What the papers say
- Updates from the 2pm GMT kick-off
- How they stand: the latest Premier League table
- Solskjær insists he has final say on transfers
- Get in touch with John by email or on Twitter
So far, Manchester United’s social media team has not yet resorted to the #pogback hashtag. But there is time yet, even if Paul Pogba’s star does not shine nearly so brightly as in that heady summer of 2016 when Britain was heading out of the European Union and had a bright and shiny new prime minister.
And, to get back to the football, even if he were fully fit, would have the right to challenge that redoubtable midfield partnership of Fred and Scott McTominay. Both are playing the best football of their time at United.
This match will be preceded by a minute’s applause for World Cup winner Martin Peters, whose death was announced yesterday.
Here’s some overnight news on Manchester United. Ole calls the shots, apparently.
For Watford, Nigel Pearson seems to have been happy with his new charges’ performance against Liverpool and selects the same team. Troy Deeney to target Vic Lindelof?
The big news is on the Manchester United bench: Paul Pogba, whose earrings looked resplendent as he arrived at Vicarage Road. Looks like his dancing at this brother’s wedding was a mark of a return to fitness. United were a little tardy in their arrival, 30 minutes late, in fact. Their logistics teams seems to have misjudged the Hertfordshire traffic; this type of thing seems to happen rather too often.
Here’s the teams in analogue, non-social media guff fashion.
Watford starting XI: Foster, Cathcart, Hughes, Mariappa, Femenia, Kabasele, Capoue, Doucoure, Sarr, Deulofeu, Deeney
Here are the teams for today
Here’s the thing: Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s Manchester United are good against good teams, and bad against bad teams. Enter Watford, who have had so abominable a season that they are already on their third manager. One win all season, and just nine goals scored: it couldn’t happen here, could it?
Enter Nigel Pearson. He’s already one game into his attempt to repeat Leicester’s great escape in the 2014-15 season and this time he can’t take any blame for his team being in the mire. Last week’s defeat to Liverpool showed positive signs, including a typically muscular approach from a Nige team. Expect to see Troy Deeney given rein to prove himself the on-pitch alpha male that his manager will be in the dug-out.
Can Ole’s embryos live up the physical battering they might have to take at the Vicarage Road? Or will Watford’s need for victory push them forward and open the space that United’s quick attackers have made hay with?
Kick-off 2pm UK time.
• ‘He’s back in training; that’s a step forward for us’
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has played down the possibility of Manchester United spending big in the January transfer window but insisted that any players who do come in will be subject to his approval.
“I’ll always have the final say on transfers,” the manager said. “No one comes in the door without me saying yes. It has to be that way, even though signing players is a process involving other members of staff. I don’t really speak to agents, because I have nothing to do with the money side of it, but the final decision on who becomes a Manchester United player will be mine.”Continue reading...
It is hard to see Watford turning things around until Nigel Pearson has had a chance to refresh the side in January and, as such, hard to see them stopping Manchester United. Watford have conceded from open play after the 80th minute in each of their last four defeats, scored nine goals in 17 matches and are the only side not to win at home this season. Their last home win was April. Their misery is relentless and United will be eager to profit as they try to gain ground in the race for the top four. Graham Searles
Sunday 2pm Sky Sports Premier LeagueContinue reading...
Fans rate the best and worst of the season so far – the stars, the flops and what needs to change in 2020
Without doubt we’ve dipped below the standards we set over the last two seasons, but there’s no panic. Our (relative) woes can be attributed to an accumulation of a few separate problems: Laporte/Sané’s injuries, the Bernardo Silva saga, no new centre-half, and certain players’ decline. It’s not a structural issue. Hopefully we can recover our level in the second half of the season – though losing Mikel Arteta is a concern. 7/10Continue reading...
