gea’s work-rate when he welcomes in soft goals with open arms,” says Lewis Atkins. “Maybe the reason Martial wasn’t scoring like this before is that the others around him weren’t good enough.”

That’s definitely a big part of it. But so is his change in attitude, at least in my opinion.

9.15pm BST

56 min An excellent effort from Rashford, who crunches a dipping shot into the side-netting from 25 yards. McCarthy was scrambling across his line and probably had it covered. Walker-Peters was booked for handball in the build-up.

9.13pm BST

54 min “With all this focus on Martial,” says Ian Copestake, “I wonder if Ings will continue to show what resurgence really means.”

Don’t call it a comeback.

9.13pm BST

53 min Stephens is booked for hoofing Fernandes as if he was an old sock, and has the effrontery to accuse Fernandes of diving.

9.12pm BST

52 min Ings bulldozes through Lindelof in the area and hits a snapshot that is very well blocked by a United defender. At the other end, Rashford is put through on the left side of the area, but Bednarek blocks his attempted pass to Martial.

9.10pm BST

51 min Stephens is back on.

9.10pm BST

51 min Stephens is down after being landed on by Marcus Rashford. He’s limping to the sideline for more treatment.

9.08pm BST

50 min “This whole ‘Martial resurgence’ thing is nonsense,” says Lewis Atkins. “He’s always been an extremely talented, hard-working and determined athlete, the reason his runs are paying off more in this run is that Rashford isn’t the only player supporting him. He’s got Fernandes, and now Pogba, to feed him, with Wan-Bissaka as well. The only one ‘key’ to Martial’s recent performances has been himself.”

He’s always been hard-working and determined? I agree it’s not a resurgence because, despite his obvious talent, he’s never been this good before.

9.08pm BST

49 min Redmond, found in space by Ward-Prowse, drives not far wide from inside the D.

9.05pm BST

47 min “Stuart Armstrong is an exceptional player and I’m surprised a bigger club hasn’t yet taken a chance on him,” says Simon McMahon. “He’s the midfield equivalent of Andy Robertson, who he played at Tannadice with, where he was in the first team at 16. United let them both go for a combined fee of less than £5 million, which was good money for us, but if a top six club has a spare £20 million then they won’t regret spending it on Stretch. Unless they’ve got 5 times that for Pogba ...”

9.05pm BST

46 min Peep peep! United begin the second half.

8.52pm BST

What’s (Not) Eating Anthony Martial?

“I think Fernandes is the key to Martial’s resurgence,” says Kevin Simons. “I vividly recall Fernandes chatting with Martial after they had both been subbed in a game which United won, and Martial was laughing his head off. Anthony Martial, happy? Laughing?? Scary prospect.”

8.51pm BST

Half-time reading

Related: Manchester City v Uefa final score: New Money 1 Old Money 0 (aet) | Barney Ronay

8.50pm BST

Peep peep! That was a fine 48 minutes of entertainment. Stuart Armstrong gave Southampton a deserved lead, and then the elemental force known as Anthony Martial took over: he made the equaliser for Marcus Rashford and belted United in front a couple of minutes later.

8.47pm BST

45+2 min Ward-Prowse’s cross is headed away by Lindelof, only as far as Redmond on the edge of the area. He declines the shot and tries to play in Adams, who is tackled well by Lindelof. Southampton remain a threat.

8.46pm BST

45+1 min Three minutes of added time.

8.46pm BST

45 min “Hi Rob,” says Rajiv. “I think the bigger and more important question of where de Gea would finish on a podium is if it’s between himself, Romero and Henderson?

That’s so disrespectful to Lee Grant. Is he still at the club?

8.45pm BST

44 min That bit of ankle-biting aside, it’s been a quiet end to the first half. Ward-Prowse has just been booked for a wrestling manouevre on Bruno Fernandes.

8.44pm BST

43 min Team VAR are looking at a tackle by Romeu on Greenwood. “Do I not like that” says Gary Neville. It wasn’t great, studs into the ankle after the ball had gone, but Team VAR decides it’s not a clear and obvious error. I think he’s a wee bit lucky, though I can understand the argument that it looks worse in slow motion.

8.43pm BST

42 min “This Man Utd starting XI is exciting,” says Kritin Syal. “But what beyond that? Bailly doesn’t convince at CB, there’s nobody else who can spray passes like Pogba, Fernandes is the only attacking midfielder worth his salt. And is James good enough to stand in for any of the front three?”

I agree. It’s inevitable that people will get carried away, but United are nowhere near ready to challenge for the league just yet. Still, this beats watching them lose at home to relegated Cardiff.

8.42pm BST

41 min A nice move from United ends when Fernandes and Martial get in each other’s way in the area.

8.40pm BST

40 min “It’s annoying when reality gets in the way of a good joke,” says Matt Dony. “I checked the score as I walked out of the shop, and saw Southampton were ahead. Great. On the short drive gone, thought, ‘Ah, maybe the red shirts are hard to see against the stadium seating. Maybe change them at halftime?’ Classic Bantz! Then, pulled up outside the house, checked the score again, and it confirmed all of our fears. United are getting good again. And they’ve ruined my joke. Annoying.”