The Mercury prize-winning rapper and the Manchester United striker discuss hype music, family and fame
In a hard-to-find studio in north London, there is a small encounter between two big names. Dave arrives first. The south London rapper, 21, moved into the mainstream this year, winning the Mercury prize with his first album, Psychodrama, and making an explosive acting debut in Netflix’s Top Boy, as the thoroughly terrifying Modie. His sellout tour and Glastonbury show made news, too: remember the viral footage of the bucket-hatted kid who joined him on stage to rap on Thiago Silva (11m views)? Dave is cool and quiet, shaking everyone’s hand before taking himself off with his phone until Marcus Rashford appears.
Rashford is a little late. Understandable, perhaps: it was Manchester United’s Christmas party last night, and he’s recently played vital, hard-fought games against Tottenham and City. But, despite being only 22, United and England’s young forward isn’t known for partying, and when he arrives he’s fresh and relaxed. Slighter than you might expect, and taller, he’s not flash, though his jeans have diamante sprinkled across the rips. He and Dave are months apart in age, but Rashford has a younger, less wary air. When he smiles, he looks like a kid.
Black people excel in music and football because talent is undeniable
A lot of people I know can relate to musicians because when they were younger they had nothing, same as me
There’s no team-mates in rap. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because I know, if it’s a great show, it’s on me
Seeing Ronaldo when I was young did a lot for me. You can have that much impact, even on someone who doesn't play sportsContinue reading...
- Everton also close to confirming Carlo Ancelotti appointment
- The guesswork trying to answer two managerial questions
- Why not send your thoughts to Will on email or Twitter
We are closing in on noon! Will we get the the big announcement? Will I decide what to do for lunch? Will I put wine in the fridge for tonight? Will I bring you a bit of hot transfer gossip?
As mentioned earlier, the Guardian’s top 100 make footballers is complete. Spoiler: Lionel Messi is top.
Live footage from Manchester City’s training ground shows that Mikel Arteta is not there. I wonder where he could be ...
Arteta will need to put together a backroom staff. I am hoping he will be bringing Richard Wright back to Arsenal from Manchester City where he’s been working as a goalkeeping coach.
I enjoyed this from Ben Fisher earlier this week. Will they be making moves in January?
And Macclesfield have released a statement about their match tomorrow:
Further to issues regarding our ground safety certificate, Macclesfield Town are desperately trying to get these resolved ahead of tomorrow’s Sky Bet League Two clash with Plymouth Argyle.
We fully accept that this is far from ideal - especially for those Plymouth fans who have a gargantuan trek ahead of them so close to Christmas. As a result of the above, ticket sales for tomorrow’s game have been suspended until we gain further clarity regarding this situation.
An update from the EFL about Macclesfield Town, whose game with Plymouth is in doubt due to safety concerns.
Football and ethics are not always the best of friends.
Chris Wilder has bemoaned the cynical tactics of Premier League players, which has seen his midfielders pick up plenty of bookings this season.
“There are players in the Premier League when the ball has not even come to them and they are looking to go down,” Wilder explained.
Steve Bruce has been speaking glowingly about Miguel Almiron despite his lack of goals since arriving at Newcastle.
He said: “I understand that he hasn’t scored. After speaking to a lot of people about last year in January when he arrived, he gave the impetus to the team, and really nothing has changed in that respect, as far as I’m concerned.
An interesting David Conn story from yesterday ...
Anyway ... back to disappointing football-related Xmas presents. Two years ago my mum purchased me a football annual, something similar to Match. I was 30 at the time and therefore far too old for it, so gave it away to a child on Boxing Day and she did not speak to me for 24 hours.
Jamie Jackson has the very latest from Manchester United.
Albert Camus and t-shirts:
Tomorrow’s 3pm kick-offs are not the most exciting on paper. which is the pick of the matches?
I think this is what they describe as a ‘healthy’ addiction.
Norwegian media reported this morning that Erling Haaland was on his way to Manchester for talks but Ole Gunnar Solskjær has quickly quashed that claim. “I know the boy and his friends and he’s on a Christmas holiday,” Solskjær explained in his pre-match conference.
MORE BIG NEWS! The list is complete. Who has come top? Has Scott Carson made it in? Is this further proof that democracy does not work? Check out the list to find out and then shout into void your own view.
The big news we’ve all be waiting for in north London ...