8.40pm BST

39 min Shaw’s cross skims off the head of a Southampton defender and reaches the unmarked Wan-Bissaka beyond the far post. His touch is a bit heavy, though, and that allows Bednarek to clear.

8.39pm BST

38 min A quiet spell in the game, the equivalent of two fighters taking a round off.

8.38pm BST

36 min “Rob, I have a theory,” says Mary Waltz. “Pre Bruno and Pogba redux Martial and Rashford felt forced to create their chances from midfield to the box. They get premium service today and this let’s their talents bloom.”

Yes, that’s definitely part of it. Fernandes has improved the entire team with his quality and standards. And morale – individual and collective – is as high as it has been in Martial’s time at the club, which has to be a big factor.

8.35pm BST

35 min Despite a bit of a battering in the last 15 minutes, Southampton still look dangerous when they attack. It’s been a very enjoyable game actually.

8.35pm BST

34 min “de Gea absolutely was the best for a good few years - worth at least 12 points a season,” says Stephen Carr. “But now - would he even get on the podium when we talk about top keepers?”

No, he’d be nowhere near, though surely that’s down to his mistakes/loss of confidence rather than his sweeper-keeping? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a desirable skill, I just don’t think it’s essential for 98 per cent of teams.

8.34pm BST

33 min Martial gets a bit carried away, walloping high and wide with his left foot after a lovely flick from Pogba.

8.31pm BST

30 min “Martial has always struck me as someone who deals with a great deal of anxiety on the pitch,” says Barry Bryan. “I’m speculating, of course, but I wonder if empty stadiums allow him to be more aggressive, expressive, etc.”

It’s possible, though he was playing pretty well before lockdown. The aggression is interesting – he is starting to look like a killer, which I never thought we’d see. Perhaps Solskjaer has unleashed the beast. We’ve all got one.

8.29pm BST

28 min United are flying now. Fernandes’s classy lay-off finds Pogba, whose fierce shot from 25 yards is palmed away by the sprawling McCarthy.

8.29pm BST

26 min “De Gea - like Lloris - is reluctant to move beyond the penalty spot,” says Stephen Carr. “I’m not sure you can be a top team without your keeper playing a more active role.”

I know what you mean, but he was still the best keeper in the world for three or four years, no?

8.26pm BST

24 min Time for the drinks break. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves a lot of credit for backing Martial ahead of Lukaku as his centre-forward, a move for which he was savaged during a difficult start to the season.

8.25pm BST

That was merciless stuff from Martial, as if he had a five-second limit to score from the moment he received the ball. Fernandes played a simple ball to find him on the left wing, and he only had one thing in mind. He charged straight at Walker-Peters, zipped infield and rammed a rising drive past McCarthy. When did Martial become such a ruthless assassin?

8.24pm BST

What on earth has happened to Anthony Martial?

8.23pm BST

22 min That was a superb bit of play from Martial: the control, awareness and weight of touch to Rashford.

8.23pm BST

Pogba, on the right, curled in a flat cross that was brilliantly controlled with his back to goal by Martial. He fell over, possibly because of a foul by Stephens, but was alert enough to stretch and divert the ball further across the area to Rashford. He finished the job with a crisp left-footed shot into the far corner.

8.21pm BST

United equalise with a really good goal.

8.20pm BST

19 min Pogba is robbed again, this time near the halfway line by Adams. He moves into space but then overhits a through pass towards Ings.

8.18pm BST

16 min: Rashford has a goal disallowed for offside! It was the right decision. It was also lovely play from Shaw, who played a give-and-go with Martial, surged forward and curled a terrific pass around the defence. Rashford finished it first time but the flag went up and replays confirmed he was just offside.

8.15pm BST

14 min Redmond’s cutback is booted away by Lindelof, just in front of Adams in the six-yard box. It’s all Southampton.

8.14pm BST

13 min Southampton deserve their lead, and United look a bit rattled.

8.14pm BST

It stemmed from a mistake by Pogba, who was robbed by Ings 30 yards from goal. Redmond picked up the loose ball, ran into the area and lifted a superb ball to find Armstrong in space at the far post. He took it down calmly and slapped a half-volley past de Gea from close range.

8.13pm BST

Stuart Armstrong gives Southampton the lead!

8.12pm BST

11 min Armstrong deftly cushions a dropping ball on the edge of the area and hits a low shot that is comfortably saved by de Gea.

8.12pm BST

10 min: Superb save from McCarthy! Ward-Prowse allowed Bednarek’s pass to run under his foot, and Martial nicked the ball before running through on goal, Demba Ba-style. He reached the edge of the area and tried to place a shot past McCarthy, who spread himself as wide as possible and blocked the shot with his left hand.

8.10pm BST

10 min “Hi Rob,” says Kishalay Banerjee. “If Sancho does come in, does he replace Greenwood? I can’t see Solskjaer benching Rashford, but neither is it very fair on Greenwood. Or does he bench Martial, and move Rashford to the centre?”

He’d give them more options. As nice as this current run is, they can’t keep playing the same XI, and the back up isn’t great.

8.10pm BST

9 min It’s been a really confident start from Southampton, with and without the ball.