Defender Toby Alderweireld has signed a new deal with Tottenham which will run until 2023, the club have announced.
Newcastle could have two key players back this weekend after they missed out against Burnley. Miguel Almiron and Jonjo Shelvey are in contention to face Crystal Palace following hamstring and calf issues, respectively. Steve Bruce has a few injury problems, though.
“Almiron and Shelvey have a chance. They trained yesterday. As we speak at the moment, we haven’t seen them just yet, but they both seemed OK yesterday,” Bruce said.
Arteta is an exciting gamble, says David Hytner.
Elsewhere in English football ... Macclesfield were docked six points yesterday and their game with Plymouth tomorrow is currently in doubt.
Daniel Serridge asks: “I was wondering, will this weekend’s game between Everton and Arsenal be the first time both teams have new managers, as the cliche goes, ‘in the stands’ to watch their new clubs?”
I cannot remember a similar time. Can we think of a game when both managers have been caretakers?
There’s been plenty happening at Arsenal this week, including Mesut Ozil’s run-in with China. Eni Aluko wrote about speaking out:
Sky Sports News are going across the country, ground-hopping as they go. I offer similar commitment to Premier League press conferences by watching SSN while drinking coffee from London.
It is a waiting game but Arsenal still expect to announce Mikel Arteta’s appointment imminently, with a mid-afternoon press conference to unveil him looking highly likely. Still expecting him to take on a watching brief at Everton tomorrow, along of course with Carlo Ancelotti.
Chris from Stockport emails in a question: “Just wondering what you think made Arsenal think – other than desperation – that Arteta is more ready to be gaffer now than he was when they appointed Emery?”
Well ... I think they panicked last time and did not want to take the risk, so went with a safer, more experienced pair of hands. Seeing as that was a massive failure, it’s time to take a punt on someone with potential.
After missing the semi-final victory over Monterray, Virgil van Dijk was seen as a doubt for the Club World Cup final but the Dutch defender trained briefly on Friday. Jurgen Klopp did send Van Dijk straight back to the team hotel after the media section of the session closed, meaning he could still be absent on Saturday. Van Dijk’s compatriot Georginio Wijnaldum was absent, though, so could miss out on the final.
Some top top rumours this morning.
Arsenal were supposed to hold their pre-match press conference yesterday but cancelled it at short notice due to the fact Mikel Arteta’s appointment will be confirmed later today. It is likely though that Freddie Ljungberg will be the man in the dugout when they face Everton, with Arteta in the stands.
While following this blog, you will probably be searching the internet for Christmas presents to purchase for people you have forgotten about or dislike. What is the worst football-related Christmas present you have ever received?
Barney Ronay has done the research to find out about the process of picking a new manager.
Today we can expect at least one major managerial appointment in the Premier League. Mikel Arteta will be announced as the Arsenal boss sooner or later (probably this afternoon). The Basque is heading into his first top job and will have a long to do list when he arrives at Colney. Players are looking restless and he needs to build a coaching staff in double quick time as Arsenal look to get back in the top six. Will he keep Freddie Ljungberg on? Will he cheer up Mesut Özil? Can we sort out the defence? We might start getting answers today.Continue reading...
• Solskjær denies striker Haaland is flying to meet him
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has denied Paul Pogba will be sold in January, though Manchester United’s manager refused to offer details of the ankle injury that has ruled out the midfielder since late September.
Pogba’s recovery has been hampered by a recent illness, Solskjær said this week, and the future of a player who stated in the summer he wanted “a fresh challenge” has again been the cause of speculation.Continue reading...
Leicester will be looking to emulate 2016 at City, Frank Lampard has a special reunion and Freddie Ljungberg signs off
Unless Mikel Arteta decides there really is no time like the present and, without even taking a training session, oversees Arsenal’s visit to Goodison Park from the dugout this will be Freddie Ljungberg’s final match in temporary charge. It is easy to feel some sympathy with Ljungberg given that, throughout his five games so far, he has had to operate with no coaching staff to speak of and little certainty about the length of his tenure. Arsenal had made clear upon Unai Emery’s departure that they would be open to giving Ljungberg a run until the end of the season but failed to equip him with the tools required to show what he could do. Was this meant to be a kind of audition or not? In fairness to the Swede, he has cut a dignified figure throughout the process and stressed he is aware that, in the end, this is all strictly business. Ljungberg will presumably join Arteta’s backroom staff and keep an eye out for future managerial opportunities elsewhere; what a nice touch it would be, though, if one of Arsenal’s most beloved former players could sign off his brief return to the spotlight with a crucial win to set up the new head coach’s reign. NA
Twitter: follow us at @guardian_sportContinue reading...
If Marcus Rashford performs, Manchester United often follow suit. So it was that he transformed this quarter‑final when turning it on in the second half to give Ole Gunnar Solskjær the win which is the best way for him to celebrate his one-year anniversary of taking charge on Thursday.
Rashford scored the opener and was a key factor in United’s other two strikes in a 10-minute burst that was precisely what was required against a Colchester United who had proved durable. The victory means Solskjaer’s side are just 180 minutes away from the inaugural final of his reign in a first full campaign as the manager.Continue reading...
Today’s blurb is better late than never
The Christmas holidays seem to have come early at The Mill given the tardiness of today’s tattle, but there’s no sign of such inactivity at Manchester United, where suits are busy trying to tie up a deal for the Red Bull Salzburg and Norway striker Erling Braut Haaland. The 19-year-old would cost United £76m – although Salzburg’s caffeine-laced sister club Red Bull Leipzig have an arrangement which would allow them to pinch the goal guzzler for a paltry £20m. Haaland himself is believed to prefer a move to Old Trafford, and if the transfer does go through he could be loaned back to his current club until the end of the season. However another whippersnapper has turned down a January move to United, with Barcelona’s 15-year-old left-back Juan Larios set to join Manchester City when he turns 16 next month.Continue reading...
• Ole Gunnar Solskjær admits it is hard to leave out young striker
• Illness sets back Paul Pogba in recovery from ankle injury
Ole Gunnar Solskjær is considering giving Mason Greenwood a sequence of starts for Manchester United because of the 18-year-old’s impressive form.
Greenwood has scored three times in his past two matches, though he started only the 4-0 Europa League win over AZ Alkmaar, featuring as a replacement in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Everton. Solskjær’s side were trailing against Everton until Greenwood entered, the striker scoring 12 minutes later with a calm 18-yard finish.Continue reading...
Colchester forward is preparing for Manchester United and the biggest night of his career by waiting for a 42lb carp
It is an overcast day in late November, and Colchester United have given their players a day off. A few minutes’ drive from their training ground, by the side of a small private lake accessible only, given recent rain, by navigating across a few hundred metres of thick sludge, Luke Norris is putting up a tent. This will be the striker’s home until the next morning, when he will pack up and head straight to training. Inside the tent is a simple camp bed and some basic provisions, protected from the rats that frequent the water’s edge; inside the lake is a 42lb carp, and Norris hopes to catch it sometime in the following 22 hours .
Whenever it happens, the enormous fish will be out of the water only for as long as it takes to secure a commemorative photograph. The only giant-killing Norris is interested in is of the footballing kind, with his team already having knocked Crystal Palace and Tottenham out of the Carabao Cup and heading to Old Trafford on Wednesday in the quarter-finals. “There’s one fish I’m after and I think if I get that fish I’ll move on, I’ll go to the next lake,” he says. “I think that’s normally what guys do – they’ll see a fish, either in the magazines or on social media, and they’ll think: ‘I want that one.’ It’s the biggest one in the lake, and most of the time guys do want the biggest fish in the lake. I’ve had bigger over in France but in the UK that is a good fish.”
It all started with a 3-0 home defeat of Swindon in August for a first League Cup win since 2010. Three weeks later they held Crystal Palace to a goalless draw at Selhurst Park, winning 5-4 on penalties as Dean Gerken denied Andros Townsend from the spot. In the third round, it was the turn of Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs: another goalless draw and a dramatic 4-3 win in the shootout, despite Jevani Brown’s failed Panenka, prompting a wild pitch invasion. They finally conceded a goal in a rare all‑League Two affair in the last 16 against Crawley but roared back to secure a 3-1 win and a date with Manchester United.Continue reading...