8.08pm BST

7 min Ings plays in the underlapping Bertrand, whose driven cross is held at the near post by de Gea.

8.07pm BST

6 min Nothing much to report. Southampton are working hard defensively and, as Gary Neville observes, are very good at squeezing the game in one area of the field when they don’t have the ball.

8.04pm BST

3 min “Three players,” says Digvijay Yadav, “that you think can propel United to the title.”

Mane, van Dijk and Alisson. But of the realistic targets, Sancho, Upamecano and Thomas Partey. You?

8.04pm BST

2 min Pogba curls a brilliant long pass down the line to Fernandes, who is well challenge by Bednarek.

8.01pm BST

1 min Peep peep! Southampton kick off from right to left.

7.57pm BST

The players emerge on an overcast evening in Manchester. It will be a largely dry and cloudy night with easing winds. The odd shower may develop overnight, especially towards dawn. Feeling mild where cloudy, however skies will be clearer across Cumbria and parts Lancashire, with rural spots turning chilly. Minimum temperature 6 °C.

7.56pm BST

Another memory from this fixture - an astonishing and cruelly futile save from Paul Jones.

7.53pm BST

“I think Ferguson would have loved to develop Giggs into a central forward around that time,” writes Womancraft Publishing. “But, although his pace was dangerous, he never became a particularly good finisher.”

I never really got the impression that Ferguson wanted him to be a regular centre-forward, though he liked him in that position for centre games, particularly away from home – Deportivo in 01-02, for example, when he terrorised the best team in the Europe at the time (and then missed some great chances, which was your point).

7.51pm BST

“Thanks for the 1993 clip,” says Nick Shaw. A few trite observations: 1) How knackered Pallister always looked any time the camera was on him. Is Maguire the new Pallister? 2) Cantona’s vision and flair looking like a taste of a different type of football. 3) The slowness of Le Tiss compared with Giggs in that early foul. But what a talent.”

That’s a good point about Cantona. The first foreign player in English football who had that impact on me was Anders Limpar, though he turned out to be a half-season wonder.

7.45pm BST

Southampton have quietly had a very good season. They lost eight of their first 12, including the 9-0 against Leicester, but turned it round admirably and are now comfortable in mid-table. The win at Leicester in the return game was, for mine, the performance of the season.

7.30pm BST

“Hi Rob,” says Parameswaran. “What happened in that match on 20th February 1993? Did United beat Saints?”

No, but Ryan Giggs did.

7.29pm BST

Pre-match listening

Related: Memories of Jack Charlton and Man City's Cas verdict – Football Weekly

7.03pm BST

Both teams are unchanged, United for the fifth league game in a row. I’d have to check to be sure, but I think the last time that happened was also against Southampton on 20 February 1993.

Manchester United (4-2-3-1) de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Pogba, Matic; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial.
Substitutes: Romero, Bailly, Mata, Pereira, Fred, James, Ighalo, McTominay, Williams.

5.34pm BST

A man called Sir Alex Ferguson used to manage Manchester United. You know this, I know this, but most of all Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows this. Ferguson’s achievements will harass his successors like black dog, at least until one of them wins the league. But comparisons with Fergie’s time needn’t always be so odious. By achieving something for the first time since he retired, the current team can send a message that they are going in the right direction – that they are, in Paul Pogba’s words, a “proper team”.

In December 2018, in Solskjaer’s first match as caretaker manager, United scored five in the league for the first time since Ferguson’s final game. They won the next seven matches, too, before regressing towards the mean with a vengeance. The feelgood mood of yikesitisreallythatlongago has returned in the last few weeks, and if United avoid defeat tonigh they will extend their unbeaten run to 18 games. That would be their longest run since - you got it, hotshot - Ferguson’s last season.

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Paul Pogba says Manchester United are 'proper team' again and heading for top

What the papers say - Mon, 07/13/2020 - 09:00
  • Midfielder points to improved balance and structure
  • ‘Nothing can stop’ return to top if progress maintained

Paul Pogba believes Manchester United are now a “proper team”, the midfielder pointing to a newly achieved balance between attack and defence.

United host Southampton on Monday night, having won their past four league games in an unbeaten run of 17 in all competitions. With Chelsea and Leicester City losing at the weekend Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side can leapfrog both and take third position with three matches remaining if Saints are beaten.

Related: David de Gea could have another decade at the top, says Ole Gunnar Solskjær

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David de Gea could have another decade at the top, says Ole Gunnar Solskjær

What the papers say - Sun, 07/12/2020 - 22:30
  • Keeper set for 400th Manchester United appearance
  • Manager says he has never considered dropping De Gea

David de Gea is set to make his 400th Manchester United appearance on Monday against Southampton, with Ole Gunnar Solskjær believing the 29-year-old could play at least another decade for the club.

The goalkeeper was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer of 2011 and has since won every domestic trophy and the Europa League, and been voted as the fans’ player of the year four times. Yet Solskjær believes the Spaniard remains hungry.

Related: Raheem Sterling stoops to conquer Brighton with Manchester City hat-trick

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Solskjær tells Manchester United players not to get carried away by run

What the papers say - Sat, 07/11/2020 - 13:29
  • Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s team have gone 17 games without defeat
  • Manager wants side to focus on becoming title contenders again

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has said Manchester United should not be carried away by the heightened expectations generated by their 17-game unbeaten run, stating every day is a chance “to make or break the culture” he is building.

If United avoid defeat to Southampton on Monday they will equal their sequence of seven years ago, when, under Alex Ferguson, they went 18 matches unbeaten between December 2012 and March 2013.

Related: Calm Mason Greenwood can avoid Exciting Teenage Talent implosion | Barney Ronay

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Calm Mason Greenwood can avoid Exciting Teenage Talent implosion | Barney Ronay

What the papers say - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 13:00

Manchester United’s home-produced forward is 18 and scoring for fun. The post-pandemic mini-season is the perfect time to be a teenage prodigy

At times this week it has been tempting, but not that tempting, to feel a bit sorry for Mason Greenwood. Brilliant teenage striker plays for Manchester United. Brilliant teenage striker scores in three league games in a row. Brilliant teenage striker has a way of moving around the pitch that suggests he’s playing with the benefit of a half-second delay, a man with a slightly more refined understanding of angles and gravity.

Meanwhile the world outside has turned into a pre-zombie apocalypse montage sequence. The Euro has been cancelled. And large parts of the country are sitting around losing themselves in six weeks of reheated microwave football.

Related: Solskjær warns Mason Greenwood to 'live life properly' to fulfil potential

Related: Paul Pogba ends Manchester United drought and deepens Aston Villa woes

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Manchester City to face Juventus or Lyon if they beat Real Madrid

What the papers say - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 11:40
  • Chelsea to meet Napoli or Barça if they achieve Bayern miracle
  • Manchester United could play Wolves in Europa League semi

Manchester City will play Juventus or Lyon in the Champions League quarter-finals, should they progress against Real Madrid. Their path to the final would then be blocked by Napoli, Barcelona, Chelsea or Bayern Munich.

City hold a 2-1 advantage over Real going into their last-16 second leg at the Etihad Stadium early next month. Juventus take on Lyon in Turin trailing 1-0.

Related: Well Offside: buy a classic European football photo from yesteryear

Route to the final

Route to the final

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Solskjær warns Mason Greenwood to 'live life properly' to fulfil potential

What the papers say - Fri, 07/10/2020 - 00:03
  • Striker scores his eighth Premier League goal of season
  • Solskjær: ‘It’s all down to him – he can go as far as he wants’

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has warned Mason Greenwood he must “live his life properly” to reach his true potential after the teenager scored his eighth Premier League goal of the season to help Manchester United maintain their pursuit of a top-four finish.

Paul Pogba registered his first United goal since April 2019 to round off a 3-0 victory at struggling Aston Villa after Bruno Fernandes had opened the scoring with a controversial penalty and Greenwood added a second just before the break with a superb long-rang strike. The 18-year-old’s sensational form since the restart has yielded four goals in his last three appearances, with Solskjær admitting Greenwood had made it impossible for him not to select him.

Related: Paul Pogba ends Manchester United drought and deepens Aston Villa woes

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Paul Pogba seals rout for Manchester United to deepen Aston Villa's woes

What the papers say - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 22:17

Dean Smith called his strikers into a video session this week to show them how to run smarter and finish sharper. Then Mason Greenwood gave them a demonstration of his own at Villa Park, scoring a goal of rare class to propel Manchester United closer to the top four and deepen Aston Villa’s relegation woes.

Paul Pogba crowned the scoring with another immaculate finish. But although United swaggered to victory in the end, Villa were entitled to fume about the way the visitors took the lead, as Bruno Fernandes began the beating with a contentious penalty. Villa must turn their minds quickly to Sunday’s clash with Crystal Palace, which could be critical to their survival hopes. United, meanwhile, have moved to within one point of fourth-paced Leicester.

Related: Bournemouth's Wilson and King see efforts ruled out to reprieve Tottenham

Related: Richarlison rescues point for lacklustre Everton against Southampton

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Aston Villa 0-3 Manchester United: Premier League – as it happened

What the papers say - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 22:10

A dodgy penalty, won and scored by Bruno Fernandes, and a belter from Mason Greenwood set United up for another impressive victory

10.10pm BST

Peep peep! Manchester United continue their superb league form with a fourth successive three-goal victory. A dodgy penalty, won and scored by Bruno Fernandes, gave them the lead, but it was Mason Greenwood’s belter on the stroke of half-time that really shattered Villa. The second half was a stroll for United, with Paul Pogba scoring the third after a nice corner routine with Fernandes. That’s your lot, goodnight!

10.08pm BST

90+2 min Reina makes an excellent save with his feet to deny Rashford, who was put through by a lovely ball from Pogba.

10.07pm BST

90 min Three minutes of added time.

10.06pm BST

89 min This is the Premier League table since Bruno Fernandes joined United at the end of January. United are a point behind the leaders Liverpool with a game in hand. And Burnley are above Man City.

10.04pm BST

87 min Fred is booked for what looked like a fair tackle on Grealish.

10.00pm BST

84 min Villa make another substitution. Douglas Luiz is replaced by Indiana Vassilev.