Our picture editors select their favourite pics from the weekend’s actionContinue reading...
“Och, not Duncan Ferguson again,” Sir Alex Ferguson used to complain whenever his Manchester United side came up against Everton. Not without reason, either. More than once, Sir Alex would find his plans laid to waste by his younger namesake: seven goals in all, including headed winners in 1995 and 2005. For the older Ferguson, “Big Dunc” represented the dangerous unknown: an inimitable cocktail of salt and chaos that a generation later, in his newest guise as a manager, seemed to be undoing United all over again.
As Everton’s interim manager completed his television interview at the end of this 1-1 draw, he turned towards the knot of travelling fans in the corner. Arms pumping, jacket off, shirt sodden, he demanded and received their acclaim. A short distance away in the directors’ box, the power trio of Bill Kenwright, Farhad Moshiri and Marcel Brands gazed inscrutably on. Ten days in and their hasty stop-gap appointment was already giving them plenty to think about.Continue reading...
• Manager refuses to talk about signing Erling Haaland
Ole Gunnar Solskjær admitted Manchester United lacked the “ideas” required to beat Everton at Old Trafford on Sunday.
United dominated before and after Victor Lindelöf’s first-half own goal but could salvage only a point via Mason Greenwood’s late equaliser. The result meant United dropped to sixth and ultimately left their manager ruing a paucity of creativity.Continue reading...
A late Mason Greenwood strike spoilt the party for Duncan Ferguson as his Everton side drew at Old Trafford. Everton were looking for a second successive win under their interim manager, after a heroic win against Chelsea last time out. The Toffees opened the score after an own-goal from Manchester United's Victor Lindelöf.Continue reading...
Manchester United’s bid to claim a third consecutive Premier League win for the first time since January foundered on a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal.
After the high-octane victories over Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side were sloppy and profligate. Everton came to be dogged and if not for a cool-eyed finish by 18-year-old Mason Greenwood in the 77th minute Duncan Ferguson’s team would have won.Continue reading...
- Live updates from Old Trafford, kick-off 2pm (GMT)
- Manley to McTominay: 4,000 victories for Manchester United’s academy
- Feel free to email Daniel or tweet @DanielHarris your thoughts
2 min Now hear come Everton, Holgate pumping in a cross that De Gea has to flick over the top. He looks to have hurt himself stretching, but will be fine.
1 min United nearly score in the first 20 seconds! Rashford beats Coleman in the air and Martial runs the channel - do not adjust your sets, you read that right – then finds Fred, who bursts into the box, beats one man, runs through another, and the ball squirts across to Lingard, who swivels to shoot just wide.
1 min Off we go!
Here come the teams! Harrance Maguire captains United, and I’d expect that to continue – I’d not be surprised if he was signed partly for that reason. Personally, I’m unconvinced. If he actually is the leader he’s meant to be – Steve Bruce with a first touch – then he ought to have done more to protect the leads United habitually cede.
“Happy to see bogeyman Sigurdsson on the bench,” emails Duncan Edwards. “Happy for Gary Naylor to keep that goal as his greatest memory of Everton v United and happy to predict that will remain the case after today. 4-2 United.”
To save Gary the bother.
Solskjaer tells Sky Everton pose a different challenge to City, and his young team are learning etcetera etcetera; he expects Everton to play a centre-back in midfield.
Ferguson confirms that Sidibe and Sigurdsson are ill, and the formation is a consequence of that – I think he might have done well in that aspect, because the 5-3-2 will make things harder for United.
What Everton need to avoid – and prepare yourselves, for this is a biggie – is not to concede early. United’s confidence, though up, remains brittle, and if they fail to score in the first half-hour, they’ll remember that they’re meant to struggle in such circumstances and also that they lack midfield inspiration. On which point, Jesse Lingard has been really good lately, and the onus will be on him to open things up.