9.59pm BST

83 min At the other end, Williams makes a fine block from Hourihane’s shot.

9.58pm BST

82 min Rashford lifts the free-kick over the bar.

9.57pm BST

81 min James runs 50 yards and is tripped by Nakamba, who is booked.

9.55pm BST

78 min A double change for United: Odion Ighalo and Daniel James replace Greenwood and Martial, who is not happy to be taken off when he hasn’t scored.

9.52pm BST

75 min Rashford slides a good pass down the left side of the area to Shaw, whose low cross is put behind for a corner.

9.51pm BST

75 min Both teams are waiting for the final whistle.

9.47pm BST

71 min Another United change: Fred replaces the marvellous Bruno Fernandes, who continues to have the most profound impact of a new United signing since Eric Cantona.

9.47pm BST

70 min “Quite apart from all the VAR stuff, it must be noted just how limp Villa look and how poorly their captain is playing, says Andrew Donald. “Grealish barely attempted to block Pogba’s shot for the third goal and has the look of a man resigned to leaving at the end of the season.”

Yes, he doesn’t demand the ball nearly as much as he was a few months ago. There are a few possible reasons, but his morale looks very low.

9.46pm BST

69 min Time for a drinks break. This game is over.

9.44pm BST

67 min One important thing about Greenwood, which he showed again on his goal, is that he is brilliant at finding a bit of space 20 or 25 yards from goal - just enough space for him to turn and either run at the defence or launch one into the corner. That level of awareness is very unusual in a teenager.

9.42pm BST

66 min Grealish curls well wide from the left side of the box. And Manchester United make two changes: Scott McTominay and Brandon Williams replace Matic and Wan-Bissaka.

9.41pm BST

65 min If it stays like this, United will become the first team in Premier League history to win four consecutive games by three goals. I think.

9.40pm BST

64 min Jack Grealish has a problem with his left ankle. He wants to continue but surely he should be taken off as a precaution.

9.38pm BST

63 min Villa’s next game is pretty much a must-win: Palace at home on Sunday.

9.38pm BST

62 min “Sure, Greenwood is alright, I guess,” says Matt Dony. “But you just wait until Brewster lights up the Premier League next season...”

He’ll score millions.

9.37pm BST

61 min: Martial hits the bar! This could get nasty for Villa, and not in a good way. Fernandes plays in Martial on the left side of the area, and he thunders a shot off the underside of the bar with his left foot.

9.36pm BST

59 min A triple change for Villa. Conor Hourihane, Keinan Davis and Marvelous Nakamba replace McGinn, El Ghazi and Samatta.

9.35pm BST

Paul and Bruno, sitting in a tree. This is a fine goal, another example of the burgeoning relationship between Fernandes and Pogba. Fernandes dragged the corner deliberately back to Pogba on the edge of the D, and he had an age to set himself and curl a low shot into the bottom corner.

9.33pm BST

57 min Rashford plays in Martial, who is superbly denied by the sliding Taylor. Great tackle.

9.33pm BST

56 min Pogba has a goal disallowed for offside. He was miles ahead of the last defender when Rashford’s shot hit him and beat Reina.

9.32pm BST

55 min Tom Levesley writes in to remind me that VAR hasn’t been entirely unkind to Villa this season.

Related: Sheffield United denied by goalline technology as Aston Villa earn point

9.30pm BST

54 min McGinn’s long-range shot is comfortably held by de Gea.

9.29pm BST

53 min Konsa is booked for pulling back Rashford.

9.28pm BST

53 min “Loving all the ABU moaning,” says Andrew Reinholds. “A sure sign United are heading in the right direction!”

9.28pm BST

52 min Villa have made a poor, subdued start to the second half.

9.27pm BST

50 min “Evening Rob,” says Brad McMillan. “I hate VAR too, and tonight I’ve been wondering about its potential impact on football in future, particularly on youth development. It’s not a new anti-VAR argument to suggest football should be played according to the same rules everywhere, at every level and at every age, but it had never occurred to me before now that we could see rich clubs introduce this on their youth training grounds and effectively start to create a new breed of VAR-savvy player, only the like of which could go on to succeed at the top levels where VAR is used.”

I know what you mean, but how do you become VAR-savvy when it’s such a capricious shambles?

9.25pm BST

49 min Wan-Bissaka misses a great chance, heading just wide from six yards after a delicious cross by Rashford.

9.25pm BST

48 min Samatta falls in the area under challenge from Maguire. There was a bit of contact but nothing penalty-worthy.

9.23pm BST

47 min “I know the Spurs game was AWFUL and this one not massively better, but thank god for football,” says Rachel Clifton. “Four months of lockdown in NYC made much more bearable…”

9.21pm BST

46 min Peep peep! Villa begin the second half.

9.19pm BST

He's got another ✨

A superb strike from #YoungLions forward @masongreenwood for @ManUtd!pic.twitter.com/dg6Tu8kpkM

9.17pm BST

“Hey Rob,” says J.R. in Illinois. “What was Konsa thinking letting Fernandes stand on his ankle like that? Silly man. VAR really is something else though, innit? I’m not even tired of it. The fivefold sense of injustice you mentioned makes me feel five times as alive. I’ve got a business proposal. How about we co-publish a book which contains all my emails to you that mention VAR? We can split the proceeds 60/40. How much do you think we’d rake in?”

What’s 60 per cent of 12p?

9.10pm BST

“1995-96 Manchester United away kit press release” is the subject of Mac Millings’ email. Trust me, it’s better than it sounds.

“Villa are in claret and blue. United are wearing their away strip. Breaking away from the traditional colours of a United away jersey, the shirt features a fresh stratus-toned aesthetic and intricate patterned design, that takes its inspiration from the mosaic of clouds that adorns the skies of Manchester’s creative distr- well, *all* Manchester’s districts, if we’re being honest.

9.08pm BST

“You’re right that Fernandes one was ‘such a tight one’ - did he deliberately stamp on Konsa’s ankle or not?” says Stefan Volkmann. “Hard to say whether it he should have been a red. A penalty is an absolute joke. Fernandes literally ran into him and stamped on him as he did so. You usually do a good job of staying impartial but I fear you’ve got the Fergie goggles on there.”

Thanks for the patronisation. I said that having seen one replay, while trying to do a million other things. Then I saw more replays, and realised – and wrote – that it was a dreadful decision. This stuff isn’t easy, you know, especially when your cognitive function is on a slippery one.

9.07pm BST

A Bruno Fernandes penalty and a Mason Greenwood cracker have put United on course for another three points. The penalty decision was a joke - and so, in a more modern sense of the word, was Greenwood’s finish just before half-time.

9.06pm BST

Martual played a square pass to Greenwood, in a bit of space 22 yards from goal. He moved the ball away from Douglas Luiz, onto his right foot, and simply belted it past Reina. He is an extraordinary finisher.

9.05pm BST

He’s done it again! An explosive finish from Mason Greenwood has put United 2-0 up.

9.03pm BST

45+3 min Matic is booked for fouling someone.

9.02pm BST

45+1 min Four minutes of added time.

9.02pm BST

45 min: Bruno Fernandes misses an excellent chance! Shaw played a neat one-two with Martial on the left side of the area and stood up a fine cross towards the unmarked Fernandes. He leapt dramatically towards the ball but headed it this far over the crossbar.

9.00pm BST

45 min I’m bored.

8.59pm BST

44 min “Look no further than penalties for Man United for arguments against VAR,” says Mat Oakley. “Four awarded to them since the restart. At least three should have been overturned. Only one was.”

You do know that all professional football is fixed to benefit the big teams, right?

8.57pm BST

43 min This game has been pretty anodyne, that VAR shambles aside.

8.57pm BST

42 min Here’s Ian Copestake. “VAR should be reviewed VAR-style at season’s end and the percentile of bad decisions against helpful ones divvied up and put through an electoral college to determine the winner in a Eurovision contest format vote decided at home by you the viewer.”

8.56pm BST

40 min McGinn’s deep free-kick is half-volleyed wide by Hause at the far post. It wasn’t much of a chance.

8.55pm BST

40 min Wan-Bissaka was booked for an ill-conceived, poorly executed tackle on Samatta.

8.55pm BST

40 min “One of the worst decisions involving VAR that I’ve seen,” says Keith Sanderson. “If anything it was dangerous play by Fernandez. Villa have been mugged there.”

Yes, it was a real stinker.

8.54pm BST

39 min McGinn’s long-range shot is blocked by Maguire.

8.54pm BST

39 min No penalty. It was a slightly clumsy challenge for Douglas Luiz but nowhere near enough contact for a penalty.

8.53pm BST

38 min United appeal unsuccessfully for a penalty when Rashford is bounced to the floor by Douglas Luiz. There will be a fake riot if VAR gives this.

8.53pm BST

37 min Reina makes a better save to deny Greenwood. He received the ball 25 yards from goal, ran to the edge of the area and dragged a low shot that was palmed away by the sprawling Reina. Greenwood didn’t connect cleanly with the shot.

8.50pm BST

35 min Martial runs at Konsa, moves the ball onto his right foot and hits a low shot that is comfortably saved by Reina.

8.50pm BST

34 min That penalty decision is getting worse with every replay. Fernandes fell into Konsa, and also stood on his ankle by accident. Konsa didn’t even foul Fernandes a split-second later, as I first thought. As far as I can see, he did absolutely nothing wrong.

8.48pm BST

33 min “I thought VAR was looking at a possible red card against Fernandes,” says Simon McGrother. “That is a bizarre decision.”

I hate VAR. It’s one thing to suffer a bad decision, but when it’s VAR-approved the sense of injustice increases fivefold.

8.47pm BST

32 min That was United’s 13th penalty in the league this season, which equals the record set by Andy Johnson in 2004-05 and Leicester City in 2015-16.

8.46pm BST

31 min “Villa fan here,” says David Bertram. “Outside of Grealish, who else will jump ship when the obvious is made official?”

I’d imagine there will be a lot of interest in Mings and McGinn.

8.45pm BST

30 min The more I see that replay, the less I think it was a penalty. Fernandes didn’t dive, it was just a collision as he pirouetted to shield the ball from Konsa.