Back to today, I imagine Ferguson has gone for ball-carriers in midfield because he wants to counter the counterers. Playing two strikers also means that the long ball is a decent option, and if Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin can hold it up, Bernard, Iwobi and the wing-backs will be in the game.
Imagine this was your boss!
How good was this!
I imagine United will look to outrun and outfight Everton in midfield – there’s not a lot of ballast in Bernard, Davies and Iwobi – then find space between centre-back and wing-back. The question is how effectively they can do that against a team sitting deep.
Players you’ve never seen play well: Bernard. I’m surprised he’s playing today, and I’m unsure what it is he’s meant to be good at. Feel free to correct me.
“Duncan knows what to do when the time comes,” tweets Gary Naylor.
Looking again at the teams, I wonder if Axel Tuanzebe might’ve been a smart choice for United. Lindelof started the season poorly, and though he’s been better in recent weeks, he and Maguire are too similar for my tastes. Tuanzebe is as good as Lindelof on the ball, better under the high ball, and has the recovery pace to compensate for any errors. I’d guess that Ferguson sees the centre of United’s defence as a weak point to exploit.
So, come on then: let’s have your tales of classic late-90s idiocy. I’ll start: when Hooch came out, we went to Kwik Save Kentish Town, bought a load, then went back to school for afternoon lessons. It went as well as you imagine.
Ferguson, meanwhile, changes formation and personnel. Aware of what United can do when offered space, his 5-3-2 will aim to restrict that, at the same time as keeping an attacking threat via the deployment of two strikers. Out go Sidibe, Schneiderlin, Walcott and Sigurdsson; in come Coleman, Mina, Davies and Bernard.
So United are unchanged – replace Fred or Lingard with Pogba (stop laughing at the back) and this is Solskjaer’s first team. At some point, Greenwood is going to demand inclusion – personally, I’d have picked him over Martial for last weekend. But Martial was excellent in that game, so deservedly returns. Can he maintain that level of effort and performance?
Manchester United (a 4-3-3 disguised as a 4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred, Lingard; James, Martial, Rashford. Subs: Romero, Tuanzebe, Williams, Young, Pereira, Mata, Greenwood.
Everton (a practical 5-3-2): Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Holgate, Mina, Digne; Bernard, Davies, Iwobi; Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison. Subs: Stekelenburg, Baines, Tosun, Keane, Niasse, Martina, Gordon.
Sometimes the cosmos is kind to us. Not often, but sometimes. And right now is one of those times, because frankly, who doesn’t wish we were back in the late 90s? Some of us who are dead were alive, many of us who are old were young, and all of us who are young were free of this revolting hell-hole of a planet. So slip on your v-neck and Vans, grab a Fuse and a bottle of Hooch, and come right in for Ole Gunnar Solskjær v Duncan Ferguson back up in the game!
Strangely, these men are similar in an increasingly unusual way: they are uniformly loved. Petty grudge-bearing and fickle mind-changing are part of what makes football so joyous, but both Solskjær and Ferguson sit above that, a status earned through consistent excellence, unquestioned commitment and unimpeachable integrity – whether tripping Rob ert Lee or ragdolling Paul Ince.Continue reading...
Manchester United are aiming to win three consecutive league matches for the first time since mid-January while Duncan Ferguson hopes to claim a second win in a row as Everton caretaker manager. This is United’s last league outing before Wednesday’s one-year anniversary of Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s temporary appointment so there is extra incentive to claim victory. Jamie Jackson
Sunday 2pm Sky Sports Premier LeagueContinue reading...
The system that bred the Busby Babes, George Best and the Class of 92 hits a remarkable milestone on Sunday
Scott McTominay is the latest poster boy for a remarkable Manchester United academy that has produced the Busby Babes, George Best and the Class of 92, and which will provide a player to the matchday squad for the 4,000th game in succession when Everton visit on Sunday.
McTominay was blooded at the age of 20 by José Mourinho in a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal in May 2017 and by the end of the following campaign had received the manager’s player of the season award.Continue reading...