8.43pm BST

A good penalty, dragged into the bottom left corner. I feel sorry for Villa there; I’m not sure that was a foul by Konsa.

8.42pm BST

PENALTY GIVEN! Fernandes did well to shield the ball from Konsa, but if anything he fouled Konsa before Konsa brought him down a split-second later. It might also have been outside the area. This is such a tight one, because I don’t know whether there’s enough evidence to overturn the decision. Apparently there isn’t: the decision has been upheld.

8.42pm BST

PENALTY TO UNITED! Konsa has been penalised for fouling Fernandes. Villa are convinced it wasn’t a foul - and I think they might be right. VAR are looking at it.

8.41pm BST

25 min: Trezeguet hits the post! Pogba dawdled on the edge of the centre circle and was robbed by Trezeguet. He ran to within 22 yards of goal before curling a low shot that beat de Gea and hit the outside of the post.

8.38pm BST

23 min Time for a drinks break.

8.36pm BST

21 min Martial’s pass to Greenwood goes behind for a goalkick, a reflection of a sloppy start from United.

8.35pm BST

20 min Villa have been the better team in the first quarter.

8.34pm BST

19 min “Years ago, before instant info on games, I had a friend (an Arsenal fan) text me score updates from United v Villa,” says Liam Maloney. “He had Villa 2-0 up within minutes of kick-off, leaving me (a United fan) fuming. That’s not how the game turned out, of course. I haven’t asked him for score updates since!”

8.34pm BST

18 min: Grealish misses a good chance. Konsa’s excellent deep cross found him in space on the left edge of the six-yard box. He tried desperately to control the volley with his left foot but it sliced off his ankle and wide of goal.

8.33pm BST

18 min Konsa’s deep cross is headed by Douglas Luiz onto the back of Wan-Bissaka and behind for a corner. This is a decent spell for Villa. Grealish’s corner is punched away by de Gea.

8.31pm BST

16 min It hasn’t been much of a game so far. Villa look solid defensively.

8.28pm BST

13 min After a patient build-up on the right, Pogba whips in a cross that is miscontrolled by Mings at the near post and cleared by Hause behind him.

8.25pm BST

10 min Douglas Luiz hits it into the wall.

8.25pm BST

9 min Fernandes fouls El Ghazi 25 yards from goal. Douglas Luiz and McGinn are over the ball.

8.20pm BST

5 min The game has started as expected, with lots of United possession and the occasional Villa counter-attack.

8.19pm BST

4 min At the other end, El Ghazi shoots well wide from distance.

8.19pm BST

3 min Bruno Fernandes’ cute flick finds Greenwood just inside the area, but he misses his kick completely. Douglas Luiz did put hands on Greenwood’s back but it wasn’t enough for a penalty.

8.18pm BST

3 min A good move from United down the right. Wan-Bissaka and Martial combine to find Greenwood, whose low cross is kicked away by Taylor.

8.16pm BST

2 min “United’s away strip,” says Michael George. “It’s beige, isn’t it?”

Pretty much, but you try making a press release out of that.

8.15pm BST

1 min Peep peep! United kick off from right to left.

8.12pm BST

Here come the players. Villa are in claret and blue. United are wearing their away strip. Breaking away from the traditional colours of a United away jersey, the shirt features a fresh savannah-toned aesthetic and intricate patterned design, that takes its inspiration from the many mosaics that adorn the streets of Manchester’s creative district, the Northern Quarter.

Standing out with a new colour palette, the striking new away shirt continues to blur the lines between sport and style, blending both cultures in to a single piece of design, which will of course be seen during our away trips in 2019/20. Influenced by the unique artwork of the Northern Quarter, the city is embedded deep within the design as the base colour is overlaid with a subtle pattern.

8.01pm BST

Villa have dropped to 19th before kick-off by virtue of Bournemouth’s 0-0 draw with Tottenham. The other early game finished Everton 1-1 Southampton.

7.38pm BST

The last time Villa beat Man Utd at home in the Premier League was 25 years ago. Aye, that game.

7.37pm BST

Pre-match reading

Related: Ole Gunnar Solskjær hopes Paul Pogba will sign new Manchester United deal

7.20pm BST

Ally Samatta replaces Keinan Davis up front for Villa. United are unchanged for the fourth league game in a row.

Aston Villa (4-2-3-1) Reina; Konsa, Hause, Mings, Taylor; Douglas Luiz, McGinn; El Ghazi, Grealish, Trezeguet; Samatta.
Substitutes: Nyland, Guilbert, El Mohamady, Lansbury, Nakamba, Hourihane, Jota, Vassilev, Davis.

12.53pm BST

Evening. At a different stage of the season, Aston Villa might have seen a visit from an in-form Manchester United as a free hit, with any points an unexpected bonus. But there are no free hits when you’re in the relegation places with five games to go. Villa need at least two wins if they are to have a realistic chance of avoiding relegation, and tonight would be an unimprovable time to get the first one.

Villa have played quite well since lockdown, and were excellent for an hour at Anfield on Saturday. Yet they have only picked up two points from five games in that time, which leaves them four behind Watford and West Ham with tonight’s game in hand. They need a lot more than two points from the next five games. It’s not quite now or never, but it isn’t far off.

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Categories: What the papers say

Manchester City to play Real Madrid second leg at Etihad Stadium

What the papers say - Thu, 07/09/2020 - 18:17
  • Manchester United and Wolves can also play ties at home
  • Uefa rules on Champions and Europa League last-16 ties

Manchester City have been given the go-ahead from Uefa to play the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium.

European football’s governing body have also ruled that Manchester United and Wolves can have home advantage in their Europa League fixtures against Lask and Olympiakos. Chelsea will travel to Bayern Munich and Rangers to Bayer Leverkusen as scheduled.

Related: Premier League may extend transfer window for deals with EFL clubs

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Categories: What the papers say

Solskjær insists Manchester United unbeaten run is 'nowhere near' enough

What the papers say - Wed, 07/08/2020 - 11:35
  • ‘We can go so many games unbeaten if we concentrate’
  • Solskjær denies interest in Bournemouth’s Nathan Aké

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has insisted Manchester United’s 16-game unbeaten run is “nowhere near” what the team’s ambition should be.

The sequence is the best under the manager and the longest since an 18-match sequence in 2013. Yet Solskjær, whose side visit Aston Villa on Thursday, is not satisfied.

Related: Marcus Rashford 'blessed' to be fit again and lauds 'fantastic' Mason Greenwood

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Categories: What the papers say

'I have a lot more to give' – Matic signs Manchester United deal until 2023

What the papers say - Mon, 07/06/2020 - 11:15
  • In-form Serbian midfielder given three-year contract extension
  • Solskjær: ‘He understands the values of playing for United’

Nemanja Matic has signed a new contract that will keep him at Manchester United until 2023.

The deal follows a noticeable return to form from the 31-year-old Matic, his midfield performances impressing during the current 16-match unbeaten run. “I am very happy that I will continue to be part of this great club,” he said. “As a player I still have a lot more to give and achieve, and to do that with Manchester United will be a huge honour.

Related: Keith Gillespie reveals Ferguson role in four-fold pay rise at Newcastle

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Categories: What the papers say

Keith Gillespie reveals Ferguson role in four-fold pay rise at Newcastle

What the papers say - Sun, 07/05/2020 - 22:30
  • Scot acted as ad-hoc agent in transfer from Old Trafford
  • Gillespie was 19 and earning £230 a week before move

Keith Gillespie has revealed how Sir Alex Ferguson secured him a four-fold pay-rise when the Scot acted as his ad-hoc agent in the £7m deal that took the Northern Irishman from Manchester United to Newcastle United and Andy Cole the other way.

Gillespie made his United debut under Ferguson in 1993. Yet when Ferguson moved to sign Cole two years later from Newcastle, Gillespie was the makeweight in the transfer, being valued at £1m. Gillespie was 19 and earning £230 a week and when it came to finalising his personal terms at Newcastle Ferguson became a temporary representative.

Related: Greenwood hits double as Manchester United thrash Bournemouth

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Categories: What the papers say

Marcus Rashford 'blessed' to be fit again and lauds 'fantastic' Mason Greenwood

What the papers say - Sun, 07/05/2020 - 14:24
  • England striker suffered a double stress fracturer in January
  • Rashford and Greenwood scored in 5-2 win over Bournemouth

Marcus Rashford has said he feels “blessed” to be fit again, as the back injury he suffered in mid-January was more serious than previous similar ones. The Manchester United striker sustained a double stress fracture in an FA Cup win over Wolves that would have ended his season but for the sport’s suspension in March. Rashford was able to resume playing when football restarted last month and he scored a 20th goal of the campaign in Saturday’s 5-2 win over Bournemouth at Old Trafford.

Related: Paul Parker: 'I'd bring the lager. Rocky would bring Brandy and Babycham'

Related: Greenwood hits double as Manchester United thrash Bournemouth

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Categories: What the papers say

Paul Parker: 'I'd bring the lager. Rocky would bring Brandy and Babycham'

What the papers say - Sun, 07/05/2020 - 10:00

Thirty years on from starring in Italia 90, the full-back talks David Rocastle, Manchester United and his experiences with racism

Paul Parker is getting goosebumps. He has spoken in the preceding hour and a half about the racism he faced in the 1970s and 80s, of having a starring role in England’s journey to the 1990 World Cup semi-final, and the pros and cons of playing football at Old Trafford. But it is the memories of his mate David Rocastle that catch him off guard.

“For the 1990 qualifiers, Dave and I shared a room together,” says Parker. “Normally we’d go away with England on the Saturday night and not play until Wednesday. Rocky would sneak in some drinks before training on Monday. I would bring four cans of lager, Rocky would arrive with Brandy and Babycham. But that was him. He was the happiest man, always smiling and would often call his wife, Janet, late at night, just to hear the sound of his baby daughter’s voice. You would hear him just singing to Melissa down the phone.”

Related: Pierre van Hooijdonk: ‘I told Ron Atkinson he was a pub manager’

Related: Philippe Albert: ‘Keegan would buy fish and chips and the drinks for our Newcastle team’

Related: Karel Poborsky: ‘They put me into a coma. All my face muscles were paralysed’

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